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“Congress And Cockroaches: A Rapidly Descending Congress Hasn’t Quite Hit Bottom Just Yet, But They’re Working On It

Think the “fiscal cliff” shenanigans and the upcoming debt limit fiasco have damaged the already battered reputation of Congress? If so, looks like you are right. PPP has a new survey out showing Congress’ favorability rating is down to single digits: a booming 9%, with 85% registering negative impressions.

Being playful folk (particularly for pollsters), the PPP staff decided to offer respondents a choice of preferances between Congress and various and sundry other highly unsavory people and things—and the lawmakers didn’t do very well:

It’s gross to have lice but at least they can be removed in a way that given the recent reelection rates members of Congress evidently can’t: Lice 67 Congress 19

Brussel sprouts may have been disgusting as a kid, but evidently they’re now a lot less disgusting than Congress: Brussel Sprouts 69 Congress 23

The NFL replacement refs may have screwed everything up, but voters think Congress is screwing everything up even worse: Replacement Refs 56 Congressmen 29 (the breakdown among Packers fans might be a little bit different).

Colonoscopies are not a terribly pleasant experience but at least they have some redeeming value that most voters aren’t seeing in Congress: Colonoscopies 58 Congress 31

And you can make the same point about root canals: Root Canals 56 Congress 32

It goes on and on, with used car salesmen, traffic jams, France, carnies, Nickelback, Genghis Khan, DC pundits, Donald Trump, and yes, cockroaches all beating Congress in public approbation. But there’s a slim silver lining:

The news isn’t all bad for Congress:

By relatively close margins it beats out Lindsey Lohan (45/41), playground bullies (43/38), and telemarketers (45/35). And it posts wider margins over the Kardashians (49/36), John Edwards (45/29), lobbyists (48/30), Fidel Castro (54/32), Gonorrhea (53/28), Ebola (53/25), Communism (57/23), North Korea (61/26), and meth labs (60/21).

So Congress hasn’t quite hit bottom just yet.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 8, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Scottie’s Star Trek Tricks”: Rick Scott’s Parallel Universe Of Ideological “Facts”

Via Think Progress, another item from the ever-increasing database of “facts” Republicans use to buttress ideologically dictated positions comes from everybody’s favorite health care expert, Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott has been bruiting it about that his refusal to implement the Medicaid expansion provided for in the Affordable Care Act, which would have supplied health insurance to a cool million residents of that steamy state, was based on its vast cost: $26 billion over ten years in new state costs!

Them’s a lot of dollars, to be sure. But turns out Scott just kinda made the number up, or more accurately, didn’t bother to share the preposterous assumptions needed to generate it. Health News Florida explains:

The state’s chief economist has warned the staff of Gov. Rick Scott that his Medicaid cost estimates are wrong, but Scott keeps using them anyway, according to a series of e-mails obtained by Health News Florida.

Scott says he opposes expanding Florida Medicaid because it would cost too much: $63 billion over 10 years, he says, with the state paying $26 billion of that.

But those numbers are based on a flawed report, according to a legislative budget analyst and State Economist Amy Baker. A series of e-mails obtained by Health News Florida shows the analysts warned Scott’s office the numbers were wrong weeks ago, but he is still using them. He cited them in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed on Sunday and at at a Washington press conference on Monday.

The trumped-up number, it seems, comes from assuming the federal super-match for the expanded Medicaid coverage provided for in the ACA will never actually materialize. Why? Here’s the response from Scott’s “health policy coordinator,” Michael Anway:

Anway said he doesn’t believe the federal funds will come through. “The federal government has a $16 trillion national debt, must borrow 46 cents of every dollar it spends, and in 2011 had its credit rating downgraded for the first time in history,” he wrote in explanation.

So Scott is assuming the feds will renege on their statutory obligation to provide the Medicaid match. That’s a new one, and is particularly ironic since the only threat to the federal government defaulting on its spending obligations comes from Scott’s conservative buddies in Congress.

Truth is, the most authoritative estimate of state costs associated with the Medicaid expansion, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, put Florida’s costs at $1 billion over ten years, and that doesn’t even include potential savings from costs currently incurred by the state in uncompensated care for the uninsured.

So Scott’s costs estimates are off a mere 96%, at least. But what are facts when it comes to the ontological necessity of thwarting Obamacare and saving a million Floridians from the slavery of dependence on government?

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 8, 2013

 

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Highlighting GOP Duplicity And Hypocrisy”: How President Obama Should Open The Debt-Ceiling Negotiations

In the last few days, a number of outlets have started giving serious thought to the “platinum coin” option in the debt ceiling fight. In short, thanks to a loophole, the Treasury could mint a $1 trillion platinum coin to temporarily pay down the national debt until the debt-ceiling standoff has passed.

Defenders of this idea, including Bloomberg’s Josh Barro and my Post colleague Greg Sargent, point out that it is not as absurd as threatening default on the nation’s debts to force policy changes. But they also admit that, fundamentally, this is a gimmick; while the White House might be wise to be ready to mint the coin if absolutely necessary, it would look silly publicly threatening to do so. (And it would hand lovers of “pox on both houses” punditry an easy way out of chiding only Republicans.)

But that doesn’t mean the White House is helpless when it comes to framing the debate — far from it. The best idea remains one that Post columnist Matt Miller proposed last month: Raise the debt ceiling “just by the amount it would take to accommodate the debt Republicans voted for in Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget last year — $6 trillion over the next decade.”

As Miller wrote during the “fiscal cliff” standoff, the idea that Republicans actually care about the deficit is “demonstrably, laughably, even shockingly false.” The party showed absolutely no interest in controlling deficits during its six years in control of Congress and the White House. Several GOP moves since then have only confirmed that Republicans are interested only in using the national debt to try and scare people into adopting their unpopular policies.

After all, the failure of John Boehner’s “Plan B” tax proposal showed House Republicans’ determination to vote down debt solutions that didn’t conform to their tax ideology. The GOP has clung to pushing “chained CPI” as its favorite Social Security reform in this round of negotiations, since it cuts benefits without the politically dangerous headlines of “GOP cuts benefits,” but the Congressional Budget Office has found it’s actually one of the least effective policy options for extending Social Security’s solvency. And on Medicare, Republicans’ (and, unfortunately, some Democrats’) idea of raising the eligibility age would only lead to minimal savings, while hurting minorities hardest.

Given that Republicans’ priorities are their policies first, the debt a distant second and the health of our economy an even more distant third, Miller’s idea should be at the center of the White House’s strategy on the debt ceiling. Remember, the GOP caucus has repeatedly backed Ryan’s budgets, the latest of which, to repeat, adds $6 trillion in debt over 10 years. By continuously highlighting Republican duplicity and hypocrisy, the White House can give itself the most room to make the best deal for the American people.

By: James Downie, The Washington Post, January 8, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Catastrophically Dangerous”: What Happens If The GOP Shoots The Hostage?

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia raised an interesting point this morning about the Republican debt-ceiling hostage crisis.

To translate this a bit, Chambliss is embracing the hostage strategy with both arms. From 1939 to 2010, the debt ceiling was raised without preconditions by both parties 89 times, but in 2013, Chambliss and his cohorts are demanding a ransom: painful-but-unspecified cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

And if the president refuses to meet the Republicans’ demands, and GOP policymakers follow through on their threats, Chambliss thinks it’s Obama who’ll “suffer the consequences.”

Except, whether he understands the issue or not, Chambliss is mistaken. If Republicans refuse to allow the nation to pay for the money it’s already spent, and in the process push the nation into default by trashing the full faith and credit of the United States, it’s not the president who’ll “suffer the consequences”; it’s the rest of us.

Obama will be fine. Chances are, Saxby Chambliss will get by, too. But if Republicans refuse to do their duty, conditions for the national and global economy will get “very bad, very fast,” including “financial-market chaos.”

“Think about what we’re talking about here,” Steve Bell, director of economic policy at the BPC, told Ezra Klein yesterday. “We’re talking about the reserve currency of the world. We’re talking about the deepest and most liquid markets in the world. And we’re sitting here wondering if we’ll cover our obligations?”

The consequences would be brutal and long-lasting. America’s reputation, global standing, and stability would very likely never — ever — be the same.

So, Sen. Chambliss should probably take five minutes to understand that the fire he’s playing with is catastrophically dangerous. Because at this point, the Republican senator isn’t just threatening to hurt America on purpose, he’s under the misguided impression that Obama’s the one who’ll suffer.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 7, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Defending Enhanced Interrogation”: The Question Torture Apologists Can’t Answer

There may not be much point in trying to relitigate the torture question from the Bush years, but every once in a while that era’s torture apologists come back around to make their case, and there is one vital question I’ve never heard any of them answer: How do the defender’s of “enhanced interrogation” (perhaps the most vulgar euphemism since “ethnic cleansing”) define torture? I’ll explain more in a moment, but this was prompted by an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post about the film Zero Dark Thirty by Jose Rodriguez, a CIA officer who has defended the administration’s torture program on many occasions. Since I haven’t seen the film I can’t say anything about the way it depicts torture, but Rodriguez takes the opportunity to say this: “I was intimately involved in setting up and administering the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program, and I left the agency in 2007 secure in the knowledge not only that our program worked — but that it was not torture.” And why aren’t the things the CIA did—which included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and the use of “stress positions,” which are used to cause excruciating pain without leaving a mark—torture? Here’s the closest Rodriguez comes to an explanation:

Detainees were given the opportunity to cooperate. If they resisted and were believed to hold critical information, they might receive — with Washington’s approval — some of the enhanced techniques, such as being grabbed by the collar, deprived of sleep or, in rare cases, waterboarded. (The Justice Department assured us in writing at the time that these techniques did not constitute torture.) When the detainee became compliant, the techniques stopped — forever.

You see, they had a memo saying that what they were doing wasn’t torture, so there you go. And when the detainee became compliant, they stopped! It obviously can’t be torture if it ends when the subject is broken, right?

Here’s the question I’ve never heard someone like Rodriguez answer: Can you give a definition of torture that wouldn’t include waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation? I have no idea what such a definition might be, and I have to imagine that if they had any idea they would have offered one. Because here’s the definition of torture you’d think everyone could agree on: Torture is the infliction of extreme suffering for the purpose of extracting information or a confession. That’s not too hard to understand. The point is to create such agony that the subject will do anything, including give you information he’d prefer not to give you, to make the suffering stop. That’s the purpose of waterboarding, that’s the purpose of sleep deprivation (which, by the way, has been described by those subjected to it in places like the Soviet gulag to be worse than any physical pain they had ever experienced), and that’s the purpose of stress positions. The “enhanced” techniques that were used weren’t meant to trick detainees or win them over, they were meant to make them suffer until they begged for mercy.

So to repeat: If what the Bush administration did wasn’t torture, how would its apologists define the term?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 7, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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