Posts Tagged ‘Republicans in Congress’

Republicans ready to kill Medicaid expansion

June 13, 2017

I hadn’t realized that more Americans are enrolled in Medicaid, the health-insurance program for low-income Americans, than in Social Security, Medicare or any other federal benefits program.

And the increase in the number of Americans with health insurance under Obamacare—the Affordable Care Act—is due more to the expansion of Medicaid than to signups of people under the health insurance exchanges.

But Senate and House Republicans have reportedly agreed on a plan to dial back the Medicaid expansion.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones reported that there are 68 million Medicaid enrollees, making it a bigger program than Social Security (61 million), Medicare (55 million), food stamps (44 million), unemployment insurance (6 million at the height of the recession), the earned income tax credit (26 million) and temporary aid to needy families (about 4 million).

Medicaid was created to provide health insurance for Americans earning poverty-level wages.   Under Obamacare, eligibility was increased to Americans earning 138 percent of a poverty wage.  This would be $16,394 for an adult, according to CNBC News.

The program is administered by state governments.   President Obama’s plan pays states nearly all the costs added by the expanded plan, and then a progressively lesser amount sliding down to 90 percent.  The Supreme Court ruled that state governments cannot be compelled to accept the expanded plan, and 19 state governments, all with Republican governors, opted out.

CNBC reporter Dan Mangan reported that Medicaid has added 15 million enrollees since Obamacare went into effect, a figure which includes some people who would have been eligible under the old rules.   That’s nearly 4 million more than signed up for health insurance under the Obamacare exchanges.

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The truth about President Obama’s budget

February 5, 2015

I like to write good things to write about President Obama.  It helps me to convince myself that I am a fair-minded person, and also convince my friends, most of whom are supporters of the President.

But usually when I do, it turns out there is a catch.  I feel as if I were Charlie Brown in the comic strip once again trusting Lucy to hold the football so he can kick it.

I wrote a post the other day praising the President for budget proposals, which contained some modest tax increases on the upper income brackets and some modest benefits from working people.

But now I realize I missed important parts—more spending for the military, tax reductions for the rich and cuts to Medicare.

Andre Demon, writing for the World Socialist Web Site, pointed out:

Obama’s budget proposal would increase Pentagon spending by 7 percent, adding an additional $38 billion to bring the total defense budget to $534 billion. 

Obama is separately proposing $51 billion in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Syria, including money to back the so-called “moderate” opposition in Syria, as well for as the ongoing US troop presence in Afghanistan.

Newsweek - Obama - The Democrats ReaganThe budget calls for the corporate tax rate to be cut to 25 percent for manufacturers and 28 percent for other corporations, down from the current rate of 35 percent.

The proposal would also allow US corporations to repatriate past profits generated overseas at a tax rate of only 14 percent.  Foreign profits would be taxed at 19 percent in the future. 

Currently, US corporations pay a rate of 35 percent on foreign profits, which many corporations avoid by keeping their foreign earnings abroad.

These tax cuts are accompanied by $400 billion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The budget proposes to raise $66 billion over ten years by charging higher Medicare premiums to upper-income patients, a move that would undermine Medicare’s status as a universal entitlement and open the door to means testing and the transformation of the government health insurance program for seniors into a poverty program.

The plan would cut another “$116 billion in Medicare payments to drug companies for medicines prescribed for low-income patients,” according to the New York Times. 

It would also slash $100 billion for the treatment of Medicare patients following their discharge from the hospital, affecting primarily the elderly.

via World Socialist Web Site.

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GOP in Senate acknowledges global warming

February 4, 2015

tmw2015-02-04colorlargeSource: Tom Tomorrow | The Nation

Obama-GOP compromise? I hope not

November 14, 2014

All ways in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress could reach agreement are bad for the American people.

All of President Obama’s initiatives that are good for the American people are unacceptable to the Republicans.

Bad for Americans, acceptable to Republicans

Pro-Business Trade Treaties

free-tradePresident Obama has pushed for new trade treaties that give foreign corporations the right to appeal for damages if countries pass laws that unjustly deprive them of profits.  Similar provisions in existing trade treaties have been used against environmental regulation, subsidies for renewable energy and financial regulation.  Proposed new treaties are believed to go further.

The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement appears doomed, but the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (aka the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the Trade in Services Agreement might sneak in under the public’s radar.   Corporate American favors these treaties, so the GOP might go for them.

Weakening Social Security and Medicare

obama_cutsPresident Obama repeatedly proposed changing the formula for Social Security benefits and raising the age for Medicare, in exchange for modest tax increases on upper income brackets.  Even though the tax increases are off the table, Republicans might go for such a “grand bargain” on other issues.

Starting New Wars

Obama-and-DronesIf President Obama discovers some new threat that he says requires military intervention in a foreign country, the Republicans in Congress are sure to support him—short of actually voting authorization, which he says he doesn’t need anyway.  Likewise for new authority for surveillance, preventive detention, drone strikes, prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.

Tar Sands Pipeline  [Added 11/15/14].

The Canadian government and Trans Canada corporation want to bring corrosive tar sands bitumen from northern Alberta to oil refineries in the United States.  Republicans in Congress are strongly in favor of this.  President Obama’s stand on the Keystone XL pipeline is uncertain, but federal regulators have already quietly approved the alternative Alberta Clipper pipeline.  Overall the President is a strong promoter of energy development, including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Good for Americans, unacceptable to Republicans

Climate Change

waronglobalwarming63-300x0President Obama says that he wants laws and regulations that limit the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.  A larger segment of the Republicans deny that human-caused climate change is even taking place, let alone that something should be done about it.

Immigration Reform

The only feasible immigration reform, as I see it, is some provision providing a path to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants already in this country.  I admit this is not good, but the alternatives are worse.

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The budget crisis: Links & comments 10/2/13

October 2, 2013

What If Voters Don’t Punish Extremism? by Ed Kilgore for Washington Monthly.

Barack Obama has a history of standing aside and giving his opponents enough rope to hang themselves, then jerking on the rope.  I think this is what he is doing in the government shutdown and debt default crises.

Ed Kilgore thinks this might backfire in the current crisis.  Voters are being told by that both sides are equally to blame—even though, in his opinion, the blame rests mainly with the Republicans.

Shutdown Could Last Weeks by Jonathan Strong for National Review Online.

Neither side is willing to back down.  Obama insists on a “clean” continuing resolution to allow the whole government to keep functioning.  Congressional Republicans plan to introduce “rifle shot” bills to keep specific government departments and programs functioning, but President Obama has said he will veto them (although he did sign a bill to continue paying active duty military personnel).

Strong said it is not just a conflict between the President and the House Republican caucus.  The real deadlock is between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who detest each other.

The Individual Mandate and the Government Shutdown by Ian Welsh.

Welsh argued that the Republican Obamacare proposal is reasonable.  It did not suspend Obamacare, but only its most unpopular provision, the individual mandate to buy health insurance whether you want it or not.

The problem with Welch’s argument is that, without the individual mandate, the complicated Obamacare system crashes.  If the people who sign up for Obamacare are only people who are poor and already sick, the system cannot pay for itself itself.

What Exactly Did Boehner Promise at Williamsburg? by Jonathan Strong for National Review Online.

The House GOP’s Legislative Strike by Jonathan Chait for New York magazine.

The Republican congressional caucus agreed in January to the Williamsburg Accords, an agreement to use the threat of a government shutdown and debt payment default to force President Obama to agree to their program.  The current crisis is not an accident.  It is part of a planned strategy.

Why Boehner doesn’t just ditch the hard right?, an interview of Robert Costa, the National Review’s Washington editor, by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives has less influence on the Republican caucus than does the Tea Party or Fox News.

Who to blame for the U.S. budget crisis?  Try the Kaiser by Uwe Bott for the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Once upon a time the President had to ask Congress for approval each time the government borrowed money.  In order to pay for the cost of fighting in World War One, President Woodrow Wilson asked for, and got, approval to borrow money, up to a certain limit—the debt ceiling.

What does it take to enact a law in the USA?

September 30, 2013

In a country with a parliamentary system, a Prime Minister is chosen by the party with a majority in parliament, or by a coalition of parties if none of them has a majority.  The Prime Minister then proposes laws and normally they are enacted by parliament.  If parliament rejects an important bill, the Prime Minister has the option to call an election, and let the people decide which they think is right.

Here in the United States, the process is different.  In order to become law, the Affordable Care Act has to get a majority of votes in the House of Representatives and 60 out of 100 votes in the U.S. Senate.  It then had to be signed by the President and reviewed by the Supreme Court.  It seems to me that, whether or not you agree with the law, that ought to be enough.

Source: Buffalo News

Hat tip to Buffalo News.
Update: President Obama signed a law providing for continuation of pay of active-duty military personnel.

But now the Republicans in the House of Representatives are threatening to shut down the government unless the Obama administration delays implementation of the health care act.  They don’t have the votes to repeal the law, so they are using a blackmail tactic instead.

In my opinion, Obamacare is a flawed plan which is unlikely to work as intended.  But it is law, and millions of individuals and thousands of businesses have made plans based on the schedule for implementing it.   Shutting down the government would be harmful to the country, but there would be even more harm from the economic uncertainty created by doubts as to whether a law really is law even after it is enacted.

Granted, there are worse things that could happen than a temporary shutdown of government.  But it creates unnecessary disruption, unnecessary hardship and also unnecessary expense, because it is more costly to shut down and restart than to continue operations.  It is terrible way to run a government.

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The Republican failure in Congress

February 5, 2013
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

In 2010, when the Republicans recaptured majority control of the House of Representatives while gaining in the Senate, I thought this might be the beginning of a Republican resurgence, like the Democratic gains in 2006.  This didn’t prove to be the case.  The Republicans in Congress threw away their opportunity through their obstructionism and negativism.

The Republicans could win the approval of a majority of Americans, and still could, if they had opposed the Obama administration’s bailout of the “too big to fail” banks and held the administration responsible for failure to prosecute Wall Street financial fraud.   The bailouts are even more unpopular among rank-and-file Republicans than they are among rank-and-file Democrats, and the law enforcement failure is unpopular to the extent that it is understood.

Why don’t the leaders of either party pursue a popular policy?  I think the answer is in books such as Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Political Parties and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems by Thomas Ferguson and Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.  Their argument is that the political system is rigged in favor of monied interests.   In an election, we the voters get to pick the winners, but they get to pick the players.

I don’t count the Republican Party out.  The Republicans are in a stronger position than they were after their defeat in 1964, and a stronger position than the Democrats were after 1972 and 1984.  It is too bad that the Republicans neither provide a credible opposition nor fade from the scene.   If they disappeared, then liberals and progressives might stop believing they’re obligated to support the Obama administration for fear of something worse.   As it is, the irresponsibility of the Republicans makes the failed Democratic leadership seem not so bad in comparison.

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