Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Report: GOP moderates preparing revolt on House floor

There’s basically nothing else to go on other than a Tweet from CNN’s Dana Bash, saying that moderate Republicans in the House are planning a revolt on the floor sometime tonight.

This could provide the cover that John Boehner needs to bring the Senate continuing resolution to the floor for a vote where all Democrats vote for it, and a handful of Republicans cross over, as happened with the last tax increase.

It would only take 18 Republicans to get the job done if no vote against a clean CR. Earlier today we’ve seen two Democrats do that, and two Republicans as well that canceled them out. It’d take 20 Republicans to pass a clean CR if that happened.

This really shows how absurd this charade has been. The House isn’t like the Senate, it only takes a majority to pass anything in the House and Speaker Boehner can bring legislation to the floor for a vote unilaterally — nobody can stop him. He hasn’t done that yet and we can only guess at the reasons why. I believed he would cave and let the CR pass on the backs of Democrats and moderate Republicans at the last minute, but my faith in that outcome soured today.

Now maybe this is what will allow that to happen.

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The terrible, awful, horrible, no-good Obamacare

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see someone whining about how horrible Obamacare is, which is nonsense. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a horrible law. The Alien and Sedition Act is a horrible law. The USA PATRIOT Act is a horrible law. Obamacare isn’t perfect, but as far as these things go it’s a pretty good law.

It’ll make insurance more affordable for the poor, the middle class and the elderly, it’ll improve coverage for everyone because of the ban on pre-existing condition discrimination and the ban on total payout caps, it promotes private sector competition, and the thing is fully paid for.

Like the other two major pillars of the Great Society, Obamacare spending is fully funded and doesn’t add so much as a penny to the federal budget deficit.

It’s clear now that the failure won’t be the health care law itself, and it wasn’t ever going to be. It was the atmosphere of bullshit that surrounded it. The Obama administration did a poor job explaining its benefits, the media didn’t even try explaining how it’s supposed to work and why it had to be this way, and opponents were allowed to lie about it far too brazenly.

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Republicans know only how to fail

The two big questions after the 2012 election were would the Republican Party change its agenda to keep up with changes in the electorate, and would they stop living in their own world separate from facts and common sense.

The answers are both in: No, and no. Republicans in the House blocked immigration reform, which should keep Latinos voting for Democrats in 2014 and probably 2016. And the same epistemic closure that caused Republicans to believe that Mitt Romney would win in a landslide is still present today and dictating policy in the House of Representatives.

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Obamacare won’t screw you, but red-state sabotage probably will

Forget about Washington Theater staring Ted Cruz and the clown car, the Affordable Care Act won’t be defunded this week or anytime in the near future. It won’t get repealed, either.

Trust me, I’ve run the numbers. Republicans can’t win enough seats in 2014 to beat a veto even if they run the board, and that’ll be the last election for a few cycles where there are more Democrats up for reelection than Republicans. If Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, that may put repeal out of reach until 2021 or 2025.

What people need to pay attention to is a new report from Health and Human Services on what to expect from the new insurance exchanges that open next week. Here’s what you need to know to cut through the spin.

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Super post, Sep 23 2013 polls, news, and tweets.

Polls

– PPP finds that Americans oppose defunding Obamacare as part of funding the government, 50-38; disapprove of Obama’s handling of Obamacare 55-34; trust Obama to handle Obamacare more than Republicans 41-38. Asked about a shutdown directly, Americans oppose it 52-38. (Source)

– Gallup reveals how critical it can be to ask the right question in polling. Asked if they’ve ever “tried marajuana”, respondents said no, 61-38. Asked if they’ve ever “smoked” it, they said no 93-7. (Source)

– Speaking of shining light on things, CNN shows what an utter farce the Obamacare/Budget fight in Washington is. Asked on Sep 6-8th about what the government’s priorities should be, the economy took the top spot at 41%. Health care came in second at 16%, Syria 15%, and the budget deficit at 13%. Gun policy and immigration surprisingly came in at 5% and 3% respectively. (Source)

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Conservative-on-conservative violence over Obamacare continues

Mediaite had some real gems today as the GOP civil war rages on:

– Bill O’Reilly has occasional moments of lucidity outside the echo chamber and they are often enlightening on the radical/establishment divide. These days it seems like the gap between the two is that the establishment understands the damage their agenda can do to their own interests because they don’t want to lose power. The other side cares more about agenda purity even when it represents a threat to the agenda itself. Even amongst ludicrus delusions like this, there’s still some sanity leaking out. There’s also kernels of truth, if you look for it. O’Reilly’s comment on liberals and money reveals how corrupted some people become. To some people, like I guess Bill O’Reilly, money is happiness and they can never have too much of it. And when money becomes more important than the welfare of your country, that’s pretty much the end of it.

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Republicans are in complete disarray

John Boehner, Barack ObamaThe mess the GOP has created for itself over the Affordable Care Act is really just one part of the complete failure of the Republican Party since the end of the Bush administration.

Republicans used fear of terrorism to support the pointless occupation of Iraq and all they have to show for it is that they lost their reputation as the party of national security and turned the public against the endless wars the GOP gave us in the first place.

They made promises in 2010 that they couldn’t keep, like massive cuts to federal spending, more tax cuts for the rich, deregulation sprees for Wall Street and Big Pollution, and repealing the ACA.

Nearly all those promises have been broken.

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You can’t defund Obamacare; misc items

I wrote a hard news story about the prospects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) being struck down in 2010, where I predicted that the individual mandate to carry health care insurance would be upheld as a tax. I was right back then and I think it’s even more interesting now, because that’s the reason you can’t really “defund” Obamacare.

Even with a government shutdown, citizens are still required to pay their taxes, and Obamacare is paid for almost entirely by taxes. You can’t “defund” it with anything short of an amendment to the law that gets rid of the taxes (which should send the government back into trillion-dollar budget deficits because you didn’t also get rid of the subsidies/spending), or full repeal.

Republicans don’t have the votes to do either of those things so trying to shut down the government is less about defunding Obamacare than it is about a bunch of rookie Congressmen throwing a temper tantrum over a faux fight that they simply cannot win.

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Alternative Fiscal Fail

Via Facebook, Laurence Kotlikoff was fear-mongering about $200+ trillion in fiscal problems in a late July op-ed last year. I wrote the following in a comment about the op-ed.

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For what it’s worth, that Yahoo op-ed is both out of date and misleading people with insider economics. There are things that should have been explained in that op-ed that weren’t.

The reason the media ignores the Alternative Fiscal Scenario is that it’s based on unfounded political assumptions that tax revenue will decrease and spending will increase over a long period of time. It’s not a projection based on current law (that’s the baseline scenario that the media does report on) or even predicted changes to law, it’s a giant “what if” that lately has represented a worst case scenario.

The 2012 AFS was invalidated in less than eight months because tax revenue increased a lot more this year than was projected last year, due to the improving economy and tax increases by Congress that the CBO didn’t include in the AFS.

We aren’t looking at debt reaching 100% of GDP within a decade anymore. Not even close. We’re looking at a $600 billion deficit this year after $1100 billion last year. The 2012 AFS thought there’d be another trillion dollar deficit and there wasn’t. Few people saw that coming in 2012, especially not the CBO with the AFS, because the CBO was projecting tax decreases, and instead we got tax hikes on the wealthy.

James Kwak wrote about the uselessness of the AFS earlier this year and summed up the AFS like this: “Or, in other words, it assumes that Republicans win every fight over taxes and Democrats win every fight over spending.

That assumption failed in less than a year when the sequester went into effect, cutting spending by about $50 billion, and Democrats forced a partial expiration of the 2001 and 2003 GOP tax cuts for the wealthy, increasing revenue. In fact I believe the 2012 AFS in that Yahoo! op-ed assumed a full extension of the 2001 and 2003 cuts, and that never happened. We actually had a year where Republicans won a fight over spending and Democrats won a fight over taxes.

We’re looking at the deficit coming down more over the next few years and then rising again in the early 2020s, but that has nothing to do with Congress and everything to do with baby boomers retiring and drawing more heavily on Medicare and Social Security. Social Security is a trivial fix — just raise the payroll tax cap and Social Security should be fine *forever*. Medicare is harder, but the solution to that was proposed way back in 2009 during the health care war. Single-payer would fix health care in this country for a century or more.

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I don’t know very much about Laurence Kotlikoff, but I have found him trying to sell a Paul Ryan (actually much worse) type of plan to end Medicare and Social Security with a replacement of vouchers for private insurance indexed to GDP, with no cost controls for private insurance premiums.

The voucher idea without cost controls (read: regulation) means tens of millions of people won’t be able to afford insurance. Best case scenario means we’d be exactly where we are right now, so it’s not a “fix” to the health care system, it’s a political implementation of a conservative anti-government agenda. That’s not supposed to be an insult, that’s just what it is. In the worst case we’d have even more people unable to afford insurance than we already have.

So right off the bat Laurence has no credibility with me and shouldn’t have any credibility with you. To make things worse, Laurence was undeterred by his flawed op-ed and the invalidated AFS and is still out there basically writing the same story over and over again, trying to scare people with things that don’t really matter right now.

The deficit/debt situation is now under control and will be for most of the next ten years. Nobody is going to find their Social Security checks or Medicare coverage shrink because of fiscal problems in the next decade or perhaps even in the next 20 years. What matters right now is what has mattered all along: high unemployment.

Getting the economy back to full employment will reduce spending on things like unemployment insurance, food stamps, and Medicare/Social Security while increasing tax revenue from more people having jobs and more economic output.

What people need to take away from this is that the enormous budget deficits from the past four years have been a symptom of high unemployment. You treat the cause, not the symptom, because that makes the symptoms go away.

North Carolina’s GOP is in very deep shit

Pat McCroryRepublicans won control of the North Carolina legislature in 2010 for the first time in a century, and captured the governor’s mansion last year. They haven’t been shy about pursuing an extremely conservative agenda in what’s become a critical battleground state that has a fast growing liberal population in Charlotte and Raleigh.

They’ve passed the most regressive voter ID law in the nation, pushed new regulations on abortion clinics, rejected a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid for the state’s 500,000+ poor, severely cut unemployment insurance despite the state’s 9% unemployment rate which is fourth or fifth highest in the nation, on and on.

Polling from late June found that the state party was too far to the right even for the state’s Republican voters. Voters overall opposed two competing budgets 49-19 and 50-17, opposed a consumer finance interest rate hike 68-2, a plan to allow guns in schools 66-21, and freshman governor Pat McCrory’s job approval rating plummeted from by 20 points between January and June.

Since then, things have gotten significantly worse for Republicans here.

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