It looks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is closing in on a three-year deal on the Highway Fund. Most of the destructive pay-for provisions that were in some earlier version have been pulled out and the package might get close to 70 votes. Given that the House passed an eight-month phony-money plan, it looks to me that this debate might just be over.
We reported last week about an effort by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) over in the House to do a big, six-year highway plan linked to some form of international tax reform. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), with the quiet assent of some of the Democrats, had floated a terrible tax plan in order to try to bait Ryan and the R’s into a large infrastructure investment. McConnell simply slipped past them, cut his deal with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), got rid of some of the onerous pay-for gimmicks, and moved forward.
It will make no difference, but it might be fun speculate whether or not some might be having buyer’s remorse after watching Schumer, their anointed future leader, maneuver them into a horrible deal and get totally out strategized by McConnell.
To the disgust of many and surprise of few, the House passed a bill designed to intervene in the cities that have become sanctuaries for immigrants. The demagoguery on this issue was led by Donald Trump – and the excuse provided by a hardened criminal who shot a woman in San Francisco. He had been repeatedly deported and had done time in prison. The legislation would withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities where they decline to turn their local police departments into immigration enforcement agencies.
The bill passed by a 241 to 179 margin. Six Dems voted for it and five Rs voted against it.
I know Gentle Reader that you will be surprised to learn that I hold the consecutive detention record for my high school. “You will come to detention until we tell you to quit.” Of course, they never did tell me to quit. If I hadn’t graduated I would still be there. So stuff about detention gets my attention.
During the last Bush administration the decision was made to establish some holding pens where undocumented mothers and their children would be detained together. They called them “family detention” centers. Sounds benign, doesn’t it? Family-oriented and all. Well the place down by Austin, Texas where they set this up actually was a damned mess. Kids in prison suits, without private toilets, sleeping under the lights and going without schooling.
The Obama Administration decided largely to abandon this approach, but when the wave of Central American refugee kids started arriving they re-opened a family detention center in New Mexico where refugee children are held for extensive periods of time for assessment of their asylum status and in preparation for deportation. They are kept there month after month.
I was detained for an hour a day in high school, but imagine being a kid locked in what is effectively a full time prison all day every day for months on end. Reports of the effect of this extensive incarceration on the children are heart rending.
Over a month ago, a delegation of Members of Congress led by Rep. Louis Gutierrez (D-IL), visited the facility and immediately called for its closure. In late June, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited and announced a policy that would free the detainees when they had established a cause for consideration of their asylum status.
The efforts to close these kinds of facilities should get a boost from a study done by the American Immigration Council outlining how humane approaches, including the provision of legal counsel, are just as effective as detention.
I wish the folks who wrote this report had been around when I needed them, but it is wonderful that they are with us now to show how we can effectively get rid of this inhumane system.
Presidential candidates among the D’s are getting their pant cuffs caught in their bike sprockets because they don’t get the very clear focus of the Black Lives Matter activists. Great story in the Washington Post about how they keep wanting to say “Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” What they are finding hard to deal with is the idea that racism is not something being inflicted on either whites or all lives. Racism is about blacks killed by the cops, and a lot of other stuff indeed.
The candidates are getting a hard schooling in this when they are being heckled and confronted by activists. As the candidates struggle to figure this out, all of us will be drawn into the dynamic. Racism has become an issue in the Presidential campaign.
Dust Off That Public Option
Big announcement that mega health insurance company Anthem is trying to buy the nearly as mega Cigna. If this deal goes through you can pretty much kiss off competition in a whole lot of insurance markets.
We’re gonna have to swim for it!
You had better get on with the trip to Venice that you have been putting off until next year.
There is a new report out about the increasing pace of global warming from a group of scientists led James Hansen, the NASA scientist who first helped put this issue on the national stage back in 1988.
This new study warns: “If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters.”
Several meters is a whole hell of a lot higher than the more current assumption of a rise of a meter, which is trouble enough. The scientists also worry that the pace of change may be more rapid than previously thought.
Those who are weak swimmers are invited to master the art of walking on water. If you can do neither, Venice soon may be off your itinerary. They already have to put out risers so folks can pass across a flooded Piazza San Marco to get north a few canals to sample the fritto misto and buy gelato for the kids.
We report here about Oak Flats on the chance that some of you may have missed the story in the New York Times about how Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a saint to many, engineered a corrupt fine print deal in the Defense Authorization Act that gave sacred Apache land over to a couple of foreign mining companies.
Oak Flats is located on land that was protected from mining under the Eisenhower Administration. For centuries the Apaches have used this land for acorn gathering and for coming of age ceremonies for girls. But there is a billion tons of copper under Oak Flats and the little McCain provision gives this area over to two mining firms from Australia and Britain in return for some other land they purchased in Arizona that is otherwise worthless and has no meaning for the Apaches. When they get done with it Oak Flats will be a two-mile wide toxic hole a thousand feet deep.
Phase Out Medicare
In spite of repeated warnings in these pages, Presidential candidate Jeb Bush continues to make ad lib policy remarks that raise serious questions about the direction he wants for the country.
Last week he suggested that we had to “phase out” Medicare. Huh? Yep. You can read theactual transcript of his remarks. Aids later clarified that he really means that the program has to be reformed, etc., etc. While those of us who rely on Medicare to ease our health care costs in our senior moments contemplate the meaning of these remarks, the Bush campaign might want to figure out how to keep its candidate from rambling into these positions that are sure to be topics of negative advertising should their guy get the nomination.
Meanwhile the saga of Hillary Clinton’s email continues to plague her candidacy. The Inspector General for the State Department has turned the issue over to the Justice Department for the investigation of possible criminal charges associated with classified information.
While the stories continue about the apparent attempt by the Obama Trade Representative to make it impossible for our government to negotiate pharmaceutical prices, a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that an overwhelming percentage of the public want us to fight costs by doing exactly that. Eighty-seven percent want the government to be able to negotiate for cheaper drug prices.
The big banks just got a new rule that they are going to hate. They either have to increase their reserves or reduce their size. The rule comes via the Federal Reserve and flows from reforms adopted in the post economic collapse Dodd-Frank legislation. Let the screamin’ and yellin’ begin. OK, puns that have to be explained are not very good, but Janet Yellen chairs the Federal Reserve.
It looks as though Senate Majority Leader McConnell is having his way with a strategy aimed at getting all the juicy stuff done this year so that he can concentrate on getting a lot of campaign related stuff done next year, just prior to the elections.
For months there have been rumors and blogs about how the package of some 55 tax loopholes known as extenders would be a vehicle used to make permanent some big tax breaks for the corporate oligarchs. This week the Senate Finance Committee rolled out and passed a bill that is a simple, straight two-year extension of these loopholes. Nothing permanent. This will probably avoid a protracted fight over this stuff. It also eliminates a possible vehicle that many advocates were hoping to have in order to make improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
Honesty About Agony
Mike, a professor of Lit down in Portland, writes to point out that I got a bit beyond my headlights with the agony metaphor in the last Weekly. He indicates that the word agonpreceded the introduction of a second character into Greek tragedy and was not at first associated with a heroine’s confrontation of her terrible fate. Our word for agony does however come from this source, so we were mostly right. I report on this to you because the Daley Weekly intends to set a high standard for itself. How can we be so bold as to suggest that the world is filled with liars and cheats if we are not ourselves clear about stuff?
The Congress is around through the first week of August and then they depart for a month.