Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stark, Lee Laud Supreme Court Decision Upholding Obamacare, Skewer GOP

CONGRESS//HEALTHCARE | The East Bay's two progressive congressional Democrats applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday mostly affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Reps. Pete Stark and Barbara Lee called the narrow 5-4 decision a "victory" for all Americans.

"Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the health reform law is a victory for the health of all Americans. Our nation has joined the rest of the modernized world by guaranteeing quality, affordable health care to all our citizens," said Stark, who had a hand in drafting the historic bill two years ago. "The Supreme Court's decision prevents our country from returning control of Americans' health to big insurance--an industry more concerned with profits than their enrollees’ health."

Added Lee: “The Affordable Care Act will now take its rightful place with Social Security and Medicare as powerful examples of what this country can do to improve the lives of every American."

In the early aftermath of the supreme court ruling today, rhetoric from Republicans often repeating the catchy refrain of "repeal and replace" has already set the stage for heated campaign and legislative battles this fall. Both Stark and Lee reserved pointed jabs for their conservative colleagues. “Now we can and must stand prepared to fight back any Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and deny health care and patient protections to millions of Americans," said Lee. "We cannot turn back now but build upon this victory and continue our march toward affordable, quality health care for all.”

In Stark's classic brusque style, he urged Congress to refocus on putting people back to work. "Today's ruling marks another step forward: an end to Republicans' call to repeal the health reform law. Americans don't have time for their partisan charade--they never did," said Stark. "Congress needs to focus on Americans' top priorities of job creation and strengthening the economy."


  1. Tavares, are you still crying about getting kicked out of the Tea Party in Pleasanton?

  2. July 2nd, Stark brings on a new campaign manager.
    Sharon Cornu
    Her background...

    "She went to work for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in January 2011 as a senior policy advisor and in April 2011 as deputy mayor, but resigned from Quan’s administration in November."

    So we can assume she was right there with Jean Quan as she made all those critical decisions such as her "100 block" crime focus, Occupy Oakland, etc.
    As to where Sharon Cornu's outlook is, we read her tweet regarding Daniel Borenstein's articles on public pension reform.

    She says...Sharon Cornu‏@sharon_cornu

    2) @BorensteinDan snarks against public workers, fails to inform that corporations eliminated private #pension to sit on trillions in cash

    So I guess if you question the excess bubble in public employee pensions or the unfunded liability facing taxpayers down the road, then you are "snarking" against public workers.

    Perhaps she thinks the citizens of San Jose were "snarking" against public employees when they voted 70% for reform.

    Seems Pete Stark has chosen someone with a narrow focus on the issues.

    BTW, Alex Tourk, the former campaign manager was fired for how the primary debacle turned out.
    Read that, Alex Tourk was fired for ever letting Pete Stark speak in public. EVERYTHING negative in that effort was entirely from the lips of Pete Stark. What was Tourk suppose to do, put tape over Pete's mouth?

  3. Conversely, Daniel Borenstein and the BANG endorsed Joel Young. He'll never lived that down.

  4. Cornu's tweet was completely factual. That the shrinking middle class and growing poor are being told we need to "sacrifice" at the exact same time government is helping corporations and millionaires become richer than ever is a fact that never makes it into Borenstein's writing. That bothers lots of us members of the middle class. Why doesn't it bother you, 5:34?

    Because, you see, if it began to bother you, it might cause you to walk away from Borenstein's stupefying premise in his discussions of public budgets: it's all about pensions. Never is heard a word about revenue. No mention of Proposition 13 and its slow destruction of a consistent State revenue stream. No mention of the Bush tax cuts and its budget busting at both the Federal and State level.

    I'm genuinely curious if 5:34 is a member of the middle class. If so, just because BANG wants Borenstein to play you for a fool doesn't mean you have to fall for it.

  5. 8:45, So if Borenstein doesn't include your full agenda of what is wrong, then by discussing the specific issue of public pensions, you construe that as saying "its ALL about pensions".
    Yet if he includes everything as you suggest, the pensions get caught up in everything and no one gets the message that there are large problems specifically with pensions.

    This ignoring of the specific pension issues is what has left it festering and growing for so long.
    Certainly we were never going to hear about it from politicians who depended on recipient groups for their re-election.

    No, Borenstein was exactly correct in keeping a steady focus on the issue. Only by returning to it over and over and over was the public finally able to see how all the previously hidden details had resulted in a system that wasn't sound, and that was granting some absurd compensation.

    98% of the public was unaware of the gigantic boosts that had been made in the years following 1999.
    Go ahead, ask people in the public if they were aware of the 25% to 35% instant boosts that were made, or the retroactive features.
    It wasn't uncommon for a employee in some cities to have been on track for 30 years to get a $60,000 pension, to then by waiting only one more month, to suddenly get a $81,000.
    That extra $21,000 to be received for the next 20 to 25 years, amounting to a Golden Parachute of $400,000 to $500,000 in total. All for remaining on the job just 1 extra month past the new retroactive pension boost.

    How do you give someone a extra $400,000 when no extra money has been put into the system?

    What city do you live in? How much did they boost their pensions since 1999. How many city residents are aware of that change.
    The only city I know who didn't jack up the pensions was Alameda, and there, only for the regular workers. They did infact boost the police and fire like everyone else.
    Oakland, Berkeley, and others all jacked them up a instant and retroactive 35% overnight.

    But ignore that, and divert attention by talking about Bush tax cuts, and Prop 13... Just never deal with the actual changes that took place in the pensions.
    And when Borenstein brings some focus to it, call him names and label his ideas as stuptifying.

    How about you deal with the reality. The gigantic boosts and the unfunded liability. The money the residents will eventually be no the hook for.
    The vote in San Jose was 70%. San Jose is hardly some right-wing city. No, they saw the future.
    One wonders if you've ever done the math, or are even aware of how the pension rates have changed.

  6. You're looking in the wrong place if you believe that pension reform is going to do away with our public budget deficits. There are structual problems on the revenue side which are even bigger drivers of our budget problems; when recessions hit, that's where the big money is. Have you done that math? Haven't you wondered why this didn't become an issue until the disaster capitalists crashed the economy and the Federal government allowed them to steal multibillions of taxpayer dollars? Hmmmmm.....

    No, Borenstein (and you, apparently) would have you believe that once we eviscerate the retirement income of public servants who accepted pay cuts and increases in their health insurance and pension obligations that everything will return to budgetary paradise. Your're being played for a chump.

    A revealing exchange took place recently at a public forum where a local City Manager was talking about the challenges of putting together their budgets in an age of austerity. An audience member pointed out that hostile negotiations had just concluded with all the city's public sector unions, and these workers accepted takeaways in all their benefits. The public frame for these negotiations was that the workers would have to accept the cuts the city wanted, or there would be layoffs and cuts in services.

    The City Manager had surely run all the actuarial tables to calculate the savings in expenses to the city budget from these cuts, but the audience member asked the CM if the city had also calculated the budgetary impacts from lost tax revenues and drop in activity for city businesses that would certainly come as a result of creating many thousands of people who would have sharply reduced income to spend in the city. No, was the answer from the City Manager; they hadn't estimated these impacts from their decisions at all.

    And that's where the game is given away. In responding to the question, the City Manager admitted that tax revenues to the city are likely to decrease when many more people who work in town have little to no disposable income. They release the savings from slashing public pensions and get them published in BANG newspapers, but they don't even calculate the revenue losses and the pain to small and large (but especially small) businesses, because THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THOSE THINGS. Hell, I don't think they want to know; it's easier to hurt people if you're in denial.

    And that is how you get 70% of San Jose voters in a low turnout election to gut pensions, and how you get a bare 6-5 majority at the San Jose City Council to put the pension-slashing measure on the ballot in the first place. San Jose residents have been lied to for a long, long time. The Pulitzer Prize-winning San Jose Mercury News of the past would have done a fuller, more honest job informing the public of the real problems on both the expense and revenue sides of their city's budget difficulties. Oh, but look at that, BANG swept the Merc into its maw a few years ago. Never mind, then.

    The old Merc might have published statements from people who know the laws. Perhaps if San Jose voters were told that the measure they were being asked to vote on was an illegal infringement on the collective bargining process and would likely get tossed out in court, resulting in wasted years of futile legal fights, they may have decided differently. We'll never know.

    The place to deal with this, and the place where it is being dealt with at all local and State levels, is in collective bargaining. Note that almost every single public worker union is agreeing that there should be cuts in compensation to their members; yes, they've retreated that far. The discussion is entirely about in what forms the workers will take their cuts. The only people made unhappy by these negotiations are people who have been snookered by Borenstein and friends, and those doing the snookering.

  7. Gosh, 9:04 AM, you bring out the "laundry list" of the public employee talking points and then scold the voters in San Jose as being foolish rubes, easily misled by crafty political leaders.

    Yet by throwing in everything including the kitchen sink, you once again want to divert anyone from focusing on the pension issue.

    #1. The pension issue is NOT the entire problem.
    Neither is throwing every single issue into the air and saying its all so complicated that we can't even think about taking care of the pension issue.
    You engage in obfuscation, thus never addressing the pension issue. When Borenstein keys on this so that the public can have some understanding, then you say the following
    "No, Borenstein (and you, apparently) would have you believe that once we eviscerate the retirement income of public servants who accepted pay cuts and increases in their health insurance and pension obligations that everything will return to budgetary paradise"
    He never said or suggested fixing the pensions would lead to "budgetary paradise"

    For you, everyone else is a fool, or devious.
    The newspapers, the city councils, the mayor, and most of all the voters for whom you have little regard.

    All the while you have avoided speaking to the issue of what happened to pensions in the 7 years following 1999.

    I ask you again, what city do you live in? What happened to their pension plans in the those years.
    Just how much did they boost their pension rates.
    Did they do it for only future years of service, or did they make it so all prior years of service boosted retroactively.
    So a 29 year employee, with a already excellent pension about to be collected, works just one more year, or even just one month, under the new rates, yet gets his entire prior 29+ years boosted 25% to 35%, while having contributed nothing extra for those years.

    So tell us about your example, your city.
    How huge was the boost that was instituted with the urging of your city employee groups?

    PS. I love your concept of keeping city revenues high by not laying off any city employees.
    A wonderful concept. Every city in financial distress should go on a hiring spree to boost their revenues. Or just boost the salaries of all employees. Excellent economic concepts.

    And to think you accuse Borenstein of trying to "snooker" readers.

  8. What part of "public sector unions have agreed that there will be additional cuts in compensation to their members" don't you understand? These unions have agreed for many years now to significant cuts in compensation. Why you wish for us to ignore this fact I do not know.

    As for focusing like a laser on pensions first: why, exactly? Would it not make at least as much sense to focus in on the fact that, unlike almost every other coastal State, California does not charge an extraction tax to oil companies who enrich themselves from the resources they take from territory overseen by our State? It is extraordinarily likely that the additional revenues gained by such a tax would repair the structural State budget deficit more than pension reform will.

    Our country tried cutting public programs and workers as a way to combat budget deficits caused by a stock market crash. President Hoover's policies turned the crash into the Great Depression. Roosevelt's New Deal programs engaged in deficit spending so that the unacceptable 25% unemployment rates he inherited would end. It is the austerity measures you wish for us to follow which, historically, have never worked to restore damaged economies.

  9. Again, any time we talk about one item, in this case the pension issue, we then see the "kitchen sink" thrown in.

    We go from "oil extraction taxes" to "prop 13" to "stock market crashes" to the anything BUT the pension issue. Avoid it, throw everything in the air, but don't dare talk about the massive changes that took place in your own city's pension rates.

    Worse yet any discussion of pension reform and you speak about "eviscerate the retirement income of public servants"...
    Yes, please give me your definition of "eviscerate".

    Pension systems are based on rates. Tell me what it means to "eviserate". For decades we had stable pension rates which allowed for generous pensions. Everyone knew if you worked a long career with a city, county or other agency you'd end up with a nice pension.
    Then in the years following 1999, each city began making massive increases in the pension rates.
    Additionally they made the changes retroactive, even though all the workers had been quite pleased with the prior pension rates.

    Now you engage in hyperbole and use the word "evicerate"..
    Most people I know would say a return to the pre-existing rates would be a good step.

    Example. The long standing rate in cities like Oakland and Berkeley was 2.0% for each year of service for regular employees. But each of those cities and many others in the area, instantly boosted that rate by a full instant 35% increase. Overnight to 2.7%, and they made it retroactive for all prior years of service. A instant gift that amounted to from $200,000 to $1,000,000 for employees over their expected retirement years.

    So when resonable people discuss pension reform, we're hardly asking for the pensions to be eliminated, but returning to the prior ample rates would be a good first step.
    In other words, returning to the old rates, and for those continuing employees, getting greater contributions so that the pension plans would not face such huge unfunded liabilities.

    Using reasonable projections and reasonable contributions so that every city doesn't end up like Stockton and Vallejo.

    But mention any change, even reasonable change, and you fly off the handle, throw in every other issue you can grab and lable any pension reform as "eviceration".

    I see you continue to be unwilling to discuss the city in which you live. Unwilling to give us their pension rate jumps since 1999.

    I'll tell you one thing, the public was unaware that instant pension increases of 25% to 35% were being handed out.

    Even some city council members who voted for these foolish boosts, have now admitted it was a huge mistake and that it is killing the city budgets.
    Example, Ignacio De LaFuente in Oakland.
    He knows the truth. He knows the cliff Oakland is headed to. He has said so in public finance meetings.
    I suppose you will now try to label him as some right-wing zealot. My God, in addition to being on the council, he is International Vice President for the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics, and Allied Workers International Union, AFL-CIO.

    I suppose his comments on the disaster as the result of the pension jumps is just extremist chatter.

    I sometimes wonder here if you are even aware of the content of your local government pension plans.
    The rates, the details.
    Perhaps you are just spouting off, when actually you are unaware of any of the details or the changes that took place after 1999.
    Tell us what you know about your own city.

  10. Gee, it's like we're talking past each other. Sigh...we'll try again.

    Dear anonymous, what part of "public sector workers have been making significant concessions on pensions and all other forms of compensation for many years now" don't you understand??

    This can, should, and legally must be handled through the collective bargaining process. Negotiations are taking place right now between the State public sector unions, the Governor, and Legislative leaders right now, for example. The biggest state worker union already agreed to a 5% cut in pay. An additional agreement will be reached that will be a huge giveback on pensions by these unions. That will happen, guaranteed.

    Will even that be enough for the Borensteins of the world, or the Republicans in the Legislature? Unlikely. See, they care much more about destroying unions in California than they do about the budget deficit. If they really cared about the deficit, they would be dealing with all of the structual budget issues, on both the revenue and the expense side of the ledger. If they really cared, they would deal with the fact that pensions are a fraction of the structual deficit, and concede that unions have been making massive concessions in order to draw that part of the budget deficit down.

    But they, like you, hate unions and the middle class which owes its existence to the union movement, so you all don't want us to walk and chew gum at the same time. "Destroy unions first, then we'll talk," you say. How irresponsible of you.

    Finally: Nacho? Really? You use Ignacio's former leadership role in the labor movement to polish his credibility on the pension issue? Shit, dude, that ship has sailed.

    Ignacio has turned his back on the middle class and other progressive causes so thoroughly that, even as a powerful Democratic incumbent, he can't come within spitting distance of endorsements from either the Labor Council or the Democratic Party. His campaign warchest, built by contributions from the Chamber, developers, and other interests, may continue to get him elected, along with his name recognition. Maybe. But for God's sake, the main issue he ran on in his campaign for Mayor (when he got stomped) was how hard he was going to fuck over the lazy city workers.

    So, yes, Nacho is now engaging in extremist chatter. I'll be interested in seeing if he shows up at County Party Central Committee meetings, now that his "reform" slate went down. Pass the popcorn!

  11. Of course union groups have been bitterly complaining about Borensteins articles long before anyone began to think about actually making any changes in the out of control pension costs.

    Now you suggest that "massive concessions" have been made.

    Please give me a example of where "massive concessions" have been made in pensions.
    I know you want to skip away from that specific issue and to bring in everything else, but lets stick to the changes that have been given up in the pension plans.

    I might add, that no changes at all would have been happening were it not for a hosts of articles such as Borensteins, that finally allowed the public to be informed.
    The very same articles you attack him for.

    You want nothing to be written about the issue, when it is you slam it, and then when the public is aware, you suggest that "massive concessions" have been made.

    Again, take a local East Bay city. Educate me about the massive concessions that have been made regarding pensions. (aside from those that San Jose may make after the vote)

    Example with details if you will.
    And if you will, compare the result with what was in place prior to the lid coming off in 1999.. Back when pension rates were already generous and a major noteworthy benefit of working in public service.

    I've always thought public pensions were great and fair. That changed in the last dozen years as they were greatly increased.
    Everyone seems to get jumpy when it comes to specifics. I think there are a few examples where they aren't excessive.
    For example, misc. employees in the City of Alameda. Police and Fire were jacked up but all the other employees stayed at the old 1999 rate.
    Not excessive, although I would have to check their empolyee contribution rate for those specific workers. (I am uncertain about that particular detail of Alameda's regular non-safety employees) I'm also uncertain about how they handle medical.

    For example, Stockton gave lifetime medical to worker and spouse after you put in 18months on the job with STockton, assuming your total public service amounted to 5 years. (but only 18 months of that needed to be with Stockton to get the lifetime medical for both you and your spouse)

    Those kinds of excess are often hidden from public knowledge. San Francisco used to give lifetime medical after 5 years also.

    But I know, bring up stuff like that is being anti union. Pointing out any excess is anti-worker.

  12. You don't know what went into most of these negotiations, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, in our huge State. Nor do I.

    I know that in many cases the union members accepted wage freezes/cuts, increases in their health insurance obligations and cuts in benefits, some layoffs, and other takeaways. In those cases, they chose to negotiate the deferred compensation of sweetened pensions in exchange for these cuts. Among the reasons they chose to prioritize pensions is that many of these workers will recieve little to no Social Security retirement benefits. Did you know that? It's extraordinarily likely that the vast majority of San Jose voters did not.

    Even so, in jurisdiction after jurisdiction, California workers have been accepting greatly increased up-front contributions to their pension plans. They have accepted two-tier plans which will provide sharply reduced pensions to younger workers. And they have even moved into readjustments of the formulas for their pension plans, responding directly to the issue about which you express concern. They have also been accepting cuts or eliminations of their retiree health plans.

    A thorough search of the Internet would provide numerous examples of these concessions, to the degree such details are reported. I don't know that it would be a worthwhile way to spend one's time, as it is apparent to anyone who cares to know that public sector workers have been treated horribly in recent years.

    I appreciate the knowledge you bring to this issue; I accept its meaning, while I may quibble about some of your facts and oppose your conclusions. Pension reform is necessary. I concede that. I argue strongly that it should and must be negotiated, in accordance with State law and with basic, decent treatment of public servants.

    So, in light of all these facts, do you still conclude that the current pension situation in California comprises a large portion of our public budget deficits? If so, the numbers you've supplied so far simply do not provide sufficient evidence that this is true.

    And, now that you're recieving an extremely good-faith response to the issue you care most about, are you willing to engage in a good-faith discussion over the other changes in California governance which have created the vast majority of our structual budget deficits? That would be refreshing.

    I'm as interested in solving these problems as you are. We simply have to have a more accurate discussion of the facts. Absent that, we'll continue to talk past each other, and both we and the readers will lose interest.