I still admire how organized the GOP is. Yesterday the alarmingly healthy Adam conceded that the Affordable Care Act website will get fixed. The better to inject the news cycle with this:
Beware anybody trying to help people sign up for health insurance under Obamacare.
That’s the line from top Senate Republicans, who have magnified their smear campaign against the law’s so-called navigators, groups that have received federal money to assist people in enrolling for coverage. Their latest shot: darkly warning that Americans could put their personal and financial safety at risk if they seek out assistance.
Republicans have a longstanding animosity toward the navigators — state officials in a number of red states have put up roadblocks for them — but the comments of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are a new extreme in the party’s assault on those tasked with helping Americans navigate the health reform law.
Those groups have been given one of the law’s most important tasks: explaining a complex insurance system and its reforms to the average American. But that didn’t stop the GOP’s outrage machine from kicking into top gear.
The next day on the Senate floor, McConnell seized on Sebelius’s comments: “These revelations are really concerning.”
“Americans who’ve lost their insurance and find themselves forced onto the exchanges — the last thing they need is to worry about some felon stealing their identity,” he said.
And who produced Cornyn’s most damning evidence. Why, James O’Keefe, the ratfucker who pimped a video “purportedly shows a navigator encouraging one of their clients to lie on their insurance application.” Note McConnell’s use of the glancing Nixon smear on the navigators (“I am not saying that the president of the United States is a Communist. I have no reason to think so”)
Josh Barro explains how Obamacare changes insurance premiums. This is the gist of the problem:
The best I can do is say the ACA will create “several million losers.” They’re a small slice of the population: in good health, relatively young, with moderate to high incomes, and not receiving health insurance through work. But they’re real and their losses are real.
ACA supporters need to argue not that these people don’t exist or that their circumstances only changed because of greedy insurance companies; they need to argue that their losses are more than offset by the gains of the sick and uninsured who will get better and more affordable coverage under the law.
Why is it a problem? Explain to members of the shrinking middle class who have watched Wall Street return to pre-recession heights why they should grit their teeth and prepare to sacrifice for the rest of us. I have this trouble with Affordable Care Act opponents; at their nastiest they can’t understand why they should pay for chisellers and freeloaders, at their best-behaved they complain — not without cause — that it’s hard enough paying for their family’s insurance.
Dear me. Published in America’s most liberal newspaper:
If the health law were driving employers to cut employees’ hours, the most vulnerable workers would likely be those working just above the 30-hour cutoff. That means the data would show a decline in those working 30 to 34 hours and an increase in those working less than 30 hours.
That isn’t what’s happening. The share of part-timers who say they usually work between 30 and 34 hours at their main job has been roughly flat over the past three years, at about 28%. (September data aren’t yet available.) If anything, it’s actually risen in the past year, though the change has been minor. The share working just under 30 hours has indeed risen somewhat, but the share working under 25 hours has fallen—suggesting that employers are giving part-timers more hours, rather than cutting full-timers’ hours back.
Put another way: If the Labor Department used the same definition of “part-time” as the health law, its data would show no increase in part-time work over the past year.
Other data tell a similar story. Average weekly hours—a measure that comes from companies, rather than workers themselves—have been flat for the past year, and are near their highest level since the recession. Restaurants, one of the sectors most often cited as likely to shift to part-timers, haven’t cut workers’ hours over the past year.
Or watch Chris Hayes’ show last night.
Seriously. We’re already talking “entitlement reform,” aka “raising the retirement age of people in no condition to work harder.” Kevin Drum:
I’m not at all convinced that President Obama even wants to do away with the sequester. He says he does, of course, and his budget proposal includes higher levels of spending. But his actions over the past three years speak louder than words. His pivot to the deficit in 2010 seemed quite genuine, and his active push for a grand bargain in 2011 confirmed that he takes the deficit fairly seriously. It’s true that the sequester is a lousy way of addressing the deficit, but I suspect that Obama thinks it’s better than nothing. If he could negotiate some kind of swap between short-term discretionary cuts and long-term entitlement cuts, he’d do it, but if he can’t he’s not going to invest a lot of energy in fighting the weather.
Good Felix Salmon post:
Right now, with the shutdown, we’ve already reached the point at which the government is breaking very important promises indeed: we promised to pay hundreds of thousands of government employees a certain amount on certain dates, in return for their honest work. We have broken that promise. Indeed, by Treasury’s own definition, it’s reasonable to say that we have already defaulted: surely, by any sensible conception, the salaries of government employees constitute “legal obligations of the US“.
Conversely, if you really do expect zombies to start roaming the streets the minute that the US misses a payment on its Treasury obligations, you’re likely to be disappointed. Yes, the stock market would fall. But the price of Treasury bonds would remain in the general vicinity of par, and it might even go up if Treasury announced that past-due interest would be paid on all debt at a statutory rate of 8% per annum. Even when it’s Treasury bonds themselves which are the instruments in default, Treasury bonds remain the world’s flight-to-quality trade, and the expected recovery on all defaulted Treasury obligations would be 100 cents on the dollar — or more,
The line about the salaries of governmental employees must be repeated. We have already broken our promise to them. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The GOP doesn’t believe in the federal government in the first place.
Not a surprise but assembling the facts this fetchingly tells a grim story:
Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.
Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans’ telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources. “I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts,” he said.
“There are breakdowns at every point, and there is no one there to fix them,” said Michael Campbell, executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.
Calls for help to Pennsylvania’s health insurance hotline have reached record levels, and several pharmacists said they had never seen greater chaos.
“This is not getting better. It’s getting worse, and it’s an outrage,” said Sam Brog, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Retail Druggists. “They should end the program and start over.”
Sounds like we should scrap Obamacare, right? Only it isn’t the Affordable Care Act. The article, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in early 2006, depicts the growing pains of the Medicare prescription drugs program, George W. Bush’s signature domestic achievement in his second term. No, they’re not quite analogous; in its public-private collaboration, Obama’s health care fix is actually more conservative than Bush’s expansion of the federal bureaucracy. The point, though, is that change is hard. Note this quote:
But the volume of the complaints has surprised them. “We saw by Friday that this was mushrooming into a bigger problem than we had imagined,” said Suzanne Esterman, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
Cut and paste into any story about the Affordable Care Act’s awful website. I don’t hear many complaints about the prescription drug program anymore.
(h/t Chris Hayes)
Conservatives revere federalism. Behold…federalism!
While many people have been frustrated in their efforts to obtain coverage through the federal exchange, which is used by more than 30 states, consumers have had more success signing up for health insurance through many of the state-run exchanges, federal and state officials and outside experts say.
Alan R. Weil, the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, an independent nonpartisan group, credited the relative early success of some state exchanges to the fact that they could leap on problems more quickly than the sprawling, complex federal marketplace.
“Individual state operations are more adaptable,” Mr. Weil said. “That does not mean that states get everything right. But they can respond more quickly to solve problems as they arise.”
In addition, some states allow consumers to shop for insurance, comparing costs and benefits of different policies, without first creating an online account — a barrier for many people trying to use the federal exchange.
As the first morning of a government shutdown unfolds, I was pleased to see that our Beltway masters haven’t much lamented the collapse of Tip ‘n’ Ronnie-esque bipartisanship, in part due to the latest polls showing the public blames the GOP for the shutdown by margins that would have made Reagan’s ’84 election team blush. The normally useless Jonathan Chait posted this yesterday; his points are worth remembering:
The first element of the strategy is a kind of legislative strike. Initially, House Republicans decided to boycott all direct negotiations with President Obama, and then subsequently extended that boycott to negotiations with the Democratic Senate. (Senate Democrats have spent months pleading with House Republicans to negotiate with them, to no avail.) This kind of refusal to even enter negotiations is highly unusual. The way to make sense of it is that Republicans have planned since January to force Obama to accede to large chunks of the Republican agenda, without Republicans having to offer any policy concessions of their own.
Republicans have thrashed this way and that throughout the year. Republicans have fallen out, often sharply, over which hostages to ransom, with the most conservative ones favoring a government shutdown threat and the more pragmatic wing, oddly, endorsing a debt default threat. They have also struggled to define the terms of their ransom.
Charles Pierce: If he’s talking about the economy and we, somehow, come out out of this with a bogus “bipartisan” solution along the lines of the bogus Simpson-Bowles extravaganza, the Republicans will have won more than the Democrats have, because feeding Vaal on entitlements is their policy, not that of the Democrats. If he’s talking about the Republicans coming to their senses, he’s just wrong. I know I can get boring on this point but, to reconfigure the party the way Purdum and others seem to believe the party will be reconfigured in the wake of the fiscal apocalypse the Republicans have brought upon us, you would need a party establishment powerful enough to force the issue, and there…is…no…Republican …establishment. There are independent centers of power, none of whom are particularly indebted to the party, and all of which have the money to pursue their own interests and their own imperatives regardless of what may happen to Reince Priebus and Mitch McConnell, and, frankly, regardless of whether or not the party ever elects another president. These independent centers of power already are working their wills out in the state legislatures, which is where the next generation of Republican congresscritters will be produced. Those people are deeper into the izonkosphere than Ted Cruz is. When will this great reconfiguration show itself? Two decades from now? Three?
“The recent growth of SNAP has indeed been unusual, but then so have the times, in the worst possible way”
Well, yeah, Obama is the food stamp president:
In a way, you can see why the food stamp program — or, to use its proper name, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) — has become a target. Conservatives are deeply committed to the view that the size of government has exploded under President Obama but face the awkward fact that public employment is down sharply, while overall spending has been falling fast as a share of G.D.P. SNAP, however, really has grown a lot, with enrollment rising from 26 million Americans in 2007 to almost 48 million now.
Conservatives look at this and see what, to their great disappointment, they can’t find elsewhere in the data: runaway, explosive growth in a government program. The rest of us, however, see a safety-net program doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: help more people in a time of widespread economic distress.
The recent growth of SNAP has indeed been unusual, but then so have the times, in the worst possible way. The Great Recession of 2007-9 was the worst slump since the Great Depression, and the recovery that followed has been very weak. Multiple careful economic studies have shown that the economic downturn explains the great bulk of the increase in food stamp use. And while the economic news has been generally bad, one piece of good news is that food stamps have at least mitigated the hardship, keeping millions of Americans out of poverty.
Because college guys fear anal penetration, college women fear their OB/GYN, and, uh, everyone is afraid of clowns, the superbly named Generation Opportunity hopes to convince this cohort from signing up for the Affordable Care Act, aka Reason #21295 Why the Post-Nixon GOP is a Pathology Not a Party:
Organizers behind these efforts know that the law relies on young people. After several failed attempts by conservatives to repeal it in Congress, they have determined that this is their best shot at killing it, or at least give it a knee-capping.
“If young people do opt out en mass, it will put the law in a bind, for sure,” said Feinberg, who insists the main goal is not to get rid of the law. “If it means they have to repeal it because it doesn’t work and that ends up crippling the law, well fine. Then they have to make some changes or repeal the law to make it work.”
Please watch if you can endure them the embedded YouTube ads.
Guess who’s behind Generation Opportunity? “A coalition of right-leaning organizations with financial ties to billionaire businessmen and political activists Charles and David Koch,” that’s who.