A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, March 06, 2015

Justice ?


In Defense Of Hillary Clinton

(This caricature of Hillary Clinton is by the inimitable DonkeyHotey.)

Hillary Clinton is not yet a candidate for any political office, and won't be until at least next month (if not later), but that hasn't stopped her political enemies from trying to tear her down. In the last couple of weeks, they have come up with new accusations that they hope will make her look like an evil and conniving person.

Right-wingers are engaging in this character assassination because they know that none of their potential candidates currently stand a chance of beating Clinton in a head-to-head battle for the presidency -- and some on the left have joined them (primarily those still begging Senator Warren to enter the Democratic race for president).

Last week, they accused Clinton of receiving funds from foreign governments, and particularly pointed to a donation of about $500,000 from Algeria (not generally viewed as a friend of the United States). The implication was that Clinton was selling her influence to foreign countries to advance her own interests.

They might have had a case, if Clinton had used any of those funds for her own enrichment or to further her political career -- but she didn't. Every penny of that money went to the Clinton Foundation -- a charity that tries to help people around the world. The money from Algeria was for the earthquake victims in Haiti, and that's exactly where all of it went.

Charities can't be too particular about who donates to them, because that funding is too hard to get -- and even if it comes from an unsavory source (like the government of Algeria), they know it can be put to good use helping people. In addition, the Clinton Foundation has been very open about who is contributing to them. I think Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe put it best when he said:

"If the biggest attack on Hillary's going to be that she raised too much money for her charity, okay, I'll take that. No one's alleging anything beyond that she raised money and people gave her money and foreign governments gave her money. At the end of the day, that's fine. It went to a charity. It helped a lot of people."

When that charge fizzled, Clinton detractors came up with a new charge this week. They accused of her using her own private e-mail account rather than a government account while she was Secretary of State. The implication was that she was trying to hide something nefarious by using a private account, because the public didn't have access to that account -- and some even implied she may have broken the law by using a private account. That's pure horse-hockey. Here are the facts:

* Clinton was not the only Secretary of State to use a private e-mail account. Her predecessor, Colin Powell did the same thing.

* No law was broken, since the law requiring a government account be used was not passed and signed into law until 2014 -- about two years after Clinton left government service.

* Nothing was hidden, since all e-mails pertaining to government business was sent to employees using government computers and accounts (and they were all saved).

* The National Archives requested those e-mails, and received them -- more than 55,000 e-mails. Those were the e-mails that pertained to government business, and made up over 90% of the e-mails she sent while Secretary of State. Those e-mails are now available to anyone who requests them from the National Archives.

* The other 10% or so of e-mails pertained to her private family matters (like e-mailing her daughter on the flowers for her wedding). None of her critics, or anyone else, has the right to view those e-mails (anymore than they would have the right to view your own personal e-mails).

The truth is that there's neither smoke nor fire here -- just sound and fury, signifying nothing. Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong in either of these two cases. Her critics, on both the right and left, are going to have to do a lot better than this to bring her down.

Jeb Bush also used a private e-mail service when governor of Florida, and has bragged that he turned over all of those e-mails after leaving office. That's not exactly true. He turned over those relating to his government service, and withheld those pertaining to his family life -- exactly as Hillary Clinton did. Bush has been praised for his actions, while Clinton is being criticized -- and that is just wrong.

Priorities

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Latest Presidential Poll Shows Little Change




These are the results of the latest presidential poll. It is the Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between February 26th and March 2nd of a random national sample of 1,286 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2.7 points. Republicans numbered 554 (4.2 point moe) and Democrats numbered 493 (4.4 point moe) in the survey.

There's not a lot to say about it, since it doesn't show much change is taking place. Walker and Bush have a small lead among Republicans (although neither has as much as 20% support), while Clinton maintains her huge lead among Democrats. And Clinton would still defeat any of the Republicans if the election was held right now.

The approval/disapproval ratings of the major candidates are below.


Not Helping

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Google Is Changing Its Page-Ranking System


It seems that Google is going to change how it ranks pages. Instead of just ranking pages by the number of links, it is also going to consider whether the page offers truthful or misleading information. The pages that offer lies, or other misleading information, will be pushed further down the page -- and the sites offering factual information will be moved up, making it easier for searchers to get to the truth. I think this is a good move. What do you think?

Here is how Frank Minero at Addicting Info describes the impending change:

Google is working on a new way of ranking web pages. Republicans, notorious for spreading lies to further their political agenda, are sure to hate Google’s new search. It ranks web pages based on facts. That’s right, it ranks web pages higher on the search engine result page based on how truthful they are!
The primary influencing factor in Google’s current search technology is the number of incoming links a website receives. Each incoming link counts as a vote for the website’s credibility. Google places websites with the most votes toward the top of the search results page.
This ranking system has its faults. One striking disadvantage is that it allows websites containing misinformation to reach the top of the results page. In this case, Google’s goal, to provide its user with the most accurate and relevant information, has failed.
According to New Scientist, the new ranking system would tap into an expansive library of facts called the Knowledge Vault. Web pages that spew misinformation, contrary to these generally accepted facts, appear further down on the search results page.
Imagine a Google search that delivers someone questioning Obama’s birthplace to web pages debunking birtherism, climate change deniers to factual scientific data and arguments, anti-vaxxers to web pages that offer credible information about vaccines. Web pages that misinform would be pushed to the bottom of Google search results as they are not based in fact. That’s the new search!
If and when the new search is released, the reaction from Republicans and their ministry of propaganda, Fox News, is sure to be priceless. Web pages selling manufactured talking points and conspiracy theories about Benghazi, Obama’s place of birth and the Affordable Care Act will plummet in Google. Factual information debunking right-wing lies will take its place. Right wing nut jobs will surely label Google as “liberal search” and develop their own ‘conservative approved’ search aka propaganda engine.
The implications are far-reaching. The new search wouldn’t only effect peddlers of political propaganda. Quacks like Dr. Oz will have trouble selling snake oil. Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones will have a harder time connecting with the gullible. Any commercial, governmental or religious power attempting to manipulate the public through false information will be delivered a swift kick to the family jewels.
The new Google would save those who lack common sense the misfortune of happening upon, consuming, then regurgitating misinformation as fact. It would save the rest of us from having to hear about it… and who knows. A society more in tune with factual information might even be a more pleasant place to live.

Dress Code (Still Relevant)

Political Cartoon is by Rik Samson at riksansone.wordpress.com.

Money Wasted On Unnecessary Wars


Thursday, March 05, 2015

Bernie Exposes The GOP Lies


Majority Of Public Wants Insurance Subsidies Continued


Republicans have been pitching a hissy fit about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) since it was passed, and their incessant whining has convinced a lot of Americans that there must be something wrong with the health care reform. But despite their repeated attempts, the GOP has been unable to stop Obamacare. They have tried to repeal it over 50 times, but that is just political theater -- played out for the benefit of their base. Everyone knows that even if such a repeal could get through Congress (which Democratic senators would never allow), the president would just veto it.

But a few devious right-wingers came up with another plan -- use a poorly-worded section of the reform law to outlaw giving subsidies to those who bought their insurance through the federal exchange instead of a state exchange. And their case (King vs. Burwell) is now being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court -- and has about a 50-50 chance of being won, which would mean that at least 8 million people could lose their insurance (since they couldn't afford it without the subsidy).

Extremists in the GOP are celebrating this possibility, because they care more about ideology (and hating the president) than they do about citizens receiving proper health care. Smarter Republicans are beginning to worry though. They know that this one case could do more damage to their party than anything else they have done.

Eight million people, angry at the party that took their health insurance, is certainly not going to help in the next election. But a recent poll shows the damage could be even worse than that. About 71% (more than seven out of every ten Americans) want the subsidies to continue in every state -- not just the ones with a state exchange (see chart above). Many of these people may be unhappy about Obamacare in general, but they like most aspects of the law -- and one of those aspects they like (and want to see continued) is the federal subsidies to help people buy health insurance.

It the right-wingers win the court case, it's going to intensify the war within the Republican Party. They will have to decide whether to celebrate their hate, or fix the law to allow the subsidies to continue -- and that will be a huge battle, which will affect the 2016 election. I don't know how that battle would come out. I just hope the court doesn't destroy Obamacare.

The chart was made from the results of a new Hart Research Associates Poll (done for the SEIU). That survey was done between February 18th and 22nd of a random national sample of 800 likely 2016 voters,  and has a margin of error of 3.5 points.

GOP Health Plan

Political Cartoon is by Ben Sargent in the Austin American-Statesman.

Conservative Paper Calls For Texas To Act On Obamacare


Texas has the highest percentage and largest number of citizens without health insurance. That was true before Obamacare was passed, and it is still true. The reason is because Texas refused the expand Medicaid (which left at least a million and a half people with no way to get health insurance). Now, thanks to the Supreme Court case of King vs Burwell, another million people could lose their health insurance. That's because that case, if decided the wrong way, could take the federal insurance subsidies away from anyone not getting their insurance through a state exchange -- and Texas has refused to set up a state exchange.

Unfortunately, the right-wing Texas legislature is very unlikely to create a state exchange (and has already shown they have no intention to expand Medicaid). This putting ideology over what is good for the citizens of Texas is so ridiculous that even some conservatives are now speaking out. That includes the traditionally very conservative Dallas Morning News -- one of the largest newspapers in the state. Here is what their editorial board recently wrote and published:

Regardless of your politics, the possibility that fellow Texans and millions more Americans nationwide who bought insurance under the Affordable Care Act could return to the ranks of the uninsured is a serious matter.
Yet this is what is at stake when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in King vs. Burwell. More than 1 million Texans who now have health insurance through federally run exchanges may not be allowed to keep their coverage.
Imagine the devastating effect if the cost of your health care premiums tripled, which could happen if the federal subsidies many count on suddenly disappear. Most people eligible for subsidies have modest incomes; many would be unable to afford any coverage without financial help, adding to the ranks of the uninsured.
Texas already leads the nation in the number of uninsured residents; the state doesn’t need to toss more people into health care limbo.
However, if the Supreme Court hands down a problematic Burwell ruling, Texas lawmakers can ease the shock. State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, recently introduced HB 817 as a safety net. If the court says Texans can’t receive subsidies through federally run exchanges, the bill would automatically trigger the creation of a state-run health care exchange that would allow Texans to continue to receive federal subsidies and keep their existing coverage.
The legal issue before the court is whether people who live in states like Texas that did not establish a state-run health care exchange are eligible to receive federal tax subsidies. Last spring, two federal appeals courts reached opposite conclusions. One court said the subsidies applied to Americans in all states; the other said they applied only to consumers in states that operated their own health care exchanges.
This newspaper understands some of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act — and, in fact, questioned the program’s cost as the bill originally moved through Congress. However, it is now law. Millions have based their insurance decisions on the program; a ruling would affect people of all political stripes in every House and Senate district. The well-being of those who enrolled should be protected.
Turner’s bill addresses only part of Texas’ broader health care challenge under the Affordable Care Act. Texas lawmakers also need to reform Medicaid eligibility so the state can draw extra federal dollars to cover the large percentage of uninsured low-income residents — as a number of Texas business groups have urged. Unfortunately, in a letter to President Barack Obama, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Senate Republicans on Monday reiterated their opposition to expanding Medicaid while demanding that the federal government allow Texas to make sweeping changes in the Medicaid program. This appears to be a nonstarter.
Texas must begin to solve its myriad health care challenges. Turner’s bill is a pragmatic way to keep a looming problem from becoming a nightmare. It deserves bipartisan support.

Right To "Be A Jerk"

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

A Dangerous Experiment


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Educating Women


GOP Folds In Congressional Game Of "Chicken"

(This cartoon is by Bruce Plante in Tulsa World.)

Democrats stood firm, and won the first big political battle in the 114th Congress. A clean Homeland Security funding bill has been passed by Congress on a 257 to 167 vote (with all Democrats present voting for the bill, and being joined by 75 Republicans). That House vote was to approve the Senate version of the bill, and it now goes to the president for his signature.

The large teabagger faction in the House had thought they could include two provisions in the bill (which would overturn President Obama's executive orders on immigration in 2012 and 2014), and the Democrats would be forced to go along with that. They didn't think Democrats had the backbone to stop the bill, which would put the Homeland Security Department in danger of being shut down for lack of funds.

They were wrong. Senate Democrats filibustered the bill last week, and were successful in getting the offending provisions eliminated. Those teabaggers also thought the American people would be on their side in the event of a shut down. They were wrong on that too. Polls had clealy shown that if that department was shut down, the people would be angry, and most importantly, they would blame the Republicans.

That left the House Republicans with only two choices -- pass a clean bill or anger the public by shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. Speaker Boehner chose the least offensive (to him) of those choices, and allowed the clean Senate bill to come up for a vote, and it passed.

The teabagger politicians are now angry (and 167 of them voted to shut down Homeland Security). They are now talking about unseating Speaker Boehner for allowing the clean funding bill to come up for a vote. I don't think they can or will do that, but even if they did, it wouldn't insure teabagger victories in the future. There will still be enough Democrats in the Senate with enough votes to sustain a filibuster, and a president in the White House who's not afraid to use his veto power.

Negotiating

Political Cartoon is by Andy Marlene in the Pensacola News-Journal.

America Is Becoming More Secular And More Diverse



These maps are all from the Washington Post, and they reflect the results of a new Public Religion Research Institute survey.

Our Founding Fathers were emphatic in their belief that they were creating a secular nation -- a fact verified by the 1791 treaty unanimously ratified by the Senate and signed by the president (and which put into writing the fact that the United States is a secular nation). Their intention was to make the U.S. a country where all people had the freedom to practice any religion, or no religion at all -- so they gave us the First Amendment to our Constitution.

This study shows that we are now finally becoming a truly secular nation. The study said that their are now 22% of the U.S. population without any religious affiliation. That is a record number, and it is still growing for the "nones" (composed of atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those who just don't care for religion). That's nearly a quarter of the population. The map above shows the percentage of those "nones" in every state.

And the charts below show another encouraging trend. Non-christian religious people are beginning to be spread across this nation. That is a very good thing also, because it shows we are also becoming a religiously diverse nation -- and that will help us to defend the religious freedom guarantee of the Constitution's First Amendment.





Invitations

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Justice Dept. Says The Ferguson Demonstrators Were Right


Last summer, far too many American criticized the demonstrators in Ferguson -- refusing to believe the police could be so wrong. Well, it turns out that those who criticized were wrong -- those in Ferguson that are paid to enforce the law were among the biggest lawbreakers (and perpetrators of racial injustice). That is the conclusion of a new Justice Department report due to be released today.

Here is how the Huffington Post describes this new report:

A forthcoming Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department has found that city officials engage in practices that discriminate against black residents and routinely violate the Constitution and federal law, according to officials familiar with the results of the investigation.
The formal report, expected to be released Wednesday, largely blames the Missouri city for breeding mistrust of the police through its policies. The report is particularly critical of ticketing practices in Ferguson, which like many other municipalities in St. Louis County, relies heavily on its local court system to generate revenue for the city.
African-Americans were overwhelmingly those charged with certain petty offenses that particularly depend on officers' judgment, according to the forthcoming report. Between 2011 and 2013, African-Americans made up 95 percent of those charged in Ferguson with improper “manner of walking in roadway,” 94 percent of those charged with “failure to comply,” and 92 percent of those charged with disturbance of the peace. Black residents account for just 67 percent of the city's population. . .
The federal investigation was based on reviews of thousands of pages of records, on-site visits and interviews with members of the community. It found that police in Ferguson routinely made arrests without probable cause and that blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched during vehicle stops but less likely to be found in possession of contraband. It found that 88 percent of documented use-of-force incidents were against African-Americans, including all 14 documented police dog bites from 2012 to 2014.
The investigation also found evidence of racial bias among police officers and municipal court officials. One message circulated on an official Ferguson email system in November 2008 said that President Barack Obama wouldn't be president long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”


Fear

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

Congress Listens To Billionaires


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Fair Is Fair


A Good Senate Democrat Is To Retire


Senator Barbara Mikulski has announced that she will not seek re-election in 2016. This wonderful woman has served longer in the United States Senate than any other woman -- serving five terms (30 years by the end of this term). I will be sorry to see her go. I haven't always agreed with her, but she has been a strong defender of equal rights -- and the Senate will be poorer for her absence. I hope the good people of Maryland will replace her with another strong progressive.


Speechless

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Politicians Continue Their Political Theater In Washington

(This cartoon was found on the Facebook page of ARM.)

The Republicans thought they would have it easy after winning control of Congress last November, but it isn't working out that way for them. The GOP-controlled House decided they wanted to force President Obama to rescind his 2012 and 2014 executive orders stopping the deportation of Dreamers and their families, so they tacked those two proposals (poison pills) onto the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

They were convinced that they had the president over a barrel. After all, he wouldn't dare veto the funding bill and shut down the Homeland Security Department, would he? Well, he didn't have to. The Senate Democrats covered his back, and filibustered the funding bill until Senate Republicans agreed to remove the poison pills from the bill. Then they voted to pass the bill.

This left the Congress with two versions of the bill -- the House version with the poison pills and the Senate version without them. Normally, the two houses of Congress would appoint a conference committee to iron out the differences (i.e., come up with a compromise bill acceptable to both the House and Senate). But there wasn't time to do that on Friday, with the funding running out in just a matter of hours.

The House tried to pass a three-week extension of funding, but the Democrats said NO, and enough far-right Republicans joined them to kill that effort (illustrating the fact that Speaker Boehner cannot control his own party). Democrats finally agreed to support a one-week extension, and joining the more moderate Republicans, got the extension passed. The Senate also passed the one-week extension.

That brings us up to this week. Would a conference committee meet and come up with a compromise? NO. Senate Democrats said there was no room for compromise. They would only accept the removal of both poison pills -- so they filibustered the motion to send the Senate bill to a conference committee, and the Republicans were unable to come up with enough votes to stop the filibuster.

Now it's up to the House. It's clear that their bill cannot pass the Senate, so what are they to do? They only have three choices, and none of them are good for Republicans -- keep their bill as it is and shut-down the Homeland Security Department at the end of the week, pass another short continuation of funding, or give in and remove the poison pills from the bill. I expect them to pass another short continuation of funding this week, but in the end they will finally have to give in and pass a "clean" funding bill (a bill without the poison pills).

They will have to do that because they have painted themselves into a corner by underestimating the Senate Democrats. And the public knows it is the Republicans that are primarily responsible for this ridiculous game of political "chicken" -- putting the security of this country at risk.

All in all, it's been a great couple of weeks of political theater on CSPA-1 and CSPAN-2 for us political junkies. Now I need to get the popcorn and liquid refreshments, because this bit of theater has not yet reached the final act.

More Trekkies

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Public Overwhelmingly Supports Required Vaccinations


Diseases that we had nearly eliminated here in this country are now raging back. The reason for this is that parents have been granted the "right" to refuse to vaccinate their children. Some are refusing because they mistakenly believe vaccinations can cause autism, and others simply because they see this as some kind of "freedom" right. They are wrong.

This has nothing to do with freedom or rights. Vaccinations are a public health issue, and the growing number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children are putting not only their own children at risk, but also others (especially those too young to have been vaccinated, those who are ill with something else like cancer, those who have had their immune system weakened in some way, and even a tiny amount of healthy people who have been vaccinated (since vaccinations are about 99% effective).

And many people in the United States are getting tired of those people who put others in danger. The charts here were made from a CNN / ORC Poll -- done between February 12th and 15th of a random national sample of 1,027 adults, with a margin of error of about 3 points (slightly higher for the separate groups). Note that 78% of all adults in this country think all children should be required to be vaccinated -- and that feeling runs across all demographic groups (running between 70% and 86%).

And a smaller, but still significant majority of 58% of Americans think children who have not been vaccinated should not be allowed to attend public schools. I agree.



A Place For Critics

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Could Roberts Be The Swing Vote That Saves Obamacare ?


The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the government subsidies that help many people buy health insurance on Wednesday (King vs. Burwell). If the subsidies (those given thru the federal insurance exchange) are ruled unconstitutional, it means as many as 8 million Americans could lose their health insurance (because without the subsidies they could no longer afford that insurance). The question now is whether the court will vote the subsidies are constitutional or not.

If we go by what party the justices belonged to when appointed, the chances are good that the subsidies would be declared unconstitutional -- because we have five Republicans and four Democrats on the court. But while that is the best predictor of how justices will vote, it does not always work out that way.

Take for instance, Chief Justice Roberts. Although a Republican, Roberts was the swing vote in the original Obamacare case, and joined the Democrats in a 5-4 vote declaring Obamacare was constitutional. Could he do the same thing again?

Think Progress thinks that could happen. At least it has a 50-50 chance of happening (see the chart above). They looked at the past votes of all the justices, and came up with odds on how each justice is likely to vote in King vs. Burwell. They believe that four justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) have 99% odds of voting to uphold the subsidies, while four justices (Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, and Thomas) have odds ranging from 0% to 15% that they will vote against the subsidies. That leaves Roberts, who has a 50% chance of voting either way.

In other words, it's nail-biting time for the millions who would lose their health insurance.

If you would like to know more about just what this case is about, Steven Brill has written an excellent article on it for Reuters. Here is some of what he had to say:

Congressional intent will be hotly debated in the U.S. Supreme Court this Wednesday in King v. Burwell, the latest litigation vehicle being deployed by opponents of Obamacare. “Congress could not have chosen clearer language to express its intent to limit subsidies to state exchanges,” the plaintiffs, represented by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argue in their brief.
That is fiction. Provable fiction.
Congress knew exactly what it wanted to do when it passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and contrary to the plaintiffs’ claim, that included wanting subsidies for buying health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges to be available to all citizens, even those residing in the 36 states that did not set up their own exchanges, instead relying on the exchange set up by the federal government.
I’m a reporter. I hate to take sides. And I certainly didn’t in what has been widely reviewed as my even-handed treatment of the merits and demerits of Obamacare in my recently published book about the broken American healthcare system and how Obamacare was conceived and implemented to fix it. But this is one of those issues where reporters err if they write an “on the one hand, on the other hand” story that creates patently false equivalency.
As I wrote in a November column for Reuters, soon after the Supreme Court’s surprising decision to take this case, disputes that end up at the court are usually about the interpretation of the Constitution and statutes, not about facts. The press is mostly left to provide the basic background of the dispute and then explain the positions of the lawyers on each side. But at its core, this case, as with any about congressional intent, is about knowable facts, not about the lawyers’ views of the law.
King v. Burwell hinges on one poorly worded sentence cited by the plaintiffs in a 961-page law that seems to negate a linchpin of that law — the availability of those subsidies to middle-class families so they can buy health insurance. The question is whether that sentence should somehow outweigh all the other provisions in the law that contradict it. And when the meaning of a federal law ends up being disputed in court because the wording is vague or internally contradictory, the dispute turns on the kinds of facts journalists are used to digging out. That’s because judges are supposed to figure out what the legislators intended the law to mean and to do.
I know what the legislators intended because in researching my book, I interviewed pretty much everyone involved in the conception and writing of the law. Moreover, I did that long before King v. Burwell had become the Obamacare opponents’ favorite new weapon, which means that those opponents had no reason to spin the fairytale that Congress did not intend for those subsidies to go to the millions of Americans signing up on the federally run exchange. At the time, no one had a dog in a fight over congressional intent, because there was no fight.
I also reviewed reams of internal emails and memos generated by congressional staffers working for both Democrats and Republicans. In no document from start to finish, in a legislative process that spanned more than two years, is there even a hint of anything but the unambiguous assumption that the law, whose first section is titled “Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” would indeed provide these insurance subsidies for all Americans who needed them.
In short, I had a catbird seat for doing exactly that kind of fact-based reporting that anyone judging a case like this — reporters, as well as judges — should do. But I didn’t appreciate it because neither I nor the people I was interviewing had any expectation that this case would become something the Supreme Court would take seriously.
Indeed, when I mentioned the case to several of those sources during the spring and summer of last year, all of them – Democrats and Republicans – did some version of an eye roll. This is why there is only scant mention of the case in my book, the draft of which was completed before the court took the case.
I’ve now gone back and looked at my notes and can report that I interviewed 21 congressional staffers and members last year in my effort to reconstruct the day-by-day narrative of how Obamacare happened. None ever mentioned the possibility that the subsidies did not apply to the states in the federal exchange.
On the contrary, everything they told me — and all of the contemporaneous emails and other internal documents I reviewed — assumed that the federal exchange would simply be a substitute for a state exchange if a state decided not to launch its own, and that the same rules would apply. That is consistent with the instructions Democratic and Republican staff members gave to the Congressional Budget Office when they asked it to “score” (estimate the cost of) various drafts of the law, including the final version.

Interference

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Gender Pay Gap In The 50 States


Monday, March 02, 2015

Debs On War


Public Says The Rich Don't Pay Enough In Taxes


Recently President Obama introduced a new tax reform proposal. He wants to lower taxes on the middle class, and pay for that with a small raise in taxes on the wealthy. The Republicans immediately called the president's proposal a "non-starter". That's no surprise, since the primary aim of GOP economic policy is to see that the rich pay as little in taxes as possible (i.e., "trickle-down" economics). In fact, the only tax proposal supported by Republicans is to give more tax breaks to the rich and the corporations -- the only two groups in our society that don't need more tax breaks.

But just like on many other issues (like raising the minimum wage, protecting Social Security & Medicare, stopping the export of jobs, lowering college costs for students, etc.), the congressional Republicans find themselves at odds with the American public.

The figures above are from a recent AP-GfK Poll -- done between January 29th and February 2nd of a random national sample of 1,045 adults, with a margin of error of 3.5 points. Note that 60% of the public says the middle class pays too much in taxes (and a plurality says the same about low income workers), while a whopping 68% say the wealthy don't pay enough in taxes.

The public knows that there is a vast and growing gap in wealth and income between the rich and the rest of America -- and they want the government to do something about it. One thing that could be done is to raise taxes on the rich while lowering them for others. Another is to raise the minimum wage to a livable level, which would put upward pressure on wages for most workers (and which 60% of the public supports, while only 19% opposes).

I honestly don't know how the Republicans can expect to win the White House in 2016, when they oppose most of the issues supported by the general public.


Lie Detector

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rand Paul Wins The CPAC Presidential Straw Poll


A few thousand of the most extreme right-wingers in this country met last weekend for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Most of the presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party showed up and spoke to the group, seeking their support. As usual, one of the final actions at the conference was a straw poll. Slightly more than 3,000 conference attendees voted in the poll this year, and the results are in the chart above (showing the percentage of that vote each hopeful got).

Meanwhile, the right-wing continues to try and convince the public that President Obama is extremely unpopular with the general public. The truth is that any of those GOP presidential hopefuls would love to have the president's approval numbers. The chart below shows the president is currently viewed much more favorably than any of the Republicans. It was made from a recent AP-GfK Poll -- done between January 29th and February 2nd of a random national sample of 1,045 adults, with a margin of error of 3.5 points.