Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ted Kennedy's widow on the bill passing the Senate

The moment Ted Kennedy would not want to lose
By Victoria Reggie Kennedy
Sunday, December 20, 2009; A19

My late husband, Ted Kennedy, was passionate about health-care reform. It was the cause of his life. He believed that health care for all our citizens was a fundamental right, not a privilege, and that this year the stars -- and competing interests -- were finally aligned to allow our nation to move forward with fundamental reform. He believed that health-care reform was essential to the financial stability of our nation's working families and of our economy as a whole.

Still, Ted knew that accomplishing reform would be difficult. If it were easy, he told me, it would have been done a long time ago. He predicted that as the Senate got closer to a vote, compromises would be necessary, coalitions would falter and many ardent supporters of reform would want to walk away. He hoped that they wouldn't do so. He knew from experience, he told me, that this kind of opportunity to enact health-care reform wouldn't arise again for a generation.

In the early 1970s, Ted worked with the Nixon administration to find consensus on health-care reform. Those efforts broke down in part because the compromise wasn't ideologically pure enough for some constituency groups. More than 20 years passed before there was another real opportunity for reform, years during which human suffering only increased. Even with the committed leadership of then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, reform was thwarted in the 1990s. As Ted wrote in his memoir, he was deeply disappointed that the Clinton health-care bill did not come to a vote in the full Senate. He believed that senators should have gone on the record, up or down.

Ted often said that we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He also said that it was better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all, especially with so many lives at stake. That's why, even as he never stopped fighting for comprehensive health-care reform, he also championed incremental but effective reforms such as a Patients' Bill of Rights, the Children's Health Insurance Program and COBRA continuation of health coverage.

The bill before the Senate, while imperfect, would achieve many of the goals Ted fought for during the 40 years he championed access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. If this bill passes:

-- Insurance protections like the ones Ted fought for his entire life would become law.

-- Thirty million Americans who do not have coverage would finally be able to afford it. Ninety-four percent of Americans would be insured. Americans would finally be able to live without fear that a single illness could send them into financial ruin.

-- Insurance companies would no longer be able to deny people the coverage they need because of a preexisting illness or condition. They would not be able to drop coverage when people get sick. And there would be a limit on how much they can force Americans to pay out of their own pockets when they do get sick.

-- Small-business owners would no longer have to fear being forced to lay off workers or shut their doors because of exorbitant insurance rates. Medicare would be strengthened for the millions of seniors who count on it.

-- And by eliminating waste and inefficiency in our health-care system, this bill would bring down the deficit over time.

Health care would finally be a right, and not a privilege, for the citizens of this country. While my husband believed in a robust public option as an effective way to lower costs and increase competition, he also believed in not losing sight of the forest for the trees. As long as he wasn't compromising his principles or values, he looked for a way forward.

As President Obama noted to Congress this fall, for Ted, health-care reform was not a matter of ideology or politics. It was not about left or right, Democrat or Republican. It was a passion born from the experience of his own life, the experience of our family and the experiences of the millions of Americans across this country who considered him their senator, too.

The bill before Congress will finally deliver on the urgent needs of all Americans. It would make their lives better and do so much good for this country. That, in the end, must be the test of reform. That was always the test for Ted Kennedy. He's not here to urge us not to let this chance slip through our fingers. So I humbly ask his colleagues to finish the work of his life, the work of generations, to allow the vote to go forward and to pass health-care reform now. As Ted always said, when it's finally done, the people will wonder what took so long.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), is an attorney.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let Wall St. Pay for Its Own Bailout!

Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street's Bailout Act of 2009 (Introduced in House)
HR 1068 IH

1st Session

H. R. 1068
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a tax on certain securities transactions to the extent required to recoup the net cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

February 13, 2009

Mr. DEFAZIO (for himself, Mr. WELCH, Ms. SUTTON, Mr. CAPUANO, Mr. WU, Mr. STARK, Ms. DELAURO, and Ms. EDWARDS of Maryland) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a tax on certain securities transactions to the extent required to recoup the net cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the `Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street's Bailout Act of 2009'.

Congress finds the following:
(1) The Bush Administration allocated the first $350 billion of TARP funds in a manner that has outraged the Nation by failing to provide the most basic oversight of the funds.
(2) Congress has declined to block the remaining $350 billion of TARP funds despite the lack of oversight and the record fiscal year 2009 budget deficit estimated at $1.2 trillion.
(3) The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has committed more than a trillion dollars to stabilize the economy by bailing out various banks deemed `too big to fail'.
(4) The $700 billion TARP fund and the new Federal Reserve lending facilities were created to protect Wall Street investors; therefore, the same Wall Street investors should pay for this infusion of taxpayer money.
(5) The easiest method to raise the money from Wall Street is a securities transfer tax, a tax that has a negligible impact on the average investor.
(6) This transfer tax would be on the sale and purchase of financial instruments such as stock, options, and futures. A quarter percent (0.25 percent) tax on financial transactions could raise approximately $150 billion a year.
(7) The United States had a transfer tax from 1914 to 1966. The Revenue Act of 1914 (Act of Oct. 22, 1914 (ch. 331, 38 Stat. 745)) levied a 0.2 percent tax on all sales or transfers of stock. In 1932, Congress more than doubled the tax to help overcome the budgetary challenges during the Great Depression.
(8) All revenue generated by this transfer tax should be deposited in the general fund of the Treasury of the United States, scaled to meet the net cost of these bailouts, and phase out when the cost of the bailouts are repaid.

(a) In General- Chapter 36 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by inserting after subchapter B the following new subchapter:
`Subchapter C--Tax on Securities Transactions

`Sec. 4475. Tax on securities transactions.

`(a) Imposition of Tax- There is hereby imposed a tax on each covered securities transaction an amount equal to the applicable percentage of the value of the security involved in such transaction.
`(b) By Whom Paid- The tax imposed by this section shall be paid by the trading facility on which the transaction occurs.
`(c) Applicable Percentage- For purposes of this section--
`(1) IN GENERAL- The term `applicable percentage' means the lesser of--
`(A) the specified percentage, or
`(B) 0.25 percent.
`(A) IN GENERAL- The term `specified percentage' means, with respect to any taxable year beginning in a calendar year, the percentage that the Secretary estimates would result in the aggregate revenue to the Treasury under this section for such taxable year and all prior taxable years to equal the Secretary's estimate of the net cost (if any) to the Federal Government of--
`(i) carrying out the Troubled Asset Relief Program established under title 1 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and
`(ii) the exercise of authority by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System under the third undesignated paragraph of section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act (12 U.S.C. 343).
`(B) DETERMINATION OF PERCENTAGE- Such percentage shall be determined by the Secretary not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this section, and redetermined for taxable years beginning in each calendar year thereafter. Such percentage shall take into account the Secretary's most recent estimation of such net cost. Any specified percentage determined under this paragraph which is not a multiple of 1/100th of a percentage point shall be rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percentage point.
`(d) Covered Securities Transaction- The term `covered securities transaction' means--
`(1) any transaction to which subsection (b), (c), or (d) of section 31 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 applies, and
`(2) any transaction subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
`(e) Administration- The Secretary shall carry out this section in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.'.
(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of subchapters for chapter 36 of such Code is amended by inserting after the item relating to subchapter B the following new item:
`subchapter c. tax on securities transactions'.

(c) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to sales occurring more than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.