The Truth About De-Regulation
Republicans want to limit regulations for the same reason criminals want to limit the number of police officers.
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|The 7 Biggest GOP Lies|
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|Why The Republicans Are Wrong
The Republicans are anti-women, anti-public education, anti-science, anti-the middle class and anti separation of church and state.
by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future | Op-EdFederal spending dramatically increased under former president, George W. Bush and it has not increased much under President Obama.
Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse.
Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.
Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.
Notes, this chart includes Clinton’s last budget year for comparison.
The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama “tripled the deficit” are either misled or are trying to mislead.
The Stimulus and Jobs
In this chart, the RED lines on the left side — the ones that keep doing DOWN — show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines — the ones that just go UP — show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.
It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.
Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!More False Things
These are just three of the false things that everyone “knows.” Some others are: Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is “going broke”, government spending “takes money out of the economy.”Why This Matters
These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama — tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want — when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.
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|5 Republican Lies About Income Inequality
The Republican position on inequality rests on five statements, all false.Recent comments by Mitt Romney, the probable Republican nominee for President all but guarantee the inequality issue will remain front and center this election year.
When asked whether people who question the current distribution of wealth and power are motivated by “jealousy or fairness” Romney insisted, “I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.” And in this election year he advised that if we do discuss inequality we do so “in quiet rooms” not in public debates.
A public debate, of course, is inevitable. And welcome. To help that debate along I’ll address the five major statements that comprise the Republican argument on inequality.
1. Income is not all that unequal.
Actually it is. Since 1980 the top 1 percent has increased its share of the national income by an astounding $1.1 trillion. Today 300,000 very rich Americans enjoy almost as much income as 150 million.
Since 1980, the income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans has increased a meager $303 or 1 percent. The top 1 percent’s income has more than doubled, increasing by about $500,000. And the really, really rich, the top 10th of 1 percent, made out, dare I say, like bandits, quadrupling their income to $22 million.
Meanwhile a full-time worker’s wage was 11 percent lower in 2004 than in 1973, adjusting for inflation even though their productivity increased by 78 percent. Productivity gains swelled corporate profits, which reached an all time high in 2010. And that in turn fueled an unprecedented inequality within the workplace itself. In 2010, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the average CEO in large companies earned 325 times more than the average worker.
2. Inequality doesn’t matter because in America ambition and hard work can make a pauper a millionaire.
This is folklore. A worker’s initial position in the income distribution is highly predictive of how much he or she earns later in the career. And as the Brookings Institution reports “there is growing evidence of less intergenerational economic mobility in the United States than in many other rich industrialized countries.”
The bitter fact is that it is harder for a poor person in America to become rich than in virtually any other industrialized country.
3. Income inequality is not a result of tax policy.
Nonsense. A painstaking analysis by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva found “a strong correlation between the reductions in top tax rates and the increases in top 1% pre-tax income shares from 1975–79 to 2004–08”. For example, the U.S. slashed the top income tax rate by 35 percent and witnessed a large ten percent increase in its top 1% pre-tax income share. “By contrast, France or Germany saw very little change in their top tax rates and their top 1% income shares during the same period.”
4. Taxing the rich will slow economic growth.
An examination of 18 OECD countries found “little empirical support for the claim that reducing the progressivity of the tax code has spurred economic growth, business formation or job growth.”
Indeed, Piketty, Saez and Stantcheva’s rigorous analysis came to the opposite conclusion. Our economy may be growing more slowly because we are taxing the rich too little, not too much. Economists Peter Diamond and Saezestimated the optimal top tax rate, that is the tax rate that would maximize revenue without slowing economic growth, could be as high as 83 percent.
Redistributing income stimulates economies in part because when 1% make more they save whereas when the 99% make more they spend. As a result, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s, a dollar in tax cuts on capital gains adds .38 cents of economic growth while a dollar in unemployment benefits gives the economy a boost of $1.63 and a dollar of food stamps adds $1.73.
5. Taxing the rich would not raise much money.
Of course it would. If only the richest 400 families, whose average income in 2008 was an astounding $270 million actually paid the statutory rate of 39 percent (revived as of next January 1st) an additional $500 billion would be raised over 10 years, putting a substantial dent in the projected deficit.
In 2010 hedge fund manager John Paulson made $5 billion. That year, according to Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, Paulson paid no income taxes. Am I envious Mr. Romney? You bet I am. But I’m also angry at the stark injustice of it all. And terrified of the power such wealth can wield in a country that allows billionaires to spend unlimited sums influencing legislation and elections.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans now believe the conflict between rich and poor is our greatest source of tension. I agree. It is a conflict that deserves to be aired fully and in public.
|The GOP's 5 Most Absurd Lies About Health-Care Reform, Debunked
Now is the time to brush up on the facts about health-care reform so we can keep the latest crop of Republican lies from taking hold.The newly Republican-controlled House voted 245 to 189 on Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama. By now, it should be clear to all of us that the GOP’s rhetoric about repealing health care is little more than political theater, because the party’s repeal measure is almost certain to fail. Even if the measure made it through the Senate, which is still majority Democratic of course, Obama would surely veto it. Without two-thirds majorities, which the GOP doesn’t have, the party would not be able to override that veto. And at any rate, Republicans haven’t cobbled together the replacement part of their “repeal and replace” plan, so it’s clear that even the Republicans don’t think an all-out repeal is possible.
But there is still a credible GOP threat to the Affordable Care Act — the party’s plan, after the initial repeal effort surely fails, to de-fund and/or dismantle the law piece by piece. De-funding key portions of the bill could strip millions of people of the health care access they were promised and could have a negative effect on the nation’s economy.
As it stands now, most Americans either support health-care reform or want to make it more progressive. So I have this to say to anyone on the left who may be worn out from years of combating right-wing lies about health-care reform: now is not the time to give up! Now is the time to brush up on the facts so you can keep the latest crop of lies — debunked below — from taking hold.
Lie #1: Health-care reform will kill jobs. The right has really been pushing this myth hard. They even called their repeal measure the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act,” which, aside from being awkwardly worded, is a misnomer. The “job-killing” part of the name came from the GOP’s blatant misrepresentation of a Congressional Budget Office report, with Republicans claiming that health-care reform could cost the nation 650,000 jobs. The Associated Press fact-checked that claim earlier this week and found that “the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced that number. What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health-care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of the lost jobs would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job.”
In other words, the relatively small number of people who are expected to vacate jobs as a direct result of health-care reform will do so not because their jobs were “lost,” but because people will no longer be beholden to any job they may have taken just so they could get employer-sponsored health insurance. Have you ever met anyone who got a part-time job at Starbucks, not because they wanted or needed the extra income, but because they couldn’t afford health insurance on their own? Those are the people the CBO was talking about.
Here’s Rachel Maddow with a more thorough take-down of the job-killing lie:
Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Lie #2: Health-care reform will bankrupt the country. Republicans love to argue that health-care reform is irresponsible because it will cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars at a time of widespread economic hardship. The economy is at the forefront of many Americans’ minds, and with good reason — unemployment and poverty rates are abysmal right now. “If our constituents have to cut back, the government should have to cut back too,” GOP leaders like to say. They’ve also released a report, which they’ve given the incendiary title “Obama-Care: A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health Care Law,” claiming that health-care reform will have an overall negative financial effect on the country.
The only problem is, that claim is simply untrue. In fact, the very opposite is the case. According to the CBO, health-care reform will cut the nation’s deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next two decades, while an all-out health-care repeal would increase the deficit by $230 million in a decade.
Lie #3: Health-care reform will mean the introduction of ‘death panels.’ This one’s an oldie that recently got another turn in the spotlight, despite being deemed 2009′s “Lie of the Year” by PolitiFact. I can’t believe we still have to debunk this one, but we are, so let’s say this all together, once and for all: There is no such thing as a death panel!
Many health-care lies are based on some semblance of truth, albeit truth that has been horribly twisted and misrepresented. But this lie is special in that it has almost no basis in reality. Death panels do not exist. They do not exist in American health care today, and they will not exist once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. The term was invented by Sarah Palin (or, more likely, her speech writers) to describe the end-of-life care provided to Medicare patients. The lie has scared old people into thinking President Obama is deploying an army of doctors to their homes to play Grim Reaper while forcing Democrats to drop a provision that would have provided health care to terminally ill patients.
Lie #4: Health-care reform will cut Medicare payments. This is another myth that has persisted throughout the health-care reform debate. Medicare spending will not be “cut,” per se, under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare spending will continue to increase each year — it will just do so at a slower pace than it would have otherwise. In all, the law will decrease projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over a decade, largely by cutting fees to providers and private Medicare Advantage plans. (Sounds… fiscally responsible!) The 65-plus set will not see their benefits slashed. In fact, some Medicare benefits have been added.
Lie #5: ‘Mandate’ is a dirty word. A lot of people are still confused about what the so-called “individual mandate” included in health-care reform is exactly, so let me clear that up first: the mandate requires all Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance coverage, either though a private insurance company, an employer-sponsored plan, Medicaid or Medicare. Republicans have singled out the mandate as health-care reform’s weakest link — the element that, if killed, could undermine the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act. Progressive political strategist Robert Creamer explains in the Huffington Post:
[Former Republican Majority Leader Dick] Armey argues that if they can kill the mandate, the rest of the new law will fall of its own weight, since if there is no mandate — but insurance companies can’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions — then people who are not sick will wait to buy insurance until they are. And that, of course, is in fact a serious problem since it will drive up insurance premiums for everyone else.
The individual mandate is not a bad thing; it’s just being presented as a bad thing for political purposes. We know this because many of the Republicans who are now most vociferously against the mandate were once in favor of it. As Talking Point Memo’s Brian Beutler points out, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is a prime example of this, having been a part of the “bipartisan consensus” for the mandate in 2009 but now calling the measure “unconstitutional.” Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, a staunch Republican if there ever was one, was responsible for mandating insurance for Massachusetts residents when he was governor of the state.
So the next time you hear someone waxing poetic about how “Obamacare” is a job-killing, deficit-increasing government takeover of our health-care system that we shouldn’t have to subsidize with our taxpayer dollars, you’ll know how to respond. And if all the above points fail you, just remember the number eight — that’s the sum total of Congressional Republicans who have forgone taxpayer-subsidized health care.
|8 Lies Republicans Want Us To Believe
During this election campaign the American public has been inundated with lies from the Republican Party. Some of these lies have been told and repeated for so long that they have assumed the proportions of myth, and are accepted by a great many Americans. But they are still just Republican lies. But Dave Johnson over at Campaign for America’s Future has combined them into one very good post. He cuts through all the BS and exposes these mythic lies, and then tells the truth about them. Here are those 8 lies:
1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.
3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
4) The stimulus didn’t work.
5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.
6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.
7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.
8) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Don’t believe the lies being told by Republicans. They just want to return to power, and they’ll say anything to do that. If the American people fall for this nonsense and return them to power, the recession will continue unabated and the country will be damaged for many more years. Remember when you go to the polls this November, it was the Republican policies that put the American economy in the mess it is in right now and those policies have not changed.
|The Seven Biggest Economic Lies
by Robert Reich
The President’s Jobs Bill doesn’t have a chance in Congress — and the Occupiers on Wall Street and elsewhere can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society – unless more Americans know the truth about the economy.Here’s a short (2 minute 30 second) effort to rebut the seven biggest whoppers now being told by those who want to take America backwards. The major points:Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke.Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.
Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.
Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone.
Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Don’t believe it. Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years. It could be solvent for the next century if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800.
It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. Wrong. There’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else.
Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it on.
|Tax Cuts for the Rich: Let’s Stop Pretending They Work
We’re constantly hearing about how rich people are wealth creators, job creators, the most productive members of our society, a bunch of Hank Reardons, bla bla bla ad infinitum, and how we should cut their taxes so that they can unleash their productive powers.The more intelligent-sounding purveyors of this point of view use sophisticated economic models to support their claims. But models are just that—they’re models of what should happen, given certain assumptions. And the real world is far more complex than any model can portray.
The real way to understand what cutting taxes on the rich would do is: try it and see what happens.
But I don’t recommend doing that.
Why not? Because we already freaking did it. Many times. We know what happens when we cut taxes on the rich; we just choose not to remember.
Thing is, back in the 1950s and 1960s, taxes on the rich were very high. Past a certain point, the government took almost all of your additional income—as much as 92 cents on the dollar.
Yes, there were deductions; nobody paid 92% of their income. But a rich person deciding whether or not to earn an extra dollar had presumably already found all the deductions he could, so he really was faced with the prospect of working harder in order to earn only a few more cents.
So back then when rich people said, hey, we would work harder and create more wealth if we were allowed to keep more of the reward, they were making a plausible argument.
In fact, it was so plausible that we believed them and cut taxes. First to 70%, and then way below that. Meanwhile, we accepted higher taxes for ourselves and fewer services from government.
So what happened?
Here’s the maximum tax rate—the tax paid on income in the highest tax bracket—over time. Note the big cuts in 1964 and in the 1980s, followed by Clinton’s 1993 tax increase, followed by Bush’s cuts.
Now: If low taxes on the rich do what conservatives say, GDP should have been higher when the top tax rate was low, and lower when it was high and job creators were oppressed. So here’s economic growth by year, courtesy of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Huh? All that up and down is hard to track. So let’s average economic growth over the relevant periods, which are:
Just to make things clearer, let’s put both lines together (ignoring the scale—we’re just looking at the pattern, not the absolute number):
So low taxes for the rich haven’t been good for the economy. The association goes almost exactly the opposite way.
And still the rich say that cutting their taxes will unleash their dormant productive powers. But if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not going to happen. The only thing we can conclude is that rich people give themselves too much credit.
Now: You can play around with the exact periods you choose to average the data over, but the overall pattern will hold.
For instance, if you say that we should exclude the current economic mess (everything after 2006, say) because its causes are clearly much bigger than just the Bush tax cut, we get this, which is even more exact:
Heck, just to show I’m not cheating, here’s every data point since 1951 (the line was drawn by Excel, not me):
Other people have cut the data in different ways and gotten the same result. They shy away from concluding that tax increases help the economy, and they’re right: none of this proves that tax cuts for the rich are bad for the economy, or that high taxes are good—there may have been other factors (like oil prices) that were more important.
For that matter, it’s still possible that rich people really are job creators, and that they create more jobs when they’re motivated, but that high taxes are what motivate them. After all, rich people’s lives are almost all carrots and very few sticks; maybe the occasional blow from a stick will spur them to action more than another truckload of carrots.
But all of this is beside the point. The point is that it’s simply impossible to look at the data and honestly think that cutting taxes on the rich will help the economy.
That leaves one thing we can safely predict about taxes: They will bring in revenue. We could use some revenue right about now.
No wonder conservatives always argue about what some model says should happen. The last thing they want is a discussion about what has happened.
|5 Myths About Canada’s Health Care System
The truth may surprise you about international health care
How does the U.S. health care system stack up against Canada’s? You’ve probably heard allegedly true horror stories about the Canadian system — like 340-day waits for knee replacement surgery, for example.To separate fact from fiction, Aaron E. Carroll, M.D., the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research in Indianapolis, identified the top myths about the two health care systems.
Myth #1: Canadians are flocking to the United States to get medical care.
How many times have you heard that Canadians, frustrated by long wait times and rationing where they live, come to the United States for medical care?
I don’t deny that some well-off people might come to the United States for medical care. If I needed a heart or lung transplant, there’s no place I’d rather have it done. But for the vast, vast majority of people, that’s not happening.
The most comprehensive study I’ve seen on this topic — it employed three different methodologies, all with solid rationales behind them — was published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs.
The authors of the study started by surveying 136 ambulatory care facilities near the U.S.-Canada border in Michigan, New York and Washington. It makes sense that Canadians crossing the border for care would favor places close by, right? It turns out, however, that about 80 percent of such facilities saw, on average, fewer than one Canadian per month; about 40 percent had seen none in the preceding year.
Then, the researchers looked at how many Canadians were discharged over a five-year period from acute-care hospitals in the same three states. They found that more than 80 percent of these hospital visits were for emergency or urgent care (that is, tourists who had to go to the emergency room). Only about 20 percent of the visits were for elective procedures or care.
Next, the authors of the study surveyed America’s 20 “best” hospitals — as identified by U.S. News & World Report — on the assumption that if Canadians were going to travel for health care, they would be more likely to go to the best-known and highest-quality facilities. Only one of the 11 hospitals that responded saw more than 60 Canadians in a year. And, again, that included both emergencies and elective care.
Finally, the study’s authors examined data from the 18,000 Canadians who participated in the National Population Health Survey. In the previous year, 90 of those 18,000 Canadians had received care in the United States; only 20 of them, however, reported going to the United States expressively for the purpose of obtaining care.
Myth #2: Doctors in Canada are flocking to the United States to practice.
Every time I talk about health care policy with physicians, one inevitably tells me of the doctor he or she knows who ran away from Canada to practice in the United States. Evidently, there’s a general perception that practicing medicine in the United States is much more satisfying than in Canada.
Problem is, it’s just not so.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information has been tracking doctors’ destinations since 1992. Since then, 60 percent to 70 percent of the physicians who emigrate have headed south of the border. In the mid-1990s, the number of Canadian doctors leaving for the United States spiked at about 400 to 500 a year. But in recent years this number has declined, with only 169 physicians leaving for the States in 2003, 138 in 2004 and 122 both in 2005 and 2006. These numbers represent less than 0.5 percent of all doctors working in Canada.
So when emigration “spiked,” 400 to 500 doctors were leaving Canada for the United States. There are more than 800,000 physicians in the United States right now, so I’m skeptical that every doctor knows one of those émigrés.
In 2004, net emigration became net immigration. Let me say that again. More doctors were moving into Canada than were moving out.
Myth #3: Canada rations health care; that’s why hip replacements and cataract surgeries happen faster in the United States.
When people want to demonize Canada’s health care system — and other single-payer systems, for that matter — they always end up going after rationing, and often hip replacements in particular.
Take Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, for example. A couple of years ago he took to the House floor to tell his colleagues:
“I just hit 62, and I was just reading that in Canada [if] I got a bad hip I wouldn’t be able to get that hip replacement that [Rep. Dan Lungren] got, because I’m too old! I’m an old geezer now and it’s not worth a government bureaucrat to pay me to get my hip fixed.”
This has been debunked so often, it’s tiring. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example, concluded: “At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year  … were on patients age 65 or older.” And more than 1,500 of those, it turned out, were on patients over 85.
The bottom line: Canada doesn’t deny hip replacements to older people.
But there’s more.
Know who gets most of the hip replacements in the United States? Older people.
Know who pays for care for older people in the United States? Medicare.
Know what Medicare is? A single-payer system.
Myth #4: Canada has long wait times because it has a single-payer system.
The wait times that Canada might experience are not caused by its being a single-payer system.
Wait times aren’t like cancer. We know what causes wait times; we know how to fix them. Spend more money.
Our single-payer system, which is called Medicare (see above), manages not to have the “wait times” issue that Canada’s does. There must, therefore, be some other reason for the wait times. There is, of course. It’s this:
In 1966, Canada implemented a single-payer health care system, which is also known as Medicare. Since then, as a country, Canadians have made a conscious decision to hold down costs. One of the ways they do that is by limiting supply, mostly for elective things, which can create wait times. Their outcomes are otherwise comparable to ours.
Please understand, the wait times could be overcome. Canadians could spend more. They don’t want to. We can choose to dislike wait times in principle, but they are a byproduct of Canada’s choice to be fiscally conservative.
Yes, they chose this. In a rational world, those who are concerned about health care costs and what they mean to the economy might respect that course of action. But instead, they attack the system.
Myth #5: Canada rations health care; the United States doesn’t.
This one’s a little bit tricky. The truth is, Canada may “ration” by making people wait for some things, but here in the United States we also “ration” — by cost.
An 11-country survey carried out in 2010 by the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington-based health policy foundation, found that adults in the United States are by far the most likely to go without care because of cost. In fact, 42 percent of the Americans surveyed did not express confidence that they would be able to afford health care if seriously ill.
Further, about a third of the Americans surveyed reported that, in the preceding year, they didn’t go to the doctor when sick, didn’t get recommended care when needed, didn’t fill a prescription or skipped doses of medications because of cost.
Finally, about one in five of the Americans surveyed had struggled to pay or were unable to pay their medical bills in the preceding year. That was more than twice the percentage found in any of the other 10 countries.
And remember: We’re spending way more on health care than any other country, and for all that money we’re getting at best middling results.
So feel free to have a discussion about the relative merits of the U.S. and Canadian health care systems. Just stick to the facts.
Aaron E. Carroll frequently blogs about this topic for The Incidental Economist and is the coauthor of Don’t Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health.
|14 Things The GOP Gets Totally Wrong About Poverty
In an era of soaring income inequality, stagnant wage growth and a dismal job market, the Republican Party has decided that its hard-line, welfare-mocking image might not go over so well in the 2016 election cycle. So now, 50 years after Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War On Poverty initiatives, the Republicans are debuting their own version of anti-poverty strategies.While it’s admirable that Republicans are actually acknowledging the problem, their solutions are off target. Here are their 14 most common misconceptions about the War On Poverty:
1. The ‘War On Poverty’ was lost.
2. Welfare costs us $1 trillion a year.
3. Poverty is largely caused by social and moral decay.
4. Federal poverty reduction programs are inefficient and wasteful.
5. Food stamps make people complacent, so they don’t transition from welfare to work.
6. Big government is keeping people poor.
7. Anti-poverty programs are merely short-term solutions.
8. The official poverty rate has been the same for 50 years.
9. Income inequality isn’t that big of a deal.
10. Marriage is the key to solving poverty.
11. Poverty only affects a small percentage of Americans.
12. Raising the minimum wage wouldn’t help get to the root of the problem.
13. A higher minimum wage would kill the economy.
14. “Economic Freedom Zones” would alleviate poverty in depressed areas.
|Lies About The Fed
Myth: The Fed actually prints money.
People commonly say that the Fed itself prints money. It’s true that the Fed is in charge of the money supply. But technically, the Treasury Department prints money on the Fed’s behalf. Asking the Treasury Department to print cash isn’t even necessary for the Fed to buy securities.Myth: The Federal Reserve is spending money wastefully.
Both CNN anchor Erin Burnett and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan have compared the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing to government spending. But the Federal Reserve actually has created new money by expanding its balance sheet. The Fed earned a $77.4 billion profit last year, most of which it gave to the U.S. government.
Myth: The Fed is causing hyperinflation.
Myth: The amount of cash available has grown tremendously.
Myth: The gold standard would make prices more stable.
Myth: The Fed is causing food and gas prices to rise.
Myth: Quantitative easing has not helped job growth.
Myth: Tying the U.S. dollar to commodities would solve everything.
Myth: Ending the Fed would make the financial system more stable.
Myth: The Fed can’t do anything else to help job growth.
Myth: The Fed can’t easily unwind all of this stimulus.
|Lies GOP Tells About Women's Bodies
Birth Control Causes Prostate Cancer
Earlier this year, a New Hampshire lawmaker came up with a new reason the government should not require health insurance companies to provide contraception.”As a man, would it interest you to know that Dr. Brownstein just published an article that links the pill to prostate cancer?” state Rep. Jeanine Notter (R) asked a male representative at the hearing, the Merrimack Patch reports.
“In the children that are born from these women?” he asked. Notter could not clearly explain the study or how the pill results in prostate cancer.
The study described in the newsletter of Dr. David Brownstein, a physician and holistic practitioner in Michigan, suggests men may ingest estrogen through environmental contamination, not in utero from mothers taking birth control. An author of the study told ABC News, “This is just a hypothesis-generating idea. Women should not be throwing away the pill because of this.”
Abortion Causes Breast Cancer
Materials that inform the pregnant woman that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer. It is scientifically undisputed that full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer. It is also undisputed that the earlier a woman has a first full-term pregnancy, the lower her risk of breast cancer becomes, because following a full-term pregnancy the breast tissue exposed to estrogen through the menstrual cycle is more mature and cancer resistant. In fact, for each year that a woman’s first full-term pregnancy is delayed, her risk of breast cancer rises 3.5 percent. The theory that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer builds upon this undisputed foundation. During the first and second trimesters of pregnancy the breasts develop merely by duplicating immature tissues. Once a woman passes the thirty-second week of pregnancy (third trimester), the immature cells develop into mature cancer resistant cells. When an abortion ends a normal pregnancy, the woman is left with more immature breast tissue than she had before she was pregnant.
There is no link between abortions and breast cancer, according to the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and other major health organizations. Similar provisions requiring doctors to make the abortion-breast cancer connection remain on the books in other state laws. Alaska, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas all inaccurately assert a risk in written counseling materials, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based reproductive health research organization.
Birth Control Is A Sex Pill
“She wants to be paid to have sex,” Limbaugh said. “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”
Rick Santorum has also said that contraception encourages a bad kind of sex. Last year, in an interview with the Evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts, Santorum warned of the “dangers of contraception:”
“It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act.”
Most women who have had sex have used contraception. Birth control pills — which are taken daily, regardless of how frequently a woman has sex — may also be taken to manage endometriosis, ovarian cysts, acne or other health problems. A bill in Arizona proposed penalizing women who use the pill for non-medical reasons.
Abortion Industry Is ‘Selling Abortions’
“Personally I’d like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a ‘surgical procedure,’” state Rep. Terri Proud (R) wrote. The constituent responded by email that she was “speechless” and after a baffling exchange with Proud, released the emails to the media. Facing national outrage, Proud issued a statement:
For too long, Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry have placed selling abortions above the health and safety of women. My message to a constituent last week emphasized my concerns with how abortion providers have not been honest with women about the realities of abortion, and the short and long-term risks of this dangerous surgical procedure.
The notion that Planned Parenthood baits women into unwanted pregnancies by providing ineffective contraception then profits off the abortions is nothing new, but it’s as outrageous as it sounds. Abortions constitute 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, and the organization estimates it prevents more than 220,000 abortions each year by providing contraception. Because Planned Parenthood is not allowed to use federal funds for abortions, defunding the program may limit contraception services and result in more abortions.
Women Can’t Get Pregnant From Rape
“Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this,” said state Sen. Chuck Winder (R). “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”
It wasn’t the first time a lawmaker has suggested that women seeking abortions may lie about rape. Some anti-abortion activists actually believe that rape cannot result in pregnancy. Buzzfeed dug up a series of bizarre statements Republicans have made about pregnancy, rape, juices not flowing and more. Here’s one:
The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are “one in millions and millions and millions,” said state Rep. Stephen Freind, R-Delaware County, the Legislature’s leading abortion foe.
The reason, Freind said, is that the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to “secrete a certain secretion” that tends to kill sperm.
Two Philadelphia doctors specializing in human reproduction characterized Freind’s contention as scientifically baseless.
According to Planned Parenthood, about 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy, and providing all rape victims with emergency contraception could prevent more than 22,000 unwanted pregnancies a year.
Correction: A previous version of this text misstated the status of Idaho’s mandatory ultrasound bill legislation. Lawmakers ultimately decided to table the measure.
Prenatal Testing Leads To Abortion
“Amniocentesis does, in fact, result more often than not in this country in abortions,” Santorum, who has a severely disabled daughter, said on “Face the Nation.” “That is a fact.”
In fact, more than 90 percent of amniocenteses tests result in normal diagnoses, and half of fetuses diagnosed with severe abnormalities — about 5 percent of those tested — are aborted, according to PolitiFact.
A campaign spokeswoman for Obama condemned Santorum’s comments as “misinformed and dangerous” and pointed out that the tests help women have safer deliveries and healthier babies.
HPV Vaccine Causes Retardation
The vaccine is safe and effective in preventing cervical cancer caused by certain strains of HPV, and Perry’s 2007 executive order, which was overturned by the state legislature, would have allowed parents to opt out of having their daughters vaccinated. Dr. Renata Arrington-Sanders, a professor at Johns Hopkins University medical school, told HuffPost’s Laura Bassett:
“The HPV vaccine has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated based on multiple medical reports that have been submitted through government databases. It’s unfortunate that this particular vaccine is surrounded by a lot of controversy just because it’s been labeled as an STD-prevention vaccine. We have similar vaccines, such as one for hepatitis B, that are also used in a mandated approach and have shown very successful rates with prevention.”
Plan B Causes Abortions
In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forward by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country. This rule would require faith-based employers — including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals — to provide services they believe are immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception.
Michele Bachmann called Plan B an abortion pill when she incorrectly criticized Obama for making the drug available over-the-counter — an FDA recommendation the administration and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected last year. “The president can put abortion pills for girls 8 years of age, 11 years of age, on the bubblegum aisle,” Bachmann said at a “pro-life” town hall in December.
Contraceptives, emergency or not, prevent pregnancy. They don’t cause abortions. Plan B works in the same way and with the same ingredients as birth control pills, just at a higher dosage, and does nothing to stop the development of a fetus.
Your Fetus Is Just Fine
Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) told the Claims Journal that she sponsored the law because she did not want claimants to blame a doctor for a baby born with disabilities. Under the provisions of her bill, a doctor could not be sued for medical malpractice if the doctor withholds information from a mother about a child’s potential health issues that could influence her decision to have an abortion. In addition, a lawsuit could not be filed on the child’s behalf regarding a disability.
Kansas lawmakers have considered similar legislation.
|The 4 Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality
Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven’t stopped lying about what’s happening and what to do about it.Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth.
Lie number one: The rich and CEOs are America’s job creators. So we dare not tax them.
The truth is the middle class and poor are the job-creators through their purchases of goods and services. If they don’t have enough purchasing power because they’re not paid enough, companies won’t create more jobs and economy won’t grow.
We’ve endured the most anemic recovery on record because most Americans don’t have enough money to get the economy out of first gear. The economy is barely growing and real wages continue to drop.
We keep having false dawns. An average of 200,000 jobs were created in the United States over the last three months, but huge numbers of Americans continue to drop out of the labor force.
Lie number two: People are paid what they’re worth in the market. So we shouldn’t tamper with pay.
The facts contradict this. CEOs who got 30 times the pay of typical workers forty years ago now get 300 times their pay not because they’ve done such a great job but because they control their compensation committees and their stock options have ballooned.
Meanwhile, most American workers earn less today than they did forty years ago, adjusted for inflation, not because they’re working less hard now but because they don’t have strong unions bargaining for them.
More than a third of all workers in the private sector were unionized forty years ago; now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.
Lie number three: Anyone can make it in America with enough guts, gumption, and intelligence. So we don’t need to do anything for poor and lower-middle class kids.
The truth is we do less than nothing for poor and lower-middle class kids. Their schools don’t have enough teachers or staff, their textbooks are outdated, they lack science labs, their school buildings are falling apart.
We’re the only rich nation to spend less educating poor kids than we do educating kids from wealthy families.
All told, 42 percent of children born to poor families will still be in poverty as adults — a higher percent than in any other advanced nation.
Lie number four: Increasing the minimum wage will result in fewer jobs. So we shouldn’t raise it.
In fact, studies show that increases in the minimum wage put more money in the pockets of people who will spend it — resulting in more jobs, and counteracting any negative employment effects of an increase in the minimum.
Three of my colleagues here at the University of California at Berkeley — Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich — have compared adjacent counties and communities across the United States, some with higher minimum wages than others but similar in every other way.
They found no loss of jobs in those with the higher minimums.
The truth is, America’s lurch toward widening inequality can be reversed. But doing so will require bold political steps.
At the least, the rich must pay higher taxes in order to pay for better-quality education for kids from poor and middle-class families. Labor unions must be strengthened, especially in lower-wage occupations, in order to give workers the bargaining power they need to get better pay. And the minimum wage must be raised.
Don’t listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.
|What The GOP Doesn't Want You To Know About The Deficit
The Deficit Has Grown Mostly Because Of The Recession
The deficit has ballooned not because of specific spending measures, but because of the recession. The deficit more than doubled between 2008 and 2009, as the economy was in free fall, since laid-off workers paid less in taxes and needed more benefits. The deficit then shrank in 2010 and 2011.The Stimulus Cost Much Less Than Bush’s Wars, Tax Cuts
Republicans frequently have blamed the $787 billion stimulus for the national debt, but, when all government spending is taken into account, the stimulus frankly wasn’t that big. In contrast, the U.S. will have spent nearly $4 trillion on wars in the Middle East by the time those conflicts end, according to a recent report by Brown University. The Bush tax cuts have cost nearly $1.3 trillion over 10 years.
The Deficit Grew Under George W. Bush
The Deficit Is Shrinking
Investors Are Paying Us To Borrow Money
Investors Are Not Running Away
Health Care Reform Reduces The Deficit
The U.S. Is Borrowing Less From China
We Spend A Lot On Defense
We Spend A Lot On Health Care
Republicans May Want Large Deficits For Now
|How To Be A Good Woman, According To Wall Street Journal Op-Eds
I wish I could tell you these statements were from the 1950’s but they were all made in the twenty first century.
The Wall Street Journal’s opinion columnists have some very specific ideas about men, women and the way each gender does (and should) look at the world. Upon reviewing recent op-eds featured in WSJ, a certain, painfully retrograde idea of womanhood emerges.Here are nine rules for being a good lady, according to the likes of Susan Patton and James Taranto (among others):
1. Meet your husband in college. (Because, obviously, all women are straight. And if you have already completed university and don’t have a rock on your finger — or know that your college BF is about to purchase one — you have failed at life.)
|The Hammock Fallacy
Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. So when you see something like the current scramble by Republicans to declare their deep concern for America’s poor, it’s a good sign, indicating a positive change in social norms. Goodbye, sneering at the 47 percent; hello, fake compassion.And the big new poverty report from the House Budget Committee, led by Representative Paul Ryan, offers additional reasons for optimism. Mr. Ryan used to rely on “scholarship” from places like the Heritage Foundation. Remember when Heritage declared that the Ryan budget would reduce unemployment to a ludicrous 2.8 percent, then tried to cover its tracks? This time, however, Mr. Ryan is citing a lot of actual social science research.
Unfortunately, the research he cites doesn’t actually support his assertions. Even more important, his whole premise about why poverty persists is demonstrably wrong.
To understand where the new report is coming from, it helps to recall something Mr. Ryan said two years ago: “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.” There are actually two assertions here. First, antipoverty programs breed complacency; that is, they discourage work. Second, complacency — the failure of the poor to work as much as they should — is what perpetuates poverty.
The budget committee report is almost entirely concerned with the first assertion. It notes that there has been a large decline in labor force participation, and it claims that antipoverty programs, which reduce the incentive to work, are a major reason for this decline. Then come 200 pages of text and 683 footnotes, designed to create the impression that the scholarly research literature supports the report’s claims.
But it doesn’t. In some cases, Mr. Ryan and colleagues outright misstate what the research says, drawing outraged protests from a number of prominent scholars about the misrepresentation of their work. More often, however, the report engages in argument by innuendo. It makes an assertion about the bad effects of a program, then mentions a number of studies of that program, and thereby leaves the impression that those studies support its assertion, even though they don’t.
What does scholarly research on antipoverty programs actually say? We have quite good evidence on the effects of food stamps and Medicaid, which draw most of Mr. Ryan’s ire — and which his budgets propose slashing drastically. Food stamps, it seems, do lead to a reduction in work and working hours, but the effect is modest. Medicaid has little, if any, effect on work effort.
Over all, here’s the verdict of one comprehensive survey: “While there are significant behavioral side effects of many programs, their aggregate impact is very small.” In short, Mr. Ryan’s poverty report, like his famous budget plan, is a con job.
Now, you can still argue that making antipoverty programs much more generous would indeed reduce the incentive to work. If you look at cross-county comparisons, you find that low-income households in the United States, which does less to help the poor than any other major advanced nation, work much more than their counterparts abroad. So, yes, incentives do have some effect on work effort.
But why, exactly, should that be such a concern? Mr. Ryan would have us believe that the “hammock” created by the social safety net is the reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty. But the evidence says nothing of the kind.
After all, if generous aid to the poor perpetuates poverty, the United States — which treats its poor far more harshly than other rich countries, and induces them to work much longer hours — should lead the West in social mobility, in the fraction of those born poor who work their way up the scale. In fact, it’s just the opposite: America has less social mobility than most other advanced countries.
And there’s no puzzle why: it’s hard for young people to get ahead when they suffer from poor nutrition, inadequate medical care, and lack of access to good education. The antipoverty programs that we have actually do a lot to help people rise. For example, Americans who received early access to food stamps were healthier and more productive in later life than those who didn’t. But we don’t do enough along these lines. The reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty isn’t that the government helps them too much; it’s that it helps them too little.
Which brings us back to the hypocrisy issue. It is, in a way, nice to see the likes of Mr. Ryan at least talking about the need to help the poor. But somehow their notion of aiding the poor involves slashing benefits while cutting taxes on the rich. Funny how that works.
|The Three Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Poverty
By Robert Reich
Rather than confront poverty by extending jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed, endorsing a higher minimum wage, or supporting jobs programs, conservative Republicans are taking a different tack.They’re peddling three big lies about poverty. To wit:
Lie #1: Economic growth reduces poverty.
“The best anti-poverty program,” wrote Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, in the Wall Street Journal, “is economic growth.”
Wrong. Since the late 1970s, the economy has grown 147 percent per capita but almost nothing has trickled down. The typical American worker is earning just about what he or she earned three decades ago, adjusted for inflation.
Meanwhile, the share of Americans in poverty remains around 15 percent. That’s even higher than it was in the early 1970s.
How can the economy have grown so much while most people’s wages go nowhere and the poor remain poor? Because almost all the gains have gone to the top.
Research by Immanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty shows that forty years ago the richest 1 percent of Americans got 9 percent of total income. Today they get over 20 percent.
It’s true that redistributing income to the needy is politically easier in a growing economy than in a stagnant one. One reason so many in today’s middle class are reluctant to pay taxes to help the poor is their own incomes are dropping.
But the lesson we should have learned from the past three decades is economic growth by itself doesn’t reduce poverty.
Lie #2: Jobs reduce poverty.
Senator Marco Rubio said poverty is best addressed not by raising the minimum wage or giving the poor more assistance but with “reforms that encourage and reward work.”
This has been the standard Republican line ever since Ronald Reagan declared that the best social program is a job. A number of Democrats have adopted it as well. But it’s wrong.
Surely it’s better to be poor and working than to be poor and unemployed. Evidence suggests jobs are crucial not only to economic well-being but also to self-esteem. Long-term unemployment can even shorten life expectancy.
But simply having a job is no bulwark against poverty. In fact, across America the ranks of the working poor have been growing. Around one-fourth of all American workers are now in jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.
Why are more people working but still poor? First of all, more jobs pay lousy wages.
While low-paying industries such as retail and fast food accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, they’ve generated 44 percent of the jobs added since then, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project.
Second, the real value of the minimum wage continues to drop. This has affected female workers more than men because more women are at the minimum wage.
Third, government assistance now typically requires recipients to be working. This hasn’t meant fewer poor people. It’s just meant more poor people have jobs.
Bill Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996 pushed the poor into jobs, but they’ve been mostly low-wage jobs without ladders into the middle class. The Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage subsidy, has been expanded, but you have to be working in order to qualify.
Work requirements haven’t reduced the number or percent of Americans in poverty. They’ve merely increased the number of working poor — a term that should be an oxymoron.
Lie #3: Ambition cures poverty.
Most Republicans, unlike Democrats and independents, believe people are poor mainly because of a lack of effort, according to a Pew Research Center/USA Today survey. It’s a standard riff of the right: If the poor were more ambitious they wouldn’t be poor.
Obviously, personal responsibility is important. But there’s no evidence that people who are poor are less ambitious than anyone else. In fact, many work long hours at backbreaking jobs.
What they really lack is opportunity. It begins with lousy schools.
America is one of only three advanced countries that spends less on the education of poorer children than richer ones, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do schools serving poor neighborhoods have fewer teachers and crowd students into larger classrooms than do schools serving more privileged students. In most countries, it’s just the reverse: Poor neighborhoods get more teachers per student.
And unlike most OECD countries, America doesn’t put better teachers in poorly performing schools,
So why do so many right-wing Republicans tell these three lies? Because they make it almost impossible to focus on what the poor really need – good-paying jobs, adequate safety nets, and excellent schools.
These things cost money. Lies are cheaper.
|The GOP Mines an Endless Vein of Hypocrisy; An Historic Bottomless Pit of Inconsistency
Oh how times have changed. When George Bush was in office, Senate Democrats approved nearly 200 nominees for district and circuit courts, without filibuster. When in July 2004 Democrats blocked three nominees were (bringing the grand total to ten), the GOP screamed bloody murder, with breathless accusations that Democrats broke Senate tradition.Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was beside himself with indignation, claiming that “It is a sad commentary on the deterioration of the judicial confirmation process that we are now approaching double-digit filibusters.”
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), then the Majority Whip, complained that Democrats were attempting to diminish executive power: “What we’re talking about, then, is senators wanting to adorn themselves with the power of co-nomination.” McConnell demanded that Democrats “move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.” He demanded “a simple up-or-down vote” declaring that Democrats wanted to “take away the power to nominate from the president and grant it to a minority of 41 senators.” Assuming the mantle of the patriot, McConnell said in May 2005, “The majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedence to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) went nearly ballistic in the face of Democratic opposition to Bush’s nominees, lamenting with great piety the Democrats’ “unprecedented, obstructive tactics.” He claimed it was “really wrong” that Democrats opposed Bush nominees “on a partisan filibuster.” He righteously demanded “an up-and-down vote.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned ominously that “if the filibuster becomes an institutional response where 40 senators driven by special interest groups declare war on nominees in the future, the consequence will be that the judiciary will be destroyed over time.”
Bill Frist (R-TN) in 2005 complained loudly that the Democrats were “attempting to change 225 years of constitutional history” by opposing George Bush’s nominees. He went on: “Appeals court judicial nominees should get a fair, open, and exhaustive debate, and then they should get an up-or-down vote. Whether on the floor or in committee, it is time for judicial obstruction to end no matter which party controls the White House or the Senate. Senate tradition is comprised of shared values based on civility and respect for the Constitution. I sincerely hope that Senate tradition can be restored. It is a matter of fairness. It is a matter of honor. It is our constitutional duty to give these nominees a vote.”
Apparently, having a black, Kenyan-born Communist who is both Muslim and a radical Christian in the Oval Office changes the rules. That is the only conclusion we can reach, because those same Republican senators have reversed their opinions 180 degrees now that Obama is forwarding his judicial nominees to the Senate. With no evident embarrassment about colossal inconsistency, all support the filibuster to block Obama from filling judicial vacancies. Where is the Republican outrage about breaking Senate tradition? Where is GOP indignation about taking power away from the president? Where is the conservative wail against obstructive tactics? Why no lament that Senators were adorning themselves with the power of co-nomination? What happened to the matter of fairness and respect for the Constitution so vigorously defended when Bush was president?
Look at McConnell’s extensive statements about the injustice of Democrats blocking Bush’s nominations to the courts. Compare what McConnell said then to what he says now about Obama’s picks for the D.C. circuit court just yesterday: “We are going to deal with those nominees as we have others.” Yes, filibuster to prevent their confirmation. Three times in three weeks the GOP blocked a vote to prevent confirmation of one of Obama’s nominees for the D.C. circuit court. Robert L. Wilkins, Cornelia Pillard and Patrica Millett all fell to the same filibuster fate; the one so decried by McConnell when Bush was president even when used with restraint by Democrats. Obama is now zero for three on the D.C. circuit court; compare that to Bush, who had four of his six nominations to the circuit court approved; that is 0% for Obama versus 67% for Bush. Are you getting a sense of the imbalance here?
While that immoral reversal would be bad enough on its own, the GOP simply cannot stop there. They oddly accuse Obama of trying to “pack” the D.C. appeals court any time he tries to fill a vacancy. The charge is an absurdly revisionist reference to FDR, who tried to increase the number of Supreme Court seats and then fill them with his nominees. Obama is not increasing the seats on the appeals court, only filling vacancies – his constitutional duty. And then going even further down the rabbit hole, the GOP is attempting “reverse packing” while falsely accusing Obama of doing the opposite; that is, the GOP wishes to eliminate seats on the appeals court to reduce the number of justices that Obama can nominate. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill (with the Orwellian title of the “Court Efficiency Act”), co-sponsored by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), to reduce the seats on the appeals court for that very purpose.
Orrin Hatch (“it is a sad commentary…”) also co-sponsored the bill. This is particularly rich in irony because in 2003 he gave a speech lamenting the number of vacancies on the DC Circuit court! With the count of filled seats down to eight judges at the time, Hatch called the vacancies “a crisis situation” due to the court’s high workload. Yet now he sponsors a bill to reduce the size of the court. The only difference: Bush was president then and Obama is now. Hatch does not exactly stand on principle.
In the House the equivalent bill (in competition for the most Orwellian name — the “Stop Court-Packing Act”) was introduced by Tom Cotton (R-AR). The solution here is to stop “packing” – that is filling vacancies – by reverse packing while decrying packing that is not happening. We could not make this stuff up; the GOP has exceeded our wildest imaginations of hypocrisy and inconsistency.
Lest you think that this is just all fair in the art of politics, and that the Democrats do the same thing when they control the Senate when a Republican is in the Oval Office, think again. Sure, every politician makes statements that they either retract later or ignore while doing the opposite. That is par for the course – and not what I’m talking about. In the important case of judicial nominations, you cannot paint a picture of the Democrats exercising the same levels of pure hypocrisy as the GOP. The raw statistics paint a clear picture of a gross imbalance of excessive partisanship owned by conservatives. When Clinton was president, Republicans confirmed on average only 79% of his nominees to various courts (82% to the district court; 68% to the circuit court). With Obama to date Republicans have approved on average an outrageous 76% of the president’s nominees (77% to the district court; 71% to the circuit court). Now compare those numbers to the nominees approved by Democrats when Bush was president: an average of 91% approval (with 94% for the district court and 94% for the circuit court). The pattern is clear: it is perfectly acceptable to block a judicial nominee if the president is a Democrat; but an affront to everything American to block a nominee if the president is a Republican.
In fact, GOP obstruction of Obama’s judicial nominees is “the highest that’s ever been recorded” as measured by the metric of the Index of Obstruction and Delay, a scale developed by a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Sheldon Goldman. Dr. Goldman concludes that the obstruction facing Obama is truly unprecedented in our history. For comparison: the index for Obama’s circuit court nominations is 0.9524; the index for Bush nominations to that court is 0.6176 – in the 108th Congress when Democrats controlled the Senate. So while both Republicans and Democrats naturally engage in partisanship, the scales are not remotely close to even.
Why is there not more outrage about this? I propose that the rational world is suffering from a form of PTSD in the face of the relentless Republican attack on reason and fact. We are collectively shell shocked by the absurd claims of the Tea Party, the deep hypocrisy of the right wing, and the GOP’s never-ending assault on the truth. We are numbed by the ceaseless bombardment of right wing crazy.
We have become adapted to the noise of false claims by suppressing our outrage; so we hear little about GOP inconsistency with nearly all things Obama, blaming him for all of our ills and giving him credit for no advances or successes. I recently wrote about the specific case of gas prices; but we see it too with the killing of bin Laden. Cheney wants credit, seriously, while falsely claiming Obama sought to took sole credit. Here is Cheney bizarrely accusing the president: “If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden.” Here is what Obama actually said in announcing the bin Laden’s death:
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice. We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
From these words, Cheney’s sick mind, reflecting the GOP’s general inability to credit Obama with anything, got the idea of Obama taking sole credit. It makes one’s head pound with pain.
We see this horrible imbalance with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea, with DADT, with the rescue of the auto industry, saving the world from a deep global depression, saving Wall Street and the U.S. banking system. In each case any advance is dismissed or ignored and any setback is proof of Obama’s incompetence or worse. Does anyone have any doubt, even the slightest, about what would be the GOP’s reaction if the DOW were tanking instead of setting new record highs? If the DOW were low now, we know absolutely that the GOP would be screaming that Obama is anti-business; that his regulatory policies were a drag on the economy; and that his Communist tendencies made him hate Capitalism. If you still harbor doubts, allow me to remind you of a few headlines just five weeks after Obama assumed office:
• Bloomberg.com (March 6): “Obama Bear Market Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps.” In this article the claim is further advanced with, “President Barack Obama now has the distinction of presiding over his own bear market.”
• Wall Street Journal (March 6): “Obama’s Radicalism is Killing the Dow.” Author Michael Boskin prognosticates that, “It’s hard not to see the continued sell-off on Wall Street and the growing fear on Main Street as a product, at least in part, of the realization that our new president’s policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy, not just mitigate the recession and financial crisis.”
• Perhaps most astonishing of all, on November 25, 2008, John Tanny of Real Clear Markets, wrote an article entitled, “This Is Obama’s Market, Good and Bad.” Obama was not yet president!
We hear from none of these folks as the DOW closes close to 16,000. Where is the headline, “President Barack Obama now has the distinction of presiding over his own bull market”? Where? Nowhere to be seen.
We have become inured to the GOP’s onslaught of prevarication, blatant falsehoods, and outright deceit. The GOP’s malleable doctrines, flexible morality, and chameleon-like ethos create a bizarre world of fantasy untethered to reality, unbalanced by principle, and unconnected to most Americans. The GOP has attacked our sense of decency; politics are no longer fought on the grounds of principled differences but instead on the battlefield of right-wing extremism. We can do better. We deserve better. We can only hope the current turmoil within the GOP will ultimately yield a political party better than the abomination it has become.
|The Massive Republican Campaign to Sabotage the Affordable Care Act
We’re entering a bizarre end-of-the-year edition of Silly Season in which the news media is laser-focused on the wrong things. As stories about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act begin to dissipate, it looks like we’ve segued into an especially nonsensical “MSNBC Anchor Wants to Poop in Palin’s Mouth” meets “Wacky Toronto Mayor Does Wacky Stuff” news cycle.Lost in the mix, of course, is the ongoing far-right effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.
I’m not talking about the myths and propaganda — the “death panel” nonsense and the like. This is serious business: the well-financed, broadly implemented sabotage campaign designed to rig the law for failure, while also making it more difficult for Americans to receive insurance.
Sabotaging the Website
We’ve known for quite some time that most Republican governors refused to open health insurance exchanges in their states. 27 states don’t have exchanges and therefore uninsured residents are shuffled over to the Healthcare.gov website to buy a policy.
However, earlier this month, we learned that Republican Party leadership directly urged those governors not to do it — chiefly to burden the federal exchange with a heavier load.
Worse yet, the ACA contained zero funding for the development and implementation of the site, and there’s no way the congressional Republicans would ever authorize more money for it. It’s unclear why the federal exchange was unfunded in the law, but one thing’s for sure, a House of Representatives that voted 46 times to totally repeal the law wouldn’t have coughed up a dime to rectify the oversight.
So, what happened? A cash-starved Healthcare.gov development process, which precipitated serious glitches when October 1 rolled around — problems that should never have occurred.
And those glitches might’ve been exacerbated when right-wing hacktivists reportedly conducted “denial of service” attacks against Healthcare.gov — deliberate attempts to overwhelm the website’s servers. CNN reported on Monday:
Hackers have attempted more than a dozen cyber attacks against the Obamacare website, according to a top Homeland Security Department official. The attacks, which are under investigation, failed, said the official.
Authorities also are investigating a separate report of a tool designed to put heavy strain on HealthCare.gov through a so-called distributed denial of service. It does not appear to have been activated.
Sabotaging the Medicaid Expansion
Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles and David Koch, launched advertising campaigns to strong-arm state lawmakers to block the expansion Medicaid in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Once again, in the 26 states that blocked the Medicaid expansion, we’re left with five to eight million people who are consequently unable to afford exchange policies but who also make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
In Alaska yesterday, Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, obviously, rejected the Medicaid expansion thus denying health insurance to 40,000 Alaskans. Parnell said, “I believe a costly Medicaid expansion especially on top of the broken Obamacare system is a hot mess.”
That’s a lie. Fact: the federal government pays the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion for 2014 through 2016. The states pay nothing. So it’s not costly at all. In fact, it’s free for the first three years.
What happens when the expansion is blocked throughout more than half the nation? Potentially millions of pissed-off working class Americans due to what’s perceived as punitively expensive Obamacare premiums — premiums that are only too expensive because Republican governors blocked the Medicaid expansion.
Sabotaging ACA Marketplace Enrollment
Speaking of the Koch brothers and Alaska, a group called Foundation for Government Accountability launched a campaign to convince Alaskans to deliberately not buy insurance policies in order to undermine ACA enrollment goals, and, naturally, to express their self-defeating hatred of President Obama. Smart.
A pair of websites, along with accompanying Facebook pages, were launched back in September: dontenrollalaska.org and knowthefactsalaska.org. And go figure:
Based in Naples, Fla., the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that “promotes public policies that achieve limited, constitutional government and a robust economy that will be an engine for job creation across the states.” One of the foundation’s directors is Robert Levy, the chairman of the board of the Cato Institute, the Washington, D.C. think tank with a long and complicated relationship with the Koch brothers.
Yep. All roads lead back to the Kochs.
There’s something especially visceral and sinister about well-protected billionaires telling middle class Americans to go without health insurance in order to, you know, kick Obama in nuts.
At the end of the day, if not enough people enroll in the exchanges, the law entirely falls apart. Combined with everything else, that’s sabotage, plain and simple, while the Koch brothers can rest assured knowing they’ll never be without quality healthcare, so screw it. Let fly. After all, the traditional press won’t really cover it with the same hard-nippled vigor with which they’ve covered the buggy website, or with which they’ve almost universally blamed the low enrollment numbers on the president.
For that, much of the press is an active, though not entirely knowing conspirator in the sabotage plot. And there’s no indication any of it will change any time soon.
|R.I.P. Republican Credibility: Why their latest blatant lies show they’ve given up
We’ve long argued that the Republican Party is no longer a legitimate governing party. Never mind whether we agree with them on any particular policy issue, they are simply no longer a serious organization.That fact was underscored again this week and over the weekend, in light of the release of two different official reports, one from the U.S. State Department on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project and another from the Congressional Budget Office on the economic outlook in light of the Affordable Care Act.
Never mind whether you agree with the Republican position on either of those two policies. The fact that the party feels it necessary to blatantly lie about what’s in each of those reports, specifically with regard to “job creation,” in order to advocate for their own policy positions, underscores yet again that these are simply not serious people are worth being taken seriously anymore …
Keystone XL Jobs Lie
After years of claims by Republicans that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would “create tens of thousands of jobs,” we now have some hard numbers on that, at least from the U.S. State Department, if you choose to believe them.
Last year, while pushing for the KXL, House Speaker John Boehner released a statement claiming that the pipeline “will create over 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs.” On Friday, as the State Department released its “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” on the project, Boehner once again released a statement reiterating his previous claim that the pipeline would bring “more than 100,000 jobs.”
The trouble is, that’s not true. At least according to the actual State Department report, which was the occasion for Boehner’s Friday statement.
The report is long and in many pieces, so, naturally, it’d be too much to ask of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or anybody in his office to actually read it before issuing a statement about it. Nonetheless, it comes with a reasonably brief Executive Summary [PDF] (just 44 pages) in which it speaks directly to the issue of jobs in relation to KXL.
In the section on “Economic Activity During Construction” (page 26), the report estimates that “Construction spending would support a combined total of approximately 42,100 jobs throughout the United States for the up to 2-year construction period.”
That sounds pretty good! Until one bothers to keep reading. “A job consists of one position that is filled for one year. The term support means jobs ranging from new jobs (i.e., not previously existing) to the continuity of existing jobs in current or new locations.”
Approximately 16,100 of those temporary jobs would be “direct jobs at firms that are awarded contracts for goods and services, including construction” and the rest, “approximately 26,000,” would be the result of “indirect or induced spending.” In other words, that would be “goods and services purchased by the construction contractors and spending by employees working for either the construction contractor or for any supplier of goods and services required in the construction process.”
So, in addition to people who work for suppliers (where they may already be employed prior to the approval of KXL), people who work at restaurants or motels near the construction site or for any of the suppliers, also count as “jobs” in this estimate. For example, the report cites “ranchers providing beef for restaurants and construction camps.”
Fair enough. Two years of jobs for those folks, many of whom will be able to continue working in the jobs they already have (so those jobs are not “created,” per se, by the construction of the pipeline.)
After it’s built, however, either one or two years later, according to the very next section of the Executive Summary titled “Economic Activity During Operations,” the report states quite clearly [emphasis added]:
Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.
That’s it. The Keystone XL Pipeline will offer 35 permanent jobs in the U.S. for the life of the pipeline, according to the U.S. State Department’s final analysis.
That’s a far cry from Boehner’s claim on Friday, after the report came out, that KXL would bring “more than 100,000 jobs … with it.”
Of course, Boehner’s hardly the only one in the Republican Party disingenuously making such unsupported claims about KXL. Last year, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus took to Facebook to claim that “The Keystone Pipeline would create thousands of jobs.” Last week, he took to Twitter to claim that “721,000 construction jobs have been lost, #Keystone remains unapproved.”
Perhaps Priebus was referring to something other than Keystone with that 721,000 number — it’s unclear from his tweet — but if his message was unclear, that would be no accident. His quarter of a million followers on Twitter heard it loud and clear. He, like Boehner, was willing to lie to them in order to advocate for the pipeline — a pipeline that would result in 35 permanent American jobs.
Again, whether you support or oppose the pipeline doesn’t really matter. Whether you feel temporary jobs are good enough, that’s fine. But knowingly lying about the jobs that it will or won’t “create” is what we find grotesquely offensive here.
Obamacare Jobs Lie
As usual, Fox “News” led the charge on behalf of Republican officials (who repeated the lie all day), claiming that “ObamaCare could lead to loss of nearly 2.3 million US jobs, report says.”
For the record, other non-right-wing outlets also badly mischaracterized the report. The Republicans were very happy about that, and couldn’t be bothered to correct the error.
No, the CBO did not claim Obamacare will lead to the loss of either 2.3 million or 2.5 million jobs, as the Republicans lied all day on Tuesday.
As the Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler explained in awarding three out of four “Pinocchios” to those who deliberately mislead about the CBO’s projection on ACA-related employment numbers, “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs.”
“This is not about jobs,” Kessler explains. “It’s about workers — and the choices they make.”
Here’s what all the nonsense is about. Buried on page 123 of the 182-page CBO report, it states: “CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.”
In other words, because premium subsidies and other incentives will be available, some workers will eventually be able to choose to not continue working, simply because they need the healthcare coverage afforded by their employment.
“Specifically, CBO estimates that the ACA will cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017–2024 period, compared with what it would have been otherwise,” the report says. “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment.”
As White House spokesman Jay Carney explained after the report was released on Tuesday: “At the beginning of this year, we noted that as part of this new day in health care, Americans would no longer be trapped in a job just to provide coverage for their families, and would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” he said. “This CBO report bears that out, and the Republican plan to repeal the ACA would strip those hard-working Americans of that opportunity.”
This is about people choosing to not work as long in life or as many hours. (Moreover, those jobs could then become available to others still seeking more work.) In short, the CBO’s numbers were not about the loss of jobs, at all. It’s really not all that complicated, unless you’d like to lie to the American people about it.
Now, you are welcome to disagree with the CBO numbers, or Carney’s or Kessler’s or our interpretation of them. (As usual, you don’t need to simply trust us. We’ve given you the links to the actual reports. Read them and decide for yourself.) You are welcome to think it’s an outrage that people might choose to work less when they are ill, because they don’t have to keep working in order to pay for healthcare. You are welcome to hate Obamacare all you like and demand its complete repeal, just as you are welcome to call for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, if you like the idea of shipping the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel product across a continent of drinking water in order to ship gas to China.
But when you’ve got to lie, repeatedly, about demonstrable, independently verifiable facts, then you are not a legitimate advocate that deserves to be taken seriously.
The Republican Party has given up on advocating seriously for whatever policy positions they believe in. They are far past that, and have now simply taken to lying in hopes of scamming Americans into voting for them and buying into their policies.
That is not the earmark of a serious policymaking organization, and it is for that reason that we — sadly — no longer regard the Republican Party as a legitimate political body.
That’s not good for America or for Democrats, for that matter. But it just happens to be the sad truth.
Investigative journalist and broadcaster Brad Friedman is the creator and publisher of The BRAD Blog. He has contributed to Mother Jones, The Guardian, Truthout, Huffington Post, The Trial Lawyer magazine and Editor & Publisher.