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“No Fools On Our Ticket”: A Battle Between The GOP Outsiders And Insiders

Just over the last few months, we’ve seen reports from the New York Times, Bloomberg News, and the Washington Post on the simmering tensions between Corporate America and Tea Party Republicans, driving a wedge into the GOP coalition. With party primaries looming, talk of a “Republican civil war” abounds.

Some of the party’s major players are even putting their money where their mouths are. This Wall Street Journal piece yesterday was circulated far and wide in Republican circles.

Republican leaders and their corporate allies have launched an array of efforts aimed at diminishing the clout of the party’s most conservative activists and promoting legislation instead of confrontation next year. […]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce early next year plans to roll out an aggressive effort – expected to cost at least $50 million – to support establishment, business-friendly candidates in primaries and the general election, with an aim of trying to win a Republican Senate majority.

“Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” said the business group’s top political strategist, Scott Reed. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.”

Though Reed did not specify who would qualify as a “fool,” it’s not hard to look back at major Senate races from the last couple of cycles and know exactly the kind of candidates he’s referencing (O’Donnell, Akin, Mourdock, Angle, et al). In other words, when Reed and the Republican Party’s Chamber of Commerce wing talk about “loser candidates” and “fools,” they’re obviously talking about right-wing Tea Party favorites.

Also note, there’s been ample analysis this year noting that Corporate America may want to overcome extremist candidates in GOP primaries, but if this wing of the party doesn’t commit real resources, Tea Partiers will prevail. It’s worth acknowledging, then, that $50 million in support of establishment candidates is a considerable sum.

But as word of the Chamber’s intentions spread, the backlash soon followed. “Special interests in Washington will do whatever it takes to protect big government Republicans,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins told TPM yesterday. “Their ability to get future bailouts, kickbacks, and other favors depends on it.”

Club for Growth senior fellow Tom Borrelli added, “This is a battle between the outsiders and insiders and insiders include big bucks and establishment Republicans.”

Remember, primary season hasn’t really begun in earnest, which means these disputes are likely to intensify very soon. For many Democrats, hoping to see Republicans at each other’s throats during an election year, the popcorn is already being popped.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 27, 2013

December 28, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out As Planned”: UPS’s Christmas Screw Up Is Comeuppance For Private-Sector Triumphalists

At the heart of the great big pile-on of ridicule for the flawed rollout the past few months was a large helping of private-sector triumphalism. Just imagine, the chorus went, if tech giants like Amazon or Google had been in charge of the Web site instead of those clueless, fusty bureaucrats – first, the problems would not have happened in the first place, but even if they had, the private sector would have held those responsible for the mistakes to account.

Bret Stephens wrote an entire column in the Wall Street Journal listing all the ways that the kludgy launch had failed to live up to Amazonian standards: “For an ‘Amazon-like’ experience, it isn’t enough to have a website that functions on the front end, the back end and in between. Nor is it enough to have a site that can handle 800,000 users a day without crashing, as the administration now boasts of the health site. handled 26.5 million purchases on Nov. 26, 2012, a company record and a rate of 306 items per second. You also need an Amazon-like culture, which is the product of other Amazon-like realities. Such as: Jeff Bezos as the boss, demanding results and innovation from his employees, providing results and satisfaction for his customers and shareholders.” California congresswoman Anne Eshoo, a Democrat, questioned the contractors’ excuse that the website’s problems had been exacerbated by the large number of visitors after the launch: “There are thousands of websites that handle concurrent volumes far larger than what was faced with,” she said. “Amazon and eBay don’t crash the week before Christmas, and ProFlowers doesn’t crash on Valentine’s Day.” And the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein mocked’s performance by noting that during the 2011 holiday shopping season, “nearly half of [large retail] websites (such as Amazon and eBay) were up 100 percent of the time. The lowest performing was Foot Locker, which was at 98.573 percent.” He added: “Imagine what a disaster it would be for sales if, during the holiday shopping season, Amazon’s website were down for about a day and a half.”

Yes, just imagine the disaster: the presents might not make it to people’s homes on time!

Oh, wait, what’s this I see in today’s papers?

A surge in online shopping this holiday season left stores breaking promises to deliver packages by Christmas, suggesting that retailers and shipping companies still haven’t fully figured out consumers’ buying patterns in the Internet era. Companies from Inc. to Kohl’s Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., having promised to deliver items before Dec. 25, missed some delivery target dates. United Parcel Service Inc. determined late Tuesday that it wouldn’t deliver some goods in time for Christmas, as a spike in last-minute shopping overwhelmed its system. “The volume of air packages in the UPS system did exceed capacity as demand was much greater than our forecast,” a UPS spokeswoman said…. Although weather, Web glitches and late deliveries from manufacturers played a part in late deliveries, the sheer unanticipated volume of holiday buying this year may have been the biggest problem, retail analysts said.

…In notifications to some Amazon customers, UPS said there were some shipping delays because it had “not yet received the package from the shipper.” “Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery,” said an Amazon spokeswoman Wednesday. “We are reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.” The spokeswoman also said Amazon refunded any shipping charges associated with the impacted shipment and provided a $20 gift card. She declined to say how many customers had been impacted or offered such a rebate.

On Christmas Eve, Brandon Scott was still waiting for a 46-inch Samsung TV and Kate Spade watch he ordered from Amazon on Saturday. “I’m frustrated because these items could have easily been purchased at various retailers in my area, something I would have gladly done had Amazon not ‘guaranteed’ their arrival before Christmas,” said Mr. Scott, of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Well, then. There’s little schadenfreude to be had in people being left empty-handed of presents to give their family and friends, or in underpaid, overworked warehouse employees and drivers rushing unsuccessfully to get the goods to their destinations on time. And as my colleague Jonathan Cohn noted recently, the comparison between and Amazon was deeply flawed from the outset. But still, the Great Christmas Delivery Screwup of 2013 should inject a bit of perspective and humility into the ranks of the loudest private-sector champions. The fact is, the clichés are true: life is complicated, stuff happens and sometimes things don’t work out as planned. As amazing and wonderful as technology is, there are still limits to what is possible in narrow windows of time – sometimes you just need a few more weeks to get the complex new health insurance Web site for 36 states working properly, or you just run out of hours to beat Santa to the house – to millions and millions of houses. (And sometimes it’s not just the government web site that struggles with keeping personal information secure, but also one of the largest retailers in the country, in a breach far wider and more potentially damaging than anything that has happened with

So, how about it: if not an outright truce, maybe some de-escalation of the anti-government triumphalism. And a little forgiveness all around. Happy Boxing Day.


By: Alec MacGinnis, The New Republic, December 26, 2013

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Private Companies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Toiling On The Bottom Rungs Of The Ladder”: Why The Right Should Support Boosting The Minimum Wage, Too

I’ve heard a lot of goofy arguments against raising the federal minimum wage. The silliest goes like this: “You want to raise the minimum wage to $15? Why not $50? Why not $100?”

Of course, that’s not a real argument. Yet I hear it a lot, which means it probably originates somewhere in the nation’s vast menagerie of conservative talk-show hosts.

The answer, if this pseudo-argument deserves one, is that $15 is at least where the current minimum hourly wage of $7.25 would be if it had kept up with worker productivity since the 1960s, according to various experts.

For example, the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute estimates that, if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, as it did for the two decades before, it would now be $18.67 per hour. Ah, the good old days.

That figure makes President Barack Obama’s request for a raise to $10.10, after asking for $9 earlier in the year, sound modest.

Yet at the other end of the political spectrum you have conservatives like Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, who told National Journal that he would rather just get rid of the federal minimum wage altogether. “I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” he said, although he acknowledged that “it may have been of some value back in the Great Depression.”

No minimum wage? It seems to me that America tried that before. It’s called slavery.

But whether Barton’s fellow Republicans share his extreme view or not, a minimum wage increase isn’t likely to have any easier time in the current Congress than most of this president’s other requests.

That’s a tragedy for millions of hard-working Americans who are having an increasingly tough time making ends meet — even as stocks soar to record highs on Wall Street.

Does it sound like I’m talking class warfare? Americans didn’t think so in the three decades after World War II, when the idea of wages keeping up with productivity had much more bipartisan support.

In the years from 1947 to 1969, the minimum wage actually did keep pace with productivity growth, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, another liberal-leaning Washington think tank. As recently as President George W. Bush’s administration, Congress passed a bipartisan minimum wage increase in 2007 that included tax breaks for small businesses. That’s not class warfare. It’s legislating.

Yet not all conservatives are opposed to raising the minimum wage. While Washington sounds gridlocked, the issue has produced productive alliances in various states and municipalities.

In California, fast-food workers and others who have been rallying nationwide for minimum wage increases, have found an unusual ally in Ron Unz. The conservative Silicon Valley businessman probably is best known for backing Proposition 227 in 1998, a ballot issue that eliminated bilingual education as it had been practiced in California schools.

Now the former publisher of The American Conservative magazine has submitted a ballot initiative to the California secretary of state that would raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2016 from the current $8.

His reasons? Strictly conservative, he points out. He sees it as an economic growth measure. It would put $15 billion a year into the pockets of workers who would spend it as “one of the largest economic stimulus packages in California history,” he told KQED radio. And it would be funded entirely by the private sector, he pointed out.

More controversially, Unz hopes that raising the minimum wage would help slow the flow of illegal immigration. “In effect, a much higher minimum wage serves to remove the lowest rungs in the employment ladder,” he wrote in the magazine he used to publish, “thus preventing newly arrived immigrants from gaining their initial foothold in the economy.”

That may be asking too much, in my view. History shows that immigration, legal or illegal, rises or falls according to how well the U.S. economy is doing.

But there’s no question that raising wages would make work in this country even more attractive, particularly to Americans who already toil on the bottom rungs of the income ladder. They deserve a raise.

By: Clarence Page, The National Memo, December 26, 2013

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Minimum Wage | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“There’s Something There”: GOP ‘Confronting A New Reality’ On Healthcare

The Obama administration won’t have an official announcement on December’s health care enrollment numbers for a few more weeks, but chances are good that we’ll see a spike in the number of newly enrollment Americans. At the end of November, the Affordable Care Act had helped bring coverage to about 1.2 million people; by the end of this month, that total will include millions more.

And with each new enrollment, it slowly dawns on congressional Republicans that the larger calculus has changed in fundamental ways. Jonathan Weisman reported overnight that GOP policymakers are “confronting a new reality.”

The enrollment figures may be well short of what the Obama administration had hoped for. But the fact that a significant number of Americans are now benefiting from the program is resulting in a subtle shift among Republicans.

“It’s no longer just a piece of paper that you can repeal and it goes away,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and a Tea Party favorite. “There’s something there. We have to recognize that reality. We have to deal with the people that are currently covered under Obamacare.”

And that underscores a central fact of American politics since Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act during the Depression: Once a benefit has been bestowed, it is nearly impossible to take it away.

Quite right. The Republican repeal crusade, whether the party wants to admit it or not, is over. Sure, Boehner & Co. can schedule a few dozen more repeal votes to help Tea Partiers feel warm and fuzzy, but even that’s less likely in light of the millions of consumers who’ve signed up for coverage – in an election year, candidates don’t generally thrive running on a platform that says, “Vote for me so I can take health care benefits away from your family.”

Indeed, GOP officials are desperate to talk about the “cancellation notices” a small sliver of the population received, but it gets a little tricky for these same Republicans to draw up plans to cancel millions more health care plans on purpose.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, the fight over health care is no longer an abstraction over hypothetical benefits. There’s a profound difference between “Republicans are voting to deny you a benefit you don’t yet enjoy” and “Republicans are voting to take away your health insurance and replace it with nothing.” The former struck GOP officials as plausible; the latter is politically suicidal.

So, as of this minute, what’s the Republican position on health care? No one, including GOP policymakers themselves, has any idea. For years, it was a straightforward push to repeal the entirety of the law, regardless of the consequences or human suffering. Now, some still want to pretend repeal is possible, others want to tinker around the edges with “reforms.” Some believe it’s time for Republicans to craft a policy alternative of their own to present to voters, others believe incessant complaining should be enough to give the GOP a boost on Election Day.

“The hardest problem for us is what to do next,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Weisman.

Ya don’t say.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 27, 2013

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fast And Loose With The Facts”: Lying About Obamacare Continues As Campaign Season Begins

You may want to sit down before reading this: Republicans aren’t being totally truthful about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As the 2014 midterm elections approach, conservative groups are beginning to hit the airwaves with spots targeting vulnerable Democrats and their support for the health law — and the ads are playing fast and loose with the facts.

Americans for Prosperity, the tax-exempt conservative action group created by brothers Charles and David Koch, took out two ads against vulnerable Democrats: Rick Nolan of Minnesota’s 8th District and Ann Kuster of New Hampshire’s 2nd District. Both focus on the health-care law, and they are important to dissect because they are the first trickles of what is sure to be a torrent of anti-ACA advertising.

The ad against Nolan features a middle-aged Minnesota resident named Randy Westby, who []says he lost his health care plan because it no longer qualified for purchase in the exchanges. “I’ve had three heart attacks in the last six years. Health care is something that’s essential, and my life depends on it,” he continues.

The ad leans heavily on Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” designation for President Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” claim, and gives the strong impression that sick people are much worse off under Obamacare.

But was Westby able to find another plan? Four million to five million people probably had their plan canceled because of updated coverage requirements, but the administration believes fewer than 500,000 of those people are still looking for another plan. The ad doesn’t tell us if Westby is one of those people.

Nor does it note that he can’t be disqualified from any of the plans on the exchanges because of his preexisting condition — and three heart attacks in six years is one heck of a preexisting condition. Are the plans available to him cheaper than what he had before? How much better is the coverage? We don’t know, although given Westby’s medical history and apparent age, it seems he is exactly the type of person most likely to benefit from how the new individual market is structured.

The New Hampshire ad is more general and features an actress, but it relies on the same central and shaky claim that “millions of people” are losing coverage. Both ads hit the Democrats in question for voting to keep the ACA in place. (Aside from firing up the conservative grass roots, there was a good political reason for all those repeal votes in the House: to get vulnerable Democrats on the record, again and again.)

A focus on horror stories like these is the likely new Republican approach to Obamacare, as the New York Times outlines today. “It’s no longer just a piece of paper that you can repeal and it goes away,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told the times. “There’s something there. We have to recognize that reality. We have to deal with the people that are currently covered under Obamacare.”

But Westby may well be one of these people. And he may be getting better coverage. These will be the battle lines for the upcoming year: Republicans are gearing up to tell the horror stories, and Democrats will have to respond with stories of their own — the eight million to 10 million people who will be getting coverage under Obamacare by the end of March.


By: George Zornick, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 27, 2013

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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