Right now, Republicans are thrilled with themselves.
In 2013, they prevented both gun safety and immigration reforms, while enjoying the adrenaline rush of holding the economy hostage and actually shutting down the government for 16 days.
And because HealthCare.gov got off to such a craptastic start, they’re currently poised to keep their House majority, which they were able to retain in 2012 even though their nominees received more than a million fewer votes than Democratic candidates.
So what’s this merry band of total bummers planning for 2014? More of the same.
Here are five New Year’s resolutions you can be sure the GOP will do its best to keep.
1. Cut 1.3 million people off unemployment insurance.
Congress has extended unemployment insurance benefits more than a half-dozen times since the 1950s, and it has never cut them off when the long-term unemployment rate was higher than 1.3 percent. It is currently 2.6 percent and Republicans in both chambers are refusing to extend the emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed that first went into effect ion when the Great Recession began, even though George W. Bush extended emergency benefits multiple times. Even in nearly every Republican-held swing district, a majority of the public wants these benefits extended. But the Republican mania to cut the deficit, even though it has been cut in half, continues.
For some Republicans — like Senator Rand Raul (R-KY) — cutting off those who can’t find work when there are two applicants for each open job is doing them a favor. But there’s no evidence that backs up that cruel claim.
2. Deny five million of the hardest-working Americans health insurance.
Medicaid expansion was designed to help those who work but earn too much to qualify for basic Medicaid. This encourages Americans to rise out of poverty and is the closest thing to a “public option” in Obamacare. Thanks to the Supreme Court, states can opt out of the program — even though the government covers 100 percent of the costs at first and 90 percent in perpetuity — at any time. And 25 Republican-led states have done just that, leaving nearly five million in a “coverage gap” where they cannot afford any coverage.
They’re doing this knowing they’re denying billions of dollars that would grow their states’ economies, driving up the cost of insurance in their marketplaces and endangering the lives of 27,000 residents in the process.
3. Try to cancel millions of Americans’ health insurance.
Republicans are just as committed to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act now as they were before their failed attempt to defund it by forcing a government shutdown. Any GOP candidate who suggests that we should simply fix the health care law instead of completely ripping its existence from the fabric of history is forced to retract the statement and repent. The problem for Republicans now is that repeal is no longer theoretical. Repeal now means canceling the coverage of the three million young adults on their parents’ plans, the more than three million people who have signed up for Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the at least one million people who have selected paid private plans through the health care exchanges.
Savvy Republicans who recognize this may not be the smartest move could simply try to repeal the individual mandate, the least popular part of the law. Then they’ll be arguing to raise the rates of millions of Americans by as much as 27 percent. while leaving millions more uninsured.
4. Continue to demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits without asking the rich or corporations to give up any tax breaks.
There’s a simple way to solve the Social Security “crisis.” First, admit that there isn’t a crisis. The program is fully funded for decades (and would be funded even longer if we passed immigration reform). Then either raise the cap on the payroll tax or tax millionaires slightly more to keep America’s greatest poverty-reducing program funded forever.
Medicare is a bit more complex.
President Obama has proposed reforms to the program, which would instantly be more viable with simple progressive fixes like negotiating for drugs the way the Veterans Administration does for its health care plan. But making cuts to Medicare benefits right now would be reckless given that the reforms to the program in the Affordable Care Act have shrunk the growth of costs over the past year to zero percent — yes, zero. If this trend continues, we’ll have essentially eliminated our entire long-term debt problem. Still, many Republicans demand cuts to benefits, asking America’s seniors to pay more while refusing to give up the massive tax breaks we give to millionaire investors, owners of second homes and corporations that offshore jobs.
The budget deal forged at the end of the year will likely delay any cuts for two years. But you can be sure that Republican candidates for Congress will campaign for “entitlement cuts” in 2014. And instead of asking the richest to pay more, most will be touting “tax reform” that will ask them to pay even less.
5. Show up for work even less often than they did in 2013.
The House of Representatives was only in session for 126 days in 2013, leading to the least productive American Congress in recorded history. How will the Republican leadership top itself in 2014? By working even less.
Just 113 days of work await members of the House in 2014, a reduction of about 9 percent, which is coincidentally nearly identical to Congress’ approval rating.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr