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Healthcare nightmares

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Paul Krugman has an excellent column on the nightmare of Obamacare—for the GOP. It’s worth looking at the comments to see how mean-spirited some of the commenters are. There are people who really don’t want the poor to get any assistance at all. Very ugly. His column begins:

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground.

Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger.

But while Obamacare is looking like anything but a nightmare, there are indeed some nightmarish things happening on the health care front. For it turns out that there’s a startling ugliness of spirit abroad in modern America — and health reform has brought that ugliness out into the open.

Let’s start with the good news about reform, which keeps coming in. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments. Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress.

But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is  . . .

Continue reading.

It should be noted that the GOP totally opposes pay equity—that is, paying men and women the same amount for doing the same work. The GOP unanimously voted against a measure to remedy pay equity.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2014 at 10:49 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Healthcare

Two good takes on the GOP response to Obamacare

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First Paul Krugman’s excellent post, “Three Legs Good, One Leg Bad.”.

Next Kevin Drum lists the options and picks the one to bet on.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 April 2014 at 2:43 pm

Posted in GOP, Healthcare

A profile of Christie’s political career

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Very good indeed. It naturally includes the closing of the bridge lanes.

And John Cassidy has a good comment on the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2014 at 7:12 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Law, Politics

Strong editorial: “Grandstanding on Prisons in Texas”

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The NY Times editors have some harsh (and well-deserved) words for Gov. Rick Perry.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 April 2014 at 12:33 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Law

More denial from the GOP on climate change

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They really should be thinking, “What are our plans if it does turn out to be real? What should we now be doing if that turns out to be the case?” But it’s easier just to fall back on denial and work hard to stop people talking about it or studying it. Emily Atkin reports at ThinkProgress:

Two days after a U.N. report warned of increased famine, war, and poverty from unmitigated carbon emissions, the Republican-led House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to focus less on studying climate change, and more on predicting storms.

The bill, introduced last June by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), wouldn’t require NOAA to stop its climate research entirely, but it would require the agency to “prioritize weather-related activities, including the provision of improved weather data, forecasts, and warnings for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2014 at 1:03 pm

Is private industry more efficient than government at running services? No.

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Mainly because a private company must always grow profits, and that leads to things like this report by Alex Leichenger in ThinkProgress:

One of the world’s largest private prison corporations already has a $45 million contract with the state of Arizona. But without amending that contract with GEO Group, Inc., a lawmaker financially tied to the prison firm inserted almost another $1 million into the state budget for it.

The House approved the budget with the $900,000 allocation to GEO, a multinational corporation based in Boca Raton, Fla. Yet after a spate of phone calls and emails, the Senate Appropriations Committee removed the funding from its version of the bill, the Arizona Republic reports.

Rep. John Kavanagh (R), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, included extra funding in the budget despite no support from the state’s Department of Corrections, which contracts with GEO. Pivotal Policy Consulting, the lobbying firm that represents GEO, requested the favor. GEO is the top financial contributor for Kavanagh, whose past work includes championing racial profiling in Arizona and criminalizing transgender people.

Caroline Isaacs, program director for the Arizona office of the American Friends Service Committee, monitors private prisons in the state. She called the attempt to include additional funding for GEO a clear violation of the state budgeting process.

“If [private prisons] feel that they’re not making enough money on their contract, then the avenue for them is to go and do a contract amendment, which they have the opportunity to do every year,” Isaacs said. “Instead of doing that, GEO Group sent their lobbyist directly to the money man in the state legislature and said ‘give us [$900,000],’ and he said, ‘OK.’ That is just not how it’s supposed to work.”
The budget is still subject to debate among both the full Senate and House.

Kavanagh claimed GEO had done the state a “big favor” by providing discounted prison facilities during the economic downturn. But a 2012 study of private prisons found that they are costing the state $3.5 million more annually than state-run prisons. [So much for free-market efficiency. - LG]

Arizona is one of a number of states in which private prisons keep their beds filled by including “occupancy requirements” akin to quotas in their contracts. For instance, GEO’s contract with Arizona mandates that least 95 percent of beds be filled. GEO and other firms have been held to these occupancy requirements even as records of abuse prompt calls to terminate their contracts, “virtually ensuring the company a profit for operating its prisons,” as the Republic describes it.

GEO, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, saw a net revenue of $1.52 billion in 2013, according to the company’s most recent financial report. It has recorded steady profit increases each year since earning $1.08 billion in 2010. GEO touts itself as the “world’s leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services with 98 facilities, approximately 77,000 beds, and 18,000 employees around the globe.” Beyond the United States, GEO has facilities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. The prison company’s CEO, George C. Zoley, collected $22 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2014 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Adoration for Christie from the lawyers he hired

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Amy Davidson writes in the New Yorker:

How has Chris Christie “carried himself”? In a way that supports any story he wants to tell, apparently. There is a good man in the governor’s office of New Jersey—the lawyers whom he hired figured that out, after spending a million dollars in taxpayer money on an internal investigation into the decision to choke the town of Fort Lee with traffic. Their report clears Christie of blame entirely; while they’re at it, the lawyers say that Christie didn’t go after political opponents, didn’t encourage or create a culture that encouraged such actions, and was an all-around beacon of bipartisanship. The sad thing is that he had in his ambit a small-timer with “crazy” ideas and a woman who had learned that a man was no longer interested in her and a family member in the hospital which might, they suggest, explain why she was such a liar.

“We recognize that, over the course of his first term, Governor Christie has been criticized for being blunt,” the report says. “Some have even gone so far to use the term ‘bully.’ Frankness alone, however, does not equate to encouraging acts of political retaliation. And we found no evidence to support such a leap.” In other words, the only real danger in character was his frankness—and it’s something that he has managed to overcome.

“The Governor’s reactions at various points during this period of intensified media scrutiny, from December 2013 through January 2014, reflect the words and actions of someone telling the truth,” the report notes. It lists those “reactions,” which include bringing the law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; one does understand why they would admire that, just as they admire how Christie asked for nothing but the truth: “Governor Christie began the meeting by entering his office, slamming the door, and then standing at the head of the table.” He wanted to know all: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2014 at 8:39 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Wisconsin Republican Legislator Tears Into His Own Party For Voter Suppression

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Voter suppression is a direct attack on the heart of our democratic government: it is a deliberate effort to forestall voters from exercising the basic Constitutional right: to elect those who will speak on their behalf. The GOP is quite deliberately—and openly—working to prevent large swathes of voters from being able to vote, and that effort is truly despicable—plus it gives a chilling view into the intentions and direction of the GOP, which seems to be to seize power by whatever means possible, whether legitimate or not.

Josh Israel writes at ThinkProgress:

As his own party pushed through the Wisconsin Senate the latest in a series of measures to make it harder to vote in the state, Sen. Dale Schultz (R) blasted the efforts as “trying to suppress the vote” last week.

Schultz, who is not seeking re-election and was the lone Republican to oppose a bill last week to limit the hours of early voting in every jurisdiction in the state, was a guest on The Devil’s Advocates radio program on Madison’s 92.1 FM last Wednesday. Asked why his party pushed the bill, Schultz responded, “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”

Schultz argued that this and dozens of similar bills before the Senate this were based on “mythology” that voter fraud is a serious concern: “I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble.”

Noting that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower championed the 1957 civil rights law, Schultz said that he could not “find any real reason” for his party’s effort to make it harder to vote:

SCHULTZ: It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud. The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

Schultz added that the suppression was “just plain wrong,” adding, “It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating.” The GOP-controlled Assembly has already passed a similar bill.

2011 study by the non-partisan Brennan Center found just seven cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin’s 2004 election, out of three million votes cast — a fraud rate of just 0.0002 percent.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2014 at 10:07 am

Posted in Election, GOP

George Will makes a funny in the Washington Post

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George Will opened his column today with this sentence: “Someone who is determined to disbelieve something can manage to disregard an Everest of evidence for it.” Will is pretty much an expert on this: he, like James Inhofe, views climate change as a gigantic hoax perpetrated by an enormous conspiracy of scientists who (apparently) plan to cash in on it somehow:

1. Climate change
2. ???
3. Profit!

Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2014 at 9:42 am

Posted in Global warming, GOP

Clueless people: Paul Ryan edition

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Paul Krugman blogs:

We’re getting reports about Paul Ryan’s performance at CPAC, the big conservative gathering — and they’re actually kind of awesome, in the worst way.

I mean, the caricature of Ryan and people like him is that they treat the hardships of poverty as if they were merely psychological, that they talk big about dignity while ignoring the difficulty of getting essentials like food and health care. Well, it’s not a caricature: Ryan says never mind having enough to eat, it’s about spirituality:

“The left is making a big mistake,” Ryan predicted. “What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. People don’t just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity, they want a life of self determination.”

Um, yes, but how dignified can you be on an empty stomach? How much self-determination do you have?

And who is supposed to value dignity over having enough to eat? Children. Ryan tells an anecdote about one sad child:

“He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids,” he continued. “He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.”

And if the child’s mother can’t provide that lunch in a brown paper bag, then what?

The total failure to accept that the poor face real physical hardship, that affluent politicians have no business lecturing people having trouble buying food or having trouble paying for health care about dignity, is just stunning.

UPDATE: Not only that, the story is totally bogus.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 March 2014 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Failure to represent the interests of the public—i.e., the “general welfare”

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I wonder whether such flagrant betrayal of supporting the general welfare would be grounds for recall or impeachment. Probably not. Alan Pyke reports at ThinkProgress.

Pennsylvania is one of just 15 states that ban predatory payday loans, for now. If state Rep. Chris Ross (R) and state Sen. Pat Browne (R) have their way, though, the Keystone State will open its arms to companies that already pull billions of dollars out of poor communities each year through loans with average interest rates of over 300 percent.

Browne has sponsored a bill to remove the state’s 24 percent cap on interest rates. The legislation is modeled on a bill Ross pushed through the Pennsylvania House last year, but which never won Senate passage in 2013. While Browne did not comment on the effort, Ross told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that their efforts are meant to give the state better control over companies that currently operate in the state from the internet shadows.

“I believe there is a need for a properly structured, short-term lending in Pennsylvania,” Ross said. “We’ve got the Internet, for which there is no effective means of regulation to protect consumers.”

The Department of Justice is fighting illicit online lending, despite criticism from industry-friendly Republicans at the national level. And while that indicates that there is a real demandfor cash advances in poor communities where paychecks don’t always come in time to cover the bills, it doesn’t mean lifting the cap on interest rates is necessarily the right solution. If lawmakers want to do something to help satisfy that demand, they don’t have to invite the fine-print trickery of private payday lending companies into their states’ neediest corners. (Each year more than 12 million people take out payday loans nationwide and end up paying roughly $520 in interest and fees for every $375 they borrow thanks to limitless interest rates.)

The most promising alternative would be to resurrect the Postal Service’s (USPS) long-dormant banking powers. The USPS has physical locations in many communities that have been abandoned by banks — places where payday lenders flourish by virtue of being the only option for desperate people — and could provide the same basic banking services and short-term loans at non-abusive prices. The revenue that postal banking would bring in would also close the budget hole Congress created for the USPS when it required the agency to keep its pensions fully funded for the next 75 years, a requirement no other business or government agency faces. Polling on the idea is scarce, but one survey found significant support for the idea with many still unsure what to think.

Using the post office to meet the needs of poor people without access to bank accounts would also end the cycle of legislative gamesmanship that has surrounded payday lending for decades. The companies that profit from the practice spend a lot of money on political contributions, and use the resulting clout to either kill reform efforts in states where the loans are allowed or expand their access to customers in states that regulate the industry more tightly. Payday lenders have proven adept at evading state regulators, and have slipped through the cracks of national financial regulation. While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is finally putting regulatory cops on the payday lending beat and winning unprecedented legal victories for abuses, postal banking offers an even more elegant solution.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 March 2014 at 2:38 pm

Attacks on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continue

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The GOP strongly opposes any agency, law, or other measure that will assist consumers (cf. their continuing attacks on Obamacare, for example). The CFPB is a regular target, as described in the Washington Post by Lydia DePillis:

The two-and-a-half-year-old Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may finally have a confirmed director, but that doesn’t mean Republicans are done throwing rocks at it.

The House debated (and is expected to pass) a package of bills this afternoon that would replace the bureau’s single director with a five-person commission, prevent it from collecting consumer credit card information, and make it easier for the Treasury’s Financial Stability Oversight Council to overrule CFPB regulations. House Republicans have been trying to pass many of these things for years, which hobbled the fledgling agency’s effectiveness by making it play defense even though they never became law.

Perhaps the most important component has to do with money: The legislation would change the CFPB’s funding mechanism so that its budget comes from Congress rather than the Federal Reserve. It authorizes $300 million for each of the next two years, or about two-thirds of what the bureau has been spending annually. After that, there’s nothing – per the House Financial Services Committee’s GOP majority and theCongressional Budget Office, it would save $5.4 billion over the next 10 years, which can only be true if the CFPB isn’t funded at all. (GOP committee staff said later that the bill only saves that much “in the vernacular,” and that they don’t intend to zero out the bureau’s budget entirely.)

Of course, it’s almost certain the bill won’t clear the Democratically-controlled Senate anyway, and the White House has already promised not to sign it. For that reason, one might see this as a purely political exercise, allowing a stream of GOP Congress members to inveigh against “perhaps the most powerful agency in government” (Rep. Patrick McHenry, N.C.) that’s “disgracefully unaccountable to the American people” (Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Ind.) and proof that “big government is breathing down their backs” (Rep. Sean Duffy, Wis.).

The bureau’s defenders rebutted most of their attacks — the credit card data being collected can’t be traced back to individual consumers, for example — but occasionally just threw up their hands in exasperation.

“We could’ve saved a lot of trees and a lot of time if we had a bill that said ‘end the Consumer Protection Bureau,” said Rep. Dennis Heck (D-Wash.), one of the few Democrats who lined up to oppose it. “We all know what the fate of it is going to be. And what is the opportunity cost of making that point? At least one opportunity cost is being able to work on actual regulatory relief.”

So the CFPB is probably safe — at least until the midterm elections. But the continued onslaught is evidence that it hasn’t made as many friends as it might’ve hoped, even after delivering $3 billion to consumers in settlements over fraudulent practices by financial institutions, and helping thousands who called in to complain about mortgages, student loans, auto loans, payday lenders, and debt collectors. The bureau’s leaders tried really, really hard to win over the community banks and credit unions, but their trade associations still spoke outin favor of the legislation that would render it essentially powerless, protesting that the CFPB’s new requirements are still too onerous for smaller institutions to deal with.

That, plus backing from the big banks, is enough to keep the CFPB under fire — even with more than 100 consumer groups trying to speak on its behalf.

The GOP truly sees the role of government as protecting businesses, with consumers left to fend for themselves.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2014 at 9:37 am

GOP willing to keep veterans from their benefits in order to get a war with Iran

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The GOP seems hell-bent on having a war with Iran, our other recent wars having gone so well and enriched the country. Take a look at Sen. Marc Rubio’s position and statements. And the veterans’ benefits? Alex Leichenger reports at ThinkProgress:

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that sought to provide veterans with greater access to health care and education over an amendment aimed at increasing sanctions on Iran.Democrats failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to overcome the GOP obstruction.

Republicans have been trying to get a vote on an Iran sanctions measure, which has stalled after experts and Obama administration officials convinced most members of the Democratic caucus that it would derail talks with Iran over its nuclear program and could lead to war.

After numerous attempts failed, the Senate GOP used Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) veterans’ benefits bill to bring the issue up again but Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to go along. “Republicans say they want to help veterans. They have a strange way of showing it. We introduced a bill that would do just that. Republicans immediately inject partisan politics into the mix, insisting on amendments that have nothing to do with helping veterans,” Reid said on Wednesday.

One of the nation’s largest veterans groups, the American Legion, agreed. “Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said in a statement this week. “This comprehensive bill aims to help veterans find good jobs, get the health care they need and make in-state tuition rates applicable to all who are using their GI Bill benefits.”

“There was a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote today, and 41 senators chose the wrong way,” the American Legion tweeted on Thursday.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also called on senators to take irrelevant issues like Iran out of the vets bill debate, and on Thursday called the GOP’s obstruction “shameful.”

“Veterans don’t have time for this nonsense and veterans are tired of being used as political chew toys,” said IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, according to the Washington Post.

Sanders’ bill paid for the benefits by using some funds that would have otherwise been earmarked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Senate Republicans like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who had no objections using those funds to pay for the wars, called it a “bogus gimmick.”

“How can we afford $100 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest three-tenths of Americans, but we can’t pay for veterans benefits?” Sanders tweeted.

A bipartisan expert group said in a recent report that new Iran sanctions now would undermine the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said last month that “right now the imposition of more sanctions would be counterproductive.”

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2014 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Iran

An interesting view of “fair”

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I am certain that the man described in this post believes firmly that he is fair, and sees the policies he espouses as being fair. That’s another example where one would love for him to write exactly the specific criteria that define a policy or action as being “fair.”

I confess that I found some of his reasoning surprisingly immature—for example, his pointing out that he never actually used the word “shot,” as though that somehow mattered. Swallow a camel, strain at a gnat.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2014 at 11:07 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Politics

You know those videos of imploding buildings? That’s what happens to Napolitano’s argument.

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Watch the video in this post at Salon. (I don’t know how to embed Comedy Central videos in WordPress.)

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2014 at 10:55 am

Posted in GOP, Video

GOP proposes a new tax plan—and guess what.

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Read Kevin Drum’s post for a brief description and some good insights.

I think it would be interesting for each party to state explicitly what it means by “fair”—that is, what criteria an action or policy must satisfy to be deemed “fair” (and thus, by implication, what criteria identify an unfair action or policy). It may be that one or both parties are not acting in good faith—i.e., instead of choosing the course that seems to the party to be fair, the party instead chooses a course it views as being unfair). With an explicit definition, we can then judge each party according to its own criteria. That would be interesting, don’t you think?

Fairness looms large because it is a (perhaps, <i>the</i>) basic (deep, primal) value for a social animal. And indeed we find that most people try to be fair: that is the inevitable response of a successful social animal. Violators may gain temporary advantage, but ultimately, I think, basic social-animal drives tend to prevail (because if they didn’t, that trait would not still be here).

UPDATE: And, regarding the notion of fairness and good faith, read this Kevin Drum post.

UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that a shared strong sense that fairness is important is required in order to have trust, and complex societies require trust in copious amounts.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2014 at 10:07 am

Republicans attack Obama for supporting a Republican policy

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The mantra seems to be “Attack. Attack. Attack.” and it holds regardless of what position the President takes. Paul Krugman points out:

It was big news this past week when President Obama dropped the notion of effectively cutting Social Security benefits by switching to “chain-linked” consumer prices, because it marked a turn away from BowlesSimpsonized discourse, from Grand Bargain-seeking. But there’s a bit more to it: an acknowledgement, finally, that today’s Republicans are utterly cynical and untrustworthy, that there’s no point in seeking compromise.

What do I mean? A correspondent reminds me of the sequence of events following last year’s Obama budget, which did include chain-linked CPI, partly in response to Republican demands, partly in an attempt to get praise from the Very Serious People.

My immediate thought was that Obama wouldn’t get the praise he sought, but would be betrayed:

Oh, and wanna bet that Republicans soon start running ads saying that Obama wants to cut your Social Security?

Sure enough:

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee who’ll oversee his party’s 2014 midterm efforts, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday that the chained-CPI policy is “a shocking attack on seniors.” Walden added that Obama’s proposal is “going after seniors” and “trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors.”

Other Republicans did try to walk this back — it was too transparently cynical even for the VSPs — but like the campaigning against cuts to Medicare, it showed the futility of offering such things. And I’m assured by people who know that the memory of Walden’s tirade remains very strong among Congressional Democrats; it’s part of why they are so adamantly against Grand Bargaining.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2014 at 8:40 am

A good look at the GOP mindset

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I continue to believe that, judging by actions, the GOP actively hates lower-income people. Tara Culp-Ressler reports in ThinkProgress:

During a political fight over Medicaid expansion in Arkansas on Tuesday, one Republican lawmaker admitted that he doesn’t want to educate uninsured residents about their new health care options because it’s simply too expensive to provide them with insurance.

State Rep. Nate Bell (R), who offered an amendment to Arkansas’ proposed Medicaid expansion bill that would prevent the state from using federal funds to promote Obamacare, acknowledged that his policy would result in fewer people signing up for health care. He noted that “without active marketing, you probably get declining enrollment.” But in his mind, that’s not a problem — that’s the whole point.

“We’re trying to create a barrier to enrollment,” Bell explained, noting that lower enrollment ultimately translates to lower costs. “In general, as a conservative, if I have the opportunity to reduce government spending in a program from what’s projected… I’m probably going to take that deal.”

Bell’s amendment would prohibit Arkansas from advertising Obamacare plans through television, radio, print, or online ads. It also prevents the state from using federal funds to conduct direct mailing campaigns — which, as the Arkansas Times’ David Ramsey notes, has been critical in getting out the word about the state’s Medicaid expansion. Since Arkansas is pursuing a “private option” for Medicaid, which essentially gives residents a subsidy to purchase private insurance, the process for enrolling in a Medicaid plan is very similar to the process for signing up for a plan on Obamacare’s new state-level exchange.

Preventing Americans from getting all the facts about the health reform law is a popular method of undermining Obamacare, particularly in red states. Republicans have repeatedly targeted “navigators,” the people tasked with helping Americans enroll in new plans, to prevent them from being able to easily do their jobs. And conservative states that are opposed to Obamacare have allocated considerably less money to promote it. It’s no surprise, then, that the people who live in GOP-led states are less likely to understand how to sign up for health care.

Those states are also more likely to have higher populations of low-income people who lack insurance. In Arkansas specifically, the uninsurance rate is among the highest in the nation. Efforts to expand health care in the state are actually projected to save money in the long run because they’ll cut down on the cost of uncompensated care; the Medicaid expansion could save taxpayers as much as $90 million this year.

Nonetheless, Arkansas lawmakers are currently debating whether to kick thousands of low-income people off of their new Medicaid plans. Even though the state began implementing its “private option” last year, and an estimated 83,000 people have already enrolled, the legislature is currently debating whether to approve the policy. And if lawmakers like Bell have their way, even the move to preserve Medicaid expansion may still come at a significant cost.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2014 at 12:35 pm

Posted in GOP, Healthcare

Chris Christie: The noose tightens further

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Kate Zernike and William Rashbaum report in the NY Times:

The New Jersey legislative committee investigating the controversial lane closings at the George Washington Bridge authorized 18 new subpoenas Monday, including one seeking records that will show who was aboard state police helicopters during the four days of the closings in September.

The committee also voted that claims last week against self-incrimination by two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie were insufficient and that they must turn over documents related to the closings. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democratic co-leader of the panel, said that the Fifth Amendment protests by Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien in response to earlier subpoenas “do not pass the scrutiny that is required.”

The committee voted to allow its special counsel, Reid Schar, to establish new dates for them to turn over documents, and to take whatever measures he believes necessary to compel them if they refuse again.

Mr. Stepien’s lawyer, Kevin H. Marino, indicated that he would fight the subpoena in court.

“We have provided the Committee with a detailed explanation of our constitutional and common law objections to the subpoena,” he said in an email. “If the Committee asks a court to enforce that subpoena despite its legal infirmities, we will bring those objections to the court’s attention.”

Others on the list of new subpoenas include the governor’s re-election campaign and office, as well as five specific staff members, and several employees or executives at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. Among them is Phillip Kwon, a deputy general counsel, who a former authority official, David Wildstein, has said coached people there before a legislative hearing in December, in an attempt to cover up the vindictive motive for the lane closings.

The names were on a list obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Wisniewski would not confirm them, saying that he would identify the recipients only after the subpoenas are served, likely beginning tomorrow.

Last month, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2014 at 4:53 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Law

Tagged with

Can the GOP learn?

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Interesting blog post by Paul Krugman pointing out the deja vu of watching the GOP once again declare that reports are skewed—first, it was polls and reports showing that Obama would win over Mitt Romney, now it’s reports showing that Obamacare is working. The problem with denying reality is that reality is always around and thus, in effect, patient.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2014 at 8:25 am

Posted in GOP, Healthcare


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