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“Imminent ‘Death Spiral’ Premature, Over-Hyped”: Young People Are Just Procrastinating On ObamaCare

ObamaCare enrollees are, so far, generally older and therefore potentially less healthy than the general public. And on the flip side, only one-fourth of sign-ups are in the crucial 18-35 year-old age bracket, well below the administration’s roughly 40 percent target, according to new enrollment data released Monday.

Given the top-heavy enrollment figures, critics and skeptics are again raising a doomsday scenario in which an elderly pool of enrollees, without adequate subsidization from healthier, younger people, causes premiums to skyrocket so much the entire system crumbles.

“Hello, Death Spiral,” snarks a National Review headline.

Terrifying, right?

However, the administration expected that young people would procrastinate until the last minute, while older and sicker people would be more motivated to get coverage as soon as possible. People have until the end of March to sign up for ObamaCare before the individual mandate’s penalty kicks in, so assuming that works as something of a metaphorical term paper deadline, there could very well be a surge of young people into ObamaCare in the next couple of months.

Massachusetts’ experience implementing Romneycare in 2006 offers some historical precedent. As an analysis by MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber shows, the percentage of Romneycare sign-ups in the 19-34 year-old bracket hovered in the low 20s for the first few months before gradually rising into the mid-30s range by the end of the year.

ObamaCare, likewise, saw an eight-fold increase in young adults enrolling in December compared to the two months prior, indicating that young people were indeed waiting until the last minute. Hence Aaron Smith, head of the nonprofit Young Invincibles, whose goal is getting uninsured young people enrolled, says the latest numbers show they “are on the right track.”

The White House is also planning to up its outreach to young people, including a National Youth Enrollment Day on February 15. That should help drive up youth enrollment above its current level.

And even if that effort fizzles, it’s still extremely unlikely the death spiral will materialize if the current enrollment demographics remain unchanged. A December report form the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that “the financial consequences of lower enrollment among young adults are not as great as conventional wisdom might suggest.” Even in a worst-case scenario where young people comprise 25 percent of the overall pool, Kaiser estimated premiums would rise marginally, or “well below the level that would trigger a ‘death spiral.'”

There are two months of open enrollment left, so proclaiming dire predictions is a tad premature at this point. And even if the supposedly deadly enrollment demographics remain unchanged come April, and premiums go up, it almost certainly won’t imperil the law.


By: Jon Terbush, The Week, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tea Party Consulting Scam”: The Real Conservatives Funded By The Senate Conservatives Fund

It’s worth reading Politico’s Manu Raju and Maggie Haberman’s recent story on the Senate Conservative Fund, an independent political group that used to specialize in backing “insurgent” primary candidates over “establishment” ones, and that now devotes the bulk of its spending against actual incumbent Republican elected officials — including, most notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The SCF’s leader, Matt Hoskins, has a “core team of five staffers” and no board of directors to answer to. The organization reports that it raised more than $9 million in 2013. It spent some of that money on campaigning for its chosen candidates. It has spent some of that money on … other things.

But without a board of directors, Hoskins and his team can choose to spend with little accountability.
Such expenditures include purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of conservative commentator Mark Levin’s books to hand out to donors as a freebie for their contributions. His group also paid $143,360 over three years to a luxury design firm to renovate office space in Washington townhouses, according to campaign-finance filings.

Between May 2010 and October 2013, Hoskins and his company, Bold Colors, have been paid, in total, $463,750, with an additional $72,000 from the SCF’s super PAC, records show.

To sum up: The SCF has paid more than a half-million dollars to the consulting firm run by the head of the SCF. But the detail that caused a minor conservative media shit storm was the detail about the SCF buying up Mark Levin’s book in bulk. A spokesperson for the RNC — the “establishment” — tweeted about it, which led to a bunch of true conservatives complaining about the dastardly accusation that Levin is somehow on the take, just because this group sent a bunch of money this way and he sends a bunch of donors their way. Levin said that the RNC spokesperson, who sent one tweet calling attention to the Politico story, “will not silence me with his sleazy inside-the-beltway tactics.”

And then Erick Erickson stepped up to defend Levin and the SCF, with a completely insane post comparing the symbiotic relationship between the SCF and Levin to the fact that a National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer had child pornography on his computer. I mean, yes, one is a “guilt-by-association” argument with no coherent financial motive while the other is a clear-cut conflict-of-interest deal, but still, they both happened. Erick Erickson: master of analogies. Erickson writes: “It is just as ridiculous to accuse Mark Levin and the Senate Conservatives Fund of a quid pro quo relationship when they happen to be allies in a fight and also happen to be friends.”

Even if we didn’t live in a world where explicit endorsements-for-pay were common among conservative radio personalities, it wouldn’t be “ridiculous” to assume that buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of a host’s book would lead to the host saying nice things about you. But the problem for Erickson’s argument is that we actually do live in a world where conservative groups pay talk radio hosts obscene amounts of money to boost their groups. And one of the hosts who does this is Mark Levin. It is a thing he does. He endorses groups for money.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, with the help of various talk radio people, made itself the most prominent group fighting against the GOP establishment on behalf of the Tea Party. That led to them raising lots and lots of money. That money goes to people running the SCF, in the form of salaries and consulting fees, and it goes to the people promoting the SCF, in the form of direct payments and mass book purchases. None of this is illegal (as far as I know, anyway). Is it immoral? Is it unethical? Not many people are interested in answering that question. Nearly every prominent national conservative is in on the graft, and the marks are people who write checks to fund the advancement of conservative ideas or the election of conservative politicians. All of this is exceedingly well-documented. And it doesn’t matter.

The thing about this grand bamboozling is that the marks want to be bamboozled. When you tell them that Glenn Beck is paid to have certain opinions, they truly do not care. Sending people money to fight for a cause you strongly believe in feels good. The apocalyptic pitches may be obviously manipulative to anyone outside the target demographic, but they obviously work. And for years, the scheme actually worked in the larger sense, of enriching people and advancing the conservative agenda. With the financial (if not political) success of the SCF’s nihilistic approach to strategy, conservatives invested in the actual policy agenda are starting to worry.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Political Arsonist Condemns Partisan Fires”: When Mitch McConnell Looks At The Dysfunctional Senate, He Sees His Own Handiwork

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered a lengthy, beautifully written soliloquy on the once-great institution in which he serves. “What have we become?” McConnell asked. “I’m absolutely certain of one thing: the Senate can be better than it is,” he added. “We’ve gotten too comfortable with doing everything we do here through the prism of the next election, instead of the prism of duty. And everyone suffers as a result.”

The long-time Republican is apparently quite invested in his concerns over the demise of the Senate, publishing a piece in Politico on the subject.

When you look at the vote tallies for some of the more far-reaching legislation over the past century, for example, the Senate was broadly in agreement.

Medicare and Medicaid were both approved with the support of about half the members of the minority. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed with the votes of 30 out of 32 members of the Republican minority. Only six senators voted against the Social Security Act. Only eight voted against the Americans With Disabilities Act.

This is, oddly enough, practically identical to the kind of lament one might hear from a progressive Senate Democrat. Before the radicalization of Republican politics, bipartisan cooperation on major policies was common, and when centrist GOP lawmakers still existed, popular and even progressive legislation was approved with large majorities.

So why is McConnell echoing Democratic concerns? Because he’s convinced of his own misguided righteousness.

When Democrats couldn’t convince Republicans that [the Affordable Care Act] was worth supporting as written, they plowed ahead on their own and passed it on a party-line vote.

That’s why the chaos this law has visited on our country is not just tragic, it was entirely predictable. Chaos will always be the result if you approach legislation without regard for the views of the other side.

It’s at this point when knowledgeable readers, too well informed to fall for such a clumsy con, realized that McConnell is playing the public for fools. What we have is a political arsonist condemning partisan fires after he lit the match.

As Ed Kilgore, Greg Sargent, and others noted in response to McConnell’s breathtaking, almost nauseating, complaints about the Senate, the Minority Leader’s whining is not only hypocritical, it’s making a mockery of the very idea of self-awareness.

Medicare and Medicaid were approved with bipartisan support, but as GOP extremism becomes the new norm, McConnell and his party are eagerly trying to undermine both. The Voting Rights Act has enjoyed near-unanimous support, but it was Republican justices on the Supreme Court that gutted the law, and it’s Republican lawmakers who are now reluctant to repair it.

Social Security is a venerated American institution, which Republicans actively hope to replace with a privatization scheme. The Republican right to celebrate the Americans With Disabilities Act officially ended in December 2012.

Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to think all of these landmark legislative accomplishments – Medicare, Medicaid, VRA, Social Security, and the ADA – would not only face a Republican filibuster if brought to the floor for the first time today, they’d all fail in the GOP-led House.

“When you look at the vote tallies for some of the more far-reaching legislation over the past century, for example, the Senate was broadly in agreement”? That’s true. Then the Republican Party became radicalized and it stopped being true.

As for the Affordable Care Act, Democrats desperately tried to find Republican support for a policy built around Republican-friendly policies. No matter how much Dems pleaded with GOP officials to work in good faith towards a compromise, the more Republicans refused.

And it was McConnell who was candid enough to explain in 2010 how and why this happened.

“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought – correctly, I think – that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

Right. McConnell figured that if Republicans worked in good faith on a bipartisan health care bill, the public would assume it was a worthwhile idea. So McConnell insisted that his party oppose every effort at compromise, and slap away every outstretched hand, so that the GOP could condemn “Obamacare,” regardless of the merits.

In other words, even if Dems approached McConnell with a health care plan McConnell liked, he’d still reject it. To do otherwise would be to help Democrats, while denying the Minority Leader a chance to complain later.

Indeed, it’s this attitude that has served as a template for Republican obstructionism for five years. When McConnell looks at the dysfunctional Senate, what he sees is the result of his own handiwork – the ashes of the fire he started, then complained constantly as emergency crews struggled to put it out.

For the Minority Leader to ask, “What have we become?” is a good question. Perhaps McConnell can answer it after a long look in the mirror.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Drifting Towards Another Middle East War?”: Remember What Happened When Democrats Supported An Avoidable War With Iraq

As the White House sharpens its criticism of congressional efforts to short-circuit negotiations with Iran via a new sanctions regime, progressives are slowly waking up and smelling the campfire coffee of another Middle East “war of choice.”

In part because active resistance has been limited, there are an awful lot of Democratic fingerprints on the sanctions legislation, and even more de facto defiance of Obama from Democrats who have fallen silent. Here’s how Greg Sargent sums up the current situation:

The basic storyline in recent days has been that the pro-sanctions-bill side is gaining in numbers, while the anti-sanctions-bill side hasn’t — even though the White House has been lobbying Dems very aggressively to back off on this bill, on the grounds that it could imperil the chances for a historic long-term breakthrough with Iran. As Josh Rogin puts it, “the White House’s warnings have had little effect.”

We’re very close now to the 60 votes it needs to pass. The Dem leadership has no plans to bring it to the floor, but there are other procedural ways proponents could try to force a vote. And if the numbers in favor of the bill continue to mount, it could increase pressure on Harry Reid to move it forward. Yes, the president could veto it if it did pass. But we’re actually not all that far away from a veto-proof majority. And in any case, having such a bill pass and get vetoed by the president is presumably not what most Democrats want to see happen.

At TNR, our own Ryan Cooper looks at Cory Booker’s decision to support sanctions, and concludes he’s just not afraid of the heat he will eventually receive from an awakened Democratic Left.

You will hear some Democrats and even a few Republicans claim they are trying to strengthen the adminstration’s hand in their negotiations, but that’s a shuck. The whole idea is to torpedo the talks because Bibi Netanyahu believes they are aimed at the wrong goal: keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as opposed to Bibi’s demand that Iran lose its capability of developing nuclear weapons. If that means war, so be it.

This time around, of course, those in the Democratic Party opposing a drift into war have the White House on their side, and the precedent of what happened when a lot of Democrats supported a similarly avoidable war with Iraq. But if antiwar Democrats don’t start making some real noise, the configuration of forces in Congress will continue to deteriorate, and we could be looking at a war foisted on an unwilling commander-in-chief.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Iran, Iraq War | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Trouble With Christie”: It’s More Than Ordinary Narcissism

I was there in Tampa in August, 2012, for Governor Chris Christie’s keynote address at the Republican National Convention, and from the first line I knew this guy was trouble: “Well! This stage and this moment are very improbable for me.” For twenty-four overwrought minutes, Christie spoke, proudly, glowingly, about the subject that really gets him fired up, which is himself—how he always faces the hard truths; how he wants to be respected more than loved; how, of his two parents, he’s much more like his tough, brutally honest Sicilian mother (“I am her son!”) than like his good-hearted, lovable Irish father. It was later observed that the Governor almost forgot to mention the Party’s Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, whose nomination Christie was in Tampa to kick off; less widely remarked was that he also practically disowned his sole surviving parent, who was in the audience listening, and presumably didn’t mind.

The trouble with Christie has to do with more than ordinary narcissism, which, after all, is practically an entry requirement for a political career. When Barack Obama used to tell crowds during the 2008 campaign, “This is not about me. It’s about you,” I always interpreted the words to mean that it actually was about him. But Obama, whose ego is so securely under control that his self-sufficiency has become a point of criticism among Washington pundits, would never devote more than a paragraph to his own personality (as opposed to his biography)—which was the subject not just of Christie’s convention keynote speech but of his entire political career. What struck me in Tampa even more than his self-infatuated lyrics was the score they were set to—the particular combination of bluster, self-pity, sentimentality, and inextinguishable hostility wrapped in appeals to higher things. (After declaring that Democrats “believe the American people are content to live the lie with them,” Christie waved the flag of bipartisanship, saying, “We lose when we play along with their game of scaring and dividing.”) Those are dangerously combustible elements in a political personality. Americans older than fifty are all too familiar with them.

The engineered traffic nightmare in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is, of course, being called Bridgegate. The suffix has been used, overused, and misused for almost every political scandal since a “third-rate burglary” at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters on the night of June 16, 1972. In the case of Bridgegate, there are several key limiting factors. It’s a state scandal, not a national one. A potential Presidency might be at stake, but not an actual one. No evidence ties the Governor directly to the havoc visited on one of New Jersey’s five hundred and sixty-six municipalities—not yet, anyway. On the scale of Teapot Dome and Iran-Contra and even Monica, the four-day closing of two approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge is very minor league.

So why do I keep having flashbacks to 1972? Some of the parallels are weirdly exact. Whether or not he ordered the Watergate bugging, Richard Nixon ran a campaign of dirty tricks for two reasons: he wanted to run up the score going into his second term, and he was a supremely mean-spirited man. Nixon’s reëlection campaign reached out to as many Democrats as possible (not just elected officials but rank-and-file blue-collar workers and Catholics). Nixon ran not as the Republican Party’s leader but, in the words of his bumper sticker, as just “President Nixon.” His landslide win over George McGovern translated into no Republican advantage in congressional races—the Democrats more than held their own. The Washington Posts David Broder later called it “an extraordinarily selfish victory.”

Christie’s 2013 reëlection tracks closely with this story: an all-out effort to court Democrats in order to maximize his personal power, and a landslide victory in November, with all the benefit going to the Governor, not to his fellow-Republicans in the state legislature. On Christmas, the Times published a piece about Christie’s long record of bullying and retribution. In it, the Fort Lee traffic jam was mentioned as just one of many cases (and, I have to admit, not the one that stayed with me) of vengefulness so petty that it inescapably called to mind the American President who incarnated that quality, and was brought down by it.

In the e-mails that went public last week when the scandal broke, the tone of Christie’s aides and appointees displays the thuggery and overweening arrogance that were characteristic of Nixon’s men when the President was at the height of his popularity—utter contempt for opponents, not the slightest anxiety about getting caught. In both cases, whether or not the boss sanctioned these actions, the tone came from the top. It’s the way officials talk when they feel they have nothing to fear, when there’s a kind of competition to sound toughest, because that’s what the boss wants and rewards. Once all hell broke loose, Christie insisted, in a compelling and self-indulgent press conference that, like his keynote speech, was all about himself, that he was the scandal’s biggest victim. “I am not a bully,” he said, in an echo of one of Nixon’s most famous remarks.

Character is destiny, and politicians usually get the scandals they deserve, with a sense of inevitability about them. Warren G. Harding surrounded himself with corrupt pols and businessmen, then checked out, leading to the most sensational case of bribery in American history. Ronald Reagan combined zealotry and fantasy, and Oliver North acted them out. Bill Clinton was libidinous and truth-parsing but also cautious, while George W. Bush was an incurious crusader who believed himself chosen by God and drove almost the entire national-security establishment into lawlessness without thinking twice. Christie, more than any of these, is reminiscent of the President whose petty hatefulness destroyed him—which is why, as NBC’s newscaster said when signing off on an early report on that long-ago burglary, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.


By: George Packer, The New Yorker, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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