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GOP Wheeling And Dealing May Come Back To Bite Them

Wednesday was the anniversary of the day in 1944 when Democrats nominated Franklin Roosevelt for a fourth term. If he could see the wheeling and dealing in D.C. during the current budget deficit debate, FDR wouldn’t be surprised. Republicans are still trying to kill Social Security, and the GOP is still cozy  with bankers, billionaires, and big business.

Tea Party House Republicans, under the leadership of Eric Cantor, are doing  everything they can to protect their BFFs on Wall Street from paying their fair  share of taxes. If majority Leader (and presumptive peaker) Cantor and the rest of the Tea Party  types were really concerned about the budget deficit, they would support  President Obama’s effort to save money by ending billions of dollars in  wasteful subsidies to big oil and for corporate jets. Tax breaks for corporate  jets with full bars don’t stimulate the economy, but they do stimulate corporate  jet setters.

Republicans did  score one victory this week which may come back and bite them on the butt.  President Obama passed over consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren for the job of director of the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after  Senate Republicans said they would filibuster her appointment. Warren’s  crime was her fight to protect consumers from the big financial firms  that rip off working families. Today is the first  anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which Congress passed to curb predatory behavior by Wall Street.

Warren will return to her home in Massachusetts,  and she may run against Republican U.S. Senator and Cosmo centerfold, Scott Brown. If the GOP has any hope of taking control of the Senate next year, Brown  must win.  But polls show that Brown is vulnerable, and Brown has the chops  to show blue collar Democrats that Wall Street is the enemy of the working  families who have lost their jobs and then their homes in the wake of the great  recession, a downturn caused by big business and the bad boy bankers and  billionaires that Warren has fought to regulate.

And one last date for all you  American history buffs, Tuesday was the anniversary of the day in 1848 when a  pioneering women’s rights convention met in Seneca Falls New York.  The convention paved the way for way for women like Elizabeth Warren and  Michele Bachmann to run for office. By the way, Representative Bachman, the convention  was in Seneca Falls, N.Y., not Seneca Falls, N.H., if anyone asks.

 

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Big Business, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumer Credit, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Financial Institutions, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Social Security, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Wealthy, Wisconsin Republicans, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Has 2012 Trouble: Attacking Medicare And Social Security Could Be Death Of Republicans’ 2012 Hopes

Recent weeks have finally defined the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The field has finally achieved a greater level of clarity as many candidates have opted out, running the absurd-to-formidable gamut from Donald Trump to Mitch Daniels. A smaller number have opted in, running the has-been to may-never-be gamut from Newt Gingrich to Tim Pawlenty, not to mention former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who officially entered the race yesterday.

A former Minnesota governor, Pawlenty officially joined the wannabe ranks last week with a speech aimed at defining himself as a fearless teller of hard truths (previously he had perhaps best been known for lacking any definition at all). This is smart on several levels. He quickly moved to fill the void left by Daniels, the governor of Indiana, whom many in the party had yearned for as a tough-minded fiscal hawk. And in part it is a strong bid for the mantel of not-Romney, the alternative to the former Massachusetts governor and current GOP front-runner. Romney is a laughably transparent flip-flopper, so Pawlenty’s new truth-teller frame could make him an ideal foil.

Politicians love to position themselves as tellers of hard truths, brave enough to boldly level with the voters. And the current tempestuous political climate, with its roiling discontent with politics as usual, especially lends itself to such a pose. Pawlenty is merely the latest candidate to seize this meme.

But his candidacy runs squarely afoul of Robert’s 13th rule of politics: People like the idea of hard truths and hard-truth tellers much more than they like the reality of them. You can ask straight shooters like Walter Mondale (“Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”), Paul “I’m not Santa Claus” Tsongas, and John “Straight Talk” McCain. Winning the presidency requires an aspirational element at odds with the doom-and-gloom that comes with those self-consciously trying to speak hard truths.

So kudos to Pawlenty for standing up to big ethanol in little Iowa. But while some may take off their hats to him for traveling to Florida in order to call for overhauls (read: cuts) of Social Security and Medicare, it might be merely to scratch one’s head. As Hot Air blogger Allahpundit quipped after Pawlenty’s Florida performance, “Alternate headline: ‘Pawlenty now unelectable in not one but two early primary states.’ ”

Maybe this is actually deep strategy. Many conservatives and Tea Partyers in particular seem intent these days on—as Ronald Reagan used to complain of some of his more gung-ho supporters—going “off the cliff with all flags flying.” Perhaps this is a clever way for Pawlenty to appeal to that “I’d rather lose being right” instinct.

An additional problem for would-be hard-truth tellers is that in the telling, these so-called truths often become vehicles for an even harder ideology. The attempt to conflate serious problems with ideologically inflexible and partisan solutions can create political tensions and open deadly political rifts. See the political abyss House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has marched his colleagues into over his plan to repeal and replace Medicare.

With the future insolubility of Medicare as a starting point, Ryan and the GOP have embarked on an emphatically ideological course. They hailed themselves as seriously facing a tough issue, and they spin the plan as an attempt to save the program, but all it would save would be the name “Medicare.” A guarantee of healthcare would be replaced with a voucher of diminishing value. If it fails to cover seniors’ costs . . . tough luck. The view was perhaps best summed up by Georgia GOP Rep. Rob Woodall, who chastised a constituent at a town hall meeting last month when she asked how, after Ryan’s reforms eliminated the guarantee of Medicare, she could expect to get medical coverage since she worked for a company that doesn’t offer it in their retirement package. “Hear yourself, ma’am,” he said. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?’ ”

Woodall, like many conservatives, fails to grasp why programs like Medicare were created. They were a response to a market failure—specifically an inability of senior citizens to get or pay for healthcare. But in Woodall’s world there are apparently no market failures; if seniors can’t get healthcare it’s because they simply won’t take responsibility for themselves. Of course in 1964, 44 percent of senior citizens had no health coverage, and the cost of medical bills had driven more than one third of them below the poverty line. If only they had had the moral fiber to take care of themselves!

Safe in a heavily conservative district, Woodall can spout such nonsense. But roughly 60 House Republicans represent districts Barack Obama won in 2008 and virtually all voted for the Ryancare overhaul. In this case, the gap between hard truths and hard ideology may be big enough to swallow a House majority.

Just ask the pollsters employed by the House GOP, who warned that the bill was a ticking time bomb, Politico reported last week. Or ask Jane Corwin, that bomb’s first casualty. She is the Republican who lost May’s special election in a GOP-leaning New York district in which the Ryan plan was the defining issue. Or ask Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Scott Brown, four of the five Senate Republicans who fled the plan last week (the fifth, Rand Paul, opposed it as not being conservative enough).

Or ask Gingrich, the former House speaker who drew party-wide opprobrium when he dismissed the Ryan plan as being so much “right-wing social engineering.” Pity poor Newt: He was just trying to tell a hard truth.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, June 3, 2011

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Consumers, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Seniors, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Course Newt Gingrich Supported A Health Care Mandate

Mitt Romney continues to face all kinds of heat over his support for a health care mandate, in large part because he continues to defend it. But Sam Stein notes this week that disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Romney rival for the Republican presidential nomination, was just as ardent an advocate of the idea.

In his post-congressional life, Gingrich has been a vocal champion for mandated insurance coverage — the very provision of President Obama’s health care legislation that the Republican Party now decries as fundamentally unconstitutional.

This mandate was hardly some little-discussed aspect of Gingrich’s plan for health care reform. In the mid-2000s, he partnered with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to promote a centrist solution to fixing the nation’s health care system. A July 22, 2005, Hotline article on one of the duo’s events described the former speaker as endorsing not just state-based mandates (the linchpin of Romney’s Massachusetts law) but “some federal mandates” as well. A New York Sun writeup of what appears to be the same event noted that “both politicians appeared to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage.”

Neera Tanden, an aide to Clinton at the time who went on to help craft President Obama’s law, said she couldn’t recall exact speeches, but “strongly” believed that the both Clinton and Gingrich backed the individual mandate. Either way, she added, “Gingrich has been known as a supporter” of the idea for some time.

A simple newspaper archive search bears this out.

Gingrich endorsed the individual health care mandate over and over again, in public remarks, in media interviews, and in policy proposals. Ironically, he even explained the importance of the mandate in a book entitled, “Winning the Future.” Gingrich didn’t just grudgingly go along with the measure as part of some kind of compromise; he actively touted it as a good idea.

And he was right.

But that was before President Obama decided he also agreed with the idea, at which point the mandate became poisonous in Republican circles.

The point to keep in mind, though, is that Gingrich’s support for the idea isn’t at all surprising. Indeed, it would have been odd if Gingrich didn’t endorse the mandate.

For those who’ve forgotten, this was a Republican idea in the first place. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush supported the idea in the 1980s. When Dole endorsed the mandate in 1994, it was in keeping with the party’s prevailing attitudes at the time. Romney embraced the mandate as governor and it was largely ignored during the ‘08 campaign, since it was in keeping with the GOP mainstream.

In recent years, the mandate has also been embraced by the likes of John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Scott Brown, and Judd Gregg, among many others. Indeed, several of them not only endorsed the policy, they literally co-sponsored legislation that included a mandate.

During the fight over Obama’s reform proposal, Grassley told Fox News, of all outlets, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate” — and there was no pushback from party leaders. This isn’t ancient history; it was a year and a half ago.

Newt Gingrich touted the same idea? Well, sure, of course he did.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Insurance Companies, Mitt Romney, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaparty, More Dumb Than Clever

Although I’m not part of the Tea Party movement and I don’t share its values, I usually understand what its followers are trying to do. But their latest gambit on health care has me genuinely baffled.

The idea is to oppose the Affordable Care Act not in the Congress or the courts, where they’ve been fighting so far, but in the state legislatures. As you may recall, the Act calls upon states to create the new “exchanges,” through which individuals and small businesses will be able to buy regulated insurance policies at affordable prices. The simplest way to do that is for state legislatures to pass laws creating exchanges that conform to the Act’s standards. Several states have started that process already–and a few, like California, are well along in their efforts.

But Tea Party activists have been lobbying state lawmakers to vote against such measures and, in a few states, it looks like they’re succeeding. Politico’s Sarah Kliff has the story:

In South Carolina, tea party activists have been picking off Republican co-sponsors of a health exchange bill, getting even the committee chairman who would oversee the bill to turn against it.

A Montana legislator who ran on a tea party platform has successfully blocked multiple health exchange bills, persuading his colleagues to instead move forward with legislation that would specifically bar the state from setting up a marketplace.

And in Georgia, tea party protests forced Gov. Nathan Deal to shelve exchange legislation that the Legislature had worked on for months.

It’s a great idea for blocking the law, except for one small problem: The Affordable Care Act anticipates that some states might not create adequate exchanges. And the law is quite clear about what happens in those cases. The federal government takes over, creating and then, as necessary, managing the exchanges itself. In other words, if state lawmakers in Columbia, Helena, and Atlanta don’t build the exchanges, bureaucrats in Washington are going to do it for them.

I realize that blocking the exchange votes may have certain symbolic value–and, at least in the early going, it could complicate implementation simply by generating more chaos. (Georgia lawmakers, as the article suggests, had already put in a lot of time on theirs.) I also gather that some Tea Party activists believe that blocking state exchanges will strengthen the constitutional case against the law. Still, if even part of the law withstands both congressional repeal and court challenges, as seems likely, the long-term effect of this Tea Party effort seems pretty clear: It will mean even more, not less, federal control.

The irony here is that, throughout the health care debate, liberals like me wanted federal exchanges, in part because we feared states with reluctant or hostile elected officials would do a lousy job. That’s the way exchanges were set up in the House health care reform bill and, in January of 2010, many of us hoped the House version would prevail when the two chambers negotiated the final language in conference committee. But the conference negotiation never took place, because Scott Brown’s election eliminated the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority. The House ended up passing the more conservative Senate bill, which had state exchanges, and that became the law.

Of course, not all Republicans agree with the Tea Party’s approach. In a previous article, for Politico Pro, Kliff interviewed several state officials who said they were setting up exchanges, notwithstanding their opposition to the law, precisely because it is the surest way to keep out the feds.

Len Nichols, the health care policy expert at George Mason University, thinks that approach makes a lot more sense, given their priorities:

Ironically, the only way to make PPACA a “federal takeover” is for states to do nothing. There is much state flexibility in the law, and much more could be sensibly negotiated and amended before 2014, but the strategy of repeal, do nothing and “get the government out of health care” will have exactly the opposite effect in those states that follow this path.

Maybe the Tea Party activists know something that neither Nichols nor I do. My bet, though, is that this effort is the policy equivalent of a temper tantrum, one that opponents of federalizing health care may come to regret.

By: Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, March 31, 2011

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Constitution, GOP, Health Care, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, Neo-Cons, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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