Three Political Bills considered last week by the House

capuanoRep. Michael Capuano(D-MA) writes:

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, for the 63rd Time 

The House took up the President’s veto message on H.R. 3762, Restoring America’s Health Care Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015. This is one more in a very long line of votes to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – 63 times, in fact.

In early January the House passed H.R. 3762 after it had already passed in the Senate. It is a reconciliation bill, which means it only required a majority vote for passage in the Senate instead of the 60 votes often needed to advance legislation. As expected, the President vetoed the legislation and this week the House took up a vote to override that veto.

H.R. 3762 repeals numerous provisions of the ACA, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates will result in the loss of health care coverage for more than 20 million Americans after 2017. H.R. 3762 also defunds Planned Parenthood for one year, which will leave many patients without access to cancer screenings, family planning and preventive care.

It is worth noting that despite this continued obsessive focus on eliminating the ACA, the Republican-led House has still failed to propose any alternative legislation. Overriding a Presidential veto requires a 2/3 majority. While a majority of House members voted to override the Presidential veto, the 2/3 threshold was not met so the measure failed. I voted NO.

Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC)

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1675, the Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2015. H.R. 1675 combines five bills governing capital markets that create unnecessary burdens for the SEC and do not do enough to protect investors. The legislation directs the SEC to review and revise all of its rules dating back to 1934 but does not provide any additional money for staff to accomplish this sweeping analysis. It also changes rules relating to when companies are required to disclose the value of their stocks and other financial information when issuing that stock to their employees. I voted NO. H.R. 1675 passed… (on a substantially party-line vote)

Financial Institutions

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 766, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015. Rather than protecting consumers, this legislation really hinders the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ability to investigate financial crimes. H.R. 766 also reduces the window that the DOJ can prosecute criminal activity from ten years to five years. I voted NO. H.R. 766 passed... (on a substantially party-line vote)

Our Representative, Tom Reed, is unlikely to explain his votes on these bills. I believe this sort of partisan political posturing is what leaves many Americans, even Republicans, dissatisfied with Republican Congressional mis-leaders.

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Another State Senate Race in the NY 23rd

Michael NozzolioTwenty-three year veteran State Senator Michael Nozzolio of the 54th District announced that he will not run for re-election this fall. The 54th Senatorial District covers part of the NY23rd (Seneca County, the Eastern portion of Ontario County and the town of Lansing in Tompkins County) along with Wayne and Seneca Counties and one town in Monroe County. Nozzolio also served in the Assembly from 1983 to 1992. He confirmed the decision hinged on the fact that he is being scheduled for open heart surgery.

Nozzolio is known for bringing state funds into the 54th District. He is very popular and was unopposed in most of his elections. With that being said, Assemblyman Bill Nojay (R-C 133rd) has been recruiting republicans to run against Nozzolio in the September primary before his retirement announcement.  Nojay explained, “The worst thing of all was that he put a knife in the back of (Senate Majority candidate) John DeFrancisco. He voted for this Long Island liberal (present Majority Leader John Flanagan) who is probably Cuomo’s biggest ally in Albany.” We need to note that Nojay is rated as the New York’s Most Conservative State Assembly member.

Nozzolio’s retirement opens another competitive Senate race in the NY 23rd. This is a chance to tip the Senate’s control from the present 31-31 tie (with one vacant seat) to one party or the other. If it is turned “Blue” then both Legislative bodies, as well as the Executive branch, would be controlled by Democrats. Leslie Danks Burke, running against Tom O’Mara in the 58th District, could also help tip the balance.

John Hurley, Ontario County Democratic Chair is organizing a team to search for a candidate to run for Nozzolio’s seat. “It’s a tough district for a Democrat to win, but it is also a presidential year, so that sometimes makes it a little helpful, because turnout is a little but higher. There will be contested races in parts of the district, so I think it certainly makes what is a difficult challenge for a Democrat easier.”(Finger Lakes Times 2/4/16).

Hurley’s observations that might bode well for democrats this election year–having more democrats on the ballots and that this is an presidential election year and the number of voters will increase. The key is the getting the voters out.

The NY 23rd will be following the race that develops for Nozzolio’s seat. Contact the NY 23rd if other state races develop that affect us. Knowledge is power.

 

 

Posted in 2016, NYS Government | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep America Great!

Finger Lakes Times (Geneva) columnist Peter Mitchell asked  “If we’re not a great country now, when were we great, and what will take to get is back there?” in this week’s column titled “The ‘Make America Great’ Myth”.

First Mitchell identified four issues that relate to living a good life:

  • the ability to work and support yourself and family
  • a stable economy
  • a safe environment
  • the ability to be accepted regardless of what segment of the population you belong to

Then he found facts and information about those topics:

  • Mitchell points to the unemployment rate of 5% and  that it was around 8% when President Bush left office and a whopping 10.4% during the Reagan’s term.

(Go to this graph to see the unemployment rates from President Truman through President Obama (September, 2015) You will see that the rate was 8.3 when he became President, it went up to 9.9% in November, 2009, and in September, 2015 it was 5%).

  • He reminds us that the inflation rate during the Obama years has averaged around 2%. In the 1980’s it hit 12%, and was 5% when President Bush (41) left office.

(Go to this graph to see the Average Annual Inflation by Decade (1913 to 2015). The years from 2010-2015 was 1.86%, the lowest since the 1950’s rate of 1.82%. The 1970’s it was 7.25% and the 1980 was 5.82%)

  • Mitchell reports that the Stock Market was at 490s the year he was born, 824 in 1980, and over 1600 now.

(Go to this graph to see the Dow Jones Average from each month from 1915 to the present.)

  • Mitchell, after looking at FBI figures, concludes that the the crime rates are “the lowest since almost before I was born”. He doesn’t say when he was born.

The table that I found with data from 1970-2014 shows that from 1975-1996 the  number of crimes each year per 100,000 population was in the 5k-5.9k range (5.0K  in ’77 to 5.9K in ’91). It dropped in 1997-2003 from 4.9K in ’97 to 4.1K in 2003. Then from 2004 to 2013 it dropped from 3.9K to 3.1K. In 2014 the crime rate in the United States was 2,971 per 100,000 people (about half of it’s peak in 1991.)

  • Mitchell’s final point dealt with social issues. He said, “I don’t recall hearing minority leaders ever talking about turning the clock back to the ’50s, ’60s or the ’70s. Now that I think about it I don’t hear the social reformists saying let’s go back to the 80’s or 90’s either.”

Reminiscing is a common activity. We like to think of the past.  Some would rather be back in the good ole days, and others appreciate how far we have advanced since then. The politicians are not only proclaiming that the sky is falling, but they are paying millions of dollars to convince us that they are the only one who can stop the sky from falling.

We have to remember that from Day One of the Obama White House the republican leaders vowed not to let Obama succeed. They wanted to make nominationshim a one term President. They were against paying our Country’s bills. They closed the government down because of Obamacare. They disguised anti-environmental legislation as job producers. They approved the sequester which hurt the social programs and the military. They un-sponsored their bills when the President announced that he supported them. The House voted to defund Homeland Security.

Despite the do-nothing congress (see chart below), we have been able to lower unemployment, inflation and crime rates, and greatly increased Dow Jones Average. Despite republican led states that have tried to force their conservative values (Pro-Life, Anti-Marriage Equality, disenfranchising voters, etc) onto the rest of America, the Courts have generally sided against them and more for individual freedoms. Race problems are more out in the open for the whole country to see, which a small step for culturally change.

Of course, we still have work to do. We need to look forward, not backward. We don’t need to Make America Great Again. We need to Keep American Great!

Bills passed

 

Posted in Constituents, Economics, gay rights, Sequester/Fiscal Cliff, Shutdown, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

We Foot the Bill for Big Pharma

This article was written by Cath Kestler, a nurse and Silver Creek resident and a friend of New NY 23rd

 

This past Saturday there was a packed house at the Town Hall meeting with Tom Reed;most of you will be thinking that I will launch on a personal attack on him, but I never thought I’d actually say this, he agreed with me on a question I asked regarding big pharmaceutical companies and the prices of drugs.

The question in particular was regarding the out of pocket prices that the consumer incurs when a drug isn’t covered under the formulary (the list of medications that the Big_pharma_greedinsurance company will cover the cost for).  In my research I came across one particular medication that I will not mention, but many are on this particular medication, if you have the ‘usual’ insurance coverage such as Independent Health or Community Blue the cost of that drug is $426/month; if the consumer has Medicaid the cost is $519/month; and if the consumer has no coverage at all the out of pocket expenditure is $709/month.  We both agreed that something must be done and I offered my assistance in a solution.

The discrepancy isn’t a small amount, is it the pharmaceutical companies or the pharmacies dispensing the medications?  Before asking my question, I did do my homework and this is what I found:

Taxpayers fund 85% of the basic research, yet at the end of the day when a drug is FDA-approved we, as Americans are paying at least twice the price for the medication as those outside of the United States.

Most of the drugs that have actually made it to market are made by a smaller company—they developed the medication and set the price for less than half of what the larger companies charge you for the medication.

When you hear about a company complaining about the cost of these medications, it simply boils down to this: the big company buys the small company and the cost of that company is actually built into the price of the medication that the bigger company puts onto the market for the consumers.  The smaller company already absorbed the cost of research and development and relatively the cost to make the drug is not very expensive.

The figure passed onto us, as consumers is inflated because it includes ancillary expenses, bloated salaries, bonuses, and other indirect costs not related to research and development, as well as an 11% compounded discount rate over ten years based on stock market speculations and returns on their capital investments.

Drug companies have a dual mission, they want to help consumers and at the same time line their pockets at our expense.

Critics of pharmaceutical companies point out that only a very tiny portion of the drug companies expenditures are used for research and development; the majority of their money is spent in marketing and administration costs.  You know the advertising revolution that has taken over the airwaves much to the dismay of healthcare professionals.

Doctors used to hold the key to the gate of prescribing medications for the consumer, pharmaceutical companies spent enormous amounts of money to get a doctor to write a prescription the medication of the moment.  It was taking too much time for the pharmaceutical companies to see the fruits of their labor and while they were hawking their wares it took time away from the consumers when they were at the doctor’s office to see the doctors.

By now the pharmaceutical companies grew tired of this process and they decided to cut out the middle man—the doctor and appeal directly to the consumer.  Get the consumer to specifically ask for the drug they were selling regardless of whether or not it was actually what the patient needed.  Those subliminal messages were working, consumers are asking for medication to make their life easier, or so they’re told by the flashy PR firms producing these commercials.

Today, pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars per year on ads aimed at the consumer and the faux reality that their medication can give you the lifestyle you want.  The Nielsen Co. estimates that there’s an average of over 80 drug commercials every hour of every day on American television.

Many physicians have banded together and are starting to fight back by expressing an n increased concern over the fact that consumers are making appointments and asking for medications that they have no reason to take other than the hope of sharing that bathtub on a hill overlooking the sunset in Napa Valley—it’s a smokescreen.  This is indirectly leading to the rising costs of healthcare that needs to be curbed.  Petitions are being circulated and physicians are voicing concerns over the lobbying power that big pharma and insurance companies hold and obviously they don’t have the best interest of the consumers involved, it’s the bottom-line.

Time will tell whether Congress can achieve some relief for their constituents in the very near future.  Tom expressed the same concerns I have and here’s hoping to see so positive movement for us in the near future.

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Posted in Health Care | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Ideology or Class: Are we getting a raw deal?

trumpRyan Lizza, writing in the Jan. 22nd issue of “The New Yorker,” tells us that voters no longer care much about ideology–who is the most conservative–but about class. Trump has stolen the show by appealing to a large class of disgruntled voters whom he says are getting a raw deal from their representatives, the political elites. Lizza may be right; class resentment may explain not only Trump’s success, but Bernie Sanders’ as well.

Lizza writes “Central to his (Trump’s) platform is his insistence that Americans are being cheated. To protect themselves, he says, they need to hire someone who will cut them a better deal.” Trump’s views needn’t reflect Republican orthodoxy (and they don’t) because it is no longer about orthodoxy, but about disenfranchisement and disgruntlement of the 99%. Trump’s rivals are attacking fruitlessly when they talk ideology, Trump’s supporters don’t care what he believes, right or wrong, but they do believe he will fight for them.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/01/the-duel-faceoff-ryan-lizza

 

 

 

Posted in 2016, Congress, Constituents, Political, President | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rep. Reed’s Changing Stance on Refugees

A chameleon is a lizard that has the ability to change color in order to survive.chameleon-pix-21 Political chameleons change their opinions or behavior according to the situation. Rep. Reed has changed his opinion on the issue of Syrian Refugees at least three times since the ISIS lead attacks on Paris last November.

A Summary of Rep. Reed’s remarks on closing the borders to a specific population:

  • On the day after the Paris Attacks, Rep. Reed, at a Town Hall Meeting in Phelps, said: “I’m not going to say to one population we’re going to close all the  borders to you.”
  • Three days later, back in Washington, he said: “We need to stop the Syrian refugee program.” That in effect is saying “to one population we’re going to close all the borders to you.”
  • Two days later Reed voted for  the American SAFE Act, which would make it realistically impossible for Syrians to relocate in the United States (or closes the borders to them.)
  • After Donald Trump announced his plan to “ban all Muslims” Rep. Reed states that he opposes Trump’s ban. (Which means Reed does NOT want to close the borders to them.)
  • This week in an interview Rep. Reed said, “I believe in the American vision of diversity the American vision of welcoming people who want to come here legally and pursue the American Dream.” 

Here are the complete quotes, with related news events noted in red:

November 13, 2015–  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coordinated a series of terrorist attacks in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis.

November 14, 2015 at Phelps Town Hall Meeting:

“We can not let this radical extreme behavior change what made us great as a country. By that what I mean is what made us great as a country is our diversity, our rich immigration history, our willingness to bring people, allow people to come to America, as long as you follow the rules, and we have a secure way to have that done. So I’m not going to say one population we’re going to close all the  borders to you and to and another population you have a presumptive pass and you can come on through without any security checks. What we need is to have a secure border system, and that should be the goal, not, some people now have knee jerk, and I get it that France and has temporarily closed all the borders…

…If the long term policy is that we’re going to close the borders and some how we’re going to build walls that somehow keeps us away from the rest of the world. It is just not realistic. It is not a solution that I think is good for us as a country long term. What made us great as a country is our willingness to be that leader and the ability to say we can keep ourselves safe—we’ll make that commitment but you can come so long as you go through the process.”

November 17, 2015—Press Release, “Reed Statement on Syrian Refugees

“I care about keeping Americans safe by keeping ISIS out of our country. It’s only right that we prioritize America’s security and thwart any potential act of terrorism on our soil. In light of the recent terror attacks in Paris, we need to stop the Syrian refugee program until the security measures are in place to guarantee our safety. We are a compassionate country and have demonstrated our humanitarian commitment with the billions of dollars we have provided in foreign aid to deal with situations just like this. However, we are extremely reluctant to allow this initiative to continue or expand until, at minimum, the Administration can actually demonstrate ways to keep us safe in the process.”

November 19, 2015–Vote on The American SAFE Act

Rep. Reed voted to approve H.R. 4038, The American SAFE Act, which would effectively shut down the U.S. Syrian refugee resettlement program. (The Bill was not passed in the Senate.)

On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook (an American-born U.S. citizen of Pakistani decent) and his wife Tashfeen Malik, (a Pakistani-bornlawful permanent resident of the United States) killed 14 people and seriously injured 22  in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, which consisted of a mass shooting and an attempted bombing. 

December 8, 2015–“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a campaign press release said.(CNN)

December 8, 2015– In a conference call to NY23rd Newspapers:

“The kind of rhetoric that Donald Trump engaged in in regards to this Muslim issue is just not American,” Reed said. “To me that’s something he’ll have to answer for.”

Reed’s response echoed a statement to reporters Monday by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for,” Ryan said.

The article said, “but (Reed) said given the choice between Trump and a Democratic candidate, he’d still support Trump.”

(Corning Leader, 12/08/2015)

January 27, 2015-  News Interview

“I am concern about some of the rhetoric that he (Trump) has engaged in when came in  and he said he was going  to  ban all muslims from coming to America.  I immediately responded and rejected it. I believe in the American vision of diversity the American vision of welcoming people who want to come here legally and pursue the American Dream.”

(Buffalo WGRZ-TV Interview–article and video.)

It is difficult to understand where our representative stands on closing the borders to the Syrians (and other Muslims). Either he believes “We can not let this radical extreme behavior change what made us great as a country”or he doesn’t. He can’t have it both ways. In both cases (Syrians and Muslims) he is telling one population that they can not come to our country.

Reasonable people  can change their minds, but only if new facts come to light, and that is not the case here.  Reed has one opinion for his Washington Power Brokers, and another for the November voters.

People respect straight talkers, even if they don’t agree them. I’m sorry, Rep. Reed, People don’t respect political chameleons.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2016, Congress, Constituents, Constitution, Defense, Ethics, Immigration, Reed's Views, Terrorism, Town Hall Meeting, War | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Make Social Security a Key Issue in 2016

We don’t hear about Social Security very much in the chatter of presidential primary campaigning. Especially not from the Republicans. That is going to change as the sharing-ideas13campaigns move to the general election phase after the July National Conventions. Social Security will be an important issue in the congressional races and nowhere greater than the NY 23rd.

It was just a bit more than a year ago Rep. Reed stunned the economic and political worlds by authoring a House of Representation rule change that doomed the Social Security Disability Fund. He was quoted in national newspapers, was interviewed by multiple radio news organizations, and scared millions of senior citizens (and near seniors citizens) and the disabled community. He told the Olean Times that he is proposing a separate program for the non-catastrophically disabled “so they aren’t drawing away from Social Security Disability.”

Reed promoted his rule change at Town Hall Meetings and declared that the disabled are raiding the retirees. He accused the President for not having a plan to save the Disability Fund. The Fund was going to insolvent (not able to fully pay the Disability benefits that working Americans earned) in August, 2016.

Then things changed.

A new bipartisan spending deal was announced at the end of October which included the President’s Social Security Plan (the one that Reed claimed didn’t exist) that changed the way  Social Security funds were distributed that keeps both the Disability and Retirement Fund solvent util 2022. Rep Reed praised the President’s plan (without mentioning the Persian) when he said, “I think the reforms we’re going to get on the Social Security Disability Trust fund are significant. They are going to allow us to implement some changes that will lead to the long-term solvency of the trust fund.”

Now that we have removed the hurdle that would have the Disability Fund insolvent, Congress needs to tweak the system to strengthen it. There have been numerous suggestions made, but Congress really needs to get to work exploring them. (For some of the plans to strengthen Social Security go to an earlier New NY23rd article, Removing the Payroll Tax Cap and other Social Security Proposals).

The following are three proposed Bills, and a House Resolution that were introduced in the House of Representatives in 2015 that would strengthen Social Security.  The all have 1) Were not co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed 2) Sent to the House Ways and Means Committee (which Tom Reed is a member) on the day it was introduced and 3) has never made it out of the committees to be voted on. Please realize that all the committees are Chaired by Republicans.

H.R. 1391 the Social Security 2100 Act–Introduced 3/17/15. Sent to committees—including House Ways and Means. 75 co-sponsors—not Rep. Reed. Summary link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1391

H.R. 1811, The Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, introduced 4/15/15—Sent to (House Education and the Workforce AND House Ways and Means) Had 11 Co-Sponsors (not Rep. Reed).  Summary link: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr1811/summary

H.R. 3150, the One Social Security Act. Introduced July 22, 2015. It had 90 co-sponsors.(not Rep. Reed). Sent to the House Ways and Means Committee. Summary link: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr3150/summar

H.Res. 393 Expressing support for policies to protect and expand Social Security and secure its long-term future in a fair and responsible manner. Introduced July 29, 2015.  107 co-sponsors (not Rep. Reed). Link to its text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hres393/text/ih

If Rep. Reed really supports Social Security you would think that he would work to get these proposals discussed on the House floor.

Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew told Rep. Reed at a House Ways and Means Committee Hearing, “Long term policies take a long time to have an effect” and that looks “we (Obama Administration) look forward to work together and look at long term issues.” I take that to mean that the earlier they start looking at Social Security issues the better. A tweak in 2016 will have a greater affect than the same tweak in 2020. Our goal should be a long-term solution instead of the usual dead line crisis.

We need to hold our representatives responsible to start discussing ways to strengthen Social Security. This needs to be brought up at every Town Hall Meeting. This needs to be a part of the 2016 House Campaign discussion.

Posted in 2016, Congress, Economics, Social Security | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment