1.) Who knew Wisconsin was such a vile place? — Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators, instead of playing by the rules of majority politics, are taking a record-long dump on democracy this week. The quorum-happy Dems fled Madison to avoid voting on a Republican bill that would relieve the state’s public sector workers of their collective bargaining privileges, and also require them to pay into their own damn pension plans. The “debt is just a word” alliance has responded by painting Gov. Scott Walker as Satan incarnate and physically threatening Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers. “I spent two years in the minority, and I came to work every day, even when I didn’t like the bills the majority was passing. I thought it was my job,” Republican state Sen. Randy Hopper told National Review. He added, “They can threaten me all they want, but it’s not going to stop me from doing what the people elected me to do.” If only the 1,000+ teachers who called in sick before calling in anonymous threats could say the same!
2.) Boehner and Reid to stare at each other really hard until budget crisis is resolved — “Senate Democrats decided in a closed-door meeting Thursday that a short-term extension of current spending levels would be required to lend more time for negotiations with House Republicans over the budget,” reports The Daily Caller’s Chris Moody. “Just hours before, however, House Speaker John Boehner said that he would not accept any extension — no matter how short — unless it included spending cuts.” Translation: Before Dems will discuss cutting Obama’s budget, they want to extend the CR. But House Republicans won’t extend the CR without first discussing cuts to the budget. On next week’s episode: SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS!
3.) Dude, you have no net neutrality funding — “The House passed an amendment Thursday that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from using any funding to implement the network-neutrality order it approved in December,” reports National Journal. Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, who proposed the amendment, has argued that “if left unchallenged, this claim of authority would allow the FCC to regulate any matter it discussed in the national broadband plan.” Democratic Rep. Ed Markeley claims that Walden’s amendment would “give control to the Broadband Barons … and then you will see an inevitable decline in innovation, in investment, in the private sector, in the new products, the new technology, the new applications, these new devices, which are basically invented by hundreds and thousands of smaller companies in our country.” We have to ask: Has Markeley been in a coma for the last 15 years? Is he unaware of Facebook and Twitter and Hulu and Chat Roulette, all of which are changing the world for the better and were developed without the FCC babysitting our Internet?
4.) Massive Medicare bust revives argument for making payouts public — “A health-care crime sweep Thursday netted 114 defendants on charges related to Medicare fraud, in what Attorney General Eric Holder called the largest such takedown in U.S. history,” reports the Wall Street Journal. But the bust–which uncovered a quarter of a billion dollars in fraud–likely represents only the tip of of a much larger problem. Medicare is a $500 billion program, after all, and “Medicare fraud is ‘so rampant,'” a law enforcement officer told the WSJ, that “there’s no way in hell you can prosecute your way out of this problem, no way. The answer is not prosecution—the answer is more effective monitoring of the money that goes out.” To that end, the newspaper filed “court papers last month to overturn a court injunction that blocks the public from seeing the Medicare billing records of individual doctors.” If these records were made public, journalists, non-profits and taxpayers could help DHHS pencil pushers monitor the program. What’s stopping DHHS from releasing those records right now? A 1979 legal precedent in which the rent-seeking American Medical Association argued that publishing Medicare payouts violated doctors’ “privacy rights.”
5.) Tea Partiers not sure they want GOP to pull a Gingrich — Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer is all for drastically reducing spending, but she draws the line at pulling a Gingrich. “Look, there are some really difficult decisions to be made and that’s why these people have been sent to Washington,” Kremer told The Daily Caller’s Matt Boyle. “They’re going to have to make some tough decisions. But, look, it didn’t work very well when Newt Gingrich shut the government down 15 years ago.” Kremer’s not the only fiscal radical who wants to keep the machine chugging along. “Ideally, we wouldn’t want to see a shutdown,” Wayne Brough, FreedomWorks’s chief economist, told TheDC. “I don’t think there has to be a shutdown and that we can’t work something out. But, if it happens, the shutdown doesn’t mean everything stops.”
6.) Medicaid is a ‘fat target’ — “Four years of recession have shrunk state budgets and added to the Medicaid rolls. More people are unemployed and lacking health insurance, and need to rely on the government’s insurance program for the poor,” writes PBS. Those problems are about to get a whole lot worse. PBS was able to obtain data from DHHS that reveals exactly how much Medicaid spending is likely to increase in 2012. “States estimate that Medicaid will cost them $195 billion in 2012, according to projections that they gave the federal government in November. That’s up 48 percent from what they spent in 2010 budgets.”