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“Call It A Comeback”: More Than 9 Million Americans Have Health Insurance Through Obamacare

You don’t get much credit for fixing something that should have worked in the first place, but the Obama administration has avoided a major catastrophe by delivering on its promise to fix HealthCare.gov for most Americans.

After two months of barely functioning, the federal online health care exchanges delivered, racking up 975,000 enrollments in the month of December. That brings the total number of people who have picked a plan through an exchange since October 1 to about two million. The administration reached about two-thirds of its goal of enrolling 3.3 million by the end of 2013 after being fully operational one-third of the time. And it turns out most of the enrollments came during the one-week extension the White House gave itself after the initial problems with the site became apparent.

Four million people have qualified for Medicaid, according to ACASignups.net. Another 3.1 million young adults are covered by their parents’ health insurance, thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This means over nine million people have gained coverage through the ACA since it first became law.

That number could easily shrink or grow as insurers report on how many people purchased ACA-compliant policies directly through them. It’s also unclear how many canceled policies were replaced by plans purchased through the exchanges.

Looking at the rate of enrollments for Medicare Part D, president of health research firm Avalere Health Dan Mendelson believes that the administration can hit its goal of seven million enrollments by the close of open enrollment on March 31.

“Where they are, with about two million enrolled, if they continue to enroll at the present rate, and there’s a little acceleration at the end, they could get to seven million,” Mendelson told the Washington Post‘s Sarah Kliff.

However, Republicans are still predicting doom for the president’s signature legislative accomplishment, suggesting that the disastrous rollout of the exchanges is just the beginning of the problems.

“Just about everyone on the right is still living in October, the annus horribilis of Obamacare (yes, I know it was just a month, and I don’t care), and is waiting to move in for the kill after the whole thing collapses,” The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman wrote.

Republicans are assuming that the estimated 3 percent of Americans who will be paying more under the law along with disruptions of relationships with doctors will overwhelm both the news of millions gaining coverage and Republican states denying Medicaid expansion to five million working people.

Predictions of Obamacare’s death made sense when it seemed a very real possibility that HealthCare.gov could not be fixed.

Now that those predictions have been proven wrong, the law will have a chance to be judged on its merits.

 

By: Jason Satler, The National Memo, December 30, 2013

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Embracing Debunked Conspiracy Theories”: How The GOP Became A Party Of Benghazi “Truthers”

After a year of demanding answers about the terrorist attack that took place in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the right wing got them in the form of a well-reported exposé by The New York Times‘ David Kirkpatrick.

And they don’t like these answers at all.

From the night of the murders, Republicans have been shamefully trying to politicize the attack that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, first as a means of stopping the re-election of President Obama, and then to damage the reputation of former secretary of state and possible candidate for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton.

Within hours of Stevens’ death, GOP nominee Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration of “sympathizing” with extremists, as the State Department tried to protect the lives of diplomatic personnel in the face of protests across Northern Africa ginned up in opposition to an offensive depiction of Islamic religious iconography being spread on YouTube. Sensing they had a crisis to parallel 1980′s taking of hostages in Iran, Republicans continued to wage a campaign designed to paint the Obama administration as weak on terror. The Romney campaign suggested that the president was refusing to label the attack as “terrorism” and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested former UN Ambassador Susan Rice was lying and covering up the involvement of al-Qaeda when she offered CIA-approved talking points that the video played a major role in the attack.

Kirkpatrick’s reporting substantiates just about everything Ambassador Rice said as she appeared on several Sunday morning news shows just days after the attack:

Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that al-Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

This reporting closely echoes the original investigation ordered by Secretary Clinton and  led by Thomas Pickering, an esteemed diplomat who served under Presidents Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton.

It was clear that the video played a role, even before Kirkpatrick’s report. But it was unclear if it was the actual motivation for the attack or just a major factor in the unrest destabilizing the region. The Times‘ Middle East correspondent clearly asserts it was central.

It was also unclear if al-Qaeda had played a role in the killings. But this new report likely won’t settle that question, despite Kirkpatrick’s certainty, because the makeup of the terror network is so murky. ”There’s a long-running debate among experts about whether al-Qaeda is more of a centralized, top-down organization, a network of affiliates with varying ties to a core leadership or the vanguard of a broader movement better described as ‘Sunni jihadism,’” Politico Magazine’s Blake Hounshell points out.

All of this leads to a question Secretary Clinton asked when testifying in front of a Senate committee.

“What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” Clinton said.

Republicans argue that this question disrespects the lives of those four Americans who died in Benghazi. They assert that the president expressly told the military to “stand down” instead of trying to help the men. They accuse Clinton of purposeful negligence and evasion. These claims have all been debunked — there was no stand-down order and Clinton was not directly responsible for the security of an impromptu trip Stevens decided to take on his own, yet she still took responsibility for the tragedy.

The government failed to secure diplomatic resources, as it has under both Democratic and Republican presidents. The involvement of the CIA means that some of the story will likely remain cloaked in secrecy. But no misconduct has ever been proven.

The right wing clearly is not interested in answers, only raising questions—entirely for partisan purposes.

In the aftermath of 9/11, as the Bush/Cheney administration refused a bipartisan investigation of the attacks for a year, anyone who challenged the official story of the attacks and suggested government complicity was labeled a “truther,” a smear that helped cost Van Jones a job in the Obama administration more than a half-decade later.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told Meet the Press on Sunday, “What we do know is September 11 [2012] was not an accident.”

He defended his year-long investigation into the tragedy in Benghazi, asserting the same disproven speculation that he has helped fester for months, and concluding, “they went out on five stations and told the story that was, at best, a coverup for CIA, and at worst, something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi.”

The congressman is still suggesting the military may have purposely refused to help Americans under attack and the administration is covering up the truth, though what it offered, even in the fog of the immediate aftermath of the murders, closely matches some of the best reporting on the subject.

If Issa made those claims about the original 9/11 attacks, we know what he would have been called.

But since much of his party has embraced vague conspiracy theories that suggest the president of the United States either wanted a terrorist attack weeks before an election or “covered up” a terrorist attack that he called a terrorist attack several times before that election, he’s just another Republican.

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, December 30, 2013

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Meet Our Modern-Day Scrooges, Proud As Can Be”: Where’s “The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come” When You Really Need Him?

The holiday season is that time of year when the news pages take on a softer edge, as editors, photographers, and reporters strive to convey the spirit of fellowship and concern for the less fortunate embodied by the Salvation Army bell-ringers and the end of year charity appeals that fill out mailboxes and in-boxes. The Washington Post ran a short article on a homeless 11-year-old girl named Christmas Diamond (yes, really) who, facing a year without presents, was still thinking dreamily of a paint set she got two years ago; a few days later, the paper ran a heartwarming follow-up on the dozens of gifts that readers had dropped off at her shelter. Many papers ran articles on the plight of the 1.3 million long-term unemployed who lost their extended federal benefits over this past weekend. The New York Times annually outdoes everyone with its “neediest cases” stories, written explicitly as inducements for readers to give to its charitable fund.

It’s enough to make one think we’re turning into a nation of sentimental Tiny Tims. Luckily, we still have the letters to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, whose readers are strikingly eager to give expression to their inner Scrooge even at the peak of yuletide. Consider this remarkable sampling from just the past few days (emphasis added):

…Even if Congress passed a law that decreed all incomes must be equal, the inequality the president laments would continue as individuals spend their equal incomes unequally. Individual choice is fundamental to American freedom and liberty, yet it leads to inequality of outcome. Should the government therefore fix inequality by dictating every choice an individual makes?

The logical terminus of such egalitarianism is totalitarianism.

Patrick Hall

Chattanooga, Tenn.

What’s wrong with income inequality? In a society where its most productive members are incentivized to produce as much as they can, the economy grows. The people who benefit the most from economic growth aren’t the high-income producers; it is the poor who benefit most. The difference between being unemployed and dependent versus employed and self-sustaining has enormous impact on one’s life. If you want to improve someone’s life, raising the other guy’s taxes or health-care insurance premiums isn’t the way to do it. The way to do it is to create jobs.

The doctrine President Obama self-righteously pushes is to strive for income equality. However, morality is a doctrine under which people experience the consequences of their behavior. Disincentivizing wealth creation, which is what President Obama seeks, is immoral and imposes misery on the underclass. That is what we should be discussing.

Michael O’Guin

McKinney, Texas

December 27:

Barton Swaim (“‘Giving Back’ to Our Sanctimonious Selves,” op-ed, Dec. 20) misses the central insult of the words “giving back.” While giving generously to the needy and to the talented is a long American tradition, the term “giving back” suggests a prior “taking away,” i.e., theft. That single adverb “back” embodies the core conceit of the modern progressive liberal: that wealth is theft, requiring atonement; that unequal wealth—the fruit of a successful meritocracy—is criminal; that “society” is the only rightful owner of all that any individual can build and earn.

Give back our language!

Phil Harvey

Hampton Falls, N.H.

Mr. Swaim is so focused on questioning the sincerity of our small acts of giving that result from political and corporate marketing during the holidays that he fails to see the detriment that the constant pounding of phrases like “giving back” and “social responsibility” have on a free society.

Since one cannot “give back” what one has not previously received, this phrase implies that society has bestowed wealth on an individual instead of him having created or acquired it from his work and merit. “Giving back” is the twin brother of “you didn’t build that.” Likewise, one cannot be deemed “responsible” for someone to whom one has no obligation. “Social responsibility” implies that an individual has an obligation toward society, which he must fulfill. That is the cornerstone of socialism.

Mr. Swaim believes that the problem with the “giving back” phenomenon is that nothing is required from the individual but “minor, outwardly visible gestures.” On the contrary, let’s hope that it stays that way: that nothing is required from the individual and that “giving” always remains a voluntary gesture.

Fiamma Truuvert

London

December 30:

…The economic reality is that the poorest Americans, with government subsidies and benefits, have better lifestyles today than did the poor at any other time in American history or anywhere else in the world. There is deprivation and pain, but life generally is better. In addition, there still is a remarkable amount of economic mobility in America despite pitiful public schools in most cities and severe cultural disadvantages (e.g., out-of-wedlock births, and low marriage rates) in poor minority communities.

Finally, no matter what we do collectively, we will never eradicate poverty unless Jesus mis-spoke two millennia ago. We can improve safety nets and try to reform public education, but there will always be a bottom 20%….

Jim Fitzpatrick

Hampton, Va.

The cover of the Journal on December 26, the day the first of these letters ran, featured a large photo of altar boys in violet robes standing among the 70,000 people gathered at St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis deliver the traditional Christmas Day message. Francis’s message included this line: “Looking at the Child in the manger, Child of peace, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick…”

In other words, to all those people “experiencing the consequences of their behavior.”

Where’s the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come when you really need him?

 

By: Alec MacGinnis, The New Republic, December 30, 2013

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Christmas, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP’s Insane Race Strategy”: A Monstrous Injustice, Shoulder-To-Shoulder With The Worst Villains In American History

Over at TMS today, Harold Pollack highlights a stark paper from Perspectives on Politics. The Republican shameful record on minority voting during the 2012 election was a common story on the left. But after closer study, the results are in, and they aren’t pretty:

Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments.

Harold unpacks the study:

Bentele and O’Brien’s statistical analysis of 2006-2011 data makes plain what was already pretty obvious. Republican governors and legislatures have sought to hinder minority turnout for partisan purposes. States were especially likely to pass restrictive voting laws if Republicans were politically dominant, but where the state observed rising minority turnout or where the state was becoming more competitive in the national presidential race. Variables that capture the strategic value to Republicans of minority voter suppression are more powerful predictors of restrictive voting legislation than is actual incidence of voter fraud.

And sure, as Harold says, this is utterly disgraceful. But perhaps the most baffling aspect about this kind of behavior is that it doesn’t even work anymore. The GOP lost in 2012. Trying to systematically disenfranchise people along racial lines is a monstrous injustice that puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the worst villains in American history. But if it doesn’t even work—and in fact inspires a larger overreaction, as seems to be the case, what is the point?

I think, as Josh Marshall suggested awhile ago putting this phenomenon in historical context, that these are longstanding political habits the downsides of which have only recently come into focus, as the country becomes steadily less white:

Does this mean the GOP is ‘racist’? No. At least not in its entirety. But it benefited mightily from it. What it means is that our politics is significantly framed around the politics of race and, on balance, it’s been a winning issue for the GOP for the 40 or 50 odd years since white Southerners moved into the Republican party and created a powerful electoral anchor for the party. They raised their sails to the winds of racial animosity and it worked in spades. For decades, you got more white votes pushing this brand of politics than you lost in minority votes. It was a good political bargain. But as the racial composition of the electorate changed, we reached a tipping, one that became visible in sharp relief in 2012.

It’s hard to know from the outside just what combination of wishful thinking, epistemic closure, belief in fake voter fraud, etc., motivates this kind of behavior. But it has to be true that the actual party operatives designing and pushing through these measures which are so obviously aimed at minority citizens know exactly what they’re doing. Here’s hoping that in the future, they’re cynical enough to know that strategy has run its course.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 30, 2013

December 31, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Voter Suppression | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Time To Get A Life”: Republicans React To Benghazi News

The article The Times published on Benghazi this weekend infuriated many Republicans, who ran screaming to television studios.

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who has made a special crusade out of the attack on the American diplomatic and intelligence compound in Benghazi, was asked on “Meet the Press” to justify Republican claims that Al Qaeda agents planned and executed the operation. (The article found no evidence that Al Qaeda was involved.)

Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC put her finger on the political question when she asked Mr. Issa why Republicans “use the term Al Qaeda.” After all, she said, “you and other members of Congress are sophisticated in this and know that when you say Al Qaeda, people think central Al Qaeda. They don’t think militias that may be inspired by Bin Laden and his other followers.”

“There is a group there involved that is linked to Al Qaeda,” Mr. Issa said. “What we never said — and I didn’t have the security to look behind the door, that’s for other members of Congress — of what the intelligence were on the exact correspondence with Al Qaeda, that sort of information — those sorts of methods I’ve never claimed.”

I’m still trying to parse that sentence.

On Fox News on Sunday, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan insisted the story was wrong in finding that “Al Qaeda was not involved in this.”

“There was some level of pre-planning; we know that,” he said. “There was aspiration to conduct an attack by Al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya; we know that. The individuals on the ground talked about a planned tactical movement on the compound — this is the compound before they went to the annex.”

For anyone wondering why it’s so important to Republicans that Al Qaeda orchestrated the attack — or how the Obama administration described the attack in its immediate aftermath — the answer is simple. The Republicans hope to tarnish Democratic candidates by making it seem as though Mr. Obama doesn’t take Al Qaeda seriously. They also want to throw mud at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who they fear will run for president in 2016.

Which brings us to one particularly hilarious theme in the response to the Times investigation. According to Mr. Rogers, the article was intended to “clear the deck” for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said today that The Times was “already laying the groundwork” for a Clinton campaign. Other Republicans referred to Mrs. Clinton as our “candidate of choice.”

Since I will have more to say about which candidate we will endorse in 2016 than any other editor at the Times, let me be clear: We have not chosen Mrs. Clinton. We have not chosen anyone. I can also state definitively that there was no editorial/newsroom conspiracy of any kind, because I knew nothing about the Benghazi article until I read it in the paper on Sunday.

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Editorial Page Editor, The New York Times, December 30, 2013

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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