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“The Tea Party’s Suicide Pact”: Hell Bent On Breaking The GOP And Picking Up The Pieces

If Senate Republicans are the surrender caucus and the House GOP is the suicide caucus, then the Democratic House caucus is the victory caucus.

I’m a fan of the Military History Channel and all during the GOP/Tea Party default debacle, I kept thinking of the kamikaze planes crashing into American aircraft carriers off Okinawa. The pilots were brave, but they didn’t stop the U.S. from destroying the empire. Japanese soldiers on Pacific atolls during World War II had to choose between surrender and suicide, and, like the House Republicans, chose to kill themselves to atone to their emperor Ted Cruz for their defeat.

So far, there’s no sign that Emperor Cruz or his minions in the party of tea will give up the fruitless fight. The tea partiers are the GOP’s kamikazes and they are prepared to fight until the last Republican dies. One of the ironies of the battle is that red district tea partiers will survive the 2014 midterms, while the few moderately conservatives Republicans left in Congress will go down in flames in their purple districts.

Why are the tea partiers so suicidal? The tea party is hell bent on breaking the GOP and picking up the pieces.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said last week that “the GOP was going nuts.” King was wrong. The GOP got to nuts more than a year ago and now has reached lunacy. According to national surveys by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, the GOP’s net rating five weeks ago was -43; it was -46 last week. The same polls showed that the net rating of the Affordable Care Act was -13 in September but only -5 last week.

The intent of the tea party was to destroy the ACA and save the GOP from itself. National polls indicate that all the party of tea did was hurt the GOP and save Obamacare from itself. Another way of looking at these numbers is that 38 percent like the ACA but only 22 percent like the GOP.

In the last few days, the Tea Party has made it clear the dead enders will continue the hopeless fight until it finishes off the GOP.

Cruz said late last week that he will do everything he can to kill Obamacare. The suicide caucus has voted to repeal the ACA 40 times and tried to defund it during the default debacle but it’s still alive. The definition of insanity is, of course, to do the same thing over again and expect a different result

The day after the end of the budget battle, President Obama called on the House to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law. Several House Republicans have said they will fight against immigration reform to the last breath. The tea party might win the congressional battle against immigration reform, but it would lose the electoral war by further alienating the fast growing Latino voting population.

Last week, prominent Republicans like the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dave Dewhurst, called for President Obama’s impeachment. The suicide caucus in the House has the power to impeach the president but it would need 67 Senate votes to remove him from office. There are only 46 Republicans in the Senate, and some of them wouldn’t even vote to kick the president out of the White House.

The suicide caucus’ motto should be “if it feels good do it” even if it leads to electoral disaster. If the tea party does kill off the GOP, the epitaph on the party’s tombstone should either read “With friends like ours, who needed enemies,” or “In the party of Lincoln something was stinking.”

 

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, October 23, 2013

October 24, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Crocodile Tears On Obamacare”: Their Entire Strategy Is To Create Noise, Not Solutions

One of the strange things about politics is that it is considered “smart” to make every conceivable argument against your foes, even when your arguments are contradictory or reveal you to be indifferent to people leading desperate lives. But rarely is this “throw the kitchen sink” tactic pursued with such hypocritical gusto as with the GOP’s primal scream over the Obamacare Web site’s rollout.

To listen to Republican laments about Healthcare.gov’s terrible launch, you’d think the GOP was deeply concerned that people who need affordable health insurance are being denied this essential protection thanks to the administration’s incompetence.

But of course nothing could be further from the truth. What conservative officials, pundits and advocates are screaming is closer to the following:

How dare you totally screw up something that we think shouldn’t exist!

How dare you make it hard for poor, uninsured workers to get health coverage we don’t want to subsidize them to purchase!

What did Kathleen Sebelius know and when did she know it, when it comes to the wreck of a train we’ve prayed would be a train wreck all along?

This is what the “logic” of a party of “no” sounds like — where the entire strategy is to create noise, not solutions.

I get that a chunk of the GOP thinks discrediting government’s competence is a political winner (many of these critics are themselves lifers in elected office, but nevermind). But please spare us the fallacious leap to the idea that these Web site snafus reveal that the left’s “technocratic hubris” in “taking over a sixth of the American economy” was bound to fail.

There’s a reason everything about Obamacare is unduly complex, but it has nothing to do with a federal takeover. It’s precisely the opposite. Obamacare is complicated because it seeks to expand coverage largely by relying on private insurers, and also by honoring our tradition of federalism.

The need to check an applicant’s eligibility and income, and to use this information in light of locally offered private health plans to compute associated levels of potential subsidy — all of which requires tying together a bunch of huge databases that weren’t designed to communicate instantly with each other — comes from the need to subsidize the purchase of private coverage in a tailored way.

If we just gave every American a wallet-sized card like they do in single-payer nations — or even an identical universal voucher folks could use to help pay for private health coverage (as diverse voices from Zeke Emanuel and Victor Fuchs to Pete Peterson have championed) — the system, along with its technology backbone, would be far simpler.

This isn’t an excuse; it’s a piece of an explanation.

Meanwhile, when Republicans argue that the Web site’s initial failure means we shouldn’t go forward with extending affordable coverage to the uninsured, it’s like saying that the other high-profile tech failure this month — of the Web-based Common Application used by hundreds of colleges — means we should tell this year’s high school seniors to put off college. I mean, if that nonprofit can’t get the application technology right, what other reasonable choice is there?

The phoniest tears come from conservative analysts who “fear” that the Web site meltdown will trigger an adverse selection problem. The meme of the month is that only the sickest people will be desperate enough to persist in getting coverage, leaving the whole system subject to actuarial implosion.

As my daughter and her friends might say, “Chill, people.” Let’s see how the next few months go. There’s something sad and misguided about talented right-wing wonks devoting immense energy to criticism, yet seeming unable to spare a brain cell for actual public problem-solving. Even a conservative mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The problem, as always, is that once the GOP turns to health-care solutions, they’ll be forced to fess up that Romney-Obamacare was theirs. And it works. That’s something Republican voters are now finding out beyond just Massachusetts.

Like Butch Matthews, 61, a former small-business owner and lifelong Republican from Little Rock. Matthews and his wife, too young for Medicare, had been paying over $1,000 a month in the individual market for a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy with a $10,000 deductible.

“I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan,” he told the (highly functional) Web site ThinkProgress. “I did not think that it was going to help me at all.”

He thought wrong. The policy Matthews just bought from the Arkansas Obamacare marketplace will cost him nothing after income-based subsidies and has a deductible of $750. Doctor visits will cost him $8 instead of nearly $150. He stands to save at least $13,000 a year

“I still am a very strong Republican, but . . . I am so happy this came along,” Matthews said.

If enough Republican voters have happy endings like this, it won’t be long before the GOP’s crocodile tears turn real.

 

By: Matt Miller, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 23, 2013

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Time To Come Up With A Better Plan”: The Second Coming Of Ronald Reagan Isn’t Going To Save The GOP

This weekend’s New York Times included an interesting take on what has become a well-trod and almost perfunctory topic: The GOP’s so-called Civil War.

It was a wide-ranging article, but let’s focus on the notion that what Republicans are going through right now is exactly like the reordering Republicans went through 50 years ago. Here’s an excerpt:

The moment draws comparisons to some of the biggest fights of recent Republican Party history — the 1976 clash between the insurgent faction of activists who supported Ronald Reagan for president that year and the moderate party leaders who stuck by President Gerald R. Ford, and the split between the conservative Goldwater and moderate Rockefeller factions in 1964.

Some optimistic Republicans note that both of those campaigns planted the seeds for the conservative movement’s greatest success: Reagan’s 1980 election and two terms as president.

“The business community thought the supply-siders were nuts, and the country club Republicans thought the social conservatives scary,” William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, said of those squabbles. “That all worked out O.K.” [The New York Times]

Is this an appropriate analogy for what’s going on today, or just wishful thinking?

Here’s what I like about it: This theory recognizes that politics is often cyclical. You’re rarely as good as you look when you’re winning — and never as bad as you look when you’re losing. It wasn’t that long ago that some Republicans boasted that they were on the cusp of achieving a permanent governing majority.

Consider a non-political example. The Kansas City Chiefs — who were a dismal 2-14 last year — are now the only undefeated team left in the National Football League at 7-0. No one would have predicted this at the end of last season.

Of course, it required new leadership — coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith were huge acquisitions. And while such a worst-to-first story might be difficult to replicate in politics, it’s certainly not impossible. That’s why it’s so easy to understand why disciples of Ronald Reagan — who wrote “I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead” — would gravitate to such an optimistic theory.

Unfortunately, it might not work out that way.

The temptation is to lionize the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign, but it’s important to remember he received just 38 percent of the vote. He was trounced. It would be 16 years before Ronald Reagan was elected, and during that time, America would undergo all sorts of turmoil, including Vietnam, Civil Rights protests, the Great Society, Watergate, gas lines, the Iranian hostage crisis — you name it. Conservatives who subscribe to this analogy had better hope we are closer to 1976 than to 1964. They would probably be the first to argue America cannot sustain 16 years of liberal rule. (And yes, Nixon and Ford were Republicans — but they were not Reagan conservatives, and they presided over an era in which liberalism dominated U.S. politics.)

To be sure, Reagan’s victory in 1980 was predicated on this turmoil. They took a chance on him when nothing else seemed to work, and it certainly paid huge dividends. At the risk of embracing the “great man” theory of history, let’s also not forget the fact that Reagan was sui generis. Try finding a two-term governor of California with movie star looks and inspirational ideas and rhetoric. These guys certainly don’t grow on trees.

The danger is that, instead of doing the spade work, conservatives waste their summers praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets. Between 1964 and 1980, conservatives invested a lot of time and energy into building public policy think tanks and training conservative activists how to win. In fairness to Goldwater, Reagan was greatly aided by this infrastructure (which was created by a lot of veterans of the Goldwater campaign) when he rain in 1980.

Today’s conservatives ought to embrace a similar “work as if it all depends on you/pray as if it all depends on God” mentality. But they should also accept the fact that today’s challenges are different than they were 50 years ago.

Technology is vastly different — and so are the nation’s demographics. Don’t forget, Mitt Romney won white voters by the same margins that Reagan did in 1980.

There’s another problem with this analogy. The “Civil War” taking place during the Goldwater era pitted conservatives against moderate Rockefeller Republicans. Today’s battle is different. The moderates are almost all gone. You’d be hard pressed to find a Republican who isn’t pro-life, much less one who supports ObamaCare. And so the recent internecine fight over the government shutdown was mostly about strategy and tactics. How much more ideological cleansing is possible for a movement that wants to be a governing majority?

So what should we make of the Goldwater-Reagan analogy? Conservatives ought to extract as many lessons as they can from history, but also understand the danger in assuming the world is static. It isn’t.

It’s tempting to try and fight the last war, especially if you won it. But it’s treacherous, too.

Another sports analogy: In what became a famous rant, then-Boston Celtics Coach Rick Pitino challenged fans to look to the future. “Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans,” he said. “Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they’re going to be gray and old. … And as soon as they realize that those three guys are not coming through the door, the better this town will be for all of us…”

Similarly, it might be good for conservatives to realize this: Barry Goldwater is not walking through that door. Ronald Reagan is not walking through that door…

 

By: Matt K. Lewis, The Week, October 23, 2013

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Cry Of The True Republican”: As Seen By A “Genetic Republican”, Today’s GOP Is A Virulent Strain Of Empty Nihilism

I am a genetic Republican.

Five generations of Tafts have served our nation as unwaveringly stalwart Republicans, from Alphonso Taft, who served as attorney general in the late 19th century, through William Howard Taft, who not only was the only person to be both president of the United States and chief justice of the United States but also served as the chief civil administrator of the Philippines and secretary of war, to my cousin, Robert Taft, a two-term governor of Ohio.

As I write, a photograph of my grandfather, Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, looks across at me from the wall of my office. He led the Republican Party in the United States Senate in the 1940s and early 1950s, ran for the Republican nomination for president three times and was known as “Mr. Republican.” If he were alive today, I can assure you he wouldn’t even recognize the modern Republican Party, which has repeatedly brought the United States of America to the edge of a fiscal cliff — seemingly with every intention of pushing us off the edge.

Throughout my family’s more than 170-year legacy of public service, Republicans have represented the voice of fiscal conservatism. Republicans have been the adults in the room. Yet somehow the current generation of party activists has managed to do what no previous Republicans have been able to do — position the Democratic Party as the agents of fiscal responsibility.

Speaking through the night, Senator Ted Cruz, with heavy-lidded, sleep-deprived eyes, conveyed not the libertarian element in Republican philosophy that advocates for smaller government and less intrusion into the personal lives of citizens, but a new, virulent strain of empty nihilism: “blow it up if we can’t get what we want.”

This recent display of bomb-throwing obstructionism by Republicans in Congress evokes another painful, historically embarrassing chapter in the Republican Party — that of Senator Joseph McCarthy, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whose anti-Communist crusade was allowed by Republican elders to expand unchecked, unnecessarily and unfairly tarnishing the reputations of thousands of people with “Red Scare” accusations of Communist affiliation. Finally Senator McCarthy was brought up short during the questioning of the United States Army’s chief counsel, Joseph N. Welch, who at one point demanded the senator’s attention, then said: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” He later added: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Watching the Republican Party use the full faith and credit of the United States to try to roll back Obamacare, watching its members threaten not to raise the debt limit — which Warren Buffett rightly called a “political weapon of mass destruction” — to repeal a tax on medical devices, I so wanted to ask a similar question: “Have you no sense of responsibility? At long last, have you left no sense of responsibility?”

There is more than a passing similarity between Joseph McCarthy and Ted Cruz, between McCarthyism and the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party survived McCarthyism because, ultimately, its excesses caused it to burn out. And eventually party elders in the mold of my grandfather were able to realign the party with its brand promise: The Republican Party is (or should be) the Stewardship Party. The Republican brand is (or should be) about responsible behavior. The Republican party is (or should be) at long last, about decency.

What a long way we have yet to go.

By: John G. Taft, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, October 22, 2013

October 24, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Humming Along Today”: Despite Rocky Beginnings, 5 Other Government Programs Suggests Glitches Get Fixed And Forgotten

The Obama administration’s struggle with debugging the HealthCare.gov website is causing critics to ask whether ObamaCare is “Obama’s Iraq war,” and to dismiss Obama’s signature policy achievement a “quagmire.”

Media coverage is becoming increasingly hysterical, meaning some historical perspective is in order. Many large-scale government programs that are now embedded in American society also began with rough rollouts that are now mostly forgotten.

Here are five programs that are humming along today, despite their rocky beginnings:

1. Social Security
In the program’s early days, many employers failed to include worker names and their new Social Security numbers in their earnings report, leaving the government without the basic information needed to calculate benefits and cut checks. Syndicated columnist Drew Pearson turned the “John Doe” problem into a crusade, writing about the snafu once a week for two months and stoking panic that the government would be unable to pay out the promised benefits to millions. But new procedures were established to follow up with delinquent employers, and within a year the number of John Does was slashed. Today, the crisis is dismissed as a blip, while Social Security historians view the effort to build a nationwide social insurance system from scratch before the age of computers as “Herculean” and “amazing.”

2. Medicare
Last week, historian and Bloomberg columnist Stephen Mihm chronicled the myriad problems that beset the 1966 Medicare rollout. More than 700,000 eligible seniors initially refused to sign up because they mistakenly believed it meant giving up Social Security. Some Southern cities were left without any participating hospitals because the Medicare law required hospitals to comply with the new Civil Rights Act, yet many in the South remained segregated. It was more commonplace at the time for doctors to bill patients directly, and excessively long waits for Medicare reimbursement checks frustrated seniors. But as Mihm notes, “The government and the private insurers worked out most of the kinks, and by the late 1960s the system was working reasonably well.”

3. Medicare’s Prescription Drug Benefit
It wasn’t all that long ago that another presidential health care initiative ran into an online buzzsaw. In 2005, the Bush administration rolled out its new Medicare Part D program, providing seniors coverage for prescription drugs. But the debut was bedeviled by website problems. The Washington Post noted at the time that the launch was delayed twice over the course of a month. Then on the day it actually launched, “Visitors to the site could not access it for most of the first two hours. When it finally did come up around 5 p.m., it operated awfully slowly.” The glitches continued throughout the open enrollment period, but as Jack Hoadley of the Georgetown Health Policy Institute reminded in a blog post this month, “The program added both phone lines and customer service representatives and implemented other upgrades over the weeks. The website — both its functionality and the accuracy of its information — was the source of ongoing frustration for its users, but it did get better over time. By the end of open enrollment in May 2006, over 16 million successfully enrolled for drug benefits in Part D … And today, Part D enjoys widespread popularity.”

4. The Peace Corps
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order shortly after taking office in 1961. Skeptics worried that the program would be overrun with immature draft-dodgers. And that concern was seemingly confirmed when one of the first volunteers mistakenly dropped a postcard before it could be mailed, telling her stateside boyfriend that her host country of Nigeria suffered from widespread “squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions.” A horrified Nigerian student discovered the postcard, made copies, and distributed it widely. It sparked an international incident. Riots ensued, and the volunteer had to be sent home “cloak and dagger” for her safety. Still Kennedy forged ahead, shrugging off the setback by joking to a new batch of volunteers, “Keep in touch, but not by postcard!” And two years later, the Christian Science Monitor reported that foreign governments were “so pleased with [the Peace Corps’] work they have called again and again for more … Although the ‘postcard incident’ in Nigeria seemed to confirm some fears that the program might do more harm than good, that has been far from the case…”

5. The income tax
It was 100 years ago this month when President Woodrow Wilson first enacted the progressive income tax that finances much of our government today. Now, few Americans would claim to be fans of our current tax system — but many of them are fans of what the income tax system helps pay for. In the early days of the rollout, however, plenty of people were sent over the edge because of the forms’ perceived complexity. As tax historian Joseph Thorndike noted, one lawyer made headlines in 1915 by saying of the forms, “It is so complicated that it is utterly impossible to understand its meaning save by consulting a palmist.”A 1915 The New York Times headline characterized the forms as “Income Tax Riddles.”

Now, some may say the tax forms have only gotten worse over the last 100 years. But by and large, the public has accepted the nature of tax forms as a governing necessity, and no politician has gotten very far in the past century campaigning against the progressive income tax. As Thorndike noted in Barron’s, “The income tax has survived because it does two things reasonably well: It raises money, and it satisfies popular notions of economic fairness.”

The lesson? History suggests that glitches get fixed and forgotten, people get acclimated to new programs, and policies rise and fall on their merits. If past is prologue, ObamaCare will be judged on the quality of the coverage, not on the first incarnation of the website.

 

By: Bill Scher, The Week, October 23, 2013

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Federal Government, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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