Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Maggie Mahar Healthbeat Blog: Reverse “ Sticker Shock”— Why are Insurance Rates in the State Marketplaces Lower Than Expected? — Part I

Even Forbes’ columnist Avik Roy is recanting. Earlier this month he acknowledged that under Obamacare, many Americans who buy their own coverage in 2014 will find that insurance is significantly more affordable than it was in the past: “Three states will see meaningful declines in rates: Colorado (34 percent), Ohio (30 percent), and New York (27 percent).”

Colorado, Ohio and New York are not unique. As states announce the prices that carriers will be charging in the online marketplaces (or “Exchanges”) where Americans who don’t have health benefits rate at work will be purchasing their own coverage, jaws are dropping. Rates are coming down, not only for those individuals, but for some small business owners who will be buying insurance for their employees in separate SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) Exchanges.

What may be most surprising is that premiums will be lower, not only in liberal Blue states but in some Red states that are opposed to Obamacare.

What is making health insurance more affordable?

First, the majority of individuals shopping in the Exchanges will be eligible for government subsidies that will go a long way toward covering premiums. In the past I have written about how these tax credits will help young adults (18-34). But older Americans also will benefit. Fully 30% of those who receive tax credits will be 35-54, and 12.5% will be 55 or older. This is important because in the Exchanges, insurers in every state except New York and Vermont will be allowed to charge a 60-year-old three times as much as they would charge a 20-year-old for exactly the same policy. Without subsidies many would find insurance totally unaffordable.

The second reason premiums are significantly lower than expected is that as I have explained on healthinsurance.org in the state marketplaces insurers are forced to compete on price. All policies sold in the Exchanges must cover the same essential benefits, and follow other rules that will make the plans look very much alike. The only way for a carrier to distinguish himself from the crowd will be to charge less—or have a better network of providers. But the younger customers that carriers covet care far more about price than about the network.

Third, in many cases, state regulators have been clamping down. In Portland Oregon, for example, regulators forced insurers to cut their proposed rates by an average of nearly 10%. Three of the 12 insurance companies in that market had to lower their rates by more than 20% f

Finally, rates in many Exchanges are looking surprisingly affordable because many insurers are narrowing their networks to a group of hospitals and doctors who will offer higher-quality care for less. Meanwhile the fear-mongers argue that this means patients won’t receive the care they need.

Indeed, the New York Times just published an article suggesting that patients with complicated medical problems may have a hard time finding providers within an insurer’s network who can treat their problems.

What the Times neglected to mention is that the Obama administration had anticipated the possibility that a network could be too narrow and has already addressed the issue. As Modern Healthcare.com reports, “last year, the administration issued a rule” that insurers “must maintain a network of a sufficient number and type of providers … to assure that all services will be available without unreasonable delay.” The rule also requires that “essential community providers” be included in all plans.

This is an important fact. It is not clear why the Times ignored it.

Modern Healthcare.com goes on to quote Dr. Jeff Rideout, senior medical adviser for the Covered California state exchange, stressing that “all plans included in the exchange have to get state and federal regulatory approval for network adequacy.”

But will the in-network providers be as good as those who balk at the notion of charging less than top dollar? Study after study shows that there is little correlation between higher prices and better care. In fact, lower costs and higher quality go hand in hand: when more efficient hospitals co-ordinate care there are fewer “medical misadventures,” hospital stays are shorter; and both patient and doctor satisfaction is higher.

In the 1990s, HMOs that asked that t patients stay “in network” fell out of favor. But today, when Consumer Reports publishes NCQA ratings on quality of care as well as consumer satisfaction, it turns that that HMOs that rely on “networks” outrank other insurers. Networks that coordinate care are the future of medicine.

Ohio—In September the Truth Finally Emerged

Ohio serves a striking case study of “reverse sticker shock.”

Before next year’s rates for individuals buying their own insurance were announced, many Red state officials had warned that prices would spiral. In June, for example, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, a Republican who heads the state’s insurance department, took fear-mongering to a new level by announcing that in 2014, the average cost of coverage would rise by an estimated 88 percent. l

Two months later, when Taylor’s department disclosed the actual premiums that insurers will be charging in Ohio’s marketplace, reality forced her to amend her estimate. Nevertheless, she still insisted that in 2014, premiums for individuals will be a whopping 41 percent higher than they were this year. Republican House Speaker John Boehner then picked up his megaphone, calling her announcement “irrefutable evidence” that Obamacare will hurt the economy as it drives up costs.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer wasn’t buying any of this. Reporting on Taylor’s revised numbers, it immediately observed that her statement “masks the fact that for many individuals, premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses will go down” because the vast majority of Americans buying their own insurance in the state exchanges “will be eligible for income-based federal subsidies to reduce or eliminate their costs.” (It would be difficult to accuse the Plain Dealer of liberal bias. In 2012, the paper endorsed Mitt Romney for president.)

The paper then pointed to a second flaw in Taylor’s reasoning. When she compared the average cost of insurance to 2013 to the average cost of 2014 policies, she included bare-bones plans sold in 2013 that “require deductibles of $10,000 or more and offer only catastrophic coverage.”

This distorts the comparison between 2013 and 2014 prices in two ways:

1) All of the plans sold in the Exchanges in 2014 will offer far better protection and much lower deductibles than the bargain basement plans Taylor used in her comparison. She was comparing apples to rotten apples.

2) More importantly, as the Plain Dealer went on to explain, even in 2013 “relatively few people bought these plans (because of super-high deductibles and crummy coverage).” In other words, in order to draw a fair comparison between “average” prices in 2013 and 2014, one needs to look at the plans that most people purchase.

By September Forbes columnist Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute for Policy Research agreed: rates in Ohio would plunge.

In June, Roy had trumpeted Taylor’s projections that healthcare reform would lift rates in Ohio’s state marketplaces by 88%. But as states announced the premiums they had approved, Roy and his team re-crunched the numbers, and acknowledged: “rates on average will go down for Ohioans” by “30 percent. . . even before even considering the effect of subsidies.” /

Let me be clear: Roy continues to claim that most Americans buying their own coverage will see their premiums rise in 2014. On that point, he still is wrong: in his state-by-state analysis of rates, he doesn’t include the impact of the subsidies.

But a policy’s “sticker price” won’t matter to someone purchasing insurance in the state marketplaces. What will matter is what he actually has to lay out, after applying his tax credit. That will determine whether he believes that the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is actually offering affordable insurance.

(Keep in mind that most people shopping for insurance in the Exchanges live in low-income and median-income households– and thus are eligible for subsidies. More affluent Americans are far more likely to work for employers who offer good health benefits– or to have coverage through a spouse or a parent. The Exchanges will not be open to them because an employer already subsidizes their insurance.)

Still, I greatly respect Roy’s honesty regarding Ohio. In these polarized times, retractions have become rare, even in highly-respected publications. A hat-tip to Roy and to Forbes.

Maggie Mahar Healthbeat Blog

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What’s with Taper Talk and Assets Prices

I have gone a bit quiet on the QE front. Obviously, this is because I have been surprised and my pet theory has taken a beating. The theory was that QE amounts to basically nothing much. The dramatic effects on asset prices due to Abe/Kuroda announcements in Japan were seriousy damaging. But now not all is quiet on the Western QE front. There were huge asset price responses to loose talk about tapering QE3 (down to just the third most hugely expansionary US monetary effort after QE1 and QE3 so far) and then recently a huge response to the announced decision to not taper. I am puzzled, but I have a story.

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Do investors really not get it regarding US paying it’s debt?

A question has been nagging me. First, does the rest of the world not get that the republicans are playing a game with the US’ bank account? Does anyone really believe that the US won’t pay as in the renter just skipped out the back door? Or maybe I should say; as in the capital venture company just loaded up the latest purchase with debt, pocketed that money and filed bankruptcy?

Really, the US won’t pay it’s bills? Oh no, the nation is going Detroit?

It’s a game folks. Don’t play it. If you don’t play it then the republicans have no threat because the financial world is not really threatened.

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McCutchen vs. Federal Trade Commission

In response to my e-mail on an Oct. 8th  decision on McCutchen vs Federal Election Commission by the Supreme Court that could expand the role of money in elections, Beverly Mann writes:
  … the argument in McCutchen is that it makes no sense to have this artificial divide between “issue” advocacy and candidate advocacy—that is, to allow unlimited donations for “issue” advocacy (e.g., PACs) while retaining the limitation on donations directly to parties or candidates.  Everyone, including me, expects that the 5-4 majority will strike down that distinction and say that the so-called First Amendment grounds for striking down McCain-Feingold in Citizens United—speech is money—regarding limitations on “issues” advocacy pertains equally to the limitations on donations directly to parties and candidates.  (bolding mine)
 Beverly

The LA Times adds:

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Will You Be Eligible for A Government Subsidy When You Buy Health Insurance in 2014? Check out Your “Modified Adjusted Gross Income” (MAGI) –You May Be Pleasantly Surprised

Maggie Mahar comments on the Modified Adjusted Gross Income and how this may positively impact your eligibility for healthcare insurance on the state exchanges.

Before writing this post, I had no idea how to calculate my “Modified Adjusted Gross Income” (MAGI). But I did know that this is the number the IRS will use when deciding whether people purchasing their own insurance in their state’s online marketplace (a.k.a. Exchange) will qualify for a tax credit to help them cover their premiums.

This piqued my interest.

The first thing you need to know is that your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may well be lower than your gross income.

When calculating your MAGI, you can subtract certain items from your adjusted gross income including: student loan interest, certain moving expenses, contributions to an IRA, some self-employment expenses, and any alimony that you pay.

As a result, an individual grossing $50,000 (or a family of four with income of $98,000) might well discover that after they deduct these items from, their MAGI falls under the cut-off for subsidies ($45,960 for an individual, $62,040 for a couple, $78,120, for a family of three, $94, 200 for a family of four)

This is why, even if think you earn a few thousand too much to qualify for government help, you should ask whoever prepares your taxes about your MAGI—and perhaps think about upping your contribution to an IRA.

Kiplinger’s Kimberly Lankford, suggests other ways to lower your MAGI by “selling losing stocks or boosting business expenses to offset self-employment income.” But, she warns, “Be careful with moves that could boost that your MAGI and make it more difficult to qualify for the subsidy — such as converting a traditional IRA to a Roth.” .

Clearly MAGI is a tricky number. For more detail see this -page definition from UC Berkeley’s Labor Center. It is far and away the best, and clearest description of how to calculate MAGI that I have found.

Cross Posted from The Health Beat Blog, Maggie Mahar, Will You Be Eligible for a Government Subsidy .  .  .

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“The Rest of The Story”

Somewhere along the way, the naysayers and the Repubs will find a way to turn this into a negative “Trader Joe’s Cut Health Benefits Last Week”  Last week Ezra Klein wrote about Trader Joe’s decision to cut health insurance benefits for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week. After that, one reader forwarded a Trader Joe’s response to his letter inquiring about the change in benefits.

“Thank you for writing to us. It’s possible you have been misled, at least to some degree, by the headlines in some articles regarding our reasons for implementing the [Affordable Care Act] in January. We’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some facts.

For over 77% of our Crew Members there is absolutely no change to their healthcare coverage provided by Trader Joe’s.

The ACA brings a new potential player into the arena for the acquisition of health care. Stated quite simply, the law is centered on providing low cost options to people who do not make a lot of money. Somewhat by definition, the law provides those people a pretty good deal for insurance … a deal that can’t be matched by us — or any company. However, an individual employee (we call them Crew Member) is only able to receive the tax credit from the exchanges under the act if we do not offer them insurance under our company plan.

Perhaps an example will help. A Crew Member called in the other day and was quite unhappy that she was being dropped from our coverage unless she worked more hours. She is a single mom with one child who makes $18 per hour and works about 25 hours per week. We ran the numbers for her. She currently pays $166.50 per month for her coverage with Trader Joe’s. Because of the tax credits under the ACA she can go to an exchange and purchase insurance that is almost identical to our plan for $69.59 per month. Accordingly, by going to the exchange she will save $1,175 each year … and that is before counting the $500 we will give her in January.

While we understand her fear of change, at her income level this is a big benefit that we will help her achieve.

Clearly, there are others who will go to the exchanges and will be required to pay more. That is usually because they have other income and typically a spouse who had a job with no benefits and they do not qualify for the subsidies under the ACA.

One example of that we had yesterday was the male Crew Member who worked an average of 20 hours per week but had a spouse who is a contract consultant who makes more than $200,000 per year. The Crew Member worked for the medical benefits and unfortunately for them they are likely to have to pay more because of their real income. We understand how important healthcare coverage is to our Crew Members and we are pleased to be able to provide and support this program.

We do hope this information helps, and we appreciate your interest in Trader Joe’s.”

It is rare to see a company which actually thinks beyond the profit margin. Maybe I will be proven wrong on this; but, it looks like TJ may have done the right thing. For those employees who may have other income, TJ provided an $500 to compensate for differences. Hat Tip to Hullabaloo, Digby – Trader Joe Explains Itself (and Does It Well)

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Massive outreach and all atwitter

Matt Stoller @matthewstoller

I like that ‘Larry Summers once vaguely tried to talk to Elizabeth Warren but didn’t’ has become ‘massive outreach’…  http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-race-for-fed-chair-larry-summers-reaches-out-to-elizabeth-warren/2013/09/13/40a776ea-1cb0-11e3-82ef-a059e54c49d0_story.html

In race for Fed chair, Larry Summers reaches out to Elizabeth Warren
Economist sought meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Warren; opposition from Democrats intensifies.

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“able-bodied adults to work for food stamps”

“Gov. John Kasich’s administration will limit food stamps for more than 130,000 adults in all but a few economically depressed areas starting Jan. 1.

To qualify for benefits, able-bodied adults without children will be required to spend at least 20 hours a week working, training for a job, volunteering or performing a similar type of activity unless they live in one of 16 counties exempt because of high unemployment. The requirements begin next month; however, those failing to meet them would not lose benefits until Jan. 1.

‘It’s important that we provide more than just a monetary benefit, that we provide job training, an additional level of support that helps put (food-stamp recipients) on a path toward a career and out of poverty,’ said Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

For years, Ohio has taken advantage of a federal waiver exempting food-stamps recipients from the work requirements that Kasich championed while U.S. House Budget Committee chairman during the mid-1990s. Kasich and former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, co-sponsored an amendment requiring able-bodied recipients without dependents to work that was included in sweeping welfare-reform legislation adopted in 1996.

‘The governor believes in a work requirement,’ Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said yesterday. ‘But when the economy is bad and people are hurting, the waiver can be helpful. Now, fortunately, Ohio’s economy is improving.’”

This comes from a Governor who looks like he could use a little physical work himself.

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Okay, What Is It About This That I’m Not Understanding?

Union leaders note that under the law, workers whose family income is less than four times the poverty line will qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits to obtain health insurance in the exchanges, with insurance sold by for-profit, nonprofit and cooperative companies. The union leaders say they want similar treatment — for unionized workers to qualify for those tax credits to help finance their Taft-Hartley insurance plans, which covers about 20 million workers and retirees.

“We just want to be treated like equals — we don’t want special treatment,” Mr. Taylor said. “An employer will say, ‘O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. I only pay a $2,000 penalty if I drop you. That’s an $8,000 saving for me.’ That’s actually going to happen all over this country.”

Unions’ Misgivings on Health Law Burst Into View, Steven Greenhouse and Jonathan Martin, New York Times, today

Because of Obamacare, an employer will say, “O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. I only pay a $2,000 penalty if I drop you. That’s an $8,000 saving for me.”? That’s actually going to happen all over this country?

Why, then, haven’t those employers said years ago, “O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. If I drop your plan, that’s a $10,000 saving for me.”? Why hasn’t this actually been happening all over this country, for years?

Well, it has, of course, except when union contracts prevent it, or where the employer thinks healthcare insurance is a benefit that it makes economic sense to provide as part of employee compensation–a tax-exempt part.

Why is it suddenly more attractive to these companies to save $8,000 a year per employee than it has been for those companies to save $10,000 a year per employee?

C’mon, y’all.  Explain this to me.  What is it about this issue that I’m not understanding?

Seriously.

 

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Fodder For a Great Blog Post

 

I received the following email from Dan Crawford last evening:

Fwd: Blog Post Idea: SCOTUS Must Protect Free Speech in Ohio and Beyond

Is this interesting?

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kristen Thomaselli <kristen@keybridge.biz>
Date: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM
Subject: Blog Post Idea: SCOTUS Must Protect Free Speech in Ohio and Beyond
To: angrybearblog@gmail.com

Daniel,

I wanted to share an oped from this weekend’s Wall Street Journal that I thought you might find interesting (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324009304579040671355619380.html and pasted below).

It’s by Brad Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and it focuses on one man’s fight in Ohio to exercise his First Amendment right to speak freely about political issues in his community. In his piece, Brad calls on the Supreme Court to accept this important case, as it could have huge ramifications for Americans’ First Amendement rights — and states’ efforts to deprive them of those rights.

Few people know more about these issues than Brad, so his piece is quite instructive — and could provide fodder for a great blog post.

Please let me know if you have any questions — or if you end up writing about Brad’s        piece!

All the Best,

Kristen Thomaselli
(202) 471-4228 ext. 101

Bradley Smith: The Supreme Court and Ed Corsi’s Life of Political Crime
How one Ohio man’s blog on politics got him in trouble with campaign-finance law.

By Bradley A. Smith

In the winter of 2008, Ed Corsi decided that he was tired of stewing about the politics in his home of Geauga County, Ohio, and the country at large. He started a website, put Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “The price of freedom . . . constant vigilance” at the top, dubbed the site “Geauga Constitutional Council,” and set about blogging his thoughts on local and national politics. So began his life of political crime.

Over the next two years, Mr. Corsi and a few friends would sometimes gather to talk politics. He occasionally sponsored meetings featuring speakers (not political candidates) on public policy issues (not elections), and charged a nominal fee for seating to offset his costs. He and two friends passed out political pamphlets they made at the Geauga County Fair.

Mr. Corsi spent $40 a month to maintain his website, and perhaps a couple hundred dollars a year in other expenses. According to the state of Ohio, however, these activities are illegal under campaign-finance laws because Mr. Corsi did not first register with the state, report to the state on his activities, and subject himself to the regulations governing the operation of a state political action committee.

When he was summoned to a hearing before the Ohio Elections Commission in April 2011, Mr. Corsi asked, “Do I have to hire a lawyer to [do] these things?” Commission Chairman Bryan Felmet replied, “Yeah, I guess so. I think that it’s very complicated without going to those lengths.” The commission ordered Mr. Corsi to register and report his activities to the state.

When the Supreme Court reconvenes in October, the big campaign-finance case will be McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which nervous censors have dubbed “the next Citizens United.” McCutcheon deals with the ability of affluent Americans to contribute to political parties and candidates. Never mind that the candidates and causes these people support represent the views of millions of citizens. “Reformers” argue, and many Americans seem to agree, that “big money” in politics must be regulated.

It is inconceivable, however, that America’s founders thought the First Amendment would allow the government to routinely require citizens to report their political activity, and be subjected to such complex regulations. They wanted to prevent government from doing precisely this sort of thing. Yet Mr. Corsi lost in state court. Now he waits to see if the Supreme Court will agree to hear his case.

The “big money” in politics can afford the accountants, consultants and lawyers needed to cope with campaign- finance law. The burdens frequently fall more heavily on grass-roots politics-the very thing we ought to be encouraging. There also is abundant anecdotal evidence that the main result, if not the purpose, of campaign-finance laws is to allow political insiders and government officials to harass grass-roots activists. The IRS targeting scandals are merely the most prominent example of the way these laws are used by those in power to harass their opposition.

On his blog, Mr. Corsi was critical of Ed Ryder, the chairman of the Geauga County Republican Party and a member of the county Board of Elections, and of various officials and candidates supported by Mr. Ryder. The initial complaint against Mr. Corsi was filed by Mr. Ryder, who admitted spending two months to find out who constituted the “Geauga Constitutional Council,” so he could file a complaint against Mr.Corsi.

In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), and again in Federal Election Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (1986), the Supreme Court held that the regulatory requirements of operating a political action committee could not be imposed on groups that lacked the primary purpose of supporting or defeating political candidates in elections. But across the country, states are flouting that command, imposing rigid requirements on ordinary citizens who are trying to express their political opinions.

In Colorado, for example, a group of friends calling themselves the Coalition for Secular Government operate a website on which they posted a long policy paper on abortion and church-state relations. The paper concluded by urging Coloradans to vote “no” on a ballot measure. For that, the state says they must register as a political committee and report their activities, income and expenses.

Most state statutes now simply ignore the Supreme Court and require that two or more citizens who spend even nominal amounts on politics to register and report to the government. Even printing yard signs or running an email list can trigger these requirements. In Ohio, a single dollar in expenditures will do, so be careful if you talk politics over a cup of coffee.

As a former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, I have seen the effects these laws have on citizen participation and civic-mindedness. I have read the plaintive letters from citizens who could not afford a lawyer, and could not believe their government was fining them for political activity.

In the past, both liberals and conservatives on the Supreme Court were sensitive to this problem. Liberal Justice William Brennan wrote the majority opinion in the Massachusetts Citizens for Life case. But that sensitivity appears to be vanishing.

Forty-seven years ago, in Mills v. Alabama, the court struck down a lawprohibiting election-day newspaper editorials, noting, “there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of [the First] Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

Is that still true? Will the court leave millions of Americans who want to engage in politics at risk of prosecution? Will it leave Mr. Corsihanging?

Mr. Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is a law professor and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which is representing Mr. Corsi at the Supreme Court. 

Hmm.  Happy to oblige, Kristen.

Yes, this is very interesting.  Especially because Smith’s piece actually focuses on one man’s fight in Ohio to misconstrue Ohio campaign-finance law as impinging upon his right to speak freely about political issues in his community.  Or as having anything to do with his right to speak freely about political issues in his community.

Or maybe it’s really about one high-profile Washington, D.C. lawyer’s longstanding anti-regulatory, anti-campaign-finance laws crusade.  Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the FEC upon appointment by George W. Bush, is a longtime rightwing, anti-regulation crusader.

Which may be why he says in that piece that McCutcheon deals with the ability of affluent Americans to contribute to political parties and candidates, rather than that McCutcheon deals with the ability of affluent Americans to contribute as much as they wish to political parties and candidates.

Or maybe it’s just that factual accuracy is not his forte.  He did, after all, baldly misrepresent in the op-ed that the IRS targeted conservative political groups, but not liberal ones, for harassment, saying, “The IRS targeting scandals are merely the most prominent example of the way these laws are used by those in power to harass their opposition.” Since actually the IRS used its power to try to prevent misuse of exemption regulations by liberal as well as conservative groups, that statement is merely the most prominent falsity in Smith’s article.  But maybe the Ohio Elections Commission, unlike the IRS, would target only Republican social welfare groups. Hurray!  Apparently Ohio law doesn’t exempt  social welfare groups such as Mr. Corsi’s.

In any event, the issue in McCutcheon is whether it is unconstitutional for government to place any limits at all on campaign contributions directly to parties and candidates, not whether affluent Americans can be barred from contributing to parties and candidates within the same amount limitations as everyone else.

What is Smith’s forte, apparently, is the artful sleight of hand, the use of the non sequitur as sophism.  Which may be why he claims that because the candidates and causes that, say, the Koch brothers want to financially sponsor represent the views of millions of citizens, the Koch brothers should be allowed to pay for millions of dollars of TV ad buys in order to try to persuade millions of other people to vote for these candidates.

Why, of course, David Koch should serve as campaign proxy for the minimum-wage Walmart employees he wants to enlist in his cause of lowering the Kochs’ income tax and eventual estate tax obligations, of disassembling the social safety net, of keeping the minimum wage at $7.40 an hour, and of ensuring the continuation of Chamber of Commerce control of the entire federal and most state judicial systems!  The Kochs are altruists!  The Walmart employees can’t pay millions of dollars in campaign contributions for TV ads that will convince them to vote Republican, so the Kochs will do that for them!  (Tautologies are another Smith specialty, apparently.)

It may well be inconceivable, as Smith claims, that America’s founders thought the First Amendment would allow the government to routinely require citizens to report their political activity, and be subjected to such complex regulations.  But the government does not routinely require citizens to report their political activity; it requires them to report–or rather, requires those to whom they give monetary support in election campaigns–to report that funding, so that those whose votes are solicited as a result will know who, exactly, is soliciting their vote.

And as for those complex regulations, anyone who complains about that should try instead to navigate, say, the federal court system as a non-corporate and non-wealthy litigant.  It’s unlikely that America’s founders, or at least the Framers of the Reconstruction Amendments, thought the Constitution would allow the government to methodically turn the civil, criminal and habeas judicial processes in this country into bureaucratic regulatory labyrinths navigable only by rightwing crusaders, Chamber of Commerce members, others who can retain $1,000-per-hour “name” counsel, and state and local governments (dignity for states, except the ones that enact affirmative action programs!); no one else need apply.

Who knew that Rube Goldberg was a Federalist Society member?

And, while I do recognize that the Framers thought it fine that the right to vote be limited to the landed gentry and others who could afford to pay a steep poll tax, I’m not sure they actually had campaign contributions in mind when they drafted the First Amendment’s speech clause.  Nor do I recall learning in Civics class that George Washington, et al., thought corporations are people, my friend.  But maybe I was absent from school the day of that lesson. Or just didn’t attend Mitt Romney’s, Anthony Kennedy’s or Bradley Smith’s elementary school alma mater.

Unlike Mr. Smith, who, I guess, did.  Which is nice for the Fab Five members of the Supreme Court.  Mr. Smith, who went to Washington long ago, already has provided them the first draft of their opinion in the Corsi case.  Justice Scalia will join his four other fair-weather dignity-of-the-states-crusading colleagues in striking down the Ohio statute, just as the five of them summarily struck down a Montana one last year, before he returns, briefly, to indignant-umbrage posture at the very suggestion that courts should strike down duly enacted legislation. Briefly is a very safe bet; there is, after all, another Obamacare challenge heading toward the Supreme Court.  Not to mention the likelihood of another state-university-admissions affirmative-action case, surely soon.

I hope Ms. Thomaselli likes this blog post.  If not, I can beef it up a bit.  Trust me.

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