Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Last Call For Fat Stacks Of US Foreign Aid Cash

With Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi now apparently detained under house arrest as a guest of the Egyptian military in a nice little coup d'etat, it's time to cut off the military aid (for now.)

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday the United States was required by law to cut aid to Egypt following a coups d’etat.

“The Morsi government has been a great disappointment to the people of Egypt, and to all who wish Egypt a successful transition to responsive, representative government under the rule of law,” he said in a statement. “He squandered an historic opportunity, preferring to govern by fiat rather than work with other political parties to do what is best for all Egyptians. Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise.”

“In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree,” Leahy added. “As we work on the new budget, my committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture. As the world’s oldest democracy, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms.”

Indeed, President Obama agrees that a review of funds to Egypt is now a top priority.

President Barack Obama urged Egypt's military Wednesday to hand back control to a democratic, civilian government without delay, but stopped short of calling the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi a coup.

In a carefully worded statement, Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by the military's move to topple Morsi's government and suspend Egypt's constitution. He said he was ordering the U.S. government to assess what the military's actions meant for U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.

Under U.S. law, the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup d'etat. The U.S. provides $1.5 billion a year to Egypt in military and economic assistance that is considered a critical U.S. national security priority.

Now the wheeling and dealing begins.  A billion and a half is a pretty big carrot to a country that kind of has no real economy right now.

I'm hoping somebody in the White House has Mohamed ElBaradei's phone number on speed dial.

Tarheel Pirates In The Night

Apparently not to be outdone in sheer awfulness by Texas and Ohio, North Carolina Republicans are moving to close all but one abortion provider in the state with new TRAP laws latched on to, of all things, an anti-Sharia law bill.  Because theocracies are bad, unless they're Christian theocracies.

The Senate took a surprise vote Tuesday night to add more restrictions on surgical and medical abortions. Abortion clinics would have to meet standards similar to those for outpatient surgery clinics. Doctors would have to be present when women take pills that induce abortions.

The bill’s supporters say its about safety, but opponents said the real reason is to restrict abortions. A legislative staff member said only one abortion clinic in the state would meet the new licensing standards. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said she knew of none.

Women who found out about the vote on Facebook and Twitter last night came to the legislature on about 12 hours notice. By 9 a.m. the gallery was full and about 200 people had gathered outside.

“I’ve seen this happening elsewhere in the country,” said Valerie Evans of Raleigh. “I feel like we have to stand up and push back.”

Evans said she knew the Senate would probably approve the measure, but she wanted them to know that many people disapprove.

“It’s sneaky,” Tanya Olson of Durham said of the surprise Senate action. “It’s not right. They have to know that people know this.”

So happy Independence day, NC.  Sorry about your rights and all.

Read more here:

Ezra's Mandate With Destiny

Ezra Klein argues (as he has for years now) that the Obamacare employer mandate was a terrible idea, always had been a terrible idea, and always will be.  So he's outright gleeful to see the Treasury Department direct the IRS to delay implementation of the mandate until 2015.

The irony is that the worker-based employer mandate got passed in part because employers preferred it to a payroll-based mandate — a fact that puzzled Senate health aides at the time, but that they made peace with in order to pass the bill.

Part of the reason is that the mandate, as written, affects relatively few employers. “You’ve got 5.7 million firms in the U.S.,” says Wharton’s Mark Duggan, who served as the top health economist at White House’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2010. “Only 210,000 have more than 50 employees. So 96 percent of firms aren’t affected. Then if you look among those firms with 50 or more employees, something on the order of 95 percent offer health insurance. So it’s basically 10,000 or so employers who have more than 50 employees and don’t offer coverage.” Those companies probably employ around one percent of American workers.

But that’s still a lot of employers, and a lot of workers, and so the health-care law has gotten a stream of bad press as one employer or another threatens to cut hours or fire workers in order to dodge the penalty.

It’s also proven difficult to enforce. Implementing the mandate requires a complex reporting process that’s left the administration flooded with comments from anxious employers — even those who offer insurance and have nothing to fear from the provision.

On Tuesday night, the White House solved that problem, at least temporarily, by announcing that that the penalties won’t go into effect until 2015. They say they plan to use the interregnum to simplify and streamline the reporting process. Until then, compliance will be “voluntary.”

Now if the mandate never gets enforced and gets fixed, great.  But let's not forget that the real problem is that Republicans are breaking everything they can about Obamacare, and it's forced the Obama administration to resort to goofy solutions like this.

There's a better way, but it'll never happen as long the GOP controls the House and an overwhelming majority of states.  

The bigger issue is Ezra's wrong about the "lot of employers".  It's one percent, people.  One.  Perspective.


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