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“Debunking GOP Hype”: Very Few Businesses Plan To Drop Health Coverage Because Of Obamacare

Companies that have threatened to drop coverage of their employees as a result of Obamacare are vocal, but according to a new study they are also few and far between. Only a total one percent of businesses said they are not going to continue coverage in the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey. Another 2 percent said that they are “somewhat unlikely” to continue providing health care to their employees. Meanwhile, 69 percent will definitely cover employees, and 25 percent “very likely” will.

The results are encouraging primarily because they show businesses have growing confidence in Obamacare — last year, the survey showed that far fewer companies were certain to continue their health care plans. It also means business leaders are beginning to recognize the benefits providing employees with health coverage:

That hefty percentage of respondents who said coverage definitely will be offered in 2014 contrasts with a similar survey the IFEBP did last year, when only 46% of respondents said coverage would definitely be offered. That greater certainty expressed by employers about offering coverage next year may the result of several factors, said Julie Stich, research director for the Brookfield, Wis.-based IFEBP. One factor may be a greater consideration by employers on how offering a health care plan can significantly aid in the recruitment and retention of employees, Ms. Stich said.

Offering health care does, indeed, aid recruitment and retention. And if three percent of companies chose not to do so while the rest do, they will likely suffer the consequences. Lacking health coverage also drives away some of the best employees, especially when, under Obamacare, those employees will then be forced to take on the cost burden of healh care coverage themselves.

 

By: Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress, April 11, 2013

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unbelievably Dangerous And Blisteringly Stupid”: Republicans Plan To Use The Debt Limit, Yes, As “Leverage”

Americans have seen quite a few congressionally imposed crisis in recent months, from the so-called “fiscal cliff,” to the sequestration cuts that are already hurting the country as planned, to threats of government shutdowns. But there’s still one more storm on the horizon, which happens to be the easiest one to deal with and the one that has the potential to do the most damage.

I’m referring to the next debt-ceiling increase — or for those who watch The Rachel Maddow Show closely, Congressional Storm Gertrude.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) sat down with Politico this week and said, “Let’s use the debt limit, yes, as leverage.” As a practical matter, what he meant was, congressional Republicans should threaten to hurt Americans on purpose unless President Obama agrees to slash public investments. Because the White House won’t want such a catastrophe, Republicans will have “leverage” that Portman wants to see his party “use.”

The Ohio Republican isn’t the only one thinking this way.

House leaders are planning to bring a debt ceiling “prioritization” bill to the House floor before the end of April, bringing the divisive issue to the forefront ahead of the government hitting the ceiling sometime this summer.

The legislation tries to mitigate the damage of the government reaching the debt limit in the event that negotiations to raise it fail. But Democrats have panned the idea, meaning it is unlikely to be taken up by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California, says the government must pay the interest and principal of its debts with incoming tax revenue before any other obligations.

“It removes default as an option,” said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Well, not exactly. “Default” is a tricky thing, a fact House Republicans may not fully appreciate.

In effect, here’s what this proposal is all about: Republicans are preparing to hold the debt ceiling hostage — again — and are preparing for what happens if Democrats fail to pay the ransom and GOP lawmakers are forced to shoot the hostage.

At that point, because Congress will have blocked the United States’ ability to borrow the funds necessary to meet our legal obligations, these House Republicans are looking to prioritize who’ll get paid first after the debt ceiling is breached. Under the right-wing vision, the nation will start by focusing on our debt payments, paying them in full, and then using whatever money is left over to pay for literally everything else.

And while that might prevent part of a potential default, it would leave open the possibility of another — the United States has passed laws obligating the government to pay for plenty of other things, and we’d almost certainly have to default on those obligations unless the debt ceiling is raised as it always has been.

The fact that House Republicans find this confusing is not at all reassuring.

But even if we put that aside, the fact that this proposal exists at all is a little insane, since it intends to prepare for congressional Republicans to undermine the full faith and credit of the United States, on purpose, in just a few months, for the first time in American history. In other words, while lawmakers should be working on a plan to avert an easily avoidable crisis, House Republicans have decided to spend time working on a plan on what the government should do when the easily avoidable crisis hits.

This is unbelievably dangerous, and so blisteringly stupid that it’s almost hard to believe a group of American elected officials would be willing to think this way. And yet, here we are.

What remains unclear, however, is how much of the bluster and chest-thumping is sincere. Congressional Republicans have been caught bluffing on this issue before, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) conceded just last month, “I’m not going to risk the full faith and credit of the federal government.”

If that’s true, the House GOP’s antics are full of sound and fury signifying nothing. If Boehner wasn’t telling the truth, Americans have cause for alarm, since it’s their economy and world standing Republicans are threatening to deliberately destroy.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 12, 2013

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Between A Rock And A Hard Place”: Social Conservatives Threaten Revolt Against GOP

Social conservatives are threatening to revolt against the the Republican Party, in the latest sign that the Republican National Committee’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” has little to no chance of success.

The latest Republican to strike a blow against the RNC’s rebranding plan is Tony Perkins, president of anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council. When it’s not pushing absurd conspiracy theories about ACORN and Obamacare, the FRC keeps busy by using pseudo-science to link homosexuality and pedophilia, and endorsing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill, among other fringe right-wing activities. So naturally, Perkins isn’t thrilled with the RNC’s directive that “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and indeed be inclusive and welcoming.”

Perkins has responded to the GOP reboot by directing his supporters to cut off their financial support for the party.

“Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money,” Perkins wrote in an email to supporters Thursday night. “If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action.”

Perkins went on to theorize that extreme right-wing social policies are not the GOP’s problem, but in fact the solution.

“Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters,” Perkins wrote. “There’s an entire group of ‘Countercultural Warriors’ full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage.”

Perkins’ boycott call comes just days after a group of 13 right-wing leaders (including Perkins) signed a letter warning the RNC that social conservatives will break away from the GOP if the party fails to reaffirm its 2012 platform, which calls for bans on gay marriage and abortion rights.

“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” the letter warns.

Striking a similar note as Perkins, the signatories speculate that “it is the faith-based community which offers Republicans their best hope of expanding their support” among African-Americans, young voters, and other voter groups that have become reliable Democratic bases.

Perkins and his colleagues on the religious right pose a major problem for Reince Priebus and the Republican Party. Social conservatives still make up the majority of the party’s voter base, a fact that is not going to change anytime soon. But these voters are increasingly out of step with the rest of the country on just about every social issue. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds, for example, that 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents support legalizing same-sex marriage — up 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from 2009. Only 27 percent of Republicans support marriage equality, however, up just 5 percent from four years ago.

There aren’t enough “Countercultural Warriors” in the world to make up for that kind of gap — nor is there any evidence that the GOP’s target groups would even be amenable to being lectured by the party’s right wing.

What’s worse for Priebus is that it’s not entirely clear what more the Republican Party can do to appease social conservatives. As Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen points out:

Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.

Indeed, Priebus himself recently penned an op-ed for a right-wing blog accusing Democrats of supporting infanticide by refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. If that type of rhetoric isn’t extreme enough to appease Perkins and his cohorts, then it’s unclear what the GOP’s next step could be.

So the RNC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t afford to lose the support of its base, but the longer the likes of Perkins and Rick Santorum maintain control of the party’s public message, the harder it will be for Republicans to win national elections.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 12, 2013

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pragmatic Determination”: Sandy Hook Parents Prove The Personal Still Has Power

Before she became a reluctant lobbyist, involuntarily versed in arcane Senate procedure, Nicole Hockley thought that strange word was spelled with an “S” — “closure,” not “cloture.”

But this was before the terrible day that Hockley and her fellow Sandy Hook parents refer to simply as 12/14, before Hockley’s 6-year-old son, Dylan, died in his teacher’s arms.

Now Hockley, a marketing consultant who once specialized in reducing carbon emissions but never dabbled in politics, can speak with fluency about the vote count on the motion to proceed.

“There were growing numbers who were opposing a move to cloture, and very few were standing up against that filibuster,” Hockley recalled of the grim situation when she and other Sandy Hook parents arrived in Washington, having hitched a ride on Air Force One after the president’s trip to Newtown, Conn.

It was a bittersweet perk. “Any other occasion on earth, riding on Air Force One would be the most amazing day of your life,” said Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter Ana, 6, was killed. “But I was riding on Air Force One because my baby was shot in the chest and the neck.”

The Sandy Hook parents asked, deftly wielding the power conferred by tragedy, to meet directly with senators, not staff. But, focused more on gentle, private persuasion than public arm-twisting, they also took pains to conduct the meetings without the customary media entourage. In all, they met with more than a quarter of the Senate, sharing the stories of their dead children and pressing, at the least, for a chance to have the gun proposals debated on the floor.

And by all accounts, the parents of Sandy Hook Promise played an influential, perhaps decisive, role in achieving that goal on Thursday morning, with 68 senators — including 16 Republicans — voting to proceed with debate.

To speak with Sandy Hook parents is to grasp anew the power of the personal in politics. Money may be motivating, fear of losing the next election even more so.

But politicians are people, too. No matter where you may be on the political spectrum in general or the matter of gun control in particular, you cannot help but be moved by the rawness of these mothers’ anguish and the force of their pragmatic determination.

“We’re the middle,” said Francine Wheeler, fingering a necklace in the form of a treble clef, a testament to her slain son Benjamin’s perfect pitch and which contains some of his ashes. “We’re the middle that doesn’t want to infringe on anybody’s Second Amendment but wants to keep kids safe.”

The mothers handed out glossy postcards with heartbreakingly beautiful photographs of their murdered children — Ana Marquez-Greene in her poufy pigtails, Dylan Hockley grinning in a Superman T-shirt, doe-eyed Benjamin Wheeler with his older brother.

To say this is not to be naive about the limits of the capacity of grief to persuade. The threat of a less-than-perfect grade from the National Rifle Association remains potent. The NRA gave lawmakers a pass on this procedural vote; not so, it threatened in a letter, with the next cloture vote, on whether to move to final passage. Unlike most procedural votes, that step will be scored as a “key vote,” the gun group advised, ominously.

And once — if — the Senate acts, the Republican-controlled House presents a potentially insurmountable hurdle. “But they’re parents,” Wheeler said. “The House has lots of parents, lots of grandparents, and I think they’re going to be willing to listen. I have faith that they will.” Wheeler was asked by President Obama to deliver his weekly radio address.

Political activism was not on these mothers’ agendas — not before the massacre and certainly not afterward. “After the murder, brushing my teeth was on my radar,” said Marquez-Greene.

Yet, she concluded, she had little choice but to become involved, “so you don’t have to interview three more mothers two years from now who buried their children due to gun violence.”

To those who dismiss the pending proposal as a pitifully thin slice of a loaf, who mourn the absence of limits on magazine capacity or assault weapons, who fear that the background check rules will remain too porous, the mothers have a, well, maternal response.

“When you have a baby and they start learning to walk and they take that first step and it’s not perfect, do you say to them, ‘Sit down!’ because it wasn’t perfect?” Marquez-Greene asked. “It’s the same with this. This is baby steps, incremental steps. We’re taking the first one now, and we’re going to keep walking.”

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 12, 2013

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lineage Of Today’s Republican’s”: What Rand Paul Doesn’t Get About Abe Lincoln, Abe Vigoda, And Black Voters

Here’s something that someone might want to share with Rand Paul. Abraham Lincoln was a president. Abe Vigoda was an actor. The fact that they both have the same first name, does not make them the same person.

That may seem obvious to you, but it’s something that I feel compelled to share. Because after listening to his Howard University speech, I’m not sure it’s a concept that Senator Paul fully understands.

Here’s why: On some basic level, Paul’s speech was an inquiry into the alienation that exists between the GOP and African-Americans. His conclusion: It’s all just a big misunderstanding.

You see, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It was Democrats who led the South’s retrenchment after Reconstruction, established segregation and fought tooth and nail to protect Jim Crow. So it’s Republicans, not Democrats, according to Paul, who have always been the party of civil rights.

So why aren’t more African-Americans Republicans? Paul has an explanation: Having achieved electoral and civil rights African-Americans wanted economic equality, too. Republicans offered one way to get it, according to Paul, the free market, while Democrats offered another, government largesse. Thus far, Paul says, African-Americans have preferred the latter path to the former and what Republicans need to do is better explain why African-Americans should instead embrace the free market model. That’s his theory anyway.

Here Paul’s trying to pull off an interesting trick: using Republican performance from the pretty distant past to try and credential current policies. But in his historical retelling, Paul essentially collapses the timeline and says: look, we’ve always been for civil rights, and our free market prescriptions are just the latest iteration of that.

Now, it may be that this is the argument the GOP’s been looking for. Perhaps, having heard it, African-Americans will vote Republican in droves in 2014. But I’m not convinced.

First, despite Paul’s convictions, there’s a pretty obvious reason why African Americans vote for more Democratic candidates than Republicans: They prefer Democratic policies. That’s how most voters decide who to vote for – they review the candidate’s positions on issues important to them, and then vote for the one whose views are more in sync with their own.

Paul probably wouldn’t contest that – but he’d place the blame for Republican losses on someone who you might not expect: the voter. Instead of concluding that to compete for African-American votes Republicans have to change their policies, he suggests that the problem is the failure of African-Americans to fully comprehend the policies Republicans propose. That’s what he means when he says that Republicans have to find a different way to talk about them, right? The policy isn’t the problem, it’s your ability, (or lack thereof) to grasp it.

And here, Paul finds himself on something of a slippery slope. I mean, politics isn’t rocket science. And somehow every couple of years voters across the country manage to sift through the various policy papers and pronouncements of politicians up and down the ballot to make decisions about who to support. It’s peculiar (at the very least) to suggest that African-Americans are somehow incapable of engaging in the required analysis to do it when it comes to Republicans.

There’s something else about Paul’s thesis that just doesn’t add up. Yes, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and Democrats dominated southern politics during segregation. But really, which of these parties of the past has more in common with the iterations that exist today?

If the answers not obvious to you, there’s another bit of history that can help clear it up. Starting in the 1940s and accelerating in the 1960s national Democratic attitudes about segregation moved to the left, while the attitudes of the southern conservatives who had long affiliated with the Democratic Party pushed further to the right. This created an untenable intraparty tension that couldn’t last forever. And it didn’t, because southern conservatives found a new, more comfortable party to call home, one that expressed values in sync with their own. It was the Republican Party. They switched to it in droves.

All of which means, you guessed it, the lineage of today’s Republican party traces much more directly to those pro-segregation Democrats than it does to any southern Republicans who may have been around in that day.

So let’s be clear: Yes, Rand Paul is a Republican but when it comes to civil rights, his version of the GOP has about as much in common with the one that helped free the slaves as Abe Lincoln has with Abe Vigoda.

Which is to say: once you get past the name, not very much at all.

 

By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, April 12, 2013

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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