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“Assuming Voters Are Fools”: GOP Tax Talk Takes A Trivial Turn

For more than three years, Republican critics of President Obama’s health care reform law have come up with all kinds of reasons to hate the law, most of which fall apart rather quickly under scrutiny. Thanks to last week’s Supreme Court ruling, however, the right has a new talking point they’ve largely ignored up until now: Obamacare raises taxes.

For Republicans, this should effectively end the conversation. The individual mandate counts as a “tax”; taxes are inherently evil; ergo the law is awful and anyone who supported it deserves to be publicly flogged. What’s more, conservatives are arguing that this wasn’t just any ol’ tax increase — it was the Largest Tax Increase Ever.

On Fox News, Jim Pinkerton characterized the mandate as “the biggest tax increase in the history of the universe.”

I hope most objective observers can agree this is, for lack of a better word, dumb. As Josh Marshall explained, “The Congressional Budget Office says the mandate penalty will raise $27 billion between 2012 and 2021. $27 billion over a decade. Anybody who cares to can do the math. But if you want to call it a ‘tax increase’ — which is debatable — it’s clearly one of the tiniest ones in history.”

This one tax penalty raises less than $3 billion a year, and it would affect about 1% of the population. What’s more, even if we’re generous, and assume the right is talking about all of the provisions within the law that raise new revenue, it’s still not even close to being the largest tax increase ever.

And just to top this off, Mitt Romney, the man Republicans want to be president, created and imposed the exact same tax penalty. He is, in fact, the only public official in American history to implement the policy the right is now pretending to find outrageous.

The entire argument is demonstrably ridiculous, apparently crafted under the assumption that voters are fools. We’ll see if the assumption is correct.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 2, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wingnut Line”: Rick Scott Announces Florida Won’t Take Medicaid Money

It’s not shocking that Rick Scott becomes the first governor to announce officially that his state (Florida) won’t accept the new Medicaid money under the health-care law. In case you’re not up on the deets, it’s the subsidies for poor and working-class people, up to 133 percent above the poverty line, to buy insurance.

Funny. I seem to remember a time when Scott was quite eager to take Medi-CARE money! That wasn’t his. You remember what I’m talking about.

So this is what social programs mean to Scott. As a private-sector businessman, something to steal from. As a public “servant,” something to play political games with. Floridians will die so that he can be first in the wingnut line.

I don’t know the precise number, but in a state that size, surely a couple million people/families who’ll be eligible for care under the new law in 2014–families of four up to $88,000 are eligible for the subsidies–will be denied the chance to buy coverage at subsidized rates because Scott has refused this money. From a policy perspective, this is the next battleground, the pressure point of resistance for the hard-shell ideologues. How many states will really sacrifice billions in federal dollars for the sake of ideology, and how many will do it before the election so they get a gold star from Rove?

Those interested in what we used to call facts may want to read through this nice primer from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which describes the Medicaid transfer from the feds to the states and explains how the federal government will actually be picking up 93 percent of the costs over the next nine years.

As to biggest health-care news of the weekend, the John Roberts switch reported by CBS yesterday, I will have much more to say about that story tomorrow. But watch these Republican governors. If not for the poor people in their states, I say fine, let them refuse it. Saves me money since I live in Maryland and they’re mostly moocher states anyway. It’s just a few more of my tax spare change not going to Mississippi. All right by me.

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 2, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Escalation Of Tactics”: Supreme Court Leaks To Conservative Pundits May Have Started More Than A Month Ago

CBS News’ Jan Crawford confirms widespread rumors that Chief Justice John Roberts initially voted to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, but decided midway through the opinion drafting process that he could not support this constitutionally unjustifiable result. In what may be the biggest revelation of her piece, Crawford also reports that pseudo-moderateJustice Anthony Kennedy led the internal lobbying effort to bring Roberts back into the right-wing fold:

Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy – believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law – led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.

“He was relentless,” one source said of Kennedy’s efforts. “He was very engaged in this.”

But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, “You’re on your own.”

The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed, such as his analysis imposing limits on Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, the sources said.

Instead, the four joined forces and crafted a highly unusual, unsigned joint dissent. They deliberately ignored Roberts’ decision, the sources said, as if they were no longer even willing to engage with him in debate.

Crawford cites two unnamed sources, and there are a very limited universe of people who could have revealed this information to her. Only the justices and their personal staff would have access to this knowledge, and it is highly unlikely that a clerk or secretary would be willing to risk their entire career by revealing the Court’s confidential deliberations to the press. Crawford, moreover, is a very well connected conservative reporter who has, at times, worked closely with the Federalist Society to drive conservative legal narratives. Nothing is certain, but it is likely that one or both of Crawford’s sources is a conservative justice.

Moreover, as Linda Greenhouse points out, it is possible that the Court started springing leaks more than a month before Roberts handed down his opinion:

Around Memorial Day, a number of conservative columnists and bloggers suddenly began accusing the “liberal media” of putting “the squeeze to Justice Roberts,” as George Will expressed the thought in his Washington Post column. “They are waging an embarrassingly obvious campaign, hoping he will buckle beneath the pressure of their disapproval and declare Obamacare constitutional,” Mr. Will wrote. Although the court has been famously leakproof, Mr. Will and some of the others are well connected at the court, and I wondered at the time whether they had picked up signals that the chief justice, thought reliable after the oral argument two months earlier, was now wavering, and whether their message was really intended for him.

To be clear, at this point only two facts are confirmed: 1) According to Crawford, Roberts flipped his vote midstream; and 2) someone within the Court must have leaked her this information. It is perfectly appropriate for Justice Kennedy, or any other justice, for that matter, to internally lobby Roberts to try to obtain his vote in an important case. If a member of the Court has turned to conservative columnists like Will or reporters like Crawford in order to pressure and then embarrass Roberts, however, that would be a significant and unusual escalation from the justices’ regular tactics.


By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, July 1, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Completely Disingenous”: Can Romney Remain Absurd Until November?

If you will forgive yet another post on the implications of the Supreme Court’s ACA decision, it is important to understand that for all the “excitement” and “motivation” it may create among “base voters,” this development also makes every day on the campaign trail a tightrope for Mitt Romney. He was already going to have to navigate his way to November talking constantly about the economy and the federal budget even as he was stuck with economic and budget policies that would horrify swing voters if they were aware of them. And now there will be no escape from the subject of a national health reform initiative modeled on his own plan in a gubernatorial administration that now seems about a million years away from where he has landed ideologically in order to win his party’s presidential nomination.

National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh refers to Romney’s current positioning on health care as presenting an “Absurd Romney:”

The difficulty of Absurd Romney’s task is pointed up by Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped Romney design his 2006 health insurance program in Massachusetts. He says that the then-governor used reasoning and language very similar to that of Chief Justice John Roberts in arguing for the necessity of an individual mandate. While Roberts said that Congress did not have the right to mandate behavior, it did retain the right to “tax and spend,” including penalizing people for not buying health care.

“It’s a penalty for free riding on the system. That’s the way Gov. Romney talked about it,” says Gruber, who later became one of the key architects of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which was modeled in part on the Romney law. “Justice Roberts used similar language today.” Back in the 2000s, when Gruber demonstrated to Romney with computer models that, absent an individual mandate, one-third of Massachusetts’ poorest and sickest would remain uninsured (and drive up costs for everyone), Romney jumped on the point, instantly converted, says Gruber. Romney went at the problem “like a management consultant or an engineer” with no ideological taint, even against the advice of his conservative political advisers, Gruber says. “They were concerned about the politics of universal health care. He argued them down.”

Today, says Gruber, Romney is being “completely disingenuous” in arguing against a law whose principles he once embraced. And somewhat absurd. Gruber says Romney’s suggestion that, as in Massachusetts when he was governor, states should be permitted to decide on their health care plans is also disingenuous. Massachusetts could devise its health care law only because it had access to a large amount of federal money, a $385 million Medicaid grant that it needed to use to extend care to the poor. “He says the states could do it but not the federal government. Well, actually the states can’t do it” because they don’t have the money, says Gruber. “What he should be saying is that he ‘ll give the states a trillion dollars to come up with their own plans, but he’s not going to do that.”

Now some readers will say Romney and most of his supporters don’t give a damn about consistency, logic, or avoiding the appearance of being Absurd, and will just brazen it out. That may be true. But the thing about lying all the time about who you are, what you’ve done, and what you intend to do is that it frequently causes even the most disciplined dissembler to screw up or at least fail to make sense to voters with even minimal discernment. That’s the risk Romney is going to have to take nearly every time he opens his mouth over the next four months.


By: Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 29, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Offshored And Outsourced”: Mitt Romney’s Bain problem

While the Supreme Court’s upholding of the health-care law was last week’s most important event in historical terms, it will not be the decisive event of the 2012 election. In the long run, polling in swing states suggesting that Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital is hurting him could have larger implications for where this campaign will move.

It’s certainly true that had the court knocked down President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the defeat would have been woven into a narrative of ineffectual leadership and mistaken priorities. Instead, the president found vindication not only from the court’s liberals but also from Chief Justice John Roberts.

But precisely because the decision saved the president from disaster on health care, it only reinforced the importance of the economic argument Obama and Romney have been having for months. And here is where Romney’s Bain problem kicks in.

As Democrats, mostly from Washington and New York, debated the efficacy of attacks on Romney’s role in Bain, an entirely different conversation was being driven in the swing states, courtesy of ads broadcast by the Obama campaign and especially by Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC. The ads portray highly sympathetic workers who lost their jobs and companies that collapsed even as Bain’s principals made substantial profits.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week provided surprisingly dramatic evidence of how much these commercials are wounding Romney.

In the country as a whole, 23 percent said they viewed Romney more positively because of his experience “managing a firm that specializes in buying, restructuring and selling companies,” while 28 percent said this made them view Romney more negatively. But in this year’s 12 battleground states, many of which have gotten a heavy run of the anti-Bain ads, only 18 percent viewed Romney’s business experience positively; 33 percent viewed it negatively. Obama led Romney by three points nationally but by eight in the battlegrounds.

This is disturbing news for Romney, who hoped his business experience would be an unalloyed asset. The numbers also underscore voter resistance to the core conservative claim that job creation is primarily about rewarding wealthy investors and companies through further tax cuts and less regulation. Americans are not anti-business, but they are skeptical that everything that is good for corporations is also good for their employees, and for job creation itself.

The Bain ads have done double-duty, specifically undermining Romney but also serving as a parable for how aspects of the current financial system hurt workers and local communities. Profits and productivity can rise even as real wages stagnate or fall, and jobs can be offshored and outsourced. The Romney campaign’s response to a recent Washington Post story describing Bain’s record on outsourcing — the campaign sought to “differentiate between domestic outsourcing versus offshoring” — sounded more like bureaucratic gobbledygook than an effective answer. Obama picked up on the story immediately, calling Romney an “outsourcing pioneer.”

But can the Obama campaign turn the argument over Romney and Bain into a broader challenge to the Republican claim that the only thing government can do to spur job creation is to get out of the way? “Jobs” will remain the Romney battle cry for the rest of the campaign, but the success of the anti-Bain offensive points to an opportunity for Obama to engage in a kind of political jujitsu. He can argue that Romney’s primary interest is not in job creation at all but in low-tax and deregulatory policies he would favor whether the economy was soaring or flat.

In a recent talk at the Center for American Progress, Stefan Löfven, the new leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, outlined a way to turn the debate around, arguing that job creation worldwide should be the focus of center-left parties. New policies on job creation should also be concerned with the quality and conditions of the jobs, how quickly the unemployed can be moved to new work and how the unemployed are treated and assisted toward new opportunities.

Here are the questions voters should be encouraged to ask in 2012: Should government focus directly on innovative approaches to creating good jobs in a new economy? Or should it be relegated to a position of powerlessness in which its only option is to concede ever more benefits to those — including the financial wizards at Bain — who are already doing very well indeed?


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 1, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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