Author: Evan Rose

Statement On Retirement Of Mary Kay Henry

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) released the following statement regarding the announcement that Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will step down from her role in May 2024:

“Mary Kay Henry is a visionary, game changing organizer and powerful voice for justice and progress and has been for the nearly 14 years she’s led SEIU. Her role in leading our country forward cannot be overstated. She has led and inspired so many with her strong moral compass and her articulated vision for incorporating inclusivity and intersectionality into unions, workplaces, and communities across the country. Her years of service have had a direct impact on so many workers’ lives and I thank her for her leadership.

“I have had the honor and pleasure of working with her on the Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce on Healthcare in 2020, where I served as Co-Chair, and we worked to collectively endorse a plan for long-term care that meets the needs of our country and the workforce. During our push for Build Back Better and critical investments in the care economy, Mary Kay was a top leader in ensuring we pushed for the most progressive policy to be included, as the Progressive Caucus held the line to ensure passage of Build Back Better in the House. On immigration, as the leader of a union made up of millions of immigrant workers, Mary Kay has never wavered in the moral necessity of passing humane immigration reform and never throwing immigrants under the political bus. I have been grateful to call her a close friend, advisor, and partner in building progressive power since coming to Congress. Her work has changed lives and laid the foundation for a better tomorrow.”

Mary Kay Henry has served since 2010 as the International President of SEIU and under her leadership the union led the charge to include a historic federal investment in home-based care and child care and to raise the wages of child care and in-home care workers in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021.

Sanders To Introduce Amendment To End U.S. Complicity In Netanyahu’s War On The Palestinian People

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today released the following statement announcing his plan to introduce an amendment to the foreign aid supplemental package that would remove $10.1 billion in offensive weaponry funding for Netanyahu’s right-wing government. The amendment preserves funding for defensive systems that will protect Israeli civilians against incoming missile and rocket attacks. Sanders’ statement is as follows:

“27,000 dead – two-thirds of them women and children.

67,000 wounded.

1.8 million displaced from their homes.

70% of housing units damaged or destroyed.

And now, hundreds of thousands of children facing starvation.

This is unacceptable. The United States cannot be complicit in this humanitarian disaster.

That is why I will be offering an amendment to the supplemental bill to ensure zero funding for the continuation of Netanyahu’s illegal, immoral war against the Palestinian people.”

The Key To Electric Grid Reliability? Renewables.

February 2021. A rare Valentine’s Day winter storm wallops Texas with snow and a deep freeze.

The storm knocked out power for at least 69 percent of people across the state. More than 200 Texans died.

That was Winter Storm Uri. Many of us probably remember it as the storm that sent Senator Ted Cruz packing for a vacation in Cancún while his constituents suffered.

Captain Selena Xie, president of the Austin Emergency Medical Services Association, was enraged when she read from a local reporter at the time: “One reader who emailed me about the issue described the power and water outages as a ‘minor inconvenience’ for most Texans.”

One of Xie’s first calls the morning after the storm was for a man who had planned to die at home, peacefully and surrounded by loved ones. That didn’t happen.

Xie recounted, “When his oxygen, which was making him comfortable, went out, he started making awful grunting sounds. It is not acceptable to die like that, in agony. We had no other options at the time than to take the person to the hospital to keep him comfortable, but not before we let his wife cry against his chest for five minutes, which was all we felt comfortable sparing at the time.”

Emergency responders started receiving carbon monoxide calls that evening. With the power out, people were so desperate for heat they burned furniture in their homes to keep their families warm. That caused carbon monoxide poisoning.

Just last week, much of the country got pummeled with below-freezing temperatures and winter storms. Many are rightly nervous about the reliability of their power grids.

When grids fail, people die. Medical equipment like dialysis machines and oxygen pumps cannot run without power.

What’s the best way to protect grids and make them more reliable? Power them with renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which are far more resilient than coal, oil, and gas.

The five winter storms we have had since 2011 that knocked down power grids should be a lesson to us all. Fossil fuel power plants are prone to mechanical and supply failures in extreme cold, when energy demands are often at their highest.

Just look at what happened during December 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott in the eastern and central US. In the mid-Atlantic, nearly 90 percent of the power plant outages when demand was highest were coal and gas plants. In the central region, coal and gas plants accounted for 75 percent of the power plant outages during peak demand. In Kentucky alone, more than 1.5 million homes lost electricity in sub-zero temperatures due to coal and gas failures.

Increasing the use of renewable energy sources is one part of the solution. Incorporating green technologies in demand response, energy efficiency, storage, and upgrading our transmission grid is the other. Together, they offer us the chance to make our electric grids more reliable and resilient than ever. But we need to deploy them at scale to receive these benefits.

If we choose not to do this, we need to understand the human toll.

As she has reflected on the events from Winter Storm Uri—and storms that have knocked out or threatened to knock out power since then—Xie worries about unhoused populations. When the shelters and businesses where unhoused people typically seek refuge are without power, the consequences for this already vulnerable population are lethal.

“When we have our 911 system completely overwhelmed by calls from the housed population, the unhoused population gets overlooked,” Xie said. “EMS and other emergency workers are aware of people living on the streets or in the woods and would be checking on those at-risk people. But we end up beyond our capacity, responding to calls for emergencies—and some less-than-emergencies—at people’s homes, delivering charging sticks and other relief, while unhoused people are suffering hypothermic events and dying.”

Xie also said that while media reporting often focuses on death tolls during these emergencies, the high number of amputations from conditions like frostbite go underreported and underappreciated.

“People are often able to protect their cores but not their extremities. Not having adequate gloves or footwear means more amputations. These create lifelong disabilities that continue to haunt both the people suffering from them and the public health and emergency response systems that need to provide for their care and services.”

Emergency responders should not have to choose between who they can help and who will be left on their own. Families should not have to choose between freezing to death or risking their health by burning furniture for heat.

There is a way to help ensure the power stays on during harsh winter storms. It is a future powered by clean energy.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s LNG Decision Is the Hope Young People Have Been Waiting For

James Hiatt lives in an area along the Mississippi River in Louisiana that has been dubbed “Cancer Alley.” In a region teeming with chemical plants and oil and gas refineries, the air the residents breathe contains more carcinogens than anywhere else in the country.

One of those oil and gas facilities is the Calcasieu Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, which has further devastated public health, local livelihoods, and marine wildlife. Last week, the Biden-Harris administration’s Department of Energy paused the permitting of new LNG projects. The decision stops the gas industry’s plans for the even larger CP2 LNG terminal right next door.

This move was perhaps the boldest rebuke ever from a US president against the oil and gas industry. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Secretary of Energy Granholm—whose support for the move was especially crucial—did the right thing. Millions of us are celebrating along with James Hiatt, who says, “I’m thankful for this pause in granting gas export licenses; the DOE has finally heard the wake-up call. The gas industry was planning to inundate my hometown with LNG terminals.”

American families’ pocketbooks will be thankful as well. Any word you hear from the fossil fuel industry or the politicians in their pockets about how this decision harms American consumers or the economy is a lie. As Hiatt points out, “exporting LNG drives up domestic energy costs, affecting everything from home heating to food prices.”

Pausing the LNG boom will keep global energy markets more stable. It will help move economies and electric grids toward using less expensive and more resilient renewable energy sources. It will keep 681 coal plants’ worth—or 548 million gasoline-powered cars’ worth—of planet-warming greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere each year.

All of this is critically important. But so is Hiatt’s point about the “finally heard wake-up call.”

For years, activists, along with scientists and others, have been sounding the alarm to get those in power to wake up. Some of the most powerful voices have been those of young people. And we should all appreciate what it has taken for those young people to maintain their determination.

The American Psychological Association defines “eco-anxiety” as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” In 2021, Lancet Planetary Health surveyed more than 10,000 young people, ages 16 to 25, in 10 countries. Anxiety about climate change impacted the ability of more than 45 percent of these young people to function in their daily lives; 75 percent were “frightened” of the future. And it exposed a key feature of eco-anxiety: hopelessness.

Half the young people in the study described feeling helpless and powerless. Now, we know that despite the fear, young activists have been among our fiercest leaders in the fight against the climate crisis. They have not given in to the lingering despair. But, as a piece on eco-anxiety in the Harvard Political Review pointed out, young people have felt like they are alone in the fight. And, “if no one is listening and no change is happening, then pushing forward can feel hopeless.”

That is why, aside from the emissions numbers, aside from the economic and energy security benefits, the Biden-Harris administration’s LNG decision is a win for hope. And hope is a powerful thing. In his statement about the decision, President Biden said, “We will heed the calls of young people and frontline communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act.”

This victory for climate-concerned people the world over—and the planet itself—is proof that organizing works. Grabbing the bullhorn and telling your story—even if the crowds don’t listen right at first—matters.

This LNG decision is a momentum builder. And a clarion call for even more organized action on the climate crisis—especially from young people.

The Liberals Must Invest In Climate Resilient Infrastructure

Northern Manitoba is seeing temperatures above zero. We’ve had weather that’s unheard of these last two months. Thousands of people in our region depend on winter roads to survive – and climate change is putting these roads and entire communities at risk.
 

 
The Liberals have failed to act quickly to combat the climate emergency that is hitting Indigenous communities and our North the hardest. Our region needs urgent investments in climate adaptation: an airport in Wasagamack and all-weather roads for St Theresa Point, Oxford House, York Landing and more. Today I called on the Liberal Government to step up and act now.

Sacred Cows

There was an interesting discussion with Evercore’s Roger Altman on CNBC’s Squawk Box yesterday. Altman talked about some of the things that economists, market participants, pundits, and policymakers have gotten wrong in recent years. Here’s part of what he said:

What I think is fascinating is how wrong the consensus on big things has been over the past year, starting with inflation where originally—when it surged—the view was this is transitory, it will self-correct. Jay Powell himself espoused that. Then, as it surged further that view was discarded and the Fed of course embarked on the sharpest monetary tightening in 40 years. Now, it looks as though it was transitory, just over a somewhat longer period, including that the tightening of monetary policy may have had no impact on why inflation has come down…. Then recession, six to nine months ago, a majority of CEOs in surveys thought we were going to have a recession, now we don’t have it and the most recent data is amazing…so recession is off the table….

 

 

In response, one of the show’s hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin, said, “I think you’re making an argument for why the public thinks the elites know nothing.” Responding with a sense of humility, Altman said, “Well, arguably they do know nothing. Including me. I was wrong on all those things.” Sorkin conceded, “I was wrong on a lot of them too.”

Then, another of the show’s hosts, Joe Kernan, chimed in, adding:

All of our sacred cows. They’re sacred but they’re not necessarily right. We thought we had to raise unemployment to bring inflation down. We didn’t. That was like Monetary Policy 101. Like Moses on a tablet.

“So much of this in retrospect was supply-chain related,” Altman explained, “and now it has self-corrected.”

It has taken a long time for people to accept this reality, but membership on so-called Team Transitory continues to swell. It’s a bitter pill for some folks to swallow, especially those who would prefer to blame the recent bout of inflation on the Federal Reserve’s “money printing” and the Biden administration’s “excessive spending.”

“If it wasn’t overspending by fiscal authorities that caused the inflation, if it was supply chain, then can we just do MMT?”, Kernan (sarcastically) quipped. Altman didn’t take the bait on MMT. He simply said, “It was the pandemic that caused it.”

What I found most interesting about the interview was the discussion of the rate hikes, and Altman’s willingness to basically reject the dominant “soft landing” narrative. That narrative features a plane, a runway and—most importantly—a masterful pilot.

It’s not uncommon to find economists (and others) proudly declaring that they were OG members of Team Transitory (TT). I myself was OGTT. But I think too many members of Team Transitory have convinced themselves that Jay Powell is the central bank equivalent of Captain Sully Sullenberger, the hero in the cockpit of the FOMC who skillfully lowered the flaps, adjusted the dials, and guided inflation safely back down without injuring the broader economy. I am decidedly not in that camp, and neither is Altman, who dared to suggest:

the tightening of monetary policy may have had no impact on why inflation has come down

That’s a pretty sacred cow, but it’s one I hope more people will wrestle with. I went even further in a recent interview with the Financial Times, sparking this headline:

 

 
Last week, I had a chance to elaborate on the FT interview with the hosts of Bloomberg TV’s The Close. (Click to watch.)
 

The Silent Revolution In American Economics

There are three key areas where Biden is fundamentally reshaping our economy to make it better for working people.

I don’t think you’re expecting what I’m about to say, because I have never seen anything like this in fifty years in politics.

For decades I’ve been sounding an alarm about how our economy has become increasingly rigged for the rich. I’ve watched it get worse under both Republicans and Democrats, but what President Biden has done in his first term gives me hope I haven’t felt in years. It’s a complete sea change.

Here are three key areas where Biden is fundamentally reshaping our economy to make it better for working people.

 

 

#1 Trade and industrial policy

Biden is breaking with decades of reliance on free-trade deals and free-market philosophies. He’s instead focusing on domestic policies designed to revive American manufacturing and fortify our own supply chains.

Take three of his signature pieces of legislation so far — the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, and his infrastructure package. This flood of government investment has brought about a new wave in American manufacturing.

Unlike Trump, who just levied tariffs on Chinese imports and used it as a campaign slogan, Biden is actually investing in America’s manufacturing capacity so we don’t have to rely on China in the first place.

He’s turning the tide against deals made by previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, that helped Wall Street but ended up costing American jobs and lowering American wages.

#2 Monopoly power

Biden is the first president in living memory to take on big monopolies.

Giant firms have come to dominate almost every industry. Four beef packers now control over 80 percent of the market, domestic air travel is dominated by four airlines, and most Americans have no real choice of internet providers.

In a monopolized economy, corporate profits rise, consumers pay higher prices, and workers’ wages shrink.

But under the Biden, the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department have become the most aggressive monopoly fighters in more than a half century. They’re going after Amazon and Google, Ticketmaster and Live Nation, JetBlue and Spirit, and a wide range of other giant corporations.

#3 Labor

Biden is also the most pro-union president I’ve ever seen.

A big reason for the surge in workers organizing and striking for higher wages is the pro-labor course Biden is charting.

The Reagan years blew in a typhoon of union busting across America. Corporations routinely sunk unions and fired workers who attempted to form them. They offshored production or moved to so-called “right-to-work” states that enacted laws making it hard to form unions.

Even though Democratic presidents promised labor law reforms that would strengthen unions, they didn’t follow through. But under Joe Biden, organized labor has received a vital lifeboat. Unionizing has been protected and encouraged. Biden is even the first sitting president to walk a picket line.

Biden’s National Labor Relations Board is stemming the tide of unfair labor practices, requiring companies to bargain with their employees, speeding the period between union petitions and elections, and making it harder to fire workers for organizing.

Americans have every reason to be outraged at how decades of policies that prioritized corporations over people have thrown our economy off-keel.

But these three waves of change — a worker-centered trade and industrial policy, strong anti-monopoly enforcement, and moves to strengthen labor unions — are navigating towards a more equitable economy.

It’s a sea change that’s long overdue.

The Two Faces Of The Euro

Of all European politicians who never led their countries, Jacques Delors and Wolfgang Schäuble had the greatest impact on Europe. Between them, Delors and Schäuble, who died within a day of each other in December, shaped today’s European Union, warts and all.

Their tenures did not really overlap, but their bitter clashes over the future of Europe made history. And while the significance of both men is widely recognised, the strong causal link between their conflicting visions and the EU’s current slump is not well understood.

Judging by the various obituaries, the two men are remembered for their ostensible differences: Delors, the flamboyant French, Roman Catholic, social democrat whose dream of a Keynesian Europe was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s nightmare; and Schäuble, the austere German lawyer whose fiscal Calvinism terrified deficit-spending southern European, as well as French, finance ministers. While both have been acknowledged as noteworthy Europeans, and thus foes of Euroskeptics, Delors is portrayed as the more impatient centralizer, in sharp contrast to Schäuble, who was reluctant to cede the German parliament’s powers to Brussels.

None of this is false. But the portrayal of the two men’s motivations and deeds it leaves us with is incomplete — and possibly misleading.

Delors’ tactical U-turn

By the time then-West German chancellor Helmut Kohl gave Schäuble his first cabinet position, a junior ministry, in 1984, Delors had just ended a hellish tenure as French president François Mitterrand’s first finance minister. Mitterrand’s government, comprising the Socialists and Communists, had been elected in 1981 on an anti-austerity platform promising egalitarian growth. Almost immediately after that election, French capital fled en masse to Germany.

To stop it, Delors had either to devalue the franc substantially or increase interest rates to economy-busting levels.

Under the European Monetary System (EMS), which Germany and France had forged with great fanfare in 1978, the exchange rate was fixed, and any devaluation of the franc required Germany’s consent. To grant it, Germany demanded a hefty price: a real wage reduction (a wage freeze amid high inflation), which the Mitterrand government had been elected to avert.

Delors was left with two options: tear up the EMS treaty (and devalue the franc unilaterally) or raise interest rates to a whopping 25 per cent.

He chose the latter, but capital continued to flee, while French income per capita fell by more than 10 per cent in three years. By 1983, Delors had adopted full austerity (including the wage freeze demanded by Germany), leftist ministers had resigned, and France was on the road to embracing Germany’s strategy of competitive disinflation (reflected in the strong franc policies that became standard throughout the 1990s).

Was that the end of Mitterrand’s socialist agenda? No, said Delors: to fight austerity at a European level, France first had to embrace it.

Pro-labour policies within France, Delors argued, would always be defeated by the Anglosphere’s financial markets betting against the franc, driving up the French state’s borrowing costs, causing capital to flee to Germany, and forcing the devaluation of both the French currency and the French state.

The only way to implement their 1981 agenda, Delors told Mitterrand, was to convince financial markets that betting against the franc was futile because it was indivisibly linked to the mighty Deutsche Mark. Their agenda could still triumph, but only at a pan-European level — a massive project which required “capturing” the Bundesbank (essentially adopting the Deutsche Mark through a monetary union) and, somehow, pushing German elites to adopt the French socialists’ agenda at the European level.

Persuaded by this analysis, in 1985 Mitterrand used his influence to lobby successfully for Delors’ appointment to the presidency of the European Commission.

From Brussels, Delors pushed for the introduction of the euro, using as his vehicle the famous Delors Committee.

Unlike true federalists who sought a fully-fledged democratic political union, Mitterrand and Delors never planned to end Europe’s intergovernmental decision-making framework, which they believed was better suited to their aim of projecting French government priorities and methods onto Europe.

What they craved was a monetary union that would spawn, surreptitiously, a fiscal (but not a political) union, which France would dominate.

A Shield Called Schäuble

Unsurprisingly, the Bundesbank saw these moves coming. From 1983 onward, the Bundesbank made aggressive monetary moves intended to give the Delors stratagem a series of bloody noses. Among German politicians, it was Schäuble who embraced fully the Bundesbank’s project of fending off Delors’ bearhug.

Schäuble had recognised in Delors a master tactician envisioning a Europe in the image of a Greater France that deployed the Deutsche Mark to fund social democratic policies. To counter Delors, the Bundesbank-Schäuble strategy was to push for a much smaller monetary union that would include only states with a current-account surplus and ultra-low government deficits.

Schäuble understood the political and geostrategic importance of including France, but the French would have to accept the loss of sovereignty over their national budget — a prerequisite for any deficit country to remain sustainably within a currency union that lacks a fiscal union.

In September 1988, Delors gave a speech to Britain’s Trades Union Congress that coincided with TUC members’ darkest hour — the aftermath of Thatcher’s third general election victory.

Delors outlined his vision of a “Social Europe”, in contrast to the “capitalists’ club”, as he described the European Common Market. Judging by the standing ovation he received, Delors had won over the British workers’ representatives.

On that day, Britain’s Labour Party began its shift from Euroskepticism to Europhilia. On the same day, and for the same reason, alarm bells went off in Thatcher’s head.

Weeks later, she delivered her famous Bruges speech, arguably the moment Brexit was conceived, in which she warned of the approaching European “superstate”.

Thatcher made the same mistake as Mitterrand: she had underestimated Schäuble’s capacity to crush Delors’ project. It was an easy mistake to make. The fall of the Berlin Wall was about to give Delors’ ambitions a major boost. In view of Thatcher’s opposition to German reunification, Mitterrand suddenly had the leverage he needed to force Kohl to acquiesce to a larger eurozone, including not only France but other deficit countries like Spain, Portugal, and eventually Greece, too.

Battleground Europe

Accepting the establishment of a large and heterogenous eurozone in exchange for France’s endorsement of German reunification was a battle that Schäuble and the Bundesbank agreed to lose. But Schäuble had not given up the fight.

Mitterrand and Delors, but also Schäuble and the Bundesbank, always knew that the heterogenous monetary union’s lack of a fiscal union made it brittle — and its lack of a banking union even more so. They all foresaw how a serious financial crisis would force Europe’s political class either to create a federal treasury, break up the existing eurozone, or accept Europe’s permanent decline. But they were at an impasse because of the clash between Delors (with Mitterrand’s backing), who craved what Thatcher perceived as a dystopic superstate, and Schäuble’s vision (backed by the Bundesbank) of a smaller eurozone within a larger, multi-speed EU. So, they all waited for the next great battle, which the first serious financial crisis would trigger.

By the time it happened, two decades later, Delors had retired and Schäuble was Germany’s finance minister, whence he dominated the Eurogroup — the informal council of eurozone finance ministers.

As soon as Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008 sparked the sequential bankruptcy of German and French banks and the insolvency of the Greek state two years later, Schäuble knew it was “game on”.

Schäuble foresaw that the French, carrying Delors’ baton in this three-decade-long relay, would use the crisis to press for their long-standing goal of fiscal union, starting with debt mutualisation. His defense strategy was to propose that insolvent countries be encouraged and helped to leave the euro.

Suddenly, Grexit was an alternative to harsh austerity and inordinate internal devaluation.

As a practicing Protestant ordoliberal with a chosen disdain for macroeconomics, Schäuble believed in austerity. During Germany’s reunification, he had played a leading role in impoverishing and actively de-industrialising East Germany for precisely the same reason that, after 2010, he became the champion of austerity across Europe: to maintain the postwar, mercantilist, West German business model.

But even Schäuble understood that the level of austerity imposed on Greece between 2010 and 2015 was excessively destructive. How do I know? Because when I was Greece’s finance minister, we spent hours discussing these matters, and he told me as much on several occasions.

In one of those exchanges, he went so far as to confirm that, in his view, the eurozone was “constructed wrongly” and needed a political union, which the French resisted. “I know,” I said, to encourage him to continue. “They wanted to use your Deutsche Mark but without sharing sovereignty!” He nodded in agreement: “Yes, this is so.

And I won’t accept it,” he continued. “So, you see, the only way I can keep this thing together, the only way I can hold this thing together, is by greater discipline. Anyone who wants the euro must accept discipline. And it will be a much stronger eurozone if it is disciplined by Grexit.”

Schäuble was under no illusions. Pushing Greece out of the eurozone had little to do with Greece and everything to do with France and Delors’ vision. He wanted France to grasp that, if they wanted the euro (which in our conversations he twice referred to as the Deutsche Mark), they had to welcome the troika in Paris and drop Delors’ dream of a Greater France in an EU frock.

His insistence on Grexit was a not-so-subtle message to the French political caste: Like Greece, you can have a respite from austerity only outside the euro.

The logic behind Schäuble’s position was simple: Given the eurozone’s bad architecture, post-2008 Europe faced three options, which he ranked in the following order:

Best Option: A smaller homogenous eurozone requiring only moderate austerity and allowing debt write-offs for the heavily indebted countries, in exchange for exiting the euro.

Bad Option: Maintain the original heterogenous eurozone at the price of massive austerity and no therapeutic debt write-offs.

Unacceptable Option: Delors’ vision of a fiscal union without a democratic political union – what Thatcher had labeled a European “superstate”.

Schäuble’s preferred option was a Greek exit from the euro. This would lead Italy and other deficit countries to follow Greece out within a matter of days, finally realising the Bundesbank’s original plan for a small, mercantilist eurozone within a larger single market.

French elites, along with their counterparts in Italy, Spain, and Greece, opposed this option fiercely, because they wanted their domestic assets to remain denominated in the euro.

To hide their less-than-virtuous motive, they made noises that the time had come to implement Delors’ original plan for fiscal union. But their hypocrisy was evident in the fact that even France’s Socialists were unwilling to supplement fiscal union with political union, lest French national sovereignty be imperiled.

Schäuble felt obliged to lay down the law: The Delors plan was unacceptable, not least because it would be politically impossible to enact in various national parliaments.

If heavily indebted countries wanted to keep the euro, it was they (not Germany) that had to impose massive, suboptimal austerity on their people (the Bad Option). To his chagrin, they agreed to do that. Crucially, his chancellor, Angela Merkel, under the influence of Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank at the time, sided with them and treated her finance minister with considerable contempt.

A broken Schäuble acquiesced to Merkel’s choice, knowing full well that relying on so much austerity and money printing was suboptimal and detrimental not only to the deficit countries but also to the EU as a whole. Almost immediately, he signaled his readiness to leave the finance ministry and retreat into semi-retirement.

Merkel denied him, and not for the first time, the honor of the Presidency of the Federal Republic and offered him the wooden spoon of the Bundestag Presidency.

Today, both Delors’ and Schäuble’s visions lay in ruins, as if in a Greek tragedy.

The way the euro crisis was managed put paid to Delors’ vision of a Europe in the image of a social-democratic Greater France, and it ruined Schäuble’s attempt to safeguard the postwar model at the heart of a fiscally sovereign Germany that continues to lose itself in a mercantilist Europe.

Back when the euro was still on the drawing board, neither Delors nor Schäuble could have imagined, or would condone, Europe’s inane response to the euro’s inevitable crisis.

The combination of massive austerity and monetary largesse that preserved the eurozone in its original format, which both Delors and Schäuble correctly deemed unviable, is the reason why Europe is now politically fragmented and in secular decline.

History, once more, proved a cruel master of noteworthy Europeans who refused to see that Europe’s interests are in direct opposition to the interests of its ruling classes.

Unlocking Creativity: Transforming Your Environment For Breakthrough Ideas

From personal anecdotes to practical tips, Simon shares his journey through dark times and how he rekindled his creative spark by altering his environment. Whether it’s relocating for inspiration, reorganizing your workspace, or collaborating across industries, this video is a must-watch for anyone looking to break free from stagnation and ignite their creative potential.

 

Call For Action Against Private Medicare Advantage Insurers That Waste Taxpayer Dollars And Unlawfully Deny Care

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Has Authority to Curb Billions in Overpayments to Private Medicare Advantage Insurers

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to take administrative action to curb billions in overpayments to Medicare Advantage (MA) insurers. The lawmakers called on CMS to (1) address perverse incentives in MA’s payment system, including favorable selection and risk code gaming, (2) reform the flawed Quality Bonus Program, and (3) crack down on private insurers that unlawfully deny care. The letter comes as CMS is expected to release its 2025 advance notice of methodological changes for MA payment rates and policies.

“I appreciate the important steps CMS has already taken to limit overpayments, such as increasing audit rates of MA insurers and finalizing necessary adjustments to MA’s risk adjustment model. Yet, despite your agency’s efforts to date, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that CMS will overpay MA insurers by as much as $1.56 trillion over the next decade. As enrollment in MA continues to grow,  CMS must take more aggressive action to ensure Medicare’s sustainability, protect taxpayer dollars, and curb abusive practices in MA,” wrote the lawmakers. 

The MA program was founded on the premise that private insurance companies would administer Medicare coverage more cost-effectively, saving taxpayer dollars. However, the MA program has failed to deliver savings in any year since its inception. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission estimates that CMS pays MA plans 6 percent more per enrollee than what it would cost to cover the same enrollee in Traditional Medicare (TM), even though MA plans spend up to 25 percent less on health care per enrollee.

“As a result of these factors, the MA program has jeopardized the solvency of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, raised Part B premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries by as much as $140 billion over ten years, and created significant barriers to care for vulnerable enrollees. It is imperative for CMS to rein in these abuses and protect Medicare coverage for the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on it,” continued the lawmakers. 

As CMS prepares its 2025 advance notice of MA payment policies, the lawmakers urged the agency to pursue the following actions:

Reform base payments to offset favorable selection 

  • Modify benchmarks to offset favorable selection.
  • Modify calculation of United States Annual Per Capita Costs to account for favorable selection.

Risk adjustment 

  • Increase the coding intensity adjustment factor.
  • Increase recoupment of overpayments.
  • Restrict the use of chart reviews and health risk assessments.
  • Eliminate the use of provider incentives that contribute to increased coding.

Reform the Quality Bonus Program (QBP)

  • Raise the standard for QBP.
  • Apply a network quality measure to MA plans’ star rating.

Strengthen enforcement against MA insurers that illegally deny care 

  • Investigate abuse of AI models.
  • Terminate contracts that are in violation of Medicare coverage rules.

“To protect Medicare beneficiaries and curb billions in overpayments driven by for-profit insurers, I respectfully urge you to take the actions outlined in this letter. Doing so will save hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, ensure Medicare’s sustainability, and improve health outcomes for Medicare enrollees. I also request that you provide a staff-level briefing on CMS’s plan to limit overpayments and hold MA insurers accountable for widespread delays and denials by February 8, 2024,” concluded the lawmakers.