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“Back By Unpopular Demand”: No One Really Cares What One Term Governor Mitt Romney Has To Say

Remember Mitt Romney? That national candidate who saw 47% of the country as lazy parasites? The one who assumed all the polls were “skewed” and that he was poised for victory? Apparently, he misses you.

More than half a year after his election loss, Mitt Romney is putting a tentative foot back onto the public stage.

Restless, a little wistful and sharply critical of President Barack Obama’s second term, Mr. Romney said in an interview that he plans to re-emerge in ways that will “help shape national priorities.” As a first step, the former Republican presidential nominee plans to welcome 200 friends and supporters to a three-day summit next week that he will host at a Utah mountain resort.

He is considering writing a book and a series of opinion pieces, and has plans to campaign for 2014 candidates.

Traditionally, failed presidential candidates, unless they hold office and/or plan to run again, quietly fade from public view, content with the knowledge that they had their say, made their pitch, and came up short.

But Mitt Romney is apparently feeling restless. “By and large,” he told the Wall Street Journal, losing candidates “aren’t very much in the public view.” Romney then added, “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

In fairness, I should note that he’s not completely oblivious to the circumstances. He also told the WSJ, “In our country, the guy who loses the presidential election isn’t expected to jump on the airwaves and try and promote himself. We will speak out from time to time, but I’m not going to be bothering the airwaves with a constant series of speeches.”

Romney won’t stay on the sidelines, either. There won’t be a “constant series” of speeches, but there will be some speeches. And op-eds. And campaign appearances. And a closed-door summit. And maybe a book.

What’s less clear is whether anyone will care what the former one-term governor has to say.

It’s easy to forget, but in the immediate wake of Election Day 2012, Romney wasn’t an especially popular figure with, well, much of anyone. When he spoke to donors about American voters being effectively bought off with “big gifts” such as affordable health care and public education, Romney’s standing managed to deteriorate further.

By mid-November, Romney was something of a pariah, with a variety of Republican leaders eager to denounce him, his rhetoric, and his campaign style. Remember this?

Mitt Romney, who just two weeks ago was the Republican Party’s standard-bearer, seen by many as the all-but-elected president of the United States, has turned into a punching bag for fellow Republicans looking to distance themselves from his controversial “gifts” remark. […]

Whether it’s an instance of politicians smelling blood in the water as the party, following Romney’s defeat, finds itself without a figurehead, or genuine outrage, a number of Republicans have eagerly castigated their former nominee.

Josh Marshall said at the time the GOP pushback amounted to “Lord of the Flies” treatment, which seemed like an apt comparison.

And now Romney wants to “help shape national priorities” and “campaign for 2014 candidates”? I’m trying to imagine a list of Republicans who would welcome him and choose to campaign alongside him. I can’t think of any.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2013

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Election 2012, Politics | , , , | 2 Comments

“Affordable And Accessable”: The Shocking Truth About Obamacare’s Rate Shock

Imagine you went to Best Buy and found a great deal on a plasma television set. I want to be clear here: You didn’t find a great television set. This television set is actually a bit crummy. The picture is fuzzy. Consumer Reports says it breaks down a lot and it’s expensive to fix. But it’s really cheap. The price tag reads $109.

When you take it to the counter, the saleswoman tells you that the set will actually cost you $199. And count yourself lucky, she confides in a conspiratorial whisper. There are customers whom Best Buy won’t sell it to at any price. You ask her which customers those are. The ones who need the TV most, she replies.

So here’s the question: Does that television really cost $109?

Best Buy, of course, would never do this to you. If they say you can buy a television set for $109, you can buy it for $109. Plus, they’re handsome, and their customer service is great, and I hope they advertise in The Washington Post forevermore, amen.

But this is actually how the individual health-insurance market works. And understanding why is crucial to understanding a lot of what you’re going to read about health reform in the next year.

Last week, California released early information on the rates insurers intend to charge on the new insurance marketplaces — known as “exchanges” — that the state is setting up under Obamacare. They were far lower than anyone expected. Where analysts had anticipated average premiums of $400 to $500, insurers were actually charging $200 to $300. “This is a home run for consumers in every region of California,” crowed Peter Lee, director of the state’s exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act’s critics saw it differently. Avik Roy, a conservative health writer at Forbes, said Lee was being “misleading” and that “Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.” Obamacare, he said, would trigger “rate shock,” the jolt people feel when they see higher rates. That doesn’t sound like a home run at all.

Who’s right? In typical columnist fashion, I’m not going to tell you just yet. But stick with me, and you’ll be able to parse the next year of confused and confusing Obamacare arguments with ease.

Here’s the first thing to know: We’re talking about a small fraction of the American health-care system. This isn’t about people on Medicare or Medicaid or employer-based insurance. It’s about people joining Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. That’s people who buy insurance on their own now, as well as some of the uninsured. In 2014, 7 million people, or 2.5 percent of the population, is expected to buy insurance through the exchanges. By 2023, that will rise to 24 million people, or 8 percent.

So we’re talking about a small portion of the market. Worse, we’re talking about that small portion of the market all wrong.

Roy got his 146 percent by heading to, running a search for insurance plans in California and comparing the cost of the cheapest plans to the cost of the plans being offered in the exchanges. That’s not just comparing apples to oranges. It’s comparing apples to oranges that the fruit guy may not even let you buy.

I ran the same search Roy did. I looked for insurance in Irvine, Calif. — my home town. The average monthly premiums of the five cheapest plans is $114. So I took the middle plan, HealthNet’s IFP PPO Value 4500. It’s got a $4,500 deductible, a $2,500 deductible for brand-name medications, huge co-pays and a little “bestseller” icon next to it. And it’s only $109 a month — if they’ll sell it to you for that price.

That’s the catch, and it’s a big one. Click to buy the plan and eventually you’ll have to answer pages and pages of questions about your health history. Ever had cancer? How about an ulcer? How about a headache? Do you feel sad when it rains? When it doesn’t rain? Is there a history of cardiovascular disease in your family? Have you ever known anyone who had the flu? The actual cost of the plan will depend on how you answer those questions.

According to, 14 percent of people who try to buy that plan are turned away outright. Another 12 percent are told they’ll have to pay more than $109. So a quarter of the people who try to buy this insurance product for $109 a month are told they can’t. Those are the people who need insurance most — they are sick, or were sick, or are likely to get sick. So, again, is $109 really the price of this plan?

Comparing the pre-underwriting price of this plan to those in Obamacare’s exchanges is ridiculous. The plans in Obamacare’s exchanges have to include those people. They can’t turn anyone away or jack up rates because of a history of arthritis or heart disease.

They also have to offer insurance that meets a certain minimum standard. Under Obamacare, for instance, the out-of-pocket limit for someone making 100 to 200 percent of the poverty line is $1,983. Under the Value 4500, you could spend up to $9,500 before the out-of-pocket limit kicked in. Obamacare also has subsidies for people making up to four times the poverty line. The poor pay next to nothing. The rich pay full freight.

“We as a society have never really said here’s what reasonable insurance is,” says Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It’s just been anything goes. For the first time they’re setting a minimum about what reasonable insurance should be.” They’re also setting a minimum about who should be able to get it, and at what cost. Now it really will work like Best Buy, where the price on the tag is the price everyone actually pays.

Some people will find the new rules make insurance more expensive. That’s in part because their health insurance was made cheap by turning away sick people. The new rules also won’t allow for as much discrimination based on age or gender. The flip side of that, of course, is that many will suddenly find their health insurance is much cheaper, or they will find that, for the first time, they’re not turned away when they try to buy health insurance.

That’s why the law is expected to insure almost 25 million people in the first decade: It makes health insurance affordable and accessible to millions who couldn’t get it before. To judge it from a baseline that leaves them out — a baseline that asks only what the wealthy and healthy will pay and ignores the benefits to the poor, the sick, the old, and women — well, that is a bit shocking.


By: Ezra Klein,  Wonkblog, The Washington Post, June 1, 2013

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Without Spending A Dime”: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Silence And Undermining Democracy

Between buying elections, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch shop for big pieces of American media and culture. And, hey, why not?

We already knew of the Kochs’ efforts to buy Tribune Company, the parent of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other major newspapers. Then, last week, The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer took a thoughtful, in-depth look at the machinations that led New York’s PBS station, WNET, to pull from the air a documentary critical of David Koch, one of the station’s biggest funders. The story raises plenty of questions about the extent to which the public owns public media and the role of money in the arts and culture (see anything at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater lately?). But it also provides a rare intimate look at what happens when big money begets massive influence, often without a dime changing hands.

Mayer describes the fate of two documentary films. One took on income disparities in America by profiling the inhabitants of one tony Park Avenue building — including David Koch. Under pressure, WNET aired the film but, in a highly unusual concession, offered Koch airtime to rebut it after it aired. The second film, “Citizen Koch,” made by the very talented, Academy Award nominated team of Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, explored the influence that Koch and others like him have on our elections in the post-Citizens United world. But in the face of Koch’s wrath, the film’s distributor, a public television player with a history of gutsy moves, uncharacteristically lost its stomach for the fight and dumped the film entirely. Regardless, Koch decided to not give a hoped-for gift after the first film aired. Without lifting a finger or even taking out his checkbook, Koch cast a pall over the documentary film world.

The process that led to “Citizen Koch” being pulled from the airwaves illustrates exactly the point that Lessin and Deal’s film makes: Money can not only buy action in our democracy, it can also buy silence. As former Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer points out in the film, “Sometimes it’s a check. Sometimes it’s the threat of a check. It’s like having a weapon. You can shoot the gun or just show it. It works both ways.”

Koch and his brother Charles, both billionaire industrialists, pledged to spend a whopping $400 million on the 2012 elections, the overwhelming majority of it on behalf of Republican candidates. But that doesn’t just mean that Republicans are jumping to please the brothers — it means that many of those in positions of influence, regardless of their political leanings, need to take into account whether or not it’s worth the trouble of unnecessarily antagonizing the Kochs. Just as the public is unlikely to hear about the film PBS didn’t run, it’s almost impossible to know about the principled progressive stands that our allies in government decided not to take.

Koch’s billions are a formidable political weapon, even without owning any influential newspapers. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, it’s a more powerful weapon than ever, and we know it’s having an impact even when they don’t choose to deploy them. The result is a distorted government that responds to the whims of billionaires more easily than the needs of ordinary Americans.

As activists work to undo the damage being done by Citizens United, one of our main challenges is reminding voters of the dangerous, invisible effects that decision has on the country. It’s a remarkable irony that by trying to hide a film about the danger of money in politics, the Kochs may have made it clearer than ever before.

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, May 31, 2013

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Koch Brothers | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Autopsies In The Future”: The GOP Makeover Is The Same As It Ever Was

In March, the Republican National Committee released its so-called autopsy of the 2012 elections. It focused mainly on the growing Hispanic vote — of which Mitt Romney garnered only 27 percent.

To avoid being seen as the party of “stuffy old men,” the report said, the GOP would have to change its messaging, become more inclusive, and embrace issues like immigration reform. Otherwise, the “Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

How is the rebranding effort working so far?

Not great. Earlier this month, Pablo Pantoja, the GOP’s Hispanic outreach director in Florida, switched to the Democratic Party, citing a “culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party.” He said he was partly inspired by the revelation that Jason Richwine, who co-authored a widely publicized anti-immigration report for the Heritage Foundation, once wrote a controversial dissertation arguing against admitting Hispanic immigrants with low IQs.

Incidents like that certainly aren’t helping the GOP’s image. Worse, fringe GOP candidates are making a splash in prominent statewide races, writes Josh Kraushaar at National Journal. He points to two states, Virginia and Colorado, where Republicans are losing ground despite the fact that Democrats there are vulnerable.

In Colorado, where Hispanic people made up 42 percent of all population growth between 2000 and 2010, Republican Tom Tancredo, who has taken a hard line against immigration reform, has emerged as a legitimate contender in the 2014 governor’s race. If Tancredo has read the RNC’s report, his March op-ed in the Christian Post — in which he chastised Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for speaking Spanish, and supported Romney’s disastrous “self-deportation” strategy — certainly doesn’t show it.

Virginia is even more worrisome for the GOP. The party’s nominee for the gubernatorial race in 2013, Ken Cuccinelli, is a hardcore conservative who has not only pushed for English-only workplaces, but has defended laws that criminalize sodomy, alienating younger voters who overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party. Polls show him trailing his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, despite the fact that McAuliffe has been called a “soulless hack” by members of his own party and worse.

Meanwhile, the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson, is even more conservative, dragging the Republican ticket down further. (Among other controversial statements and positions, Jackson has claimed that Planned Parenthood has killed more blacks than the KKK.) As Dave Weigel at Slate put it, “Democrats win in Virginia, in off-years, when they convince suburbanites that the GOP has lost its mind.”

Furthermore, the GOP is struggling to come up with mainstream candidates who can compete in Senate races in Colorado and Virginia in 2014. The irony is that the GOP should be in a position of strength in those races, writes Kraushaar:

What’s remarkable is that these swing-state setbacks are taking place in what’s shaping up to be a promising political environment for Republicans. The off-year electorate, on paper, should be more conservative than in 2012, with younger voters and minorities less likely to show up for a midterm election. The scent of scandal threatens to weigh down Democrats over the next year. The implementation of Obama’s health care law, polling as poorly as ever, will be taking place right as the midterms begin in earnest. This is the stuff that should be catnip for prospective GOP recruits.

But instead we’re hearing crickets in these two Senate races, not to mention a handful of other battleground contests (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire) where Republicans should be faring better. [National Journal]

Exacerbating the problem is that most elected Republican officials have no incentive to go after the Hispanic or youth vote. The average Republican district is 75 percent white and GOP congressmen overall represent 6.6 million fewer minorities in 2012 than they did in 2010, according to USA Today.

While the massive redistricting that produced those numbers might help Republicans keep their House seats, they certainly won’t help the party expand on a national level — which is where the ultimate prize, the presidency, will be determined.

Then there are the stream of controversial comments from the party’s right wing — like this from conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, and this from pundit Ann Coulter. Put together, the party’s perceived hostility toward non-white groups could offset any goodwill built by the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has championed immigration reform in the Senate. The success of that legislation is seen by many GOP analysts as crucial to the party’s electoral prospects.

It’s worth keeping in mind that there’s a lot of room for growth in the Hispanic vote in the next couple of elections. Esther J. Cepeda at The Washington Post crunched the Census numbers and found that only 48 percent of eligible Hispanic voters went to the polls in 2012, compared to 64.1 percent of white voters and 66.2 percent of black voters.

If Democrats can rally those voters, especially in swing states, Republicans will be releasing more autopsy reports in the future.

By: Keith Wagstaff, The Week, May 30, 2013

June 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dumb, Pathetic And Predictable”: Karl Rove’s Limitless Capacity For Self-Pity

Nearly three years ago, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noticed a problem with Karl Rove’s attack operation, American Crossroads. The group sought and received tax-exempt status from the IRS, but it was clearly a partisan political operation, not a “social welfare” group, raising vast sums from anonymous donors. The senator urged the tax agency to investigate whether Crossroads deserved the generous tax benefit.

Rove, who in 2005 accused Durbin of trying to kill American troops by criticizing George W. Bush, apparently holds a grudge.

Rove unloaded with both barrels on the Illinois Democrat, blasting him in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News and in a column in The Wall Street Journal. Rove is charging that Durbin’s sending a letter in 2010 to Internal Revenue Service officials, asking them to investigate American Crossroads, was nothing less than a bid to “silence conservatives.”

“What was going on is obvious: Mr. Durbin wanted the IRS to silence conservatives,” Rove wrote. … “[I]n the glare of public attention, using the IRS to cripple or destroy opponents looks corrupt. Abuse of power always is.”

There’s a near-constant strain of self-pity and victimization that underscores Rove’s approach to politics, which makes this new argument rather predictable. Nevertheless, on the merits, the argument is also quite dumb.

I can appreciate why the IRS controversy offers Republican media personalities an attractive excuse for self-indulgence, settling old scores against perceived enemies, but neither Durbin nor any other Democratic officials tried to “silence” anyone. The entire line of attack is nonsense.

In 2010, Durbin saw Rove’s group flouting a loophole in the tax law, taking advantage of a tax benefit it almost certainly was not entitled to. Durbin didn’t say American Crossroads shouldn’t exist, and certainly didn’t argue that the attack operation lacks the right of free speech, but simply said the group did not deserve to be tax-exempt and asked the IRS to take a closer look. (It’s unclear if the IRS acted on the request.)

If Rove wants to argue that his political group deserves to be tax-exempt, fine, let’s have the debate. But that’s not an argument the Republican pundit wants to have. Instead, it’s better for fundraising and base-mobilization for Rove to use his media platform to complain, “Dick Durbin was mean to me three years ago.”

It’s misleading; it’s based on a faulty premise; and it’s kind of pathetic.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2013

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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