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“Making The Tea Party Feel Better”: Republicans Finally Admit What The Shutdown Is About

The conservative media began to report strange rumblings from Republicans on Wednesday, the second day of the government shutdown. Suddenly, Tea Partiers were saying that the government shutdown wasn’t about Obamacare, though they refuse to vote for a continuing resolution passed by the Senate because all their amendments related to the Affordable Care Act have been stripped out.

What is the shutdown about, then? What do Republicans want?

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) told The Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

I repeat: “And I don’t know what that even is.”

It’s reminiscent of a classic scene from The Godfather II, when Fredo Corleone explained to his brother Michael why he was angry at being passed over by his father:

Stutzman is a member of the so-called Suicide Caucus, 80 members of the House who signed a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) urging him to pursue a strategy of defunding Obamacare in exchange for funding the government. But given that this strategy could never work and the government is now shut down, Tea Partiers want “something,” but they “don’t know what that even is.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday night, “This is about the happiest I’ve seen members in a long time because we’ve seen we’re starting to win this dialogue on a national level.”

Despite a new poll showing that show more voters blame Republicans and nearly three-quarters didn’t want a shutdown, Bachmann is still sure Republicans are finally winning.

Now they just need to figure out what they’re winning.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, October 3, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Plan Beats No Plan”: In This Clash, Democrats Deserve The Victory

“Plan beats no plan.”

That was Tim Geithner’s political axiom in internal White House debates as the president’s team worked to mend the financial meltdown. Today his slogan does duty nicely as a preview of the public’s judgment on the shocking Republican choice to shut down the government over Obamacare.

Communications strategy in politics generally involves people in power crafting messages for less knowledgeable people (the press) to transmit to even less knowledgeable people (voters). (If you doubt this, have a look at the brilliant man-on-the-street segment Jimmy Kimmel did asking people whether they prefer “Obamacare” or “The Affordable Care Act.”). The idea in these messaging wars is to convey “values” that resonate with the public and trump your opponent’s.

Consider the current showdown in this context. President Obama championed a plan through which government will spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help millions of low- and middle-income Americans buy decent private health coverage. As can never be said often enough, Obama’s plan also happens to have been based on a sensible Republican design that Mitt Romney enacted successfully in Massachusetts.

Republicans have no plan — literally, nothing serious whatsoever — to help more than a handful of the roughly 50 million uninsured Americans get such coverage. Yes, the GOP offers little talking points around the edges so that its team has something to say. But all of its “ideas” — from group purchasing for small business to buying coverage across state lines — are pseudo-plans. Nothing the Republican leadership has offered reaches more than 3 million people.

Once you understand this, you understand how deeply disingenuous Republican messaging has been. House Speaker John Boehner delivered a sound bite Monday night: “ We think there ought to be basic fairness for all Americans under Obamacare .” That’s why the GOP wouldn’t budge.

Is Boehner kidding? Is that all they have? By “fairness” Boehner means the law’s individual mandate should be delayed for a year, just like the employer mandate has been put off. To save people from “the harms” of Obamacare, in Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) irritating collegiate debate lingo. Democrats are on the side of big business, you see, while the GOP is fighting for the little guy.

Now, to say that this message is an insult to our intelligence isn’t the end of the discussion, because no one ever lost a political fight by insulting the American public’s intelligence.

But that Republicans are staking the shutdown on this thin gruel is revealing. They’re not saying, “we have a better plan to help Americans achieve health security.” They can’t say that, because the president already enacted the Republican plan. Instead, they’re ginning up a phony “fairness” issue and trying to make it sound real.

But the employer mandate is a sideshow in Obamacare. It’s there for one reason: to keep employer money in the game to reduce the cost on public budgets of extending health-care coverage. Ending the employer role in health-care coverage and shifting these costs to public ledgers would be economically rational — better both for citizens and for businesses. Politically, however, the White House judged this to be untenable.

So let’s stipulate that over time the employer mandate should be scrapped. The individual mandate, by contrast — the “unfairness” the GOP now bemoans — is essential. As conservatives taught us via Romneycare, you can’t move toward universal coverage with private health-insurance plans without requiring everyone to be in the insurance pool (and also without subsidizing folks who need help buying coverage). Without a mandate and subsidies, younger, poorer and healthier folks opt out, making rates spiral. This is Insurance 101.

Trying to equate these mandates as a “fairness” issue is to assume the press and the public are idiots. Crafting a message that works only if people are idiots is a grim way to do politics — and deeply cynical. Republicans hardly have a monopoly on cynical political tactics, but to use cynicism in the service of denying basic health security to millions is morally unattractive, to put it mildly. Not something you want to tell the kids about.

“What did you do today, Daddy?” asks the son of one of these House Republicans in my imagination.

‘Hey, Junior, I twisted truth and logic to make sure millions of poor American workers can still go broke if someone in their family gets seriously ill. . . . Junior, why are you looking at me like that?”

John Boehner may look tanned and rested, but the suave speaker has a Dorian Gray problem. Somewhere in the attic, his likeness in a painting is rotting.

There’s a wonderful poster from World War II in which Churchill exhorts British citizens to “Deserve Victory.”

In this clash, Democrats do.


By: Matt Miller, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 2, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Insane Defense Of GOP Radical Tactics”: We Have To Do This Because Of The Tea Party

When the it comes to the government shutdown, Democrats are all on the same page — they’ve grudgingly accepted extremely low spending levels; they’re not making any new or extraneous demands; and they see no need to take Americans’ health care benefits away to satisfy a bizarre far-right crusade.

Are Republicans equally unified? Not so much. A fair number of House Republicans see this tantrum as pointless and are ready to end this fiasco; quite a few Senate Republicans have no idea what party leaders are thinking; and no one in the party has any sense at this point of what GOP officials are supposed to do next.

And then there are Republican donors, some of whom are wondering why they should write checks to reward these policymakers. David Freedlander reported yesterday on a recent fundraising event in New York, where Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, fielded questions from wealthy supporters.

Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party — their party — seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

Remember, this wasn’t a Democrat condemning the Republican Party for having been hijacked by extremists; this was a Republican leader offering a defense for his party’s radical tactics.

GOP lawmakers could be responsible, keep the government open, and tell Tea Partiers to grow up, but Republican members of Congress are too afraid of primaries to do the right thing. So, they allow themselves to be pushed around.

The problem, of course, is there’s a tipping point at which less-unhinged Republican voters decide they’ve seen enough and walk away. Indeed, in this case, Walden’s explanation hasn’t won over skeptical donors at all.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based businessman who was a major donor to both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, told the Daily Beast, “I am not writing a check to anyone. That is not working for the American people.” Munr Kazmir, a New Jersey-based businessman and major donor to George W. Bush, added, “I have raised a lot of money, but I am not raising any more for House candidates. I am angry. I am embarrassed to be a Republican sometimes, I tell you.”

For what it’s worth, there’s occasional talk of a moderate GOP rebellion.

As the shutdown stretches on, a bloc of moderate House Republicans could be the key to reopening government.

On Wednesday, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, held meetings with groups of “pragmatist” lawmakers — as Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., described them — who want to pass a policy-rider-free continuing resolution and end the government shutdown as soon as possible. […]

It isn’t fast enough for Rep. Peter T. King of New York, who was one of the most vocal House Republicans criticizing the party’s strategy as the government headed to a shutdown.King wasn’t invited to any of Boehner’s moderate meetings Wednesday, so he held his own. King said he met in his office with roughly 10 members who support a clean CR, and they discussed “what the strategy would be.”

It sounds nice, I suppose, but we appear to be talking about less than 5% of the House Republican caucus, and so far, they’ve demonstrated a complete inability to influence the debate in any way.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 4, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Way Off Base”: Busting Zombie Obamacare Myths

The Republican effort to defund or delay health care reform at any cost has kept alive many misconceptions and false claims about the Affordable Care Act. This roundup of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ work on issues related to health reform and the federal government shutdown provides a large dose of reality.

A delay in the individual mandate is neither harmless nor fair: Let’s start with the big one: that a one-year delay in the individual mandate requiring everyone to acquire health insurance as long as it is affordable is harmless and fair because the Obama administration delayed for a year the requirement that large employers provide health insurance or pay a penalty. I discussed some flaws in that argument in an earlier post on this blog.

In CBPP’s shutdown roundup, Edwin Park reiterates why a delay in the individual mandate is neither harmless nor fair. It’s not harmless because it would cause 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014 and result in higher premiums in the individual market for many others, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It also would disrupt the new health insurance exchanges and likely delay the availability of coverage through the exchanges.

It’s also not fair to equate delay of the individual mandate to a delay in the employer requirement. Park highlights an Urban Institute analysis which showed that the employer delay would have only a small effect on the coverage gains expected under the ACA and which concluded that it would “be dangerously wrong” to assume a similarly small effect from a delay of the individual mandate. Similarly, CBO estimates that delaying the employer requirement would increase the number of uninsured by less than 500,000 – a far cry from the estimated 11 million increase from delaying the individual mandate.

The ACA will not likely cause a significant shift to part-time work: The employer responsibility provision whose implementation was delayed until 2015 requires larger employers (those with at least 50 full-time-equivalent workers) to offer health coverage to their full-time employees (those working 30 or more hours a week) or pay a penalty. Critics claim that we could already see a shift to part-time work in the data before the announced delay. Some have argued that the cutoff for defining full-time work should go from 30 hours a week to 40.

In CBPP’s shutdown roundup, Paul Van de Water shows that data this year provides scant evidence of a significant shift toward part-time work and that there’s every reason to believe that the ultimate effect will be small as a share of total employment. Van de Water shows, however, that raising the threshold from 30 to 40 hours a week would expose a significant number of workers to a reduction in hours.

Medical device manufacturers are unlikely to lose from the ACA despite a tax: A strong lobbying effort is underway to repeal the ACA’s 2.3 percent tax on certain medical devices such as coronary stents, artificial knees and hips, cardiac pacemakers, irradiation equipment and imaging technology. In the CBPP roundup, Paul Van de Water explains why that tax, which helps pay for extending health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, is sound and the arguments against it are not.

First, the tax does not apply to wheelchairs, eyeglasses and other devices that the public generally buys at retail and for individual use. Second, the tax is levied on equipment that manufacturers will likely see a boost in revenue from due to the increase in health coverage afforded by the ACA. As Van de Water points out, a study by Wells Fargo Securities finds that health reform will increase device sales by 1.5 percent in 2014 and by 3.6 percent cumulatively through 2022 – enough to offset the tax.

Finally, this is a highly profitable industry, and the stock prices of the top device manufacturers have generally outperformed market averages since the tax was introduced this year.

The ACA is a major piece of legislation with many interrelated moving parts, and there will be some glitches along the way as it’s implemented. But the criticisms we’re hearing in the current budget fight are way off base.


By: Chad Stone, U. S. News and World Report, October 4, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Individual Mandate | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gibberish Makes For Poor Rhetoric”: Republicans Struggle To Understand Their Own Shutdown Plan

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) isn’t the most prominent member of the House Republican caucus, but in recent weeks, he’s played a pretty important role in shutting down the government. It was Meadows who initiated a formal letter, endorsed by around 80 of his House GOP colleagues, vowing to oppose any spending measure that failed to gut the Affordable Care Act.

To this extent, Meadows helped identify that most radical contingent of his caucus, and positioned himself as one of its ringleaders.

With this in mind, as Brian Beutler reported yesterday, “it was a big surprise” when Meadows told reporters this week that the government shutdown has nothing to do with Obamacare. “This fight now has become about veterans and about national guard folks that perhaps — reservists that are not getting paid,” the North Carolina Republican said. “That’s where the fight is today.”

In theory, this is excellent news. Republicans have spent the last several weeks making one demand: take away health care benefits from millions of Americans or the government’s lights go out. If one of the far-right congressional ringleaders of this fiasco is arguing, on the record and out loud, that the fight is no longer about health care then the shutdown can end immediately.

This point was not lost on NPR’s Tamara Keith, who asked Meadows why the House doesn’t just vote on “a full CR if you don’t care about Obamacare anymore.” If you listen to the audio, there’s an awkward silence that lasts about five seconds. Eventually, the congressman says, “Why not vote on, on a full CR?”

Keith replies, “Yeah, sure. Because if you’re, if Obamacare isn’t the issue to you anymore…” At this point, Meadows tried this explanation:

“Because it, twofold.One is, is, that when you when you start to look, they say ‘clean CR?’ That it, it translates into into to truly a blank check, and, and so Obamacare is an issue for me and my constituents, but what happens is today is, we gotta figure a way to open it back up and, and with that, in opening it back up, when we start to look at these issues, it, it is critical that we make it, the decisions we, we make to be as least harmful as they possibly can be.”

So to review, the reason the House can’t vote on the Senate spending bill is an incoherent word salad, filled with lots of words that seem unrelated to one another.

Remember, Mark Meadows isn’t some random guy off the street; he’s an elected member of Congress who helped write the strategy that House Republicans followed to shut down the government.

To be sure, it was absolutely amazing to hear Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) argue that House Republicans are “not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

But Meadows’ quote is nearly as ridiculous. You won’t hear Democrats repeating it in speeches because gibberish makes for poor rhetoric, but Meadows’ response reinforces what many have feared: House Republicans haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re doing right now.

Indeed, on the government shutdown’s fourth day, a few truths have come into sharp focus. Republican members of Congress (1) don’t know why they shut down the government; (2) don’t know what they hope to get out of the shutdown; and (3) don’t know how to end the shutdown.

But if you wouldn’t mind blaming Democrats anyway, they’d certainly appreciate it.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 4, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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