Friday, June 12, 2009
Robert Reich: Will Obama Stand Up to Health Care Lobbyists and Insurers?
You may think I'm putting too much emphasis on health care reform of late, but if we don't get our way now, it won't matter what happens later. See the end of this post for info on how to act now to fight for real reform.
Today's required health care reading -- Robert Reich wants to know if Obama will take on the for-profit forces working against an affordable health care system that will work for all Americans. Can Obama get down in the trenches and fight tooth and nail against the AMA, Big Pharma and Big Insurance? Does he have the stomach to battle anti-progressive forces in Congress -- even those who are members of his own party? According to Reich,
"The next weeks will show what Obama is made of -- whether he's willing and able to take on the most formidable lobbying coalition he has faced so far on an issue that will define his presidency.
And make no mistake: A public option large enough to have bargaining leverage to drive down drug prices and private-insurance premiums is the defining issue of universal healthcare. It's the only way to make healthcare affordable. It's the only way to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from eating up future federal budgets. An ersatz public option -- whether Kent Conrad's non-profit cooperatives, Olympia Snowe's "trigger," or regulated state-run plans -- won't do squat.
Reich writes that the health care war has officially begun in Washington, with the always craven AMA and other forces coming out against an effective public option. What will Obama do?
The last president to successfully take on the giant healthcare lobbies was LBJ. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted because he weighed into the details, twisted congressional arms, threatened and cajoled, drew lines in the sand, and went to war against the AMA and the other giant lobbyists standing in the way. The question now is how much LBJ is in Barack Obama.
The AMA represents only about 25% of doctors these days, down from the halcyon days when virtually every MD was a member. However, they still have significant clout in Washington, linked to their generous campaign donation support for Senators and Reps who do their bidding. As Reich reports,
AMA's political action committee has contributed $9.8 million to congressional candidates since 2000, and its lobbying arm is one of the most formidable on the Hill.
Clearly, we need to overcome the influence of these monied interests if we expect to win this battle. It's now or never, as Reich says,
The President can't do this alone. You must weigh in and get everyone you know to weigh in, too. Bombard your senators and representatives. Organize and mobilize others. And let the White House know how strongly you feel. This is one of those battles that define a presidency. But more importantly, it's one of those battles that define the state of American democracy.
TAKE ACTION: Call your members of Congress and the White House TODAY and demand real reform that includes a strong, effective public option. No co-ops, no trigger. Tell them you won't be voting for them in the future if they fail the American people now:
Call the toll-free U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 1-877-210-5351 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office.
White House Contact Numbers: Comments 202-456-1111; Switchboard 202-456-1414; FAX: 202-456-2461.
You can also email the White House via this form.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Guest Blog by Rep. Ben Ray Luján: AIG Bonuses Reward Corporate Irresponsibility and Recklessness,
We're pleased to have a guest blog by Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who represents New Mexico's Third Congressional District. Rep. Luján has been very outspoken about the AIG situation. Yesterday, he joined 76 other U.S. House members in signing a letter urging Treasury Secretary Geithner to intervene to stop the extravagant bonuses for AIG executives.
Within the economic crisis facing our families and our communities are many stories. Some are tragic stories of families losing their jobs and homes. Some are inspiring stories of communities coming together to help a struggling family or a small business. And some are selfish stories of greedy and reckless companies exploiting the financial system and the generosity of American taxpayers.
This weekend we learned that the American International Group (AIG), a company that has received $170 billion in taxpayer money to ensure its solvency, planned to give hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to its executives. These bonuses are set to go to executives at the very division within AIG that helped precipitate our economic crisis by participating recklessly financial behavior.
Executives who engage in this type of reckless and irresponsible behavior do not deserve bonuses. They certainly do not deserve hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses paid for by hard-working American taxpayers.
While small business owners in Aztec, Espanola, and Clovis are fighting to cover their payroll and desperate for credit to purchase resources they need to keep their businesses running, executives at AIG are giving themselves millions of dollars at taxpayer expense. This is wrong. We should not use tax payer dollars to reward corporate irresponsibility and recklessness, while New Mexicans are struggling each day.
I am extremely disappointed by reports of these AIG bonuses. At a time when families throughout New Mexico are struggling because of the irresponsible actions of bad actors, it is shameful for AIG to give its executives $165 million in bonuses that are paid for by hard-working taxpayers. Executives that requested federal dollars to keep their companies solvent should not funnel this money toward bonuses for their colleagues. The Obama Administration and Congress must explore every available option to prevent AIG from awarding millions of dollars of taxpayer money in bonuses to their executives.
This is a guest blog by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-03). If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Gov. Bill Richardson to Create State Office Headed by Former Gov. Toney Anaya to Marshall Stimulus Funds
In a statement released today, Governor Bill Richardson announced the creation of the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment. The temporary office will oversee spending of the $1.8 billion in federal stimulus money expected to be invested in New Mexico during the next two years.
Governor Richardson appointed former Governor Toney Anaya to lead the office, which will work closely with state agencies to facilitate access to funding, assist with compliance, and promote transparency throughout the process.
“I have put together a team of experts who I can count on to cut through the bureaucracy and red tape that comes along with the stimulus money,” said Governor Richardson in the release. “We need to target this money where it is needed most – creating jobs in New Mexico communities.”
The New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment will be run by top officials on loan from state agencies directly involved with the federal spending (see below the break). The office will operate under current agency funding and utilize existing office space. Governor Richardson’s Chief of Staff, Brian Condit, and Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Katherine Miller will also work closely with the group.
Website: The Governor also announced the activation of the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment Website, www.recovery.state.nm.us. The website features a summary of how the federal stimulus funding will affect New Mexico, links to agencies and programs involved, answers to frequently asked questions, and a form to allow interested businesses or organizations to suggest a project for possible funding.
Accessing Grants: Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish will join an advisory group, led by Governor Richardson’s Science adviser Tom Bowles, that will focus specifically on accessing a share of the billions of dollars available through the competitive grants process. The Lieutenant Governor will work to ensure that rural communities throughout New Mexico will have an opportunity to participate in the process.
“This group will play a key role in helping us arrive at the best strategies to capture federal Recovery funds that are up for grabs to New Mexico – specifically -- through competitive grants,” added Governor Richardson. “Working together, we’ll put our best minds on the job to compete successfully for these funds, and maximize opportunities for all New Mexicans.”
Highway Projects: Governor Richardson also announced that the New Mexico Department of Transportation is prepared to begin work on six highway projects worth more than $106 million, creating 500 new construction jobs. The Governor today signed letters of certification for the projects, a step required by the federal government before the state can access funding for the work.
Three projects have been put out to public bid, and construction will commence by the end of April. Two more projects will be put out to bid on Friday, and the sixth project will be put out next week. Construction on those three projects will start in May. Highway projects soon will be under construction at:
- US 84/285 between Pojoaque and Espanola (2);
- US 491 between Tohatchi and Shiprock;
- US 62/180 between Carlsbad and the Texas State Line;
- NM 128 between Junction 31 and east of Jal; and
- I-40 Paseo Del Volcan/West Central Interchange
All of these projects were part of GRIP I, and were passed and approved with the Legislature.
With these projects, New Mexico will be one of the first states in the nation to draw down these critical highway funds, and put them to work to stimulate the economy today.
New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment
Governor Toney Anaya, Executive Director
Toney Anaya is a former Governor and Attorney General of New Mexico. As Governor, he was known as a visionary with an interest in finances, the economy, education, energy, and the environment who successfully steered his state through a national recession. Current Governor Bill Richardson has publicly given Anaya credit for initiating some Richardson policies, including education reform and a commuter train from central New Mexico north to Santa Fe. As Attorney General, he was recognized for transforming a previously obscure office into a major force in Government.
Dona Cook, Deputy Secretary of the NM Taxation and Revenue Dept.
Ms. Cook has over 25 years of State Government experience, of which 16 of those years have been as deputy cabinet secretary for six cabinets. She also served as State Budget Director. Dona has worked for seven Governors and for the legislature for eight years. She has also been a high school teacher, law firm administrator and vice president and chief operating officer for a subsidiary of a Fortune 100 engineering and construction company.
Bill Dunbar, Deputy Secretary NM Children, Youth, and Families Dept.
Mr. Dunbar has served in various government positions such as, Deputy Director for the Office of Workforce Development, Division Director for Human Services Department- Income Support Division, Consultant for IBM and New Mexico Highlands University. He also worked as a Principal Analyst for the Legislative Finance Committee and as a consultant for the LFC.
Dannette Burch, Deputy Secretary for Budget and Policy NM Dept. of Finance and Administration
Ms. Burch’s experience in accounting, auditing, budgeting and performance-based budgeting are directly in line with what is required to implement ARRA in New Mexico. She has served with DFA for more than 6 years and has directed the development and implementation of policies and procedures to provide professional and coordinated policy development, financial analysis, and fiscal and programmatic oversight on behalf of the taxpayer to the Governor, Legislature and state agencies.
Neil Meoni, Director, Project Oversight and Compliance Division, NM Dept. of Information Technology
Mr. Meoni has an exceptional record as a manager/executive serving in increasing demanding positions within diverse federal and state organizations. He has served as Chief of Staff, Office of the NM Chief Information Officer. In his current position he oversees over sixty state Information Technology projects totaling over $200 million dollars ensuring compliance with state rules, standards, initiatives and strategic plans.
Daryl Schwebach, Deputy Secretary for Finance and Administration, NM Human Services Dept.
Mr. Schwebach has 20 years experience in state budget and financial management, Human Resource management, Information Technology management, and facility management. He currently manages a $4.2 billion budget for the Human Services Department, comprised primarily of Federal Funds from 30 different grants, including Medicaid, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (“SNAP”, formerly known as “Food Stamps.”), and others.
Debra Griego, Division Director, Department of Finance and Administration
Ms. Griego has worked in state government for over twenty seven years in various capacities and for several agencies including the State Engineer’s Office, the General Services Department, and the Department of Finance and Administration. She has vast experience in Budget, Finance, Contracting and Management in State government.
Dr. Thomas Bowles, Science Adviser, Office of Governor Bill Richardson
On assignment from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Governor's office, Dr. Bowles has advanced development of clean energy technologies in New Mexico, been effective in coordinating science and technology initiatives with our national laboratories, universities, and businesses, and led the development of the state supercomputing center. Prior to working with the Governor’s Office Bowles served at Los Alamos National Lab on the senior executive board as Chief Science Officer and had oversight of all science activities at the laboratory.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Rep. Luján Sends Inauguration Photos, Reports Meeting with Espanola Mariachi Band
Rep. Ben Ray Luján reports the Obama Inauguration was exciting, though the cold was a bit much. He personally took the photos shown in this post and, from the looks of things, he had a terrific view of the proceedings.
Amidst all the festivities, Rep. Luján made time for a visit with the Espanola Valley High School mariachi band that marched in yesterday’s inaugural parade at President Barack Obama’s invitation.
“It’s exciting to visit with New Mexicans at this important time in our nation’s history,” said Luján. “The Espanola Valley High School mariachi band, Mariachi Sol del Valle, made Northern New Mexico proud. They caught President Obama’s eye when he visited Espanola, and he invited them to march in the inaugural parade. It is an honor to meet with these talented young men and women from my district.”
The band played for the President when he visited Espanola in 2008. Mariachi Sol del Valle was chosen from 1,400 applicants to be one of 80 bands to march in the parade. Rep. Luján provided parents and chaperones with tickets to the inauguration.
Click on photos for larger images. All photos by Ben Ray Lujan, except mariachi band by M.E. Broderick.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Enjoy Hakim Bellamy's Yes We Can Obama
Local poet and musician Hakim Bellamy invites us to celebrate today's presidential inauguration with one of his creations. Thanks much, Hakkim.
Inauguration Message (and Photos) from Rep. Harry Teague
Rep. Harry Teague (D, NM-02) sent this statement from Washington about today's presidential inauguration:
“Today I witnessed the historic swearing in of President Barack Obama,” said Congressman Harry Teague. “It was an exciting event and the over one million attendees represented people from every cross section of America. As President Obama said in his speech, the challenges we face as Americans are great. It is an honor to represent the hardworking people of Southern New Mexico during this historic time in our nation’s history. I am excited to work with my colleagues in Congress and President Obama to solve our economic crisis and put America back to work.”
We also got the terrific photos in this post sent direct from the event via Sara Schreiber, Rep. Teague's Communication Director. The shots were snapped by Teague staffer Cristal Jones. Thanks, Sara and Cristal. (Click on photos for larger versions.)
Reps. Heinrich and Lujan Weigh in on Obama Inauguration
U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D, NM-01) released the following statement today in celebration of President Barack Obama’s Inauguration:
“What an incredible day for all Americans! Having just witnessed the inauguration of President Barack Obama I am filled with a tremendous sense of hope, patriotism and pride.”
“I look forward to working with President Obama to renew America’s promise. Our times are certainly challenging, but I am confident that together we can overcome any obstacle to move this great nation forward and achieve the change our constituents asked for and deserve.”
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján issued the following statement on the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.
“Today, President Barack Obama made history by being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States,” said Luján. “I join all Americans in celebrating President Obama’s Inauguration. President Obama’s Administration and Congress face tremendous challenges – circumstances that President Obama outlined in his remarkable address – but we also have an unmatched opportunity to change the direction of our country. It is an honor to represent the people of New Mexico during this historic time, and I look forward to working with the Obama Administration, my colleagues in Congress and my constituents in New Mexico to get our country back on track.”
Video: Obama Takes Oath of Office; Justice Roberts Makes an Error
Barack Obama takes the oath
Click for the Official Inaugural Photo Book.
If you noticed the slight mistake while Barack Obama took the oath of office as administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, it was caused by Roberts' flub:
Chief Justice John Roberts is a man who has made very few public missteps in his life -- but he appears to have made one when swearing in Barack Obama. Roberts slightly flubbed the oath, which then tripped up Obama.
The oath is contained in the Constitution: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
But when Roberts swore in Obama, he flipped some of the words, saying: "I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully."
More from the Presidential Inauguration:
- Obama Inaugural Guidebook
- Obama's Inaugural Address
- Interactive Video and Text, Inaugural Speech
- Inaugural Video Clips, DailyKosTV
Our Long Nightmare Ends: Welcome PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA!
It's finally here. The day we've all been waiting for -- for eight long years. Can you believe it? It can still be hard for me to grasp, to absorb, to accept. There's a surreal quality to the realization that we can finally leave behind the Bush-neocon-trash-the-environment-trash-the-economy-trash-everything-we-value era and move into a new day of hope, dreams, unity, reinvigoration, reinvention and healing. Into a time when WE -- all of us -- will be part of the equation, part of the solution, part of the renewal. (Photo: Obamas and Bidens wave goodbye to the Bushes.)
So many of us have worked long and hard, since 2000 or longer, to take our country back. Grassroots efforts picked up steam once it was clear that Gore had been robbed, that the U.S. Supreme Court had stopped the count in Florida so Bush II could be installed in the most unfair manner of any president in history.
The pace picked up further when Howard Dean announced his run for president in 2003 and wowed the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party with his "What I Wanna Know" speech. Dean for America Meetups sprang up all over the nation, including here. Many of us were there from day one, active in politics in a way we hadn't been for decades, or ever.
Dean lost, but his movement of citizens, netizens, netroots and grassroots power survived and thrived. DFA came to stand for Democracy for America, which sparked the formation of Democracy for New Mexico, and the work to blunt the BushSh*t kicked into high gear. The blogosphere grew and strengthened and became more sophisticated and effective. More and more ordinary citizens became convinced they could be powerful by working together, enduring.
Then into the Kerry candidacy, with activists everywhere working their butts off only to be stymied again, by the travesties of Ohio, by the travesties of Diebold touchscreens, by the moneyed assault of the right wing smear machine. But more and more of us worked for local, state and national candidates, causes and issues. We raised and donated money. We volunteered and canvassed and called. We got elected to posts all up and down the Democratic Party infrastructure, and helped Dean become Chairman of the DNC. We learned the territory. In 50 states. We pushed. We never gave up. We kept our eyes on the prize.
Then came the long primary season, then Obama the victor -- a miraculous win in so many ways, propelled by a 50-state strategy and a refinement and expansion of the Dean campaign in terms of grassroots organization and online innovations -- a truly interactive campaign. And on November 4th, 2008, we won it all. Here in New Mexico, Obama was victorious -- and we all had a hand in turning New Mexico True Blue, with Democrats taking back our three congressional seats and the U.S. Senate seat long held by Pete Domenici. Our entire congressional delegation is Democratic now. Mind-boggling, even to this day.
And here we are today, witnessing the inauguration of our new president -- our 44th president, our first African-American president, the first Democratic president of the 21st century -- with literally millions of people on the Mall in Washington, and millions more watching on TV or on computer, at thousands of celebratory gatherings across the nation. Into the future, and into an era where we confront and attempt to solve some of the most serious problems the globe has ever seen. Together. But we will keep at the activism, perhaps now more than ever. Dean is no longer DNC Chair, and who knows where his career will go in the future, but remember the message he drilled into our psyches:
Monday, January 19, 2009
Thanks for the Memories, Now Get Outta Here
Rep. Harry Teague Hosts High School Group from Deming (with Photos)
This is the kind of just-folks story that makes me excited and happy about the presidential inauguration. It's about ordinary people, local kids, earning a chance to tour Washington, learn more about our government and get all hopeful and energized about the future. Yeah, there's all that Twitter tweeting about I see this and that and look who's going by in that car. And all the stories about moneyed people and celebrities and folks with connections going to this ball or that, or having top-notch tickets to events. And then there's this: high school students from a small town in southern New Mexico raising the funds to pay for a trip to DC, and their newly elected local Congressman helping out by providing them with inaugural tickets.
Today, Congressman Harry Teague (D, NM-02) hosted a Deming High School group of 15 students in his office for hot chocolate and snacks. The group and their chaperones spent an hour in the office talking with Rep. Teague, and the Congressman provided the students with special reserved section tickets to the Presidential Inauguration ceremony.
“The kids literally raised thousands of dollars themselves to be able to travel here and experience, not only the inauguration, but all the monuments, museums, and history here in the nation’s capital. Their excitement about the great things they believe are ahead for this country, even in these tough times, is contagious,” said Congressman Harry Teague. “I have already been able to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues here in Congress and I am looking forward to working with the new President. I know we can move past the partisan politics of the past few decades to start bringing real change and hope and opportunity to communities in Southern New Mexico and across America.”
Noel Nuñez is Deming High School’s history teacher and was the primary organizer of the trip. “For Congressman Harry Teague to give us the reserved tickets and make himself available for the meeting today meant a great deal to these kids,” said Noel Nuñez. “In the meeting today, the students had the opportunity to hear first hand Congressman Harry Teague’s inspirational personal story. I hope the visit with Congressman Teague and the Inauguration ceremonies will show the students that the possibilities for their own lives are endless.”
“I would have just been happy to be in Washington, DC during the Inauguration. To have Congressman Harry Teague share his story and provide us with tickets and meet with us in his office was just the cherry on top,” said Kursty Keeler, a Deming High School Senior.
The group will be in Washington, DC through Wednesday. Their trip has included many stops throughout Washington, DC. After the meeting the students visited the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Rep. Luján Participates in Green Energy Event on National Day of Service
Note: You can participate in today's service event sponsored by the Democratic Party of New Mexico in Albuquerque, or lots of other events that are part of today's National Day of Service. Learn how.
Today, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-03) is joining the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, IBEW, and others to participate in an event to install solar systems and distribute energy efficiency kits at Sousa Elementary, a local Washington, DC middle school. The event, called "Repower a Community," highlights the importance of building a clean energy economy to create new jobs and will help local communities reduce their energy bills with efficient products. The event is part of President-elect Obama's National Day of Service on January 19.
"John Phillip Sousa Middle School was one of the schools involved in Brown v. the Board of Education," Congressman Luján said. "Today, we are able to unobtrusively power this historic building with 21st century technology. Tomorrow, we will begin to power every school, every government building, and soon, every home with clean, renewable energy."
Rep. Luján will join community volunteers to install a solar system on John Phillip Sousa Middle School and distribute energy efficiency kits to neighborhood homes. The kits will include 3 CFL bulbs, weatherization packs, surge protectors, and efficient showerheads.
Rep. Luján has long been an advocate for community-focused energy efficiency programs. He worked with the New Mexico Sierra Club to distribute energy efficient light bulbs in many New Mexico communities. He also attended distribution events, meeting with individuals and personally encouraging them to practice energy efficiency.
"Families and communities can take many important steps to make their homes and schools energy efficient," said Luján. "It is important that people take it upon themselves to make their homes energy efficient. Even small measures can reduce carbon emissions and energy use. It can be as easy as replacing light bulbs or buying efficient surge protectors to plug in electronics. We all have a role to play in making our homes and schools energy efficient."
"Following President Obama's call to service, we are going into our community to show people the potential of clean, renewable energy and to empower them to reduce their own energy consumption," LCV President Gene Karpinski said.
Rep. Luján recently returned to Washington, DC after a trip to the 3rd Congressional District to open offices in Rio Rancho and Santa Fe and meet with constituents in each community.