"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The ‘I Don’t Wanna’ Caucus”: Who The Hell Gave Republicans A Monopoly On Morality And Spending Of Public Dollars?

Of all the arguments put forth against everything from the Affordable Care Act to social safety net programs, the “I don’t want to pay for X” argument from the right has to be the most asinine. The upcoming decision on the Supreme Court’s King vs. Burwell case – which could yank subsidies out from under anyone using the federal health care exchange – is a prime example.

As Robert Schlesinger has pointed out, the lawsuit’s proponents are relying on a known falsehood about the intent of the law because they don’t want taxpayer support going to people who otherwise couldn’t afford health insurance. It’s “I Don’t Wanna” as a Supreme Court test case.

Newsflash to the right: I don’t want to pay for a lot of things either, starting with Exxon subsidies, Bush’s wars and the millions we paid to sociopaths to come up with torture techniques for the CIA. Who the hell gave you a monopoly on morality when it comes to spending public dollars? Do you think you’re the only ones who object to where our tax dollars go? Because if we only have to pay for the things of which we approve, I’ve got a long veto list.

The I Don’t Wanna Caucus is willfully oblivious to the fact that a whole lot of people pay for them, too. Texas is more than happy to accept Federal Emergency Management Agency money – they actually got more than any other state in 2011 and 2012 – at the same time Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deploys the state guard against an imaginary Obama takeover and sues the federal government over the environment and health care.

Here in Colorado, as the Colorado Springs Gazette has reported about its home of El Paso County, “The county is more dependent on federal money than most other places in Colorado and the nation … Federal spending accounts for one-third of the local economy.” Yet Colorado Springs would rather have its parks go brown and its streetlights fade than increase taxes locally to pay for them.

The I Don’t Wanna Caucus is not only ideologically hypocritical, it’s also irresponsible. The I Don’t Wanna Caucus of Colorado Senate Republicans killed our highly-successful program that slashed the teen birth and abortion rate by providing free long-acting reversible contraceptives to low-income women. Every $1 invested in the program saved the state $5.85 in Medicaid costs. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates that the program could have saved Colorado $49 million to $111 million in Medicaid dollars per year in birth-related costs.

Likewise, insurance is cheaper than no insurance. People without insurance end up in the emergency room, where they have to be treated and where the cost shifts onto someone else. Guess who pays for that? People with insurance. But now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, hospitals saved at least $7.4 billion in 2014, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

All of us have someone else paying for us in some form or another, through paved roads and clean drinking water and home mortgage tax deductions. Those of us without kids subsidize schools and teachers for other people’s children. Living in a civilized society means we all share in the cost and responsibility. Living in a civilized society also means we all pay for things we find morally objectionable – conservatives and liberals alike.

Because the alternative – the I Don’t Wanna Caucus – doesn’t belong in a first world country.


By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, June 12, 2015

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Public Spending, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Vitter’s Mind-Boggling Obamacare Crusade”: Cutting Benefits For Congressional Staffers Could Have Real Consequences

For those who oppose President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, there’s a lot to campaign against. Many of the arguments in the health care debate arise from differences in philosophy and opinion about the future of health care in this country. For example, there’s the ongoing discussion over the appropriate size of the federal government’s role in the provision of health insurance.

Some arguments, however, are mind boggling. One Republican senator’s recent campaign seems to fall in this category.

For about two years, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana has been on a mission to eliminate the employer subsidy that members of Congress and their staffs receive to buy their health insurance. Thanks to a provision added on to the Affordable Care Act during its consideration, members of Congress and their staffs are required, for the most part, to get their health insurance from the exchanges established by the new law. According to Politico, a ruling by the White House allowed members and staffers to retain the employer health insurance subsidy that they had been receiving before the changes in the Affordable Care Act took effect. Vitter objects to the ruling and claims that it effectively gives Congress an “exemption” from the law.

Although Vitter’s effort may be a good talking point, from a policy perspective, it doesn’t make sense. The senator is clearly approaching the issue from the standpoint of good government and making sure that Congress adheres to the laws it passes for the rest of the nation. However, if he is successful, his efforts will not make government better and they will not make Obamacare better or prove a weakness in the law. All he will accomplish is putting a thorn in the side of the staffers who work hard to make Congress run.

For most staffers, the loss of the subsidy would result in a substantial pay cut. As a former congressional staffer myself, I know that’s a cut many won’t be able to afford. Further, the White House’s actions didn’t give congressional staff a new benefit, nor did it “exempt” them from the Affordable Care Act. They are still required to purchase their insurance from the exchange. Additionally, as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pointed out to Politico, Congressional staff “aren’t getting anything that any government workers don’t get.” Or anyone else who works for a large employer, for that matter. Under the health care law, employees of large employers still receive health care subsidized by their employer. Members of Congress and their staff should be treated the same way.

It’s also possible that the senator’s efforts, if successful, could hurt Congress. Faced with a significant reduction in benefits, many staff would probably choose to leave the hill and recruiting for their replacements would become more difficult. Less effective Congressional staff ultimately means a less effective Congress and, at the end of the day, that only hurts the country further. Although it may seem a bit intangible for people outside of Washington, Vitter’s drive to eliminate health care subsidies for members of Congress and their staffers has real consequences for the people who serve the institution and their families. The crusade should be dropped. There are more important things to do than take health care away from government workers.


By: Cary Gibson, Government Relations Consultant, Prime Policy Group; Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, May 15, 2015

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congressional Staffers, David Vitter | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Boehner Struggles With His Failed ACA Predictions”: He Should At Least Try To Discuss The Substance Of The Issue Honestly

House Speaker John Boehner sat down with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” yesterday, and the host asked a good question about the Republican leader’s failed predictions about the Affordable Care Act. Regrettably, the Speaker couldn’t respond with an equally good answer.

TODD: You made some dire predictions about health care. 2014 you said fewer people would have health insurance. According to plenty of surveys, more people have health insurance today than they did before it went down from – the uninsured rate went down 17 percent to just under 12 percent. You said it would destroy jobs. The first year it was implemented, the country added 3 million jobs. Why…

BOEHNER: Obamacare made it harder for employers to hire people. The economy expands and as a result, you are going to have more employees because businesses have to. But if you can ask any employer in America, and ask them whether Obamacare has made it harder for them to hire employees, they’ll tell you yes. Because it’s a fact.

When you look at – you know why there are more people insured? Because a lot more people are on Medicaid. And giving – you know, we expanded Medicaid in a big way. And giving people Medicaid insurance is almost like giving them nothing. Because there aren’t – you can’t find a doctor that will see Medicaid patients.

The Speaker soon added that, as far as he’s concerned, the Affordable Care Act is “not working.”

Boehner might have a credible argument, if we abandoned the agreed upon meaning of “working.”

Look, I realize that health care policy has never been the Ohio Republican’s strong suit, and the Speaker isn’t a wonk deeply engaged in policy details. I can also appreciate why he’s a little embarrassed about making all kinds of ACA predictions, each of which turned out to be wrong. It’s just not realistic to think Boehner will fess up on national television to getting the entire fight over health care backwards.

There’s just no avoiding the fact, however, that Boehner’s comments on “Meet the Press” were woefully incorrect.

According to the Speaker, “it’s a fact” that the Affordable Care Act has “made it harder for employers to hire people.” There’s simply no evidence to support this. None. The U.S. economy saw a jobs boom coincide with the implementation of the ACA. Indeed, the reform law has actually created plenty of jobs within the health care industry by spurring “unprecedented” levels of “entrepreneurial activity.”

At the same time, Boehner believes the drop in the uninsured rate is the result of Medicaid expansion, but that’s wrong, too – millions of consumers have gained private coverage by way of exchange marketplaces. This is even true of the Speaker’s home state of Ohio, which is prepared to create its own exchange if the Supreme Court makes it necessary.

As for the benefits of Medicaid, coverage through the program is not the practical equivalent of “nothing.” Many Americans who’ve gained health security through Medicaid have benefited greatly from affordable care.

Boehner’s conclusion – that “Obamacare” is “not working” – is only true if one closes their eyes, sticks their fingers in their ears, and refuses to consider the evidence. The law is pushing the uninsured rate to new lows; it’s succeeding in satisfying consumers; the law’s price tag is lower than expected; it’s producing impressive results on premiums and enrollment totals; we’re seeing the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years; the number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces keeps growing; there’s reduced financial stress on families, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion is obvious, as is the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio and efforts to reduce medical errors system-wide.

The maligned law is even becoming more popular.

Boehner doesn’t have to like the law. He doesn’t even have to admit he was wrong. But he should at least try to discuss the substance of the issue honestly.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 4, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, John Boehner, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Where Government Excels”: Recognizing The Reality That There Are Some Things The Government Does Better Than The Private Sector

As Republican presidential hopefuls trot out their policy agendas — which always involve cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor and middle class — some real new thinking is happening on the other side of the aisle. Suddenly, it seems, many Democrats have decided to break with Beltway orthodoxy, which always calls for cuts in “entitlements.” Instead, they’re proposing that Social Security benefits actually be expanded.

This is a welcome development in two ways. First, the specific case for expanding Social Security is quite good. Second, and more fundamentally, Democrats finally seem to be standing up to antigovernment propaganda and recognizing the reality that there are some things the government does better than the private sector.

Like all advanced nations, America mainly relies on private markets and private initiatives to provide its citizens with the things they want and need, and hardly anyone in our political discourse would propose changing that. The days when it sounded like a good idea to have the government directly run large parts of the economy are long past.

Yet we also know that some things more or less must be done by government. Every economics textbooks talks about “public goods” like national defense and air traffic control that can’t be made available to anyone without being made available to everyone, and which profit-seeking firms, therefore, have no incentive to provide. But are public goods the only area where the government outperforms the private sector? By no means.

One classic example of government doing it better is health insurance. Yes, conservatives constantly agitate for more privatization — in particular, they want to convert Medicare into nothing more than vouchers for the purchase of private insurance — but all the evidence says this would move us in precisely the wrong direction. Medicare and Medicaid are substantially cheaper and more efficient than private insurance; they even involve less bureaucracy. Internationally, the American health system is unique in the extent to which it relies on the private sector, and it’s also unique in its incredible inefficiency and high costs.

And there’s another major example of government superiority: providing retirement security.

Maybe we wouldn’t need Social Security if ordinary people really were the perfectly rational, farsighted agents economists like to assume in their models (and right-wingers like to assume in their propaganda). In an idealized world, 25-year-old workers would base their decisions about how much to save on a realistic assessment of what they will need to live comfortably when they’re in their 70s. They’d also be smart and sophisticated in how they invested those savings, carefully seeking the best trade-offs between risk and return.

In the real world, however, many and arguably most working Americans are saving much too little for their retirement. They’re also investing these savings badly. For example, a recent White House report found that Americans are losing billions each year thanks to investment advisers trying to maximize their own fees rather than their clients’ welfare.

You might be tempted to say that if workers save too little and invest badly, it’s their own fault. But people have jobs and children, and they must cope with all the crises of life. It’s unfair to expect them to be expert investors, too. In any case, the economy is supposed to work for real people leading real lives; it shouldn’t be an obstacle course only a few can navigate.

And in the real world of retirement, Social Security is a shining example of a system that works. It’s simple and clean, with low operating costs and minimal bureaucracy. It provides older Americans who worked hard all their lives with a chance of living decently in retirement, without requiring that they show an inhuman ability to think decades ahead and be investment whizzes as well. The only problem is that the decline of private pensions, and their replacement with inadequate 401(k)-type plans, has left a gap that Social Security isn’t currently big enough to fill. So why not make it bigger?

Needless to say, suggestions along these lines are already provoking near-hysterical reactions, not just from the right, but from self-proclaimed centrists. As I wrote some years ago, calling for cuts to Social Security has long been seen inside the Beltway as a “badge of seriousness, a way of showing how statesmanlike and tough-minded you are.” And it’s only a decade since former President George W. Bush tried to privatize the program, with a lot of centrist support.

But true seriousness means looking at what works and what doesn’t. Privatized retirement schemes work very badly; Social Security works very well. And we should build on that success.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 10, 2015

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Federal Government, Medicare, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Did Not Go According To Plan”: McMorris Rogers Gets An Earful On ACA

For much of 2013 and 2014, Republicans were on a quest to discover “Obamacare victims.” GOP officials were convinced the Affordable Care Act was wreaking havoc on families’ lives, and Republicans everywhere were hunting for horror stories.

In nearly every instance, those stories fell apart in the face of routine scrutiny, and most of the “victims” were actually far better off with the ACA than without it. One of the more notable examples arose early last year when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the House Republican Conference chair, used her party’s official response to the State of the Union to introduce America to “Bette in Spokane.”

Predictably, the story unraveled and McMorris Rodgers was pressed for an apology after pushing a misleading story. A year later, the Republican congresswoman hasn’t given up.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House GOP conference, took to Facebook to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by asking to hear real-life horror stories from real people.

This did not go according to plan. McMorris Rodgers generated plenty of responses, most of which were from people who see the ACA as a lifesaver for their families.

I’m not altogether sure what the point of the endeavor was supposed to be. What exactly did the Republican congresswoman hope to accomplish?

But even putting that aside, this little incident should be a reminder to GOP lawmakers that their assumptions about “Obamacare” may not be in line with Americans’ reactions in the real world. In fact, if Republicans on the Supreme Court gut the law, consumers will be looking to folks like McMorris Rodgers to prevent systemic chaos.

Postscript: Wonkette joked, “[O]bviously, the takeaway here is that Obamacare is such a huge failure that the government is paying people to troll Facebook and lie about how much they like the ACA, because liberals are congenital liars, and poor Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a victim of cyberbullying, the end.”

Wonkette was kidding, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if this line took root in conservative media fairly soon, if it hasn’t already.


By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2015

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Obamacare | , , , , | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,139 other followers

%d bloggers like this: