Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bob Beauprez, who is he?

Who is Bob Beauprez, the Republican taking on Gov. John Hickenlooper in November?  He is a relatively unknown to the general public since his last elected office ended seven years ago, and his stance on issues is missing on his website. Polls show a close race. The campaign will heat up after Labor Day, but what positions Beauprez takes on issues may change the poll numbers.
What we know is that Beauprez was a two-term congressman until 2007, serving western slope District 7, and he lost to Democrat Bill Ritter in the general election for governor in 2006 by 17 percentage points.  Since then he has served as editor in chief of A Line of Sight, an online magazine.  He published one book, “A Return to Values: A Conservative.” There is a limited record of public statements he made in 2012 and later.  From that, it is possible to get a sneak preview of what may come.
He will be a good fit for rural Colorado, but not necessarily for urban/suburban voters. He will perpetuate a gender gap, may neutralize an increase in the Hispanic vote gap, and will risk attacks that “he is too extreme for Colorado” in spite of his businessman demeanor.
Beauprez already had a Romney 47% moment caught on YouTube, similar to what many consider the turning point resulting in the reelection of President Obama. Four years ago Beauprez noted 47% do not pay federal income tax.  Failing to note that 47% percent do not earn enough to be taxed, he concluded, “Almost one half of the population is perfectly happy that someone else is paying the bill.”   He defended his remarks again on July 2, 2014, on KWGN.
A recent Quinnipiac poll concluded that issues of importance to Colorado are the economy, jobs, and health care, to the exclusion of the rest.  A poll revealed 60% say Colorado’s economy is “excellent” or “good” while viewing the national economy as the reverse.  Gov. Hickenlooper, also viewed as business- and energy sector-friendly, may neutralize or win that issue.
Regarding Obamacare, what Beauprez would do differently is not known.  Would he yank it from those who are already benefiting or find an acceptable substitute that provides the same protection from insurance company practices of denial for preexisting conditions and benefits of affordability for the 400,000 in Colorado who were uninsured prior to the ACA?  Colorado’s exchange marketplace is ranked as one of the top four most successful in the US.
A nonpartisan, nonprofit  group “On the Issues,” however, has looked at Beauprez’s positions on record and assessed  him to be a conservative on the right, opposing higher taxes on the wealthy, green energy as a priority, women’s unrestricted rights for abortion, and same-sex marriage. What he favors are school choice vouchers, absolute right to gun ownership, and privatizing social security.  He is neutral on a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, perhaps recognizing that Hispanics comprise 12% of the state’s voters.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The GOP and the gender gap

The GOP must be looking at poll numbers. They are still losing the women’s vote, especially in Colorado. The gender gap is wide as Democrat Sen. Udall begins the campaign with a 9% lead among women over the GOP opponent Congressman Cory Gardner.  July and August NBC/Wall Street Journal polls show a significant gender gap nationally. The Colorado gap may widen as more women learn Gardner’s positions on their issues.
So now Republicans are attempting to blunt the Democrats' accusations that they are waging a war on women by trying to divert attention to job creation and the economy.  It may not be a war on women, but the GOP consistently gives women’s economic and personal interests second place to other priorities. What Republicans do not understand is that women’s take-home pay and their ability to participate in the economy are being made more difficult by their policies of consistently putting women’s interests below employers' rights and bottom lines or when core religious conservative supporters raise objections.
For example, women getting insurance from employers should not have to pay more for health insurance premiums than men.   Increasing the minimum wage helps women who mostly hold the minimum-wage jobs.  There is no one more important right that enables women to work than being able to control when, if, and how often they have children.  That is the ultimate economic issue in middle-class families where the women’s paycheck is vital.
While some GOP members have supported raising the minimum wage, the party as a whole, including Gardner, has blocked congressional action.  Republicans' adamant opposition to Obamacare would restore the right of insurers to charge women more for premiums, and Gardner has voted to repeal Obamacare fifty times.
The GOP has consistently supported limiting women’s ability to control their reproduction schedules. Birth control is even under assault from the GOP-lauded Hobby Lobby decision that permitted certain corporations to opt out of covering birth control for religious reasons.
Pro-life is the basic litmus test for the GOP to back any candidates.  There are those who permit exceptions to banning abortions and others more extreme who want to criminalize abortions or the doctors who perform them.  The GOP still nominates candidates who take the most extreme positions, including Gardner.
Gardner was also not only a proponent, but a longtime leader of the state personhood amendment that would consider life begins at conception, a backdoor way to make all abortions criminal, and passage would make certain kinds of birth control illegal.
Recently, though, Gardner quietly tried to walk back his support of the personhood amendment.  His conversion is suspect, given the timing.  With the personhood amendment on the state ballot in November, it will be hard for him to duck his history.  In Congress, his name is still on a federal personhood amendment bill, and he recently voted for a bill that would make it criminal for abortions to be performed after the 20th week with few exceptions.
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A version of this appeared in the August 28 and 29 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Obamacare under assault by courts

Lawsuits, partisanship, and ignorance threaten Obamacare.  There is a great deal of confusion over the recent appeals courts' decisions on Obamacare (ACA) in the Halbig suit.  At issue is whether the law permits those who got Obamacare through the federal exchanges to get their premiums subsidized by taxpayers to make them affordable.
One three-person panel appeals court dominated by Republicans ruled against the ACA subsidies of federal exchange-issued policies, and the other with more Democrats ruled in support of the subsidies. The administration is appealing the anti-ACA decision to have a ruling of the full bench of justices.  The issue could still go to the Supreme Court.
What sort of a reaction could we expect if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare subsidies?  There will not be much impact in Colorado because Colorado and 14 other states set up their own exchanges and can clearly subsidize premiums. Colorado has also expanded Medicaid to the near-poor.
Ten million people would lose their tax credits, and the ACA would be eliminated in 24 states, per the Kaiser Family Foundation, August 4, 2014, Wall Street Journal blog, because they have refused both to expand Medicaid and to set up their own state-run exchanges. Twelve states expanded Medicaid but did not set up state exchanges, so those who signed up through the federal exchanges would lose affordable subsidies.
For those 4.7 million (of a potential total over three years of 9.5 million) who would lose their affordable insurance they already got, the reaction would be an angry one. The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 9, 2014, noted "that 87% of the people signing up for coverage in the federal marketplace qualify for income-based premium subsidies that lower their average premium from $346 per month to $82, a reduction of 76%."  
Many would not be angry.  About 60% polled recently by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) said they had not been affected by the law, yet the majority still disapprove of the law. Approval of the ACA is about 38%, though approval or disapproval mostly depends on party affiliation. Still 60% did not want it repealed but improved instead.
The ACA's acceptance has been slow because experience with it has been short, and partisanship and ignorance influence public opinion.  Per KFF polls, more than 6 out of 10 did not even know or were not sure they had a choice of private plans, the basic feature of the ACA.  Nearly 40 percent of enrollees in federal Obamacare exchanges did not even know they were getting federal subsidies.
Those receiving insurance from employers may not realize Obamacare has stopped insurance companies from overcharging (resulting in refunds to consumers), or charging higher premiums for women and setting lifetime caps or that the ACA is responsible for covering cancer screenings without copays.  Those advantages will only be fully appreciated and understood when consumers experience them or if the GOP repeals the ACA and takes these benefits away. 

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News August 22,2014
Jul 31, 2014 | Larry Levitt and Gary Claxton

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Iraq air strikes: too little, too late or will it work?

President Obama, the reluctant warrior, showed flexibility in using military force when US interests and overwhelming humanitarian needs were at stake and he authorized air strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq.  His critics, the same who had urged him to take more military action in nearly every crisis, are left to whine that he does not have a consistent overall foreign policy. News flash:  He does.  The more pertinent questions should be is this action too little, too late, or will it work?  

First, does President Obama even have a foreign policy?  Yes.  It is just not the one hawks like, but it is one for which he was elected.  The list:  Avoid more ground wars and withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Use diplomatic engagement and other means to forward American interests, provide humanitarian aid, or to protect national security, with military engagement a last resort.  Bring in neighbors, allies, and others.  Promote self-governance that is inclusive, effective, and no springboard for terrorists to attack the West.  Much of this was restated in his interview with Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times on August 8.

Are Obama’s strategy and tactics consistent with that policy?  Obama did not wait for a slaughter to happen first as President Clinton did in Bosnia.  Instead, he used military action to head off ethnic cleansing of minority Christians, Kurds, and others. He has involved the UK and France to deliver humanitarian aid.

Should he have intervened in Syria to cripple ISIS’s rise?  If the US had supplied weapons to Syrian rebels, they most likely would have found their way to ISIS, which was also a major part of the rebel force. Sometimes no action is wiser than action.

He is pressuring Baghdad regime change to promote an inclusive and effective Baghdad.  It is a work in progress. Prime Minister al-Maliki had laid the seeds for ISIS when he became a Shia despot, persecuting and excluding Sunnis from government.  The result: ISIS was welcomed by Sunni villages and Sunni members of the Iraq military, enabling the rapid advance nearly to the gates of Baghdad.

Obama has forsworn a ground war while he was decisive in ordering air strikes.  The old truism, air strikes alone do not win wars, holds water if there are no boots on the ground to fight.  Air superiority has worked before when there were other armed forces fighting the ground war.  In the early 1990s in Bosnia and in Kosovo, President Clinton belatedly authorized US airpower through NATO to give support to Muslims fighting the Bosnian Serbs and Serbian Kosovars, bent on establishing a greater Serbia cleansed of Muslims.  It resulted in a diplomatic resolution.

The Kurds are the best fighters in Iraq.  With US weapons, training, and air support, the plan is for Kurds to get time to gather strength and slow down ISIS’s advance to Baghdad, giving an opportunity for Baghdad to get its act and resolve together and fight its own war.

A version of this blog appears as a column in the August 14, 15 various editions of the