Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Debt Ceiling: Obama's Game to Lose

When it comes to the debt debate, Obama is both on the sidelines and overbearing. Huh? That's what the GOP, and funny enough, The NY Times want you to believe. But that just doesn't pass muster. In an article this morning, journalist Jackie Calmes says:
Having already deployed the heavy weapons from the presidential arsenal, including a national address on Monday night and a veto threat, Mr. Obama is in danger of seeming a spectator at one of the most critical moments of his presidency. Having been unable to get the grand bargain he wanted — a debt limit increase and up to $4 trillion in debt-reduction through spending cuts and taxes — Mr. Obama’s challenge now is to reassert himself in a way that produces the next-best outcome, or at least one that does no harm to his re-election hopes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Have a Job? Need Not Apply

What's that old saying about banks - 'They're only willing to lend money to those that don't need it.' Companies seem to be doing something similar. The NY Times found that more often than not companies specifically asked for the employed or recently employed to apply. So where does that leave the rest of us? 

Hispanics Reeling From Effects of the Recession

Hispanics hurt hardest during recession? According to the Pew Center, that's the unfortunate reality. The NY Times digs deep into the numbers, but as you can see they are far from pretty. While the recession officially ended in 2009, it would have been nice to see numbers that included 2010 considering black unemployment is still rising and as of now eclipses 20 percent. 

Government Is Working, Ask South Bronx

Good op-ed in the NY Times about what government can do to help revitalize urban neighborhoods.

The Bronx (and many neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan) stands as arguably the greatest public rebuilding achievement since World War II, a resurrection begun by Mayor Edward I. Koch and continued with great vigor by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today.
The Bloomberg administration will, in the end, have poured more than $8 billion into building and preserved 165,000 apartments — more than enough to house the population of Miami.

Will Higher Taxes Kill Small Businesses?

House Speaker John Boehner surely thinks so. It's a fear he repeated last night in his speech following Pres. Obama's. Obama, as part of the debt ceiling negotiations, would like to end the Bush tax cuts in 2012 and raise tax rates for those making over $250,000 back to Clinton-era levels.

Boehner's claim, along with the GOP's, is that increasing tax rates during an economic downturn is foolhardy. First, because it'll recede economic growth. And second, it'll hurt the engine of recovery -- small business owners. 

Notice Boehner's sleight of hand? No one is talking about raising taxes during an economic recovery. Obama is proposing to end the Bush tax cuts next year. Granted we do not know what the economy will look like in the future, but for Boehner to imply it'll take place now is disingenuous at best. So what about small business owners? Will they be crippled by this tax increase?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beyond the Debt Ceiling

The debt ceiling discussions have taken all our focus, and demand much of our legislative energy. Not only have we stopped focusing on each other, we’re rapidly losing sight of the other difficulties plaguing our country.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HIV Treatment, Testing and the Debt Ceiling

By Brad Ogilve

The on-going saga about the budget, deficit and debt-ceiling seems to have everyone clamoring for their piece of the pie either in terms of programs, money or power.  HIV/AIDS organizations are no exception.  The big noise now coming out of “AIDS, Inc.” is that, on the first anniversary of the release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, President Obama is proposing some changes and cuts to Medicaid as part of the negotiations, and that these negotiations could “halt progress against HIV/AIDS”.

It’s hard for me to get too worked up about this, and to jump on any AIDS Advocacy/Activist bandwagon.  The reason is simple: “AIDS, Inc” has become way too reliant on government funding and playing where the money is that it seems to have no vision of how to engage new ideas that may actually call for less funding, or to see other emerging trends that are problematic. When any politician says that, as a part of these negotiations, we need to look at wasteful spending and wasteful practices, a lot of HIV/AIDS bureaucracy comes to mind. Basically, anything that calls for treatment and counseling gets the activists attention; anything related to testing or questions the system gets neglected.   

Some examples:
  • A recent training/lobbying event held in DC to support funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program received a lot of underwriting from the very same pharmaceutical companies that would get the money.  “AIDS, Inc.’s” activist wing was silent on the funding.
  • HIV-testing programs are being cut in different parts of the country.  Recommendations for testing are to go to an MD, or to the ER.  Both of these are extremely expensive and even unreasonable options, but the option of a $10 test that someone can take at home remains mired in bureaucracy.  Again, the activists are silent, but when the thought of going to the ER for treatment comes up, the shrieking begins.  
  • A recent study found that teen girls with HIV were 7 times more likely to get pregnant after knowing their status.  Did this really need to be studied using public funds?  And, more problematic, this should call into question the effectiveness of all this counseling for people with HIV that people say is needed, but again the activists are silent.
  • A study found that putting HIV-negative people on HIV-medication decreases HIV-transmission rates.  The fact that US universities ran this study with public funds but in Uganda and Kenya reinforces a global message that the world can be our guinea pig.  But here in the US, we can’t even give people the more affordable option of self-testing because we can’t handle it.   

The big players in the HIV/AIDS arena have become so entrenched that simple connections cannot be made.  Instead, like the little chick in the nest, they only seem to be able to scream for more.  And, sadly, these are also the only one’s that the Obama White House on AIDS is listening to.  So, Obama is right to say we need to all learn to do more with less, but unfortunately he is surrounded by people who don’t speak that language. Until there is some serious talk about some of the fundamental flaws of 3 decades of "spend it or lose it", and chasing the virus with treatment and the stigma that is "identity-driven" policy, I maintain that too much money has been a part of the problem and fostered a co-dependent relationship that is unhealthy and downright deadly.  Or to put it another way, as long as the only thing that "AIDS Inc." seems to scream about is treatment while committed to maintaining their turf on testing, I say what we are seeing now has been in the works for years.