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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Newest OUTRAGE With The Medical Device Tax Repeal

Category: Erik Paulsen
Posted: 01/20/15 09:54

by Dave Mindeman

Right now I am having trouble controlling my anger. I am fed up with the representation that Minnesota gets in Congress - FED UP - with both Democrats and Republicans. The outrage is more than I can bear.

What has me in this state is the "newest" version of the Medical Device Tax repeal and the accompanying corporate greed and manipulation that is so evident in how Erik Paulsen and his cohorts (on both sides of the aisle) are approaching this.

I have talked about this many times. The Device Tax is part of the financial foundation for Obamacare - yet the Medical Device Tax industry has whined about this from the beginning, and our Minnesota delegation has been all too willing to respond.

But this is beyond the pale....

Republicans and many Democrats in Congress want to repeal the roughly $3 billion-a-year tax on medical devices that's part of the Affordable Care Act. Undoing the tax will mean a big boost in profits for the industry. But there's another business windfall buried in the bills that Congress is considering. Not only would the future tax be repealed, but the taxes already collected would be refunded. Any company that had paid the tax would get its money back.

Unbelievable!

Yet, all 10 - YES ALL 10 - of our Senators and Representatives are signing onto this. It is a sham, a scam, an outrage, and a corporate manipulation of the highest order.

Even Rep. Keith Ellison, the most progressive of the progressives, the most liberal of all liberals is going along with this. And his reasoning?....

"Look, I don't ever begrudge any member of Congress for looking after the jobs in their own district," Ellison said. "And that's what I'm doing here."

Really? Looking after your job? I seriously doubt that the Medical Device companies in Ellison's district have some kind of lock on a large number of votes that can defeat Ellison in the next election. No...they have corporate money that can manage that just fine....via lobbying or political donations or buying a message...all of that is enough for Rep. Ellison to "look out for his job".

Good Lord this is is nuts.

And why is it so important to repeal this? Well, the industry always has the same answer....

Shaye Mandle, CEO of the trade group LifeScience Alley, argued that a refund is appropriate because the tax has led medical device companies to lay off workers and halt expansion plans. "It's an attempt, effectively, to repair the negative aspects of what the device tax has ultimately done to the industry," he said.

And the ACTUAL evidence of "damage" since the device tax took effect in early 2013?

A recent study by the Congressional Research Service estimated that at most, the entire industry may have lost 1,200 jobs due to the tax and likely lost fewer than 100. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show little change in the industry's employment over the past few years.

The industry pays $30 million a year to lobby Congress - and apparently it is money well spent. If this is repealed (and refunds are given which could amount to $6 BILLION), then that will leave a gaping hole in the financing of Obamacare. And guess who will make that up? You and me. They can just stick us with the bill because we don't have multi-million dollar lobbyists looking out for our interests. No, we have to protect all the corporate whiners. Protect their profits. Their right to merge with other companies overseas so they can get out of paying taxes altogether.

This all reeks to high heaven - and I wish I could just blame it on Erik Paulsen who is as much of a corporate shill for the Medical Device industry as John Kline is for the For-Profit Colleges. I wish I could just blame him - but I can't. Because Democratic hands are dirty here as well.

This isn't Democracy - this is business. Just pure and simple business.
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Thinking of Selma

Category: Voting
Posted: 01/19/15 21:26

by Dave Mindeman

(Reprint of a post I made on April 7th, 2009. I had just returned from a vacation in which we visited historical sites from the Civil Rights Era. It is appropriate for MLK Day and the recent release of the movie - "Selma". As I ponder the Supreme Court decision to reverse many of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, it is hard not to think about the Edmund Pettus Bridge.)

The Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama. It's not a huge structure. It isn't a marvel of engineering. It doesn't hover over a large river. Under normal circumstances, this bridge wouldn't attract the slightest bit of extra attention.

But this bridge has blood buried in its asphalt. It muffles the shouts of anger...the cries of despair. Its crossing may have moved the nation to recognize disenfranchised rights.

1965. Selma has become a fulcrum point for voting rights in Alabama....even the entire South. Why Selma? Because Selma has a black populace that is tired of being held back. The county has 15,000 eligble African-American voters....156 are registered. This dismal record has the attention of the Justice Dept.... and it gets the attention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed by Dr. King.

Of particular interest is the brutal enforcement tactics of Sherrif Jim Clark. Martin Luther King decides to test the limits of his non-violent resistance. Selma becomes the means to the broader end.

Marches and sit-ins and registration attempts are thwarted by the police. But then word came from nearby Marion, AL that a young demonstrator -- Jimmy Lee Jackson-- was fatally shot trying to protect his grandfather. The anger led to a push for a march...a march from Selma to Montgomery to take their grievances directly to the Governor.

On March 7th, 1965 the march to Montgomery began. It reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Route 80 and as the marchers reached the middle crest of the bridge, they looked over the top and, as John Lewis put it, "we saw a sea of blue". It was police officers from the Alabama State Police, backed up by the Selma police on horseback.

The marchers reached the police position and asked to speak to the person in charge. Instead they were given an order to disperse. When they did not, the police just moved in and the waves of troopers simply ran over the stunned marchers. They beat them with night sticks, shocked them with cattle prods, ran over them with the horses. They moved them back and then followed them into the town. It was brutal...and for a climactic moment, the onlookers that were sympathetic to the marchers were enraged enough for retaliation.

But, the leadership representing Dr. King, begged them to hold back. They had to stand fast to their non-violent principles. The world would know where the high ground lay.

A few weeks later, Federal troops were called in for protection. The march would go forward....and the group of 300 in Selma swelled to 25,000 by the time it reached Montgomery.

Governor Wallace refused to even recognize the march. The gathering in front of the Capitol became a rally for voting rights. And it was noticed. Later that year the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed in Congress.

Registration for African-Americans skyrocketed in every southern state. And it all really began in Selma....at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

We walked that bridge ourselves today. We had just visited the small Voting Rights Museum on the street that runs across the entrance to the Bridge. We saw the images of "Bloody Sunday" and those pictures stayed with us as we crossed to the other side. The traffic on the bridge is heavy, but on the other side is a quiet riverside park. A contrast to all the noise and bustle moving past.

A lot happened here 40 plus years ago, but the city hasn't gone out of its way to commemorate these events. We stopped at a Visitor's Center/Library/Chamber of Commerce. We had noticed that there was a new building being built on the other side of the river that seemed to indicate it was part of the Voting Rights Museum. We asked the person at the desk about it....but she told us, "Yes, I noticed that last week when I went to Montgomery. They must be setting up a new location." The building is nearly completed, yet she knew little about it....and she operates the visitor center.

We drove the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery. Most of the route is the same as the marchers took. There are a few markers with one large visitor center about halfway through. They offer a beautifully done half hour film about the events and eyewitness accounts. But little else has been done to let visitors know they are even on the right road.

When we reached Montgomery, we drove to the Capitol. One block away from the building is the Dexter Street Baptist Church where Martin Luther King was the pastor from 1954 to 1960. We walked up the steps of the capitol and looked back over Dexter Ave. It must have been an impressive sight to see 25,000 people coming to demand a basic American right.

We opened the Capitol door and we were greeted by an older gentleman in a uniform sitting by a desk. He asked us where we were from and we told him Minnesota....

"What brings you all the way to Alabama?"

"We are on a Civil Rights Tour".

(crickets, crickets)

Finally, he gave us a Capitol map and told us it was a self-guided tour...pointing out a couple of things and then he moved on to the next family.

I guess I should have had a clue by the Jefferson Davis statue sitting on the front steps with a list of the Confederate States engraved around it. And the 30 foot mural of Governor George Wallace with a similar size portrait of his wife, Lurleen Wallace in the rotunda, was probably another clue.

I guess "civil" rights are in the eye of the beholder.

But the brave people that crossed that Edmund Pettis Bridge won their battle and made this country more just.....they also put Selma on the map, whether the current citizens of Selma like it or not.
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The MLK Legacy

Category: Society
Posted: 01/19/15 19:43

by Alan Anderson

We celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday on January 19 this year. It is a tribute to a man who worked tirelessly for integration of American society and for the acceptance of Black and other minorities into the main life of American culture. He lived in a time where children of different races went to separate schools; where Blacks couldn't sit in certain restaurants and other public places, and when voting rights were denied based on ability to read or on taking certain tests to qualify to vote. And because no honeymoon suites were available for African-Americans, King and his wife Coretta spent their wedding night at a friend's funeral parlor.

As a result of King's efforts, along with thousands of others, the Civil Rights Law was passed and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Because of the law many millions of Blacks and other minorities started to become regulars in American society.

Knowing King was associated with this history, it is important to realize today that there is still much to be done to achieve the "dream" he shared with America. It is especially important because some of the progress he fought for has been erased by certain government policies and by new cases/decisions that have come from the Supreme Court. In 2013 the Court altered the law and removed oversight by the Congress to ensure that there were not discriminatory practices that affect the rights of minorities to vote, especially in many southern states. As soon as the law was revised several states rushed to pass laws requiring IDs for voting, eliminating same day registrations, and made it harder for the elderly, the poor, and minorities to register and vote. So, some of the progress King fought for has been eroded by current practices. We still are better off than in the 1950s and 60s, when there was outright segregation, but there are many instance of abuses that need to be addressed.

Certainly issues with recent shootings in several cities of Black children and teens/young adults have raised issues of civil rights and equal treatment. There is an renewed loss of faith in the judicial and police systems that need to be addressed and repaired. And the income and opportunity gaps between people of color and Whites continues to be an issue, especially as wealthy individuals seem to be acquiring larger and larger shares of wealth and financial power.

The message of the MLK birthday is clear: we need to celebrate our successes and remain vigilant that past problems don't emerge and generate new challenges. We need to continue to move forward, realizing that there is underlying racism and hostility toward equality by some in society. MLK Day is a time to rejoice, reflect, and restore the momentum that characterized the efforts of the 1950s and 60s. Thanks to Dr. King and his community for helping to ensure that America doesn't forget it moral goals and values of peace, non-violence, and dedication to justice and equality for all.
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