It seemed like a breakthrough moment. In late February, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who had made hating “Obamacare” his raison d’etre, announced his support for the Medicaid expansion policy in the Affordable Care Act. The Republican governor said at the time, “I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.”
It was an open question whether Scott’s principal concerns were with the uninsured or the state hospitals he’s been friendly with in the past, it was nevertheless welcome news for health care advocates. Florida’s governor, an unlikely ally, had cleared the way for bringing health care access to 1.3 million Americans, expanding the reach of Obamacare to new heights.
At least, we thought so at the time. What was unexpected was Rick Scott’s own legislative allies ignoring the governor’s wishes and punishing Florida on purpose.
Scott wouldn’t be the one to “deny Floridians” a part of the health care law — but the Florida legislature had other plans. Lawmakers adjourned Friday after passing a budget that does not include funding for a Medicaid expansion. Unless the Republican-controlled legislature comes back for a special session later this year — which some Democrats are calling for — Florida will not expand Medicaid in 2014.
In Florida, where one in five non-elderly residents lack insurance coverage, the consequences are especially large: An estimated 1.3 million Floridians were expected to gain coverage through the Medicaid expansion. About a quarter of those people — Floridians earning between 100 and 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line — would still be eligible for tax subsidies on the health insurance exchange.
As we talked about in March, Scott isn’t the only Republican governor in this boat. In Ohio and Arizona, GOP state lawmakers remain reluctant to accept Medicaid expansion, regardless of its benefits, and regardless of the wishes of their Republican partner in the governor’s office.
But the move in Florida is especially jarring given the circumstances — the state has an enormous Medicaid-eligible population, and was poised to receive $66 billion in federal funds over the next decade. What’s more, Florida already has struggling public hospitals, which will now be in even worse shape.
A Democratic state senator called the Medicaid decision “unconscionable,” which is true, but apparently irrelevant to state GOP lawmakers.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2013
I’m not an expert in gun buyback programs, but the basic idea seems pretty straightforward. In the hopes of getting more guns off the streets, there are organized events in which members of the public bring their firearms, and exchange them for cash. They’re usually publicly funded, though as Rachel noted on the show in March, some are privately financed.
But what matters is the point of the programs: removing guns from circulation. It’s possible Arizona Republicans find this confusing.
Arizona cities and counties that hold community gun buyback events will have to sell the surrendered weapons instead of destroying them under a bill Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Monday.
The bill was championed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature who argued that municipalities were skirting a 2010 law that was tightened last year and requires police to sell seized weapons to federally licensed dealers. They argued that destroying property turned over to the government is a waste of taxpayer resources.
Hmm. Let’s say a local sheriff’s office in Arizona wants to reduce gun violence in its community by getting more guns off the streets. The sheriff decides to do this through a gun buyback program, encouraging local citizens to participate in exchange for money, helping to keep weapons out of the hands of children and criminals. The guns are then destroyed.
Under a new law championed by state Republicans, however, that sheriff’s office can’t destroy the guns — the firearms collected during the buyback will instead be brought to gun stores, where they then can be sold and put back on the streets.
The Arizona GOP wants to turn gun buyback programs into gun recycling programs — watch the assault rifle go from the street … to the police … to the gun dealers … back to the street.
Let’s all marvel at the cycle of life, or more accurately in this case, death.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2013
“Arizona Versus The Right To Vote”: A Law Whose Sole Purpose Is To Disenfranchise Poor And Minority Voters
As part of a broader anti-immigration initiative in 2004, Arizona passed Proposition 200, a law requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering to vote. One person affected by this law was Jesus Gonzalez, a custodian and naturalized American citizen who twice had his registration rejected by the state. Arizona couldn’t verify his naturalization number and erroneously identified his driver’s license as belonging to a non-citizen. Gonzalez’s case has reached the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of Proposition 200 on Monday. The Court should rule that Arizona’s burdensome requirements are inconsistent with federal law and therefore illegal.
The Supreme Court has dealt with Republican legislators’ attempts to suppress voting before. In a highly dubious 2008 decision, the Supreme Court found that an Indiana statute—requiring a show of ID before hitting the ballot box—was not unconstitutional on its face, although it left open the possibility that the statute might be unconstitutional as applied. (The Indiana law was ultimately struck down by the Indiana Court of Appeals.) Because the Arizona law concerns voter registration, it is subject to another form of legal challenge.
In 1993, Congress passed the National Mail Voter Registration (or “Motor Voter”) Act, which among other things created a federal form that would streamline the registration requirements. The law mandates that “each State shall accept and use” the federal form. As the story of Jesus Gonzalez highlights, Prop 200 placed an additional set of requirements on Arizonans before they are able to register. The key question presented by the challenge to Prop 200 is whether the Arizona requirements are inconsistent with federal law. If so, because of the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, the Arizona law is “pre-empted” by the Motor Voter Act and is invalid.
The case for pre-emption in this case is clear and persuasive. The statute unequivocally requires states to use the federal form. To permit states to add additional burdens on registration is inconsistent with the text and purpose of the statute, which was designed to create a streamlined and uniform process. Determining qualifications for people voting for federal offices is a clear federal power. Justice Kagan observed at the oral argument that the Arizona law “essentially creates a new set of requirements and a new form.” Prop 200, therefore, is at war with the federal statute whose purpose was to create a clear process for registration. As the Obama administration noted in its amicus brief, to uphold the Arizona law “would thwart the central purpose of [Motor Voter]: to streamline the process of registering to vote for federal office.”
Justice Scalia, while somewhat more restrained than in the previous oral argument dealing with an Arizona law that conflicted with federal authority, was typically candid about his political support for the objectives of the Arizona vote suppression initiative. Leaving little doubt about his sympathy for the Arizona law, he mocked the federal registration requirements, which make it a criminal offense to misrepresent one’s eligibility to vote. “So it’s under oath. Big deal.” Scalia snorted. “If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.”
Scalia’s arguments are problematic for two reasons. First, whether or not Scalia thinks the federal requirements are sufficient is beside the point—Article I Section IV gives Congress the power to “make or alter” state voting regulations, so the judgment about what requirements are sufficient rests with Congress, not with Arizona or the Supreme Court. And even on its own terms his argument that the threat of a perjury conviction represents an insufficient deterrent is unpersuasive. Arizona provides no evidence that this kind of voter fraud is a problem. The problems of individual voter fraud the bill allegedly addresses are essentially non-existent, and even in theory it is impossible for individual fraudulent voters to alter the course of an election. And, in particular, it is extremely implausible to think that the illegal immigrants the bill targets are likely to risk attracting the attention of federal authorities by committing perjury on a form submitted to the federal government. It is hard to avoid the conclusion of one Arizona legislator that “was never intended to combat voter fraud. It was intended to keep minorities from voting.”
Scalia also mocked the idea that the additional Arizona requirements represented a substantial burden. “Enclosing your driver’s license number is that immense barrier?” he sarcastically asked Patricia Millet, the attorney representing the challengers. But the data proves Scalia is dead wrong to dismiss the extent of vote suppression caused by the initiative. “The district court,” Millet pointed out, “found that 31,550 people were rejected from voting because of Proposition 200.” This is a serious additional burden which shows that the inconsistency with federal law is not merely formal. The vote fraud Scalia and other Republicans are purportedly concerned with is imaginary, but the burdens created by the Arizona law are quite real.
Arizona’s latest attempt to interfere with federal law is particularly problematic given that it concerns the right to vote. Voting is a field in which greater uniformity is a particular virtue. The fact that standards for registration and voting vary not only between states but within states represents “local control” fetishism at its most inane. State and local administration of voting isn’t merely inefficient; the purpose and effect of this decentralization has been to disenfranchise poor and/or minority voters. In this case, Congress appropriately acted to create more uniform and streamlined standards for vote registration. Arizona should not be allowed to contradict federal law and invite other states to similarly disenfranchise voters.
By: Scott Lemieux, The American Prospect, March 19, 2013
“The Madness Of Wayne LaPierre”: Will NRA Members Suffer The Consequences Of His Racism And Paranoia?
If you’re looking for a sure fire recipe to boost gun sales, there’s nothing like putting a heavy dose of paranoia, along with a large dollop of racist fear mongering, into the atmosphere to get the job done—and NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre has certainly done his part.
In an op-ed published Wednesday by The Daily Caller , LaPierre twisted more than a few facts while arguing that the world is hell and attempting to navigate your way through it without a semi-automatic weapon at your side can only be perceived as sheer madness.
However, the true madness would appear to rest within the mind of Wayne LaPierre.
To make his central point that guns are a must in this terrifying inferno we call America, LaPierre treats us to the following—
“During the second Obama term, however, additional threats are growing. Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States. Phoenix is already one of the kidnapping capitals of the world, and though the states on the U.S./Mexico border may be the first places in the nation to suffer from cartel violence, by no means are they the last.”
While there is much in that paragraph to respond to, my attention was particularly grabbed by LaPierre’s effort to raise the specter of kidnapping run amuck, knowing full well that nothing frightens people more than the image of someone coming into their home and taking away a loved one. It is an effective use of imagery—despite being wholly dishonest in its use—that makes a meaningful contribution to both the art of fear mongering and spreading apprehension through the employment of racial stereotyping.
While it is absolutely true that there has been an unusually high number of kidnappings in the city of Phoenix, things are not exactly as LaPierre would have us believe.
In 2008, when Phoenix was experiencing the peak of its kidnapping troubles, Mark Spencer—head of the union that represents more than 2,500 Phoenix police officers—noted, “In the past year, there were 359 kidnappings in Phoenix, and not one was legitimate involving a truly innocent victim…”
In other words, the kidnappings were not the result of a scenario where bad guys were invading the homes of the good guys and stealing away their children. Rather, these were bad guys in a battle with other bad guys—bad guys whom Mr. LaPierre apparently wants to ensure are adequately armed so that they can defend themselves in the internal wars that occur in the business of illegal immigration.
This is like arguing in an op-ed piece that the public has an interest in insuring that the Bugs Moran Gang be better armed so that they can more effectively protect themselves from the attacks of Al Capone.
And then there is this paragraph from Mr. LaPierre’s piece—
“After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”
Pretty scary, yes?
The problem is that LaPierre’s hellish, New York City landscape doesn’t quite jive with the actual data.
From the New York Daily News—
“Murders citywide dropped 86% from Monday, when the hurricane hit, to Friday, compared with the same time frame in 2011, NYPD statistics show. The city has also seen a slump in robberies. There were 211 this past week, compared with 303 in the same block of days last year – a 30% decline. Grand larcenies are down 48%, auto thefts are down 24% and felony assaults dropped 31%, department figures show.”
Because there was some looting in certain areas of the city where store fronts were ripped wide open, there were 271 burglaries in the five-day period following the storm compared to 267 the previous year.
Not exactly the scene straight out of hell as described by Wayne LaPierre nor one that warranted New Yorkers locking and loading en masse to deal with the horrors that enveloped them.
The paranoid op-ed piece goes downhill from there in a tone that resembles something more akin to what one might expect to be the manifesto of a madman holed up in a cabin in the woods planning to wreak his revenge on a dangerous world that just doesn’t understand him. It certainly is not the sort of rationally constructed editorial that one would hope to find in a credible publication.
Make no mistake. I fully appreciate and acknowledge the desires and concerns of Americans—and everyone else in the world—when it comes to protecting their homes and families. And if owning a firearm is what an individual believes is required to accomplish that protection, such is his or her right.
I also acknowledge that my own opinion on gun ownership is largely without relevance as it is the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution that gives Americans their rights in this regard, subject to legal and legitimate restrictions that may be placed on such ownership, and most certainly not my thoughts on the topic. The Supreme Court has made the parameters of gun ownership more than clear—and those parameters are fairly expansive.
What I do not appreciate—nor should any American appreciate—is LaPierre’s efforts to spread fear and racism under the guise of protecting the 2nd Amendment when all he is really doing is playing the part the gun manufacturers have assigned him as they seek to perpetuate the gold rush that has produced record-setting gun sales in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
Wayne LaPierre knows that no matter how many times he says it —or what method he may choose to scare the wits out of those who might become customers for the gun makers—there is not a shred of evidence that President Obama—or anyone else in the federal government who has anything to say about it—has any interest in ‘taking away the guns’.
Wayne LaPierre knows that even if there were a glimmer of expectation on the part of anyone with the power to ‘take away the guns’ that they could do so, it is a virtual impossibility given that the Supreme Court has well established an American’s right to own a firearm. The only way this happens is a complete rejection of the law of the land by our government, something LaPierre apparently does not fear as he notes in his op-ed piece, “Gun owners are not buying firearms because they anticipate a confrontation with the government. Rather, we anticipate confrontations where the government isn’t there—or simply doesn’t show up in time.”
Do you know what else Wayne LaPierre knows?
He knows that the only legislation moving through Congress is limited to banning the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons (not taking away any that are currently owned) just as he knows that this legislation has absolutely no chance of passing.
LaPierre also knows that the only possible changes we may see in gun laws will involve increased background checks for potential gun purchasers—a move that is widely supported not only by an overwhelming number of Americans but by a large majority of those who form the membership of the NRA. He knows this because he can read the polls as easily as I can—polls that leave little room for doubt.
A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 92 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun buyers, including 91 percent of those living in homes with a gun. The January, 2013 Pew survey reports 85 percent of Americans—and 85 percent of gun owners—want all private gun sales and sales at gun shows to be subject to background checks. The CBS/New York Times poll conducted in January, 2013 had similar results, showing that 92 percent of Americans, including 85 percent of those living in a household with an NRA member, are in favor of universal background checks.
But Wayne LaPierre doesn’t care because background checks are bad for business—And Mr. LaPierre is all about the business of selling guns.
Despite knowing all these things, LaPierre could not resist spreading his message of fear with undertones of racism even in the face of knowing that the membership of the NRA will end up having no beef with the likely legislative outcome of our most recent discussion on guns.
Of course, there may be another explanation for LaPierre’s despicable behavior.
Maybe he is no longer capable of grasping these bits of information and demonstrations of reality because he’s been at this so long that he no longer can deal with facts and realities. Maybe all Wayne LaPierre has left is his hellish vision of his country.
Either way, LaPierre has become a liability to the membership of the National Rifle Association.
Gun owners have every interest in protecting the rights granted us all by the 2nd Amendment. But doing so by spreading fear, xenophobia and racial hatred is not going to get the job done and will only serve to hurt the members of the NRA in the long run. While the NRA is today one of the most effective lobbying organizations in America—if not the most effective—they now risk seeing their powers stripped away by LaPierre’s decision to lead the organization down the path of racism and paranoia rather than standing up for what the organization was intended to be—a place for gun owners to come together to sensibly and rationally protect and defend their Second Amendment rights.
While much of the media focus today is centered around the damage LaPierre is doing to the Republicans—the political party long viewed as the primary political ally of the NRA—if I were a NRA member, my concern would not be for the GOP but for the continued viability of my own organization.
If the NRA allows LaPierre to continue as their leader, they may well be writing the script for their own demise.
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, February 14, 2013
As the pundits swoon over bipartisanship and Senate Republicans jump all over themselves to say that yes, they support the latest blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform, they seem to be mostly forgetting the teeny, tiny detail that can derail the whole thing—a pathway to citizenship that would depend upon:
… a commission of governors, law enforcement officials and community leaders from border states that would assess when border security measures had been completed.
And therein lies the rub. No one seems to agree on what kind of power this commission would have in determining when our borders are forevermore secure, thus opening up that elusive pathway to citizenship. Democratic senators say it would have an “advisory” role, while Republicans insist that:
[W]e have to make sure that the way this law is structured, [it] ensures — guarantees — that the enforcement things happen…. Yes. That’s absolutely one of the key standards I bring, it’s one of the key parts of our principles.
So which is it? No one seems to be sure, but the fact is, it can be the poison pill that kills any kind of immigration reform. If the only pathway to citizenship is getting an A-okay from a commission that will include Arizona’s bigoted Gov. Jan Brewer—champion of SB1070, the vile walking-while-brown law—then the legislation will be nothing but a fig leaf for Republicans heading into the 2014 elections, and every Democrat should oppose it.
Granted, any legislation is probably DOA once it hits the House anyway, because let’s face it, there are House Republicans who are two steps shy of requiring suspicious-looking brown people to sew a sombrero on their clothes. But do you think they would even consider anything less than a commission—that would include the nutcase who imagines headless corpses littering the desert—having the final say on when our borders are secure? No way.
The bottom line is, we don’t know—and Republicans certainly aren’t saying—exactly what power this commission would have. But they were certainly quick to disagree with their Democratic counterparts who said it would only have an advisory role. And without a real pathway to citizenship, any legislation masquerading as immigration reform would be meaningless.
By: Barbara Morrill, Daily Kos, January 29, 2013