Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jonathan Bernstein explains why stories about a revolt against John Boehner are phony.
Today's big story is the supposed “revolt” against John Boehner by a handful of House Republican radicals. Aaron Blake at The Fix has a vote count, but don’t be fooled: This isn’t really a revolt against the House speaker.

It's just a way for the radicals to differentiate themselves from mainstream conservatives (or, in their language, for Real Conservatives to separate themselves from squishes and RINOs -- Republicans in Name Only). It’s also a way for some to signal they haven’t “gone Washington.” There may be a few more votes against Boehner now than there were two years ago, but that’s only because, with a larger Republican majority, he can afford to lose more votes -- not because he’s any less popular within his conference.

A real uprising against the speaker would have happened back in November, when House Republicans met and instead endorsed him for another term. Had conservatives been unhappy with Republican leadership, they could have rounded up the votes and made it clear that Boehner was finished. They could even have proposed a plausible replacement. But they didn’t have the votes or an alternative then, and they won’t have them now.

Yes, Louie Gohmert of Texas has proposed himself as a new speaker, but the last thing any of the radicals want right now is Boehner’s job – which entails, more than anything else, cutting deals with Barack Obama on must-pass items such as the debt limit and next year’s appropriations. House Republicans aren't really unhappy with how Boehner has handled those negotiations; that's why they supported another term for him. This "revolt" is nothing more than a tantrum against the inescapable fact of compromise.

Jim Geraghty of The Campaign Spot explains in his Morning Jolt newsletter (which I heartily recommend as I do his hilarious novel about the bureaucracy)why Republicans should cut John Boehner a lot more slack in how he has negotiated with President Obama.
The problem in budget negotiations for Republicans is that a) the public isn’t as outraged about wasteful and excessive spending as Republicans and conservatives are; b) the president is a shameless demagogue who commands the bully pulpit; c) most of the media will happily assist the president by blaming Republicans for every school bus full of kids that doesn’t get to visit the Smithsonian during a government shutdown.

(Sure, the public may tell pollsters that they don’t like wasteful and excessive spending. But they rarely get particularly vocal or motivated about it.)

Those factors bedeviled Republicans before John Boehner was Speaker, they have bedeviled them throughout his Speakership, and they are likely to bedevil them for the near future. Yes, a different Republican as Speaker of the House might be a better public speaker or more charismatic, but it’s not likely that he (or she!) could single-handedly overcome the public’s short attention span and lack of interest or the media’s instinct that all government spending is vital and any effort to cut it is miserly.

Get ready for a year of hurt from Obamacare. And this is by design.
Obamacare was designed such that its most harmful provisions would not be implemented until after the President had been returned to office for a second term and his Democrat accomplices had been reelected to their congressional seats. Fortunately for the nation, the latter part of that strategy was a spectacular failure. Nonetheless, it did provide the public with a temporary reprieve from the health care law’s most painful exactions. That brief respite is now at an end. This year, you will begin to experience the realities of “reform” first hand and you are not going to like how it feels.

In fact, you are probably already feeling the first twinges without recognizing that their source is Obamacare. If you are among the 150 million Americans who get health insurance through their employers, for example, chances are that the coverage your company offered for 2015 has much higher premiums than did last year’s plan. The President and his toad eaters in the legacy media will do their best to convince you that these increases are caused by insurance company avarice, but this is merely another lie they are peddling in the hope that they can save Obama’s “signature domestic achievement.”

The actual cause was the looming employer mandate and other Obamacare regulations that took effect January 1. The mandate and accompanying red tape dramatically increase the cost of employee health insurance for companies with 100 or more full-time-equivalent workers. It requires all such firms to offer “minimum essential” coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees or pay huge fines. These PPACA-mandated benefits are expensive, and very few small-to-medium sized employers can unilaterally absorb the costs of such “essential” coverage. So you get to share the pain.

But your premiums are just the start. The real pain will come when you need medical services. Your new plan probably has a far higher deductible and co-pay requirement than your old one. Consequently, when you see a doctor or have a test performed, you’ll have to pay the entire cost. This need to pay for such services out-of-pocket despite being insured, according to USA Today, is already causing people to forego care:

Philip Klein writes on the same topic as he explains how 2015 is the "year of the mandate."
Though the requirement to purchase insurance began in 2014, most Americans will file their 2014 taxes this year, meaning 2015 is the year most people will start to feel the impact of the individual mandate.

When Americans go to file their taxes in 2015, they’ll have to take the extra step of demonstrating to the IRS that they maintained government-approved insurance coverage in 2014. If they do not meet the requirement, or fail to qualify for any of the exemptions from the mandate (such as claiming an income hardship), they will be forced to pay a penalty.

For the 2014 tax year, the penalties will be relatively modest, at $95, or 1 percent of income above the filing threshold, whichever is higher. The filing threshold is around $10,000, meaning a person earning $50,000 would be subject to a penalty of about $400.

In the 2015 tax year, that penalty will rise to 2 percent of adjusted income, or $325. By 2016, it will rise to 2.5 percent of income, or $695. So an uninsured American earning $50,000 would be subject to a penalty of about $1,000 in the 2016 tax year.

Even though the mandate won’t reach its peak for several years, the fact that Americans will be exposed to the mandate in a more tangible way this year will make it less abstract and provide an opening for the new Republican-controlled Senate.

CBS interviews Steven Brill on his new book, America's Bitter Pill, about Obama care. His conclusion is that more poor people are being insured, but the costs are going up. Of course there were all the promises that Obama made about how the Affordable Care Act would make health care, well, more affordable. Just part of the lies we were told about the law. And isn't this just what Jon Gruber was finally coming clean about - that they never could have sold the bill if people had realized that the middle class would have to pay more for insuring poor people?

Of course, the argument for saying that the poor have been provided for under Obamacare depends on whether they can actually get treatment under Medicaid. That is becoming more and more difficult.
More than half of the advertised health care providers were unavailable for Medicaid appointments when the Affordable Care Act opened the gates to nearly 10 million new enrollees in 2014.

“Notably, 51 percent of providers were either not participating in the plan at the location listed or not accepting new patients enrolled in the plan,” according to a recently-released report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.

Oh, the sweet irony!
For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.
I guess that tells us what it's worth to listen to Harvard experts. Or MIT experts, for that matter.

Steve Malanga looks at the increasing tensions between public and private unions.
The goals of public and private unions are diverging. Government employees, determined to hold on to their pay and benefits, are fighting to defeat political leaders and candidates advocating fiscal reforms, such as limits on tax increases. Private unions, by contrast, see the nation’s sluggish economic growth as a threat to their members and are increasingly encouraging politicians to focus on private-sector job creation. The disastrous debut of Obamacare and the ever-tighter alliances between public unions and the Democratic Party’s antigrowth factions—especially environmentalists—have further alienated private-sector labor leaders. These disputes have roiled Democratic primaries and even pushed some labor groups into the arms of Republican candidates. The face-off among labor groups could have significant long-term consequences if it becomes a struggle for the future of the Democratic Party—and judging by the battles among labor groups in last year’s elections, that struggle may be under way.

Today’s labor divide is actually a new twist on older conflicts. Decades ago, when public-sector workers first began to push for the right to organize, many private labor leaders were skeptical that collective bargaining could work in government employment; government officials tended to agree. Unionized public workers, they felt, could easily hold the public hostage. One consequence of that widespread attitude was the exclusion of public employees from many early federal labor laws, including the 1935 Wagner Act, which gives private workers the right to organize and bargain collectively. In an oft-quoted 1937 letter, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt explained to an angry Luther Steward, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, that, while it was acceptable for federal workers to organize into associations or trade groups to represent their interests, “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
As Malanga points out, these tensions are becoming more open as the goals of each group diverge.
A struggling economy and blown-out state and local budgets, burdened with heavy government-worker costs, have brought to the surface the old enmity between private and public unions. Nowhere has this been more visible than in New Jersey. In 2006, as a budget crisis rocked the state, Democratic state senator Stephen Sweeney, an ironworkers’-union official, declared that public employees should take a 15 percent pay cut to prevent looming tax hikes. “My guys haven’t gotten a raise in two years because their entire raise went to their health and pension costs,” Sweeney complained. “New Jersey has a government that we can’t afford any longer.” A union war of words ensued, with one public-sector labor leader likening Sweeney to a “right-wing Republican.”
How ironic that private unions are starting to notice what non-union members have been noticing all along. Read the rest of Malanga's essay for examples of which blue states have seen these conflicts between the two sets of unions erupt.

Meet the new House committee chairmen as GOP House rules on term limits push some of the old chairs out.

Matt Latimer, a former GWB speechwriter, argues at Politco that the Republicans are "ready for Hillary."
Conservatives do have one thing to be thankful for: The fact is that Hillary Clinton learned so many lessons from her surprising 2008 defeat that she’s repeating each of them all over again. Once more she is running as the overconfident, inevitable nominee with safe speeches filled with mush and a bloated campaign staff that already is leaking against each other in the press.
Which is probably why so many Republicans, fresh off of their 2014 election triumphs, are excited. They have a chance. It is also why so many prospective GOP candidates—18 or 20 by some estimates—are considering a run. Indeed, the GOP field looks to be so crowded that its first debate may have to be held on an aircraft carrier. The USS Ronald Reagan is available.
Of course, there are quite a few of the almost two dozen potential candidates whose possible candidacies leave me less than excited. Mike Huckabee? Really? Maybe the noise about his running is a way of goosing sales of his new book.

Proving yet again what an ignoramus he is, RFK Jr. thinks we have a lot to learn from Cuba.

Sohab Ahmari has a story about a Brandeis student who was facing the kangaroo court charges of harassment because he said some things that another student objected to. But this story has a different ending because the accused student got legal representation and fought back. And Brandeis caved. There's a lesson in that, but how many students have the connections to get top notch legal help?

Sean Trende refutes the story from Vox about how the 46 Democrats elected to the Senate this year got 20 million more votes than the 54 Republicans.
This past weekend, Vox’s featured piece contained the click-bait-y headline “The Senate's 46 Democrats got 20 million more votes than its 54 Republicans.” The short, three-paragraph piece concludes:

“This doesn't mean that the Republican majority is illegitimate or anything like that. Indeed, after 2008 and 2012, the tables were turned: Democrats got more Senate seats than their vote share suggested they should. The problem isn't that the deck is stacked in favor of Republicans. The problem is that the deck is stacked in favor of small states, which receive equal representation in the Senate despite dramatic variance in population. The Senate is a profoundly anti-democratic body and should be abolished.”

This is flawed, badly, for four reasons. (We’ll ignore the concluding sentence, if for no other reason than that Article 5 of the Constitution prohibits relitigating the Connecticut Compromise, even by amendment.)

....The fact that the 46 Democrats got more votes than their 54 Republican opponents isn’t “crazy,” to borrow Matthews’ term, at all. Nor does it tell us much of anything about malapportionment in the Senate. The reason that victorious Democrats won 20 million more votes than victorious Republicans is that half of the victorious Democrats won in 2012, while 80 percent of the victorious Republicans won in 2010 or 2014. Presidential elections have higher turnout than midterm elections. So a win in 2012 will necessarily bring more votes than a win in 2010 or 2014, even in a similarly sized state.

For example, Heidi Heitkamp barely won her Senate seat in 2012 with 161,000 votes, for a one-point victory. Two years earlier, her co-senator, John Hoeven, won with over 70 percent of the vote. But because 80,000 fewer votes were cast in 2010 than in 2012, Hoeven received only 182,000 votes.
Read the rest to see how misleading and wrongly argued the Vox point is.

The President's deal with Cuba is looking worse and worse as now we're finding out that no one knows who those 53 detainees were that Cuba was supposed to release and that they haven't been released.

DaTechGuy has a recommendation for the GOP pundits as he comments how actions such as interrupting diners's brunches or a the funeral for a WWII vet just aggravate people and turn them off.
Now what do these two events have in common: Two things come to mind

They are events that only serve to cause the average voter to actively dislike said people.

They are being done by Democrat activists

This being the case there is one logical thing for republicans to do.

If I was a republican pundit I would never miss an opportunity to describe these activist as Democrat activists and invite any Democrat I’m on a panel with to either embrace them or reject them.

It’s a no lose situation for us, if the Democrats reject them they risk annoying their activist base, while if they reject them they even more tightly tie themselves to actions that turn off voters.
He goes on to note that, "thanks to our brave protesters," every time a policeman is now shot such as these two NYPD officers last night, it will become national news.

Mickey Kaus identifies his choice for the "most 'This Town' moment" of 2015.