Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

5 Ways Republicans Could Still Lose The House

cruzandpalin

This should be the Republicans’ year.

Democrats need to defend 20 U.S. Senate seats, seven of which are in states Mitt Romney won, even as he lost to President Obama by nearly 5 million votes. The GOP only needs to win six of those seats to take control of the upper house of Congress.

In 2012, the party of Romney underperformed its presidential nominee by more than 6 million. Republican House candidates took in 1.4 million fewer votes than Democrats. But thanks to redistricting and the way Americans tend to gerrymander themselves, the GOP kept a large majority in the House.

For a while last year, it seemed possible that the “Suicide Caucus” in the House could lead Republicans down such a far-right path that they could threaten their majority.  After a 16-day government shutdown that sent the party’s disapproval ratings to all-time highs, Democratic groups were releasing polls showing that a House takeover was possible. However, as the problems with HealthCare.gov rolled into the second month and the gap in the news left by the government reopening was filled with cancelation stories — that often turned out to be badly reported or bogus — that storyline quickly withered.

Since November, the story has been that Democrats would need a miracle to keep the Senate. Yet recently polls have shown again and again that the Senate is a pure toss-up. Republicans trail slightly in the generic ballot polls and President Obama’s approval rating has been edging back toward 50 percent. And in states where Republicans thought they would have easy Senate pickups — like Arkansas, Alaska and North Carolina — the Democratic incumbents are still leading in the polls.

Democrats — with the right breaks and get-out-the-vote efforts —  could easily keep the Senate.

But for the sake of argument, let’s indulge in a little speculation — some might call it “fan fiction.” Here are five things that could magically align to radically transform the political landscape and give President Obama a friendly House for his last two years as president.

Screenshot via Senator Ted Cruz YouTube channel

#Benghazi Backfire

Media Ignoring Benghazi

Republicans gave in to their base and decided to go full #Benghazi, even after several committees haven’t been able to discover anything more than former UN Ambassador Susan Rice having used talking points the weekend after the attack that may not have been correct… with the qualification that it was the best information available at the time.

Republicans clearly have impeachment on their collective mind. The specter of the party that misled us into Iraq impeaching a president over bad talking points could be too much for Americans to bear.

The prospect of overreach even spooks GOP leaders, according to The Daily Beast.

Job Creation Speeds Up

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 1.00.42 PM

Job creation is now at a six-year high, according to Gallup. The number of jobs small businesses cannot fill has not been this high since 2008. And there are signs that the job market may actually be healing to its pre-Bush-crisis strength.

A booming economy gave Ronald Reagan a massive landslide in 1984, but it still wasn’t enough for Republicans to take the House. However, after five years of screaming that Obamacare is a job killer, how would the GOP explain that full implementation has led to the best year of job creation since at least 1999?

Voters Take Revenge

Medicaid expansion

What happens when you deny 4.8 million Americans health insurance that your state has to pay for anyway?

We have no idea. It’s never happened before.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, 24 Republican-led states have blocked Medicaid expansion — even though the federal government has made deals with two other Republican-led states, Arkansas and Michigan, to expand in a conservative-friendly way.

We now know that health insurance has saved lives as implemented in Romneycare. What if millions of pissed-off voters denied health insurance showed up at the polls to punish Republicans for becoming a leading cause of preventable death?

Those being denied Medicaid expansion aren’t the only Americans suffering as a direct result of GOP policy. Even though they helped George W. Bush extend emergency unemployment insurance five times, House Republicans refuse to even vote on a paid-for bill to extend emergency benefits. The long-term unemployed are still in a recession, if not a depression, with their prospects of gaining employment remaining stubbornly low.

Thanks to GOP inaction, more than 2 million unemployed people who are looking for jobs have lost their only income and 72,000 more lose it every week. If they voted as a bloc, maybe Republicans would finally listen to them.

And don’t forget the ladies.

Democrats still have much of the gender-gap advantage they had in 2012. What happens if the Supreme Court rules Hobby Lobby does get to decide which birth control methods its employees should be allowed to use? Could Republican celebration of such a decision reignite the “War on Women”?

A Real GOP Civil War

immigration tea party

Rumors of a GOP civil war are always exaggerated. The differences between most Tea Partiers and Republicans have much more to do with tactics than policy.

On immigration reform, most Republicans and Tea Partiers support at least some legalization when polled. However, the voices against “amnesty” are loud — and trained in how to drown out their opposition.

Imagine, if you will, that going full #Benghazi is just a way to appease the base while Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) prepares to pass immigration bills, as he’s been vowing to do for a year. The Chamber of Commerce, a massive Republican donor, is basically demanding that this happen so the issue doesn’t explode in the party’s face during the presidential primary as it did in 2012, sending the GOP hurtling toward a demographic cliff.

Let’s say something, anything, that could be called “amnesty” passes as the #Benghazi hearings result in nothing but retreads of the half-dozen other investigations.

GOP enthusiasm, which is currently higher than Democratic enthusiasm but much lower than previous years, nosedives. Perhaps even some Tea Party leaders call for a boycott of the November election?

Is this likely? Maybe not. But after five years of nurturing a subculture of uncompromising rebellion, it’s not hard to imagine.

Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Seniors Revolt

Grandma-CGM

Polls suggest that Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) has built a lead over his opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), whom Republicans describe as a “top recruit,” by focusing on the Republican House member’s repeated votes for the Ryan budget, which privatizes much of Medicare.

In a speech on Tuesday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed support for Ryan’s voucher plan for Medicare. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) had introduced a budget that would immediately privatize both Medicare and Social Security — to “save” them, of course.

Strangely, the plans like those from Ryan, Rubio and Paul that “save” Medicare and Social Security tend to be paired with plans to cut taxes on millionaires and billionaires.

At some point seniors may see that Republicans are serious about breaking the promises to older Americans in order to “save” the richest, who have never been richer, billions of dollars.

And if the nation’s most reliable voters turn against the GOP, the demographic time bomb they fear in the future may go off right underneath their feet.

Rand Paul Can Try To Be His Party’s Bill Clinton, But He’ll Never Be President

This post originally appeared at Eclectablog.com.

Rand Paul continues to fling any turd he can find at the Clintons for pretty obvious reasons.

The first-term senator from Kentucky has to do something to show the GOP establishment he can be competitive in a general election, and he’s trying to keep the former president out of his home state’s Senate race so that Rand didn’t sell out to Mitch McConnell for nothing.

There’s no doubt that the younger Paul is a savvy tactician. The proof of this is that he’s ironically trying to follow Bill Clinton’s path to the presidency by staking out a series of “Sister Soulja moment“-like strategic breaks from his party.

Last week, he noted that the GOP’s repulsive attempts to stop minorities from voting are “offending” people. Paul was the first Republican to call out Ted Nugent’s “sub-human mongrel” slurs against President Obama. And he’s built lots of credibility with civil libertarians on the right and left by focusing on “drones,” which has become a code word for “civilian casualties,” which happen to be down under this president, along with military casualties and wars.

Though Paul’s own drone stance is complicated by the fact he thinks it’s cool for a drone to take out an American suspected of robbing a liquor store, his non-interventionist tendencies and willingness to negotiate with Iran do all Americans a favor, providing a hedge against the far right’s recent destructive tendencies toward war.

These anti-war stands will also lead to a deluge of attacks funded by hundreds of millions of dollars should he become competitive in the 2016 Republican primary, which has been designed to give Jeb Bush the nomination, should Jeb want it.

However, these stands are not why Paul will never be president. America is as nearly non-interventionist as he is these days. His Aqua-Buddha past and support for ending some of the drug war have seeped into the mainstream, too. Rand probably can even get away with a dad whose “institute” publishes the work of 9/11 truthers.

What voters won’t tolerate are Rand Paul’s key actual policies:

Bill Clinton’s strategy was to make the Democratic Party appear more moderate. Rand Paul gets that rhetorically, perhaps.

But single women aren’t going to elect a president who would appoint Supreme Court justices who believe a fertilized egg has 14th Amendment rights. The middle class and seniors aren’t going to trade the Medicare promise for more tax breaks for millionaires. One decent comment on voter ID isn’t going to erase Paul’s opposition to immigration reform — just as one trip to Detroit won’t make him an “inner city” hero.

The usual caveats apply. The economy could go bust or we could find out that #Benghazi is worse than Iraq, 9/11, Watergate, Iran/Contra, Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy combined.

But Democrats have a natural advantage in 2016, and Rand Paul would take that advantage and put it on steroids.

UPDATE: In a statement to Slate‘s Dave Weigel, Rand Paul’s Super PAC director backed off the senator’s criticisms of voter ID laws: “At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws. In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue.” 

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

5 Reasons It’s Time For The GOP To Dump Sarah Palin And The Tea Party

Ted Cruz Sarah Palin

Conservative columnist Matt Lewis seems relieved.

“We may have finally reached a tipping point: Conservatives, it seems, are finally safe to criticize Sarah Palin (without fear of being written out of the movement, that is),” he wrote on Tuesday.

A flurry of criticism from the right has swarmed around the one-time Republican nominee for vice president since she used her platform at the National Rifle Association’s national convention to defend waterboarding and “comically” compare torture to the Christian rite of baptism.

Most Republicans understand that the former governor of Alaska will never run for elected political office again. Her meddling in primaries has cost the party Senate seats and her star seems to be on the wane even among the devoted who made her book about the fictional War on Christmas a bestseller.

Mrs. Palin became the face of the Tea Party in 2009 and personifies the kind of intolerant nonsense and willful graft that the movement is prone to at its worst. Now that it’s safe for Republicans to point out that Palin hurts more than she helps, the party should use this moment to cast aside the grifters who turned their party’s once-savvy rebranding scheme into a clown show that typifies what many Americans hate about the far right.

Here are five reasons it’s time for Palin and the Tea Party to go.

Photo: Ted Cruz via Flickr

The Scam Is On Republican Donors

Tea Party I'll Remember In November

The Tea Party that was pushed by Fox News in 2009 led to the creation of thousands of organizations that took ownership of the brand. Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Patriots were two of the largest.

Last weekend, the suspicion of many appeared to be confirmed: “A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national Tea Party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed,” the Post‘s Matea Gold wrote.

Red State’s Tea Partier-in-Chief Erick Erickson defended his fellow fundraisers, pointing out that “71 percent of the money it spent went to its non-electioneering operations. That looks terrible. But it is not.”

Erickson often pontificates about how much primaries matter. So if he’s happy with where the money is being spent, why are the results in the primaries looking so miserable for his movement?

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Tea Party Candidates Are Getting Crushed

bevin

Businessman Matt Bevin has a simple case in his Republican primary: He’s polling better against his likely Democratic opponent than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Despite this, Bevin is getting crushed by double digits and was caught dissembling about an event he attended supporting cockfighting.

Ex-shock jock Chris McDaniel is being similarly clobbered in his attempt to primary Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS). And the Tea Party hasn’t been able to find a candidate who can beat its least favorite RINO, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-#Benghazi).

Tea Partiers will point to Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who both beat establishment Republicans to win seats the GOP would have won anyway. But Cruz worked in the Bush administration and Paul inherited his dad’s movement.

The Tea Party’s chief accomplishment thus far is helping Democrats keep the Senate. This year they’ll be shut out in the primaries before they can do that again.

Photo: Matt Bevin for Senate

Its Outrage Machine Dooms The Party

immigration reduction tea party

If Republicans don’t pass any sort of immigration reform this year, the issue becomes absorbed in presidential politics.

Mitt Romney regretted the self-deportation stand he took to beat Rick Perry. How will the next GOP nominee feel about endorsing mass deportations as the Latino vote becomes even more essential?

Tea Partiers punch above their weight. They know the numbers to call and the buttons to push to scare Republican politicians, especially when it comes to immigration reform.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) knows some reform needs to get done and that Latino voters who supported President Obama by 70 percent aren’t going to accept the GOP’s plan to blame the White House for reform’s failure. He also knows that the polls say reform won’t hurt his party at the polls this year and it will likely help in 2016.

The question is whether can he ignore his party’s loudest voices to do it.

Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Voters Are Tired Of It

cruzandpalin

The 2014 election was made for Tea Party economics, but each successive election finds the electorate more and more opposed to policies that leave the middle class to fend for itself.

The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent explains:

The GOP’s stance on many economic issues seems to remain in thrall to the basic Tea Party economic worldview, which holds that a leading problem in American life is excessive downward redistribution of wealth, unfairly penalizing hard work and discouraging investment by job creators while government aid traps people in dependency.

Some national polls show broad disagreement with this basic worldview. Pew found that a majority favors taxing the rich to fund programs for the poor, and a plurality of Americans think government aid to the poor does more good than harm. CBS found that Americans disagree with the idea that unemployment insurance makes you less motivated to look for work by 54-42. In those cases independents sided with the public at large.

Republican economics is Tea Party economics. But the frame of rigidly siding with the rich is a loser for the party, given the way the American people’s views are evolving, which leads us to the real reason the Tea Party is no longer necessary for the GOP…

Screenshot via Senator Ted Cruz YouTube channel

The Establishment Has Won

George W. Bush

The dirty secret of the Tea Party is that it’s always been just another way to label the party’s base, a base embarrassed to identify with the GOP after eight years of George W. Bush.

While some will credit the Tea Party with making the party more insistent on spending cuts and less driven toward war, those claims are ridiculous. Republicans were driven to cut spending after the Contract for America in 1994, and the entire “anti-war” wing of the party is pretty much made up of three elected officials — namely Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Senator Paul. Republicans abided them and opposed intervention in Syria for a simple reason — it was a way to oppose Obama.

Amash and Jones face a primary challenges from the establishment, while the wave of scary Tea Party primary challenges to House members always promised has not materialized.

Tea Partiers may be losing primaries but their extreme policies have been appropriated by Republicans when convenient, and ignored when it’s time to keep the government open.

The Tea Party brand is less popular than the GOP’s. So why should a party that’s united in its agenda to cut taxes, spending and regulation (except for marriage and reproduction) pretend that it’s actually divided?

Unless they’re just trying to make a buck.

5 Reasons The U.S. Deficit Has Fallen By Nearly $5 Trillion (And Why That’s A Bad Thing)

3-19-14bud-f2

This year’s deficit will likely be $514 billion, down about a quarter from last year’s deficit of $680 billion, which was down by more than a third from the year before.

“Since 2010, projected 10-year deficits over the 2015-2024 decade have shrunk by almost $5.0 trillion, $4.1 trillion of which is due to four pieces of legislation enacted in the intervening years,” Richard Kogan and William Chen write in a new report for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

So — despite the fact that most Republicans think it’s still growing — America’s budget deficit has been reduced by two-thirds from the $1.6 trillion cost overrun President Obama inherited in 2009.

This is supposed to be good news. Centrists laud deficit reduction as if it were the only worthy goal of a government. While the improved budget outlook in the near-term has helped President Obama avoid the sort of debt limit standoff that nearly created another financial crisis in 2011, government policy is hurting the recovery and inflicting long-term damage on the economy.

Here are five reasons the deficit is falling in a way that’s hurting America’s long-term prospects.

We’ve Cut — A Lot

140123150440-percentage-of-gdp-620xa

As we’ve tried to recover from the financial crisis, progressives have argued that the government needs to spend when the private sector cannot or is unwilling to. The left briefly won this argument with the stimulus, which was largely mitigated by cuts at the state and local levels. Since then, the conservative argument that immediate cuts would help prevent a debt disaster has prevailed, CNN Money‘s Jeanne Sahadi explains:

At its height in 2010, “discretionary spending” under Obama reached 9.1 percent of GDP. That was largely due to the stimulus law intended to dig the country out of a deep recession. But even at that high level, it wasn’t that much higher than the 40-year average of 8.4 percent and was still below the 40-year peak of 10 percent reached in 1983.

Today, levels are well below the long-term average. And the Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2023 discretionary spending will fall to 5.3 percent of GDP, the lowest since 1962.

We Raised Taxes — A Bit

3-19-14bud-f1

While conservatives pursued a policy of only cutting spending, Democrats insisted that any deficit reduction should include new tax revenues by ending tax breaks for the rich and corporations. The combination of cutting spending and raising taxes is called austerity, and it’s the exact same policy Herbert Hoover pursued as the Great Depression began. It’s also the strategy that’s been widely used across Europe.

President Obama made a deal at the end of 2010 to extend the Bush tax breaks through 2012. The next year, he agreed to deficit reduction that resulted in the sequester that didn’t kick in until 2013. This effectively slowed the implementation of austerity, which is now in full effect in America.

The delay resulted in this country enjoying the best recovery of any nation that suffered a banking crisis in 2008.

Bic589wCcAEQCTA.png-large

Still, most of our deficit reduction — three-fourths — comes from reducing spending on programs that disproportionately benefit the poor. The other one-fourth comes from the richest, who have enjoyed 95 percent of the benefit of the recovery.

Growth Is Picking Up — But Not As Much As It Should Be

 

By starving the economy of the government spending that generally helps kickstart a recovery, growth continues to be tepid. The lack of demand in turn results in corporate America sitting on a record amount of cash assets both domestically and abroad.

“Corporations hold liquid assets equal to all the money the federal government spent in 2013, 2012 and three months of 2011,” David Cay Johnston reported in Al-Jazeera America.

Why are they hoarding? Because in the absence of consumers being willing to spend, companies are trying to make a profit on their taxes, Johnston argues.

The Deficit Will Still Rise By The End Of The Decade

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 3.11.10 PMAs Baby Boomer retirement reaches its peak at the end of the decade, the deficit will rise again. This is because though lots of cuts have been made to the federal budget, few reforms actually touch the long-term drivers of the deficit — except Obamacare.

The reforms to Obamacare alone have the potential to put a dent in our long-term debt problem. In fact, if Medicare growth continues to slow at the pace it has since the Affordable Care Act became law, our long-term debt problem is essentially solved.

However, if the deficit swells, as the Congressional Budget Office expects it to by 2019, the pressure to make even more cuts to a government that’s already cut to the bone will be immense. Of course, there are less painful reforms that can be implemented now to avoid this expected crisis, including comprehensive immigration reform and reforms to Medicare that do not affect benefits.

But as much as Republicans say they care about the deficit, they are not willing to raise one dime in taxes to make a deal to cut it.

We May Never Recover From Underinvestment

121213krugman1-blog480

The lingering underperfomance of the economy (starved of government spending, as you can see from Paul Krugman’s chart above) can be measured in multiple ways, but 6 million missing workers is probably the clearest metric.

Republicans in Congress are adding to the number of Americans out of work by letting the unemployment rate rise as much as .5 percent when they let emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed expire. Cuts to medical research inhibit long-term innovation, competition and development of new treatments. Kids being kicked off Headstart costs parents while denying kids the long-term benefits of the program.

Worst of all, we’re missing incredible opportunity to invest in our crumbling infrastructure as interest rates are near zero and millions of Americans are out of work.

Republicans campaigned and won on their vision of cutting spending in the midst of an unemployment crisis in 2010. The effects of that victory linger on lost opportunity and a future where even more senseless cuts will be necessary.

5 Ways The GOP Refuses To Learn From History

Bh0rG-xCYAAmXKT

It’s not entirely their fault.

The 2014 map looks as if it were designed to make sure the GOP does not change. With a House majority they maintained in 2012 even though they won 1.4 million fewer votes than Democrats and as many as 11 chances to pick up the six Senate seats they’d need to control the upper house, Republicans are almost guaranteed to make gains in November.

Yet they “could make those gains without addressing any of the cultural barriers that confront them in presidential contests, which draw a larger, younger, and more diverse electorate,” the National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein wrote.

Again and again, Republicans continue to repeat the mistakes that cost them the 2012 election and could cost them again in 2016 — if Democrats can deploy the remarkable coalition that President Obama has mobilized in the last two presidential elections.

Here are five ways the GOP is showing it refuses to learn from its mistakes.

The Bush Family

George W. Bush

Liz Cheney’s foolish attempt to primary a conservative U.S. senator in Wyoming crashed and burned in just a few months. But the Bush family is still riding high in Republican politics.

George P. Bush won the GOP nomination in Texas for Land Commissioner on Tuesday, which is clearly a stepping stone for higher political office. And Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, is being talked about as the business community’s replacement for scandal-ridden Chris Christie.

“If Jeb Bush is in the race, he clears the field,” one major Mitt Romney donor recently told The Washington Post.

Jeb was the only Bush who actually showed up at the last Republican National Convention. His support of “Common Core” educational standards has made him an enemy of the Tea Party movement and his last name is synonymous with disastrous wars and economic disaster, with more Americans still blaming his brother for the problems with the economy than President Obama, even five years after George W. left office.

But for a party that hasn’t won without a Bush on the ballot since 1972, old habits refuse to die.

Immigration

John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t want to let immigration reform die.

But he will not put the Senate bill up for a vote — though it would likely pass — because he knows it would pass and cost him his speakership. So every few weeks he kills the idea that reform can happen because of #OBUMMER, as The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent says. Then he resuscitates it, presumably after talking to a large Republican donor like the Chamber of Commerce that knows reform is the best hope of the next GOP nominee to get a larger share of the Latino vote than Mitt Romney, who got a smaller share than John McCain, who got a much smaller share than George W. Bush.

House Democrats are now using a discharge petition, hoping to force a vote on the Senate bill. It will never happen. But it will make the case that Republicans are preventing reform and provide the president cover if he decides to answer activists’ calls to stop deporting undocumented immigrants for minor crimes.

If the president does make that decision, instead of campaigning on their role in reform, Republicans will spend the 2016 election calling for more deportations.

AFP Photo/Jim Watson

Minimum Wage

President Obama signs order on federal minimum wage hike - DC

Republicans historically gave in on raising the minimum wage when they recognized it would be an effective campaign issue — until 2006.

As scandals and the Iraq War exploded around them, Republicans let Democrats run on raising the lowest amount that can legally be paid to most workers. And were crushed.

This year, voters overwhelmingly support raising the wage. In fact, it’s the issue that polls show is most likely to sway their votes.

But Boehner probably won’t even let it come up for a vote. Even in 2014, this is an issue that could cost Republicans some seats.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

Another Ryan Budget

Paul Ryan

Thanks to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) most members of the House Republican caucus have voted to privatize both Medicare and Social Security — programs that 89 percent of Americans think are great deals.

Ryan’s next budget is likely to contain the cuts to Medicare Advantage that Republicans have been campaigning against since 2010. Republicans defend themselves by saying they put the cuts back into Medicare while President Obama uses them to fund the Affordable Care Act, which includes a program that helps millions of seniors afford prescription medication.

Five years into Obama’s presidency, the deficit is already projected to be lower than it was due to the draconian cuts in Ryan’s first budget in 2011 — though most Republicans think it’s growing. The combination of economic growth, Republican-backed cuts and the end of some of the Bush tax cuts for the rich have proven more effective than Ryan’s mission to gut safety net programs. However, Republicans have shown their hand and voted against programs Americans love.

And if the former vice-presidential nominee gets his way, they’ll do it again.

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

John McCain Being John McCain

John McCain on NBC News

John McCain (R-AZ) is one of the most unpopular senators in the country. Tea Partiers think he’s too liberal and Democrats think he’s a Dr. Strangelove who has never seen a war he didn’t want to ride a missile into.

His constant appearances on Sunday morning television signal that his pro-interventionist stance is the mainstream in the Republican Party — when his party is much more in line with the rest of a country that continually shows no appetite for new wars.

McCain and his partner Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blame the public’s attitude and most everything on President Obama, whom he calls weak and feckless and anything else he can think of.

“They’re egging him on” to get him to do something that’s not effective, former Bush and Obama Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said.

And the media loves it. So to America, the GOP is John McCain, who only learned one lesson from Iraq — and it’s the same lesson he learned from Vietnam: We left too early. And it’s a lesson America soundly rejects.

5 Things You Need To Know About New GOP ‘Frontrunner’ Rand Paul

Rand Paul

A new CBS/New York Times poll has bad news for the man who can only now be called a former frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ).

With 41 percent of Republicans saying they don’t want the governor to run and only 31 percent saying they do, he’s the only leading GOP candidate who has more opposition to his candidacy than support. So who is the frontrunner now?

National Journal‘s Josh Kraushaar argues that it is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a man who only entered politics for the first time four years ago. In his first term in the Senate, the son of former congressman and perennial presidential candidate Ron Paul has risen to national prominence with somewhat unconventional views for a Republican, which have conveniently aligned with the party’s intractable anti-Obama agenda.

The new poll shows that the support for Paul’s candidacy among members of his party is at 39 percent, 2 points lower than former Florida governor Jeb Bush. However, 27 percent oppose Bush running compared to 21 percent opposed to Paul, giving the Tea Party hero a decent claim to the frontrunner spot.

“He’s a fundamentally better messenger than Barry Goldwater—[Goldwater’s 1964 campaign slogan] ‘In your heart you know he’s right’ is not very compelling,” Paul’s former campaign manager Jesse Benton told Kraushaar. “Rand is a wonderful communicator, and I think a message of individual liberty can build wide support.”

But being a better messenger for the poster child for Republican electoral disasters isn’t a very compelling message.

Here are five things Republicans will have to consider before they anoint Rand Paul their new standard bearer.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

His Plans For Social Security And Medicare Could Cost Him The Senior Vote

hands off medicare

Part of Paul’s appeal is that he’s willing to take strong stands. Without anyone asking him to, he produced his own budget and his own Medicare plan. And both are far to the right of Paul Ryan’s plan, which is already costing the party with America’s most reliable voters — seniors.

The junior senator from Kentucky, if he had his druthers, would immediately privatize Medicare and Social Security. And he would raise the retirement age of both. These positions may endear him to the far right, which would rather gut both programs than ever raise taxes, but they’ll likely enrage the white Baby Boomers whom Republicans would need in order to have any chance to win the White House.

Photo: joetta@sbcglobal.net via Flickr

He’s As Far Right On Reproductive Rights As Any Republican

abortion

Paul hasn’t just opposed the Violence Against Women Act and voted in favor of bosses being able to decide if their employees get birth control coverage, he’s also against abortion even in cases of rape and incest. This opinion is shared by 10 to 20 percent of the country, who are nearly all likely GOP primary voters. But it puts him in the position of having to tell women that he thinks they should be forced to carry their rapists’ babies.

AFP Photo/Tim Sloan

The Party’s Defense Hawks Will Try To Destroy Him

Cheney_inauguration

Mitt Romney’s biggest fan in the media, The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin, is waging a war with Paul, whom she feels is an isolationist and anti-Israel.

In a post on Wednesday, which was tweeted by Liz Cheney, the blogger made the case she will be making for the next two years: He’s not really even a Republican:

If you didn’t think Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) comments refusing to rule out containment on Iran were sufficient to disqualify him for serious consideration as president, this should do it: “Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea.”

It is not the only time Paul has come running to the defense of a despot. Paul defended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the grounds that he is good for Christians.

Democrats and the public generally agree with Paul’s anti-war stand. But for a party that has surrendered the advantage on national security it has held since after the Vietnam War, nominating a “dove” will be hard for many of the party’s biggest donors — like avidly anti-Iran Sheldon Adelson — to accept.

His Minority Outreach Has Big Limits

Paul’s efforts to reform sentencing for non-violent drug crimes and restore voting rights for convicts who have served their time are admirable examples of genuine minority outreach. However, he embraces voter ID laws, which poll well among nearly all groups except those he’s trying to reach out to.

These laws are unnecessary — the Bush administration found no examples of widespread voter fraud — and have been shown to target minority voters.

His Followers Will Follow Him Anywhere — Even Out Of The GOP

Ron Paul and Rand Paul

As the first presidential candidate to inherit a functional campaign machine from his father, Rand Paul isn’t just a candidate. He’s a movement.

Republicans complained during the elder Paul’s campaign that his followers weren’t really Republicans. The fear was always that the former Libertarian would bolt and run as a third-party candidate. With his son’s career in mind, Congressman Paul stayed with the party, even though he never “fully endorsed” Mitt Romney.

At 51 years old, Senator Paul could be running for president for the next two decades. But if he isn’t able to sway his party to his views, he and his followers may get restless.

Of course, the younger Paul hasn’t just inherited his father’s assets. If his opponents want to play the guilt-by-association game the senator seems to be playing with Hillary Clinton, they can bring up his neo-Nazi connections and scores of racist newsletters.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

WATCH: Why The Minimum Wage Should Be At Least $18 An Hour

Democrats are still pushing to raise the minimum wage, even after a report from the Congressional Budget Office helped Republicans make the hollow argument against raising the lowest legal amount that workers can earn.

On ABC’s This Week, former George W. Bush advisor Matthew Dowd explained how wages do not reflect advances in our economy, and that if the minimum wage were adjusted for gains in productivity, it would be much higher:

Well, we’ve now gone whatever the amount of time is, 25 years, where the level of poverty in this country is at a level of which nobody is satisfied with.

And I always — when we talk about the minimum wage, one of the things that I focus on is, we’ve had a change of productivity in this country where [it] has been dramatically increased, so workers are producing more.

But they’re not getting paid more. Minimum-wage people that produce more aren’t getting paid more. So all of the benefits that have flowed from productivity have gone either to CEO pay or to Wall Street.

If you gave workers the same equivalent of productivity levels, they would make $18 an hour. That’s what the minimum wage would be. And I think in the end, we — I think that there is plenty of — if you look at the want ads, you look at the computers, look at all the things, there is plenty of ask for minimum-wage jobs, even if at $10 an hour, in the end we have to do something where people are making a living wage where they can afford daycare, afford school, afford all those things.

And we’re not at that level.

Elizabeth Warren has noted that the minimum wage would actually be even higher — $22 an hour — if it had kept up with productivity gains since 1960. And if it had kept up with escalating CEO salaries, it would be closer to $33 an hour.

So $10.10 seems pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

Matthew Dowd This Week

WATCH: Ted Nugent Apologizes For Not Being A Better Republican Shill

Ted Nugent offered a qualified apology on Friday for calling President Obama “a subhuman mongrel.”

“I do apologize–not necessarily to the President–but on behalf of much better men than myself,” he told conservative radio host Ben Ferguson.

The rhetoric of the musician, reality show star and sought-after conservative activist has become an issue since he appeared at a campaign event with the likely Republican nominee for governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) identified “subhuman mongrel” as requiring an apology. The senator is eager to reframe his party with minority voters.

But Nugent, who has called himself “Rosa Parks with a Gibson,” appeared to be mostly interested in shielding his favorite Republicans from criticism.

“I apologize for using the term,” he added. “I will try to elevate my vernacular to the level of those great men that I’m learning from in the world of politics.”

When asked to clarify if he was apologizing to the president, Nugent said he was — but there’s so much more for him to apologize for.

His inflammatory political comments often verge into misogyny and racial stereotypes. He’s recorded a song about sex with an underaged female, an activity Courtney Love says he pursued with her when she was 12, and he’s fathered eight children with four women. He also became the legal guardian of a seventeen-year old girl he was dating at age 30.

But Republicans — including the last GOP nominee for president, Mitt Romney — seek out Nugent because of the dearth of celebrity supporters on the right and the way his rage mirrors and activates the GOP base.

RH Reality Check‘s Adele M. Stan explains:

When it comes to fighting the “war on women,” it seems that some right-wing Republicans just can’t stop themselves. And there’s a reason for that: Their base consists largely of men with a patriarchal worldview—and the women who love them. Most of the other women (especially single women), and many of the men who don’t hate women, vote for the other party.

In Abbott’s case, he’s going to need strong turnout from his base, since the brutal battle in the state legislature last summer did not play well across the board, and it energized the pro-choice grassroots, who flooded the state capitol building and made Wendy Davis a national star.

While the right’s tolerance for Nugent’s rhetoric definitely prevents the party from reaching outside the base, Republicans again and again find that they agree with the policies of the extremists they end up having to denounce.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has the same stand on reproductive rights as disgraced Senate candidate Todd Akin. Rand Paul may not like what Nugent said and embrace slight reforms on voting rights and drug laws, but he certainly agrees with Nugent on reproductive rights, and neither man likely sees any problem with voting laws designed to keep minorities from the polls.

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 3.25.33 PM

5 CBO Findings About Improving The Economy That Republicans Will Always Ignore

John Boehner
Republicans celebrated a new report from the Congressional Budget Office this week that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could cost the economy 500,000 jobs.

Our Joe Conason hollowed out the arguments the right uses against raising wages for America’s lowest-paid workers. Richard Trumka — head of America’s largest labor union, the AFL/CIO — encouraged Democrats to ignore the report and “prove the CBO wrong.” Cook Political Report‘s Amy Walter points out that the report will do little to help Republicans case because “more Americans simply think that a rise in the minimum wage is a good thing for the economy.”

President Obama confirmed that the issue still tops his party’s agenda in a Friday morning speech to Democratic governors, where he said the issue is good policy and good politics, noting that New Jersey voters approved an increase even while electing a Republican governor in a landslide.

However, since Republicans are suddenly listening to what the CBO is projecting, here are five other findings from the non-partisan organization that offer a pretty simple path to growing the economy while reducing the deficit.

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

Raise 900,000+ Out Of Poverty By Raising The Minimum Wage

minimum-wage RS

Also in the CBO report that split the difference between liberal economists to say raising the minimum wage would cost no jobs, and conservatives who say it would kill a million jobs, was this testament to the power of raising wages:

Real income would increase, on net, by $5 billion for families whose income will be below the poverty threshold under current law, boosting their average family income by about 3 percent and moving about 900,000 people, on net, above the poverty threshold (out of the roughly 45 million people who are projected to be below that threshold under current law).

Moving people out of poverty is a newfound passion for so-called conservative “reformers,” even though most of their plans involve cutting programs that keep people out of poverty. By raising the minimum wage, the dignity of work is encouraged while slimming an implicit government subsidy for corporations that underpay their employees. Who’s against that?

Photo: The All-Nite Images via Flickr

Pass Immigration Reform To Reduce The Deficit

immigration reform

Despite the massive spending it includes for a “border surge,” the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate would reduce the deficit by $158 billion over the 2014-2023 period, which is more than implementing “chained CPI” to reduce the growth Social Security benefits would save, Salon‘s Brian Beutler points out. But that’s just the beginning. In the decade beginning in 2024, the bill would shrink the deficit by $685 billion.

Photo: Anuska Sampedro via Flickr

Extend Emergency Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits

Republicans still refuse to do what they helped George W. Bush do five times: extend emergency unemployment benefits. This cost of this inaction is 200,000 jobs, according to the CBO.

And if the CBO says it, it must be true! Right?

Photo: Wisaflcio via Flickr

Give Up Obamacare Repeals To Reduce The Deficit And Unemployment

Democrats worked overtime to make sure the Affordable Care Act isn’t just fully funded, but actually shrinks the deficit. To do this, they reduced the amount of subsidies that help middle-class workers afford coverage. Despite this, Republicans still pretend that it makes the deficit worse.

However, the CBO is there to remind them that the GOP’s more than three-dozen attempts at repeal won’t just deprive 13 million of health insurance — the number of Americans who will gain coverage this year, according to the CBO — it will increase the deficit:

What Is the Impact of Repealing the ACA on the Federal Budget?
Assuming that H.R. 6079 is enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2013, CBO and JCT estimate that, on balance, the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting that legislation would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013–2022 period.

And guess what? The Affordable Care Act also cuts the unemployment rate, according to CBO director Douglas Elmendorf.

The Stimulus Worked, So Do More Of It!

Barack_Obama_signs_American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009_on_February_17

Republicans decided the stimulus didn’t work even before it went into effect. And despite the fact that nearly all economists believe it reduced unemployment and most believe it was worth it, Republicans have stuck with this story, knowing that the economy George W. Bush left America to contend with was so awful that no politically feasible government action could have blunted it completely.

But we know the stimulus worked because the indisputable experts at the CBO said so.

In 2011, Politico‘s Josh Boak reported on the findings:

The CBO figures released Tuesday estimate that the stimulus package raised the gross domestic product this past quarter by 0.3 percent-1.9 percent.

The CBO report provided a broad range of the estimated number of full-time jobs created because of the stimulus — from a low of 500,000 to a high of 3.3 million jobs.

Instead of insisting on cuts while interest rates are historically low and millions are out of work, Republicans could support programs like those in the American Jobs Act that actually create jobs. I’m sure the CBO would agree.

 

How Paul Ryan Helped Save Medicare And Social Security By Trying To Gut Them

President Obama’s new budget will not include a proposal to implement “chained CPI” to slow the growth of Social Security benefits, according to White House officials.

And there’s one man who deserves most of the credit for making sure there will be no cuts to benefits to seniors until at least 2017 — ironically the politician who has worked the hardest to reduce the promises made to America’s retirees — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The president had included the reform measure in his 2013 budget as an attempt to provoke a so-called Grand Bargain with House Republican leaders. Such a deal would have required them to end some tax breaks for the rich. That was never going to happen and the White House’s acceptance of this fact helps focus the 2014 elections on votes most Republicans in Congress have taken in the past to cut both Social Security and Medicare, thanks to Paul Ryan.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee’s first budget plan in 2011 not only privatized Social Security — a proposal that President George W. Bush could not even get a vote on when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress — it remade Medicare into a voucher program that radically shifted the financial burden to seniors without doing much to reduce the overall cost of health care. The plan was so popular — at least with Republican donors — that it instantly made Ryan a national hero and possible presidential candidate.

The chances of enacting the plan with President Obama in office were zero, but Ryan, buoyed by his new stardom, helped guide House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) into a debt-limit crisis that shook global markets still dizzy from the financial crisis. House Republicans demanded a dollar in cuts for every dollar the debt ceiling was raised and President Obama obliged with a plan that not only included chained CPI, but also raised the Medicare eligibility age. To sell this plan to Democrats, the president demanded a small percentage of new revenues by ending tax breaks on upper-income Americans.

Boehner was about to make the deal, when Ryan “dropped a bomb” on it, fearing it would guarantee Obama’s re-election. Instead both sides settled on the sequester.

Ryan released another budget in 2012 that dropped Social Security privatization and added a public option to his Medicare plan.  Desperate for Tea Party credibility, Mitt Romney selected Ryan to be his running mate after being forced to embrace the congressman’s budget during the primary. Together, the two men re-elected the president.

After Obama’s re-election, Speaker Boehner reportedly tried to take the offer Ryan had rejected in 2011. The president told him was off the table, and likely will be for the rest of his term unless Republicans consider higher taxes on the rich, which they won’t.

In the past two years, the deficit has been cut in half and is projected to be even lower within 10 years as a share of GDP than if the Simpson-Bowles debt plan or Paul Ryan’s first budget had become law. If the reforms to Medicare implemented in the Affordable Care Act continue to slow the growth of costs as they have since 2010, our long-term debt crisis may be solved, despite Paul Ryan’s best efforts.

Reince Priebus Leaked Info On Scott Walker’s GOP Primary Opponent

Have you ever wondered how Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus still has his job after leading his party to a disastrous 2012 election, where it lost the presidency along with seats in the House and Senate?

One of the 27,000 emails released as part of the “John Doe” investigation of former aides to Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) suggests that Priebus — who was then chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party — played favorites during the 2010 primary between Walker and former congressman Mark Neumann.

“Neumann will be looking at two areas very soon — the county debt and how it is calculated — something about ‘mortgaging the future’ and why Walker dropped out of college,” Priebus wrote to Walker, then a Milwaukee County executive, and political consultant R.J. Johnson.

Almost immediately, Walker responded, “Get me all the facts I can get on the debt. Plus, I should go over the POBs [pension obligation bonds].”

As county executive, Walker supported the issuing of $400 million in bonds to cover a pension shortfall.

The emails were sent via a secret system set up by Walker aides that blurred the lines between campaigning and governing. The documents released Wednesday show aides circulating a racist email and the governor calling on a doctor to be dismissed because she had modeled thongs.

The governor’s former aide, Kelly Rindfleisch, has been convicted for misconduct in public office.

Thus far no smoking gun reminiscent of “Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee,” which exploded the Brigdgegate scandal now embroiling Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), has emerged. But the specter of scandal currently hangs over two 2016 GOP frontrunners.

And now the RNC’s chairman has a little controversy of his own to deal with.

Same Crime, Different Race: Guess Which ‘Car Thief’ Gets Busted [VIDEO]

For the second time in less than a year, a case in Florida that involved a young black man losing his life to gunshots fired in “self-defense” by a white man has captured the nation’s attention.

Leonard Pitts asks a pretty simple question about the death of Jordan Davis:

If Davis had been a white kid in an SUV full of same playing their music too loudly, does anyone really think the confrontation with Dunn would have escalated to the point of gunfire? And if for some reason it had, is anyone so naive as to believe the jury would have failed to convict Dunn of murder?

We’ll never know, but Simple Misfits pulled a little prank to see how people react to two young men — one African-American, one not — committing the same crime. It’s hardly scientific and designed to be comic. But it makes a point.

If you’re looking for a more substantial example, check out this chart from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes comparing arrests for marijuana possession between black and white people:
hayes-graph

As you look at this, consider that black and white people smoke marijuana at the same rate.

With this in mind, The Daily Show has some advice for black youths.

Kochs On The Run: Faked Alaska Commercial Pulled

Americans for Prosperity — one of the largest recipients of donations from the Koch Family Foundation — has been hammering Democratic senators in swing states with millions of dollars in television ads. But last week the group suddenly pulled $100,000 in ads slated to run in Alaska.

Why?

Democrats from Alaska offered 10 reasons. But Max Croes, spokesman for the re-election campaign of Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), believes it has to do with an oil refinery that Koch Industries is closing in North Pole, Alaska.

“I guess it took two weeks for the billionaire Koch brothers to finally realize Alaskans don’t appreciate them firing 80 Alaska workers and closing a refinery while at the same time funneling over $100,000 to outside political attack groups for misleading ads against Senator Begich,” Croes said. “Alaskans just aren’t going to buy what they’re selling.”

The ad first attracted attention for its noticeably un-Alaskan look and its star, an actress from MarylandAFP is also using actors in the Obamacare ad targeting Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

The use of paid “talent” is pretty standard for political ads, but when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, the right seems to be having a hard time finding real people to give testimony on how the law has hurt them.

In the Republican response to the State of the Union address, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), referenced “Bette,” a constituent who “found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month.”  The congressmember’s local paper did a little digging and found that Bette had been misled by an insurance provider and decided to forgo coverage instead of using the health care exchange to find a much more affordable option. Rather than help this woman, McMorris Rodgers used her unsubstantiated anecdote to argue against the law.

That’s the great thing about actors — their stories can’t be fact checked.

Republicans have been playing up the fact that Koch Industries is only 59th on a list of top donors. This doesn’t include the donations that the brothers and their foundation give to Americans for Prosperity, which will never be known for sure, as the group is a “non-profit” that does not have to disclose its donors.

What’s clear is that no group is doing more to try to help Republicans take over the Senate than AFP, and the Kochs’ power comes not only from its vast network of organizations that it funds, but also from the way it coordinates its activity with other huge donors.

Despite this, their money was spectacularly wasted in 2012. And their business practices are interfering with their effort to pick up a Senate seat in Alaska.

Photo: Americans for Prosperity’s YouTube channel

The 2014 Factor No One Is Talking About — Seniors Are Turning On The GOP

Congressional Republicans have passed a budget, raised the debt limit and punted on immigration reform with one goal in mind. They want to make the 2014 midterm elections about Obamacare.

The party seems to be so confident of this strategy that it doesn’t appear to have any “Plan B,” as The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent continually points out.

While going all-in on the Affordable Care Act makes sense inside the right-wing mindset, where the law is one Fox News interview from disappearing to wherever Mitt Romney was supposed to go, seniors — America’s most reliable voters — may end up leading a backlash against a post-government-shutdown Republican Party that is even less popular now than when George W. Bush left office.

Undoubtably, the poll numbers for the president’s health law remain low months after HealthCare.gov’s bungled rollout — even though it has helped lead the country to the lowest uninsured rate in five years.

But since the 2010 election, after which real, live Americans began gaining health insurance coverage due to the Affordable Care Act, has there been even one election that has been swayed by Obamacare?

Having been the godfather of the law didn’t cost Mitt Romney the 2012 GOP primary. Having signed the bill into law didn’t cost President Obama his re-election. It didn’t stop Democrats from picking up seats in the Senate and the House. Since 2012, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) was re-elected after accepting Medicaid expansion and Terry McAuliffe won Virginia’s governorship with a jobs plan centered upon expanding Medicaid.

In Florida, Democrat Alex Sink narrowly leads Republican David Jolly in a special election to replace Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), who passed away late last year. As Jolly attacks Sink on Obamacare, Sink defends the most popular part of the law — the ban on insurers considering pre-existing conditions — and attacks Jolly on Medicare.

Republicans exploited seniors’ fears of Medicare cuts in 2010 — then voted for the same cuts when they took the House. They also went a step further by proposing a plan to radically remake the single-payer system that provides health coverage to every American 65 or older.

Jolly, a lobbyist, has never officially endorsed or voted for the plan created by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to turn Medicare into a voucher system.  However, nearly every sitting Republican member of the House — including the likely GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton — has.

Ryan’s plan and opposition to Obamacare earned him boos when he spoke at the AARP convention as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. And it was certainly part of the reason he was barely visible in the last few weeks of the campaign.

And since the 2012 election, Republicans’ standing with seniors has only deteriorated.

“In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21-point margin (38 percent to 59 percent),” Democracy Corps’ Erica Siefert noted in her post “Why Seniors Are Turning Against The GOP,” published months before the government shutdown.

In the latest McClatchy-Marist National Poll, the GOP only had a 4-point margin over Democrats.

The same poll found that 58 percent of adults 45-59 and 54 percent of those 60 and older had an unfavorable view of the president. However, 73 percent of adults 45-59 and 74 percent of those 60 and older also reported an unfavorable view of Republicans in Congress.

Democrats recognize that Obamacare may be a liability and are circulating talking points that call attention to the fact that “65 percent of voters agree with the statement ‘we’ve wasted too much time talking about Obamacare and we have other problems to deal with.'” This aligns with polls that show again and again that most people would rather keep and fix the law than repeal it completely.

But it’s quite possible that the GOP’s stand on Medicare could ultimately be more harmful to their prospects than Obamacare is for Democrats.

Any Republican who sticks with repeal can be charged with wanting to raise prescription drug prices for seniors. Along with eliminating the closing of the Medicare drug “donut hole,” repeal also would erase subsidies that are potentially helping millions of older Americans afford care.

“I just cried, I was so relieved,” said 58-year-old Maureen Grey after using her new plan — purchased with the help of Obamacare subsidies — to visit a doctor.

Adults aged 55-64 make up 31 percent of the new enrollees in the health care marketplaces set up by the law. A new Associated Press report notes that workers nearing retirement have been hardest hit by the Great Recession and are in the most desperate need of what the law offers:

Aging boomers are more likely to be in debt as they enter retirement than were previous generations, with many having purchased more expensive homes with smaller down payments, said economist Olivia Mitchell of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. One in five has unpaid medical bills and 17 percent are underwater with their home values. Fourteen percent are uninsured.

As of December, 46 percent of older jobseekers were among the long-term unemployed compared with less than 25 percent before the recession.

And those financial setbacks happened just as their health care needs became more acute. Americans in their mid-50s to mid-60s are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than other age groups, younger or older, accounting for 3 in 10 of the adult diabetes diagnoses in the United States each year. And every year after age 50, the rate of cancer diagnosis climbs.

For many of these Americans, the Medicare guarantee isn’t some distant, theoretical promise. It’s a necessity.

And with Obamacare bridging the gap until retirement, Republicans may find that their decision to make the 2014 election about health care will be as ill-advised as shutting down the government to defund it.

 Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

How President Obama Helped Joe ‘The Plumber’ Get A Union Job

Congratulations, Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher — better known as “Joe the Plumber.”

The non-Joe, non-plumber announced on his Facebook page that he has acquired a job with the Chrysler Group LLC, which requires membership in the United Automobile Workers labor union.

“In order to work for Chrysler, you are required to join the union, in this case UAW. There’s no choice – it’s a union shop – the employees voted to have it that way and in America that’s the way it is,” he wrote.

Wurzelbacher became nationally known during the 2008 presidential debate when GOP nominee John McCain cited how “the Plumber” had confronted President Obama about his plan to end tax breaks for those in the top tax bracket. He later said that McCain had “screwed up his life.”

Being a Tea Party celebrity generally requires that you don’t have an actual job or, if you do, that you quit it as soon as possible — while endlessly chastising the jobless (blatant hypocrisy is another requirement). But after his congressional bid for Ohio’s 9th district floundered, with incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) winning more than 70 percent of the vote, he was eager for an opportunity.

Of course, Chrysler would likely not exist without the government bridge loans that Mitt Romney actively opposed. The former Republican nominee for president argued that private creditors should have stepped in for a traditional bankruptcy, though General Motors’ chief executive officer insisted no such capital existed.

The auto rescue of both General Motors and Chrysler was begun by President George W. Bush. On the day President Obama took office, Fiat announced it wanted to buy Chrysler.

Obama’s auto industry task force recommended the acquisition, which was necessary for the company’s survival, and kept the automaker funded until the sale was complete.

Altogether, the auto rescue saved $248 billion in personal income and saved millions jobs, like the one “Joe” “the Plumber” just started.

Photo: Joe the Plumber’s Facebook page

What Would Ted Nugent Have To Say Before Republicans Stop Campaigning With Him?

Ted Nugent vowed that he would be in dead or jail by now if President Obama was re-elected. Instead, he will be campaigning with the likely Republican nominee to replace Rick Perry as governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

The musician’s history of dodging the draft and allegedly having sexual relations with an underaged Courtney Love do not seem to bother the Republicans — including former Republican nominee for president Mitt Romney — who continually seek out his support. Neither does his constant misogynistic and racially provocative rhetoric.

In fact, it inspires them to “work close” with “the Nuge,” as he explained last year:

I’m contacted all the time, I work close with Ted Cruz who is a great patriot, a great statesman. I worked close with Scott Walker’s team in Wisconsin when he took it away from the hippies and got rid of the [unintelligible] and got some freedom back in Wisconsin. I’ve worked with Governor Engler in the past. I’ve worked with different sheriffs and different attorney generals. I work closely with Greg Abbott and Governor Perry in Texas.

All of this leads me to wonder, what could Ted Nugent possibly say that would lead to Republicans not embracing him publicly… besides something decent about President Obama?

nugent

 

Photo: chascar via Flickr

5 Ways The Stimulus Saved And Remade America

Barack_Obama_signs_American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009_on_February_17

The party that still thinks the Bush tax cuts (which resulted in the most negligible job creation in decades) and the Iraq War (which resulted in the Iraq War) both worked wants you to believe that the stimulus failed. And they’ve been making that argument since before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act even had a chance to work.

This strategy of asserting — despite all the evidence — that the president’s first major accomplishment did not succeed was so successful in the 2010 elections that Republicans are still doing it five years later on the anniversary of the law’s signing, and few Democrats are willing to stand up for the effort that helped blunt the worst of the financial crisis.

“The standard Republican talking point is that it failed, meaning it didn’t reduce unemployment,” economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers wrote in 2012. “Yet in a survey of leading economists conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, 92 percent agreed that the stimulus succeeded in reducing the jobless rate. On the harder question of whether the benefit exceeded the cost, more than half thought it did, one in three was uncertain, and fewer than one in six disagreed.”

And beyond rescuing the economy from a greater depression, the stimulus helped remake America, as Time‘s Mike Grunwald explains in his must-read narrative of the law’s enfolding, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. With lots of help from Grunwald — whose most recent reflections on the law appear in “5 Years After Stimulus, Obama Says It Worked” — here are five ways the stimulus saved and remade America’s economy when we needed it most.

It Reversed America’s Layoff Crisis

fredgraphunemploymentclaims 2007-2014

 

If you come across someone who says that the stimulus did not work, ask for an explanation of this chart.

What happened in mid-2009 that suddenly boosted America out of recession and reversed the escalating trend of layoffs, which is measured here with the four-week moving average of initial unemployment claims that simply averages the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits?

Was it the uptick of people buying tricorn hats or purchasing signs to call Obama a socialist/fascist/corporate cronyist?

Or maybe it was the result of markets calmed by government intervention infused with the sudden burst of spending via the only place from which it could come in such a crisis, the federal government?

It Led To The Creation Or Saving Of 9 Million Jobs

Stimulus effect about GDP

Based on a new White House report that presents its biased but substantiated view, the stimulus appreciably added to an economic recovery, even though the magnitude of the crisis was much greater than economists predicted when the law was conceived. Grunwald explains:

…the Recovery Act increased U.S. GDP by roughly 2 to 2.5 percentage points from late 2009 through mid-2011, keeping us out of a double-dip recession. It added about 6 million “job years” (a full-time job for a full year) through the end of 2012. If you combine the Recovery Act with a series of follow-up measures, including unemployment-insurance extensions, small-business tax cuts and payroll tax cuts, the Administration’s fiscal stimulus produced a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in GDP in every quarter from late 2009 through 2012, and 9 million extra job years, according to the report.

It Virtually Created America’s Green Energy Industry From Nothing

solarpanels

The most untold part of the untold story of the stimulus is the dramatic way it nearly conjured a vibrant green energy industry that barely existed five years ago. Republicans like to play up the failure of Solyndra and other alternative energy firms that received loans. But the success rate of those investments was far beyond what was expected and the net result is astounding.

“The Recovery Act jump-started clean energy in America, financing unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of electricity,” Grunwald wrote. “It advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and energy efficiency in every imaginable form.”

The White House report summarizes those successes with two bullet points:

  • Provided the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) with an initial appropriation of $400 million, to begin researching transformative energy technologies such as second-generation biofuels, more efficient batteries, superconducting wires, and vehicles powered by natural gas.
  • Boosted federal funding to renewable wind, solar, and geothermal energy as well as leveraging private dollars to help increase wind electricity net generation nationwide by 145 percent, and solar thermal and photovoltaic electricity net generation by more than fourfold from 2008 to 2012.

Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr

It Improved Our Crumbling Infrastructure

the-collapse-of-public-infrastructure-spending-in-one-chart

Future historians will look back at the sad shape of America’s infrastructure, the millions out of work and the incredibly low interest rates and wonder what Congress was thinking — after 2010. Investment in public infrastructure briefly skyrocketed because of the stimulus and has nosedived to unprecedented lows since.

In a brief two-year span, though, the Recovery Act led to marked improvements in the public commons.

The White House report cites 6,000 miles of high-performance passenger rail corridors, the cleaning of 1,566 acres for reuse, more than 3,000 water quality infrastructure projects and Clean Water projects, 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure, improvements to 42,000 miles of roads and repairs to 2,700 bridges.

America’s Recovery Is Nearly The Best In The Developed World

Global Recovery

Of all the countries in the world that suffered a major banking crisis, only America and Germany have recovered more than 100 percent of their pre-crisis gross domestic product. Germany’s strong labor movement, innovative educational system and unique work-sharing policies helped keep consumer demand from dwindling excessively. In the U.S., the stimulus helped make up for the dramatic cuts at the state and local levels while providing stealth tax breaks that kept consumer spending from completely cratering. More could have been done, but a bigger stimulus was a political impossibility, as Grunwald describes in his book.

Five years later, the right’s best arguments against the stimulus are that it didn’t meet goals established before the extent of the crisis was known and it cost too much. But the actual cost may end up being zero.

“The Recovery Act had at most a minimal impact on the long-run debt—and the additional growth it produced likely further reduced or eliminated its cost,” the White House reports.