Nel's New Day

April 20, 2015

Wisconsin Senator an Example of Uncaring Rich

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who used $8.8 million of his own money to get elected in 2010, was then the tenth wealthiest congressional member with almost $50 million, up from almost $20 million the previous year. By now, he’s gone down to thirtieth wealthiest in Congress but remains in about the top 5 percent within a group of very wealthy people.

One could call Johnson a “self-made” man because his wealth comes from his marriage to University of Minnesota sweetheart, Jane Curler. Her father, Howard Curler, started a company in 1958 with Robert Woods that developed innovative packaging—shrink-wrapped cheese and meat packaging, films for coffee and other products, etc. Almost 40 years ago, Curler created a business, PACUR, for son Patrick that sold its products exclusively to Dad. Son-in-law Ron Johnson joined the company in 1979.

Johnson’s wealth, and the way that he procured it, is not the problem, however. It’s his indifference to the other 95 percent of the people in the United States who haven’t found a wealthy spouse to give them the same opportunities. Recently he agreed with radio host Jay Weber in criticizing the use of “sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage” to promote “Obamacare.”

For the second time, Johnson has lost a lawsuit to stop congressional members and their staff from getting health insurance subsidies by arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required them to get insurance on their own. In the first judgment against Johnson, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that Johnson and his aide, Brooke Ericson, lacked standing to bring the suit because they had not been injured under an equal protection theory. Griesbach wrote, “The Constitution wisely cabins judicial authority by forbidding judges from deciding disputes unless the plaintiff is actually injured in some concrete, discernible way.” The George W. Bush-appointed judge added:

“The nation’s system of government doesn’t allow every controversy to play out in court. There is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true.”

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concurred with Griesbach after Johnson appealed the decision. “Respectfully, we do not see how Senator Johnson’s reputation could be sullied or his electability diminished by being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse,” Judge Joel Flaum, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. The other two judges were appointed for Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

Johnson is frustrated because the judge failed “to address the important constitutional issues at hand” although addressing from these plaintiffs would be unconstitutional. After two failures in the courts, Johnson is reviewing the decision before deciding whether to drop the matter, ask the full appeals court to review the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called the lawsuit “an unfortunate political stunt” that would cause top congressional staff to quit if Johnson won.

Three years ago, Johnson tried to convince voters of the ACA’s evils by claiming that his daughter’s heart surgery would not have been possible with ACA as the law. He claimed that he ran for the Senate to replace the “healthcare freedom” prior to the ACA. Dr. John Foker disagreed with Johnson’s story. On the other hand, the man who saved the life of Johnson’s daughter is “generally supportive” of the ACA but thinks it doesn’t go far enough. He said, “Unfortunately it was written by the insurance and drug companies, so not so great.” In addition, the surgery was performed at a government-funded medical institution and was developed under the socialized healthcare systems in Brazil and France.

After a GOP president lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar war, Johnson wants to privatize medical care for veterans and run the VA at a profit. This was after he accused President Obama of not keeping enough troops in Iraq. With the Republicans in control of Congress, Johnson’s plan is moving toward fruition after Concerned Veterans for America, funded by the Koch brothers, released a report supporting privatization. Veterans would have a private insurance option, and one-fifth of future veterans might not be eligible for care under tougher enrollment standards. Real veterans’ groups oppose the plan, and this clip from the The Rachel Maddow Show discusses why privatization would be a disaster.

Health insurance isn’t the only thing that Johnson wants to take from people; he wants to force single women to marry. The new chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said that a single woman who wants to “increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet “another child out of wedlock” to increase her welfare windfall should instead “find someone to support her.” He may be projecting his personal experience on the poor.

The idea that women have more children to get more government benefits has been debunked by both Politifact and Washington Post because food stamps, health care and other government assistance don’t come close to covering all the expenses that come with having a child. Johnson also ignores the fact that almost half the children in the current generation will spend at least part of their childhood in single-parent household, most of them headed by women and most not receiving “welfare.”

A recent study shows that almost as many poor or near-poor children are in two-parent families as in single-parents ones. In addition, countries such as Iceland, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain all have higher nonmarital birth rates than does the United States, yet they all have far lower rates of child poverty. As author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has argued, poverty is not a lack of character, it is a lack of money. The number of “traditional families” idealized by well-funded organizations and Christian ministries is rapidly shrinking although it dominates the U.S. imagination. Johnson and his fellow Republicans are contributing to the number of “poor single women” through their support of rising economic inequality, diminishing numbers of blue-collar jobs, lowered wages, and unbelievably high levels of incarceration in poor communities.

Dozens of studies with thousands of participants throughout the United States show that people’s feelings of compassion and empathy go down as their level of wealth increases. At the same time, higher levels of wealth lead to feelings of entitlement, deservingness, and self-interest, according to Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Some of these studies are described here. One reason may be that wealth provides the luxury of less dependence on others, thus desensitizing a sense of empathy.

UC-Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has found that this deficit physically appeared through the vagus nerve which is activated by caring. Images of suffering produced a vagus nerve response in lower-class people that didn’t appear in upper-class individuals. These are the people increasingly making decisions for society as over half the members of Congress are millionaires.

Conservatives who get very riled about these studies could look at the Republicans in Congress. Ron Johnson is just an example of conservative members who take from the poor and give to the rich.

Johnson, the senator who sued to stop ACA for congressional staff and sneered at the “sad sack” stories, is the same person who is afraid of backlash against the GOP if the Supreme Court gives the GOP what they asked for in stripping health care subsidies for millions of people in the United States. The biggest election disaster for the GOP would be in the red states where conservatives can’t—or won’t—set up state-run insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court refuses to recognize the federal exchange for those who live in poverty.

Also in Wisconsin, state representatives Jesse Kremer and Steve Nuss want food stamp recipients to show ID to eliminate the non-existent waste and fraud, forcing them to identify themselves as a lower class. The elderly can forget about asking someone to get groceries for them. Kremer also wants special government-run food pantries for people with food stamps.

The best Wisconsin story from the week: Gov.Scott Walker explained that the U.S. role in the world is “what makes us arguably the greatest nation in history.” This from the party and the person who questions President Obama’s “love for his country.”

October 31, 2014

It’s Halloween! Be Afraid of the GOP

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

With four days until the 2014 election results start to trickle in, the polls are up and down. A week ago, carpet-bagger Scott Brown and former Massachusetts GOP senator, was even with New Hampshire’s Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Now he’s down by 8 points. The robotic creature for the New York Times, assigned with determine winners, reported that its conclusions were 3 percent accurate. The GOP is chortling—at least publicly–that it’s taking over the senate. This is what we can expect if Republicans have a majority by January 1, 2015:

Agenda control through the budget process: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.” It will be a return to 2011 when Congress threatened to not raise the debt limit to pay for what they had already spent as well as 13 months ago when the GOP shut down the government 13 months ago in an attempt to get their own way and cost the economy at least $24 billion.

More tax cuts for the wealthy and further spending cuts for middle- and working-class families: Although the senate needs 60 votes to break a filibuster, congressional budget resolutions can squeak through with an ordinary majority of 51 votes and cannot be filibustered. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2015 budget bill sent to the senate gives those making over $1 million another $200,000 in tax cuts while cutting nondefense spending by $4.8 trillion. Almost 70 percent of that money takes from programs helping low-income and middle-class families—Medicaid, Pell Grants for college, etc. The GOP also wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Right now, the reality is an average U.S. corporate tax rate at 27 percent with small businesses paying a disproportionately large percentage because of loopholes and subsidies for the big companies. GOP leaders claim that they will close these loopholes, but they can’t afford to do this because they’ll lose campaign funding. GOP austerity cost the economy 2.4 million jobs from December 2010 to October 2013.

Obstruction of well-qualified judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on federal courts: The record shows continued filibustering of the president’s judicial nominees. Only 16 judicial nominees were filibustered during George W. Bush’s eight years compared to the 77 nominees from President Obama filibustered in a six and a half years. There would have been more than 77 if the senate had not changed its rules to require a simple majority vote for reasonable debate times for these nominees. A GOP senate means the return of the filibuster for judicial confirmations. Currently federal courts have 63 vacancies and 32 judicial nominees.

Another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act: The GOP has promised that the first vote would be to repeal the ACA if they control the senate. The vote would take place at a time that the uninsured rate is at a record low: 7.3 million enrolled and paying premiums through the marketplaces; 8 million with health coverage through Medicaid; and 5 million signed up for ACA-compliant plans outside the marketplace. And that’s with almost half the states refusing to participate in the ACA. Insurers also cannot deny coverage with a pre-existing condition or put lifetime and annual coverage limits on their care. They have to spend at least of the premiums on health care and cover young people up to the age of 26 on their parents’ policies.

Greater rollback of women’s health needs: McConnell says he will push for narrower exemptions on abortions after 20 weeks than the Supreme Court has allowed. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has a bill to allow businesses the ability to refuse contraceptive coverage for their employees. Before the ACA required equal insurance charges for both genders, women were charged up to 150 percent more than men for the same coverage. Over 48 million women receive preventive care without deductibles or co-payments and saved $483 million on just birth control pills, $269 per woman, because of ACA.

Use of the Congressional Review Act to weaken environmental rules, jeopardizing public health: Congress can pass a joint resolution stopping a major rule submitted to the legislative branch. The senate can accomplish this in 60 days without any possibility of a filibuster. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he will challenge every EPA rule under the current administration, including the proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The rule would curb dangerous pollution, save money on energy bills, and improve public health by avoiding 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children every year. Full implementation would save $93 billion in 2030. For every dollar, people will see $7 in benefits.

Expansion of carrying concealed and loaded guns: The NRA wants the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people to get gun permits in states that have the weakest gun safety laws and carry them all over the United States. This is a race to the bottom as states with the weakest standards set national standards for these permits. People like George Zimmerman, who killed a teenage boy and has a history of violence including assaulting a police officer and domestic violence, would have permission to carry his gun everywhere instead of in only those states with weaker gun safety laws. Local law enforcement would have no recourse. This legislation failed by only two votes in 2009 and was included in the compromise measure developed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Fortunately, it was three votes short of breaking the filibuster because it could have passed with 57 votes.

Legislation removing any LGBT rights: At this time, 33 states recognize marriage equality with another three that may soon marry same-sex couples after courts release rulings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced that he will be “introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, reiterated the party’s support for a constitutional amendment that would unmarry loving and committed same-sex couples. The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act currently pending in Congress would, if passed, allow for government-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community and gut existing workplace protections for the now thousands of legally married same-sex couples employed by the federal government or its contractors. For example, this Act would permit federal workers to ignore paperwork from same-sex couples for processing tax returns, approving visa applications, or reviewing Social Security applications and allow a federally funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people.

Legislation to deport DREAMers: Children who were brought to the United States and who meet strict criteria may currently stay in the U.S. and work legally. A senate bipartisan bill that passed 68 to 32 would have made this administrative rule into law as part of immigration reform for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the House refused to consider the bill. A GOP senate would most likely reverse its former position on immigration reform. Cruz said he would “use any and all means necessary” to prevent the administration from allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the place they know as home.

More cuts to programs and rules that increase college access, affordability, and readiness:  Ryan’s budget cuts Pell Grants by $90 billion, makes monthly student loan payments higher, and eliminates $107 billion from early education and K-12 education programs over the next decade. A GOP senate would most likely block regulations on for-profit colleges with a history of predatory practices that saddle students with higher rates of debt and low-quality degrees and charge 3.5 times as much as public institutions for the same degree.

On the other hand, the GOP may suffer if it wins the senate. The Tea Party will put more leverage on the GOP establishment to toe the far-right line. Their unwillingness to compromise and move to the right will cause them to lose more voters in 2016, including those for the president. Repealing health care, rejecting minorities, and taking more rights from women will lose the party a huge constituency.

The GOP may win some seats this year because they keep minorities and low-income people from voting, but these people will have the next two years to get the necessary ID. In addition, the courts may overturn the discrimination of the new voter suppression laws. Judicial rulings during the past few weeks to keep these laws have cited only an excuse that they can’t be changed this close to the election. During the next year, there will be many lawsuits from people denied their constitutional right to vote in next week’s election.

July 23, 2014

ACA Still Attacked, But Helps People

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
Tags: ,

The House has declared a hiatus in attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after voting against it at least 50 times since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it mostly constitutional, but lawsuits about ACA are still wandering around lower courts. Two separate courts of appeals issued conflicting rulings about ACA yesterday.

By a 2-1 vote, a panel from the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that the exchanges, marketplaces where people can receive tax credits if they are allowed financial assistance, are valid only if an individual state operates the exchanges. Because 36 states did not create these exchanges, the federal government set up one for the states’ residents which provided subsidies to almost 5 million people who could not otherwise afford insurance.  Because the law mention state exchanges, the two judges decided that tax credits for purchases a federal exchange did not meet the letter of the law.

The decision against ACA would not only remove subsidies from people who need financial assistance but also fail to cover all the people, a necessity for the ACA to function. Without this provision, employers would not be required to provide insurance. This is the first ruling against ACA since the cases started two years ago.

Within two hours of the D.C. court ruling, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals released an opposite decision. Because of the ambiguity in the law’s wording, the court decided that the rule in authorizing subsidies is “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion,” according to the Chevron Doctrine from a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. Although the law refers to state exchanges, it also provides that if a state “elects” not to establish the “required Exchange,” the secretary of health and human services must “establish and operate such Exchange.” These sections both require states to establish exchanges and allow them not to do so. Congress gave the IRS the responsibility to resolve such contradictions.

This case had pretty much flown under the radar because a federal district court in January heard it and ridiculed conservatives for the ludicrous filing. The Obama Administration, however, had expected the negative ruling from the D.C. Circuit and was prepared to appeal the decision to the entire 11 judges in the court. The panel that overturned the lower court was composed of the two most far-right judges on the D.C. Circuit who displayed their hostility toward the law in the March 25, 2014 arguments.

Judge Raymond Randolph, appointed by Bush I, stated that the launch of the ACA was “an unmitigated disaster” and that its costs “have gone sky-high.” He cut off Judge Harry Edwards, the one dissenter, to quote an editorial from the conservative Investor’s Business Daily to support his argument that the ACA should be defunded. Health policy is not that publication’s strong suit: it had earlier argued that British physicist Stephen Hawking from the U.K. wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K. because that country’s National Health Service would declare the his life to be “worthless.”

Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, concurred with his colleague, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, that all labor, business, or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect. He perceived the ACA as a “burdensome regulation” brought by the forces of “cowboy capitalism.”

With seven judges appointed by Democratic presidents, the entire D.C. Circuit is far more middle-of-the-road than the panel that made this decision against ACA. Although the court is typically reluctant to hear a panel decision, the loss of health insurance for millions of people might be important for the entire court to consider the ruling. The decision won’t go into effect as long as an appeal is pending.

If the case goes to the conservative Supreme Court, they may have difficulty striking ACA down on the basis of ambiguity because of the court’s long history in recognizing a law’s clear purpose over an error in proofreading or by one statement in isolation. Even the subtitle of the law reads “Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans.”

If the entire D.C. Circuit hears the case and overturns the panel’s ruling in Halbeg, two district courts and two appellate courts will have all ruled in favor of the ACA, which means that the Supreme Court will not be required to take the case. The justices may decide to so anyway, but they wouldn’t have a reason.

A great irony in the GOP jubilation regarding the possibility that people will lose their subsidies is that it would raise taxes. Before the 2012 presidential election, 95% of all Republicans signed on to Grover Norquists’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” to oppose any tax rates for anyone.

In its 2012 ACA ruling, the Supreme Court called the subsidies “taxes.” The loss of subsidies equals an increase in taxes. Republican Kevin Drum wrote in Mother Jones, “Everyone who buys insurance through a federal exchange would lose the tax credits they’re currently entitled to, and losing tax credits is the same as a tax increase.” Denying Medicaid, states denied 5 million people something that didn’t exist, but the removal of tax subsidies means taking away cash from people already receiving it.

Unfortunately for the Republicans opposing the ACA, the news about the law, while largely failing to appear in the mainstream press, is good. Private insurers that originally avoided the exchanges now want a piece of the action. In all the states that have reported, the number of insurance companies in the exchanges will increase during the second year.

When insurers testified at a House hearing, they said that the law had not led to a government takeover; just the reverse, several insurers said their stock prices were going up. They also refused to say whether their insurance premiums would increase sharply.

The ACA is vastly decreasing the number of uninsured: for example, the uninsured in New Jersey is lower by 38 percent, in Minnesota by 40 percent, and in Kentucky by 50 percent. During the second quarter of 2014, the percentage of people without insurance fell to 13.4 percent—the lowest quarterly average since Gallup-Healthways began tracking health insurance in 2008.

The vast majority of people are paying their premiums, and almost 9 million more people have health insurance. Yet there hasn’t been a significant increase in new patients visiting doctors.

Over half the people think that the ACA has helped either their families or others in the country, according to a survey by CNN/ORC International survey. Thirty-eight percent think that the law is too liberal, but 17 percent oppose it because it’s not liberal enough. The remainder of the people support it.

Republicans are largely happy with their insurance: 74 percent of newly insured Republicans like the plans. Overall, 77 percent of people who had insurance prior to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act said they are pleased with the new coverage they obtained in the last year.

Best of all, insurance saves lives, according to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine about the Massachusetts health care reform that started in 2007. While death rates from “amenable” causes and the overall death rate barely budged outside Massachusetts, both those went down significantly in Massachusetts. For every 830 people who got insurance in the state, about one person avoided a premature death. That would make between 17,000 and 24,000 more people staying alive in the nation.  It’s the opposite of the “death panels” that Republicans announced during that hot summer to rile up conservatives.

July 12, 2012

House Votes against Health Care, Senate against Jobs

Next time any Republican claims that they are trying to get jobs while President Obama is destroying the economy, mention today’s vote that would have given small businesses a tax cut and create almost 1 million jobs. The vote against limited debate, better known as the filibuster, was 53-44. In the past, the Senate needed only 51 votes to pass a bill. Now they need 60 votes. It was a bill to cut taxes—the GOP’s favorite kind of bill. But they whined about not being able to water down the bill with nonsensical amendments so they defeated it. Their real reason was to try to make the president look bad. The conservatives, as usual, are willing to keep people from getting jobs in order to take over the government and give the wealthy all the resources in the United States.

Yesterday the House voted—for either the 31st or 33rd time depending on who’s keeping the count—to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The final vote was 244-185 for repeal, with 5 Democrats joining the majority. Republicans are becoming more and more blatant about their refusal to “promote the general welfare” as shown by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s statement, “That is not the issue,” when Chris Matthews asked him about coverage for 30 million uninsured people. Some Republicans have openly said that people must accept the fact that the poor will die because they are poor.

After the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertisements that health care for all removes freedom from some people, only 31 percent of the population want to entirely repeal the law. Massachusetts is an example of how people approve of “Romneycare,” the basis for the current health care act. In that state, 98 percent of the population have health insurance, and 60 percent want to keep the program. A national poll shows that only six percent consider repealing the ACA a “top priority,” and 56 percent want the regressives to stop trying to block implementation and move on to real problems. That’s the majority who want to pass bills like the one in the Senate today that would get jobs for people.

Republicans know that yesterday’s House vote was a waste of time because they cannot get it through the Senate. “Obviously we all understand that it’s a statement of principle and it doesn’t have any chance in the Senate, but I think it’s appropriate,” said Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH). The House has fewer than 141 days left in the year to create jobs and support the economy. Even some Republicans understand this. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said, “We’ve already passed repeal 16 ways to Sunday,” while a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House has voted to dismantle, defund, or repeal the healthcare law 30 times in the 112th Congress.

The waste is not just of time. The so-called fiscally-responsible party has spent at least 80 hours of floor time on repeals; that’s two full weeks. Each week of floor time costs $24 million; two weeks is $48 million. With committee and staff time, the tab for the taxpayers for this foolishness comes to more than $50 million.

Republican lawmakers are willing to leave millions of people without coverage, up to 54 million in 2019. Conservative legislators don’t care that without ACA, health care costs will increase, people with pre-existing conditions will lose coverage, and the Medicare disarray for the 100 million claims monthly will result in doctors not being paid for a up to a half year.

The so-called fiscally-responsible Republicans also don’t care that repealing ACA costs the government money. The CBO predicts that the government will get at least an additional $230 billion “as a result of changes and revenue.” Repeal would “increase federal deficits in the decade after 2019 by an amount that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP.”

People tend to disapprove of ACA because they don’t know many of them can save money through lower insurance costs, government subsidies, and fuller health coverage. The wealthiest people in the country will pay more taxes, increasing the percentage toward that of the middle class. In January anyone with an adjusted gross income of over $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers)–only 2.1 percent of households–will pay a 3.8% surcharge on investment income, dividends and capital gains.

People will get money back from their insurers if the companies spend too little money on actual health care for those that they insure. For the past 18 months, insurers have been required to use 85 percent of the premiums (80 percent for individual and small-group plans) on healthcare, allowing only the remainder on general overhead and CEO bonuses. Any expenditures not specifically on health care that are more than that 80 or 85 percent has to be rebated to customers.

People who oppose the ACA believe that they appear to think that they will never lose their jobs or be short of money for health insurance. They fail to understand that they can lose their job at any time, or their employers may decide not to provide health insurance. Without the ACA, there is no law requiring small businesses to provide employee health insurance.

Better health for everyone saves money for all because the poor won’t have to go to the emergency room, causing charges that are passed along to insured people. One program discovered that better care stopped over half the emergency room visits by the poor, reducing costs by 62 percent. A $235 million expenditure in free contraception can lower costs of $1.32 billion by preventing unintended pregnancies. A study of 703 Oregon Health Plan patients who received one year of drug treatment saved $2.5 million, not counting the decrease in costs in crime, jail, child protective services, 9-1-1 calls, and lawsuits resulting from police shootings.

Regressive governors are deciding whether to refuse federal Medicaid money. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the first to take this approach, and his people are in the worst condition. Over 6 million Texans—25 percent and the highest percentage in the nation—are now uninsured. The level for receiving Medicaid in that state is an income less than one-fourth of the poverty level. For a single person, that level is $2,944—per year. Any single person making $3,000 or more annually cannot receive public health care because of Texas guidelines for Medicaid. Initially, the federal government would pick up the tab for all people with incomes of 133 percent of the poverty level. After five years of health reform, Texas could insure 1,798,314 more Americans under the Medicaid expansion alone, more than any state in the nation. But Perry wants to keep one in four people in his states without health insurance.

Setting up a state health insurance exchange would enable the remaining millions of uninsured Texans to purchase affordable health insurance. Perry also refuses the exchanges. The federal government will create exchanges if the state won’t, but people between 25 percent and 133 percent of the poverty level won’t get any health insurance, leaving 1.8 million people in Texas without health care.

Mitt Romney has spent part of his campaign lying about the high cost of the ACA. When CBO points out that Medicare will cost $500 billion less, he tried to convince people that ACA will shortchange them. The savings comes from getting rid of fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies, but Romney claims otherwise.

Romney has a serious problem during his campaign in trying to skirt the whole “Obamacare” and “Romneycare” issue. First, his campaign said that neither one was a tax; then he switched to saying that the federal ACA is a tax. He still claims that he didn’t raise taxes in Massachusetts with his personal health care mandate. “At the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates. They don’t need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional,” Romney said. “And as a result, Massachusetts’ mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the Legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was.”

Here are the similarities between the Massachusetts and the federal plans. Both measures require individuals to have health insurance, require that businesses offer health care to their employees and provide subsidies or exemptions for people who can’t afford it. Both also impose penalties on people who can afford health insurance but don’t pay for it.

Sarah Palin brought up the topic of “Death Panels” when the ACA was first being debated, and the right wingnuts are still passing this around the Internet. It is the conservatives in the House of Representatives that want a death panel through their rabid attempts to kill health care for the people of the United States. One of them, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) actually said during House debate that insurance companies should be allowed to discriminate against people with brain tumors: “I don’t that think someone who is diagnosed with a massive tumor should the next day be able to have millions and millions and millions of dollars in health care provided.”

Without ACA, 20,350 people between the ages of 25 and 64 prematurely died in 2005 because they lacked health coverage. That number rose to 26,100 people in 2010—2,175 people every month. In those years, 134,120 people without health coverage died.

The Republicans will keep trying to kill more people, but for now we can celebrate. The Supreme Court ruling, for whatever reason, was a victory for due process, decency, and the people of the United States.

July 10, 2012

Congressional Conservatives Should Resign

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:58 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Tomorrow the House of Representatives plans to vote against the Affordable Care Act–for the 31st time. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the law, they are taking another tack, to remove all money from the IRS to implement the plan.

Fortunately, the Democrats in the House are comparing “Obamacare” to “Romneycare,” showing Massachusetts’ success in its comprehensive health care reform.

Judge Richard Posner, a conservative on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, told NPR in an interview that he has become “less conservative … since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.” Over the past 10 years, Posner said, “There’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking.”

In response to the right-wing’s vicious responses to Chief Justice John Roberts’ ruling on health care, Posner added, “Because if you put [yourself] in his position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.”

When Posner uses words like “lunatics” and “crackpots,” he’s apparently referring to the other conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former leaders in the GOP are highly disgusted with the actions of the current House conservatives. Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) gave this advice last summer, recommending that lawmakers who aren’t willing to compromise should not serve in Congress. “If you can’t compromise on anything, go home,” Simpson told NPR. “If you can’t learn to compromise on an issue without compromising yourself, then you shouldn’t be a legislator.”

Former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE) blasted Republican leadership for their “irresponsible actions” during the debt ceiling debacle a year ago: “I think about some of the presidents we’ve had on my side of the aisle — Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., go right through them, Eisenhower — they would be stunned.” Disgusted with the debt ceiling negotiations, Hagel called it “an astounding lack of responsible leadership by many in the Republican party, and I say that as a Republican.” Hagel added that the Republican party is too captive to the Tea Party movement that is “very ideological” and “very narrow.” He said, “I’ve never seen so much intolerance as I’ve seen today.”

Former Florida governor and Republican, Jeb Bush, said that the GOP is “short-sighted” on tax and immigration policies, which is not what the GOP mainstream wants to hear. At the same time, he endorsed President Obama’s philosophy about the economic “headwinds” from Europe and agreed with the president’s statement that both Ronald Reagan and his father, George H. W. Bush, would have a hard time getting nominated by today’s Republican Party.

Even Richard Nixon would have been disgusted with the current crop of Republicans as shown by his definition of “liberal.” In quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s definition of the word, Nixon said, “It is a wonderful definition, and I agree with him.” The definition? “A liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life.” The president who resigned before being impeached 40 years ago makes today’s Republican lawmakers look totally selfish and unethical.

July 1, 2012

Conservatives React Strongly to SCOTUS Health Care Ruling

As the dust settles over the health care decision, the fallout continues. From 10:09 am last Thursday morning when both CNN and Fox erroneously announced that the health care act had been struck down to the great wailing and gnashing of teeth since then when regressives get TV time, the reaction has been extreme. Rush Limbaugh screamed on the Glenn Beck show, “Why can’t we appoint out own judges.” Oddly enough, Mr. Limbaugh, after Citizens United  I thought that was exactly what you had done.

From the wingnuts’ bitterness at what they perceive as the loss of freedom and liberty came the appalling statement from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) equating the ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act to the September 11 terrorist attacks. This man is running for governor of Indiana. When criticized for this statement, he gave the usual half-baked apology: “I certainly did not intend to minimize any tragedy our nation has faced, and I apologize.” Nothing about how he was wrong in the extreme.

Tea Party members have called for violent revolution. Mississippi Tea Party Chairman Roy Nicholson wrote, “To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.” Matthew Davis, an attorney and former Michigan Republican Party spokesman, wants armed insurrection.

Unhinged is probably the best description for some right-wing comments. I especially like “I’m moving to Canada” which might have been the progressives’ answer if the ACA had not been upheld because Canada has universal health care. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote, “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so.” Ben Shapiro compared the health care act to slavery. And Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) made this twisted statement: “When you create a right for somebody, you create an obligation for somebody else, and then you’re taking away that person’s right.”

Regressives look for a reason to Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to align  with the Supreme Court moderates. Right-wing radio host Michael Savage, who called  autism a “phony disease,” explained that Roberts’ epilepsy caused his “cognitive dissociation” in the Obamacare ruling. Savage said, “Neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness and other cognitive problems.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA) thinks that Roberts might have been “playing to the editorial pages of the Washington Post and The New York Times. David Berstein suggested Roberts was coerced into ruling for the health care act because President Obama and “unidentified circles” threatened to “delegitimize the Supreme Court.” One desperate person concluded that President Obama and David Axelrod threatened to kill Roberts’ family. After the plot was discovered by a Secret Service agent, according to “Harry” at ToBeRight, Roberts will reverse his ruling when “Obama and Axelrod will be taken away in handcuffs.” That was three days ago; I’m still waiting.

Some complained that the law gave women an advantage. They said that it , complaining that men didn’t received free STI treatment and contraception. ACA doesn’t cover free STI treatment for anyone, and there is no reliable male hormonal contraception. It’s back to confusion about what the law says as well as an ignorance of female and male biology.

Right-wing governors assert that they will refuse to carry out the law. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) said that he would not follow the provisions of the law until his attorney general—a Republican—reminded him that he was required to follow federal law. Govs. Rick Scott (FL), Bobby Jindal (LA), and Bob McDonell (VA) are some who just won’t bother to do anything about it as they work to elect Mitt Romney president in November. They ignore two factors: Romney can’t do anything about the health care act legally, and the federal government will devise the plan for health insurance exchanges if states which don’t have one by January 2013. They also ignore the fact that 80 percent of the people in the country actually want the health insurance exchanges.

Presently Chief Justice John Roberts is heading to Malta, an isolated island nation south of Italy, to teach a class for the next two weeks. He said, “Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress. It seemed like a good idea.” This may not be humor.

One message that keeps coming from small business is that employers won’t hire more than 50 people because above that the company has to provide health care or pay a fine. Fox pointed out the Joe Olivo, CEO of Perfect Printing in Moorestown (NJ), has this concern. NBC also cited John Olivo’s concerns. And MSNBC. And NPR. Olivo also testified in front of House and Senate committees.  As a representative of ALEC and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Olivo may be the major business owner objecting to the ACA. In Delafield (WI), however, James Stoffer, owner of Wholly Cow Frozen Custard, said he was so happy after the ruling that he acted like a 10-year-old because the law will keep his premiums down. Stoffer evidently doesn’t belong to ALEC or Karl Rove.

The dissent statement reveals that Medicare would probably be gone if Roberts had sided with them. Approximately 100 million Medicare claims are processed each month using a formula that was altered by the Affordable Care Act. If the entire law were tossed, new rates could not be calculated under the old, pre-ACA formula until after a rulemaking process that can take months to complete. Medicare could not pay doctors for what would be many months, and Medicare systems would likely crash because its computers aren’t equipped with this backlog.

There is also a theory that the wording of the dissent indicates that the original decision might have been the opposite. Some experts believe that Roberts might have dissented but changed his mind at the last minute.

Although some people thought Justice Anthony Kennedy would be the swing vote, he was the driving force behind Citizens United; Roberts advocated for a less radical approach. Kennedy is a zealous supporter of forced arbitration decisions enabling corporations to force people into a corporate-run court system. He cast the key vote against Lilly Ledbetter and against equal pay for women in the workplace, and he voted to install George W. Bush as president.

Quotes from the left—or at least moderate world:

“What was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty. It would be one thing if, at any point, they had offered any hint of an alternative proposal to help Americans with pre-existing conditions, Americans who simply can’t afford expensive individual insurance, Americans who lose coverage along with their jobs. But it has long been obvious that the opposition’s goal is simply to kill reform, never mind the human consequences. We should all be thankful that, for the moment at least, that effort has failed.” Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman 

“The only health care mandate they [conservatives] can embrace are transvaginal probes for women.”—Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley

“By requiring most residents to obtain insurance … the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts] ensured that insurers would not be left with only the sick as customers. As a result, federal lawmakers observed, Massachusetts succeeded where other States had failed….  The Commonwealth’s reforms reduced the number of uninsured residents to less than 2%, the lowest rate in the Nation, and cut the amount of uncompensated care by a third…. In coupling the minimum coverage provision with guaranteed­ issue and community-rating prescriptions, Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead.”—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her ruling


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