Archive for October 11th, 2009

Democrats stymie GOP efforts to pass immigration measures

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: America | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By Walter Alarkon

Republicans failed this week to keep provisions addressing illegal immigration in the Homeland Security spending bill, the latest sign that Democrats want to hold off on that debate until next year.

GOP senators had succeeded in attaching a pair of border security and enforcement provisions to the Senate version of the appropriations bill: one would have completed the 700-mile fence authorized along the Mexican border and the other would have permanently extended a requirement for all federal contractors to verify their employees through a government database.

But Democrats stripped both provisions out in conference. They did extend the verification program by three years along with several expiring visa programs, including one for international medical graduates in rural states and another for religious workers.

“Clearly in our bill, we assumed nothing was permanent,” said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security. “We took some stop-gap measures.”

Lawmakers, Price said, know that immigration won’t be a top priority in coming months, when Congress is looking to pass bills on healthcare, climate change and financial regulations, and address the struggling economy. Price said he believed Congress had the political will to tackle immigration early in 2010 but that it would be hard to pass anything once campaigning for the mid-term elections begins next summer and the presidential race begins in 2011.

Leaving the provisions out will give advocates for a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in they country more leverage to win over centrists once the immigration debate begins.

The most recent immigration overhaul stalled in 2007 when lawmakers couldn’t agree, even though the effort was supported by President George W. Bush, Democratic leaders and centrist Republicans.

The path to citizenship, which was in that bill, ended up being a dealbreaker for conservatives, who view it as amnesty.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (S.C.), one of the Republicans who backed the immigration overhaul, said that the 3-year extensions of current policies were good steps but no substitute for broader reform.

“You may extend a program or two, but you’re never going to solve this problem piecemeal,” Graham said.

He suggested that compromises will be necessary to pass any legislation that realistically deals with the millions in the country illegally.

“I think America is ready to embrace give-and-take politics on this issue only if you can convince them that this will solve the problem,” he said. “That’s our challenge, to convince the American public that the border is more secure.”

Republicans who opposed the last immigration overhaul are again pushing for increased immigration enforcement provisions in the 2010 spending bills.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) failed to get an amendment attached last week to the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill that would have barred local law enforcement groups from receiving federal money for community policing programs if they refused to report illegal immigrants they encountered to federal authorities.

Large police departments, including those in New York City and Philadelphia, have long objected to the proposal to end “sanctuary cities”. They say it would have a chilling effect on policing in immigrant communities, with potential witnesses to crimes avoiding police for fear they will be reported.

Senators voted to table the amendment on a 38-61 vote, with every Democrat opposing the measure.

Vitter said that he hasn’t seen any evidence that the gap between supporters and opponents of the comprehensive immigration overhaul has shrunk.

“I think there’s very much still the same divide in Congress,” Vitter told The Hill. “And I think there’s still very much the same support among the American people for getting serious first with enforcement.”

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Senate 2010: Most endangered seats

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: America | Tags: , , , , , , , |


The 2010 Senate landscape is almost evenly split down the middle: Republicans will be defending 18 seats, while the Democrats will be defending 19 seats, including the January special election in Massachusettes for the full watch list.

Chris Dodd, a five-term Democrat, is arguably the party’s most vulnerable Senate incumbent — just look at the lengthy list of Republicans who are champing at the bit to take him on. Dodd has experienced marked improvement in his poll ratings in recent months, a development no doubt assisted by the Senate Ethics Committee’s August dismissal of complaints alleging that Dodd and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) had received special mortgage deals from Countrywide Financial. Yet the committee also noted that the two should have “exercised more vigilance” to avoid the appearance that they received preferential treatment, so the issue isn’t entirely wiped away. Leading the crowded GOP field is former three-term Rep. Rob Simmons, who was defeated for reelection in 2006. Simmons has led Dodd in head-to-head polling matchups for months; Quinnipiac had him at a 5-percentage-point advantage in mid-September.


The only thing stopping Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from being rated as the most vulnerable Democratic senator is the quality of his opposition. Republicans struggled for months to come up with a top-tier challenger to Reid, despite his anemic ratings in the polls. Now the GOP has at least three prospective challengers — former state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, state Sen. Mark Amodei and businessman Danny Tarkanian — but none of them has ever run a race quite like this or against a smash-mouth opponent quite like Reid. If the GOP nominee turns out to be equal to the task, the general election may end up resembling the epic 2004 South Dakota battle between then- Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Republican John Thune, fueled by national money and contingent on whether the challenger can convince voters that Reid’s power hasn’t translated into results for Nevada — which is suffering from high unemployment and foreclosure rates.

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Report: Health bills show some price gaps

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: health care | Tags: , , , , |

By John Fritze, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Older Americans who buy health insurance on their own could pay nearly 50% more in premiums under the Senate Finance Committee bill compared with other versions pending in Congress, an independent study says.Americans between 55 and 64 could be charged an average of $8,650 a year for insurance under the Finance Committee bill compared with $5,930 under a separate bill approved in July by the Senate health committee, according to a report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 The discrepancy would not affect people who get insurance from Medicare or through work. It would apply to older Americans who buy coverage in the individual market or who are currently uninsured — about 6 million people between 55 and 64, Kaiser Family Foundation data show.

 The Finance Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on its bill, which would cost $829 billion over 10 years and would cover 29 million uninsured Americans. The bill would require nearly everyone to buy a health insurance policy.

 Determining how much insurance companies can consider age when setting premium prices could become a sticking point if the committee passes the bill. Democratic leaders will then have to merge the finance version with the health committee’s bill, which is more generous to older people.

 David Sloane, AARP’s chief lobbyist asks, “Why is it more acceptable to discriminate against older people?” AARP was formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

 Families with two people ages 45 to 64 could be charged an average of $11,939 under the finance bill compared with $9,662 under other versions of the bill, according to the report.

 Younger Americans, on the other hand, could pay less. The report found that single adults between 18 and 24 would pay $2,163 a year on average under the finance bill compared with $2,965 under legislation approved in July by the Senate health committee and bills pending in the House.

 “This intergenerational issue is where the tension comes in,” said Linda Blumberg, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and lead author of the study.

 In a July letter, the industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, asked Congress to allow them to charge older Americans five times more than younger ones — which the Urban Institute study says is close to the current industry practice. The finance bill would let insurers charge older adults four times more while the health committee and House versions of the bill set a 2-1 ratio, which is favored by AARP.

 Representatives for the AARP and the insurance industry said they would be closely watching the merging process.

    Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans said that individuals under 35 who are less likely to use insurance could wind up subsidizing coverage for everyone else if lawmakers favor older people.

 Blumberg said because younger Americans earn less on average they would receive larger federal subsidies to offset the premiums. Individuals earning between $32,490 and $43,320, for instance, would get subsidies to cover premiums that exceed 12% of their income.

 From USAToday

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Hire Americans First!

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: unemployment | Tags: , , , , |

by Pat Buchanan

September’s unemployment figures were not only disappointing — they were grim. For the 21st straight month, Americans lost jobs. Fifteen million are out of work — 5 million for more than six months.

But as The Washington Times asserts, “America’s jobless crisis is much worse than the 9.8 percent unemployment rate.”

The U.S. economy actually lost 785,000 jobs in September, which should have pushed the 9.7 percent August unemployment figure far higher than just 0.1 percent to 9.8 percent.

What kept the increase to 0.1 percent?

Over 800,000 people quit the labor force in September. They packed it in. They stopped looking for work. That is six times the number who quit looking in August and five times the monthly average of those who have given up the search for work in the year since Lehman Brothers died.

Adding to the near 15 million unemployed those who have given up looking for work and those who have taken low-paying part-time jobs, the Times estimates the true employment rate at 17 percent. We used to call that a depression.

Yet, with nearly 25 million Americans unemployed, or no longer looking for work, or in low-wage part-time jobs, 8.5 million U.S. jobs are believed to be held by illegal aliens who broke into the country or overstayed their visas.

Why is this not a matter of national outrage?

For every job opening in the country, there are six unemployed Americans. With this surplus of idle labor and shortage of jobs, the men who do the hiring are in the catbird’s seat. They can cut wages in the knowledge that desperate Americans will have to accept what is offered.

Comes the rote response: Immigrants and illegal aliens only take jobs Americans do not want and will not do. But, last month, a front-page article in USA Today demolished that argument.

When a 2006 raid on six Swift & Co. meatpacking plants rounded up 1,200 illegal aliens, 10 percent of the workforce, Swift was up and running at full staff within months. How? Native-born Americans in the hundreds came out and took the jobs.

Says Vanderbilt University Professor Carol Swain, “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do these jobs Americans will supposedly not do.”

At one of the Swift plants out West, a workforce that had been 90 percent Hispanic, legal and illegal, before the raids is now a mixture of white Americans and Hispanic-Americans. Illegal aliens lost the jobs, and American citizens got them.

A House of Raeford Farms plant in North Carolina that was more than 80 percent Hispanic before a federal investigation now has a workforce 70 percent African-American. Continued…

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In Defense of Glenn Beck

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: Beck | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

by Jonah Goldberg
For a self-described rodeo clown who frequently admits he isn’t that bright, Glenn Beck must be doing something right. A de facto leader of the populist backlash against President Obama, he made the cover of Time magazine, with his tongue sticking out no less. His books are immediate best-sellers. His radio and TV shows have stratospheric ratings. His one-man comedy performances draw packed audiences, and the proceeds from his numerous ventures have him making north of $20 million a year.

But perhaps his most impressive feat is his ability to unite a broad coalition of liberals, media scolds and conservatives under the single banner of Beck-hatred.

Now, before I proceed, I should disclose the fact that I like Beck personally and that his support for my book “Liberal Fascism” was a huge boon, helping to push it to No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list. As a Fox News contributor, I have appeared regularly on his show. Whether that gives me more, or less, credibility when I say I cannot defend some of the things he says is for others to decide.

Still, much of the anti-Beck backlash (He’s an extremist! He’s paranoid! He’s hate-filled!) from the left is hard to take seriously. First, this is a crowd that lets Michael Moore and Janeane Garofalo speak for them, and that celebrated the election of unfunny man Al Franken to the Senate. If you think it’s racist to oppose Obama’s health care reform efforts, it goes without saying that you’ll think Beck is an extremist. This is what liberals always say about popular right-wingers, including Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley. For over 20 years liberals, including Presidents Clinton and Obama, have insisted that Rush Limbaugh is everything from an unpatriotic hatemonger to an enabler of domestic terrorism. It makes sense that they’d give Beck the same business.


Or consider Jon Stewart, the legitimately funny host of “The Daily Show.” Stewart is reminiscent of Will Rogers — a humorist who was nonetheless anointed by the National Press Club as the “ambassador at large of the United States.” The liberal establishment swoons over him. The Television Critics Association bequeathed its award for outstanding achievement in news and information to a show that isn’t even a news show. Times columnist Frank Rich seems to have a man-crush on the Peabody comedian, while Bill Moyers of PBS insists that “you simply can’t understand American politics in the new millennium without ‘The Daily Show.'” The hosts of NPR’s in-house press watchdog show, “On the Media,” claim Stewart as their role model!

Stewart’s M.O. is to launch lightning attacks as a left-wing pundit and then quickly retreat to his haven across the border in Comedystan, but Beck must be pelted from the public stage for blurring the line between theater and punditry? Really? Continued…

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Canadian trucker fined for smoking on the job

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: Is this What we Want? | Tags: , , , , |

TORONTO (Reuters) – A Canadian truck driver has been fined for smoking in his vehicle because it is considered his workplace, a police spokeswoman said on Friday.

A police officer saw the 48-year-old trucker driving on a highway in southwestern Ontario with a cigarette in his mouth on Wednesday, and gave him a C$305 ($290) ticket.

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, adopted in 2006, prohibits smoking in an enclosed workplace or enclosed public area, and that extends to work vehicles, said Constable Shawna Coulter of the Ontario Provincial Police in Essex County.

“We enforce the legislation and this truck driver was in violation of that,” she said.

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