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“GOP Roots For Failure”: With Disturbing Frequency, Republicans Wish For Disaster On “The American People”

In theory, lawmakers should hope that government programs work well, and if they don’t, work to fix them. Elected representatives should hope that government agencies carry out their missions smoothly, and if something goes wrong, try to figure out what happened to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

Obviously that’s not how things work in the United States, where one of the two parties doesn’t actually believe in government. Republicans want to shrink government until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub! They think there’s nothing scarier than the prospect of a government employee trying to help! With beliefs like those, it’s perhaps not surprising that — with disturbing frequency — they root for failure in order to score points.

Examples abound. After the attack in Benghazi, G.O.P. lawmakers were far more interested in laying blame and making the Obama administration look bad than in improving security for diplomats. In the midst of the I.R.S. scandal — which turned out not to be much of a scandal at all — Republicans seemed positively gleeful.

Which brings me to today’s House hearing on the bumpy rollout of the federal health insurance marketplace.

The rollout is bumpy, and inexcusably so. It appears that the federal exchange Web site wasn’t fully tested until two weeks before it opened. As today’s Times story put it, the online health insurance marketplace “is still limping along after three weeks.”

Lawmakers can and should hold the administration to account. But given that House Republicans have done everything in their power to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act — including shutting down the entire government — it’s understandable that House Democrats expressed suspicion about their motives.

“I wish I could believe that this hearing is above board, but it’s not,” said Representative Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey. “The Republicans don’t have clean hands coming here. Their effort is obviously not to make this better, but to use the website glitches as an excuse to defund or repeal Obamacare.”

Taking the same line, Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, said: “We have already documented a record of Republicans attempting to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.” He added, “If we want this law to work, we have to make this right; we’ve got to fix it. Not what the Republicans are trying to do: nix it and repeal it.”

Although some Republicans asked valid and thoughtful questions of the private contractors who’d come to testify, others seemed to prove Mr. Pallone and Mr. Waxman right.

Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, took the opportunity to say he would seek a delay in the individual mandate—exactly what Republicans wanted before there was any word of trouble with the online exchanges. Healthcare.gov is “nothing less than an unmitigated disaster,” Mr. Pitts said. He also wondered aloud if the people behind it were “simply incompetent” or else “lying to the American people.”

“If the Web site glitches are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, “it’s only a matter of time before the law sinks and takes with it those Democrats who wrote it, voted for it and are proud of it.”

Breaking that down: If the glitches indicate deep problems, then health care reform will fall apart, and Republicans will reap the benefits in the next election. In other words, disaster would be good for his party.

 

By: Juliet Lapidos, Editors Blog, The New York Times, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Got ‘Em Now”: No, Healthcare.gov’s Problems Will Not Offer The GOP Political Deliverance

Today marks the beginning of what will surely be a series of hearings in Congress at which members will fulminate and shake their fists at various people who had responsibility for creating Healthcare.gov. It’s quite something to see some congressman who’s still struggling to figure out how to work the Blackberry his staff gave him asking questions about beta testing and error logs and a bunch of other stuff he doesn’t begin to understand. But maybe the weirdest thing is the feeling one gets from the GOP over the last few days, which can be summarized as, “We got ’em now!” They seem to believe that the website problems are going to provide the deliverance they’ve been waiting for after the political disaster of the government shutdown.

Here’s a little prediction: Feigned Republican outrage over the ACA web site is going to be just as effective in reversing the GOP’s current fortunes as feigned Republican outrage over Benghazi was in undoing Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

Nevertheless, they’ve got a new spring in their step, as The New York Times reports today. “If the Web site glitches are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Representative Greg Walden, who as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for making sure his party holds the House in 2014, “it’s only a matter of time before the law sinks and takes with it those Democrats who wrote it, voted for it and are proud of it.” All they have to do is sit back and wait for Obamacare to implode, then reap the political benefits.

I wouldn’t get too excited if I were them. First of all, if you’re arguing about why the website isn’t working, you’ve implicitly accepted the premise that the website ought to work, so people can use it and get insurance. Which is quite different from arguing, as some Republicans have, that people who are now uninsured just shouldn’t bother getting insurance at all. When you stand before the cameras to shout, “I will not rest until these problems are fixed and Obamacare works properly!” and you then turn around and say, “I will not rest until Obamacare is destroyed!”, you’re not exactly convincing the voting public that you’re the one they want running things.

Furthermore, as Greg Sargent reminds us, “when it comes to supplying genuine oversight, previous House GOP probes — into Benghazi and the IRS scandal – devolved into circus stunts. Those investigations got knocked off kilter by lurid and fanciful charges that seemed directed at a hard right audience that remains firmly in the grip of the conservative closed information feedback loop.” In today’s Republican party, efforts at embarrassing the Obama administration quickly get taken over by the the party’s tin foil hat brigade, and even the sane ones end up playing to Sean Hannity’s audience instead of to the country as a whole.

If you’re a Republican member of Congress, this is coming at a critical time, because it’s around now when your potential primary opponents are deciding whether they want to run against you in next year’s election. That gives you an incentive to prove to the folks back home that you’re as conservative as the nuttiest Tea Partier. It isn’t hard to do, really—all that’s necessary is to go on television and tell the Fox News host that you’re deeply concerned that Healthcare.gov was intentionally made to work improperly as a pretext for the socialist Obama administration to collect all our DNA to facilitate herding us into FEMA concentration camps (or something like that). Which helps make your primary challenge less likely, but doesn’t serve the party’s larger purpose of convincing the American public that the GOP is not, in fact, a party of extremists who don’t care about governing.

Hearings like these seldom produce any useful information, but if they increase the pressure on the administration to get things fixed quickly, then that’s all to the good. But if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t get too excited about what they’re going to do for my party.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editro, The American Prospect, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Country For Old Moderates”: In The GOP, One Side Is Fighting, The Other Side Is Rolling Over

The more I think about this Republican “civil war,” the less it looks like war to me. It often gives the appearance of being war because these Tea Party people march into the arena with a lot of fire, brimstone, and kindred pyrotechnics that suggest conflict. But what, really, in hard policy terms, are these two sides arguing about? Practically nothing. It’s a disagreement chiefly over tactics and intensity. That’s a crucial point, and so much of the media don’t understand it. But I’m here to tell you, whenever you read an article that makes a lot of hay about this “war” and then goes on to describe the Republican factions as “moderate” and “conservative,” turn the page or click away. You are either in the hands of an idiot or someone intentionally misleading you.

What’s going on presents many of the outward signs of political warfare. Insurgent radical extremists are challenging already very conservative incumbents whose thought and deed crimes are that they are conservative only 80- or 90-something percent of the time instead of 100 (or 110, preferably). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), American Conservative Union 2012 rating of 92, being challenged? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? He got 100 percent in 2012!  Hey, I was joking about that 110!

So sure, running primaries against people like this can be called warlike acts. But a real war has two sides who believe different things and are willing to fight to the death for them. In this war, that description applies only to one side.

This…skirmish, let’s call it, is between radicals and conservatives. (It certainly doesn’t involve moderates; there are roughly four moderate Republicans in Congress, depending on how you count, out of 278.) The conservatives, the more traditional conservatives such as John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and many others in the Senate, and House Speaker John Boehner, could be a force if they wanted to. But by and large, they’ve refused to be. If the GOP had two warring factions, then you might expect that on all major high-profile legislative votes, the schism would evince itself in the roll calls. But when you look back over the list of high-profile measures that have come before them while Barack Obama has been president, the conservatives and the radicals only really split on two occasions.

One was the fiscal cliff deal as 2013 started. In the House, 85 Republicans backed that deal and 151 voted against it.  In the Senate, the vote was 89-8; 40 Republicans backed and five opposed. (Three Democrats opposed it because the tax-increase threshold went too high, from the expected $250,000 per household to $400,000.) The second was the vote we just had to reopen the government and raise the debt limit. That, of course, passed the House by a comfortable margin, with the support of 87 Republicans, while 144 opposed.  The vote in the Senate was 81-18, with 27 Republicans voting aye and 18 nay.

That’s it. Interestingly, those two votes show us a radical caucus in the Senate that grew in 10 months from five to 18, while in the House, the radicals have outnumbered the conservatives in a remarkably consistent way. But those are the only diversions from party unity. On all other major matters, matters of policy—Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, cap and trade in the House—there is no disagreement. Everyone, or nearly everyone, votes no. The only really important votes on which these two sides disagree are the votes that threaten fiscal calamity. So that’s all the conservatives stand for. Elect me, and at five minutes ’til midnight, I’ll stand courageously against global economic cataclysm!

One could add one more basis of disagreement. Occasionally, the conservatives cast votes conceding that the government ought to be able to function as designed; you know, with agencies having people run them. But that happens only once about every two years.

Now is the time for them to stand up and say “enough.” An October 7 Washington Post-ABC poll found that just 52 percent of Republicans approved of how Republicans were handling the budget negotiations. That’s margin of error to 50-50. So half of the Republicans in the country disapprove of what the GOP just did.

But they might as well be zero, for they effectively have no representation. The regular conservatives—most conspicuously the craven Boehner, but all the others, too—did nothing to represent these people until the last possible second, and until the radicals demonstrated conclusively that they couldn’t pull off defunding Obamacare.

Think about that. Half of one of our major political parties, constituting many millions of citizens, barely has a voice in Washington. If they did have a voice, none of this late madness would have happened. But the legislators who ostensibly represent them are cowards, kittens, balled up in the corner. The radicals may be fighting a war. But the conservatives are executing a classic rearguard action. At best. And that’s not much of a civil war. And it says a great deal about the character of the Republican Party, and especially of the conservatives. History will remember.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Name Of Creating Jobs”: Corporations Are Hijacking Government With GOP Help And At Taxpayer Expense

After being swept into statehouses in the red wave of 2010, Republican Govs. Scott Walker, John Kasich and Terry Branstad each presided over the replacement of a state agency responsible for economic development with a less public, more private alternative. Arizona’s Jan Brewer did the same in 2010 after replacing Janet Napolitano, who’d been tapped for Obama’s Cabinet.  Walker’s Wisconsin, Kasich’s Ohio, Branstad’s Iowa and Brewer’s Arizona were only the latest to institute a “public-private partnership” approach to development: States including Indiana, Florida, Rhode Island, Michigan and Texas had done the same years earlier. Now North Carolina’s Pat McCrory, who entered the governor’s mansion in January, aims to do the same. A new report from a progressive group warns that means good news for the wealthy and politically connected, but bad news for just about everyone else.

“Privatization augurs against transparency …” Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy told Salon. LeRoy is a co-author of the new report “Creating Scandals Instead of Jobs: The Failures of Privatized State Economic Development,” which his group released Wednesday afternoon. Based on recent years’ scandals and controversies in several states, the authors conclude that “the privatization of economic development agency functions is an inherently corrupting action that states should avoid or repeal.” They argue the record shows that “privatization was not a panacea,” but instead fostered misuse of taxes; excessive bonuses; questionable subsidies; conflicts of interest; specious impact claims; and “resistance to accountability.” Goods Jobs First funders include unions and foundations.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kasich emailed Salon a one-sentence take on the report: “We don’t pay much attention to politically motivated opponents whose mission is to combat job creation.”

Kasich promised as a candidate to substitute a new entity, led by “a successful, experienced business leader,” for the existing Ohio Department of Development. The result, JobsOhio, features prominently in the GJF report. The authors note that its board included some of Kasich’s “major campaign contributors and executives from companies that were recipients of large state development subsidies.” They write that JobsOhio “received a large transfer of state monies about which the legislature was not informed, intermingled public and private monies, refused to name its private donors, and then won legal exemption (advocated by Gov. Kasich) from review of its finances by the state auditor.”

The authors also fault the Arizona Commerce Authority, whose first head reaped a privately paid $60,000 bonus and resigned after one year; and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which they charge has been “racked by scandals and high-level staff instability.” They cite accusations against WEDC including spending millions in federal funds “without legal authority”; failing to “track past-due loans”; and having “hired an executive who owed the state a large amount of back taxes.” LeRoy told reporters on a Wednesday conference call that, of the four newest public-private partnerships, Iowa’s was the only one to so far avoid significant scandal.

The report also slammed some of those four entities’ predecessors, including the Indiana Economic Development Corp. – GJF noted “a state audit found that more than 40 percent of the jobs promised by companies described by IEDC as ‘economic successes’ had never materialized” – and Enterprise Florida Inc.: while “more than $20 million in subsidies has gone to EFI board member companies,” in 2011 the Orlando Sentinel “reported that since 1995 only one-third of 224,000 promised jobs materialized.”

Gov. Scott’s office referred an inquiry to Enterprise Florida Inc., whose strategic communications director emailed that the group’s “efforts have resulted in an increase of competitive jobs projects established, private-sector jobs created and capital investment.” He noted that EFI “has received a clean opinion on its financial statements as conducted by its independent auditors and presented to EFI’s Board of Directors.” The offices of Govs. Walker, Brewer and Pence did not immediately respond to Wednesday evening inquiries.

“If we don’t know how the money’s spent, if we don’t get accurate assessments of the outcomes that we accept from our economic development subsidies or support, then there’s no way for us to evaluate the job they’re doing,” Donald Cohen, who leads the foundation- and labor-backed privatization watchdog In the Public Interest, told reporters on Wednesday’s call. “It’s fundamental to being able to manage our resources.” Cohen added, “When we’re talking about giving away the power and authority to give away public dollars, to make public decisions, then it is all the more important that public control be established in the strongest possible way.”

By “mingling private money or having board seats for sale,” LeRoy told reporters, public-private partnerships are “giving undue influence to a tiny share of mostly large companies that can afford to pay and play, potentially to the detriment of the focus of the entity.”

“You want people who are covered by ethics and disclosure and sunshine laws and oversight,” said LeRoy. “We know that government agencies aren’t perfect, but they by far are more accountable.” He also argued that public sector collective bargaining – which came under high-profile attack by Walker and Kasich – was also a check against abuse, because it “helps shield whistle-blowers and protect taxpayers.”

While GJF has proposed various safeguards for public-private economic development groups, it emphasized that its first choice would be for states to simply return their functions to fully public departments. “The economy is soft right now – we need to focus on the basics,” said LeRoy, rather than “tweaking the rules of a captive entity that co-mingles public and private money to get into all of these sort of gray areas.”

 

By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Jobs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Web Sites And Grave Sites”: Republicans Are Camping Out In Their Own Graveyard

Republicans are apoplectic about Healthcare.gov, the official Web site for the Affordable Care Act.

They are trying desperately to change the subject from their disastrous government shutdown by ranting about the failures of a government Web site that cost a tiny fraction of what was lost as a result of the shutdown.

Republicans are pretending that they care about the problems encountered in signing up for a system that many of them are bent on destroying.

They are demanding an immediate fix to something they want to break.

They are trying to deflect public outrage away from their record-low approval ratings.

The only problem for Republicans is that a technical issue isn’t likely to have legs. Yes, it’s embarrassing. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s an unforced error.

But it’s also fixable, and in the grand scheme of things, a malfunctioning Web site is more understandable and less consequential than a malfunctioning political party.

The Web site will be fixed. Can the same be said of the party that has planted its flag on the outskirts of reason? Can the same be said of the party being hijacked by hyperpartisans?

In the long stretch of history, Obamacare will be judged on the merits of the policy, not the rollout of a Web site. That judgment will be sober and thorough. And along the way, as some things work and others don’t — as is the way with ambitious laws — things will be tweaked. But this is the law. It will be implemented, even over the wails of Republican resistance.

If Republicans are correct, that the law is the abomination that they say it is, it will be borne out in due time with jobs killed and premiums raised. If however they are not correct and the law succeeds, that will be borne out with a healthier, more secure population living longer lives with better financial futures.

In a way, it is the latter that worries some Republicans most — that the law will succeed over their Chicken Little, sky-is-falling naysaying. They need the law to fail to validate their enmity.

So they have focused their attention on a technical hiccup and tried to spin it as a symptom of systematic incompetency — if the Obama administration can’t run a complicated Web site, it is incapable of managing a complicated policy. But this logic simply pushes beyond credibility. As the president said Monday: “Let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a Web site.” The Web site is only a part of the whole.

But to many Republicans who are stuck fighting a battle that’s already been lost rather than moving on to the next challenge, this Web site problem offers a sliver of hope that they can turn people off from the law. So far, it isn’t working. According to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, there has been an uptick in support for the law since the Web site opened.

Sometimes you simply have to accept reality, and sometimes that reality is accepting defeat. Learn from it. Grow from it. But first you must admit it. That’s the modern Republican Party’s problem — blindness to the obvious.

The Republican Party’s conduct during this period in the country’s history will get the same sober, thorough judgment from history as the health care law, and that judgment is not likely to be kind.

History will record that this is the moment that the party camped out in its own graveyard, hastening the demise of its national viability; that it gave up on America, while constantly reminiscing about America as it once was; that its thought leaders were replaced by crusade leaders and the Grand Old Party saw its grandeur subside; that it came to realize that it couldn’t forever be the party of intransigence in a nation of progress, without being burned by the friction inherent in those two warring concepts.

This is the moment when the rest of America realized that opposition isn’t an idea, and preventing things from getting done is not the same as getting things done.

The Republican Party isn’t going away, but it is going down, and it seems unable and unwilling to stop the sinking.

In history’s view a problematic Web site is likely to barely register. But the problems with the Republican Party will loom large.

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, October 23, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , | Leave a comment

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