Nel's New Day

November 26, 2013

Tell Your Family about Obamacare on Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:32 PM
Tags: , , ,

With Thanksgiving only two days away, many of us who are lucky enough to not have to go to work are getting ready to spend the day with family and friends. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by progressive people who don’t watch Fox and look at the world with a rationale mind. For those who have invited the crazy uncle, one of Rachel Maddow’s favorite characters, here are some ways to talk about the Obamacare controversy. He may not listen, but at least you’ll have your talking points ready. 

MYTH: “Obamacare will make my premiums go up.”

FACT: Most people will probably pay lower health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act—certainly House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) because he isn’t complaining about higher costs. Many others—nearly 75 percent of people in individual plans—will be eligible for financial assistance. Those who have to pay more or don’t get subsidies most likely live in states where politicians block the new law. For example, a person in Wisconsin spends an annual average of $1800 more than a person in Minnesota.

Before Obamacare, people paid money for many services not covered by the insurance plan—sometimes even hospitalization; the new law has rules about what plans have to cover. Thus premiums may be higher, but in the long run people pay less. With people using preventive care instead of expensive emergency care, costs will be less for everyone.

MYTH: “Obama lied about me being able to keep my health care plan under Obamacare.”

FACT: President Obama didn’t lie. The law grandfathered in all existing “junk” policies, but insurance companies kept adding them, knowing that they wouldn’t be allowed to keep foisting them on people after Obamacare went into effect so they could move them on to more expensive plans. Health insurance companies are responsible for the cancellation of their policies.

The new law requires health insurance plans must cover at least 60 percent of the total cost of medical services for a standard population. Plans must also cover at least ten essential services, including lab services and hospitalization. Just as the government has rules about selling lead toys, bad meat, and moldy produce, the new law established rules about the quality of health insurance plans. People who don’t check the Health Insurance Marketplace for a less expensive plan, they deserve to pay more.

MYTH: “Obamacare steals from Medicare.”

FACT: The Affordable Care Act actually helps Medicare by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Politifact and most other news organizations that have covered the issue have proved this myth false. Medicare benefits are not affected by the health reform law, but they would be affected if we turned it into a voucher system.

The Affordable Care Act can potentially save $716 billion over 10 years by reducing Medicare spending—reducing subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans and taxing drug companies, device makers, and insurers. These taxes won’t cost companies more because the law gives them many new customers. Medicare benefits can only be affected by budgets from conservative people in Congress such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) if they pass laws that replace Medicare with “vouchers” on the private market.

MYTH: “Obamacare is forcing me to buy health care.”

FACT: People can pay a small fee if they don’t purchase health insurance. But people need to know that no one can escape the need for health care. Young people may think that they are invincible until they contract meningitis or get hit by a speeding car. Until now, people who could not afford health insurance or chose not to buy it simply got medical care at the emergency rooms. If they couldn’t afford to pay for costs at the emergency room, other people did it—creating higher premiums for people who have health insurance. That means that everyone in the United States was paying for “universal health care” because no one can be denied health care at emergency rooms. It was just far more expensive.

MYTH: “Obamacare isn’t working because the federal government can’t do anything right.”

FACT: The Affordable Care Act is working, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of people who are already getting Medicaid and have signed up for health insurance through exchanges in some states. Healthcare.gov, the website, is not working well right now. But that’s a temporary problem. Also Obamacare has been working well for years as young people could be kept on parents’ plans until they turned 26, lifetime caps were done away with, people got rebates from insurance companies because the overhead costs were too high, and preexisting conditions could not keep people from getting insurance.

The part of Obamacare that doesn’t work is in states where GOP politicians refuse to accept federal money to ensure people through Medicaid. Without that benefit, poor people are still going to emergency rooms, driving up costs for people who do have insurance. Social Security and Medicare work just fine now although there were glitches in these popular programs when they were first developed.

MYTH: “Obamacare is a government takeover of health care. I don’t want socialized medicine!”

FACT: Every plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace comes from a private company. The program is based on free-market capitalism in which every insurance company can charge what it wants. The difference is that people can see what each one costs, and the competition brings down prices. In the past, buying insurance was like going into restaurants with no prices listed on their menus.

The original idea for the Affordable Care Act came from the conservative Heritage Foundation and first proposed by GOP members of Congress in the early 1990s. The law took great chunks out of GOP bills in Congress, a total of 38.5 percent, in fact.

MYTH: “We can’t afford Obamacare.”

FACT: The Affordable Care Act pays for itself and cuts the federal deficit at the same time. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates Obamacare will cut the federal budget deficit by $210 billion dollars within eight years. These savings come from a combination of putting fees on insurers and device-makers, ending subsidies to expensive Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurers by eliminating waste and fraud. And at the same time, individual people are paying less for their health insurance plans.

A few more basics of the Affordable Care Act:

  •  Very little is changing for the vast majority of Americans, despite the anecdotes that the media and conservative lawmakers have provided—many of them false. The big changes are mostly taking place in the “non-group” market—that is, for individuals who buy coverage on their own rather than through an employer, Medicare, or Medicaid.
  • One of the law’s goal is for everyone to have a decent health insurance policy with a comprehensive set of benefits and limits on what people pay out-of-pocket.
  • Another goal is to give coverage at uniform prices regardless of people’s pre-existing conditions—“guaranteed issue” and “community rating.”
  • Reforms already keeping down the price of insurance include limiting the amount of money that insurance companies can siphon off for premiums and overhead, saving $2.1 billion for people last year.
  • Subsidies offsetting premium increases, up to several thousands of dollars, will help almost 75 percent of people on individual plans.
  • Many people buying individual insurance will find that they pay much less now for health insurance because of tax credits or eligibility for Medicaid—at least in the states that allow people to benefit from these savings.

Just as each person is different, each plan is different based on income, place of residence, etc. The biggest concern is that the young, healthy, and wealthy subsidize the old, sick, and non-wealthy. It’s what we do with Social Security. When those young people get old, other young people will pay for them. People with no children still pay for schools, people with no need for police still pay for law enforcement—the list goes on. That’s called citizenship.

Answers for relatives other than your crazy uncle are at this website. At least you’re not sitting down at the same table as Liz and Mary Cheney.

Republican politicians are terrified that the Affordable Care Act will be a success. The new “House Republican Playbook” has sent its membership home over Thanksgiving to look for Obamacare horror stories and then publish them far and wide.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is having a rocky time running for re-election after declaring Obamacare as unsalvageable. He represents a state considered one of the unhealthiest and most uninsured in the country—640,000 people with no insurance. Now the state has signed up 48,000 people for insurance and are adding over 1,000 a day.

Kentuckian Ronald Hudson now has insurance for the first time in his life. With five kids, his salary is $14,000, and he owes $23,000 in hospital bills. When he is told that he qualifies for a medical card, he said, “Well, thank God! I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.”

That’s what the GOP fears.

November 21, 2013

GOP Sabotages Affordable Care Act

During the first four years of President Obama’s two terms, the GOP spent all their energy on keeping him from being re-elected. After that fruitless effort, they moved to repealing the Affordable Care Act—at least 46 times thus far. They plan to continue. A memo distributed to House GOP members, laid out the conservative strategy from closed-door sessions in mid-October called “House Republican Playbook”:

  • “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” [Response: zero people will to being uncovered.]
  • “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” [Response: it’s actually the opposite.]
  • “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.”
  • “Continue Collecting Constituent Stories.”

The media has bombarded the public with conservative complaints about the entire health care because the website was not working and people were lying about their inability to get covered. There’s been nothing in the mainstream media about the GOP sabotage surrounding the ACA as they do anything to stop people from enrolling:

  • Blocking necessary resources for implementation
  • Public misinformation campaigns
  • Discouraging public-private partnerships
  • Blocking Medicaid expansion
  • Blocking CMS nominees
  • Refusal to create marketplaces
  • Prohibition of “Navigators” from doing their jobs

Dana Milbank explained the “logic” of the “Republicans’ scary-movie strategy”:

“If they can frighten young and healthy people from joining the health-care exchanges, the exchanges will become expensive and unmanageable. This is sabotage, plain and simple – much like the refusal by red-state governors to participate in setting up the exchanges in the first place.”

The difference between a lie and a falsehood is intent: knowing the truth and saying the opposite because the goal is deceit is lying. These are lies from GOP leaders intent on destroying a Democrat-passed law:

  • Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): health care reform may lead to identity theft.
  • Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): “premiums are going right through the roof.”
  • Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) consumers who visit healthcare.gov may become victims of fraud. Caucus Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): vulnerable constituents may be put “on the casualty list.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) even claimed that she, personally, lost her health care coverage. It is true that she has to switch to the current program because of an amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). But then she would lose it in another year anyway because she isn’t running for Congress.

Milbank added, “Let’s hope the new health-care plans have generous coverage for anti-anxiety medication.”

Kevin Drum wrote:

“No federal program that I can remember faced quite the implacable hostility during its implementation that Obamacare has faced. This excuses neither the Obama administration’s poor decisions nor its timidity in the face of Republican attacks, but it certainly puts them in the proper perspective.”

  • Because 27 states don’t have exchanges, uninsured residents are pushed into healthcare.gov. The GOP party leadership urged governors to not participate with the intent to burden the federal exchange.
  • The ACA had zero funding for the development and implementation of the site, and GOP Congressional members refused to authorize any money. The government paid $70 million for the website although the media lied about the cost, vastly increasing the guesstimate for its cost.
  • The Koch brothers through Americans for Prosperity funded advertising campaigns to make lawmakers block Medicaid expansion in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In the 26 states that did block this expansion, five to eight million people make too much money for Medicaid but too little money to afford exchange policies.
  • This week, Alaska’s governor Sean Parnell denied health insurance to 40,000 people in the state through his Medicaid rejection. He complained about the cost although the federal government pays for all Medicaid for the first three years. People denied health insurance through GOP actions are going to provide some of the “anecdotal evidence” that ACA doesn’t work; they—and the media doesn’t tell them—that GOP actions are denying them affordable health care. Foundation for Government Accountability, with funding traced to the Koch brothers, launched a campaign to stop Alaskans from buying insurance policies through two websites, along with accompanying Facebook pages: dontenrollalaska.org and knowthefactsalaska.org.

Billionaires are telling middle-class people to go without health care so that they can prove they hate the president. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said:

“That’s a scandal – those people are guilty of murder in my opinion. Some of those people they persuade are going to end up dying because they don’t have health insurance. For people who do that to other people in the name of some obscure political ideology is one of the grossest violations of our humanity I can think of.”

Insurance companies are also participating in the anti-Obama, anti-health care campaign. Walmart-owned Humana sent customers threatening letters stating they had to decide, before people had access to information about ACA, whether to take the huge increase in health insurance cost or lose health insurance. Other companies canceled old plans to offer new ones at much higher prices. These insurance companies didn’t explain that the health care exchanges would give much lower costs for health insurance policies or that customers might be eligible for subsidies from the government.

Letters like these have nothing to do with the ACA. For years, insurance companies have sent letters trying to move people from reasonable deductibles to excessively high ones by threatening much higher premiums to keep the existing policy. As for increases, only federal law kept Blue Cross from increasing its charges by 43 percent in one year. The company is now being sued for misleading their customers. That’s the problem with private insurance companies: their sole goal is to make money off people who cannot afford their payments.

 Beyond these issues, however, are serious hacking attacks on the ACA website, more than a dozen which are being investigated. In addition, there was a report of a tool designed to put heavy strain on HealthCare.gov through Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). A program called “Destroy Obama Care,” first reported last week on a blog by Arbor Networks, was found on a “torrent” file sharing web page. If this tool were used, tens of thousands (or more) of computers will try to use the website over and over and over again automatically.

The GOP is determined to govern by anecdote, as they read aloud emails of unhappy constituents regarding access to health insurance. If this is an appropriate way to decide the legitimacy of a law, they need to listen to the other side.

During the first two weeks of November, almost 60,000 people signed up for private insurance policies or Medi-Cal (Medicaid) in California—more than twice as many people in October. Connecticut, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Washington are on track to exceed their enrollment targets. Washington enrolled over 50,000 people in Medicaid and another 6,000 in private plans. Glitches in the computer program have kept people in Oregon from signing up for private plans, but 70,000 people now have coverage from Medicaid. New York has almost 50,000 people signed up for health insurance through NY State of Health, about half of them in private plans. All these states are controlled by Democrats who are supporting the new reform. For example, only 3,000 have signed up for private plans in Texas, and the state isn’t expanding its Medicaid.

Before ACA, almost 50 million people in the United States had no health-care coverage; millions of others had “junk” policies that might not even provide hospitalization. And millions more paid more than they will under the ACA.

Many anecdotes on the media about the loss of health insurance have been debunked. If anyone complains about their being hurt by ACA, ask these four questions:

  • What does the old plan actually cover?
  • Did the person go to the exchanges?
  • What are the co-pays and deductibles?
  • Does the person qualify for subsidies?

And if the person complies with all these, then ask about the salary. People who make hundreds of thousands of dollars can afford higher rates. Think about Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) health insurance cost: it’s $40,000. Fortunately, his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs, pays the tab.

October 29, 2013

Re Heathcare.gov Issues

Imagine living in a country where the government pays for your major medical expenses without a lot of registration, picking an insurance company, and checking on possible subsidies. In this country you wouldn’t shop for insurance; you’d just register. If you live in the United States, you already have this—if you’re over 65. It’s called Medicare, and it’s popular. Most people don’t worry about socialism; they’re just grateful that they have basic insurance. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s much better than no insurance at all.

There’s one reason that everyone in the United States doesn’t have the same insurance—insurance companies. With their lobbying power and the Tea Party selfish craziness of the Tea Party, we have settled for a “better-than-nothing” solution. Republicans would like to get rid of Medicare, too, but the majority of their constituents are either on or near the program.

During the federal government shutdown, we rarely heard the  word “glitch.” Since the media forgot how the far-right tried to destroy the country, they are in full attack mode against the Affordable Care Act.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, “A nation that waited several decades for health insurance is becoming increasingly infuriated by a Web site that is wasting minutes of its time, reports from across the United States confirm.” Actually,  the country has been waiting for over 70 years to have a watered-down version of health care.

For the second time in a decade, the government launched a health care website Back in 2005, the launch online shopping for Medicare prescription drug programs was three weeks late. A review of the 1-800 Medicare phone number indicated that the agency “only responded to calls accurately and completely only about two-thirds of the time.” An annual booklet sent out to seniors called “Medicare & You” contained “inaccurate details about some of the prescription plan choices.” Stories about the poor launch of the 2005 reform were back on page 17 of the Washington Post; problems with HealthCare.Gov are typically front-page news.

When Medicare Part D (the prescription addition to Medicare) premiered, it was far less popular than Obamacare. Part D started out with a 21 percent favorability. Since then, it has a 90 percent popularity.

On the floor of the House, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tried to remind Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) and other GOP members of the House of events eight years ago, five years before the Tea Party elected Griffin. The Democrats didn’t like George W. Bush’s Medicare drug program with its huge gap without insurance and the fact that drug prices could not be negotiated. Yet they convinced their constituents to enroll instead of whining through 40+ bills to get rid of Part D. Griffin tried to defend the GOP by claiming that they have co-sponsored proposals, but Pascrell pointed out that there no legitimate alternatives. Maybe that’s why Griffin has said he won’t be running in the next election.   

The media has joined the GOP in denigrating the Affordable Care Act:

CBS told the story of a woman who was forced off a $54 per month policy for one that cost ten times as much. The cancellation letter gave the Affordable Care Act as the reason. The woman’s “junk insurance” didn’t even cover hospitalization, and it gave her only $50 for a procedure. For example, if she needed a $2,000 MRI, the insurance paid only $50, leaving the balance for her to pay.

Most of the policies being canceled were sold after the ACA became law: insurance companies knew they were selling policies that failed to comply with Obamacare. Customers were not told that these policies would have to be replaced. Because of GOP pressure, grandfathered policies are allowed yearly limits on coverage while they are not required to offer a “essential health benefits” package.

NBC News reported that “50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a ‘cancellation’ letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law.” The White House had told Congress that in 2010 that policies after 2014 could not unfairly burden customers. The law keeps policies from canceling coverage when a person becomes ill, imposing lifetime limits on benefits, eliminating all benefits for a particular condition, and reducing the cap for covered services each year. People actually benefit because enrolling through an exchange may cost them less, especially if they get subsidies.

CNN  interviewed people trying to get onto the health care website. When a women responded that she really liked what she saw, the host immediately moved on to someone else. Like all the other media, CNN is clogging the website by playing with it. If everyone stayed off of it except people who actually need the information, it might work better.

Fox’s Sean Hannity found six people willing to misrepresent reasons for their dislike of Obamacare. A couple who complained about not growing their construction business by keeping employees under a certain number of hours has only four employees. Proving health insurance is required only for businesses with 50 or more employees. A woman who complained about her rates going up hadn’t bothered to check the exchange. If she had, she would have found a 60-percent reduction from pre-Obamacare market. Another couple with the same complaint said that they also had not gone to the exchange but instead went to an insurance agent because they oppose Obamacare. The exchange would save them 63 percent of their bill.

Hannity also hosted Dr. Marc Siegel who complained that too many people have access to health care. He said that not everyone can get into his office to see him because of health insurance. “There’s a shortage of doctors. So what do they do? They’re going to pay us less.”

On Mike Huckabee’s program people complained about rate increase. One of them who said that her rates went up was unemployed and eligible for Medicaid. She said, however, that she wouldn’t take it because someone else might need it more.

Meanwhile the GOP members are just flat-out lying:

  • Real cost of the website: $70 million, not Fox’s guess of $634.
  • Website not designed to deceive customers: The site lists the actual cost to people before listing cost without subsidies.
  • No interference from the White House: Contractors denied Rep. Darrell Issa’s accusation that the administration botched the website development by making the “political decision” to mask the costs of insurance premiums online.
  • No HIPPA Violation: No breach of privacy because the website doesn’t ask for health information.
  •  No delay in individual mandate: The only delay is the sign-up deadline, not when people receive the insurance.

Basic facts about the Affordable Care Act:

  • The federal government is operating marketplaces in 36 states, and 14 states and the District of Columbia are operating their own marketplaces.
  • Marketplace plans offer five levels of coverage—catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum—ranging from less generous to more generous.
  • Individuals with family income from one to four times the federal poverty level (about $26,000 to $94,000 for a family of four)—and who are not eligible for other qualified coverage—are eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of a plan, based on the silver plan.
  • The tax credit caps the amount an individual must pay for the second-lowest-cost silver plan at a certain percentage of family income, ranging from 2 percent of income at the poverty level to 9.5 percent of income at four times the poverty level.
  • Increased competition has lowered the cost of premiums in the individual market, meaning that the U.S. will pay $190 billion less than expected and lowering the ten-year deficit by $300 billion.
  • An additional 700,000 people will gain coverage over the earliest projection.
  • Of young people on their parents’ plan, 63 percent belong to the GOP as compared with 45 percent who register as Democrats.

Almost 80 years ago, Social Security got to a rocky start, beginning with employers reporting earnings with no name or SSN. Four years after the Act went into effect, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson tried to create panic by claiming that people would never receive their benefits. Now the entire situation is an obscure historical footnote.

Almost 700,000 eligible seniors refused to sign up for Medicare less than 50 years ago because they mistakenly thought that they were giving up Social Security. Some segregated Southern cities had no participating hospitals because Medicare required that they comply with the new Civil Rights Act. Originally doctors billed patients directly, causing long waits for the seniors’ reimbursements.

The enactment of government-financed income tax sent people over the edge because of the forms’ complexity. After one-hundred years, people still complain but most accept, especially when they think about the many government benefits from the country’s infrastructure. No politician has emerged victorious for the past century in getting rid of the progressive tax.

In less than a decade, the Affordable Care Act will be a success, and most people—even those elected to Congress—will not remember any problems in its inception. Or maybe there will be a better solution by then—universal health care.

September 30, 2013

Gleeful GOP Guts Economy with Shutdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:24 PM
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Today the Senate sent a cleaned up version of the Continuing Resolution to the House who returned the CR to the Senate with more anti-Obamacare language. The good news–for a very few–is that members of Congress will continue to be paid because they are considered “essential.” The bad news for most of the people is the GOP extortion will tear at the fragile economy of the United States.

In a satiric column, Andy Borowitz summarized the position of the House GOP regarding the vote that will shut down many parts of the federal government tomorrow:

“In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivered a health tip to the American people, advising them to delay getting cancer for a year. ‘We’re involved in a high-stakes fight over our freedom from centralized government control of our lives,’ said Mr. Boehner, speaking on behalf of his House colleagues. ‘You can do your part by delaying getting cancer.’ He added that heart disease, emphysema, and diabetes were among a laundry list of conditions that would be ‘patriotic to avoid for a year.’

“’If you delay getting any of these things for the next twelve months, together we will win this fight,’ he said. In closing, he reassured the American people that in the event of a government shutdown, members of Congress’ health benefits would remain intact: ‘We want to be in tip-top shape to continue to do the excellent job we’re doing for you.'”

The back-and-forth started ten days ago when the House sent a Continuing Resolution to continue funding the federal government with attachments that would defund Obamacare and eliminate the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices. The Senate returned a “clean” CR to continue funding the federal government, and the House retaliated with a CR that kept the anti-Obamacare provisions. As that CR was debated into early Sunday morning, Rep. Matt Salmon described the House mood as “ecstatic.”

Polls consistently show that people oppose a shutdown and are annoyed with political grandstanding, but Salmon said that the situation is “a win-win all the way around.” The New York Times described the mood of the GOP House members as “downright giddy.” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) described his part in the closed-door meeting: “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!’ ” Part of the “giddy” may have come from the alcoholic “spirits” that witnesses believed were being imbibed.

The Senate voted down additional provisions in the CR this morning. The House took the CR, added the anti-Obamacare provisions, and sent it back this afternoon. The Senate bounced the CR, minus the Obamacare provisions, back to the House this evening.

On Sunday morning Meet the Press, David  Gregory continually asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  about his inability to change people’s minds about Obamacare despite a 21-hour speech. Cruz only repeated, “I’m just trying to fight for 26 million Texans.” Of those 26 million Texans, 28.8 percent lack health insurance, compared to the 4.5 percent in Massachusetts with “Romneycare.” That’s at least 7,488,000 Texans who Cruz doesn’t represent. Cruz’s appearance today is a week after the Fox network, with the help of Karl Rove, eviscerated the man who wants to be president.

A government shutdown separates all federal workers into “essential” and “non-essential”—or more politely “excepted” and “non-excepted.” Managers at all federal agencies were directed to separate employees into these two categories. With a shutdown, essential workers stay without pay; non-essential workers close up shop for a half day and then go home.

Essential categories include national security, public safety, or programs in permanent or multi-year law such as Social Security and some veterans’ benefits. The U.S. military keeps operating, and air traffic controllers stay on the job. So do people in the areas of emergency medical care, food-safety inspections, border patrol, federal prisons, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system (such as it is), operating the power grid, and guarding federal property.

Agencies with independent sources of funding, such as the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Reserve, keep running. Congressional members keep getting paid although their aides won’t unless they have specific appropriations. Essential workers won’t get retroactive pay for the shutdown unless Congress votes to give this to them.

Despite Salmon’s belief that this is a “win-win” situation, here are the losers:

  • In 2011, the government estimated furloughs without pay for 1.2 million federal employees in case of a shutdown. That’s 50 percent more than the 800,000 people sent home in the last round of 1995-1996.
  • People should forget getting visas, passports, entry into at least 400 national parks, monuments, and museums—the lights are off. That means the loss of millions—maybe billions—to lodging, eating places, retain places, etc. because people won’t travel to those areas.
  • No student or small business loans means that all these people put their lives on hold until the GOP House members stop drinking and get back to reality.
  • Gun lovers can’t add to their arsenals because the shutdown stops the processing of permits.
  • Nobody gets a federal loan for a house until the GOP decides to lift the government’s shutdown.
  • The National Institutes of Health won’t accept new patients for clinical research or answer hotline calls about medial questions, and the Centers for Disease Control stops monitoring disease.
  • Investigations into bankruptcy and child-support cases cease.
  • With no regulators, the EPA shuts down as do the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
  • People might get their Social Security checks, but they won’t get their questions answered or their addresses changed.
  • A backlog of veterans’ requests of benefits shrank from 600,000 to 450,000 in September. The shutdown reverses that trend.
  • IRS tax refunds along with farm loans and payments won’t exist during the shutdown.
  • A shutdown of more than one week would take money from public schools, that receive over 20 percent of their funds from the federal government, and the 14 million students on student grants and loans at over 6,600 schools.

And much, much more as identified in this 2011 memo from the White House when the GOP members in Congress played the same game. Congressional Research Service recently issued a 21-page document called “Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects.”

The mayor of Washington, D.C. is declaring all city services “essential” so the weekly 500 tons of garbage will get picked up as well as functioning in other city agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Public Works, and the D.C. Public Libraries.

What the country lost in the 1995-1996 shutdowns:

  • U.S. tourist industries and airlines lost millions of dollars from disruption of the passport and visa holdups and closed national parks. Business trips were also stopped, both here and abroad.
  • One-fifth, $3.7 billion, of federal contracts was put on hold with employees unpaid.
  • Drilling permits and processing applications for liquefied natural gas exports were stopped.
  • The FDA was spared in the last shutdown, but this time the review process for new drugs may be bogged down because the FDA is no longer considered “essential.”

One major system not impacted by a government shutdown is Obamacare, including the new online marketplaces that go into effect the same day as the shutdown. Medicaid expansion and federal tax credits helping with purchasing coverage both have mandatory funding.

Even scarier than the government shutdown from a lack of the CR is the possibility of disaster from the GOP not raising the debt ceiling. Former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-A) and Moody’s economist Mark Zandi testified at a joint congressional hearing earlier this month on “The Economic Costs of Debt-Ceiling Brinkmanship”:

“If you don’t do [raise the debt ceiling] in time, confidence will evaporate, consumer confidence will sharply decline, [as well as] investor confidence, business confidence. Businesses will stop hiring, consumers will stop spending, the stock market will fall significantly in value, borrowing costs for businesses and households will rise.”

The government has enough money to pay its bills, debts that Congress has already accrued, until October 17. GOP legislators don’t seem to understand that raising the debt ceiling means that the country pays the bills—expenditures caused by GOP’s reduction of taxes and excessive costs for at least two wars.

Responses from people in the United States to the GOP’s current hostage situation:

  • Only 7 percent back the GOP’s plan to delay and defund Obamacare.
  • Less than one-third (26 percent) support the GOP’s ultimate and oft-stated goal of completely repealing Obamacare.
  • On Obamacare, 68 percent want the law to move forward as is or with improvements.
  • The same percentage (68 percent) agree that shutting down the government for even a few days is “a bad thing for the country.”
  • Four-fifths agree agree that threatening a government shutdown is not an acceptable way to negotiate.

Over and over, GOP legislators say that Obamacare passed with the approval of only one party. They ignore the fact that only one party in the House has passed the last 40+ votes to overturn the law.  Ted Cruz has called on Republicans to “stand your ground.” Florida has that law, and we know how well that worked out for Trayvon Martin and thousands of other people.

If the GOP stands their ground and shuts down the government tomorrow, remember one thing: Congress will still get paid.

[Did you know that there was a “panda cam” at the National Zoo to show the new baby panda bear? Never mind. It’s been shut down along with lots of other things that the federal government provides. Okay, GOP, the government isn’t into shutdown. But Obamacare just started!]

 

September 28, 2013

News Hiding among GOP Shutting Down the Government

The news media has been fixated about the possibility of the U.S. government shutting down with a sideways glance at the first conversation between a U.S. president and an Iranian president in 34 years. The latest comes from The Hill which reports that the House voted to move more quickly on the Continuing Resolution that the Senate sent back to them yesterday. (The article reports that “just a handful of Republicans and Democrats” voted against changing the rule: that “handful” is actually 191 votes—44 percent of the members.)

Rapid voting won’t help because the GOP is adding two amendments to the Senate’s version of the CR, one delaying Obamacare for one year and the other repealing the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices in Obamacare. Another addition is a “conscience clause,” meaning that anyone, for example pharmacists, could refuse preventative care for women. This evening they’re just sitting around delaying the vote. It’s gone beyond ideological to thumbing their noses at women’s rights.

One governor who wants Obamacare is Kentucky’s Steve Beshear who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “My State Needs Obamacare. Now.”  Pointing out that Kentucky is among the sickest, most unhealthy state in the nation, he credits the Medicaid expansion and Kynect health exchange for providing affordable coverage to more than 600,000 Kentuckians, creating 17,000 jobs, and saving the state $800 million. He writes to his GOP senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and others:

“So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, ‘Get over it.’ Get over it … and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.”

Here’s other news that hasn’t receive attention because of the concentration on Ted Cruz’s and the Tea Party’s games:

The best news is that 32-year-old Marissa Alexander will receive a new trial after serving of her 20-year prison sentence in Florida. Over three years ago, her husband  broke through a locked door into the bathroom where she was hiding, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her to the floor. She escaped into the garage but couldn’t escape. When she returned  into the house with a gun, her husband said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” She fired the gun into the ceiling. The jury took 12 minutes to refuse her claims of self-defense. Firing a gun during a felony gives a mandatory 20-year sentence in Florida.

A state appellate panel reversed the conviction because the court had instructed the jury that she had to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The “stand your ground” law puts the burden of proof on the prosecutor. That’s the reason that the jury failed to award George Zimmerman a guilty verdict for killing Trayvon Martin. The appellate court also stated that Alexander didn’t have to prove she had been injured by her husband because he was not hurt in the shooting.

Alexander, who had no criminal record, had never been arrested, and she had a restraining order against her husband. She was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in the Zimmerman case.

The next time that conservatives snarl about the current president having used illegal drugs in the past, think about their hypocrisy. According to an advocacy group trying to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), at least 100 million “successful Americans” have used marijuana and “even more” think it should be legal. These include such high-profile conservatives as presidential wannabes Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and George W. Bush.

The same conservatives who want a “War on Drugs” also think that federal surveillance is important for their safety. A new audit of the Department of Justice finds that the statistics of terrorism have been overstated (aka falsified). In 2009, figures for terrorist convictions were inflated by 13 percent; in the next year, that rate of exaggeration doubled to 26 percent. The Department of Justice branch responsible for these figures, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), gave the reason as human error and “shoddy recordkeeping”—counting terrorists twice or counting those with dismissed charges as convictions. Convictions for non-terrorist crimes such as bank robbery, drug dealing, and animal fighting were also incorrectly classified as terrorist convictions. The insistence that NSA’s surveillance program disrupted 50 terrorist plots is equally false.

By not paying taxes, giant corporations have the money to sue countries around the world. Philip Morris has lawsuits against the Australian government to overturn public health laws aimed at reducing teenage smoking. Chevron has hired 2,000 lawyers in an attempt to avoid paying Ecuador $19 billion in damages due for the horrific oil spills they inflicted. Bayer is suing Europe to overturn their ban on bee-killing pesticide—all while investing millions with Monsanto to defeat an effort to label GM foods in the U.S.

While going through my email requests for petition-signers, I came across this gem. The National Football League (NFL), a $9 billion a year industry, is tax-exempt because it claims to be a non-profit organization. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes almost $30 million a year, more than the heads of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart; the NFL controls more than $50 billion in contracts with television networks. Taxpayers fund stadiums where NFL teams play. The Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association aren’t tax-free: the NFL should have to pay taxes.

Allen West, famous for his sexist language while he was a one-term U.S. GOP representative from Florida, has left his job at Pajamas Media. There are two versions about why. West said he resigned. Others said that he was fired after he told a female staffer to “shut up” and called her a “Jewish American princess.” West described it as “an exchange.”

In closing most of its women’s clinics in Texas, legislators used the falsehood that the reason was women’s safety. Texas Tribune has now officially debunked that lie with a review of state inspection records for 36 clinics that provided abortions. Although auditors found 19 regulatory violations they claimed were risks to patient safety at six of the clinics not ambulatory surgical centers, none was severe enough to warrant financial penalties. The facilities’ corrective actions were sufficient to protect the patients. In the past five years, the Texas Medical Board took action for just three doctors who performed abortions, all for administrative infractions. During the past 15 years, however, the maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled.

The tiniest blip on the radar is probably the most dangerous news for people in the U.S. and the world. Secret negotiations for the proposed “free trade” agreement among over 12 countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to be concluded in October, will destroy the U.S.’s ability to make laws protecting the country. A drastic consequence is the dissolution of our internet freedoms. Provisions in this agreement, according to leaks, deal with intellectual property, including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and Internet intermediary liability. If passed, the TPP provisions will infringe on privacy, freedom of expression, and innovation on the Internet.

Specific risks would include blocking deaf and blind people from existing uses of the Internet; forcing service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards; kicking entire families off the Internet for minor copyright infringements; giving media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use and remove online content—including entire websites; and creating a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.

After individuals and organizations began protesting TPP, the negotiations went farther underground with no meeting announcements from the U.S. Trade Rep. There may have been one in September in Mexico City during which countries resistant to U.S. demands to sign onto the standards may have been strong-armed into doing so. .

Congress members in Peru have presented a motion to demand a thorough and public debate on current TPP proposals and for trade delegates to give a comprehensive report on the ongoing negotiations. Chilean Senators recently called for a public debate on TPP, requesting the President to provide “timely and accurate” information on the affects of the agreement on their country. In New Zealand, a Parliamentary member is demanding answers from the Prime Minister about the secrecy of the agreement and how its provisions could undermine consumer protection laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Don Davies has called on the Prime Minister to give Parliamentary Member access to the TPP, especially in light of documents revealing how a small group of industry associations have had special access to Canada’s negotiating position. The Malaysian Cabinet released a statement saying that it would not be bound by a fixed timeline on TPP and calling for more transparency in the process.

At this point, the timeline for TPP’s conclusion is ambiguous. The U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman continues to claim that the U.S. will not force countries to rush a deal by any particular deadline, while also stating that the Obama administration has placed top priority on concluding the TPP before the end of the year.

My favorite: Two weeks ago when First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to encourage people to drink more water, Rush Limbaugh did his usual attack against her: “This is really absurd.  Drink more water?  It’s none of their business.  Why do they care?  You drink when you’re thirsty.” Hopefully, no one looks at Limbaugh as an example of someone in good health. At this point, one way to kill off conservatives would be for Michelle Obama to recommend breathing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to drink more water. It’s my personal protest against the right-wing conservatives.

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

September 25, 2013

Cruz Pretends to Filibuster, Alienates His Own Party

Yesterday, Sen.Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) announcement that he would filibuster Obamacare took media attention across the country. It was as if nothing else was happening. But he doesn’t understand what a filibuster actually is. His colleague in the Texas state senate, Wendy Davis, understands the filibuster as she stood for over 11 hours, not touching any furniture, not eating or drinking, not using the restroom, and speaking alone on one specific subject. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) allowed Cruz to give a really long speech in which he read a children’s book and stopped speaking while other senators took up his time. He didn’t block or stop anything, the way that Davis did; he just wasted time.

cruz daughtersDuring his 21-hour speech, Cruz compared fellow Republicans to Nazi appeasers, said that most people in Washington wear “cheap suits with bad haircuts,” and took time out to read a book to his adoring daughters as tweeted by Jason Johnson. The daughters are very fortunate in having health care; Cruz represents a state in which 33% of adults and 17% of children have no health insurance.

The selection of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham might have seemed a good choice for anyone who didn’t read the entire book–like a Fox network host. Cruz said that the complaints about eating green eggs and ham were exactly like Obamacare—people didn’t want it. The book, however, makes a point about being open to experiences because at the end the character gives in, eats the food—and likes it. The character even says, “Thank you!”

On Slate, Matthew Yglesias points out the similarity of the book to Obamacare: “The Democrats’ bet on the Affordable Care Act is that it’s like green eggs and ham—they’re convinced the public will like it when they try it.” Yglesias continues with the explanation that’s going through the media like a virus, that the GOP is desperate to repeal Obamacare before it takes effect because people will find that they love it.

There’s a story circulating about a man who looked at Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare, and said, “That’s better than Obamacare.”

Although Cruz might think that the Republican party is ready for an anti-establishment candidate like himself, it hasn’t happened for 50 years when Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) ran for president—and lost. “When the Wall Street Journal starts to belittle you… That’s what these people read every day,” said one senior GOP aide, explaining why Cruz won’t be getting the donors with deep pockets.

For a supposedly bright man, Cruz has a lot of negative baggage. He threatened to support the Second Amendment by bringing his own gun into a committee meeting and encouraging others to do the same thing. After Cruz and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) sent a memo to that effect, federal law enforcement officials made sure that the senators left their weapons at home.

Cruz wanted to impeach Obama for no good reason, and he questioned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s patriotism. If the United Nations didn’t stop China’s policy of one child per couple, Cruz threatened to pull U.S. funding from the U.N. meant for peace-keeping missions and assistance to refugees. Cruz has never liked the U.N. because he thinks that the organization is trying to get rid of golf courses in the United States.

While Cruz advocates Christian churches be allowed to endorse political candidates, he declared that Islamic law in the United States is “an enormous problem.” Trying now to look as if he’s not part of the elite, Cruz refused to study with anyone at Harvard Law School who hadn’t been an undergraduate at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale.

The greatest irony is that Cruz’s speech was directed at a bill that the House had passed. In essence, he was delaying the vote on a bill that 217 GOP House members had approved. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said,”We’d be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we’re in favor of.” After Cruz spoke for 21 hours, the Senate voted 100-0—including Cruz’s vote—to vote on the bill.

Last March Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Cruz a wacko so Cruz is now declaring that McCain lost the 2008 presidential election because conservatives wouldn’t vote for him. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said that Cruz didn’t understand how much damage would be caused to the GOP if they shut the government down as they did in 1995-96. Other GOP legislators are unhappy with Cruz although not as openly.

As an ambitious politician, Cruz seems to be all about getting donations to his potential presidential campaign. Most of the money coming into Defund, Inc. is directed toward Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and the Senate Conservatives Fund. The month of August, typically slow for fundraisers, saw $1.5 million go into SCF’s account along with the names of 1.5 million people who signed the defund petition on the Don’tFundObamaCare website.

The SCF, presumably a Republican PAC, has run ads attacking seven GOP senators, including Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham, for not opposing Obamacare enough, even though they all voted against the bill and said they would vote to defund it. Last week, the SCF announced it would also run ads against House Republicans if they fail to embrace the right defund strategy. Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor and RNC chairman, said:

“The House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare in one form or another something like 40 times since it went into effect, yet some of these groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund or the Club for Growth attack the same Republicans who voted against OC, but they attack them over tactics. There is just no excuse.”

A lesser known reason that the GOP is bitterly fighting against the implementation of Obamacare is that it registers voters. When uninsured people, primarily low-income and minority applicants, sign up for health care exchanges, they will be asked if they want to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), aka the Motor Voter law, directs DMVs and other public assistance state agencies to provide voter registration services. Both state-run exchanges and the federally-run exchanges in states where GOP governors refuse to set them up will be required to comply with the Motor Voter law.

Rush Limbaugh declared in June that Obamacare is “about building a permanent, undefeatable, always-funded Democrat majority.” Last spring Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) wrote to HHS, charging that the health care law “does not give your Department an interest in whether individual Americans choose to vote” and asking HHS to provide justification for including voter registration questions in health insurance applications.

Some conservative legal scholars argue that exchanges don’t fall under the Motor Voter law’s definition of social service providers because they operate as a marketplace for private insurance. The exchanges, however, also provide government subsidies, and HHS made it clear that all health care exchanges would need to provide voter registration services. The 24 million mostly low-income and minority uninsured folks who are expected to purchase insurance through the exchanges are particularly likely to be unregistered to vote. Not having health insurance is one of the strongest indicators that someone will not vote, according to Lake Research, a political strategy research firm.

Only 65 percent of eligible voters in the US are registered to vote, and scores of new voting laws from GOP legislatures are putting barriers between many people and the voting booths.

At least 140 million people registered in the two decades wince the Motor Voter law took effect. If Obamacare is responsible for increased voter registration, it could change democracy in the United States. Following the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, senior voter turnout rates rose while turnout for other age groups dropped. Midterm turnout for seniors rose from 66 percent to 73 percent between 1958 and 1998 alone, and now seniors vote at an historically high rate. As Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Health Care Reform and American Politics, explained, “The passage of Social Security gave seniors resources and motivation and identity as beneficiaries that got them to the polls.”

The same scenario will likely play out among poor and minority voters who often feel disconnected from politics and government, Jacobs added. They will soon receive “tangible benefits” through the Affordable Care Act and will be motivated to hold onto those benefits by voting. “Obamacare will define a new constituency,” Jacobs concluded.

In the New York Times Frank Bruni called Cruz’s speech “grandstanding”:

“This week [Cruz] is blithely putting the lawmakers in his party between a rock and a hard place. If they fail to match the anti-Obamacare passion that he flexed anew in a Senate speech Monday, they’ll land on the far right’s watch list. But if they match it and the government shuts down, there’s a good chance that the Republican Party takes the blame and a hit it can ill afford.”

An informal U.S. News & World Report survey shows that over 81 percent of respondents believe that the GOP threats to shut down the government to defund Obamacare will hurt the party.

The Obamacare health exchanges open in six days. Be afraid, GOP—be very afraid.

For some educational entertainment, check out Jon Stewart’s take on Ted Cruz.

September 20, 2013

GOP Starts to Shut Down U.S. Government

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:01 PM
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For weeks, GOP members of Congress have been bragging about closing down the country—at least until someone directly asks them about doing this. Then they deny what they’re doing. The conservative media has danced around the issue until recently. Today, however, USA Today editorial board took a shot at the stupidity of the GOP behavior:

“Republicans’ obsession with overturning ObamaCare is getting sillier and more dangerous at the same time. Now that they’ve failed to kill the law every way the rules allow — in Congress, the Supreme Court and in a presidential election — the opponents are taking hostages and, in effect, threatening to shoot them if they don’t get their way. 

“Unfortunately for everyone involved, the hostages are the federal government and the U.S. economy. 

“The first hostage was taken Friday, when the House’s GOP majority passed a bill that would keep the government running after Sept. 30, but only if ObamaCare is defunded. 

“That’s not going to happen.”

The editorial continued with a description of the corner where House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) finds himself in after he finished painting the floor in front of him. President Obama won’t let Obamacare be gutted, and leaders of the Senate’s Democratic majority will strip out the ObamaCare language and return the funding bill to the House. The House can either pass the Senate plan and keep the government running, or trigger a shutdown.

Like the debacle of 1995-96, a shutdown will hurt small businesses through their loss of government contracts, closes national parks and passport offices, delay millions of veterans’ benefits, and take pay from almost one million federal workers.

Even dumber, the GOP has Plan B for defunding Obamacare–attaching a demand to delay Obamacare for a year to the upcoming bill raising the debt ceiling. That’s when the stock market starts to crash and the interest rates skyrocket. The global economy is far more fragile than it was three years ago when GOP members of Congress made the same threat; even the hint that the U.S. government would default on its debts would send the world’s economy into a tailspin.

The Washington Post described Boehner’s House as a “train wreck” and poked fun at the Speaker. As Ezra Klein pointed out, “with a straight face” Boehner said, “You know, we had a victory today for the American people.” Klein’s comparison between the Senate and the House shows a stark comparison—and the Senate isn’t exactly a shining example of accomplishment this year. 

The Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform with bipartisan support. It passed a farm bill and then a budget, moving it to conference with the House. The House has no immigration reform bill, broke its farm bill into pieces, and refused to conference with the Senate on the budget.

Criticized for passing mostly laws that the Senate rejects, Boehner said, “We should not be judged on how many new laws we create,” he told CBS. “We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.” Despite trying to overturn Obamacare at least 42 times—the most recent this morning—Boehner’s House hasn’t repealed one law. 

In less than 35 years, approval of Congress has decreased by 75 percent:

congress-confidence-113 In fact, Congress is far less popular than Obamacare—and some of that disapproval comes from those who want a stronger law that includes single-payer health care:

congress-vs-obamacare 

O’Reilly describes the effort to defund Obamacare as “fanaticism,” and Charles Krauthammer called the GOP group aiming for government shutdown a “suicide caucus.” Boehner brags about obeying “the will of the American people,” but Just 6 percent of registered voters think that Congress should delay and defund the law. 

This morning’s vote to defund Obamacare—and leave the economy-slowing sequester in place—was 230 to 189. Rep. Scott Rigell (VA) was the sole Republican to buck his party; the two Democrats to vote in favor of the GOP bill were Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC) and Rep. Jim Matheson (UT).  

GOP members don’t really care about defunding Obamacare; they want to raise money. Their storm about eliminating a law that benefits people has provided them more money than touting anti-abortion laws. Last month, the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee connected to Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, raised $1.5 million,  its largest-ever monthly total for a non-election year. The “Don’t Fund Obamacare” website also picked up over 1.5 million signatures to contact for future funding. Brian Walsh, a former spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, “[T]his is about political cash, not political principle.”

Rachel Maddow said, “You find people who have fears or strong desires, particularly if those fears and desires are poorly informed and very visceral, and then you capitalize on those fears and desires. You capitalize on them literally, by getting those folks to send you their capital, to send you some of their money, because you tricked them into thinking you will take care of it, that you’re going to get it done.” 

The GOP’s biggest fear is that Obamacare will go into effect, and the people in the country will see how it benefits them. For example, about 6.4 million people can buy health insurance for $100 or less per month using the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace. In just 11 more days, people can shop for coverage and compare options on the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. Insurance companies have already lowered their premiums after seeing that their prices were higher than those of other companies.

About 56 percent of currently uninsured individuals can qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or tax credits to purchase coverage. If all 50 states expand Medicaid, up to 78 percent of currently uninsured people could qualify because Obamacare covers people who make up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. At this time, only 25 states have decided to take the full federal funding to expand their Medicaid programs.

Anti-Obamacare legislators are getting help from the Koch brothers who are funding a totally false advertising campaign. A minute-long video shows a young woman who “signs up for Obamacare” and is threatened with being examined by someone in a creepy Uncle Sam costume. “Don’t let government play doctor,” the video tells viewers. “Opt out of Obamacare.” The front group for the Koch brothers, Generation Opportunity, plans a tour of 20 college campuses to haunt pro-Obamacare activists such as Enroll America working to sign people up for the insurance exchanges. 

The Affordable Care Act makes routine, preventive care in this area of public health–mammograms, pap smears, etc.–available to women without a co-pay. It has nothing to do with how these are performed. Conservatives are the ones forcing medical procedures on women, such as transvaginal ultrasounds before women can have abortions. Conservatives are the ones forcing medical guidelines by closing Planned Parenthood clinics and replacing these with clinics that refuse abortions but provide false scary information about the procedures. 

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a very pointed column about the hypocrisy of GOP opposition to Obamacare:

“WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Saying that they needed to be in peak physical condition for their looming effort to defund Obamacare, over a hundred House Republicans lined up for their free annual physicals today.

“The physicals, part of Congress’s government-subsidized health-care package, yielded good news for many of the House G.O.P., who learned that they were strong and healthy enough for the demanding task of defunding Obamacare.” 

The majority of the House of Representatives—those who voted to keep people from having affordable health insurance—have no shame. 

September 16, 2013

GOP Works to Create Next Fiscal Crisis

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:49 PM
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Five years ago today, the subprime crisis was peaking with a run on the money market funds—over $140 billion withdrawn compared to $7 billion the week before—leading to problems for the commercial paper market. Thus corporations could no longer get funding or had to pay higher interest rates. Results of the crash:

  • The economy lost $22 trillion, $69,478.88 per person.
  • Assets of the four biggest “too big to fail” banks in the U.S.—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wachovia/Wells Fargo—went from $6.5 trillion in 2008 to $7.8 trillion this year.
  • The 25 banks responsible for the bulk of risky subprime loans leading up to the crash are back in the mortgage business this year.
  • Regulating financial products and services is “important” or “very important” to 90 percent of the U.S. voters; that’s 10 percent higher than the 80 percent of the people who know that Earth orbits the sun.
  • Wall Street and other financial institutions have spent $487 million to roll back, water down, and weasel out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act through the use of 2,429 registered financial industry lobbyists.
  • The industry gave $664 million to political candidates in 2011 and 2012.
  • Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has filed seven lawsuits to hold up implementation of Dodd-Frank rules on legal technicalities.

Tomorrow, the House plans to start shutting down the government to cause another fiscal crisis.  In exactly two weeks, current funding for the government is set to expire. The House is so dysfunctional that it can’t even present a bill that all the GOP members can support. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Treasury Department will be depleted between October 18 and November 5. With no Congressional action, the nation will not have money to meet financial obligations and be forced to default for the first time ever.

All Congress needs to do is to raise the statutory debt limit. That doesn’t mean spending more money because the money has already been spent. The GOP is fond of comparing government to business or family fiscal affairs. If they refuse to raise the debt limit, it will be as if a family or business voted to not pay any of their bills on items they have already purchased. Congress has already spent  trillions on wars and decreased income with tax cuts for the wealthy; now they need to agree to pay for previous debts.

For months, GOP legislators have bragged about holding the country hostage until the Democrats are willing to defund the Affordable Care Act and take health benefits from millions of people in the U.S. More recently the GOP upped the ante by its desire to take away Social Security and Medicare.

As Ezra Klein recently explained:

“Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock. And Boehner knows it. Republicans will effectively be going to the White House and saying, ‘Delay the health-care law or we will single-handedly cause an unprecedented and unnecessary global financial crisis that everyone will clearly and correctly blame on us, destroying our party for years to come.’ … This is not a safe way to govern the country.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has an even nastier plan in store. He said he will avoid a government shutdown by asking for a “clean” short-term budget resolution, extending current spending levels so that a longer-term deal can be worked out. It’s the usual approach to avoiding decisions, but current spending levels are unnecessarily low because of the sequester. Boehner’s plan wants to not only lock in the painful cuts to domestic spending but also increase defense spending by $20 billion.

House Majority Eric Cantor (R-VA) described the deal this way:

“In signing a CR at sequester levels, the president would be endorsing a level of spending that wipes away all the increases he and congressional Democrats made while they were in charge and returns us to a pre-2008 level of discretionary spending.”

Leaders also devised a plan to convince conservative GOP House members that they can claim that they defunded Obamacare while not shutting down the government. Tea Party members call it “smoke and mirrors.” This is the way it works:

  • The GOP uses a legislative tool to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR)—with current sequestration levels—out of the House to the Senate with an attached bill that would defund Obamacare.
  • The Senate would then have to vote on the bill to defund Obamacare before they could vote on the CR.
  • The bill defunding Obamacare could fail in the Senate even if the CR passes.
  • The CR would then go directly to the president for his signature without defunding Obamacare.

Republicans has admitted that it they don’t stop Obamacare before millions of people find out its advantages on October 1, then their steadily-disappearing support will vanish. The anti-Obamacare crowd is already in trouble. A recent poll showed that 57 percent of people in the U.S. oppose defunding Obamacare. Only six percent of people think that Congress should delay and defund the law. A total of 64 percent of people think that Congress should make changes to improve the law, let the law take effect, or even expand the law. Only 30 percent support entirely repealing the law.

The House GOP caucus created a budget blueprint cutting $70 billion in nondefense discretionary accounts, a 15-percent cut from enacted 2013 levels. These cuts are so huge that the caucus was unable to figure out what specific program cuts they could support. For example, cuts in funding for transportation and housing programs were so deep that the leadership couldn’t find enough GOP support for the budget to pass. The bill had to be pulled from the floor because of lack of support. Even worse, the leadership had failed to write a bill showing funding for health and education programs at the levels of the proposed cuts. It’s obvious that their failure that the GOP cannot pass funding levels consistent with their own House budget resolution. Thus they propose just returning to the sequester levels.

The GOP ignores that Obamacare will lower the deficit, $109 over ten years according to a Congressional Budget Office report from July 2012. Savings will be $24 billion in FY 2014.  Undoing certain coverage provisions but maintaining the revenues and cuts in the law—a tactic Republicans have used in the past, most prominently in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget—would decrease the deficit anywhere between $35 billion and almost $50 billion. Doing so, however, would maintain billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program and taxes on various sectors of the health care system, which Republicans say they oppose. It would also undermine the GOP’s criticism of Obama for not delaying the law for all Americans.

The House has only four days in which to make the decision. Members return tomorrow but then recess this Friday for the rest of September. Once the House passes the bill, it has to go to the Senate which takes more time. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) pointed out that some GOP members oppose these cuts. Earlier this year House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) conceded that GOP leaders cannot find support for cuts among Republicans.

The last government shutdown was also GOP-led. For five days in November 1995 and 21 days from December 15, 1995 to January 6, 1996, the GOP tried to force the opposing party into voting for spending cuts. As a result, 800,000 federal workers were idled, and the ensuing distress with the GOP helped President Clinton’s re-election. He went from deep political trouble when the GOP took control of Congress at the beginning of 1995 to positive numbers in the polls after his willingness to compromise in the face of GOP confrontation. Under Gingrich’s leadership, the GOP kept the House and gained in the Senate but lost the presidency.

Republicans don’t believe in polls, as demonstrated by their ignoring the ones showing that President Obama would win re-election, but polls have bad news for them. A few months ago, only 40 percent of people would blame the GOP for a government shutdown; now the total is over half at 51 percent. Only one-third think that the president would be responsible. If the debt ceiling is not raised, 54 percent will blame the GOP, and only 25 percent would blame the president.

At least 43 conservative House members think that President Obama will “blink” in their childish game. Republicans from swing states, however, worry that a government shutdown on Oct. 1 would severely damage the party and cause a rally for the president. Others are worried about the reaction from Wall Street. The decision comes down to how dumb House leaders can be.

August 14, 2013

Obamacare: Whither the Government Shutdown

Obamacare was a heated topic at Congressional town hall meetings during the hot month of August four years ago. Since then, the Affordable Care Act has gone into law, been approved by a conservative Supreme Court, and then suffered at least 40 votes from the GOP conservatives in the House who are determined to destroy it. Several of the Obamacare provisions have already gone into effect, much to the appreciation of those who have benefitted from them, and others will start in January.

The attitude in many town hall meetings has changed. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) described the large number of votes against Obamacare “theatrics.” He said, “You keep doing this over and over and over again and it doesn’t get anywhere.”

A woman in a meeting with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) a fierce opponent to the law, lost her son to colon cancer. She believes her son, who couldn’t get health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition, might be alive in Obamacare had gone into effect sooner.

Skip Edwards talked about how he and his wife lost their health insurance after the recession took his job. Denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, they could get insurance only from a state plan called Inclusive Health that cost them $1,300 a month.

Many of the GOP congressional lawmakers are still lying to convince people that Obamacare should be repealed. Referring to himself as a light-skinned person, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) told his constituents that the health care reform law is “racist” beccause of the tax on tanning salons.  Somebody needs to tell him that tanning causes skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the nation with roughly 170,000 annual cases.

Conservative activists are telling uninsured people that they should stay uninsured to spite the president. The Citizens Council for Healthcare Freedom (CCHF) has launched a “Refuse to Enroll’ campaign, falsely telling people that the IRS can access information on people and employers who use the health care exchanges.

Asked what advice she would give to a 22-year-old who can’t afford health insurance outside exchanges, Twila Brase argued that getting health insurance doesn’t guarantee health care. If the 22-year-old needs medical care, Brase said, the person could pay doctors directly or seek charity care, ignoring the difficulty of finding several hundred thousand dollars after an unexpected automobile accident or diagnosis of cancer. Another option, according to Brase, is to sign up for coverage when it’s needed. Aside from being short on ethical behavior, Brase doesn’t know that the open enrollment period is from October 1 to March 31, making it impossible to ask for an insurance agent in the ambulance on  April 1. In following years, the enrollment is only between October 7 and December 31.

FreedomWorks is asking people to burn their “Obamacare card.” These cards don’t exist so FreedomWorks is printing up fake cards.

Jon Perr explained why eliminating Obamacare has become the GOP “holy grail,” to quote President Obama. During the president’s press conference last week, he asked why the GOP’s “number one priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment, is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care.”

For the past 20 years, Perr hypothesized, the GOP has been terrified that health care reform would succeed. If this were to happen, it would join Social Security and Medicare, both loved by older people, to become the third leg of the U.S. social safety net. All three programs would come from Democrats, giving that party the power. In 1993, William Kristol  wrote, “The Clinton proposal [for universal health care] is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party. Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996….

To avoid Clinton’s plan, GOP Senators Hatch and Chuck Grassley joined 19 other Republican Senators in proposing their own bill that “would have required everyone to buy coverage, capped awards for medical malpractice lawsuits, established minimum benefit packages and invested in comparative effectiveness research.” Sixteen years later, they called their own plan “unconstitutional.”

With the same plan as Obamacare, Massachusetts demonstrates the reaction to the health care reform law. Eighty-four percent of the people in Massachusetts are satisfied, far higher than the 67 percent of people in the U.S. who are happy with their own health care, many of whom who already have government Medicare. Respondents praised high quality of care and good access to medical services, adding that it isn’t hard to find the medical care that they need.  In that one state, 98 percent of the residents are insured, compared to 16.3 percent of the people in the nation when Obamacare was passed into law.

In states where legislators strive to undermine Obamacare, millions of constituents will suffer. By contrast, states like California, Maryland, New York, and Oregon are running their own insurance exchanges, and the federal expansion of Medicaid will provide their residents greater coverage and lower premiums.

Far-right congressional lawmakers have come up with what they think is a clever way to get rid of Obamacare. Those lawmakers brave enough to go to their town hall meetings are spreading the word. They plan to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded. Yoho (the one who believes that Obamacare is racist) thinks that forcing the shutdown will improve our credit rating. He thinks that the rise in debt ceiling and the interest rates is a cause/effect situation.

The last GOP threat to not pass an increase in the debt ceiling shook the world’s economy and brought down the U.S. credit rating. Standard & Poor wrote the downgrade came from “the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also tried to put a happy face on his own threat of a government shutdown when he said that the “shutdown” is just a temporary suspension of nonessential services which happens every weekend. (Tell that to the people who don’t get their money when the shutdown lasts longer than two days!)

Equally absurd is his statement that the five-day and the 21-day shutdowns almost 20 years ago worked really well when it idled 800,000 federal workers. Charles Krauthammer, one of the farthest right pundits, begs to differ:

“Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution. The latest, last December, led to a last-minute Republican cave that humiliated the GOP and did nothing to stop the tax hike it so strongly opposed.”

Washington Post’s Factchecker wrote:

“The government shutdown is what revived [Clinton’s] political fortunes, in part because Republicans appeared too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized his willingness to compromise within reason…. After that, Clinton never lagged in the polls again.”

Two other presidential wannabes, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have joined Cruz in his insanity. Conservative columnist Mike Gerson refers to them as “a few bold, determined public officials who may rescue Obamacare.” Obviously this is the opposite of their intent, but their fight against the health reform law “discredits responsible opposition and makes a Democratic takeover of the House more likely.” The only reason that Cruz’s strategy could work is if voters blamed President Obama against “a distrusted faction of a disdained institution, which is pursuing a budgetary maneuver that even many Republican lawmakers regard as aggressive, desperate and doomed. “

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told his constituents last week and the shutdown’s victims would be “ordinary Americans”—paychecks for troops, health care for veterans, Medicare and Social Security for the elderly and disabled.

Other statements include:

  • “Shutting down the government will not stop ObamaCare.” – Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • “A denial of reality mixed with a whole bunch of hype…intellectually dishonest…a good way for Republicans to lose the House…destroying the Republican Party.” – Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • “The political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum.” “A suicidal political tactic.” -Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
  • “Shutting down the government and playing into the hands of the president politically is not the right thing to do. Plus, it is going to do great harm to the American people if we pursue that course.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)  [I like his putting the good of people in the nation second to politics.]
  • “Terror politics.” – Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
  • “The dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.” – Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
  • “Feckless.“ – Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

The Heritage Foundation, almost a conservative think tank until former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) turned it into a GOP shill, has decided to poll whether a shutdown would be bad for Republicans. The survey lacks any credibility: the questions are seriously biased, and only Republican-led districts were chosen. Watch for the headlines about how a government shutdown is a popular idea.

As Krauthammer wrote:

“How many times must we learn the lesson? You can’t govern from one house of Congress. You need to win back the Senate and then the presidency. Shutting down the government is the worst possible way to get there. Indeed, it’s Obama’s fondest hope for a Democratic recovery.”

Cruz doesn’t seem to be giving up, but his followers are fading away. The 17 Senate supports have dissipated to fewer than a dozen. GOP Congress members are likely to return in September more dysfunctional than when they left.

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