Clinton Vote Against Banning Carcinogen In Water Might Have Political Repercussions

Flint Water Crisis MSNBC

Hillary Clinton’s environmental record has already been viewed as a problem, with Clinton generally taking conservative positions to protect the business interests she receives money from. She has been trying to capitalize politically on the Flint water situation prior to the Michigan primary. A report from investigative reporters David Sirota and Andrew Perez shows how the situation might turn into a political negative for Clinton.

Sirota and Perez reported on a vote in which Clinton voted against banning a possible carcinogen:

When the Democratic presidential contenders meet on Sunday for their debate in Flint, Michigan — where thousands of residents have been poisoned by polluted water — the candidates’ records on clean water policy are likely to be in the spotlight. Hillary Clinton seems eager for that discussion, recently telling NPR: “The idea that you would have a community in the United States of America of nearly 100,000 people who were drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water infuriates me.”

But despite that rhetoric, the issue of clean water may be politically perilous for the leading Democratic candidate, thanks to her vote against banning a possible carcinogen at the center of one of the largest water pollution scandals in recent history.

Facing reports that a controversial fuel additive was contaminating water supplies across America, Clinton as a senator in 2005 opposed a bipartisan measure to ban the chemical — even though Bill Clinton’s Environmental Protection Agency had first proposed such a prohibition. At roughly the same time, one major company producing the chemical also tried to use provisions in a trade deal backed by Hillary Clinton to force local governments in the United States to let it continue selling the toxic compound…

Breaking with then-Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton joined 14 Republicans and 11 Democrats in voting against the measure to phase out MTBE, which passed the Senate by a vote of 70-26. Critics of the amendment to ban MTBE, like New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, chargedit would end up forcing states to use more ethanol.

When Clinton cast her vote against banning MTBE, she was in the midst of a re-election campaign in which she raised more than $74,000 from the oil and gas industry, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. But her record was not one of unanimous support for that industry…

One Clinton critic says her vote against banning MTBE could be a vulnerability. Last year, Democratic operative Matt Barron cited Clinton’s vote as one of a handful of issues that could cost her in the presidential campaign as she tries to win over voters in rural areas.

Update: In other news about Hillary Clinton today, Jim Webb has stated he will not vote for Clinton in the general election, but leaves upon voting for Trump. (I would expect to see the loss of many Democratic votes if Clinton wins the nomination.

Four More Studies On The Benefits Of Obamacare

Over the past year I receive reports from various medical journals and medical practice publications with what feels like a constant flow of studies showing the success of the Affordable Care Act, many of which I have written about in previous posts. Jonathan Chait has an article in New York Magazine on 4 New Studies Show Obamacare Is Working Incredibly Well which gives a representative sample of the studies now being published. While there are more, for the moment I’ll just stick to briefly mentioning the four studies described by Chait, partially in response to Chuck Schumer’s recent comments questioning whether the Democrats should have passed the Affordable Care Act for political reasons .

He started with one of the main goals of the law, expanding the number people who have medical coverage, while also pointing out that the number would be significantly higher if the Supreme Court hadn’t blocked Medicaid expansion:

Every serious method of measuring has shown the law effecting significant reductions in the uninsured rate. The latest, a report by the Urban Institute yesterday, shows that the uninsured rate has fallen nationally by 30 percent…

That rate is 36 percent in states participating in the Medicaid expansion. The states whose Republican governors or legislators have boycotted the expansion have seen their uninsured rates fall by just 24 percent, dragging down the average.

See his full article for more information along with charts demonstrating these benefits.

He next looked at health care costs:

When the law passed, conservatives insisted it would increase rather than decrease health-insurance costs. (Esteemed conservative intellectual Yuval Levin, in 2010, insisted it “completely fails” to reduce overall health-care spending.) Since the law passed, health-care inflation has fallen to historically low levels. Conservatives have repeatedly insisted this was a blip that would soon be reversed, and seized upon any apparent evidence for this case. When health-care spending spiked in the first quarter of 2014, Megan McArdle announced vindication: “After all the speculation that Obamacare might be bending the cost curve, we now know that so far, it isn’t.” (It turned out the first-quarter spike in health-care spending was a preliminary miscount that has since been corrected.)

Also yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid reported that health inflation in 2013 not only remained in, it fell to the lowest level since the federal government began keeping track…

His third  study was on medical errors:

Obamacare has a wide variety of reforms designed to bend the cost curve. One of them is a new payment system that encourages hospitals to avoid readmissions. The old Medicare system reimbursed hospitals for every procedure. This meant they had a perverse incentive to do a bad job taking care of their patients — a patient who developed an infection, or needed readmission, would produce a second stream of revenue for the hospital. Obamcare’s payment reforms changed that incentive. A new report finds that hospital-acquired medical conditions has fallen by 17 percent since 2010. (This has not only saved huge amounts of money, it has also saved 50,000 lives.)

He concluded by quoting from a Kaiser Health News analysis  on the benefits of increased competition:

A surge in health insurer competition appears to be helping restrain premium increases in hundreds of counties next year, with prices dropping in many places where newcomers are offering the least expensive plans … In counties that are adding at least one insurer next year, premiums for the least expensive silver plan are rising 1 percent on average. Where the number of insurers is not changing, premiums are growing 7 percent on average.

The downside is that the lower prices require consumers to actively shop on the exchanges. Customers who automatically renew their existing plan without comparison shopping will miss out.

That is an important point at the end. Failing to shop around can lead to paying much higher premiums than is necessary. The Obama administration is considering a plan in which people can choose to be automatically be placed in the least expensive plan available in a tier as opposed to automatically having the current plan renewed. This has the downside (as in recognized in the proposal) that people would then be at greater risk of winding up in a plan which their doctor doesn’t accept. It is far safer to shop around for the best plan on your own, taking into consideration factors such as which doctors are in a plan.

Now, if only more Democrats would talk about the benefits of the plan they passed, as opposed to cowering in terror when attacked by Republicans, the party, and the country, would be far better off.

Ignore Chuck Schumer–The Democrats Were Right To Pass Obamacare

Charlie Cook is usually an astute political observer but he is making a mistake in paying too much attention to what Chuck Schumer said about Obamacare hurting the Democrats. The argument, which many have brought up, is that the Democrats made a political mistake by concentrating on health care as opposed to the economy. There are many problems with this theory to explain the Democratic loses in 2014.

This premise is incorrect. Obama  did concentrate on the economy first, getting us out of the depression which Bush had us heading into. This included the stimulus, which was successful, and saving the auto industry. In retrospect a larger stimulus package would have done more good, but this was not feasible politically, regardless of whether Obama also worked on health care reform.  Obama can walk and chew gum at the same time. Working on health care reform did not prevent him from working on the economy.

Those who argue that Obama should have put off health care reform for a later date are forgetting that he had a narrow window and that it could not have passed if postponed. While Republicans often claim that Obama had a super-majority in the Senate, along with controlling the House, for his first two years and therefore could have done whatever he wanted, this is not true. Due to vacancies from matters such as the delay in seating Al Franken and Ted Kennedy’s illness and later death, Democrats and independents caucusing with them had sixty votes for only five months. This included Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson who often did not go along with the rest of the Democrats. It was also these two who blocked the Medicare buy-in and public option, so they are the ones you should be angry with if you are facing higher premiums than you want to pay for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act, among its other benefits, is also important for its effects on economic recovery. Obamacare helps those in the middle class who had medical expenses they could not afford in the past. In is also beneficial to the economy long term by eliminating the problem of people being forced to work for larger companies to obtain coverage. This allows more people to work for smaller companies, or to start companies of their own to stimulate the economy. In Republican-speak, Obamacare increases the number of job creators.

Those who blame Democratic loses on Obamacare ignore all the other factors involved in 2014, such as Democrats being forced to defend so many seats in red states in the sixth year of a presidency. Even Ronald Reagan could not prevent his party from losing the Senate in his sixth year in office.  Obamacare did not turn out to be the major issue that many had predicted, and even without Obamacare it is likely there would have been an anti-Democratic mood. Larry Sabato pointed out this week that it is actually the norm for a political party to lose Congressional seats when they control the White House.

The Democrats also made serious mistakes which hurt politically. They failed to make the case for the harm done by Republican economic policies, and take credit for their own successes. On Obamacare, the mistake was not passing the law but having Democratic candidates run away from it when they should have been explaining the benefits of the law. Democratic candidates ran away from Obama and his policies, and then were shocked when the Obama voters didn’t turn out to vote for them. Polls show that a majority supports the Democrats on the issues, including the specifics of the Affordable Care Act, but this does not help the Democrats when they run as Republican-lite.

For Schumer to argue that they should not have passed Obamacare because it hurt politically also is another sign of how the Democrats, while far preferable to the Republicans, far too often are afraid to stand for anything. What is the point of winning election if the victories are not used to accomplish something? LBJ was not afraid to pass the civil rights act despite knowing that this would help Republican politicians take the south from the Democrats.

Obama Roasts McCain at Al Smith Dinner

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Following is the full transcript of Barack Obama roasting John McCain at the Al Smith Dinner in New York, October 16, 2008:

Thank you so much.

Thank you to Al and to Ann, to Your Eminence, to Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg, to Senator and Mrs. McCain, to my wonderful colleagues, Senators Clinton and Schumer, to all the distinguished guests. There is no other crowd in America that I’d rather be palling around with right now.

I’m sorry he couldn’t be here. I do send regards to my running mate, Joe Biden, or as Senator McCain noted, he now actually likes to be called Joe the Senator. I was thrilled to get this invitation and I feel right at home here because it’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neumann.

But I have to say tonight’s venue isn’t really what I’m used to. I was originally told we’d be able to move this outdoors to Yankee Stadium, and — can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek Columns that I requested?

I do love the Waldorf-Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian tea room. It is an honor to be here with Al Smith. I obviously never knew your great grandfather, but from everything that Senator McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before Prohibition. So — wonderful stories.

The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. The mayor recently announced some news — made some news by announcing he’s going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, you can do that?

The president’s better half, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is here. Glad to see you made it, Hillary. I’m glad to see that you made it because I heard Chuck Schumer actually tried to tell you that we really did move this event to Yankee Stadium.

But I’ll tell you all from personal experience, Hillary Clinton is one of the toughest and most formidable presidential candidates in history. She’s broken barriers. She’s inspired millions. She is the — she is the primary reason I have all this gray in my hair now. I am also glad to see that Senator Schumer is here, and I see that he’s brought some of his loved ones. Those would be the folks with the cameras and the notebooks in the back of the room.

Of course, I am especially honored to be here tonight with my distinguished opponent, Senator John McCain. I think it is a tribute to American democracy that with two weeks left in a hard-fought election, the two of us could come together and sit down at the same dinner table without preconditions.

Recently, one of John’s top advisers told the “Daily News” that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain’s going to lose. So, tonight I’d like to talk about the economy.

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Republican Opposition to Subprime Lender Regulations

Republicans have no ability to govern, but they sure are good at two things–smearing their opponents and placing the blame for their mistakes on others. These two skills, along with blocking a recount in 2000 and capitalizing on fears of terrorism for several years after that, allowed them to remain in power far longer than they otherwise would have. (Hillary Clinton’s health care plan also gave the Republicans quite an assist in coming to power but fortunately the Democrats dodged that bullet this year. The Democrats have not been perfect–just far better than the Republicans.)

Since the financial crisis began there have been numerous videos and other pieces of misinformation which have tried to place the blame on Democrats despite the fact that the Republicans have been the ones in power. One bogus argument has been to claim that the Republicans wanted to do something about the problem but the Democrats prevented them. Matthew Yglesias debunked some of these arguments in a post which is most directly debunking claims from Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss:

When the Fed proposed some lax regulations on subprime lenders, Chris Dodd called them inadequate and called for new legislation to put tighter regulations in place. Chuck Schumer offered a bill in March 2007 to regulate subprime lenders. In fact, exactly as you would think it’s conservatives who’ve been blocking regulation, not only opposing federal efforts to crack down on predatory lending, but using federal regulators like the Office of the Comptroller of Currency to prevent states from regulating subprime lenders Note that in April of this year, Chambliss voted to kill Dick Durbin’s amendment that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to help families facing home foreclosure.

The “Liberal Media” At Work–Covering Up for Bush Once Again

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Here’s the so-called liberal media at work. The Chris Matthews Show, where Matthews is typically more restrained than on Hardball, devoted four minutes to the prosecutor scandal in a panel discussion with orah O’Donnell, chief Washington correspondent for MSNBC, Richard Stengel, editor of Time magazine, Gloria Borger, national political correspondent for CBS News and columnist for U.S. News and World Report, and Patrick Healy, political reporter for The New York Times. There’s no discussion of the impropriety of firing prosecutors for failing to go after political enemies of the administration, or of the responsibility of Congress to preform oversight functions on the Executive Branch. Instead they basically accuse the Democrats of playing politics. The news media should be acting to investigate corruption, not acting as the surrogate defenders of the Bush administration.

Transcript is below the fold (hat tip to The Carpetbagger Report). Glenn Greenwald also discusses this issue at Salon.
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