Nick Kessler

Connecting the dots

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Saturday, August 24, 2002
Lean Left graciously added a link to my page this week, and I've returned the favor.
Help isn't on the way!

George W. Bush, who promised the military that “help is on the way,” has repaid veterans by deliberately withholding the treatment they’ve earned. The Bush administration has decided to ban all “marketing activities to enroll new veterans” into the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). This policy was explained in a July 2002 Department of Veterans Affairs memo, discovered by Josh Marshall and given wider press by Paul Krugman.

There are a lot of sick veterans out there who could really benefit from health coverage—the Bush people are sure of it, or they wouldn’t have needed this scheme. Because the administration is trying to save money, they must be targeting a very specific group: veterans who need a lot of costly treatment, but who don’t know about the benefits they’ve earned. In other words, veterans with major health problems, who need the VHA most. Bush has gone out of his way to make sure the government doesn't give these veterans any medical care.

Bush never mentioned this plan during the 2000 campaign, but it shows what “compassionate conservatism” means in practice: the Bush people pay for millionaires’ tax cuts by letting needy veterans suffer. Clearly, Bush assumes that veterans are so pleased to have a conservative president that they'll keep cheering him when he sabotages their benefits. But he also assumed that firefighters would stay by his side when he refused to fund them.

Veterans should ask Republicans running for office this year whether they approve of Bush’s policy on FHA benefits. They should also demand that Republican candidates clear up some inconsistent campaign statements regarding veterans and Bush. For example:

From John Thune’s website (challenging Senator Tim Johnson):

“John has been an active supporter of improving veterans’ benefits.” Link

“George W. Bush shares our South Dakota values.” Link

From Jim Talent’s website (challenging Senator Jean Carnahan):

“Jim will keep the commitment made to veterans for their service to America.” Link

“President Bush shares the common sense values of the heartland.” Link

Veterans shouldn't let these Republicans stand with Bush while claiming to fight for veterans’ benefits.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
I appreciate all the visitors today from Media Whores Online and Pandagon.

Sunday, August 18, 2002
Avedon and Atrios kindly mentioned me recently.
“The anti-dumping rules, which allow the government to impose extra tariffs on goods being imported at below the real cost, have been used almost exclusively to restrict steel imports.

“Developing countries have been adamant that these rules be on the table at the coming global trade talks, but the rules enjoy powerful support in Congress. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives tried unsuccessfully to insert a prohibition against even discussing the issue in the fast-track bill, but they succeeded in passing a provision against negotiating any deal that "weakens" American trade laws.”

This passage, from an article by Edmund L. Andrews in Sunday’s New York Times, demonstrates just how weak and ill-informed journalism can be when reporters skip their research and rely instead on Republican issue summaries.

The House never tried to prohibit U.S. negotiators from “even discussing” the trade laws. Andrews is presumably referring to the Dayton-Craig amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority bill--passed not in the House but in the Senate!--which was removed in conference. Dayton-Craig would have allowed the Senate to vote separately on any changes to the trade laws, instead of forcing them to make an up-or-down decision on an entire trade bill. This language is available in the Senate TPA bill from May (large .pdf file) at pages 264-267.

As I discussed earlier, the White House was eager to get full TPA power in order to limit the discretion of Congress to debate trade packages. They hated Dayton-Craig because it would have let Congress reserve a small amount of this discretion. So they made various politically motivated claims about the supposed threat posed by Dayton-Craig. Indeed, Andrews might be quoting from the first page of a biased letter sent on May 14, 2002 to Senator Max Baucus from Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. They claimed that if Congress could vote on trade bills separately, the rest of the world “will determine that the U.S. Congress has ruled out even discussion of a major topic,” and that the entire trade negotiation would unravel as a result. This sort of ridiculous distortion from the trade debate is the only "evidence" that our negotiators might have prohibited from discussing the trade laws. Yet instead of doing some research about the trade bill, and perhaps looking at its actual language, Andrews apparently took a partisan exaggeration pushed by the administration and casually passed it off as fact.

Side note: the antidumping law is not used “almost exclusively” for steel, but by many other industries as well. For example, in just the past year U.S. manufacturers have won antidumping orders against various kinds of imports, including lumber, raspberries, honey, windshields, uranium, magnesium, ammonium nitrate, and polyethylene film. You can track these cases on the website of the U.S. International Trade Commission. (Click on “731” on the left for antidumping investigations.)


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