Somewhat quietly, Obamacare enrollment hit 4 million this week. Now, it’s certainly true—as critics have noted—that enrollees aren’t the same thing as people who will continue to stay with their plan for a full year. If an enrollee encounters an unexpected expense of replacing a head gasket or something like that, he might skip a payment. But even so, 4 million’s a more-than-respectable number.
Also rather quietly this week, a new tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed support for repeal of Obamacare down to 31 percent. As Jay Bookman noted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, overall the poll wasn’t something the president would exactly brag about, but it did represent noticeable change, especially among independents, 57 percent of whom now support the law.
That 31 percent number made me sit up straight for one reason. The percent of Americans who identify themselves as conservative is, lately, about 38 percent, says Gallup. So 31 percent is getting down there. And consider this: As of mid-December 2013, the percentage of Americans who favored repeal was 52.3 percent in a Real Clear Politics average of numerous polls. The Affordable Care Act may not be as popular as Twelve Years a Slave, but it’s not The Lone Ranger anymore either.
I would think there’s a direct correlation between these two sets of facts, no? The more people go to the web site and see that they can get insurance at a decent price (in most cases), the more they tell their co-workers and neighbors that doing so wasn’t the horror show they expected. The more people learn about some of the law’s benefits, the more opposition to it softens.
There are still a few more things the American people need to learn about the law, though, and it’s up to the Democrats to tell them, and I’m going to bang on about this until I see some action. As I wrote Wednesday, Governor Rick Perry has said no to $9 billion in free money. Texas is the largest state in the union that hasn’t accepted the Medicaid expansion money, so that’s the biggest figure, but the figures are significant in relation to the population and budget in every single state.
These figures are from a Commonwealth Foundation report from three months ago. Florida is saying no to $9.6 billion, Georgia to $4.9 billion, North Carolina to $5.7 billion. Wisconsin is passing on $1.75 billion, Virginia on $2.15 billion, and Pennsylvania on $5.5 billion (although Pennsylvania is considering the opt-in). And this report’s figure for Texas is actually $9.6 billion.
You know how states clamor for federal highway money? Well, as Commonwealth points out, in every one of these cases, the Medicaid money is more—at least double, typically, and sometimes far more—than what these states get in highway money. And yet they say they don’t want it. They say that over time, they’re going to be on the hook for vast expenditures they can’t afford, or they fret publicly that Washington might change the formula. They’re both bogus arguments.
The federal government is paying 100 percent of states’ expansion costs through 2016 and no less than 90 percent thereafter on a permanent basis. It’s a sweet deal. But okay, what about that (up to) 10 percent that states are going to have to start paying? Ten percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but in dollar terms, isn’t that real money?
The answer is, not really, in most cases. This gets complicated and involves a category of spending by the states for something called “uncompensated care,” which is just what it sounds like—health care provided for free to poor people. State and local governments typically pitch in now on uncompensated care. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains in a 2012 report: “The Medicaid expansion will reduce state and local government costs for uncompensated care and other services they provide to the uninsured, which will offset at least some—and in a number of states, possibly all or more than all—of the modest increase in state Medicaid costs.” Overall, the health-care consulting firm The Lewin Group estimates a minimal increase in states’ spending obligations, around 1 or 2 percent, depending on the state.
As for the argument that some GOP governors make that they fear Washington might change the formula…well, that’s straight from Orwell or Kafka. That is: Barack Obama isn’t going to change any formula. President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be changing any formula. A Democratically controlled Congress won’t be changing any formulas. Only Republican presidents and congresses would do that. In other words, these Republican governors are saying—yeah, the deal looks fine now, but my party might take over, and then I’d be really screwed!
The ACA is here to stay. It’s not going to be struck down. It’s not going to be repealed. That would require a Republican president and 60 GOP senators and a solid GOP House majority, and the odds are strongly against the emergence of such a confluence. It’s going to exist. And inevitably, it’s going to grow. And more and more people are going to get used to it and learn to live with it. And over time, the people in states like Texas and Georgia and Wisconsin are going to see that people in nearby states that took the money are in fact pretty happy with their situations.
It’s only a matter of time before these resistant governors and state legislatures start caving. Democrats have it in their power to help hasten that timetable by making this an issue. They have to have the courage not to wilt or get the vapors whenever a right-winger invokes the evil gummint or the hated Kenyan. Democrats say they’ve waited decades for this moment. Well, it’s here. Now’s not the time to run away from the fight.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 28, 2014
The Republican Party in the era of the Tea Party and the “autopsy” can’t make up its mind. Torn between expanding its base so that it can survive in the long term and appeasing its loyalists so it can survive in the short term, the party doesn’t know where to go. The choice boils down to winning a few more seats in November and writing off the future of the party. Oddly, November seems to be winning every time.
For Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott the choice seems easy. He chose Ted Nugent, the physical embodiment of the off-the-rails toxicity that Republicans just don’t know how to quit. Abbott certainly had to know the stir he’d cause when he invited Nugent to join him on the campaign trail last week.
Ted Nugent is not just a former rocker who happens to be a Republican. Nugent’s infamous “subhuman mongrel” slur is just a representative sample of the bile he produces on a regular basis. He has threatened the president, saying, “Obama, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun,” told an audience to “keep a fucking gun in your hand, boys” in response to the Obama administration, implied the president is like a coyote who needs to be shot, and said before the 2012 election that if the “vile, evil America-hating” Obama were to be reelected, Nugent would be “either dead or in jail by this time next year.”(For the record, Nugent is still very much alive and free to make statements like the above.)
Why listen to Nugent (as People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch does more often than they would probably like)? Because he doesn’t just shout his rants from the stage at his concerts. He shares the stage with people like Greg Abbott.
In a time when many Republicans are trying to moderate the rhetoric they use to explain their extreme policies, Greg Abbott is just the latest who apparently has no such concerns. He ‘s more than happy to provide a platform for Nugent, an unabashedly violent, and unapologetic racist spokesperson who exults in attacking the president- – when the president is Barack Obama, that is.
Nugent has speculated whether “it would have been best had the South won the Civil War”; suggested banning people who owe no federal income tax from voting; lashed out at “those well-fed motherfucker food stamp cocksuckers”; and blamed Trayvon Martin’s death on the “mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America.”
In other words, Nugent’s not the sort of person any reasonable candidate would invite along on the campaign trail. But reason is not the way to prove one’s bona fides to a large share of the Tea Party that has taken over the Grand Old Party. When Nugent said in a campaign appearance that “we don’t have to question Greg Abbott’s courage, because he invited me here today,” he was reassuring the base that “autopsy reports” aside, the GOP has no intention of changing.
And that’s the problem. Ted Nugent isn’t a Greg Abbott gaffe. His presence on the Abbott campaign trail represents a deliberate effort to cultivate the most extreme elements of the Republican base. The party can moderate its positions to attract more voters. Or it can stick with extremism to keep a core of the voters it has. But it can’t have it both ways.
By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People for The American Way ; The Huffington Post Blog, February 27, 2014
It’s too soon to tell whether Ted Nugent’s noxious career as a conservative pundit reached a tipping point this week, but the moment he called in sick to CNN and backed out of a scheduled interview with Erin Burnett as Republican politicians denounced him might soon be seen as a flash point for the fading rock star and the incendiary brand of hate rhetoric he’s been cashing in on for years. It might also be viewed as a key stumbling moment for the conservative media, which have been unable in recent years to establish any sort of guardrails for common decency within the realm of political debate.
Increasingly reliant on bad fringe actors like Nugent to connect with their far, far-right audience, the conservative media have built up Obama-bashing personalities who no longer occupy any corner of the American mainstream. Yet Nugent enjoys deep ties with Republican campaigns all across the country. When those ties receive media scrutiny, they cannot be defended.
National Rifle Association board member Nugent found himself at the center of a campaign controversy this week when he was invited to two public events for Texas Republican Greg Abbott, who is running for governor. Of course Nugent, a former Washington Times columnist who now writes for birther website WND, recently called President Obama a “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel” and has a long and vivid history of launching vile attacks on women. (He’s called Hillary Clinton a “toxic c**t.”)
Following waves of condemnations for the association, and a torrent of critical media coverage, with reporters and pundits wondering why a gubernatorial candidate would voluntarily campaign with someone who spouts “insane and racist talk,” as CNN’s Jake Tapper put it, Abbott claimed he wasn’t aware of Nugent’s history of racist and misogynistic comments. If so, Abbott’s campaign staff is utterly incompetent. (The “subhuman mongrel” comment, unearthed last month by Media Matters, was highlighted by a number of outlets at the time, including on MSNBC.)
It’s likely Abbott and his staff did know about Nugent’s dark rhetoric, since that’s all he traffics in. But because that kind of hate speech has become so accepted and even celebrated within the bubble for right-wing media, they failed to see the danger of embracing it.
Following the ill-fated campaign events, which made national headlines, Abbott has defended the decision to bring Nugent to the state, claiming that in Texas politics Nugent remain popular. But if inviting Nugent to become an Abbott surrogate was so clever, why did likely Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul step forward to denounce Nugent and his “offensive” Obama commentary?
Why did Abbott’s fellow Texan, Gov. Rick Perry “recommend” Nugent apologize? And why did Nugent back out of his CNN interview just two hours before taping?
As the media scrutiny settled on Nugent, even staunch conservative Republicans have been unable to defend him — his commentary over the years is just too vile. If the Abbott campaign didn’t directly insist on the CNN cancellation (Nugent cited illness), it’s fair to say his aides were greatly relieved that Nugent didn’t fuel the story for another 24-hour news cycle via an extended CNN interview where no doubt more confused Nazi analogies would have been aired. (CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had already condemned Nugent’s comments, noting that the phrase “subhuman mongrel” bore resemblance to “untermensch,” which is “what the Nazis called Jews … to justify the genocide of the Jewish community.”)
And then there was Fox News, Nugent’s longtime ally in the pursuit of Obama demagoguery, and where just last month Bill O’Reilly welcomed Nugent. As Abbott’s self-inflicted wound deepened this week, and as news outlets all across the country addressed the clumsy campaign association, Fox News went silent. Not only refusing to defend Nugent, Fox wouldn’t even cover the burgeoning controversy.
The network — which was happy to give Nugent a softball interview just two weeks ago — still hasn’t mentioned the firestorm over his campaigning with Abbott.
Ted Nugent has been practicing his brand of openly vile hate for a very long time. And with each passing year of the Obama administration he’s been welcomed deeper and deeper into the heart of the conservative media machine. This week’s Abbott uproar was instructive in that the bright spotlight shone on Nugent helped remind people just how radical, dangerous and out of touch that movement has become, and how that hate cannot be hidden.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 21, 2014
“A Particularly Cruel Joke”: Texas Lawmakers Celebrate “Achievements” In Women’s Health As Thousands Go Without Care
The consequences of Texas’ sweeping new abortion restrictions are now being felt across the state, but the status of reproductive healthcare in Texas had been dire long before conservative lawmakers passed the omnibus measure to shutter reproductive health clinics, restrict safe abortion services and leave thousands of women without access to necessary care.
Texas lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that cut $73 million from family planning programs; the following year, Rick Perry dissolved the state’s partnership with the federal Women’s Health Program, forfeiting millions in Medicaid funding for low-income women’s healthcare. Lawmakers restored some of this funding in 2013, but reproductive health providers like Planned Parenthood are barred from receiving it. That Perry has refused the Medicaid expansion has further compounded the crisis that has been building in the state, the blunt impact of which disproportionately impacts low-income women of color.
Republican “reforms” to the system have resulted in a 77 percent drop in the number of women being served by state health clinics at an additional cost of around 20 percent. The maternal mortality rate — particularly among women of color — is on the rise, and Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation.
It is in this context that the Texas Health and Human Services committee’s decision to hold a hearing on the “progress” the state has made in women’s healthcare seems like a particularly cruel joke. The committee intends to “build on previous legislative achievements in women’s healthcare,” according to a statement on the hearing.
Activists in the state, who have remained focused on challenging the rollback of reproductive rights in the months since Wendy Davis’ marathon filibuster, descended on Austin Thursday to provide testimony and protest the show hearing.
“When I heard about the hearing — well, I felt like if the Daily Show was going to create a parody, they couldn’t have done a better job,” Amy Kamp, one of the women providing testimony at the hearing, told ThinkProgress. “If Texas wants to protect women’s health, I have a helpful suggestion. Just reinstate the old program we used to have!”
“It’s laughable that the same politicians that have devastated Texas women’s access to healthcare — cancer screenings, birth control, and safe, legal abortion — are now touting their so-called achievements in women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. ”If that’s what they call help for Texas women, we’ve had quite enough of it.”
By: Katie McDonough, Assistant Editor, Salon, February 20, 2014
“GOP’s Wango Tango With Ted Nugent”: Republicans Are Dancing With A Professional, Maniacal, Racist Freak
For well over a year now, Americans have been treated to the spectacle of GOP leaders plotting and planning and searching for clever ways to assure the public that it is not the party of old, angry, testosterone-heavy, and most of all white grievance politics. Granted, this is a delicate task, calling for a thoughtful, multi-faceted approach. But how’s this for a modest starting point: Stop sucking up to freak-show, has-been rocker Ted Nugent?
Honestly, it was sad enough when Rep. Steve Stockman took Ted as his date to the State of the Union address this month. Then again, these days, people pretty much expect that level of adolescent fuck-you from rank-and-file House members. But a leading gubernatorial candidate from our second-most populous state?
Sure enough, there was Nugent in all his unhinged glory, campaigning in North Texas on Tuesday for state attorney general and gubernatorial wannabe Greg Abbott. Texas Dems understandably threw a fit, pointing to some of Ted’s latest ravings, most notably his calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
Abbott’s team pushed back limply. Before the appearances, they pooh-poohed concerns about Nugent, praising him as a great patriot. As Abbott’s spokesman informed Politico:
Ted Nugent is a forceful advocate for individual liberty and constitutional rights—especially the Second Amendment rights cherished by Texans. … While he may sometimes say things or use language that Greg Abbott would not endorse or agree with, we appreciate the support of everyone who supports protecting our Constitution.
Likewise, following the rally in Denton, Abbott told reporters:
Sen. Davis knows she is suffering with voters because of her flipping and flopping on 2nd Amendment gun laws. And she knows that Ted Nugent calls her out on her disregard for 2nd Amendment rights. We are going to expose Sen. Davis’ weaknesses on the 2nd Amendment and show that in this area and in so many other areas, she represents the liberalism of Barack Obama that is so bad for Texas.”
Oh, so this is all about Abbott’s love for the Second Amendment? Bullshit. Yes, Nugent is loud and proud about his fondness for playing with guns. But the Texas governor’s race is not about protecting gun rights. Wendy Davis is no Michael Bloomberg here. She has voted to allow guns in cars on college campuses and to put armed marshals in schools. The woman supports open-carry laws, for God’s sake. She may not strut around begging the president to “suck on my machine gun” ala Nugent, but that’s only because she’s not a professional maniac.
Abbott’s snuggling up to Nugent is not about the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment or any part of the Constitution. It is about courting and stoking the absolute ugliest, most paranoid, most ass-backwards elements of the GOP coalition. We’re not talking here about garden-variety gun lovers or small-government enthusiasts or evangelical values voters. We’re talking about people who find it quaint when Nugent starts raving about how black people are lazy or how disgusting he finds gays or how Hillary Clinton is a “toxic cunt” and “a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.” (Media Matters has a sprawling, multi-decade sampling of Ted’s greatest hits here.) We’re talking about people who find it hilarious when Nugent waves his little guns around and froths, “Hey Hillary! You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”
A great patriot indeed.
To be fair, Abbott is hardly the only prominent Republican to embrace the unhinged rocker. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the very man Abbott is looking to succeed, asked his good buddy Ted to headline Perry’s 2007 inaugural ball. (With a respectful nod to Texas’s increasingly diverse populace, Nugent showed up clad in a confederate-flag shirt and started talking smack about the state’s non-English speaking residents.) Nor are Texas pols the only Nugent courters. Even poor Mitt Romney sought Nugent’s (grudging) endorsement two years ago.
That said, it was Romney’s—and the broader GOP’s—epic failure that touched off this recent round of soul-searching among Republicans. Sure, the trials and tribulations of Obamacare have given them breathing space of late, but the times they are a changing—along with the nation’s demographics—and Republicans’ cozying up to characters like Nugent is not a recipe for a healthy national party.
The morning after Ted and Greg’s road show, I emailed a handful of Republican strategists. Subject line: “Ted Nugent.” Question: “Why? That’s all I want to know. Why?” Not even the most conservative among them had a serious answer.
As for Gregg Abbott, when pressed by reporters about the appropriateness of his new pal’s comments, the candidate, predictably, claimed ignorance. “I don’t know what he may have done or said in his background. What I do know is that Ted Nugent stands for the Constitution.”
I like to think that Abbott is not actually this stupid. It’s far less troubling to assume that the man likely to become the next governor of Texas is a shameless liar than to imagine that he’d embrace the famously vile Nugent without some vague sense of what made the guy a wingnut celebrity to begin with. (Hint for the would-be governor: It’s not Nugent’s 40-year-old hit song.)
Then again, maybe Abbott really is that clueless. At this point, Nugent has been spouting racist, sexist, generally insane invective for so long that the ugly particulars of any one rant quickly dissolve into his vast sea of lunacy. People tend to roll their eyes and give Nugent a pass because the ranting is seen as just part of his schtick. I mean, he’s the Motor City Madman, right? And, this being America, the guy can say whatever the hell he wants, right?
That he can—and does. But so long as Republicans keep hitching their wagon to a star like Nugent, they really shouldn’t wonder why more and more Americans see the party as defined by an unsettling blend of rage and ignorance.
By: Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2014