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“Crazy Climate Economics”: These Days, Republicans Come Out In Force To Oppose Even The Most Obviously Needed Regulations

Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don’t — but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you’ll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word “class” is “Marxism talk.” In the right’s eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere — for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of “diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme — why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.

And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.

Until now, the right’s climate craziness has mainly been focused on attacking the science. And it has been quite a spectacle: At this point almost all card-carrying conservatives endorse the view that climate change is a gigantic hoax, that thousands of research papers showing a warming planet — 97 percent of the literature — are the product of a vast international conspiracy. But as the Obama administration moves toward actually doing something based on that science, crazy climate economics will come into its own.

You can already get a taste of what’s coming in the dissenting opinions from a recent Supreme Court ruling on power-plant pollution. A majority of the justices agreed that the E.P.A. has the right to regulate smog from coal-fired power plants, which drifts across state lines. But Justice Scalia didn’t just dissent; he suggested that the E.P.A.’s proposed rule — which would tie the size of required smog reductions to cost — reflected the Marxist concept of “from each according to his ability.” Taking cost into consideration is Marxist? Who knew?

And you can just imagine what will happen when the E.P.A., buoyed by the smog ruling, moves on to regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

What do I mean by crazy climate economics?

First, we’ll see any effort to limit pollution denounced as a tyrannical act. Pollution wasn’t always a deeply partisan issue: Economists in the George W. Bush administration wrote paeans to “market based” pollution controls, and in 2008 John McCain made proposals for cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse gases part of his presidential campaign. But when House Democrats actually passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it was attacked as, you guessed it, Marxist. And these days Republicans come out in force to oppose even the most obviously needed regulations, like the plan to reduce the pollution that’s killing Chesapeake Bay.

Second, we’ll see claims that any effort to limit emissions will have what Senator Marco Rubio is already calling “a devastating impact on our economy.”

Why is this crazy? Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues — such as a cap on carbon emissions — those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.

Now, the rules the E.P.A. is likely to impose won’t give the private sector as much flexibility as it would have had in dealing with an economywide carbon cap or emissions tax. But Republicans have only themselves to blame: Their scorched-earth opposition to any kind of climate policy has left executive action by the White House as the only route forward.

Furthermore, it turns out that focusing climate policy on coal-fired power plants isn’t bad as a first step. Such plants aren’t the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, but they’re a large part of the problem — and the best estimates we have of the path forward suggest that reducing power-plant emissions will be a large part of any solution.

What about the argument that unilateral U.S. action won’t work, because China is the real problem? It’s true that we’re no longer No. 1 in greenhouse gases — but we’re still a strong No. 2. Furthermore, U.S. action on climate is a necessary first step toward a broader international agreement, which will surely include sanctions on countries that don’t participate.

So the coming firestorm over new power-plant regulations won’t be a genuine debate — just as there isn’t a genuine debate about climate science. Instead, the airwaves will be filled with conspiracy theories and wild claims about costs, all of which should be ignored. Climate policy may finally be getting somewhere; let’s not let crazy climate economics get in the way.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 11, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How The Right Wing Is Killing Women”: Far Right Ideology Is Trumping The Health Needs Of Millions Of Americans

According to a report released last week in the widely-respected health research journal, The Lancet, the United States now ranks 60th out of 180 countries on maternal deaths occurring during pregnancy and childbirth.

To put it bluntly, for every 100,000 births in America last year, 18.5 women died. That’s compared to 8.2 women who died during pregnancy and birth in Canada, 6.1 in Britain, and only 2.4 in Iceland.

A woman giving birth in America is more than twice as likely to die as a woman in Saudi Arabia or China.

You might say international comparisons should be taken with a grain of salt because of difficulties of getting accurate measurements across nations. Maybe China hides the true extent of its maternal deaths. But Canada and Britain?

Even if you’re still skeptical, consider that our rate of maternal death is heading in the wrong direction. It’s risen over the past decade and is now nearly the highest in a quarter century.

In 1990, the maternal mortality rate in America was 12.4 women per 100,000 births. In 2003, it was 17.6. Now it’s 18.5.

That’s not a measurement error because we’ve been measuring the rate of maternal death in the United States the same way for decades.

By contrast, the rate has been dropping in most other nations. In fact, we’re one of just eight nations in which it’s been rising.  The others that are heading in the wrong direction with us are not exactly a league we should be proud to be a member of. They include Afghanistan, El Salvador, Belize, and South Sudan.

China was ranked 116 in 1990. Now it’s moved up to 57. Even if China’s way of measuring maternal mortality isn’t to be trusted, China is going in the right direction. We ranked 22 in 1990. Now, as I’ve said, we’re down to 60th place.

Something’s clearly wrong.

Some say more American women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth because American girls are becoming pregnant at younger and younger ages, where pregnancy and birth can pose greater dangers.

This theory might be convincing if it had data to support it. But contrary to the stereotype of the pregnant young teenager, the biggest rise in pregnancy-related deaths in America has occurred in women 20-24 years old.

Consider that in 1990, 7.2 women in this age group died for every 100,000 live births. By 2013, the rate was 14 deaths in this same age group – almost double the earlier rate.

Researchers aren’t sure what’s happening but they’re almost unanimous in pointing to a lack of access to health care, coupled with rising levels of poverty.

Some American women are dying during pregnancy and childbirth from health problems they had before they became pregnant but worsened because of the pregnancies — such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

The real problem, in other words, was they didn’t get adequate health care before they became pregnant.

Other women are dying because they didn’t have the means to prevent a pregnancy they shouldn’t have had, or they didn’t get the prenatal care they needed during their pregnancies. In other words, a different sort of inadequate health care.

One clue: African-American mothers are more than three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.

The data tell the story: A study by the Roosevelt Institute shows that U.S. states with high poverty rates have maternal death rates 77 percent higher than states with lower levels of poverty. Women with no health insurance are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or in childbirth than women who are insured.

What do we do about this? Yes, of course, poor women (and the men who made them pregnant) have to take more personal responsibility for their behavior.

But this tragic trend is also a clear matter of public choice.

Many of these high-poverty states are among the twenty-one that have so far refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and at least 90 percent thereafter.

So as the sputtering economy casts more and more women into near poverty, they can’t get the health care they need.

Several of these same states have also cut family planning, restricted abortions, and shuttered women’s health clinics.

Right-wing ideology is trumping the health needs of millions of Americans.

Let’s be perfectly clear: These policies are literally killing women.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, May 12, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Human Consequences”: Cost Of The Medicaid Expansion Rejection In Lives As Well As Dollars

The more research that is done on the human toll of denying people health insurance, the easier it is to place a price in lives as well as dollars of decisions like that made by nearly half the states to reject the Medicaid expansion provided for in the Affordable Care Act. At Politico Magazine (in a piece given the wonderful, Celine-esque title, “Death on the Installment Plan”) Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago utilizes the findings of last week’s study on the lives saved by RomneyCare in Massachusetts to make some suggestions for those that might be saved by making Medicaid available to more non-elderly adults:

As a matter of fiscal policy, [rejecting the Medicaid expansion] makes little sense. The federal government would initially cover 100 percent of the costs. Its share will gradually drop to 90 percent over the coming years. Over the next decade, the federal government will cover more than 95 percent of the Medicaid expansion’s total cost. Edwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the ACA raises state expenditures on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by only 1.6 percent, when compared with what expenditures would have been in the absence of health reform.

Even the above figures overstate states’ true fiscal burden, since these federal dollars would cover many services such as mental health care, public hospital services and services to the correctional population that would otherwise be supported by states and localities. Medicaid expansion is a significant economic stimulus to the states that have adopted it. Even in deeply conservative states such as Texas, the expansion is strongly supported by the medical community, hospitals, cities and localities and other key constituencies.

Texas and other huge states like Florida are leaving tens of billions of dollars on the table. When asked to give an accounting of themselves, officials offer flimsy justifications to evade two obvious realities: First, Republican politicians do not want to embrace the centerpiece domestic policy achievement of the Obama presidency. Second, many of these same politicians display conspicuously tepid concern for the wellbeing of the expansion’s most obvious beneficiaries: poor, nonwhite, politically marginal residents of their own states….

Nearly 5 million low-income Americans are income-eligible for Medicaid under the ACA, yet live in states that now reject the Medicaid expansion. Within this rather small but critical low-income population, that same one-per-830 estimate [made in the Massachusetts study] implies that almost 5,800 people will die every year as a result of being left uninsured. That’s only an estimate. It may overestimate—or underestimate—the true human consequences. In my view, there’s no escaping the fact that partisan opposition to the ACA is costing thousands of actual human lives every year.

That’s a hell of a toll for scoring an ideological point.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 12, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Health Insurance, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Very Risky Plan To Rile Up The Base”: Republicans’ New Midterm Strategy; Obama Is A Lawless President

Last year, the Republican political strategy for the midterms was clear: Obamacare, Obamacare, Obamacare. In December, Representative Paul Ryan even promoted his bipartisan budget deal with Senator Patty Murray as a way to keep the heat on the Affordable Care Act: “We also don’t want to have shutdown drama so we can focus on replacing Obamacare.” A functioning website and eight million enrollees later, the law is no longer guaranteed to work in Republicans’ favor. So the party’s shifting to a new strategy that carries even greater risks: that Barack Obama is a lawless president.

Republicans are in excellent position to pick up Senate seats in November. They have the structural advantages of a favorable Senate map, stronger historical turnout in midterm elections, and the sixth-year curse. Obamacare will remain a potent issue in red states, but with all the good news lately about the law, the opposition has lost its bite. Senate Republicans were largely complimentary of Sylvia Mathews Burwell at her confirmation to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. When House Republicans invited insurers before them last week, they were disappointed to find that their testimony refuted the House GOP’s “study” that a large percent of Obamacare enrollees were not making payments. Both of these events went largely unnoticedsomething that never would have happened if the law was still struggling.

What did make news last week was the Special Select Committee on Benghazi convened by House Speaker John Boehner. The impetus for the committee is the release of the previously-withheld memo from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes that laid out the talking points for then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice before her infamous Sunday show appearances in 2012. The memo demonstrated that while the Obama administration was certainly intent on spinning the incident in the best political light, Rice did not lie to the American people and there was no cover-up. Nonetheless, Boehner has put this at the top of the agenda for House Republicans, Obamacare be damned.

This represents a shift in the Republican Party’s political strategy from a focus on Obamacare’s failures to Obama’s “lawless” presidency. Republican politicians have accused Obama of breaking the law and ignoring the Constitution countless times, but until now, it was not their top political strategy. This tactical change makes sense. Obamacare is no longer struggling and Democrats are putting Republican congressional candidates in difficult positions over the Medicaid expansion. Criticism of Obama’s lawlessness will rile up the base and bolster turnout.

But this strategy carries considerable risk as well: Republicans could lose control of it. It’s only a short step from calling Obama lawless to calling for his impeachment. Some conservatives have already called for it, in fact. Those voices are rare, but Dave Weigel noted last week that more people on the right are starting to make those calls, led by National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy with his upcoming book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. As Republicans learned in the 1990s, impeachment trials are terrible politics. That should at least give GOP leaders pause as they plan their midterm strategy.

It’s a long time between now and November. If Republicans intend to campaign on Obama’s lawlessness, they shouldn’t be surprised to discover more of the base clamoring for impeachment. The Benghazi hearings will only exacerbate these calls. If President Obama takes executive action this summer to ease undocumented-immigrant deportations, as many expect, that will only lead to more calls. As 26 Senate Republicans wrote in a letter to Obama in April, “Our entire constitutional system is threatened when the Executive Branch suspends the law at its whim and our nation’s sovereignty is imperiled when the commander-in-chief refuses to defend the integrity of its borders. You swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We therefore ask you to uphold that oath and carry out the duties required by the Constitution and entrusted to you by the American people.”

The letter doesn’t specify what the authors would do if Obama fails to uphold the constitution as they deem acceptable, but the broad implications of their words are clear: Republicans will not sit idly by if Obama takes executive action on deportations. They plan to make it a national issue. That’s a risky strategy, but it’s not like Republicans have many options. For far too long, they assumed that Obamacare was guaranteed to win them votes. That’s no longer the case, and their failure to develop a Plan B is on full display.

 

By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, May 12, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, House Republicans, Obamacare | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Converting A Phony Scandal Into Political Cash”: How Much Money Can Republicans Raise Off Benghazi? Ask Darrell Issa

House Republicans’ newly created Benghazi Select Committee has attracted attention to their penchant for using investigations of the Obama administration as a fundraising tool. Most of the criticism, thus far, has concerned the National Republican Campaign Committee’s effort to collect email addresses from those who want to “become a Benghazi watchdog” despite committee chairman Trey Gowdy’s plea that they not do so.

It is no surprise, though, that the NRCC would use Benghazi to the Republican Party’s financial advantage. To understand just how lucrative these scandals can be, look no further than Rep. Darrell Issa. He has offered Republicans a clinic in the science of converting phony scandal into political cash.

For most of his career, Issa was a lackluster fundraiser. But through the first five quarters of the 2014 election cycle, his campaign committee has raised $2,573,258. This is an impressive haul, considering he has not faced significant opposition in more than a decade. The two Democrats vying to challenge him this year together have raised less than $50,000 combined. If Issa’s fundraising continues at its current pace, he will raise more this cycle than in his first four terms in Congress combined.

To understand Issa’s success, you need to see how he has stealthily used his official position as chairman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee to build one of the most successful and impressive direct mail operations in the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, Issa is outraising colleagues who occupy traditionally more lucrative posts including Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarlin and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, whose committee is known as one of the easiest perches in Congress to attract campaign contributions from the fossil fuel and healthcare industries.

From his post as chairman, Issa has incessantly beat the drum of Benghazi and other scandals. According to a search of Nexis, the terms “Issa” and “Benghazi” have appeared together in Fox News segments 221 times since September 11, 2012. On Sean Hannity’s show a year ago he proclaimed, “The administration has made a claim that for classified reasons they change the story. We believe right now that may be the biggest lie of all.” Encouraged by Hannity, Issa then stated, “Lying to Congress is a crime,” stoking the conservative fantasy of a lawless White House.

Issa’s campaign website does not contain the standard political pictures of constituents and community events. Instead it contains a panoply of press clippings primarily focused on the Congressman’s investigations of the White House and attacks on Obamacare.  Currently the top two stories on DarrellIssa.com announce the subpoena of Secretary of State John Kerry and an article from Breitbart.com by his former aide and current consultant Kurt Bardella headlined “They Knew and They Lied About Benghazi.” (Breitbart.com notes that Bardella is a “former” aide to Issa but does not disclose that his company Endeavor Strategic Communications was on his campaign committee’s payroll as of his latest FEC filing.)

As a reward, the Republican grassroots have padded Issa’s coffers: The key ingredient to his miraculous fundraising turnaround has not been high-dollar gifts from PACs and lobbyists, but ordinary Republican voters thanking him, through their contributions, for being the president’s number one antagonist. Issa has nurtured this relationship with the GOP base by cultivating an enormous direct-marketing operation. Four of his top six campaign expenditures so far this year were to direct mail firms and his third largest expense was $70,684 paid to the Post Office.

Issa’s FEC reports further demonstrate the success of the program. In the first quarter of 2014, nearly 56 percent of his contributors listed their occupation as “retired”an indicator, often, of a small donor reached through direct mailing. Previously, from the 2006 through 2010 cycle, the pharmaceutical industry was the largest source of donors to his campaigns. This change occurred only after Issa took over the Oversight Committee in 2011.

These donors are not simply responding to the letter they receive in the mail, but the image Issa has cultivated in the media. They see the congressman on Fox News portrayed as the leader in Congress investigating the scandals they feel have come to exemplify this White House and respond with open checkbooks.

Robert Spuhler, a retired community college president from Colorado, who gave $500 to Issa in 2013, explained to USA Today, “I contributed not so much because of him, but what the committee is working on. When you do things like that, you’re going to be targeted by the other party.”

A second donor, George Brandon, who also listed his occupation as retired on FEC forms, told the paper, “I want to see him survive and get to the truth on Benghazi, and I want to see the IRS destroyed.”

Pacific Political, a California firm contracted by Issa, brags on its website that it “has managed the growth of numerous direct mail campaigns, including that of Congressman Darrell Issa, whose house file… has grown from 2,600 donors to 26,000 donors.”

The front page of Pacific Political’s website features a sample direct mail piece whose visible text focuses on the purported attempts by “White House staff” to use “tax dollars to try and smear” Issa as a result of the scandals he is investigating.

Ultimately Issa’s small-dollar fundraising creates an incentive for him to make the wildest accusations possible and to continue investigations after their shelf lives have expired. The longer these inquisitions last, the more questions remain up in the air, the more time the media spend covering the alleged scandal, the more TV time Issa receives on Fox and the more money flows into his campaign coffers.

Accordingly after investigations by the Accountability Review Board, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Republicans have not given up investigating Benghazi. If the hearings end and the coverage diminishes, the money will stop rolling in.

 

By: Ari Rabin-Havt, The New Republic, May 11, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Darrell Issa | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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