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“The GOP’s Obamacare Alternative; Crickets”: Now Railing Against Obamacare Without Having To Come Up With A Replacement

Now that the Supreme Court has saved the Affordable Care Act for a second time, what do Republicans do? We already know they won’t tone down their rhetoric and will continue to call for repeal because that’s what Republican primary voters want to hear. The candidates will package together vague alternative proposals that they will pledge to pass and enact as the first act of their presidency.

But they don’t have even a remote chance of repealing the ACA, even if a Republican is elected president in 2016.

“The ruling is the last gasp,” says Chris Jennings, a health policy expert who worked in both the Clinton and Carter administrations. While the presidential contenders will keep alive the hope for their base that if elected they can sweep away Obamacare, Jennings says the issue will be dead and gone by fall 2016. The voters will have moved on.

Conservatives feel betrayed yet again by Chief Justice John Roberts joining with the liberals on the Court to uphold the constitutionality of the ACA, but they should thank Roberts. He saved the GOP from having to bail out 6½ million people, the majority of them in red states, who would have lost their health insurance if the Court had ruled the other way.

Now Republicans can continue to rail against Obamacare without the responsibility of actually coming up with a law to replace it. “This decision gives them a vast canvas on which to write,” says Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. “There’s no need for immediate replacement, so rhetoric will fill the vacuum of legislation.”

There will be proposals, enough to satisfy the GOP faithful that the presidential candidates are doing something to end the abomination of Obamacare. But these will not be serious efforts because it is not possible to write health-care legislation that leaves in all the goodies everybody supports, like no discrimination for preexisting conditions, and leaves out what people oppose, like the mandate.

A reading of the majority opinion written by Roberts reveals that he paid close attention to the argument put forth by the health insurance industry in an amicus brief. Without the subsidies, millions could not afford coverage and only those with significant medical expenses would apply, sending the ACA into a “death spiral.”

The Roberts Court handed another lifeline to President Obama, but the decision is also a huge victory for the health industry. Asked how difficult it is for the GOP to step in with their own plan to counter Obamacare, Ceci Connolly, a Health Research Institute Leader and a former Washington Post reporter covering politics and health care, countered with some hard numbers. “The 2.9 trillion dollar health sector is exceedingly complex and changing; it takes an enormous amount of time and work,” she said. “Not only has the ACA expanded coverage, it has pumped billions of dollars in revenue to the health industry, and going back would upset a very large and important market.”

If the subsidies were removed or denied, it would have cost the health industry $36 billion in premium revenue next year alone, Connolly told The Daily Beast. Hospitals would have seen their revenue fall about $9 billion. While still a fraction in a huge market, “that’s real money to the industry,” she says. “The legislative process is cumbersome to say the least, and it would be a steep climb to replace the ACA.”

If a Republican president is elected, and the GOP retains the Senate along with the House, “that’s a new ballgame,” Connolly said. “But by 2017 the law would have been implemented for seven years. It’s very hard to take away benefits and significantly restructure a market as big as the health care market.”

Connolly noted that the executives her research group talks to around the country anticipated the decision to come down the way it did. “They could not imagine the subsidies being taken away.”

The phrase that political scientists use is “past dependency.” Once a major policy is entrenched, it’s very difficult to change in a major way. We’ve seen that with social security and Medicare, programs that President Obama invoked in his remarks in the Rose Garden about the ACA’s rite of passage into “the fabric of America.”

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, June 25, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Be Careful What You Wish For”: Dear Ted Cruz; Electing SCOTUS Judges Might Not Work Out As Well For You As You Hope

Flailing about for some sort of cogent conservative reaction to the Supreme Court decisions this week, National Review apparently allowed Ted Cruz to scribble out some meandering prose on its website. That may have been a mistake.

Ted Cruz’ solution to “judicial tyranny”? Direct election of SCOTUS judges. No, really. But let’s set aside the obvious fever dream futility of attempting to make this alteration to the Constitution to serve social conservative interests and take his suggestion at face value.

Direct election of judges has admittedly been a key page out of the conservative playbook for a long time now. Big money in theory keeps justices aligned to corporate interests, while conservative interest groups can ensure that judges fear to render verdicts against their pet issues from guns to gay marriage. As public policy, of course, this is a terrible idea: the entire point of having unelected judges is that they will feel free to protect the Constitution and the rule of law against the unjust tyranny of the majority. Making judges fearful of the public whim negates much of the entire purpose of having a judicial branch to check the legislative.

But even from a purely conservative utilitarian standpoint, that strategy tends to work best in more conservative states and where judges are elected in non-presidential cycles. Also, much has changed in the last decade in terms of popular opinion.

The underpinning of Cruz’ argument seems to be that the justices of the Court have instituted unpopular judicial tyranny on the public by upholding Obamacare and gay marriage. But it’s not at all clear that if Supreme Court judges were elected by popular vote, the results would favor conservative interests. The same demographic forces that make it increasingly difficult for Republicans to win presidential elections would carry similar headwinds against conservative justices. A nation that elected Barack Obama twice would be far likelier to toss out Scalia than Ginsburg.

Moreover, there’s no evidence that a serious public opinion backlash will arise against the Court over marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act, let alone one strong enough to engender a serious recall election threat under such a system. National public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of marriage equality, and Americans strongly oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act. If Ted Cruz believes a populist backlash would scare the Supreme Court into submission, he’s obviously looking at the wrong polls.

Indeed, by far the most unpopular of the SCOTUS’ recent decisions was its stand on Citizens United: a full 80% of Americans opposed to the decision, and 65% of Americans strongly opposed. The public backlash over giving plutocrats and corporations unfettered purchasing power over our elections has been far stronger than any old-school conservative revanchist revolt against liberal judges.

All of which is to say, Ted Cruz should probably be careful what he wishes for.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 27, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Judicial Elections, SCOTUS, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Cinder In The Public Eye”: Clarence Thomas Says Black NBA Players Give SCOTUS A Reason To Gut Anti-Discrimination Law

On Thursday, the Supreme Court saved a key interpretation of the Fair Housing Act—a historic 1968 law that prevents discrimination in the housing market—by ruling in a 5-4 decision that a complaint does not have to prove a policy was overtly or intentionally discriminatory to be valid. It upheld the “disparate impact” standard, which allows complainants to show a policy led to unequal results, no matter the original intention.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision, penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy. He argued that “disparate-impact doctrine defies not only the statutory text, but reality itself.” To make his case, Thomas pointed out that minorities sometimes do quite well. His examples: The Jews in Poland and, in America, the success of black professional basketball players.

Racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities. At various times in history, “racial or ethnic minorities . . . have owned or directed more than half of whole industries in particular nations.” These minorities “have included the Chinese in Malaysia, the Lebanese in West Africa, Greeks in the Ottoman Empire, Britons in Argentina, Belgians in Russia, Jews in Poland, and Spaniards in Chile—among many others.” “In the seventeenth century Ottoman Empire,” this phenomenon was seen in the palace itself, where the “medical staff consisted of 41 Jews and 21 Muslims.” And in our own country, for roughly a quarter-century now, over 70 percent of National Basketball Association players have been black. To presume that these and all other measurable disparities are products of racial discrimination is to ignore the complexities of human existence.” [Legal citations omitted].

Thomas continues:

And if that “racial balancing” is achieved through disparate-impact claims limited to only some groups—if, for instance, white basketball players cannot bring disparate-impact suits— then we as a Court have constructed a scheme that parcels out legal privileges to individuals on the basis of skin color.”

Sports was a popular example for the dissenting justices. Justice Sam Alito, who wrote a separate dissent, cited the NFL to make a slightly different point:

 Of the 32 college players selected by National Football League (NFL) teams in the first round of the 2015 draft, it appears that the overwhelming majority were members of racial minorities […] Teams presumably chose the players they think are most likely to help them win games. Would anyone say the NFL teams made draft slots unavailable to white players “because of ” their race?

This is the same court that crippled civil rights legislation two years ago by striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, June 25, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Clarence Thomas, Discrimination, Fair Housing Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Believe That We Can Win”: The Christian Right Has Lost Political And Cultural Influence

Investigative journalist Brad Friedman has observed that America is moving in a progressive direction, despite the mainstream media’s “center-right nation” shibboleth. Despite the obstacles that have been placed in the pathway of progressives, Friedman is correct beyond dispute.

Think back to a decade ago. Same-sex marriage was considered an abomination in large parts of the country. Christian fundamentalists were flexing their muscles as never before. Rush Limbaugh and Fox dominated the American media landscape. The Bush administration had launched a war on climate science. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was gay-bashing his way to national prominence.

Today, marriage equality is the law of the land. The Christian Right has lost political and cultural influence. Limbaugh’s career is in freefall, and Fox may soon follow. Pope Francis has called upon the world to fight for climate justice. As for Romney, well…

The signs of progressive power are everywhere: the growing momentum of Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, the profound failure of the right-wing effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the increasing acceptance of transgender Americans as full and equal citizens, the smashing success of the fossil-fuel divestment movement.

No, we haven’t reached the promised land yet. There are still so many forces of right-wing depravity in our country–some with positions in Congress, some with platforms on cable, some with pistols in churches. Those forces of depravity will not retreat quietly. However, they can and will be defeated.

We’re moving forward. We’re going to make America into what it should have always been all along: a country were any man or woman can rise to the height of his or her potential regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or income; a country where our public schools never have to lack for adequate funding; a country where we don’t shuffle off to war unless we absolutely have to; a country where we recognize the separation of billionaire and state; a country where we look out for future generations by dramatically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions; a country where a woman can exercise her right to choose in peace; a country where maniacs don’t have easy access to guns; a country where knowledge is embraced and ignorance is scorned.

We’re getting there. Yes, it’s been a long road. We’ve had to endure the racist savagery unleashed by the Southern Strategy. We’ve had to endure that force demonic known as Reaganomics. We’ve had to endure an impeachment over an erection and two stolen elections. We’ve had to endure a lie-based war for oil which left innocent blood on Iraqi soil. We’ve had to endure six years of deranged drama from the bigoted enemies of Barack Obama. It’s been a long time coming…but we’re getting there.

We will leave our children and grandchildren a proud progressive country.

We will repair the damage the right wing has inflicted upon our fair land.

We will remedy the injustices that hurt so many of our fellow citizens.

We will declare independence from ignorance and fidelity to fact.

We will move this country forward forever.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 28, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Marriage Equality, Progressives | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Longer And Deeper Than Just A Few Checks”: The 2 Degrees of Separation Between Dylann Roof And The Republican Party

News that Earl Holt, president of the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, has donated $65,000 to Republicans, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, has ricocheted around the media since The Guardian broke it last night. No wonder: It reveals a mere two degrees of separation between the racist murderer Dylann Roof, who says the CCC helped inspire him, and the GOP. It might be unfair to make this link if the support only went one way—after all, politicians can’t be held responsible for the views of everyone who gives them money. But the entanglement between the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Republican Party is longer and deeper than just a few checks, and for many years, it was mutual.

“The public sees the CCC and wants to think of it as an extremist group, which it is, but it’s also a group that’s had a foothold historically in mainstream politics,” says Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Before his killing spree, Roof published a half-literate manifesto crediting the CCC for his radicalization. He describes typing “black on White crime” into Google following the Trayvon Martin killing: “The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong.” After Roof’s screed came to light, the CCC didn’t bother to distance itself from the views of its sociopathic admirer. “[W]e utterly condemn Roof’s despicable killings, but they do not detract in the slightest from the legitimacy of some of the positions he has expressed,” it says in a statement.

In a phone interview, CCC spokesman Jared Taylor elaborated on this legitimacy. “Let’s say Dylann Roof has a talent for programming. If he goes out to Silicon Valley, he will find that Apple and Intel have set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to hire people who look like anybody but him,” he says. Another “legitimate grievance,” Taylor says, is the “overwhelming amount of black-on-white rather than white-on-black violence,” particularly rape.

Taylor sympathizes with the needs of Republicans like Cruz, who has returned the CCC’s donation, to distance themselves from the group. The presidential candidate, he says, “will come under tremendous pressure if he doesn’t give the money back. It’s not an easy situation.” That pressure has made it harder for Republicans to openly align with the CCC. “From time to time we have Republicans who are interested in our events, but it’s not as common as it has been in the past,” he says.

Indeed, in the past, Southern Republicans regularly patronized CCC gatherings; the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 38 elected officials appeared between 2000 and 2004 alone, including Roger Wicker, now a Mississippi senator, and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a major figure in the Christian right, spoke there in 2001. “Southern politicians going to CCC events is just a reflection of the GOP’s traditional Southern strategy,” says Cohen.

In the last decade, Republican politicians have realized that, in the age of social media, association with the CCC can be dangerous. An inflection point was the 2002 resignation of Senate majority leader Trent Lott—who spoke to the CCC at least five times—after a firestorm caused by his praise of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist 1948 third-party presidential campaign, remarks that were amplified by the blogosphere.

But the overlap between the CCC and the GOP has never entirely disappeared, particularly in South Carolina. Two years ago, for example, Roan Garcia-Quintana, a CCC board member and self-described “Confederate Cuban,” resigned his place on Governor Nikki Haley’s campaign steering committee after his links to the group made news. CCC webmaster Kyle Rogers—whose online store, Patriotic-Flags.com, sells the same Rhodesian flag patch worn by Roof in one of his photos—was a member of the Dorchester County Republican Executive Committee. (It’s also worth noting that high-profile conservative pundit Ann Coulter was defending the CCC as recently as 2009.)

This is part of why Republican candidates have been so hesitant to acknowledge that Roof was actually motivated by racism, despite his own unambiguous words. On some level, they realize that if they admit the truth, they will be held politically accountable. And it’s in that context that Holt’s donations are notable. “You can’t help it in this world sometimes who admires you,” says Cohen. “The much more damning thing for the Republican Party historically has been the legitimacy that it has conferred on the CCC.”

 

By: Michelle Goldberg, The Nation, June 22, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Council of Conservative Citizens, Republicans, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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