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“Radically Redistribute Income Upwards”: Paul Ryan’s Plan For Everything: Hide The Numbers

Before Donald Trump started baying at the moon, and before Ted Cruz launched pointless shutdowns, the state of the art in Republican ideological extremism was Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand–inspired vision of government. Because Ryan is a practical extremist rather than an impractical one, and because he avoids displays of racism and misogyny, he has been cast as his party’s sensible alternative. Ryan has built his party’s agenda, which Republicans have rolled out in stages, achieving mostly adulatory coverage. USA Today’s lead earlier this month struck the typical tone: “Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday started rolling out policy prescriptions that he says are part of a positive Republican vision that will show Americans what the party is for, rather than focusing on what it’s against.” But all Ryan’s agenda would actually do is radically redistribute income upward on a historic and unprecedented scale.

House Republicans have released their plan in stages, and today they release their proposal to slash taxes. It contains all of the traditional elements of supply-side economics: The top tax rate would be cut to 33 percent, lower than it was under George W. Bush; taxes on capital gains and dividends would fall; and tax on estates — which currently applies only to inheritances of more than $10 million per couple — would be abolished. However, it is impossible to quantify just how enormous of a boon this would provide to the most affluent. Republicans have omitted enough key details to prevent a full measurement of the proposal’s effects. “The plan isn’t detailed enough for a complete nonpartisan congressional analysis to verify the impact on the budget and on households,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

The same holds true of the House Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. As with taxes, the overall direction of the policy is clear: It would strip away insurance from tens of millions of people, impose higher costs on people who are poor and sick, and provide lower costs for the affluent and healthy. But just how much cannot be calculated, because Republicans have, again, omitted the key details. “House Republicans have estimates from the Congressional Budget Office on how their health care plan, released Wednesday, would affect the federal deficit,” reports Caitlin Owens. “They’re just not releasing them.” Hard numbers, once again, would reveal all of the painful trade-offs in the Republican plan.

The same dynamic is also true of Ryan’s much-hyped plan to overhaul poverty spending. House Republicans need to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending for the poor, since doing so is the only way to reconcile their commitment to deep tax cuts, higher defense spending, and maintaining retirement benefits for people age 55 and up. But Ryan also needs to pose as an earnest friend of the poor, not as the champion of the upward income distribution his policies would actually bring about. So the “anti-poverty” plan relies on vague language and pixie-dust promises about rooting out unstated waste. “Many of the specific policy prescriptions aimed at addressing the problems identified in the paper were left out because members couldn’t agree on details such as how to prevent waste and fraud, according to aides,” report Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis.

Of course, if Trump manages to win, Ryan will claim that the public has given him a mandate for his ideas, and will quickly speed its passage through Congress. But getting to the point where they can do so requires hiding the numbers for as long as possible.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 27, 2016

June 28, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Paul Ryan, Tax Cuts for The Wealthy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“37 Pages Of Talking Points”: The Republican Healthcare Plan Isn’t Actually A Healthcare Plan

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) boasted on Twitter yesterday, “You’ve asked for it and tomorrow, House Republicans will release our plan to replace Obamacare.” Whether or not this actually constitutes a “plan,” however, is open to some debate.

After six years of vague talk about a conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans on Tuesday finally laid out the replacement for a repealed health law – a package of proposals that they said would slow the growth of health spending and relax federal rules for health insurance. […]

In finally presenting one, Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and his Republican team did not provide a cost estimate or legislative language. But they did issue a 20,000-word plan that provides the most extensive description of their health care alternative to date.

Perhaps, but let’s not grade on a curve. It was seven years ago this month that House Republican leaders began promising to unveil a GOP health-care-reform plan, and for seven years, the party has done nothing except offer vague soundbites and vote several dozen times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with nothing.

Or put another way, we’ve seen seven years of posturing on health care policy, but no actual governing.

The New York Times is correct that we now have an “extensive description” of the House Republican vision on the issue, but an “extensive description” does not a plan make. There’s still no legislation; there are still no numbers; there’s still no substance to score and scrutinize.

The Huffington Post summarized the problem nicely: “Speaker Paul Ryan wants to replace 20 million people’s health insurance with 37 pages of talking points.”

The plan, which isn’t legislation and is more like a mission statement, lacks the level of detail that would enable a full analysis, but one thing is clear: If put in place, it would almost surely mean fewer people with health insurance, fewer people getting financial assistance for their premiums or out-of-pocket costs, and fewer consumer protections than the ACA provides.

It’s difficult to be certain, because the proposal, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will talk up at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Wednesday, lacks crucial information, like estimates of its costs and effects on how many people will have health coverage.

The document weighs in at 37 pages, which includes the cover, three full pages about how terrible Obamacare is, and two blank sheets.

As for the outline itself, the “plan” includes exactly what we’d expect it to include: tax credits, health savings accounts, high-risk pools that Republicans don’t want to finance, transitioning Medicare into a voucher/coupon system, and the ability to buy insurance across state lines without necessary consumer safeguards and protections.

After seven years of study, GOP lawmakers are stuck with the same collection of ineffective ideas they’ve been pushing to no avail all along.

When House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced plans to unveil a six-part “Better Way” governing agenda, he vowed, “We’re not talking about principles here. This is substance.” That may have been the goal, but as of this morning, we’re still left with “a starting point” and “a broad outline” on health care that will ostensibly help Republicans to work out the details later.

There’s no great mystery here. Republicans haven’t been able to come up with a credible reform package for some pretty obvious reasons: (1) they’re a post-policy party with no real interest in governing; (2) health care reform has never really been a priority for the party, which would prefer to leave this in the hands of the private sector and free-market forces; and (3) trying to improve the system requires a lot of government spending and regulations, which contemporary GOP policymakers find ideologically abhorrent.

On this last point, New York’s Jon Chait explained a while back, “The reason the dog keeps eating the Republicans’ health-care homework is very simple: It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public. People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick (meaning their health-care costs are high), unusually poor (their incomes are low), or both. Covering them means finding the money to pay for the cost of their medical treatment. You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.”

A Republican Hill staffer famously put it this way in 2014: “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act…. To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA.”

Which, of course, Republicans can’t bring themselves to do. The result is a shell of a plan, like the one Paul Ryan is rolling out today.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 22, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Meatless Mondays”: Republicans’ Fowl Response To The Orlando Terrorist Attack

This is how the sausage is made:

After last weekend’s terrorist attack in Orlando, the people’s representatives in Washington scrambled to counter the growing threat to national security . . . from vegetarianism.

A nearly 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats to force action on keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists produced little: They’ll get a vote, but the measure is likely to be defeated by Republicans on Monday.

House GOP leadership, meanwhile, killed a Democratic effort to extend non-discrimination protections for gay people — the demographic targeted in the Orlando shooting.

But the House on Thursday did pass a plan to block the spreading menace to the U.S. military posed by Meatless Mondays.

“I rise to ensure that our men and women in uniform have options on their menu when they seek nutrition in the cafeteria,” Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) proclaimed. “Ideologically motivated activists are working to take meat off the menu in institutions across the country.”

But Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) had a beef with that argument. “I appreciate the gentleman’s concern about ideological activists attacking the menus at the Department of Defense, but I do trust they will have the intestinal fortitude to resist those particular attacks,” he said. He assured his cattle-state opponent that “there is no policy under consideration to eliminate meat from the nutritional programs for our military services.”

Indeed, a Pentagon spokesman investigating the matter had found no evidence of an anti-meat campaign by Thursday night. But Smith was bullheaded in his advocacy. “Meat contains vitamins and nutrients not readily available in a plant-based diet,” he argued. “In fact, creatine, which supplies energy to muscle cells and aids in their recovery, is only found in animal products.”

The Democrat would not be branded anti-carnivore. “I did have meat at lunch yesterday. I ate meat last night,” he said. But he objected to Republicans, who like to complain about regulatory overreach, attempting to legislate menus.

“Should we start considering whether we should be using diced tomatoes in our various food service areas, or should we do whole tomatoes?” he asked. “Should we, when we serve tuna fish, have chunk white or solid white?”

Thus was the response to the Orlando atrocity. Lawmakers declined to keep guns and explosives out of suspected terrorists’ hands. They refused to extend equal protection to gay Americans. But they bravely repelled an imaginary threat to hamburgers.

Never mind that the Pentagon is attacking neither red meat nor fish nor fowl. The pro-meat forces prevailed in a voice vote.

And this was part of a profoundly depressing reaction to one of the worst mass killings the country has seen. Donald Trump implied that President Obama was in cahoots with the Islamic State and then tweeted an article from a right-wing publication saying the administration “actively supported” the terrorist group.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Obama was “directly responsible” for the attack in Orlando, before clarifying that Obama wasn’t “personally responsible.”

In the House, Republicans aped Trump’s anti-immigration histrionics by allowing votes on measures to block the “dreamers” — immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children — from serving in the military. The attempt failed by the thinnest of margins.

GOP leaders refused to vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would protect LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination. But they allowed an amendment to the same bill that would protect service members from the invented scourge of Meatless Mondays.

“I am not willing to allow activist groups to tell members of our military, who risk their lives to keep us safe, they cannot enjoy a hamburger or steak on certain days of the week,” Smith said in a statement.

On the floor, he noted an “agenda to remove meat” by the U.S. Coast Guard, which has cut meat consumption by cadets at its academy. The Coast Guard wasn’t covered under the defense bill, but Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) still went hog wild. “Our military — we’d starve them for meat? We need them to be aggressive,” he said. He held up a photo of Norwegian troops who, he says, have Meatless Mondays and therefore can’t eat their beloved reindeer meat that day. “Let’s have a strong military,” King said. “Let them have a lot of protein.”

The House vote by itself did not protect the troops from the fanciful threat of creeping vegetarianism. The Senate, in its version of the defense bill, refused to take up a similar amendment by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who spoke of castrating hogs in her famous campaign ad. Ernst said, “The push for Meatless Mondays in our military is misguided.”

But this “push” is bull. The dangers our leaders won’t address — terrorists getting guns, and legal discrimination against gay people — are real.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 17, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, House Republicans, Orlando Shootings, Terrorist Attacks, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Everyone Hates Congress”: Republicans Are Still Incapable Of Governing

If you want a demonstration on why it’s so easy for regular folks to despise politicians, look no further than the shenanigans that went on in the U.S. House of Representatives, yesterday. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who is openly gay, has been attaching a LGBT rights amendment to Republican bills. He’s able to do this because Speaker Ryan has decided to allow for a much more open amendments process than his predecessors, but that comes with a cost. The cost is that the opposition finds it much easier to mess with you by offering amendments that drive wedges into your caucus.

Gay rights is one of those wedge issues. First, Rep. Maloney attached his amendment to a military construction bill. It provided “that nothing in the underlying spending bill can undermine President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination by government contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

When it became clear that the amendment would pass, the House leadership held the vote open until they could whip enough votes to defeat it, 212-213. That was last week.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Maloney attached the amendment to an energy spending bill and it passed 223-195, with 43 Republicans and all the Democrats supporting it.

Isn’t it amazing that the same body of 435 representatives could have such a different opinion of an amendment depending on whether it was attached to a military construction bill or an energy bill?

In truth, those 43 Republicans don’t object to the amendment. They didn’t want to go on the record opposing it the first time.

But, fine, they eventually exercised their independent judgment and passed it, right?

What happened then?

The victory was short-lived, however, as the amendment proved to be a poison pill that led scores of Republicans to oppose the underlying energy bill, which suffered a crushing 112-305 defeat on the floor Thursday. One hundred and thirty Republicans voted against the package, while just six Democrats supported it.

The Republicans voted against gay rights before they voted for them before they voted against them again?

Of course, they blamed the Democrats for not supporting the energy bill, but the energy bill wasn’t crafted to win Democratic support. What actually happened is that gay-hating Republicans who supported the energy appropriations decided to vote against them once the funds became attached to an anti-discrimination provision.

This is, of course, Speaker Ryan’s fault because he decided to let the Democrats offer these types of amendments to bills they have no intention of supporting. And that allows the Democrats to have a good old time exposing the Republicans’ divisions and horrible record on gay rights.

It’s another demonstration that the GOP is not capable of acting as a cohesive governing coalition. They cannot fund the government. And they couldn’t fund it even before they opened the door for the Democrats to shiv them at every opportunity.

The average citizen doesn’t understand all the procedural and strategic maneuvering here. All they see is a bunch of politicians who shift their votes with no regard for principle, who are more interested in embarrassing each other than in getting things done, and who simply cannot preform even the most basic elements of their jobs.

I’m not making a moral equivalency argument here. The Democrats are right on the merits and, given a majority, would have no problems figuring out how to fund the government. But that’s difficult to see. What’s easy to see is why everyone now seems to hate Congress.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Governing, House Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Money No Where In Sight”: As Zika Spreads, Republicans Hold Funding Hostage

More than three months have passed since President Obama first asked Congress for $1.8 billion to fund the fight against the Zika virus, and the full amount is still nowhere in sight.

The mosquito-borne virus, which can also be transmitted between humans, has become a growing concern in recent weeks. The CDC announced Friday that the number of pregnant women with the virus has tripled, and that number is only expected to swell as the summer months bring more mosquitoes to the United States and its territories. People with Zika do not always show symptoms, further complicating the ability to monitor the spread of the virus.

Despite the alarming developments, Republicans have balked at the request by the President, offering a fraction of his requested amount. The House on Wednesday passed the Republican-backed Zika Response Appropriations Act, a bill that would provide $622.1 million in funding towards Zika but would also lead to other cuts — including on funds allocated for the fight against Ebola — in order to satisfy Republican demands to limit deficit spending.

Democrats have called out Republicans for failing to allocate the necessary funding, which would be used for training efforts, testing, and mosquito control. The Senate on Tuesday voted to push forward $1.1 billion in emergency funding — still less than the amount requested by the President. No Democrats opposed it.

Some Republicans, particularly those representing the Southeastern United States where the Virus is expected to be the most prevalent, have called on Congress to provide as much funding as the President has requested.

“There is no reason why we should not fully fund this,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said earlier this week. Rubio went on to slam the House bill, saying “Quite frankly, that’s just not going to cut it.”

Obama warned Congress on Friday not to go on recess without first addressing the funding he has requested, noting that it is not yet time to panic but that the issue should be taken seriously. The president met with his top public safety officers and said there is still more research needed to find answers on the virus — research that can only happen once the necessary funding is allocated by Congress.

The long wait for funding has had a ripple effect on the local level, at least for the time being. The CDC was forced to move $44 million from state and local governments — including $1.1 million in New York City — to fight the Zika virus. Local governments will be limited in their ability to respond to other public health emergencies until adequate funding is made available.

 

By: Matt Tracy, The National Memo, May 20, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Public Health, Zika Virus | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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