Robocall vs. email-stuffer in the battle of health exchange rivals

The unveiling of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s health insurance exchange, has spawned an email and phone-call battle between advocacy groups on opposite sides of the state’s exchange law.

Tuesday morning, during Vermont Health Connect’s dawning hours, a robocall sponsored by Vermonters for Health Care Freedom (VHCF) sought to rally 30,0000 Vermonters to call the governor’s office with two demands.

The call, which cost $800 according to VHCF executive director Darcie Johnston, encouraged people to ask Gov. Peter Shumlin to delay mandatory enrollment in the exchange for another year. It also instructed them to tell him to repeal the mandate entirely.

This is an illustration, not Vermonters for Health Care Freedom's actual inbox. Photo via Creative Commons

This is an illustration, not Vermonters for Health Care Freedom’s actual inbox. Photo via Creative Commons

About 100,000 Vermonters are legally required to buy insurance through Vermont Health Connect in 2014. In other states, participation in the exchange is voluntary.

Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), which supports the law, took issue with the content of that call and launched a counteroffensive.

The spat between advocacy organizations is information-oriented. The call suggested, according to Johnston, that, “many thousands of Vermonters could become uninsured come January because of the bungled Shumlin exchange.”

VPIRG’s consumer protection advocate, Falko Schilling, had two problems with that claim. “One, it was confusing, and two, it made people think they would all of a sudden be uninsured.”

According to VPIRG, the opposite is true — the number of Vermonters with insurance will rise under the ACA and the state’s eventual transition to a single-payer health care system.

VPIRG decided to counter VHCF’s campaign, and Schilling took a similar high-volume approach, targeting Johnston’s email inbox rather than the governor’s phone lines.

In an email blast to members, VPIRG urged people to email Johnston, asking her to put a halt to “the scare tactics and robocalls.”

The form letter, provided to members, tells Johnston, “Frightening Vermonters into believing that they will soon go uninsured just so you can score political points is irresponsible, and I’m sure, ultimately ineffective.”

Darcie Johnston. Courtesy photo.

Darcie Johnston. Courtesy photo.

In response, Johnston, who said she received roughly 200 emails, issued a news release Wednesday criticizing Schilling and VPIRG for adopting “totalitarian” tactics.

“What he did was mobilize his hordes to try to silence our message, not by calling the governor’s office and voicing their contrary opinions, but by flooding my email account,” the statement reads. “Now VPIRG has resorted to the methods favored by totalitarians everywhere – to suppress any dissent from their gospel of the all-powerful state.”

Schilling said VPIRG was simply giving its members a chance to express their dissatisfaction with what he described as VHCF’s fear-inducing political stunt.

“Our members are upset with all these attacks about the ACA [Affordable Care Act] and I thought it was appropriate to tell her what they thought about the campaign and the misleading scare tactics they were using,” Schilling said, in defense of the decision to direct VPIRG members to fill VHCR’s inbox.

Emails were sent to Johnston’s email account, Schilling explained, because that was the designated contact address on VHCF’s website.

VHCF’s news release rehashed its demands to Shumlin — to either delay the mandate or do away with it — and added one to the queue: “we call on Gov. Shumlin to publicly disavow the reprehensible tactics of his supporters at VPIRG, in attempting to silence our voice.”

The dispute between VPIRG and VHCF echoes another episode of sparring over the exchange, which played out in the op-ed section of On Sept. 29, Randy Brock, the 2012 Republican candidate for governor, contributed a commentary alleging that the exchange is dysfunctional and that the Shumlin administration has obfuscated major snags during the setup process.

The following day, Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, wrote a rebuttal. Larson’s op-ed defended the functionality of the exchange, and described Brock’s claims as “based on a combination of information that is inaccurate, outdated or both.”

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom’s “live” robocall with patch through to governor’s office

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom voicemail robocall

Alicia Freese

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  • Wendy Wilton
  • Dave Tucker

    The anti-ACA folks should be ashamed of themselves. But they aren’t. Instead of making reasonable points and providing suggestions to improve what they think is so flawed, they instead resort to trying to scare people into not taking advantage of, for some, their first opportunity to not have to worry that a health problem will put them into bankruptcy or both. I would bet that everyone one of these people, at both the federal and state level, already enjoy the same protections they seek to deny to others, and hypocrite is not a strong enough word to describe what they are doing. Let them give up their own health insurance, since they seem to be saying health insurance is not a living necessity, and then come tell me why you think universal health care is such a bad idea.

    • Cheryl Pariseau

      Dave: There was noting about the robo call from VHCF that would have prevented anyone who want to participate to participate. It was to remove the mandatory participation for individuates and small businesses. Vermont is the only state in the entire country that is forcing the exchange on is citizens. I for one do not like the fact that I am being forced into a system that I do not want to participate in; however, I do not want to deny you access to a system you would like to participate in.

      • Dave Tucker

        A few years ago, I stepped on a nail and had to go to the emergency room because it was after hours for my primary care doctor. The bill for that visit was just under $1200. When I next saw my primary physician, I asked him what about checking my foot and giving me a tetnus shot cost $1200. He said that about half of that charge was due to the subsidization that those with insurance make to offset the cost of providing service to those who don’t. Someone’s reluctance or inability to afford health insurance shouldn’t result in those with insurance paying more as it only drives up rates over time. Just like we all have to have automobile insurance, we should all have to have health insurance. The ACA makes that possible. This has been cast as a matter of “personal choice” by some, but one person’s choice should not be some other person’s burden. So I appreciate your point, that you aren’t trying to deny me the ability to have insurance, but there is a real effect when others chose not to, because if they get a nail in their foot and go to the emergency room, and can’t pay the $1200 out of pocket, they will get treatment, the cost of which may get charged to those that do have insurance. Your freedom comes with a price.

  • Scott Williams

    It seems that everything I read that is created by or related to Ms. Johnston screams of a combination “victim speak” and hyperbole. I noticed this during Mr. Brock’s campaign (who I seriously considered voting for until his media messaging began to look like Ms. Johnston’s rants). She has chosen to run a media campaign against a public policy decision and law- but its “reprehensible tactics” for a group on the “other side” to send emails to her self-id’d account? I for one find the hysterical tone so off putting that I no longer attempt to glean any actual info from Ms. Johnston’s publications.

  • Jane Stein

    I wonder, not for the first time, what exactly it is Ms. Johnston thinks she’s accomplishing. Her harsh, wildly exaggerated messaging ain’t exactly designed to appeal to Vermonters’ sensibilities. Maybe she’s a Prog mole who’s actually trying to discredit her movement and thoroughly alienate Vermonters from her “cause.” Or maybe it’s just self-indulgent shrieking using somebody else’s dime.

    • Craig Powers

      If you do not like the message, then do not read it. Pretty simple. I do not agree with VPIRG’s stance on much and therefore do not read it or give it much thought. You should try the same.

      Have you tried to sign up for coverage on the mandated VHC website? It is a horror show and will cost close to $176 million if it ever works! That, Ms. Stein, is not a “harsh, wildly exaggerated” message. That is government stupidity, waste and arrogance.

  • Paula Schramm

    After getting one of those ugly robo- voices hysterically yelling at me over the phone, I was glad to see the suggestion to email the contact person for “Vermonters for Health Care Freedom about it. They are total hypocrites : trying to scare people away from an opportunity to have more affordable health care is not “freedom”…..

    • Cheryl Pariseau

      More affordable health care??? Maybe for some, but for me I am looking at and 80% premium increase ($194.02 to $346) per month. I am not eligible for a subsidy because it is based on the entire household income. Nevertheless, this 80% increase will not include me covering my daughter, which I do now. If I were to continue covering my daughter my premiums would be about $800 per month. My deductible will double ($3000 to $6000 again just for covering myself) and I will no longer have vision coverage. I will for the first time in my life be without health care coverage because I cannot afford it. The tax I will pay to the IRS for not having coverage will amount to around 1 months premium. When all is said and done between the deductible and premium, should the need to use it I will have spent $10,152. So for me this is far from saving money. In fact that is about a third of my take home pay for the year. Remember not everything is black and white. If you want to participate then go for it, but don’t take away my right not to participate!

      • Paula Schramm

        Cheryl – You’re exactly right, more affordable for some, but a real hardship on others.
        Putting everyone in the exchanges is for the goal of making it work better in 2017, but that is no comfort for anyone in your position right now.
        I am frustrated by this difficult process, and see that the biggest reason it is so difficult and complicated is that the ACA just couldn’t let go of the insurance industry model. What we need is Medicare for all, and to get there from here is not easy.

  • Mike Oltedal

    Health care is broke and needs to be fixed
    Far left and far right needs to stay out of things
    and let the middle try to come up with a solution.
    If the current offering is the proper way to go about it I
    do not know – i do know that the political fight over this has put us directly in harms way and I do not understand how that helps the issue. Fact remains health care is still broke

    • Chris Lewis

      Mike, I agree with you.

      My concern is that when government gets involved, seldom (if ever) does this fix anything. We’ve been told by the government that GMHC will save money. We’ve been told GMHC will cover the current uninsured. We’ve been told this will make health insurance easier to navigate and understand. So far the state has not met any of these promises.

      • Paula Schramm

        These are the goals when Vermont can establish its own system in 2017. It is a work in progress .Meanwhile we have to do the exchanges mandated by the ACA, and this helps some & not others.
        I am very frustrated by this process too – especially the part of this exercise that doesn’t adequately help Catamount- insured people make the transition. We were promised better – but the “government” had to deal with people ready to pounce if the wealthiest had to bear even a very small tax surcharge to help with the situation . And though different parts of the “government” duked it out with one another ( i.e., our representatives ) the “don’t dare tax the ones who can most afford it, screw the poorest instead” side of our “government” won out. Which should make all you “anti-government” people very happy ?

  • Walter Carpenter

    “but its “reprehensible tactics” for a group on the “other side” to send emails to her self-id’d account? ”

    Good point, Scott. Although not a member of VPIRG or associated with them, I am glad that they did it. They gave Ms. Johnston a taste of what she dished out.

  • John McClaughry

    Does anybody deny that the law requires that lots of people with small group and nongroup policies must buy new policies on the Vermont Health Connect before January 1 – which they can’t if VHC isn’t operative well before then?
    VHCF asked Shumlin to use the waiver authority in Act 171 ( a law that Shumlin signed) to allow people to continue with their present policies if the exchange isn’t fully functional. Is there something wrong with that?
    VHCF asked Shumlin to seek repeal of the state monopoly provision of the exchange law. This makes makes Vermonters, alone among people of the 50 states, unable to make a deal with their insurer – their only choice is to go on the exchange and choose among the policies that Shumlin (and ObamaCare) prescribe. Is that such a bad idea? (It is if you’re VPIRG and Shumlin; it’s not if you’re an insurance purchaser.)
    If VPIRG doesn’t like those proposals, they could certainly mount a campaign to persuade people not to support a change in the law or the governor’s use of the waiver. Fair enough. But for VPIRG to turn loose their “hordes” to take down VHCF’s email service smells of Chicago-style politics. Why am I not surprised?

  • Ms. Johnston’s tired message /cliche, backed by misinformation, that government can’t do anything right and the so-called”free market” will solve everything needs to be given a rest.
    The so called free market is the U.S. has produced the most expensive health care per GDP with dismal results(U.S. ranks 51st in life expectancy) compared to other advanced countries and we still have millions uninsured and under insured. Health care is not like buying a flat screen T.V. as she and Randy Brock preached.

    • Craig Powers


      Your tired old statements that health care is perfect everywhere else in the world is a large part of the problem with reform here in VT. Your unwillingness to allow any private interests as part of the solution has put us where we are today because your message has fallen on the ears of legislators who simply do not understand the mess they have created. 100,000 people FORCED to buy through an Exchange that currently does not work worth a damn at a cost of $176 million.

      Single payer will not work on a state level..admit it and start to help us work on a blended reform of govt and private enterprise.

      • Lee Russ

        He never said it was “perfect” everywhere else. Why do you claim that he said that?

        You passionately believe that single payer will not work on a state level. Passion, however, does not make that true.

      • Walter Carpenter

        “Your unwillingness to allow any private interests as part of the solution has put us where we are today..”

        It is private insurance which has largely created this mess and it cannot be the solution to it. Yes, the way this nation does its Medicare/Medicaid has contributed its share to the mess we are in, but it is the general reliance on private insurance which is why our health care is so ridiculously expensive, covers so few, and why this nation leads the world in medical bankruptcies. You say that Jerry’s statements are “tired.” To you they may sound “tired,” but they are also correct.

        Single-payer can work on the state level if we want it to. It may not be perfect, there probably will be glitches, and private insurance would probably be involved in some way, but single-payer can work here.

  • Dave Williams

    I read this lady’s recent commentary piece on how to reform our health care system here at VT Digger. She and Howard Dean (who had a recent interview here on VT Digger) both agree that single payer health care was a bad choice. It would bet that much of the criticism is coming from those, like VPIRG, that have pushed for single payer health care. This explains VPIRG’s reaction and prior sabotage to misdirect internet traffic as mentioned in the linked article in the first comment. I don’t agree with such tactics.

    Is there any way to see, or better yet hear the message that was sent out? Was it really a “hysterically yelling ” voice as one of the comments above claims. What was the “scary” “misinformation” that was conveyed. Most of the comments above seem big on hyperbole but tiny in substance. I’d like to hear the message and decide for myself. Can VT Digger give a link to the audio message?

    • Paula Schramm

      Dave – Glad I checked back after a day or 2. I really did get a “hysterically yelling” was so hard to listen to that I hung up after a few sentences. I didn’t get the nice calm lady doing the VHCF robo-call. The call I got was definitely about the ACA and asking me to make a call. I made an assumption it was the VHCF call being talked about, without being able to check it out until now. I don’t usually get robo-calls…all I can think is that it was a Tea Party thing ??

  • Dave Bellini

    I think a lot of the controversy about the Vermont health care law would go away if the plans truly were “affordable.” The out of pocket expenses and deductibles scare me. Who has several thousand dollars laying around in case of illness?
    Why are only the premiums subsidized and not the out of pocket expenses?
    The plans offered through the exchange are unfair to low and middle income families. Catamount and VHAP were better.
    Why not have all health care expenses paid for by premiums, THEN SUBSIDIZE the premiums??? Based on income….. Too logical?
    I’m afraid the “single payer” true believers are in for a rude awakening. The “single payer” model the state of Vermont has in mind for folks in 2017 will look exactly like the plans you see in the exchange today. I hope I am wrong but I’ve been working for the state for 35 years and I know some of the games and some of the players.
    I don’t believe an Administration that refuses to give sick days and health insurance to full time correctional officers will do the right thing.

    • Walter Carpenter

      “I’m afraid the “single payer” true believers are in for a rude awakening. The “single payer” model the state of Vermont has in mind for folks in 2017 will look exactly like the plans you see in the exchange today.”

      Dave, are you sure? For one, are not these exchange plans, their rates, and all more or less federal rather than state. Deductibles and out-of-pockets too? Until we can get over this private insurance model of co-pays, deductibles, health plans according to income strata, and all the rest of it, we will always have these problems, which are unknown in nations with single-payer.

      • Dave Bellini

        Walt, I’m not 100% sure since there is no way to predict the future with complete certainty. However: “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” So, let’s examine past behavior:
        2 years ago, this administration tried to eliminate the out of pocket max protection for expensive cancer drugs, for state employees. They did not succeed but they tried hard to do this. State employees would have had to pay 40% for many extremely expensive cancer and M.S. drugs. Nice guys huh?
        This administration will not provide health insurance to many full time state employees who are working 40 or more hours a week. They hire them as “temps” except they can be temps forever. No sick days, no health insurance no benefits at all. Nice guys huh?
        This administration doesn’t believe in dental care, apparently the mouth is not part of the body?
        4 years ago the state of Vermont attempted to cease paying for any further health care increases of state employees. In other words, eventually the employees would be paying 99% of the premiums. They failed, thankfully. Nice guys?
        Right now today, many people cannot afford the GMCB plans offered in the exchange. VHAP and Catamount were better, they should have kept those plans in place. If the goal is to make things more “affordable” then they should do exactly that. Some people working at low wage jobs tell me they cannot afford the new plans.
        More past behavior: Challenges for Change, cuts to elder care programs, cuts to the developmentally disabled, cuts to unemployment services workers, cuts to food stamp workers, reneging on the state hospital promises……… I could go on and on.
        I hope I am wrong Walter, but experience has taught me that politicians will promise anything and everything but rarely do as they say.

  • It’s one thing to believe that a “single payer System won’t be any good, in spite of evidence to the contrary…It’s another to distort facts as Ms. Johnston perpetually does to state her case.
    As far as people leaving the state, Vermont is in the top ten of states in percentage new comers arriving and Vermont is #1 in % ofyounger new comers. Also also they rank #2 in education. Mass. is #1. We must be doing something right. Moreover 2 years ago there was rally of medical students in Montpelier that they would practice in Vermont due to single payer.

  • Al Walskey

    I’m not a fan of Darcie J. but would like to hear the audio of the robo call so I can make an informed decision. Where can I hear it?

    Vermonters for Health Care Freedom had a despicable meeting some time ago in conference room 11 that was presided over Senator Randy Brock. I came with an open mind to learn if there were any valid complaints or reasonable suggestions that could be adopted to improve the bill for health care. I was shocked at the language and accusations against those who were pushing for health care reform. It was basically a rant full of hate. Those supporting health care were referred to as Communists and compared to the brown shirted Nazis. The “Nazi” term I found fits the strategies employed by this group of malcontents. Nazi defined – Derogatory term for a person who is fanatically dedicated to, or seeks to control, some activity, practice, etc. The Affordable Care Act and Vermont Health Connect were arrived at Democratically. Those seeking to sabotage it at both the Federal and State levels are the ones fanatically dedicated to forcing their will on our Democracy. What is NOT addressed by this fanatical fringe group is the fact that some 45,000 Americans die each year due to the lack of health care, American health care costs twice as much and the outcomes are worse compared to any other industrialized country. The fact is, more Americans are killed by American benign neglect than by the terrorists that we’ve gone into more than 1 trillion dollars of debt to kill. As a Veteran who has seen combat I find this state of affairs deplorable. The time is long overdue to man-up and save lives.

    • Hi Al,
      The audio is now posted in this story.
      Thanks for asking.
      Anne Galloway
      Editor and Co-Publisher, VTDigger

  • Marie Parker

    Cheryl – You are spot on in m opinion. The exchange is not ideal for all. From what I have seen and have heard from others, is the cost is too high. Either the deductables are high or the premiums are high. You have a choice to pick how you want to pay – upfront or after services.

    I work in healthcare and can tell you the individuals who do not have insurance pay the most for the same care/procedures that others have coverage for. That coverage is negotiated between the service providers (hospitals) and the insurance company. If everyone is insured it will bring those cost down to a reasonable level.

    The Exchange – People should not be forced to buy coverage on the exchange. I know some people are happy with the plans they have now, but are now forced to go to the exchange and pay more because they work for a small company. How is that reasonable?

    Green Mountain Care Board – The want to keep cost low for the patient. I think that is a good thing. Tere is a flaw in their system thoough. Rules they have set for hospitals revenue growth actually hurts the patient in the end. when you put a cap on growth it open the opportunity for a trickle effect to the people who provide care to patients or needed equipment. Which can result in not enough staff availability.

    Healthcare does need an overhaul. I am not sure if government is the right group to lead it. Look at the mess we are in now with the government. they cant get along and negotiate for the greater good of the people in this country. We need a well thought out plan, not something whipped up overnight and stuffed down our throat.

  • Dave Williams

    Thanks for the audio link. A number of the above comments were off base, especially the one claiming that the robo call had “voices hysterically yelling at me “. It always helps getting the info at the source and not relying on biased partisan comments.

    I agree that there has to be an escape plan if the exchange is not able to get all the 100,000 insured by the deadline. Enacting the waiver sounds like a good backup plan. The Times Argus had a report last week that MVP and Blue Cross were worried about meeting the deadline as they still have not been linked up to the exchange. The governor might relieve some anxiety if he would state upfront that he will ask for the waiver if the exchange isn’t fully operational by the end of the month.

    • Paula Schramm

      Dave – Just clarifying… my comment wasn’t “partisan” , it was based on actually experiencing a robo-call that was yelling hysterically at me about the ACA ! Thanks to your & Al’s request, I can hear the VHCF call for verification & affirm that what I got was not the same. My mistake, but not one made on purpose. Bad Tea Party timing…..

  • Ken Hertz

    The whole thing would indeed be much simpler if we had a single payer system. I rather like the system I saw in Germany: basic coverage under a single payer system, supplementary coverage on the open market.

    • Dan McCauliffe

      Ken, Germany is not a single payer system as you imply. It is a multi-payer system (also known as a hybrid system) with financing from both private and public (taxes) funds. I suggest you read this German physician’s description of their health care system for more details.

      • Paula Schramm

        I read the article on the German system – here’s the opening :
        The German health system is more complex than it seems, and is a multi-payer system.

        Every working person has to pay about 15 percent of his or her salary for health insurance. There are more than 130 health insurance companies. About 10 percent of the population is, as we call it, privately insured. You’d have to earn more than 46,000 euros (about $60,000) to have the right to be a “private patient.” The unemployed and homeless are taken care of by the state, i.e., taxpayers.

        The market does not dictate prices at all — it is the DRG system. ”

        The article by this German physician gives you a sense of the different ways all the rest of the Western industrialized nations have managed to give universal health care to their citizens. They all have problems and challenges, but none have the agonizing statistics of our country : nearly 50 million without health insurance, many more underinsured, an estimated 45,000 dying every year from not having access to health care, a majority of bankruptcies coming from medical expenses, and the most expensive health care “system” of all of them.
        What stood out to me was every working person pays 15% of their salary, and that everyone has access to health care, whether or not they are employed.

        • Dan McCauliffe

          Paula, I strongly agree with you that the US needs to reform its health care system to make it more affordable and accessible to all. Evidence shows that the European mixed payer (publicly and privately funded) systems are superior to the single payer Canadian model that Vermont is adopting, as I have shared in previous VTDigger posts.

          Canada is one of the few remaining single payer health care systems in the world, and this may change as the long waiting times are harmful to patients and creating an impetus to reform the Canadian system to be more like the mixed-payer systems of Europe.

          I agree that we need universal access to health care for all to prevent US citizens from dying due to lack of health insurance. The 45,000 figure you quote is a guesstimate at best, as discussed at the site linked below. Even though this number is thought to be over-estimated, even one death should be considered a tragedy and reason to seek universal access for all. However universal access through a Canadian style single payer may cause another problem where patients are dying while waiting to receive care, as mentioned in the first linked article above. European mixed payer health care systems, like the Swiss and Dutch systems, have shorter waiting times compared to single payer Canada, and better avoid this problem.

          The myth that half of all personal US bankruptcies were from medical bills and lack of health insurance has been debunked here and
          This claim was originally derived from a misleading and misquoted study. For example, the study classifies uncontrolled gambling, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, death of a family member, and the birth or adoption of a child as a medical cause of bankruptcy regardless of whether medical bills were involved. The authors of the study also acknowledge that if some respondents hadn’t faced health care problems, they may still have found themselves in court, filing for bankruptcy.

          Medical bankruptcy is the third leading cause of personal bankruptcy in Canada and often results from loss of employment due to illness. Without employment you can’t pay your bills such as a car or mortgage payment. Estimates have shown that the number of personal bankruptcies in Canada is about the same as in the US. So having a single payer health care system in Canada does not lead to fewer bankruptcies in Canada compared to the US.).

          Bear in mind that no country has an ideal system, and the aging population throughout the world is straining all health care systems. For example a recent “actuarial analysis of the Canadian health care system concludes that, at current growth rates, costs will eventually be at levels such that provinces and territories will be required to spend the major part of their budgets on health care – at the expense of other programs such as education, social welfare and infrastructure. Using the current Canada Health Transfer (CHT), health care expenditures will equal 97 percent of total revenues available to provinces and territories at the end of 25 years, compared to 44 percent in 2012.” This is simply unsustainable.

          With the very large US deficit and aging US population, we as a state, and as a nation have our own very big challenges ahead.

  • Paula Schramm

    “With the very large US deficit and aging US population, we as a state, and as a nation have our own very big challenges ahead.”

    Yes, we certainly do have very big challenges, and one of them is reforming health care.

    I don’t have the time to research all that you write, but logically the argument on Canadian bankruptcies doesn’t really make sense. Of course people can face bankruptcy when they can’t work because of illness – but that is not the same as going bankrupt because you can’t pay your medical bills, which is not the problem in Canada.( See the link below, and read the first story… )

    Right now we have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives that has managed a government “amputation”, in order to maneuver us into a continued austerity budget, which is the last thing our economic situation needs.

    We are a very rich country and should be just ashamed at any of the statistics I referred to, including the middle-class sinking into growing poverty. See this review of the new documentary “American Winter” to see what I’m talking about:
    There is so much we could be doing to address our situation, if we did not have a Republican party determined to maintain the status quo even if it crashes the economy again. In fact they are counting on that as their way back to the White House. And Democrats are giving in to them by accepting the mind-numbingly stupid sequester figures as the starting place for their budget negotiations. These are not very nice times….we all need to wake up.

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