United States News Digest
Obama Impeachment Issue Is Raised in Congress
March 20 (EIRNS)In conference call yesterday, among a sizeable group within the Democratic House Caucus, Obama was accused of violating the Constitution by proceeding with military action against Libya without Congressional authorization. In that call, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) raised the question of why the U.S. missile strikes are not impeachable offenses. While no other participant agreed with him on that, according to Politico, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), "all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president's actions."
But the issue goes far beyond the Libya attacks. In a prominent piece on Firedoglake.com titled "Who's Winning? Republicans or DemocratsObama, You're a Goddamned Quarterback!" blogger Bin Quick wrote:
"Obama's Democratic Party support is a mile wide and nanometer deep, and the White House knows it. If [former Wisconsin Senator] Russ Feingold announces his candidacy for the nomination and gives the slightest hint he's willing to get tough on Free Trade, Obama's chances are cooked...."
100th Anniversary of the Triangle FireWhy Unions Are Vital
March 20 (EIRNS)As fights go on around the U.S. to save fundamental labor rights, this week marks the 100th anniversary of the terrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 workers, mostly women and girls, lost their lives on March 25, 1911. The fire broke out in a Greenwich Village sweatshop, on the top three stories of a building with only a single, rickety fire escape for 500 workers and no fire alarms, and where the owners had locked most of the doors. The workers trapped on the 9th floor died within 20 minutes. Two years before, in 1909, the workers at Triangle, the largest makers of shirtwaists (blouses) had led a strike for better conditions and pay, which brought out 20,000-40,000 workers, many of them women immigrants, in the garment district.
The fire shocked the nation, although the owners were acquitted of manslaughter in a later trial. The tragedy did lead to a two-year investigation of horrific factory conditions in the U.S., where an average of 100 workerswho, of course, included childrenlost their lives every day in the miserable workplace conditions. One eyewitness to the fire was social worker Frances Perkins, later, FDR's Secretary of Labor, who called it "the day the New Deal began." FDR chose Perkins, the first woman cabinet member, to lead the fight to see the comprehensive Social Security legislation through the U.S. Congress.
Republicans Join Dems: Call for U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan
March 18 (EIRNS)Eight Republicans joined 85 Democrats in voting on Thursday to remove U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year. The vote was 93-321, as compared to a 65-356 vote on a similar bill last year. Five of the Republicans had also backed last year's bill; these were: Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), Ron Paul (Texas), John Campbell (Calif.), John Duncan Jr. (Tenn.), and Timothy Johnson (Ill.). Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) voted present. Three Republicans who had opposed the bill last year, voted for withdrawal this year; these were Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and Howard Coble (N.C.).
Jones, speaking on Fox Business News on March 15, said, "I'm sick and tired of seeing the taxpayers paying their money overseas in Afghanistan to a corrupt government, and our kids going over there and dying and giving their legs." Referring to the Continuing Resolution which contained $118 billion for Afghanistan but cut domestic spending, Jones said: "And if we can't help a child have milk in the morning and a senior citizen get a sandwich at lunch, I don't know what America is all about. And $118 billion going to Afghanistan that could be spent right here in this country that could help a lot of people."
Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett Cuts Off 41,000 Poor from Health Care
March 17 (EIRNS)Last month, the new governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett (R), cut off 41,000 low-income Pennsylvanians from the state-aided health insurance program, adultBasic Insurance, in order to "save money." The program has served the "near poor" (those with slightly more resources than the impoverishment required for Medicaid). On March 14, a class action suit was filed by a few of those who lost their insurance, against the governor and others responsible. Corbett's reply asserted, "The fiscal reality is that adultBasic is not a financially sustainable program." Thus, Corbett follows exactly the 1939 Hitler Tiergarten 4 "health" program, of decreeing that there are "lives not worthy of the expense to maintain."
Variations on Corbett's action are pending in many states, under Republicans and Democrats alike, and all with the approval of the Obama Administration, which is supplying "waivers" for state governments to undercut Medicaid directly. Nationally, there are now an estimated 60 million Americans on Medicaid, the program for the disabled and poor. Recently, the Obama Administration gave a blanket extension from 2014 to 2017, for states to enroll anyone in Medicaid, making less than 133% of the official (very low) poverty level.
In Pennsylvania, with a significant elderly and poor population, Medicaid accounts for 31% of the state general fund expenditures; Corbett is working on how to cut this down. The wipeout of the low-income insurance program is Corbett's biggest single cut to social services to date. He explains that he is seeking to reduce the state's $4 billion budget shortfall. Besides 41,000 persons suddenly with no insurance, there was a waiting list of 500,000 for the now-cancelled adultBasic Insurance.
In California and New Jersey, about 21% of general funds goes to Medicaid. In New York, where 27% goes to Medicaid, after two years of frozen payments, the state now is considering imposing $2.8 billion in Medicaid cuts, which will shut down dozens of nursing homes and other facilities.
Not Even Education Can Save Obama
March 14 (EIRNS)President Obama took his teleprompter on the road, again for an "educational" speech, this time in Arlington, Va.'s Kenmore Middle School. After commending the school for using Duke Ellington jazz recordings in their classrooms (a "student-teacher" initiative), he got down to the main question: how do we "reform" education. Reform programs languished for many years, he said, until it began to break through, not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
Obama's "program" was essentially that of the union-busting "Race to the Top," in which schools compete for limited funds, and those considered "failing" are shut down in favor of private enterprises. And, of course, the role of poverty in creating conditions antithetical to learning is left out of the equation.
Just today, in the very Arlington, Va., in which Obama was speaking, it was revealed that 10% of the once-affluent county is now on public assistance. Demand is growing for food stamps, Medicaid, welfare and energy assistance in the city. Next year, according to a report on the local NPR radio station, the county is expecting 1,000 new Medicaid patients. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kicks in, the county will have 14,000 new Medicaid patients.