Nel's New Day

December 19, 2017

Tax Bill a Lump of Coal for the Holidays

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , ,

During his campaign, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised to bring coal back, and he’s lived up to his promise: most people in the United States will get a lump of coal in their holiday stockings, thanks to DDT and the GOP. This morning, 227 Republicans passed a disastrous social reform bill, masked as tax cuts, in opposition to all Democrats and 12 other Republicans. Their desire was to “do something,” just as serial killers want credit for their negative actions. GOP leadership is preening over a bill that has only 33 percent support among the public with 66 percent of the nation knowing that it benefits the wealthy rather than the middle and lower classes.

After its success in the House, the tax bill ran into a small glitch because the rush in the Senate kept it from living up to requirements that would avoid any filibustering. Tonight the Senate is working on a revised bill that will go back to the House after it passes the Senate. There is little hope that the bill will fail.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claims that the GOP made major accomplishments in 2017. Other than potentially passing a bill with less than one-third approval and packing the courts with judges who believe in discrimination, the GOP Congress has no other successes. The greatest accomplishments have been in energizing the Democrats. Thus far they have far more viable candidates than the Republicans and flipped the Virginia House of Delegates with a 50-50 tie between the two parties. The last recount resulted in a Democrat winning by one vote to change 16 seats from red to blue. [Update: After a court decided that one of the the discounted votes is for a Republican, the result is a tie. In that case, the winner may be chosen by drawing a name for a glass bowl. The loser may then seek a second recount. A Republican win would leave the Virginia House of Delegates with a 51-49 majority for the GOP.]

McConnell blamed the negative polling for his tax bill on the press and Democratic resistance. Yet the media, except for the far-right such as Fox and Breitbart, publishes the facts—such as the revisions of the bill to capture both chambers of Congress gives 83 percent of the tax cuts to the top 1 percent by 2027, an increase of 62.1 percent with the original Senate bill. Over one half the people in the United States will pay more in taxes. Even in the bill’s first year, the top 20 percent gets almost two-thirds of the bill’s benefit.

The tax cut fails four Republican rules:

  • It increases the debt by at least $1.5 trillion—or possibly more.
  • It doesn’t benefit the middle class.
  • The wealthiest, including DDT), are the primary beneficiaries.
  • It likely won’t supercharge the economy, according to independent experts in the field.

DDT had promised to get rid of the carried interest loophole that gives massive tax breaks to managers of private equity funds, venture capital funds, and hedge funds. Instead of paying taxes at the higher rate of ordinary income, they can use the low rates of capital gains. The new tax bill allows them to continue saving money with that practice if they hold the investment for at least three years.

House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that the bill would deliver revenue neutrality, simplicity, and fairness. None of those happened—not even simplicity. The tax bill still has seven tax brackets, and the revision of “pass-though” income in businesses confuses even most tax experts. The business revision will create many jobs for people who magically become independent contractors or part of LLCs.

Fairness? The bill gives breaks to businesses owned by trusts. The marriage penalty returns because the maximum deduction of ten thousand dollars for state and local taxes is the same for individual filers and for couples. And far more.

Robert Reich lists other flaws in GOP arguments about their tax plan:

It won’t make U.S. corporations competitive with foreign corporations, which are taxed at a lower rate. (1) With all the loopholes for U.S. corporations, they pay the same as foreign-based corporations. (2) Most other countries require a “Value Added Tax” on top of the tax. (3) Other countries will cut their tax rates to be competitive. (4) Most corporations benefiting aren’t “American” because over 35 percent of their shareholders are foreign, 20 percent of the employees are foreign, and U.S. citizens work for foreign-based corporations. (5) The “competitiveness” of U.S. corporations depends on U.S. workers, diminished in education, health, and infrastructure through shrinking public investments. (6) Profits of U.S. corporations, already at record levels, are used to buy back stocks and raise executive pay—the same thing that corporations will do with the $1 trillion that the GOP is giving them.

Big corporations and the rich won’t use the investment to invest and create more jobs. (1) Job creation doesn’t trickle down as proved by Reagan and George W. Bush’s tax cuts. (2) Demand for goods and services causes corporate expansion and new jobs. The middle class and poor could provide this demand if they had additional money, but the rich, far more benefited by the bill, won’t create this demand. (3) Financing the wealthy by losing health coverage for 13 million low-income people and subsequent cuts in Social Security and Medicare won’t create more jobs.

Small businesses will have no incentive to invest and create more jobs. (1) At least 85 percent of small businesses earn so little they already pay the lowest corporate tax rate. (2) The larger rewards for big business will give them more ability to squeeze out small firms and force them out of business.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated the myth that “wages will go up” because of “lowering business taxes.” Businessman and former mayor Michael Bloomberg said that “sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth.”

A prize last-minute tweak that originally appeared in neither the House nor the Senate costs less-advantaged people $418 billion. Known as the “Corker Kickback,” because Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was against the bill until that provision was put in, allows real-estate developers through LLCs to deduct twenty percent of the income that these properties generate. Corker denies that he knew about that provision in the bill because he hadn’t read it before he changed his vote. Corker said: “Deficits matter. They’re a greater threat to us than North Korea or [the Islamic State].” Now he’s willing to take almost $2 million away from poorer people with his vote for the tax bill. Only the Republicans could turn tax cuts into such an unpopular bill.

Corker isn’t alone in supporting the bill that pays him back. Twenty-three other leading GOP lawmakers responsible for crafting the bill will also see this windfall, but they were supporting the tax bill before the change.

DDT will make even more money off this part of the tax bill. Once the tax bill goes into effect, people who voted for DDT may have concrete proof of how he and the GOP will cheat them just as DDT swindled contractors without promised pay or students at Trump University with dishonest marketing. Without DDT’s releasing his tax returns, people are highly unlikely to believe that his own taxes are going up, a claim that received four Pinocchios for falsehood.

Vice President Mike Pence also lied about the tax bill to avoid going to the Middle East at this time. It’s natural that he would want to avoid the hostility that he would face after DDT claimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Western Wall as belonging to Israel. Thus Pence said he was postponing the trip to break a tie on the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has gone back to Arizona for the holidays and won’t be present for the vote. That leaves 99 people left in the Senate for the vote, making a tie impossible.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to blame Democrats for any of the bill’s problems. The GOP refused to allow any participation from Dems, and it is doubtful that Dems could keep Republicans from paying back all the wealthy donors who have been buying the GOP for years.

DDT supporters are clinging to their choice, many of them even with the possibility of paying higher taxes and health care premiums. Will they stay loyal when DDT breaks another campaign promise and tries to take away some of their Social Security and Medicare?

[Update: After a court decided that one of the the discounted votes is for a Republican, the result is a tie. In that case, the winner may be chosen by drawing a name for a glass bowl. The loser may then seek a second recount. A Republican win would leave the Virginia House of Delegates with a 51-49 majority for the GOP.]

October 8, 2017

DDT Needs Caretaker

A weekend means interviews on Sunday “news” shows and obnoxious tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). This weekend, DDT declared war on Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), claiming that Corker didn’t have the guts to run for re-election because DDT had refused an endorsement for Corker and turned him down to be Secretary of State after he begged DDT. He also blamed Corker for supporting the Iran deal that keeps Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Both Corker and other sources have said that DDT is lying in his claims about Corker.

DDT’s tantrum came after Corker said that DDT treats his office like “a reality show” with his threats possibly moving the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” Corker said that he is alarmed by a president who acts “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something.” DDT is ignoring his need for Corker’s votes to pass his tax cut legislation and “decertify” the Iranian deal. Corker’s committee also is in control of confirmation hearings for DDT’s ambassadorial appointments. After DDT’s virulent remarks about him, Corker topped off his own tweets with this one:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

On Fox News Sunday, Corker repeated his earlier statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” DDT’s racist comments about neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (VA) earlier caused Corker to say that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Corker said:

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Corker also said that his personal concerns about DDT were shared by almost every GOP senator.

FEMA director, William “Brock” Long, has decided to ignore pleas for help from San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz because he considers them “political.” She tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA_Brock. NOTHING!” Long said on a morning talk show, “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago.” DDT is still congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he is doing with Puerto Rico and said that he was just having “fun” throwing those “beautiful soft towels.”

Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico has joined Germany in sending help to the U.S territory. In spite of two major earthquakes last month, Mexico will send aid to Puerto Rico including water and electricity experts to mitigate damage and help restore the island’s power supply as well as mosquito repellent and 30 tons of bottled water.

While people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying from lack of food, water, electricity, etc., the U.S. House put its priority on  limiting abortion access. It passed a bill, likely unconstitutional and definitely disproportionately affecting low-income women, that bans abortions after 20 weeks and imprisoning doctors performing the procedure for up to five years. The vote was 237 to 189, with two Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting nay.

The IRS has given Equifax, the company that allowed the records of 143 million people to be stolen, a $7.5 million contract. The no-bid contract, posted the last day of the fiscal year on September 30, is to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract.  During a committee hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asked former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?”

Photos of Smith at the hearing have shown Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, seated behind Smith as he testified about the computer breach. He rushed off after she tried to give him a bag of “Get out of jail free” cards after the hearing in a protest of plans that allow banks and financial institutions to take advantage of consumers.

DDT’s third Muslim ban is going to court.

DDT’s need for a majority vote has bled down to the DOJ’s violating federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, states that voter registration maintenance “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Yet AG Jeff Sessions is supporting purging voter registrations because of irregular voting patterns. Ohio, for example, removed 1.2 million voters for infrequent voting. Sessions has not decided that this action is appropriate, despite federal law.

DDT’s magical tax cut plan, labeled as the “middle-class miracle,” has an evaluation from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). According to its study, the plan mostly benefits the rich, raises taxes on some middle-class people, and lowers federal revenue by $2.4 trillion within a decade. Republicans are not happy, but they haven’t offered any evidence of any tax relief to the middle class. The pattern is the same as the GOP plan for healthcare “reform” when Republicans were confused by facts about tens of millions few people having insurance. A chief GOP criticism was that there was no “dynamic” score, meaning one that made up information about an improved economy.

DDT’s latest nominee, this one for the second most powerful EPA position as safety chief, is an employee of the chemical industry. As such, Michael Dourson declared that children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity. His position includes overseeing pesticides and setting safety levels for some of the most dangerous chemicals in use.

Conservationists have had a run of successes in court, a recent one in Washington. A state board overturned two important permits for an immense refinery turning natural gas into methanol because an environmental impact study had not considered greenhouse gas emissions. The product would then be shipped to China to make plastics. The failed project was designated for Kalama (WA), less than an hour north of Portland (OR). This past week a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the reinstatement of a restriction on harmful methane emissions from gas and oil drilling on federal lands after the Interior Department tried to remove it with the excuse that it was a burden to the industry. Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the department had no “reasoned explanation” for allowing energy companies to not capture the polluting methane that wastes about $330 million a year—enough to power five million homes for that year. Before the rule went into effect, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hung over the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado from the oil and gas industry.

Only 24 percent of people think that the U.S. is going in the right directions. The change among Republicans has been the most drastic: only 44 percent support the direction, compared to 60 percent just three months ago. Other areas in which people have a high percentage of disapproval toward DDT are handling race relations, foreign policy, and immigration—all with over 60 percent disapproval.

That drop in support may be the reason that DDT sent Mike Pence to Indianapolis today to attend the game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. The sole purpose of the “reality show” was pandering to DDT’s base with  was a photo shoot when Pence walked out after some of the athletes knelt during the national anthem. Pence was so sure he would be leaving that he didn’t bother to take any reporters with him. A Pence aide said that he might be leaving early. The photo sent to the press of the vice-president in a suit with his hand over his heart was actually taken in 2014 when Pence was governor of Indiana. To attend the game, Pence flew from Las Vegas before he immediately returned to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. (Your taxes at work!)

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tweeted:

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets.”

Constantly accused of disrespecting the flag, kneeling athletes are protesting police racial brutality and injustice. Anyone questioning this brutality should watch the highly graphic video of a Utah police officer fatally shooting a black man in the back after he was stopped for not having a light on his bicycle. The DA exonerated the police officer who killed Patrick Harmon because the officer said he was afraid.

September 26, 2013

Dumb & Dumber – The Gop Party Can’t Quit

After Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) got to make his long speech, ending yesterday, about defunding Obamacare, the Senate was supposed to vote on the Continuing Resolution. That didn’t happen, but lots of other things did.

The media had a field day comparing Cruz and the real Texas filibusterer Wendy Davis, who fought draconian anti-women state laws. Cruz is “aimless and self-destructive” (New York Times editorial board), elitist (GQ),  and likely guided more by presidential aspirations than principles (CNN). Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, called Cruz, his former Princeton colleague, an “arrogant jerk” — and worse.

Davis, Texas state senator, was the subject of a glowing Vogue profile and became a superstar on almost every major network.  She was the “Sunday Spotlight” for ABC’s This Week and was interviewed by Jeff Zeleny in the dinner theater where she once waited tables. Even conservative columnist Peggy Noonan described Davis as “so spirited, she has such energy and she seems to have such commitment.” As Dylan Byers wrote on Politico, “When a Democrat like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against abortion restrictions, she is elevated to hero status, her tennis shoes become totems. When Cruz grandstands against Obamacare, he is a laughingstock in the eyes of many journalists on Twitter, an “embarrassment” in the eyes of The New York Times editorial board.”

Since Cruz’s speech, Huffington Post has discovered that he doesn’t accept government health insurance because his wife’s employment as a regional head of a Goldman Sachs division gives him top-notch health insurance. According to a 2009 New York Times report, top executive officers and managing directors at the bank participate in a health care program that costs Goldman more than $40,000 in annual premiums for each participant’s family.

what a tea partier looks likeAfter yesterday’s vote to move ahead on the Continuing Resolution to keep the government functioning past this coming Monday, GOP greed bogged down the process into inaction by demanding a bizarre set of conditions. Without these, they plan to shut down the government and send the economy into a tailspin. Originally conservatives (aka Tea Partiers to right)  just wanted to defund Obamacare, but their list has vastly expanded just five days before the U.S. shuts down:

  • Approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline: After 3,900 temporary jobs, the pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast would support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs. Annual emissions would be “the equivalent of 6 million cars on the road,” according to the EPA.
  • Weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:  The GOP has had a strong yen to promote predatory lending practices from banks and financial institutions.
  • Cut $120 billion from federal health programs over the next decade:. In addition to repealing other benefits for health reform, this would increase Medicare costs.
  • Increase offshore oil drilling and energy production on federal lands: The GOP wants to have new drilling on the entire U.S. Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast off Southern California, and much of Alaska’s offshore space despite the fact that Congress refuses to make drilling safer after the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
  • Block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions: In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide under the 1973 Clean Air Act. With the discovery that exposure to air pollution kills about 200,000 people a year, the GOP wants to reverse the EPA control. Up to 3 million premature deaths could be avoided each year globally by 2100 if aggressive emissions cuts are made.
  • Restrict most forms of federal industry regulation: The GOP wants all major regulations to need Congressional votes and nullify any not approved within 70 days. Such a law would require federal agencies to have Congressional approval for changes  in vehicle safety standards, reductions in greenhouse emissions, or streamlining the FDA’s process for approving new drugs.
  • Pass a tax-reform blueprint that the GOP finds acceptable.
  • Block any ways to combat climate crisis. 
  • Eliminate Net Neutrality for a free and open Internet.
  • Extend destructive sequestration spending cuts.
  • Execute pro-corporatre tort reforms, including limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. 
  • Ban abortions after 20 weeks.

And there may be more! Meanwhile Democrats are asking for nothing except to keep the country functioning.

More Republicans are angry about the behavior of the ultra-conservative legislators. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) lambasted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) after they refused to agree to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) request to move up a cloture vote on a continuing resolution funding the government from Friday to Thursday evening. Corker argued that the Senate should act as soon as possible in order to give their House colleagues more time to avert a government shutdown, criticizing Cruz for putting on a “show” meant to attract attention instead. Corker said:

“It’s my understanding again, relative to this vote tonight happening tomorrow instead, is that my two colleagues, who I respect, have sent out e-mails around the world and turned this into a show possibly, and, therefore, they want people around the world to watch maybe them and others on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is also having a worse week than usual. Because U.S. senators present names to the president for appeals court potential nominees, Rubio and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-FL) are responsible for suggesting qualified professionals to serve on federal district courts in their state. They selected Judge William Thomas after subjecting him to a background check. President Obama’s team agreed, and Thomas was headed to be the first openly gay black man to serve as a federal judge. Rubio has now announced his opposition to the judicial nominee he selected for the position. Without the approval of both senators, Thomas has lost the nomination. Rubio must still want to be the 2016 GOP presidential candidate.

The GOP also had a bad day yesterday after  the Inspector’ General’s Office issued a report that there was no bias in the independent audit of the attack in Benghazi, contrary to the claims from Republican legislators. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has spent much of his political capital for the last year to prove that the State Department was trying to protect then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The report was overseen by  Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel, assigned to his role by Condoleezza Rice in 2008, and calls for GOP attacks on the Benghazi audit to stop.

ramboldToday is also the day that admitted rapist and former high school teacher Stacey “Sandy” Rambold, 54, walked out of the Montana State Prison after his 31-day sentence for raping 14-year-old Cherice Moralez. That was in 2007, three years after the school district that employed him had told him not to touch or be alone with female students.

BaughAfter the legal process of convicting him, District Judge G. Todd Baugh, said, “He’d suffered enough.” At the same sentencing, he said the victim, Cherice Moralez, was “older than her chronological age.” In response to public outcry, Baugh added, “Obviously a 14-year-old can’t consent.” But he continued that this wasn’t “some violent, forcible, horrible rape.” It wasn’t, said the judge, “this forcible beat-up rape.” He also stated that the 14-year-old was “as much in control of the situation” as the 49-year-old teacher.

In an almost incoherent defense of his actions, Baugh told the Billings Gazette:

“I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it in that way, it’s crazy. No wonder people are upset. I’d be upset, too, if that happened.”

Judge Baugh made it happen.

Just before her 17th birthday, Moralez, tormented by classmates, killed herself with a gun. After her suicide, the prosecution made a “deferred prosecution agreement” with Rambold. All charges, including the one to which Rambold admitted, would be dismissed if he completed a sex-offender treatment program and met other requirements including no contact with children. When the rapist failed to meet the conditions of the agreement, prosecutors asked the judge for a 20-year sentence. Baugh ruled that Rambold’s violations “were more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.”

Hanlon said the pain of her daughter’s death hasn’t faded. Rambold made unauthorized visits with relatives’ children and failed to disclose he was in a sexual relationship with a Washington woman.

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, claiming that Montana’s state law requires a minimum sentence of two years for Rambold. With no new offenses, however, he will stay out of prison pending the appeal which could take 12 to 18 months. Unless the original sentence if overruled, Rambold must register as a sex offender and stay on probation until 2028.

A formal complaint to remove Baugh from the bench for alleged bias is pending before the state Judicial Standards Commission.

If Baugh’s reaction were unique, it would be horrifying. But even worse, this is a common event. Defense lawyers used the same defense for a juvenile detention guard in Louisiana when he raped a 14-year-old girl in his care. The case won’t be heard again until March 24, 2014, because of a crowded court docket. In 2000, a South Caroline Circuit judge cut a 27-year-old youth minister’s sentence in half to six years because the  14-year-old girl’s body “was [at] an unusual stage of maturity.”

hw. bush witnessLast weekend, former President George H.W. Bush was the official witness at the wedding between Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, long-time friends of the Bushes. It was reported that the Bushes gave the newly-weds Target bake-ware as a gift.

 

bush four

July 18, 2013

Today’s Good News Includes Obamacare

Good news today! Nelson Mandela’s health is improving as he celebrated his 95th birthday. The Senate cobbled together a deal to keep interest rates low on student loans until the economy improves. And federal judge Willian Conley kept abortion clinics open in Wisconsin until he has more time to consider a permanent injunction against the restrictive law rushed through in nine days and signed in private by the governor on a holiday weekend. The current legal proceedings require the state of Wisconsin to prove that it has a “legitimate governmental interest” in imposing additional regulations on abortion providers of seeking admitting privileges from local hospitals, a requirement unique to these clinics.

In the Senate, the Republicans kept at least part of its promise by confirming two more of President Obama’s nominees following yesterday’s confirmation of Richard Cordray for the Consumers Financial Protection Bureau.

Tom Perez is now the next Secretary of Labor after stiff opposition because he pushed for a minimum wage for domestic workers in Montgomery, promised to “throw the book” at employers who withheld pay from immigrant workers, saved an important piece of the federal fair housing law, and collected hundreds of millions of  dollars from major banks that charged minority homeowners more than whites seeking a mortgage. As head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division for the past four years, he enforced voting rights by  opposing the voter ID trend across the nation and sued the infamous Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, accusing his office of racially profiling Latinos during a crackdown on undocumented people in his county.

Gina McCarthy’s 59-40 confirmation for director of the Environmental Protection Agency was opposed by Democrat Joe Manchin (WV) because of what he called  an “over-regulatory rampage” against the coal industry. One of her positions during 25 years in the environmental policy world was leading the the EPA’s air pollution office since 2009. Although McCarthy held posts under five Republican governors, including Mitt Romney, the Senate held up her confirmation for 136 days until the Democrats threatened the GOP with removing the filibuster for executive nominees. Senators opposing McCarthy have accepted over $25 million from fossil fuel industries.

The House of Representatives will no longer use my taxpayer money to defend the unconstitutional statute DOMA, banning marriage equality. This decision may allow lesbian and gay service members and veterans to receive the same married benefits as opposite-sex couples. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “Rather than trying to delay justice for particular married gay and lesbian couples and their families, Speaker Boehner should immediately file motions to end House Republicans’ involvement in the remaining cases and stop spending taxpayer dollars to defend unconstitutional discrimination.”

On the same day that President Obama delivered a speech on the benefits of his Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report showing that the average of the least expensive mid-level health plans are 18 percent lower than the CBO had estimated when the law was passed. One of the biggest arguments against Obamacare was that young people in the country would be forced to purchase expensive health insurance. Yet HHS expects that a plan for a 25-year-old in Los Angeles County would be $174 per month without a government subsidy and only $34 per month (with a tax credit) for someone making $17,235.

New York state regulators said yesterday that policies sold through the law’s insurance exchange would cost about 50 percent less than currently available policies. Ten other states also announced lower rates including Oregon, Montana, Louisiana, and California. Lower rates come from open competition, once something that the  GOP supported.

Earlier this year millions of people in the nation received insurance rebates because of the “medical loss ratio” provision requiring insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care instead of profits and overhead. An average rebate of $100 was sent to 8.5 million people this year, and consumers received another $3.4 billion savings because insurance companies lowered their premiums to comply with the law.

People may not hear the good news about Obamacare because today the media has focused on the 38th and 39th times that the U.S. House again voted on the health care law, passed by Congress and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. One bill agreed with President Obama’s delay in the law’s employer mandate, and the other extended the delay to the individual mandate. Of the 147 media pieces including “Obamacare,” 120—almost all—mentioned the House vote whereas only 71—fewer than half—discussed lower premium rates.

The following will be classified as either good or bad news, depending on your perspective. After taking off almost the entire month of August, House leadership has penciled in just nine workdays during September. The farm bill stops on September 30, and other bills, such as immigration reform, voting rights, and student loans, are vital. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has objected to reports of shrinking productivity in his chamber, but the 112th Congress that ended in December 2012 was the least productive session since the 1940s when one considers the total number of bills passed. Thus far, the 113th has been less productive.

The GOP is providing great fodder for comedians. Last night Stephen Colbert addressed the House’s inaction, citing the immigration bill kerfuffle. Although the Senate bill would double border security, creating more border agents than FBI agents, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) complained that it overlooks “the need for border agents in the interior of our country.” Colbert responded, “When will we build the border wall with Florida?  We can’t let those maniacs in our country. It’s legal to shoot each other down there.”

Yesterday the GOP majority on the House Appropriations Committee, with the help of two Democrats, reaffirmed the legal sale of guns to people suspected of terrorism to buy guns. In six years, the people on the watch list tried to buy weapons 1,228 times and were approved 91 percent of the time. To those who say that the terrorist watch list shouldn’t be used because it’s flawed, I say, “Fix it.”

The Appropriations Committee also passed an amendment “to block the ATF from continuing to require the reporting of purchases of multiple firearms in border states.” People in the United States are responsible for part of Mexico’s bloody drug war because many of the guns used are sold in U.S. stores. If the philosophy is “first, do no damage,” it’s good news that the House meets so few days.

Maybe the best news from yesterday is that at least one GOP Senator understands the dysfunctional Senate leadership. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he could have done better than Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in negotiating the filibuster agreement, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) called out, “Bullshit.” Now somebody needs to do something about the House.

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