Friday, November 21, 2014

Elections and executive orders have consequences, but not in the way some may think

Listening to retiring GOP Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn on MSNBC’s Morning Joe November 20, I was alarmed by the way he linked possibilities of Southern violent reaction to the president’s executive order on immigration and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white cop.  I hope he was wrong that racism was behind his constituents’ threats, but that was the sad and ugly implication of his comments.

Coburn’s comments ignore those who sincerely and vocally believe the president violated the Constitution. However, the ruling of constitutionality is not a matter of even the president’s past or present interpretations or the opinion of some member of Congress. It is the courts’ and the place to settle it is there.  Hopefully Okahomans seek that recourse.

Should Obama heed voter opinion expressed in the midterm? Immigration did not register in the list of voter issue concerns per an AP exit poll. The economy trumped all.  A Wall Street Journal-NBC poll revealed over 70% approval of the elements of the compromise immigration bill, yet 48% oppose the President’s executive action, breaking along party lines. Go figure.   

Midterm elections do have consequences. More extreme anti-immigrants elected to Congress dimmed any likelihood of compromise or Congressional action.  Presidential elections also have consequences and the president won his second term in 2012 with the electoral firewall of high Hispanic voting states. Obama’s order carries out some promises he made in 2012. The prospect of the GOP gaining the White House and overturning executive orders or blocking comprehensive reform will inspire Hispanics to turn out to vote Democratic in 2016.
  
Let us get this straight: a “pathway to citizenship” is not part of the President’s order. It is not “amnesty” or comprehensive reform or granting citizenship or Obamacare.  The President’s executive order is limited to setting prosecuting priorities for three years. That order gives protection from deportation of dreamers whose parents brought them to the US when they were young and parents of children who were born here. The executive order can be overturned by Congress or the next president.

The order addresses one of the Hispanic and Asian communities’ greatest concern: deportation that breaks up families, leaving kids born in the US behind while a parent is sent back to Mexico or Central America or Asia. There is no deferment for the other six or seven million who are left out of the executive order, including recent arrivals.  

The GOP has avoided taking any action or compromise on immigration reform by demanding “securing our borders before doing anything else.” President has increased security, deported a thousand a day, and will do even more with his executive action.  The goal of “securing the borders” will never be achieved by those looking for excuses for inaction.  

The Senate bi-partisan compromise bill sent to the House over a year ago, languishing there without vote, did combine more funding and action in securing the border while providing a status for those already in the country.  

Should Obama heed voter opinion expressed in the midterm? Immigration did not register in the list of voter issue concerns per an AP exit poll. The economy trumped all.  A Wall Street Journal-NBC poll revealed over 70% approval of the elements of the compromise immigration bill, yet 48% oppose the President’s executive action, breaking along party lines. Go figure.   

Midterm elections do have consequences. More extreme anti-immigrants elected to Congress dimmed any likelihood of compromise or Congressional action.  Presidential elections also have consequences and the president won his second term in 2012 with the electoral firewall of high Hispanic voting states. Obama’s order carries out some promises he made in 2012. The prospect of the GOP gaining the White House and overturning executive orders or blocking comprehensive reform will inspire Hispanics to turn out to vote Democratic in 2016.


http://bigstory.ap.org/article/400a2d97d1514cd78f7f0888f68834b9/exit-poll-voters-unhappy-obama-and-gop 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

There are millions who are giving thanks this season for Obamacare. A recent Gallup poll disclosed that 70% of those who signed up for it like it, few plan to drop it. By the end of 2015, almost 20 million will have subscribed to it.  Those are the smart ones. There is nothing like hands on experience with the law to dispel urban myths perpetuated by others opposed to the law.

Colorado is especially thankful. It is one of the states that has expanded Medicaid and  has a well- functioning state market-place exchange.   So far a half of those previously uninsured now have insurance, a figure similar to Grand County’s, and the open enrollment should bring more  with the national forecast showing doubling the number of signups and paying their premiums to private insurance companies.

Around two thirds of those signing up have qualified for subsidies or expanded Medicaid.   In states that expanded Medicaid as of fall 2014, the percentage of uninsured fell from nearly 15% to 9%, well on it way to a three year goal.  In other states that did not expand Medicaid  the uninsured fell only from 18% to 14% because of  a gap between those who did not have enough income to even participate in the exchanges and  qualify for  traditional Medicaid  The American Medical Association concluded recently that Obmamacare is working as designed.  Perhaps that should be amended to read:  working in places where it is applied as designed.

A high paid adviser to the Obama administration, Jonathan Gruber, bit the hand that fed him and opined that the public was too stupid to understand Obamacare because “lack of transparency” about its funding provisions.  The right wing howls have risen to earsplitting volume , masking their short comings of coming up with workable, comparable alternatives and their role in making sure the public misunderstood the law by waging a disinformation campaign to distort it and fear monger.

Granted it is a complex law filling pages, The GOP was able to take advantage of the law’s complexity to frighten the daylights out of a public and promote urban myths.  That there would be a “death spiral “is one of them.  The “forecast” death spiral of exchange premiums soaring so high that Obamacare would collapse, has proved to be wrong as exchange premium have risen only 1% on average nationwide in 2015 and under 2% in Colorado.

Remember the  GOP hoodwink  that there were “death panels”,  called bunk by fact checkers,  and  in its first year of life no government panel told anyone to pull the plug on Grandma.  Trillions were taken from Medicare, the GOP still cries, inferring benefits were lost. Instead, the savings in the law added 14 years to the life of Medicare per the Congressional Budget Office and no benefits have been lost.


 The GOP claims the cost of 1.3 trillion would bankrupt the country completely ignores the other side of the budget  balance sheet: the fines, taxes, and administrative efficiency that offset the cost.  The Congressional Budget Office originally  concluded it would reduce the deficit over ten and twenty years as the projected increase in medical care costs would be slowed down.The Congressional Budget Office originally concluded it would reduce the deficit over ten and twenty years as the projected increase in medical care costs would be slowed down. Using CBO's April 2014 figures, the GOP claim the ACA would increase the deficit by $3 billion. Even using the GOP's biased calculating, that is not much in the total scheme of government trillions. The CBO understands the finances, even if Gruber thinks the public does not.

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily news November 21, 2014


http://www.budget.senate.gov/republican/public/index.cfm/2014/10/analysis-of-cbo-data-shows-that-obamacare-will-increase-deficit-over-next-decade The CBO understands the finances, even if Gruber thinks the public does not.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/29/upshot/obamacare-who-was-helped-most.html?_r=0



http://www.gallup.com/poll/179396/newly-insured-exchanges-give-coverage-good-marks.aspx

http://dailycaller.com/2014/09/10/wh-says-itll-veto-gop-obamacare-bill-that-would-make-obamas-administrative-fix-law/  That "fix" made permanent will be vetoed by President. Now, Congress should give the same guarantee to those who already signed up for Obamacare and like it.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/174290/arkansas-kentucky-report-sharpest-drops-uninsured-rate.aspx Colorado dropped from 17% uninsured to 11% uninsured, 4th largest drop in the nation.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Time to sign up for Obamacare

Open enrollment for Obamacare has already begun and to be insured by January 1, sign ups must be completed by December 15.  Grand County has cut its uninsured numbers in half and the Colorado state run exchange is ranked as one of the four best run sites in the US  for signing up for insurance. The exchange is where you can compare policies and  buy private health insurance, and it provides a method to administer subsidies to make insurance affordable based on an individual’s or family’s income level.   This is not the same sign up site as the one that got so much bad publicity last year. That was the federal site to be used by states that did not set up their own exchanges.  Our Colorado state site had a relatively smooth rollout.  The site is www.connectforhealthco.com  or call 855 752 6749 for free in person help. Consumer Reports has a site that may help you understand the law at https://tools.healthlawhelper.org  
 If you do not get health insurance from your employer or parents and you are not already covered by Medicare or Medicaid or the exchange, this is the year that the penalties for those not having insurance become significant. 
 Some in Congress want to take affordable health insurance away by repealing the entire law. It will not happen. Bills repealing Obamacare will be vetoed by President Obama and there are not enough votes in Congress to override the veto.
 There was a loud flap about the three million who had those high deductible sub-standard insurance policies and faced losing them, calling foul because of broken promises to be allowed to keep their insurance or their doctors.   Those who would like to take away Obamacare insurance from the 20 million who will have had it by the end of 2015 need to remember that most of those getting insurance in the exchanges once did not even have a doctor they wanted to keep because they could not afford insurance in the first place. 
 Some in Congress favor fixes instead of repealing the law. That includes repealing taxes on medical devices and removing the mandate that employers provide insurance for their employees or pay into Obamacare to cover their employees they dump into the exchanges.   A way to replace the income generated by these taxes, savings and fines to finance Obamacare has not been proposed.  Obamacare may cost 1.3 trillion ( billions less per the Congressional Budget Office) over 10 years, but it actually reduces the deficit  per the Congressional Budget Office because these fines, savings  and taxes offset  costs, and  reduces the rate of cost increases.  If the GOP fails to fund the fixes, the deficit will indeed be run up.   
 A  Supreme Court decision in the future may take away subsidies provided by the federal exchange, but Colorado has a state run exchange that would not be immediately affected.  In the long term, financial soundness of the law could be affected if many other states do not establish their own state exchanges.

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News  Nov. 21, 2014

http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/45231-ACA_Estimates.pdf

Monday, November 10, 2014

The monkey is now on the GOP's back. Now they must come the party of yes, and the winning "yes" at that.


  The “party of no “now must become the “party of yes “ or face an electorate  in 2016 already fed up with inaction on issues important to them.  The monkey is now on the GOP’s back to provide solutions.

The GOP won with anti-Obama and anti-gridlock sentiment. If the GOP thinks all they have to do is make good on promises to roll back Obama’s programs, and send the White House legislation they know will get vetoed, they may lay the seeds for their own defeat in 2016. Voters clearly want more than more gridlock. If the GOP proposes alternatives, what they advocate may turn blocks of voters against them. If what they pass accomplishes little, they risk being called failures.

2016 is not 2014. The make-up of the electorate will be larger and more diverse in 2016 because it is a presidential election year. Only a third of the electorate, older with fewer minorities, voted in 2014. The GOP will be defending more Senate seats in blue states in 2016 than Democrats contested in red states in 2014, with a greater chance of Democrats retaking the Senate.

There are three issues that could activate blocks of the electorate to vote against the GOP: immigration, health care reform, and middle class prosperity.
Hispanics historically turn out in greater numbers in presidential years than in midterms. In recent elections that has been sufficient to keep the GOP from gathering enough electoral votes from battleground states with large Latino minorities to win the White House.

The newly elected Representatives and Senators may have run on anti- immigrant platforms, but they will not be able to hide votes on the record that could solidify the Hispanic support  of the Democratic party for another decade. GOP threats to take revenge on Pres. Obama’s executive orders regarding deportation will certainly further alienate them. Another turnoff will be if GOP fails to provide a legal status for undocumented immigrants already in the US.

So far the GOP has found simply advocating repeal sheltered them from having to craft fiscally sound alternatives to Obamacare that will allow the millions who like their Obamacare plans to keep their Obamacare plans.   Polls show voters want Obamacare “fixed”, not repealed and taking away benefits could cause a revolt from the deprived. However, the GOP has not yet found a way to fund changes that would pass Congressional Budget Office scrutiny while also providing similar popular benefits and affordability to current and potential 30 million customers.


If the GOP attempts to push through legislation that increases college costs, makes health care unaffordable again, or opposes minimum wage increases and leaves the middle class waiting for economic growth to  trickle down to them, they will give Democrats a gift  of a 2016 campaign issue: middle class well-being.  Short term job creation programs for infrastructure and the Keystone Pipeline may provide better wages and jobs for some, but not for all sectors. The GOP has two years  come up with real solutions to aid  the struggling middle class or face  fickle, fed up voters in 2016.

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News Nov. 13, 2014  www.skyhidailynews.com

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/2014/1105/Midterm-elections-exit-poll-It-was-the-economy-stupid

http://pos.org/2014/11/mcinturff-harrington-morning-consult-column-11-6-14-the-aca-was-not-a-significant-vote-factor-this-election/

http://news.yahoo.com/reagan-bush-acted-alone-shield-immigrants-171420251.html   They did not impeach either Reagan or Bush for taking unilateral action using executive authority. Obama, of course, is different?