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Does Eric Cantor’s Loss Doom Any Chance at Progress in US House?

U.S. Majority Leader Congressman Eric Cantor (R - Virginia)

The least productive Congress in the past two decades is likely to get much less productive in the next few months. Not only is an election on the horizon — a period of time in which incumbents scurry away for months at a time to campaign in their states and districts — the primary loss of Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday will likely cause Republicans to dig their heels in even more.

One example is immigration reform, which already had few if any paths at passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Conservatives in the lower chamber have forcefully opposed any measure that would grant a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Cantor’s historic primary loss on Tuesday night was likely the death-knell for any chance at passing a comprehensive bill during President Obama’s final years in office.

It may also have repercussions on other policy issues. Cantor is resigning his post in July, so while he would have had freedom to act his conscious until his term expired, he will have virtually no influence as a regular member. Even worse, his replacement’s lesson will almost assuredly be to not cross the party’s base, no matter the expense for the country as a whole.

As the second most powerful man in the House of Representative, behind only Speaker of the House John Boehner, Cantor wielded significant clout. Cantor not only lost in in a race where he was expected to be a runaway winner, he lost in historic fashion — the first sitting Majority Leader in modern history to go down to defeat in a primary. Federal Election Commission results show that Cantor had raised nearly $5 million in campaign contributions and had $1.5 million cash on hand at the end of May 2014. Cantor’s Tea Party challenger, David Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, raised just over $200,000 and spent a little under $125,000. Despite being vastly outspent, Brat garnered 56 percent of the vote.

A major theme of the intra-party fight was immigration. Cantor, who has said that he would prefer to see a piece-meal approach rather than one comprehensive bill that addressed border security and enforcement, work visas and naturalization, was forced to send out campaign fliers boasting that he had stopped the Senate’s bill “to give illegal aliens amnesty.” While no exit polling is available to tell us the motivation of voters, Cantor’s immigration stance was a major part of Brat’s message that the incumbent was out-of-step with the party’s base.

The bottom line is that passing any bills deemed as a “compromise” with the president or Democrats just went from being really difficult to impossible. The country’s political paralysis is likely to continue as Republicans pander further and further to the right-wing fringes of their party’s base and ignore concerns about general elections, which pose little threat to most incumbents from heavily gerrymandered districts.

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Is America Becoming More Liberal?

Democratic strategist Steve Rosenthal argued in a Washington Post column today that America is becoming more liberal. But how do you determine if a country is to the right or to the left on the political spectrum? Based on the party holding the White House? Based on who controls Congress? Party identification of voters?

Political scientists have long argued about political eras in the United States. Conservative politics dominated post-WWI until the Great Depression when the country turned to government to solve massive unemployment, income inequality and other issues of the day. There is a general consensus that liberalism dominated the period roughly from 1932 until sometime in the 1970s with the book ends being FDR (at the start) and LBJ (or perhaps as late as Carter) at the other end.

The political pendulum swings back and forth, although not entirely consistent in its timing. Margaret Thatcher’s ascension presaged the Reagan Revolution in the United States, which could still be felt to this day on fiscal matters with the Republican Party’s fixation on tax cuts and sequestration. De-regulation and privatization were two other tenets of Reagan economics that live on, although financial, healthcare and environmental regulation have made a comeback since the election of President Obama in 2008. One could argue that the 2010 midterm election was a last gasp of the Reagan era, quickly receding as turnout surged (as it always does in presidential elections) with a solid 4 point re-election of Obama in 2012, despite tepid job growth.

The evidence points to a shifting balance of power back to liberalism as left-leaning groups grow (Latinos, Asians, young voters) and right-leaning groups shrink (white and rural voters). The demographic death spiral of the Republican Party has been written about extensively, and I won’t spend much time re-treading old water, but it is worth pointing out that unless the Republican Party adapts to the quickly shifting policy preferences of Americans, they are not going to be relevant on the national stage.

Early polling for 2016 suggests that only the relatively moderate Chris Christie stands much of a chance against a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy, and that was before his bridge scandal put a black eye on his prospects. Conservative Paul Ryan could make a credible case but probably only if Hillary were to decide against a run. His lack of gravitas and politically far-right positions such as privatizing Medicare are liabilities. Backbenchers like Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have little chance of ever making it to the White House, unless there is an unprecedented tidal shift in the makeup of the electorate.

Which gets us back to the original question: how do you determine if a country is to the right or to the left? Party labels can be useful but they don’t tell us the whole story. Richard Nixon, for instance, signed an executive order that created the EPA. He also signed the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. He even proposed a national health care law that had similarities to both Romney’s Massachusetts plan and Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Nixon was arguably more liberal than Democrat Bill Clinton, at least on some issues, but was also a product of his time — an era where politics and policy outcomes favored government intervention.

Another metric that can be used outside of just party identification of a president or Congress are the attitudes of voters themselves. Rosenthal’s piece brings attention to the fact that the country has dramatically shifted to the left on a number of critical issues. A majority of Americans now favor legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana. Fifteen years ago, barely a third of voters supported either. Voters favor providing a pathway to citizenship for the country’s undocumented immigrant population, another reversal from past years. And support for gun control measures, such as universal background checks, wins the support of over 90 percent of voters. The shift in public opinion is a sharp contrast from the Republican Party’s position in Congress and in state houses across the country.

While most of the issues that he cited were social issues, economically liberal policies poll well with the public as well. According to a Gallup poll from March 2013, over 70 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Every group of voters polled support raising the minimum wage, including a slight majority of Republicans (although this group was within the margin of error and thus statistically insignificant). Similarly, 57 percent of Americans accurately perceive the widening wealth gap between rich and poor, and want the government to address it.

What do these numbers tell us? Voters, at least on these issues, favor a liberal approach to a conservative one. It means that not only Republican politicians, but also Democrats, will have to respond to the increasingly liberal desires of voters. Just as Democrats shifted on marriage equality, so to will the GOP. A similar shift should be expected on a range of other issues as the demographic evolution of the country shifts power from an older and whiter generation to a more diverse generation. Ignoring the shift would be political suicide.

2008 seems to have been a transformational election. Whether you prefer to use public polling to gauge voter attitudes, policy outcomes or strictly election results, it seems fairly clear that the country is entering a new post-Reagan era. It may not be a return to the golden days of progressive politics that ushered in Social Security and Medicare but the demographic changes, combined with the other metrics mentioned, point to a more progressive America than we’ve had in a long time.

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Healthcare Spending Slows Dramatically Under ACA

Hospital Roberto Santos recebe novos médicos residentes

After a couple months of nothing but negative news stories, the Affordable Care Act has seen a reprieve of good news in recent weeks. Nearly one million people signed up through the now-fixed healthcare.gov website, which had suffered under intense server load in October and early November. Nearly 10 million Americans have so far taken advantage of the ACA through the healthcare exchanges (both federal and state-run websites), people under the age of 26 who can stay on their parents’ insurance policies, and people who newly qualify for Medicaid. Despite the early glitches, the law is having a real and positive impact on the lives of millions.

An important component of the law that would benefit everyone was a projected reduction in healthcare costs. As it turns out, three years after the Affordable Care Act was passed into law (also known as Obamacare), healthcare spending saw a seasonally-adjusted decline for the first time in four decades. The importance of this cannot be understated as healthcare spending is projected to be the largest single issue in terms of the national deficit in the decades to come. Reducing the cost of healthcare will reduce the deficit.

Another new report just released today shows that healthcare spending between 2010 and 2012 was slower than the growth of GDP. Keeping in mind that GDP growth has not been especially robust since the Great Recession started in 2007, it is even more impressive that healthcare spending has contracted at such a fast rate. The White House credits the ACA, at least in part, since the changes to Medicare are shielded from the affects of unemployment. The Office of the Actuary found that the Medicaid expansion built into the law would only have a minimal negative affect on health spending.

The benefits are not isolated to healthcare costs or to the previously uninsured gaining coverage. People with existing policies are protected from insurance industry abuses that allowed companies to kick customers off of policies for getting sick and denying coverage to people with “pre-existing conditions”. The law also eliminates lifetime spending caps. Essentially, the ACA ensures that anyone with private insurance today has a policy that they can rely on when they are most vulnerable. After all, everyone will get sick at some point in their lifetime, no matter how healthy of a lifestyle one lives. The cost savings are just an extra bonus on top of the life-saving benefits of the ACA.

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60 Minutes Report Shows Congress Profiting from Campaign Cash

60 Minutes had an excellent piece last night on a little reported loophole that allows members of Congress to use campaign cash as a personal piggybank. It’s illegal to do under a normal campaign account but leadership PACs are exempt and most members have them these days even if they are not party leaders.

Some of the more egregious examples of abuse: Ron Paul used his leadership PAC to pay six family members over $300,000. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano lent money to her campaign and then charged exorbitant interest. The real kicker: she didn’t even have a credible opponent, winning her race with 65% of the vote.

Watch the full report below:

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Republican House in Trouble for 2014

Things aren’t looking too good for the House GOP. It turns out that shutting down the government is not a popular thing. When you take the position that over 70 percent of Americans do not support, it will generally have a negative effect on your political prospects. That’s the position that Boehner and Co. find themselves in going into 2014′s midterm elections.

As the Washington Post points out, it will take roughly a 7.5% Democratic advantage on the national Congressional ballot next year, due to gerrymandering, in order to win back the House. It may be a point or two less than that, depending on the outcomes in individual districts, but 7.5% will get the job done.

Democrats have a 6% advantage in national generic polls for the House of Representatives — and that was before the shutdown occurred. By taking the position that 70%+ of the country oppose in shutting down the government, Republicans have shot themselves in the foot. They’ve managed to take what was likely a slam-dunk majority in the House and possible one in the Senate (barring major screw-ups like a government shutdown or threatening default) and turned it into a competitive bid for control of the House while making a GOP Senate majority improbable (at best).

The generic ballot is useful to look at national trends but it doesn’t give a glimpse at individual House districts. PPP, which had the best track record of pollsters in 2012, went into the field after the shutdown and found that Democrats led in 17 of the 24 Republican-held districts sampled. As it turns out, 17 is the magic number for Democrats to win a majority.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Since several of these districts are in deep red territory, such as Steve King’s Iowa 4, it is quite possible that districts with similar compositions are also competitive but weren’t polled. It’s worth noting that Steve King has a penchant for saying outrageous things — something fellow Tea Party members seem to have in common — comparing DREAM activists to drug mules. The competitive nature of his district may have more to do with his mouth than anything else but it is good news for Democrats nonetheless.

This analysis has a lot of caveats: 1) several of these races sampled were within the margin of error 2) polling a year out is unreliable due to changing circumstances and fading memories 3) a generic candidate always sounds better than a real one. Nonetheless, macro trends matter for fundraising, retaining incumbent candidates and recruiting quality candidates to challenge incumbents or replace retiring members.

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Will Obamacare Result in Higher Premiums?

Doctors

A writer on the Huffington Post named Eli Lehrer made the argument that Obamacare should undergo “vast changes” because it was too good of a deal for people like himself. Lehrer is an upper middle class wage earner with a wife who is on disability and receives Medicare. Lehrer writes that he is likely to see his premiums either remain stable or go down as a result of the law but his benefits to increase.

“I’m a conservative and would have voted against Obamacare if I were a member of Congress. I think that many of its provisions are silly and have criticized some of them rather loudly. That said, I’m likely to count myself among the winners as the revised health care system rolls out in the next few weeks. And my own experience is a good reason why Republicans should be working for vast changes to the system. I don’t deserve the benefits I’ll get,” he writes.

Lehrer cherrypicks a few problems with the law while largely ignoring its benefits and presenting an example that has some pretty unique circumstances (Obamacare was not written to address existing disability benefits but to lower costs and largely reduce the number of uninsured). The fact that he admits even upper middle class households will benefit is telling.

He argues that community ratings — that is, limiting price variation for premiums — will hurt lower income households. In his own words: “As small group plans like mine move towards modified community rating (everyone pays pretty much the same price), I suspect that we may actually see a small reduction in our costs. Even if average premiums soar, we’re the people who will benefit from this happening.”

The problem with this argument is threefold: households making up to 133% of the poverty line are covered under the Medicaid expansion as long as their state opts in, a result of the Supreme Court’s poorly decided ruling that the federal government cannot compel states to participate in the expansion or lose all Medicaid funding. However, the expansion is 100% funded by the federal government for the first few years, then 90% after that. States refusing to participate are simply playing politics.

Second, individuals and households not covered through Medicaid will be eligible for a large subsidy to buy insurance. The subsidy covers individuals and households up to 400% of the poverty line — $45,960 for a single person or $94,200 for a family of four. Third, households with adult children up to 26 years of age can remain on their parents’ plan under Obamacare, a considerable savings for millions of college students across this country. All of these are extremely significant points.

Lehrer is at least partially correct, even if he neglects to adequately mention the benefits of the law: existing plans through employers may experience increases for young and healthy individuals. In other words, people like myself are probably going to get hit with higher premiums since factors such as age will have less effect on premiums, but as we get older, our premiums relative to our healthcare expenses will go down. It’s a trade-off that many people are probably not happy to make. These are the types of things that should be worked out through Congress rather than scrapping the entire law.

However, this is a problem of the employer-based system rather than the healthcare exchanges that Obamacare created for uninsured and self-employed Americans. Maryland is just one of the states where health insurance prices for the exchanges are expected to be much lower than anticipated. A 21 year old non-smoker will be able to purchase insurance for as low as $93 a month, not including any subsidies that they may receive. That’s cheaper than auto insurance for most people! California and New York have released similarly low rates for their healthcare exchanges.

Lehrer goes on to predict that “even if Medcaid expansion swamps emergency rooms the affluent suburb I live in will probably have few new Medicaid beneficiaries.”

This is not going to happen for one simple reason: people that are uninsured are ALREADY swamping emergency rooms. The Medicaid expansion is only going to alleviate ER congestion by allowing for better, cheaper preventative care.

The president built the law around the existing, inefficient for-profit system. Obamacare reigns in the excesses of insurance giants but they’re still free to make a hefty profit, as are giant healthcare systems. Some of the highest paid government workers are not in Congress, the White House or sitting on a federal bench. They’re presidents of public medical schools.

The best way to cut costs and thus lower premiums across the board is to remove the profit motive from insurance. Medicaid and Medicare are efficiently run programs that get better results than private insurance. The next logical step after ensuring that everyone is covered is to transition to a not-for-profit system, either as part of an expanded Medicaid/Medicare program or requiring that all private insurance companies must be non-profits.

It’s important to note that the function of insurance is to provide security. Health insurance is simply a method of ensuring payment for the end product, the healthcare itself. For-profit insurers are middlemen taking a cut of the pie for their shareholders. The government or a non-profit could do it without needing to squeeze extra bucks for shareholders — all the while keeping our hospitals and doctors in private hands. The government also has leveraging power to lower costs that private insurers do not.

Congress has a lot of work to still do. Aside from addressing what is likely to be a disparity in Medicaid coverage based on whether a person lives in a blue or red state, Congress must also deal with the fact that we still have built-in inefficiencies in the healthcare system: employer-based coverage, for-profit insurers, or potentially higher premiums for younger and healthier citizens. Obamacare was not meant to be the end of the road for health care reform but a starting point.

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It’s Time to Kill the Filibuster

Weeks after staving off a rules change in the Senate that would have eliminated the use of filibusters to obstruct executive branch nominees in the Senate, Republicans have turned their obstruction to the judicial branch. As TPM reports:

Senate Republicans are standing firm by their threat to block every one of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, insisting on eliminating all three vacant seats on the country’s second most powerful court…

The first of Obama’s three picks, Patricia Millett, was narrowly approved Thursday by the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8. Every Republican voted against her, although they didn’t criticize her or take issue with her qualifications. They merely argued that the court is under-worked and that nobody ought to fill those seats.

“I have nothing against her but we should not be adding to that bench,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a senior Republican on the committee, told TPM on Thursday afternoon.

Senate Republicans blocked nominations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board simply because they did not agree with the missions of those agencies. A leaderless CFPB and NLRB meant that those entities lacked the authority to move forward on policy initiatives. Similarly, refusing to vote on any nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals guarantees that Republican appointees on the bench will constitute a majority — a majority that is threatened by the three vacancies.


“Filibuster” was never uttered at Independence Hall in 1787.

The Constitution requires the president to nominate judges and the Senate to offer its “advise and consent”. That means debating and voting on nominations. Confirmation requires only a majority threshold, something that the filibuster expressly denies. The Constitution does not grant the power to block lawfully nominated judges for seats on the federal bench with a minority of votes. Republicans in the Senate have re-interpreted the Constitution to suit their political desires.

I’m not much interested in the political aspects of this issue. The filibuster hurts the majority party, which is currently the Democrats, but the majority changes over time. Ending the filibuster will hurt Senate Democrats in the future when Republicans take control of the body. There is no doubt about that.

The country was founded on the principle of majority rule. Indeed, the Vice President’s sole role other than acting as a replacement to the president in the case of death, resignation or removal, is to cast a tie-breaking vote in an evenly divided Senate. The Founders expected the Senate to be a majority body and nothing else except in the specific circumstances as outlined in the Constitution (i.e. ratifying Treaties and Constitutional amendments, as well as impeachment).

The second point is that the filibuster has a false reputation for guarding against bad legislation. In recent years, the filibuster did nothing to guard against acts and laws viewed as anathema to Democrats. The Iraq War, Patriot Act and Wall Street bailouts were all passed with a greater than 60 vote threshold. Filibusters also did not stop the Bush tax cuts, which were passed through a majority vote parliamentary gimmick known as reconciliation. Meanwhile, the filibuster effectively killed legislation to combat climate change, pass the DREAM Act, create a public option in the Affordable Care Act, and require background checks for all gun purchases, just to name a few.

From a policy perspective, the filibuster is absolutely noxious. It’s nearly impossible these days to get a 60 vote consensus on basic governance, let alone major issues. The minority party can use this power, which is not found in the constitution, to stifle any semblance of progress. Indeed, they can grind all governance to a complete halt. This is not the way to govern a country. The filibuster must die.

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Why Would Hillary Clinton Not Run for President?

Politico published a piece a few weeks asking the question “what if Hillary doesn’t run?” Like most Politico stories, it doesn’t really make any news and is heavy on gossip with unnamed Democrats (most likely already aligned with the Clinton camp) crying that the party would be doomed without her. Here are just a couple examples:

“We would be at sea in a lifeboat with no food, no water, and no land in sight.” -anonymous

“There’s Hillary, and then there’s, like, Plan K. There is no B or C or G or whatever.” -anonymous

Hillary Clinton 1

If you thought that you heard similar musings in 2008, well, you did. Hillary was the inevitable nominee of the mainstream media and party officials. She was the only candidate that could beat a Republican. Neither were true then and it’s still not today.

There is no question that while she is not the inevitable Democratic nominee (that’s why we have elections), she is the prohibitive front-runner. Likewise, in a general election against a Republican, she would also be the odds on favorite. Hillary’s current polling numbers put her comfortably ahead, by ten points or more, against her most likely (and credible) Republican opponents with the exception of Chris Christie, who is keeping her within the margin of error.

Even accepting the knowledge that anything can happen in politics, and that her numbers are likely to return to Earth after staying largely out of politics for the past five years, she still has the clearest path to the White House. In fact, any White House aspirant would be envious of the position that she is in.

The better question is: why wouldn’t she run?

There are only a few good reasons why someone, particularly with Hillary’s ambition, would pass on the world’s most powerful position. She clearly would love to see a female president in her lifetime. It seems like an obvious choice but there are a few possible reasons why she would opt out.

The first and most obvious one is health. Hillary will be sixty-nine by the time that Election Day and a possible Inauguration roll around in 2016/17. She would not only be the first female president but the second oldest president as well. Republicans all too eager to use her age against her should be reminded that would make her younger than Reagan, who was only a few days away from 70. Biden would also be older than Hillary should he choose to run.

Old age does not necessarily guarantee bad health. There are plenty of members of Congress in their late 60s, 70s and even 80s. The average age of members of the House in 2011 was 57. The Senate was slightly older at 62. Recently deceased Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away at the age of 89. By all accounts, he was healthy and boisterous throughout his Senate career.

The good news is that there are currently no accounts of health problems for the former Secretary of State — and let’s hope that that continues — but it is not uncommon for presidents to conceal these facts. FDR’s polio was hidden from the public; JFK had back problems despite his young age; and it’s been speculated that Reagan suffered from the onset of Alzheimer’s in his later years in the White House.

Still, even if she gets a clean bill of health from her doctors, what else might motivate her to pass? Her husband, the former president, has had serious health problems including a quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery in 2004. There’s no indication that he has had any problems since, but at age 66, things can happen. It’s doubtful that Hillary would undertake a run if her husband has serious health complications between now and the early stages of 2016.

There are a host of other reasons not to run, all of them varying in degrees of seriousness. Her daughter Chelsea was recently married and will possibly have a child in the next few years. Chelsea was the target of some horrendous attacks by right-wing critics in the 1990s, namely from the reliably slimy Rush Limbaugh. Shielding her grandchild from the vile nature of politics is a consideration but still unlikely to stop a run without some other mitigating factors.

Which leads to another reason: politics is blood sport. Running for president is a grueling multi-year process that requires huge sums of special interest dollars to be raised (to the tune of $1 billion these days), non-stop traveling and pandering to increasingly partisan party bases. It’s really no wonder why politics attracts some of the sleaziest dirt bags around: any person in their right mind would want to avoid this kind of insane process like the plague.

However, we could endlessly speculate “what if” scenarios but in the end of the day, 2016 is three years away and news outlets are already treating it as if it is next year. The bottom line: Hillary will make her decision when she’s ready to commit. In the meantime, let’s actually get something done with our current elected government. I know, tough chance with this do-nothing Congress.

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Media Misses Bigger Picture on Gun Violence in Wake of Zimmerman Verdict

Tonight’s news that the jury in Florida found George Zimmerman “not guilty” on all counts was a bitter disappointment for many. No matter which way you cut it, Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman was the man to pull the trigger. The fact that an unarmed teenager was gunned down in his neighborhood, carrying nothing but some iced tea and Skittles, is proof that racial profiling and false assumptions can have deadly consequences.

Skittles

Since I wasn’t on the jury and did not watch the full trial, I’ll leave the commentary at that. However, there is one observation that I can’t help but noticing: every night teenagers are gunned down in the streets of America. Sometimes multiple teens are killed in one city. Over 72 people were shot in Chicago over the 4th of July weekend. And so far 2013 has been significantly better than 2012 for murder in the Windy City.

Squarely to blame is gang violence that is fueled by a “war on drugs” that puts innocent civilians in the crossfire. This failed “war” has forced a deadly underground drug trade for mostly harmless substances like marijuana. Also to blame are gun laws that permit extremely powerful weapons to be readily purchased without any meaningful regulation. Changes to these laws would not have saved Trayvon Martin but they certainly would save thousands of lives each year. The current Congress, in its utter ineptitude and callous pandering to the gun lobby, has not passed a simple background check law!

So while many will post about Trayvon Martin alone, tonight my thoughts are with *all* families who are victims of gun violence. There will be no media coverage for the 30,000+ people who die each year in the United States at the barrel of a gun. These senseless, completely preventable deaths must end in our society — and people of good will must speak up to make it possible.

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Dear Republicans: Obamacare Repeal is Not Going to Happen

Dear Republican Politicians,

Obamacare is not going anywhere. This issue was settled last November when President Obama defeated your nominee, Mitt Romney, by four percentage points — a nominee whose Massachusetts healthcare law was, by the way, the blueprint for Obamacare.

The latest calls for repeal center around a move by the administration to delay the so-called employer mandate (which is worth pointing out was another Republican idea championed by Richard Nixon and Mitt Romney, whose Massachusetts plan requires employers to provide coverage if they have only 10 employees or more). Under Obamacare, employers with fifty or more employees would have to provide health insurance for full-time workers under the law. The delay allows employers to come into compliance by January 2015.

The reality is that Obamacare is a patchwork: it keeps mostly intact the existing system with a number of key improvements. It cuts in half the number of projected uninsured from nearly 60 million to less than 30 million. Much of this is through a Medicaid expansion contingent on states’ participation but also through the health insurance exchanges and subsidies that the government will provide for people to purchase private insurance (the Kaiser Foundation has a handy tool that can calculate out-of-pocket premium expenses). For most people, they won’t even notice a change except for a slower growth in healthcare costs. Obamacare has already been credited with helping to reduce medical costs for the first time since 1975.


Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) speaks to Tea Party supporters

And in reality small businesses, which are already exempt from the employer mandate, are likely to benefit, not be hurt from the healthcare law. “Small businesses that have fewer than 10 employees, average wages beneath $25,000, and that provide insurance for their workers will get a 50 percent tax credit on their contribution. The tax credit reaches up to small businesses with up to 50 employees and average wages of $50,000, though it gets smaller as the business get bigger and richer. The credit lasts for two years, though many think Congress will be pressured to extend it, which would raise the long-term cost of the legislation,” the Washington Post reports.

If you want to improve the law, rather than gut it, work with the president and Democrats to change it. Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana has already proposed changes to the law to make it more amiable for businesses. Work with him and other Democrats. Your incessant whining and repeated votes for full repeal in the House are an unproductive waste of time, money and effort. And despite your crying wolf on behalf of insurance giants, much of the law is good for average voters.

The bottom line is that we expect you to do your job. In case you need reminded what that means: Congress passes “laws”. Bills that only make it out of the House and have no chance of ever passing the Senate or receiving the president’s signature don’t count. It’s politic theater — especially when you have 37 encores of the same performance. Obstruction and complaining like a four year old is not a governing strategy, it’s a political one. Get on board and help to improve the system rather than have a singular mission of going nowhere and doing nothing.

Sincerely,
Kyle W. Bell

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