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“Ideology Meets Idiocy”: The GOP’s Obamacare Youth Hoax

It’s rare for a political party to trumpet a position that unintentionally reveals its myopia, incoherence and expediency. Yet such is the trifecta with the Republican campaign to call attention to Obamacare’s young “victims.”

Republicans are obsessed with the supposed injustice being done to some healthy young people who will effectively subsidize their sicker elders when Obamacare’s individual mandate takes effect.

The crusaders are nothing if not convinced of the righteousness of their cause. “The whole scheme is enlisting young adults to overpay, so other people can have subsidies,” Dean Clancy, a vice president at FreedomWorks, told my Post colleague Sarah Kliff. “That unfairness reminded us of the military draft.”

Conservatives are therefore urging young Americans to resist. “I’m burning my Obamacare draft card,” runs one theatrical riff from a group called Young Americans for Liberty, “because I’m too busy paying student loans to pay for somebody else’s health insurance.” Republican policy advisors have urged the party to make such child abuse a big part of their anti-Obamacare message.

Sounds like a sexy argument, except for one thing. Republicans seem to have forgotten where most people aged 19 to 34 get health coverage: from their employer. And at virtually every company, young people pay the same premiums as employees who are much older than they are and who get more expensively sick than they do. In other words, the evil cross-subsidy Obamacare’s foes are storming the barricades to roll back already exists, at vastly larger scale, in corporate America.

These youngsters are already in chains! They’ve been put there by the private sector! And, inexplicably, young employees have entered this servitude of their own volition. (To extend the GOP’s draft analogy, it turns out there’s a voluntary army of health care masochists from sea to shining sea.)

How could injustice on this scale escape the GOP’s searing moral scrutiny?

After all, the president is only hoping that about 2.7 million young people will purchase coverage in the new exchanges. But 20 million Americans between the ages of 19 and 34 get coverage from their employer right now, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If you’re keeping score, that makes employer-based health care’s cross-subsidy about eight times more evil than Obamacare’s.

How does it work? Compare a typical, strapping young employee of 28 to her broken- down 58-year-old colleague. These two employees have very different annual health expenses. Yet under the nefarious plot known as “group health insurance,” they basically pay the same premiums. It turns out every big company in America is essentially a socialized health care republic, in which the young subsidize the old, and the healthy subsidize the sick — all of whom pay the same premiums for the same plans.

Similar dynamics explain why, in the federal health-care plan, spry 42-year-olds like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz subsidize 79-year-old geezers like Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch.

Maybe that’s why Cruz always seems so angry.

Of course, most people in civilized nations know and accept that this is how insurance works. But Republicans nowadays aren’t like most people in civilized nations. They think Obamacare is a form of injustice akin to slavery. Which makes employer-provided health care slavery on steroids. Where’s the outrage? If conservatives were consistent and principled, they would devote far more time and effort to liberating 20 million young Americans from the socialism baked into employer-based insurance and look past the Obamacare exchanges as a puny sideshow.

But, alas, conservatives are not consistent and principled, save for their consistent determination to hurt the president politically.

It would be better if all those smart GOP thinkers devoted their talent and energy to the question of how they would expand coverage to the 50 million uninsured — but to raise that question is to enter the policy cul de sac in all its delicious irony.

Because the answer to that question is RomneyObamacare, the only sound way (as Republicans rightly taught us) that a country can move toward universal coverage using private health plans. The GOP could offer a tweaked version with slightly fewer regulations. Or structure it to offer universal catastrophic coverage to save money. But if Republicans were serious, they’d offer the same basic reform architecture.

So Republicans choose not to be serious. And it shows.

In the end, the GOP’s Obamacare youth hoax shows how silly a party can look when a political focus on one corner of a policy leads it to latch on to “insights” that utterly miss the big picture. It’s a reminder, if we needed another, of how close the connection can be between ideology and idiocy.

 

By: Matt Miller, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 21, 2013

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rotten To The Core”: The Race To Implement Or Kill Common Core Standards

I’ve argued off and on for a while that the steady and accelerating abandonment of standards-and-assessments-based education reform on the Right is one of the most under-reported stories of the year. And at the crucial point where states are on the brink of implementing the most ambitious “standards upgrade” initiative by far, the Common Core Standards endorsed by nearly all governors from both parties (see this Special Report from the May/June 2012 issue of the Washington Monthly for a thorough description), the withdrawal of conservative support is becoming an epidemic. The New York Times‘ Bill Keller has penned a useful op-ed on the subject:

[T]he Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable. Come together it did — for a while.

The backlash began with a few of the usual right-wing suspects. Glenn Beck warned that under “this insidious menace to our children and to our families” students would be “indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology….”

Beck’s soul mate Michelle Malkin warned that the Common Core was “about top-down control engineered through government-administered tests and left-wing textbook monopolies.” Before long, FreedomWorks — the love child of Koch brothers cash and Tea Party passion — and the American Principles Project, a religious-right lobby, had joined the cause. Opponents have mobilized Tea Partyers to barnstorm in state capitals and boiled this complex issue down to an obvious slogan, “ObamaCore!”….

In April the Republican National Committee surrendered to the fringe and urged states to renounce Common Core. The presidential aspirant Marco Rubio, trying to appease conservatives angry at his moderate stance on immigration, last month abandoned his support for the standards. And state by red state, the effort to disavow or defund is under way. Indiana has put the Common Core on hold. Michigan’s legislature cut off money for implementing the standards and is now contemplating pulling out altogether. Last month, Georgia withdrew from a 22-state consortium, one of two groups designing tests pegged to the new standards, ostensibly because of the costs. (The new tests are expected to cost about $29 per student; grading them is more labor-intensive because in addition to multiple-choice questions they include written essays and show-your-work math problems that will be graded by actual humans. “You’re talking about 30 bucks a kid, in an education system that now spends upwards of $9,000 or $10,000 per student per year,” said Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute.)

The Common Core is imperiled in Oklahoma, Utah, Alabama and Pennsylvania. All of the retreat, you will notice, has been in Republican-controlled states.

It’s hard to tell how much of the opposition is coming from conservatives who now oppose public education (or as an increasing number now call it, “government schools”) itself, or who think “national” standards will inhibit state-based or local efforts to undermine traditional public schools in favor of subsidies for private schools or home-schooling, but it’s clearly growing, and the heavy investment of the business community in Common Core is at best slowing down the revolt.

I strongly suspect opposition to Common Core will be a major theme for up-and-coming conservative state-level candidates in 2014, particularly for GOP primary challengers seeking to attract “base” activist support and/or to overcome suspicions of RINOism. In the race between Common Core implementation and efforts to stop it (and yes, there is opposition from the Left as well, and some concerns and misgivings across the spectrum, but nothing like what we are seeing on the Right), it’s currently a dead heat with the horse named “No!” gaining fast.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly POlitical Animal, August 19, 2013

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Education Reform | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Muddied Waters And Smokescreens”: These Six States Want To Allow Health Insurers To Deny Coverage To Sick People

Officials in Texas and five other GOP-led states are refusing to oversee even Obamacare’s most basic — and popular — consumer protections and insurance market reforms. That includes the law’s ban on denying coverage or charging more because of a pre-existing condition and discriminating against women on the basis of gender. The decision could present major hurdles to Americans who buy health insurance through federally-run marketplaces in the Lone Star State, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

A majority of states haven’t set up their own insurance marketplaces, opting to let the federal government set one up for them. But every one of those states (other than the six in question) have at least said they will police the insurers that sell plans on their federally-run marketplaces to make sure that they aren’t giving consumers short shrift. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will instead be responsible for enforcing Obamacare’s insurance industry reforms and reviewing consumer complaints in the states refusing to do so on their own.

That could be confusing for Americans who are buying insurance for the first time through the marketplaces. For example, imagine you’re a relatively poor person with diabetes. Your income isn’t low enough to get you on Medicaid — but your employer doesn’t offer health benefits, and you’ve never qualified for insurance on the individual market because of your medical condition. On October 1st, you can go buy insurance with government subsidies for the first time on an Obamacare marketplace. But the plan you choose charges you a suspiciously high premium relative to your income. You suspect it’s because of your medical problem, which is clearly illegal under the reform law. But who do you complain to?

Usually the answer is your state’s insurance department. But the answer is CMS if you live in one of the six states that won’t enforce the consumer protections. Unfortunately, if you don’t know that, you could spend months oscillating between the state and federal government, trying to figure out if you’re getting hoodwinked by your insurance company. And in the meantime, the bills are piling up.

Those kinds of scenarios are the reason that health policy experts say insurance complaints are best handled by state agencies. Officials with the Texas Department of Insurance argue that they legally can’t enforce the regulations because they’ve ceded authority over the marketplace to the federal government, and Texas doesn’t have corresponding state laws holding insurers to the same standards as Obamacare. But Stacy Pogue of the Center for Public Policy Priorities tells the Texas Tribune that’s likely a smokescreen, since Texas has enforced plenty of other federal laws on a statewide level in the past.

Officials in the Lone Star State certainly haven’t been shy about their opposition to the health law. Gov. Rick Perry (R) dug in his heels against reform in 2012, saying he wouldn’t “be a part of expanding [the] socializing of our medicine.” More recently, Perry denied basic health benefits to 1.5 million of his state’s poorest residents by forgoing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Evidently, that wasn’t going far enough.

National Republicans have also been stepping up their efforts to to undermine Obamacare. Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) are refusing to help their own constituents if they have questions about the health law, and the Tea Party-affiliated advocacy group FreedomWorks has been telling young Americans to forgo signing up for health coverage under Obamacare entirely.

By: Sy Mukhergee, Think Progress, August , 2013

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Notion Of The Shiny Object Theory”: Conservative Firebrands Want Scalps, Not Hollow Victories

Ornery first-term Republican senators and bomb-throwing conservative activist groups are locking horns again with the Republican establishment.

Tea Party firebrands want to defund Obamacare by threatening to shut down the government at the end of the fiscal year. Other Republicans decry this as irresponsible.

Insurgents say the Establishment doesn’t really care about conservative goals. The Establishment says the right-wingers confuse a difference in tactics for a lack of principle.

To understand the tension, it helps to explore the notion of the “Shiny Object.”

Mike Needham is the CEO of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Heritage Action is the spearhead of the Beltway Tea Party. Needham is the sharp tip of that spear. He’s also the author of the Shiny Object theory.

Republican lawmakers want to please their conservative constituents, especially in these days of Tea Party primaries. To mollify the base, GOP members come home touting a conservative vote or a victory over the Democrats. Far too often, Needham says, these supposed conservative accomplishments are just “shiny objects” intended to distract conservative voters from the lack of accomplishments by Washington Republicans.

Needham first used this term with me while discussing the gun control battle of last spring. Republican senators went back to their districts trumpeting that they had defeated Harry Reid’s assault-weapons ban.

“There was no chance that an assault weapons ban was going to pass,” Needham tells me. Defeating the assault-weapons ban was a shiny object that Republicans could hold out to distract conservatives, providing cover for mandating background checks.

Conservative congressional aides, current and past, complain that this shiny-object method has been the standard operating procedure.

New power dynamics disrupt this.

On gun control, the Tea Partiers refused to let the shiny-object strategy work. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised a stink, accusing GOP senators of being “squishes” on gun rights. Outside groups ran ads in the districts of GOP senators, ignoring the assault-weapons ban and saying the real fight was the background-check provision crafted by Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

The grassroots responded, and Republican members heard about it during the congressional recess. Toomey-Manchin failed.

Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity — with their broad networks of local conservatives — all make the shiny-object trick harder. Politicians are no longer voters’ only source of inside-the-Beltway intelligence.

So when a Republican congressman says at his town hall he has voted to repeal Obamacare, the member might get pointed questions from some AFP member or local activist who sat in on a Heritage Action weekly conference call. Obamacare-repeal votes are shiny objects, these groups tell the grassroots. They are not really going to change policy.

The insurgents demand actions that could get real results. “Defund it or own it,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “If you fund it, you’re for it.”

How can a minority party defund Obamacare? By threatening to kill all appropriations for fiscal year 2014. Republican leaders think this unwise, and they bristle at the suggestion that they’re fine with Obamacare.

“We’ve been fighting this thing with everything we’ve got for four years,” one GOP Senate aide told me. “We don’t have a difference in goals, we have a difference in strategies … The party continues to be united in the effort to repeal it, but this is just not the right strategy.”

But Needham and allies argue that the Establishment’s strategy equals giving up. He has a point. Many Republicans quietly say what my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York writes: The 2012 election was the last chance to kill this beast.

Needham says he’s just trying to hold Republicans to their word: “When they tell their constituents, ‘I will come to Washington and do everything I can to block Obamacare,’ if they don’t do everything they can … They should have to explain themselves.”

This appears suicidal to many. Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru writes: “The chance that Democrats would go along … approaches zero percent. So if Republicans stay firm in this demand, the result will be either a government shutdown or a partial shutdown combined with a debt default.” And Republicans will take the blame.

But even if you can’t get your opening ask, the insurgents say, you can get something. Hold out until late September, and maybe Democrats will agree to delay the individual mandate — or delay the exchanges until the government thinks it can determine eligibility for subsidies.

These conservatives believe Republicans have been fooling them with shiny objects. This time, they want actual scalps.

 

By: Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner, July 30, 2013

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“To Know Him Is To Dislike Him”: Ted Cruz On How To Make Enemies And Alienate People

As we discussed a month ago, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) career on Capitol Hill is off to a difficult start. The Atlantic noted “a remarkable number of both Republicans and Democrats” have already come forward “to say that they think Cruz is kind of a jerk.” The New York Times added that “even some Republican colleagues are growing publicly frustrated” with the right-wing freshman.

It can, however, get worse. In fact, Cruz seems to be going out of his way to make enemies and alienate people.

Just a few days ago, Cruz made an unannounced appearance at the FreedomWorks Texas Summit, where he openly mocked his Senate Republican colleagues, calling them “squishes” who don’t like to be held accountable.

“Here was their argument,” Cruz said of Senate Republican. “They said: ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’ “Well, there is an alternative: you could just not be a bunch of squishes.”

It’s worth pausing to appreciate the irony: Cruz was the one afraid of a debate on reducing gun violence, and it was his GOP colleagues who were kowtowed into ignoring common sense and popular will.

But even putting that aside, it’s unclear who the senator thinks he’s impressing by taking cheap shots at his ostensible allies. It’s reached the point at which even Jennifer Rubin wants the Texas Republican to stop “being a jerk.”

Wait, it gets worse.

In Cruz’s version of events, he’s the hero of his own morality play, killing gun reforms singlehandedly, eking out a surprise victory at the last minute, thanks to his awesome awesomeness.

Dave Weigel rained on Cruz’s parade.

But Cruz blurs the timeline. In his version of events, Democrats were convinced up to the last minute that they could break 60 votes on Manchin-Toomey (“the look of shock from the senior Democrats!”) and Republicans shamed Cruz for his … well, for his ballsiness, in this telling. Fellow Republicans, says Cruz, were “yelling at us at the top of their lungs! Look, why did you do this! As a result of what you did, I gotta go home and my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle!”

Back on Earth, Democrats basically knew that they wouldn’t break 60 on the night before the series of gun votes; Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted his disappointment. Cruz was in those rooms with GOP senators, and I wasn’t, but if they were angry at him on the week of April 8, it wasn’t because they disagreed with his gun stance, or lacked principle. It was because they considered it astrategic.

Reporters who live in D.C. and spend too many daylight hours talking to politicians, we get that. This was a pretty simple story of ideological preferences and interest group pressure. But Cruz wants a voter back home, a Republican activist, to learn something else — a Jimmy Stewart tale, in which the rest of the GOP was ready to sell you out until one man stood up and thundered “nay.”

All of this dishonest grandstanding may make right-wing activists swoon, but it should also cause Cruz some trouble on Capitol Hill. Senators have traditionally forged relationships with their colleagues in order to build coalitions and be more effective in passing legislation. Cruz is going out of his way to do the opposite — scolding his veteran colleagues, lecturing them on his wisdom, and creating conditions in which just about everyone who knows him dislikes him.

This should make it all but impossible for Cruz to play a constructive role in the chamber, though that may not matter to him, since he doesn’t seem especially interested in governing anyway.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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