Why Republicans don’t brag about their alternative to Obamacare

Unlike Obamacare, what Republicans want really would change health care as we know it:

Republicans have wisely decided to attack Obamacare without committing themselves to an alternative because the alternative would be easy to attack. Ponnuru, for instance, suggests changing the tax code and stripping regulations to create “a market in which almost everyone would be able to purchase relatively cheap, renewable insurance policies that protected them from the risk of catastrophic health expenses.” Telling tens of millions of Americans they’ll lose their insurance that covers basic medical expenses and get bare-bones policies with thousands of dollars in deductibles is not a winning play.

Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be considered conservative today

ronald reagan

Peter Wehner:

But the main point I want to underscore is the danger to conservatism when someone like Jeb Bush (or Mitch Daniels, or Bob McDonnell, or Chris Christie) is considered an apostate.

Let’s consider Bush’s record as governor. While Bush never signed an anti-tax pledge, he never raised taxes. In fact, he cut taxes every year he was governor (covering eight years and totaling $20 billion).

Ronald Reagan, by contrast, signed into law what his biographer Lou Cannon called “the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor in the history of the United States”–one four times as large as the previous record set by Governor Pat Brown–as well as the nation’s first no-fault divorce law and legislation liberalizing California’s abortion laws, which even people sympathetic to Reagan concede “led to an explosion of abortions in the nation’s largest state.” (Reagan didn’t anticipate the consequences of the law and deeply regretted his action.)

Now imagine the Norquist and Shirley standard being applied to Reagan in the 1970s. If Jeb Bush’s comments unleashed heated attacks, even given his sterling anti-tax record, think about what Reagan’s support for unprecedented tax increases–including higher taxes on top rates, sales taxes, bank and corporate taxes, and the inheritance tax–would have elicited. The Gipper would have been accused of being a RINO, a pseudo-conservative, unprincipled, and a member of the loathsome Establishment.

Just because the history books say Reagan raised taxes doesn’t mean Republicans have to remember him that way.

40 to 50 million Americans would lose health insurance under GOP budget

paul ryan republican budget

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Ryan again proposes to repeal the coverage expansions in health reform (i.e., the Affordable Care Act or ACA) and cut Medicaid (and some smaller health programs) another $756 billion on top of that.  These two steps would cut over $2.5 trillion, largely by greatly boosting the number of low- and moderate-income Americans who are uninsured.

Last year, the Urban Institute estimated that a very similar Medicaid block grant proposal in Ryan’s previous budget would result in 14 to 21 million individuals losing their Medicaid coverage by 2022.  In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the ACA’s coverage expansions will mean that 27 million Americans who otherwise would be uninsured will gain coverage by 2023.

Thus, under the Ryan budget, 40 to 50 million more poor or moderate-income Americans would be uninsured, even as the wealthiest Americans enjoyed new tax cuts.

Don’t worry about it, they can just go to the emergency room if they get sick. Need hospitalization? I’m sure they won’t have any problem selling their homes to pay for it.

Since when are Republicans fiscally responsible?

Not branding the Republican Party as the party of fiscal irresponsibility is the greatest failure of the Democratic Party since President Obama won the 2008 election. It has enabled the GOP to frame the numerous major debates over the last four years, from the battle over healthcare reform in 2010 to the debt ceiling crisis of mid-2011 to this year’s sequester. By doing so, Republicans in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy and spending increases for the military have been able to label themselves “deficit hawks” while attacking policies that would significantly improve the US Federal deficit. The hypocrisy seems almost too blatant; there’s no way they could get away with that, right? Wrong. All it takes is some careful selection (and sometimes fudging) of numbers.

For instance, during the debate that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans attempted to disparage the bill as a massive increase in entitlement (read: bad) spending. To do so, they framed the situation using a simple story: it would cost a lot of money to insure 30 million people. While the Republicans were right in that federal spending would increase because of the ACA, they strategically forgot to mention that because of the cuts to Medicare, more efficient fees for doctors,  and new revenue included in the act, the Congressional Budget Office and various think tanks determined that it will actually produce a net savings for the government over the next decade. Republicans have been so successful at this framing that the idea of a “public option” has been taken off the table despite the fact that it would save approximately $100 billion dollars over the next ten years. 

Even more impressive, the budgets put forth by Paul Ryan over the last few years have managed to get away with reducing the deficit via magic asterisks. Rather than proposing specific cuts to spending (outside of changing Medicare to a voucher program), the budgets state that the government would put a cap on spending as a percentage of the economy. The budgets have also proposed lowering tax rates, payed for by closing loopholes – with no mention of specific loopholes, only that they should be selected so as to maintain the average of bringing in 18 percent of GDP in tax revenue each year. A smart move, considering the fact that the loopholes large enough to make up for the loss in revenue include such popular items as the 401(k) exemption, the mortgage-interest tax deduction, and the deduction for state and local taxes. By not including those cuts in the budgets, Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who pass them are able to make painful cuts to middle class families while keeping themselves free of blame.

The Republican Party will continue to get away with this duplicity until the Democrats openly address it, from freshmen Representatives to the President. If they can turn it into a controversy, the mainstream media and its 24-hour news cycle will do the rest.

No one supports closing the tax loopholes the GOP is after

boehner budget

The White House wants to include tax reform in the entitlement discussion, but the Republicans will only talk if that means closing loopholes and lowering rates:

Privately, House Republican leaders think they’ve checked two of the three boxes of a grand bargain: first, the Jan. 1 tax increases; second, the spending cuts via the sequester. Now, in their view, all that’s left is entitlement reform. Top Republicans are also skeptical Obama would agree to the kind of tax reform that House Republicans have drawn a firm line on: The revenue to be generated by closing loopholes would go to lowering rates.

Too bad this strategy is unpopular with just about everybody:

But any tax expenditures, or loopholes, worth undoing already enjoy huge support from the electorate.

Will anyone really eliminate the 401(k) exemption, which allows us to park tax-free dollars in a retirement fund? Or how about that mortgage-interest tax deduction, which allows us to deduct interest from our taxes, or the capital gains exclusion, which allows us to keep any profit we make on our homes? What about the deduction for state and local taxes? How about charitable deductions?

Obama’s new Republican outreach strategy

obama republican outreach

Greg Sargent, “The GOP’s easy route to victory in fiscal fight”:

Even if the GOP leadership is entirely entrenched in its no-revenues stance, sooner or later, the basic reality of the situation will become impossible for other GOP lawmakers to fail to acknowledge. These lawmakers have ducked this reality by taking refuge behind a party-wide distortion (Obama only wants more tax hikes!) of the actual compromise Obama is offering.

But the White House’s new outreach strategy is making that position harder to sustain. Via Steve Benen, consider this remarkable tidbit from First Read’s write-up of yesterday’s Obama dinner with Senators: “one senator told us that he learned, for the first time, the actual cuts that the president has put on the table. Leadership hadn’t shared that list with them before.”

There will be a lot more of this, as more GOP officials acknowledge what it is they’re actually being offered. This dynamic could be hastened if the pain of the sequester starts to be felt in individual districts and states, thanks to defense and other cuts, focusing the minds of the lawmakers who represent them. And there actually is a (difficult) route to a place where enough non-leadership Republicans agree to a deal.

GOP leadership: “We’re not going to work with you.”

White House: “No problem, we’ll just talk to vulnerable Republicans behind your back from now on.”

Republicans have the statistics backwards on pregnancy from rape

celeste greig california republican assembly

Proving yet again that Republicans don’t know when to stop talking, here’s Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly:

“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized,” Greig told the newspaper. “I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”

Yeah, the percentage is “small” if small means, you know, “twice the per-incident rate for consensual sex”:

The newspaper cited statistics from a 2003 study by St. Lawrence University that showed women get pregnant after rape at a rate that is more than double that for a single act of consensual sex. Relying on data from U.S. National Violence Against Women survey, the study said the per-incident rape-pregnancy rate was 6.4 percent while the same rate for women having consensual sex was 3.1 percent per encounter.

Rand Paul’s righteous filibuster

rand paul filibuster drones

Senator Rand Paul earlier today on the Senate floor:

“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the C.I.A.,” Mr. Paul began. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

This coming just days after Attorney General Eric Holder came out saying that in extraordinary circumstances – such as an attack like Pearl Harbor or September 11th, 2001 – he would not rule out that the United States could react with lethal drone strikes on Americans on American soil.

While I don’t see eye-to-eye with Rand Paul on a number of things, this is a topic on which I agree with him wholeheartedly. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states:

 nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That’s about straightforward as you can get (and yet…). Can’t take away an American’s life without due process. Even if you think he’s a terrorist, arrest him and give him a trial. He has that right.

I don’t care which side of the aisle attention for this issue comes from, Americans need to know what these drone programs are. I’m not so sure 83% of Americans would support Obama’s drone policies if they knew he’s been using them to operate outside of our legal framework.

75 prominent Republicans come out in support of gay marriage

The New York Times:

The Proposition 8 case already has a powerful conservative supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under Mr. Bush and one of the suit’s two lead lawyers. The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief is being filed with Mr. Olson’s blessing. It argues, as he does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and that it advances conservative values of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.”

Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.

The times are certainly a-changing. The Republican Party needs to keep moving in this direction if it’s going to stay relevant – as the article mentions, roughly 70 percent of voters under 30 believe that gay marriage should be legal.

Republicans could even use this tactic to undermine Democrats on key youth issues, like the War on Drugs. I’m willing to bet a lot of people would be swayed by a small government argument: the government shouldn’t be interfering with what people do with their bodies, we should cut wasteful DEA spending on less harmful drugs like marijuana, etc.

These next few years are going to be very interesting.

The fall of Republican realism

Aaron David Miller:

And one of the reasons is that Barack Obama has cornered their market and stolen pages from the GOP playbook. Obama has become a George H.W. Bush realist when it comes to avoiding ideological overreach, and a much more effective and less ideological version of Bush the younger too: willfully surging in Afghanistan, killing Osama, and whacking 10 times the number of bad guys with drones than his predecessor. He may well be the American president who just doesn’t talk about containing Iran’s nuclear program, but uses military power against it. One reason the Chuck Hagel fight has been so bitter is that former senator is the poster child for a Republican realism that some in the party detest. In many ways, that nomination fight says more about the state of the Republican Party than it does about the Hagel candidacy itself.

How much longer can the Republican party go on actively opposing its own members who try to base their policies on reality and reason? How far must a party fall before the public stops giving them the time of day?