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“The Marriage Vow”: The Candidate “Pledge” To End All Pledges

So in the wake of the “Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge” signed by seven Republican presidential candidates, and the “Pro-Life Presidential Pledge” signed by five, along comes Iowa social conservative kingpin Bob Vander Plaats of the Family Leader organization with a new pledge–actually an oath–it calls “The Marriage Vow.”

You have to read this document to believe it. Styled as a “pro-family” platform, the pledge goes far beyond the usual condemnations of same-sex marriage and abortion and requires support for restrictions on divorce (hardly a federal matter), the firing of military officers who place women in forward combat roles, and “recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, [and] greater financial stability.”  If that’s not enough, it also enjoins “recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security.”  This, in case you are wondering, is a nod to the “Full Quiver (or Quiverfull) Movement” that encourages large families in a patriarchal structure as a religious obligation, not to mention to those anti-choicers who want to ban some of the most popular forms of contraception.

The preamble to the “Marriage Vow” is even weirder, asserting among other things that “faithful monogomy” was a central preoccupation of the Founding Fathers; that slaves benefitted from stronger families than African-Americans have today; and that any claims there is a genetic basis for homosexuality are “anti-scientific.”

The “Marriage Vow” seems tailor-made to feed the backlash against ever-proliferating “pledges” imposed on Republican presidential candidates by the Right.  But Vander Plaats and his group cannot be dissed without risk by anyone wanting to win the Iowa Caucuses.  A perennial statewide candidate (his 2010 primary challenge to now-Gov. Terry Branstad won a surprising 41% of the vote), Vander Plaats was co-chair of Mike Huckabee’s victorious 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign, and also spearheaded the successful 2010 effort to recall state Supreme Court judges who supported the 2009 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican suggests that the “Vow” is a power-play by VanderPlaats to influence the outcome of the August 13 Iowa State GOP straw poll, in which The Family Leader has pledged neutrality, by separating candidates deemed acceptable from those who won’t sign the oath.  And indeed, Michele Bachmann, rumored to be Vander Plaats’ current favorite, signed it virtually before the ink dried.  What will really be interesting is whether Tim Pawlenty, who has been eagerly accepting every ideological demand made of him by the Right, signs this document.  It is certainly designed to freak out the more secular-minded Establishment Republicans he will eventually need if he is to put together a winning coalition of everyone in the party who doesn’t like Mitt Romney.  But he has to do well in Iowa for that to matter, so my guess is that he will follow Bachmann in kissing Vander Plaats’ ring and associating himself with a fresh batch of extremism.

By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, July 8, 2011

July 10, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Pro-Choice, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act: A Year Later, The False Attacks Continue

Conservatives often push myths and misconceptions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as a way to increase opposition. During the debate in Congress in the run-up to passage of the new health reform law, conservatives pushed wild accusations that the law would be a “government takeover” and establish “death panels,” claims that were labeled “the lie of the year.” Now, a year after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, inaccurate claims and mistruths against the law continue.

Conservatives continue to make false claims against the law as a way to repeal it, undermine consumer protections, and put insurance companies back in charge of our health system. The reason these false statements endure is clear: There are those who would rather take us back to the way our health system was before when insurance companies were in charge rather than move forward and protect our care.

This issue brief is a response to recent false attacks conservatives have made against the law. As we will demonstrate, the Affordable Care Act will create jobs, lower health care costs for families, help small businesses provide health insurance to their employees while maintaining the private sector’s key role in health insurance, and ensure we provide quality health care to all Americans at a lower cost to them and American taxpayers.

The Affordable Care Act will help create jobs

The Affordable Care Act helps our economic recovery by bringing health costs under control, freeing businesses to use that money to invest in job creation. The real threat to job creation is the conservative push to take us back to the old health system where costs were on an unsustainable path. Harvard University professor and Center for American Progress Senior Fellow David Cutler found that repealing the Affordable Care Act—and going back to the unsustainable costs—would cost up to 400,000 jobs annually over the next decade.

To push this “job destroying” argument, conservatives cite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimates that the law will reduce the labor supply (although conservatives dismiss CBO reports when they conclude the law will cut the deficit and reduce premiums). Yet conservatives fail to recognize that one reason for this reduction is that older workers, now forced to hold on to jobs to get health insurance, will now be able to retire—with insurance—when they choose.

The Affordable Care Act lowers premiums and costs for families

The Affordable Care Act takes steps to get our health costs under control and lowers costs for families. The real threat to costs is the conservative push to repeal the law. Cutler found that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase total health spending by $125 billion and raise family premiums by nearly $2,000.

More small businesses are providing health coverage to their employees, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act

Conservatives try to downplay the impact of the small business tax credits to provide health insurance to their employees. The truth is that last year, more than 4 million small businesses were eligible to receive a tax credit to make health coverage more affordable. According to the Los Angeles Times, “major insurers around the country are reporting that a growing number of small businesses are signing up to give their workers health benefits,” adding that an “important selling point” was the small business tax credits.

The Affordable Care Act keeps the employer-based health system intact

Conservatives claim the Affordable Care Act will undermine the employer-sponsored health coverage that millions of Americans enjoy when the state health insurance market exchanges become functional. This is not true. According to Mercer’s recent “National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans,” the vast majority of employers, particularly large employers, will continue to offer their employees health coverage. Indeed, the survey notes that if the Affordable Care Act follows the Massachusetts health law, “few employers of any size” will choose to drop coverage.

The Affordable Care Act ensures quality care and has flexibility for states

The Affordable Care Act provides states with considerable flexibility. Each state gets to decide how to set up their own marketplace of health options for consumers to choose which plan suits them best. States have flexibility in how they implement insurance reforms and consumer protections. The law encourages state innovation by allowing them to obtain waivers from some requirements provided the alternative proposal provides comparable coverage and affordability. President Obama recently endorsed legislation from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Scott Brown (R-MA) that would move the start date for those waivers by three years.

At the same time, conservatives argue there is not enough flexibility in the Affordable Care Act. They criticize the Obama administration for granting too many waivers on so-called “mini med” plans that have a low annual limit. Since many of the consumer protections and mechanisms to increase patient choice—such as the state marketplaces—are not operational until 2014, the administration has in some instances granted waivers from the law’s early requirements, to avoid leaving people with nothing. CAP Senior Fellow Judy Feder told Congress that until the law is fully implemented, the goal should be to “make matters better, without making them worse.”

States can save money from the Medicaid reforms under the law

Medicaid is a federal-state health program that provides health coverage to predominantly lower-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities. The federal government matches state funding on the program. For people made newly eligible for Medicaid by the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of costs in the early implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In the later years, states will have to pay only 10 percent.

Conservatives charge that the Affordable Care Act will increase state Medicaid spending by $118 billion. An Urban Institute study, however, found that states will save between $40.6 billion and $131.9 billion from 2014-2019 by replacing state and local spending for uncompensated care and mental health with federal Medicaid funds and by replacing federal Medicaid funding for adults with incomes over 133 percent of the federal poverty level with federal subsidies in the marketplaces.

There is no secret $105 billion hidden in the law

Conservatives such as Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve King (R-IA) claim that $105 billion of mandatory funding was secretly put in the law unbeknownst to members of Congress. This is false. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker said this claim is “bordering on ridiculous” and “does not have credibility.” The truth is there was a considerable amount of transparency before the Congress approved the Affordable Care Act. In the House alone, there were: 79 bipartisan hearings, totaling 100 hours; 181 witnesses; and 239 amendments considered. The House bill was posted online 30 days before committee markup.

The law keeps Medicare solvent and cuts the deficit

Conservatives argue that the Obama administration “double counted” the Medicare savings for the law, arguing it went to save the Medicare Trust Fund and cut the deficit. The facts are these: The law cuts the deficit by $1 trillion over the next two decades and keeps Medicare solvent until 2029—12 years longer than before the law was passed. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained how this works before the House Budget Committee:

There’s no double-counting involved in recognizing that Medicare savings improve the status of both the federal budget and the Medicare trust funds. In the same way, when a baseball player hits a homer, it both adds one run to his team’s score and also improves his batting average. Neither situation involves double-counting.

Conclusion

The conservative false attacks are meant to repeal the Affordable Care Act and bring our health system back to the time when insurance companies could discriminate because of a pre-existing condition. Despite these false attacks, the facts are clear: Millions of families, small business owners, and seniors are seeing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. More than 4 million small businesses are eligible to receive tax credits to make health coverage more affordable. As many as 4 million seniors received help to make their prescription drugs more affordable. Already this year, more than 150,000 seniors with Medicare had a free wellness exam. And children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be excluded from insurance plans. We should move forward with this law and tell those who want to repeal it that we won’t go back.

By: Tony Carrk, Center For American Progress, March 21, 2011

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Death Panels, Health Care Costs, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, Medicaid, Medicare, Pre-Existing Conditions, President Obama | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toilets, Light Bulbs and Reproductive Rights: Rand Paul Is Pro-Choice For Toilets

The senator gives a stunning rant against energy efficiency — and reproductive choice

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we are up against. In a diatribe as bizarre and petulant as anything out of Charlie Sheen’s or any recent star of “The Bachelor’s” mouth, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went on a tear Thursday about how abortion is somehow interfering with his God-given right to incandescent light bulbs. Clearly, there wasn’t one illuminating over his head when he started down the crazy path.

On Friday, Irin Carmon at Jezebel beautifully drilled down the essence of the rant — that “Rand Paul Thinks His Toilet Is More Important Than Your Abortion Rights.” In a mind-boggling display of foot stamping during an energy hearing, Paul asked deputy assistant energy secretary for efficiency Kathleen Hogan if she was “pro-choice,” leading the visibly puzzled Hogan to reply she’s pro-choice on light bulbs. Rand then launched into full cri de coeur mode, comparing the choice of abortion to being “anti-choice on every other consumer item, including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets. You can’t go around your house without being told what to buy. You restrict my purchases. You don’t care about my choices.” Boo hoo hoooooo!

Who knew that reproductive choice was a consumer purchase? Who knew you could run out to Best Buy and pick up one of them late-term abortion thingies with an Energy Star rating? Paul then went on to overshare that “My toilets don’t work in my house. And I blame you and people like you.” We get it — Rand Paul has a fiber diet and a low flush toilet. “I can’t find a toilet that works!” he blurted angrily again later. So if you’re a pregnant teenage rape victim, maybe you should start thinking about how Rand Paul is suffering to get a little perspective.

Much of Paul’s speech doesn’t even make sense: If he’s so ticked about some perceived limitation of his “choice,” why does his Web page insist “I believe in a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.” You don’t like government regulation? The government regulates abortion. Where’s your free market now, Paul?

The whole piece is a truly remarkable piece of irony-rich rantitude, sure to be included in the next volume of Now That’s What I Call False Equivalencies and White Male Solipism! Paul said he finds it “troubling, this busybody nature that you want to come into my house — my bedroom, my bathroom …” But a woman’s womb, hey, that’s up for grabs.

Yet when he kvetched to Hogan that “I find it insulting … appalling and hypocritical,” it was clear the parallels to how he feels and the sentiments of many of us on the side of reproductive freedom are stunningly similar. Just because Rand Paul has problems with his plumbing, it’s astonishing that he believes he has the right to meddle in ours. But when he declared, “You busybodies are always trying to tell us how we can live our lives better — keep it to yourselves,” I had to admit, Rand Paul, you dismissive, whiny jerk, that I could not agree more.

By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, March 11, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Pro-Choice, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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