Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake. And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes.
That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.
The latest is maybe the biggest howler yet, bigger than even the ad that mistook Duke basketball players for UK Wildcats. He said last week that while he will certainly still pursue repeal of Obamacare, he thinks Kentucky should be able to and will keep its celebrated Kynect health-care exchange, set up by Democratic Governor Steve Beshear under the Affordable Care Act. Here’s how LEO Weekly, out of Louisville, reported the moment:
McConnell took three questions on the Affordable Care Act and how its repeal would affect the 413,000 Kentuckians who now have insurance through the state exchange, Kynect. The first question asked how he would respond to those who say repeal would take away the health care of 413,000 Kentuckians, to which McConnell launched into his standard answer that Obamacare was raising premiums, raising deductibles, and killing jobs, concluding, “It was a big mistake, we ought to pull it out root and branch and start over.”
WHAS’ Joe Arnold followed up that answer by asking, “But if you repeal it, won’t all of the state exchanges be dismantled? How does that work?” McConnell then launched into his standard “solution” of sorts, calling for an “international market” of insurance companies that aren’t limited by state lines, in addition to “malpractice reform.”
The LEO writer, Joe Sonka, whom McConnell’s muscle men once threw out of a press conference because he has the temerity to write, like, facts and stuff, went on to slice and dice McConnell’s argument: “Kynect could not have existed without the Affordable Care Act, and it would cease to exist if the Affordable Care Act ceased to exist. There would be no people eligible for the expanded Medicaid—the large majority of those who signed up through Kynect—and there would be no exchange for people to sign up for affordable private insurance with federal subsidies. Saying that Kynect is unconnected with the ACA or its repeal is just mind-numbingly false. The ACA and Kynect are one in the same.”
This is obvious to anyone with a brain. The category of humans with a brain includes McConnell. He’s not that stupid. That leaves only one other choice: hypocritical. Well, two other choices: hypocritical and lying. That is, he knows Kynect can’t exist without the ACA, but he just said it anyway, without any concern for the truth. And the hypocrisy part comes in, of course, because, well, how can he have stood up there for years saying that, no, Americans should not be permitted to get health care the Obama way, and he’s going to strike it down the second he can—but Kentuckians, they’re different?
This gives Grimes an opening she didn’t have. More than 430,000 Kentuckians have health care now through Kynect. Mitch wants to take it away. No, wait, he doesn’t! Well, he wants to take Obamacare away, and Kynect came through Obamacare, but somehow he’s going to keep Kynect. And he’s going to go buy a new Oldsmobile, even though Olds is out of business, and he’s gonna campaign with Colonel Sanders, even though he’s been dead since 1980, and once he’s reelected he’s going to privatize Medicare—except in Kentucky, because Kentucky is different. Grimes’s media team, a talented bunch in my experience, should be able to have quite a lot of fun with this.
The Lexington Herald-Leader sure did, raking McConnell over the coals Wednesday. It wrote:
Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.”
That’s a quote that should live forever, or at least until Election Day. The super-smart insiders may be right, though, about one thing. McConnell won’t make “a mistake.” He’ll make several.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 29, 2014
“How The Right Wing Is Killing Women”: Far Right Ideology Is Trumping The Health Needs Of Millions Of Americans
According to a report released last week in the widely-respected health research journal, The Lancet, the United States now ranks 60th out of 180 countries on maternal deaths occurring during pregnancy and childbirth.
To put it bluntly, for every 100,000 births in America last year, 18.5 women died. That’s compared to 8.2 women who died during pregnancy and birth in Canada, 6.1 in Britain, and only 2.4 in Iceland.
A woman giving birth in America is more than twice as likely to die as a woman in Saudi Arabia or China.
You might say international comparisons should be taken with a grain of salt because of difficulties of getting accurate measurements across nations. Maybe China hides the true extent of its maternal deaths. But Canada and Britain?
Even if you’re still skeptical, consider that our rate of maternal death is heading in the wrong direction. It’s risen over the past decade and is now nearly the highest in a quarter century.
In 1990, the maternal mortality rate in America was 12.4 women per 100,000 births. In 2003, it was 17.6. Now it’s 18.5.
That’s not a measurement error because we’ve been measuring the rate of maternal death in the United States the same way for decades.
By contrast, the rate has been dropping in most other nations. In fact, we’re one of just eight nations in which it’s been rising. The others that are heading in the wrong direction with us are not exactly a league we should be proud to be a member of. They include Afghanistan, El Salvador, Belize, and South Sudan.
China was ranked 116 in 1990. Now it’s moved up to 57. Even if China’s way of measuring maternal mortality isn’t to be trusted, China is going in the right direction. We ranked 22 in 1990. Now, as I’ve said, we’re down to 60th place.
Something’s clearly wrong.
Some say more American women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth because American girls are becoming pregnant at younger and younger ages, where pregnancy and birth can pose greater dangers.
This theory might be convincing if it had data to support it. But contrary to the stereotype of the pregnant young teenager, the biggest rise in pregnancy-related deaths in America has occurred in women 20-24 years old.
Consider that in 1990, 7.2 women in this age group died for every 100,000 live births. By 2013, the rate was 14 deaths in this same age group – almost double the earlier rate.
Researchers aren’t sure what’s happening but they’re almost unanimous in pointing to a lack of access to health care, coupled with rising levels of poverty.
Some American women are dying during pregnancy and childbirth from health problems they had before they became pregnant but worsened because of the pregnancies — such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.
The real problem, in other words, was they didn’t get adequate health care before they became pregnant.
Other women are dying because they didn’t have the means to prevent a pregnancy they shouldn’t have had, or they didn’t get the prenatal care they needed during their pregnancies. In other words, a different sort of inadequate health care.
One clue: African-American mothers are more than three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.
The data tell the story: A study by the Roosevelt Institute shows that U.S. states with high poverty rates have maternal death rates 77 percent higher than states with lower levels of poverty. Women with no health insurance are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or in childbirth than women who are insured.
What do we do about this? Yes, of course, poor women (and the men who made them pregnant) have to take more personal responsibility for their behavior.
But this tragic trend is also a clear matter of public choice.
Many of these high-poverty states are among the twenty-one that have so far refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and at least 90 percent thereafter.
So as the sputtering economy casts more and more women into near poverty, they can’t get the health care they need.
Several of these same states have also cut family planning, restricted abortions, and shuttered women’s health clinics.
Right-wing ideology is trumping the health needs of millions of Americans.
Let’s be perfectly clear: These policies are literally killing women.
By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, May 12, 2014
Last week, House Republicans released a deliberately misleading report on the status of health reform, crudely rigging the numbers to sustain the illusion of failure in the face of unexpected success. Are you shocked?
You aren’t, but you should be. Mainstream politicians didn’t always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and — in this case — bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America’s future.
About that report: The really big policy news of 2014, at least so far, is the spectacular recovery of the Affordable Care Act from its stumbling start, thanks to an extraordinary late surge that took enrollment beyond early projections. The age mix of enrollees has improved; insurance companies are broadly satisfied with the risk pool. Multiple independent surveys confirm that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has already declined substantially, and there’s every reason to believe that over the next two years the act will meet its overall goals, except in states that refuse to expand Medicaid.
This is a problem for Republicans, who have bet the ranch on the proposition that health reform is an unfixable failure. “Nobody can make Obamacare work,” declared Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, a couple of weeks ago (when it was already obvious that it was working pretty well). How can they respond to good news?
Well, they could graciously admit that they were wrong, and offer constructive suggestions about how to make the law work even better. Oh, sorry — I forgot that I wasn’t writing jokes for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
No, they have in fact continued to do what they’ve been doing ever since the news on Obamacare started turning positive: sling as much mud as possible at health reform, in the hope that some of it sticks. Premiums were soaring, they declared, when they have actually come in below projections. Millions of people were losing coverage, they insisted, when the great bulk of those whose policies were canceled simply replaced them with new policies. The Obama administration was cooking the books, they cried (projection, anyone?). And, of course, they keep peddling horror stories about people suffering terribly from Obamacare, not one of which has actually withstood scrutiny.
Now comes the latest claim — that many of the people who signed up for insurance aren’t actually paying their premiums. Obviously this claim is part of a continuing pattern. It also, however, involves a change in tactics. Previous attacks on Obamacare were pretty much fact-free; this time the claim was backed by an actual survey purporting to show that a third of enrollees hadn’t paid their first premium.
But the survey was rigged. (Are you surprised?) It asked insurers how many enrollees had paid their first premium; it ignored the fact that the first premium wasn’t even due for the millions of people who signed up for insurance after March 15.
And the fact that the survey was so transparently rigged is a smoking gun, proving that the attacks on Obamacare aren’t just bogus; they’re deliberately bogus. The staffers who set up that survey knew enough about the numbers to skew them, which meant that they have to have known that Obamacare is actually doing O.K.
So why are Republicans doing this? Sad to say, there’s method in their fraudulence.
First of all, it fires up the base. After this latest exercise in deception, we can be fairly sure that Republican leaders know perfectly well that Obamacare has failed to fail. But the party faithful don’t. Like anyone who writes about these issues, I get vast amounts of mail from people who know, just know, that insurance premiums are skyrocketing, that far more people have lost insurance because of Obummercare than have gained it, that all the horror stories are real, and that anyone who says otherwise is just a liberal shill.
Beyond that, the constant harping on alleged failure works as innuendo even if each individual claim collapses in the face of evidence. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority of Americans know that more than eight million people enrolled in health exchanges; but it also found a majority of respondents believing that this was below expectations, and that the law was working badly.
So Republicans are spreading disinformation about health reform because it works, and because they can — there is no sign that they pay any political price when their accusations are proved false.
And that observation should scare you. What happens to the Congressional Budget Office if a party that has learned that lying about numbers works takes full control of Congress? What happens if it regains the White House, too? Nothing good, that’s for sure.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 4, 2014
Today I came across this very interesting, albeit depressing, bit of data. It’s an analysis by a travel site called Hopper that shows that it costs more to fly in states that have the lowest median incomes.
For example, the study found that in Mississippi, the poorest state, a “good deal” round-trip flight costs about $400, while in Maryland, the state with the highest income, an equivalent ticket costs around $300. The researchers also found that “typical round-trip airfare declines by $2.30 for every additional $1000 in median household income.” The reasons for the increased prices in the poorer states include “average distance traveled, demand density, and airline competition.” Presumably, there’s less demand and less airline competition in poor areas of the country because people there have less money for leisure travel, and also because those locales have less economic development and thus less business travel.
The higher price of air travel for low-income folks is yet another data point that paints a bigger picture: in America, being poor can be an expensive proposition. There are countless, painful examples of this. Food and other basic items tend to cost more in poor neighborhoods. The poor lack access to credit and so are easy prey for payday lenders charging exorbitant interest rates. Poor people are more apt to bounce checks; hello, fees for insufficient funds! There are also late fees for credit card payments — you know, the kind of thing listed in print so fine you need a magnifying glass to be capable of reading about it. But my personal favorites are those extra charges they tack on for restoring utilities they shut off because you couldn’t pay your bill on time in the first place. “They get you coming and going,” as my old man used to say.
In her classic book, Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich described a host of other expensive indignities that plague the working poor. For example, many of her low-wage co-workers were living in hotel rooms, which actually were far costlier, on a monthly basis, than local apartments. But the workers couldn’t move into the apartments because they lacked the month’s rent plus security deposit the landlord required. Many low-wage jobs also require uniforms, the cost of which comes out of the worker’s paycheck, or cars, which the workers are expected to maintain themselves.
There are even darker examples. I wonder how many Americans have put off going to the doctor because they lacked health insurance, sought treatment only when their symptoms were advanced, and ended up being bankrupted by medical bills as a result.
Many of the examples I’ve cited in this post could be greatly improved by some well-targeted regulatory fixes. The rights of workers and consumers against employers, the banks, and the credit card companies need to be vigorously championed, and in some cases, re-invented for our new digital era. There’s no earthly justification other than greed for the $35 bank overdraft ripoff, or the cell phone company gouging you to restore your service because your payment is late. It’s also long past time we bring re-regulation to the airlines. A more regulated airline industry might help bring down fares in certain overpriced markets. Our 30-year old experiment with airline deregulation has hardly been a rousing success — read the excellent 2012 Washington Monthly magazine article by Phillip Longman and Lina Khan for more information on this score.
In addition to more consumer regulation, we also need a much higher minimum wage and a far more generous safety net for poor people in this country. If poor people had more economic resources to begin with — if they simply had enough money to pay their bills on time, and to save a little money for a rainy day — they would never be forced to pay such an outrageously high price for being poor.
By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 3, 2014
“Rick Scott Gets An Earful In Florida”: Talking To Regular People Who Don’t Have A Script To Follow Could End Your Career
There’s a reason so many politicians embrace carefully managed, pre-scripted events: they never know what actual people are going to say. The spontaneity may be refreshing for the rest of us, but for politicians and their aides, it’s frustrating when the public goes “off-message.”
Almost exactly two years ago, this happened to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, when aides arranged for the candidate to chat with a group of regular folks about the economy. One voter said, “None of us like to pay more taxes, but sometimes that’s necessary.” Another added, “It’s a necessary evil.” “Right, right,” a third person said as the group nodded.
The Republican presidential hopeful didn’t do too many unscripted events after that.
This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) ran into similar trouble. The Republican governor, facing a tough re-election fight, is heavily invested in condemning the Affordable Care Act, so he visited a South Florida senior center for a roundtable chat with retirees he assumed would agree with him.
The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount. And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes.
“I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott.
Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”
Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital.
Twisting the knife, Rubin added, “People were appalled at Social Security. They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things…. We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America. It’s not the United States of senior citizens.”
The underlying point of Scott’s visit was to try to complain about Medicare Advantage reforms and how awful recent “cuts” must be for seniors. But when the governor asked one elderly woman if she’d seen any changes, she said, “Not really.” Another member of the roundtable said he’s “very happy” with the current coverage. A third person said he’s had “no problems.” A fourth said she and her husband are “very pleased.”
When Scott asked if they’ve found doctors opting out of Medicare, most said, “No.”
It was at this point that the governor probably decided he no longer wants to talk to regular people who don’t have a script to follow.
For the record, as Scott probably knows, these so-called “cuts” to Medicare Advantage aren’t really cuts to beneficiaries. At issue are Medicare cost-savings embraced by the Obama administration through the Affordable Care Act. The so-called “cuts” are changes to the way in which the government reimburses insurance companies, which have been overpaid in the Medicare Advantage program.
What’s more, congressional Republicans – not exactly a moderate bunch – have already endorsed and voted for these “cuts.”
It’s likely the governor understands this, but hopes to fool voters. If yesterday was any indication, his efforts aren’t going well.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2014