Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

The GOP Pulled Off the Medicaid Bandaid. Next Up? Medicare Amputations.

In this post we’re going to look at the grow­ing right wing “Health Care Com­pact” move­ment that would trans­fer Medicare from a fed­er­al­ly run pro­gram to a state-run enter­prise inca­pable of deal­ing with eco­nom­ic shocks (which isn’t very use­ful for a safe­ty-net pro­gram). We’ll also take a look at what we can expect should the “Health Care Com­pact” come into force by review­ing Kansas’ recent Med­ic­aid pri­va­ti­za­tion schemes and the FBI inves­ti­ga­tions that have fol­lowed. And final­ly, we’ll look at the ori­gins of the Health Care Com­pact. Hint: it’s the kind of plan that gets hatched when some­one like Ted Cruz catch­es nul­li­fi­ca­tion fever.

When “God’s Sen­a­tor”, Sam Brown­back, became “God’s Gov­er­nor” of Kansas back in 2010 it was clear some pret­ty big changes were on the way for Kansas. After all, when a GOP mem­ber of Opus Dei is your new gov­er­nor, some form of aus­ter­i­ty for the mass­es is prob­a­bly in the cards. And sure enough, fol­low­ing the 2012 intra-GOP “mod­er­ate” purge, aus­ter­i­ty for Kansas has arrived in full force. As once might expect, this includes the self-inflict­ed aus­ter­i­ty that comes with refus­ing to accept the Oba­macare Med­ic­aid expan­sion. Just think of it as self-fla­gel­la­tion for Kansas. Utter­ly point­less, yet still painful and dam­ag­ing, self-fla­gel­la­tion:

Hos­pi­tal offi­cials say refusal to expand Med­ic­aid will hurt their bot­tom lines
Mon­ey need­ed to off­set oth­er cuts com­ing because of Oba­macare

By Jim McLean
KHI News Ser­vice
Jan. 13, 2014

PARSONS — For Jodi Schmidt and oth­er hos­pi­tal admin­is­tra­tors across Kansas, Med­ic­aid expan­sion is a crit­i­cal busi­ness issue not a polit­i­cal one.

Schmidt is chief exec­u­tive of Labette Health, a 99-bed region­al med­ical cen­ter that serves Par­sons and sev­er­al sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties in south­east Kansas. She said the mon­ey being lost because of the deci­sion by Gov. Sam Brown­back and leg­is­la­tors to not par­tic­i­pate in the first year of expan­sion could mean the dif­fer­ence between the hos­pi­tal fin­ish­ing the year in the black or with a deficit.

“What­ev­er your pol­i­tics, the real­i­ty on the ground for hos­pi­tals is that Med­ic­aid expan­sion is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant for us,” Schmidt said.

Expan­sion could pro­vide cov­er­age to an esti­mat­ed 85,000 Kansans who make too much to qual­i­fy for the state’s exist­ing Med­ic­aid pro­gram — called Kan­Care — but too lit­tle to be eli­gi­ble for fed­er­al tax cred­its to help them pur­chase pri­vate cov­er­age on the Healthcare.gov exchange.

A study done last year for the Kansas Hos­pi­tal Asso­ci­a­tion esti­mat­ed that expand­ing eli­gi­bil­i­ty to the lev­el called for in the Afford­able Care Act would increase fed­er­al Med­ic­aid spend­ing in the state by $3 bil­lion between this year and 2020. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has pledged to pay the full cost of cov­er­ing the expan­sion pop­u­la­tion for three years and no less than 90 per­cent there­after.

Expan­sion would pro­vide Labette Health and oth­er hos­pi­tals in the association’s south­east dis­trict an addi­tion­al $2.7 mil­lion a year to share.

The mon­ey is need­ed, Schmidt said, to par­tial­ly off­set antic­i­pat­ed Medicare cuts and loom­ing reduc­tions in fed­er­al pay­ments that help hos­pi­tals off­set the cost of car­ing for the unin­sured.

“We could be see­ing an addi­tion­al $1.7 or $1.8 mil­lion in reduced reim­burse­ment next year,” Schmidt said. “And so this lack of Med­ic­aid expan­sion is just one more hit and there is only so much indi­vid­ual hos­pi­tals can bear.”

Forty miles up U.S. High­way 59 from Par­sons the sto­ry is much the same in Chanute. There, Den­nis Franks, the CEO of the 25-bed Neosho Memo­r­i­al Region­al Med­ical Cen­ter, said the hos­pi­tal needs the mon­ey that would come with Med­ic­aid expan­sion to off­set cuts in oth­er reim­burse­ments.

“When you live on the mar­gin every dol­lar counts,” Franks said. “So, when I’m tak­ing $700,000 to $1 mil­lion a year out of my bud­get that means there are ser­vices I can no longer pro­vide. What am I going to do to make sure that I keep my doors open and do the things for this com­mu­ni­ty that I need to do?”

Via Christi Region­al Med­ical Cen­ter in Wichi­ta may be the Kansas hos­pi­tal most affect­ed by the state’s reluc­tance to par­tic­i­pate in the Med­ic­aid expan­sion. Last year, it received near­ly $13 mil­lion in so-called dis­pro­por­tion­ate share pay­ments to help off­set some of the costs of car­ing for the unin­sured. Start­ing next year, those pay­ments will be steadi­ly reduced along with Medicare reim­burse­ment rates.
...

Note that Wichi­ta also hap­pens to be the head­quar­ters of Koch Indus­tries, so this is the Kochs’ back­yard that’s shoot­ing itself in the foot while refus­ing insur­ance.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
That prospect has put Via Christi at the fore­front of an effort being mount­ed by the hos­pi­tal asso­ci­a­tion to work out a Med­ic­aid expan­sion com­pro­mise with the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion and Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers.

“We’ve made some progress with the pub­lic and with some leg­is­la­tors in mak­ing the case for Med­ic­aid expan­sion,” said Bruce Witt, direc­tor of leg­isla­tive affairs at Via Christi. “We’re at the point now where pol­i­tics has kind of come into play and that’s where the real chal­lenge lies.”

Put sim­ply, the chal­lenge is get­ting Brown­back and leg­is­la­tors to decou­ple the expan­sion issue from Oba­macare, which remains anath­e­ma to the Repub­li­can Party’s base and unpop­u­lar with most Kansans, assum­ing the polls are accu­rate.

The hos­pi­tal asso­ci­a­tion has hired for­mer U.S. Health and Human Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Mike Leav­itt, a Repub­li­can who served in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, to try to per­suade Kansas Repub­li­can lead­ers to move for­ward with expan­sion using a pri­vate-sec­tor approach sim­i­lar to those being devel­oped or imple­ment­ed in Arkansas, Iowa, Penn­syl­va­nia and a hand­ful of oth­er states.

Witt said he is hope­ful progress can be made if expan­sion advo­cates with Leavitt’s help can “engage the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty.”

“The Kansas Cham­ber, for exam­ple, has, at least, expressed a will­ing­ness to con­tin­ue dis­cus­sions about Med­ic­aid expan­sion, par­tic­u­lar­ly if it’s tak­ing a more Kansas-based, pri­vate-mar­ket solu­tion,” Witt said.

Mike O’Neal, chief exec­u­tive of the Kansas Cham­ber, con­firmed the busi­ness orga­ni­za­tion is will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in such talks.

“I can’t pre­dict at the end of the day whether that dis­cus­sion will bear fruit in a way that the peo­ple who want the expan­sion are going to be sat­is­fied,” O’Neal said. “But the dis­cus­sion of an issue this impor­tant is healthy and it should take place.”
...

Also note that the Kansas Cham­ber of Com­merce, like vir­tu­al­ly all US cham­bers of com­merce, is a heav­i­ly Koch-finance orga­ni­za­tion.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
Both O’Neal and Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Susan Wagle, a Wichi­ta Repub­li­can, have said they expect the messy roll­out of the ACA will make the expan­sion dis­cus­sion more dif­fi­cult. But both said they would be open to Kansas pur­su­ing a plan like the one Penn­syl­va­nia offi­cials are seek­ing fed­er­al approval to imple­ment.

I’m intrigued by the Penn­syl­va­nia plan because it has a work com­po­nent to it,” O’Neal said. “They are actu­al­ly try­ing to change the pro­file of the Med­ic­aid pop­u­la­tion and incen­tivize some that are in that pop­u­la­tion to get into a work sit­u­a­tion.”

Approx­i­mate­ly 45 per­cent of unin­sured Kansans in the Med­ic­aid eli­gi­bil­i­ty gap are employed, accord­ing to the Kansas Health Insti­tute, a non­par­ti­san research and pol­i­cy orga­ni­za­tion that includes the edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent KHI News Ser­vice.
...

Yes, the pro­posed Med­ic­aid expan­sion plan for Penn­syl­va­nia that has the Kansas GOP and Cham­ber of Com­merce so intrigued was to make Penn­syl­va­nia the only first state to impose of work-search require­ment (even though 45% of unin­sured Kansans in the “gap” are already employed). So the swelling ranks of the long-term unem­ployed (that rarely ever find work again in the US econ­o­my) get keep swelling but at least they might have health­care cov­er­age as long as they con­tin­ue look­ing for non-exis­tent jobs. Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s gov­er­nor has since watered down his work-require­ment pro­pos­al while he awaits for fed­er­al approval so it remains to be seen if that will come into effect. But it’s a rul­ing states still suf­fer­ing from Oba­macare Derange­ment Syn­drome are going to be watch­ing close­ly and, as such, we should all prob­a­bly watch how that devel­ops too.

So might Med­ic­aid expan­sion in some form still hap­pen in Kansas this year of Penn­syl­va­nia’} plan gets approved? Nope! Not chance. Not, after God’s Gov­er­nor signed a bill that strips the gov­er­nor of the pow­er to expand Med­ic­aid in 2014 (even if he los­es reelec­tion in Novem­ber).

The GOP’s Death Sen­tence For Amer­i­ca Health Care Com­pact
But that does­n’t mean no changes are on the way for Kansas and a col­lec­tion of oth­er states that also have gov­er­nors suf­fer­ing from Bad-Samar­i­tani­tis: A mul­ti-state “com­pact” is already in the works and Kanas just joined it: Kansas, along with eight oth­er states that have refused to expand Med­ic­aid, wants to cre­ate a “Health Care com­pact” that will allow these states to com­plete­ly take over the man­age­ment of Med­ic­aid AND Medicare. So the states that are refus­ing to take on the respon­si­bi­ly of ensur­ing their res­i­dents’ basic needs are met, want a lot more respon­si­bilty over those basic needs:

Brown­back signs con­tro­ver­sial health care com­pact bill
Goal is to give mem­ber states con­trol over Medicare and Med­ic­aid

By Dave Ran­ney
KHI News Ser­vice
April 23, 2014

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brown­back has signed into law a bill that might make it pos­si­ble for Kansas to join a com­pact of states that want the pow­er to run Medicare and Med­ic­aid with­in their bor­ders.

The new law also cre­ates the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the com­pact states could cir­cum­vent sev­er­al key pro­vi­sions in the Afford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare.

“The Health Care Com­pact will allow states to restore and pro­tect Medicare for gen­er­a­tions to come,” Brown­back said in a pre­pared state­ment today announc­ing that he had signed the mea­sure. The actu­al sign­ing was Tues­day.

The com­pact couldn’t come into being with­out approval by Con­gress, which is con­sid­ered unlike­ly as long as Democ­rats con­trol at least one of its cham­bers. Democ­rats cur­rent­ly con­trol the Sen­ate, and Repub­li­cans are push­ing hard in this year’s elec­tions to regain the major­i­ty. The GOP already con­trols the U.S. House.

Kansas Insur­ance Com­mis­sion­er Sandy Praeger and AARP Kansas had ear­li­er urged the gov­er­nor not to sign House Bill 2553, call­ing the ini­tia­tive friv­o­lous and mis­guid­ed.

‘Real­ly twist­ing things’

In a state­ment released today, the gov­er­nor accused Oba­macare of “cut­ting $700 bil­lion out of Medicare,” a claim being used by Repub­li­cans across the nation as they con­tin­ue to fight the law and cam­paign for elec­tion. Poli­ti­fact, a fact-check­ing project of the Tam­pa Bay Times, has labeled the claim a half-truth.

Accord­ing to Poli­ti­fact, the law doesn’t actu­al­ly cut Medicare spend­ing but is expect­ed to reduce future growth in the program’s costs most­ly by reduc­ing Medicare Advan­tage, “a small sub­set of Medicare plans that are run by pri­vate insur­ers.”

“The gov­er­nor is real­ly twist­ing things,” said Dave Wil­son, a past vol­un­teer pres­i­dent of AARP Kansas.

Wil­son also said he doubt­ed Brownback’s assur­ances that he would oppose any reduc­tion in Medicare ben­e­fits, if the com­pact were enact­ed and state offi­cials gained con­trol over Medicare, which cur­rent­ly is admin­is­tered sole­ly by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

“That’s what he says and that’s what leg­is­la­tors who sup­port this say,” Wil­son said. “But the real­i­ty is they can’t do it now, but with this bill they could do it and that could have a tremen­dous impact on seniors, on the dis­abled and on vet­er­ans.”

Fed­er­al offi­icals run the Medicare pro­gram, which pro­vides health cov­er­age for seniors. But Med­ic­aid, which serves poor chil­dren, the frail elder­ly and the dis­abled, is a shared state-fed­er­al pro­gram with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pay­ing the major­i­ty of its cost (about 60 per­cent) and impos­ing var­i­ous basic require­ments on the states.

But Med­ic­aid also gives states sig­nif­i­cant lat­i­tude in the ways they man­age the pro­gram, includ­ing the deter­mi­na­tion of eli­gi­bil­i­ty stan­dards. For exam­ple, Kansas oper­ates its Kan­Care pro­gram with a waiv­er exempt­ing it from many of the stan­dard Med­ic­aid rules. And Kansas also is allowed to keep thou­sands of peo­ple out of Med­ic­aid who would qual­i­fy for the pro­gram in oth­er states.

One of nine

Kansas is one of nine states that have enact­ed laws express­ing the desire to join the so-called “health care com­pact.” The oth­ers are Alaba­ma, Geor­gia, Indi­ana, Mis­souri, Okla­homa, South Car­oli­na, Texas and Utah.

“All nine states that are now in this com­pact are states that have turned their backs on Med­ic­aid expan­sion,” Praeger said. “On the one hand you’re say­ing you want to bring those fed­er­al (Medicare) dol­lars back to Kansas, but on the oth­er hand you’re say­ing we’re not going to take those (Med­ic­aid) fed­er­al dol­lars.”

It’s unclear whether Kansas seniors will sup­port the governor’s deci­sion to sign the bill, she said.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Praeger said. “And the Medicare pro­gram, while it needs to rein in costs, is a reli­able source of health care ser­vices for our senior pop­u­la­tion, and I would not want to be putting those folks at risk.”

Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, a polit­i­cal action group tied to the bil­lion­aire broth­ers Charles and David Koch, has spent mil­lions of dol­lars fight­ing Oba­macare.

“Health care deci­sions should be made by Kansas offi­cials, not the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment,” said Jeff Glen­den­ing, state direc­tor of Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty-Kansas. “With Con­gres­sion­al approval, the Health Care Com­pact will trans­fer con­trol of fed­er­al health care fund­ing from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to Kansas. It sup­ports the state’s abil­i­ty to con­trol its own health care sys­tem.”

Glen­den­ing said the com­pact wouldn’t require the states to take over Medicare or Med­ic­aid but would allow them the option.

“Under the com­pact, we can set stan­dards and reim­burse­ment rates rather than hand­ing those impor­tant deci­sions over to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment,” he said.

‘Path out of Oba­macare’

The Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty of Kansas also endorsed the new law.

“We believe in gov­ern­ment at its most local lev­el,” said Al Ter­welp, chair­man of the state par­ty. “So we sup­port the com­pact idea in gen­er­al, hav­ing the state of Kansas be in as much con­trol over health care issues as pos­si­ble.

In the Leg­is­la­ture, the bill’s pri­ma­ry spon­sors were Rep. Brett Hildabrand and Sen. Mary Pilch­er-Cook, both Repub­li­cans from Shawnee and oppo­nents of Oba­macare.

“By sign­ing the health care com­pact, the gov­er­nor has agreed Kansas needs to pro­tect Medicare for seniors, while also pro­vid­ing a path for Kansas cit­i­zens and busi­ness­es out of Oba­macare, giv­ing Kansans more eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty, free­dom and choic­es for their health care needs,” Pilch­er-Cook wrote in an email to KHI News Ser­vice.

...

Uh oh! Kansas’ seniors (and Alaba­ma’s, Geor­gia’s, Indi­ana’s, Mis­souri’s, Okla­homa’s, South Car­oli­na’s, Tex­as­’s and Utah’s seniors) might be in for quite the rude awak­en­ing, because the GOP’s “solu­tion” to Oba­macare appears to be the sub­ver­sion of Medicare. Well, ok, that only hap­pens if the GOP takes con­trol of the Sen­ate in 2014, but since that is a very real pos­si­bil­i­ty....Uh Oh!

What Might God’s Gov­er­nor do to Medicare? Let’s See...
Of course, if you take Brown­back at his word, Kansans should­n’t be con­cerned about an ero­sion of Medicare because, while Brown­back and these eight oth­er states real­ly want to take over con­trol of Medicare, Brown­back have no plans on cut­ting the pro­grams. Of course, if there’s reces­sion in the future it does­n’t sound like Kansas will have a choice in cut­ting back Medicare, but we should prob­a­bly ignore that for Sam’s sake. No, there should be no con­cern that the par­ty that has made the demo­niza­tion of the poor an ide­o­log­i­cal neces­si­ty (because oth­er­wise “the mar­ket” can’t be the answer to all of life’s prob­lems) might have secret plans in mind for gut­ting pro­grams for the poor once they have the pow­er to do so.

Then again, if you take Brown­back at his word, you’re prob­a­bly some­what naive. Or maybe you’re a loy­al­ist lob­by­ist work­ing on pri­va­tiz­ing Med­ic­aid:

cjonline.com
Sat­ur­day, April 26, 2014
Sources: FBI exam­ines lob­by­ing by Brown­back loy­al­ists

Par­al­lel Strate­gies lob­by­ist David Kensinger, left, and part­ner Riley Scott, right, hud­dle in the Capi­tol dur­ing the 2014 leg­isla­tive ses­sion with clients Mary Sloan and Ben Jones, who are with the Coali­tion Against the Death Penal­ty. The FBI is look­ing into Par­al­lel Strate­gies.

By Tim Car­pen­ter
timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

The Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion is explor­ing whether con­fi­dantes of Gov. Sam Brown­back oper­at­ed influ­ence-ped­dling oper­a­tions in Kansas piv­ot­ing on per­son­al access to the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor and top admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials.

The Tope­ka Cap­i­tal-Jour­nal learned the months-long inquiry involves Par­al­lel Strate­gies, a rapid­ly expand­ing Tope­ka con­sult­ing and lob­by­ing firm cre­at­ed in 2013 by a trio of vet­er­an Brown­back employ­ees who left gov­ern­ment ser­vice to work in an envi­ron­ment where cozi­ness with for­mer col­leagues could pay div­i­dends.

Of con­cern to the FBI were behind-the-scenes finan­cial arrange­ments relat­ed to Brown­back­’s pri­va­ti­za­tion of the state’s $3 bil­lion Med­ic­aid pro­gram. The gov­er­nor’s brand­ing of Kan­Care hand­ed to three for-prof­it insur­ance com­pa­nies exclu­sive con­tracts to pro­vide Med­ic­aid ser­vices to 380,000 of Kansas’ dis­abled and poor.

Own­ers of Par­al­lel Strate­gies, who also main­tain sep­a­rate indi­vid­ual lob­by­ing firms, declined requests to dis­cuss for this sto­ry emer­gence of their influ­en­tial joint fran­chise, which includes on its client list the gov­er­nor him­self.

Par­al­lel Strate­gies was found­ed by David Kensinger, Brown­back­’s for­mer chief of staff and cam­paign man­ag­er and cur­rent direc­tor of the gov­er­nor’s polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion Road Map Solu­tions; George Stafford, a long­time fundrais­er, employ­ee and advis­er to Brown­back; and Riley Scott, a senior staff mem­ber to Brown­back while he was in the U.S. Sen­ate and son-in-law of Kansas Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Susan Wagle, R‑Wichita.

“Thanks for reach­ing out,” Scott said, “but I’m not inter­est­ed.”

The FBI also has looked into activ­i­ties of indi­vid­ual leg­is­la­tors and lob­by­ists unaf­fil­i­at­ed with Par­al­lel Strate­gies.

Kan­Care, launched in Jan­u­ary 2013 and expand­ed in Feb­ru­ary, is arguably the most far-reach­ing reform of Brown­back­’s first term.

Kensinger was the gov­er­nor’s chief of staff dur­ing for­ma­tive con­struc­tion of Kan­Care, but quit two months before con­tracts were signed with Ameri­Group Kansas, Unit­ed Health­care of the Mid­west and Sun­flower State Health Plan, a sub­sidiary of Cen­tene. These con­trac­tors now employ as lob­by­ists one of Kensinger’s part­ners at Par­al­lel Strate­gies, Kensinger’s for­mer lob­by­ing part­ner and a one-time Brown­back deputy Cab­i­net sec­re­tary.

Ques­tions cen­ter on whether Brown­back rep­re­sen­ta­tives pressed com­pa­nies or orga­ni­za­tions to hire spe­cif­ic lob­by­ing firms or whether enti­ties that showed inad­e­quate def­er­ence were tar­get­ed for polit­i­cal or finan­cial pun­ish­ment.
...

Make a note of this because it’s a key ele­ment of what the FBI appears to be focus­ing on: Brown­back­’s chief of staff dur­ing the “Kan­Care” over­haul, David Kensinger, quit two months before the con­tracts where signed relat­ed to the pri­va­ti­za­tion of Kansas’ Med­ic­aid pro­gram (the one Brown­back does­n’t want to expand). And the three orga­ni­za­tions that got that con­tract now employ, as lob­by­ists, three part­ners from Kensinger’s firm Par­al­lel Strate­gies.

So that’s what the FBI is inves­ti­gat­ing. Well that and the K‑Street-style form of ret­ri­bu­tion-based pol­i­tics that Brown­back brought to Kansas. More on that below.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
Eileen Haw­ley, spokes­woman for Brown­back, said she was unaware of an inves­ti­ga­tion by law enforce­ment involv­ing State­house insid­ers. She assert­ed Brown­back wouldn’t engage in uneth­i­cal behav­ior as the state’s top elect­ed offi­cial.

“He’s real­ly one of the most hon­or­able and eth­i­cal peo­ple I’ve met,” Haw­ley said. “I have a hard time believ­ing any of these things were occur­ring in the gov­er­nor’s office.”

It is unclear how far the fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion has pro­gressed or whether evi­dence will mate­ri­al­ize to war­rant pro­ceed­ing to court.

Joel Seal­er, spe­cial agent with the FBI in Kansas City, Mo., said the agen­cy’s long-stand­ing pol­i­cy was to decline pub­lic com­ment on top­ics of inquiries and tar­gets of probes.

“Can I com­ment? No,” Seal­er said. “I can nei­ther con­firm nor deny any type of inves­ti­ga­tion.”

K Street in Kansas

The elec­tion of Brown­back in 2010 trig­gered realign­ment of Topeka’s polit­i­cal appa­ra­tus fol­low­ing eight years under Demo­c­ra­t­ic Govs. Kath­leen Sebe­lius and Mark Parkin­son. Elec­tion night suc­cess­es by con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans, accord­ing to one for­mer Kansas GOP offi­cial, fueled an oper­a­tional phi­los­o­phy best cap­tured by the phrase “to the vic­tor belong the spoils.

In 2012, Brown­back­’s red-state over­haul entered an advanced phase when he took a promi­nent role in a series of con­test­ed Repub­li­can Sen­ate pri­ma­ry races. In a maneu­ver rare by Kansas stan­dards, Brown­back embraced a slate of GOP chal­lengers and worked against incum­bent Repub­li­cans opposed to pieces of the gov­er­nor’s agen­da. Ten Repub­li­cans seek­ing re-elec­tion were oust­ed.

“They’re ruth­less,” said Steve Mor­ris, a for­mer Sen­ate pres­i­dent who lost re-elec­tion to a GOP can­di­date backed by the Brown­back machin­ery. “I served with (Govs.) Joan Finney, Bill Graves, Kath­leen Sebe­lius and Mark Parkin­son. None of them, to my knowl­edge, did that.”

With­in days of the August pri­ma­ry, high-rank­ing mem­bers of the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion began inform­ing polit­i­cal advo­cates that cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to mod­er­ates or Democ­rats would no longer be tol­er­at­ed.

This mes­sage of finan­cial loy­al­ty was deliv­ered in advance of a Sep­tem­ber fundrais­er in Tope­ka head­lined by Brown­back. With the House already con­trolled by con­ser­v­a­tives, the objec­tive was to raise suf­fi­cient cash to elect 14 GOP can­di­dates capa­ble of bring­ing the Sen­ate in line with the admin­is­tra­tion’s ideals. Lob­by­ing firms were urged to demon­strate ded­i­ca­tion to the cause by donat­ing $500 to $1,000 to each high­light­ed gen­er­al elec­tion cam­paign.

Polit­i­cal evo­lu­tion in Tope­ka has been described dur­ing inter­views with more than two dozen Repub­li­can, inde­pen­dent or Demo­c­ra­t­ic lob­by­ists and polit­i­cal fig­ures — most con­duct­ed on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to their anx­i­ety about pos­si­ble ret­ri­bu­tion from allies of Brown­back — as anal­o­gous to the infa­mous K Street in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

This road-to-rich­es boule­vard in the U.S. cap­i­tal was a hub of activ­i­ty among for­mer gov­ern­ment employ­ees eager to exploit revolv­ing-door access and Repub­li­cans in gov­ern­ment who made it known they were in charge and expect­ed future polit­i­cal invest­ment to mir­ror that real­i­ty.
...

It’s worth recall­ing that Brown­back was pret­ty famil­iar with how K‑Street oper­at­ed dur­ing his time in DC, so this attempt to recre­ate that kind of sit­u­a­tion in Kansas is, to some extent, a “do what you love” form of lead­er­ship.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
“That is the sin­is­ter part of the Brown­back folks,” said Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichi­ta Demo­c­rat. “They pun­ish. They can make it very cold for you. I think that’s bad for democ­ra­cy. At some point, it’s going to blow up.”

...

Kan­Care links

As it relates to Kan­Care, the three Med­ic­aid con­trac­tors rein­forced their lob­by­ing oper­a­tions by hir­ing indi­vid­u­als who are no strangers to Brown­back.

Scott, a part­ner in Par­al­lel Strate­gies, was added in Jan­u­ary by Unit­ed Health­care. Gary Haul­mark, a for­mer deputy Cab­i­net sec­re­tary in the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion, resigned from state gov­ern­ment in 2013 to rep­re­sent Ameri­group. Sun­flower employs Hick­am, who ran a lob­by­ing firm with Kensinger from 2004 to 2010.

“I believe it is wrong for peo­ple as close­ly con­nect­ed to the seat of pow­er to be in a posi­tion of lob­by­ing for pay,” said for­mer Sen. Dick Kelsey, a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sent­ed a dis­trict south of Wichi­ta. “I still have a prob­lem with the pay-to-play con­cept.”

Kelsey said Brown­back offi­cials had a polit­i­cal inter­est in tamp­ing down com­plaints about Kan­Care until after the Novem­ber elec­tion. There is an aggres­sive behind-the-scene cam­paign to min­i­mize pub­lic crit­i­cism about deny­ing access to treat­ments, plac­ing admin­is­tra­tive hur­dles on providers deliv­er­ing care, and to delay­ing pay­ment of con­trac­tors.

At the same time, Kelsey said, the man­aged care orga­ni­za­tions want to please the admin­is­tra­tion by hir­ing Brown­back asso­ciates. It is a sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship, Kelsey said, that has­n’t best served inter­ests of clients.

...

Sen. Lau­ra Kel­ly, D‑Topeka, said enough uncer­tain­ty about the direc­tion of Kan­Care exist­ed to war­rant a sig­nif­i­cant inquiry by the Leg­is­la­ture. She said pro­duc­ing an accu­rate assess­ment would require assur­ances that indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions com­ing for­ward wouldn’t be sub­ject to retal­i­a­tion for speak­ing out.

Kel­ly, who serves with Crum on the Kan­Care over­sight com­mit­tee, said the mod­el for the Leg­is­la­ture could be the inquiry of the Kansas Bio­science Author­i­ty led in 2011 and 2012 by Wichi­ta Sen. Wagle, who since then was elect­ed Sen­ate pres­i­dent. The KBA, a state-financed eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment enti­ty work­ing to expand agri­cul­ture, ani­mal health and human health inno­va­tion, was the sub­ject of a leg­isla­tive review and a foren­sic audit that cost near­ly $1 mil­lion.

“If the sit­u­a­tion at the Bio­science Author­i­ty war­rant­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion, this sit­u­a­tion does, too,” Kel­ly said.

Price of dis­sent

Indi­vid­u­als who have expressed crit­i­cism about Kan­Care said they were tar­get­ed by Repub­li­cans rep­re­sent­ing the leg­isla­tive or exec­u­tive branch­es of state gov­ern­ment.

Rocky Nichols, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Dis­abil­i­ty Rights Cen­ter of Kansas, a non­prof­it legal advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion, was pub­licly rebuked in March by Angela de Rocha, spokes­woman for the state’s aging and dis­abil­i­ty ser­vices agency. The Dis­abil­i­ty Rights Cen­ter has for years crit­i­cized as inad­e­quate the fund­ing direct­ed at dis­abled Kansans.

De Rocha said the Dis­abil­i­ty Rights Cen­ter hap­haz­ard­ly added peo­ple to dis­abil­i­ty ser­vice wait­ing lists in the past “with­out much atten­tion to accu­ra­cy or detail in order to pro­vide a soap­box” use­ful for Nichols to “score cheap polit­i­cal points.”

In response, Nichols said the Dis­abil­i­ty Rights Cen­ter has no role in adding peo­ple to the wait­ing list. Nichols said the out­burst by de Rocha indi­cat­ed a will­ing­ness to attach unsa­vory motives to the work of an orga­ni­za­tion attempt­ing to advance pub­lic pol­i­cy under the Kan­Care ban­ner. Oth­er non­prof­it groups have expe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar back­lash for speak­ing out, he said.

“We have heard from sev­er­al advo­cates and providers that if you advo­cate and tell the truth — if the truth is unflat­ter­ing to state gov­ern­ment — often there’s some form of blow­back,” Nichols said.

...

Yikes! K‑Street for Kansas and the pri­va­ti­za­tion of Med­ic­aid? That does­n’t sound very senior-friend­ly. And this all hap­pened with­out the Health Care Com­pact.

Ted Cruz’s Prin­ci­pled Death Sen­tence For Amer­i­ca Health Care Com­pact
But what exact­ly is this “Health Care Com­pact” that appears to open the door for some rather aggres­sive pri­va­ti­za­tions of Medicare too. Well, it’s an idea that’s been con­sid­ered by a grow­ing num­ber of states in recent years as part of the nation­al out­break of Oba­macare Derange­ment Syn­drome:

Jour­nal-News
Updat­ed: 11:14 a.m. Fri­day, April 11, 2014 | Post­ed: 7:00 a.m. Fri­day, April 11, 2014
Ohio con­sid­ers leg­is­la­tion to con­trol its health care

By Michael D. Pit­man

Staff Writer

Ohio is one of 21 states that have intro­duced leg­is­la­tion to con­trol its health care, which includes con­trol­ling fed­er­al dol­lars and changes that could affect health care in the state.

Leg­is­la­tion would allow states to join a fed­er­al­ly cre­at­ed health care com­pact that would trans­fer the author­i­ty and respon­si­bil­i­ty to make health care deci­sions from fed­er­al con­trol to the mem­ber states. So far, only North Dako­ta has failed to pass leg­is­la­tion through its state­house to join, and three states — Ari­zona, Min­neso­ta and Mon­tana — have had their gov­er­nors veto leg­is­la­tion. There are eight states with leg­is­la­tion approved by their gov­er­nors, and Ohio is one of eight states with leg­is­la­tion still pend­ing.
...

Recall that those eight states that have approved the leg­is­la­tion now includes Kansas, so it’s nine states so far.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
Repub­li­can Reps. Ter­ry Boose, of Nor­walk, and Wes Rether­ford, of Hamil­ton, intro­duced House Bill 227 this past June, which would allow Ohio to be a mem­ber of the health care com­pact. The bill passed out of the State and Local Gov­ern­ment Com­mit­tee on April 2 by way of a 10–8 vote. The vote was down par­ty lines, though Repub­li­can Bob Hack­ett, of Lon­don, vot­ed with the Democ­rats. Com­mit­tee mem­ber Rep. Matt Lundy, D‑Elyria, said this bill is not right for Ohio.

“The pro­pos­al is so extreme and has such a neg­a­tive impact on the health of our cit­i­zens that even Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brew­er vetoed (a sim­i­lar bill),” said Lundy. Arizona’s state leg­is­la­ture passed its ver­sion of the health care com­pact bill in 2011, but it was vetoed by the con­tro­ver­sial gov­er­nor who became crit­i­cized in the nation­al media for sign­ing Ari­zona Sen­ate Bill 1070, known as the “show me your papers” law. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 struck down key pro­vi­sions of SB 1070 but upheld a pro­vi­sion that allows police to check a person’s immi­gra­tion sta­tus in cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

The gov­er­nors in Mon­tana and Min­neso­ta exer­cised pock­et vetoes by nev­er sign­ing the bills that passed each of their respec­tive state’s leg­is­la­tures.

Mered­ith Tuck­er, Ohio Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, called the bill a “par­ti­san stunt.”

“It’s sad that Ohio Repub­li­cans con­tin­ue these par­ti­san stunts when there are so many impor­tant issues fac­ing strug­gling Ohio fam­i­lies,” she said.

U.S. Rep. James Lank­ford, R‑Oklahoma, intro­duced House Joint Res­o­lu­tion 110 in Feb­ru­ary and has gar­nered sup­port from 11 Repub­li­can con­gress­men, includ­ing Urbana Rep. Jim Jor­dan, who have signed on as co-spon­sors. The Okla­homa Repub­li­can said this res­o­lu­tion is “a break­through gov­er­nance reform that allows states to clean up the health care mess cre­at­ed by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.”

“Those mem­ber states are then free to imple­ment their own health care sys­tems with­out inter­fer­ence from fed­er­al bureau­crats, using fed­er­al health care funds already col­lect­ed and spent in their state,” Lank­ford said.

Because of their dis­plea­sure with the Afford­able Care Act, com­mon­ly referred to as Oba­macare, Rether­ford said he and sev­er­al Ohio leg­is­la­tors felt it nec­es­sary to work to join the health care com­pact efforts. And besides that, he said health care is “an issue that should be tak­en care at the state lev­el.”

“Wash­ing­ton, D.C., often has a one-size-fits-all approach but what works for Cal­i­for­nia often doesn’t work for Ohio,” said Rether­ford.

Ohio’s bill is like­ly to be pre­sent­ed for a vote after the May 6 pri­ma­ry elec­tion, Rether­ford said.

...

As the House Repub­li­cans con­tin­ue efforts to repeal the Afford­able Care Act, the health care com­pact res­o­lu­tion could be part of the efforts.

“The president’s health care law con­tin­ues to wreak hav­oc on fam­i­lies, local small busi­ness­es and our econ­o­my,” said Speak­er of the House John Boehn­er. “The truth is you can’t fix this law — it needs to be torn out by its roots. Repub­li­can lead­er­ship will con­tin­ue our work to replace this fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed law with patient-cen­tered solu­tions focused on low­er­ing health care costs and pro­tect­ing jobs.”

...

Lank­ford, who oppos­es the Afford­able Care Act, said the com­pact does not con­flict with efforts by state attor­neys gen­er­al, state leg­is­la­tors or mem­bers of Con­gress to repeal or mod­i­fy the health care law.

“While we wait for this pres­i­dent and Sen­ate Democ­rats to move beyond their intran­si­gent sup­port of this unwork­able law, Con­gress can give inter­est­ed states a way to solve their state’s health-care prob­lems them­selves,” Lank­ford said. “States that like their Oba­macare can keep their Oba­macare. The health care com­pact sim­ply gives a state like Okla­homa the option to cre­ate a cus­tomized sys­tem that bet­ter meets the needs of Okla­homa fam­i­lies.”

As we can see in Ohio, the “Health Care Com­pact” appears to large­ly be part of the broad­er effort to gut Oba­macare. Yes, if Oba­macare can’t be reversed at a fed­er­al lev­el, the Com­pact will allow states to sim­ply ignore the law and ALSO take con­trol of Medicare and Med­ic­aid (for a thor­ough gut­ting).

And if this strat­e­gy leaves states with sub­stan­tial­ly less rev­enue for those pro­grams in the future that’s fine too accord­ing to the GOP. Yep! And it’s been fine since at least 2011 because there are prin­ci­ples behind the ini­tia­tive that the GOP is try­ing to uphold. They’re Ted Cruz’s “Ten­ther” prin­ci­ples, and nul­li­fi­ca­tion of health care is just one ele­ment of a much larg­er strug­gle to nul­li­fy progress:

Kaiser Health News
Some States Seek­ing Health Care Com­pact

By Guy Gugliot­ta

Sep 18, 2011

This sto­ry was pro­duced in col­lab­o­ra­tion with The Wash­ing­ton Post

State gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tors opposed to the fed­er­al health-care law are eye­ing a nov­el approach to escape its pro­vi­sions: join­ing an “inter­state com­pact” that would replace fed­er­al pro­grams — includ­ing Medicare and Med­ic­aid — with block grants to the states.

To date, leg­is­la­tion has been draft­ed or intro­duced in 14 states and brought to the floor by law­mak­ers in at least nine. Three Repub­li­can gov­er­nors — in Geor­gia, Okla­homa and Texas — have signed the com­pact into law, while Mis­souri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) let the com­pact become law with­out sign­ing it. Sup­port­ers say they hope to get 40 states to put it on the leg­isla­tive cal­en­dar in 2012.

If a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of states pass the com­pact, sup­port­ers plan to sub­mit it to Con­gress for approval in the same way that the body approves inter­state com­pacts reg­u­lat­ing com­merce, trans­porta­tion, and resource con­ser­va­tion and devel­op­ment.

...

States have nev­er sought a com­pact to shield them from a whole area of fed­er­al law, let alone been grant­ed per­mis­sion to form one. Some state offi­cials, includ­ing Repub­li­cans such as Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brew­er who vetoed the com­pact, are wor­ried that it would usurp their author­i­ty. Many oth­ers point out that join­ing a com­pact would dis­qual­i­fy their states from receiv­ing auto­mat­ic fed­er­al fund­ing increas­es dur­ing hard times and pre­vent them from get­ting their fair share of the avail­able pool of mon­ey.

Still, even if its prospects are more dubi­ous than oth­er meth­ods of get­ting rid of last year’s Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act — con­gres­sion­al repeal, judi­cial chal­lenge or a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial vic­to­ry in 2012 — the com­pact has become a pop­u­lar way for con­ser­v­a­tives to high­light their oppo­si­tion.

And com­pacts might receive even more atten­tion now that Texas Gov. Rick Per­ry signed his state’s law July 18, just three weeks before he announced his can­di­da­cy for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. The pri­ma­cy of states’ rights over fed­er­al pow­ers is a tenet of tea par­ty Repub­li­cans whose sup­port is key for can­di­dates dur­ing the pri­ma­ry sea­son.

For the orig­i­nal drafters, health care is only the first com­pact in a longer list that would include mea­sures giv­ing states broad pow­ers to con­trol bank­ing, edu­ca­tion and ener­gy. “Our view is that a good pol­i­cy made under bad gov­er­nance will morph into bad pol­i­cy,” said Hous­ton busi­ness­man Leo Lin­beck III, a key finan­cial backer of the com­pact ini­tia­tive. “Progress does­n’t mean cen­tral­iz­ing pow­er. Progress push­es deci­sion-mak­ing pow­er back to the peo­ple.”
...

Note that Leo Lin­beck III comes from a fam­i­ly with deep pock­ets and a long his­to­ry of sup­port­ing far-right caus­es.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
Sup­port­ers Look To The Tenth Amend­ment

The health-care com­pact grew out of dis­cus­sions and research con­duct­ed a year ago at the Cen­ter for Tenth Amend­ment Stud­ies at the Austin-based Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­cy group. The 10th Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion leaves to the states all pow­ers not con­ferred upon the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

“Found­ing Fathers like James Madi­son sold the Con­sti­tu­tion to the indi­vid­ual states by pre­dict­ing that the accu­mu­la­tion of fed­er­al pow­er would nev­er hap­pen because the states were too strong,” said Mario Loy­ola, direc­tor of the Tenth Amend­ment Cen­ter. “The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment now reg­u­lates vir­tu­al­ly all of the things the framers said it would nev­er reg­u­late.”

Look­ing around for tools to reverse this trend, Loy­ola, a for­mer coun­sel for the U.S. Sen­ate’s Repub­li­can Pol­i­cy Com­mit­tee, and for­mer Texas Solic­i­tor Gen­er­al Ted Cruz, now a can­di­date for the U.S. Sen­ate, hit upon the inter­state com­pact, which Loy­ola said “held the promise of reestab­lish­ing a bound­ary between state and fed­er­al author­i­ty through a con­sen­su­al agree­ment with Con­gress.”
...

Again, note that Ted Cruz was one of the orig­i­na­tors of the Com­pact. Ted Cruz.

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
The his­to­ry of com­pacts goes back to the colo­nial peri­od, and more than 200 are cur­rent­ly in force. Many coor­di­nate activ­i­ties between con­tigu­ous states, such as the Port Author­i­ty of New York and New Jer­sey. Oth­ers, such as the Dri­ver License Com­pact and the Wildlife Vio­la­tors Com­pact, offer rec­i­p­ro­cal recog­ni­tion of laws and licens­es in mem­ber states.

The Health Care Com­pact, how­ev­er, is the first one that attempts to shield states from a whole area of fed­er­al law. It is four pages long and would replace the cur­rent fed­er­al health-care sys­tem with block grants to the states. The ini­tial grants would be pro-rat­ed on the basis of 2010 fed­er­al fund­ing lev­els. There­after, allo­ca­tions would rise to reflect infla­tion and state pop­u­la­tion increas­es. The com­pact would not apply to mil­i­tary per­son­nel, vet­er­ans or Native Amer­i­cans.

With this tem­plate in hand, the bil­l’s adher­ents formed the Health Care Com­pact Alliance late last year. Eric O’Keefe, chair­man and chief exec­u­tive of the con­ser­v­a­tive Sam Adams Alliance, is the Com­pact Alliance chair­man, and Lin­beck serves as vice chair­man. O’Keefe said the Alliance has so far spent “not much more” than $1 mil­lion.

Late in 2010, O’Keefe won sup­port for the com­pact from lead­ers of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots, one of the main tea par­ty groups that have emerged across the coun­try. Lin­beck said “our big push” will come in ear­ly 2012, when he and O’Keefe are hop­ing that 25 to 40 leg­is­la­tures may take up the bill. O’Keefe said he would pre­fer to have at least 15 states pass the com­pact before it is sent to Con­gress.

In its ear­ly days, crit­ics denounced the mea­sure as a reprise of the 19th cen­tu­ry doc­trine of “nul­li­fi­ca­tion,” hold­ing that any state could ignore a fed­er­al law it did not like. Lin­beck point­ed out, how­ev­er, that the Health Care Com­pact is not nul­li­fi­ca­tion, since it requires con­gres­sion­al con­sent.
...

Recall that “nul­li­fi­ca­tion” of fed­er­al law has been one of the GOP’s pri­ma­ry meta-themes in recent years, so while this Health Care Com­pact may have sound­ed pret­ty “out there” back in 2011 when this was first pro­posed, times have changed (some­what) for the GOP! Some­times it even includes nul­li­fy­ing local laws. That’s how much the GOP loves nul­li­fi­ca­tion these days (hint: that’s because it’s most­ly about nul­li­fy­ing oppo­si­tion to the oli­garchs).

Con­tin­u­ing...

...
Draw­backs For States

Sign­ing on has draw­backs for states. The com­pact can­not be amend­ed unless all par­tic­i­pat­ing states agree to the amend­ment and resub­mit the bill to their leg­is­la­tures. For elect­ed offi­cials who want to put their stamp on their state’s laws, this can be a hard pill to swal­low.

Also, if states were under­fund­ed in 2010 at the fed­er­al lev­el, they would be stuck there under the com­pact. “We have 3 mil­lion peo­ple in Medicare and anoth­er 4 mil­lion on Med­ic­aid and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram),” said Anne Dunkel­berg, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Austin-based Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Pri­or­i­ties, a think tank focus­ing on low- and mod­er­ate-income Tex­ans. “Just now [in Texas] we’re $600 below the nation­al aver­age per per­son for Med­ic­aid.”

And, Dunkel­berg added, adher­ence to the com­pact would elim­i­nate the guar­an­tee of a fed­er­al match to state Med­ic­aid spend­ing, make a state inel­i­gi­ble for one-time enti­tle­ments such as the 2009 stim­u­lus and cause states to lose access to auto­mat­ic increas­es when enroll­ment goes up dur­ing a reces­sion.
...

Did you see that last part? The Com­pact would cause states “to lose access to auto­mat­ic increas­es when enroll­ment goes up dur­ing a reces­sion” (see the fixed nature of the “Fund­ing” sec­tion of the Com­pact). And if it turns out that this was a hor­ri­ble idea, good luck amend­ing it since you’d need all the mem­bers to approve! That’s just part of the anti-Oba­macare fun on dis­play with this Health­care Com­pact idea and with Kansas sign­ing on as the ninth state that idea could poten­tial­ly become a real­i­ty, espe­cial­ly if the GOP takes con­trol of the Sen­ate this year.

So, putting aside Gov­er­nor Brown­back­’s recent FBI inves­ti­ga­tions into Kansas’ Med­ic­aid pri­va­ti­za­tion schemes, isn’t it some­what fas­ci­nat­ing that we haven’t seen more of a uni­fied strat­e­gy from the GOP in pro­mot­ing the Com­pact on the nation­al cam­paign trail? It’s an elec­tion year and oppo­si­tion to Oba­macare is still a cen­tral com­po­nent of the GOP’s nation­al elec­toral strat­e­gy. Plus, it’s very much in keep­ing with the “States Rights” theme the GOP has been push­ing ever since Oba­ma first took office. So why isn’t the Com­pact a big­ger “theme” this year? Is it just bad tim­ing?

Or could it be that the GOP’s lacks faith in the elec­torate? Don’t for­get, the Health Care Com­pact pro­pos­al that Sam Brown­back just signed requires Kansans to believe that peo­ple like Brown­back won’t stab them in the back while gut­ting their Medicare. Is that a real­is­tic hope? After all, oppo­si­tion to Oba­macare is rel­a­tive­ly easy. You just have to say “I don’t like this or that about the pro­gram”, and peo­ple you’ll find plen­ty of peo­ple to agree with you. But, as many have point­ed out, the GOP has­n’t real­ly put forth any alter­na­tives to Oba­macare so far and that’s where the elec­torate’s faith in the GOP gets tests. And yet, there IS a GOP alter­na­tive to Oba­macare: The Health Care Com­pact! It was even the brain­child of the GOP’s id!

So why aren’t we hear­ing “Com­pact” this and “Com­pact” that all over the cam­paign trail? Could it be that even the con­fused Kansans and oth­ers that have been sup­port­ing the GOP all these years — even when it’s clear­ly not in their best inter­ests — are start­ing to real­ize that the par­ty that’s wag­ing a war on Food Stamps might also be inter­est­ed in slash­ing Medicare giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty? Slash­ing Medicare and Med­ic­aid expen­di­tures is part of the Paul Ryan bud­get plan so why would­n’t it be part of the Com­pact too even if its advo­cates say oth­er­wise?

Could the GOP be los­ing the “don’t wor­ry, we won’t hurt you” cred­i­bil­i­ty it needs to “sell” its plans to gut Medicare with­out alarm­ing seniors? Cham­pi­oning the Health Care Com­pact on the cam­paign trail sure would raise some alarm­ing ques­tions in the vot­ing booth for seniors. Could that explain the lack of enthu­si­asm for mak­ing this a nation­al par­ty plat­form? For exam­ple, if politi­cians and the oli­garchs that fund them are try­ing to grab green eggs and ham and health­care from those with the least, and then these same politi­cians start cam­paign­ing about send­ing Medicare pow­ers back to the very same states with gov­er­nors that are try­ing to gut Med­ic­aid, does­n’t that raise the ques­tion of what else their hearts desire? Maybe that’s a ques­tion the GOP would rather not have to answer.

Discussion

66 comments for “The GOP Pulled Off the Medicaid Bandaid. Next Up? Medicare Amputations.”

  1. Moody’s just down­grad­ed Kansas’ cred­it rat­ing, cit­ing gov­er­nor Brown­back­’s bud­get bust­ing tax-cuts as a pri­ma­ry cause. Imag­ine that:

    Moody’s down­grades Kansas’ cred­it rat­ing, cit­ing slug­gish recov­ery, tax plan
    May 2
    By Dion Lefler
    The Wichi­ta Eagle

    TOPEKA — Cit­ing a slug­gish recov­ery from the reces­sion, risk inher­ent in the governor’s tax plan and uncer­tain­ty over the Legislature’s abil­i­ty to keep cut­ting spend­ing, one of the nation’s two major debt rat­ing agen­cies down­grad­ed Kansas’ cred­it rat­ing Thurs­day.

    Moody’s Investors Ser­vice dropped Kansas from its sec­ond-high­est bond rat­ing, Aa1, to its third high­est, Aa2. The Kansas Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion also took the same down­grade.

    The low­ered rat­ing could mean that Kansas and KDOT will have to pay high­er inter­est rates to bor­row mon­ey for pub­lic spend­ing.

    “The down­grade reflects Kansas’ rel­a­tive­ly slug­gish recov­ery com­pared with its peers, the use of non-recur­ring mea­sures to bal­ance the bud­get, rev­enue reduc­tions result­ing from tax cuts which have not been ful­ly off­set by recur­ring spend­ing cuts, and an under­fund­ed retire­ment sys­tem for which the state is not mak­ing required con­tri­bu­tions,” the report said.

    In addi­tion, the report crit­i­cized Kansas for tak­ing mon­ey from the state high­way fund to pay for gen­er­al gov­ern­ment expens­es.

    Kansas had held an Aa1 rat­ing for at least the past 13 years and prob­a­bly longer, said Moody’s spokesman David Jacob­son.

    Only one oth­er state has been down­grad­ed by Moody’s in the last year, Illi­nois in June of 2013, he said.

    House Minor­i­ty Leader Paul Davis, D‑Lawrence, said the down­grade is “more bad news for the state of Kansas and fur­ther evi­dence that (Gov. Sam) Brownback’s tax plan is fail­ing in a num­ber of ways.”

    Davis, who’s run­ning against Brown­back, said the state is “lag­ging behind” its neigh­bors because of the governor’s plan to try to spur eco­nom­ic growth by cut­ting tax rates and elim­i­nat­ing income tax on cer­tain busi­ness types.

    “We need to get back to basics of good pub­lic schools, good uni­ver­si­ties and a trans­porta­tion plan that not only main­tains our infra­struc­ture but cre­ates jobs,” Davis said.

    Brownback’s office declined to direct­ly answer ques­tions on the Moody’s down­grade, instead issu­ing a short state­ment high­light­ing areas the rat­ing firm not­ed as strengths.

    “The Moody report also cites our strengths which include fis­cal best prac­tices, a con­tin­ued low unem­ploy­ment rate, a strong end­ing bal­ance and a debt ser­vice ratio which is low­er than the nation­al medi­an,” the state­ment said. It also not­ed that the gov­er­nor inher­it­ed an under­fund­ed pen­sion plan for state employ­ees when he took office.

    Moody’s cal­cu­lat­ed the state’s net pen­sion lia­bil­i­ty at $16.7 bil­lion and said the state is not set­ting aside enough mon­ey to meet its oblig­a­tions. How­ev­er, the report was opti­mistic that laws enact­ed to put more mon­ey in the sys­tem will improve per­for­mance by 2019.

    The report showed less con­fi­dence in Brownback’s tax plan, which has elim­i­na­tion of the state income tax as its even­tu­al goal. The report not­ed income and inher­i­tance tax­es have his­tor­i­cal­ly made up about half of the state gen­er­al fund.

    “We do not view the lack of a state income tax, in and of itself, as a cred­it weak­ness,” the report said. “How­ev­er, elim­i­nat­ing a tax that has been in place for many years and has account­ed for a large share of rev­enue entails risks.

    “As the state income tax is removed, Kansas’ rev­enue struc­ture will become more depen­dent on excise and sev­er­ance tax­es and the full eco­nom­ic impact is unclear.”

    The down­grade comes on the heels of a dis­mal report on April tax income that found Kansas had brought in $93 mil­lion less than pro­ject­ed for the month. Over­all, the state has tak­en in $480 mil­lion less over­all than it had by this point in the last fis­cal year.

    Rat­ing firms pay less atten­tion to a state’s cur­rent fis­cal prob­lems and more to whether the gov­ern­ment has a rea­son­able plan to solve them, said Ken Kriz, regents’ dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor of pub­lic finance at Wichi­ta State University’s Hugo Wall of Urban and Pub­lic Affairs.

    Moody’s had Kansas on a “neg­a­tive” out­look since April of 2011, Jacob­son said.

    While that is not as seri­ous as an actu­al down­grade, it’s “a shot across the bow that you need to change some­thing,” Kriz said.

    Sen­ate tax and bud­get lead­ers said they’re more wor­ried about spend­ing than income.

    “I’m not over­ly con­cerned” about the down­grade, said Ty Mas­ter­son, R‑Andover, chair­man of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee. If the state runs into seri­ous fis­cal trou­ble, “we just do what you have to do to make it work,” he said.

    Assess­ment and Tax­a­tion Chair­man Les Dono­van, R‑Wichita, said he agreed that “if we don’t get our spend­ing in line with our income, we’re always going to be in trou­ble.”

    Moody’s how­ev­er, said it’s going to be hard for the state to cut enough.

    “The state’s abil­i­ty to impose bud­get cuts over time may be lim­it­ed in sev­er­al areas: by court man­dates in K‑12 fund­ing, by fed­er­al pro­gram man­dates in Med­ic­aid and by state legal require­ments (for) pen­sion fund­ing,” the report said.

    ...

    Huh, so Med­ic­aid expen­di­tures are also a part of why Moody’s just down­grad­ed Kansas. How might that be adressed in a vir­tu­al­ly cost-free man­ner? Hmmm....

    Regard­less, it sounds like it’s not the refusal to expand Med­ic­aid that’s caus­ing so much trou­ble for Kansas. It’s Brown­back­’s tax cuts that blew a hole in both Kansas’ bud­get but also a hole in Moody’s faith that Kansas even can get its finances under con­trol going for­ward with­out rely­ing almost exclu­sive­ly on bud­get cuts. And why are bud­get cuts the only thing Moody’s expects? Well, one rea­son appears to be that Brown­back­’s tax-cut­ting scheme was most just a mas­sive tax cut for the wealth­i­est Kansans and it was sup­posed to be paid for with mag­i­cal sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics fairy dust which, upon snort­ing, instills the “job cre­ators” with the con­fi­dence they need to cre­ate jobs. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the real­i­ty is that mag­i­cal sup­ply-side fairy dust is a high­ly tox­ic hal­lu­cino­gen:

    cjonline.com
    Laf­fer: Tax plan could cre­ate ‘state of pros­per­i­ty’
    Ponzi scheme suit against Gov.‘s tax advis­er with­drawn
    Post­ed: Jan­u­ary 19, 2012 — 1:50pm

    By Andy Mar­so
    THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

    Arthur Laf­fer, the for­mer Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion econ­o­mist who advised Gov. Sam Brown­back on his tax plan, told leg­is­la­tors Thurs­day the pro­pos­al to low­er income tax rates would put Kansas on a path to long-term growth.

    “If it con­tin­ues in the direc­tion that he’s going, I think you can real­ly cre­ate a state of pros­per­i­ty here in Kansas,” he said. “I real­ly believe that based on my research, my work and my per­son­al feel­ings. I know the future is always more uncer­tain than the past, and I’m try­ing to do all I can to use the lessons of the past as a guide­post for the future.”

    Laf­fer, who runs a con­sult­ing firm in Nashville, Tenn., was in Tope­ka to tes­ti­fy in House and Sen­ate com­mit­tees on the plan he helped craft, which would low­er income tax rates while elim­i­nat­ing a host of deduc­tions.

    Laf­fer­’s the­o­ry that cut­ting tax­es can increase gov­ern­ment rev­enues by spurring eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty (illus­trat­ed by the “Laf­fer Curve”) is well-accept­ed, but the cir­cum­stances under which the the­o­ry holds true have been debat­ed since the fed­er­al income tax cuts of the 1980s pro­duced deficits rather than increased rev­enue.

    Sen. Tom Hol­land, D‑Baldwin City, ques­tioned the track record of Laf­fer­’s the­o­ries and the use­ful­ness of com­par­ing Kansas tax rates to those of states like Texas and Flori­da, which get large chunks of rev­enue from oil and tourism.

    Laf­fer agreed a num­ber of vari­ables come into play when com­par­ing states but said there is a high cor­re­la­tion between low­er income tax rates and eco­nom­ic growth. Kansas, with one of the region’s high­est income tax­es, has to get more com­pet­i­tive, he said.

    Laf­fer­’s vis­it came on the same day that Kansas Action for Chil­dren released the results of a joint study between it and the Insti­tute on Tax­a­tion and Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy. KAC and oth­er advo­ca­cy groups have expressed con­cerns that under the gov­er­nor’s plan, Kansans who make $25,000 or less would see an aver­age tax increase of $156.29, while all oth­ers would, on aver­age, pay less, accord­ing to the leg­isla­tive research depart­ment.

    “ITEP’s analy­sis shows that under the governor’s pro­pos­al, low- and mid­dle- income fam­i­lies would shoul­der a greater por­tion of the Kansas tax bur­den while the wealth­i­est 1 per­cent and cor­po­ra­tions would enjoy even more tax breaks,” KAC said in a state­ment released Thurs­day.

    But Laf­fer said the goal of the gov­er­nor’s plan was to cre­ate long-term growth that would bring jobs into Kansas and, ide­al­ly, even­tu­al­ly raise all wages.

    “That’s the type of pros­per­i­ty you real­ly want to see,” Laf­fer said. “Those wages start going up on the low­est income earn­ers once you start get­ting close to full employ­ment.”

    Laf­fer echoed the oft-stat­ed admin­is­tra­tion posi­tion that set­ting tax rates low­er than oth­er states in the region would reverse a pat­tern of tax­pay­ers mov­ing out of Kansas and set the state on a path to pop­u­la­tion growth.

    Laf­fer­’s vis­it came amid talk of his involve­ment in a law­suit against the founders of Busi­ness Radio Net­work, an alleged Ponzi scheme.

    Laf­fer was named a defen­dant in the suit, filed Jan. 11, which stat­ed that he “lent his name” to the project to enhance its cred­i­bil­i­ty.

    The governor’s office pro­vid­ed doc­u­ments that showed the 51 plain­tiffs with­drew their suit Tues­day. Laf­fer said he was­n’t sure if the par­ties had reached a set­tle­ment.

    ...

    So Brown­back hired Art Laf­fer to give his sup­ply-side bless­ing to a tax plan that raised tax­es on those mak­ing under $25k, low­ered them for every­one else, and under­mined the state’s long-term finan­cial posi­tion. Imag­ine that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 4, 2014, 8:03 pm
  2. Here’s more on Ted Cruz’s role craft­ing the “Health Care Com­pact” while work­ing at the ALEC-affil­li­at­ed “Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion” in 2010, and how these ALEC/Cruz-infused ideas became Rick Per­ry’s 2011 anti-Oba­macare leg­is­la­tion that is now ALEC’s health care mod­el for the entire nation:

    San Anto­nio Cur­rent
    Ted Cruz Used Texas to Cre­ate ALEC’s Anti-Oba­macare Leg­is­la­tion
    Mary Tuma
    Pub­lished: Octo­ber 15, 2013

    The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has come to a screech­ing halt because of it. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R‑TX) spent 21 hours faux-fil­i­bus­ter­ing against it. Right-wing per­son­al­i­ties have even likened it to slav­ery. The GOP’s fight to destroy ‘Oba­macare’ has reached new, head­line-grab­bing heights.

    While eyes are on the action at the fed­er­al lev­el, some con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can gov­er­nors have used every tool in their arse­nal to thwart the Afford­able Care Act (ACA) on a state level—from reject­ing the Med­ic­aid expan­sion to sign­ing ‘Health Care Com­pacts’ into law.

    And it looks like they’ve got­ten a lit­tle help from their cor­po­rate friends.

    Behind some of the statewide anti-health care strat­e­gy you’ll find The Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), a shad­owy net­work of cor­po­rate lob­by­ists, rep­re­sent­ing com­pa­nies includ­ing Koch Indus­tries, Exxon­Mo­bil, AT&T and Pfiz­er, that draft mod­el leg­is­la­tion increas­ing­ly used by state law­mak­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those of the con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can per­sua­sion. In return, leg­is­la­tors get invit­ed to swanky par­ties (read: fundrais­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties), all-expens­es paid trips and even free child­care. More than 1,000 of these cor­po­rate-backed bills are intro­duced into state­hous­es by leg­is­la­tors each year, with one in every five of them enact­ed into law, accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy.

    The doors to ALEC bust­ed wide open when in 2011 a whistle­blow­er released a stun­ning trove of doc­u­ments expos­ing the inner work­ing of the secre­tive orga­ni­za­tion to CMD, which made it avail­able for pub­lic view­ing. While rec­om­mend­ing mod­el leg­is­la­tion may be part and par­cel of the think tank process, what sets ALEC apart is the pure cor­po­rate influence—98 per­cent of its rev­enue comes from corporations—that has a direct role in chang­ing, enabling and killing leg­is­la­tion along­side law­mak­ers. Often­times, leg­is­la­tors come back to the state­house with­out pub­li­ciz­ing ALEC’s involve­ment in the bills they spon­sor.

    “It revealed the breath and depth of cor­po­rate influ­ence over law and pol­i­cy,” Bren­dan Fis­ch­er, CMD’s gen­er­al coun­sel told the Cur­rent, refer­ring to the 2011 evi­dence. “ALEC exists for the ben­e­fit of the cor­po­ra­tions that are foot­ing the bill and the evi­dence indi­cates they’re get­ting a lot in return.”

    If the acronym sounds famil­iar, but you can’t quit pin where you last heard it, chances are it was dur­ing the George Zim­mer­man tri­al. The ‘cor­po­rate bill mill’ made nation­al head­lines and gar­nered scruti­ny when a piece of their mod­el leg­is­la­tion was tied to the infa­mous ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ that played into the acquit­tal of Zim­mer­man in the killing of unarmed teenag­er Trayvon Mar­tin. The rise of ALEC’s pro­file in such pejo­ra­tive terms like­ly led to the exo­dus of sev­er­al leg­isla­tive mem­bers in 2012.

    In sum, ALEC drafts ide­o­log­i­cal­ly and finan­cial­ly moti­vat­ed leg­is­la­tion that, among oth­er goals, seek to weak­en labor laws and envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tion, and pri­va­tize education—and health care laws are a par­tic­u­lar focal point. In 2011, the group cre­at­ed the handy “State Leg­is­la­tors Guide to Repeal­ing Oba­macare,” a step-by-step guide detail­ing how to local­ly dis­man­tle the ACA. Part of the strat­e­gy includes warn­ing against the fed­er­al Med­ic­aid expan­sion and insti­tut­ing a law to pro­vide a state-lev­el “defense against Obamacare’s exces­sive fed­er­al pow­er.” Among oth­er things, the “Free­dom of Choice in Health Care Act” helps arm states in lit­i­ga­tion against the ACA.
    ...

    Notice how refus­ing to expand Med­ic­aid was part of ALEC’s step-by-step guide to dis­man­tling Oba­macare by in 2011.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    Sound famil­iar? Texas’ statewide lead­er­ship appears to have tak­en a page straight from ALEC’s play­book in terms of respond­ing to ACA pol­i­cy. A staunch and vocal oppo­nent of Oba­macare, Gov. Rick Per­ry refus­es to expand Med­ic­aid, effec­tive­ly deny­ing more than 2 mil­lion eli­gi­ble work­ing adults access to health care. He’s thrown up extra bar­ri­ers for ACA nav­i­ga­tors, the assis­tants trained to aid res­i­dents in sign­ing up for ACA cov­er­age. The gov­er­nor has even gone so far as to deem Oba­macare a “crim­i­nal act.” Under Perry’s 2011 leg­is­la­ture, the “Health Free­dom Act”—writ­ten by a leg­is­la­tor who also serves as an ALEC task force member—directly mim­ics ALEC’s key vehi­cle for sink­ing Oba­macare.

    It may be no sur­prise then that ALEC and Texas leg­is­la­tors have cul­ti­vat­ed a cozy rela­tion­ship. From 2001–2011, Texas politi­cians saw $16.2 mil­lion from ALEC cor­po­rate part­ners, the sec­ond high­est among states. Per­ry leads as the largest sin­gle ben­e­fi­cia­ry of ALEC funds, receiv­ing more than $2 mil­lion in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from ALEC cor­po­rate part­ners, accord­ing to Progress Texas, which tracks ALEC’s influ­ence in state pol­i­tics. As the recip­i­ent of a 2010 award from the orga­ni­za­tion, it’s safe to say Per­ry stands as an ALEC star.

    “Texas is prob­a­bly one of the strongest places in the coun­try for ALEC laws,” said Phillip Mar­tin, deputy direc­tor of Progress Texas. “ALEC has tremen­dous influ­ence in our state. Texas pol­i­cy is shaped by ALEC and like-mind­ed cor­po­ra­tions that val­ue the prof­it of their com­pa­nies over the well-being of Tex­ans.”

    ALEC’s largesse seems to have bought it a ver­i­ta­ble test­ing ground for their pol­i­cy aims here. Accord­ing to Mar­tin, ALEC’s nation­al mod­el for health care leg­is­la­tion orig­i­nat­ed in Texas, per­haps not sur­pris­ing­ly via Sen. Cruz him­self.

    The ‘Health Care Compact’—an agree­ment between par­tic­i­pat­ing states that shields them from the ACA by trans­fer­ring pow­er back to state gov­ern­ments to dis­burse their own health care funds through block grants in lieu of a fed­er­al plan—was first launched by for­mer Texas solic­i­tor gen­er­al Cruz while he was a fel­low at the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion, a research orga­ni­za­tion with strong ties to ALEC that bills itself as “one of the nation’s pre­mier free mar­ket think tanks.”

    With TPPF, Cruz co-authored a 2010 report that describes Oba­macare as an “uncon­sti­tu­tion­al fed­er­al over­reach and vio­la­tion of 10th Amend­ment rights.” The paper then spelled out what would become ALEC’s own mod­el leg­is­la­tion to upend Oba­macare. The nation­al Health Care Com­pact Alliance also cred­its the idea to TPPF and help­ful­ly explains in a head­line, “ALEC adopts Health Care Com­pact as mod­el leg­is­la­tion.”

    The com­pact is pop­u­lar among con­ser­v­a­tive gov­er­nors seek­ing to dis­tance them­selves from the feds, includ­ing Gov. Per­ry, who signed Texas’ inter­state health care com­pact, authored by an ALEC Health and Human Ser­vices Task Force mem­ber, just weeks before announc­ing his pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­cy. (It’s worth not­ing that while sev­en states to date have signed the com­pact into law, it’s got no teeth until it receives unlike­ly Con­gres­sion­al approval, mak­ing it a large­ly sym­bol­ic mea­sure as of now.)

    While Perry’s attempt to influ­ence nation­al pol­i­tics drift­ed away with his failed pres­i­den­tial bid, the sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship between TPPF and ALEC may yet be able to suc­ceed in spread­ing Texas con­ser­v­a­tive ideals, includ­ing those of extrem­ists like Cruz, through­out the nation, while bring­ing addi­tion­al “great­est hits” home from oth­er ALEC hotbeds. “TPPF is real­ly ALEC’s home away from home,” said Mar­tin. “A lot of research from TPPF relies on ALEC and ALEC mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions.”

    In an attempt to fur­ther lift the veil shroud­ing ALEC, the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy issued open records requests to mul­ti­ple leg­is­la­tors across the coun­try asso­ci­at­ed with ALEC, with lit­tle trouble—until they got to Texas.

    A recent fight to obtain ALEC-relat­ed doc­u­ments played out between CMD and a state law­mak­er unwill­ing to hand the infor­ma­tion over. After ALEC began stamp­ing its mate­r­i­al with a “dis­claimer” that argued it was exempt from state open records law, fresh­man State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R‑Fort Worth) then tried to with­hold ALEC doc­u­ments, seek­ing an Attor­ney Gen­er­al opin­ion in the mean­time. That’s espe­cial­ly trou­bling for CMD’s Fis­ch­er since ALEC doesn’t release its list of mem­bers or fun­ders and rou­tine­ly bars the press from attend­ing task force meetings—one of the only effec­tive avenues in unearthing the group’s impact is through records requests.

    “They inten­tion­al­ly try to oper­ate in secret, but we’ve been able to uncov­er a fair amount of infor­ma­tion about their influ­ence through open records law,” said Fis­ch­er. “But late­ly, in our opin­ion, they’ve been try­ing to sneak back into the shad­ows.”

    ...

    To repeat: “While Perry’s attempt to influ­ence nation­al pol­i­tics drift­ed away with his failed pres­i­den­tial bid, the sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship between TPPF and ALEC may yet be able to suc­ceed in spread­ing Texas con­ser­v­a­tive ideals, includ­ing those of extrem­ists like Cruz, through­out the nation, while bring­ing addi­tion­al “great­est hits” home from oth­er ALEC hotbeds”.

    Pres­i­dent Per­ry: So far, yet so close...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 5, 2014, 8:02 am
  3. This is pret­ty pre­cious: Leo Lin­beck III — the far-right bil­lion­aire bankroller of the Health Care Com­pact and oth­er far-right ideas — and Eric O’Keefe — a Wis­con­sin pri­vate investor close to Scott Walk­er — cre­at­ed a series of front groups back in 2011 to push the Com­pact. Amongst those groups: “Democ­rats for Health Care Com­pact”:

    Think Progress
    Exclu­sive: New ‘Non-Par­ti­san’ Health Repeal Front Group Com­prised Entire­ly Of Repub­li­cans

    By Lee Fang August 17, 2011 at 10:40 am Updat­ed: August 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Long­time polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Eric O’Keefe has a new plan to under­mine health reform. Called the “Health Care Com­pact,” the effort is a legal­ly dubi­ous cam­paign to enroll states in an inter­state com­pact to take con­trol of all fed­er­al­ly fund­ed health care pro­grams. As reporter Stephanie Mencimer notes, the law would not only unrav­el the Afford­able Care Act, but also major health pro­grams like Medicare. The Com­pact, once approved by Con­gress, would allow states with Com­pact laws to use Medicare, Med­ic­aid, and oth­er fed­er­al health pro­gram funds any way they wish, with no “strings” attached, like reim­burs­ing doc­tors at a fair rate or ensur­ing pro­gram mon­ey is spent on actu­al health ser­vices.

    The Health Care Com­pact cam­paign start­ed ear­li­er this year, when O’Keefe’s new group donat­ed $250,000 to a Tea Par­ty Patri­ots con­ven­tion for a kick-off event. How­ev­er, ThinkProgress has found that the group isn’t only reach­ing out to Tea Par­ty mem­bers; it’s decep­tive­ly recruit­ing Democ­rats as well. The “About us” sec­tion of “Democ­rats for the Health Care Com­pact,” a group affil­i­at­ed with O’Keefe, lists three influ­en­tial Repub­li­cans, and no actu­al Democ­rats, as mem­bers:

    “Democ­rats For Health Care Com­pact” Mem­ber Leo Lin­beck III: Born into an elite Texas fam­i­ly, Lin­beck is the head of Aquinas Com­pa­nies, LLC, the Hous­ton-area con­struc­tion and build­ing man­age­ment com­pa­ny con­nect­ed to the for­tune of Linbeck’s grand­fa­ther. Cur­rent­ly acknowl­edged as one the major financiers of the Health Care Com­pact cam­paign, Lin­beck was a George W. Bush donor and has pro­vid­ed funds to a recent­ly formed Repub­li­can polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee called Cit­i­zens PAC. Linbeck’s father, Leo Lin­beck Jr., is a major Repub­li­can fundrais­er who helped cre­ate the groups to reduce lia­bil­i­ty for cor­po­ra­tions and dras­ti­cal­ly reduce tax­es on upper income indi­vid­u­als.

    “Democ­rats For Health Care Com­pact” Mem­ber Eric O’Keefe: O’Keefe has made a career out of orches­trat­ing anti-gov­ern­ment front groups, some with no actu­al mem­bers. He has played a piv­otal role in the U.S. Term Lim­its “move­ment” (bankrolled by the Koch broth­ers and investor Howie Rich), the Sam Adam Alliance (a Tea Par­ty mobi­liza­tion group and plan­ning group), the Cen­ter for Com­pet­i­tive Pol­i­tics, a group that filed briefs in sup­port of the Cit­i­zens Unit­ed deci­sion, and a sprawl­ing net­work of TABOR groups designed to crip­ple state gov­ern­ments. Recent­ly, O’Keefe has gained atten­tion for his role in the Wis­con­sin Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty net­work and the Wis­con­sin Club for Growth, two groups that have aggres­sive­ly pro­mot­ed the right-wing agen­da of Gov. Scott Walk­er (R‑WI). He is also a reg­u­lar pre­sen­ter at the secre­tive Koch broth­ers gath­er­ings that have act­ed as fundrais­ers for Repub­li­can attack groups.

    “Democ­rats for Health Care Com­pact” Mem­ber Michael Barn­hart: Barn­hart is cur­rent­ly the head of the Sun­shine Review, a lib­er­tar­i­an non­prof­it close­ly linked with O’Keefe’s Sam Adams Alliance and the GOP train­ing orga­ni­za­tion called Amer­i­can Major­i­ty. Barnhart’s career makes for a strange Demo­c­rat: he began his career work­ing for var­i­ous Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress, mov­ing on to work a Repub­li­can lob­by­ing firm and the Wash­ing­ton Times.

    The trio of Repub­li­cans are play­ing doc­tor as well. A group called “Physi­cians for the Health Care Com­pact” lists only Leo Lin­beck III, Eric O’Keefe, and Michael Barn­hart as mem­bers, despite the fact none of them are physi­cians. The con­tact for the group, Meghan Tisinger, is a polit­i­cal oper­a­tive work­ing for the Franklin Cen­ter, a fake news site set up by O’Keefe and oth­er Sam Adams Alliance polit­i­cal staffers. Tisinger doesn’t appear to be a doc­tor either.

    ...

    Note that O’Keefe is one of the fig­ures at the cen­ter of Wis­con­sin’s “John Doe II” probe of ille­gal coor­di­nat­ing by pro-Walk­er groups run­ning issue ads dur­ing the 2012 recall elec­tion. How unex­pect­ed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 5, 2014, 9:59 am
  4. “And the Medicare pro­gram, while it needs to rein in costs, is a reli­able source of health care ser­vices for our senior pop­u­la­tion, and I would not want to be putting those folks at risk.”

    A mon­e­tary sov­er­eign like our fed­er­al gov­ern­ment cre­ates mon­ey ad hoc, by send­ing INSTRUCTIONS to mark up/credit bank accounts, no tax­es or bor­row­ing nec­es­sary. All gov­ern­ment dol­lars exist only in the pri­vate sec­tor mon­ey sup­ply. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has no dol­lars, there­fore it can save no dol­lars. Every dol­lar the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment sup­pos­ed­ly ‘saves’, means a dol­lar less for the pri­vate sec­tor. While I’m all for effi­cien­cy and abhor fraud, any reduc­tion in gov­ern­ment spend­ing means that that out­put does not get sold and hence low­ers GDP.

    Posted by SteveD | May 7, 2014, 1:02 am
  5. With yes­ter­day’s pri­ma­ry results com­ing in it looks like North Car­oli­na’s GOP has cho­sen its can­di­date for the Sen­ate race: North Car­oli­na House Speak­er Mitt Akin Thom Tillis:

    The New Repub­lic
    A GOP Sen­ate Can­di­date Blows The Lid Off Con­ser­v­a­tive Racial Pol­i­tics

    BY BRIAN BEUTLER

    Whether North Car­oli­na House Speak­er Thom Tillis wins the Sen­ate GOP pri­ma­ry tonight, or finds him­self stuck in a run-off until July, he’ll be con­tend­ing with this recent­ly resur­faced video from 2011, in which he fus­es all of the ugli­est ele­ments of con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics into one mus­tache-twid­dling, Bond-vil­lainesque solil­o­quy lay­ing bare the GOP’s “divide and con­quer” strat­e­gy to under­mine the social safe­ty net.

    What we have to do is find a way to divide and con­quer the peo­ple who are on assis­tance. We have to show respect for that woman who has cere­bral pal­sy and had no choice in her con­di­tion, that needs help and that we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these peo­ple who choose to get into a con­di­tion that makes them depen­dent on the gov­ern­ment and say, ‘at some point you’re on your own! We may end up tak­ing care of those babies, but we’re not tak­ing care of you.’ And we’ve got to start hav­ing that seri­ous dis­cus­sion. It won’t hap­pen next year. Wrong time. Because it’s going to be polit­i­cal­ly charged. One of the rea­sons why I may nev­er run for anoth­er elect­ed office is cause some of these things may just get me rail­road­ed out of town. But in 2013 I hon­est­ly believe that we have to do it.

    Class war­fare? Check. Racist dog whis­tle? Check. A bela­bored expli­ca­tion of the polit­i­cal util­i­ty of racist dog whistling? Check. An acknowl­edg­ment that this strat­e­gy must be deployed at strate­gic moments, because it can back­fire? Check. A fur­ther acknowl­edg­ment that admit­ting to the strat­e­gy can be career end­ing? Check.

    This was in 2011, before Mitt Rom­ney’s made his 47 per­cent remarks. But as Ed Kil­go­re (who deserves a big hat tip) notes, his com­ments makes those remarks look rel­a­tive­ly harm­less.

    They also draw oth­er Repub­li­cans’ efforts to wel­farize Oba­macare into a new light, and help explain the polit­i­cal foun­da­tions of Tillis’ deci­sion not to expand Med­ic­aid in North Carolina—a deci­sion about which he con­tin­ues to boast—and the North Car­oli­na GOP’s broad­er agen­da. Tillis isn’t wear­ing racial blind­ers. He’s very clear-eyed about what he’s doing. His state­ment is an implic­it admis­sion that the road to build­ing major­i­ty sup­port for a con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­cy agen­da runs through the exploita­tion of white racial resent­ment. Mak­ing a case out of “these peo­ple” who have many “babies” to fos­ter and deep­en their own depen­dence on gov­ern­ment.

    When these remarks were first unearthed back in 2011, Tillis told the Char­lotte Observ­er that “divide and con­quer” was a “poor choice of words” but stood by his oth­er remarks, includ­ing the sug­ges­tion that North Car­oli­na con­sid­er drug-test­ing peo­ple on pub­lic assis­tance.

    ...

    So Thom Tillis mere­ly chose is words poor­ly while express­ing his gen­uine world view which seems to include tak­ing a “we’ll let you starve” stance with sin­gle moth­ers. Keep in mind that Tillis, as North Car­oli­na House Speak­er, proud­ly cham­pi­oned the block­ing of the Med­ic­aid expan­sion in North Car­oli­na, block­ing Med­ic­aid access for ~500,000 peo­ple with­in his state, so Tillis has nev­er real­ly been par­tic­u­lar­ly sin­gle moth­er-friend­ly. But that was almost a sin­gle moth­er-threat in that video. Is the Tillis cam­paign assum­ing sin­gle moth­ers are too busy to vote? That’s not an unrea­son­able cam­paign strat­e­gy but only if the sin­gle moth­ers and peo­ple that care about peo­ple don’t notice. That’s why this 2011 video sur­fac­ing is so trou­bling for Tillis’s cam­paign.

    And it’s not just the Tillis cam­paign that’s at risk here. Tillis’s was just express­ing 47% sen­ti­ment before it was cool..ly recieved:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    47 per­center-ism is back!

    By Greg Sar­gent
    May 6 at 2:08 pm

    Con­trol of the Sen­ate, the prog­nos­ti­ca­tors tell us, could come down to North Car­oli­na. If GOP estab­lish­ment favorite Thom Tillis clears 40 per­cent today and avoids a runoff – as seems like­ly — we’ll be hear­ing a great deal about how Repub­li­cans van­quished destruc­tive ele­ments with­in the par­ty and emerged with the strongest and most “mod­er­ate” oppo­nent against vul­ner­a­ble Dem Sen­a­tor Kay Hagan.

    So it’s worth point­ing out that Tillis comes with vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of his own. For one thing, what­ev­er his rel­a­tive mod­er­a­tion when com­pared with his pri­ma­ry oppo­nents, he appears to be a diehard 47 per­center.

    ...

    This video was tak­en in 2011, but even Tillis him­self appeared to under­stand his remarks were con­tro­ver­sial, not­ing that such views could “get me rail­road­ed out of town.” The Hagan cam­paign is cir­cu­lat­ing the video today, but observers who have been pay­ing close atten­tion to the race have known for some time that Tillis, the state House speak­er, has a more con­ser­v­a­tive record than is com­mon­ly appre­ci­at­ed, one Dems might uti­lize to their advan­tage.

    Indeed, the 47 per­center-ism on dis­play in this video didn’t occur in a vac­u­um. Tillis not only opposed the Oba­macare Med­ic­aid expan­sion, which would have expand­ed cov­er­age to 500,000 peo­ple he would rep­re­sent; he also boast­ed in an ad that he was per­son­al­ly respon­si­ble for stop­ping that out­come “cold.” Tillis and North Car­oli­na Repub­li­cans also dra­mat­i­cal­ly slashed unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, which, in the words of one nation­al observ­er, turned help for the job­less into a ”thin­ner safe­ty net than it has been in decades.”

    Tillis has heaped con­tempt on those protest­ing such poli­cies, argu­ing: “What I see from the folks who are oppos­ing our agen­da is whin­ing com­ing from losers.”

    ...

    Beyond the overt 47 per­center-ism, dur­ing the pri­ma­ry Tillis also called the min­i­mum wage hike a “dan­ger­ous idea” and even cast doubt on whether we should have a fed­er­al min­i­mum wage, anoth­er issue where Dems may be able to gain some trac­tion among swing vot­ers, even in a state car­ried by Mitt Rom­ney. As Manu Raju put it some time ago, sum­ming up the big­ger con­trast here:

    Democ­rats are strug­gling to sur­vive in con­ser­v­a­tive states as they try to com­bat Obama’s grow­ing unpop­u­lar­i­ty and antipa­thy to the health care law they helped enact. But Repub­li­cans are at risk of over­reach­ing with a sharply con­ser­v­a­tive agen­da at a time when their elect­ed lead­ers are shift­ing fur­ther to the right and inde­pen­dent vot­ers are angry at both par­ties.

    There’s no rea­son to doubt GOP sug­ges­tions that Tillis is the strongest chal­lenger to Hagan, who of course has plen­ty of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of her own. But the gen­er­al elec­tion bat­tle has not been joined, and once it is, Dems may have more to work with in defin­ing Tillis on terms favor­able to them than is imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent.

    Thom Tillis, the most “mod­er­ate” GOP sen­ate can­di­date in North Car­oli­na, proud­ly blocked Med­ic­aid expan­sion while also advo­cat­ing an end to the min­i­mum wage and unem­ploy­ment insur­ance and says things like “What I see from the folks who are oppos­ing our agen­da is whin­ing com­ing from losers.”

    Well, ok, that does sound rather mod­er­ate for the con­tem­po­rary GOP, but it rais­es the ques­tion of what exact­ly Tillis and the rest of his par­ty is going to do about the fact that the “divide and con­quer” cam­paign Tillis was describ­ing in 2011 is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly both revolt­ing and the GOP’s appar­ent nation­al cam­paign strat­e­gy in 2013 and 2014. Sure, the GOP’s War on the Poor has been a fix­ture for decades, but has­n’t it been more of a a War on the Poor in the last year than nor­mal? It sure seems like it. And that means that this is a some­what new cam­paign strat­e­gy with hard to pre­dict results.

    Is this overt focus on divid­ing, demo­niz­ing, and con­quer­ing the “47%” a cun­ning old-Rov­ian strat­e­gy that will some­how dri­ve the sick and poor into a self-destruc­tive fren­zy? Or is this a new-Rove ploy?

    Either way, some sort of stealth “Hail MaryMoloch” pass has been thrown by the GOP and it’s not clear what the polit­i­cal cal­cu­lus is behind it. Was­n’t appeal­ing to women and minori­ties part of the GOP’s planned ‘makeover’ just last year? What hap­pened to that plan? Now it’s all car­rots for the rich and pol­i­cy sticks and stones for the poor using code words as cov­er. Has a deeply depressed Frank Luntz assumed con­trol of the RNC?:

    The Atlantic
    The Agony of Frank Luntz
    What does it mean when Amer­i­ca’s top polit­i­cal word­smith los­es faith in our abil­i­ty to be per­suad­ed?
    Mol­ly Ball Jan 6 2014, 6:00 AM ET

    Frank Luntz does not want the buf­fet. We are on the top floor of the Capi­tol Hill Club, the mem­bers-only Repub­li­can hang­out a block from the Capi­tol, where a meaty smell is ema­nat­ing from steam trays. Today’s main course is ham, and Luntz shakes his head.

    There’s also fish, the host offers—mahi mahi. No. “I’m 0 for 2,” Luntz says mourn­ful­ly.

    “Roast chick­en,” the host says, but it’s too late; he’s lost him. “Bor­ing,” Luntz says, as we head for the ele­va­tor to the full-ser­vice din­ing room in the base­ment.

    Amer­i­ca’s best-known pub­lic-opin­ion guru has­n’t sud­den­ly gone veg­an. Luntz—the tub­by, rum­pled guy who runs the focus groups on Fox News after pres­i­den­tial debates, the polit­i­cal con­sul­tant and TV fix­ture whose word has been law in Repub­li­can cir­cles since he helped write the 1994 Con­tract With America—has always been a hard man to please. But some­thing is dif­fer­ent now, he tells me. Some­thing is wrong. Some­thing in his psy­che has bro­ken, and he does not know if he can recov­er.

    “I’ve had a headache for six days now, and it does­n’t go away,” he tells me as we take our seats at a table down­stairs. “I don’t sleep for more than two or three hours at a time. I’m prob­a­bly less healthy now than I have ever been in my life.” He’s not sure what to do. He’s still going through the motions—giving speech­es, going on tele­vi­sion, con­duct­ing focus groups, and advis­ing com­pa­nies and politi­cians on how best to con­vey their mes­sage.

    But beneath the sur­face, he says, is a roil­ing tur­moil that threat­ens to con­sume him. He orders a chick­en pot pie, then berates him­self for not choos­ing some­thing health­i­er. In recent months, he tells me, he has often con­tem­plat­ed quit­ting every­thing; he has spent long weeks alone, unable to sort out his thoughts. Frank Luntz, the mas­ter polit­i­cal manip­u­la­tor, a man who has always evinced a cheery cer­tain­ty about who’s right and who’s win­ning and how it all works, is a mess.

    And yet, over the hour and a half I spend talk­ing with him—the first time he has spo­ken pub­licly about his cur­rent state of mind—it’s hard to grasp what the cri­sis is about. Luntz has­n’t renounced his con­ser­v­a­tive world­view. His belief in unfet­tered cap­i­tal­ism and indi­vid­ual self-reliance appears stronger than ever. He has­n’t become dis­il­lu­sioned with his very prof­itable career or his nomadic, soli­tary lifestyle. His complaints—that Amer­i­ca is too divid­ed, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma too par­ti­san, and the coun­try in the grip of an enti­tle­ment men­tal­i­ty that is out of control—seem pret­ty run-of-the-mill. But his anguish is too deeply felt not to be real. Frank Luntz is hav­ing some kind of cri­sis. I just can’t quite get my head around it.

    ...

    Luntz’s work has always been pred­i­cat­ed on a sort of populism—the idea that politi­cians must fig­ure out what vot­ers want to hear, and speak to them in lan­guage that com­ports with it. He proud­ly claims that his famous catch­phras­es, like brand­ing health­care reform a “gov­ern­ment takeover” in 2010, are not his coinages but the organ­ic prod­uct of his focus groups. The disheveled appear­ance, the sar­don­ic wit, all add up to a sort of tilt­ing against the estab­lish­ment, an insis­tence that it lis­ten to the Real Peo­ple.

    But what if the Real Peo­ple are wrong? That is the pos­si­bil­i­ty Luntz now grap­ples with. What if the things peo­ple want to hear from their lead­ers are ideas that would lead the coun­try down a dan­ger­ous road?

    You should not expect a hand­out,” he tells me. “You should not even expect a safe­ty net. When my house burns down, I should not go to the gov­ern­ment to rebuild it. I should have the sav­ings, and if I don’t, my neigh­bors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them.” The enti­tle­ment he now hears from the focus groups he con­venes amounts, in his view, to a per­ma­nent poi­son­ing of the electorate—one that can­not be undone. “We have now cre­at­ed a sense of depen­den­cy and a sense of enti­tle­ment that is so great that you had, on the day that he was elect­ed, women think­ing that Oba­ma was going to pay their mort­gage pay­ment, and that’s why they vot­ed for him,” he says. “And that, to me, is the end of what made this coun­try so great.

    To my ears, this sounds like rather stan­dard-issue up-by-your-boot­straps con­ser­v­a­tive dog­ma. But to Luntz, it not a mat­ter of left or right. He peri­od­i­cal­ly comes under attack from the right for not toe­ing the Repub­li­can line, and has been crit­i­cal of the par­ty’s right wing. “It seems like the Democ­rats are going so far over­board, and the Repub­li­cans are going nowhere,” he tells me. “So I’m mad at both of them.” Increas­ing­ly, he says, he seeks to main­tain rela­tion­ships with mem­bers of both par­ties. His clos­est friend­ship in pol­i­tics today, he says, is with a Demo­c­rat, Sen­a­tor Michael Ben­net of Col­orado (dis­clo­sure: Ben­net is the broth­er of Atlantic edi­tor in chief James Ben­net). “It’s not weird,” Luntz says. “He’s just a decent guy. We play foos­ball.”

    Luntz’s polit­i­cal ideas, as far as I can tell, amount to a sort of Per­ot­ian rich man’s cen­trism, the type of thing you might hear from a Morn­ing Joe pan­el or a CEOs’ retreat. We’ve got to do some­thing about the deficit, for our chil­dren’s sake. We ought to have uni­ver­sal health­care, but with­out forc­ing peo­ple to buy insur­ance through the gov­ern­ment. We need immi­gra­tion reform, but that does­n’t have to include a path to cit­i­zen­ship. The bankers who con­tributed to the finan­cial cri­sis ought to be in jail, but we ought to stop demo­niz­ing the finan­cial-ser­vices indus­try. To the tycoons who embrace them, these kinds of ideas are not par­ti­san or ide­o­log­i­cal at all. They’re the com­mon-sense plans we’d all be able to agree on if Con­gress would stop bick­er­ing and devote itself to Get­ting Things Done.

    Most of all, Luntz says, he wish­es we would stop yelling at one anoth­er. Luntz dreams of draft­ing some of the rich CEOs he is friends with to come up with a plan for sav­ing Amer­i­ca from its elect­ed offi­cials. “The politi­cians have failed; now it’s up to the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty to stand up and be heard,” he tells me. “I want the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty to step up.” Hav­ing once thought elites need­ed to lis­ten to reg­u­lar peo­ple, he now wants the peo­ple to learn from their mon­eyed bet­ters.

    Luntz’s pop­ulism has turned on itself and become its oppo­site: fear and loathing of the mass­es. “I am grate­ful that Occu­py Wall Street turned out to be a bunch of crazy, dis­gust­ing, rude, hor­ri­ble peo­ple, because they were onto some­thing,” he says. “Lim­baugh made fun of me when I said that Occu­py Wall Street scares me. Because he did­n’t hear what I hear. He does­n’t see what I see.” The peo­ple are angry. They want more, not because we have not giv­en them enough but because we have giv­en them too much.

    ...

    Fear and loathing of the mass­es: That sure sound like the GOP’s new strat­e­gy. As Mol­ly Ball described above, that angst seemed almost like “Per­ot­ian rich man’s cen­trism, the type of thing you might hear from a Morn­ing Joe pan­el or a CEOs’ retreat”. Hence the 47%-flair.

    And that’s what makes Thom Tillis’s 2011 video call­ing for a “divide and con­quer” strat­e­gy so fas­ci­nat­ing: Back in 2011 Tills was expect­ing a heav­i­ly ramped up War on Poor to start in 2013 and that’s exact­ly what hap­pened. Rom­ney’s 2012 47% video was acci­den­tal­ly released and not intend­ed for pub­lic con­sump­tion. But the larg­er War on the Poor that Tillis was envi­sion­ing in 2011 and Rom­ney in 2012 has been at the core of the GOP’s nation­al and local cam­paign strate­gies ever since its out­reach-exper­i­ment just sort of went off the rails in ear­ly 2013 and it’s been down­hill ever since. Luntz seemed to have just had this loss of faith epiphany quite recent­ly in the above Jan­u­ary 2014 arti­cle but he was clear­ly late to the par­ty. It was more of an after­thought.

    So could it be that the GOP’s strate­gists had a plan back in 2011 to wage a ramped up War on the Poor, but not until after the 2012 elec­tion? We can’t know for sure, but if you look at what the GOP was plan­ning back in 2011, it would cer­tain­ly make sense that such plans could qui­et­ly have been in place. Why? Because a rhetor­i­cal War on the Poor is need­ed to wage a war on Oba­macare since a major front in GOP’s War on Oba­macare is the bat­tle to expand Med­ic­aid. And if you know you’re head­ing into an ever-increas­ing bat­tle over Med­ic­aid expan­sion, you would also know that you have to be ready to char­ac­ter­ize the peo­ple you’re try­ing to snatch Med­ic­aid away from as unde­serv­ing louts that should have their babies tak­en away and shunned by the rest of soci­ety. It’s the “almost awe­some in its evil­ness” strat­e­gy. Could that strat­e­gy have been part of the plan even back in 2011 or is Thom Tillis just that much of a GOP vision­ary?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 7, 2014, 6:06 am
  6. Lessons learned:

    12:38 am
    Tue May 6, 2014

    Mis­souri House Joins Sen­ate To Over­ride Veto Of Tax-Cut Bill

    By Mar­shall Grif­fin & Jo Man­nies

    Cred­it Mar­shall Griffin/St. Louis Pub­lic Radio

    The Mis­souri House act­ed quick­ly Tues­day to over­ride Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a tax-cut bill that is esti­mat­ed to cut the state’s rev­enue by about $620 mil­lion a year when ful­ly imple­ment­ed.

    The House obtained the exact num­ber of votes need­ed — 109 — with the help of one Demo­c­rat, Rep. Kei­th Eng­lish of Floris­sant. He joined all of the cham­ber’s 108 Repub­li­cans.

    The House joined the Sen­ate, which vot­ed 23–8 on Mon­day to over­ride the gov­er­nor’s veto, which he issued last week.

    House Speak­er Tim Jones, R‑Eureka, was jubi­lant. “Today, we showed Mis­souri­ans why they elect­ed a Repub­li­can super­ma­jor­i­ty to the Mis­souri leg­is­la­ture: we pass impor­tant, con­ser­v­a­tive poli­cies,” he said in a state­ment after the vote. “Updat­ing our tax laws is an essen­tial, pro-growth reform which will improve our econ­o­my by allow­ing small busi­ness­es, farm­ers, and fam­i­lies across our state to keep more of their own mon­ey. Our high tax rate has been harm­ing our econ­o­my, mak­ing our state less com­pet­i­tive and result­ing in thou­sands of Mis­souri­ans leav­ing our state for low-tax states like Flori­da and Kansas.”

    Nixon swift­ly con­demned the Gen­er­al Assembly’s action, along with edu­ca­tion groups, while busi­ness groups laud­ed legislators’s deci­sion.

    Said Nixon: “While scaled back from last year’s bil­lion-dol­lar House Bill 253, Sen­ate Bill 509 fails to pri­or­i­tize or ade­quate­ly pro­tect pub­lic edu­ca­tion at a time when qual­i­ty pub­lic schools are more impor­tant than ever to our abil­i­ty to cre­ate jobs in the glob­al econ­o­my. And while its authors may have delayed its impact, Sen­ate Bill 509 remains a very real threat to the prin­ci­ples of fis­cal dis­ci­pline that have helped us main­tain our spot­less, AAA rat­ing for decades. ”

    Sup­port­ers, oppo­nents dis­pute effect

    Sen­ate Bill 509 would phase in a reduc­tion in the indi­vid­ual tax rate to 5.5 per­cent from the cur­rent 6 per­cent, while phas­ing in a 25-per­cent deduc­tion on busi­ness income report­ed by indi­vid­u­als. The cuts would begin in the 2017 bud­get year, and only if the state sees income growth of at least $150 mil­lion a year.

    The two sides have tan­gled over Nixon’s asser­tion that a pro­vi­sion in the bill will wipe out state income tax­es on income over $9,000 a year, which would cut the state’s gen­er­al rev­enue by 65 per­cent. Tax cut back­ers deny that the sen­tence in ques­tion would force such a dra­mat­ic cut.

    The Mis­souri Cham­ber of Com­merce main­tains that the tax cut “takes a cau­tious, respon­si­ble approach to reduc­ing our income tax bur­den.”

    “This law will pro­vide stim­u­lus for our small employ­ers while pro­tect­ing edu­ca­tion fund­ing,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Mis­souri Cham­ber pres­i­dent and CEO. “This tax cut illus­trates the Mis­souri Gen­er­al Assembly’s com­mit­ment to job growth and cre­at­ing a busi­ness-friend­ly cli­mate. On behalf of the state’s entire busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty, I’d like to thank them for this suc­cess­ful effort.”

    But the Mis­souri Bud­get Project, a watch­dog group crit­i­cal of the tax cut bill, con­tends that the required growth of $150 mil­lion a year, before any cuts go into effect, is “just a smoke­screen.”

    “State rev­enue needs to grow by around $250 mil­lion each year just to keep up with cur­rent ser­vices,” said the group’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, Amy Blouin. “More­over, because the trig­ger fails to account for already deplet­ed ser­vices, reces­sion-era cuts will become Missouri’s new nor­mal. That will make it even hard­er for us to com­pete as oth­er states invest in their infra­struc­ture and edu­ca­tion needs. SB 509’s trig­gers would have even allowed tax cuts to go into effect dur­ing the midst of the last reces­sion.”

    The Sen­ate over­ride vote had been along par­ty lines, with all Repub­li­cans vot­ing for the tax-cut bill.

    Dur­ing the Sen­ate debate, the bil­l’s chief spon­sor, State Sen. Will Kraus, R‑Lee’s Sum­mit, recount­ed the bil­l’s jour­ney and his efforts to nego­ti­ate with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nor on a pro­pos­al that he would be will­ing to sign into law. Nixon said in Feb­ru­ary that any tax cut bill must also ful­ly fund the state’s K‑12 foun­da­tion for­mu­la and must also over­haul Mis­souri’s sys­tem of tax cred­its.

    In March, Kraus offered sub­sti­tute ver­sions of his tax cut bill that includ­ed the gov­er­nor’s con­di­tions, but they went nowhere in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate. Kraus lat­er with­drew the gov­er­nor’s con­di­tions from the bill and added lan­guage delay­ing the tax cut until 2017, which remained in the final ver­sion that was vetoed last week.

    “Two years (from now) was what the gov­er­nor was talk­ing about of how we could ful­ly fund the (K‑12) for­mu­la,” Kraus said Mon­day before the veto over­ride vote. “I’m com­mit­ted to that.”

    House back­ers cite Kansas’ tax cuts

    Grow Mis­souri, one of the groups back­ing the tax cut, con­tend­ed that it will help Mis­souri com­pete with oth­er states. “I believe pass­ing tax reform leg­is­la­tion will go a long way toward help­ing stim­u­late Missouri’s econ­o­my,” said Aaron Willard, Grow Mis­souri’s trea­sur­er. “Thanks to (leg­is­la­tors’) com­mit­ment, Mis­souri­ans will get to keep a lit­tle more mon­ey in their pock­ets and busi­ness­es will be bet­ter posi­tioned to com­pete. At the same time, this leg­is­la­tion will respon­si­bly con­trol growth and gov­ern­ment spend­ing as our econ­o­my expands. We’re excit­ed about today’s vote and are already work­ing on the next phase of our efforts, which will begin imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the close of ses­sion.”

    But the Mis­souri Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents many of the state’s teach­ers, pre­dict­ed that pub­lic edu­ca­tion will be among the losers.

    The asso­ci­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, Eng­lish teacher Charles E. Smith, said, “SB 509’s $620 mil­lion dol­lar give­away to lawyers, lob­by­ists and spe­cial inter­ests dimin­ish­es the abil­i­ty of our state to meet its min­i­mum oblig­a­tion to fund our local schools. As we’ve seen in Kansas, risky tax schemes fail to cre­ate jobs but lead to dras­tic cuts in vital ser­vices. In the end the bur­den of the cuts will be borne by stu­dents, par­ents, and our local school dis­tricts.”

    ...

    Note that “Grow Mis­souri” received $1.8 mil­lion in 2013 from the biggest polit­i­cal con­trib­u­tor in the state — and a major financier of ALEC and efforts to gut the teach­ers’ union — Rex Sin­que­fiel.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    The House spent more than an hour late Mon­day debat­ing the bill, before return­ing Tues­day morn­ing for the final vote. Repub­li­cans argued the mea­sure would help Mis­souri com­pete with Kansas and oth­er near­by low­er-tax states, while at the same time say­ing their pro­pos­al is bet­ter than what Kansas put in place because the tax cut would be phased in.

    “In this econ­o­my … I would nor­mal­ly be wary of a tax cut at this time, were it not for the fail-safes and trig­gers that require at least $150 mil­lion in rev­enue growth for these tax cuts to take effect,” said Jeff Grisamore, R‑Lee’s Sum­mit. “The goal of this bill is to put more mon­ey in the pocket(s) of indi­vid­ual tax­pay­ers and small busi­ness­es that are the engine of our state econ­o­my, that cre­ate jobs, and pro­vide increased rev­enues for our state.”

    Grisamore’s dis­trict is with­in the Kansas City area, as is the dis­trict rep­re­sent­ed by Demo­c­rat Jon Car­pen­ter of Glad­stone.

    “So is (the tax cut) gonna do any good? I don’t think so — I don’t think going from 6 to 5–1/2 (per­cent) does a lick of good,” Car­pen­ter said. “I don’t think one per­son, lit­er­al­ly a sin­gle per­son, is gonna move to the state of Mis­souri and set up shop here because he or she read that we went from 6 to 5–1/2 (per­cent) … I don’t think one sin­gle per­son will do it.”

    Major­i­ty Floor Leader John Diehl, R‑Town and Coun­try, post­poned the vote because fel­low Repub­li­can Rick Brat­tin of Har­risonville was away from Jef­fer­son City due to a death in the fam­i­ly. Brat­tin was back in the cham­ber Tues­day for the final vote.

    ...

    So Mis­souri’s state leg­is­la­tures was appar­ent­ly so inspired by Moody’s down­grad­ing of Kansas that it over­rode a veto to ensure that Mis­souri could guar­an­tee aus­ter­i­ty for years to come. But hey, at least Mis­souri’s tax­es will be low­er! Well, some of them:

    Tax cuts gone bad? Hey, not my prob­lem
    May 6
    By Bar­bara Shelly
    The Kansas City Star

    It is a fait accom­pli. A done deal. By the barest of mar­gins, the Mis­souri Gen­er­al Assem­bly has over­rid­den Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that phas­es in income tax cuts.

    Start­ing in 2017, busi­ness­es orga­nized as “pass through” enti­ties (mean­ing their own­ers declare the busi­ness income on their per­son­al tax forms) will receive tax breaks that even­tu­al­ly will reach 25 per­cent. Tax rates for indi­vid­u­als will begin drop­ping until they reach one half of one per­cent. For most Mis­souri­ans, that will amount to some­where between $30 and $70 a year. That’s hard­ly the “wel­come tax relief” sup­port­ers of the tax cut bill are boast­ing about, but it’s a hit of $600 mil­lion or more a year to the state’s bud­get each year.

    Some quick thoughts on the bill and what hap­pened over the last two days in Jef­fer­son City:

    ...

    Hav­ing secured its long-await­ed tax cut, the Gen­er­al Assem­bly now appears pre­pared to...raise tax­es! Or at least ask vot­ers to do so. Law­mak­ers are close to plac­ing on the bal­lot a pro­pos­al to increase the state sales tax by three-fourths of one per­cent to pay for road repairs and tran­sit projects. So they’ll be giv­ing away $600 mil­lion in tax cuts with a bill that favors cer­tain busi­ness­es and rich peo­ple, while seek­ing to bring in $500 mil­lion a year through a sales tax felt most keen­ly by low-income Mis­souri­ans and senior cit­i­zens. Go fig­ure.

    Tax cuts for the rich and tax hikes for the poor? Take that Kansas! The race to the bot­tom sure is heat­ing up on the Kansas-Mis­souri bor­der and why should­n’t it? The com­pet­i­tive dri­ve (to fol­low orders) is intense!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 7, 2014, 11:06 am
  7. Atrios has a take on Tim Gei­th­n­er’s new book about the finan­cial cri­sis that sure has a lot of par­al­lels to the GOP’s refusal to expand Med­ic­aid and the GOP’s War on the Poor:

    Escha­ton
    Thurs­day, May 08, 2014
    A Hor­ri­ble Per­son
    by Atrios at 09:34

    Some­one in a posi­tion to know once told me some­thing along the lines that Gei­th­n­er is as hor­ri­ble as, or even worse than, you think.

    The mad­den­ing thing is that it did­n’t have to be either/or. You could have eas­i­ly com­mit­ted to help­ing home­own­ers and the banks, but that did­n’t fit the moral­i­ty sto­ry they want­ed to tell. The banks weren’t at fault, it was all the peo­ple who took out bad loans who were. They had to be pun­ished.

    The US’s aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies did­n’t just include seques­tra­tion and gov­ern­ment shut­downs. Aus­ter­i­ty arrived from a lack of stim­u­lus poli­cies large enough to real­ly address for the scale of a cri­sis that caused an econ­o­my-wide col­lapse in demand.

    And why did­n’t we have a mean­ing­ful stim­u­lus? Junk eco­nom­ics is one answer, but anoth­er is a deep seat­ed fear of ‘moral haz­ard’: If soci­ety bails out those that are per­ceived to be unde­serv­ing, it’s not only unjust at the moment it also sends a sig­nal to every­one that there won’t be any con­se­quences for their actions. And then soci­ety col­laps­es. At least that’s the fear. And you can’t have a fear of moral haz­ard with­out a sense that the peo­ple you’d be help­ing have some­how behaved in an immoral man­ner.

    This is why it’s so impor­tant to those lead­ing the charge to block Med­ic­aid expan­sion that the US ‘divides and con­quers’ the poor. Undo­ing the New Deal isn’t going to be easy. It requires A LOT of very immoral poor peo­ple that are very haz­ardous to help.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 8, 2014, 8:16 am
  8. Break­ing news: Lob­by­ists find noth­ing wrong with lob­by­ing, although some­times they’re asked to give a lit­tle too much:

    Lawrence Jour­nal World
    For­mer House speak­er, now lob­by­ist says Kan­Care bid­ding process fol­lowed the law

    By Scott Roth­schild

    May 9, 2014

    Tope­ka — Two years ago, lob­by­ist Doug Mays had a front row seat to the bid­ding process for con­tracts under Kan­Care, which was Gov. Sam Brown­back­’s over­haul of the $3 bil­lion Med­ic­aid pro­gram.

    Mays, a for­mer leg­is­la­tor, House speak­er and state secu­ri­ties com­mis­sion­er, was lob­by­ing for Coven­try Health Care, one of the pri­vate health insur­ance com­pa­nies that had bid on the con­tract.

    When awards were announced in June 2012, Coven­try was­n’t select­ed.

    Even so, Mays, a Repub­li­can from Tope­ka, said on Thurs­day that the bid­ding process was fair.

    “We did­n’t feel like there was any unfair advan­tage based on who was work­ing for who,” Mays said.

    Mays said he has seen con­tract bid­ding from both sides — as a House speak­er and lob­by­ist — and felt like the bid­ding for Kan­Care con­tracts fol­lowed the rules. “I saw noth­ing that made me sus­pi­cious,” he said.

    Accord­ing to reports from sev­er­al news orga­ni­za­tions and a per­son who spoke to the Jour­nal-World on the con­di­tion that they not be named, the FBI is look­ing into alle­ga­tions of influ­ence-ped­dling in the estab­lish­ment of Kan­Care.

    On Mon­day, Brown­back char­ac­ter­ized the reports of the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion as a smear cam­paign in an inter­view with the Wichi­ta Eagle.

    The FBI has a long­stand­ing pol­i­cy not to con­firm or deny the exis­tence of an inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Kan­Care lob­by­ists have ties to Brown­back

    The three com­pa­nies select­ed by the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion to pro­vide health­care under Kan­Care were Ameri­group Kansas, Unit­ed Health Ser­vices, and Cen­tene Corp., which does busi­ness in Kansas under the name Sun­flower State Health Plan.

    The lob­by­ists for those com­pa­nies all have ties to Brown­back.

    ...

    Lob­by­ists’ opin­ions dif­fer on admin­is­tra­tion

    Ron Gach­es, who leads that lob­by­ing firm, said he has not been con­tact­ed by the FBI or any law enforce­ment agency.

    Gach­es said he has­n’t expe­ri­enced any­thing inap­pro­pri­ate relat­ed to lob­by­ing since the elec­tion of Brown­back in 2010.

    “Notwith­stand­ing oth­er accounts, I don’t see a whole lot going on dif­fer­ent than the change of any oth­er admin­is­tra­tion. There are always cer­tain lob­by­ists who have clos­er rela­tions with an admin­is­tra­tion,” he said.

    Gach­es said the elec­tion of Brown­back and more con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans in the Leg­is­la­ture has changed the bal­ance of polit­i­cal pow­er.

    “We have moved to the right in Kansas pol­i­tics, and that is where the major­i­ty of vot­ers seem to be.

    “And there was a lot of pent-up demand by con­ser­v­a­tive inter­est groups and leg­is­la­tors to go work their agen­da that had been tamped down for a while. So, my own per­spec­tive is some of the push­back on the tac­tics and pol­i­tics are com­ing from the folks who are on the short side now of the polit­i­cal math,” he said.

    Anoth­er lob­by­ist who would speak only on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty said that most Kansas lob­by­ists have been con­tact­ed by the FBI over the past 18 months.

    The lob­by­ist said the FBI want­ed to know if the lob­by­ing and influ­ence cul­ture at the State­house had changed under the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion.

    The lob­by­ist said the cul­ture had indeed changed, but that they did not think any­thing ille­gal was going on. When the FBI asked if there was “pay to play,” the lob­by­ist said: “I could not give them any exam­ples.”

    Ques­tions raised about fundrais­er

    Ear­li­er this week, an arti­cle that appeared in the Kansas City Star and Wichi­ta Eagle said part of the FBI probe cen­ters on a Sept. 24, 2012, fundrais­er head­ed by Brown­back on behalf of 14 Repub­li­cans who had won their Sen­ate GOP pri­maries.

    Almost all of those Repub­li­cans had defeat­ed incum­bent Repub­li­cans in the August pri­ma­ry in which Brown­back helped con­ser­v­a­tives defeat mod­er­ates.

    The fundrais­er sought funds from lob­by­ists. To be list­ed as a “spon­sor” required a $1,000 dona­tion for each can­di­date.

    Gach­es said his lob­by­ing group was one of those asked to donate funds, but Gach­es said he did­n’t feel strong-armed to donate.

    One lob­by­ist who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty said they felt the fund-rais­er was some­what unseem­ly because they had received a call about it from the gov­er­nor’s office instead of a cam­paign offi­cial.

    Anoth­er lob­by­ist said that while the fundrais­er itself was­n’t unusu­al, what raised eye­brows about the event was the amount of mon­ey request­ed. A lob­by­ist could spend $14,000 at the event, which is a lot by Kansas polit­i­cal stan­dards, the lob­by­ist said.

    Too bad there weren’t any lob­by­ists on the Supreme Court to feel their lob­by­ist pain dur­ing the recent McCutcheon vs FEC rul­ing that lift­ed per­son­al dona­tion lim­its. Signs of the times...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 9, 2014, 12:29 pm
  9. Up is down on the socioe­co­nom­ic flat Earth:

    The Amer­i­can Prospect
    Koch Broth­ers Strug­gle Against Mis­con­cep­tion That They Care About the Wealthy

    Paul Wald­man

    May 9, 2014

    It’s hard to con­vince vot­ers your poli­cies are all about help­ing the less for­tu­nate if you’re simul­ta­ne­ous­ly heap­ing con­tempt on them.

    Politi­co’s Ken­neth Vogel got hold of some inter­nal strat­e­gy doc­u­ments from Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, the pass-through for much of the polit­i­cal spend­ing by car­toon vil­lains Charles and David Koch, and while apart from the eye-pop­ping spend­ing being planned ($125 mil­lion this year>) there isn’t too much that’s shock­ing, there is this poignant pas­sage about how mis­un­der­stood free-mar­ket ide­ol­o­gy is among the vot­ers:

    “If the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion told us any­thing, it’s that Amer­i­cans place a great impor­tance on tak­ing care of those in need and avoid­ing harm to the weak,” reads the AFP memo.

    Echo­ing Charles Koch’s oppo­si­tion to the min­i­mum wage, it asserts that free mar­ket, low-reg­u­la­tion poli­cies “cre­ate the great­est lev­els of pros­per­i­ty and oppor­tu­ni­ty for all Amer­i­cans, espe­cial­ly for soci­ety’s poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble.” Yet, the memo says, “we con­sis­tent­ly see that Amer­i­cans in gen­er­al are con­cerned that free-mar­ket pol­i­cy — and its advo­cates — ben­e­fit the rich and pow­er­ful more than the most vul­ner­a­ble of soci­ety. …We must cor­rect this mis­con­cep­tion.”

    If you read close­ly, you see that this is actu­al­ly a dif­fer­ent kind of claim than free mar­ke­teers usu­al­ly make. They often argue that unfet­tered mar­kets will pro­vide bet­ter out­comes for poor peo­ple than free mar­kets with the help of a safe­ty net will. And they argue that free mar­kets are good for every­one. But this goes far­ther. Maybe I’m not suf­fi­cient­ly steeped in their rhetoric and dog­ma, but I don’t recall hear­ing too often that their pol­i­cy agen­da, which includes things like slash­ing envi­ron­men­tal and work­er safe­ty reg­u­la­tions, cut­ting tax­es for the wealthy, and evis­cer­at­ing safe­ty net pro­grams, actu­al­ly pro­vides more ben­e­fits to the poor than to the rich.

    It’s one thing to say, sure, when we cut cap­i­tal gains tax­es the wealthy ben­e­fit, but in the end it helps the whole econ­o­my. It’s anoth­er thing entire­ly to say that the great­est ben­e­fit from those tax cuts accrue to the poor.

    ...

    But this cre­ates a ten­sion with anoth­er facet of free mar­ket rhetoric, which is that the way con­ser­v­a­tives often argue against poli­cies that ben­e­fit the less for­tu­nate is by heap­ing con­tempt on them, whether it’s Mitt Rom­ney talk­ing about the 47 per­cent or North Car­oli­na Sen­ate can­di­date Thom Tillis say­ing that the best way to under­mine social pro­grams is to get dis­abled peo­ple on pub­lic assis­tance to “look down” on poor peo­ple as a way to “divide and con­quer the peo­ple who are on assis­tance.” It’s awful­ly hard to con­vince any­one that you care deeply about the fate of the poor when you keep talk­ing about how despi­ca­ble they are. So when you then try to “cor­rect the mis­con­cep­tion” that the poli­cies you’re push­ing won’t actu­al­ly be all that ben­e­fi­cial to the wealthy, there’s going to be a good deal of skep­ti­cism.

    Yep, trick­le down eco­nom­ic poli­cies and mass dereg­u­la­tions are pop­ulist! The Kochs are seri­ous­ly going with this angle!

    And keep in mind that in last year’s inter­view of Charles Koch, where he dis­cuss­es his oppo­si­tion to the min­i­mum wage and how dereg­u­la­tion pri­ma­ry helps the poor, he lumps reg­u­la­tions, the min­i­mum wage, and a host of oth­er gov­ern­ment pro­tec­tions in with “a cul­ture of depen­den­cy”. So, instead of blam­ing the peo­ple that use gov­ern­ment pro­grams, he’s blam­ing gov­ern­ment itself for cre­at­ing the need for gov­ern­ment pro­grams by cre­at­ing them in the first place. If we could all unleash our inner socioe­co­nom­ic Mad Max, every­one would be as self-suf­fi­cient as a bil­lion­aire:

    Charles Koch launch­ing Wichi­ta cam­paign about eco­nom­ic free­dom, gov­ern­ment over­reach

    By Roy Wen­zl
    The Wichi­ta Eagle

    Pub­lished Tues­day, July 9, 2013, at 9:05 p.m.
    Updat­ed Wednes­day, July 10, 2013, at 11 a.m

    Charles Koch, who runs Koch Indus­tries and con­tributes to polit­i­cal groups and cam­paigns, said he will launch a new cam­paign on Wednes­day to laud eco­nom­ic free­dom and warn the pub­lic about gov­ern­ment over­reach.

    He knows this means he will again draw fire from polit­i­cal crit­ics. His mem­o­ry of the 2012 polit­i­cal cam­paign is still fresh. Peo­ple said he tried to buy elec­tions, and he recalls crit­ics call­ing him names.

    “Evil Koch broth­er,” he said. “Greedy and stuff.”

    In that cam­paign, con­duct­ed most­ly out of the lime­light, he spent mil­lions (he has not said how much) help­ing 2012 can­di­dates oppose Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and sup­port con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an eco­nom­ic poli­cies.

    The effort begin­ning this week will cost the Charles Koch Foun­da­tion about $200,000 and run as a media cam­paign in Wichi­ta for four weeks, he said. If peo­ple like it, he said, he might expand it to oth­er cities.
    ...

    When think­ing about a $200k four-week media cam­paign in Wichi­ta Kansas, keep in mind that the cur­rent plan for nation­al polit­i­cal spend­ing by the Koch’s is $125 mil­lion this year alone. Also keep in mind that $125 mil­lion is a drop in the buck­et.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    The point of it, Koch said, is that he believes pros­per­i­ty grows where eco­nom­ic free­dom is great­est, where gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tion in busi­ness affairs is kept to a min­i­mum. He hopes his ideas will help the coun­try grow, he said. In his inter­view he empha­sized sev­er­al times that he believes his ideas on eco­nom­ics will help dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple. Gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions – includ­ing the min­i­mum wage law – tend to hold every­one back, he said.

    “We want to do a bet­ter job of rais­ing up the dis­ad­van­taged and the poor­est in this coun­try, rather than say­ing ‘Oh, we’re just fine now.’ We’re not say­ing that at all. What we’re say­ing is, we need to ana­lyze all these addi­tion­al poli­cies, these sub­si­dies, this crony­ism, this avalanche of reg­u­la­tions, all these things that are cre­at­ing a cul­ture of depen­den­cy. And like per­mit­ting, to start a busi­ness, in many cities, to dri­ve a taxi­cab, to become a hair­dress­er. Any­thing that peo­ple with lim­it­ed cap­i­tal can do to raise them­selves up, they keep throw­ing obsta­cles in their way. And so we’ve got to clear those out. Or the min­i­mum wage. Or any­thing that reduces the mobil­i­ty of labor.”

    ...

    The Koch broth­ers’ new strat­e­gy of cham­pi­oning the poor by free­ing them of the evils of gov­ern­ment depen­den­cy is an exam­ple of the strat­e­gy where you blend that “divide and con­quer” sen­ti­ment of Thom Tillis with tra­di­tion­al anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment: instead of blam­ing the poor for their pover­ty, the Kochs are blam­ing gov­ern­ment for cor­rupt­ing the poor by cod­dling peo­ple with things like the New Deal.

    So it’s still the same ‘no gov­ern­ment for the proles’-policy pre­scrip­tion that you get from the GOP’s nor­mal ‘blame the pro­les’ argu­ments, but with a twist. It’s not your fault any­more for using gov­ern­ment ser­vices (like Medicare). It’s the gov­ern­men­t’s fault for pro­vid­ing those pro­grams in the first place and cre­at­ing this cul­ture of depen­den­cy (like Social Secu­ri­ty).

    If these cor­rupt­ing gov­ern­ment pro­grams had­n’t exist­ed all these decades, peo­ple would­n’t need them. Every­one would just be super knowl­edge­able regard­ing what’s safe and what’s not in the mod­ern econ­o­my and every­one would be employed and well paid. Except for the tru­ly bad peo­ple. That is all pos­si­ble. If only free­dom was free from the shack­les of gov­ern­ment.

    Can $125 mil­lion free free­dom in 2014? If not, there’s a lot more where that came from.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 11, 2014, 11:16 pm
  10. So help­ing peo­ple get insur­ance cov­er­age helps the hos­pi­tals and local economies too and every­one’s life improves. It’s almost as if help­ing helps. Weird:

    TPM Livewire
    Few­er Unin­sured Are Going To The Hos­pi­tal In States That Expand­ed Med­ic­aid

    Dylan Scott – May 12, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT

    With Oba­macare’s cov­er­age expan­sion ful­ly under­way, health care providers have start­ed to notice changes. The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed on Mon­day that hos­pi­tals oper­at­ing in states that expand­ed Med­ic­aid under the law are see­ing notably few­er unin­sured patients.

    Wonkblog’s Jason Mill­man delved into earn­ings calls for pub­licly trad­ed hos­pi­tals and noticed the trend. In expand­ing states, the num­ber of unin­sured peo­ple that hos­pi­tals saw was going down sig­nif­i­cant­ly. But in non-expand­ing states, the shift was much less pro­nounced, if it was occur­ring at all.

    Hos­pi­tal Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­i­ca exec­u­tives said unin­sured admis­sions dropped 29 per­cent in states that expand­ed Med­ic­aid, but actu­al­ly increased by 5.9 per­cent in non-expand­ing states.

    Com­mu­ni­ty Health Sys­tems report­ed that self-pay admis­sions — fre­quent­ly unin­sured — fell 28 per­cent in Med­ic­aid-expand­ing states, while their self-pay emer­gency room vis­its declined by 16 per­cent in those states but rose in states that declined to expand Med­ic­aid.

    Final­ly, Tenet Health­care detect­ed a 33 per­cent drop in its unin­sured vis­its in expand­ing states, but a 2 per­cent bump in non-expand­ing states.

    Those drops in unin­sured vis­its were typ­i­cal­ly paired with an increase in Med­ic­aid-paid vis­its, up to 22 per­cent, in expand­ing states.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 12, 2014, 2:54 pm
  11. WTF indeed:

    Politi­co
    House GOP releas­es ag bud­get

    By DAVID ROGERS | 5/19/14 11:39 AM EDT

    House Repub­li­cans pro­posed a $20.9 bil­lion bud­get for agri­cul­ture and food safe­ty pro­grams Mon­day, an 82-page bill that chal­lenges the White House on nutri­tion rules and denies major new fund­ing sought by the Com­mod­i­ty Futures Trad­ing Com­mis­sion to bet­ter reg­u­late the rich deriv­a­tives mar­ket.

    The CFTC fares bet­ter than in the past in that the GOP allows for a mod­est $3 mil­lion increase for infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy invest­ments. But the $218 mil­lion bud­get is still $62 mil­lion less than Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s request and con­tin­ues a pat­tern that has frus­trat­ed the administration’s abil­i­ty to imple­ment Wall Street reforms called for under the Dodd-Frank law enact­ed in July 2010.

    In the case of nutri­tion pro­grams, the House bill seeks to open the door for starchy, white pota­toes to be added to the list of qual­i­fied veg­eta­bles under the WIC sup­ple­men­tal feed­ing pro­gram for preg­nant women and their young chil­dren. The Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment would also be required to estab­lish a waiv­er process for local school dis­tricts which have found it too cost­ly to com­ply with tougher nutri­tion stan­dards for school lunch and break­fast pro­grams.

    And in a sur­pris­ing twist, the bill lan­guage spec­i­fies that only rur­al areas are to ben­e­fit in the future from fund­ing request­ed by the admin­is­tra­tion this year to con­tin­ue a mod­est sum­mer demon­stra­tion pro­gram to help chil­dren from low-income house­holds — both urban and rur­al — dur­ing those months when school meals are not avail­able.

    Since 2010, the pro­gram has oper­at­ed from an ini­tial appro­pri­a­tion of $85 mil­lion, and the goal has been to test alter­na­tive approach­es to dis­trib­ute aid when schools are not in ses­sion. The White House asked for an addi­tion­al $30 mil­lion to con­tin­ue the effort, but the House bill pro­vides $27 mil­lion for what’s described as an entire­ly new pilot pro­gram focused on rur­al areas only.

    Democ­rats were sur­prised to see urban chil­dren were exclud­ed. And the GOP had some trou­ble explain­ing the his­to­ry itself. But a spokes­woman con­firmed that the intent of the bill is a pilot project in “rur­al areas” only.

    In the case of WIC and white pota­toes, the pro­vi­sion fol­lows on strong lob­by­ing by the indus­try which is hop­ing to win sim­i­lar lan­guage Thurs­day when the full Sen­ate Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee is slat­ed to con­sid­er its own ver­sion of the same agri­cul­ture bill.

    ...

    So if the urban kids take non-school jobs dur­ing the sum­mer months will the GOP let them par­tic­i­pate in the sum­mer food assis­tance pro­gram? Maybe they could work at a local hos­pi­tal.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 21, 2014, 9:48 am
  12. Behold, the Kansas mir­a­cle:

    The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor
    The Kansas Mir­a­cle

    By Ben Smith on 5.30.14 | 11:35AM

    When dis­cussing job growth, Texas is usu­al­ly the first state men­tioned, and for good rea­son. Politi­co has writ­ten about Gov­er­nor Rick Perry’s abil­i­ty to poach jobs from blue states and a home for them in his red state. One famous exam­ple is Glenn Beck’s deci­sion to move his Blaze head­quar­ters from New York to Texas. Lost in all this Texas talk, how­ev­er, is anoth­er mir­a­cle tak­ing place under Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Sam Brown­back.

    At a recent Her­itage Foun­da­tion pan­el dis­cussing the book An Inquiry Into the Nature and Caus­es of the Wealth of States, one of the authors, econ­o­mist Stephen Moore, intro­duced Brown­back to dis­cuss how the gov­er­nor’s pol­i­cy deci­sions were cre­at­ing an eco­nom­ic pow­er­house in Kansas.

    “It’s time for us to start to start prep­ping for an Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion,” Brown­back stat­ed, “and it must be led by the states.” He went on to exco­ri­ate the big gov­ern­ment poli­cies that many blue states and many in D.C. advo­cate: “We don’t need to be Europe, and D.C. shouldn’t be Brus­sels.

    ...

    To read more about the pan­el and the book, check out John Fund’s piece from the Nation­al Review here.

    Oh, so try­ing to avoid being like Europe is how gov­er­nor Brown­back works his mir­a­cle mag­ic? Ok. Well, he might want to end the Euro­pean-style ded­i­ca­tion to eco­nom­ic poli­cies that are destroy­ing economies in real-time. That might make this the kind of mir­a­cle that even non-mil­lion­aires can enjoy:

    The Kansas City Star

    Sam Brownback’s tax cuts now full-blown dis­as­ter for Kansans
    May 30
    By YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

    Even in the make-believe world of Kansas Gov. Sam Brown­back and oth­er tax-cut advo­cates who like to ignore real­i­ty, Friday’s news about plung­ing state rev­enues was an utter dis­as­ter.

    It was a dis­as­ter for sev­er­al mil­lion Kansans who depend on tax rev­enues to pay for pub­lic ser­vices such as schools and roads.

    And it was a dis­as­ter for Brown­back as he gets ready to run for re-elec­tion.

    The state said it col­lect­ed $217 mil­lion less in tax­es than it expect­ed.

    That came on top of being $93 mil­lion short of esti­mates in April.

    In short, the state is bring­ing in less mon­ey because of low­er tax­es. Seems pret­ty sim­ple to fig­ure out.

    Moody’s down­grad­ed Kansas’ bond rat­ing after April’s dis­mal report. What could the bond rat­ings agen­cies do with May’s meek num­bers in hand?

    In both months, Rev­enue Sec­re­tary Nick Jor­dan has trot­ted out to claim these aren’t real prob­lems, that they can be blamed on fed­er­al tax poli­cies that caused peo­ple to claim tax­able gains in 2012, less­en­ing their poten­tial tax­able incomes in 2013.

    Here’s a sto­ry that looks at what hap­pened nation­al­ly;many states did indeed see low­er income tax rev­enues, with Kansas hav­ing one of the worst drops in the nation with that $93 mil­lion short­fall.

    (By the way, that wasn’t true for Mis­souri, which was down only slight­ly in April, and hasn’t released May’s num­bers yet.)

    “The big chunk should be over,” Jor­dan said Fri­day. “The big lug is done.”

    Wait, what’s that?

    Here’s what Jor­dan said last month, after the ini­tial drop of “only” $93 mil­lion in real rev­enues vs. pro­ject­ed intake.

    “Our bud­get is built on whether we are meet­ing the esti­mates,” Jor­dan said at the time, “which tells you what’s hap­pen­ing with the bud­get.”

    OK, Nick, here’s what is hap­pen­ing with the state bud­get: Over­all, the state is now 6 per­cent short — or $310 mil­lion — of what it had pro­ject­ed to take in from last July through May.

    That’s a large num­ber, large enough it may force Brown­back to start hav­ing to con­sid­er cuts in state ser­vices. As col­league Barb Shelly points out, that would be a tough thing to have to do when locked in a re-elec­tion bat­tle, like­ly with Demo­c­rat Paul Davis, this Novem­ber.

    ...

    The rev­enue short­falls are so large they’re going to force fur­ther cuts in state ser­vices. Suc­cess! It’s also a pre­view for the kind of suc­cess much of the rest of the US can expect. Brown­back­o­nom­ics is more pop­u­lar (in state cap­i­tals) than you might expect:

    Exclu­sive: Like New Jer­sey, most states felt drop in April income tax­es

    By Lisa Lam­bert and Karen Pierog

    WASHINGTON/CHICAGO Fri May 23, 2014 7:04am EDT

    (Reuters) — New Jer­sey, which revealed a mas­sive bud­get short­fall this week, is far from alone in feel­ing the pinch of low­er income tax rev­enues in the key month of April, a Reuters analy­sis shows.

    Per­son­al income tax col­lec­tions plunged last month from a year ear­li­er in 27 of 32 states for which Reuters was able to col­lect data. That’s most of the 43 states that levy income tax­es, and drops were as high as 50 per­cent.

    While many states pre­dict­ed tough times this year, a hand­ful includ­ing New Jer­sey and Penn­syl­va­nia is set to face hard deci­sions on either cut­ting spend­ing or rais­ing tax­es.

    New Jer­sey, for exam­ple, is cut­ting state con­tri­bu­tions to the pen­sions sys­tem by 60 per­cent for the next two years. By the end of last year, 26 states had still not seen over­all tax rev­enue return to pre-reces­sion lev­els, accord­ing to recent data from Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts.

    “There are states that are more cau­tious, but there is also New Jer­sey. There is also Kansas, Penn­syl­va­nia,” said Lucy Dadayan, a senior pol­i­cy ana­lyst at the Rock­e­feller Insti­tute of Gov­ern­ment.

    “Their pro­jec­tions are more opti­mistic than the real­i­ty,” she said. “They either have to cut ser­vices — have to cut on the spend­ing side — or raise tax­es.”

    Even over­all, states’ prospects for growth in the first half of cal­en­dar 2014 are “very, very weak,” she added. “And then we’ll see a very slow rebound­ing.”

    New Jer­sey this week emerged as the poster child for the issue. Gov­er­nor Chris Christie unveiled a short­fall of more than $1 bil­lion for the bud­get year end­ing in just six weeks. A mas­sive drop in April income tax col­lec­tions was the main cul­prit, although the state has not detailed just how far below tar­get they were.

    April is the most impor­tant month for income tax rev­enues because of state and fed­er­al fil­ing dead­lines, and tax­pay­ers writ­ing the biggest checks tend to file at the last moment.

    Part of the drop in rev­enues reflects a rush to pay last year, before tax hikes took effect. Many sold stocks, for exam­ple, to take the tax hit while rates were rel­a­tive­ly low. >But the drop still sig­nals that a key rev­enue source for many states will be weak this year.

    Income tax rev­enues declined by an aver­age of 13 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous April in the 32 states for which Reuters has data. Only five states took in more year over year: Delaware, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Okla­homa, Ore­gon and Vir­ginia.

    Per­son­al income tax­es make up a lit­tle more than a third of states’ total gen­er­al fund rev­enue, and sales tax­es com­prise rough­ly anoth­er third. Just sev­en states — Alas­ka, Flori­da, Neva­da, South Dako­ta, Texas, Wash­ing­ton and Wyoming — col­lect no income tax, and two oth­ers — New Hamp­shire and Ten­nessee — only tax div­i­dend and inter­est income, not wages.

    ...

    TAX CUT IMPACTS

    Tax cuts are also a fac­tor. Eigh­teen states cut per­son­al income tax­es in 2013, while six increased them.

    In Ohio, which enact­ed a $2.6 bil­lion, three-year tax cut last year, April income tax col­lec­tions fell by 45 per­cent. The state, how­ev­er, par­tial­ly off­set the rev­enue loss by increas­ing the state sales tax. Ohio’s job­less rate, mean­while, has dropped steeply this year to 5.7 per­cent last month from 7.3 per­cent in April 2013.

    The only state to see a big­ger per­cent­age drop in income tax receipts was Kansas, which in 2012 passed a big cut in tax rates. Col­lec­tions fell 50 per­cent to $226 mil­lion from $453 mil­lion. That’s near­ly $90 mil­lion less than pro­ject­ed by Kansas.

    Moody’s Investors Ser­vice in April cut Kansas’ cred­it rat­ing a notch to Aa2, cit­ing, among oth­er fac­tors, tax cuts that were not ful­ly off­set with recur­ring spend­ing cuts.

    As you can see, with the con­tem­po­rary GOP you don’t need an EU-style sys­tem to get Euro­pean-style self-defeat­ing aus­ter­i­ty death-spi­rals. The GOP’s “let’s bank­rupt the states to undo the New Deal” state of mind is more than enough to guar­an­tee less for almost every­one. It’s a mir­a­cle.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 2, 2014, 10:00 am
  13. Char­i­ta­ble spend­ing by hos­pi­tals is up in the states that won’t expand Med­ic­aid. That’s a good thing, right? No?

    Hos­pi­tals Sav­ing Mil­lions In States That Expand­ed Med­ic­aid: Study
    The Huff­in­g­ton Post | By Shadee Ashtari

    Post­ed: 06/04/2014 1:17 pm EDT Updat­ed: 06/04/2014 5:59 pm EDT

    Hos­pi­tals in states that have expand­ed Med­ic­aid cov­er­age under the Afford­able Care Act have wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in the vol­ume of unin­sured patients treat­ed and the amount of char­i­ty care pro­vid­ed in the first quar­ter of 2014, accord­ing to a new study by the Col­orado Hos­pi­tal Asso­ci­a­tion released Mon­day.

    After gath­er­ing data from 465 hos­pi­tals in 30 states — 15 that expand­ed Med­ic­aid and 15 that did not — the report con­clud­ed that in states that chose to par­tic­i­pate in Med­ic­aid expan­sion, the aver­age char­i­ty care cost per hos­pi­tal decreased from $2.8 mil­lion to $1.9 mil­lion.

    In non-expan­sion states, hos­pi­tals wit­nessed an increase in char­i­ty care spend­ing, from $3.8 mil­lion to $4.2 mil­lion, with the pro­por­tion of Med­ic­aid and self-pay­ing patients remain­ing unchanged.

    By expand­ing Med­ic­aid to include Amer­i­cans mak­ing up to 133 per­cent of the fed­er­al pover­ty lev­el, expan­sion states expe­ri­enced an aver­age increase of 29 per­cent in Med­ic­aid cas­es, which could reduce health care costs by reduc­ing the lev­els of uncom­pen­sat­ed care, accord­ing to Steven Sum­mer, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Col­orado Hos­pi­tal Asso­ci­a­tion.

    Monday’s report also con­firmed that the major­i­ty of new enrollees under the new eli­gi­bil­i­ty require­ments are pre­vi­ous­ly unin­sured res­i­dents, as opposed to those switch­ing from pri­vate to pub­lic insur­ance.

    If ful­ly imple­ment­ed, Med­ic­aid reform under Oba­macare would grant Med­ic­aid access to rough­ly 21 mil­lion Amer­i­cans by 2022. So far, 26 states across the U.S. have vol­un­tar­i­ly opt­ed into the Med­ic­aid expan­sion pro­gram, which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will fund ful­ly through 2016 and no less than 90 per­cent there­after.

    ...

    Bar­ring a nation­al bank­rupt­cy that destroys the via­bil­i­ty of pro­grams like Medicare, how on earth is the GOP going to extri­cate itself from this sit­u­a­tion where good news for hos­pi­tals and the work­ing poor is bad news for the par­ty? It seems like some­thing is going to have to shut­down Oba­macare one way or anoth­er or the headaches are just going to get worse and worse. Some­thing much big­ger than what’s been done so far...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 5, 2014, 10:30 am
  14. The Koch’s lat­est plan for elec­toral suc­cess appears to be, in part, based on some recent pilot projects in Kansas focused on freak­ing peo­ple out over the per­ils of renew­able ener­gy:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    Koch Broth­ers Unveil New Strat­e­gy at Big Donor Retreat
    The Koch broth­ers’ finan­cial net­work is plan­ning on spend­ing almost $300 mil­lion in the 2014 elec­tion, includ­ing a new anti-envi­ron­ment effort.

    Peter Stone, 06.13.14

    In the face of expand­ing ener­gy reg­u­la­tions, stepped-up Demo­c­ra­t­ic attacks and the ongo­ing fight over Oba­macare, the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers and scores of wealthy allies have set an ini­tial 2014 fundrais­ing tar­get of $290 mil­lion which should boost GOP can­di­dates and sup­port dozens of con­ser­v­a­tive groups—includ­ing a new ener­gy ini­tia­tive with what looks like a dereg­u­la­to­ry, pro-con­sumer spin, The Dai­ly Beast has learned.

    This week­end, at a posh Cal­i­for­nia resort near Lagu­na Beach, ener­gy is expect­ed to be among the top­ics as Charles and David Koch and their exten­sive donor net­work hold a semi­an­nu­al fundrais­ing and pol­i­cy sem­i­nar. Polit­i­cal allies includ­ing Sen. Mar­co Rubio of Flori­da and lib­er­tar­i­an polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Charles Mur­ray are slat­ed to speak, accord­ing to con­ser­v­a­tives famil­iar with the Koch net­work.
    ...

    Yes, Charles Mur­ray, is still one of the big draws for an oli­garch fund-rais­er. It’s not very sur­pris­ing, although it’s a lit­tle sur­pris­ing that it’s not sur­pris­ing giv­en the long-term demo­graph­ic chal­lenges that come with using Charles Mur­ray as one of your move­men­t’s main aca­d­e­m­ic fig­ures. Still, it’s not very sur­pris­ing.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    The ener­gy ini­tia­tive is being cre­at­ed under the umbrel­la of the largest Koch net­work non­prof­it in appar­ent response to a num­ber of devel­op­ments: the com­mit­ment by lib­er­al bil­lion­aire Tom Stey­er to steer $100 mil­lion into ads in sev­er­al states to make cli­mate change a pri­or­i­ty issue in the elec­tions; numer­ous set­backs at the state lev­el where Koch net­work backed advo­ca­cy groups have been fight­ing against renew­able ener­gy stan­dards; and the new EPA reg­u­la­tions to curb car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from pow­er plants.

    The meet­ing will cap a fre­net­ic fundrais­ing sea­son for the con­ser­v­a­tive donor net­work. This year the Koch net­work not only host­ed a sim­i­lar Jan­u­ary con­fer­ence, but sev­er­al small­er gath­er­ings in Palm Springs, New­port Beach, St. Louis, and oth­er locales to attract new donors, accord­ing to an email from Koch fundrais­ing hon­cho Kevin Gen­try obtained by The Dai­ly Beast In his email, Gen­try called the Palm Springs event— which drew some 50 wealthy con­ser­v­a­tives in March —a “high­ly suc­cess­ful recruit­ment recep­tion” and encour­aged oth­er vet­er­an donors to get involved by hold­ing local gath­er­ings in their areas.

    Koch net­work oper­a­tives also have held peri­od­ic con­fer­ence calls—some­times with mem­bers of Con­gress on the line—to update loy­al check writ­ers on var­i­ous issues and keep them in the fold, say con­ser­v­a­tive sources.

    Now, hit­ting the $290 mil­lion goal seems with­in reach: almost $170 mil­lion of that total was pledged at the last big Koch donor sem­i­nar in Jan­u­ary this year, say two con­ser­v­a­tive sources. The hefty haul will help fund a mix of polit­i­cal­ly active non­prof­its like the Koch-backed Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, and a new­er out­fit called the Libre Ini­tia­tive that’s aimed at appeal­ing to His­pan­ics with a small gov­ern­ment, free-mar­ket mes­sage. AFP alone is expect­ed to spend upwards of $125 mil­lion this year on a vari­ety of polit­i­cal and advo­ca­cy projects includ­ing air and ground oper­a­tions, accord­ing to Politi­co.

    By com­par­i­son, in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial cycle, the Koch donor net­work raised more than $400 mil­lion to help under­write 17 polit­i­cal­ly active non­prof­it groups—including AFP and Libre Ini­tia­tive— accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    A few Koch net­work-backed non­prof­it groups includ­ing AFP have long fought against cli­mate change reg­u­la­tions, a car­bon tax, and sub­si­dies for renew­able ener­gy. But late­ly, the Koch uni­verse seem to be fac­ing big­ger ener­gy threats stem­ming from Wash­ing­ton, state gov­ern­ments and big lib­er­al check­books.

    The new ener­gy ini­tia­tive is the hand­i­work of Free­dom Part­ners Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Koch network’s cen­tral fundrais­ing hub, which was estab­lished in late 2011 as a trade group, accord­ing to an email to the group’s mem­bers from Gen­try. In 2012, the fledg­ling group —which claims some 200 mem­bers who each kick in at least $100,000 year­ly— fun­neled over $230 mil­lion dol­lars to numer­ous oth­er non-prof­its in the Koch ecosys­tem accord­ing to the group’s 2012 tax returns.

    In an April 1 mis­sive, Gen­try invit­ed Free­dom Part­ners mem­bers to join an upcom­ing con­fer­ence call about a “sig­nif­i­cant new Free­dom Part­ners ini­tia­tive” which he tout­ed as one that would “dri­ve the nation­al nar­ra­tive around ener­gy and the tremen­dous ben­e­fits of reli­able afford­able ener­gy for all Amer­i­cans, espe­cial­ly for the less for­tu­nate.” The email indi­cat­ed that dis­cus­sions about the ener­gy project began last sum­mer at anoth­er Koch donor event in New Mex­i­co, which drew out­go­ing House Major­i­ty Leader Eric Can­tor and Rep. Paul Ryan among oth­ers.

    Gentry’s email stressed that lib­er­al donors, led by hedge fund bil­lion­aire Tom Stey­er, have plans to spend as much as $100 mil­lion on cli­mate change issues and ads to make it a top-tier issue in the elec­tion. He not­ed that envi­ron­men­tal groups had recent­ly run a $5 mil­lion “clean ener­gy” ad blitz in Iowa, Michi­gan, and North Car­oli­na, all of which are con­sid­ered “focus” states for Free­dom Part­ners and among the states where Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty has spent over $35 mil­lion on attack ads against Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate can­di­dates on Oba­macare.

    In a cha­grined-sound­ing PS, Gen­try opined that the “new mul­ti mil­lion dol­lar cam­paign by envi­ron­men­tal­ists is arguably an effort to dis­tract from the fail­ures of Oba­macare. But you and I know ener­gy is a crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant issue for the Unit­ed States.”
    ...

    It’s kind of amus­ing that the Koch’s fund rais­ing let­ters sug­gest­ed that Tom Stey­er’s pledge to spend $100 mil­lion on cli­mate change issues is part an effort to ‘dis­tract from the fail­ures of Oba­macare’ all things con­sid­ered.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    The details and scope of the new ener­gy ini­tia­tive, which has not been announced, aren’t clear yet, but it’s expect­ed to cost in the sev­en fig­ures and be a top­ic at the Koch donor con­fer­ence this week­end— espe­cial­ly in light of the Oba­ma administration’s new­ly unveiled EPA reg­u­la­tions to curb car­bon emis­sions from most­ly coal fired pow­er plants. Two sources famil­iar with Koch donor world told The Dai­ly Beast that a new non­prof­it group is being formed to help run the new ener­gy ini­tia­tive. Nei­ther spokes­men for Free­dom Part­ners or Koch Indus­tries respond­ed to requests for com­ment about the new ini­tia­tive or fundrais­ing efforts this year.

    The Koch broth­ers com­bined net worth exceeds $80 bil­lion, accord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, and is derived from their con­trol of Koch Indus­tries, the epony­mous ener­gy and man­u­fac­tur­ing con­glom­er­ate

    Based on Gentry’s email and recent ener­gy dri­ves by oth­er Koch net­work groups, the ini­tia­tive is like­ly to mix a min­i­mal­ist reg­u­la­to­ry and free-mar­ket mes­sage with a pro-con­sumer spin.

    On its web­site, Free­dom Part­ners explains its ener­gy pol­i­cy goals very broad­ly as “increas­ing access to afford­able ener­gy that helps soci­eties-busi­ness­es, fam­i­lies and espe­cial­ly the poor—prosper and thrive.” It says that the role of fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is to “admin­is­ter smart and safe envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions” but argues that too often there’s a lack of trans­paren­cy and that “unsound sci­ence” is used to jus­ti­fy deci­sions with­out weigh­ing costs ver­sus ben­e­fits.

    The new ener­gy ini­tia­tive may part­ly stem from set­backs in many states where advo­ca­cy groups fund­ed by the Koch net­work like Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty and allies have been wag­ing most­ly uphill bat­tles to roll back renew­able ener­gy stan­dards. In these fights the con­ser­v­a­tive non­prof­its have often por­trayed renew­able man­dates as very expen­sive for con­sumers, a point that’s fre­quent­ly been rebutted by inde­pen­dent groups.

    Even in Kansas, the home of Koch Indus­tries, the Koch-backed advo­ca­cy net­work failed to repeal the state’s renew­able stan­dards, which were enact­ed in 2009 Under Kansas’ Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dard, 20 per­cent of the state’s elec­tric­i­ty is sup­posed to come from renew­ables by the year 2020.

    The Kansas fight sug­gests part of the strat­e­gy that Koch-linked groups are expect­ed to pur­sue to broad­en their mes­sage and try to appeal to con­sumers. Alan Cobb, a for­mer lob­by­ist for the com­pa­ny who also did stints with AFP and Free­dom Part­ners, was hired this spring by the new­ly cre­at­ed Kansas Senior Con­sumer Alliance, which sent thou­sands of post­cards to elder­ly cit­i­zens crit­i­ciz­ing the renew­able stan­dards. The post­cards, with pic­tures of wor­ried-look­ing seniors open­ing their mail, said that there had been 15 rate hikes since 2009 when the renew­able stan­dards were enact­ed and urged seniors to con­tact their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to protest them.

    A state com­mis­sion has found less than 2 per­cent of recent rate increas­es can be attrib­uted to the renew­able stan­dards.

    Groups backed by the Koch net­work in sev­er­al oth­er states have also been rebuffed in their dri­ves against renew­ables. But in late May, in a rare vic­to­ry, Ohio Gov­er­nor John Kasich signed off on a two-year freeze on the Buck­eye State’s renew­able ener­gy and ener­gy effi­cien­cy require­ments.

    On the 2014 elec­toral front, oth­er Koch donor sup­port­ed non-prof­it groups like the Amer­i­can Ener­gy Alliance (AEA) have poured funds into ads tar­get­ing Democ­rats in close Sen­ate and House races, knock­ing their oppo­si­tion to build­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline. In May, the AEA spent over $400,000 on ads in Col­orado attack­ing Sen. Mark Udall for his stance oppos­ing the Key­stone pipeline. AEA, which is run by for­mer Koch Indus­tries lob­by­ist Tom Pyle, has also been fight­ing to end wind ener­gy sub­si­dies. Last year, Con­gress end­ed a two-decade old tax cred­it for wind ener­gy com­pa­nies after vig­or­ous lob­by­ing by Koch-backed groups includ­ing AEA and AFP. This year, the groups have con­tin­ued to fight against attempts to revive the cred­it.

    The fight over cli­mate change took a per­son­al twist this spring when Tom Stey­er chal­lenged the Koch broth­ers to a debate about the issue and whether more reg­u­la­tions are need­ed to curb man-made pol­lu­tion. The Koch broth­ers turned down the invi­ta­tion. In an email to a local Kansas paper, Koch spokesper­son Melis­sa Cohlmia explained “we are not experts on cli­mate change.”

    ...

    So could “cheap, reli­able ener­gy” the new “death pan­els are gonna get you!” mantra on the cam­paign trail if Oba­macare con­tin­ues to be more dif­fi­cult than expect­ed to cam­paign against? $290 mil­lion buys a lot of ads, but you aren’t going to want to spend them on ads oppos­ing Oba­macare in the states where Med­ic­aid expan­sion is a sen­si­tive issue and that’s a lot of states. Plus, oppo­si­tion to Oba­macare does­n’t have to be achieved at the bal­lot box. There are oth­er ways:

    GOP Straight Up Bribes Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor In Effort To Block Oba­macare
    The Huff­in­g­ton Post | By Ryan Grim & Ash­ley Alman

    Post­ed: 06/08/2014 9:03 pm EDT Updat­ed: 06/09/2014 5:59 pm EDT

    The Repub­li­can Par­ty in Vir­ginia has resort­ed to what appears to be out­right bribery in its ongo­ing effort to deny low-income res­i­dents in the state access to the Med­ic­aid expan­sion autho­rized by Oba­macare.

    The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed Sun­day that Repub­li­cans offered to move Demo­c­ra­t­ic state Sen. Phillip P. Puck­ett and his daugh­ter into pres­ti­gious jobs in exchange for Puck­et­t’s res­ig­na­tion, which will flip the cham­ber into Repub­li­can hands. Puck­ett offi­cial­ly accept­ed the offer on Mon­day, but then appeared to back away amid a pub­lic out­cry.

    The Sen­ate was on course to pass an expan­sion of Med­ic­aid, as the law allows, while the House of Del­e­gates, in GOP hands, aimed to block it. In such a sce­nario, Democ­rats hoped that Repub­li­cans would be blamed for the result­ing gov­ern­ment shut­down. With Repub­li­cans in con­trol of both cham­bers, Gov. Ter­ry McAu­li­ffe (D) must now veto the GOP bud­get in order to force a show­down over Med­ic­aid.

    The appar­ent quid pro quo has sent Democ­rats rail­ing.

    “It’s astound­ing to me. The House Repub­li­can cau­cus will do any­thing and every­thing to pre­vent low-income Vir­gini­ans from get­ting health­care ... They fig­ure the only way they could win was to give a job to a state sen­a­tor,” Del­e­gate Scott A. Surov­ell (D‑Fairfax) told The Wash­ing­ton Post. “At least they can’t offer Ter­ry McAu­li­ffe a job. I hope Ter­ry con­tin­ues to stand up to these bul­lies.”

    McAu­li­ffe cam­paigned on the promise of Med­ic­aid expan­sion in 2013. Since his elec­tion, Repub­li­cans have attempt­ed to stonewall his attempts to bring cov­er­age to 400,000 unin­sured Vir­gini­ans, prompt­ing the gov­er­nor to explore options for expand­ing Med­ic­aid with­out the approval of the state leg­is­la­ture.

    As many as 20,000 of Puck­et­t’s south­west Vir­ginia con­stituents could be eli­gi­ble for the Med­ic­aid expan­sion. His dis­trict is so poor that res­i­dents have over­whelmed free med­ical clin­ics.

    McAu­li­ffe told The Wash­ing­ton Post that Puck­et­t’s res­ig­na­tion only adds “uncer­tain­ty” to his plan for expand­ing cov­er­age.

    “I am deeply dis­ap­point­ed by this news and the uncer­tain­ty it cre­ates at a time when 400,000 Vir­gini­ans are wait­ing for access to qual­i­ty health care, espe­cial­ly those in South­west Vir­ginia,” McAu­li­ffe said. “This sit­u­a­tion is unac­cept­able, but the bipar­ti­san major­i­ty in the Sen­ate and I will con­tin­ue to work hard to put Vir­gini­ans first and find com­pro­mise on a bud­get that clos­es the cov­er­age gap.”

    State Sen. Chap Petersen (D) told Huff­Post on Mon­day that he was shocked by Puck­et­t’s res­ig­na­tion. “Phil struck you as a guy who was a man of his word, the oppo­site of a shady char­ac­ter,” he said. “If he was with you he was with you, and if he was­n’t, he was­n’t, and let you know.”

    Petersen said that Puck­et­t’s daugh­ter had been an issue in Rich­mond for months, if not a year, as Repub­li­cans were hold­ing up her reap­point­ment, argu­ing that hav­ing a father as a state sen­a­tor rep­re­sent­ed a con­flict of inter­est. “I do remem­ber spe­cif­ic con­ver­sa­tions with Phillip [in which he said,] ‘I’m not gonna get black­mailed on my daugh­ter,” said Petersen.

    ...

    Yes, this actu­al­ly hap­pened.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 14, 2014, 8:11 pm
  15. Uh oh. There’s trou­ble in sup­ply-side par­adise:

    The Dai­ly Beast
    Poll Shows Kansas Repub­li­can In Trou­ble
    Ben Jacobs, 06.26.14

    Incum­bent Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Sam Brown­back is los­ing to a Demo­c­rat accord­ing to the most recent poll of the Kansas guber­na­to­r­i­al race.

    In this top­sy-turvy polit­i­cal year noth­ing quite seems to be cer­tain. While Barack Oba­ma remains deeply unpop­u­lar and drag­ging down the for­tunes of fel­low Democ­rats, it doesn’t make Repub­li­cans ter­ri­bly pop­u­lar either. This has par­tic­u­lar­ly shown in the plight of GOP incum­bents in nor­mal­ly deep red states like Ken­tucky and Kansas. But, while the nation­al media has focused on Mitch McConnell’s close race for reelec­tion to the Sen­ate in the Blue­grass State, lit­tle atten­tion has been paid to Sam Brownback’s issues in Kansas.

    Brown­back is an incum­bent gov­er­nor and for­mer two-term sen­a­tor in a state that has only sup­port­ed the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date for pres­i­dent once in the past 75 years. How­ev­er, a nw poll has Brown­back los­ing 47%-41% to Demo­c­rat Paul Davis in his bid for re-elec­tion. While the Sun­flower State is far more like­ly to elect Democ­rats in state races than in fed­er­al races, no one has ever con­fused the state with Mass­a­chu­setts.

    Just because Brown­back is down in one poll in June doesn’t mean that Repub­li­cans should press the pan­ic but­ton, but it does hint at deep­er and stranger polit­i­cal cur­rents than just the easy press nar­ra­tives about a weak pres­i­dent and a divid­ed GOP. It’s not sim­ply that all pol­i­tics is local—one of the big issues in Kansas is edu­ca­tion funding—but that no nation­al trend has yet to become in clear in an off-year elec­tion where vot­ers are dis­satisifed with both par­ties.

    That point at the end is key: “no nation­al trend has yet to become in clear in an off-year elec­tion where vot­ers are dis­sat­is­fied with both par­ties”. That’s some­thing to keep between now and Novem­ber because there isn’t a sin­gle trend in terms of how vot­ers are expect­ed to vote but there are clear nation­al themes already in terms of mes­sag­ing. For the GOP, it’s the same theme the GOP has used since 2009: elude to rea­sons for impeach­ing Oba­ma and push a Koch/oligarch agen­da. It’s the same theme that’s come to define Sam Brown­backs entire first term pol­i­cy agen­da. The Democ­rats, on the oth­er hand, haven’t had near­ly as uni­fied a theme much beyond “OMG, the look how frig­gin’ nuts my GOP oppo­nent is” but that’s to be expect­ed giv­en the fact that most of their GOP oppo­nents are indeed nuts.

    So the clos­er it gets to the elec­tion with­out a nation­al trend emerg­ing in terms of themes that vot­ers have latched onto, the more we’re going to see attempts by each par­ty to cre­ate a mes­sag­ing theme that real­ly cre­ates a nation debate to their advan­tage.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for the GOP, that nation­al theme can’t involve tout­ing a Brown­back-led Kansas mir­a­cle. Brown­back­’s sup­ply-side far right agen­da is already turn­ing out to be an eco­nom­ic bust. And that’s bad pol­i­tics.

    The GOP will just have to turn else­where for inspi­ra­tion. Hmmm...what to do...what to do...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 29, 2014, 10:01 pm
  16. Fun­ny how that works: John Boehn­er’s law­suit against Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for delay­ing some pro­vi­sions in Oba­macare just might make John Roberts much, much more pow­er­ful:

    Bloomberg View
    If Boehn­er Sues Oba­ma, Roberts Wins
    Jonathan Bern­stein
    219 Jul 11, 2014 12:58 PM EDT
    By Jonathan Bern­stein

    The sto­ry on House Speak­er John Boehn­er’s law­suit against Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma is pret­ty sim­ple: regard­less of whether the admin­is­tra­tion over­stepped, what’s at stake is whether the courts are being empow­ered at the expense of the elect­ed branch­es of gov­ern­ment.

    For starters, there’s zero evi­dence that Oba­ma has been unusu­al in his use of exec­u­tive pow­ers. If he’s over­done it, then all the recent pres­i­dents have done so, too. The idea that he’s some sort of tyrant who acts dif­fer­ent­ly than oth­er mod­ern pres­i­dents is non­sense.

    In fact, It’s per­fect­ly nor­mal for pres­i­dents and exec­u­tive branch depart­ments and agen­cies to make broad inter­pre­ta­tions of law that look a lot like leg­is­lat­ing. It’s how the sys­tem works, and pret­ty much how it always worked. Thus Richard Neustadt’s famous claim that the sys­tem isn’t “sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers,” but sep­a­rat­ed insti­tu­tions shar­ing pow­ers.

    Nonethe­less, there are rules con­strain­ing how laws may be inter­pret­ed, and it is pos­si­ble that in spe­cif­ic instances, the admin­is­tra­tion may have act­ed beyond what the law allows.

    Indeed, experts have made the case that this kind of over­reach occurred with the delayed imple­men­ta­tion of the employ­er man­date in the Afford­able Care Act (which, appar­ent­ly, is going to be cen­tral to the House Repub­li­cans’ law­suit), though oth­er experts dis­agree.

    In any case, it would be unprece­dent­ed, and in fact would con­sti­tute a sig­nif­i­cant change to the con­sti­tu­tion­al sys­tem, if the courts allowed Con­gress to sue the pres­i­dent over the ACA delay.

    The tech­ni­cal issue is “stand­ing.” For the courts to con­sid­er a law­suit, the per­son or group bring­ing the suit has to show they were harmed in some direct way. So, for exam­ple, in the recent recess appoint­ment case, Noel Can­ning Corp. was able to show that it had direct­ly been harmed by an action tak­en by mem­bers of the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board who had been recess-appoint­ed. Gen­er­al­ly, the courts have ruled (Vox has good explain­er on this) that Con­gress isn’t eli­gi­ble to sue the pres­i­dent just because it does­n’t like what he’s done.

    What Boehn­er is claim­ing now is that Con­gress, or the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in this case, should be able to sue the pres­i­dent for not fol­low­ing the law if no one else would be able to do so.

    If that suc­ceeds, how­ev­er, the big win­ner in the long run wouldn’t be Con­gress. It would be the courts.

    By the log­ic of Boehner’s own action (despite what he says), this isn’t about a tyran­ni­cal pres­i­dent refus­ing to obey the law. If House Repub­li­cans believed that Oba­ma was an out-of-con­trol dic­ta­tor, then they couldn’t also believe that a court rul­ing would be suf­fi­cient to con­strain him.

    What’s actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing is that the House does­n’t inter­pret the law in the same way as the pres­i­dent, and the ques­tion is how to resolve the vari­ance. Nor­mal­ly, each branch has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­pret the law (those sep­a­rat­ed insti­tu­tions shar­ing pow­ers again), but doc­trines such as stand­ing lim­it the courts’ abil­i­ty to inter­vene.

    If, how­ev­er, they can inter­vene when­ev­er a house of Con­gress is unhap­py, then the courts get a a much more active role in deter­min­ing what the laws say. And why just a house of Con­gress? What if the pres­i­dent sued Con­gress, for exam­ple, if it failed in its oblig­a­tion to pro­duce appro­pri­a­tions bills on time? Instead of a gov­ern­ment shut­down, would we get an injunc­tion and then a judi­cial act of appro­pri­a­tions, with some­one appoint­ed by Bill Clin­ton or Ronald Rea­gan mak­ing 302(b) allo­ca­tions by judi­cial fiat? Or per­haps we’d wind up with indi­vid­ual sen­a­tors juris­dic­tion shop­ping, look­ing for a friend­ly judge to over­turn some fight they lost in com­mit­tee or on the Sen­ate floor. Those kinds of set­backs are com­mon for sen­a­tors and exec­u­tive branch depart­ments; the only thing that pre­vents the losers, or whole cham­bers that lost fights in con­fer­ence, from direct­ly appeal­ing to the courts is that the courts have a doc­trine against inter­ven­ing.

    So what can Con­gress do? If the prob­lem were sim­ply a pres­i­dent who failed to fol­low the law, then the only real choic­es would be either to live with it, or impeach­ment and con­vic­tion. But if the prob­lem is mere­ly that the pres­i­dent inter­prets a law in a way that Con­gress doesn’t like, then the obvi­ous rem­e­dy, as pres­i­den­cy schol­ar Andrew Rudale­vige said recent­ly, is “for Con­gress to change the law to remove pres­i­den­tial dis­cre­tion” (I argue the same here).

    So put aside the ques­tion of whether the admin­is­tra­tion improp­er­ly inter­pret­ed the law (it might have). Put aside, too, the silli­ness of House Repub­li­cans attempt­ing to force the pres­i­dent to impose a pol­i­cy, the employ­er man­date, which no Repub­li­can actu­al­ly wants to enforce. And put aside the real­i­ty that by the time this law­suit is decid­ed it may well be moot, at least if the man­date takes effect as cur­rent­ly planned. This is about enhanc­ing judi­cial pow­er at the expense of the elect­ed branch­es, and it’s a very bad idea.

    In oth­er news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2014, 1:32 pm
  17. Here’s a tightrope walk to watch: The NY Times has an arti­cle about how the the large num­ber of gov­er­nor­ships won by the GOP in 2010 is result­ing in a large num­ber of GOP gov­er­nors up for reelec­tion this year, with 22 GOP held seats out of the 36 gov­er­nor­ships up for elec­tion, and 17 of those 22 up for reelec­tion. But the improv­ing econ­o­my and the GOP’s suc­cess in per­suad­ing the par­ty’s big mon­ey donor base to invest in state elec­tions is giv­ing a num­ber of at-risk GOP gov­er­nors a bit of an elec­toral breather. So now the improv­ing econ­o­my means that the GOP can only run against the econ­o­my in states where there isn’t an incum­bent GOP gov­er­nor. Also, the GOP’s nation­al strat­e­gy is going to have to increas­ing­ly rely on things like the threat of poor immi­grant chil­dren because the econ­o­my just can’t be nation­al­ized as an issue. And all the local feel good cam­paigns based on the improv­ing econ­o­my (which the GOP did noth­ing to sup­port) have to be done while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly main­tain­ing that Oba­ma needs to be sued and impeached. The DC hall of fun house mir­rors has a lot of twists and turns that all lead to the same end­ing: the per­il of GOP gov­er­nance:

    The New York Times
    G.O.P. Replays 2010 Strat­e­gy at State Lev­el

    By JONATHAN MARTIN and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE JULY 12, 2014

    NASHVILLE — Repub­li­can can­di­dates for gov­er­nor around the coun­try have built an unex­pect­ed­ly strong posi­tion for elec­tion this fall, helped by an improv­ing econ­o­my, dis­af­fec­tion with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and a nation­al fund-rais­ing machine that is leagues ahead of the oppo­si­tion.

    Four years after an eco­nom­ic cri­sis and oppo­si­tion to Mr. Obama’s health care law pro­pelled Repub­li­cans to cap­ture a lop­sided major­i­ty of state­hous­es across the coun­try, they are faced with a stag­ger­ing polit­i­cal task: defend­ing 22 of the 36 exec­u­tive man­sions that will be up for grabs in Novem­ber, led by a gov­er­nor who is try­ing to rebound from a scan­dal.

    While the sheer scale of Repub­li­can gains four years ago offers Democ­rats a wealth of oppor­tu­ni­ties to win, the polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment appears to be tilt­ing again in the Repub­li­cans’ direc­tion.

    The reces­sion that doomed Democ­rats in 2010 has shift­ed into a recov­ery, dri­ving down job­less rates and bol­ster­ing Repub­li­can incum­bents. At the same time, Pres­i­dent Obama’s approval rat­ings have fall­en even in states that he won in 2012.

    And cam­paign mon­ey is gush­ing into nation­al Repub­li­can groups that focus on state cap­i­tals, includ­ing the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion, whose chair­man, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jer­sey, has set fund-rais­ing records for the group even under the glare of mul­ti­ple state and fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tions. The asso­ci­a­tion raised $100 mil­lion dur­ing the 18 months end­ing in June, dwarf­ing the amount it amassed for 2010, and had $70 mil­lion in cash at the begin­ning of July. The chair­man of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion, Gov. Peter Shum­lin of Ver­mont, said his group would be out­raised by about two to one.

    The gov­er­nors asso­ci­a­tions of both par­ties, which held events for donors here dur­ing the sum­mer meet­ing of the Nation­al Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion, raise sub­stan­tial amounts of mon­ey from over­lap­ping lists of heav­i­ly reg­u­lat­ed indus­tries such as tobac­co, health insur­ance and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. But Repub­li­can groups have had far greater suc­cess this elec­tion cycle in per­suad­ing the party’s lead­ing indi­vid­ual donors to invest in the rel­a­tive­ly less glam­orous state elec­tions. By the end of March, eight indi­vid­u­als or cou­ples — includ­ing the indus­tri­al­ist David Koch, the casi­no mag­nate Shel­don Adel­son and the hedge fund man­ag­er Paul Singer — had con­tributed $1 mil­lion or more to the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion.

    “It gives me enor­mous flex­i­bil­i­ty,” Mr. Christie said of the association’s finan­cial advan­tage, not­ing that he would raise mon­ey in 14 states over the next two months. “We’ve nar­rowed our own map and are able to go on offense in some oth­er states.”

    The improv­ing econ­o­my cre­ates curi­ous and some­what con­tra­dic­to­ry polit­i­cal con­di­tions for the two par­ties. The bright­en­ing out­look has giv­en many Repub­li­can gov­er­nors the begin­nings of a come­back sto­ry to sell to their vot­ers. That forces their Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nents to play down the good job num­bers as illu­so­ry, even as Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton claim suc­cess.

    At the same time, the eco­nom­ic turn­around is not enough to raise Mr. Obama’s over­all stand­ing in sev­er­al piv­otal states, weigh­ing down Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates for gov­er­nor who might oth­er­wise be in bet­ter shape.

    Gov. Rick Scott of Flori­da, for exam­ple, was wide­ly viewed as imper­iled, but the improv­ing eco­nom­ic cli­mate in his state, where unem­ploy­ment has fall­en by five per­cent­age points since Mr. Scott, a Repub­li­can, was elect­ed in 2010, has lift­ed his prospects.

    Gov­er­nor Shum­lin acknowl­edged the dif­fi­cult cli­mate, but expressed opti­mism about his party’s poten­tial to make gains.

    “In gov­er­nors’ races they ask one sim­ple ques­tion: Has the gov­er­nor deliv­ered on job growth, eco­nom­ic vital­i­ty and mak­ing invest­ments in infra­struc­ture, edu­ca­tion and our kids’ future?” Mr. Shum­lin said.

    The stakes in the country’s state­hous­es are arguably high­er than those in the bat­tle for con­trol of the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, which has con­sumed most of the media cov­er­age and mon­ey from both par­ties this year. Wash­ing­ton is like­ly to remain grid­locked regard­less of which par­ty wins con­trol of the Sen­ate in Novem­ber, but the suc­cess of Repub­li­can gov­er­nors this fall, along with reten­tion of Repub­li­can majori­ties in dozens of state leg­is­la­tures, would cement the sweep­ing changes on eco­nom­ic and social issues that have been imple­ment­ed in state cap­i­tals across the coun­try. In 17 states with Repub­li­can gov­er­nors up for re-elec­tion, the par­ty also con­trols the leg­is­la­ture.

    The state races will also have a major impact on state and nation­al poli­cies: the expan­sion of Med­ic­aid under the Afford­able Care Act, the fate of big tax cuts, and fur­ther win­now­ing of union rights and vot­ing access.

    The land­scape for gov­er­nors is in some ways the oppo­site of the Sen­ate map this year. While Democ­rats are forced to pro­tect Sen­ate seats in con­ser­v­a­tive-lean­ing states such as Arkansas and Louisiana, Repub­li­cans are doing much of the same with their gov­er­nors in states that have favored Democ­rats in recent elec­tions.

    ...

    Is the econ­o­my improv­ing and Oba­macare work­ing? There’s an app for that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 13, 2014, 10:53 pm
  18. Oh look, anoth­er case of self-inflict­ed health­care aus­ter­i­ty result­ing in all pain and no gain. Cui bono? That’s increas­ing­ly unclear:

    Forbes
    7/20/2014 @ 10:20AM
    Hos­pi­tals See Trou­bles In Red States That Snubbed Oba­macare’s Med­ic­aid Deal
    Bruce Japsen Con­trib­u­tor

    While record num­bers of Amer­i­cans sign up for the larg­er Med­ic­aid health insur­ance pro­gram for the poor, finan­cial issues are emerg­ing for med­ical care providers in the two dozen states that didn’t go along with the expan­sion under the Afford­able Care Act.

    Reports out in the last week indi­cate the gap between those with health care cov­er­age is widen­ing between states that agreed to go along with the health law’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion and those gen­er­al­ly led by Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tures and GOP gov­er­nors that are balk­ing at the expan­sion.

    The moves against expan­sion are “begin­ning to hurt hos­pi­tals in states that opt­ed out,” a report last week from Fitch Rat­ings said. The U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human ser­vices has said Med­ic­aid enroll­ment in the 26 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia that agreed to go along with and imple­ment­ed the expan­sion by the end of May “rose by 17 per­cent, while states that have not expand­ed report­ed only a 3 per­cent increase,” HHS said in an enroll­ment update for the Med­ic­aid pro­gram.

    “We expect providers in states that have cho­sen not to par­tic­i­pate in expand­ed Med­ic­aid eli­gi­bil­i­ty to face increas­ing finan­cial chal­lenges in 2014 and beyond,” Fitch said in its July 16 report. “Non­prof­it hos­pi­tals and health­care sys­tems in states that have expand­ed their Med­ic­aid cov­er­age under the Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act have begun to real­ize the ben­e­fit from increased insur­ance cov­er­age.”

    Already, the finan­cial rat­ings agency said it has down­grad­ed 10 health care enti­ties so far this year and five of those were in states that have not gone along with the Med­ic­aid expan­sion. Fitch didn’t spec­i­fy the enti­ties that have been hurt finan­cial­ly.

    “Sev­er­al of those down­grades were dri­ven by oper­at­ing per­for­mance declines relat­ed to fund­ing and reim­burse­ment pres­sures, which may have been less­ened by Med­ic­aid expan­sion,” the Fitch report said said. “Con­verse­ly, of the nine upgrades since Jan. 1, eight were hos­pi­tals in states that have expand­ed Med­ic­aid.”

    The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment tra­di­tion­al­ly picks up a lit­tle more than half of the cost of Med­ic­aid. But fund­ing under the health law is unlike past efforts to expand Med­ic­aid in that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will pick up the full tab for the first three years. The state grad­u­al­ly has to pick up some costs in 2017, but by 2020, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is still pick­ing up 90 per­cent or more of the Med­ic­aid tab.

    ...

    A report last week from the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion and the Urban Insti­tute described the cov­er­age dif­fer­ence as a “gulf in per­cent­age of peo­ple with­out health insur­ance” that is grow­ing larg­er between states that expand­ed Med­ic­aid and those that did not.

    As of June, the report said 60 per­cent of the nation’s unin­sured res­i­dents live in states that did not expand Med­ic­aid. That fig­ure was up from 49.7 per­cent in Sep­tem­ber of last year.

    Ana­lysts expect that gap to only wors­en. Unlike pri­vate cov­er­age under the health law that is gen­er­al­ly pur­chased dur­ing a spec­i­fied open enroll­ment peri­od, Amer­i­cans can sign up for Med­ic­aid at any­time.

    “In states that expand­ed Med­ic­aid, an esti­mat­ed 71 per­cent of the unin­sured like­ly qual­i­fy for some type of finan­cial assis­tance for health insur­ance, com­pared with 44 per­cent of the unin­sured in the states that did not expand Med­ic­aid,” the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion and Urban Insti­tute report said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 21, 2014, 11:59 am
  19. So this hap­pened...

    Los Ange­les Times
    Fed­er­al appeals courts issue con­flict­ing rul­ings on Oba­macare
    By David G. Sav­age

    July 22, 2014, 7:51 PM

    The legal bat­tle over Pres­i­dent Obama’s health­care law ramped up again Tues­day, as two fed­er­al appeals courts hand­ed down con­flict­ing rul­ings on whether the gov­ern­ment can con­tin­ue to pay sub­si­dies nation­wide to mil­lions of low- and mid­dle-income peo­ple to help them with the cost of insur­ance.

    The split deci­sions on a cen­tral ele­ment of the law increase the chances that the Supreme Court will take up anoth­er chal­lenge to the Afford­able Care Act as ear­ly as the com­ing year.

    The legal bat­tle gives Obamacare’s oppo­nents anoth­er shot at try­ing to kill the law in the high court, a goal they fell one vote short of in 2012. In that case, four jus­tices vot­ed to strike down the entire leg­is­la­tion as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the four lib­er­al jus­tices to uphold the core of the law.

    This time, the out­come at the high court would turn on whether at least one of the five con­ser­v­a­tive jus­tices agreed to uphold Con­gress’ broad goal of pro­vid­ing all Amer­i­cans with insur­ance they can afford.

    Soon after the Afford­able Care Act won final approval in 2010, con­ser­v­a­tive groups point­ed out an anom­aly in its word­ing. The prob­lem involved a key sec­tion of the law, which called for cre­at­ing insur­ance mar­ket­places, or “exchanges,” where buy­ers could shop for cov­er­age. Peo­ple with low or mid­dle incomes — up to $94,200 for a fam­i­ly of four — are offered tax cred­its to help pay for the insur­ance.

    These exchanges were to be run by states. But if states refused the job, Con­gress autho­rized fed­er­al offi­cials to “oper­ate such exchange with­in the state” and car­ry out all the required duties. How­ev­er, in anoth­er part of the law, Con­gress said tax cred­its would be offered for insur­ance pur­chased through an “exchange estab­lished by the state.”

    Con­ser­v­a­tive legal groups have argued ever since that the word­ing “exchange estab­lished by the state” does not include the fed­er­al exchange. That read­ing of the law would block insur­ance sub­si­dies in two-thirds of the nation.

    Cur­rent­ly only 14 states, includ­ing Cal­i­for­nia, run their own exchanges. In 36 states, includ­ing Texas, Flori­da and Illi­nois, the exchange is run by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Some states that ran their own exchanges this year but had trou­ble have announced plans to use the fed­er­al exchange for the open enroll­ment sea­son that begins in Novem­ber.

    About 5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans bought sub­si­dized poli­cies through the fed­er­al exchange this year, often reduc­ing their costs by hun­dreds of dol­lars a month, health­care experts say.

    Two years ago, the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice inter­pret­ed the law to mean that tax cred­its would be avail­able for insur­ance pur­chased through any gov­ern­ment-run exchange, regard­less of whether it was run by state or fed­er­al author­i­ties.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive groups and Repub­li­can attor­neys joined in four law­suits to chal­lenge that IRS rule. The two lead­ing cas­es led to Tuesday’s oppos­ing rul­ings.

    In Wash­ing­ton, an appeals court focused strict­ly on the word­ing of the law and struck down the IRS rule on a 2–1 vote.

    “A fed­er­al exchange is not an ‘exchange estab­lished by the state,’” Judge Thomas Grif­fith said for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit. His rul­ing would not allow tax cred­its in the 36 states with fed­er­al­ly run exchanges.

    “We reach this con­clu­sion, frankly, with reluc­tance,” Grif­fith wrote for him­self and Judge A. Ray­mond Ran­dolph, both Repub­li­can appointees. “Our rul­ing will like­ly have sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences both for mil­lions of indi­vid­u­als receiv­ing tax cred­its and for health insur­ance mar­kets more broad­ly.”

    The panel’s lone Demo­c­ra­t­ic appointee, Judge Har­ry Edwards, dis­sent­ed, describ­ing the case as a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” the health­care law.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive lead­ers hailed the D.C. court’s rul­ing. Sen. Ted Cruz (R‑Texas) called it “a repu­di­a­tion of Oba­macare and all the law­less­ness that has come with it.”

    With­in hours, how­ev­er, the U.S. 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals in Rich­mond, Va., upheld the IRS rule. In its 3–0 deci­sion, the judges focused on the over­all intent of the law. They not­ed that the con­gres­sion­al spon­sors want­ed to pro­vide afford­able cov­er­age to all and had devised the exchanges and the sub­si­dies as a means to that end. By that log­ic, the judges con­clud­ed, it made no sense to deny the sub­si­dies to mil­lions whose states chose not to run an exchange.

    Judge Roger Gre­go­ry, who was nom­i­nat­ed by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and appoint­ed under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, wrote that the word­ing of the law was “ambigu­ous and sub­ject to mul­ti­ple inter­pre­ta­tions.” But in such a case, the bal­ance tips in favor of the agency charged with imple­ment­ing the law, he said.

    More­over, the “eco­nom­ic frame­work sup­port­ing the Act would crum­ble if the cred­its were unavail­able on fed­er­al exchanges,” since mil­lions of Amer­i­cans could not afford to buy insur­ance, he wrote. Judges Stephanie Thack­er and Andre Davis, both Oba­ma appointees, joined him.

    The pair of rul­ings will have no imme­di­ate impact pend­ing fur­ther appeals, gov­ern­ment offi­cials said.

    ...

    Although the law­suits are backed by con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an groups that oppose the law, the judges in both cir­cuits said they would not rule on “pure­ly ide­o­log­i­cal” claims. Each suit need­ed at least one real plain­tiff who could show an eco­nom­ic injury from the work­ings of the law, they said.

    In the D.C. Cir­cuit case, that per­son was David Kle­men­cic, a West Vir­ginia res­i­dent who said he “expects to earn approx­i­mate­ly $20,000 this year.” He does not wish to buy health insur­ance, accord­ing to his com­plaint, even if he receives a sub­sidy.

    The law “con­fronts Kle­men­cic with a choice he’d rather avoid,” the judges not­ed: buy insur­ance on the sub­si­dized exchange or pay a tax penal­ty for lack­ing insur­ance. The cost of the Oba­macare health insur­ance Kle­men­cic went to court to reject: $21 per year.

    Yikes! It looks like some big deci­sions are com­ing up for The Deciders. No, not the Supreme Court, although it’ll have anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to under­cut the unin­sured too. No, The Deciders in this case is the same deciders that decides on all things GOP: Grover Norquist and his min­ions. Because now that this court rul­ing has poten­tial­ly result­ed in mil­lions of peo­ple los­ing their health insur­ance sub­si­dies, the loom­ing ques­tion, from the Norquist per­spec­tive, is whether or not a refusal to set up a state exchange and enable those tax sub­si­dies con­sti­tutes a tax hike and is there­fore ille­gal accord­ing to DC com­mon law.

    Oh wait, we don’t have to wait and see what Grover thinks. His group, Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform, shared its views on Oba­macare tax sub­si­dies for peo­ple with low incomes last month. And guess what. They’re very con­cerned that sub­sidy over­pay­ments will wreck hav­oc dur­ing tax time. Yes, even before this rul­ing, Grover Norquist’s main con­cern about the Oba­macare sub­si­dies was appar­ent­ly that the tax sub­si­dies (tax cuts for the poor) would be too gen­er­ous:

    Repub­li­cans call Oba­macare sub­si­dies a risk to tax­pay­ers

    By David Mor­gan

    WASHINGTON, June 10 Tue Jun 10, 2014 6:49pm EDT

    (Reuters) — Con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans sought to por­tray Oba­macare sub­si­dies for low-income fam­i­lies as a finan­cial risk for tax­pay­ers on Tues­day, a claim that could become a new avenue for cam­paign attacks on Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates this fall.

    At a hear­ing in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled U.S. House, wit­ness­es from con­ser­v­a­tive groups said over­pay­ments of fed­er­al sub­si­dies to peo­ple new­ly enrolled in Oba­macare health plans could reach hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars while jeop­ar­diz­ing the health cov­er­age and fed­er­al tax refunds of sub­sidy recip­i­ents found to owe mon­ey.

    Repub­li­cans are seek­ing to sus­pend the sub­si­dies, which form the basis for the Oba­macare health insur­ance mar­ket­places, until there is a sys­tem in place to bet­ter ver­i­fy appli­cant infor­ma­tion. About 85 per­cent of the 8 mil­lion peo­ple who have enrolled in pri­vate cov­er­age under Oba­macare sought sub­si­dies, accord­ing to the admin­is­tra­tion.

    The tes­ti­mo­ny came a week after the admin­is­tra­tion report­ed incon­sis­tent data in the Oba­macare health insur­ance appli­ca­tions of 2.2 mil­lion Amer­i­cans, includ­ing 1.2 mil­lion with ques­tion­able income data. Offi­cials say most incon­sis­ten­cies are not errors but innocu­ous dis­crep­an­cies that can be cleared up with­out a prob­lem. But crit­ics see a poten­tial for major issues.

    “The sys­tem (is) essen­tial­ly unwork­able,” said Dou­glas Holtz-Eakin, a for­mer direc­tor of the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office who now heads the Amer­i­can Action Forum, a con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­cy insti­tute.

    Ryan Ellis, tax pol­i­cy direc­tor at Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform, a group led by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, said sub­sidy over­pay­ments could wreak hav­oc dur­ing next year’s 2014 tax fil­ing sea­son as pre­par­ers and tax­pay­ers come to terms with the effects of mis­cal­cu­lat­ed insur­ance sub­si­dies.

    “Amer­i­cans don’t under­stand what this is going to do to them,” Ellis said.

    Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, who are using Oba­macare as a major line of attack for Novem­ber’s midterm elec­tions, took those claims as fresh evi­dence that Oba­ma’s Afford­able Care Act (ACA) will harm Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and bloat fed­er­al deficits.

    Democ­rats accused Repub­li­cans of using “fake out­rage” to push their goal of repeal­ing Oba­macare.

    “It sounds to me as though the tes­ti­mo­ny of some of the ... wit­ness­es is fear-mon­ger­ing to make peo­ple afraid,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive James McDer­mott, a Wash­ing­ton state Demo­c­rat.

    Ron Pol­lack, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Fam­i­lies USA and an advo­cate of the health­care law, said the dis­crep­an­cies were worth exam­in­ing, but described the con­cerns as “much ado about very lit­tle.”

    Charges that ACA sub­si­dies will hurt tax­pay­ers and pol­i­cy­hold­ers have not become fod­der for the elec­tion cam­paign so far. But that could change in com­ing months.

    ...

    Well, we final­ly found a tax cred­it Grover Norquist oppos­es: tax cred­its for for poor peo­ple in need of health­care. That’s kind of a neat dis­cov­ery. Still, that does­n’t bode well for the prospect of Grover sud­den­ly com­mand­ing his elect­ed min­ions to start build­ing state exchanges in order to save the tax cred­it. And yet, as Ryan Ellis of Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform stat­ed back in June, “Amer­i­cans don’t under­stand what this is going to do to them”. And that’s one sil­ver lin­ing to the end­less law­suits and ‘gotcha’ pow­er plays that attempt to under­mine and destroy the law entire­ly: Once those attempts suc­ceed, vot­ers will final­ly be back in the sweet embrace of famil­iar­i­ty. The kind of sit­u­a­tion that’s easy to under­stand.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 23, 2014, 7:20 am
  20. It looks like it’s time for anoth­er round of “Look! A com­pas­sion­ate, anti-pover­ty GOP bud­get pro­pos­al! It’s com­pas­sion­ate and anti-pover­ty because it uses block grants to the states and is there­fore com­pas­sion­ate! Feel the anti-pover­ty com­pas­sion!”:

    Salon
    Wednes­day, Jul 23, 2014 01:13 PM CST
    Paul Ryan’s pover­ty sham widens: Why no one should trust his “new” agen­da
    GOP “wonk” set to reveal new plan to address the needs of the poor. Here’s the truth behind these absurd mea­sures
    Simon Mal­oy

    After months and months of lis­ten­ing tours and fawn­ing media pro­files, Rep. Paul Ryan is final­ly ready to unveil his new agen­da to fight pover­ty. The offi­cial debut will be tomor­row morn­ing at the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute, but the Wash­ing­ton Post got a sneak peek at Ryan’s plans, and you’ll nev­er guess what Ryan has in store for the nation’s pover­ty pro­grams.

    Go ahead. Guess. You’ll nev­er get it! Okay actu­al­ly you’ll prob­a­bly get it on the first try:

    Echo­ing an idea that has been gain­ing trac­tion among con­ser­v­a­tive intel­lec­tu­als, Ryan will pro­pose a pilot pro­gram where­by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment con­sol­i­dates exist­ing safe­ty-net pro­grams into a sin­gle grant offered to a state. It would group pro­grams such as food stamps and hous­ing aid, although it would not include Med­ic­aid, the health pro­gram for the poor.

    Block grants! Con­vert­ing pover­ty pro­grams into block grants has been a sta­ple of Paul Ryan’s bud­get roadmaps for the past few years, which pur­port to bal­ance the bud­get through a com­bi­na­tion of mas­sive cuts to social pro­grams and mag­i­cal think­ing. The idea behind it is to give the states “more flex­i­bil­i­ty” in admin­is­ter­ing the pro­grams by just giv­ing them a lump-sum pay­ment once a year, which will, in the­o­ry, reduce costs.

    The prac­ti­cal effect of block-grant­i­ng these pro­grams, how­ev­er, will be to under­mine their basic func­tion as a safe­ty net dur­ing times of eco­nom­ic dis­tress. Giv­ing the states a fixed chunk of cash per year wouldn’t be as big a prob­lem if eco­nom­ic con­di­tions remained sta­ble through­out the entire year. But, as we all know, there’s no guar­an­tee of that ever hap­pen­ing. Social wel­fare pro­grams exist to pro­vide much-need­ed sta­bil­i­ty dur­ing times of eco­nom­ic woe, and con­vert­ing them to block grants will ham­per their abil­i­ty to do that, as the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office explains:

    Anoth­er ratio­nale against this option is that block grants would not be as respon­sive to eco­nom­ic con­di­tions as the cur­rent fed­er­al pro­grams are. The auto­mat­ic changes in spend­ing on ben­e­fits under cur­rent law help sta­bi­lize the econ­o­my, reduc­ing the depth of reces­sions dur­ing eco­nom­ic down­turns. Those sta­bi­liz­ing effects would be lost under the option.

    That’s no small con­sid­er­a­tion. In 2012 alone, as the econ­o­my was slow­ly hoist­ing itself out of the gut­ter, the Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Assis­tance Pro­gram (SNAP, or “food stamps”) helped keep 4.9 mil­lion peo­ple out of pover­ty. It’s one of the most effec­tive fed­er­al anti-pover­ty pro­grams. Paul Ryan’s pro­pos­al would make it less effec­tive.

    And we don’t have to rely on guess­work to arrive at that con­clu­sion. The Tem­po­rary Assis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies pro­gram (TANF) was cre­at­ed dur­ing the “wel­fare reform” craze of the mid-’90s and oper­ates under a block grant struc­ture. When the econ­o­my crashed dur­ing the Great Reces­sion, TANF lagged behind bad­ly in its abil­i­ty to meet the spike in job­less­ness, as doc­u­ment­ed by ThinkProgress’ Bryce Covert:

    The block grant­i­ng sys­tem took away TANF’s abil­i­ty to respond when need goes up. Even though unem­ploy­ment spiked between 2007 and 2011 thanks to the Great Reces­sion, in near­ly a third of states TANF case­loads actu­al­ly dropped. The rolls didn’t start grow­ing until sev­en months into the reces­sion and only ever rose 16 per­cent before begin­ning a decline in Decem­ber of 2010, despite the fact that the num­ber of unem­ployed work­ers jumped 88 per­cent over the same time peri­od.

    ...

    We’ll get a bet­ter look at what Ryan has in mind tomor­row when he lays out the agen­da in more detail, but right now it looks like “pover­ty war­rior” Paul Ryan wants to make it hard­er for the gov­ern­ment to actu­al­ly fight pover­ty.

    So now the nation is expect­ed to believe that the GOP base that is cur­rent­ly ral­ly­ing around the idea of chas­ing off flee­ing poor women and chil­dren is secret­ly inter­est­ed in assist­ing poor women and chil­dren by pulling the rug out from under the nation­al safe­ty-net pro­grams with the same plan they always push. That’s basi­cal­ly the sales pitch:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    Some Repub­li­cans push com­pas­sion­ate, anti-pover­ty agen­da ahead of 2016 con­test

    By Zachary A. Gold­farb July 24 at 6:02 AM

    The last time Repub­li­cans began run­ning for pres­i­dent, there was a race to be the most con­fronta­tion­al, the most unbend­ing. Mitt Rom­ney said he was a “severe con­ser­v­a­tive” and mocked the “47 per­cent.” Rick Per­ry called the Fed­er­al Reserve “trea­so­nous.” Rick San­to­rum said he was “for income inequal­i­ty.”

    What a dif­fer­ence a dis­as­trous elec­tion, two years and ter­ri­ble polling make. If 2012 was a con­test to be the tough­est, it increas­ing­ly seems that the 2016 pres­i­den­tial Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry will include a com­pe­ti­tion to appear the most com­pas­sion­ate.

    A qui­et con­test is already under way among Repub­li­cans who hope to one day lead the par­ty and per­haps the coun­try. They are embark­ing on a push to rechris­ten the GOP as kinder, more con­nect­ed to the dai­ly eco­nom­ic anx­i­eties of poor Amer­i­cans – and bet­ter able to win nation­al elec­tions.

    The rebrand­ing effort will take cen­ter stage Thurs­day when House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan (R‑Wis.) — the 2012 GOP vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and the archi­tect of pro­pos­als to cut the safe­ty net — will unveil a series of rec­om­men­da­tions aimed at reduc­ing pover­ty and increas­ing social mobil­i­ty. The pro­pos­als, which focus on con­sol­i­dat­ing safe­ty-net pro­grams and over­haul­ing crim­i­nal sen­tenc­ing rules, would include no cuts to exist­ing fund­ing lev­els.

    “I think con­ser­v­a­tives have a lot to offer here and we have ignored this space for too long,” Ryan said in an inter­view, say­ing pol­i­tics are not on his mind. “I want­ed to remove it from the old-fash­ioned bud­get fight. ... I think it would be a need­less dis­trac­tion.”

    ...

    The devel­op­ments sug­gest that at least some of the key con­tenders in the 2016 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­test are pre­pared to focus on issues of pover­ty and eco­nom­ic mobil­i­ty. Such top­ics have got­ten rel­a­tive­ly scant atten­tion from Repub­li­cans since the 2000 cam­paign of George W. Bush, who ran for pres­i­dent as a “com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­v­a­tive.”

    The chal­lenge for reformist Repub­li­cans, how­ev­er, is rec­on­cil­ing their new, soft­er tone with oth­er mem­bers of the par­ty still push­ing for con­fronta­tion and rad­i­cal pol­i­cy changes. The party’s House and Sen­ate lead­ers haven’t embraced the new mes­sage, and the one who came clos­est to doing so — House Major­i­ty Leader Eric Can­tor (Va.) — lost his pri­ma­ry last month to a tea-par­ty insur­gent.

    Repub­li­cans push­ing for harsh action to deport tens of thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can chil­dren detained at the bor­der could also under­cut attempts at fash­ion­ing a more com­pas­sion­ate image for the par­ty.

    “There will be Repub­li­cans who will say we should be cut­ting these pro­grams and they’re too big and Ryan’s not doing that,” said Ron Hask­ins, who worked on wel­fare issues for con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans and as an advis­er to Bush. “It isn’t clear yet that the par­ty will fol­low. It’s a huge risk.”

    Lib­er­als are deeply skep­ti­cal of the new GOP ideas, argu­ing that most are cyn­i­cal attempts to soft­en the party’s brand with­out fun­da­men­tal­ly chang­ing its atti­tude toward help­ing the poor. They say ideas like con­sol­i­dat­ing pro­grams for low-income Amer­i­cans are only a pre­lude to cut­ting them.

    “A lot of the reform ideas do not direct­ly chal­lenge that main­stream ide­ol­o­gy in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment,” said Mike Kon­czal, a fel­low at the lib­er­al Roo­sevelt Insti­tute. “A lot of this stuff is try­ing to put a kinder gloss on some­thing rad­i­cal like the Ryan plan,” the bud­get pro­posed ear­li­er this year that would cut tril­lions over the next decade.

    Repub­li­cans, though, increas­ing­ly rec­og­nize they need to con­nect more with mid­dle- and low-income vot­ers. In 2012, among vot­ers who said “cares about peo­ple like me” was the most impor­tant qual­i­ty in a can­di­date, 81 per­cent sided with Oba­ma over Rom­ney.

    “What hap­pens in a nat­ur­al cadence of an oppo­si­tion par­ty becom­ing a major­i­ty par­ty is they stop fight­ing against an incum­bent and stop fight­ing a per­son and the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of all of his poli­cies and they end up stand­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent,” said Arthur Brooks, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute, the right-lean­ing think tank that has been gen­er­at­ing many of the new ideas. “The ques­tion is are we ready on the con­ser­v­a­tive side ready to move from com­plain­ing about the major­i­ty for tac­ti­cal polit­i­cal advan­tage?

    The piv­ot has not come eas­i­ly for Ryan, who was part of a nation­al cam­paign that attacked the “47 per­cent” of Amer­i­cans alleged­ly depen­dent on gov­ern­ment and who made his name as a fierce bud­get cut­ter.

    “I have beat Paul over the head on that one,” said Robert Wood­son, a con­ser­v­a­tive anti-pover­ty activist who has vis­it­ed low-income aid orga­ni­za­tions with Ryan. “Don’t talk about the cuts!”

    yan’s lat­est pro­pos­als — to be announced at an Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute event Thurs­day — are an amal­gam of ideas that have been pro­posed by oth­er Repub­li­cans over the years. The lead­ing pro­pos­al is to stream­line safe­ty-net pro­grams such as food stamps and hous­ing vouch­ers into a sin­gle grant to states. It would begin as a pilot pro­gram for a few loca­tions.

    The idea is informed by Ryan trav­els with Wood­son and the belief that states, local­i­ties and non-prof­it and faith groups will have the best suc­cess at dis­trib­ut­ing aid depend­ing on the spe­cif­ic needs of indi­vid­u­als.

    “From look­ing at all the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment does in this area, it’s very dis­joint­ed and it’s very con­fus­ing,” Ryan said. “From look­ing at all the good work that peo­ple out in poor com­mu­ni­ties are doing to assist able-bod­ied peo­ple, it became clear to me that we need a more cus­tomized approach.”

    Robert Rec­tor, a pover­ty expert at the con­ser­v­a­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion, is one GOP skep­tic. “What the states need is fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty for wel­fare, not flex­i­bil­i­ty in the use of fed­er­al funds,” he said.

    ...

    Well, at least this part was hon­est:
    “I have beat Paul over the head on that one,” said Robert Wood­son, a con­ser­v­a­tive anti-pover­ty activist who has vis­it­ed low-income aid orga­ni­za­tions with Ryan. “Don’t talk about the cuts!”

    So will GOP’s com­pas­sion rebrand redux plan work this time around or is this anoth­er canary in the GOP’s Koch mine? We’ll see!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2014, 8:27 am
  21. It’s a good thing Oba­macare is expand­ing men­tal health cov­er­age (for some Amer­i­cans) for a lot of rea­sons, but it’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant that cov­er­age expand now giv­en the large num­ber of peo­ple that could go nuts when they learn just how much it’s been cost­ing their state to deny peo­ple health­care:
    Think Progress
    States Refus­ing To Expand Med­ic­aid Will For­feit More Than $400 Bil­lion Over The Next Decade

    by Tara Culp-Ressler Post­ed on August 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    If the 24 states that have refused to expand Med­ic­aid under Oba­macare don’t change that stance, they’ll lose out on about $420 bil­lion dol­lars in fed­er­al fund­ing between 2013 and 2022, accord­ing to new research from the Urban Insti­tute. The hos­pi­tals locat­ed in those states will also miss out on a pro­ject­ed $167.8 bil­lion boost from the patients who could have become insured through expan­sion.

    The health reform law, which was designed with a nation­al Med­ic­aid expan­sion in mind, specif­i­cal­ly allo­cates addi­tion­al fund­ing to finance the cost of adding more peo­ple to states’ Med­ic­aid rolls. But since the Supreme Court ruled the expan­sion to be option­al, only half the coun­try is actu­al­ly imple­ment­ing this par­tic­u­lar pro­vi­sion. Health offi­cials were ini­tial­ly opti­mistic that the “unusu­al­ly gen­er­ous” fed­er­al funds would help encour­age resis­tant law­mak­ers to expand Med­ic­aid; how­ev­er, that hasn’t turned out to be the case for many GOP-con­trolled states.

    Many politi­cians have cit­ed finan­cial con­cerns to jus­ti­fy their deci­sion to reject expan­sion, say­ing that it’s irre­spon­si­ble to pour more mon­ey into an inef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment pro­gram. But since the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will foot more than 90 per­cent of the costs of the Med­ic­aid expan­sion over its first nine years, the new report finds that about $13.41 in fed­er­al dol­lars will flow into states for every $1 they spend on Med­ic­aid.
    ...

    Note that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment also cov­ers 90% of the cost of of the Med­ic­aid expan­sion for all sub­se­quent years. The way the law it writ­ten now, that sub­sidy nev­er ends.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...

    Plus, accord­ing to the Urban Institute’s cal­cu­la­tions, opt­ing out of expan­sion also comes with oth­er, more indi­rect costs. With­out extend­ing pub­lic insur­ance to addi­tion­al low-income res­i­dents, states are for­go­ing poten­tial jobs, high­er hos­pi­tal prof­its, and low­er unin­sur­ance rates. They’ll ulti­mate­ly have to spend more mon­ey on their unin­sured res­i­dents — par­tic­u­lar­ly when its comes to ser­vices like men­tal health treat­ment, sub­stance abuse pro­grams, and prison health care — that oth­er­wise could have been shift­ed onto the Med­ic­aid pro­gram.

    For instance, the new report cites a pre­vi­ous study that found Penn­syl­va­nia could end up sav­ing $4 bil­lion in those non-Med­ic­aid costs if the state agreed to expand the pro­gram. Although that par­tic­u­lar sta­tis­tic is spe­cif­ic to Penn­syl­va­nia, researchers found sim­i­lar bud­get sav­ings when review­ing data for a diverse range of oth­er states.

    “The impact of not expand­ing Med­ic­aid has broad­er impli­ca­tions than just the num­ber of peo­ple who gain insur­ance. It sig­nif­i­cant­ly impacts state economies and hos­pi­tal bud­gets,” Kathy Hemp­stead of the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion, which fund­ed the study, said in a state­ment. “States are lit­er­al­ly leav­ing bil­lions of dol­lars on the table that would sup­port their hos­pi­tals and stim­u­late the rest of their economies.”

    There’s a sig­nif­i­cant human cost to resist­ing Obamacare’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion, too. In the 24 states that have not expand­ed Med­ic­aid, an esti­mat­ed 6.7 mil­lion low-income res­i­dents are pro­ject­ed to remain unin­sured in 2016 because they fall into a cov­er­age gap and can­not access afford­able health care. Researchers from Har­vard have esti­mat­ed that as many as 17,000 impov­er­ished Amer­i­cans will die direct­ly as a result of their states refus­ing to expand Med­ic­aid. In that con­text, activists have framed the pol­i­cy as a “moral issue.”

    “Researchers from Har­vard have esti­mat­ed that as many as 17,000 impov­er­ished Amer­i­cans will die direct­ly as a result of their states refus­ing to expand Med­ic­aid”. Well, it looks like we final­ly found the leg­endary death pan­el, although it’s real­ly more of a death cau­cus.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 10, 2014, 8:34 pm
  22. It’s hard to say if this is more scary, fun­ny, or a scary fun­ny hybrid, although if you’re unem­ployed in Geor­gia it’s at least scary:

    Salon
    GOP gov­er­nor has hilar­i­ous the­o­ry for his state’s ter­ri­ble unem­ploy­ment rate
    Nathan Deal’s state has the coun­try’s high­est unem­ploy­ment rate. You’ve got to hear his rea­son why
    Jim Newell
    Mon­day, Sep 22, 2014 01:31 PM CST

    Geor­gia Repub­li­can Gov. Nathan Deal is fac­ing what we might call a clas­sic polit­i­cal prob­lem. He’s mired in a toss-up reelec­tion bid against Jason Carter, grand­son of Jim­my. And his state now has the high­est unem­ploy­ment rate in the coun­try.. The prob­a­bil­i­ty of Jason Carter point­ing out that Geor­gia has the high­est unem­ploy­ment rate in the coun­try in ver­bal and tele­vised attacks on Nathan Deal is quite high. This is not a good sit­u­a­tion for Nathan Deal.

    A high unem­ploy­ment rate isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly all it’s cracked up to be, of course, and it doesn’t reflect the clear­est pic­ture of an econ­o­my. Geor­gia may have an 8.1 per­cent unem­ploy­ment rate, as cal­cu­lat­ed by the Labor Depart­ment, but a sep­a­rate sur­vey showed that “Georgia’s rate rose even as its employ­ers added the fourth-most jobs in the nation last month, gain­ing 15,800.” As the AP explains, “The hir­ing and unem­ploy­ment data can con­flict because they come from two sep­a­rate sur­veys. One is of house­holds and the oth­er sur­vey cov­ers busi­ness­es.” The dif­fer­ence could also be explained by fluc­tu­at­ing in the size of the labor force. Point is: there are legit­i­mate ways for Deal to explain away the top-line fig­ure, to an extent, should he so choose.

    But Deal instead has cho­sen to react to the num­ber in the most hilar­i­ous and con­spir­a­to­r­i­al way pos­si­ble, with one of the choic­est quotes of the cycle: States with Repub­li­can gov­er­nors have high unem­ploy­ment rates while states with Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors have low­er ones? The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion must be cook­ing the books!

    At a pub­lic event Thurs­day, Deal described an inex­plic­a­ble “influ­ence” on the unem­ploy­ment rate in Repub­li­can-led states.

    “It’s iron­ic that in a year in which Repub­li­can gov­er­nors are lead­ing some of the states that are mak­ing the most progress, that they almost, with­out excep­tion, are clas­si­fied as hav­ing a bump in their unem­ploy­ment rates,” he said in a clip cir­cu­lat­ed by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion. “Where­as states that are under Demo­c­rat gov­er­nors’ con­trol, they are all show­ing that their unem­ploy­ment rate has dropped. And I don’t know how you account for that. Maybe there is some influ­ence here that we don’t know about.”

    Asked to clar­i­fy the governor’s remarks, a Deal spokes­woman point­ed out that the fed­er­al Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics had in pre­vi­ous years report­ed high unem­ploy­ment rates in July and August only to revise them down­ward the fol­low­ing year.

    “Giv­en the increase in jobs we’ve seen this month, the BLS’ pat­tern of down­ward revi­sion and the drop in unem­ploy­ment claims, the num­ber doesn’t make sense,” said the spokes­woman, Jen­nifer Tal­aber. “States with Repub­li­can gov­er­nors across the coun­try are also see­ing spikes in their unem­ploy­ment rates.”

    You bet­ter god­damn well believe the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion is cir­cu­lat­ing this! Here we have an embat­tled Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, near the end of Sep­tem­ber, say­ing, “Where­as states that are under Demo­c­rat gov­er­nors’ con­trol, they are all show­ing that their unem­ploy­ment rate has dropped.” And then to com­pound it, we have the gov’s spokesper­son say­ing, “States with Repub­li­can gov­er­nors across the coun­try are also see­ing spikes in their unem­ploy­ment rates.” Mmm MMM, this is the good stuff, right here. And all for free!

    Deal’s com­ments res­ur­rect one of the most enter­tain­ing of the var­i­ous con­spir­a­cies that have flour­ished under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion: BLS trutherism. This is the sim­ple belief that when eco­nom­ic fig­ures released by the Bureau of Labor and Sta­tis­tics are good for Democ­rats, then the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is mak­ing them up. Or more gen­er­al­ly, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is exert­ing polit­i­cal pres­sure on the BLS and its algo­rithms.

    In the late stages of the 2012 elec­tion, fol­low­ing a month­ly jobs report that was favor­able to Pres­i­dent Obama’s reelec­tion prospects, famous for­mer Gen­er­al Elec­tric CEO Jack Welch tweet­ed this mis­sive::

    Unbe­liev­able jobs numbers..these Chica­go guys will do anything..can’t debate so change num­bers— Jack Welch (@jack_welch) Octo­ber 5, 2012

    Welch was round­ly mocked for mak­ing this asser­tion based on noth­ing. (There were calls for For­tune to fire Welch from his colum­nist gig there, but Welch end­ed up quit­ting before they could, cit­ing his abil­i­ty to get more “trac­tion” else­where.) An inspec­tor general’s report even­tu­al­ly con­firmed that no, Obama’s Chica­go mob thugs didn’t catch the “real num­bers” walk­ing alone down an alley one night and beat them into sub­mis­sion with lead pipes and brass knuck­les.

    Lat­er on in Octo­ber 2012, the Labor Depart­ment sug­gest­ed that release of the final jobs report before the elec­tion might have to be delayed if Hur­ri­cane Sandy shut down the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for an extend­ed peri­od of time. BLS was able to get the report out on time — only after anoth­er mod­est right-wing fren­zy about how the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was draw­ing on ancient mys­ti­cal pow­ers to con­jure Hur­ri­cane Sandy for this very pur­pose.

    Gov­er­nors’ races are one of the few bright spots for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty this year, with a num­ber of incum­bent Repub­li­cans, like Deal, look­ing vul­ner­a­ble. And part of the rea­son why they’re vul­ner­a­ble is because their jobs records ain’t great. Deal may have been the first of these gov­er­nors to fall into the con­spir­a­to­r­i­al unem­ploy­ment truther trap, but it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if more fol­lowed suit.

    Well that’s cer­tain­ly good news that the bad unem­ploy­ment news for the GOP is all a fake news. Oth­er­wise Geor­gia’s vot­ers might get the wrong idea.

    But this rev­e­la­tion sure rais­es a lot of ques­tions: For instance, maybe this means Wis­con­sin does­n’t actu­al­ly have a loom­ing $1.8 bil­lion tax-cut-induced bud­get short­fall. And, who knows, maybe Sam Brown­back­’s “real live exper­i­ment” in pen­ny fool­ish pound fool­ish poli­cies aren’t actu­al­ly putting the state isn’t on a path to penury. Once you accept that every­thing’s a lie your world will nev­er be the same. It’s a very dis­com­fort­ing expe­ri­ence, kind of like penury:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Sam Brownback’s failed ‘exper­i­ment’ puts state on path to penury

    By Edi­to­r­i­al Board Sep­tem­ber 21

    GOV. SAM BROWNBACK of Kansas says he has come to regret char­ac­ter­iz­ing his pol­i­cy agen­da as a “real live exper­i­ment” that would test the effi­ca­cy of deep tax cuts to spur jobs and eco­nom­ic growth. In fact, Mr. Brownback’s choice of words was apt. Few if any gov­er­nors have under­tak­en such an extreme tri­al-by-rev­enue-depri­va­tion in a state so clear­ly lack­ing the eco­nom­ic means to with­stand it.

    Now, as the dam­ag­ing social and bud­getary impacts of his slash-and-burn fis­cal mea­sures have become appar­ent, Mr. Brown­back, a con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can seek­ing reelec­tion this fall in a state where every statewide elect­ed offi­cial is also a Repub­li­can, is in the dis­ori­ent­ing posi­tion of trail­ing his Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger in the polls.<

    Mr. Brownback’s Kansas tri­al is rapid­ly becom­ing a cau­tion­ary tale for con­ser­v­a­tive gov­er­nors else­where who have blithe­ly ped­dled the the­ol­o­gy of tax cuts as a pain­less panacea for slug­gish growth. Most key indi­ca­tors sug­gest that job cre­ation and eco­nom­ic growth in Kansas are lag­ging those of its neigh­bors.

    Mr. Brown­back has cher­ry-picked the sta­tis­tics to sug­gest that things aren’t as bad as they seem, while argu­ing that it’s still too ear­ly — more than a year and a half after his cuts were enact­ed — to gauge their full impact. Mean­while, Wall Street’s bond rat­ing agen­cies, tak­ing note of plum­met­ing tax rev­enue and a siphon­ing off of the state’s reserves to cov­er cur­rent and pro­ject­ed deficits, have weighed in with their own ver­dict: Moody’s cut Kansas’s cred­it rat­ing last spring, and Stan­dard & Poor’s fol­lowed suit last month.

    “In our opin­ion,” S&P’s ana­lysts wrote with lethal under­state­ment, “there is rea­son to believe the bud­get is not struc­tural­ly aligned.”

    Yes, well, that is bound to hap­pen when a state hacks per­son­al income tax­es, cor­po­rate tax­es and sales tax­es all at once with­out tap­ping an alter­nate source of rev­enue, or mak­ing com­men­su­rate cuts in spend­ing.

    As it hap­pens, spend­ing reduc­tions have been suf­fi­cient­ly dra­con­ian and divi­sive that large num­bers of Kansans, includ­ing more than 100 cur­rent and for­mer GOP elect­ed offi­cials, have expressed alarm and are sup­port­ing the man try­ing to unseat Mr. Brown­back, Paul Davis, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic minor­i­ty leader in the state’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. There have been par­tic­u­lar expres­sions of anx­i­ety about cuts to per-pupil expen­di­tures in pub­lic schools, which have dropped more than 10 per­cent since 2008.

    Oth­er Repub­li­can-led states have embarked on tax-cut­ting pro­grams. But few if any have done so with­out a fail-safe designed to pro­tect essen­tial state ser­vices, such as mech­a­nisms that would abort tax cuts if rev­enue drops, or allow them only after rev­enue ris­es. In the spe­cial case of Texas, a com­bi­na­tion of ris­ing immi­gra­tion rates and a robust oil and gas sec­tor buffered the econ­o­my from the effects of tax cuts.

    Kansas has no such innate advan­tages. To the con­trary, non-par­ti­san bud­get ana­lysts for the state leg­is­la­ture project that with­out new sources of rev­enue or even deep­er spend­ing cuts, the state faces some $1.3 bil­lion in deficits in the com­ing five years. That’s a big hill to climb in a state whose bud­get for gen­er­al expens­es is $6.3 bil­lion.

    ...

    Hmmm. Sure­ly there’s an Oba­ma-relat­ed expla­na­tion for all the dis­con­tent in Kansas. There must be.

    Aha! here we go:

    TPM Livewire
    GOP Guv On Lack­lus­ter Pri­ma­ry Per­for­mance: Blame Oba­ma

    By Daniel Strauss
    Pub­lished August 7, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Kansas Gov. Sam Brown­back ® had a the­o­ry for why a chunk of vot­ers were back­ing Jen­nifer Winn, his chal­lenger, in the Repub­li­can guber­na­to­r­i­al pri­ma­ry: blame Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma.

    “I think a big part of it is Barack Oba­ma,” Brown­backtold Kansas’s 41 Action News. “That a lot of peo­ple are so irri­tat­ed at what the pres­i­dent is doing, they just, they want some­body to throw a brick.”

    Brown­back won the pri­ma­ry on Tues­day with 63.3 per­cent of the vote while Winn got 36.7 per­cent, a sur­pris­ing­ly low mar­gin of vic­to­ry for the tea par­ty-favored Brown­back giv­en that it’s the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry in deep red Kansas.

    “I think it’s a lot of deep irri­ta­tion with the way the pres­i­dent has tak­en the coun­try,” Brown­back said.

    Brown­back is seen as vul­ner­a­ble in the gen­er­al elec­tion as well. Real­Clear­Pol­i­tics cur­rent­ly cat­e­go­rizes the Kansas guber­na­to­r­i­al race as a tossup and a num­ber of polls have shown Kansas House Minor­i­ty Leader Paul Davis, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, lead­ing Brown­back in the gen­er­al elec­tion.

    Brown­back also said that the divid­ed pri­ma­ry for U.S. Sen­ate between Sen. Pat Roberts (R‑KS) and tea par­ty chal­lenger Mil­ton Wolf was not a con­test between a con­ser­v­a­tive (Wolf) and an estab­lish­ment law­mak­er (Roberts). Instead, he said, just showed how dis­sat­is­fied vot­ers are with Oba­ma.

    ...

    Well that set­tles that. Every­thing’s a lie. Where’s a truth brigade when you need one.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 24, 2014, 7:53 pm
  23. One of the pop­u­lar far right memes dur­ing the Oba­ma pres­i­den­cy has been the idea that Oba­ma’s Sci­ence Advis­er John P. Hold­en is an advo­cate of “de-devel­op­ment” for the Unit­ed States (Hol­dren was actu­al­ly refer­ring to end­ing envi­ron­men­tal­ly-destroy­ing indus­tri­al prac­tices and replac­ing them with viable ones, a goal of any sane per­son). But if you think of “de-indus­tri­al­iza­tion” as basi­cal­ly reduc­ing a nation’s tech­no­log­i­cal and socioe­co­nom­ic capac­i­ty, it’s some­what curi­ous that the GOP’s end­less dri­ves for aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies that gut some of the most vital pro­grams in the nation haven’t yet received the “de-devel­op­ment” label:

    Politi­cusUSA
    Repub­li­can Sequester Pre­vent­ed Health Agen­cies From Stop­ping Ebo­la Spread
    By: Rmuse

    Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber, 4th, 2014, 10:48 am

    Con­se­quences hap­pen as a result of a par­tic­u­lar action or set of con­di­tions, and head­ing into the midterm elec­tions, it is cer­tain politi­cians will be remind­ing Amer­i­cans that elec­tions have con­se­quences in the com­ing weeks. Often, the results of an elec­tion may not bear fruit imme­di­ate­ly, and although the con­se­quence of teabag­ger Repub­li­cans tak­ing con­trol of the House and the nation’s purse-strings in the 2010 midterms were imme­di­ate­ly evi­dent, they are still and will con­tin­ue wreak­ing hav­oc on the nation for sev­er­al more years.

    After the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion con­firmed that a case of the Ebo­la virus was pos­i­tive­ly diag­nosed this week, the out­break of the virus took on an added air of urgency now that it is in Amer­i­ca. Although there have been no fatal­i­ties in Amer­i­ca, the virus has killed over 3,000 and sick­ened over 6,500 in Africa. America’s gov­ern­ment pledged to send aid to West Africa to help stop Ebo­la from spread­ing even more, but there is a minor prob­lem going for­ward that is a direct con­se­quence of the 2010 midterm elec­tions. There is lit­tle mon­ey for the agen­cies tasked with help­ing stop the virus due to the Repub­li­cans’ pre­cious sequester the GOP House can­not pos­si­bly blame on any­one but their sick aus­ter­i­ty eco­nom­ics.

    Two weeks ago in the Sen­ate, com­mit­tees on Appro­pri­a­tions and Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions con­vened a hear­ing to “dis­cuss” what kind of resources are nec­es­sary to address, and stop the virus from spread­ing. Accord­ing to the direc­tor of the CDC Nation­al Cen­ter for Emerg­ing and Zoonot­ic Infec­tious Dis­eases, Dr. Beth Bell, the epi­dem­ic could have been stopped if more had been done soon­er to build glob­al health secu­ri­ty.

    Bell assert­ed that if the Repub­li­can sequester had not cut aid bud­gets and glob­al health pro­grams indis­crim­i­nate­ly by $411 mil­lion, and USAID by $289 mil­lion, the epi­dem­ic could been reduced to a man­age­able sit­u­a­tion if not stopped alto­geth­er. Bell said, “If even mod­est invest­ments had been made to build a pub­lic health infra­struc­ture in West Africa pre­vi­ous­ly, the cur­rent Ebo­la epi­dem­ic could have been detect­ed ear­li­er, and it could have been iden­ti­fied and con­tained. This Ebo­la epi­dem­ic shows that any vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty could have wide­spread impact if not stopped at the source.” Now it has the pos­si­bil­i­ty of impact­ing Amer­i­cans.

    Despite warn­ings from eco­nom­ic experts and myr­i­ad agen­cies across the gov­ern­ment, Repub­li­cans par­layed their fear-mon­ger­ing about deficits, debt, and “fool­ish, waste­ful, out-of-con­trol, and unnec­es­sary spend­ing” into a dev­as­tat­ing sequester that put a major dent in the CDC’s bud­get that is bear­ing exact­ly the fruit experts warned Repub­li­cans about. NIH rep­re­sen­ta­tive Antho­ny Fau­ci reit­er­at­ed Bell’s con­clu­sion and told the com­mit­tees, “hon­est­ly it’s (the sequester) been a sig­nif­i­cant impact on us. It has both in an acute and a chron­ic, insid­i­ous way erod­ed our abil­i­ty to respond in the way that I and my col­leagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerg­ing threats. And in my insti­tute par­tic­u­lar­ly, that’s respon­si­ble for respond­ing on the dime to an emerg­ing infec­tious dis­ease threat, this is par­tic­u­lar­ly dam­ag­ing.

    The Repub­li­cans’ pre­cious sequester required the NIH to cut its bud­get by $1.55 bil­lion in 2013 across the board that had the desired result of affect­ing every area of med­ical research with­in the agency. Bell agreed with Fau­ci that her depart­ment is lead­ing the U.S. inter­ven­tion in West Africa, but com­plained the agency is being ham­strung by a $13 mil­lion sequester cut that a minus­cule increase in 2014 and 2015 is not going to make up in time to effec­tive­ly stop the virus’s inevitable spread.

    In spite of the daunt­ing, and woe­ful­ly under­fund­ed, task of stop­ping “the Ebo­la virus dead in its tracks,” the CDC and NIH have pledged to every­thing in their pow­er to get it under con­trol. The CDC Direc­tor said a month ago that “We know how to stop this out­break. There is a win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty to tamp this down-the chal­lenge is to scale up the mas­sive response need­ed.” That was weeks ago and the con­se­quence of not hav­ing fund­ing to “tamp this down with a mas­sive response” is that Ebo­la spread and made its appear­ance in Amer­i­ca. If the var­i­ous agen­cies had not had their fund­ing slashed by the Repub­li­cans’ sequester, the out­break may have been con­tained to a small area of West Africa and stopped it in its tracks.

    This is not the first neg­a­tive con­se­quence of Repub­li­cans’ aus­ter­i­ty and sequester cuts. Last week the head of the Secret Ser­vice, Julia Pier­son, said cuts due to the sequester had hurt staffing and had the agency “down 500 employ­ees.” Repub­li­cans claimed the cuts were nec­es­sary to rein in spend­ing across the board and sub­se­quent­ly have now affect­ed Vet­er­ans, the EPA, IRS, Secret Ser­vice, and all nation­al health agen­cies respon­si­ble for stop­ping real threats like an infec­tious dis­ease run­ning ram­pant through­out the pop­u­la­tion.

    How­ev­er, Repub­li­cans cer­tain­ly know how to find mon­ey to spend on their “high pri­or­i­ties” such as cor­po­rate tax cuts, oil and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sub­si­dies, and weapons sys­tems the Pen­ta­gon does not want, but for some­thing as crit­i­cal as embassy secu­ri­ty, it was pru­dent to rein in spend­ing and make dras­tic cuts. Remem­ber, ear­ly in 2011 then-Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton begged House Repub­li­cans for increased fund­ing for embassy secu­ri­ty that led Repub­li­cans to prompt­ly make $112 and then $331 mil­lion in cuts.

    Utah Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jason Chavitz boast­ed that Repub­li­cans made the right choice even after the attacks on an out­post in Beng­hazi and said, “When you’re in tough eco­nom­ic times, you have to make dif­fi­cult choic­es. You have to pri­or­i­tize things.” Repub­li­cans opt­ed for the dif­fi­cult choice of giv­ing bil­lions in oil sub­si­dies, cor­po­rate tax cuts, and Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and cut fund­ing for embassy secu­ri­ty that like­ly cost four Amer­i­can diplo­mats their lives.

    It is impor­tant for Amer­i­cans to remem­ber that the Repub­li­cans reject­ed any pro­pos­al to restruc­ture the sequester to pre­vent dev­as­tat­ing cuts to agen­cies like the Vet­er­ans Admin­is­tra­tion, NIH, Secret Ser­vice, and the CDC, but they did not and the neg­a­tive con­se­quences were felt imme­di­ate­ly at the White House and con­tin­ue today with a dan­ger­ous Ebo­la virus out­break that could have “been stopped in its tracks” if fund­ing had not been slashed.

    Repub­li­cans, and their teabag­ger cohort came into the House in 2011 with no mea­sured approach to rein in the deficit and just want­ed to slash and burn spend­ing. Amer­i­cans have not yet seen the end of the sequester dam­age because this is only the sec­ond year of a ten year aus­ter­i­ty dis­as­ter Repub­li­cans have no intent of stop­ping regard­less the con­se­quences.

    ...

    Amer­i­cans should also keep in mind that the seques­tra­tion mad­ness isn’t the only form of de-indus­tri­al­iza­tion cur­rent­ly tak­ing place.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 4, 2014, 9:02 pm
  24. Well, that’s one way to address stag­nant incomes: get rid of week­ends:

    Think Progress
    Wis­con­sin Law­mak­er Wants To Take Away Work­ers’ Week­ends

    by Bryce Covert Post­ed on Jan­u­ary 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Wis­con­sin state Sen. Glenn Groth­man ® is push­ing to undo the state’s law that employ­ers have to pro­vide their employ­ees with at least one day off a week, the Huff­in­g­ton Post reports.

    ...

    Wis­con­sin is some­what unique in hav­ing the law on its books. “Right now in Wis­con­sin, you’re not sup­posed to work sev­en days in a row, which is a lit­tle ridicu­lous because all sorts of peo­ple want to work sev­en days a week,” Groth­man told The Huff­in­g­ton Post. But work­ers don’t have to get a day off every sev­en days, as they could work for up to 12 in a row “if the days of rest fall on the first and last days of the 2 week peri­od,” accord­ing to the law. Groth­man called the law “goofy” and called undo­ing it a mat­ter of “free­dom.”

    While he argues that the law would ease work­ers’ abil­i­ty to work over­time, it’s pos­si­ble that employ­ers would force their employ­ees to work the extra time, mak­ing it less than vol­un­tary. “It’s a very hard thing to know whether some­thing is tru­ly vol­un­tary or not,” Vice Pres­i­dent of the Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute Ross Eisen­brey told the Huff­in­g­ton Post. “If the employ­er puts pres­sure on peo­ple and lets them know they will be unhap­py if work­ers exer­cise their right to have a day off, that might be enough so that no work­er ever does any­thing but vol­un­teer to work sev­en days a week.”

    In fact, the pow­er usu­al­ly lies with employ­ers and instances of them abus­ing labor laws are already on the rise. In 2009, two-thirds of low-income work­ers said they had expe­ri­enced a wage law vio­la­tion in the pre­vi­ous week alone. Wage theft, where an employ­er ille­gal­ly with­holds over­time pay or makes its employ­ees work off the clock, robs low-wage work­ers of more mon­ey than is stolen frombanks, gas sta­tions and con­ve­nience stores com­bined. Actions filed in fed­er­al court alleg­ing wage and hour vio­la­tions increased by 400 per­cent between 2000 and 2011.

    And the law doesn’t always come to work­ers’ res­cue. In Cal­i­for­nia, work­ers recov­ered less than half of what was tak­en from them from 2008 to 2011, and, worse, 83 per­cent of those who actu­al­ly proved a case of wage theft still nev­er got what they were owed.

    Amer­i­can work­ers already put in more hours and are guar­an­teed less time off than most oth­er devel­oped peers. We work more than in any oth­er indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries. Unlike in the Unit­ed States, it’s ille­gal in six of the 10 most com­pet­i­tive coun­tries in the world to make work­ers put in more than 48 hours a week. The Unit­ed States also lacks laws guar­an­tee­ing that work­ers can take time off if they or their fam­i­ly mem­bers are sick, will get vaca­tion or hol­i­day time off, or can take paid time off for the arrival of a new child. Many oth­er devel­oped and com­pet­i­tive coun­tries, on the oth­er hand, do guar­an­tee these things.

    Groth­man would also go fur­ther and take away the nation­al hol­i­day for gov­ern­ment work­ers on Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., day. He was a spon­sor of the country’s first pre­emp­tion bill that blocked cities and local com­mu­ni­ties from enact­ing paid sick days leg­is­la­tion in Wis­con­sin.

    Well isn’t that love­ly. Want a raise? How about nev­er giv­ing your body a chance to rest. Then you can get that awe­some ‘over­time raise’...assuming your boss decides to pay.

    Also note that Groth­man has also spon­sored bills that would repeal the state’s Equal Pay Enforce­ment Act and offi­cial­ly declare that anoth­er that sin­gle par­ent­hood “a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to child abuse and neglect.” Hope­ful­ly the chil­dren of those unequal­ly-paid sin­gle mom’s will understand...assuming mom isn’t already work­ing sev­en days a week:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    One in four Amer­i­cans think poor peo­ple don’t work hard enough
    By Rober­to A. Fer­d­man
    Octo­ber 9

    Amer­i­ca’s long held infat­u­a­tion with hard work might be eat­ing into its under­stand­ing of inequal­i­ty.

    A quar­ter of the coun­try believes the most impor­tant rea­son inequal­i­ty exists is that some peo­ple (ahem, the rich) work hard­er than oth­er peo­ple (the poor), accord­ing to a new report by the Pew Research Cen­ter.

    The pro­por­tion of Amer­i­cans who blame the under­priv­i­leged’s work eth­ic for inequal­i­ty is sur­pris­ing because it’s unusu­al. Of the 44 coun­tries includ­ed in Pew’s sur­vey, only two —Eng­land and Ugan­da — were equal­ly as unim­pressed with the poor’s work­ing habits, and only Nicaragua was found to have a greater per­cent­age of peo­ple (31 per­cent­age) who hold that view. In Ger­many, Israel, and Italy, by com­par­i­son, only 10 per­cent, 7 per­cent, and 3 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, respec­tive­ly, said the main rea­son an income gap per­sists is because some peo­ple work hard­er than oth­ers.

    And world­wide, only 10 per­cent of peo­ple blamed effort for the inequal­i­ty.

    Why so many Amer­i­cans think the poor sim­ply aren’t work­ing hard enough is unclear.

    It’s not because they’re work­ing less, or inflex­i­ble about their work hours, as my col­league Matt O’Brien point­ed out ear­li­er this week. It’s quite the oppo­site, actu­al­ly: “Week­ends, he explained, “are a lux­u­ry the bot­tom 30 per­cent can’t afford.”

    The opin­ion also over­looks the fact that the coun­try’s top earn­ers are get­ting rich­er faster than any­one else — and at a rate which is glob­al­ly excep­tion­al.

    “This skew­ing of pay at the very top in the Unit­ed States con­trasts with oth­er coun­tries,” says a new paper pub­lished by the Nation­al Bureau of Eco­nom­ic Research. It’s hard to see how that ris­ing earn­ing pow­er could sim­ply be explained by increased ded­i­ca­tion or hard work, espe­cial­ly when wages are soar­ing at the top and remain­ing stag­nant most every­where else, and cer­tain­ly at the bot­tom.

    ...

    Well, it looks like the work­ing poor are already work­ing week­ends and are still poor. But, who knows, maybe Wis­con­sin’s work­ing poor that love the idea of work­ing with­out at day of rest will be able to dig them­selves out of pover­ty with that extra day’s overtime...assuming they aren’t already work­ing sev­en days a week with mul­ti­ple jobs. And assum­ing they’ll actu­al­ly get paid that over­time. And, of course, assum­ing the GOP does­n’t over­turn fed­er­al over­time laws:

    Politi­cusUSA

    The House Repub­li­can Attack on Over­time Pay Is Designed to Kill Jobs
    By: Rmuse
    Mon­day, May, 13th, 2013, 10:04 am

    One of the def­i­n­i­tions of slave labor is pro­hibit­ing an inden­tured ser­vant from demand­ing com­pen­sa­tion for their labor, and although slav­ery is ille­gal in Amer­i­ca, there is a move­ment to elim­i­nate labor laws that pro­hib­it employ­ers from tak­ing advan­tage of their work­force. .mRe­pub­li­cans and their con­ser­v­a­tive pay­mas­ters have begun a con­cert­ed effort to remove labor laws that have been in force since the Great Depres­sion to increase prof­its of the wealthy, and their goal is cre­at­ing a labor force at the mer­cy of employ­ers who, if suc­cess­ful, will avoid com­pen­sat­ing their employ­ees fair­ly, and if pos­si­ble, force them to work for less than sub­sis­tence wages. As it stands now, the only thing stand­ing in the way of slave-like con­di­tions are gov­ern­ment laws to pro­tect work­ers, and in their per­pet­u­al cam­paign to “get gov­ern­ment out of the way” of unscrupu­lous busi­ness­es, Repub­li­cans are on a cru­sade to dis­man­tle laws that pre­vent preda­to­ry employ­ers from com­pen­sat­ing their employ­ees as well as pro­tect work­ers from unsafe and unfair labor prac­tices.

    In 1938, the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act (FLSA) effec­tive­ly pro­vid­ed Amer­i­can work­ers with the eight-hour work­day and the 40-hour work­week, and although it does not pre­vent employ­ers from requir­ing their employ­ees to work more than eight hours in a day or over 40 hours in a week, it does induce employ­ers to either pay high­er wages for longer hours or hire more employ­ees. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that the FLSA also out­lawed child labor and required employ­ers to pay a pathet­ic min­i­mum wage that are both under threat of elim­i­na­tion from Repub­li­cans at the behest of their cor­po­rate mas­ters pay­ing them to “get gov­ern­ment out of the way” of impos­ing near-slave labor con­di­tions on the Amer­i­can work­force.

    Last week, Repub­li­cans in the House passed a bill that elim­i­nates over­time pay for pri­vate sec­tor employ­ees in what is a con­tin­u­ing GOP assault in their war on work­ing Amer­i­cans. Eric Can­tor spon­sored and heav­i­ly pro­mot­ed the bill as a fam­i­ly friend­ly mea­sure to “help” work­ing moth­ers spend more time with their fam­i­lies, but the real­i­ty is it puts employ­ees at the mer­cy of employ­ers who are fed up with pay­ing over­time wages for work­ers who put in more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week at their jobs. .The way Can­tor pro­motes the bill is promis­ing that when an employ­ee works over­time, instead of high­er wages, they can take “time off” at a lat­er date to spend time with their fam­i­lies, but he nev­er reveals that there is no guar­an­tee the employ­er has to give “flex time” off, ever, because the deci­sion of when an employ­ee takes their “flex time” remains sole­ly under purview of the employ­er who decides when a work­er can use their comp time, if at all. The bill effec­tive­ly elim­i­nates over­time pay and puts the employ­ee at the mer­cy of preda­to­ry employ­ers who can with­hold “flex time” indef­i­nite­ly, includ­ing when they ter­mi­nate the work­er mean­ing they worked over­time for free.

    The law is also anoth­er Repub­li­can attempt to kill new jobs because with­out the incen­tives inher­ent in the FLSA over­time rule, employ­ers have no rea­son to hire new employ­ees to avoid pay­ing over­time because if they have free rein to work employ­ees 16 hours a day for min­i­mum wage, they will not bring in new work­ers to save pay­roll expense on over­time pay; until they fire the employ to avoid giv­ing them the time off they earned. Amer­i­cans already work more hours and are more pro­duc­tive than any oth­er indus­tri­al­ized coun­try, and giv­ing employ­ers pro­tec­tion to reduce pay­checks is a real threat because they can claim giv­ing employ­ees earned comp time will “undu­ly dis­rupt the oper­a­tions of the employ­er.” Regard­less what Can­tor says, his bill is meant to force Amer­i­cans to work more for less pay and it is anoth­er Repub­li­can gift to the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty regard­less the dam­age to Amer­i­can work­ers and the econ­o­my.

    Pro­po­nents of end­ing over­time pay claim many pub­lic sec­tor employ­ees have, and take advan­tage, of flex time pro­vi­sions, but they are pre­dom­i­nate­ly union­ized work­ers with pro­tec­tions the pri­vate sec­tor does not afford its employ­ees and Repub­li­cans are fight­ing des­per­ate­ly to end. Amer­i­ca is one of the only indus­tri­al­ized nations on Earth that does not pro­vide paid sick leave or paid vaca­tions, and oppo­nents of Cantor’s bill warn that it effec­tive­ly “liq­ui­dates the whole con­cept of paid leave” because instead of giv­ing work­ers paid vaca­tions or sick leave, they will force them to “earn” time off by work­ing over­time that still gives the employ­ers the option to defer the time off indef­i­nite­ly, or until the time of ter­mi­na­tion that absolves them from ever com­pen­sat­ing the employ­ee.

    Most, if not all, Amer­i­cans would rather not be forced to work over­time, but with wages falling and the cost of liv­ing ris­ing they have lit­tle choice if they are to avoid falling into pover­ty. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that with a woe­ful­ly lack­ing min­i­mum wage, a work­er putting in 60 hours a week can­not afford to pay rent in any state in the Union, and elim­i­nat­ing over­time pay will make it hard­er than it already is to afford food, much less put a roof over their family’s heads. The Nation­al Part­ner­ship for Women and Fam­i­lies released a fact sheet titled “An Emp­ty Promise: The Work­ing Fam­i­lies Flex­i­bil­i­ty Act Would Give Work­ers Less Flex­i­bil­i­ty and Less Pay,” and not­ed that Cantor’s bill “sets up a dan­ger­ous false choice between time and mon­ey, when work­ing fam­i­lies real­ly need both. The bill would erode hourly work­ers’ abil­i­ty to make ends meet, plan for fam­i­ly time and have pre­dictabil­i­ty, sta­bil­i­ty and true flex­i­bil­i­ty at work,.” and that real­ly is the Republican’s 75-year goal in giv­ing pow­er to employ­ers to abuse their work­force the FLSA was cre­at­ed to pre­vent. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has already issued a state­ment promis­ing to veto the bill if it reach­es his desk say­ing it “under­mines the exist­ing right to hard-earned over­time pay, on which many work­ing fam­i­lies rely to make ends meet, while mis­rep­re­sent­ing itself as a work­place flex­i­bil­i­ty mea­sure that gives pow­er to employ­ees over their own sched­ules.” The idea of employ­ees hav­ing pow­er over their own sched­ules, or their lives, is some­thing Repub­li­cans are out to end to restore Depres­sion-era work­ing con­di­tions before the New Deal or FLSA, and it is pre­cise­ly what their “get gov­ern­ment out of the way” meme is meant to accom­plish.

    ...

    Well, at least the GOP’s “Mak­ing Life Work” agen­da of gut­ting of fed­er­al over­time laws should do won­ders for get­ting employ­ers to agree to non-stop over­time in Wis­con­sin (and all the oth­er states lack­ing laws pro­tect­ing the right to a day of rest). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for employ­ees that want to be legal­ly pres­sured into end­less work, Groth­man’s spon­sored bill isn’t yet law in Wis­con­sin. Also, the GOP’s “Mak­ing Life Work” isn’t fed­er­al law (yet). But assum­ing Scott Walk­er, a close ally of Groth­man, wins reelec­tion who knows what types of laws might get passed at both the state and fed­er­al lev­el, espe­cial­ly since Groth­man is head­ing to Con­gress:

    Moth­er Jones
    This Repub­li­can Who Wants to End the Week­end Is Prob­a­bly Head­ed to Con­gress
    Wis­con­sin state Sen. Glenn Groth­man thinks days off are “goofy,” says sex ed could make kids gay, and claims mon­ey is “more impor­tant for men.”

    —By Andy Kroll
    | Fri Sep. 26, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

    Glenn Groth­man, a Repub­li­can state sen­a­tor who is on track to be the next con­gress­man from Wis­con­sin’s 6th dis­trict, has nev­er been shy about speak­ing his mind. He’s a bomb-throw­er, a per­pet­u­al out­rage machine for his lib­er­al oppo­nents, and a gift to the local and nation­al press corps.

    Groth­man briefly stepped onto the nation­al stage dur­ing the 2011 protests against Repub­li­can Gov. Scott Walk­er’s effort to curb pub­lic work­ers’ bar­gain­ing rights. He was one of the most out­spo­ken crit­ics of the anti-Walk­er pro­test­ers. On MSNBC, he derid­ed those protest­ing the bill as “a bunch of slobs” and com­pared those who occu­pied the state Capi­tol to “col­lege stu­dents and hang­ers-on hav­ing a par­ty.”

    In August, Groth­man sur­prised many, includ­ing some in his own par­ty, by squeez­ing out the nar­row­est of vic­to­ries in the GOP pri­ma­ry in his over­whelm­ing­ly Repub­li­can dis­trict, which includes Oshkosh and Fond du Lac. .Refer­ring to Groth­man’s pre­vi­ous remarks about women, one Repub­li­can oper­a­tive tweet­ed, “Gee, so glad we nom­i­nat­ed the guy w/ a rep­u­ta­tion of being a misog­y­nist in #WI06 w/ both our Gov and AG can­di­dates down vs women.”

    Unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly, Groth­man has gone silent since his pri­ma­ry vic­to­ry. (His cam­paign did not respond to requests for com­ment.)

    Here is a roundup of what might be called his great­est hits. Read them and remem­ber that Groth­man is like­ly head­ed to Con­gress.

    Days off from work are “a lit­tle ridicu­lous”: In Jan­u­ary, Groth­man pro­posed rolling back a Wis­con­sin law requir­ing employ­ers to give work­ers at least one day of rest per week. He told the Huff­in­g­ton Post the exist­ing state law was “a lit­tle goofy” and his pro­pos­al was about “free­dom.” “Right now in Wis­con­sin, you’re not sup­posed to work sev­en days in a row, which is a lit­tle ridicu­lous because all sorts of peo­ple want to work sev­en days a week,” he said.

    Sex ed could turn kids gay: In 2010, Groth­man, who believes that homo­sex­u­al­i­ty is a choice, pro­posed ban­ning Wis­con­sin pub­lic school teach­ers from men­tion­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in sex edu­ca­tion class­es because some teach­ers had an “agen­da” to turn kids gay.

    Planned Par­ent­hood is racist: In Jan­u­ary 2013, Groth­man appeared on Voice of Chris­t­ian Youth Amer­i­ca, an evan­gel­i­cal talk show, and he called Planned Par­ent­hood “the most overt­ly racist orga­ni­za­tion.” He said that Planned Par­ent­hood has a pat­tern of “not lik­ing peo­ple who are not white” and specif­i­cal­ly tar­gets Asian Amer­i­cans for sex-selec­tive abor­tions. (Planned Par­ent­hood oppos­es sex-selec­tive abor­tions.)

    “Mon­ey is more impor­tant for men”: After vot­ing in 2011 to repeal Wis­con­sin’s equal-pay pro­tec­tion law, Groth­man argued that the male-female pay gap was­n’t about dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place. “Take a hypo­thet­i­cal hus­band and wife who are both lawyers,” he told the Dai­ly Beast. “But the hus­band is work­ing 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, mak­ing 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, rais­es kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The hus­band is mak­ing 200 grand a year, the woman is mak­ing 40 grand a year. It was­n’t dis­crim­i­na­tion. There was a dif­fer­ent sense of urgency in each per­son.” He added, “You could argue that mon­ey is more impor­tant for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a bread­win­ner some­day, may be a lit­tle more mon­ey-con­scious.” (At a 2010 tea par­ty ral­ly, Groth­man said, “In the long run, a lot of women like to stay at home and have their hus­bands be the pri­ma­ry bread­win­ner.”)

    Peo­ple on food stamps don’t act poor enough: In a a 2004 op-ed call­ing for new restric­tions on the fed­er­al food stamps pro­gram, Groth­man out­lined the exten­sive research that informed his posi­tion. “I’ve inter­viewed over a dozen peo­ple who check out peo­ple who pay with food stamps,” he wrote, “and all felt peo­ple on food stamps ate better—or at least more costly—than they did.” He also wrote: “Obser­va­tions of peo­ple who work in food stores indi­cate that many peo­ple who use food stamps do not act as if they are gen­uine­ly poor.”

    ...

    Well, hope­ful­ly by work­ing with­out days off Wis­con­sin’s work­ing poor that work for one of the US’s many cor­po­rate wel­fare queens and rely on food stamps just to sur­vive will no longer need those food stamps and will no longer have to act poor enough around folks like future con­gress­man Glenn Groth­man when they’re buy­ing gro­ceries. Again, that assumes that they actu­al­ly get that over­time pay. It also assum­ing that, even with that 50% over­time pay pre­mi­um, these non-stop work­ers still don’t require food stamps. It also assumes their bod­ies don’t break:

    Crooks and Liars
    Gov. Scott Walk­er Cut­ting Med­ic­aid To Fund Tax Cut For Rich
    By Susie Madrak June 5, 2013 4:00 pm

    Scott Walk­er’s a real­ly swell guy, isn’t he?

    I know a cou­ple of peo­ple for whom Bad­ger­care is a life­saver, keep­ing a moth­er and child alive and func­tion­al. Gov. Scott Walk­er, who long ago sold the tat­tered rem­nants of his soul to the Kochs and their friends, is using Oba­macare as an excuse to slash the state’s very suc­cess­ful Med­ic­aid pro­gram. Jason Sat­tler at the Nation­al Memo:

    Sev­er­al red states are turn­ing down Med­ic­aid expan­sion — only Scott Walk­er (R‑WI) is actu­al­ly using Oba­macare as an excuse to cut Med­ic­aid.

    Wisconsin’s Bad­ger­care health care plan is one of the best in the coun­try. Fam­i­lies qual­i­fy for com­pre­hen­sive cov­er­age if they earn up to 185 per­cent of the fed­er­al pover­ty lev­el.

    So when the Afford­able Care Act offered all 50 states a chance to expand their Med­ic­aid pro­grams to cov­er all the work­ing poor who earn too much for Med­ic­aid but make up to 133 per­cent of the pover­ty lev­el, what did Gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er decide to do?

    He put for­ward a plan to dras­ti­cal­ly cut Badgercare.If Walk­er gets his way, his state’s plan will only cov­er res­i­dents who earn 100 per­cent of the pover­ty lev­el or below – $11,490 a year for a sin­gle adult.

    Tens of thou­sands of Wis­con­sites will be forced from com­plete­ly sub­si­dized health care to the fed­er­al insur­ance exchanges, where they can pur­chase pri­vate plans with a sub­sidy. To do this, Walk­er has to give up fed­er­al fund­ing that would cov­er 84,7000 res­i­dents, which would lead to a $119 mil­lion cut to his state bud­get.

    “But a detailed analy­sis of the plan by the Leg­isla­tive Fis­cal Bureau finds that many of the peo­ple now receiv­ing state Med­ic­aid cov­er­age would like­ly not buy the more cost­ly insur­ance through the fed­er­al pro­gram,” The Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel reports.

    “As a gen­er­al rule, they’re going to be real­ly strapped to do it,” Jon Pea­cock, research direc­tor of the Wis­con­sin Coun­cil on Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies, told the Jour­nal Sen­tinel. “They won’t scrape togeth­er the mon­ey unless they real­ly need it.”

    The Bureau esti­mates that 7 per­cent will not buy the cov­er­age. Pea­cock thinks that’s over­ly opti­mistic.

    A new UUW Madi­son study shows that Bad­ger­care – which was expand­ed in 2009 — reduces hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and improves man­age­ment of chron­ic dis­ease.

    Even Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Scott Fitzger­ald (R‑Juneau) admits that Walker’s plan could send thou­sands to emer­gency rooms for care, dri­ving up the cost of care for all res­i­dents. The leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing addi­tion­al pay­ments to hos­pi­tals to make up for the costs of the unin­sured.

    Walker’s plan also will cost employ­ers as much as $36 mil­lion dol­lars. A sharp blow to a state that’s already dropped from 11th to 44th in job cre­ation under this gov­er­nor.

    As he pun­ish­es the poor, Walk­er is push­ing a tax cut where the major­i­ty of the ben­e­fit will go to the state’s top earn­ers. “This is a tax plan that by and large will ben­e­fit peo­ple that by and large make well into six fig­ures,” said Rep. Cory Mason, (D‑Racine). “The rich­est one per­cent, if not few­er.

    Clear­ly Walker’s pri­or­i­ty isn’t fis­cal con­ser­vatism or bud­get bal­anc­ing but reduc­ing what gov­ern­ment so the rich will be asked to con­tribute as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.

    That Med­ic­aid fund­ing sure would have been use­ful for all those over­worked bod­ies. Oh well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 12, 2014, 11:10 pm
  25. Fox fight! Fox fight!

    TPM Livewire
    O’Reil­ly ‘Dead Wrong’ About CDC Direc­tor

    By Tom Kludt
    Pub­lished Octo­ber 15, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Fox News host Gre­ta Van Sus­teren isn’t afraid to express a dis­agree­ment with one of her col­leagues, even if it’s the chan­nel’s grand poobah.

    And so Van Sus­teren ven­tured into famil­iar ter­ri­to­ry once again on Tues­day, say­ing on-air that Bill O’Reil­ly was wrong to call for the res­ig­na­tion of U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion Direc­tor Tom Frieden over the Ebo­la out­break.

    “You know, from time to time, lots of peo­ple around this net­work have dis­agree­ments,” she said dur­ing an inter­view with Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, the direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases.

    “My col­league, Bill O’Reil­ly, has called for the head of the CDC to resign. I dis­agree total­ly with him. I think Dr. Frieden has done a good job and I want him to con­tin­ue to lead this,” she said.

    ...

    Uh oh Gre­ta, you pissed off the Big Dog. Keep in mind that Bill O’Riel­ly is the chief advo­cate of the “let’s cre­ate an army of mer­ce­nar­ies to fight ISIS”-plan. You don’t want to piss off rich mer­ce­nary-lov­ing types (he’s in con­tact with Eric Prince).

    But this intra-Fox ker­fuf­fle rais­es an inter­est­ing ques­tion: why not pri­va­tize the CDC since pri­va­ti­za­tion can appar­ent­ly solve every­thing?

    Oh right, that would be absurd, even for the GOP. This year. Back in 2010 how­ev­er...

    Wash­ing­ton Month­ly
    Polit­i­cal Ani­mal

    DON’T PRIVATIZE THE CDC....
    Steven Benen
    Octo­ber 13, 2010

    Extrem­ist Sen­ate can­di­date Ken Buck ® is bas­ing much of his plat­form on try­ing to pri­va­tize every­thing he can get his hands on. The right-wing Col­orado lawyer, for exam­ple, boasts about his plans to pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty, and if pos­si­ble, even Vet­er­ans Admin­is­tra­tion hos­pi­tals.

    But if we’re inclined to draw lines to pro­tect some gov­ern­ment ser­vices from this ide­o­log­i­cal extrem­ism, I’d like to think the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol would be free from pri­va­ti­za­tion. Buck does­n’t seem to see it that way.

    Dur­ing a March appear­ance on the Aaron Har­ber TV show, which airs on Den­ver PBS sta­tion KBDI, Buck dis­cussed how waste­ful and inef­fi­cient the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is and said, “I don’t believe that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment runs any­thing more effi­cient­ly than the pri­vate sec­tor. [...]

    Har­ber then asked about pri­va­tiz­ing the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion. Buck replied it would be bet­ter to have indus­try work with the sci­ence foun­da­tion rather than have the gov­ern­ment run it alone.

    “How about the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion?” Har­ber asked.

    “Absolute­ly, again, part­ner­ing with pri­vate foun­da­tions, pri­vate hos­pi­tals, states and local gov­ern­ments, far more effi­cient than ... hav­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment run some­thing.... I’m not sug­gest­ing that peo­ple should­n’t get health care or that we should­n’t have a func­tion in our coun­try like CDC. What I’m sug­gest­ing is that ... folks that are in con­trol of that pro­gram, if they’re in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, are going to be a lot less effi­cient than if they’re in the pri­vate sec­tor.”

    .The Buck cam­paign has respond­ed to the remarks, which have begun gen­er­at­ing more atten­tion in Col­orado this week, argu­ing that Buck did­n’t say he’d pri­va­tize the CDC, only that the CDC would be bet­ter if it were under pri­vate con­trol with pri­vate-sec­tor employ­ees.

    That ought to clear things up.

    Note, Buck has no evi­dence that the CDC is inef­fi­cient or unpro­duc­tive now; it’s just that he has an ide­o­log­i­cal cru­sade to fight. The CDC may be oper­at­ing flaw­less­ly, but that’s not the point — Buck does­n’t care what works; he cares what’s con­ser­v­a­tive.

    Karl Moeller, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cam­paign for Pub­lic Health, not­ed, “There are cer­tain roles for gov­ern­ment and excel­lent ways the pri­vate sec­tor can sup­port dis­ease con­trol and pre­ven­tion, but con­trol­ling dis­ease out­breaks and assess­ing health risk and deter­min­ing whether heart dis­ease is spread­ing ... or on the decline is real­ly not some­thing the pri­vate sec­tor can ever real­ly do.”

    Or would real­ly even want to do. If there’s a mumps out­break, there’s not much of a prof­it mar­gin for pri­vate indus­try. When a flu vac­cine needs to be dis­trib­uted, there’s not much of a prof­it mar­gin, either. It’s why we cre­at­ed the CDC in the first place — it’s a pub­lic agency designed to help pub­lic health, whether it’s prof­itable or not.

    ...

    That was 2010, and Ken Buck isn’t run­ning for the Sen­ate. Instead he’s about to become a Con­gress­man. Maybe some intre­pid reporters could fol­low up with Buck about that idea.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, with the GOP poised to pick up a Sen­ate seat in Col­orado this year and take con­trol of the Sen­ate, per­haps some intre­pid Col­orado reporters can ask this year’s GOP Sen­ate can­di­date, Cory Gard­ner — a sign­er of Grover Norquist’s anti-tax feal­ty oath — if he’ll con­tin­ue in his quest to drown the gov­ern­ment in the abat­toir:

    Democ­rats say GOP bud­get cuts hurt Ebo­la response
    Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    By CHARLES BABINGTON Octo­ber 13, 2014 7:02 PM

    (AP) — Democ­rats are try­ing to gain a polit­i­cal edge on the Ebo­la front, say­ing Repub­li­can-dri­ven spend­ing cuts have hurt the nation’s abil­i­ty to fight the dead­ly dis­ease.

    It was push­back against Repub­li­cans who have accused Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma of doing too lit­tle to com­bat Ebo­la. Democ­rats say it’s the GOP’s steady push for less gov­ern­ment spend­ing that’s ham­per­ing key agen­cies at a cru­cial time.

    “Repub­li­cans vot­ed to cut CDC’s bud­get to fight Ebo­la,” says a new Web ad aimed at GOP House can­di­dates, and spon­sored by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. The CDC is the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

    The ad is not run­ning on TV or radio thus far, and it’s unclear whether it, and sim­i­lar efforts, will have much impact on the midterm elec­tions three weeks away. Repub­li­cans are reach­ing for six new seats to grab con­trol of the Sen­ate and to strength­en their major­i­ty in the House.

    ...

    The stakes are high­est in Sen­ate races. Repub­li­cans hope to gain six new Sen­ate seats to con­trol the cham­ber.

    Some Repub­li­cans are tying new fears about Ebo­la to long-stand­ing con­cerns about the Mex­i­can bor­der.

    “We have an Ebo­la out­break, we have bad actors who can come across the bor­der,” said Thom Tillis, the North Car­oli­na Repub­li­can seek­ing to oust Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen. Kay Hagan. “We need to seal the bor­der and secure it,” he said.

    A pro-Demo­c­ra­t­ic group, Agen­da Project, has pro­duced a 60-sec­ond TV ad say­ing Repub­li­can-dri­ven bud­get cuts are hurt­ing the nation’s pub­lic health mobi­liza­tion.

    The ad, sup­port­ed by mod­est spend­ing so far, shows Tillis and many oth­er Repub­li­cans in split-sec­ond footage say­ing “cut,” pre­sum­ably in ref­er­ence to fed­er­al spend­ing. The ad will begin in Ken­tucky, the group said, and expand to North Car­oli­na and oth­er states with tight Sen­ate races.

    In 2011, after huge GOP elec­tion gains, Oba­ma rec­om­mend­ed spend­ing cuts in numer­ous areas, includ­ing dis­ease con­trol.

    But fed­er­al pro­grams of near­ly every type took sig­nif­i­cant­ly big­ger hits in 2013, as the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House demand­ed less spend­ing.

    Fran­cis Collins, head of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, said spend­ing cuts have hurt efforts to devel­op Ebo­la vac­cines.

    “If we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research sup­port, we prob­a­bly would have had a vac­cine in time for this,” Collins recent­ly told the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

    In sev­er­al con­gres­sion­al cam­paigns, Ebo­la has become an impor­tant but not dom­i­nant issue.

    In Col­orado, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen. Mark Udall crit­i­cized his GOP oppo­nent, Rep. Cory Gard­ner, for vot­ing to cut $300 mil­lion from the CDC bud­get. “That’s not how we pro­tect our coun­try,” Udall said.

    Gard­ner said the CDC had fund­ed jazzer­cise class­es and mas­sage. He and Tillis are among the Repub­li­cans call­ing for a ban on flights from West African nations afflict­ed by Ebo­la. On Mon­day, Gard­ner’s cam­paign not­ed that Udall had also vot­ed to cut the CDC’s bud­get.

    Yes, the “you vot­ed to cut the CDC...no you vot­ed to cut the CDC” phase of the cam­paign is in full swing, so per­haps both par­ties are to blame for the cuts! That, of course, assumes that the seques­tra­tion laws man­dat­ing across-the-board bud­get cuts are a bipar­ti­san phe­nom­e­na and not the result of GOP black­mail. So does future Con­gress­man Ken Buck still sup­port pri­va­tiz­ing the CDC? And how about future Sen­a­tor Cory Gard­ner. Will he sup­port ongo­ing seques­tra­tion black­mail? These seems like a rel­e­vant ques­tions to be ask­ing right now.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 15, 2014, 8:49 am
  26. When Mitch McConnell claimed dur­ing a Sen­ate cam­paign debate that Ken­tuck­ians could keep their state-based “Kynect” Oba­macare web­site even after the GOP repeals Oba­macare, a num­ber of peo­ple asked the ques­tion “Does he think we’re stu­pid?” Of course, for any­one famil­iar with Mitch McConnel­l’s Sen­ate career, that’s kind of a stu­pid ques­tion:

    TPM Cafe
    Mitch McConnell (Still) Thinks You’re Stu­pid

    By Seth D. Michaels
    Pub­lished Octo­ber 16, 2014, 6:01 AM EDT

    There he goes again.

    Mitch McConnell has an almost impres­sive abil­i­ty to utter up-is-down, black-is-white lies with a straight face.

    The strat­e­gy doesn’t work if some­body points out that he’s lying, but Mitch is will­ing to bet on it any­way.

    That’s what hap­pened this week at the only debate of the Ken­tucky Sen­ate race. Faced with a ques­tion about the Afford­able Care Act and Kynect, Kentucky’s health care mar­ket­place, McConnell looked the mod­er­a­tor in the eyes, and lied.

    “Ken­tucky Kynect is a web­site,” McConnell said. “The web­site can con­tin­ue, but in my view the best inter­ests of the coun­try would be achieved by pulling out Oba­macare root and branch.”

    Per­haps McConnell means that the address at kynect.ky.gov should point to some­thing dif­fer­ent, like a pic­ture of a map of Ken­tucky, or a list of 22 ani­mat­ed gifs of Dr. Zoid­berg. What he could not pos­si­bly mean, because it is self-con­tra­dict­ing, is that you can repeal the Afford­able Care Act in its entire­ty and still have Kynect oper­at­ing, because Kynect is an insur­ance mar­ket­place set up under the ACA, offer­ing plans under a set of rules set by the ACA, with prices based on sub­si­dies for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies pro­vid­ed for by the ACA. You can­not pull out ACA “root and branch” because Kynect, the way it works, is the actu­al root of the law.

    If “Oba­macare” doesn’t mean “Kynect” is doesn’t real­ly mean any­thing oth­er than an excuse to say “Oba­ma.”

    Health care pol­i­cy is com­pli­cat­ed. Nobody in Ken­tucky is buy­ing a prod­uct called “Oba­macare;” they’re buy­ing plans from insur­ance com­pa­nies, and get­ting enrolled in Med­ic­aid. A busy per­son with a full-time job or two, maybe a house, maybe some kids, is not going to nec­es­sar­i­ly know that McConnell is lying. But McConnell’s job is U.S. Sen­a­tor. He makes pol­i­cy. He knows how it works. He would just rather that his con­stituents hear false infor­ma­tion, because his rhetoric about pulling out Oba­macare by the roots is absurd oth­er­wise.

    This is like pass­ing a law ban­ning the con­sump­tion of food between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and promis­ing that it won’t affect anyone’s access to lunch. This is how direct­ly and blunt­ly Mitch McConnell is lying to his vot­ers.

    The thing is, the Afford­able Care Act is work­ing in Ken­tucky. It was designed to give health cov­er­age to peo­ple who didn’t pre­vi­ous­ly have access, through Kynect and Med­ic­aid, and lo and behold, it’s doing exact­ly that. About half a mil­lion peo­ple have cov­er­age under ACA now, cut­ting Kentucky’s rate of unin­sur­ance by 40 per­cent. That’s a real improve­ment in people’s lives, and there is no way to pull ACA apart “root and branch” with­out revers­ing the for­tunes of those half-mil­lion Ken­tuck­ians.

    McConnell has had to stum­ble over this prob­lem before. Last Novem­ber, he said that ACA wasn’t suc­ceed­ing, just giv­ing away free stufff.

    This May he claimed there was no con­nec­tion between Kynect and the ACA, so Kynect could stay around even after his promised repeal suc­ceeds.

    Bri­an Beut­ler describes what Mitch McConnell is actu­al­ly say­ing, if any­one both­ered to call him on it:
    describes what Mitch McConnell is actu­al­ly say­ing

    McConnell is sug­gest­ing that Ken­tuck­ians replace a valu­able, paid-for fed­er­al ben­e­fit with one that would impose steep new bur­dens on the peo­ple of the state alone, know­ing it’ll nev­er happen...He isn’t just paint­ing a shiny gloss on a con­tro­ver­sial posi­tion. He’s exploit­ing the public’s con­fu­sion over it, play­ing vot­ers for fools by ped­dling absur­di­ties.

    If McConnell had such huge prob­lems with the ACA, he could have had a say in that design: he was a Sen­a­tor, and he had a vote. The monopar­ti­san nature of the bill, much-derid­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive politi­cians and pun­dits, wasn’t the result of Obama’s strat­e­gy. It was the result of McConnell’s.

    Before the health care fight, before the eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus pack­age, before Pres­i­dent Oba­ma even took office, Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell, the Repub­li­can minor­i­ty leader, had a strat­e­gy for his par­ty: use his exten­sive knowl­edge of Sen­ate pro­ce­dure to slow things down, take advan­tage of the dif­fi­cul­ties Democ­rats would have in gov­ern­ing and deny Democ­rats any Repub­li­can sup­port on big leg­is­la­tion.

    “It was absolute­ly crit­i­cal that every­body be togeth­er because if the pro­po­nents of the bill were able to say it was bipar­ti­san, it tend­ed to con­vey to the pub­lic that this is O.K., they must have fig­ured it out,” Mr. McConnell said about the health leg­is­la­tion in an inter­view, sug­gest­ing that even min­i­mal Repub­li­can sup­port could sway the pub­lic. “It’s either bipar­ti­san or it isn’t.”

    While we’re at it, let’s look at one more casu­al­ly-tossed-off lie from the debate: “Every­thing this admin­is­tra­tion has done has made the recov­ery worse,” McConnell said.

    I’m not the sort to argue that the recov­ery has been fan­tas­tic. For most peo­ple, there hasn’t been much of a recov­ery at all. But Mitch McConnell has served as an anchor on the econ­o­my, and for him to claim it’s all on the admin­is­tra­tion strains creduli­ty.

    Arguably, the worst gov­ern­ment-inflict­ed injury to the econ­o­my since 2009 has come from the con­stant state of cri­sis over fund­ing the gov­ern­ment and the debt ceil­ing — a state of cri­sis Mitch McConnell helped to cre­ate.

    Much as he did with the ACA, McConnell took a stance of forced monopar­ti­san­ship on eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus: the Recov­ery Act passed with few GOP votes, and he kept his cau­cus togeth­er to block future job bills that would have boost­ed the econ­o­my. And, of course, the 2011 near-default not only hurt the econ­o­my in the short term.

    McConnell blam­ing the admin­is­tra­tion for hurt­ing the recov­ery is like punch­ing some­one in the nose and blam­ing them for the blood on their shirt.

    And after all this inten­tion­al dam­age done to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion at the expense of actu­al vot­ers, Mitch McConnell hasn’t even suc­ceed­ed by the stan­dard he set for him­self:his top pri­or­i­ty, he said, was to make Oba­ma a one-term pres­i­dent.

    That wasn’t an idle aside that he said once. He’s said it mul­ti­ple times.
    [see video]

    McConnell used every tool at his dis­pos­al to pre­vent Oba­ma from leg­isla­tive suc­cess, to the detri­ment of the recov­ery, and he still failed in his mis­sion. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma was re-elect­ed. There are only a cou­ple years left in the sec­ond term McConnell couldn’t pre­vent; the Sen­a­tor is run­ning for a six-year term with noth­ing to say for him­self but how he’ll oppose the guy he bet every­thing on oppos­ing. You’d think McConnell would have the decen­cy to be embar­rassed by his inabil­i­ty to achieve his num­ber one pri­or­i­ty.

    This is who McConnell is, though: the con­sum­mate cyn­ic, the kind of guy who wants to rule or ruin. it should be, to coin a phrase, dis­qual­i­fy­ing. But, again, it requires the peo­ple cov­er­ing the race to note when McConnell is lying.
    ...

    Yes, the ques­tion should­n’t be “does Mitch McConnell think you’re stu­pid?” Of course he still thinks you’re stu­pid. Instead, a far more rel­e­vant ques­tion at this point — giv­en the prob­a­bly that Mitch McConnell becomes the Sen­ate Major­i­ty leader next month — is “how low will Mitch McConnell go in plumb­ing the depths of cru­el­ty at the behest of cru­el bil­lion­aires once he’s in con­trol of the Sen­ate?” Although, in fair­ness, that’s also. kind of a stu­pid ques­tion. Kind of.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 17, 2014, 11:53 am
  27. Almost a decade ago some­thing mag­i­cal hap­pened for the first time: George W. Bush suf­fered his first big leg­isla­tive defeat:

    Slate
    Bush’s First Defeat

    The pres­i­dent has lost on Social Secu­ri­ty. How will he han­dle it?
    By Jacob Weis­ber

    George W. Bush’s plan to remake the Social Secu­ri­ty sys­tem is kaput. This is not a val­ue judg­ment. It’s a state­ment of polit­i­cal fact. In the months since the pres­i­dent first pre­sent­ed the idea as his top domes­tic pri­or­i­ty, Democ­rats in Con­gress have unex­pect­ed­ly uni­fied in oppo­si­tion to any reform based on pri­vate accounts. Sev­er­al Repub­li­can sen­a­tors whose votes would be need­ed for pas­sage are resist­ing pri­vate accounts as well. And pub­lic opin­ion, which has nev­er favored any form of pri­va­ti­za­tion, is trend­ing even more strong­ly against Bush’s scheme. At this point, there’s just no way that the pres­i­dent can fina­gle enough votes to win.

    This means that Bush is about to suffer—and is actu­al­ly in the midst of suffering—his first major polit­i­cal defeat. After pass­ing all his most impor­tant first-term domes­tic pri­or­i­ties (a tax cut, an edu­ca­tion-reform bill, domes­tic secu­ri­ty leg­is­la­tion, anoth­er tax cut), Bush faces a sec­ond term that is begin­ning with a gigan­tic rebuke: A Con­gress solid­ly con­trolled by his own par­ty is repu­di­at­ing his top goal. It’s pre­cise­ly what hap­pened to Bill Clin­ton, when Con­gress reject­ed his health-care reform pro­pos­al in 1993. As the Clin­ton exam­ple shows, such a set­back does­n’t doom an admin­is­tra­tion. But how Bush han­dles the defeat is like­ly to be a deci­sive fac­tor in deter­min­ing whether he accom­plish­es any of the oth­er big-tick­et items on his agen­da.

    The first ques­tion to ask is whether Bush can face up to defeat. Not whether he can acknowl­edge defeat pub­licly: Few pres­i­dents are capa­ble of gra­cious­ly admit­ting their screw-ups, and this one is more reluc­tant to do so than most. The issue is whether Bush can acknowl­edge to him­self that’s he’s bel­ly-flopped on Social Secu­ri­ty. If he can’t, the endgame is like­ly to be fair­ly ugly for the GOP. Bush will expend more polit­i­cal cap­i­tal twist­ing the arms of sen­a­tors in a fruit­less cause.

    ...

    And there have also been some recent indi­ca­tions that Bush knows he is in trou­ble and is lay­ing the ground­work to try to co-opt the more pop­u­lar posi­tion of his oppo­nents. Already Bush is sub­tly back­ing away from his defin­ing idea of “carve-out” pri­vate accounts (which would be fund­ed out of FICA con­tri­bu­tions, as opposed to “add-on” accounts) and creep­ing stealth­ily toward the notion of pro­long­ing the lifes­pan of the Social Secu­ri­ty trust fund. Bush has late­ly gone out of his way to note that pri­vate accounts, bril­liant idea though he thinks they are, won’t extend the pro­gram’s sol­ven­cy. In recent days, he’s been empha­siz­ing that he does­n’t have a spe­cif­ic plan at all, only “prin­ci­ples” and that per­son­al accounts are mere­ly a “con­cept” that, as he puts it, “is very impor­tant to be dis­cussed.”

    Pulling him back in a self-immo­lat­ing direc­tion are the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and the con­ser­v­a­tive echo cham­ber, per­pet­u­al haz­ards for a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent who does­n’t like to hear bad news. Free-mar­ket con­ser­v­a­tives who want to blow up the exist­ing Social Secu­ri­ty sys­tem feel both enti­tled and embold­ened by the results of the 2004 elec­tion. The Her­itage Foun­da­tion and Cato Insti­tute aren’t like­ly to make it easy for Bush to back away from their cher­ished idea—especially in favor of an alter­na­tive that involves com­pro­mis­ing with Democ­rats, elim­i­nat­ing the “cri­sis” they need as a moti­va­tion­al tool, and endors­ing unpop­u­lar tax increas­es. The self-enclosed world of con­ser­v­a­tive spin increas­es the risk to the pres­i­dent by insu­lat­ing him from the truth about how his plan is going over. Meet­ing only with hand­picked audi­ences in rehearsed “town hall” meet­ings, Bush not only encoun­ters lit­tle sub­stan­tive chal­lenge to his views but also avoids get­ting any real­is­tic sense of how lit­tle trac­tion his plan has got­ten. In this way, the pro­pa­gan­da pres­i­dent risks becom­ing the real vic­tim of his admin­is­tra­tion’s own fake news.

    But if Bush is shrewd enough to euth­a­nize carve-out accounts while shift­ing to make sol­ven­cy his goal, he will leave his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nents in a quandary. A pack­age of innocu­ous tax increas­es and ben­e­fit cuts could extend the life of the trust fund out to 75 years in a fair­ly pain­less way. Sub­stan­tive­ly, it would be hard for even the most par­ti­san Democ­rats to oppose this kind of com­pro­mise, which serves their goal of pro­tect­ing the future of Social Secu­ri­ty. But polit­i­cal­ly, Democ­rats would be loath to help Bush turn his first major defeat into anoth­er polit­i­cal vic­to­ry.

    Yes, back in 2005 the Amer­i­can elec­torate was seri­ous­ly giv­en the option of pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­ri­ty and respond­ed with a big fat “No!”. And as the arti­cle point­ed out, when it came to gut­ting Social Secu­ri­ty, Bush was a rel­a­tive mod­er­ate com­pared to most of the rest of his par­ty. Flash­ing for­ward to today, Bush may be gone from the White House but most of that GOP par­ty is still in office and pre­sum­ably still wants to get pri­va­tize social secu­ri­ty. So just how like­ly is it that they’re use com­plete con­trol of Con­gress to force some­thing through? The answer depends on who you ask and whether or not they’re even will to give an answer:

    The New Repub­lic
    Watch Mitch McConnell Dodge a Sim­ple Ques­tion About His Sen­ate Agen­da
    By Bri­an Beut­ler
    Octo­ber 24, 2014

    The lat­est twist in the Ken­tucky Sen­ate race is a scan­dalette sur­round­ing Minor­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, whose cam­paign has appar­ent­ly been offer­ing to cov­er costs for peo­ple who agree to attend his ral­lies in East­ern Ken­tucky.

    The news first sur­faced in the belt­way, but grabbed the atten­tion of NBC affil­i­ates in Louisville and West­ern Ken­tucky, both of which aired seg­ments about the McConnell campaign’s prac­tice. And as you’d expect, the Ali­son Lun­der­gan Grimes cam­paign post­ed videos of those seg­ments on their YouTube chan­nel.

    [see video]

    Set­ting aside the optics, I want to draw your atten­tion to a bit of news both of these cor­re­spon­dents make in pass­ing at the end of their seg­ments. Amid all the clam­or sur­round­ing McConnell’s cam­paign prac­tices, he wouldn’t answer a straight­for­ward ques­tion about whether the GOP will resume efforts to pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty, if they regain con­trol of Con­gress.

    [see video]

    The reporters appear to be ref­er­enc­ing this encounter McConnell had at the Louisville Rotary Club with reporter Joe Son­ka. At the event, McConnell had expressed remorse that he couldn’t wran­gle any Democ­rats into sup­port­ing George W. Bush’s 2005 effort to, as McConnell put it, “fix Social Secu­ri­ty.”

    Son­ka asked him if he’d revis­it that effort in 2015, and McConnell said, “I’m not announc­ing what the agen­da would be in advance. We’re not in the major­i­ty yet. We’ll have more to say about that lat­er.”

    So McConnell dodged a pret­ty straight­for­ward ques­tion about the Repub­li­can pol­i­cy agen­da, and, should he become major­i­ty leader, his own sub­stan­tive goals.

    A cen­tral theme of McConnell’s cam­paign is that Ken­tuck­ians shouldn’t replace a guy who stands to become an agen­da set­ter in Wash­ing­ton with Grimes, who would be a fresh­man with com­pa­ra­bly lit­tle pow­er. Vis a vis less polit­i­cal­ly con­tentious issues, he’s more than hap­py to explain how he’d use that pow­er.

    McConnell said he will go after EPA who are ruin­ing the econ­o­my in this state as Major­i­ty Leader. #kysen— Michael Gos­sum (@fmgossum) Octo­ber 24, 2014

    So it’s incon­sis­tent of him to hold his cards close to the vest when the issue is pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­ri­ty rather than gun­ning for the EPA. It would’ve been easy enough for him to say that pri­vate accounts are going to stay on the shelf, where they’ve been, for all intents and pur­pos­es, since 2005. Or that it wouldn’t be worth the has­sle, since Pres­i­dent Oba­ma would sure­ly veto such a bill. Instead he said the agen­da isn’t up for pub­lic dis­cus­sion until he’s grant­ed the agen­da-set­ting pow­er.

    McConnell’s cam­paign man­ag­er Josh Holmes explains via email that McConnell’s “been asked fre­quent­ly to lay out the first bills that he would address and he was respond­ing in that con­text. I don’t think any­one is inter­est­ed in reviv­ing the ’05 debate.”

    ...

    Aha! So accord­ing to Mitch McConnel­l’s cam­paign man­ag­er, McConnel­l’s unwill­ing­ness to dis­cuss whether or not has has plans to revive the GOP’s long-stand­ing agen­da of pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­ri­ty is due to no one being “inter­est­ed in reviv­ing the ’05 debate”. And not want­i­ng to revive the debate is almost cer­tain­ly true since a debate over Social Secu­ri­ty pri­va­ti­za­tion would prob­a­bly go even worse for the GOP than it did in 2005.

    But in an era when GOP threats of gov­ern­ment shut­downs and default­ing on the US debt have become an expect­ed part of the nor­mal nego­ti­a­tion process, is a debate over gut­ting Social Secu­ri­ty and oth­er enti­tle­ments real­ly required for the gut­ting to hap­pen? Why can’t the GOP make it one their demands dur­ing the next shut­down show­down ram the cuts through along with a bunch of oth­er changes as part of a “Grand Bar­gain”? Sure, maybe they won’t get all their desired cuts at once. But it’s not like the remain­der of Oba­ma’s sec­ond term only has to include one shut­down show­down. Why can’t we see a slew of “mini-Grand Bar­gains” instead?

    Does a string of shutdowns/other fab­ri­cat­ed crises seem pos­si­ble? Don’t for­get that the debt ceil­ing and fis­cal cliff crises were fab­ri­cat­ed. Plus, since any leg­is­la­tion the GOP agrees to will be insane, the only real­is­tic way for Oba­ma to get any­thing done for the remain­der of his term is via an exec­u­tive action. And, as Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee chair­man Reince Priebus recent­ly hint­ed, if Oba­ma uses exec­u­tive actions on, for instance, immi­gra­tion reform, Priebus assured GOP col­leagues in the arti­cle below that “we will do every­thing we can to make sure it doesn’t hap­pen: Defund­ing, going to court, injunc­tion. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s ille­gal. And for so many rea­sons, and just the basic fab­ric of this coun­try, we can’t allow it to hap­pen and we won’t let it hap­pen”. And that’s just for immi­gra­tion reform. So what oth­er poten­tial exec­u­tive actions will prompt a “do what­ev­er it takes!” GOP response? That remains to be seen. But as the arti­cle below points out, sim­ply threat­en­ing to sue the Pres­i­dent over exec­u­tive actions isn’t a seri­ous threat. And that just leave the more high-wattage forms of con­fronta­tion:

    The New Repub­lic
    The GOP Chair Just Declared a Post-Elec­tion War Against Oba­ma

    By Bri­an Beut­ler
    Octo­ber 28, 2014

    On Mon­day, House Major­i­ty Leader Kevin McCarthy put con­ser­v­a­tives on notice that if they force Repub­li­cans to indulge their appetite for max­i­mal con­fronta­tion with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, it will cost them the next pres­i­den­cy.

    ...

    His sen­si­ble plan to avoid this out­come is to elim­i­nate “cliffs”—big statu­to­ry dead­lines, like the debt lim­it and the expi­ra­tion of gov­ern­ment fund­ing, that Repub­li­cans have run up against in recent years to demand ran­soms from Democ­rats and Pres­i­dent Oba­ma. To fund the gov­ern­ment, increase the debt lim­it, and then fight pol­i­cy bat­tles on the mer­its.

    Con­ser­v­a­tives don’t real­ly want to hear that mes­sage, though, so RNC Chair­man Reince Priebus is essen­tial­ly telling them to ignore it, specif­i­cal­ly with respect to Obama’s antic­i­pat­ed immi­gra­tion depor­ta­tion relief pro­gram.

    “While I can’t speak for the leg­is­la­ture, I’m very con­fi­dent we will stop that,” Priebus told con­ser­v­a­tive activists Mon­day evening. “We will do every­thing we can to make sure it doesn’t hap­pen: Defund­ing, going to court, injunc­tion. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s ille­gal. And for so many rea­sons, and just the basic fab­ric of this coun­try, we can’t allow it to hap­pen and we won’t let it hap­pen.”

    Oth­er Repub­li­cans, includ­ing Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, have promised to use Con­gress’ spend­ing power—which includes the pow­er to shut down the government—to seek con­ces­sions from Oba­ma in are­nas like health reform and envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tion. McCarthy’s pro­posed return to nor­mal­cy already had pow­er­ful skep­tics. But Priebus set a new bar by promis­ing not just episod­ic con­fronta­tion but vic­to­ry.

    This is a promise he doesn’t have the pow­er to keep. When he says he “can’t speak for the leg­is­la­ture” what he means is “blame them if my pre­dic­tion doesn’t come to pass.” If between now and then his rous­ing call to arms moti­vates Repub­li­can base vot­ers to the polls, he might see it as a promise worth mak­ing and break­ing.

    But we should be clear about what the promise he’s mak­ing entails.

    Priebus ref­er­enced the courts in pass­ing as a poten­tial fire­wall against Obama’s exec­u­tive actions. But as it hap­pens, we’ve just learned that courts are nei­ther polit­i­cal­ly nor pro­ce­du­ral­ly viable tools in these sep­a­ra­tion-of-pow­ers fights.

    Ear­li­er this year, before it degen­er­at­ed into a polit­i­cal lia­bil­i­ty for Repub­li­cans, House Speak­er John Boehn­er and his staff took his plan to sue Pres­i­dent Oba­ma pret­ty seri­ous­ly. The pri­ma­ry goal was to avoid get­ting dragged into an impeach­ment fight ahead of the elec­tion, which in one sense meant staving off a con­ser­v­a­tive rebel­lion through Sep­tem­ber. There he suc­ceed­ed. But the sec­ondary goal was to avoid embar­rass­ment by address­ing the legal com­pli­ca­tions with great pre­ci­sion. Boehn­er need­ed first to gain stand­ing, and then to make a com­pelling case that the admin­is­tra­tion had actu­al­ly vio­lat­ed the law. For that rea­son he didn’t just toss every exec­u­tive action Repub­li­cans dis­liked on to the bill of par­tic­u­lars, but set­tled on a sin­gle com­plaint. He chose to sue Oba­ma for uni­lat­er­al­ly delay­ing the Afford­able Care Act’s employ­er man­date because his lawyers believed it was the administration’s most clear-cut vio­la­tion of the law.

    But they were prob­a­bly wrong. Oba­ma just isn’t as over-reach­ing as Repub­li­cans have con­vinced them­selves he is. That’s a hap­py out­come for Boehn­er because it allows him to shelve the law­suit for the time being: It turns out suing Oba­ma doesn’t sat­is­fy hard­line con­ser­v­a­tives, but it makes Democ­rats pret­ty angry. This brings us back to immi­gra­tion, and Priebus’s promise to the Tea Par­ty. .As a legal mat­ter, Obama’s exist­ing deferred action pro­gram prob­a­bly stands on firmer legal foot­ing than his employ­er man­date delay. Extend­ing that pro­gram won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly impli­cate oth­er legal issues. But even if it did, Repub­li­can lead­ers will be reluc­tant to sue Oba­ma to force him to deport as many low-pri­or­i­ty offend­ers as pos­si­ble. And con­ser­v­a­tives will be even less sat­is­fied with a law­suit if the issue at stake is “amnesty,” espe­cial­ly if it aris­es imme­di­ate­ly after Repub­li­cans win con­trol of the Sen­ate. They’ll demand quick blood.

    So the courts aren’t real­ly an option for Priebus. His com­ments to con­ser­v­a­tives only make sense as a promise of high-wattage confrontation—over fund­ing the gov­ern­ment, increas­ing the debt lim­it, impeachment—or as out­right decep­tion.

    So it looks like we have a clear desire from one part of the GOP cau­cus to avoid the kind of shut­down show­down tac­tics that haven’t worked out so well for the GOP in the past, at least polit­i­cal­ly speak­ing (the shut­downs have done won­ders for imple­ment­ing the GOP’s aus­ter­i­ty agen­da). But this desire to avoid the self-inflict­ed polit­i­cal dam­age that comes with threat­en­ing a shut­down is paired with anoth­er part of the par­ty with an even greater desire to strap on the polit­i­cal sui­cide vest and threat­en to blow up the gov­ern­ment every time Oba­ma tries to get some­thing done over Con­gres­sion­al approval. It’s that ten­sion between the desire to defeat the Democ­rats in 2016 (by offer­ing a more pop­u­lar agen­da) vs tak­ing on Oba­ma now (by threat­en­ing a shut­down, impeach­ment, default, or all of the above) that’s caus­ing many observers to won­der what to expect from GOP for the reminder of Oba­ma’s term. Sure, it will be crazy but what kind of crazy will it be? A for­ward look­ing crazy futur­ist GOP crazy? Or the “over my dead body” GOP of the last six years? Or how about both GOPs. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly:

    The New Repub­lic
    Repub­li­cans Have Big Plans for a GOP Sen­ate. Here’s What Will Come of Them: Noth­ing.

    By Dan­ny Vinik
    Octo­ber 27, 2014

    If Repub­li­cans cap­ture the Sen­ate, they can accom­plish big things, Sen­a­tor Rob Port­man told The Atlantic in an arti­cle pub­lished Mon­day. “We need the major­i­ty for the sake of the coun­try for the next two years, but it’s also about hav­ing a proac­tive, pos­i­tive Repub­li­can agen­da to take to the Amer­i­can peo­ple in 2016,” he said, cit­ing issues like tax reform, a grand bar­gain on the long-term bud­get, and a com­pro­mise on an ener­gy bill. He’s not the only ones with high hopes for a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Con­gress. Kevin McCarthy, the new House Major­i­ty Leader, told Politi­co that if the GOP takes the Sen­ate, as expect­ed, he wants to show that the Repub­li­can Par­ty can gov­ern by reform­ing gov­ern­ment agen­cies and elim­i­nat­ing hos­tile bud­get fights. “My belief is you have one chance to make a first impres­sion,” he said. “From the very first day after the elec­tion, we should be lay­ing out to the Amer­i­can pub­lic what the expec­ta­tions are. Why make two dif­fer­ent agen­das?”
    ...

    Notice that Rob Port­man, a GOP ‘mod­er­ate’ (Port­man was scared to talk about his sup­port of Social Secu­ri­ty pri­va­ti­za­tion before it was cool), is hop­ing for a “grand bar­gain” on the long-term bud­get if the GOP takes the Con­gress. Keep in mind that “grand bar­gains” are basi­cal­ly code for “enti­tle­ment reform” which, itself, is code for “gut­ting Social Secu­ri­ty and the rest of the New Deal”. When the GOP is talk­ing “grand bar­gain”, it’s talk­ing about strik­ing a major blow against enti­tle­ments. It’ll take more than one grand bar­gain to undo the New Deal alto­geth­er, but that could be accom­plished with enough grand bar­gains and mini-grand bar­gains.

    Also keep in mind that Sen­a­tor Port­man was very much in that crowd of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from the ‘fis­cal fever’ that caus­es end­less calls for cut­ting enti­tle­ments now to ward off large future deficits decades from now. Port­man pushed for reject­ing the New Years Eve 2012 fis­cal cliff res­o­lu­tion deal because it did­n’t active­ly cut the debt (which would have led to a euro-style eco­nom­ic deba­cle). Instead, Port­man cham­pi­oned the idea of not rais­ing tax­es on the rich­est Amer­i­cans and instead cut­ting enti­tle­ments to deal with the fis­cal cliff. He’s a GOP mod­er­ate.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    Remarks like these have some in Wash­ing­ton hop­ing that there will be less last-minute deal­mak­ing and more progress on major leg­is­la­tion dur­ing Barack Obama’s final two years in office. But don’t count on it. The polit­i­cal road­blocks that have made leg­is­lat­ing all, but impos­si­ble dur­ing Obama’s sec­ond term aren’t going away. The 114th Con­gress will prob­a­bly look a lot like the 113th.

    McCarthy’s chief goal for the Repub­li­can Par­ty is to prove that it can gov­ern. Notably, he wants to avoid dam­ag­ing stand­offs over the bud­get. “If we are for­tu­nate to have both majori­ties, take away any cliff you can have hang­ing out there,” he said. “If you have a cliff, it takes atten­tion away. Why put cliffs up that hold us back from doing big­ger pol­i­cy?”

    He’s refer­ring, specif­i­cal­ly, to the 2013 “fis­cal cliff” show­down that shut down the gov­ern­ment. It would cer­tain­ly be good to keep the gov­ern­ment open. But it’s even more impor­tant to elim­i­nate debt ceil­ing brinkman­ship, and it’s unclear if McCarthy intends to allow clean debt ceil­ing votes (as opposed to demand­ing steep con­ces­sions, like those that lead to the shut­down). If so, that would be a major improve­ment over the past two years. But it also is hard to imag­ine. The far-right bloc of House Repub­li­cans will like­ly still demand that Repub­li­cans use the debt ceil­ing as lever­age to extract con­ces­sions from Oba­ma. If the GOP takes the Sen­ate, it may make them even more eager to do so.

    McCarthy’s plan for the 114th Con­gress extends beyond avoid­ing fis­cal cat­a­stro­phe. He wants to prove that the par­ty can gov­ern. “If we don’t cap­ture the House stronger, and the Sen­ate, and prove we could gov­ern, there won’t be a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent in 2016,” McCarthy told a group of donors, accord­ing to the Politi­co piece. That agen­da would include renew­ing the tax exten­ders, pass­ing an assort­ment of ener­gy bills and tweak­ing the Afford­able Care Act by repeal­ing the med­ical device tax. He also wants to reform the Con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee struc­ture and elim­i­nate need­less gov­ern­ment agen­cies and bureau­cra­cy. Some of those ideas have Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port and could make it into law. But none of them are major agree­ments on the bud­get or tax reform, for instance, as Port­man sug­gests. (And it’s large­ly an agen­da intend­ed to appease busi­ness inter­ests.)

    That doesn’t mean those com­pro­mis­es are impos­si­ble. As The New Repub­lic’s Bri­an Beut­ler wrote three weeks ago, Oba­ma could cut some deals with House Speak­er John Boehn­er and future Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell. But that would still involve Boehn­er and McConnell pick­ing a fight with far right con­ser­v­a­tives, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, who may be look­ing to secure his base of sup­port for a pres­i­den­tial run. Those aren’t good con­di­tions for a big agree­ment on any issue.

    Don’t tell the edi­to­r­i­al board at Bloomberg View that. In an edi­to­r­i­al Sun­day, they argued that a Repub­li­can major­i­ty should pass immi­gra­tion reform, make new invest­ments in infra­struc­ture and stop obstruct­ing Oba­macare. The odds of that hap­pen­ing are infin­i­tes­i­mal, even if Repub­li­cans want to prove they can gov­ern. In the Politi­co piece, for instance, McCarthy said that if Oba­ma takes exec­u­tive action on immi­gra­tion reform after the midterms, it would “stop every­thing.”

    ...

    When con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the US is in for even more shut­down show­downs and oth­er forms of syn­thet­ic crises if the GOP takes con­trol of the Sen­ate state­ments like the fol­low­ing seem par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant:

    McCarthy said that if Oba­ma takes exec­u­tive action on immi­gra­tion reform after the midterms, it would “stop every­thing.”

    Does­n’t that state­ment imply a “stop everything”-moment is com­ing up soon after the elec­tions once Oba­ma acts on immi­gra­tion? What does “stop every­thing” mean? And why on earth should we expect this lev­el of oppo­si­tion to not apply to every­thing else Oba­ma does? These are the kinds of utter­ances from the GOP that strong­ly sug­gests the Con­gress is going to be at per­pet­u­al war with Oba­ma for the next two years while push­ing the same old Bush agen­da or some Koched up ver­sion that’s even worse. Who knows why vot­ers would do such a thing, but a GOP takeover of the Sen­ate could hap­pen.

    So one of the loom­ing ques­tions of the day is how much more dam­age is about to get inflict­ed on the nation if the GOP takes the Sen­ate and the US enters into an inten­si­fied atmos­phere of per­pet­u­al gov­ern­ment-cri­sis? And what are the odds that one of the inevitable crises is going to allow them to slip in a major piece of that Bush/Koch agen­da of undo­ing the New Deal. Aren’t dec­la­ra­tions of one “con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis” and show­down after anoth­er if they take the Sen­ate prob­a­bly inevitable with today’s GOP? How could it be any oth­er way? They’ll have two years to hack and claw away at the safe­ty-net. It won’t all be destroyed, but when folks like Sen­a­tor Rob Port­man of the mod­er­ates and Mitch McConnell won’t dis­cuss his plans for enti­tle­ments until after the midterms and Kevin McCarthy is wor­ry­ing about a “stop every­thing” moment it’s pret­ty clear we’re in for some very intense GOP antics that have a seri­ous chance of doing seri­ous dam­age. And the Bush agen­da chugs on.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 28, 2014, 11:33 pm
  28. The GOP’s attempts to woo its base with a War on Oba­ma (woo­ing with WOO) just hit anoth­er snag: The law firm hired by House Speak­er John Boehn­er to sue Pres­i­dent Oba­ma over his exec­u­tive actions that delayed parts of Oba­macare just quit. For the sec­ond time:

    Salon
    Boehner’s law­suit fias­co: Why his lame Oba­macare gam­bit is a humil­i­at­ing fail­ure
    John Boehn­er wants to sue Oba­ma, but seems to be hav­ing trou­ble find­ing a lawyer who will take the case
    Simon Mal­oy
    Thurs­day, Oct 30, 2014 12:04 PM CST

    It seemed unlike­ly that John Boehner’s plan to sue Pres­i­dent Oba­ma could turn into an even big­ger embar­rass­ment for the speak­er of the House, but it’s nev­er wise to doubt Boehner’s aim when shoot­ing at his own foot.

    Last week, Politi­co report­ed that Boehn­er and the House Repub­li­cans, after spend­ing much of the sum­mer argu­ing that imme­di­ate leg­isla­tive action was need­ed to curb the Oba­ma administration’s exec­u­tive over­reach, have not yet actu­al­ly filed the law­suit. The poten­tial rea­sons for the delay are many: The suit was just a stunt, the GOP thought bet­ter of it when the polit­i­cal and legal winds turned against them, or they’re just wait­ing until after the elec­tion to avoid the appear­ance of politi­ciza­tion. But now we have anoth­er rea­son to con­sid­er: They can’t actu­al­ly find any lawyers who will take the case.

    Last night, Politi­co report­ed that a law firm the Repub­li­cans had hired to work on the case had called it quits – the sec­ond time in two months that this has hap­pened. Appar­ent­ly the firms in ques­tion were under pres­sure from oth­er clients to back out of the case:

    Rivkin’s firm with­drew in Sep­tem­ber after health-care-relat­ed clients pres­sured the firm to back out of rep­re­sent­ing the House in the Oba­macare-relat­ed suit. Two sources told POLITICO in recent days that a sim­i­lar sce­nario played out with Burck’s firm, with clients bring­ing pres­sure to get the firm off the case.

    It’s tough to know what to make of this. The intent behind Boehner’s suit would be to chal­lenge the administration’s deci­sion to delay enforce­ment of the Afford­able Care Act’s employ­er man­date. It’s an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion for every­one involved giv­en that the GOP is effec­tive­ly suing to force the imple­men­ta­tion of a law they want to repeal because they say it will destroy the econ­o­my. The con­sen­sus among legal observers is that the suit won’t actu­al­ly make it to the courts because Con­gress lacks stand­ing to sue the White House. There’s also the tim­ing issue – the admin­is­tra­tion delayed enforce­ment of the employ­er man­date until Jan. 1, 2015. If the Repub­li­cans drag their feet long enough, they’ll be in the posi­tion of suing to enforce a pro­vi­sion of the law that is already being enforced.

    In short, it’s a bizarre case with a very low prob­a­bil­i­ty of suc­cess and a high poten­tial for embar­rass­ment. In that sense, a degree of hes­i­tan­cy from the legal com­mu­ni­ty is per­fect­ly under­stand­able. To get around their dif­fi­cul­ty in find­ing legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, a spokesman for Boehn­er told Politi­co that they’re con­sid­er­ing using in-house attor­neys: “The lit­i­ga­tion remains on track, but we are exam­in­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of for­go­ing out­side coun­sel and han­dling the lit­i­ga­tion direct­ly through the House, rather than through law firms that are sus­cep­ti­ble to polit­i­cal pres­sure from wealthy, Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing clients.”

    ...

    This actu­al­ly gets to the ques­tion of whether the GOP, if they gain full con­trol of Con­gress next week, will be able to effec­tive­ly gov­ern. As I’ve point­ed out, the House GOP has already told every­one that they can’t, and Boehner’s law­suit is a pret­ty strong indi­ca­tor that they’re right. The whole idea behind Boehner’s suit is that he, as leader of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, is unable to come up with a leg­isla­tive solu­tion to what he con­sid­ers exec­u­tive encroach­ment on Con­gress’ author­i­ty. The Con­sti­tu­tion empow­ers Con­gress to serve as a check on the exec­u­tive branch, and grants it tools to ful­fill that role. Boehn­er, in suing Oba­ma, is in effect say­ing that he wants to cede that author­i­ty to the judi­cia­ry (which is a ter­ri­ble idea).

    It’s a bit laugh­able for Boehn­er and the House Repub­li­cans to say they’re capa­ble of gov­ern­ing when they’re also try­ing to get a judge to do their job for them, and they can’t even do that com­pe­tent­ly.

    It appears that out­sourc­ing the GOP’s WOO to the courts isn’t near­ly as easy as, say, out­sourc­ing Amer­i­can jobs.

    So does this mean the Boehn­er’s law­suit is sunk? That’s unclear since the option of using House lawyers is appar­ent­ly still an option. But if it is sunk that could com­pli­cate the next two years pret­ty dra­mat­i­cal­ly. After all, Boehn­er’s law­suit appears to be intend­ed as lit­tle more then a sym­bol­ic ges­ture to pre­vent the GOP base from eat­ing the par­ty alive if it does­n’t aggres­sive­ly con­front Oba­ma. And since the GOP’s rela­tion­ship to show­downs with Oba­ma is sort of like Chev Che­lio’s rela­tion­ship with adren­a­line, that means oth­er, more destruc­tive options will become nec­es­sary if Boehn­er’s law­suit is no longer avail­able as a red meat treat for the GOP base. End­ing the Crazy isn’t an option.

    The law­suit was just one of the least destruc­tive options avail­able so, in a way, we should be hop­ing Boehn­er real­ly does opt to use in-house lawyers because not only can the law­suit be used to avoid things like anoth­er round of gov­ern­ment shut­downs (designed to extract Oba­macare-killing con­ces­sion), they can also be used to feed the base the red meat it’s for non-Oba­macare-relat­ed issues. Issues like immi­gra­tion, for instance:

    Politi­co
    More tur­moil for House GOP law­suit against Oba­ma

    By JOSH GERSTEIN and MAGGIE HABERMAN | 10/29/14 8:09 PM EDT Updat­ed: 10/30/14 5:24 PM EDT

    House Speak­er John Boehner’s still-unfiled law­suit against Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma for exceed­ing his con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­er is in more trou­ble.

    For the sec­ond time in two months, a major law firm has ceased work on the law­suit, sources say.

    Attor­ney Bill Bur­ck and the Quinn Emanuel firm halt­ed prepa­ra­tions for the pro­posed suit in recent weeks, accord­ing to two sources famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion. Last month, the lawyer orig­i­nal­ly hired to pur­sue the case, David Rivkin of Bak­er Hostetler, made a sim­i­lar abrupt exit.

    A spokesman for Boehn­er declined to dis­cuss the sta­tus of the House’s rela­tion­ship with Bur­ck and Quinn Emanuel. How­ev­er, spokesman Kevin Smith said Wednes­day evening that House lead­ers are con­sid­er­ing hav­ing the law­suit filed by lawyers already on the House pay­roll.

    “The lit­i­ga­tion remains on track, but we are exam­in­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of for­go­ing out­side coun­sel and han­dling the lit­i­ga­tion direct­ly through the House, rather than through law firms that are sus­cep­ti­ble to polit­i­cal pres­sure from wealthy, Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing clients,” Smith said.

    Boehner’s office also sug­gest­ed the suit, which planned to chal­lenge Obama’s fail­ure to imple­ment aspects of his health care reform law, could be broad­ened if Oba­ma goes for­ward, as promised, with plans for exec­u­tive action on immi­gra­tion.

    “We are also close­ly fol­low­ing what the admin­is­tra­tion does on exec­u­tive amnesty, and the pos­si­ble impact that could have on the lit­i­ga­tion strat­e­gy,” Smith said.

    A House lead­er­ship aide said if the immi­gra­tion issue is lit­i­gat­ed it would be in addi­tion to, and not in lieu of, chal­leng­ing Oba­macare.

    ...

    Yes, Boehn­er’s Oba­macare law­suit is not only a legal joke. It’s also a poten­tial­ly expan­sive heat/rate sink that could help actu­al­ly help the GOP pre­vent itself from melt­ing down com­plete­ly. And now that heat/rage sink is some­what in doubt. Sure, Boehn­er could go ahead and use House lawyers but is he real­ly going to risk suing the pres­i­dent in a case that out­side law firms are too embarassed to pub­licly touch?

    Maybe. Or maybe John Boehn­er is going to be let off the lead­er­ship hook before he even has to take up the solo law­suit. As Sen­ate minor­i­ty leader Mitch McConnell just remind­ed the nation, it’s tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble for Oba­macare to over­turned with just 51 votes in the Senate...assuming Mitch McConnell becomes the Sen­ate major­i­ty leader soon. And Mitch also let us know that, should that path become avail­able, he’s will­ing to take it:

    Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er
    Mitch McConnell will­ing to kill Oba­macare with just 51 votes
    By Philip Klein | Octo­ber 30, 2014 | 1:33 pm

    Sen. Mitch McConnell, R‑Ky., says he would be will­ing to repeal Oba­macare with a sim­ple major­i­ty if he takes over as major­i­ty leader in Jan­u­ary, his spokesman told the Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er on Thurs­day.

    The announce­ment comes just days before Tues­day’s midterm con­gres­sion­al elec­tion, in which Repub­li­cans have a strong chance of seiz­ing the upper cham­ber from the Democ­rats and putting the Ken­tucky sen­a­tor in charge.

    “Leader McConnell is and has always been com­mit­ted to the full repeal of Oba­macare, and he’ll con­tin­ue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it with patient-cen­tered reforms that enable greater choice at low­er costs. He knows it won’t be easy, but he also believes that if Repub­li­cans are for­tu­nate enough to take back the major­i­ty we’ll owe it to the Amer­i­can peo­ple to try through votes on full repeal, the bill’s most oner­ous pro­vi­sions, and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” McConnell spokesman Bri­an McGuire wrote in an emailed state­ment.

    Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is a par­lia­men­tary maneu­ver that allows leg­is­la­tion to be passed with­out need­ing the usu­al 60 votes to over­come block­age by a fil­i­buster.

    The ques­tion of how far Repub­li­cans are will­ing to go to fight Oba­macare now that the law is pro­vid­ing ben­e­fits to mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will be one of the top issues con­fronting the par­ty should they take the major­i­ty in the midterm elec­tions.

    McConnell drew head­lines on Tues­day when he said on Fox News when asked about ful­ly repeal­ing Oba­macare that, “It would take 60 votes in the Sen­ate, and no one thinks we’re going to have 60 Repub­li­cans.” He added, “And it would take a pres­i­dent — pres­i­den­tial sig­na­ture. And no one thinks we’re going to get that.”

    A num­ber of peo­ple took the com­ment to mean that he wouldn’t be will­ing to use a tool known as “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” to attempt to repeal the law. Though leg­is­la­tion typ­i­cal­ly requires 60 votes in the Sen­ate to stave off a fil­i­buster by the minor­i­ty, the rules allow for bud­get-relat­ed items to be passed through a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process that requires a sim­ple 51-vote major­i­ty.

    Democ­rats used the pro­ce­dure to help get Oba­macare across the con­gres­sion­al fin­ish line in 2010 after pass­ing the under­ly­ing bill with 60 votes in 2009. It remains an open ques­tion as to how much of the law could be repealed through the com­pli­cat­ed rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process. For instance, the law’s spend­ing pro­vi­sions could prob­a­bly be repealed this way, but reg­u­la­tions that aren’t direct­ly relat­ed to the bud­get like­ly couldn’t be.

    As the arti­cle point­ed out, “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” helped to cre­ate Oba­macare with less than 60 votes in 2009, so per­haps it could undo Oba­macare too. Of course, in the 2009 the Democ­rats con­trolled the House, Sen­ate AND Pres­i­den­cy which makes the “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” option much eas­i­er to employ since there was no veto threat. “Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” is great for over­com­ing fil­i­busters, not pres­i­den­tial vetoes. Sim­i­lar­ly, when the GOP talked about using rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to over­turn Oba­macare in the past it was pre­dict­ed on the assump­tion that the GOP would win con­trol of the House, Sen­ate, and Pres­i­den­cy in 2012. And yet Mitch McConnell just float­ed the idea that he’s will­ing to use “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” to over­turn Oba­macare. WTF?

    Now, this could just be last minute elec­tion blus­ter by McConnell to feed the GOP base its red meat. But giv­en the grow­ing indi­ca­tions that the GOP is going to engage in even more aggres­sive leg­isla­tive trench war­fare than it cur­rent­ly wages should the par­ty take the Sen­ate it’s impor­tant to note that Mitch McConnel­l’s ref­er­ences to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion are con­sis­tent with the grow­ing signs that the GOP is plan­ning on engag­ing in pro­ce­dur­al blackmail/shutdown threats to extract con­ces­sions from Democ­rats and Oba­ma. Again, end­ing the Crazy isn’t an option.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 30, 2014, 11:10 pm
  29. As they say, don’t change hors­es in mid­stream, unless of course that horse is whipped into an ide­o­log­i­cal fren­zy that com­pels it to keep div­ing beneath sur­face. Deep­er and deep­er we go:

    Lawrence Jour­nal-World
    Kansas tax col­lec­tions fall $23M short in Octo­ber

    By Peter Han­cock

    Octo­ber 31, 2014, 4:54 p.m. Updat­ed Octo­ber 31, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

    Tope­ka — Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brownback’s fis­cal poli­cies were dealt an appar­ent blow Fri­day when the Kansas Depart­ment of Rev­enue report­ed state tax receipts came in $23 mil­lion short of pro­jec­tions in Octo­ber and $46.5 mil­lion short for the first four months of the fis­cal year.

    ...

    The news came just four days before Elec­tion Day, with polls show­ing Brown­back trail­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Paul Davis, who has made oppo­si­tion to Brownback’s eco­nom­ic poli­cies a cen­tral theme of his cam­paign.

    In 2012, at Brownback’s urg­ing, Kansas law­mak­ers enact­ed sweep­ing tax cuts that low­ered indi­vid­ual income tax rates and elim­i­nat­ed state income tax­es alto­geth­er on an esti­mat­ed 191,000 busi­ness­es. Those include lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty cor­po­ra­tions and oth­er types of enti­ties in which the own­ers receive “pass-through” income from their busi­ness.

    The fol­low­ing year, law­mak­ers passed addi­tion­al tax cuts beyond the first wave, some of which are sched­uled to be phased in over the next few years.

    Brown­back has referred to his tax pol­i­cy as a “real live exper­i­ment” of the the­o­ry that cut­ting tax­es will stim­u­late eco­nom­ic growth, say­ing the cuts would be like “a shot of adren­a­line” in the heart of the Kansas econ­o­my.

    But Davis has called the tax cuts reck­less, and Friday’s report gave him anoth­er chance to argue that they will result in bud­get short­falls that could force future cuts in state ser­vices.

    “This is mount­ing evi­dence that the Brown­back eco­nom­ic exper­i­ment just is not work­ing and is not going to work,” Davis said Fri­day. “It’s fur­ther jeop­ar­diz­ing our state’s fis­cal sol­ven­cy, which is going to affect edu­ca­tion and vir­tu­al­ly every oth­er crit­i­cal state ser­vice that Kansans count on.”

    ...

    Yikes. It looks like the ~$23 mil­lion rev­enue short­fall Kansas expe­ri­enced for the begin­ning of the 2015 fis­cal year (from July through Sep­tem­ber) basi­cal­ly dou­bled in Octo­ber with anoth­er $23 mil­lion in short­falls in Octo­ber. And keep in mind that this lat­est short­falls is just the lat­est unex­pect­ed rev­enue short­falls. And if there’s one thing Kansas has been learn­ing from Sam Brow­back­’s “real live exper­i­ment” in Laf­fer-nomics, it’s to expect­ed the unex­pect­ed. Specif­i­cal­ly, expect­ed the unex­pect­ed short­fall in rev­enues:

    cjonline.com
    Kansas tax rev­enue $23M below tar­get for Octo­ber
    By Tim Car­pen­ter
    timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com
    Fri­day, Oct. 31, 2014

    Kansas state gov­ern­ment record­ed a sub­stan­tive tax rev­enue short­fall for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive month Fri­day with dis­clo­sure that Octo­ber col­lec­tions dropped $23 mil­lion below expec­ta­tions, mark­ing the fifth time in sev­en months the econ­o­my pro­duced a weak­er-than-expect­ed rev­enue stream.

    The lat­est dip renewed appre­hen­sion about Kansas tax and bud­get pol­i­cy on the cusp of Tuesday’s elec­tion for gov­er­nor.

    The state’s rev­enue depart­ment took in $334 mil­lion less than pro­ject­ed in April, May and June, but col­lec­tion of income, sales and oth­er tax­es rebound­ed in July and August. The Sep­tem­ber report was a sober­ing $21 mil­lion less than the admin­is­tra­tion of Gov. Sam Brown­back had banked on.

    Shawn Sul­li­van, the governor’s bud­get direc­tor, said in a state­ment the emerg­ing finan­cial real­i­ty was “cer­tain­ly man­age­able through good fis­cal gov­er­nance.”

    Brown­back, seek­ing re-elec­tion against Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Paul Davis and Lib­er­tar­i­an Keen Umbehr, joined with the GOP-led Kansas Leg­is­la­ture to elim­i­nate income tax on 190,000 busi­ness­es and to reduce indi­vid­ual income tax rates in a sup­ply-side eco­nom­ic approach to revi­tal­iz­ing the post-reces­sion econ­o­my.

    Income tax receipts for Octo­ber were $26.8 mil­lion below expec­ta­tions, but the state’s rev­enue sec­re­tary attrib­uted the down­turn to rea­sons oth­er than the governor’s tax strat­e­gy.

    ...

    The Repub­li­can-inspired tax reform was orig­i­nal­ly described by Brown­back as an adren­a­line shot to the Kansas econ­o­my, but vot­ers are about to go to the polls to deter­mine which can­di­date could best deal with the dimin­ished rev­enue pic­ture.

    ...

    The Kansas Depart­ment of Revenue’s report for Octo­ber indi­cat­ed the state would eat through reserve funds more quick­ly than planned and deep­ened con­cern about a non­par­ti­san analy­sis that Kansas could be fac­ing a bud­get short­fall of more than $250 mil­lion in less than two years.

    Tax rev­enues will influ­ence debates in the 2015 Leg­is­la­ture, which begins work in Jan­u­ary on a bud­get cov­er­ing state gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions for the fis­cal year stretch­ing from July 2015 to June 2016.

    Yes, Kansas has an unex­pect­ed rev­enue short­fall for the fifth time in sev­en months. How unex­pect­ed.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, since Kansas can’t spend mon­ey it does­n’t have, and since it’s pro­ject­ed to almost out of cash next year, many observers, includ­ing Kansas’s for­mer direc­tor bud­get direc­tor Duane Goossen, are expect­ing unavoid­able bud­get cuts loom­ing for Kansas. And yet Browh­back­’s bud­get direc­tor insists that burn­ing through Kansas’s cash pile was all part of the plan because they were expect­ing the sup­ply-side mag­ic to take some years to take off. Also, the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion is expect­ing off­set­ting sav­ings can be obtained with­out cut­ting ser­vices just by being more effi­cient. Of course, if Brown­back­’s planned cash-pile-burn-before-the-boom plan is off by a year or two, those ser­vice cuts are going to be pret­ty hard to avoid. Soon. How unex­pect­ed:

    Pratt Tri­bune
    Kansas bud­get direc­tor says effi­cien­cies will cov­er short­falls

    By Car­ol Bron­son
    Post­ed Oct. 25, 2014 @ 12:01 am

    Pratt, Kan.

    The State of Kansas end­ed fis­cal year 2014 with a bal­ance of $434 mil­lion, down from $709 mil­lion at the end of FY 2013. The pro­jec­tion is that at the end of FY 2015 (in June) the end­ing bal­ance will be $30 mil­lion.

    Pro­jec­tions more than a year out are risky, accord­ing to Shawn Sul­li­van, direc­tor of the bud­get — some­what use­ful for plan­ning, but not entire­ly accu­rate.

    He doesn’t put much stock in media sto­ries call­ing for a future deficit, includ­ing a state­ment by for­mer bud­get direc­tor Duane Goossen, who pre­dict­ed that with­in five years the state would be $1.3 bil­lion below zero. The state can­not spend more mon­ey than it has, how­ev­er, and Goossen warned at a meet­ing last month in Pratt that bud­get cuts were com­ing.

    Part­ly in response to that meet­ing, Sul­li­van and Sec­re­tary of Rev­enue Nick Jor­dan request­ed an inter­view with the Tri­bune.

    Pol­i­cy changes enact­ed by the 2012 Kansas Leg­is­la­ture, at Gov. Sam Brownback’s urg­ing, dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduced the amount of per­son­al income tax paid to the state. At the end of June, tax rev­enue was $300 mil­lion short of pro­jec­tions, Jor­dan said, but the state still end­ed up with $434 mil­lion in the bank. In the first quar­ter of FY 2015, receipts are near­ly $26 mil­lion below esti­mates.

    Brown­back had made build­ing up cash reserves a pri­or­i­ty, Sul­li­van explained, know­ing that once the tax cuts took effect, it would be a cou­ple of years before the econ­o­my would respond through jobs and eco­nom­ic growth.

    “We planned for the dip in rev­enue,” Sul­li­van said.

    As a result of bet­ter man­age­ment, the state antic­i­pates $100 mil­lion in sav­ings over the next year, with­out reduc­ing ser­vices.

    Doing a bet­ter job with infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy will save $30 mil­lion; a debt set-off pro­gram that allows the state to col­lect unpaid tax or ven­dor bills from fed­er­al refunds due the pay­ee will bring in anoth­er $10 mil­lion; rebates from pre­scrip­tion drug man­u­fac­tur­ers will add $40 mil­lion to state cof­fers and $7 mil­lion will be saved in bond refi­nanc­ing.

    “We’re work­ing on sev­er­al things that don’t result in reduc­tion in ser­vices,” Sul­li­van said. “Effi­cien­cies will take care of short­falls next year.”

    ...

    So Kansas end­ed the 2013 fis­cal year with $709 mil­lion in cash, the 2014 fis­cal year with $434 mil­lion, and is expect­ed to be down to $30 mil­lion at the end of the fis­cal year next year. And keep in mind that the above arti­cle was writ­ten last week, before the lat­est addi­tion­al short­fall. And with each addi­tion­al “unex­pect­ed” rev­enue short­fall the soon­er Kansas will be out of cash com­plete­ly.

    So it’s nice to hear from the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion that it’s expect­ing $100 mil­lion in sav­ings through ‘bet­ter man­age­ment’ or some­thing, but if Kansas is los­ing ~$300 mil­lion in cash each year and the state is pro­ject­ed to be near­ly out of cash in less than a year, Kansas is going to require some pret­ty impres­sive “man­age­ment” in fis­cal year 2016 if Kansas’s ser­vices are going to avoid an “unex­pect­ed” drown­ing. Some­times you need to change hors­es. It’s actu­al­ly best if you don’t get on the div­ing horse in the first place.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 1, 2014, 4:22 am
  30. The New York Times has a piece that makes a point that’s going to be impor­tant in com­ing days should the GOP take the Sen­ate: the extreme close­ness of so many Sen­ate races in a year that tra­di­tion­al­ly and cir­cum­stan­tial­ly should be hor­ri­ble for the Democ­rats indi­cates that the GOP has­n’t real­ly peeled away many of Oba­ma’s 2012 sup­port­ers. Instead, GOP vic­to­ries are like­ly to emerge pri­mar­i­ly from low vot­er turnout (amongst oth­er rea­sons). In oth­er words, if these same close races were being run in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year the GOP would prob­a­bly be los­ing them. And that’s why the GOP’s like­ly vic­to­ries in this year’s midterm races are like­ly Sisyphean vic­to­ries, which will give any upcom­ing GOP vic­to­ry dance a Pyrrhic vibe:

    The New York Times
    The Upshot

    Why 2014 Isn’t as Good as It Seems for the Repub­li­cans

    NOV. 1, 2014

    Nate Cohn

    The Repub­li­cans are look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a good week. They are favored to win the Sen­ate, and they could pick up enough House seats to fin­ish with their largest mar­gin since 1928.

    But per­haps more impor­tant to the party’s long-term prospects than Tuesday’s results is what unfolds in the pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground states. If the night ends with tight races in Iowa, North Car­oli­na, Col­orado and Geor­gia, as the polls sug­gest, then the results will not be as great for Repub­li­cans as many ana­lysts will sure­ly pro­claim.

    Even if the Repub­li­cans win these states, which would all but ensure Sen­ate con­trol, it will prob­a­bly be most­ly because of low midterm turnout among Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing young and non­white vot­ers. The impli­ca­tion would be that Repub­li­can Sen­ate can­di­dates did not win many vot­ers who sup­port­ed Pres­i­dent Oba­ma in 2012. And it would sug­gest that Repub­li­cans have made lit­tle progress in attract­ing vot­ers they would need to take back the White House.

    If there were a time when the Repub­li­cans ought to be mak­ing inroads into the Oba­ma coali­tion, this should be it. The econ­o­my remains mediocre in many respects; there is tur­moil in much of the world; and the Amer­i­can pub­lic is decid­ed­ly down­beat about the state of the coun­try under Mr. Oba­ma. His approval rat­ings have sagged into the low 40s. A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing vot­ers say they dis­ap­prove of his per­for­mance.

    His­tor­i­cal­ly, pres­i­den­tial rat­ings like these have per­mit­ted the par­ty that does not hold the White House to make sub­stan­tial gains. This year, how­ev­er, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate can­di­dates in the bat­tle­ground states have large­ly reassem­bled the coali­tion that sup­port­ed Mr. Oba­ma two years ago. Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates would prob­a­bly win Col­orado, North Car­oli­na, Iowa and Geor­gia — along with con­trol of the Sen­ate — if those who vote were as young, diverse and Demo­c­ra­t­ic as they were in 2012 or will be in 2016.

    This is not to say that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic coali­tion is invul­ner­a­ble. Polls sug­gest that the par­ty is not far­ing as well among young or His­pan­ic vot­ers as in years past. But the inabil­i­ty of Repub­li­cans to secure addi­tion­al gains is a telling indi­ca­tor of how hard­ened polit­i­cal sen­ti­ments are in the post-Bush, late Oba­ma era. It also shows the lim­it­ed appeal of Repub­li­can can­di­dates to the vot­ers who sup­port­ed Mr. Oba­ma in 2012 but are dis­sat­is­fied with him now. Mr. Oba­ma and his low approval rat­ings won’t be on the bal­lot in 2016; the Repub­li­can Par­ty and its even low­er approval rat­ings will be.

    Above all, the pat­tern is a reminder of how dif­fi­cult it will be for Repub­li­cans to over­come the demo­graph­ic and gen­er­a­tional changes that have mar­gin­al­ized their tra­di­tion­al coali­tion in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Repub­li­cans fare poor­ly among every large demo­graph­ic group that is a grow­ing share of the elec­torate, includ­ing Lati­nos, Asian-Amer­i­cans and young adults.

    ...

    The fact that the races in all of the pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground states stayed close, despite an old­er and whiter elec­torate, sug­gests that Mr. Oba­ma is not yet so unpop­u­lar as to cause the vot­ers who remained Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing through 2012 to vote Repub­li­cans into fed­er­al office.

    ...

    The Repub­li­cans have their best shot at a break­through in Col­orado, where polls show Cory Gard­ner, the Repub­li­can can­di­date, ahead by a mod­est mar­gin in a state Pres­i­dent Oba­ma won com­fort­ably in 2012. As in the oth­er states, the off-year vot­ers will prob­a­bly be more favor­able to Mr. Gard­ner than pres­i­den­tial-year vot­ers, but the state now has uni­ver­sal mail vot­ing, which should encour­age more Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers.

    If turnout is high and Mr. Gard­ner wins by a mod­est mar­gin, it will be a sign that he won vot­ers who did not sup­port Mitt Rom­ney in 2012. That would be an impres­sive and impor­tant accom­plish­ment against a Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent in a state that the Democ­rats will be count­ing on to get to 270 elec­toral votes in 2016.

    If there’s any­thing that sig­ni­fies the Sisyphean nature of the GOP’s upcom­ing vic­to­ries it’s the fact that, as the arti­cle point­ed out, Cory Gard­ner is the can­di­date that’s giv­ing the GOP its best shot at an elec­toral “break­through”. Cory Gard­ner. The guy that’s based his cam­paign on run­ning as Mr. “I’m Not That Kind of Repub­li­can”:

    The New Repub­lic
    Not That Kind of Repub­li­can
    Col­orado’s Cory Gard­ner may have found a way to turn a blue state red by co-opt­ing Democ­rats’ tactics—and their mes­sage.
    Mol­ly Ball Oct 31 2014, 6:00 AM ET

    BOULDER, Colo.—In the tiny store­front that hous­es the Boul­der Coun­ty Repub­li­cans, the air is thick with para­noia. At the front of the crowd­ed room, the coun­ty GOP chair­woman, Ellyn Hilliard, is lec­tur­ing on vot­er fraud and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­spir­a­cy she’s con­vinced is afoot to steal the elec­tion. I had expect­ed Boul­der Repub­li­cans to be a slight­ly more con­ser­v­a­tive ver­sion of every­one else in this lib­er­al col­lege town—laid-back and crunchy and clad in polar fleece—but that, it seems, is not the case.

    When Cory Gard­ner, the Repub­li­cans’ much-hyped Sen­ate nom­i­nee, bounds up onto a chair for a quick rev-’em-up speech, the con­trast could­n’t be clear­er. “What can we do to make sure we are pro­tect­ing this beau­ti­ful envi­ron­ment?” he asks. “What can we do to put more Col­orado in Wash­ing­ton and less Wash­ing­ton in Col­orado?” He talks about eco­nom­ic growth, mak­ing col­lege afford­able, and work­ing across par­ty lines. He talks about his grand­par­ents and the Amer­i­can Dream.

    Gard­ner, who is locked in a tight race with incum­bent Mark Udall, has made it clear he’s Not That Kind of Republican—not one of the cranky old men that have dom­i­nat­ed the Col­orado GOP for years, help­ing Democ­rats win by alien­at­ing the sub­ur­ban swing vot­ers who decide elec­tions here. Indeed, Not That Kind of Repub­li­can might as well be Gard­ner’s slogan—never mind that Democ­rats say it would be a lie.

    ...

    Gard­ner, who is cur­rent­ly in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, read­i­ly admits his par­ty has “over­reached” in the past. He promis­es to be a prag­ma­tist who focus­es on kitchen-table issues. Democ­rats dis­miss this as elec­tion-year pos­tur­ing, but Gard­ner insists he’s been con­sis­tent: As a state leg­is­la­tor, he notes, he advo­cat­ed a renew­able-ener­gy bill over the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor’s veto; he has long been push­ing his par­ty for some sort of immi­gra­tion reform (though he’s slip­pery about what that involves); and last year, “a lot of nasty things were said about me in my own par­ty about my unwill­ing­ness to demand the gov­ern­ment shut­down,” he says. Gard­ner acknowl­edges Oba­macare isn’t going any­where as long as Pres­i­dent Oba­ma remains in office, and he says that if Repub­li­cans gain the Sen­ate major­i­ty, “I’m going to be shout­ing from every desk­top pos­si­ble” in favor of an inclu­sive, bipar­ti­san approach.

    Gard­ner does­n’t bring up any of the polar­iz­ing issues around which Udall has sought to frame the cam­paign, chiefly abor­tion. Dur­ing this cam­paign, Gard­ner renounced his for­mer sup­port for the “per­son­hood” ini­tia­tive that will be on the Col­orado bal­lot for the third time this year, say­ing he’d changed his mind after com­ing to under­stand the impli­ca­tions. But he remains a cospon­sor of a fed­er­al per­son­hood bill and has danced around aggres­sive ques­tion­ing on the issue. (At one point, he even denied the fed­er­al per­son­hood bill exist­ed.) Frus­trat­ing­ly for Democ­rats, Gard­ner is a glib and tal­ent­ed politi­cian, able to spit out non-answers with a cheery smile and with­out trip­ping up and say­ing some­thing that could be used against him.

    Democ­rats believe Gard­ner is just putting a hap­py face on the same old extrem­ism. In 2012, they note, Nation­al Jour­nal ranked Gard­ner the 10th most con­ser­v­a­tive mem­ber of the House. (In 2013, he was 98th.) Despite his talk about immi­gra­tion reform in the abstract, they point out, he’s vot­ed to rescind DACA, Oba­ma’s exec­u­tive action spar­ing some young ille­gal immi­grants from depor­ta­tion, and he does­n’t sup­port a path to cit­i­zen­ship. (When I pressed him on this, he said he was for “some kind of earned sta­tus,” but as for cit­i­zen­ship, “I don’t know that that is a uni­ver­sal demand by any­body.”) While he claims he opposed the shut­down, he was­n’t out­spo­ken about end­ing it.

    ...

    The come­back of Not That Kind of Repub­li­can is what even many Democ­rats say they want, decry­ing the GOP’s right­ward march even as they mine it for elec­toral advan­tage. On Mon­day night in Auro­ra, a diverse South Den­ver sub­urb, Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists filled a high-school gym­na­si­um to hear for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton pine for the sane Repub­li­cans of yes­ter­year. Gard­ner’s tick­et-mate, guber­na­to­r­i­al nom­i­nee Bob Beauprez, once ques­tioned Oba­ma’s birth cer­tifi­cate and sup­port­ed repeal­ing the 17th Amend­ment, which man­dates direct elec­tion of sen­a­tors. “When he won the pri­ma­ry, peo­ple said he was a mod­er­ate, and I said, our stan­dards are get­ting a lit­tle loose!” Clin­ton said. “It does­n’t take much to qual­i­fy as a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can these days!”

    ...

    Yes, the guy that was ranked the 10th most con­ser­v­a­tive mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2012 by Nation­al Jour­nal is the basi­cal­ly tied or slight­ly win­ning right now by run­ning as the “Not That Kind of Repub­li­can”. And “Not That Kind of Repub­li­can” basi­cal­ly means “Not Like Almost All Repub­li­cans in Elect­ed Office”. That’s the good news for the GOP in this year’s results: if you run as a non-Repub­li­can Repub­li­can, you can pos­si­bly win in the swing states the GOP needs to win the pres­i­den­cy. And that’s means all indi­ca­tions are the elec­torate isn’t actu­al­ly going to enjoy Repub­li­can rule, which is why win­ning the Sen­ate is prob­a­bly the Pyrrhic com­po­nent of what could be a rather short Sisyphean cycle:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    For the GOP, Sen­ate con­trol could be a dou­bled-edged sword
    By Michael Ger­son Opin­ion writer Octo­ber 20

    On the the­o­ry that chick­ens should not only be count­ed before they hatch but also killed, let us con­sid­er the down­sides for Repub­li­cans of win­ning both hous­es of Con­gress.

    This hypo­thet­i­cal now seems the most like­ly out­come, accord­ing to the var­i­ous poll aggre­ga­tors we now treat as ora­cles. The The Post Elec­tion Lab, strid­ing fur­thest out on the ice, puts the odds of a GOP Sen­ate takeover at 93 per­cent.

    ...

    Democ­rats put on their game face and boast of their ground game — get-out-the-vote efforts that could lim­it GOP gains. Some strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates could beat the odds in red states — per­haps in the Geor­gia Sen­ate race, where the Repub­li­can, David Per­due, strug­gles (like Rom­ney before him) to explain his role in the “cre­ative destruc­tion” wrought by cap­i­tal­ism. But the elec­toral cur­rent runs strong­ly against Democ­rats, who are left jump­ing up the falls like salmon.

    With a gain of 13 seats in the House (an out­side shot), Repub­li­cans would have their largest major­i­ty since Her­bert Hoover was pres­i­dent. If Gov. Scott Walk­er of Wis­con­sin is reelect­ed and Gov. Sam Brown­back of Kansas pulls out a vic­to­ry, some con­ser­v­a­tives will claim a vin­di­ca­tion of hard-core, con­ser­v­a­tive gov­er­nance. And the assump­tion of Sen­ate con­trol, with its spoils of com­mit­tees and staff, is always a heady expe­ri­ence.

    But Nov. 4 should be a haunt­ed bal­loon drop for Repub­li­cans. In the 2010 midterm elec­tion, the GOP won con­trol of the House in a sweep­ing anti-Oba­ma vic­to­ry. Two years lat­er, Oba­ma took 11 out of 12 bat­tle­ground states and became the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dent since FDR to twice win 51 per­cent or more of the pop­u­lar vote.

    Repub­li­cans are sus­cep­ti­ble to the myth of the midterm man­date. Midterm elec­tions gen­er­al­ly express unhap­pi­ness, not aspi­ra­tion. But some con­ser­v­a­tives took the 2010 result as an ide­o­log­i­cal turn­ing point. They con­clud­ed that Obama’s 2008 vic­to­ry was an anom­aly — that the coun­try, deep down, was real­ly on the Repub­li­can side.

    It was a false dawn. As a weak­ened pres­i­dent cel­e­brat­ed a deci­sive reelec­tion, a few things should have been clear: At the pres­i­den­tial lev­el, the GOP brand is offen­sive to many ris­ing demo­graph­ic groups. Repub­li­cans are often per­ceived as indif­fer­ent to work­ing-class strug­gles (because they some­times are). The GOP appeal seems designed for a van­ish­ing elec­torate.

    The last Repub­li­can midterm win actu­al­ly com­pli­cat­ed the long-term task of Repub­li­can reform. Many in the GOP took away a les­son in com­pla­cen­cy. Some con­clud­ed that ide­o­log­i­cal puri­ty is the path back to pow­er, and that effec­tive per­sua­sion is only a mat­ter of turn­ing up the vol­ume.

    It didn’t work. It can’t work. Repub­li­can midterm vic­to­ries are the anom­aly, dis­tract­ing atten­tion from trends that are grad­u­al­ly con­demn­ing the Repub­li­can Par­ty to region­al appeal and nation­al irrel­e­vance.

    Some parts of the Repub­li­can coali­tion — high­ly ide­o­log­i­cal mem­bers of Con­gress from safe dis­tricts, out­side groups and think tanks that raise funds off appeals to puri­ty — seem con­tent, even hap­py, on the gen­tle slope of Repub­li­can decline.

    No Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent can afford to be. What­ev­er he or she calls the effort — sor­ry, “com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­vatism” is trade­marked — a suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can can­di­date will need to craft a more inclu­sive polit­i­cal appeal and for­mu­late an active role for gov­ern­ment in encour­ag­ing skills and aspi­ra­tion in an econ­o­my where upward mobil­i­ty is sticky and slowed.

    Will a Repub­li­can Par­ty fresh from a midterm suc­cess — with a vivid feel­ing of ide­o­log­i­cal momen­tum — allow the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee this lat­i­tude? Or will it pun­ish deviant cre­ativ­i­ty?

    A reform-ori­ent­ed nom­i­nee will have some allies — a Repub­li­can con­gres­sion­al estab­lish­ment burned by past tea par­ty excess­es and an impres­sive group of “reform con­ser­v­a­tive” thinkers to fur­nish the Repub­li­can ren­o­va­tion with pol­i­cy. But the great­est obsta­cle to GOP suc­cess may well be a mist­imed vic­to­ry.

    As the arti­cle sum­ma­rizes it at the end, “the great­est obsta­cle to GOP suc­cess may well be a mist­imed vic­to­ry”. The par­ty that desparate­ly needs to reform itself and put on a “I’m Not That Kind of Repub­li­can” game face on soon if it’s going to have any chance of a vic­to­ry in 2016 is far less like­ly to actu­al­ly make those reforms if the par­ty takes the Sen­ate. Quite the oppo­site.

    Then again, who knows, if Cory Gard­ner, Nation­al Jour­nal’s 10th most con­ser­v­a­tive House mem­ber in 2012, can suc­cess­ful­ly pull off the “I’m Not That Kind of Repub­li­can” scam, it’s not hard to imag­ine the rest of the GOP doing that too. Espe­cial­ly since that’s what the rest of the GOP is already doing:

    Crooks and Liars
    Ernst Lies, Gard­ner Won’t Answer Ques­tions, And Oth­er Tales From Koch-fueled Elec­tion
    By Mike Lux Octo­ber 30, 2014 10:30 am

    Every elec­tion has some strange­ness to it, some quirks that make old pols like me shake our heads and say “real­ly?” But this one could be the strangest of all. Just when you think a race is on the verge of being writ­ten off, a whole new set of polls comes out to show it is tight as can be — the Sen­ate races in GA, KY, and most recent­ly AK are all cas­es in point. Democ­rats that every­one thought would be safe at the begin­ning of the cycle, like Martha Coak­ley in MA, are in real dan­ger. Heav­i­ly Repub­li­can states like KS and SD have become wild­ly unpre­dictable bat­tle­grounds. What has seemed at times like a pre­dictably Repub­li­can year has over 20 dif­fer­ent Sen­ate and gov­er­nor races too close to call less than a week from Elec­tion Day. Will we find our­selves sur­prised next Tues­day night? The odds are def­i­nite­ly in favor of pun­dits being embar­rassed.

    What is high­ly pre­dictable is the mas­sive spend­ing by the Koch broth­ers’ front groups and oth­ers of their ilk. It seems to have no end.. And of course, it is also no sur­prise that the can­di­dates being helped by them doing their best to pre­tend there is no con­nec­tion.

    My orga­ni­za­tion, Amer­i­can Fam­i­ly Voic­es, sup­ports the work of grass­roots jour­nal­ist Lau­ren Wind­sor, and she has been on the road in four bat­tle­ground states with Koch-fueled Sen­ate can­di­dates, all of whom spoke at the infa­mous Koch retreat with oth­er bil­lion­aires at a Cal­i­for­nia resort last June. Lau­ren man­aged to get all of them to answer at least a cou­ple of ques­tions, and the lev­el of eva­sion and obfus­ca­tion was impres­sive even to me, who has been watch­ing can­di­dates evade and obfus­cate for 35 years.

    The biggest moment in her tour was when Joni Ernst, the Repub­li­can can­di­date the Kochs picked from absolute obscu­ri­ty more than a year ago and made into a viable can­di­date, bla­tant­ly lied about hav­ing any con­tact at all with the out­side groups, which are most­ly fund­ed by the Kochs. In fact, the two groups most close­ly aligned with the Kochs — Free­dom Part­ners and Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty — have already spent over $4.25 mil­lion in Iowa, accord­ing to OpenSecrets.org. Here’s a short video that sum­ma­rizes just how bla­tant the Ernst lie was...

    [see Joni Ernst video]
    No con­tact? Not only was she on a pan­el at the con­fer­ence offi­cial­ly co-host­ed by Free­dom Part­ners and AFP that talked about the need to raise mon­ey for those groups ad cam­paigns, the audio makes clear that she had attend­ed at least one oth­er Koch con­fer­ence a year before, when she was a com­plete­ly unknown state Sen­a­tor with about 1% of the vote in a mul­ti-can­di­date field. The Kochs picked her to be their can­di­date, groomed her, fund­ed her, and — as Ernst her­self said — start­ed her “tra­jec­to­ry.” That’s an awful lot of “con­tact”, if you ask me.

    Then there’s Cory Gard­ner, the Repub­li­can Sen­ate can­di­date in CO. When Lau­ren showed up to ask him specifics about what he would cut out of the fed­er­al bud­get, rather than answer­ing the ques­tion, he got para­noid about some­one ask­ing him such a direct ques­tion, repeat­ed­ly ask­ing her, “Who are you with?” And then Gard­ner just flat out refused to answer the ques­tion. Giv­en how strong­ly he pro­claimed he want­ed to cut the fed­er­al bud­get, he sure seemed pan­icky about hav­ing to answer ques­tions about those cuts...
    [see Cori Gar­ner video]

    In AR, Tom Cot­ton vehe­ment­ly claimed he would not cut Social Secu­ri­ty or Medicare. Yet he vot­ed for the Ryan bud­get, which pri­va­tizes and slash­es the hell out of Medicare. And he enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly embraced the Kochs’ agen­da while par­ty­ing with them at that resort in CA, an agen­da that has for sev­er­al decades includ­ed cut­ting and pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­ri­ty. As to a ques­tion about why he went to the Koch con­fer­ence at all, Cot­ton avoid­ed that like the plague...
    [see Tom Cot­ton video]
    Final­ly, in KY, Lau­ren asked Mitch McConnell about some­thing he promised the Kochs and the oth­er bil­lion­aires in CA in his speech, which is that he would work to dereg­u­late Wall Street. McConnell, while lying about whether he would sup­port the dereg­u­la­tion he had promised and has sup­port­ed his entire career, resort­ed to glib slo­ga­neer­ing: Dodd-Frank is “Oba­macare” for banks...
    [see Mitch McConnell video]
    The lies, the eva­sion, the pho­bic avoid­ance — it would all be pret­ty enter­tain­ing if the stakes weren’t so high. But they are, indeed: McConnell promised the Kochs and their bil­lion­aire friends that the Sen­ate just would­n’t debate pro­pos­als to help low and mid­dle income folks like min­i­mum wage, unem­ploy­ment comp, and stu­dent loans, and that he would help Wall Street, big oil and coal com­pa­nies, and health insur­ance com­pa­nies by attach­ing rid­ers to bud­get bills to force dereg­u­la­tion of those indus­tries.

    The biggest ques­tion of this elec­tion is whether the Repub­li­cans will win con­trol of the Sen­ate, so that McConnell can work his mag­ic for his bil­lion­aire friends. But right behind that in impor­tance is this inex­tri­ca­bly linked ques­tion: do the Koch can­di­dates win their incred­i­bly close elec­tions? The biggest invest­ments (as they call them) the Kochs have made are in Sen­ate races in NC, LA, AK, AR, IA, CO, and of course to sup­port their loy­al fol­low­er McConnell in KY. And they have made win­ning the Gov­er­nor’s races in WI, MI, FL, NE, KS, and AZ a huge pri­or­i­ty as well. And pret­ty much all of these races are too close to call.

    ...

    Will the Koch can­di­dates win their incred­i­bly close elec­tions? It’s tilt­ing in the Koch’s direc­tion so it’s quite pos­si­ble it’s going to be a Koch sweep. But can a Koch sweep pos­si­bly lead to the kind of par­ty reform the GOP needs if it’s going to begin the process of mod­ern­iz­ing the par­ty? The “I’m Not That Kind of Republican”-phase is clear­ly the next step for the Repub­li­can par­ty mod­ern­iza­tion if its going to main­tain rel­e­vance. And as we just saw, vir­tu­al­ly all of the Repub­li­cans in these close races are direct­ly or indi­rect­ly run­ning as “I’m Not That Kind of Republican”-candidates. So it looks like the for­mu­la works, but how well will the “I’m Not That Kind of Republican”-strategy work when the GOP con­trols the Con­gress the par­ty is sud­den­ly forced to vote like “I’m a Koch Minion”-elected offi­cials? That seems like a Sisyphean strug­gle.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 2, 2014, 6:11 am
  31. If there’s any­thing that can make one appre­ci­ate the GOP’s propen­si­ty for cre­at­ing prob­lems while the par­ty oper­ates in oppo­si­tion mode, it’s see­ing the par­ty oper­ate in prob­lem-solv­ing mode:

    Repub­li­cans Mull Strat­e­gy If They Con­trol Con­gress
    WASHINGTON — Nov 2, 2014, 1:00 PM ET
    By CHARLES BABINGTON Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Repub­li­can con­trol of the House and Sen­ate seems tan­ta­liz­ing­ly close, so lead­ing Repub­li­cans are turn­ing to a mat­ter often over­looked in cam­paigns: how to actu­al­ly gov­ern.

    They say it will be cru­cial to show the GOP can leg­is­late, lead and solve prob­lems after years of lob­bing polit­i­cal grenades at Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Sen­ate Democ­rats.

    If they add Sen­ate con­trol to their House dom­i­nance, Repub­li­cans say they will pass some bills that Oba­ma is sure to veto, as they try to high­light their ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences with Democ­rats. But they also will push for changes in tax­es, trade, reg­u­la­tions and oth­er poli­cies that both par­ties might accept.

    “We have to prove in two years the Repub­li­can Con­gress can gov­ern,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R‑N.C.

    ...

    In inter­views, GOP sen­a­tors talked at times of an ambi­tious con­ser­v­a­tive push for few­er reg­u­la­tions, low­er tax­es and oth­er long-held pri­or­i­ties. But they also out­lined more prag­mat­ic, mod­est agen­das that might avoid Oba­ma’s veto and the fil­i­buster pow­ers Sen­ate Democ­rats will hold even if they’re con­signed to the minor­i­ty.

    There was vir­tu­al­ly no talk of bal­anc­ing the bud­get, repeal­ing Oba­ma’s health care law or achiev­ing sim­i­lar GOP cam­paign pledges that prove polit­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble in Wash­ing­ton. These sen­a­tors not­ed that even small achieve­ments will require lev­els of bipar­ti­san­ship rarely seen these days.

    “It’s very pos­si­ble to get a num­ber of things done if the pres­i­dent is will­ing to come to the table, and I believe he will,” said Sen. Rob Port­man, R‑Ohio.

    Port­man, a for­mer White House bud­get direc­tor and U.S. trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said goals should include low­er­ing the 35 per­cent cor­po­rate tax rate, enhanc­ing the pres­i­den­t’s abil­i­ty to make trade agree­ments, approv­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline and pass­ing what he called respon­si­ble bud­get bills.

    ...

    As for low­er­ing the cor­po­rate tax rate, the par­ties repeat­ed­ly have failed to resolve sev­er­al issues, includ­ing where to set the new rate, how to tax U.S. com­pa­nies’ over­seas prof­its and which tax loop­holes to close in exchange for a low­er rate.

    ...

    Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R‑S.C., says lead­ers of both par­ties must be will­ing to defy key sup­port­ers, and even risk their polit­i­cal careers, to end gov­ern­ment grid­lock.

    With his re-elec­tion vir­tu­al­ly assured, Gra­ham has told busi­ness lead­ers he wants Con­gress to improve roads and bridges and to shore up enti­tle­ment pro­grams such as Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare, among oth­er things. That will require end­ing some tax breaks and find­ing new sources of rev­enue, which is anath­e­ma to many Repub­li­cans, he said.

    “I’m will­ing as a Repub­li­can to vio­late some of the pledges we’ve all made” against tax increas­es, Gra­ham said.

    Such bold­ness is rare in Wash­ing­ton. That truth is repeat­ed­ly proven when talk turns to the pres­i­den­t’s health law.

    Near­ly every Repub­li­can in Con­gress has pledged to repeal the law, and a GOP-run Sen­ate would like­ly join the House in pass­ing bills to do that. Oba­ma would veto them, a point that would seem self-evi­dent.

    Yet no less a politi­cian than Sen­ate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Ken­tucky ran afoul of con­ser­v­a­tive activists when he told Fox News that Oba­ma obvi­ous­ly “is not going to sign a full repeal.” McConnell said, how­ev­er, that Con­gress may try to peel off spe­cif­ic pieces, such as the tax on med­ical devices.

    Con­ser­v­a­tives’ howls forced McConnel­l’s Sen­ate staff to issue a state­ment say­ing he “is and has always been com­mit­ted to the full repeal of Oba­macare, and he’ll con­tin­ue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it.”

    Such state­ments extend the end­less quar­rels over the health law, sug­gest­ing how hard it will be for the next Con­gress — with or with­out a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate — to solve the nation’s big prob­lems.

    As we can see, the paths for­ward for a GOP-led Sen­ate are mul­ti­di­men­sion­al paths. Will the Con­gress mere­ly pass laws to repeal Oba­macare that will just get vetoed by the Pres­i­dent (over and over)? Or will the GOP engage in gov­ern­ment shut­downs and bud­get ceil­ing hostage tak­ing attempts and in order to demand major Oba­macare con­ces­sions? Signs point towards hostage tak­ing but we’ll see.

    It was also pre­dictably omi­nous to see Lind­sey Gra­ham call for “enti­tle­ment reform” since he’s been call­ing for enti­tle­ment down­siz­ing for years. His uses the gim­mick where he holds out the prospect of rais­ing tax­es in exchange for the Democ­rats agree­ing to major long-term cuts in Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare. That makes him a “mod­er­ate” since he’s vir­tu­al­ly the only Repub­li­can that even offers to raise tax­es in exchange for gut­ting enti­tle­ments. Real­ly, he’s pret­ty much the only one:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    GOP Sen­a­tor Open to Tax Hike for Enti­tle­ment-Cut Deal

    By Janet Hook
    Feb 25, 2013 9:47 pm ET

    Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R., S.C.), a key Sen­ate Repub­li­can wor­ried about impend­ing defense bud­get cuts, Mon­day diverged from the GOP par­ty line by say­ing he would be will­ing to raise $600 bil­lion in new tax rev­enue if Democ­rats would accept major enti­tle­ment reforms in a big deficit-reduc­tion pack­age.

    Speak­ing in an inter­view on CNN, Mr. Gra­ham said he expect­ed to talk to Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma about the idea Tues­day at the White House. Mr. Gra­ham and Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) have been invit­ed to meet with Mr. Oba­ma Tues­day to dis­cuss immi­gra­tion reform.

    Mr. Gra­ham said he also hoped to bring up bud­get issues and encour­age Mr. Oba­ma to look beyond the imme­di­ate bat­tle over the across-the-board spend­ing cuts due to begin Fri­day and refo­cus on seek­ing a broad­er deficit-reduc­tion deal that includes both tax increas­es and over­haul of enti­tle­ment pro­grams like Medicare.

    “I’m will­ing to raise rev­enue. I’m will­ing to raise $600 bil­lion of new rev­enue if my Demo­c­ra­t­ic friends would be will­ing to reform enti­tle­ments,” Mr. Gra­ham said.

    Kevin Bish­op, a spokesman for Mr. Gra­ham, said that the com­ments were not a new posi­tion for the sen­a­tor, who has been a long-time advo­cate of enti­tle­ment reform and has pre­vi­ous­ly expressed will­ing­ness to accept new rev­enues from clos­ing tax loop­holes and over­haul­ing the tax code as part of a large-scale effort to shrink the deficit.

    But in the con­text of the cur­rent polit­i­cal debate over the impend­ing bud­get cuts, Mr. Gra­ham is almost alone among Repub­li­cans in open­ly call­ing for a tax rev­enue increase. As both par­ties have looked for ways to avert the so-called sequester–$85 bil­lion in across-the-board cuts hit­ting domes­tic and defense pro­grams from March 1 through Sept. 30–Republicans have almost unan­i­mous­ly refused Mr. Obama’s demand that any plan to replace the cuts include increased rev­enues.

    Mr. Gra­ham said he believes the cuts will take effect and he hopes the dam­age caused will prompt Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats to return to nego­ti­a­tions over a larg­er, long-term deficit-reduc­tion plan.

    “I think the only way out is a big deal,’’ he said. “Repub­li­cans are not going to raise rev­enue to pay for seques­tra­tion and I don’t real­ly believe that we can do any­thing in the short-term.’’

    ...

    Yes, just least year Lind­sey Gra­ham was almost alone amongst Repub­li­cans in call­ing for high­er rev­enues in exchange for slash­ing enti­tle­ments. And that should­n’t be inter­pret­ed as sup­port for rais­ing tax rates, even on top tax brack­ets. Tax deduc­tions are to be tar­get­ed as the rev­enue source of choice in Gra­ham’s plans. Tax deduc­tions like char­i­ta­ble giv­ing and the mort­gage inter­est deduct­ing:

    Lind­sey Gra­ham: ‘I Will Vio­late The Pledge’ To Not Increase Tax­es
    The Huff­in­g­ton Post | By Arthur Delaney

    Post­ed: 11/25/2012 11:19 am EST Updat­ed: 11/25/2012 11:32 am EST

    WASHINGTON — Sev­er­al con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans said Sun­day that they would be open to increas­ing the amount of mon­ey the gov­ern­ment col­lects in tax­es, with a senior Repub­li­can mem­ber of the U.S. Sen­ate going so far as to say he is will­ing to break his ear­li­er promise to not sup­port tax hikes in any form.

    Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R‑S.C.) said he oppos­es rais­ing income tax rates, but that he is open to increas­ing tax rev­enue by reduc­ing the avail­abil­i­ty of deduc­tions for things like char­i­ta­ble giv­ing and mort­gage inter­est. Sen. John McCain (R‑Ariz.) also said Sun­day that he would sup­port lim­it­ing deduc­tions.

    Doing so would vio­late Grover Norquist’s “Tax­pay­er Pro­tec­tion Pledge,” which both men have signed (as have most Repub­li­cans in Con­gress). Under the pledge, “can­di­dates and incum­bents solemn­ly bind them­selves to oppose any and all tax increas­es,” accord­ing to the Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform site.

    “When you’re $16 tril­lion in debt, the only pledge we should be mak­ing to each oth­er is to avoid becom­ing Greece, and Repub­li­cans — Repub­li­cans should put rev­enue on the table,” Gra­ham said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopou­los.” “We’re this far in debt. We don’t gen­er­ate enough rev­enue. Cap­ping deduc­tions will help gen­er­ate rev­enue. Rais­ing tax rates will hurt job cre­ation.

    So I agree with Grover, we should­n’t raise rates. But, I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [say­ing] we can’t cap deduc­tions and buy down debt,” Gra­ham con­tin­ued. “I want to buy down debt and cut rates to cre­ate jobs, but I will vio­late the pledge, long sto­ry short, for the good of the coun­try, only if Democ­rats will do enti­tle­ment reform.”

    ...

    So what kind of enti­tle­ment cut/revenue rise ratio might we see under a Gra­ham plan? Well, as we’ll see below, back in ear­ly June 2012 Gra­ham was once again going rogue by call­ing for a 4:1 enti­tle­ment cut/tax hike ratio. So that $600 bil­lion in increased tax rev­enues (from cut­ting the mort­gage inter­est and char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tion deduc­tions) that Gra­ham was call­ing for call­ing for last year would have pre­sum­able come with $2.4 tril­lion in enti­tle­ment cuts going by Gra­ham’s 4:1 cut/hike ratio:

    The Hill
    Sen. Gra­ham: GOP should break with Norquist tax pledge for grand bar­gain

    By Justin Sink — 06/12/12 07:55 PM EDT

    Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R‑S.C.) said Tues­day he believed Repub­li­cans should con­sid­er elim­i­nat­ing loop­holes in the tax code even if they aren’t replaced by addi­tion­al tax cuts, a move that would break with an anti-tax pledge many GOP law­mak­ers have signed with activist Grover Norquist.

    “When you elim­i­nate a deduc­tion, it’s OK with me to use some of that mon­ey to get us out of debt. That’s where I dis­agree with the pledge,” Gra­ham told ABC News.

    The South Car­oli­na sen­a­tor said while he believed some of the mon­ey from clos­ing deduc­tions should go to low­er­ing tax rates, he also believed the increased rev­enues could be used to help pay down the fed­er­al debt.

    “I just think that makes a lot of sense. And if I’m will­ing to do that as a Repub­li­can, I’ve crossed a rubi­con,” said Gra­ham.

    Thou­sands of Repub­li­can can­di­dates — includ­ing Gra­ham and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney — have signed a pledge with Norquist’s Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform that com­mits them to oppose any tax increas­es that would not be met “dol­lar for dol­lar” with anoth­er tax cut. But while Gra­ham applaud­ed the pledge for “doing a great ser­vice,” he also said Repub­li­cans would need to be flex­i­ble.

    ...

    “I’m will­ing to move my par­ty, or try to, on the tax issue. I need some­one on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side being will­ing to move their par­ty on struc­tur­al changes to enti­tle­ments.

    Gra­ham said, for instance, he would sup­port a plan that includ­ed $4 in spend­ing cuts for every $1 in tax increas­es. Dur­ing a Repub­li­can debate last August, all eight Repub­li­can can­di­dates in atten­dance said they would reject a pro­pos­al to trade $10 in spend­ing cuts for even $1 in tax increas­es.

    ...

    Gra­ham is the sec­ond promi­nent Repub­li­can to come out against rigid adher­ence to Norquist’s pledge this month. For­mer Flori­da Gov. Jeb Bush ® told the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee he would accept the plan reject­ed by the Repub­li­can can­di­dates.

    “If you could bring to me a major­i­ty of peo­ple to say that we’re going to have $10 in spend­ing cuts for $1 of rev­enue enhance­ment — put me in, coach,” Bush said. “This will prove I’m not run­ning for any­thing.”

    Yes, if Lind­sey Gra­ham’s 4:1 cut/hike ratio is too pro­gres­sive for you how about Jeb Bush’s 10:1 ratio? Feel the mod­er­a­tion.

    So are tax deduc­tion clo­sures and major enti­tle­ment reform part of the GOP’s future agen­da? Per­haps, but why should be believe the GOP is going to lis­ten to its sup­posed “mod­er­ates” like Lind­sey Gra­ham or Jeb Bush. Why not turn that 4:1 ratio into a 4:0 ratio like the GOP nor­mal­ly demands:

    Salon
    Paul Ryan’s “dynam­ic” math sham: How the GOP will dis­guise bud­get-bust­ing tax cuts as “tax reform”
    The GOP is shift­ing its rhetoric from “tax cuts” to “tax reform.” But if you’re mak­ing up math, what’s the diff?
    Jim Newell
    Mon­day, Oct 6, 2014 09:18 AM CDT

    The usu­al Repub­li­can mania about tax cuts as the answer to every prob­lem fac­ing Plan­et Earth has been tamped down this cycle. Not that Repub­li­cans don’t *believe* that any­more; it’s just that right now, lines about ISIS ter­ror­ists cross­ing the Mex­i­can bor­der to infect patri­ot­ic senior cit­i­zens with Ebo­la are prov­ing more effec­tive.

    But there may also be a recog­ni­tion in Repub­li­can quar­ters that the old “tax cuts for the rich as world­ly cure-all” rhetoric isn’t doing the par­ty a whole lot of favors. “We have to stop being one-trick ponies,” Rep. John Camp­bell told Politi­co for a recent piece about the shift in empha­sis. The GOP, instead, is talk­ing up the more benign-sound­ing “tax reform” as its new pref­er­ence. It’s not just about slash­ing the top income tax rate any­more, they’re say­ing. As Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham told Politi­co, “The era of tax reform and over­haul­ing the Tax Code is replac­ing [an empha­sis on] num­bers…. A flat­ter tax with less deduc­tions is the new mantra.”

    Tax reform is a very hard thing to do. The idea, as Gra­ham says, is that you can com­press tax brack­ets (i.e., low­er top tax rates) with­out increas­ing deficits by elim­i­nat­ing, or tight­en­ing, large tax deduc­tions. The prob­lem is that many of those deduc­tions hap­pen to be extra­or­di­nar­i­ly pop­u­lar with vot­ers. Two of the juici­est ones are the tax exemp­tion for employ­er-spon­sored health insur­ance and the mort­gage inter­est tax deduc­tion. There’s a lot of mon­ey to be saved by elim­i­nat­ing or reduc­ing those. Get­ting rid of either wouldn’t be a bad idea in and of itself, but it would be hor­ri­bly unpop­u­lar. (Also, the idea that you can just “get rid” of some­thing like the tax exemp­tion for employ­er-spon­sored health care, and be done with it, is a fan­ta­sy. The U.S. health care financ­ing sys­tem, in which most peo­ple get their health insur­ance through an employ­er, is found­ed on that tax exemp­tion. Elim­i­nat­ing that exemp­tion would dis­rupt the Amer­i­can health care sec­tor much more pro­found­ly than Oba­macare could ever dream of doing. Again, not nec­es­sar­i­ly a ter­ri­ble thing, but some­thing worth think­ing about/planning for! Any­way.)

    So if you want to do seri­ous, rev­enue-neu­tral “tax reform,” but pol­i­tics scare you away from tak­ing on the biggest deduc­tions, what do you do? Repub­li­can sup­ply-siders have the per­fect answer, in one of those hilar­i­ous Wash­ing­ton phras­es that nev­er quite goes away: “dynam­ic scor­ing.”

    In the next Con­gress, Rep. Paul Ryan will most like­ly take over as chair­man of the tax-writ­ing Ways and Means Com­mit­tee. Paul Ryan is inter­est­ed in pur­su­ing rev­enue-neu­tral tax reform. The way the CBO and Joint Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee cur­rent­ly “score,” or fore­cast the effect of a pro­posed tax pol­i­cy change, is called “sta­t­ic” scor­ing: If you cut a top tax rate, the score will show tax rev­enue falling accord­ing­ly. Ryan wants to change the CBO and JCT’s method to “dynam­ic” scor­ing to bet­ter incor­po­rate sup­ply-siders’ assump­tions: If you cut a top tax rate, the econ­o­my will grow like wild­fire as wealth trick­les down, cre­at­ing a larg­er tax base, leav­ing the gov­ern­ment with no lost rev­enue.

    >
    A new math for tax pol­i­cy is attract­ing fresh atten­tion in Wash­ing­ton as polls sug­gest that Repub­li­cans could cap­ture full con­trol of the U.S. Con­gress next month.

    Known as “dynam­ic scor­ing,” the approach is about how to esti­mate the fed­er­al bud­get impact of tax law changes and it has long been backed by Repub­li­cans but opposed by some Democ­rats.

    In recent remarks to a finan­cial indus­try group, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Paul Ryan said that if his fel­low Repub­li­cans can seize con­trol of Con­gress in the Nov. 4 elec­tions, they could make dynam­ic scor­ing a more inte­gral part of tax analy­sis.

    “What we want to do is change our mea­sure­ment so that we can use – peo­ple say it’s dynam­ic scor­ing – I real­ly pre­fer to call it real­i­ty-based scor­ing,” said Ryan, favored to become chair­man of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ tax-writ­ing com­mit­tee in the new Con­gress that will con­vene in Jan­u­ary.

    You can feed back some minor, com­plete­ly uncon­tro­ver­sial assump­tions in tax pol­i­cy scor­ing. What you can­not incor­po­rate is the, shall we say, “dubi­ous” belief that cut­ting top tax rates will spur the econ­o­my to grow at a fan­tas­tic pace, off­set­ting any deficits that a reduc­tion in top tax rates would incur. You can­not use “dynam­ic scor­ing” to fill any incon­ve­nient gaps that math pos­es to your ide­ol­o­gy.

    ...

    As the author points out, “What you can­not incor­po­rate is the, shall we say, “dubi­ous” belief that cut­ting top tax rates will spur the econ­o­my to grow at a fan­tas­tic pace, off­set­ting any deficits that a reduc­tion in top tax rates would incur”. And yet you clear­ly can do exact­ly that since it looks like that’s what’s going to hap­pen. And when ‘dynam­ic scor­ing’ becomes part of the new offi­cial eco­nom­ic crys­tal ball sys­tem and tax cuts for the rich offi­cial­ly pay for them­selves and stim­u­late the econ­o­my, that makes Lind­sey’s Gra­ham’s “rev­enue hikes by cut­ting deduc­tions in exchange for for slash­ing entitlements”-tradeoff scheme much less like­ly
    as the plan the GOP to ral­lies around. Not that there was ever real­ly a chance that the Gra­ham’s plan would be GOP approval with­out dynam­ic scor­ing. But the real­i­ty is that weaponized ‘fuzzy math’ is about to be unleashed and that means tax cuts for the rich will soon turn into the only pos­si­ble solu­tion for pay­ing for long-term enti­tle­ment costs. That’s how ‘dynam­ic scor­ing’ and ‘enti­tle­ment reform’ is going to work out. Will Lind­sey stick to his plan to raise rev­enues by “flat­ten­ing the curve” once dynam­ic scor­ing kicks in or will he join the rest of his part in assum­ing that tax cuts for bil­lion­aires are need­ed to secure the safe­ty-net? We’ll find out too.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, what we prob­a­bly won’t get to find out is what hap­pen if we Con­gress was­n’t in the grip of a pack of aus­ter­i­ty-hun­gry lunatics. That would have been neat to find out.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 3, 2014, 2:01 am
  32. One of the quirky things about the the 2014 midterms is that one of the biggest long-term risks to the GOP is win­ning too much. After all, if the GOP becomes con­vinced it won a ‘wave’ vic­to­ry, there may be no way for the GOP to avoid going on Cruz con­trol and the GOP on Cruz con­trol isn’t just bad for the US and the world. It’s real­ly bad for a GOP that just won a ‘wave’ elec­tion by sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly hid­ing its can­di­dates’ extreme views. Does­n’t tak­ing pow­er by run­ning as a very mod­er­ate ver­sion of your very far right self become a prob­lem once you have to actu­al­ly craft leg­is­la­tion?

    And yet it’s look­ing like the midterms are a GOP ‘wave’, which mean means the time has come for the GOP’s lead­er­ship to ask a ques­tion it real­ly can’t pos­si­bly want to ask but has no real choice in ask­ing: “What Would Ted Do?”:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Cruz aims to take on Oba­ma if GOP wins Sen­ate; won’t vow sup­port for McConnell
    By Sebas­t­ian Payne and Robert Cos­ta Novem­ber 2

    ANCHORAGE — Sen. Ted Cruz spent the final week­end of the midterms on the far edge of the coun­try try­ing to help fel­low Repub­li­can Dan Sul­li­van win a race the GOP is count­ing on in its effort to retake the Sen­ate.

    It’s a team-play­er role the tea par­ty fire­brand from Texas has filled a hand­ful of times this fall — but one he plans to aban­don if Repub­li­cans win con­trol of both con­gres­sion­al cham­bers.

    In an inter­view at the Hotel Cap­tain Cook here between cam­paign stops for Sul­li­van, Cruz made it clear he would push hard for a Repub­li­can-led Sen­ate to be as con­ser­v­a­tive and confron­tational as the Repub­li­can-led House.

    Pig­gy­back­ing on what House lead­ers have done, Cruz said the first order of busi­ness should be a series of hear­ings on Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, “look­ing at the abuse of pow­er, the exec­u­tive abuse, the reg­u­la­to­ry abuse, the law­less­ness that sad­ly has per­vad­ed this admin­is­tra­tion.

    Cruz also would like the Sen­ate to be as aggres­sive in try­ing to repeal the Afford­able Care Act as the House, which has vot­ed more than 50 times to get rid of the law.

    Repub­li­cans should “pur­sue every means pos­si­ble to repeal Oba­macare,” Cruz said, includ­ing forc­ing a vote through par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dures that would get around a pos­si­ble fil­i­buster by Democ­rats. If that leads to a veto by Oba­ma, Cruz said, Repub­li­cans should then vote on pro­vi­sions of the health law “one at a time.”

    And when asked whether he would back Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ken­tucky for Repub­li­can leader, Cruz would not pledge his sup­port — an indi­ca­tion that there are lim­its to how much of a part­ner he’s will­ing to be.

    At the heart of Cruz’s shift from the insu­lar approach that defined his first year in office is a belief that he can use his pop­u­lar­i­ty with con­ser­v­a­tives to expand his influ­ence in the Sen­ate and improve his stand­ing as he con­sid­ers a 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    Cruz’s desire to turn his par­ty fur­ther right in the com­ing months is one of the chal­lenges already fac­ing McConnell should Repub­li­cans regain the Sen­ate, with tea par­ty lead­ers inside and out­side the Capi­tol spoil­ing for a num­ber of hard-line moves.

    “Sen­a­tor Cruz has been rather qui­et over the past few months,” said Ron Bon­jean, a spokesman for Trent Lott when the Mis­sis­sip­pi­an was the Sen­ate Repub­li­can leader. “That time seems to be com­ing to an end. I under­stand why he’s eager to go after Oba­macare. But the real­i­ty is that it’ll take 60 votes to repeal it and Repub­li­cans will have nowhere near that amount. If Oba­macare remains the focus, he will cer­tain­ly get the base jazzed up about what he’s doing, but he won’t get rid of the law.”

    Cruz has gained some trac­tion in terms of shap­ing the con­tours of what a Repub­li­can Sen­ate would do, in part because McConnell and House Speak­er John A. Boehn­er (R‑Ohio) have not offered their own defin­i­tive vision of what a Repub­li­can-led Con­gress would look like.

    Two weeks ago, Cruz wrote an opin­ion piece in USA Today lay­ing out 10 con­ser­v­a­tive pri­or­i­ties he thinks Repub­li­cans should pur­sue, includ­ing mov­ing toward a flat tax and draw­ing a hard line on ille­gal immi­grants. In the inter­view here, Cruz reit­er­at­ed some of those points, such as approv­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline.

    McConnell has most­ly been coy about what he would like to accom­plish oth­er than adding amend­ments to curb fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions to spend­ing bills as a means of putting pres­sure on the pres­i­dent.

    “It’s nev­er a good idea to tell the oth­er side what the first play is going to be,” McConnell said at an event last month.

    Cruz is not inter­est­ed in adding amend­ments that may put indi­rect pres­sure on Oba­ma. He favors direct polit­i­cal com­bat. That way, either the pres­i­dent gives in, or, Cruz said, “you have clear account­abil­i­ty. It becomes trans­par­ent to every­one that it is the Democ­rats block­ing mean­ing­ful progress.”

    Rep. Peter King (R‑N.Y.), a Long Island mod­er­ate, said Repub­li­cans should be wary of Cruz’s guid­ance. “He is the last one we should lis­ten to,” King said in an inter­view Sun­day. “Don’t for­get — a year ago he brought Repub­li­cans over the cliff.”

    ...

    “At the heart of Cruz’s shift from the insu­lar approach that defined his first year in office is a belief that he can use his pop­u­lar­i­ty with con­ser­v­a­tives to expand his influ­ence in the Sen­ate and improve his stand­ing as he con­sid­ers a 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.” That sounds like an ‘uh oh’ for the GOP!

    You also have to love the warn­ing from “mod­er­ate” Repub­li­can Pete King: “Don’t for­get — a year ago he brought Repub­li­cans over the cliff.” Yeah, Ted Cruz prob­a­bly has­n’t for­got­ten that either. And why would he since Cruz’s show­down with Pete King demon­strat­ed clear­ly who’s the real King of the Repub­li­can Par­ty?

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post
    Nev­er For­get The Great Mod­er­ate Repub­li­can Revolt Of 2013!
    Post­ed: 10/01/2013 2:17 am EDT Updat­ed: 10/25/2013 4:30 pm EDT

    Jason Link­ins

    Mon­day night’s bicam­er­al back and forth between the House GOP and the Sen­ate end­ed in the way every­one saw com­ing: a shut­down of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, owing to the House Repub­li­cans’ refusal to sim­ply send the Sen­ate the “clean” con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion that every­one knew would have end­ed the futile con­tretemps right then and there. As that did­n’t hap­pen, reporters instead got to watch House Repub­li­cans smack a ten­nis ball into a brick wall, over and over again until every­one just hung it up for the night.

    But there was a brief moment where every­thing threat­ened to actu­al­ly get inter­est­ing.

    I speak, of course, of Rep. Peter King (R‑N.Y.), who is what pass­es for a “mod­er­ate” House Repub­li­can in this day and age. Days ago, King crit­i­cized the leg­isla­tive mean­der­ings of Sen. Ted Cruz (R‑Texas), and called Cruz a “fraud,” which ensured that King’s office would spend the rest of the day field­ing calls from Cruz’s fan­base. Their com­ments fea­tured “vile, pro­fane, obscene lan­guage,” the likes of which King had nev­er heard, and we remind you that he rep­re­sents part of Long Island.

    As a result, King went on “Morn­ing Joe” and told their Zoo Crew, “I’m not say­ing Ted Cruz is respon­si­ble for all his sup­port­ers, but he has tapped into a dark strain here in the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal psy­che here, and again, the most obscene, pro­fane stuff you can imag­ine all from peo­ple who say they sup­port the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

    So King was primed to be one of those “mad as hell/not gonna take it any­more” types as Mon­day’s delib­er­a­tions began, and as the sun set in the west, it looked for all the world like he was going to final­ly foment a revolt. As the Nation­al Review’s Jonathan Strong report­ed Mon­day evening, “Repub­li­can mod­er­ates have appar­ent­ly had enough.” King want­ed a “clean” con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion, and he was going to damn well keep the rest of the GOP cau­cus from adding rules to the bill by lead­ing a gang of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans into the breach:

    In what is by far their bold­est stand since the GOP took con­trol of the House in 2010, a group of them are threat­en­ing to bring down a vote on the rule for the gov­ern­ment-fund­ing bill sched­uled for 6:30 p.m.

    New York rep­re­sen­ta­tive Peter King is lead­ing the charge, and his fel­low New York­er [Rep­re­sen­ta­tive] Michael Grimm is close behind him. The group told lead­er­ship on Sat­ur­day they have 25 mem­bers who are will­ing to bring down the rule.

    This was a sig­nif­i­cant rump, tak­ing this “bold­est stand.”

    As Politi­co report­ed, “If no Democ­rats vote for the rule, [Speak­er of the House John] Boehn­er can only lose 17 Repub­li­cans to sink the plan.” And so, the bat­tle was joined, and as night fell across the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, every­one who want­ed the insan­i­ty to end turned their hope­ful eyes to the vote count in the House. Would King bring 25 votes against dirty­ing up the con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion?

    As it turns out, King over­es­ti­mat­ed the num­ber in his band of broth­ers by... you know, about 23 peo­ple:

    The size of a bloc of GOP mod­er­ates ready to bring down a vote on the House floor over the gov­ern­ment-fund­ing bill shriv­eled from 25 law­mak­ers on Sat­ur­day to just two when the House vot­ed just now to pass the rule.

    New York rep­re­sen­ta­tive Peter King and Penn­syl­va­nia rep­re­sen­ta­tive Char­lie Dent, two key mod­er­ates, vot­ed no, while four hard­line con­ser­v­a­tives, includ­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michele Bach­mann of Min­neso­ta, vot­ed no because the bill didn’t draw a hard enough line against Oba­macare.

    ...

    There’s not a whole lot to say about a plan that nobody should have believed was going to come to fruition any­way. But it’s worth point­ing out that when the polit­i­cal media holds forth on the ide­o­log­i­cal land­scape of Con­gress, and games out what they believe is pos­si­ble in terms of bar­gains and com­pro­mis­es, just about every­thing in their con­cep­tu­al frame­work is premised on the notion that a lot of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans exist, and that the rest­ing state of Capi­tol Hill is “cen­ter-right.”

    As it turns out, all of those premis­es are wrong. There aren’t a lot of “mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans” in Con­gress. And those who exist are very timid and near­ly use­less when the chips are down. The gov­ern­ment is shut down right now, but the notion that “mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans” were capa­ble of steer­ing a debate some­where sen­si­ble went by the boards a long time ago.

    Good luck to all the remain­ing “mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans”! And every­one else.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 4, 2014, 9:29 pm
  33. Back in April, all signs point­ed towards a GOP Fall game plan that was almost breath­tak­ing to behold: the GOP was report­ed­ly plan­ning on run­ning on a nation­al plat­form tout­ing the Ryan Plan as the GOP’s nation­al plat­form in order to cre­ate a stark choice for the elec­torate. That kind of cam­paign obvi­ous­ly did­n’t hap­pen. Still, the reports at the time were pret­ty breath­tak­ing at the time. And since the GOP House has been bring­ing up the Ryan Plan as its plan for gov­ern­ing year after year and the GOP just took con­trol of the Sen­ate, this news from back in April may be old news, but it’s sud­den­ly extra breath­tak­ing:

    Los Ange­les Times
    House GOP revives Paul Ryan’s aus­tere bud­get, Medicare cuts
    April 01, 2014
    By Lisa Mas­caro

    WASHINGTON — House Repub­li­cans will revive Rep. Paul Ryan’s light­ning-rod pro­pos­als to slash the fed­er­al safe­ty net, beef up mil­i­tary spend­ing and reduce tax­es for the wealthy in a bud­get unveiled Tues­day — an elec­tion-year call­ing card that Democ­rats are poised to use against the GOP.

    The blue­print from Ryan, the par­ty’s for­mer vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, is expect­ed to be met with stiff oppo­si­tion not only from Democ­rats, but also from hard-line Repub­li­cans who want deep­er aus­ter­i­ty cuts to more quick­ly bal­ance the bud­get.
    ...

    Note that when you read things like “the blue­print from Ryan, the par­ty’s for­mer vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, is expect­ed to be met with stiff oppo­si­tion not only from Democ­rats, but also from hard-line Repub­li­cans who want deep­er aus­ter­i­ty cuts to more quick­ly bal­ance the bud­get,” it’s an indi­ca­tion that Paul Ryan is sort of a GOP “mod­er­ate”. He’s still a far right nut job, but with­in the con­tem­po­rary GOP Paul Ryan is still a rel­a­tive mod­er­ate.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    Like Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s own bud­get ear­li­er this year, Ryan’s pro­pos­al for the 2015 fis­cal year is large­ly a philo­soph­i­cal state­ment of prin­ci­ples. Nei­ther doc­u­ment has much prac­ti­cal use this year because spend­ing lev­els have already been agreed to by Con­gress.

    But in a cam­paign sea­son, Ryan’s “Path to Pros­per­i­ty” bud­get is expect­ed to pro­vide vot­ers with a clear choice of par­ty pri­or­i­ties.

    n House Repub­li­cans will return to the core ideas from Ryan, the Bud­get Com­mit­tee chair­man, that have come to define the par­ty’s approach: Cut fed­er­al spend­ing on Medicare, Med­ic­aid and oth­er pro­grams that make up the fed­er­al safe­ty net, while reduc­ing top indi­vid­ual and cor­po­rate tax rates to 25%, which Repub­li­cans argue will spur eco­nom­ic growth.

    Ryan retained his idea for turn­ing the Medicare health sys­tem into a vouch­er-like pro­gram for future seniors, pro­vid­ing a fixed amount of cash that can be applied toward the pur­chase of pri­vate health insur­ance. The vouch­er may also be used to enroll in tra­di­tion­al Medicare, but it may not ful­ly cov­er the cost.

    Repub­li­cans once promised that the Medicare changes would not start on any­one old­er than 55, but under Ryan’s bud­get they would apply to those who are no old­er than 56 as of this year.

    Draft­ing the bud­get for the 2015 fis­cal year, which begins in Octo­ber, was a chal­lenge this time because the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office pro­ject­ed slug­gish eco­nom­ic growth. That made it more dif­fi­cult to achieve Ryan’s goal of elim­i­nat­ing fed­er­al red ink with­in 10 years.

    To get to bal­ance — espe­cial­ly while pro­tect­ing Pen­ta­gon accounts — Ryan shifts the bur­den of reduc­tions onto domes­tic pro­grams.

    He sug­gests mon­ey can be saved by cut­ting food stamps, cap­ping col­lege Pell grants, impos­ing more wel­fare work require­ments, elim­i­nat­ing fed­er­al arts funds, even sell­ing off pub­lic lands. He leaves the details to the House com­mit­tees to sort out.

    Large­ly gone is any hint of the agree­ment Ryan made last year in a moment of bipar­ti­san­ship with Sen. Pat­ty Mur­ray (D‑Wash.). Under his bud­get plan Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­or­i­ties would bear the brunt of aus­ter­i­ty cuts, and nation­al secu­ri­ty would be spared.

    “The Path to Pros­per­i­ty is not just a bud­get — it is a blue­print for the coun­try’s future,” Ryan’s bud­get com­mit­tee wrote.

    Fed­er­al deficits are already on the decline this year from the record highs of the reces­sion. But deficits will rise again, in large part because of the drop-off of the work­force and high­er health­care costs asso­ci­at­ed with the aging of the pop­u­la­tion, the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office has said.

    ...

    Yes turn­ing Medicare into a vouch­er pro­gram was going to be the GOP’s big elec­toral weapon. At least back in April. And, again, that kind of cam­paign did­n’t actu­al­ly hap­pen. Paul Ryan’s words were for the pri­ma­ry sea­son, not the elec­toral prime time audi­ences. And yet aren’t those repeat­ed utter­ances by Paul Ryan and oth­er GOP fig­ures over the years about pri­va­tiz­ing Medicare and oth­er deep enti­tle­ment cuts is what we should actu­al­ly expect them to do when they win elec­tions by run­ning as mod­er­ates? It seems like that’s what we should expect. Espe­cial­ly when Mitch McConnell and Jeff Ses­sions, the incom­ing chair­man of the Sen­ate Bud­get Com­mit­tee, start strong­ly, yet cryp­ti­cal­ly, hint­ing at such pos­si­bil­i­ties:

    The New York Times
    New­ly Empow­ered, Mitch McConnell Promis­es an End to ‘Grid­lock’

    By CARL HULSENOV. 5, 2014

    Fresh from his own re-elec­tion vic­to­ry and his party’s pow­er­ful show­ing nation­wide, Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell on Wednes­day pledged to break the stale­mate in Wash­ing­ton as new­ly empow­ered con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans moved quick­ly to demon­strate that they can get things done. “We’re going to pass leg­is­la­tion,” Mr. McConnell said at a news con­fer­ence in Louisville, Ky. “This grid­lock and dys­func­tion can be end­ed.”

    Despite their new major­i­ty in the Sen­ate and an expand­ed one in the House, Repub­li­cans face mul­ti­ple dif­fi­cul­ties, not the least of which are inter­nal divi­sions. But they say they know they have to deliv­er or face a back­lash in 2016.

    “I think it real­ly becomes impor­tant to appear to want to be a gov­ern­ing par­ty rather than a com­plain­ing par­ty,” said Sen­a­tor Roy Blunt of Mis­souri, a mem­ber of the par­ty lead­er­ship. “My belief is we have about six months before the Amer­i­can peo­ple check that box one way or the oth­er.”

    Antic­i­pat­ing for months that they would take the Sen­ate and pad their major­i­ty in the House, Repub­li­cans have been qui­et­ly dis­cussing their agen­da and approach after reg­u­lar­ly accus­ing Democ­rats, led by Sen­a­tor Har­ry Reid of Neva­da, the major­i­ty leader, of thwart­ing their pri­or­i­ties.

    They say they will focus on bal­anc­ing the bud­get, restor­ing an order­ly process for spend­ing bills, revis­ing if not repeal­ing the health care law and enact­ing a major over­haul of the tax code — ambi­tious goals, giv­en years of stale­mate and dis­cord.
    ...

    Keep in mind that when the Repub­li­cans say they want to “focus on bal­anc­ing the bud­get”, that’s basi­cal­ly a call for slash­ing enti­tle­ments and the safe­ty-net.

    Con­tin­u­ing...

    ...
    Before tak­ing up the issue of immi­gra­tion, Repub­li­cans are like­ly to see what uni­lat­er­al action Pres­i­dent Oba­ma under­takes, and how the coun­try reacts to it.

    Sen­ate Repub­li­cans also intend to use their con­trol of com­mit­tees to bring new scruti­ny to the White House, fed­er­al agen­cies and Mr. Obama’s expand­ing use of exec­u­tive author­i­ty. Mr. McConnell, who will suc­ceed Mr. Reid as major­i­ty leader when the new Con­gress con­venes in Jan­u­ary, has also promised whole­sale changes in the way the Sen­ate oper­ates, includ­ing a five-day work­week, more floor debate and empow­ered com­mit­tee chair­men.

    Repub­li­cans say they intend to force Mr. Oba­ma to make choic­es on bills passed by the House that Sen­ate Democ­rats have been able to keep from his desk, poten­tial­ly touch­ing off the president’s first exten­sive use of the veto after six years in office.

    Some Democ­rats who have been frus­trat­ed by the stale­mate in the Sen­ate say they are open to coop­er­at­ing with Repub­li­cans.

    “Right now, we are help­ing destroy each oth­er,” said Sen­a­tor Joe Manchin III, a cen­trist Demo­c­rat from West Vir­ginia. “I would like to think we can work togeth­er. I’d like to get my amend­ments in debate.”

    In gain­ing con­trol of the Sen­ate, how­ev­er, Repub­li­cans oust­ed some of the red-state Democ­rats most inclined to work with them, such as Sen­a­tor Mark Pry­or of Arkansas, reduc­ing the num­ber of poten­tial Demo­c­ra­t­ic allies.

    Oth­er ten­sions may com­pli­cate their efforts. Mr. McConnell, with few votes to spare, will have to bal­ance the views of a hand­ful of more mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans, such as Sen­a­tor Susan Collins of Maine, with those of unyield­ing con­ser­v­a­tives such as Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz of Texas, who fol­low­ing the elec­tion said Repub­li­cans should press their advan­tage as hard as pos­si­ble.

    Mr. McConnell will also have to con­tend with the com­pet­ing inter­ests of Mr. Cruz and at least two oth­er Repub­li­can sen­a­tors expect­ed to run for pres­i­dent — Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Mar­co Rubio of Flori­da — and those of sen­a­tors up for re-elec­tion in 2016 in swing states like Illi­nois, New Hamp­shire, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin.

    As for leg­is­la­tion, the party’s lead­ers in Con­gress are eying five major pri­or­i­ties:

    ...

    BUDGET AND SPENDING Repub­li­can lead­ers in both the House and Sen­ate say that reach­ing a deal on a bud­get will be cru­cial not only to prove that they can do it, but also to allow con­ser­v­a­tives to put their imprint on a non­bind­ing fis­cal plan.

    Sen­a­tor Jeff Ses­sions, the con­ser­v­a­tive Alaba­ma Repub­li­can who will lead the Bud­get Com­mit­tee, has had his staff look­ing at fed­er­al spend­ing for months to find places to cut in hopes of propos­ing a bud­get that would be bal­anced in as lit­tle as a decade. But despite wide sen­ti­ment among Repub­li­cans for cuts, a divide exists with­in the par­ty.

    Some Repub­li­cans would like to reverse a series of Pen­ta­gon spend­ing con­straints put in place through ear­li­er bud­get deals with Democ­rats, argu­ing that the mil­i­tary is being strained at a time when it is being required to fight the con­tin­u­ing threat of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism in the Mid­dle East. Mr. Ses­sions has expressed reser­va­tions about eas­ing the spend­ing lim­its on the Pen­ta­gon, and doing so would make bal­anc­ing the bud­get hard­er and require even more to be cut from polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive social pro­grams.

    But reach­ing a bud­get deal is also essen­tial to putting in place a set of pro­ce­dur­al short­cuts that would allow Repub­li­cans to force through changes in the health care law and a tax pack­age on a sim­ple major­i­ty vote, avoid­ing the threat of a Demo­c­ra­t­ic fil­i­buster.

    If they can enact a bud­get, Repub­li­cans hope to return to review­ing what tra­di­tion­al­ly have been 12 sep­a­rate annu­al spend­ing bills and rein­vig­o­rat­ing a process that has all but col­lapsed by putting the bills on the floor and allow­ing sen­a­tors to amend them.

    In March, for the first time since Mr. Oba­ma took office, Repub­li­cans will also have to find a way to pass an increase in the debt lim­it as the major­i­ty par­ty — a dif­fi­cult task giv­en that the debt lim­it has become such a light­ning rod for con­ser­v­a­tives who object to any increase in fed­er­al bor­row­ing pow­er. Mr. McConnell sug­gest­ed on Wednes­day that Repub­li­cans would address the debt lim­it in the bud­get.

    TAXES A sweep­ing over­haul of the entire tax code is anoth­er top pri­or­i­ty for the new major­i­ty, one that at least in the­o­ry has some Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port. And much of the spade­work has already been done — at the Trea­sury Depart­ment, the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, which is like­ly to be led by Paul D. Ryan, Repub­li­can of Wis­con­sin, and the Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee, which will now have Sen­a­tor Orrin G. Hatch, Repub­li­can of Utah, as its chair­man. Mr. Hatch will replace Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden of Ore­gon, a Demo­c­rat who is also a tax over­haul advo­cate and could be instru­men­tal in the debate.

    ...

    Over all, those on both sides of the aisle agree that the change in Sen­ate con­trol presents a chance to curb the grid­lock that has con­sumed Con­gress, but it also holds per­il for Repub­li­cans if they fail to deliv­er.

    “They have a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty,” Mr. Manchin, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tor from West Vir­ginia, said. “If they get that and fail mis­er­ably, it is very bleak for them in 2016.”

    As the arti­cle indi­cates, in addi­tion to “intend to use their con­trol of com­mit­tees to bring new scruti­ny to the White House, fed­er­al agen­cies and Mr. Obama’s expand­ing use of exec­u­tive author­i­ty”, the incom­ing GOP bud­get chair­man:

    has had his staff look­ing at fed­er­al spend­ing for months to find places to cut in hopes of propos­ing a bud­get that would be bal­anced in as lit­tle as a decade. But despite wide sen­ti­ment among Repub­li­cans for cuts, a divide exists with­in the par­ty.

    Some Repub­li­cans would like to reverse a series of Pen­ta­gon spend­ing con­straints put in place through ear­li­er bud­get deals with Democ­rats, argu­ing that the mil­i­tary is being strained at a time when it is being required to fight the con­tin­u­ing threat of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism in the Mid­dle East. Mr. Ses­sions has expressed reser­va­tions about eas­ing the spend­ing lim­its on the Pen­ta­gon, and doing so would make bal­anc­ing the bud­get hard­er and require even more to be cut from polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive social pro­grams.

    Yes, there’s a divide in the GOP. They seem pret­ty much unit­ed on deep enti­tle­ment and social pro­gram cuts, but some want to allow more spend­ing for the mil­i­tary while oth­ers, bud­get chair­man Sen­a­tor Ses­sions, would pre­fer that mil­i­tary spend­ing increas­es come with addi­tion­al off­set­ting cuts to ‘polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive social pro­grams’. So the GOP is basi­cal­ly plead­ing to dis­man­tle Oba­macare and replace it with Ryan Plan with a . With lot’s of deep cuts to ‘polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive social pro­grams’. One day after the elec­tion. Wow. The par­ty’s real base must be get­ting pret­ty antsy for big bold GOP plays. At least, it seems like they are.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 6, 2014, 12:17 am
  34. Peter Beinart has a piece in The Atlantic about why the GOP’s vic­to­ri­ous midterms are so omi­nous for the Democ­rats going for­ward. His rea­son­ing: the GOP demon­strat­ed a far greater capac­i­ty to nom­i­nate the non-Tea Par­ty can­di­dates. Sure, the nom­i­nees are basi­cal­ly as Tea Par­ty rad­i­cals in terms of their poli­cies, but they’re far bet­ter than the Tea Par­ty can­di­dates at not seem­ing like a Tea Par­ty Rad­i­cal to casu­al observers. Beyond that, the GOP base itself proved far more will­ing this year to allow its can­di­dates to hide their extrem­ist views with­out push­ing back dur­ing the gen­er­al elec­tion. In oth­er words, the GOP is get­ting even bet­ter at telling Big Lies about itself:

    The Atlantic
    Why the GOP Blowout Is So Scary for Democ­rats
    It’s not just that the GOP won key races across the board. It’s that the par­ty showed a new hunger to cross over to mod­er­ates and win.
    Peter Beinart Nov 5 2014, 12:38 AM ET

    Does Tues­day night’s GOP blowout presage any­thing for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that starts in earnest on Wednes­day? The con­ven­tion­al answer is prob­a­bly still no. First, as a mil­lion pun­dits have cor­rect­ly not­ed, midterm vot­ers are old­er, whiter and thus more Repub­li­can-lean­ing than vot­ers in pres­i­den­tial races. Sec­ond, the key 2014 Sen­ate races were dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly locat­ed in red states (although Democ­rats fared poor­ly in pur­ple ones too). Third, the GOP trained its fire on Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, who won’t be on the bal­lot in two years.

    But despite all this, there is one big take­away from tonight’s Repub­li­can land­slide that should wor­ry Democ­rats a lot: The GOP is grow­ing hun­gri­er to win.

    It’s about time. As a gen­er­al rule, the longer a par­ty goes with­out hold­ing the White House, the hun­gri­er it becomes. And the hun­gri­er it becomes, the more able it is to dis­card dam­ag­ing ele­ments of par­ty ortho­doxy while still rous­ing its polit­i­cal base. Between 1932 and 1952, it took Repub­li­cans five elec­tion defeats to con­vince their par­ti­sans to ral­ly behind Dwight Eisen­how­er, who accept­ed the New Deal. Between 1980 and 1992, it took Democ­rats three defeats to con­vince their base to get behind Bill Clin­ton, a for­mer head of the cen­trist Demo­c­ra­t­ic Lead­er­ship Coun­cil who sup­port­ed cut­ting tax­es and exe­cut­ing mur­der­ers.

    In 2008 and 2012, Repub­li­cans couldn’t pull this off. Par­ty elites backed John McCain and Mitt Rom­ney, both of whom had records of bipar­ti­san achieve­ment and ide­o­log­i­cal inde­pen­dence that might have made them attrac­tive to swing vot­ers. But McCain and Rom­ney faced so much hos­til­i­ty from the GOP’s con­ser­v­a­tive base that in order to win the nom­i­na­tion, and then ensure a decent base turnout in Novem­ber, they had to repu­di­ate the very aspects of their polit­i­cal iden­ti­ty that might have impressed inde­pen­dents. McCain, who had once called Jer­ry Fal­well and Pat Robert­son “agents of intol­er­ance,” made anoth­er such agent, Sarah Palin, his run­ning mate. Rom­ney, who giv­en his druthers would like­ly have sup­port­ed com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, instead demo­nized ille­gal immi­grants to cur­ry favor with the GOP base.

    This year has been dif­fer­ent: GOP activists have giv­en their can­di­dates more space to craft the cen­trist per­sonas they need to win. First, in sen­ate races in North Car­oli­na, South Car­oli­na, Ken­tucky, Alas­ka, Ten­nessee, Geor­gia, Kansas and Texas, com­par­a­tive­ly mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans tri­umphed over Tea Par­ty-backed chal­lengers. Then many of those Repub­li­cans down­played their oppo­si­tion to gay mar­riage and high­light­ed their sup­port for greater access to con­tra­cep­tion in an effort to win over the young and women vot­ers who in past elec­tions spurned the GOP as too extreme. “On social issues,” wrote Slate’s Will Sale­tan, “Repub­li­cans are mum­bling, cring­ing, and duck­ing. They don’t want the elec­tion to be about these issues, even in red states.”

    Sin­cere or not, these efforts to not appear ret­ro­grade and extreme helped Repub­li­cans say close among women vot­ers. And yet con­ser­v­a­tives turned out for them in huge num­bers nonethe­less. Thus, Repub­li­cans in 2014 com­bined can­di­date impu­ri­ty with grass­roots pas­sion, which is what they’ll need to do to win in 2016.

    Achiev­ing this com­bi­na­tion is tougher in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. It’s hard to devi­ate from Lim­baugh­esque ortho­doxy when you’re com­pet­ing for the hard right vot­ers who dom­i­nate the Iowa cau­cus­es and the South Car­oli­na pri­ma­ry. Still, it’s strik­ing that Rand Paul, the Repub­li­can who has been most will­ing to buck ide­o­log­i­cal con­ven­tion on race, crime and for­eign pol­i­cy, has so far not paid a polit­i­cal price. A lot may depend on Ted Cruz: The more suc­cess­ful he becomes, the more pres­sure oth­er Repub­li­can con­tenders will feel to ape his ultra-right stances. But if the 2010 midterms revealed a GOP fix­at­ed on ide­o­log­i­cal puri­ty, 2014 has show­cased the party’s new tol­er­ance, and even enthu­si­asm, for prag­ma­tism.

    ...

    So that’s the risk Beinart sees for the Democ­rats: the GOP base just might be “hun­gry enough” for 2016 win that it’s will­ing to just let the GOP play “mod­er­ate” for the next two years in order to avoid turn­ing off vot­ers. But is it real­is­tic that the same GOP base is going to be con­tent to watch the GOP con­tin­ue to play “mod­er­ate” not just dur­ing the elec­tions but also the GOP while in con­trol of Con­gress for the next two years? Well, if the edi­tors of the Nation­al Review are any indi­ca­tion of what to expect it’s very unclear what to expect. The edi­tors rec­om­mend that the GOP not actu­al­ly try to gov­ern (i.e. actu­al­ly try to push through leg­is­la­tion the base craves using all of the lever­age at the GOP’s dis­pos­al) but instead the GOP should just pass a bunch of leg­is­la­tion that it knows will get vetoed or fil­i­bus­tered as a way of show­cas­ing what the GOP would do if it cap­tures the White House and Con­gress in 2016. So the GOP would com­mit itself for the next two years to only pass­ing leg­is­la­tion that it assumes is pleas­ing to both swing vot­ers and the GOP base while avoid­ing any leg­is­la­tion that might give those swing vot­ers pause.

    It’s actu­al­ly kind of a clever strat­e­gy if the GOP can pull it off, but there seems to be a fatal flaw in the plan: What if there isn’t actu­al­ly leg­is­la­tion that the GOP can pass that both pleas­es the far right base and does­n’t repulse swing vot­ers? Will the base real­ly be able to stick with Beinart’s Big Lie strat­e­gy for the next two years if the GOP pass­es one non-Tea Par­ty-cen­tric bill after anoth­er? The edi­tors of the Nation­al Review real­ly need to address this hole in their plan:

    The Nation­al Review
    The Gov­ern­ing Trap
    By The Edi­tors
    Novem­ber 5, 2014 10:30 AM

    Around 9:00 last night, the TV pun­dits real­ized that it would no longer do to say that it was an anti-incum­bent year: The vast major­i­ty of the incum­bents los­ing — all of them in the Sen­ate — were Democ­rats. Nor could the elec­tion be chalked up to red-state reac­tion. Repub­li­cans took Sen­ate seats in Iowa and Col­orado, which vot­ed for Oba­ma twice apiece, and gov­er­nor­ships in Mary­land and Illi­nois, which last vot­ed Repub­li­can in 1988.

    The wave gave Repub­li­cans a larg­er Sen­ate major­i­ty than all but the most con­fi­dent among them had expect­ed, and added to the ranks of their gov­er­nor­ships when they were expect­ed to decline. That Sen­ate major­i­ty should be expand­ed fur­ther if Repub­li­cans do not get com­pla­cent about the Louisiana run-off in Decem­ber.

    Already a con­ven­tion­al wis­dom about what Repub­li­cans should do next has con­gealed. Sup­pos­ed­ly it is up to Repub­li­cans to “prove they can gov­ern” even though they do not have the White House. Sen­a­tor Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) told NPR lis­ten­ers that Repub­li­cans could do this by mov­ing on trade-pro­mo­tion author­i­ty, the immi­gra­tion bill the Sen­ate passed in 2013, and cor­po­rate tax reform.

    With all due respect to the sen­a­tor and like-mind­ed Repub­li­cans, this course of action makes no sense as a polit­i­cal strat­e­gy. First: While trade-pro­mo­tion author­i­ty and a tax reform that includes (but is not lim­it­ed to) cor­po­ra­tions are good ideas, vot­ers are not, in fact, wait­ing anx­ious­ly for any of this. Busi­ness lob­bies are. The Repub­li­can par­ty should not pur­sue an agen­da that is iden­ti­cal to theirs.

    Sec­ond: The desire to prove Repub­li­cans can gov­ern also makes them hostage to their oppo­nents in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty and the media. It empow­ers Sen­a­tor Har­ry Reid, whose dethron­ing was in large mea­sure the point of the elec­tion. If Repub­li­cans pro­claim that they have to gov­ern now that they run Con­gress, they max­i­mize the incen­tive for the Democ­rats to fil­i­buster every­thing they can — and for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to veto the remain­der. Then the Democ­rats will explain that the Repub­li­cans are too extreme to get any­thing done.

    Third: A prove-you-can-gov­ern strat­e­gy will inevitably divide the par­ty on the same tea-party-vs.-establishment lines that Repub­li­cans have just suc­ceed­ed in over­com­ing. The media will in par­tic­u­lar take any refusal to pass a fool­ish immi­gra­tion bill that imme­di­ate­ly legal­izes mil­lions of ille­gal immi­grants as a fail­ure to “gov­ern.”

    Fourth: Even if Repub­li­cans passed this fool­ish test, it would do lit­tle for them. If vot­ers come to believe that a Repub­li­can Con­gress and a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dent are doing a fine job of gov­ern­ing togeth­er, why wouldn’t they vote to con­tin­ue the arrange­ment in 2016?

    Which brings us to the alter­na­tive course: build­ing the case for Repub­li­can gov­er­nance after 2016. That means being a respon­si­ble par­ty, to be sure, just as the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom has it. But part of that respon­si­bil­i­ty involves explain­ing what Repub­li­cans stand for — what, that is, they would do if they had the White House. And out­lin­ing a gov­ern­ing agen­da for the future is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter from try­ing to gov­ern in 2015. (For one thing, it is not doomed to fail­ure.)

    In par­tic­u­lar, that should mean lay­ing out alter­na­tives to Oba­macare. It remains unpop­u­lar, and no issue was the sub­ject of more Repub­li­can ads. If more Repub­li­cans endorse an alter­na­tive like the one that Sen­a­tors Hatch, Coburn, and Burr intro­duced, the par­ty will simul­ta­ne­ous­ly reas­sure con­ser­v­a­tives that it has a plan for replac­ing Oba­macare and the pub­lic at large that life after Oba­macare won’t involve tak­ing health insur­ance away from mil­lions of peo­ple. Tac­tics can then be devised and deployed with that goal — replac­ing Oba­macare with a func­tion­ing mar­ket — in mind.

    Repub­li­cans should also advance con­ser­v­a­tive ideas on tax­es, jobs, ener­gy, high­er-edu­ca­tion sub­si­dies, and much else. For the most part that won’t involve either bat­tle royale or deal-cut­ting with Oba­ma; it will involve putting up leg­is­la­tion that Sen­ate Democ­rats fil­i­buster. And that’s all right: Oba­ma won’t be on the bal­lot in 2016, but many Sen­ate Democ­rats will.

    So will Sen­ate Repub­li­cans in many blue states. It would be bet­ter for them to be able to point to an attrac­tive Repub­li­can agen­da on bread-and-but­ter issues than to be able to say that they had passed trade-pro­mo­tion author­i­ty.

    ...

    As the Nation­al Review says, “it would be bet­ter for them to be able to point to an attrac­tive Repub­li­can agen­da on bread-and-but­ter issues than to be able to say that they had passed trade-pro­mo­tion author­i­ty.” Yes indeed. But what on earth is that “attrac­tive Repub­li­can agen­da on bread-and-but­ter issues” sup­posed to be? Accord­ing to the Nation­al Review that agen­da would involv­ing repeal­ing Oba­macare and replac­ing it with a yet-to-be defined plane. Plus tax reform (tax cuts for the rich and cor­po­ra­tions), ener­gy (the Key­stone XL pipeline, which is just going to be used for exports, along with frack­ing every­where), job cre­ation (pre­sum­ably we’ll get anoth­er round of “tax cuts for the rich = jobs” and the slash­ing fed­er­al employ­ment), and high­er-edu­ca­tion sub­si­dies (LOL!).

    Is that sup­posed to be the “attrac­tive Repub­li­can agen­da” for 2016? Sure, it’s pos­si­ble the Tea Par­ty will fol­low Beinart’s Big Lie plan and allow the par­ty lead­ers to spruce up their plat­form with a bunch of swing-vot­er friend­ly bills that would nor­mal­ly leave the par­ty base enraged, but is that a real­is­tic option? It does­n’t seem very real­is­tic, but as Beinart point­ed out, the GOP is real­ly hun­gry for more com­plete con­trol of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and a prize like that can lead all sorts of unusu­al behav­ior. Then again, it’s also extreme hunger for extrem­ist poli­cies and that’s the kind of extreme hunger that isn’t the eas­i­est crav­ing to con­trol.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 7, 2014, 12:18 am
  35. The Tea Par­ty will not be ignored. Manip­u­lat­ed and tak­en for grant­ed, yes, but not ignored:

    The New York Times
    With Fear of Being Side­lined, Tea Par­ty Sees the Repub­li­can Rise as New Threat

    By JEREMY W. PETERS

    NOV. 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON — As most Repub­li­cans were tak­ing a vic­to­ry lap the morn­ing after the elec­tions, a group of con­ser­v­a­tives hud­dled anx­ious­ly in a con­fer­ence room not far from Capi­tol Hill and agreed that now is the time for con­fronta­tion, not com­pro­mise and con­cil­i­a­tion.

    Despite Repub­li­cans’ ascen­sion to Sen­ate con­trol and an expand­ed House major­i­ty, many con­ser­v­a­tives from the party’s activist wing fear that con­gres­sion­al lead­ers are already being too timid with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma.

    They do not want to hear that gov­ern­ment shut­downs are off the table or that repeal­ing the Afford­able Care Act is impos­si­ble — two things Repub­li­can lead­ers have said in recent days.

    “If the new Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in the Sen­ate is only talk­ing about what they can’t do, that’s going to be very demor­al­iz­ing,” said Thomas J. Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of Judi­cial Watch, a con­ser­v­a­tive advo­ca­cy group that con­venes a reg­u­lar gath­er­ing called Groundswell. Any sense of tri­umph at its meet­ing last week was fleet­ing.

    “I think the mem­bers of the lead­er­ship need to decide what they’re will­ing to shut down the gov­ern­ment over,” Mr. Fit­ton said.

    Estab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans, who had vowed to thwart the Tea Par­ty, suc­ceed­ed in elect­ing new law­mak­ers who are, for the most part, less rebel­lious. And when the new Con­gress con­venes in Jan­u­ary, the Repub­li­can lead­ers who will take the reins will be main­ly in the mold of con­ser­v­a­tives who have tried to keep the Tea Par­ty in check.

    But they have not crushed the movement’s spir­it.

    As Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill tran­si­tion from being the oppo­si­tion par­ty to being one that has to show it can gov­ern, a pow­er­ful ten­sion is emerg­ing: how to move for­ward with an agen­da that chal­lenges the pres­i­dent with­out self-destruc­t­ing.

    Some con­ser­v­a­tives believe that the threat of anoth­er shut­down is their strongest lever­age to demand con­ces­sions on the health care law and to stop the pres­i­dent from car­ry­ing out immi­gra­tion reform through exec­u­tive order. Yet their lead­er­ship has dis­missed the idea as a sui­cide mis­sion that could squan­der the recent gains.

    One thing that will prove pop­u­lar among the base is a com­mit­ment by Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell, the pre­sump­tive new major­i­ty leader, to bring up a bill that would ban abor­tions after 20 weeks of preg­nan­cy, which he is expect­ed to do next year.

    Whether the par­ty can rec­on­cile more demands of its base with the will of its lead­er­ship could deter­mine how endur­ing the Repub­li­can Sen­ate major­i­ty will be. The crop of sen­a­tors up for re-elec­tion in 2016 includes those elect­ed in the first Tea Par­ty wave of 2010. And in a sign of what is at stake, even some of them are sound­ing notes of com­pro­mise and cau­tion that would have been unthink­able at the height of the right’s resur­gence.

    “I under­stand the frus­tra­tions of the con­ser­v­a­tive base; I am one of them,” said Sen­a­tor Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, one of the orig­i­nal class of Tea Par­ty-inspired sen­a­tors. “I also rec­og­nize real­i­ty.”

    “We’re not going to pass the entire con­ser­v­a­tive agen­da tomor­row. We can cer­tain­ly lay it out,” Mr. John­son added. “Let’s start with the things we can pass. Doesn’t that make more sense?”

    But in a stark reminder of the dif­fi­cul­ties Repub­li­can lead­ers will face from with­in their own ranks, oth­er law­mak­ers pop­u­lar with the Tea Par­ty base are say­ing the fight is on.

    As votes were still being count­ed on elec­tion night Tues­day, Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz of Texas said Repub­li­cans could still work through Con­gress to dis­man­tle the Afford­able Care Act — even though the pres­i­dent is guar­an­teed to veto any­thing Con­gress pass­es that under­mines it. “After win­ning a his­toric major­i­ty, it is incum­bent on us to hon­or promis­es and do every­thing human­ly pos­si­ble to stop Oba­macare,” Mr. Cruz said in an inter­view.

    Some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors reject­ed that out­right. “There are intel­li­gent things to do, and there are some not-so-intel­li­gent things to do,” said Sen­a­tor Orrin G. Hatch of Utah. “And one of the first things we should do is find some areas of com­mon ground with our Demo­c­rat friends.”

    Tea Par­ty con­ser­v­a­tives, many of whom argue that the gov­ern­ment shut­down last year was a sound strat­e­gy, said they were baf­fled by remarks after the elec­tion by Mr. McConnell that the Sen­ate under his con­trol would pri­or­i­tize poli­cies that Repub­li­cans knew Democ­rats would also sup­port.

    Many also fumed when Mr. McConnell stat­ed the obvi­ous: Repub­li­cans do not have the votes to repeal the Afford­able Care Act because they can­not over­ride a pres­i­den­tial veto on their own. (It takes 67 votes to do so; they have 52 seats now, with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of pick­ing up two more.) The next day, he and Speak­er John A. Boehn­er of Ohio wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Jour­nal insist­ing that, indeed, repeal remained a goal.

    Any per­cep­tion that Mr. McConnell is not suf­fi­cient­ly com­mit­ted to repeal­ing the health care law, despite his run­ning hard against it in his own re-elec­tion cam­paign, would renew the same fis­sures among Repub­li­cans that pre­ced­ed the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

    “That would cause a civ­il war inside the Repub­li­can Par­ty,” said Richard Viguerie, a long­time con­ser­v­a­tive activist, refer­ring to any­thing the party’s base saw as a half­heart­ed attempt at repeal. “There’s almost zero trust between the base and the Repub­li­can lead­ers.”

    No one did more to demor­al­ize Tea Par­ty can­di­dates and con­ser­v­a­tive agi­ta­tors than Mr. McConnell, who vowed to “crush” every Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry chal­lenger. (He did; none defeat­ed an incum­bent sen­a­tor.) He also black­list­ed Repub­li­cans who worked with groups sup­port­ing insur­gents.

    Pri­vate­ly, McConnell aides say they are less con­cerned these days about the impact of sen­a­tors like Mr. Cruz, whom they describe as an “army of one.” Mr. McConnell believes his stand­ing with con­ser­v­a­tive vot­ers is sol­id. And he has the votes to prove it. He won his own pri­ma­ry over a Tea Par­ty con­ser­v­a­tive, 60 per­cent to 35 per­cent. An NBC News/Marist Col­lege poll showed him beat­ing his main pri­ma­ry oppo­nent 53 per­cent to 33 per­cent among Tea Par­ty vot­ers.

    He and his allies dis­miss their Tea Par­ty oppo­nents as “for-prof­it con­ser­v­a­tives” because of the fund-rais­ing they do in the name of puri­fy­ing the Repub­li­can brand.

    “The for-prof­it wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty will always have a voice, but after this last elec­tion, they don’t have much cred­i­bil­i­ty,” said Scott Reed, the U.S. Cham­ber of Commerce’s senior polit­i­cal strate­gist. “I’m not sure many folks will lis­ten to it much longer. Gov­ern­ing still mat­ters, and the good news is, every­body who was elect­ed is into gov­ern­ing.”

    ...

    Still, Tea Par­ty con­ser­v­a­tives are a for­mi­da­ble vot­ing bloc. Mr. McConnell will have to nego­ti­ate an espe­cial­ly cau­tious bal­ance between their demands and those of the sen­a­tors in his con­fer­ence who are con­tem­plat­ing run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2016, and so need the sup­port of the party’s base. With no one is this more fraught than Mr. McConnell’s fel­low Ken­tuck­ian, Sen­a­tor Rand Paul. Mr. Paul and his advis­ers say that they rec­og­nize Tea Par­ty sup­port­ers helped deliv­er the Sen­ate for the Repub­li­cans, and that the par­ty ignores them at its per­il.

    “They showed up,” said Doug Stafford, a senior advis­er to Mr. Paul. “You can’t look at the turnout mod­els, the polling pre-elec­tion and the results, and not think that con­ser­v­a­tives showed up for this. They did.”

    The Cham­ber of Com­merce guy is refer­ring to the Tea Partiers as for prof­it. Wow. The knives are out.

    And yet, as Rand Paul’s senior advi­sor cor­rect­ly points out at the end, “They showed up ... You can’t look at the turnout mod­els, the polling pre-elec­tion and the results, and not think that con­ser­v­a­tives showed up for this. They did.” Yes indeed the Tea Par­ty turned out big. And that big turnout was dri­ven heav­i­ly by a a strong anti-Oba­ma fer­vor and desire to see impeach­ment and gov­ern­ment shut­downs employed and it’s going to be increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult for Mitch McConnell and the GOP lead­er­ship to safe­ly dis­ap­point this key Tea Par­ty demo­graph­ic the clos­er we get to 2016.

    That’s the chal­lenge for the GOP lead­er­ship over the next two years: find­ing poli­cies that are pop­u­lar with both the GOP Tea Par­ty base and swing vot­ers in 2016. 2016 is like­ly to be bad enough for the GOP even with an enthu­si­as­tic Tea Par­ty base. It’s a con­se­quence of bad demo­graph­ics and hav­ing odi­ous poli­cies. So dis­ap­point­ing that Tea Par­ty base could lead to a com­plete GOP dis­as­ter. Avoid­ing that dis­ap­point­ment is going to be a top pri­or­i­ty for the GOP lead­er­ship. And yet what is their plan for pleas­ing both the Tea Par­ty base and swing vot­ers? A laun­dry list of ideas cater­ing to the GOP’s cor­po­rate base:
    Cut­ting cor­po­rate tax­es, gut­ting envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, free trade agree­ments, dereg­u­lat­ing Wall Street, and attempt­ing to crip­ple Oba­macare.

    And when you look at the out­comes of the var­i­ous refer­n­da that vot­ers also vot­ed on last week (e.g. Den­ton, Texas just vot­ed to ban frack­ing), it’s very unclear who’s sup­pose to be gen­uine­ly enthused by the GOP’s emerg­ing “pos­i­tive” pol­i­cy agen­da oth­er than the GOP’s Tea Par­ty and cor­po­ratist base. And maybe not even all of the Tea Par­ty base:

    Billmoyers.com
    Cor­po­rate Tri­umphs, Pro­gres­sive Vic­to­ries and the Roadmap for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Revival

    Novem­ber 5, 2014
    by Peter Dreier

    Tuesday’s Repub­li­can wave of elec­tion vic­to­ries did not reflect pub­lic opin­ion or the pub­lic mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s tri­umph in chang­ing the rules of democ­ra­cy to favor big busi­ness and con­ser­v­a­tive inter­est groups, includ­ing the tri­umphs of cor­po­rate mon­ey and vot­er sup­pres­sion. But while Demo­c­rat can­di­dates were going down to defeat, lib­er­als and pro­gres­sive won some impres­sive but lit­tle-pub­li­cized vic­to­ries on impor­tant issues — includ­ing min­i­mum wage hikes — espe­cial­ly in red and pur­ple states, sug­gest­ing that vot­ers are not as con­ser­v­a­tive as the pun­dits are pon­tif­i­cat­ing. One of the most sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ries occurred in Rich­mond, Cal­i­for­nia, where pro­gres­sives defeat­ed a slate fund­ed by Chevron, the nation’s third largest cor­po­ra­tion, which poured at least $3 mil­lion (about $150 for each like­ly vot­er) into this munic­i­pal elec­tion in this work­ing class Bay Area city of 105,000 peo­ple.

    Pro­gres­sive Vic­to­ries

    Rich­mond, Cal­i­for­nia. All pro­gres­sive eyes around the coun­try were focused on this blue-col­lar city of about 100,000, where Big Oil and Wall Street sought to oust a pro­gres­sive local gov­ern­ment that has been bat­tling big busi­ness for the past decade. Instead, the left­ies won against over­whelm­ing odds. UnderMay­or Gayle McLaugh­lin and her pro­gres­sive allies on the City Coun­cil, Rich­mond has chal­lenged Chevron, which owns a huge refin­ery in the city, to clean up its pol­lu­tion, pay more tax­es into the city cof­fers, and be a more respon­si­ble and account­able cor­po­rate cit­i­zen. Faced with a decade of preda­to­ry lend­ing and an epi­dem­ic of fore­clo­sures and “under­wa­ter” mort­gages, Rich­mond city offi­cials pushed back against Wall Street banks, demand­ing that they help trou­bled home­own­ers save their homes. In Tuesday’s elec­tion, com­mu­ni­ty groups, labor unions, the Rich­mond Pro­gres­sive Alliance (RPA) and oth­ers mobi­lized a grass­roots cam­paign to pro­tect their gains and elect a pro­gres­sive slate against can­di­dates hand-picked and fund­ed by Chevron and the real estate lob­by.

    ...

    Min­i­mum Wages. Vot­ers in four “red” states – Arkansas, Alas­ka, Nebras­ka and South Dako­ta — approved mea­sures on Tues­day to raise the min­i­mum wage against the con­cert­ed and well-fund­ed oppo­si­tion of nation­al and local big busi­ness groups. In doing so, they raised pay lev­els for over 1.7 mil­lion work­ers. Even while vot­ers in Arkansas elect­ed a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor and gov­er­nor, 65 per­cent of them sup­port­ed a statewide pay increase to $8.50 (by 2017) for low-wage work­ers. In Alas­ka, a grad­ual wage hike to $9.75/hour by 2016 was win­ning 69 per­cent of the vote with 28 per­cent of precincts report­ing. The vic­to­ry mar­gins, in ear­ly returns, were 59 per­cent in Nebras­ka ($9 by 2016) and 53 per­cent in South Dako­ta ($8.50 in 2015). The vic­to­ries in Alas­ka and South Dako­ta pegged wage hikes to infla­tion, an impor­tant pro­gres­sive idea. Vot­ers in Illi­nois sup­port­ed a non-bind­ing advi­so­ry ref­er­en­dum to raise the min­i­mum wage by a mar­gin of 12 points. In San Fran­cis­co and Oak­land, vot­ers over­whelm­ing­ly endorsed city­wide min­i­mum wage boosts to $15 and $12.25, respec­tive­ly.

    These vic­to­ries fol­low sev­er­al years of increas­ing grass­roots pres­sure by low-wage work­ers around the coun­try – espe­cial­ly employ­ees of fast-food chains and Wal-Marts — demand­ing a liv­ing wage so that full-time work­ers don’t remain trapped in pover­ty. Seat­tle adopt­ed a $15/hour city­wide min­i­mum wage ear­li­er this year. Los Ange­les May­or Eric Garcetti has pro­posed a $13.25 munic­i­pal min­i­mum while six City Coun­cil mem­bers coun­tered with a $15 plan. To co-opt pres­sure to adopt a city­wide min­i­mum wage, Chica­go May­or Rahm Emanuel ordered city con­trac­tors to pay at least $13 an hour. Many oth­er cities have min­i­mum wage plans on the table. Across the coun­try, 23 states have min­i­mum wages high­er than the cur­rent fed­er­al lev­el of $7.25, and that fig­ure will grow to 26 when min­i­mum wages hikes take effect in West Vir­ginia, Mary­land and Hawaii. Six­teen states have enact­ed min­i­mum wage increas­es in the past two years — 10 of them this year alone.

    Pub­lic opin­ion polls show that most Amer­i­cans — includ­ing a major­i­ty of both Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans — sup­port an increase in the fed­er­al min­i­mum wage, but Pres­i­dent Obama’s call to raise it to $10.10/hour has been stymied by Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion.

    Oth­er Pro­gres­sive Tri­umphs

    Below the radar of most nation­al media, pro­gres­sive wages suc­cess cam­paigns on a vari­ety of oth­er issues.

    · Paid sick leave. Even while vot­ers in Mass­a­chu­setts elect­ed a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, about 60 per­cent of them also passed a bal­lot mea­sure guar­an­tee­ing paid sick days to about mil­lion work­ers. In Mont­clair and Tren­ton, New Jer­sey, vot­ers passed bal­lot ini­tia­tives allow­ing work­ers who pro­vide food ser­vice, child care or home health care, or who work for com­pa­nies with 10 or more employ­ees, to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. All oth­er employ­ees would have access to up to 24 hours. (Pater­son, Irv­ing­ton, East Orange and Pas­sa­ic, NJ already have sim­i­lar laws). In Oak­land, CA, vot­ers adopt­ed a sim­i­lar mea­sure. These tri­umphs capped an his­toric year for advo­cates of paid sick leave. With Tuesday’s vic­to­ries, three states and six­teen cities have now passed paid sick days leg­is­la­tion — includ­ing two states and 10 cities in 2014 alone. And the momen­tum is grow­ing, as activists plan cam­paigns in Chica­go, Taco­ma, Wash­ing­ton and sev­er­al oth­er states.

    · Abor­tion. Vot­ers in Col­orado and North Dako­ta defeat­ed pro­pos­als grant­i­ng per­son­hood to fetus­es at the moment of con­cep­tion. In North Dako­ta, 64.3 per­cent of vot­ers said “no” on Mea­sure 1. Planned Par­ent­hood and its allies played key roles in beat­ing back this assault on women’s rights.

    · Pub­lic safe­ty. More than two-thirds of Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers approved the Safe Neigh­bor­hoods and Schools Act, which will revise some of the low­est-lev­el pet­ty crimes from felonies to mis­de­meanors and tar­gets the finan­cial sav­ings into crime pre­ven­tion and school pro­grams. This was a major vic­to­ry against the prison-indus­tri­al com­plex, espe­cial­ly the grow­ing num­ber of pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions that now run state pris­ons and sup­port laws to incar­cer­ate as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

    · Gun reform. In Wash­ing­ton state, vot­ers beat back the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion and approved a bal­lot mea­sure to impose crim­i­nal back­ground checks on peo­ple who pur­chase firearms online or at gun shows.

    ...

    · Work­ers rights. Ari­zona vot­ers defeat­ed Propo­si­tion 487, put on the bal­lot by busi­ness and Repub­li­can inter­est groups to under­mine pub­lic employ­ee pen­sions.

    · Pot. In Ore­gon, vot­ers legal­ized recre­ation­al use of mar­i­jua­na, join­ing Wash­ing­ton state and Col­orado, who adopt­ed sim­i­lar mea­sures in 2012. In Wash­ing­ton, DC, vot­ers passed a mea­sure to let res­i­dents grow cannabis indoors and pos­sess as much as two ounces.

    Plu­to­crat­ic Polit­i­cal Gains

    These pro­gres­sive vic­to­ries are impres­sive, but they don’t off­set the huge GOP tri­umphs around the coun­try. Democ­rats knew they had an uphill fight. Among the 36 Sen­ate races, 21 were seats held by Democ­rats, includ­ing six in states that Mitt Rom­ney won in 2012. Five fac­tors, in par­tic­u­lar, con­tributed to Tuesday’s GOP gains. It was a vic­to­ry for plu­toc­ra­cy and prof­it over democ­ra­cy, a tri­umph for the super-rich and Repub­li­cans who changed the rules to favor their own inter­ests.

    Big Mon­ey. Donors spent more than $4 bil­lion in this midterm elec­tion. Accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Respon­sive Pol­i­tics, this was the most expen­sive midterm elec­tion in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. This was a tri­umph for the Supreme Court’s Cit­i­zens Unit­ed and McCutcheon rul­ings that per­mit­ted unlim­it­ed mon­ey to buy elec­tions. The biggest donors, bil­lion­aires like the Koch broth­ers and Shel­don Adel­son, poured “dark mon­ey” — hid­den from pub­lic scruti­ny by arcane cam­paign finance laws — into key races that cer­tain­ly helped elect Repub­li­cans. Karl Rove’s Cross­roads orga­ni­za­tions and the US Cham­ber of Com­merce spent hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to help elect con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans in the House, Sen­ate and gov­er­nors races. We may nev­er know the full extent of the bil­lion­aires’ bankroll, espe­cial­ly in key bat­tle­ground Sen­ate races where they tar­get­ed much of their war chest. The Repub­li­cans increase in Sen­ate seats – from 45 to at least 52 – depend­ed on out­spend­ing Democ­rats by a wide mar­gin in those key races in where Repub­li­cans cap­tured seats held by Democ­rats in Col­orado, Arkansas, Iowa, Mon­tana, North Car­oli­na, South Dako­ta, and West Vir­ginia. Three incum­bent Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors – Sen­a­tors Kay Hagan of North Car­oli­na, Mark Pry­or of Arkansas, and Mark Udall of Col­orado – lost their seats.

    As the Cen­ter for Respon­sive Pol­i­tics report­ed a week before the elec­tion, “out­side groups, which are over­whelm­ing­ly fueled by large donors, are pick­ing up more of the tab” of elec­tion costs, increas­ing­ly by fund­ing issue ads and fun­nel­ing mon­ey to shad­owy so-called “social wel­fare” orga­ni­za­tions that can hide their dona­tions but focus most of their mon­ey to help Repub­li­can can­di­dates.

    Vot­er Sup­pres­sion and Low Turnout among Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing vot­ers. Midterm elec­tions always see much low­er turnout than in pres­i­den­tial years. On Tues­day, less than 40 per­cent of Amer­i­can vot­ers went to the polls, and the ones who vot­ed hard­ly reflect­ed the Amer­i­can peo­ple. The midterm elec­torate was much whiter, wealth­i­er and more elder­ly than the vot­ers in 2012 or even those in the last midterm elec­tion four years ago. As Bloomberg News report­ed, “Those 65 and old­er rep­re­sent­ed a quar­ter of the nation­al elec­torate, up from 21 per­cent four years ear­li­er.” This demo­graph­ic deba­cle was com­pound­ed by Repub­li­can efforts to sup­press the vote of African-Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, young peo­ple and the poor. These groups vot­ed in sig­nif­i­cant­ly small­er num­bers this year than they did two years ago. This was the first elec­tion since the Supreme Court evis­cer­at­ed the Vot­ing Rights Act and many states – par­tic­u­lar­ly those with a large num­ber of eli­gi­ble African-Amer­i­can vot­ers — adopt­ed laws mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to vote, aimed at reduc­ing turnout by these Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­stituen­cies.

    Ger­ry­man­der­ing. After the 2010 Cen­sus, Repub­li­cans suc­ceed­ed in redraw­ing House dis­tricts to favor their par­ty, cre­at­ing increas­ing­ly “safe” dis­tricts for GOP can­di­dates. The GOP’s con­trol of the major­i­ty of state leg­is­la­tures and governors’s offices gave them an advan­tage that made it pos­si­ble to redraw the dis­tricts to their lik­ing. In 2012, Democ­rats won 1.3 mil­lion more votes than Repub­li­can in all 435 House race – 59.6 mil­lion and 58.2 mil­lion. In oth­er words, Democ­rats won 55 per­cent of the two-par­ty vote but GOP can­di­dates won 54 per­cent of the 435 House seats. In Penn­syl­va­nia, for exam­ple, Democ­rats won 83,000 more votes than Repub­li­cans, but Repub­li­cans won 13 seats and Democ­rats won 5 seats. On Tues­day, the Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­cans increased their mar­gin to 14 seats. Nation­wide, the GOP widened their con­gres­sion­al major­i­ty to by at least anoth­er 8 seats to 243. This was more a reflec­tion of par­ti­san map­mak­ing than vot­er pref­er­ences.

    ...

    So on the one hand we have vot­ers over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ing mea­sures like the min­i­mum wage in the same states that elect­ed GOP sen­a­tors, and on the oth­er hand we can see the plu­to­crats man­aged to increase their grip on pow­er even more via ger­ry­man­der­ing and vot­er sup­pres­sion and mas­sive spend­ing. In oth­er words, the big mon­ey can win elec­tions but nec­es­sar­i­ly not hearts and minds:

    The New York Times
    Repub­li­cans’ First Step Was to Han­dle Extrem­ists in Par­ty

    By JEREMY W. PETERS and CARL HULSENOV. 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON — It was late spring, and Repub­li­can lead­ers knew that if they want­ed to win the Sen­ate, they need­ed to crush the ene­my: not Democ­rats, but the rebels with­in their own par­ty.

    And Chris McDaniel, a Sen­ate can­di­date from Mis­sis­sip­pi who had a his­to­ry of mak­ing sex­ist and racial­ly insen­si­tive remarks, was a prob­lem.

    Can­di­dates like Scott Brown, run­ning for the Sen­ate in New Hamp­shire, called the Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee to com­plain that if Mr. McDaniel was not stopped, he could drag the whole par­ty down. Strate­gists inside the committee’s head­quar­ters on Capi­tol Hill were envi­sion­ing night­mares of Democ­rats car­i­ca­tur­ing all their can­di­dates as “mini-McDaniels.”

    The committee’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, Rob Collins, dragged com­pla­cent donors into the effort, play­ing record­ings for them of some of Mr. McDaniel’s most incen­di­ary remarks and per­suad­ing them to under­write a mas­sive get-out-the-vote effort to defeat him.

    In June, the par­ty estab­lish­ment — just bare­ly — a his­to­ry of mak­ing sex­ist and racial­ly insen­si­tive remarks, reach­ing a turn­ing point in their dogged cam­paign to purge the par­ty of extrem­ists and regain pow­er in the Sen­ate.

    Repub­li­cans’ impres­sive show­ing Tues­day night — mark­ing the first time the par­ty will have a major­i­ty in both the House and Sen­ate since 2006 — was the result of method­i­cal plot­ting, care­ful can­di­date vet­ting and abun­dant prepa­ra­tion to ensure that the party’s can­di­dates would avoid repeat­ing the same dev­as­tat­ing mis­takes that cost them dear­ly in 2010 and 2012.

    “You get your best play­ers on the field in Novem­ber, avoid doing some­thing that makes us look like we are not adult enough to gov­ern, and hope the wave is big,” said Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell in an inter­view in March, not long after Repub­li­cans scored a major coup by get­ting Cory Gard­ner, a con­gress­man from Col­orado and one of the party’s strongest can­di­dates this elec­tion, into the race.

    In inter­views, more than two dozen law­mak­ers and strate­gists described the metic­u­lous efforts.

    Lit­tle was left to chance: Repub­li­can oper­a­tives sent fake cam­paign track­ers — interns and staff mem­bers bran­dish­ing video cam­eras to record every utter­ance and move — to trail their own can­di­dates. In media train­ing ses­sions, can­di­dates were forced to sit through a reel of the most self-destruc­tive moments of 2012, when Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock’s com­ments on rape and preg­nan­cy helped sink the par­ty.

    Oth­er fac­tors affect­ed the out­come, of course. The elec­tion was unfold­ing dur­ing per­haps the best polit­i­cal cli­mate Repub­li­cans had seen since the 1980s. Upheaval on the domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al stage — a crash of the health care web­site, behead­ings in the Mid­dle East, a surge of migrant chil­dren along the Mex­i­can bor­der and a rag­ing virus in Africa — all helped tip the scales in Repub­li­cans’ favor. Democ­rats bat­tled to keep the most com­pet­i­tive races from slip­ping away from them until the very last minute, an almost impos­si­ble task giv­en Pres­i­dent Obama’s low approval rat­ings and the cas­cade of bad news that was unimag­in­able when the par­ty was rid­ing high a year ago, after Repub­li­cans stum­bled through a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

    “There wasn’t a moment this cycle where we thought, ‘Oh, we can’t lose,’ ” said Guy Cecil, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­to­r­i­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “Con­verse­ly, there wasn’t a moment in this cycle where we thought we couldn’t win,” he added, insist­ing that their plan was the right one. “Elec­tion out­comes tend to declare every­one either a genius or a fail­ure, but there’s no ques­tion in my mind that this was the right strat­e­gy.”

    ...

    Repub­li­can Revival

    Even though the geog­ra­phy and his­toric trends favored Repub­li­cans this year, it was hard to find opti­mism among par­ty loy­al­ists and donors as 2014 began, giv­en how bad­ly 2010 and 2012 had gone.

    ...

    But in the end, the dis­ci­plined approach worked: no Repub­li­can implod­ed with the kind of fatal cam­paign gaffe that crushed the party’s hopes in the last two elec­tions. Every estab­lish can­di­date pre­vailed in the pri­maries. Repub­li­cans cred­it­ed this to their rig­or­ous train­ing pro­gram. The fake track­ers would even sur­prise can­di­dates at the curb out­side the air­port when they flew into Wash­ing­ton to meet with Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee offi­cials, who then forced can­di­dates to sit down and watch them­selves on film.

    “We don’t teach them what to believe,” said Mr. Collins, the committee’s exec­u­tive direc­tor. “We just teach them how to talk, how to say things once the cam­era is on them.”

    ...

    As Mr Collin’s of the Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee said of the GOP’s anti-Akin-moment “rig­or­ous train­ing pro­gram”, “We don’t teach them what to believe...We just teach them how to talk, how to say things once the cam­era is on them.” And it worked! Ok, the unimag­in­able string of exter­nal cri­sis did­n’t hurt the GOP either although that’s not like­ly to be repeat­ed unless ISIS/Ebola/refugee chil­dren cri­sis mael­stroms are to become reg­u­lar occur­ances (it’s pos­si­ble). The GOP can­di­dates were able to suc­cess­ful­ly hide their extrem­ist agen­da by avoid­ing anoth­er “legit­i­mate rape” moment and that strat­e­gy of obfus­ca­tion did­n’t just include hid­ing their far right posi­tions on social issues. It also effec­tive­ly hid their far right views on eco­nom­ic issues too which got almost no atten­tion dur­ing an elec­tion that was dom­i­nat­ed by one anom­alous exter­nal cri­sis after anoth­er. And only now are vot­ers get­ting a peak at the GOP’s eco­nom­ic agen­da (if you ignore the Bush years and Ryan Plan) and they’re going to get a good long two year look since that extrem­ist cor­po­ratist agen­da is appar­ent­ly going to be rolled out as the GOP’s uni­fy­ing “pos­i­tive” agen­da that the whole nation can get behind. Raw GOP cor­po­ratism is the PR-friend­ly alter­na­tive to Tea Par­ty luna­cy the base craves.

    It’s kind of amaz­ing. The GOP’s lead­er­ship has decid­ed to throw the Tea Par­ty base’s cher­ished arch-con­ser­v­a­tive social agen­da under the bus for the next two years in favor of the GOP’s cor­po­ratist agen­da and aus­ter­i­ty and this is the par­ty’s under­ly­ing grand strat­e­gy to posi­tion itself for vic­to­ry in 2016. A strat­e­gy to unite behind a GOP-lite ver­sion of the GOP’s cor­po­ratist wish list and fur­ther aus­ter­i­ty as an appe­tiz­er to the loot­ing to come should the US elec­torate go com­plete­ly insane in 2016 and hand the GOP com­plete con­trol of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. That’s the GOP’s plan. Plus, pre­sum­ably, some sort of cri­sis involv­ing refugee ISIS chil­dren with Ebo­la or some­thing like that.

    And even if the GOP was com­plete­ly suc­cess­ful in pass­ing that entire cor­po­ratist agen­da, the Tea Par­ty base does­n’t real­ly care much about stuff like free trade or cor­po­rate tax rates and is guar­an­teed to be pissed and demor­al­ized if the GOP also refus­es to impeach Oba­ma, shut down the gov­ern­ment, try to repeal Oba­macare entire­ly, or some­thing like that. They want a big fight with lots of fire­works.

    So as long as the GOP can main­tain sup­pres­sive vot­ing restric­tions, ger­ry­man­dered con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts, keep the unlim­it­ed secret cam­paign finance laws, and ensure a Tea Par­ty base — that des­per­ate wants the par­ty to engage in one polit­i­cal­ly sui­ci­dal bat­tle after anoth­er — ade­quate­ly sati­at­ed, the GOP’s future is look­ing bright. Kum­baya.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 9, 2014, 5:57 am
  36. Giv­en the GOP’s recent elec­toral vic­to­ries after focus­ing so much on repeal­ing Oba­macare jux­ta­posed with the over­all pop­u­lar­i­ty of Oba­macare’s indi­vid­ual pro­vi­sions (when it’s not referred to as “Oba­macare”), it’s kind of hard to say if the Supreme Court’s sur­prise announce­ment to take up a case that would rule on Oba­macare sub­si­dies in 36 states is a sign of right-wing over­con­fi­dence that health­care can be gut­ted with impuni­ty or des­per­a­tion to stop the law before peo­ple learned to like it. It’s very unclear:

    TPM DC
    Why The Supreme Court’s Pow­er Play Is Dis­turb­ing For Oba­macare

    By Sahil Kapur
    Pub­lished Novem­ber 10, 2014, 1:29 PM EST

    The Supreme Court’s sur­pris­ing deci­sion on Fri­day to take a case aimed at inval­i­dat­ing fed­er­al Oba­macare sub­si­dies for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans fore­shad­ows trou­bling news for the health care law, legal experts say.

    The jus­tices’ move to hear King v. Bur­well came before a hear­ing next month in the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, which vacat­ed a three-judge pan­el’s July rul­ing against the sub­si­dies and decid­ed to review the case en banc. Two tri­al court judges and the 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals upheld the sub­si­dies, so there was no ongo­ing split in the cir­cuit courts.

    “I’m just stunned. I can’t remem­ber a time when a case was grant­ed when there was a re-hear­ing pend­ing in a cir­cuit court,” said Lucas A. Powe Jr., a Supreme Court his­to­ri­an at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, Austin.

    At issue is whether the lan­guage of the Oba­macare statute restricts the pre­mi­um tax cred­its to res­i­dents buy­ing insur­ance from a state-run exchange, and pro­hibits the sub­si­dies on the fed­er­al exchange which serves some 7 mil­lion Amer­i­cans in 36 states. A rul­ing against the White House would blow a huge hole in Oba­macare because the sub­si­dies are crit­i­cal to ensur­ing that low­er-income Amer­i­cans can afford insur­ance.

    What’s atyp­i­cal here is that the Supreme Court grant­ed the case in the absence of a cir­cuit split or an unre­solved con­sti­tu­tion­al ques­tion. But some legal experts argue that the Court’s move is valid under its rules, which let the jus­tices take a case if it rais­es “an impor­tant ques­tion of fed­er­al law that has not been, but should be, set­tled by this Court.”

    “I don’t think this is all that unusu­al,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, who is skep­ti­cal of the law­suit. “The court is empow­ered to hear cas­es of excep­tion­al impor­tance that need to be decid­ed.”

    What’s more trou­bling for the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion are the plau­si­ble rea­sons for tak­ing the case at this time. Some legal schol­ars inter­pret it as a sign that at least four jus­tices — the num­ber required to take a case — believe the 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals made the wrong deci­sion by uphold­ing the Oba­macare sub­si­dies.

    “It sur­prised me. I think it’s a sign that they’re prob­a­bly going to reverse the 4th Cir­cuit,” said Van­der­bilt law pro­fes­sor Bri­an Fitz­patrick, a for­mer clerk for Jus­tice Antonin Scalia. “Because they did­n’t see any rea­son to wait for the en banc pro­ceed­ings at the DC Cir­cuit to resolve them­selves. So I think that at least four jus­tices believe at least five jus­tices are pret­ty inclined to strike down the sub­si­dies on the fed­er­al­ly run exchanges as a vio­la­tion of statute.”

    “I don’t think the four would rush to take this unless they thought there was a fifth vote [to over­turn the Oba­macare sub­si­dies]. I don’t see why you’d go out of your way to take this case unless you thought it was going to be reversed,” he said.

    Bagley sim­i­lar­ly argued that there’s not much of a com­pelling rea­son for jus­tices to take the case at this stage unless they want to ax the sub­si­dies.

    “If you think the 4th Cir­cuit got it wrong, that’s a pret­ty pow­er­ful rea­son to take the case now and cor­rect it, and not wait a cou­ple of years,” he said.

    ...

    Fitz­patrick said it’s still a tough case for the plain­tiffs. “The gov­ern­ment has the much eas­i­er side of the argu­ment here. All the gov­ern­ment has to do is prove the statute is ambigu­ous,” he said. If the jus­tices are con­vinced the statute is ambigu­ous, long­stand­ing legal prece­dent sug­gests they would grant def­er­ence to the agency that is imple­ment­ing the law.

    The expect­ed out­come is that the Supreme Court hears the case next March and is expect­ed to deliv­er a rul­ing by the end of June. The 4th Cir­cuit case is King v. Bur­well; the D.C. Cir­cuit case is Hal­big v. Bur­well.

    Well that was rather sud­den by the Roberts Court’s con­ser­v­a­tive clique. And some­what odd in an en banc way since legal experts see the gov­ern­ment as hav­ing the eas­i­er side of the legal argu­ment (“All the gov­ern­ment has to do is prove the statute is ambigu­ous”). Could the Supreme Court’s con­ser­v­a­tive major­i­ty be plan­ning on swoop­ing in and sav­ing the GOP from its out of con­trol Oba­macare Derange­ment Syn­drome. The GOP could eas­i­ly lose the Sen­ate in 2016 and try­ing to repeal Oba­macare a few dozen more times may not be some­thing the par­ty strate­gists are advis­ing ris­ing now. And yet repeal­ing Oba­macare is what the GOP base wants intensly after spend­ing the last 6 years digest­ing pro­pa­gan­da about how Obma­macare is destroy­ing their health and the coun­try.

    And now the Supreme Court is expect­ed to have its hear­ing on the cas­es on March 4, two weeks before the 2015 debt ceil­ing dead­line. That could be inter­est­ing giv­en that we’re prob­a­bly also going to see anoth­er big round of debt ceil­ing fights and GOP hostage-tak­ing. The court’s actu­al rul­ing won’t be issued until late June or ear­ly July (before the 2016 pri­ma­ry starts).

    So it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see what the jus­tices say dur­ing ques­tion­ing and inter­est­ing to see how the court even­tu­al­ly rules although grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing since health­care could become unaf­ford­able for many if they lose the sub­si­dies. But over­turn­ing the sub­si­dies would be such an over the top stunt that if the con­ser­v­a­tive major­i­ty real­ly does rule in a 5–4 deci­sion to over­turn or poi­son-pill the Oba­macare sub­si­dies for every­one liv­ing the 36 states with fed­er­al­ly-run Oba­macare web­sites that will look like such an absurd­ly par­ti­san ‘gotcha’ rul­ing that we just might see an “Occu­py the Supreme Court” moment. The optics are that bad. Espe­cial­ly after the Supreme Court turned the Med­ic­aid expan­sion into a polit­i­cal foot­ball in 2012. If the sub­si­dies get over­turn it would real­ly risk mak­ing the Supreme Court a major issue for the Democ­rats in 2016. And John Roberts knows this.

    But the GOP might just real­ly want to destroy the law before it ful­ly takes root across the coun­try and this is sort of their last chance. So we could see an “I stab at thee!” Supreme Court moment although that still seems like it would be deeply unpop­u­lar over­all.

    So you also also have to won­der if Roberts is actu­al­ly plan­ning on uphold­ing the sub­si­dies in an attempt to take the issue off the table before it con­sumes the GOP going into 2016?

    Since Oba­macare is bet­ter on paper than vir­tu­al­ly every GOP health­care alter­na­tive and it’s already imple­ment­ed (and was orig­i­nal­ly a a Her­itage Foun­da­tion idea) it’s prob­a­bly a polit­i­cal top­ic the GOP has to drop soon­er or lat­er. Uphold­ing the sub­si­dies could maybe help GOP tem­per that Oba­macare derange­ment fever and ditch­ing the Oba­macare-repeal mania going into 2016 could be very advan­ta­geous for the GOP. So let’s see if the Roberts Court ends up some­how push­ing Oba­macare off the GOP’s agen­da with a anoth­er pro-Oba­macare rul­ing. It could still include poi­son-pills. Maybe that’s what will hap­pen.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 11, 2014, 12:02 am
  37. A lit­tle over a month ago, a pan­el com­mis­sioned by Kansas gov­er­nor Sam Brown­back to study the rela­tion­ship between frack­ing and earth­quakes con­clud­ed that there just was­n’t enough evi­dence to link the two. Whether or not this was good news or bad news prob­a­bly depends on your atti­tude about earth­quakes. If you enjoy the fun sur­prise of the ground shak­ing beneath your feet and the joys of nev­er know­ing when and where the next one will hit it was sure­ly won­der­ful news:

    The Wichi­ta Eagle

    4.4 mag­ni­tude earth­quake shakes south­ern Kansas

    By Stan Fin­ger and Joshua Wood

    10/02/2014 1:36 PM

    Updat­ed 10/02/2014 9:58 PM

    The strongest earth­quake to strike Harp­er Coun­ty in recent mem­o­ry rum­bled across south­ern Kansas ear­ly Thurs­day after­noon.

    The quake, with a mag­ni­tude of 4.4, was cen­tered 7 miles east-south­east of Harp­er and struck at a depth of 3 miles, the Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey said on its web­site.

    The earth­quake, which began at 1:01 p.m. Thurs­day, was felt in Wichi­ta, 43 miles to the north­east. Respon­dents to the USGS site record­ed feel­ing the earth­quake as far north as Man­hat­tan and as far south as Okla­homa City.

    ...

    Anoth­er quake that struck about 30 min­utes lat­er had a pre­lim­i­nary mag­ni­tude of 3.4. It was cen­tered about 4 miles south­east of Harp­er and was 3.1 miles deep, accord­ing to the USGS web­site.

    A third earth­quake was record­ed in about the same area at 5:50 p.m. It had a mag­ni­tude of 3.1, USGS said.

    ...

    Peo­ple in the area report­ed feel­ing sev­er­al small­er earth­quakes, pos­si­bly after­shocks, direct­ly after­ward but those weren’t reg­is­tered with USGS, Win­ter said.

    “This is cur­rent­ly the strongest one on record, that we’re aware of” for Harp­er Coun­ty, he said.

    There have been more than 50 earth­quakes in Kansas this year, accord­ing to the USGS.

    At least eight earth­quakes have shak­en south­ern Kansas this week. Inter­im Kansas Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey direc­tor Rex Buchanan says four oth­er earth­quakes rocked the state Tues­day, includ­ing a 3.8‑magnitude earth­quake. At least two earth­quakes were record­ed Wednes­day. All but one of them occurred in Harp­er Coun­ty.

    A pan­el com­mis­sioned by Gov. Sam Brown­back recent­ly announced there isn’t enough evi­dence to link recent quakes to oil and gas explo­ration in the region. The group rec­om­mend­ed more mon­i­tor­ing.

    Earth­quakes have become rather com­mon in Harp­er Coun­ty, Win­ter said.

    “It’s an unnerv­ing feel­ing,” Win­ter said. “Everyone’s got an uneasy feel­ing.

    “We’re pre­pared for tor­na­does and things like that … we’re not used to this ground-shak­ing.”

    ...

    Yes, “more mon­i­tor­ing” was the rec­om­mend­ed rem­e­dy. More Mon­i­tor­ing and, pre­sum­ably, more frack­ing and lots more thrilling sur­prise quakes, like today’s 4.8 mag­ni­tude quake that just hit Okla­homa and Kansas, the strongest quake since Kansas’s quake surge began last year. Weee! AND it even means more rev­enue for the state too although not near­ly as much rev­enue as state offi­cials were hop­ing for:

    McClatchy News
    Kansas Has a Lot More Earth­quakes. Is that Because of Frack­ing?
    by McClatchy News | Jan­u­ary 28, 2014

    Killer tor­na­does, siz­zling sum­mers, treach­er­ous ice storms. Bar­bara Scott was pre­pared for all that and more when she moved from Den­ver to Bluff City, Kan., a half dozen years ago. But earth­quakes? In Kansas?

    “It’s like the earth just rolled under my house, raised it up and low­ered it down,” she said of the quake that struck last month between Bluff City and Cald­well. Fur­ther rat­tling Scott was the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the earth­quake was man-made, a byprod­uct of our lust for ener­gy.

    “We thought it might be the frack­ing,” she said. “We have so much of that going on down here.”

    Kansas is one of five states least like­ly to expe­ri­ence earth­quake dam­age, state offi­cials say. The worst on record was of 5.5 mag­ni­tude in 1867 near Man­hat­tan.

    ...

    The oil and gas indus­try’s use of dis­pos­al wells has been on the rise in the last cou­ple of years because until recent­ly it seemed as if the state’s oil and gas indus­try might be on the cusp of a revival, thanks to frack­ing.

    “Kansas is going to be a major play­er in this,” Gov. Sam Brown­back told a crowd of hun­dreds who came to hear about the pend­ing oil and gas boom in the fall of 2012.

    But to the cha­grin of indus­try and state offi­cials who had count­ed on the tax rev­enue, Kansas has­n’t turned out to be the next North Dako­ta, where the econ­o­my has spiked since frack­ing began.

    The cost of extract­ing gas from Kansas’ under­ground rock for­ma­tions often out­weighs the returns. In the past year, some com­pa­nies have cut back or stopped fur­ther explo­ration.

    “What I told the gov­er­nor and the Leg­is­la­ture back then is don’t let the hype over­whelm the hope,” said Ed Cross, pres­i­dent of the Kansas Inde­pen­dent Oil & Gas Asso­ci­a­tion.

    Nei­ther has frack­ing led to a spike in statewide oil pro­duc­tion, which increased a mod­est 6.6 per­cent last year, Cross said. How­ev­er, a few coun­ties along the Okla­homa bor­der have done well. Among the ben­e­fi­cia­ries is Harp­er Coun­ty, near the epi­cen­ter of last mon­th’s quake.

    “There’s a lot of pro­duc­tion, a lot of drilling going on,” said Harp­er Coun­ty eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment direc­tor Mike Lanie. “These wells are com­ing in so strong and big.”

    ...

    But to the cha­grin of indus­try and state offi­cials who had count­ed on the tax rev­enue, Kansas has­n’t turned out to be the next North Dako­ta, where the econ­o­my has spiked since frack­ing began.

    The cost of extract­ing gas from Kansas’ under­ground rock for­ma­tions often out­weighs the returns. In the past year, some com­pa­nies have cut back or stopped fur­ther explo­ration.”

    Well that cer­tain­ly takes some of the siz­zle out of frack­ing, espe­cial­ly when you fac­tor in the plung­ing cost of oil and the impact that has on the frack­ing indus­try and the poten­tial rev­enues raised. Yeah, earth­quakes are fun and all, but not near­ly as fun rev­enue enhanc­ing earth­quakes. Espe­cial­ly for states in the mid­dle of a fis­cal earth­quake with no end in sight:

    The Kansas City Star

    Kansas rev­enues will fall $1 bil­lion short of 2015 and 2016 expens­es, fis­cal experts say

    By BRAD COOPER

    11/10/2014 8:28 PM Updat­ed 11/11/2014 10:12 AM

    TOPEKA

    Kansas will col­lect $1 bil­lion less in rev­enue in 2015 and 2016 than its pro­ject­ed expens­es fol­low­ing mas­sive income tax cuts signed into law by Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brown­back.

    The new rev­enue esti­mates released Mon­day revealed that Kansas would burn through about $380 mil­lion in reserves and still need to cut $280 mil­lion to bal­ance its cur­rent bud­get for fis­cal year 2015, which ends next June 30.

    The prob­lem con­tin­ues in 2016 when rev­enues are pro­ject­ed to run $436 mil­lion short of expen­di­tures, the esti­mates show.

    The rev­enue esti­mates were devel­oped by a pan­el of fis­cal experts that includes uni­ver­si­ty econ­o­mists, a leg­isla­tive pol­i­cy ana­lyst, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the governor’s bud­get office and the state rev­enue depart­ment.

    The new fig­ure rais­es the prospect of deep cuts in the state bud­get fol­low­ing con­tro­ver­sial income tax cuts that Brown­back vig­or­ous­ly defend­ed dur­ing his re-elec­tion cam­paign against Demo­c­rat Paul Davis. Crit­ics wor­ry that schools, roads and social ser­vices will be among the areas cut in com­ing months.

    Brownback’s bud­get direc­tor, Shawn Sul­li­van, said the admin­is­tra­tion has no inten­tion of revis­it­ing the state’s tax pol­i­cy, which calls for fur­ther income tax cuts through 2018.

    “The state of Kansas must con­tin­ue to live with­in its means just as fam­i­lies do every day,” Sul­li­van told reporters Mon­day. “Our pri­ma­ry focus will be to cur­tail growth in state spend­ing through addi­tion­al effi­cien­cies and pol­i­cy pro­pos­als.”

    Sul­li­van said the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion has already iden­ti­fied about $150 mil­lion in effi­cien­cies to help address the rev­enue short­fall. Among oth­er things, he point­ed to stan­dard­iz­ing state com­put­er sys­tems and low­er than expect­ed health insur­ance costs for state work­ers.

    The bud­get direc­tor left open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the gov­er­nor could enact midyear bud­get cuts on his own or leave it up to the Leg­is­la­ture to decide how to pare gov­ern­ment expens­es.

    ...

    Brownback’s bud­get direc­tor, Shawn Sul­li­van, said the admin­is­tra­tion has no inten­tion of revis­it­ing the state’s tax pol­i­cy, which calls for fur­ther income tax cuts through 2018...The bud­get direc­tor left open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the gov­er­nor could enact midyear bud­get cuts on his own...” That’s a bit omi­nous. And it also means Kansas had bet­ter get ready for a lot more frack­ing if it’s going avoid even more cuts to pub­lic ser­vices.

    But at least it was nice to hear that the state is already expe­ri­enc­ing law then expect­ed health insur­ance costs for state work­ers. Kansas is prob­a­bly going to need those health­care sav­ings.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 12, 2014, 8:27 pm
  38. One of the more sig­nif­i­cant quirks of the US elec­toral sys­tem is the fact that some states always elect their gov­er­nors dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions every four years anoth­er chunk always elects their gov­er­nors dur­ing the midterms. And there’s even 5 states that always elect the their gov­er­nor on a odd-num­bered year. For­ev­er. And that means the Amer­i­can elec­torate’s vot­ing pat­terns — with the Democ­ra­t’s elec­toral base almost always dom­i­nat­ing dur­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion years and the GOP’s base vir­tu­al­ly always dom­i­nat­ing in oth­er years — more or less guar­an­tees that some states will always skew towards hav­ing a Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nor while oth­ers are pret­ty much going to be per­pet­u­al­ly Red States. And two states have gov­er­nors every two years.

    But don’t assume that the 43 states that elect their gov­er­nor on even num­ber years are split even­ly between Demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-lean­ing pres­i­den­tial years and Repub­li­can-lean­ing midterms. It’s actu­al­ly 9 nine states that vote dur­ing pres­i­den­tial years and 34 states dur­ing the midterms:

    Think Progress
    Why Repub­li­cans Have A Built-In Advan­tage In Guber­na­to­r­i­al Races

    by Scott Keyes Post­ed on Novem­ber 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    When Ohio State hosts arch-rival Michi­gan in col­lege foot­ball this year, the Buck­eyes’ home crowd will pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant boost. Next year, when Ohio State must trav­el to Ann Arbor, it will be Michi­gan who enjoys the home-field advan­tage. Imag­ine the out­rage among UM alums, though, if the Big Ten insti­tut­ed a new rule that, hence­forth, every future matchup would be played in Ohio. Even unaf­fil­i­at­ed observers would right­ly argue that such a set­up would be emi­nent­ly biased against Michi­gan.

    Yet, in pol­i­tics, every four years the vast major­i­ty of governor’s races take place in front of a Repub­li­can crowd.

    Of the 50 states, just nine states hold their guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tions dur­ing pres­i­den­tial (2012, 2008, etc.) years. On the oth­er hand, 34 hold their elec­tions only in midterm (2014, 2010, etc.) years. Five states vote in off-year (odd-num­bered, e.g. 2011 or 2013) elec­tions, and two oth­er states, New Hamp­shire and Ver­mont, hold guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tions every two years rather than four.

    As polit­i­cal observers will tell you, the make­up of the vot­ing elec­torate in pres­i­den­tial years is quite dif­fer­ent than dur­ing midterm elec­tions. And that dif­fer­ence is what ulti­mate­ly dis­ad­van­tages many Demo­c­ra­t­ic guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­dates.

    ...
    The elec­torate this year was sig­nif­i­cant­ly whiter, old­er, rich­er, and more male than in 2012. In oth­er words, the midterm elec­torate tends to have more Repub­li­can vot­ers, while the pres­i­den­tial elec­torate tends to have more Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers.

    This means that, for Demo­c­ra­t­ic guber­na­to­r­i­al hope­fuls in Flori­da or Ohio or Wis­con­sin or else­where, every elec­tion is played on the oppo­nents’ turf. The gov­er­nor of these states, along with 36 oth­ers, is decid­ed with a Repub­li­can-lean­ing midterm elec­torate.

    Any ath­lete will tell you that play­ing on the road is always more dif­fi­cult than play­ing at home. Repub­li­cans, play­ing at home this year, not only pre­vailed in many guber­na­to­r­i­al races, but in many they weren’t expect­ed to win. The GOP picked up con­trol in Illi­nois, Mass­a­chu­setts, Mary­land, and Arkansas, for exam­ple. They held on for vic­to­ry in a half-dozen states that all looked like they could flip, includ­ing Flori­da, Geor­gia, Kansas, Maine, Michi­gan, and Wis­con­sin.

    No mat­ter what year it is, Repub­li­cans would be favored to win the governor’s man­sion in Alaba­ma, while Democ­rats would be expect­ed to pre­vail in New York. But if Flori­da had vot­ed for its gov­er­nor in 2012 instead of 2014, is there any chance Gov. Rick Scott ® would have eked out a one-point vic­to­ry? Would Bruce Rauner ® have won in Illi­nois, Barack Obama’s home state, last cycle?

    This is an imbal­ance that only affects Democ­rats run­ning for gov­er­nor in most states, not those run­ning for the House or Sen­ate. After all, both hous­es of Con­gress hold elec­tions in midterm and pres­i­den­tial years. Because con­gress­men serve two-year terms and sen­a­tors serve six-year terms, each must alter­nate between fac­ing the elec­torate in midterm years and pres­i­den­tial years.

    If more states held their guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tions in pres­i­den­tial years, or if more states gave their gov­er­nors a 2- or 6‑year terms, Democ­rats would get to play at home as well. As is, Repub­li­cans enjoyed a sys­temic bias this year that helped them pre­vail in many guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tions.

    34 to 9: That’s the bal­ance at the state-lev­el in terms of these struc­tur­al advan­tages giv­en to the GOP.

    And for a state like Kansas that is strong­ly con­ser­v­a­tive already and elects its gov­er­nor dur­ing a midterm, this fixed vot­ing pat­tern means Gov­er­nor Brown­back­’s “exper­i­ment” in rad­i­cal sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics is prob­a­bly going to out­last the Brown­back admin­is­tra­tion. When you’re the canary trav­el­ing down that coal mine, you’re prob­a­bly about to expe­ri­ence death by a thou­sand total­ly point­less cuts:

    The New York Times
    The Upshot
    Fis­cal Chal­lenges
    Kansas Announces Big Bud­get Gap; True Gap May Be Even Larg­er

    NOV. 13, 2014
    Josh Bar­ro

    Kansas’ bud­get prob­lems keep get­ting worse.

    State offi­cials said this week that the tax cuts cham­pi­oned by Gov. Sam Brown­back would force them to start a new round of sub­stan­tial bud­get cuts before the end of June.

    They need to cut $279 mil­lion, $239 mil­lion of which is attrib­ut­able to low­er-than-expect­ed per­son­al income tax col­lec­tions. Those aren’t small num­bers in a state bud­get of approx­i­mate­ly $6 bil­lion and where rev­enues have already declined sharply. Kansas state rev­enues dropped 11 per­cent in the fis­cal year 2014 (which end­ed in June) after the tax cuts took effect.

    But that may not even be the whole pic­ture. A close look at the state’s new rev­enue pro­jec­tions makes clear they are high­ly opti­mistic, even after this week’s cut in the fore­cast. Kansas says it expects to col­lect slight­ly more per­son­al income tax this year than it did last year, even though, with four months of col­lec­tions in, they are 11 per­cent behind last year’s pace.

    If the last four months’ per­for­mance is sim­i­lar to the next eight, the state won’t miss its orig­i­nal income tax esti­mate by $239 mil­lion.

    It will miss it by $546 mil­lion.

    And because the state was already sched­uled to spend down near­ly its entire rainy-day fund bal­ance (which totaled over $700 mil­lion in 2013) by the end of this year, it will have to respond to any widen­ing bud­get gap with some com­bi­na­tion of fur­ther spend­ing cuts and tax increas­es.

    “They’re clear­ly expect­ing income tax rev­enue to beat last year in April and May, but we’re not on any path to do that,” said Duane Goossen, a for­mer state bud­get direc­tor under gov­er­nors includ­ing Bill Graves, a Repub­li­can, and Kath­leen Sebe­lius, a Demo­c­rat. “I would expect that the esti­mate is still too high.”

    If the state’s esti­mate is right, it will be because pay­ments next April (the ones peo­ple send in with their tax returns) are much big­ger than they were this past year. That hasn’t been true of the rev­enue streams the state gets from the income tax with­held from employ­ees’ pay­checks and the esti­mat­ed tax pay­ments that peo­ple make quar­ter­ly on non­pay­roll income.

    ...

    One rea­son to believe Kansas would issue a rosy esti­mate is that both lib­er­als and con­ser­v­a­tives in the state have incen­tives to believe in a high esti­mate and just cross their fin­gers. For con­ser­v­a­tives, a low­er rev­enue esti­mate would be embar­rass­ing, because it shows the Brown­back tax cuts were much more cost­ly than adver­tised. For lib­er­als, a low­er rev­enue esti­mate would require a big­ger round of state spend­ing cuts in the short term.

    A detailed memo about the esti­mates, which may explain why rev­enues would be bet­ter in the remain­der of the fis­cal year, should be released late this or ear­ly next week by the Con­sen­sus Rev­enue Esti­mat­ing Group, a group made up of Kansas bud­get offi­cials and state aca­d­e­mics. Efforts to reach state offi­cials for com­ment on the issue were not suc­cess­ful.

    There may be even big­ger chal­lenges com­ing. In addi­tion to the like­li­hood the state will face anoth­er unpleas­ant rev­enue sur­prise in the spring, a pend­ing court deci­sion could oblig­ate the leg­is­la­ture to add hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars a year to state aid to school dis­tricts. And bond rat­ing agen­cies, which already down­grad­ed the state’s debt this year, could be expect­ed to react neg­a­tive­ly to both of those events.

    The tax cuts were the lead­ing issue in the Kansas governor’s race this year, and in addi­tion to re-elect­ing Gov­er­nor Brown­back, vot­ers expand­ed the Repub­li­can super­ma­jor­i­ty in the state’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This was a clear man­date for the pol­i­cy of deep tax cuts. What remains to be seen is how the leg­is­la­ture, once the rainy-day fund is exhaust­ed, will deal with the spend­ing pres­sures they have cre­at­ed.

    Kansas, along with 33 oth­er states (and 5 odd-year states), will be struc­tural­ly biased towards elect­ing right-wing gov­er­nors for the fore­see­able future. And that means, by reelect­ing Sam Brown­back and increas­ing the GOP super­ma­jor­i­ty in the state’s House, Kansas may have just dam­aged itself for the fore­see­able future by reaf­firm­ing those Brown­back tax cuts and mak­ing it far like­li­er that self-inflict­ed aus­ter­i­ty becomes a per­ma­nent fix­tures of the state’s pol­i­cy frame­work. So long pub­lic ser­vices.

    And yet, as the fol­low­ing 2012 arti­cle about Kansas’s planned tax cuts points out, the great Brown­back “exper­i­ment” in Kansas is just a test of the “Ryan Plan” “exper­i­ment” that the GOP has been attempt­ing to inflict on the US for years. So we should keep in mind that Kansas is real­ly the canary in the coal mine that we’re all sup­posed to enter soon­er or lat­er. It’s either be at the nation­al lev­el with the Ryan Plan becom­ing fed­er­al­ly pol­i­cy or the test will be imple­ment­ed by the states:

    Kansas Repub­li­cans war over “Ryan plan” style tax cuts

    By Nick Carey

    WICHITA, Kansas Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:29am EDT

    (Reuters) — Fis­cal con­ser­v­a­tives in Kansas have turned their state into a lab­o­ra­to­ry .to test reforms sim­i­lar to the “Ryan plan” for mas­sive tax cuts at the nation­al lev­el — and the result has been a Repub­li­can civ­il war.

    Back­ers of recent state tax cuts argue they will cre­ate jobs and boost the econ­o­my to par­tial­ly off­set lost rev­enue, with bud­get cuts solv­ing the remain­ing short­fall. The tax cuts go into effect in Jan­u­ary, and the Kansas Leg­isla­tive Research Depart­ment cal­cu­lates the lost rev­enue will amount to the equiv­a­lent of 36 per­cent of the state bud­get with­in five years.

    Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Sam Brown­back has described the reforms as a “real live exper­i­ment” that pro­po­nents want to see imple­ment­ed at the nation­al lev­el.

    Crit­ics say there are few specifics on spend­ing cuts. The same crit­i­cism is lev­eled by oppo­nents of U.S. House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan’s “Path to Pros­per­i­ty,” which Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has called “thin­ly veiled social Dar­win­ism,” argu­ing its spend­ing cuts are vague and will hurt every­thing from edu­ca­tion to low-income fam­i­lies and high­ways.

    The “Ryan plan” main­tains that cut­ting tax­es and broad­en­ing the tax base is “pro-growth reform” that will “pro­mote inno­va­tion and sus­tained job cre­ation in the pri­vate sec­tor.”

    Mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans, who con­trol the Kansas state Sen­ate with Demo­c­ra­t­ic help, argue that a tax-cut-fueled boom is a pipe dream and lost tax rev­enue will dev­as­tate schools, roads and basic ser­vices for the poor, as well as lead to the release of con­vict­ed felons.

    “The tax cuts will do huge dam­age to Kansas over the next few years,” said Repub­li­can state Sen­ate Vice Pres­i­dent John Vratil, who is retir­ing and refers to con­ser­v­a­tives as “ultra right wingers.” “It’s pret­ty clear that unless some­thing changes we will see dra­mat­ic cuts to pub­lic ser­vices like edu­ca­tion.”

    Internecine war­fare has led to a slew of chal­lenges against mod­er­ate Kansas Repub­li­cans in the August 7 pri­ma­ry.

    “Some­one has to get the nation’s fis­cal house in order,” said Mike O’Neal, Kansas House speak­er. “The peo­ple who can get that done are con­ser­v­a­tives.”

    Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney, who is run­ning neck and neck with Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in opin­ion polls, sup­ports the Ryan plan, which Democ­rats wor­ry will destroy the social safe­ty net.

    Mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans wor­ry Kansas is a har­bin­ger of prob­lems for the par­ty nation­al­ly. They fear con­ser­v­a­tives could push the par­ty too far right if they hold the House, take the Sen­ate and win the pres­i­den­cy this Novem­ber.

    “The ques­tion is, Can mod­er­ates reassert con­trol of the par­ty?” said Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor Bur­dett Loomis. “Right now it appears the greater risk for the Repub­li­can Par­ty is hav­ing its dreams come true in Novem­ber.”

    ...

    The law, passed in May amid much acri­mo­ny, removed the top state income-tax brack­et and low­ered the remain­ing two, as well as mak­ing some busi­ness­es, includ­ing lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­nies, tax exempt.

    “What­ev­er you want to call it, it’s the Ryan plan,” said Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas’s Loomis. “This is based on pure faith in sup­ply side eco­nom­ics.”

    Accord­ing to a Kansas Leg­isla­tive Research Depart­ment analy­sis, in fis­cal year 2018 (begin­ning July 2017) the rev­enue loss would exceed $900 mil­lion and the cumu­la­tive hole from pre­vi­ous years in the pro­ject­ed $6.8 bil­lion state bud­get would amount to near­ly $2.5 bil­lion. A June 14 Moody’s Investors Ser­vice report said tax rev­enue loss­es would be “dra­mat­ic,” adding that “inac­tion or the use of unsus­tain­able bud­getary mea­sures to off­set the loss could lead to a (rat­ing) down­grade.”

    Mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans say dra­mat­ic rev­enue loss­es will hit pub­lic ser­vices hard, espe­cial­ly pub­lic edu­ca­tion, which accounts for 62.4 per­cent of the cur­rent annu­al state bud­get.

    “Unless jobs come flood­ing to Kansas, the first place to cut is edu­ca­tion,” said Repub­li­can Sen­ate major­i­ty whip Jean Schodorf, who faces a con­ser­v­a­tive pri­ma­ry chal­lenger. “We have to hope this (tax cut pack­age) is a suc­cess, or a lot of peo­ple are going to get hurt. This is bare­bones, Lib­er­tar­i­an gov­ern­ment.”

    Der­rick Son­tag, state direc­tor of con­ser­v­a­tive group Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, argues that because Kansas law pro­hibits deficits, incre­men­tal spend­ing cuts will off­set the short­fall, which con­ser­v­a­tives say will be min­i­mal.

    “Tax reform will result in increased eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty that will lead to increased tax rev­enue,” Son­tag said. “Kansas is close to being a mod­el state for the free mar­ket, lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment approach.”

    KOCH’S HOME TURF

    Even before the tax fight, con­ser­v­a­tives planned to tar­get mod­er­ates, whom they call “lib­er­als,” in the state Sen­ate. All 40 seats are up for elec­tion in Novem­ber.

    The con­ser­v­a­tive chal­lengers include sev­er­al chief exec­u­tives — includ­ing Gary Mason, CEO of a Wichi­ta-based envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices com­pa­ny, and David Har­vey, head of a com­mer­cial real estate firm in Over­land Park — argu­ing, much like Mitt Rom­ney, that their busi­ness expe­ri­ence will ben­e­fit the state econ­o­my and cre­ate jobs.

    Mod­er­ates, who refer to them­selves as “tra­di­tion­al Repub­li­cans,” acknowl­edge they face a tough fight.

    Some also com­plain about the influ­ence of con­ser­v­a­tive oil and gas bil­lion­aire broth­ers Charles and David Koch, whose Koch Indus­tries is based in Wichi­ta and employs more than 2,900 peo­ple in Kansas. Togeth­er, the com­pa­ny and Koch fam­i­ly mem­bers con­tributed $60,000 to Brown­back­’s cam­paign in 2009 and 2010, cam­paign fil­ings show.

    “The influ­ence of Koch Indus­tries is felt dai­ly in this state,” said Repub­li­can Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Steve Mor­ris, who faces a con­ser­v­a­tive pri­ma­ry chal­lenger. “The Sen­ate is the last bas­tion of tra­di­tion­al Repub­li­can­ism here. We’re fight­ing for the heart and soul of Kansas.”

    Mor­ris and oth­er mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans claim, for instance, that the pow­er­ful Kansas Cham­ber of Com­merce — which has endorsed and is back­ing a num­ber of con­ser­v­a­tive pri­ma­ry chal­lengers — is a “pup­pet” of the Koch broth­ers. The cham­ber has reject­ed that claim out­right.

    Koch Indus­tries spokes­woman Melis­sa Cohlmia said the Kochs are “con­ve­nient tar­gets” for oppo­nents of their free-mar­ket phi­los­o­phy, and Kansas vot­ers will decide their own path.

    “With regard to Gov­er­nor Brown­back, we applaud his efforts to reduce pub­lic debt and spur job cre­ation,” she said by email.

    Mod­er­ates like Mor­ris fear con­ser­v­a­tives gen­er­al­ly could seri­ous­ly dam­age the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    “Con­ser­v­a­tives here in Kansas have already over-reached,” he said. “At the nation­al lev­el the par­ty has to be care­ful it does not over-reach by cut­ting too many pub­lic ser­vices.”

    “Peo­ple may wake up and pun­ish the par­ty.”

    As Der­rick Son­tag of the Kansas branch of the Koch-fueled Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty says, “Tax reform will result in increased eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty that will lead to increased tax rev­enue ...Kansas is close to being a mod­el state for the free mar­ket, lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment approach.”. That was in 2012. And as we can see, it’s been a finan­cial dis­as­ter there’s absolute­ly no sign that Brown­back is going to ease up at all. And why would he since he and the Kansas GOP just won. And the same is true for the GOP in gen­er­al: they’re going to imple­ment the Ryan Plan or some­thing very close to it because that’s the Ryan Plan par­tial­ly repeals the New Deal in a big way. And it’s just very clear that the GOP is com­mit­ted to the Ryan Plan because it keeps bring­ing it up.

    Paul Krug­man described the Ryan Plan in 2012 as “basi­cal­ly a trade­off of reduced aid to the poor for reduced tax­es on the rich, with the net effect of the spe­cif­ic pro­pos­als being to increase, not reduce, the deficit,” and it’s kind of hard to not see that very exact sce­nario play­ing out in Kansas right now. So let’s hope the US isn’t crazy enough to hand the GOP the White House in 2016 in what will be a man­date to imple­ment the Ryan Plan. But even if the GOP does­n’t get its mitts on the White House any time soon, let’s also hope the states don’t fol­low Kansas’s lead and imple­ment a state-ver­sion of the Brownback/Ryan Plan on their own. The exist­ing Brown­back/Ryan Plans are more than enough.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 17, 2014, 12:30 am
  39. One of the more amaz­ing accom­plish­ments of the the Repub­li­can par­ty has been its abil­i­ty to con­vince so many peo­ple to vote against their best inter­est year after year, dis­as­trous pol­i­cy after dis­as­trous pol­i­cy. ‘Bit­ing the hand that feeds you’ is some­how a sus­tain­able elec­toral strat­e­gy.

    So why not imple­ment a ‘bla­tant­ly killing the hand that feeds you by sud­den­ly aggres­sive­ly strip­ping away exist­ing health­care cov­er­age for mil­lions’ strat­e­gy. Won’t that work too?

    Media Mat­ters
    WSJ Just Real­ized The Anti-ACA Law­suit It’s Push­ing Could Be Ruinous For Amer­i­cans — Includ­ing Repub­li­can Vot­ers
    Blog ››› Decem­ber 17, 2014 4:34 PM EST ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    After relent­less­ly pro­mot­ing sev­er­al right-wing legal chal­lenges to the Afford­able Care Act (ACA) for over a year, The Wall Street Jour­nal seems to have just now real­ized that the cas­es’ poten­tial to deny afford­able health care cov­er­age to mil­lions of Amer­i­cans is a cat­a­stro­phe for the GOP — even as it con­tin­ues to down­play the human costs.

    On Novem­ber 7, the Supreme Court announced it would hear King v. Bur­well, a law­suit chal­leng­ing the legal­i­ty of the tax sub­si­dies that the IRS pro­vides to con­sumers who pur­chase health insur­ance over the fed­er­al exchange. The plain­tiffs in King argue that, because one sec­tion of the ACA states that sub­si­dies are avail­able to con­sumers who enrolled “through an Exchange estab­lished by the State,” the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment isn’t allowed to offer cred­its to peo­ple who live in states that refused to set up their own insur­ance exchanges.

    This extreme­ly lit­er­al read­ing of the ACA ignores oth­er parts of the law that indi­cate the exact oppo­site and the over­all con­text of the bill as well as the leg­isla­tive his­to­ry of its pas­sage, but con­ser­v­a­tive media have nev­er­the­less been boost­ers for the chal­lenge. The Jour­nal has been par­tic­u­lar­ly sup­port­ive of King and relat­ed cas­es, sug­gest­ing that it “ought to be a straight­for­ward mat­ter of statu­to­ry con­struc­tion” to rule in favor of the chal­lengers. The Jour­nal has rarely, if ever, acknowl­edged the human cost that would come with a Supreme Court deci­sion strik­ing down the avail­abil­i­ty of tax sub­si­dies — but in arecent edi­to­r­i­al, the Jour­nal seems to have dis­cov­ered the dev­as­tat­ing cost of its anti-ACA advo­ca­cy, at least for Repub­li­cans:

    The time to define a strat­e­gy is soon, as King v. Bur­well will be heard in March with a rul­ing like­ly in June. As a mat­ter of ordi­nary statu­to­ry con­struc­tion, the Court should find that when the law lim­it­ed sub­si­dies to insur­ance exchanges estab­lished by states, that does not include the 36 states where the feds run exchanges.

    But in that event one result would be an imme­di­ate refugee cri­sis. Of the 5.4 mil­lion con­sumers on fed­er­al exchanges, some 87% drew sub­si­dies in 2014, accord­ing to a Rand Cor­po­ra­tion analy­sis.

    In the GOP debate about how to respond, one side would pre­fer to wait for the judi­cial rap­ture to arrive. Oba­maCare has nev­er been pop­u­lar, they argue, and if the sub­sidy foun­da­tion of the law is under­mined, the rest will col­lapse of its own weight. And because Oba­maCare’s man­dates and tax­es are con­di­tioned on the sub­si­dies, more peo­ple will be helped than harmed if they are with­drawn.

    This group is right about Oba­maCare in the abstract, but the Trea­sury must com­ply with court orders 25 days after they’re issued and such an abrupt pol­i­cy shift will be a mess. The 17% of U.S. GDP that is health care has spent five years reor­ga­niz­ing to accom­mo­date Oba­maCare’s dic­tates, and the watch-it-burn cau­cus is under­es­ti­mat­ing the eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal and media blow­back.

    The White House could have avoid­ed the prob­lem by obey­ing its own law and not pass­ing out ille­gal sub­si­dies, but the pub­lic may not notice the dif­fer­ence once the press corps dis­cov­ers a can­cer patient or two who can’t afford her Oba­maCare plan with­out tax­pay­er sup­port. This threat­ens to replay the “if you like your doc­tor, you can keep your doc­tor” con­tro­ver­sy in reverse, with Repub­li­cans accused of deny­ing care to the sick.

    The num­ber of peo­ple who could lose their insur­ance sub­si­dies will be far greater than the num­ber cit­ed by the Jour­nal, which only accounts for con­sumers who bought insur­ance in 2014. Accord­ing to a Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion (KFF) analy­sis of Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office enroll­ment esti­mates, far more Amer­i­cans will be eli­gi­ble for sub­si­dies in 2016 after the ACA is ful­ly imple­ment­ed — mean­ing upwards of 13.5 mil­lion peo­ple who are oth­er­wise eli­gi­ble for tax cred­its could soon lose out depend­ing on the rul­ing in King. As KFF also point­ed out, the Jour­nal’s fear about the impact on Repub­li­can gov­er­nors is well-found­ed, since “[m]ore than half are in a few big anti-ACA states that chose not to run their own exchanges: Flori­da, Texas, North Car­oli­na, Geor­gia, and Penn­syl­va­nia.”

    Con­trary to the Jour­nal’s sug­ges­tion, how­ev­er, there is no guar­an­tee that these low- and mod­er­ate-income peo­ple will become health insur­ance “refugees” and move to anoth­er state in order to take advan­tage of the full pro­tec­tions of the ACA. More like­ly, they and their home states would sud­den­ly find them­selves denied of bil­lions of fed­er­al dol­lars intend­ed to make health care afford­able, stuck with GOP leg­is­la­tors who have shown no inter­est in health care reform on either the state or fed­er­al lev­el.

    ...

    Even more unnerv­ing, it’s not just right-wing media like the Jour­nal that might gloss over the per­son­al toll the King case could have on new­ly-insured Amer­i­cans.

    On Novem­ber 14, the Supreme Court heard oral argu­ments in a dis­pute between retirees and a chem­i­cal com­pa­ny over the avail­abil­i­ty of health insur­ance. The com­pa­ny revoked the retirees’ ben­e­fits in 2007, despite a clause in their col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment appar­ent­ly afford­ing them health care cov­er­age for life. Accord­ing to the Alliance for Jus­tice, Scalia was appar­ent­ly unmoved by the retirees’ posi­tion:

    Dur­ing oral argu­ment, Jus­tice Scalia mused:

    You know, the nice thing about a con­tract case of this sort is you can’t feel bad about it. Who­ev­er los­es deserves to lose. I mean, this thing [the dura­tion of the health ben­e­fits] is obvi­ous­ly an impor­tant fea­ture. Both sides knew it was left unad­dressed, so, you know, who­ev­er los­es deserves to lose for cast­ing this upon us when it could have been said very clear­ly in the con­tract. Such an impor­tant fea­ture. So I hope we’ll get it right, but, you know, I can’t feel bad about it.

    Jus­tice Stephen Brey­er was quick to dis­agree:

    Well, you know, the work­ers who dis­cov­er they’ve been retired for five years and don’t have any health ben­e­fits might feel a lit­tle bad about it.

    Brey­er can now look to the Jour­nal for some sup­port on the true con­se­quences of deny­ing health insur­ance to Amer­i­cans. At least, as it applies to Repub­li­cans.

    While it might be tempt­ing to assume that the GOP’s mul­ti-year attempts to over­turn Oba­macare includ­ed a coher­ent plan for address­ing the polit­i­cal con­se­quences asso­ci­at­ed with the real-world impacts of sud­den­ly cut­ting off health­care cov­er­age for poten­tial­ly mil­lions and send­ing the health­care indus­try scram­bling to oper­ate under new rules, it appears that the GOP may be plan­ning on turn­ing itself into the Death Pan­el Par­ty with­out any clear plan or han­dling the inevitable fall­out.

    Actu­al­ly, nev­er mind. There’s prob­a­bly a plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 21, 2014, 9:56 pm
  40. Well, as the arti­cle below about the GOP’s declared leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties points out, the GOP is now going to be well posi­tioned to go all “Taliban”-style for some­thing: Kiss­ing Big Oil’s ass, imple­ment­ing the Ryan bud­get (voodoo eco­nom­ics and mass cuts to pub­lic ser­vices and enti­tle­ments), under­min­ing Oba­macare, pick­ing on lati­nos, and, of course, tax cuts for the rich. That’s one hell of a GOP wish­list and that’s their declared agen­da.

    And how will it accom­plish all that? Let’s see what the Mag­ic 8‑ball has to say:

    ...
    House Repub­li­cans plan to quick­ly vote to finance that agency through Sep­tem­ber but are still dis­cussing how to use that bill to block Oba­ma’s exec­u­tive actions defer­ring depor­ta­tion for mil­lions of immi­grants in the Unit­ed States ille­gal­ly. That mea­sure’s Sen­ate fate and GOP strat­e­gy for an Oba­ma veto remain unclear.

    ...

    Price wants to use leg­is­la­tion pre­vent­ing a fed­er­al default, around sum­mer, to pres­sure Oba­ma to cut spend­ing, call­ing such bills “pinch points to get good pol­i­cy.” McConnell said with GOP con­gres­sion­al con­trol, a default show­down is unneed­ed because of oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties, such as must-pass spend­ing bills, that the GOP can use to con­strain agen­cies.

    ...

    Yep. While the GOP’s par­tic­u­lar path is unclear, what is clear is that the con­tem­po­rary GOP Clown Car only runs on Cruz con­trol:

    Repub­li­cans want to reduce deficit, avoid stum­bles

    Post­ed: Sat­ur­day, Jan­u­ary 3, 2015 5:11 pm

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In the first Repub­li­can-dom­i­nat­ed Con­gress to con­front Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, GOP lead­ers will focus on bol­ster­ing the econ­o­my and cut­ting the bud­get — and oh yes, avoid­ing self-inflict­ed calami­ties that make vot­ers won­der if the par­ty can gov­ern com­pe­tent­ly.

    When the new Con­gress rais­es the cur­tain Tues­day, Repub­li­cans will run both the House and Sen­ate for the first time inu eight years. GOP lead­ers want to show­case their leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, mix­ing accom­plish­ments with show­downs with Oba­ma but shun­ning gov­ern­ment shut­downs and oth­er chaot­ic stand­offs.

    Anoth­er pri­or­i­ty is min­i­miz­ing dis­trac­tions like the recent admis­sion by No. 3 House leader Steve Scalise, R‑La., that he addressed a white suprema­cist group in 2002.

    “Seri­ous adults are in charge here and we intend to make progress,” incom­ing Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, R‑Ky., told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press recent­ly.

    McConnell says the Sen­ate’s first bill would force con­struc­tion of the Key­stone XL oil pipeline, which Repub­li­cans call a job cre­ator but Oba­ma and many Democ­rats say threat­ens the envi­ron­ment.

    The House leads off with leg­is­la­tion let­ting small com­pa­nies side­step some require­ments of Oba­ma’s prized health care over­haul by hir­ing vet­er­ans, fol­lowed by oth­er mea­sures weak­en­ing that law and push­ing the Key­stone pipeline.

    Oth­er bills like­ly ear­ly would block Oba­ma’s exec­u­tive actions on immi­gra­tion and ease envi­ron­men­tal and busi­ness reg­u­la­tions that the GOP con­tends sti­fles job growth. Addi­tion­al bills would cut spend­ing, squeeze Medicare and oth­er ben­e­fit pro­grams, revamp tax laws, finance high­way con­struc­tion and speed con­gres­sion­al approval of trade treaties.

    “We’re focused on job cre­ation,” said House Major­i­ty Leader Kevin McCarthy, R‑Calif., and run­ning “a more effi­cient, effec­tive, account­able gov­ern­ment.”

    Democ­rats say the GOP’s goal is cut­ting tax­es on the rich while crip­pling Oba­ma’s accom­plish­ments, includ­ing expand­ed health cov­er­age and restric­tions on finan­cial insti­tu­tions.

    ...

    With McConnell and House Speak­er John Boehn­er, R‑Ohio, joint­ly map­ping an agen­da and sched­ul­ing long con­gres­sion­al work peri­ods, goals and poten­tial pit­falls include:

    ___

    DISTRACTIONS AND THE CALENDAR

    GOP lead­ers still face tea par­ty law­mak­ers. Their recal­ci­trance helped pro­duce stale­mates with Oba­ma that excit­ed con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can vot­ers but appalled oth­ers, caus­ing GOP approval to plum­met. Top Repub­li­cans want to ensure that Scalise’s 2002 speech, for which he has apol­o­gized, does­n’t hurt their efforts to appeal to more diverse vot­ers.

    Anoth­er com­pli­ca­tion: By autumn 2015, the devel­op­ing pres­i­den­tial race could dis­tract vot­ers from con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans’ mes­sag­ing.

    “We want things arriv­ing at the pres­i­den­t’s desk, and a lot of those things hap­pen­ing soon­er rather than lat­er,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R‑Okla. “It’s not help­ful to us if we drag into spring or sum­mer and the sto­ries are, ‘It’s a do-noth­ing Con­gress’ or a con­fronta­tion.”

    ___

    ENOUGH REPUBLICANS?

    McConnell will often need at least six Democ­rats for the 60 Sen­ate votes required to over­come fil­i­busters, pro­ce­dur­al delays aimed at scut­tling bills. Repub­li­cans will need two-thirds majori­ties in each cham­ber, impos­si­ble with­out Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port, to over­ride Oba­ma vetoes that await bills threat­en­ing his health care law and his actions eas­ing immi­gra­tion rules.

    McConnell says at an upcom­ing House-Sen­ate Repub­li­can retreat, he will warn, “Don’t get your expec­ta­tions so high that you’re inevitably going to be dis­ap­point­ed.”

    ___

    IMMIGRATION

    Fund­ing for the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, which enforces immi­gra­tion laws, runs through late Feb­ru­ary.

    House Repub­li­cans plan to quick­ly vote to finance that agency through Sep­tem­ber but are still dis­cussing how to use that bill to block Oba­ma’s exec­u­tive actions defer­ring depor­ta­tion for mil­lions of immi­grants in the Unit­ed States ille­gal­ly. That mea­sure’s Sen­ate fate and GOP strat­e­gy for an Oba­ma veto remain unclear.

    Repub­li­cans rule out a sweep­ing immi­gra­tion over­haul like the Sen­ate-passed, bipar­ti­san 2013 mea­sure. They plan nar­row­er bills that could attract Democ­rats, bol­ster­ing bor­der secu­ri­ty and eas­ing immi­gra­tion restric­tions on high­ly skilled and farm work­ers.

    ___

    HEALTH CARE

    Repub­li­cans are itch­ing to vote to repeal Oba­ma’s 2010 health care law, know­ing that would nev­er get his sig­na­ture.

    They’re prepar­ing mea­sures repeal­ing the med­ical device tax and end­ing the require­ment that peo­ple buy med­ical cov­er­age. They would also exempt com­pa­nies from pro­vid­ing cov­er­age to employ­ees who work under 40 hours week­ly, up from the cur­rent 30 hours.

    ___

    BUDGET AND TAXES

    The new House Bud­get Com­mit­tee chair­man, Rep. Tom Price, R‑Ga., expects his cham­ber to approve a bud­get sim­i­lar to blue­prints writ­ten by for­mer chair­man Paul Ryan, R‑Wis., end­ing deficits in a decade, trim­ming spend­ing and over­haul­ing ben­e­fits like Medicare. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans want belt-tight­en­ing, but McConnell did­n’t promise a bal­anced bud­get in 10 years.

    Repub­li­cans want to rewrite tax laws but progress is uncer­tain. They want to low­er rates for cor­po­ra­tions and for busi­ness­es whose own­ers pay indi­vid­ual tax­es, with lost rev­enue recov­ered by elim­i­nat­ing unspec­i­fied tax breaks. Democ­rats want the exer­cise to raise fresh rev­enue, part­ly to boost dwin­dling high­way funds.

    ___

    ALSO PLANNED

    Price wants to use leg­is­la­tion pre­vent­ing a fed­er­al default, around sum­mer, to pres­sure Oba­ma to cut spend­ing, call­ing such bills “pinch points to get good pol­i­cy.” McConnell said with GOP con­gres­sion­al con­trol, a default show­down is unneed­ed because of oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties, such as must-pass spend­ing bills, that the GOP can use to con­strain agen­cies.

    Repub­li­cans want to send Oba­ma mea­sures that the GOP-led House passed the past two years but died in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-run Sen­ate. These include bills block­ing Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency curbs on pol­lu­tion and eas­ing busi­ness reg­u­la­tions. The GOP calls these mea­sures job cre­ators; Democ­rats call them favors for spe­cial inter­ests.

    Repub­li­cans also want to con­sid­er leg­is­la­tion block­ing Oba­ma’s nor­mal­ized rela­tions with Cuba, penal­iz­ing Iran and autho­riz­ing force against Islam­ic State mil­i­tants.

    You have to love this part:

    McConnell says at an upcom­ing House-Sen­ate Repub­li­can retreat, he will warn, “Don’t get your expec­ta­tions so high that you’re inevitably going to be dis­ap­point­ed.”

    Yeah, the GOP just wants to basi­cal­ly undo the New Deal using shutdown/showdown tac­tics. Don’t aim too high.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 4, 2015, 5:21 am
  41. Oh this is pre­cious: Guess which GOP­er became the the lat­est prob­a­ble GOP 2016 can­di­date to sud­den­ly become con­cerned about stag­nant wages and the yawn­ing wealth gap: Ted Cruz:

    TPM Livewire
    Ted Cruz: Oba­ma Econ­o­my Only Help­ing ‘The Top 1 Per­cent’

    By Caitlin Mac­Neal
    Pub­lished Feb­ru­ary 8, 2015, 1:39 PM EST

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R‑TX) on Sun­day blast­ed Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy, claim­ing that the econ­o­my has only improved for the rich.

    ...

    “Well, look, if Hillary Clin­ton wants to run by telling Amer­i­cans that the econ­o­my is doing great and you can cred­it Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton for that, I would encour­age her to fol­low that strat­e­gy. Because the sim­ple real­i­ty is, that’s true for the wealthy,” Cruz respond­ed on ABC’s “This Week.”

    “The top 1 per­cent under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, the mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires that he con­stant­ly dem­a­gogued, earned a high­er share for our income than any year since 1928,” he con­tin­ued. “Those with pow­er and influ­ence who walk the cor­ri­dors of pow­er of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion have got­ten fat and hap­py under big gov­ern­ment.”

    Cruz said that the mid­dle class has not seen the same boost as the rich.

    “Hard­work­ing men and women across Amer­i­ca are hurt­ing,” he said. “I’m glad Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton have dis­cov­ered income inequal­i­ty because it’s increased dra­mat­i­cal­ly under their failed poli­cies.”

    Cruz’s claims echoed Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell (R‑KY), who said last week­end that the eco­nom­ic recov­ery tout­ed by Oba­ma has only helped the wealthy.

    “Look, things are get­ting bet­ter. But the point is, who is ben­e­fit­ing from this?” McConnell said. “The so-called 1 per­cent that the pres­i­dent is always talk­ing about have done quite well.”

    LOL! Ted Cruz, cham­pi­on of the poor. He must have been prac­tic­ing the rhetoric he’ll need for his real dream job.

    Still, giv­en the sud­den rhetor­i­cal shift by so many GOP­ers, you real­ly have to won­der what their medi­um-term plans for how they’re going to rhetor­i­cal­ly incor­po­rates their new found love of the non-rich with a pol­i­cy agen­da of tax cuts for the rich, gut­ting pub­lic ser­vices, and gen­er­al­ly kick­ing the poor at every oppor­tu­ni­ty.

    You also have to won­der when the GOP’s lat­est crush, Scott Walk­er, is going to just on the “I love the poor” band­wag­on. Oh, that’s he already did jump on that band­wag­on. Last year. And unlike the rest of his GOP col­leagues that only now seem to real­ize the dam­age they’ve done to this soci­ety, Scott Walk­er actu­al­ly pro­posed solu­tions for what he would do to improve the lives of the less for­tu­nate, although it’s not quite clear how his plan will work with the GOP’s new empha­sis on the income gap. Walk­er’s plan to help the poor was to make them poor­er by tak­ing away their health­care:

    Think Progress
    Scott Walk­er: Deny­ing Health Care To Low-Income Peo­ple Helps Them ‘Live The Amer­i­can Dream’

    by Tara Culp-Ressler Post­ed on Novem­ber 14, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Defend­ing his fel­low Repub­li­can gov­er­nors’ deci­sion to block Med­ic­aid expan­sion in their states, Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er ® on Fri­day sug­gest­ed that deny­ing health cov­er­age to addi­tion­al low-income Amer­i­cans helps more peo­ple “live the Amer­i­can Dream” because they won’t be “depen­dent on the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment.”

    Walk­er has recent­ly lev­eled some crit­i­cism at oth­er GOP lead­ers for accept­ing Obamacare’s option­al Med­ic­aid expan­sion, say­ing they shouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly trust the gov­ern­ment to come through with the fed­er­al funds to cov­er the pol­i­cy. Dur­ing an appear­ance on MSNBC’s Morn­ing Joe on Fri­day, Walk­er was asked whether his posi­tion stemmed from an “ide­o­log­i­cal crit­i­cism,” and if he believes the hand­ful of Repub­li­can gov­er­nors imple­ment­ing this pro­vi­sion of the health law are not “gen­uine con­ser­v­a­tives.”

    The gov­er­nor didn’t explic­it­ly answer that ques­tion, point­ing out that every state has dif­fer­ent needs. But he did offer a broad­er crit­i­cism of the pub­lic health pro­gram.

    “Beyond that, I just ask the basic ques­tion: Why is more peo­ple on Med­ic­aid a good thing?” he said. “I’d rather find a way, par­tic­u­lar­ly for able-bod­ied adults with­out chil­dren, I’d like to find a way to get them into the work­force. I think ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, that’s a bet­ter approach, not just as a con­ser­v­a­tive, but as an Amer­i­can. Have more peo­ple live the Amer­i­can dream if they’re not depen­dent on the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment.”

    In real­i­ty, how­ev­er, the major­i­ty of peo­ple who stand to ben­e­fit from the Med­ic­aid expan­sion are already in the work­force. Accord­ing to the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, which has been close­ly track­ing the pol­i­cy effect of states’ deci­sions on this Oba­macare pro­vi­sion, most of the peo­ple in this cov­er­age gap are part of a demo­graph­ic group known as the “work­ing poor.” Two thirds of them are part of a fam­i­ly where some­one is work­ing, and more than half of them are work­ing them­selves — often in sec­tors like the agri­cul­tur­al and ser­vice indus­tries, which have a his­to­ry of fail­ing to pro­vide insur­ance ben­e­fits to their work­ers.

    Last fall, the New York Times ana­lyzed the data about the cov­er­age gap and con­firmed that the Amer­i­cans being denied Med­ic­aid are cashiers, cooks, nurs­es’ aides, wait­ers and wait­ress­es, and jan­i­tors. Most of them are peo­ple of col­or, and many are sin­gle moth­ers. They don’t fit the con­ser­v­a­tive trope of the lazy indi­vid­ual who is over­ly depen­dent on the gov­ern­ment pro­grams — and, as the New York Times report­ed at the time, they are actu­al­ly “the very kinds of peo­ple that the [Med­ic­aid] pro­gram was intend­ed to help.”

    ...

    So that was Scott Walk­er’s recent for­ay into char­i­ta­ble thought. As he told an audi­ence after win­ning reelec­tion last year, “My read­ing of the Bible finds plen­ty of reminders that it’s bet­ter to teach some­one to fish than to give them fish if they’re able. ... Car­ing for the poor isn’t the same as tak­ing mon­ey from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to lock more peo­ple into Med­ic­aid.” That’s right. If your real­ly care about the poor you’ll dis­man­tle gov­ern­ment ser­vices designed to help them. At least from a Bib­li­cal per­spec­tive.

    And once you cut off access to those ser­vices, the poor will be so inspired to earn more mon­ey that they’ll just be com­pelled to find a high­er pay­ing job some­how and — voila! — the income gap prob­lem the GOP is sud­den­ly so con­cerned about evap­o­rates! Kick­ing the poor solves pover­ty and Scott Walk­er knows it due to his supe­ri­or Bib­li­cal inter­pre­ta­tion skills.

    As we can see, Ted Cruz has some seri­ous com­pe­ti­tion for more than one high­er office.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 8, 2015, 8:17 pm
  42. If you were fan of the 80’s sit­com Charles in Charge you may have enter­tained the thought “what if Charles real­ly was in charge...of Amer­i­ca?” And while we can only spec­u­late about life would be like under a Pres­i­dent ‘Charles’ the fic­tion­al char­ac­ter, we don’t have to spec­u­late too much about what like would be like under Pres­i­dent Scott Baio, the actor that played Charles: It would be kind of life now, at least at first, until all the dam­age from a ‘Scott Baio in Charge’ pres­i­den­cy kicks in:

    Politi­co
    Scott Baio endors­es Scott Walk­er

    By Kendall Bre­it­man

    3/11/15 12:05 PM EDT

    Updat­ed 3/11/15 6:39 PM EDT

    Chachi loves Walk­er.

    Scott Baio — who played Chachi Arco­la in “Hap­py Days” and its spin­off “Joanie Loves Chachi,” as well as the pro­tag­o­nist of “Charles in Charge” — tweet­ed his praise for Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er, who is mulling a pres­i­den­tial run in 2016.

    “Gov. Walk­er sounds a lot like Pres­i­dent Rea­gan. #Walk­er­For Pres,” the tweet read, with a pic­ture of the actor pos­ing along­side Walk­er.

    Walk­er tweet­ed back Wednes­day, writ­ing: “Thanks! We both love Rea­gan, I’m flat­tered,” along with the hash­tag #Chachi­and­Walk­erLoveRea­gan.

    This is not the first time that Baio, a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can, has offered sup­port to a politi­cian. In 2012, he endorsed Mitt Rom­ney in his run for the pres­i­den­cy and donat­ed $5,000 to Romney’s pri­ma­ry and gen­er­al elec­tion cam­paigns. (He also donat­ed $12,500 to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee in the 2012 cycle.) In 2014, Baio donat­ed $500 to the cam­paign of Tony Strick­land, a Repub­li­can who ulti­mate­ly lost his bid to suc­ceed Buck McK­eon in California’s 25th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict.

    Baio is an out­spo­ken con­ser­v­a­tive, at least by Hol­ly­wood stan­dards. He attend­ed the state funer­al of Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan and said he received death threats in 2010 after tweet­ing a pic­ture of first lady Michelle Oba­ma with the com­ment, “WOW He wakes up to this every morn­ing.”

    ...

    Yep, if ‘Charles’ was ‘in Charge’ it would be a lot if ‘Scott’ was ‘in Charge’, whether or its Scott Baio or Scott Walk­er.

    But don’t for­get that if Scott Walk­er is ‘in Charge’, that real­ly does means that a ‘Charles’ is ‘in Charge’. Charles Koch, which is a lot like if if ‘Chachi’ was ‘in Charge’. It’s a bad scene:

    Orlan­do Sen­tinel
    Koch broth­ers group attacks Gar­diner, Sen­ate over Med­ic­aid expan­sion

    By Gray Rohrer

    March 30, 2015, 12:07 PM

    TALLAHASSEE – Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, the free-mar­ket advo­ca­cy group financed by the bil­lion­aire indus­tri­al­ists Charles and David Koch, is going on the attack.

    The group sent mail ads Mon­day to the dis­tricts of Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Andy Gar­diner, R‑Orlando, and 24 oth­er sen­a­tors over their sup­port for a plan to expand Med­ic­aid under the Afford­able Care Act, or Oba­macare.

    “The Flori­da Sen­ate con­tin­ues to move for­ward on a plan to give good peo­ple bad cov­er­age,” the mail­er states.

    It also encour­ages res­i­dents to call senator’s dis­trict offices. Click here to view the mail­er..

    AFP sent the mail­ers to the dis­tricts of sen­a­tors who vot­ed for the Med­ic­aid expan­sion plan in com­mit­tee. Gar­diner, who is vice pres­i­dent of exter­nal affairs at Orlan­do Health, doesn’t sit on any com­mit­tee as Sen­ate Pres­i­dent, but pushed expan­sion from the onset of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

    “I agree Flori­da should not expand the exist­ing Med­ic­aid pro­gram. What we have done instead is to devel­op a con­sumer-dri­ven approach that pro­vides access to high-qual­i­ty, afford­able health care cov­er­age while pro­mot­ing per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty,” Gar­diner stat­ed in response.

    “Our plan includes con­ser­v­a­tive, free mar­ket guardrails that will con­trol the cost and growth of the Med­ic­aid pro­gram for Florida’s tax­pay­ers.”

    AFP spokesman Andres Malave dis­agrees. He said the Sen­ate plan will fur­ther bur­den a “bloat­ed sys­tem.”

    “The Sen­ate plan is basi­cal­ly just giv­ing able-bod­ied adults an insur­ance card that quite frankly isn’t going to give them the health care they think they’re going to be get­ting,” Malave said.

    The mail­ers are just the first part of an ad cam­paign by AFP expect­ed to ramp up this week ahead of a vote by the Sen­ate on its bud­get, which includes the Med­ic­aid expan­sion plan. Dozens of AFP vol­un­teers are going door-to-door through­out the state, includ­ing in Orange, Bre­vard, Osce­o­la and Semi­nole coun­ties, to raise aware­ness of the issue.

    Although the expan­sion plan bill, SB 7044, hasn’t received a neg­a­tive vote in three com­mit­tees, Malave is still hold­ing out hope his group’s pres­sure will spur oppo­si­tion on the Sen­ate floor.

    “There’s still time for these sen­a­tors to oppose this issue,” Malave said.

    The Med­ic­aid expan­sion plan, known as the Flori­da Health Insur­ance Afford­abil­i­ty Exchange pro­gram, or FHIX, is hailed as a free-mar­ket option by busi­ness groups like the Flori­da Cham­ber of Com­merce that sup­port it.

    About 800,000 unin­sured Florid­i­ans who make too much to qual­i­fy for Med­ic­aid but don’t receive sub­si­dies on Oba­macare exchanges, would receive health insur­ance under the plan. Those earn­ing up to 138 per­cent of the fed­er­al pover­ty line, or about $33,000 for a fam­i­ly of four, would be eli­gi­ble for Med­ic­aid.

    But patients would be sub­ject to work, co-pay and pre­mi­um require­ments that would need approval of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Wash­ing­ton hasn’t approved work or work search require­ments in oth­er states.

    The House hasn’t dis­cussed the issue at all, and unlike in 2013, isn’t propos­ing an alter­na­tive plan to expand health care cov­er­age to the unin­sured.

    ...

    That’s right, even a Cham­ber of Com­merce-backed Med­ic­aid expan­sion pro­pos­al with a work require­ment is get­ting the Koch in Flori­da (And it’s not just in Flori­da).

    So kiss the ring all you elect­ed pro­les. Charles is in charge. Well, it’s not just Charles in Charge. There are oth­ers. But they aren’t the elect­ed pro­les.

    Kiss the ring.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 2, 2015, 11:49 am
  43. Here’s one those news arti­cles that one would dark­ly hilar­i­ous if it was­n’t so omi­nous:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Why this man believes the GOP is set to win every­thing
    By Jim Tanker­s­ley
    April 13, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    Arthur Laf­fer has a sim­ple the­o­ry of pol­i­tics. It’s about as sim­ple as his the­o­ry of eco­nom­ics, which has been guid­ing Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates for near­ly 40 years now. The eco­nom­ic the­o­ry says that the low­est, sim­plest tax code will pro­duce the most growth. The polit­i­cal the­o­ry goes like this: Politi­cians crave love from vot­ers. So if you want to get a politi­cian to do what you think is right, give him a plan he can eas­i­ly sell, and make sure that plan will deliv­er a lot of crowd-pleas­ing eco­nom­ic growth.

    Laf­fer, the leg­endary sup­ply-side econ­o­mist, is cer­tain that 2016 is the year his polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic the­o­ries align — pro­duc­ing a wave elec­tion for Repub­li­cans, then the most aggres­sive tax-cut­ting leg­is­la­tion since Ronald Rea­gan was pres­i­dent, then mas­sive growth and final­ly, a gen­er­a­tional lock on Wash­ing­ton for the GOP.

    And the beau­ty of it is, he thinks any can­di­date in the cur­rent Repub­li­can crop could deliv­er those results. It’s sim­ply a mat­ter of com­bin­ing their need to be loved with a tax plan he is cer­tain vot­ers will adore.

    “Each one of these can­di­dates, in my mind, has the nat­ur­al resources, what­ev­er it is, to be a good pres­i­dent” — and imple­ment pro-growth poli­cies, Laf­fer said in a recent inter­view.

    “The way I view can­di­dates and describe them,” he added, “is, they are peo­ple who had bad mom­mies. You and I, with our par­ents, were instilled with these val­ues, where you know if you did a good job or you didn’t… These guys didn’t get that type of val­ue sys­tem. So they always look to exter­nal appro­ba­tion for self-ful­fill­ment. If a politi­cian gives a speech and every­one boos, they change their speech. That’s what they’re sup­posed to do. Ide­o­logues don’t make good pres­i­dents.”

    In Laf­fer­’s eco­nom­ic the­o­ries, there are no fan­cy regres­sion analy­ses. There are sim­ply the inter­sect­ing lines that any intro­duc­to­ry-course stu­dent would rec­og­nize, sup­ply and demand and the bad incen­tives — par­tic­u­lar­ly tax­es — that muck with the free mar­ket.

    In his polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions, there is only eco­nom­ics and his­to­ry. There are no polls; he said he does not under­stand them, so he does not look at them.

    His eco­nom­ic cal­cu­la­tions have led him to believe that the U.S. econ­o­my is primed, after a decade of slow growth and mid­dle-class income stag­na­tion, to grow rapid­ly — it just needs a big tax reform bill that would low­er rates and elim­i­nate most deduc­tions. His polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions lead him to believe that Amer­i­can vot­ers are hun­ger­ing for that growth, and for a can­di­date to pro­pose a sim­ple plan to achieve it. When hope­fuls come to vis­it them, he tells them to pitch the sim­plest pos­si­ble ver­sion of his plan — or, fail­ing that, to just promise to restore tax rates to what they were in the Rea­gan hey­day.

    “My advice to these peo­ple is as fol­lows,” he said. “Don’t go into the weeds. You don’t have a chance.”

    What he wants them to promise is, put sim­ply, anoth­er Rea­gan Rev­o­lu­tion. He is cer­tain it is com­ing, at the bal­lot box and in the econ­o­my. This is Laf­fer­’s unshake­able belief: that once vot­ers elect a sup­ply-side acolyte to the White House, mas­sive growth will fol­low. That growth will please vot­ers. Vot­ers will reward the pres­i­den­t’s par­ty. And Repub­li­cans, he pre­dicts, will go on to enjoy a gen­er­a­tion-long lock on Wash­ing­ton — until, he says, vot­ers for­get the pow­er of sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics, and the cycle begins again.

    That’s right folks, “the leg­endary sup­ply-side econ­o­mist” Art Laf­fer is super con­fi­dent about the GOP’s prospects in 2016 because... blind faith! Blind faith in not just the pow­er of voodoo eco­nom­ics but also blind faith in the elec­toral pow­er of shar­ing this blind faith with the elec­torate:

    ...
    What he wants them to promise is, put sim­ply, anoth­er Rea­gan Rev­o­lu­tion. He is cer­tain it is com­ing, at the bal­lot box and in the econ­o­my. This is Laf­fer­’s unshake­able belief: that once vot­ers elect a sup­ply-side acolyte to the White House, mas­sive growth will fol­low.
    ...

    Blind faith in the pow­er of blind faith. It’s why Laf­fer isn’t just brim­ming with con­fi­dence over the GOP’s chances in 2016, he thinks any can­di­date in the cur­rent Repub­li­can crop could deliv­er those results:

    ...
    Laf­fer, the leg­endary sup­ply-side econ­o­mist, is cer­tain that 2016 is the year his polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic the­o­ries align — pro­duc­ing a wave elec­tion for Repub­li­cans, then the most aggres­sive tax-cut­ting leg­is­la­tion since Ronald Rea­gan was pres­i­dent, then mas­sive growth and final­ly, a gen­er­a­tional lock on Wash­ing­ton for the GOP.

    And the beau­ty of it is, he thinks any can­di­date in the cur­rent Repub­li­can crop could deliv­er those results. It’s sim­ply a mat­ter of com­bin­ing their need to be loved with a tax plan he is cer­tain vot­ers will adore.
    ...

    All these can­di­dates need to do is share adopt that same blind faith with the pub­lic and, voila, nation­al pros­per­i­ty and a gen­er­a­tional lock for the GOP!

    Of course, there’s obvi­ous ques­tions that are bound to be raised in the face of such faith. Ques­tions like, “ummm, what about the fact that your poli­cies were just tried in Kansas and now they have such a large hole in the state bud­get that schools are start­ing to close ear­ly?” But, of course, there obvi­ous answers. Answers like, ‘just have faith...everything will be fine’:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Arthur Laf­fer has a nev­er-end­ing sup­ply of sup­ply-side plans for GOP

    By Jim Tanker­s­ley
    April 9, 2015

    Arthur Laf­fer was wait­ing in the sun out­side Ter­mi­nal A of Rea­gan Nation­al Air­port, smil­ing like the Gip­per. It was 10:30 a.m., and he was just in from Nashville. In his brief­case were two papers he was eager to show off. One called min­i­mum-wage laws a crime against black men. The oth­er detailed all the ways lib­er­al econ­o­mists had been wrong about this eco­nom­ic recov­ery and Arthur Laf­fer had been right.

    No one has influ­enced Repub­li­can can­di­dates’ think­ing on the econ­o­my for the past four decades as much as Laf­fer, who is now 75. Laf­fer says he believes that lim­it­ing gov­ern­ment and cut­ting tax rates, espe­cial­ly the rate levied on top earn­ers, will unleash faster eco­nom­ic growth. Since he sold then-can­di­date Ronald Rea­gan on that pre­scrip­tion, every Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee has run on a Laf­fer-inspired eco­nom­ic plat­form.

    As the 2016 GOP pri­ma­ry sea­son takes off, Laf­fer is more in demand than ever before, with Repub­li­can can­di­dates embrac­ing tax-cut-for-the-rich poli­cies even as they bemoan eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty. Can­di­dates have been meet­ing with him in recent weeks, and on Fri­day in Nashville, he says, his sched­ule includes Rick Per­ry at 10 a.m., Ben Car­son at noon, Jeb Bush at 1:15 p.m. and Bob­by Jin­dal at 5. Din­ner is sched­uled with Ted Cruz. He has already met at least once with Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er.

    For the first time in a gen­er­a­tion, how­ev­er, Laffer’s “sup­ply-side” strate­gies are not going with­out ques­tion on the right. Some con­ser­v­a­tives believe that America’s strug­gling mid­dle class needs more tar­get­ed poli­cies today than sim­ply broad tax cuts, and that Repub­li­cans won’t win back the White House with­out offer­ing that relief. And main­stream econ­o­mists, in sur­veys and inter­views, have expressed deep doubt about whether his view of eco­nom­ics is cor­rect.

    Laf­fer is as con­fi­dent as ever — and so are many of the Repub­li­cans who fol­low his pro­pos­als. “What I tell can­di­dates today — and there are not many who are very eco­nom­i­cal­ly lit­er­ate — is to push some­thing sim­ple, or do some­thing that has worked in the past,” he said.

    “I’ve been to this bar­be­cue before,” he added. “Today is almost exact­ly like 1978,” two years before Reagan’s elec­tion.

    But some con­ser­v­a­tive econ­o­mists dis­agree. Michael Strain, an influ­en­tial econ­o­mist at the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute, said Laffer’s for­mu­la needs an update for Repub­li­cans to win. “I would argue that con­di­tions are sub­stan­tial­ly dif­fer­ent today than they were in 1978,” he said.

    The upcom­ing elec­tion is, in many ways, a cru­cial bar­be­cue for Laf­fer and his sup­ply-side acolytes. In recent years Laf­fer has advised Repub­li­can gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tors on tax- ­cut­ting plans in North Car­oli­na, Ten­nessee, Wis­con­sin, Flori­da and Kansas, where the rev­enue short­falls that fol­lowed near­ly cost Gov. Sam Brown­back his job last Novem­ber.

    Kansas did not see a surge in growth after mak­ing cuts, and it has suf­fered a series of large bud­get short­falls. When Brown­back, under threat, called Laf­fer, wor­ried about whether the tax cuts were work­ing as planned, Laf­fer said he told Brown­back to remem­ber why he cut those tax­es in the first place. The growth will come. Be patient.

    “Kansas,” Laf­fer declared over a five-hour lunch inter­view in Wash­ing­ton, “is doing fine.”

    All of that was pre­lude for the pres­i­den­tial race, which Laf­fer says could be a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion oppor­tu­ni­ty for Repub­li­cans to seize con­trol in Wash­ing­ton and enact sweep­ing, pro-growth tax cuts. Laf­fer has been tutor­ing can­di­dates for months.

    When Car­son, the neuro­surgeon turned tea par­ty favorite, came call­ing with a tax plan to run by him, Laf­fer head­ed him off. I have a great new plan I thought up for sep­a­rat­ing brain neu­rons, he told Car­son. Car­son, as Laf­fer tells it, got the joke. “His mouth fell open and he said, ‘I get it. I get it,’?” Laf­fer said. “?‘Throw away my agen­da and lis­ten to you.’?”

    Some time ago, Laf­fer recount­ed, he sat down with Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, who was hop­ing the econ­o­mist would bless his flat-tax plan. Laf­fer cri­tiqued it instead as hav­ing too many com­pli­cat­ed, econ­o­my- ­dis­tort­ing fea­tures. He recalled Paul express­ing dis­ap­point­ment he couldn’t endorse it.

    After that sit-down, Paul’s advis­ers kept call­ing Laf­fer, he said. When Paul announced his pres­i­den­tial run this week, he tout­ed a tax plan far more in line with Laffer’s vision.

    ...

    Fol­low­ing the curve

    In 1978, Laf­fer was already a ris­ing force in con­ser­v­a­tive eco­nom­ics. He had grad­u­at­ed from Yale, earned a doc­tor­ate from Stan­ford, taught at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go in a depart­ment that includ­ed the free-mar­ket cham­pi­on Mil­ton Fried­man. He had been the first chief econ­o­mist of the Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get in Wash­ing­ton, under Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon, with the leg­endary George Shultz as his men­tor.

    Most famous­ly, he had sketched what would come to be called the Laf­fer Curve. It was a slop­ing line on a cock­tail nap­kin that showed how, if tax rates were high enough at the top end, a tax cut could actu­al­ly bring more mon­ey to the gov­ern­ment than was com­ing in before — because the low­er rates would spark faster eco­nom­ic growth, high­er incomes and, voila, more tax receipts.

    The curve drew Reagan’s atten­tion. Laf­fer was an archi­tect of his 1980 cam­paign plan to chop fed­er­al income tax rates, which at the time topped out at 70 per­cent. That was the plan George H.W. Bush dubbed “voodoo eco­nom­ics” in the pri­maries, and it was a plan Bush would embrace when he ran again for pres­i­dent eight years lat­er, with Laf­fer advis­ing him, and won the White House.

    Laf­fer tells a lot of Rea­gan sto­ries, as many Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion vet­er­ans do. His have a rare qual­i­ty: Rea­gan often begins as the vil­lain, only to be redeemed when he embraces ­sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics.

    Do you know what Rea­gan did, he asked, as the head of the actors guild? He called a nation­wide strike. As gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia? He raised tax­es. “Who would believe that the man could become the great­est pres­i­dent that we’ve had in gen­er­a­tions?” Laf­fer asked, his eyes twin­kling. “Now how could that hap­pen? He was a politi­cian. He was able to reflect the people’s will, and when he didn’t, he changed.”

    Laf­fer has stuck with the same basic argu­ment about tax­es that he brought to Rea­gan. And, recent­ly, over a burg­er — no condi­ments — and black cof­fee, he repeat­ed it.

    Tax­es dis­cour­age work, he wrote, scrib­bling lines on a legal pad. Less work adds up to less eco­nom­ic growth, which sup­press­es everyone’s pay across the econ­o­my. “When­ev­er you redis­trib­ute income,” he said, “you reduce total income. Peri­od. That’s math.”

    The best way to encour­age work is to scrap the entire fed­er­al tax code and replace it with two things: an effec­tive nation­al sales tax and a flat tax on income, both at 11.8 per­cent (com­pared to a top rate of 39.6 per­cent today). Laf­fer pre­dicts the change would unleash huge addi­tion­al eco­nom­ic growth.

    Influ­en­tial con­ser­v­a­tives say the mes­sage is pow­er­ful­ly seduc­tive.

    “He is a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor,” said Stephen Moore, the chief econ­o­mist at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, who has known Laf­fer for near­ly 25 years. “And most econ­o­mists can’t com­mu­ni­cate.”

    Not 1978 any­more

    ...

    Laffer’s ideas have also grown out of fash­ion with much of the main­stream eco­nom­ic com­mu­ni­ty. There is an entire branch of eco­nom­ic lit­er­a­ture that uses detailed equa­tions to show cut­ting top tax rates does not spark addi­tion­al growth. Most recent­ly, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago’s Owen Zidar showed that the biggest gains from tax cuts come when rates are reduced for low-income work­ers.

    In 2012, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago’s Booth School of Busi­ness asked a pan­el of respect­ed econ­o­mists from across the polit­i­cal spec­trum whether they believed an income tax cut today would lead to high­er tax rev­enue five years from now, com­pared with a world with no tax cut. Not a sin­gle respon­dent said it would.

    Laffer’s the­o­ries are so far detached from main­stream eco­nom­ics that “there is no point of con­tact,” said Paul Krug­man, a Nobel Prize-win­ning econ­o­mist and a lib­er­al colum­nist for the New York Times. “This is not a wing of pro­fes­sion­al eco­nom­ic thought, for what that’s worth. This is not at all the same kind of enter­prise as what even con­ser­v­a­tive eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sors do.”

    Repub­li­cans love Laf­fer, Krug­man said, not because his mes­sage is sim­ple but because it con­forms per­fect­ly to a pre­ex­ist­ing lim­it-the-gov­ern­ment world­view: “The point is, he’s telling them what they want to hear.”

    Econ­o­mists point out how dif­fer­ent the world is today from 1978. The top income tax rate is 30 per­cent­age points low­er than it was when Rea­gan took office. Tax cuts appear to have lost some punch with vot­ers — they didn’t get Mitt Rom­ney elect­ed, or John McCain. Jer­ry Brown stopped run­ning on a flat tax a long time ago.

    “The idea of low­er­ing the top rate is dead,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-rank­ing Demo­c­rat in the Sen­ate.

    But Laf­fer is con­stant­ly reas­sur­ing the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates of his vision, steer­ing them back toward sim­ple sup­ply-side prin­ci­ples, urg­ing them to find the sim­plic­i­ty and embrace the pow­er of low rates. He tells them that Amer­i­ca will break its for­eign ene­mies with eco­nom­ic strength, not more mil­i­tary spend­ing. He calls earned- ­income tax cred­its for the work­ing poor — a favorite idea of Paul Ryan and Rubio — “garbage.” He has writ­ten a 12,000-word paper on how min­i­mum-wage laws have killed eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty for young black men, in par­tic­u­lar, by arti­fi­cial­ly reduc­ing the demand for labor.

    Can­di­dates keep com­ing back to Laf­fer, said his friend Lar­ry Kud­low, the pop­u­lar con­ser­v­a­tive eco­nom­ics com­men­ta­tor, “for the same rea­son you pay atten­tion to Mil­ton Fried­man, even though he’s dead. For the same rea­son you lis­ten to John May­nard Keynes, even though he’s dead. For the same rea­son we still read Friedrich Hayek. You don’t throw things out because they’ve been around so long.”

    Laf­fer rejects the ideas of can­di­dates such as Rubio who push for tar­get­ed tax relief for fam­i­lies or the mid­dle class, say­ing those deduc­tions “don’t make sense in the tax code.”

    But then in the next breath he prais­es Rubio, recalls how long it took Rea­gan to come around, and express­es con­fi­dence that the even­tu­al nom­i­nee will fol­low his advice. “We’ll see who slugs it out” in the pri­maries, Laf­fer said. “But no one’s vot­ing for a redis­tri­b­u­tion­ist again. It’s over.”

    When he, Kud­low and Moore wel­come can­di­dates to their small-group meet­ings in New York, Laf­fer said, he gives an hour or so brief­ing on how eco­nom­ics works. Sim­ple charts and expla­na­tions. Even­tu­al­ly the can­di­date gets to talk.

    “I don’t care what they say,” he said. “I’m giv­ing them time to prac­tice answers.”

    Yes, that’s right:

    ...
    The upcom­ing elec­tion is, in many ways, a cru­cial bar­be­cue for Laf­fer and his sup­ply-side acolytes. In recent years Laf­fer has advised Repub­li­can gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tors on tax- ­cut­ting plans in North Car­oli­na, Ten­nessee, Wis­con­sin, Flori­da and Kansas, where the rev­enue short­falls that fol­lowed near­ly cost Gov. Sam Brown­back his job last Novem­ber.

    Kansas did not see a surge in growth after mak­ing cuts, and it has suf­fered a series of large bud­get short­falls. When Brown­back, under threat, called Laf­fer, wor­ried about whether the tax cuts were work­ing as planned, Laf­fer said he told Brown­back to remem­ber why he cut those tax­es in the first place. The growth will come. Be patient.

    “Kansas,” Laf­fer declared over a five-hour lunch inter­view in Wash­ing­ton, “is doing fine.”

    All of that was pre­lude for the pres­i­den­tial race, which Laf­fer says could be a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion oppor­tu­ni­ty for Repub­li­cans to seize con­trol in Wash­ing­ton and enact sweep­ing, pro-growth tax cuts. Laf­fer has been tutor­ing can­di­dates for months.
    ...

    Be patient Kansas, every­thing is fine. Just have faith. Faith in Art Laf­fer.

    Now, you can see why no one has “influ­enced Repub­li­can can­di­dates’ think­ing on the econ­o­my for the past four decades as much as Laf­fer”. Who would­n’t want to sit down with him and learn the secret to eco­nom­ic suc­cess?

    Although it’s unclear how describ­ing these bizarre Econ 101 ses­sions where Art Laf­fer sits down with a poten­tial can­di­date and “gives an hour or so brief­ing on how eco­nom­ics works. Sim­ple charts and expla­na­tions,” is actu­al­ly help­ful for either Laf­fer or the GOP After all, it’s a rather star­tling admis­sion since it’s an admis­sion that all these GOP can­di­date don’t under­stand basic eco­nom­ics and are total­ly vul­ner­a­ble to Laf­fer­’s brain­wash­ing. How on earth is admit­ting that these can­di­dates for Pres­i­dent require Laf­fer­’s ‘intro­duc­tion to eco­nom­ics’ lec­tures some­thing these guys want any­one to know about? Hi, I’m run­ning for the most pow­er­ful job in the world and I’d like a crash course in eco­nom­ics Mr. Laf­fer! Thanks!

    Maybe Art Laf­fer does­n’t mind talk­ing about these pep talk ses­sions but do these can­di­dates real­ly want Laf­fer run­ning around talk­ing about what goes into cre­at­ing a GOP can­di­date? It does­n’t seem like it, but maybe once you’ve gone through GOP can­di­date prep school you don’t real­ly care any­more.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 13, 2015, 10:07 am
  44. OMFG:

    TPM Livewire
    Report: Kasich Attacked By GOP Govs. For ‘Hid­ing Behind Jesus’ On Med­ic­aid

    By Daniel Strauss
    Pub­lished April 30, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich ® was crit­i­cized by Louisiana Gov. Bob­by Jin­dal ® and South Car­oli­na Gov. Nik­ki Haley ® for “hid­ing behind Jesus to expand Med­ic­aid” accord­ing to a report in The Atlantic.

    The two Repub­li­can gov­er­nors con­front­ed Kasich at a donor forum host­ed by the Koch broth­ers in Palm Springs.

    A source at the event told The Atlantic, “It got heat­ed.”

    Kasich was the fifth Repub­li­can gov­er­nor to accept Med­ic­aid expan­sion through Oba­macare. Kasich has pre­vi­ous­ly cit­ed his “per­son­al faith” as a moti­va­tor for choos­ing to expand Med­ic­aid in Ohio, putting him at odds with most Repub­li­cans who strong­ly oppose Oba­macare and Med­ic­aid expan­sion through the law.

    Cit­ing God is some­thing Kasich has done numer­ous times. Recent­ly, the Ohio gov­er­nor said he’s wait­ing for a sign from God on whether he should run for pres­i­dent.

    “My fam­i­ly is a con­sid­er­a­tion,” the Ohio gov­er­nor told NBC. “Num­ber two, the most impor­tant thing is, what does the Lord want me to do with my life?”

    LOL. When will John Kasich learn that you can’t please Mam­mon with a half-assed com­mitt­ment to Jesus’s evil dopple­ganger. It’s a whole-assed affair. Bob­by Jin­dal under­stands this.

    Will Kasich recov­er from his way­ward ways and make this up to Mam­mon before the 2016 GOP pri­maries? Maybe, maybe not. The GOP clown car is already pret­ty packed. But he’s def­i­nite­ly going to try.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2015, 2:29 pm
  45. Back in June, Jeb Bush dropped a bit of a ver­bal bomb on the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign trail when let the world know that one of his broth­er’s most unpop­u­lar pol­i­cy agen­das, the pri­va­ti­za­tion of social secu­ri­ty, was actu­al­ly a great idea. So great that it’s time for a redo.

    Yes, pri­va­tiz­ing social secu­ri­ty is on the Jeb­gen­da:

    Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times
    Jeb Bush: Next Pres­i­dent Should Pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty
    By Gin­ger Gib­son on June 16 2015 2:46 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush thinks the next pres­i­dent will need to pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty, he said at a town hall meet­ing in New Hamp­shire on Tues­day — acknowl­edg­ing that his broth­er attempt­ed to do so and failed. It’s a posi­tion sure to be attacked by both Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats.

    Bush has pre­vi­ous­ly said he would sup­port rais­ing the retire­ment age to get Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits, a com­mon posi­tion among Repub­li­cans. And he backed a par­tial pri­va­ti­za­tion that House Repub­li­cans have pro­posed that would allow peo­ple to choose pri­vate accounts.

    The future of Social Secu­ri­ty has become one of the most hot­ly con­test­ed issues in nation­al pol­i­tics, and both par­ties have accused the oth­er of threat­en­ing its sur­vival. Repub­li­cans argue that Democ­rats’ refusal to change the pro­gram will lead to its bank­rupt­cy. Democ­rats say pri­va­ti­za­tion would kill the pro­gram and leave elder­ly Amer­i­cans at the mer­cy of the stock mar­ket. Plus, any dis­cus­sion of chang­ing the sys­tem often cre­ates fear in old­er Amer­i­cans beyond or near­ing the age of retire­ment, who also tend to vote in the great­est num­bers.

    ...

    Speak­ing in Der­ry, New Hamp­shire, Tues­day, Bush acknowl­edged that when his broth­er Pres­i­dent George W. Bush attempt­ed to pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty in 2005, he met great bipar­ti­san resis­tance.

    “My broth­er tried, got total­ly wiped out,” Bush said. “Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats want­ed noth­ing to do with it. The next pres­i­dent is going to have to try again.”

    Bush also said Social Secu­ri­ty shouldn’t be called an “enti­tle­ment.” “I’ve learned that in town hall meet­ings,” he said, accord­ing to a video released by the pro-Demo­c­ra­t­ic group Amer­i­can Bridge. “It’s a sup­ple­men­tal retire­ment sys­tem that’s not actu­ar­i­al­ly sound, how about that. Med­ic­aid and Medicare are enti­tle­ments, and they are grow­ing at a far faster rate than any­thing else in gov­ern­ment.”

    So that was the Jeb­gen­da over a month ago. And just this week, the Jeb­gen­da got an update. A very pre­dictable update:

    The Wans­ing­ton Post
    Jeb Bush wants to ‘phase out’ Medicare. Here’s what he meant.

    By Max Ehren­fre­und
    July 24 at 8:28 AM

    Democ­rats seized on a remark by Jeb Bush on Thurs­day, say­ing his com­ments on phas­ing out Medicare showed he was out of touch with senior cit­i­zens.

    “We’re not going to have ade­quate cov­er­age for our chil­dren or our grand­chil­dren with­out Medicare,” a woman at a town hall in Gorham, N.H. told him, accord­ing to Politi­co’s Eli Stokols. “It’s not an enti­tle­ment. I earned that.” (The aver­age female work­er born in 1945 will take $521,000 in ben­e­fits over her life­time, hav­ing paid $374,000 into the sys­tem in tax­es.)

    “It’s an actu­ar­i­al­ly unsound sys­tem,” the for­mer Flori­da gov­er­nor replied.

    “The peo­ple that are receiv­ing these ben­e­fits, I don’t think that we should touch that,” Bush went on to say. “We need to fig­ure out a way to phase out this pro­gram for oth­ers and move to a new sys­tem that allows them to have some­thing, because they’re not going to have any­thing.”

    At The Week, Ryan Coop­er notes that MSNBC’s Steve Benen writes that cost pro­jec­tions for Medicare are less dire than they were before Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s health care reform took effect, and The Week’s Ryan Coop­er argues the prob­lem isn’t with Medicare, but with this coun­try’s excep­tion­al­ly expen­sive health care sys­tem.

    A spokesman tells Bloomberg’s Michael C. Ben­der that Bush did­n’t mean he believes Medicare should be scrapped entire­ly. Instead, Bush wants to raise the retire­ment age and force wealth­i­er ben­e­fi­cia­ries to pay more. If he were elect­ed, Repub­li­cans in Con­gress might send him some­thing sim­i­lar to the pro­pos­al from Rep. Paul Ryan (R‑Wis.), who con­verts Medicare into a vouch­er sys­tem.

    As Vox’s Matthew Ygle­sias notes, Bush is mak­ing a dis­tinc­tion with­out much of a dif­fer­ence. Adding a means test to a pro­gram that has always been a uni­ver­sal ben­e­fit, or giv­ing the elder­ly vouch­ers for health insur­ance, would alter Medicare’s fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter. It would hard­ly be the same pro­gram.

    Yes, Jeb isn’t so cru­el that he would embrace the “Let him die!” approach­ing to health­care advo­cat­ed by the Tea Par­ty back dur­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial debates. No, he’s too com­pas­sion­ate for that. Jeb mere­ly sup­ports the Ryan Plan that would turn Medicare into a vouch­er sys­tem:

    ...
    A spokesman tells Bloomberg’s Michael C. Ben­der that Bush did­n’t mean he believes Medicare should be scrapped entire­ly. Instead, Bush wants to raise the retire­ment age and force wealth­i­er ben­e­fi­cia­ries to pay more. If he were elect­ed, Repub­li­cans in Con­gress might send him some­thing sim­i­lar to the pro­pos­al from Rep. Paul Ryan (R‑Wis.), who con­verts Medicare into a vouch­er sys­tem.
    ...

    And what could be uncom­pas­sion­ate about voucher­iz­ing Medicare...oth­er than the fact that voucher­iz­ing Medicare turns it into a “let him die....with pre­mi­um sup­port” sys­tem:

    Think Progress
    Inside Paul Ryan’s Lat­est Plan To Gut Medicare

    by Sy Mukher­jee Apr 1, 2014 2:11pm

    On Tues­day, House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Paul Ryan (R‑WI) released his new bud­get blue­print for fis­cal year 2015. It con­tains many of the same cuts to social safe­ty net and low-income assis­tance pro­grams as his pre­vi­ous pro­pos­als — includ­ing sweep­ing changes to Medicare that would turn the health care pro­gram for the elder­ly into a “pre­mi­um sup­port” plan that forces Amer­i­can seniors to pay more for their cov­er­age.

    Ryan’s new Medicare pro­pos­al hews to the same basic struc­ture as his pre­vi­ous pre­mi­um sup­port plans — in essence, a sys­tem of insur­ance vouch­ers. Under the plan, future Medicare ben­e­fi­cia­ries would have the option of choos­ing between tra­di­tion­al fee-for-ser­vice Medicare or a list of pri­vate health plans and receive a sub­sidy to help pay the cho­sen policy’s pre­mi­um. Unlike pre­vi­ous Ryan bud­gets, how­ev­er, seniors who are cur­rent­ly 55 or younger would be forced into this alter­na­tive sys­tem, like­ly break­ing a pledge House Repub­li­cans made last year promis­ing that cur­rent 55-year-olds would be able to stay on tra­di­tion­al Medicare.

    Ryan empha­sizes that his pro­pos­al still gives seniors the choice of remain­ing in reg­u­lar Medicare. But what he doesn’t men­tion is that his plan makes Medicare so expen­sive that mil­lions of seniors will like­ly be forced to switch into the pri­vate plans. While Ryan employs a dif­fer­ent type of bid­ding sys­tem for pri­vate health plans under his 2015 blue­print that soft­ens his plan’s topline effect on ben­e­fi­cia­ries’ costs, an ear­li­er Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office (CBO) analy­sis of Medicare pre­mi­um sup­port sys­tems found that plans such as Ryan’s would increase tra­di­tion­al Medicare pre­mi­ums by a stag­ger­ing 50 per­cent.

    The mil­lions of seniors who are forced over to pri­vate plans would also find them­selves with dif­fer­ent doc­tors and nar­row­er cov­er­age net­works under Ryan­care — iron­ic con­sid­er­ing Repub­li­cans’ unabashed out­rage over news that the Afford­able Care Act had can­celed about three or four mil­lion skimpy insur­ance poli­cies. But unlike Oba­macare, Ryan doesn’t require his replace­ment pri­vate plans to have a more robust base lev­el of con­sumer pro­tec­tions and ben­e­fits than ben­e­fi­cia­ries’ pre­vi­ous cov­er­age.

    Low-income seniors would be par­tic­u­lar­ly hurt by the Ryan approach to Medicare since it would also raise the Medicare eli­gi­bil­i­ty thresh­old. Since Ryan’s plan also dis­man­tles Oba­macare, includ­ing the health law’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion, this would be a major blow to the poor and elder­ly who are just on the cusp of Med­ic­aid eli­gi­bil­i­ty. These peo­ple would be unlike­ly to qual­i­fy for Med­ic­aid absent the ACA’s expan­sion and many of them would be forced to con­tin­ue work­ing sim­ply for the sake of retain­ing their employ­er-spon­sored cov­er­age, a phe­nom­e­non known as “job lock.” Seniors who aren’t lucky enough to receive employ­er cov­er­age would have to try their luck in an indi­vid­ual mar­ket absent Obamacare’s con­sumer pro­tec­tions and indus­try reforms, mean­ing they may be charged exor­bi­tant rates for hav­ing poor health or denied health insur­ance alto­geth­er.

    ...

    Wel­come to your new social con­tract: “Let him die! But not before we give him a vouch­er because that makes it OK.”

    Feel the com­pas­sion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2015, 3:00 pm
  46. When the final week of the elec­tions was loom­ing in Kansas back in 2014, the race for the gov­er­nor­ship was pret­ty much a toss up between Sam Brown­back and Demo­c­rat Paul Davis and one issue in par­tic­u­lar was look­ing like it could tilt the elec­tion: edu­ca­tion. Specif­i­cal­ly, whether or not Sam Brown­back real­ly raised fund­ing for edu­ca­tion per stu­dent or not.

    Brown­back­’s cam­paign point­ed to the net ris­ing expen­di­ture per stu­dent while edu­ca­tion advo­cates point out that it did­n’t keep up with the cost of infla­tion and was skewed in oth­er ways. The bat­tle for the hearts and minds of the vot­ers was com­ing down to a per­cep­tion on the fund­ing ade­qua­cy of the pub­lic insti­tu­tion that helps shapes the hearts and minds of the next gen­er­a­tion and in that final week it was com­ing to down whether or not Sam Brown­back was going to be good for pub­lic edu­ca­tion in Kansas.

    In ret­ro­spect that should be seen as a sil­ly issue to even be con­tem­plat­ing since this is Sam Brown­back we’re talk­ing about and he had just passed a bill that strip pub­lic school teach­ers of their due process in dis­missals six months ear­li­er, but opti­mism for the Brown­back edu­ca­tion agen­da was some­how strong enough to get him reelec­tion back in 2014:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    School fund­ing key with one week left in Kansas governor’s race

    Octo­ber 28, 2014, 8:27 a.m. Updat­ed Octo­ber 28, 2014, 4:38 p.m.

    Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Paul Davis ral­lied with dozens of teach­ers Tues­day to bol­ster his argu­ment that Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brown­back has short­changed Kansas pub­lic schools, while the incum­ben­t’s sup­port­ers pushed back with data show­ing a rise in total edu­ca­tion dol­lars.

    The debate head­ing into the final week before the Nov. 4 elec­tion is an out­growth of Brown­back­’s suc­cess­ful push for per­son­al income tax cuts that cut the state’s top rate by 26 per­cent and exempt­ed the own­ers of 191,000 busi­ness­es alto­geth­er. Davis con­tends schools pinched by a reces­sion in pre­vi­ous years con­tin­ue to suf­fer, while Brown­back argues that both the econ­o­my and edu­ca­tion are far­ing bet­ter.

    A report last week from the Kansas Leg­is­la­ture’s non­par­ti­san research staff said total per-pupil spend­ing on Kansas pub­lic schools has grown near­ly 5 per­cent since the 2010-11 school year, when Brown­back took office, from $12,656 per stu­dent to $13,269. But Davis and oth­er Brown­back crit­ics con­tend such com­par­isons are mis­lead­ing because the fig­ures aren’t adjust­ed for infla­tion and don’t focus only on schools’ dai­ly oper­at­ing bud­gets.

    Davis’ ral­ly at the State­house with about 150 teach­ers and oth­er sup­port­ers came after he kicked off a 30-stop tour by greet­ing vot­ers on the town square in Iola in south­east Kansas.

    “We’ve seen the larg­er class sizes,” Davis told the State­house crowd. “We’ve seen the teach­ers who have left the pro­fes­sion, nev­er to return.”

    Lat­er, he added: “Sam Brown­back is try­ing very hard right now to rewrite his record on pub­lic edu­ca­tion.”

    Mean­while, Brown­back and oth­er Repub­li­cans had ral­lies in Wichi­ta, Pitts­burg and Over­land Park with Ken­tucky Sen. Rand Paul, a tea par­ty favorite. The GOP planned to kick off a four-day bus tour Wednes­day.

    “It’s gone up, mon­ey being put in the class­room, every year that I’ve been in office,” Brown­back told more than 200 peo­ple at the Wichi­ta ral­ly. “The lead­ing func­tion for us at the state lev­el is edu­ca­tion.”

    Brown­back­’s race for a sec­ond, four-year term appears to be a toss-up with the elec­tion loom­ing, and school fund­ing is an impor­tant issue for the GOP mod­er­ates that Davis has wooed.

    The new leg­isla­tive research report shows increas­es in both total and per-pupil dol­lars for pub­lic schools over time, even with spend­ing on build­ings, equip­ment and teacher pen­sions fac­tored out.

    “Edu­ca­tion spend­ing per pupil has nev­er been high­er in the his­to­ry of the state,” said Kansas House Speak­er Ray Mer­rick, a Stil­well Repub­li­can. “But giv­ing our stu­dents a world-class edu­ca­tion means con­tin­u­ing to find ways to direct those dol­lars to the class­room.”

    A Kansas Asso­ci­a­tion of School Boards report post­ed online in August said when total dol­lars are adjust­ed for infla­tion they’ve remained flat dur­ing Brown­back­’s tenure. When spend­ing only for class­rooms and sup­port pro­grams was con­sid­ered and adjust­ed for infla­tion, the amount dropped 6.1 per­cent.

    “There’s no ques­tion the total dol­lars have increased,” said Mark Tall­man, the report’s author and a lob­by­ist for the school boards’ group, which has not endorsed a can­di­date. “When you look only at the oper­at­ing side of the bud­get, that has­n’t gone up as much. It tends not to have kept up with infla­tion.”

    ...

    Ah the mem­o­ries. That was back before the full scale of Sam Brown­back­’s All-ALEC=all-the-time craft­ed rad­i­cal far-right agen­da was ful­ly appar­ent to all. Edu­ca­tion is dif­fer­ent now in Kansas, espe­cial­ly for the teach­ers. Run-for-your-liveli­hood-but-also-flee-Brown­back­’s-mad­ness dif­fer­ent:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Why teach­ers can’t hot­foot it out of Kansas fast enough
    By Valerie Strauss
    August 2

    Teach­ers can’t hot­foot it out of Kansas fast enough, cre­at­ing a sub­stan­tial short­age expect­ed only to get much worse. Why?

    Well, there’s the low pay. Accord­ing to the Nation­al Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion Sta­tis­tics, the aver­age teach­ing salary in 2012–2013 (the lat­est year for which data were avail­able, in con­stant 2012–2013 dol­lars), was $47,464, low­er than the pay in all but sev­en states (Arkansas, Flori­da, Mis­sis­sip­pi, North Dako­ta, Okla­homa, South Dako­ta and West Vir­ginia), though not by much in most of them.

    Last year, job pro­tec­tions were cut by state law­mak­ers, who have also sought to reduce col­lec­tive-bar­gain­ing rights for pub­lic employ­ees.

    Then there’s the severe under­fund­ing for pub­lic edu­ca­tion by the admin­is­tra­tion of Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brown­back, so much of a prob­lem that some school dis­tricts closed ear­ly this past school year because they didn’t have the cash to keep oper­at­ing. This sto­ry by Huff­in­g­ton Post, quot­ed Tim Hal­la­cy, super­in­ten­dent of Sil­ver Lake Schools, as say­ing:

    “I find it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to con­vince young peo­ple that edu­ca­tion is a pro­fes­sion worth con­sid­er­ing, and I have some vet­er­ans who think about leav­ing. In the next three years I think we’ll have maybe the worst teacher short­age in the coun­try — I think most of that is self-inflict­ed.”

    This June, a three-mem­ber dis­trict court pan­el ruled that parts of a new state school financ­ing law vio­lat­ed the Kansas Con­sti­tu­tion by allow­ing inequitable dis­tri­b­u­tion of more than $4 bil­lion in annu­al edu­ca­tion fund­ing. It ordered the state to give $54 mil­lion back to the pub­lic schools, though that part of the rul­ing was stayed indef­i­nite­ly by the Kansas Supreme Court which quick­ly took up the issue. Now, the state’s entire fund­ing for­mu­la for pub­lic edu­ca­tion is up in the air.

    And there’s more. Accord­ing to the Tope­ka Cap­i­tal-Jour­nal, the Kansas Board of Edu­ca­tion decid­ed in July to allow six school sys­tems — includ­ing two of the largest in the state — to hire unli­censed teach­ers to ease the short­age. (Let the irony sink in for a minute.) Specif­i­cal­ly, the news­pa­per report­ed:

    The mea­sure will waive the state’s licen­sure reg­u­la­tions for a group of dis­tricts called the Coali­tion of Inno­v­a­tive Dis­tricts, a pro­gram that the Leg­is­la­ture estab­lished in 2013 based on mod­el leg­is­la­tion from the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil.

    (Yes, ALEC, an orga­ni­za­tion that writes “mod­el leg­is­la­tion” on a vari­ety of top­ics that con­ser­v­a­tive leg­is­la­tors use in states to make new laws that pro­mote pri­va­ti­za­tion, strikes again. Under this leg­is­la­tion, dis­tricts can ignore most laws and reg­u­la­tions — includ­ing union con­tracts — that oth­er pub­lic schools in a state must fol­low.)

    ...

    Peter Greene, a teacher who writes the Cur­mudgu­ca­tion blog, described it this way:

    Kansas has tak­en a bold new step in mak­ing their schools Even Worse…. Kansas has entered the Chase Teach­ers Out of The State der­by, join­ing states like North Car­oli­na and Ari­zona in the attempt to make teach­ing unap­peal­ing as a career and unten­able as a way for grown-ups to sup­port a fam­i­ly. Kansas favors the two-pronged tech­nique. With one prong, you strip teach­ers of job pro­tec­tions and bar­gain­ing rights, so that you can fire them at any time for any rea­son and pay them as lit­tle as you like. With the oth­er prong, you strip fund­ing from schools, so that teach­ers have to accom­plish more and more on a bud­get of $1.95 (and if they can’t get it done, see prong num­ber one). The result is pre­dictable. Kansas is solid­ly set­tled onto the list of Places Teach­ers Work As Their Very Last Choice. It’s work­ing out great for Mis­souri; their school dis­tricts have teacher recruit­ment bill­boards up in Kansas. But in Kansas, there’s a teacher short­age.

    Accord­ing to new data released by the Kansas Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, at least 3,720 teach­ers left their jobs either by going to oth­er states to teach, retir­ing or leav­ing the pro­fes­sion alto­geth­er, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed. That, the AP said, was sub­stan­tial­ly high­er than in pre­vi­ous years. KCUR report­ed in this sto­ry by Sam Zeff that Kansas is becom­ing such a hard place for teach­ers that many are cross­ing into Mis­souri to find jobs. The sto­ry says in part:

    A bill­board along the Kansas Turn­pike eight miles east of Lawrence reads: Inde­pen­dence Mis­souri School Dis­trict. Hir­ing teach­ers for 2015–2016…. In 2011, before huge tax cuts were enact­ed, only 85 appli­ca­tions for Mis­souri teach­ing licens­es were filed with a Kansas address. In the next three years, as school bud­gets were slashed, those appli­ca­tions dou­bled. Dur­ing that same peri­od, appli­ca­tions for Mis­souri teach­ing licens­es from Arkansas and Iowa remained steady.

    How did all of this hap­pen?

    A 2014 report from the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­i­cy Pri­or­i­ties said in part:

    Tax cuts enact­ed in Kansas in 2012 were among the largest ever enact­ed by any state, and have since been held up by tax-cut pro­po­nents in oth­er states as a mod­el worth repli­cat­ing. In truth, Kansas is a cau­tion­ary tale, not a mod­el. As oth­er states recov­er from the recent reces­sion and turn toward the future, Kansas’ huge tax cuts have left that state’s schools and oth­er pub­lic ser­vices stuck in the reces­sion, and declin­ing fur­ther — a seri­ous threat to the state’s long-term eco­nom­ic vital­i­ty. Mean­while, promis­es of imme­di­ate eco­nom­ic improve­ment have utter­ly failed to mate­ri­al­ize….

    *The large rev­enue loss­es extend­ed and deep­ened the recession’s dam­age to schools and oth­er state ser­vices. Most states are restor­ing fund­ing for schools after years of sig­nif­i­cant cuts, but in Kansas the cuts con­tin­ue. Gov­er­nor Sam Brown­back recent­ly pro­posed anoth­er reduc­tion in per-pupil gen­er­al school aid for next year, which would leave fund­ing 17 per­cent below pre-reces­sion lev­els. Fund­ing for oth­er ser­vices — col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, libraries, and local health depart­ments, among oth­ers — also is way down, and declin­ing.

    And, at the moment, there seems to be noth­ing break­ing the fall.

    Is our chil­dren learn­ing? If so, they’re the only ones.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 4, 2015, 10:06 pm
  47. Remem­ber how state after state that refused the Med­ic­aid expan­sion cit­ed increased costs to the state as one of main rea­sons not to accept the expan­sion? Yeah, about that...:

    Talk­ing Points Memo DC
    Cos­mic Irony: States That Did­n’t Expand Med­ic­aid Pay­ing More For The Pro­gram

    By Tier­ney Sneed
    Pub­lished Octo­ber 20, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

    States that refused to expand Med­ic­aid under the Afford­able Care Act are now pay­ing the price, lit­er­al­ly.

    A new Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion report released last week sug­gests that the Repub­li­can-con­trolled non-expan­sion states are see­ing their share of Med­ic­aid costs rise more sharply than expan­sion states.

    The trend under­cuts a pop­u­lar argu­ment against the Med­ic­aid expan­sion in states where Repub­li­can lead­ers con­tin­ue to resist opt­ing into the pro­gram, under which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pays 100 per­cent of costs through 2016 and at least 90 per­cent share after.

    “We did see a high­er growth rate of what states spent of their own dol­lars on Med­ic­aid in the in non-expan­sion states than we did in the expan­sion states” said Lau­ra Sny­der, a senior pol­i­cy ana­lyst at the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion. The report found that total spend­ing in expan­sion states grew by 17.7 per­cent, but the state spend­ing only grew by 3.4 per­cent. Mean­while, state spend­ing on Med­ic­aid in non-expan­sion states increased by 6.9 per­cent as total spend­ing rose by 6.1 per­cent.

    ...

    Accord­ing to Sny­der, it is not entire­ly clear what is dri­ving the trend, but a num­ber fac­tors appear to be at play. Obvi­ous­ly hav­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment bear the bur­den for Med­ic­aid expan­sion costs helped expan­sion-states curb their own spend­ing on the pro­gram after it expand­ed. How­ev­er, it also appears that Med­ic­aid expan­sion states have saved mon­ey beyond that, such as in the way it they were deliv­er­ing the pro­gram or how the expan­sion affect­ed oth­er aspects of Med­ic­aid.

    “There’s some poten­tial the ACA is hav­ing some effect in the report we did,” Sny­der said. “Among the expan­sion states, some of them not­ed sav­ings in oth­er parts of their bud­gets, some of them also not­ed sav­ings with­in the Med­ic­aid pro­gram.”

    Fur­ther­more, the report found that more than two-thirds of expan­sion states saw that the amount they paid per mem­ber per month was at or low­er than their pre­vi­ous pro­jec­tions.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, non-expan­sion states on aver­age saw a rise in their enrollees, per­haps due to more peo­ple becom­ing aware they were eli­gi­ble for Med­ic­aid with the pub­lic­i­ty about the ACA, which could have attrib­uted to the rise in the states’ costs.

    Final­ly, spend­ing lev­els of non-expan­sion states — which was mea­sured by Kaiser in weight­ed aver­ages, rather than in state-by-state break­downs in the report — could have been impact­ed by the rise in costs in big states like Texas, which saw a decline in their tra­di­tion­al match rate, Sny­der said.

    As orig­i­nal­ly envi­sioned, Oba­macare would have expand­ed Med­ic­aid in all 50 states by threat­en­ing to with­hold fund­ing from states that did not expand, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that such coer­cion was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and cleared the way for states to opt out.

    Kaiser count­ed 29 states as expan­sion states for the pur­pose of the report, which cov­ers fis­cal year 2015. Mon­tana and Alas­ka are mov­ing to expand Med­ic­aid in fis­cal year 2016. Else­where, con­ser­v­a­tive law­mak­ers have resist­ed expand­ing the pro­gram, even when gov­er­nors of their own par­ty have asked them to.

    “Every­body loves expand­ing Med­ic­aid until they have to pay for it,” Greg Hugh­es, the Repub­li­can House Speak­er of Utah’s Leg­is­la­tors, told reporters after state law­mak­ers blocked Gov. Gary Herbert’s ® most recent attempt to expand Med­ic­aid in the state.

    ...

    “Every­body loves expand­ing Med­ic­aid until they have to pay for it”
    Oh no, the states will just have to love 90% of it with the indef­i­nite 90% fed­er­al sub­sidy. Those non-expand­ing state gov­ern­ments will no doubt be very proud about avoid that 10% of the expan­sion cost that they won’t have to pay going for­ward. Very proud indeed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 20, 2015, 3:49 pm
  48. Ladies and Gen­tle­men, the guy that’s now beat­ing Trump in Iowa:

    The Des Moines Reg­is­ter
    Car­son calls for ‘group­think’ on Social Secu­ri­ty
    Tim­o­thy Meinch,
    5:50 p.m. CDT Octo­ber 24, 2015

    Ben Car­son called for “group­think” to com­bat the loom­ing fund­ing cri­sis in the country’s Social Secu­ri­ty pro­gram at a cam­paign ral­ly in Ames on Sat­ur­day.

    “We have to start think­ing, have group­think in this coun­try,” Car­son said in response to a ques­tion from the crowd about unfund­ed enti­tle­ment lia­bil­i­ties.

    “We need to max­i­mize the poten­tial of all our peo­ple if we’re going to be able to com­pete in the future. So we have to start think­ing cor­po­rate­ly as an enti­ty.”

    The remarks fol­lowed a more spe­cif­ic pro­pos­al: Some aging cit­i­zens should be asked to opt out of the Social Secu­ri­ty pro­gram and the age of eli­gi­bil­i­ty should grad­u­al­ly scale back.

    The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date said both mea­sures would off­set pro­jec­tions that Social Secu­ri­ty funds will dry up by the year 2033.

    “We have to start mak­ing those adjust­ments for peo­ple under the age of 55 — very, very grad­u­al­ly rais­ing the age,” Car­son said, adding that some cit­i­zens should be asked if they would for­go their pay­ments.

    “Hon­est­ly a social secu­ri­ty pay­ment for me means noth­ing. And there are a lot of Amer­i­cans for which it means noth­ing. And I think they would be very will­ing.”

    Car­son empha­sized that the aver­age life expectan­cy has increased by more than 15 years since Social Secu­ri­ty was estab­lished.

    He also said his plan for an Oba­macare alter­na­tive — cre­at­ing a Health Sav­ings Account for every Amer­i­can — would elim­i­nate the need for Medicare and Social Secu­ri­ty for most cit­i­zens.

    ...

    The event at the fra­ter­ni­ty marked Carson’s first Iowa stop since he was announced the GOP front-run­ner in the lat­est Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Pol­i­tics Iowa Poll released Fri­day.

    After the morn­ing stop, Car­son attend­ed book-sign­ing events in Ames and West Des Moines to pro­mote his new book, “A More Per­fect Union.” Two oth­er stops on his nation­al book tour were sched­uled lat­er Sat­ur­day in Water­loo and Dubuque.

    “Hon­est­ly a social secu­ri­ty pay­ment for me means noth­ing. And there are a lot of Amer­i­cans for which it means noth­ing. And I think they would be very will­ing.”
    Note that Car­son refers to peo­ple be “very will­ing” to for­go their social secu­ri­ty pay­ments, will­ing­ness is a rather crit­i­cal com­po­nent to his plan since he’s refer­ring to a vol­un­tary Social Secu­ri­ty opt-out pro­gram for the rich, some­thing Trump also sup­ports, along with a scheme to use Health Sav­ings Accounts, some­thing that pret­ty much just helps the wealthy, to even­tu­al­ly replace Medicare.

    Health Sav­ings Accounts and ask­ing the rich to vol­un­tar­i­ly for­go their Social Secu­ri­ty pay­ments. Plus end­ing Oba­macare. And the hits keep com­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 25, 2015, 11:42 pm
  49. Vot­ers in Ken­tucky just elect­ed the state’s sec­ond GOP gov­er­nor in four decades: Matt Bevin, a guy who cam­paigned on what was basi­cal­ly the Sam Brown­back mod­el of cut­ting tax­es for the rich, gut­ting state spend­ing, and oppos­ing Oba­macare. Of course, unlike in states like Kansas, Ken­tucky is one of the states that’s ful­ly embraced Oba­macare, from build­ing its own state exchange web­site (instead of tak­ing the default fed­er­al web­site) to expand­ing Med­ic­aid. And that makes Bev­in’s pledge to oppose Oba­macare a lit­tle dicey since it could poten­tial­ly involve the loss of health care cov­er­age for 400,000 peo­ple. But over­turn­ing Oba­macare would appear to be what a major­i­ty of Ken­tuck­y’s vot­ers want...or at least a major­i­ty of the 30% of vot­ers that both­ered to vote:

    Think Progress
    400,000 Peo­ple Could Lose Their Health Care Because No One Turned Out To Vote Yes­ter­day

    by Ian Mill­his­er Nov 4, 2015 10:50am

    If you live in Ken­tucky, you prob­a­bly didn’t vote yes­ter­day.

    Turnout in Tuesday’s guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion was sim­ply dread­ful. Accord­ing to the state’s chief elec­tions offi­cer, pre­lim­i­nary results show that only 30.7 per­cent of vot­ers actu­al­ly cast a bal­lot in this off-off-year elec­tion. That com­pares with 45.9 per­cent of vot­ers in 2014 — a midterm elec­tion that fea­tured the low­est turnout rate since World War II — and 59.4 per­cent of vot­ers dur­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial race.

    It is like­ly, more­over, that 2015’s poor turnout will have a mas­sive impact on many Ken­tuck­ians’ lives. Indeed, it is like­ly that many low-income Ken­tucky res­i­dents will lit­er­al­ly die because so few peo­ple cast a bal­lot in the state’s guber­na­to­r­i­al race.

    On the eve of the elec­tion, Real Clear Politics’s polling aver­age of the Ken­tucky governor’s race showed Demo­c­rat Jack Con­way lead­ing Repub­li­can Matt Bevin by more than five points. Yet, with most of the state sit­ting out this elec­tion, Bevin instead defeat­ed Con­way 53–44.

    Con­way was wide­ly expect­ed to con­tin­ue incum­bent Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D‑KY) suc­cess­ful imple­men­ta­tion of the Afford­able Care Act, which helped over half-a-mil­lion Ken­tuck­ians obtain health cov­er­age in its first year. Bevin, by con­trast, is a staunch oppo­nent of Oba­macare who has promised to shut down the state-run health care exchange. Last Feb­ru­ary, when asked about the law’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion, Bevin respond­ed unequiv­o­cal­ly — “Absolute­ly. No ques­tion about it. I would reverse that imme­di­ate­ly.

    An esti­mat­ed 400,000 peo­ple will lose their health care if Bevin fol­lows through on this state­ment.

    ...

    So 53 per­cent of 30.7 per­cent of eli­gi­ble vot­ers (so 16.27 per­cent of eli­gi­ble vot­ers) just vot­ed for the guy that unequiv­o­cal­ly said back in Feb­ru­ary that “Absolute­ly. No ques­tion about it. I would reverse that imme­di­ate­ly,” about the state’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion.

    Will he actu­al­ly do it? Well, as the arti­cle below points out, while killing the “Kynect” web­site and mov­ing Ken­tuck­ians over to a fed­er­al exchange will take at least a year to com­plete accord­ing to the law,it is indeed pos­si­ble for the Med­ic­aid expan­sion to be rolled back in a mat­ter of months. But as the arti­cle also points out, Bevin is already back­ing away from his Med­ic­aid roll­back pledge and now wants to keep in in place but with more restric­tions like adding addi­tion­al pre­mi­ums and the abil­i­ty to “lock out” poor peo­ple that can’t pay them:

    Lex­ing­ton Her­ald-Leader
    How will health care in Ken­tucky change when Matt Bevin takes office?

    By John Cheves

    Novem­ber 4, 2015

    What­ev­er Repub­li­can Matt Bevin has in mind for Ken­tuck­y’s health insur­ance reform efforts after he’s sworn in as gov­er­nor Dec. 8, there are unlike­ly to be changes this win­ter while peo­ple enroll for their 2016 cov­er­age.

    As a can­di­date, Bevin said he would move quick­ly to dis­man­tle Kynect, the state-run health insur­ance exchange, and repeal the state’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion or ask for fed­er­al waivers that let him impose more restric­tions. About 500,000 Ken­tuck­ians have cov­er­age through Kynect, which has allowed the state to cut its rate of unin­sured res­i­dents near­ly in half.

    “Absolute­ly. No ques­tion about it. I would reverse that imme­di­ate­ly,” Bevin told reporters who asked about the Med­ic­aid expan­sion in Feb­ru­ary. “The fact that we have one out of four peo­ple in this state on Med­ic­aid is unsus­tain­able, it’s unaf­ford­able, and we need to cre­ate jobs in this state, not more gov­ern­ment pro­grams to cov­er peo­ple.”

    Legal­ly, Bevin is free to reverse what Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov. Steve Beshear did two years ago when he estab­lished Kynect (pro­nounced ‘con­nect’) by exec­u­tive order. How­ev­er, no state has dis­man­tled its health insur­ance exchange or repealed its Med­ic­aid expan­sion — not even those with Repub­li­can-con­trolled state­hous­es, such as Arkansas, where can­di­dates won on a plat­form of attack­ing the fed­er­al Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act.

    The bureau­crat­ic process for clos­ing Kynect would not be swift. The U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices expects at least one year’s notice for states that want to ter­mi­nate their health insur­ance exchanges and trans­fer those duties to the fed­er­al exchange. Repeal­ing Ken­tuck­y’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion, which cov­ers peo­ple up to 138 per­cent of the pover­ty line, or even mod­i­fy­ing the Med­ic­aid pro­gram with fed­er­al waivers, could take months of nego­ti­a­tions with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

    On Wednes­day, state Health and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Audrey Tayse Haynes said Bev­in’s tran­si­tion team had not con­tact­ed her about the next gov­er­nor’s plans. Regard­less of the elec­tion, Kynec­t’s third annu­al open enroll­ment start­ed Sun­day and con­tin­ues through Jan. 31, Haynes said. A Kynect out­let in Fayette Mall is set to open Mon­day to help enroll Cen­tral Ken­tuck­ians. The web­site Kynect.ky.gov also is accept­ing cus­tomers.

    “For us, we’ll be here until Dec. 7 and we are enrolling peo­ple, and peo­ple will have cov­er­age either through Med­ic­aid or a qual­i­fied health plan,” Haynes said.

    A Bevin spokes­woman did not respond to requests for com­ment Wednes­day.

    Health care experts who watched Bev­in’s guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign said they won­der what he will do once he’s in office. Ken­tucky spent $283 mil­lion in fed­er­al funds to estab­lish Kynect, which employs about 30 peo­ple, plus 175 con­tract work­ers at a Lex­ing­ton call cen­ter. The esti­mat­ed cost to decom­mis­sion Kynect is $23 mil­lion, which would have to come from the state’s Gen­er­al Fund.

    “There was a sig­nif­i­cant amount of tax dol­lars invest­ed here that essen­tial­ly would just be scrapped,” said Jen­nifer Tol­bert, direc­tor of state health reform at the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

    “And apart from being dis­rup­tive, it would­n’t make a lot of sense,” Tol­bert said. “It’s one thing to throw out a sys­tem that isn’t work­ing, but your sys­tem in Ken­tucky has actu­al­ly turned out pret­ty well. It’s con­sid­ered some­thing of a mod­el.”

    No issue more stark­ly sep­a­rat­ed Bevin from his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jack Con­way, than Kynect. Con­way sup­port­ed Kynect and praised Beshear for help­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ken­tuck­ians to vis­it doc­tors, order pre­scrip­tion drugs, under­go pre­ven­tive dis­ease screen­ings, and enroll in psy­chi­atric and addic­tion treat­ment.

    By con­trast, Bevin said he does­n’t want to throw peo­ple off their insur­ance, but he also does­n’t think Kynect is sus­tain­able. Of the rough­ly half-mil­lion Ken­tuck­ians enrolled through Kynect, about 400,000 are on Med­ic­aid, which costs bil­lions of dol­lars a year. Start­ing in the next fis­cal year, the states that expand­ed their Med­ic­aid pro­grams are expect­ed to pay a grow­ing share of that tab, up to 10 per­cent by 2021.

    “It’s finan­cial­ly unten­able,” Bevin told vot­ers in Eliz­a­beth­town dur­ing the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry. “The fact is, we can’t afford it. We are already broke. We are already fast on the road to insol­ven­cy as a state.”

    The Afford­able Care Act required every state to estab­lish a health insur­ance exchange by Jan­u­ary 2014; they had the option of run­ning the exchange them­selves or allow­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to do it. South­ern states with Repub­li­can lead­er­ship typ­i­cal­ly left it to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Ken­tucky cre­at­ed Kynect, agree­ing to reg­u­late the exchange’s insur­ance plans and prices, and per­form com­mu­ni­ty out­reach to help res­i­dents enroll.

    Three states that launched their own exchanges — Ore­gon, Neva­da and Hawaii — sub­se­quent­ly decid­ed to enroll res­i­dents through the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s web­site, HealthCare.gov, rather than their own web­sites, which proved to have tech­ni­cal prob­lems. But they oth­er­wise kept con­trol of their exchanges, Tol­bert said.

    Even trans­fer­ring peo­ple to a dif­fer­ent enroll­ment web­site, which requires a new appli­ca­tion process, can be cum­ber­some. In Ore­gon, for exam­ple, ear­ly enroll­ment fell dra­mat­i­cal­ly after the state start­ed send­ing peo­ple to HealthCare.gov.

    If Bevin decides to dis­man­tle Kynect, fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions require him to pro­vide one year’s notice and coor­di­nate with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment on a tran­si­tion plan for peo­ple with Kynect cov­er­age. Bevin would have to noti­fy Wash­ing­ton by Jan. 1 if he intends next fall to pre­vent open enroll­ment for 2017. In the mean­time, pri­vate plans pur­chased this win­ter through Kynect — often with sub­si­dies to make them more afford­able — would remain in effect.

    Repeal­ing Med­ic­aid expan­sion would be cum­ber­some, too, though it could be nego­ti­at­ed with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment over a peri­od of months.

    Under the Afford­able Care Act, 30 states opt­ed to expand their Med­ic­aid pro­grams to cov­er a larg­er pop­u­la­tion, includ­ing pover­ty-lev­el, work­ing-age adults with­out chil­dren who can’t afford pri­vate insur­ance and did­n’t qual­i­fy for tra­di­tion­al Med­ic­aid. In Ken­tucky, an esti­mat­ed 160,000 unin­sured peo­ple who fell into this “cov­er­age gap” were prime tar­gets of expand­ed Med­ic­aid enroll­ment.

    None of the states that expand­ed Med­ic­aid has repealed it. Some, like Arkansas, have con­sid­ered it. But pri­vate con­sul­tants told Arkansas law­mak­ers this sum­mer that end­ing Med­ic­aid expan­sion there could cost the state $438 mil­lion from 2017 to 2021. Even when states must pick up 10 per­cent of the cost for expand­ed Med­ic­aid, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is pump­ing bil­lions of dol­lars into the states’ health care indus­tries and off­set­ting the expense of costs such as indi­gent care at hos­pi­tals, the con­sul­tants said.

    “I think their health care providers had some say in slow­ing down that train,” said Haynes, Ken­tuck­y’s health sec­re­tary. “I’ll be curi­ous to see what our providers say or do here. I do know that we have paid over $2.5 bil­lion in new dol­lars to health care providers since Kynect start­ed Jan. 1, 2014, and it’s prob­a­bly clos­er to $3 bil­lion by now.”

    Less dra­mat­ic than repeal, six states have won fed­er­al waivers allow­ing them to impose their own rules and restric­tions on Med­ic­aid expan­sion in an effort to reduce costs.

    Bevin has cit­ed Indi­ana’s expand­ed Med­ic­aid waivers as a mod­el he admires. Indi­ana requires some “cost-shar­ing” with Med­ic­aid recip­i­ents, such as pre­mi­ums and co-pays, and it can impose “lock outs” on recip­i­ents who fall behind on their pay­ments, said Diane Row­land, a Med­ic­aid expert at Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion.

    “The waivers give gov­er­nors a way of say­ing they styled it in their own fash­ion while still get­ting some mon­ey from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment,” Row­land said.

    The Gen­er­al Assem­bly also might involve itself with Kynec­t’s fate when it con­venes in Jan­u­ary, said Susan Zepe­da, pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for a Healthy Ken­tucky, a Louisville non­prof­it that pro­vides health pol­i­cy infor­ma­tion and analy­sis.

    ...

    Yes, it’s look­ing like Matt Bevin, the Tea Par­ty dar­ling that was bold­ly pro­claim­ing he would roll back the Med­ic­aid expan­sion back in Feb­ru­ary, is already back­ing away from that pledge. But that does­n’t mean he’s not going to try to kick the poors:

    ...
    Bevin has cit­ed Indi­ana’s expand­ed Med­ic­aid waivers as a mod­el he admires. Indi­ana requires some “cost-shar­ing” with Med­ic­aid recip­i­ents, such as pre­mi­ums and co-pays, and it can impose “lock outs” on recip­i­ents who fall behind on their pay­ments, said Diane Row­land, a Med­ic­aid expert at Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion.
    ...

    So will adding addi­tion costs to the poors and mak­ing it eas­i­er to restrict Med­ic­aid access if they can’t pay their pre­mi­ums or co-pays be enough to avoid get­ting tarred the last GOP “RINO” if he backs away from his Med­ic­aid roll back pledge? Well, it may not hurt Bev­in’s pop­u­lar­i­ty if he keeps the Med­ic­aid expan­sion around in some form or anoth­er since the poor­est coun­ties where Oba­macare enroll­ment has been high­est:

    Slate
    Canary in a Coal Mine

    Why Kentucky’s new GOP gov­er­nor will be a test case for Repub­li­cans across the coun­try.

    By Jim Newell
    Nov. 4 2015 5:27 PM

    Busi­ness­man Matt Bevin’s sur­pris­ing­ly lop­sided vic­to­ry against Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jack Con­way in Tuesday’s Ken­tucky guber­na­to­r­i­al race will tempt lib­er­als to resort to one of their favorite deject­ed shoul­der shrugs: that it’s anoth­er case of pesky vot­ers act­ing against their own self-inter­est. It’s an oft-repeat­ed line that’s irk­some not just for its con­de­scen­sion but also its fatal­ly flawed log­ic: Vot­ing is a pret­ty clear expres­sion of one’s self-inter­est, so it’s impos­si­ble, real­ly, to vote against one’s self-inter­est. And last night a major­i­ty of Ken­tucky vot­ers weighed the fac­tors and found it in their net self-inter­est to vote for Bevin.

    Ken­tucky is the lat­est South­ern state dur­ing the Oba­ma era to shed its decades-long Demo­c­ra­t­ic dom­i­nance on the state lev­el. As in Ten­nessee or Arkansas, vot­ers whose fam­i­lies have been vot­ing Demo­c­rat for state-lev­el offices for gen­er­a­tions are now align­ing their state pref­er­ences with their fed­er­al ones. These are red states now, and the unpop­u­lar­i­ty of Barack Oba­ma was enough to out­weigh what­ev­er unpop­u­lar poli­cies Bevin sup­port­ed.

    One of the items that Ken­tucky vot­ers deter­mined was not as impor­tant to them as installing a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor was the state’s suc­cess­ful, full imple­men­ta­tion of the Afford­able Care Act. Aside from the recent col­lapse of a state health insur­ance co-op, Kentucky’s rel­a­tive­ly glitch-free state-run insur­ance exchange, Kynect, and accep­tance of the law’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion have been wide­ly rec­og­nized suc­cess­es. The state’s unin­sured pop­u­la­tion dropped 40 per­cent between 2013 and 2014, accord­ing to Cen­sus fig­ures released this fall, and the num­ber has con­tin­ued to plum­met. The Ken­tucky Cab­i­net for Health and Fam­i­lies esti­mates that by now rough­ly 400,000 Ken­tuck­ians have tak­en advan­tage of the ACA’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion, while anoth­er 100,000 have signed up for pri­vate insur­ance through Kynect.

    What Bevin must now decide is the extent to which he’s will­ing to rescind cov­er­age from the new­ly insured. Repub­li­cans on the fed­er­al lev­el will be pay­ing close atten­tion. If he claws back insur­ance from peo­ple who vote Repub­li­can but also enjoy their health cov­er­age, will he pay a sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal price?

    Bevin’s grad­ual scale-back of his posi­tion to elim­i­nate any and all traces of Oba­macare from Ken­tucky soil sug­gests that Repub­li­can lead­ers, when faced with the prospect of actu­al­ly doing what they’ve been promis­ing to do since Oba­macare was enact­ed, will back off. When Bevin was run­ning to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s right, he was for total repeal of the law and hit McConnell for not push­ing hard enough on that. Bevin mod­er­at­ed his oppo­si­tion from full-scale oblit­er­a­tion of the law as he pre­pared to assume a governor’s office that, by nature of the way out­go­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov. Steve Beshear imple­ment­ed the ACA, has pow­er­ful dis­cre­tion to dis­man­tle it.

    ...

    The Med­ic­aid expan­sion, from which the bulk of the ACA’s reduc­tions in unin­sured pop­u­la­tions have come, is under much more risk. Up until recent­ly Bevin was speak­ing quite clear­ly (in fundrais­ing let­ters, at least) about his desire to repeal the state’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion. He has since said that he plans to reject the Med­ic­aid expan­sion Beshear accepted—in which Med­ic­aid, the pub­lic pro­gram, is sim­ply made avail­able to more people—and would seek a fed­er­al waiv­er and grant mon­ey to imple­ment a more cus­tomized, pri­vate plan–focused expan­sion sim­i­lar to the one Arkansas pio­neered. (The future of Arkansas’ expan­sion itself is in ques­tion.The state elect­ed a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor in the 2014 elec­tion who is still deter­min­ing how to nego­ti­ate his right-wing cam­paign with the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of gov­er­nance.) For states that didn’t accept the Med­ic­aid expan­sion at all in the begin­ning, mov­ing to a more lim­it­ed agree­ment is good for the unin­sured. For states like Ken­tucky, though, that accept­ed the Med­ic­aid expan­sion whole­sale, mov­ing toward a “cus­tomized” plan will inevitably cost some res­i­dents their insur­ance via stricter eli­gi­bil­i­ty require­ments.

    Much of Kentucky’s shift toward Repub­li­can con­trol stems from Democ­rats’ loss­es in the east­ern, Appalachi­an part of the state, where pover­ty is high but coal is king. “Bevin pulled some of his best num­bers in Kentucky’s impov­er­ished east­ern coun­ties,” the Wash­ing­ton Post writes, “where enroll­ment had been high­est.” The “tweaks” to the Med­ic­aid expan­sion, as Bevin more recent­ly has been terming them, will test Democ­rats’ belief that Repub­li­cans won’t actu­al­ly fol­low through on their rhetoric about tak­ing back cov­er­age that’s already been grant­ed because it would turn off ben­e­fi­cia­ries who are cul­tur­al­ly dis­posed to vot­ing Repub­li­can. If Bevin undoes much of Kentucky’s ACA suc­cess sto­ry and his pop­u­lar­i­ty col­laps­es, those many Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates who’ve pledged to do away with Oba­macare root and branch might take note. If he does so and it has no dis­cernible effect on his sup­port, though, Repub­li­cans will feel much more com­fort­able going after the law if they recov­er the White House in 2016.

    “Much of Kentucky’s shift toward Repub­li­can con­trol stems from Democ­rats’ loss­es in the east­ern, Appalachi­an part of the state, where pover­ty is high but coal is king. “Bevin pulled some of his best num­bers in Kentucky’s impov­er­ished east­ern coun­ties,” the Wash­ing­ton Post writes, “where enroll­ment had been high­est.”
    Yes, Matt Bevin might lit­er­al­ly kill off some of his biggest sup­port­ers. At least he will if he fol­lows through with his ear­li­er pledges. But now that he’s in pow­er those pledges have sud­den­ly gone away. Will Bevin pay a price for not killing the high­ly suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar pro­gram when doing exact­ly that was a high­light of his cam­paign? We’ll see, but keep in mind that when Bevin runs for reelec­tion he’ll be run­ning in 2019, anoth­er off-year elec­tion that will prob­a­bly see a very low turnout favor­ing the GOP. So it’s not actu­al­ly clear that he’ll pay a polit­i­cal price no mat­ter what he does unless he piss­es off the GOP pri­ma­ry vot­ers so much that they replace him with a new can­di­date in 2019. At least Bevin, him­self, may not be in any great per­il if he real­ly does roll­back the Med­ic­aid expan­sion. But he could make life awful­ly dif­fi­cult for oth­er GOP­ers in his state between now and 2019 if Bevin turns him­self into ‘Gov­er­nor Granny Killer’. At the same time, by almost imme­di­ate­ly back­track­ing on his roll­back pledges, Bevin does sort of risk start­ing off his new job with a big F.U. to a GOP base vot­ers by almost imme­di­ate­ly revers­ing a major cam­paign pledge. It quite a conun­drum, espe­cial­ly giv­en all the oth­er GOP gov­er­nors across the nation that are going to be watch­ing what Bevin does next. It’s also a conun­drum that most of those fel­low GOP gov­er­nors are prob­a­bly some­what famil­iar with.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 5, 2015, 11:20 pm
  50. There’s been quite a bit of atten­tion, but also some head scratch­ing, paid to the deci­sion of three of the GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates (Ted Cruz, Mike Huck­abee, and Bob­by Jin­dal) to attend­ed the Nation­al Reli­gious Lib­er­ties Con­fer­ence host­ed by pas­tor Kevin Swan­son, a man who called a pro­posed anti-homo­sex­u­al­i­ty bill in Ugan­da that give life in prison for gays ‘mod­el’ leg­is­la­tion (it actu­al­ly became law in Ugan­da, then was struck down by courts, but could return). The head scratch­ing was sig­nif­i­cant­ly exac­er­bat­ed by Swan­son’s extend­ed plea dur­ing the con­fer­ence for accept­ing that the Bible jus­ti­fies the death penal­ty for gay peo­ple with no response from Huck­abee, Cruz, or Jin­dal. Swan­son also pro­claimed that he was will­ing to go to jail for speak­ing the truth, which raised the awk­ward par­al­lels between Swan­son and Ken­tucky Coun­try Clerk Kim Davis, who’s brief jail­ing fol­low­ing her refusal to rec­og­nize same-sex mar­riage licens­es turned her into “God tak­ing form on Earth” in the words of Mike Huck­abee (God works in mys­te­ri­ous ways). Yes, cater­ing to ‘Bib­li­cal death penal­ties for gays’-sympathies is alive and well in the GOP’s pri­ma­ry process!

    But in terms of bizarre polit­i­cal homo­pho­bic man­i­fes­ta­tions, the prize this month still has to go else­where, although Kim Davis plays a role in this one too. As the results of Ken­tuck­y’s Novem­ber 3rd elec­tion con­tin­ue to be parsed and digest­ed, it’s look­ing more and more like the sto­ry of Kim Davis and her one-woman cru­sade against gay mar­riage may have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the GOP’s major elec­tion day suc­cess­es that include the sec­ond GOP gov­er­nor in 40 years. And since it was very clear that Ken­tuck­y’s brand new GOP gov­er­nor, Matt Bevin, was going to over­turn the recent Med­ic­aid expan­sion that expand­ed health­care cov­er­age to 450,000 poor Ken­tuck­ians (Bevin made this a sig­na­ture issue), it’s lit­er­al­ly the case that a large num­ber of peo­ple may have know­ing­ly vot­ed to lose their own health care cov­er­age out of a desire to sup­port Kim Davis and her cru­sade to stop same-sex mar­riage. Now that is some intense homo­pho­bia! It sort of makes going to jail for a few days seem rather tame, does­n’t it? It would almost be noble if the cause was­n’t so unjust and did­n’t inflict so much col­lat­er­al dam­age on ran­dom peo­ple that are also going to lose their health care. Instead, it’s most­ly just sad, in so many ways:

    Lex­ing­ton-Her­ald Leader
    Ken­tucky coun­ties with high­est Med­ic­aid rates backed Matt Bevin, who plans to cut Med­ic­aid

    The 66 per­cent of Owsley Coun­ty that gets health cov­er­age through Med­ic­aid now must rec­on­cile itself with the 70 per­cent that vot­ed for Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor-elect Matt Bevin, who pledged to cut the state’s Med­ic­aid pro­gram and close the state-run Kynect health insur­ance exchange.

    By John Cheves
    Novem­ber 14, 2015

    BOONEVILLE — The 66 per­cent of Owsley Coun­ty that gets health cov­er­age through Med­ic­aid now must rec­on­cile itself with the 70 per­cent that vot­ed for Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor-elect Matt Bevin, who pledged to cut the state’s Med­ic­aid pro­gram and close the state-run Kynect health insur­ance exchange.

    Lisa Bot­ner, 36, belongs to both camps. A Kynec­tor — a state agent rep­re­sent­ing Kynect in the field — recent­ly helped Bot­ner sign up for a Well­care Med­ic­aid card for her­self and her 7‑year-old son. With­out that, Bot­ner said, she could­n’t afford the reg­u­lar doc­tor’s vis­its and blood tests need­ed to keep her hyper­thy­roidism in check.

    “If any­thing changed with our insur­ance to make it more expen­sive for us, that would be a big prob­lem,” Bot­ner, a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege stu­dent, said Fri­day at the Owsley Coun­ty Pub­lic Library, where she works. “Just with the blood tests, you’re talk­ing maybe $1,000 a year with­out insur­ance.”

    Yet two weeks ear­li­er, despite his much-dis­cussed plans to repeal Kynect and tough­en eli­gi­bil­i­ty require­ments for Med­ic­aid, she vot­ed for Bevin.

    “I’m just a die-hard Repub­li­can,” she said.

    Owsley Coun­ty Judge-Exec­u­tive Cale Turn­er, a Demo­c­rat, said the elec­tion results did­n’t sur­prise him. His con­stituents want­ed to express their oppo­si­tion to Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and what they per­ceive as “the lib­er­al agen­da” on social issues, Turn­er said.

    “To be hon­est with you, a lot of folks in Owsley Coun­ty went to the polls and vot­ed against gay mar­riage and abor­tion, and as a result, I’m afraid they vot­ed away their health insur­ance,” Turn­er said. “Which was their right to do, I guess. But it’s sad. Many peo­ple here signed up with Kynect, and it’s helped them, it’s been an absolute bless­ing.”

    The com­mu­ni­ty’s largest-cir­cu­la­tion news­pa­per, the Three Forks Tra­di­tion in Beat­tyville, did not say much about Kynect ahead of the elec­tion. Instead, its edi­to­ri­als roast­ed Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton, gay mar­riage, Islam, “lib­er­al race ped­dlers,” “lib­er­al media,” black crim­i­nals and “the rad­i­cal Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.”

    “The peo­ple I talk to, health care was­n’t even men­tioned,” said Gary Cor­nett, chair­man of the Owsley Coun­ty Repub­li­can Par­ty. “In South­east Ken­tucky, the social issues are impor­tant. We’re a small, tra­di­tion­al, tight-knit com­mu­ni­ty, and there are cer­tain ways we do things.”

    The trend seemed to hold across the state. At Tran­syl­va­nia Uni­ver­si­ty, polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Andrea Malji said she has crunched state data and found a “99 per­cent con­fi­dence lev­el” between the coun­ties’ Med­ic­aid enroll­ment lev­els and their guber­na­to­r­i­al choic­es. The larg­er the Med­ic­aid num­bers, the more like­ly they were to back Bevin, she said. The low­er the Med­ic­aid num­bers, the more like­ly they were to favor the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jack Con­way.

    So Bevin — who said dur­ing the cam­paign that “the fact that we have one out of four peo­ple in this state on Med­ic­aid is unsus­tain­able” — racked up votes in rur­al, most­ly poor coun­ties where far more of the local pop­u­la­tion than that holds a Med­ic­aid card. This was true even in tra­di­tion­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty strong­holds, such as Pike and Breathitt coun­ties.

    Malji, who is from Pulas­ki Coun­ty, where Bevin cap­tured 72 per­cent of the vote, said she heard peo­ple back home denounce “Oba­macare” while thou­sands rushed to sign up with Kynect. They did­n’t seem to real­ize that Kynect, Ken­tuck­y’s response to the fed­er­al Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act, is the same thing as Oba­macare, she said.

    “There’s either vot­er dis­con­nect here, where the peo­ple weren’t think­ing about or weren’t aware of Bev­in’s stance on health care, or these coun­ties just have high­er lev­els of social con­ser­v­a­tives who thought it was more impor­tant to vote on social issues,” Malji said.

    Owsley Coun­ty, one of the nation’s poor­est places, neat­ly fit the trend. Near­ly 1,000 of its 4,508 res­i­dents got health insur­ance after Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov. Steve Beshear estab­lished Kynect two years ago and expand­ed Med­ic­aid to include peo­ple up to 138 per­cent of the pover­ty lev­el, which is $16,105 a year for an indi­vid­ual.

    New­ly insured peo­ple start­ed to vis­it the Owsley Coun­ty Med­ical Clin­ic on the out­skirts of Booneville. They des­per­ate­ly need­ed med­ical care. Even by Ken­tuck­y’s lax stan­dards, Owsley has high rates of obe­si­ty, smok­ing and poor nutri­tion, and as a result, greater than nor­mal inci­dences of can­cer, heart dis­ease and dia­betes. Some patients wept with relief as long­time ail­ments final­ly were treat­ed, clin­ic offi­cials said.

    “Our doc­tors were telling us they were see­ing peo­ple who had nev­er had health care before, so they were pret­ty sick,” said Tere­sa Flem­ing, chief finan­cial offi­cer at non­prof­it Moun­tain Com­pre­hen­sive Health Corp., which runs the clin­ic in Owsley and oth­ers in Per­ry, Har­lan and Letch­er coun­ties.

    Moun­tain Com­pre­hen­sive Health’s East­ern Ken­tucky clin­ics saw a 5.3 per­cent increase in patients in the first year after Beshear estab­lished Kynect and a 12.5 per­cent increase in vis­its. The num­ber of “self-paid patients” — those with­out insur­ance, for whom the clin­ics usu­al­ly had to swal­low finan­cial loss­es — dropped 9 per­cent as Ken­tuck­ians obtained cov­er­age.

    These changes brought enough rev­enue into the clin­ics to pay for “ambi­tious new ser­vices,” such as den­tistry and optom­e­try, said chief exec­u­tive offi­cer Mike Caudill. The clin­ics also have launched a “Far­ma­cy” pro­gram, where fam­i­lies get vouch­ers for fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles at local farm­ers mar­kets.

    Now, how­ev­er, Caudill said he’s watch­ing close­ly to see what Bevin does after he takes office next month.

    “I’m very con­cerned about any changes to the Afford­able Care Act in Ken­tucky and how they would impact us,” Caudill said. “Dur­ing this past two years, we’ve been able to take some pos­i­tive steps. I don’t want us to lose that.”

    Bevin has tried to reas­sure peo­ple like Caudill, say­ing he will address the issue of insur­ance cov­er­age in “a delib­er­ate and thought­ful fash­ion” after “con­sult­ing with Ken­tuck­y’s health care stake­hold­ers.” After Kynect is elim­i­nat­ed next year, he says, Ken­tuck­ians can buy insur­ance through the fed­er­al exchange, HealthCare.gov. As for Med­ic­aid, his plans are still a work in progress, but he def­i­nite­ly expects Ken­tucky to spend less mon­ey.

    There is plen­ty at stake. Rough­ly 500,000 of Ken­tuck­y’s 4.4 mil­lion peo­ple obtained health insur­ance through Kynect, about 425,000 of them through Med­ic­aid. Expand­ed Med­ic­aid costs bil­lions of dol­lars a year. Until now, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment paid for it. Start­ing in the next fis­cal year, though, states that expand­ed their Med­ic­aid pro­grams are expect­ed to pay a grow­ing share of that tab, up to 10 per­cent by 2021.

    “I do not intend to re-enroll peo­ple at the same lev­el going for­ward,” Bevin told reporters sev­er­al days after his elec­tion. “There is not going to be a con­tin­u­a­tion of enrolling peo­ple at 138 per­cent of the pover­ty lev­el. That is not going to hap­pen.”

    Bevin says he wants Ken­tucky to ask the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for Med­ic­aid waivers, as Indi­ana did, let­ting the state impose restric­tions and costs on the peo­ple enrolled. In Indi­ana, Med­ic­aid enrollees can be asked to pay a month­ly pre­mi­um of $3 to $25 a month, depend­ing on their income, and co-pays for doc­tor’s vis­its and oth­er ser­vices. Enrollees who miss pay­ments can be tem­porar­i­ly locked out of the pro­gram.

    Noth­ing should be entire­ly free, Bevin says.

    ...

    Impos­ing costs and restric­tions on Med­ic­aid patients, as Indi­ana does, “could pre­vent low-income peo­ple from get­ting the care they need, mak­ing health prob­lems cost­lier down the road and cre­at­ing bar­ri­ers to sus­tain­ing the health cov­er­age gains Ken­tucky has made in recent years,” the Berea-based Ken­tucky Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy wrote in a report this sum­mer.

    Back in Owsley Coun­ty, Bot­ner, the Med­ic­aid recip­i­ent who vot­ed for Bevin, said she would­n’t object to a lit­tle skin in the game — just not too much.

    “I have always said I am will­ing to pay a lit­tle bit to keep these ben­e­fits,” Bot­ner said. “In order to keep health insur­ance for me and my son, I’d pay $20 a month if that’s what they asked me. I’d pay $5 each time I went to the doc­tor. Of course, if you start to get up to $50 or $60 a month, in that range, that would be more than we could afford.”

    Yes, the coun­ties with the most Med­ic­aid enroll­ment lev­els were the most sup­port­ive of Ken­tuck­y’s new far-right gov­er­nor Matt Bevin. And this was true even for tra­di­tion­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic strong­holds:

    ...
    The trend seemed to hold across the state. At Tran­syl­va­nia Uni­ver­si­ty, polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Andrea Malji said she has crunched state data and found a “99 per­cent con­fi­dence lev­el” between the coun­ties’ Med­ic­aid enroll­ment lev­els and their guber­na­to­r­i­al choic­es. The larg­er the Med­ic­aid num­bers, the more like­ly they were to back Bevin, she said. The low­er the Med­ic­aid num­bers, the more like­ly they were to favor the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jack Con­way.

    So Bevin — who said dur­ing the cam­paign that “the fact that we have one out of four peo­ple in this state on Med­ic­aid is unsus­tain­able” — racked up votes in rur­al, most­ly poor coun­ties where far more of the local pop­u­la­tion than that holds a Med­ic­aid card. This was true even in tra­di­tion­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty strong­holds, such as Pike and Breathitt coun­ties.
    ...

    Pas­tor Swan­son would def­i­nite­ly be proud. Maybe.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 17, 2015, 10:36 pm

Post a comment