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“The GOP’s Hypocrisy On Obamacare”: Republicans Get The Vapors And Become Outraged About The Problems They Created

Last spring, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and the chairman of the committee, was not pleased with how things were going.

The Obama administration originally had asked for more than half a billion dollars to spend on public relations and outreach for the law. House Republicans had returned with an offer of nothing. That’s right: zero dollars. Without necessary funds, the Department of Health and Human Services worried it would not have the necessary money to pay for navigators to help people enroll in health care, for the technology needed to implement the exchanges and for the public relations campaign that was required to inform citizens about what the law actually did.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the controversial move of asking insurance companies and nonprofit organizations to donate money and help. Republicans were outraged. She asked for more money. She was refused.

Then, when she tried to move some money from the PR budget to replace cuts to other areas, Baucus became quite upset. He was concerned that if the administration did not do more to inform people about the law and get implementation going, there would be problems:

“A lot of people have no idea about all of this,” he said. “People just don’t know a lot about it, and the Kaiser poll pointed that out. I understand you’ve hired a contractor. I’m just worried that that’s gonna be money down the drain because contractors like to make money. … I just tell ya, I just see a huge train wreck coming down.”

As I’ve said before, it’s important to note that the “train wreck” Baucus was describing was a botched implementation because not enough was being done to make things go smoothly.

It wasn’t a description of the law itself but of what might occur if the government did not devote enough resources to making it work. Sebelius’ response was not surprising to those who were paying attention. She said that she was “incredibly disappointed” that all her requests for resources were being denied by Republicans.

That was then. Today, implementation has arrived, and if it’s not a train wreck, then it’s certainly close. The administration is still under fire because people cannot get the insurance they want through the exchanges. But while I will continue to point out the problems with implementation and fault the administration for mistakes they’ve made, how does one ignore the apparent hypocrisy from many politicians who are now “outraged” about the very problems they’ve helped to create.

Republicans refused to appropriate money needed to implement Obamacare. When Sebelius tried to shift money from other areas to help do what needed to be done, she was attacked by Senate Republicans. At every step, Republicans fought measures to get money to put towards implementation.

Is it really a surprise then that implementation hasn’t gone smoothly?

Federal legislators aren’t the only ones to blame. Let’s remember that original versions of the bill called for one big national exchange. This would have been much easier to implement. But conservatives declared that insurance should be left to the states and kept out of the hands of the federal government. So as a compromise (yes, those did occur), exchanges were made state-based instead of national.

As a precaution, the law stipulated that if states failed to do their duty and enact exchanges, the federal government would step in and pick up the slack. This was to prevent obstructionism from killing the law. Surprisingly, it was many of the same conservative states that demanded local control that refused to implement state-based exchanges, leaving the federal government to do it for them.

That made implementation much harder.

There have been books, webinars and meetings explaining how to sabotage the implementation of Obamacare. There have been campaigns trying to persuade young adults not to use the exchanges. It is, therefore, somewhat ironic that many of the same people who have been part of all of this obstructionism seem so “upset” by the fact that people can’t easily use the exchanges.

For goodness sake, the government was shut down just a few weeks ago because some of the same people who are now bemoaning poorly functioning websites were determined to see that not one dime went to Obamacare.

Lest you think I’m defending this month’s rollout, I encourage you to review my last article here. I still maintain that the administration has had a failure in management in overseeing and reporting on progress towards October 1. But I’m also sympathetic that they’ve had a hard job to do. I would like to see this go better. I’d like to see millions more get insurance. I’d like to see the law of the land function as well as it can, and if it doesn’t, I’d like to see Congress continue to amend it to make it work better. I’d like a better health care system.

What I cannot ignore, however, are the many people who actively worked to see implementation fail now get the vapors over its poor start. The truth is, they got what they wanted. A victory lap is somewhat warranted, not concern-trolling.

If, on the other hand, their concern is real, then I’m sure the administration would welcome their help in making things right.

 

By: Aaron Carroll, Director, Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, Indiana University School of Medicine, Special to CNN, October 28, 2013

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sen Orrin Hatch’s Desire To Raise Middle-Class Taxes

I think the pressure is starting to get to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). He saw what happened to his former colleague, Bob Bennett, in a GOP primary in 2010, and Hatch is starting to panic that he’ll meet the same fate.

But when the heat is on, some rise to the occasion, showing poise and grace. Some, like Hatch, just fall apart.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted against beginning debate on a measure that would have the Senate declare the rich should share the pain of debt reduction Thursday, a day after arguing that it’s the poor and middle class who need to do more.

“I hear how they’re so caring for the poor and so forth,” Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, in reference to Democrats. “The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility.”

Hatch went on to say he finds it outrageous that so many millions of Americans don’t pay income taxes, adding, “And that’s going up by the way because of our friend down in the White House and his allies.”

Just so we’re clear, Hatch is incensed because President Obama and his allies aren’t taxing the middle class enough.

This comes up from time to time, and I continue to find it fascinating. Specifically, when conservatives complain about too many Americans not paying federal income taxes, they tend to overlook relevant details — such as the fact that these same Americans still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes.

It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something — the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify.

Moreover, the GOP has a natural revulsion to any tax system, but there’s an eerie comfort with a regressive agenda that showers additional wealth on the rich while asking for more from lower-income workers.

While we’re at it, let’s also not forget that Hatch is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, and would be in a position to serve as chairman if he wins reelection and Republicans take the Senate next year. At that point, he could use his power to punish working people more directly.

Hatch has always been a conservative Republican, but he’d developed a reputation over the years for idiosyncratic positions. Despite being firmly on the right — at least as “the right” was defined in, say, the ’90s — Hatch supported stem-cell research, co-sponsored the DREAM Act, and partnered with Ted Kennedy to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, bringing health coverage to low-income kids. Centrist Democrats hoping to craft a major bipartisan deal would immediately reach out to Hatch.

Needless to say, those days are over.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 9, 2011

July 10, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Courage Of Convictions: The Tax Collector And The Republican

Congressional Republicans constantly remind us that principle is more important than principal. They are willing to shrink government at all costs. The latest example comes from the new budget agreement that has an impact on the IRS and tax collections.

Tax collection is one of the IRS’s principle functions as we are all reminded this time of year. There are some who not only refuse to cheerfully pay what they owe but actively take steps to avoid paying taxes they owe. As a result, some IRS employees have as their main job, identifying those people and taking steps to encourage them to pay what they owe.

In 2006, Republicans in Congress came up with a whole new approach that provided employment to the non-governmental sector, a group that is always favored by Republicans. (That is because Republicans know that those who work for the government tend to be lazy and inefficient whereas those in the private sector are hard working and productive. That is, of course, something of a generalization, since occasionally someone in the private sector will disappoint and prove to be lazy and/or unproductive.)

Because of the Republican belief in the virtues of the private sector (which is almost as fervent as its belief that in taking funds from programs for children and the poor it is doing God’s work), in August of 2006 it was announced that within a couple of weeks the IRS would turn over to private collection agencies 12,500 delinquent tax accounts of $25,000 or less. According to the New York Times, this new way of collecting taxes was thought up and put in place by the Bush administration. The plan had, like many plans do, an upside and a downside.

The upside was that the debt collectors were part of the private sector. Under the private debt collection system the collectors would collect $1.4 billion each year of which they could keep $330 million, thus lining the private sectors’ pockets by that amount instead of having it go into a government pocket where it would, in all likelihood, get lost. Although that seems like a win-win, in 2002 Charles Rossotti, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, had told Congress that if it hired additional IRS employees to handle collections, it could collect more than $9 billion each year at a cost of only $296 million, considerably less than the cost if the same work was done by private collection agencies. That came out to a cost of $.03 per dollar collected. According to the NYT, his testimony was correct but Congress didn’t want to swell the size of government by authorizing the hiring of additional personnel for the IRS. Charles Everson, IRS Commissioner in 2006, when the private debt collection program was implemented, agreed with Mr. Rossotti and said it was more efficient to hire more IRS personnel but Congress would not appropriate the funds it needed to do that. Congress’s reluctance is a perfectly sensible approach since if you want to shrink government you have to make sacrifices and in this case, the sacrifice is increased revenue.

In 2008 Democrats took control of both houses of Congress and in March of 2009 it was announced that the IRS had determined that IRS employees could do collection work more efficiently than the private debt collectors, just as Rossotti and Everson had said some years earlier, and there was no reason to continue the program. Senator Grassley, who was the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was outraged. Ignoring the fact that the government would have more money if the IRS were responsible for collections, he said the IRS was caving in to “union-driven political pressure.” He would have rather seen the federal government lose money than take away business from the private sector. The last chapter in this saga, however, has not been written.

Now that the budget compromise had been reached here is one of the things that has happened. The White House had requested an increase in the IRS budget of approximately 9% which would have enabled the agency to hire an additional 5000 personnel. Many of those could have been used to collect taxes which would have helped reduce the deficit. Echoing what Messrs. Rossotti and Everson had said years earlier, Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, who testified before Congress in March, said: “Every dollar invested in IRS yields nearly five dollars in increased revenue from non-compliant taxpayers.”

Republicans have refused to authorize the hiring of additional personnel at the IRS in order to collect taxes. A release from John Boehner’s office said increased funding for the IRS had been denied as part of the budget agreement. This shows that the Republican majority has the courage of its convictions. The rest of the country can enjoy the benefits of living off the fruits of its follies.

By: Christopher Brauchli, CommonDreams.org, April 16, 2011

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democrats, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, IRS, Jobs, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Tax Evasion, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Unions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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