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“The Importance Of Having Health Insurance”: The 2014 Factor No One Is Talking About — Seniors Are Turning On The GOP

Congressional Republicans have passed a budget, raised the debt limit and punted on immigration reform with one goal in mind. They want to make the 2014 midterm elections about Obamacare.

The party seems to be so confident of this strategy that it doesn’t appear to have any “Plan B,” as The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent continually points out.

While going all-in on the Affordable Care Act makes sense inside the right-wing mindset, where the law is one Fox News interview from disappearing to wherever Mitt Romney was supposed to go, seniors — America’s most reliable voters — may end up leading a backlash against a post-government-shutdown Republican Party that is even less popular now than when George W. Bush left office.

Undoubtably, the poll numbers for the president’s health law remain low months after’s bungled rollout — even though it has helped lead the country to the lowest uninsured rate in five years.

But since the 2010 election, after which real, live Americans began gaining health insurance coverage due to the Affordable Care Act, has there been even one election that has been swayed by Obamacare?

Having been the godfather of the law didn’t cost Mitt Romney the 2012 GOP primary. Having signed the bill into law didn’t cost President Obama his re-election. It didn’t stop Democrats from picking up seats in the Senate and the House. Since 2012, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) was re-elected after accepting Medicaid expansion and Terry McAuliffe won Virginia’s governorship with a jobs plan centered upon expanding Medicaid.

In Florida, Democrat Alex Sink narrowly leads Republican David Jolly in a special election to replace Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), who passed away late last year. As Jolly attacks Sink on Obamacare, Sink defends the most popular part of the law — the ban on insurers considering pre-existing conditions — and attacks Jolly on Medicare.

Republicans exploited seniors’ fears of Medicare cuts in 2010 — then voted for the same cuts when they took the House. They also went a step further by proposing a plan to radically remake the single-payer system that provides health coverage to every American 65 or older.

Jolly, a lobbyist, has never officially endorsed or voted for the plan created by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to turn Medicare into a voucher system.  However, nearly every sitting Republican member of the House has.

Ryan’s plan and opposition to Obamacare earned him boos when he spoke at the AARP convention as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. And it was certainly part of the reason he was barely visible in the last few weeks of the campaign.

And since the 2012 election, Republicans’ standing with seniors has only deteriorated.

“In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21-point margin (38 percent to 59 percent),” Democracy Corps’ Erica Siefert noted in her post “Why Seniors Are Turning Against The GOP,” published months before the government shutdown.

In the latest McClatchy-Marist National Poll, the GOP only had a 4-point margin over Democrats.

The same poll found that 58 percent of adults 45-59 and 54 percent of those 60 and older had an unfavorable view of the president. However, 73 percent of adults 45-59 and 74 percent of those 60 and older also reported an unfavorable view of Republicans in Congress.

Democrats recognize that Obamacare may be a liability and are circulating talking points that call attention to the fact that “65 percent of voters agree with the statement ‘we’ve wasted too much time talking about Obamacare and we have other problems to deal with.’” This aligns with polls that show again and again that most people would rather keep and fix the law than repeal it completely.

But it’s quite possible that the GOP’s stand on Medicare could ultimately be more harmful to their prospects than Obamacare is for Democrats.

Any Republican who sticks with repeal can be charged with wanting to raise prescription drug prices for seniors. Along with eliminating the closing of the Medicare drug “donut hole,” repeal also would erase subsidies that are potentially helping millions of older Americans afford care.

“I just cried, I was so relieved,” said 58-year-old Maureen Grey after using her new plan — purchased with the help of Obamacare subsidies — to visit a doctor.

Adults aged 55-64 make up 31 percent of the new enrollees in the health care marketplaces set up by the law. A new Associated Press report notes that workers nearing retirement have been hardest hit by the Great Recession and are in the most desperate need of what the law offers:

Aging boomers are more likely to be in debt as they enter retirement than were previous generations, with many having purchased more expensive homes with smaller down payments, said economist Olivia Mitchell of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. One in five has unpaid medical bills and 17 percent are underwater with their home values. Fourteen percent are uninsured.

As of December, 46 percent of older jobseekers were among the long-term unemployed compared with less than 25 percent before the recession.

And those financial setbacks happened just as their health care needs became more acute. Americans in their mid-50s to mid-60s are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than other age groups, younger or older, accounting for 3 in 10 of the adult diabetes diagnoses in the United States each year. And every year after age 50, the rate of cancer diagnosis climbs.

For many of these Americans, the Medicare guarantee isn’t some distant, theoretical promise. It’s a necessity.

And with Obamacare bridging the gap until retirement, Republicans may find that their decision to make the 2014 election about health care will be as ill-advised as shutting down the government to defund it.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance, Seniors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Only Heterosexuals Served Here”: Seriously, What Is Wrong With Kansas?

Kansas might as well start producing “Only Heterosexuals Served Here” signs for businesses and government offices.

A bill that sailed through the state’s House of Representatives tells Kansans: You can be as discriminatory as you like against homosexuals and the state will have your back. Just be sure and do it in God’s name!

The bill is meeting pushback in the Kansas Senate, but don’t be fooled. This is denial and fear on steroids. It’s happening across the country. And it won’t be the last we’ll hear of such legislative efforts.

The legislation is aimed at civil unions. It’s a pre-emptive strike to ensure that people “with sincerely held religious beliefs” against homosexuality will be able to turn gay couples away if they request flowers for a wedding, a banquet hall for a reception or wish to hire a photographer for their civil ceremony. Also covered are those involved with adoption, foster care, counseling or social services, including government employees. Like a city clerk who might want to cite his Bible to avoid legally recognizing a gay marriage declared valid elsewhere.

The politicians who support this nonsense have no clue what discrimination looks like, feels like or how it has historically has functioned in society. The constant cry rationalizing this bill and similar measures elsewhere is that it is religious conservatives — not homosexuals — who are apt to suffer from discrimination.

Really? I’m doubtful that any has entered a public business to be told that their money is no good there — because they’re a Christian. Nor have they suffered the added humiliation of being slurred as they are shown the door. So the idea of ensuring such denial of public accommodation as a legally protected “right,” something no aggrieved person could ever sue for, feels just dandy to them. Justified, even.

What’s really happening — what’s threatening the religious conservatives of Kansas — is that the general public’s views on homosexuality are shifting. Rapidly.

People under the age of 25 shrugged at the hoopla surrounding All-American lineman Michael Sam’s public announcement that he is gay before the NFL draft. Seventeen states have legalized same-sex marriage so couples can gain the tax benefits, insurance, medical protections and legal responsibilities that straight people have long held. And federal courts have overturned bans against same-sex marriages in Utah and Oklahoma.

So religious conservatives now take up the mantle of a minority. That’s one of the few honest things about this conversation. Their view of homosexuality will soon be (if it is not already) a minority opinion.

Yet they miss crucial points. No government authority — neither the courts nor the executive branch — is telling people that they can’t continue to decry homosexuality. They can quote the Bible to condemn it all they want. Preachers can preach that God has naught but fiery damnation in store for LGBT people. Churches can continue to bar gay couples from marriage and any other sacrament.

But that long-enshrined First Amendment protection of speech and religious freedom isn’t good enough for these folks. No. They want the assurance that they can also run a public business, advertise their services to one and all, and still maintain the right to tell gay people they aren’t welcome. And never face the legal ramifications of a lawsuit, if such a thing could ever transpire in Kansas.

Here’s another overlooked fact. It is legal in much of America to discriminate against gays and lesbians. In many states and cities, a gay person can be fired if a boss takes a disliking to his or her “lifestyle,” and the fired employee has no legal recourse to fight back. Sexual orientation does not enjoy the federal protections of other attributes, such as race, sex, color, religion or national origin.

This backlash is not unlike the many hateful exertions to protect the “Southern way of life” from the threat of civil rights legislation. Certainly, there were, and likely still are, people who opposed the “mixing of the races” on religious grounds.

The Kansas bill’s sponsor points to one clause as a measure of fairness to gays. When an employee of a business or a government office doesn’t want to deal with a gay person, another employee should. Tap the non-homophobe to do the job!

This only underscores the bill’s absurdity, especially from a Christian perspective. Jesus of Nazareth was infamous in his time for supping with prostitutes and tax collectors, and yet these supposedly upright followers of his cannot bear to act with charity and decency in public and commercial life?

To defeat this bill and others like it around the country, a spotlight must be focused on the legislators who back them. Efforts to that effect have already begun in Kansas. But this sort of political hustle won’t die easily. It’s all about ginning up feelings of persecution among so-called “values voters” … over having to surrender the long-held prerogative to persecute. Lacking any grace or humility, these demagogues won’t leave the scene until they’ve discharged all their poison into our politics.

But they will never prevail.


By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“After Background Checks Were Scrapped In Missouri”: Confirmation That Weaknesses In Firearm Laws Lead To Deaths From Gun Violence

In recent years, advocates of gun reforms have pushed for expanded background checks, arguing that such measures, including closing the gun-show loophole, would improve public safety and reduce gun violence.

On the other end of the policy spectrum is Missouri, which had a background-check system before it was repealed in 2007. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health took a closer look at the impact on public safety in the state after the policy change, and the Washington Post’s Niraj Chokshi helped summarize the results.

The law’s repeal was correlated with a 23 percent spike in firearm homicide rates, or an additional 55 to 63 murders annually from 2008 to 2012, according to the study conducted by researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and to be published in the Journal of Urban Health.

“This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “There is strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of Missouri’s handgun purchaser licensing law contributed to dozens of additional murders in Missouri each year since the law was changed.”

For context, note that there was no comparable increase at the national level – in other words, it’s not like Missouri saw a spike because everyone nationwide was seeing a spike – and more to the point, the eight states that border Missouri also did not experience a similar increase.

That said, the states surrounding Missouri were affected.

From Chokshi’s report:

Police in border states that kept such laws reported a big spike in guns bought in Missouri that had been diverted to criminals. In 2009, Missouri exported 136 guns to neighboring Illinois and 78 to neighboring Kansas, according to data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and compiled by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

When Senate Republicans killed a bipartisan background-check proposal last year, considered in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, one of the more common refrains from opponents of reform was that background checks just don’t make a lot of difference. Even if proponents are well intentioned, the process itself is a feel-good measure with little real-world implications.

The data out of Missouri appears to point in a very different direction.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Spoiler Alert”: GOP Leaders Hope To Maintain Party Unity By Doing Nothing For The Rest Of The Year

The debt ceiling has been lifted, an omnibus spending bill has been passed, the farm bill is finished and a bipartisan budget has been signed by President Obama. All the must-pass legislation of this Congress, in other words, has been dealt with, leaving leaders in the House GOP with one big choice and three options.

The choice: What to do between now and November’s congressional elections.

The options:

  1. Push for immigration reform.
  2. Push for tax reform.
  3. Do absolutely nothing and hope that saying some combination of “Obamacare” and “Benghazi” every 30 seconds between now and November will be enough to maintain the Republican hold on the House and retake the majority in the Senate.

Spoiler alert! They’re going with option No. 3.

According to Robert Costa of the Washington Post, congressional GOP leadership has decided that in order to maintain party unity and put themselves in the best position to win in November, Republicans would be best off doing a whole lot of nothing for the next nine months.

“We don’t have 218 votes in the House for the big issues, so what else are we going to do?” California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes told Costa. “We can do a few things on immigration and work on our principles, but in terms of real legislating, we’re unable to get in a good negotiating position.”

While the GOP has a clear majority in the House, Nunes’ remarks reflect the divided nature of the Republican caucus, in which the Tea Party faction is too small to command a governing majority, but is large enough to keep less-conservative GOPers from getting anything done.

Republicans’ decision to wait out the remainder of 2014 is, according to GOP pollster and spinmeister Frank Luntz, “[A]n acknowledgment of where they stand, where nothing can happen in divided government so we may essentially have the status quo.”

“Significant immigration reform and fundamental tax reform are probably not going to happen,” he added.

That’s not to say that Republicans will literally do nothing, however. On the contrary, they plan to introduce a slew of bills that have no chance of passing but will supposedly win the support of undecided swing-voters. Costa reports that a bill to fully repeal and replace Obamacare is planned to be released in the spring or the summer, and that GOP leaders hope to introduce similarly DOA bills focused on jobs, energy and regulations.

“It’s a natural progression,” Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber told Costa, speaking of the party’s new plan. “If you’re a Republican in Congress, you’ve learned that when we shut down the government, we lose. Now that we’ve had some success in avoiding another shutdown, our fortunes seem to be rising, so maybe we don’t want big things to happen.”

Now there’s a bumper-sticker. “Vote Republican in 2014: We don’t want big things to happen.”


By: Elias Isquith, Salon, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie’s Crisis Management”: The Governor Isn’t Navigating Those Perilous Waters Too Well

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has found himself in the midst of several ongoing scandals, and from a distance, it’s not at all clear he’s receiving the best possible advice. Indeed, according to the governor’s own office, Christie aides have gone rogue more than once lately.

There are no doubt plenty of experts in political crisis management who could help steer the governor through these perilous waters, but I talked with a knowledgeable friend this afternoon about the kind of advice Christie needs but doesn’t seem to be receiving.

First, it’s not a good idea for the governor to travel to a tropical resort while New Jersey residents are struggling with another snow storm – causing, among other things, roofs to collapse.

Second, it’s not a good idea for the governor to cancel a town-hall meeting with constituents, citing inclement weather, only to keep his commitment to travel to nearby New York City for a Republican fundraiser for the same evening.

Third, it’s not a good idea for the governor’s office to identify a potentially damaging witness and then go after his high-school antics through the national media.

Fourth, it’s not a good idea for the governor to hire a high-priced lawyer, have the taxpayers pick up the tab, and then sit back as he shamelessly tries to intimidate witnesses.

Fifth, it’s not a good idea for the governor to change his story as the controversies unfold.

Sixth, it’s not a good idea for the governor to keep pretending there may have been a traffic study.

And finally, it might be a good idea for the governor to look busy.

Christie can start by considering some reforms at the Port Authority.

Major structural reforms would require legislative approval in Albany and Trenton, which would be hard but definitely worth a try. New Jersey, for instance, could help matters by enacting the equivalent of a reform law approved in New York that, among other things, required board members to pledge to uphold their fiduciary duties to their agency’s mission, not to their patron in the governor’s mansion. Short of that, the two governors should make changes that could make the authority less political and more professional.

The Port Authority’s 12-member board of commissioners is appointed by the governors, six by each. They should be appointed on the basis of their professional qualifications, not political connections, as so often happens, and held to six-year term limits. Some holdovers have been there for more than 10 years.

Each commissioner should also publicly disclose potential conflicts of interest well before the authority makes its decisions. These potential conflicts should be regularly displayed on the Port Authority’s website. Commissioners have routinely been allowed to lobby for contracts that could affect personal businesses and, only later after the decision is made, would they formally recuse themselves in the official minutes. Their recusal in each case should be announced at the public board meeting.

It’d be a start, wouldn’t it?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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