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

Dear GOP: a Daily Kos staff reminder on the constitutional process for changing the law

by Linda Beale

Dear GOP: a Daily Kos staff reminder on the constitutional process for changing the law

The Tea Party/GOP coalition has often talked about the importance of the Constitution, but one can’t help wondering if the recent extortionist behavior doesn’t belie that, when the governnment shutdown it has caused as a means of extorting its way to getting rid of Obamacare is costing us $300 million a day. And getting back up to snuff after the shutdown ends will be extra-expensive–an inefficient increase in the deficit that the right complains so much about.  Those extra expenses will claim even more of thetax revenues that we don’t have because we still tax the wealthy people’s income at ridiculously low preferential rates (the capital gains preference, the carried interest debacle) and we have tax rate brackets that ignore the reality of CEOs who earn 400 times what their average worker earns.

The Daily Kos staff came up with a thoughtful bit to remind the right how government is supposed to work–a letter to Dear GOP.  Excerpts, self-explanatory, follow.

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Chris Hayes, Why don’t you have me on as a guest?

On October 2, 2013 Chris Hayes had on Larry Kudlow to discuss the economics of the government shut down.  All I can say is, I could not believe he was the one Chris went to for insight.  Maybe he had to because, you know, Kudlow is related to him via the network they work at.  But really, Chris could you not get your bosses to understand how someone like Kudlow professing on your show does harm to your identity and thus the relationship you have with your viewers?  

Let me be clear, my impression of you and your show is that you strive to deal in facts.  I have seen you have people of the conservative ideology on, but they have seemed to be people who use facts interpreted via their ideology.  That’s a conversation.  But Kudlow promoting “supply side”?  I mean is anyone in the real world even using this phrase anymore? 

My hope with this post is that  our good readers will post corrections to Kudlow and note why your guest is completely full of crap thus giving you a little help and cover as I’m going with the idea that your boss made you do it.  But more importantly, your viewers deserve not having to have this crap pushed at them.  I have found people know the Kudlow view of the economy is baloney, but the don’t know why it is baloney and you having him on only makes their angst worse. 

Let me get to it: Do you really believe your viewers bought this nonsense?  Do you believe your viewers do not know it is nonsense?

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

Do you really want to promote and by virtue of it being on your show endorse the idea that the problem with our economy is businesses being taxed too much AND Obamacare?

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Considering the following, you have been used man.

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 In the end, you confirm you are with him… regarding the need for the economy to grow.  But, I think most people will only hear that you are with him.  Not good.  Not good for you, not good for this nation.

So, please contact us here at Angry Bear.  Anyone of us are more than capable of explaining the mess this economy is in and why the Kudlow’s of the world no longer have any credibility. 

Oh, to you MSNBC  what the hell is the matter with you?  Is Kudlow loosing his audience so you figure putting him on with Chris will boost his cred? 

 

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Why Do People Prefer the Affordable Care Act Over Obamacare?

Affordable Care act versus Obamacare Act

I will give you, there is nothing within this bill that is easy to understand. Along with Maggie Mahar and others, I took the time to read the act and attempt to understand it which even today causes me fits. As shown in this clip, many people can distinguish between the words Affordable Care Act and Obamacare; but they fail to distinquish the content and understand they are the same. Kudos to the propagandist to associate a black President with a particular Law. There should be a Goebbels award somewhere for this type of achievement in skewing  the true intent of an act to just a person’s name. Would it sell better if we called it the Boehner Act or McConnell Act? People are acting against the interests of the whole and their own self interests because of a name. When you get right down to it and you know a large percentage of people within the wealthiest and richest in income nation in the world go without healthcare, why would you object to a plan to provide it because of the name even if it was not single payer, Medicare for all, or Universal etc.?

Maybe we should change the Link to Affordable Care Act to Black Man Care Act? Perhaps then, we might understand the true beliefs of a Congress who would shut down a government and people who might pick one over the other without knowing they are both the same. Hat Tip to Digsby for providing the clip.

The words are solely mine.

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Just a little (semi)-personal note

Just about everyone who knows me well knows that I’m a WWII buff and have a very soft spot for veterans of that war.  So this really touched me. I thought some other Bears and readers, who don’t read the Washington Post regularly and would otherwise miss seeing this, might enjoy this little reason to smile.

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Italian Right Trying to Out do Republicans

Well today is a busy day. www.healtcare.gov is open for business, the discretionarily funded US Federal Government isn’t. There is a political crisis in Italy (no that doesn’t happen every day anymore) and there are crises both in the Republian party and in the PDL (Silvio Belusconi’s party which he considers his as his shoes are his).

Berlusconi wants to vote no confidence in Prime Minister Enrico Letta and have early elections (whenever he loses an election he demands a rematch starting the next day). Just to make it clear that he thins his party exists to serve him, the issue is whether he be expelled from the Senate because he has finally finally been finally convicted of tax evasion.

Some of the legislators in his party who are tired of being treated as his servants are threatening to split the party and send Berlusconi’s rump …. party into opposition.

All this reported with great delight in Italy’s leading daily La Repubblica (where Berlusconi is especially hated because long ago he tried to buy the paper and fire the staff). But best of all, it isn’t even their top story. They lead with an interview with the Pope (not because they are Catholic but because their former director is the informal leader of Italian atheists)

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Chris Hayes Explains the PPACA for Fox and Friends

Obama Care for Fox News and Friends

 

Not that they have any interest in reality at the moment. The Republicans have worked themselves into a frenzy that resembles the adolescent girls who accused the Salem townspeople of witchcraft at this point. This is how they look:

 

Maybe it is time to take away the beer? Hat Tip to Digsby

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Cruz, Tea Party, Hostage-Taking Budget Tactics (and the IRS)

by Linda Beale

Cruz, Tea Party, Hostage-Taking Budget Tactics (and the IRS)

The House, dominated by Tea Party/GOP politicians (or those fearful of their impact on upcoming primaries) passed a bill that attempted to tie the continuing operations of the government to compliance with Tea Party ideas about getting rid of the health reform legislation duly enacted four years ago.  See Weisman, House Bill Links Health Care Law and Budget Plan, New York Times (Sept. 20, 2013). Ted Cruz has now run his non-filibuster filibuster in the Senate, and then voted against his own “principled” filibuster position (presumably out of a quite justifiable fear that he would be shown for the fool he is as the only one voting in support of his “principles”, since the Senate vote was unanimously on the other side). Ted Cruz Filibuster, NY Daily News (Sept. 27, 2013).

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Water, Mars. and curiosity

Curiosity’s SAM Instrument Finds Water and More in Surface Sample
Sept 26, 2013

The first scoop of soil analyzed by the analytical suite in the belly of NASA’s Curiosity rover reveals that fine materials on the surface of the planet contain several percent water by weight. The results were published today in Science as one article in a five-paper special section on the Curiosity mission.

“One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil,” said Laurie Leshin, lead author of one paper and dean of the School Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically.” The sample also released significant carbon dioxide, oxygen and sulfur compounds when heated.

Curiosity

Mosaic image of Curiosity.

 

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October 1st, A New Republican Proposal, and the Bad News Bears

October 1st, the country and government will once again be held captive by minority political interests seeking to force their will upon a country which did not endorse them or their beliefs in the last election. Radical House Republicans have come back with another proposal which seeks to delay the PPACA for one year, removes the medical device taxation to appease the healthcare industry, and adds Huelskamp’s “conscience clause” to the amendment limiting the coverage of preventative birth control. Funding for the military was included in the latest amendment. This is a radical change from John Boehner’s efforts to concentrate on setting a new Debt Ceiling rather than funding the PPACA. The Republican’s actions strip those of healthcare coverage who can least afford it. Much of what is proposed by the Republicans lends credence to Independent Senator Bernie Sander’s speech “Lone Star Strategy.”

Republicans’ efforts to cut food stamps and defund the Affordable Care Act are just “the beginning of the game,” Senator Bernie Sanders said.

“All of these issues are related to something that is much, much larger and that is the transformation of American society in a radically different way than it is today,” Sanders said. “And what my Republican colleagues, almost without exception, want to do now is take us back to the 1920s where working people had virtually no protection on the job at all.”

In the midst of all of this, the Federal Government is releasing preliminary information on PPACA subsidies and coverage by states.

Obamacare and The Bad News Bears; Maggie Mahar; Health Insurance Org.

Why is the mainstream media downplaying the good news about affordable insurance rates in the state health insurance exchanges?

Yesterday, when I read the new HHS report on premiums in the individual exchanges in 36 states, I was impressed by the good news. In the marketplaces where people who do not have access to employer-sponsored insurance will be purchasing their own coverage, rates will be much lower than expected. This is true even in Red States that have resisted Obamacare. For instance in Houston, Texas, a 27-year-old earning $25,000 would pay $81 monthly for the least expensive Bronze plan – after using his government subsidy – while a family of four with income of $50,000 would owe just $52. What we are seeing is “reverse sticker shock.”

Then I began to read what the press had to say about the report, and found myself frustrated by the misleading, fear-mongering response. It sometimes seems as if the mainstream media is bent on downplaying any good news about reform.

Was it wrong for HHS to focus on costs?

Even the New York Times – a highly-respected publication that is often viewed as “liberal” – took a dour view, warning that “the data” in the HHS report on premiums “provides only a partial picture of the reality that consumers will face  … The figures, almost by definition, provide a favorable view of costs, highlighting the least expensive coverage in each state.”

What Times reporter Robert Pear overlooks is the fact that the vast majority of individuals shopping in the exchanges live in middle-income or low-income households. (More affluent Americans tend to have access to comprehensive insurance through their employer, a spouse or their parents.)

What folks purchasing their own coverage in the state marketplaces want to know is what the least expensive Bronze and Silver Plans will cost. Those are the plans they will be buying, and that is why the HHS report focuses on those policies.

Ignoring ACA’s subsidies

Pear goes on to stress how much premiums will vary – even within a given state – and how high they will be in some cities: “… a 40-year-old buying the least expensive silver plan would pay $240 a month in Los Angeles, but $330 in Sacramento, about 38 percent more.”

True. But Pear doesn’t take into account the fact that most Americans shopping in the exchanges will be eligible for government subsidies. They won’t be paying $240 or $330 a month. Thanks to the government help, some 60-year-olds will have to pay nothing for insurance.

Indeed, after applying his subsidy, a 40-year-old living on $22,980 in either Los Angeles or Sacramento would pay only $120.65 a month for coverage. This is because the lawmakers who wrote the Affordable Care Act believed that someone earning $22,908 should not be expected to spend more than 6.3 percent of his income on insurance. As the table in this post shows, the IRS will calculate tax credits to make up the difference between the percentage of income that someone is expected to contribute and the “sticker price” on a Silver plan.

Forbes columnist Avik Roy also ignores subsidies when writing about the HHS report. This allows him to claim that the newly announced rates will force individuals buying their own coverage to shell out 99 percent more than they are paying today.

Moreover, when Roy compares today’s rates to the premiums that individuals purchasing their own insurance will pay next year, he overlooks the fact that many of the plans now sold in the individual market are “bare-bones” plans. Most don’t cover maternity benefits. Some don’t pay for chemotherapy. Many carry huge deductibles. When he compares the policies that will be sold in the exchanges to these plans, Roy is not making an apples-to-apples comparison. He is comparing apples to rotten apples.

Narrow networks

Meanwhile, Pear appeals to his readers’ worst fears by cautioning that, according to “consumer advocates … people shopping for health insurance should consider not only price, but also other factors like the list of covered drugs and the doctors and hospitals available in a health plan.”

Not long ago, the Times reported on the dangers of insurance plans with “narrow networks” that may not cover the doctors and hospitals that a patient knows best. The truth is that most of the currently uninsured and underinsured Americans who will be shopping in the Exchanges don’t have a list of favorite specialists. Many don’t have a doctor; when they receive care, they are treated in an ER or a community clinic.

Polls also show that the young Americans who will be flooding the exchanges are three times as likely to be willing to give up their choice of doctor for a lower premium.

Insurers are holding down premiums by excluding marquee healthcare providers who charge more than others for the even the simplest procedures. The Times has suggested that, in “narrow networks,” patients with “complex conditions” may not be able to get the care they need.

In fact, the Obama administration addressed that problem last year, issuing a “rule” that ensures that networks will not be too narrow. In order to win state and federal approval insurers will have to show that their network includes “a sufficient number and type of providers.”

Meanwhile, study after study shows that there is little correlation between what a health care provider charges an insurer and the quality of care provided. Pricing is all about market clout. Some hospitals charge more “because they can.”

But Americans can no longer to afford to pay exorbitant prices for brand healthcare. HMOs that charge less if the patient stays “in network” fell out of favor in the 1990s, but today they’ve become increasingly popular. Indeed when Consumer Reports ranks insurers, HMOs that rely on a network of providers to coordinate patient care receive the highest rates both for quality of care and consumer satisfaction. Networks represent the future of American medicine – and not just in the exchanges.

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Matt Yglesias says the median household is probably richer than the median household in 1989

by Robert Waldmann

Matt Yglesias says the median household is probably richer than the median household in 1989.  Oh that we have come to this.  Take the mike Matt

Despite rising health care and education prices, we don’t have fewer people going to college or seeing the doctor and we do have bigger houses, more and better cars, better food, and much better gadgets and entertainment.

Your case is very strong. The point is that neither the BLS nor the Bureau of the Census consider the increase in living standards due to new cool gadgets at all.  See DeLong on Baker arguing this is no big deal for the median consumer http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/09/the_meaning_of_.html

When a new good is introduced, it is as if the price declines from infinity (you just can’t buy it because it doesn’t exist is just the same as you can buy it for infinity dollars because it doesn’t exist). But the price indices assume that the introduction of a brand new good makes no difference.  Effectively they assume that there is an old good which is a perfect substitute for the new good so people are indifferent between buying the old good or the new good for it’s new price.

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