"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Don’t Poison A Law, Then Claim It’s Sick”: Republicans Doing Everything They Can To Make The Affordable Care Act Fail

One does not usually expect blistering, progressive-minded editorials from USA Today, but this morning’s piece on the Affordable Care Act is a gem. The headline reads, “GOP poisons ObamaCare, then claims it’s sick.”

Regular readers know we’ve been talking quite a bit about Republican efforts to sabotage the federal health care system in the hopes of partisan and ideological gain, and it’s good to see the USA Today editorial board notice. “Having lost in Congress and in court, they’re now using the most cynical of tactics: trying to make the law fail,” the paper explains. “Never mind the public inconvenience and human misery that will result…. There is a distinct line between fighting to turn your ideas into law and trying to wreck a law once it has been passed.”

First, Republicans limited the use of government money to spread the word. Then, when the administration reached out to the NFL and other major sports leagues for help in publicizing the new health care exchanges, the opponents resorted to intimidation.

Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, fired off a letter to the NFL, saying that the league had better not get involved with such a controversial program, as if the league would be taking sides on a debate in Congress, not doing public service announcements for a law soon to affect millions.

In a particularly smarmy warning, McConnell and Cornyn told the NFL to let them know whether the Obama administration retaliated against the league for not cooperating — the clear implication being that if the league did help inform the public about ObamaCare, Senate Republicans had their own methods of retribution. It is an appalling abuse of power, and the NFL meekly yielded.

It’s against this backdrop that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) falsely argued in his party’s weekly radio address that the law would disrupt people’s cancer care, and GOP governors nationwide block Medicaid expansion for no substantive reason.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but it appears today’s Republican Party knows no other way.

Of course, this isn’t the only thing going on with Obamacare this week.

This story, for example, struck me as almost amusing.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is requesting a new cost estimate for ObamaCare in light of a decision to delay the law’s employer mandate.

Ryan’s staff asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to reevaluate the law’s budget impact after the White House said Tuesday that larger employers will not be required to offer health insurance until 2015.

It’s true that the delay on the employer mandate will likely shrink the deficit reduction of the law by about $4 billion in that first year. In other words, instead of nearly $200 billion in deficit reduction over the first decade of the Affordable Care Act, we’re looking at a figure closer to $196 billion in deficit reduction.

But here’s my follow-up question for Paul Ryan: why do you care? What difference does it make to House Republicans if it’s $200 billion or $196 billion? Does the GOP really intend to run ads saying, “Obamacare is one of the biggest deficit-reduction packages in a generation, but it’s savings are slightly smaller than the CBO estimated last year”?

As for the increasingly common argument among conservatives that the delay in the employer mandate spells implementation trouble for the reform law, Ezra Klein had a good piece explaining that the opposite is true.

Peter Orszag, who helped design Obamacare from his perch as head of the Office of Management and Budget, disagreed with Rubin. “Delaying the employer mandate makes successful implementation more likely, not less likely,” he told me.

Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, agreed. “There’s nothing about the delay in the employer requirement that suggests Obamacare can’t still be implemented,” he said. “If anything the delay removes some potential administrative complexities from the plates of the implementers, and avoids the problem of some employers reducing the hours of part-time workers to get around the requirement.”

Timothy Jost, a health law expert at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, was even blunter. “Implementation just got easier rather than harder,” he said…. The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year.

It seems like a relevant detail that’s been lost amid the chatter of late.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 10, 2013

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Someone Has To Do It”: Congressional Gridlock Leaves Lawmaking To The Supreme Court

One is the loneliest number and only one in 10 Americans trusts the United States Congress. And who can blame people?

The most visible congressional failure was the Senate vote that killed background checks on people who want to buy guns. It was a perfectly reasonable proposal. No one’s guns would have been taken away and national polls showed that nine in 10 Americans supported the proposal.

But that didn’t matter because the Senate was more responsive to pressure from the National Rifle Association than it was to public opinion. Gridley, damm public opinion, full speed backward!

The same tragedy is about to unfold with immigration reform. The Senate passed a compromise immigration proposal under which undocumented immigrants would have to get over a series of hurdles higher than the border fence to become citizens. To get the measure passed, Democrats agreed to GOP demands to hire 20,000 more border control agents. That’s enough of a force to conquer Mexico and more than enough to guard the border we share with our neighbor to the south.

Despite these concessions, House Republicans are doing everything they can to stop reform, and they will probably succeed even though national polls show strong support for citizenship for undocumented people if they meet a long list of requirements.

I could go on and on and on. What happens to a democracy when democratic institutions aren’t democratic anymore? Nothing good.

What if they gave an election and no one came. Well, we almost found out in two recent elections. Turnout was abysmal in the race for mayor in Los Angles and in the special Senate election in Massachusetts to select a replacement for John Kerry. Voters don’t see the point in going out to vote to elect people who can’t or won’t do anything to tackle the challenges facing the nation.

Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the Supreme Court.

When democratic institutions fail, undemocratic institutions step in. When the legislature stops legislating, the unelected Supreme Court rushes in to fill the vacuum. Someone has to make laws, and if Congress doesn’t legislate the federal court system will step in to fix problems. Like it or not, unelected or not, the Supreme Court has filled the vacuum that Congress created.

Historically, the Supreme Court has always been reluctant to void laws passed by the peoples’ elected representatives. But the court did just that on successive days last month. On day one, the high court nullified part of the Voting Rights Act. The next day, the court consigned the Defense of Marriage Act to the dustbin of history where it belonged.

The high court’s message to Congress was do something, just don’t stand there. Standard operating procedure in Congress these days is don’t do anything, just stand there. The world does not come to a grinding halt to accommodate Congress when it can’t get its act together.

When he ran for president in 1996, Ross Perot proposed the idea of having national referendums to make decisions on issues. Americans like the idea. A recent Gallup survey showed that two in three Americans supported it. Somebody has to make decisions. It’s a dirty job,  but someone has to do it.


By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, July 11, 2013

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Lawmakers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking Food Out Of The Mouths Of Babes”: Food Stamps Work, So Why Are We Cutting Them?

Can I tell you a real success story? One we should all be proud of? Great, here goes: The program formerly known as food stamps has kept hunger from exploding along with the number of Americans living in poverty.

“That food insecurity hasn’t increased” since the financial meltdown in 2008, said David Beckmann, president of the Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World, “is a tremendous testament to the power of SNAP,” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that replaced food stamps.

That does not mean that every child in this rich country of ours has enough to eat. On the contrary, Eli Saslow’s recent Post piece on a summer bread bus that takes lunch to kids in rural Tennessee was like something straight out of Angela’s Ashes. The 7-year-old who saves the juice from his fruit cup to feed to his baby sister reminded me of Frank McCourt and his classmates drooling for the apple peels their teacher tossed into the garbage in Limerick in the 1930s.

But government spending has kept the bottom from falling out: “What I see every day is how much food stamp programs mean to people on the edge,” said Monsignor John Enzler, president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington. “I tried to live on what food stamps give you for a week last year and I couldn’t do it, but it does make enough of a difference to allow people to stay in their apartments, and pay medical expenses and take care of their children.”

In a still sluggish economy — and compared to the alternative — isn’t that an outcome we should count as a win? You’d think so. Yet on Thursday, the Republican-controlled House passed a farm bill without the nutrition programs normally funded through that legislation.

Why? Well, as Republicans themselves explained on the House floor, it’s because so many on their side of the aisle felt that the $20.5 billion in cuts to food programs in the version of the farm bill that failed last month just weren’t deep enough. “Oh my goodness,” Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said some colleagues asked him, “why couldn’t you do more?”

Oh my goodness, why should poor kids get to eat free?

Funding such programs through the farm bill “doesn’t serve the needs” of the poor, insisted Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), a fourth-generation farmer who called the bill that passed “the next logical step on the path to real reform.”

If you’re serious about cutting government, Lucas urged members, then vote for the bill. Some conservative groups, meanwhile, opposed it for not going far enough in that regard. (Remember when George W. Bush said he wouldn’t balance his budget on the backs of the poor? His party doesn’t seem to.)

Responding to poverty by paring back nutrition programs is like answering a rise in diabetes by slashing insulin production. And as Pete Gallego (D-Tex.) argued, almost all of the recipients are either children or elderly.

What’s to become of these nutrition programs now is unclear. But even the Democratic-controlled Senate wants to cut them, by $4 billion, and the White House has said it can live with that number. So the argument our leaders are having really boils down to whether we’re going to cut or gut programs that keep at-risk kids from going without.

Some opponents of the bill practically burst into flames on the House floor, where some of the loudest voices were female: “Mitt Romney was right,” thundered Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) “You all do not care about the 47 percent! Shame on you!”

“Vote no! Vote no! It’s ridiculous what you’re doing to our children!” said Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wasn’t shouting, but was shaming: To pass the bill, she said, was “to dishonor the God who made us.”

“To take food out of the mouths of babies? What are you thinking?” she asked. “Or are you thinking?”

Female anger is a hot topic right now; I just finished Claire Messud’s not-nice novel “The Woman Upstairs,” about an elementary school teacher who life has turned into a human cauldron and “a ravenous wolf.” Even the Blessed Virgin is fuming in Colm Toibin’s “The Testament of Mary.” And if Democratic women on the House floor on Thursday were no slouches in tearing the roof off, well, sometimes fury is the only rational response.


By: Melinda Henneberger, She The People, The Washington Post, July 11, 2013

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Poverty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beyond The Courtroom”: Until The Lions Have Their Historians, Tales Of The Hunt Shall Always Glorify The Hunter

Whatever happens in the George Zimmerman trial, it has produced a valuable and profound dialogue in America about some important issues surrounding race and justice, fear and aggression, and legal guilt and moral culpability.

That conversation is about people’s right to feel suspicion and fear and whether those feelings need be justified to be real. It is about the degree to which suspicions and fears are culturally constructed, or at least culturally influenced, are innate or are born of personal experience.

More specifically, it is about how race, age and gender might influence our threat responses, and whether that is acceptable. For instance, as a thought experiment, reverse the race and ethnicities of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman and see if that has any effect on your view of the night’s events. Now, go one step further and imagine that the teenager who was shot through the heart was not male but female and ask yourself again: does it have any effect on how you view the facts of this case?

Are we acculturated to grant some citizens the right to feel fear while systematically denying that right to others?

That conversation is about the particulars and vagaries of laws. It is about a law that allows an “aggressor” to legally use deadly force against a defender if the two become engaged in an altercation where the aggressor begins to “believe” he or she is in imminent danger of being seriously hurt or killed. Do we want our laws to be written in such a way? Should the “aggressor” pay no legal penalty for setting deadly events in motion? Should the idea of self-defense bounce back and forth between two people like a Ping-Pong ball?

The conversation is also about the legal realization that when you are killed, not only do you die but so does your version of the events that led to your death. It must be reconstructed — to the degree that it is possible — through the eyes of witnesses and the rigors of science, but when your body falls still, your voice falls silent.

Cases like this are about proving or disproving the story of the killer, the only story that survives. Were his actions justified or not?

This creates an automatic imbalance in which the survivor has the advantage. There is an African proverb that goes something like this: Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.

So, by extension, the conversation is about whether each of us has a moral responsibility — laws notwithstanding — to do all we can to prevent a tragedy like the one that occurred in Sanford. Regardless of who initiated the physical altercation between Martin and Zimmerman, the two never had to come into close contact. If Zimmerman had stayed in his vehicle and not pursued the teenager, Martin would have made it home for the second half of the N.B.A. All-Star Game he had been watching and today he would be one year older.

Technically, only Zimmerman is on trial, but in the broader debate, particularly among people who think Zimmerman innocent, is Martin also on trial? And if so, does that mean that all teens who look and behave similarly to Martin are also on trial? What precedent, if any, would a not-guilty verdict set?

Even if you believe that the teenager at some point during the night’s events did something wrong — the defense contends that he “sucker punched” Zimmerman, banged his head on cement and pummeled his face — that teenager is now paying the ultimate price for those alleged mistakes. Does that mean that the person who shot him is guiltless and deserving of no legal punishment?

Should “not guilty” as charged (if that were to be the verdict) be read the same as “without guilt” in general? Is there some moral space in which Martin can, as the defense contends, be solely responsible for his own death?

The conversation is about people’s emotional investment in a version of events and a particular verdict, and why that investment has racial and ideological leanings. It’s about the likelihood of one verdict over another. The bar for finding of guilt is particularly high here. The defense doesn’t need the jury to see its client as completely innocent, just not completely guilty.

And the conversation is about how to respond responsibly to a verdict that many court watchers believe is likely to be less than second-degree murder, if in fact guilt is found at all.

There is quite a bit of talk — by local authorities, irresponsible individuals and institutions — about the possibility of rioting in the case of a not-guilty verdict. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has produced a public service announcement urging any potential protesters to “raise your voice and not your hand.” Rush Limbaugh said last week that the media were “agitating for race riots” in the case. Sean Hannity had Mark Fuhrman, of O.J. Simpson trial infamy, on his Fox News show to discuss the possibility of riots. And The Washington Times conducted a poll recently asking, “Will there be riots in Florida if George Zimmerman receives a not-guilty verdict by a jury of his peers?” As of the publication of this column, three-quarters of respondents said “yes.”

Surely, there has been riot talk on social media, and local law enforcement should plan for all possibilities, but media speculation and predictions about it can start to sound like desire rather than defusion.

I can’t think of a more fruitless and self-destructive exercise than rioting. Protests have power, but rioting drains that power away. Justice is sometimes a journey. It doesn’t always lead to where you think it should.

The case may produce a verdict some people don’t agree with. But it has also produced a conversation that has weight and merit. All energy — even anger — should be funneled into extending that conversation and focusing on the factors that necessitated the case in the first place.

Violence took Martin’s life. We shouldn’t let violence also mar his memory in death.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 10, 2013

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anomalous Levels Of Support”: Bleaching The GOP Vote In A Tanning Electorate Doesn’t Look Much Like A Winner

I’m not sure what represents a greater threat to Sean Trende’s “missing white voter” hypothesis for the GOP’s electoral problems: the misappropriation of his work by conservative stand-patters and double-downers who conveniently ignore Trende’s warnings about what it might take to appeal to these “missing” voters, or the chip-chip-chipping away at his data and conclusions by progressive analysts.

I noted earlier this week that TNR’s Nate Cohn had challenged Trende’s conclusions based on both regional and generational disparities in the GOP’s share of the white vote (i.e., getting a higher percentage of old white southerners does not cut much electoral ice over time). Now come the formidable Alan Abramowitz and Ruy Teixeira with an analysis at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball that questions Trende’s calculations:

Trende’s claim that Republicans have increased their performance among white voters is based on his calculation of a statistic known as the PVI, or Partisan Voting Index, for white voters. Essentially, this statistic is used to compare the political preferences of a given group to the electorate as a whole. The PVI for white voters compares the Democratic share of the white vote with the Democratic share of the vote in the overall electorate…..

Over time…the PVI for white voters has become increasingly negative, with an especially dramatic decline since 1992. There is no question that in comparison with the overall electorate, white voters have become more Republican over time. But the interpretation of this result is not as straightforward as Trende suggests. That is because the PVI for white voters reflects both the Democratic margin among white voters and the size of the nonwhite electorate.

In fact, the main reason that the gap between the Democratic margin in the overall electorate and the Democratic margin among white voters has increased over time is not because whites have become more Republican but because nonwhites, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, now make up a larger share of the overall electorate. As just one example, the PVI of the white vote in 2012 (-24) was far more negative than it was in 1988 (-13). Yet Democratic margins among both whites and nonwhites were essentially the same in each election. The real change: Nonwhites were just 15% of voters in 1988 compared to 28% in 2012. In other words, the rapid growth of the very Democratic nonwhite share of the electorate makes it seem like white voters are becoming more Republican than they actually are.

So the growing size of a heavily Democratic nonwhite vote has increased the racial polarization of voting above and beyond any actual Republican trend among white voters.

More generally, it’s another way of saying that a GOP strategy based on winning ever-more-historically-anomalous levels of support in a shrinking portion of the electorate doesn’t look much like a winner.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 11, 2013

July 12, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: