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Sunday, March 30, 2014

In US, GOP Runaway Voting Laws Gain Steam


'What we see here is a total disrespect and disregard for constitutional protections'

- Common Dreams staff

Protect the Voting Rights Act rally at the SCOTUS, February 27, 2013 (David Sachs / SEIU / Creative Commons license)

With mid-term elections fast approaching and the next presidential bid seemingly around the corner, Republican lawmakers around the country have ramped up efforts to restrict voting rules and regulations in ways that favor GOP voters and discriminate against those who traditionally vote democrat, a report in the New York Times on Saturday highlights.

The battle, of course, is focused on swing-states where the stakes are highest.

GOP legislatures are systematically passing a string of bills that "go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls," as the Times reports.

The New York Times continues:
The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.
Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.
Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.
Nine states have passed vote-restrictive measures such as laws requiring voter IDs and proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or a passport. "Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register," the Times reports.

A series of court decisions have emboldened Republican's efforts, including last year's Supreme Court decision to strike down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, allowing a number of mostly Southern states to make changes to election laws without approval from the Justice Department—a restriction which had been put in place to combat discrimination against minorities at the polls.

"A few weeks later, free of the mandate and emboldened by a Republican supermajority, North Carolina passed the country’s most sweeping restrictions on voting," The New York Times reports, doing away with same-day voter registration, early voting, and "a popular program to preregister high school students to vote" as well as mandated strict photo identification requirements.

“What we see here is a total disrespect and disregard for constitutional protections,” Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P. and leader of the Moral Mondays movement, told the New York Times.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Republican War Against Social Security

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

The Republican War Against Social Security

Most Americans have supported Social Security ever since it was enacted into law in 1935.  Republican presidential nominee, Alf Landon, made the repeal of Social Security the main issue in the 1936 election, thus making the election a referendum on whether the American people wanted to keep or repeal Social Security.  The response of the electorate was a massive vote in favor of keeping Social Security.

In 1983, conservatives launched a two-front war against Social Security, which has proven far more successful than anyone anticipated.  The code name of the first assault was “Achieving a Leninist Strategy.”  The co-authors of the plan were Stuart Butler (Cato Institute) and Peter Germanis (Heritage Foundation).  This detailed plan for getting rid of the current Social Security system, was published in the Fall 1983 issue of the Cato Journal.  

The plan, to get rid of the current Social Security system and replace it with a privatized system focused on the differing views of Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto, and Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary, with regard to how to bring capitalism down.  Marx believed that capitalism would inevitably collapse on its own, but Lenin did not want to wait.  He wanted to mobilize an alliance to hasten the collapse.

Butler and Germanis drew an analogy between the best way to force an end to capitalism and the best way to ensure the collapse of the current Social Security system.  They wrote:
As we contemplate basic reform of the Social Security system, we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy…It will be a long time before citizen indignation will cause radical change to take place.  Therefore, if we are to achieve basic changes in the system, we must first prepare the political ground.    
“Preparing the political ground,” involved a specific set of plans for bringing down the current Social Security system.  The plan included “guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.”  It also calls for the mobilization of the various coalitions that stand to benefit  from the privatization of Social Security. Almost every firm in the financial industry would benefit enormously if investment in private accounts becomes a reality.  They would very much like a piece of the action with regard to investing Social Security contributions.

This plan was launched in 1983 and has been growing rapidly ever since.  Thomas B. Edsall of the Washington Post wrote an excellent article in 2005 updating the progress of the movement. The article, “Conservatives Join Forces for Bush Plans,” appeared in the February 13, 2005  issue of the Post.  Edsall writes:
Just 22 years later the business alliance is fully on board…The campaign is being funded largely with money set aside by large corporations to influence the outcome of the Congressional debate…The number of conservative organizations supporting the privatization of Social Security, and the size of their bankroll for accomplishing the mission is staggering.   
The other Republican assault against Social Security was the Social Security Amendments of 1983.  This legislation, initiated by Ronald Reagan, laid the foundation for 30 years of using Social Security money for non-Social Security purposes and the depleting of the Social Security trust fund.  Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan conspired in the early 1980s to alter Social Security in such a way that the government would be able to embezzle more than $2.7 trillion in Social Security funds and use the money to finance Reagan’s huge income tax cuts for the super rich, among other things.

Reagan needed a new source of revenue to replace the revenue lost as a result of his unaffordable income tax cuts.  He wasn’t about to rescind any of his income-tax cuts, but he had another idea.  What about raising the payroll tax, and then channeling the new revenue to the general fund, from where it could be spent for other purposes?  An increase in Social Security taxes would be easier to enact than a hike in income tax rates.  Reagan’s first step in implementing his strategy was to write to Congressional leaders.  His letter, dated May 21, 1981, included the following:
As you know, the Social Security System is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy…in the decades ahead its unfunded obligations could run well into the trillions. Unless we in government are willing to act, a sword of Damocles will soon hang over the welfare of millions of our citizens.
But what Reagan wrote to Congressional leaders wasn’t true.  It would later be learned that it was a hoax, cooked up by Reagan and Greenspan, to increase general revenue. Social Security was definitely not “teetering on the edge of bankruptcy” in 1981.  There would be major problems when the baby boomers began to retire in about 2010, but that was nearly three decades down the road.  Why would they need to raise taxes 30 years before the money would be needed to pay benefits to the boomers?  Reagan was crying “wolf.”

Reagan appointed Alan Greenspan to head up a Commission on Social Security Reform, which soon became known as the Greenspan Commission on Social Security Reform. The Commission released its findings and recommendations on January 1, 1983. Legislation to implement the Commission’s recommendations was introduced almost immediately, and the bill was rushed through Congress in a record time of only three months.  Greenspan was well rewarded for his role in selling the new legislation to Congress and the public.  In 1987, Reagan nominated Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, one of the most coveted positions in Washington.  Greenspan  continued to serve in that capacity until January 31, 2006.

At the signing ceremony for the new legislation on April 20, 1983, Reagan described the new law as a great accomplishment for the American people.  Reagan said:
This bill demonstrates for all time our nation’s ironclad commitment to social security.  It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half century ago.
Instead of being a proud day for America, as Reagan suggested, April 20, 1983 has become a day of shame.  The Social Security Amendments of 1983 laid the foundation for 30 years of federal embezzlement of Social Security money.  The payroll tax hike of 1983 generated a total of $2.7 trillion in surplus Social Security revenue.  This surplus revenue was supposed to have been saved and invested in marketable U.S Treasury bonds that would be held in the trust fund until the baby boomers began to retire in about 2010.  But not one dime of that money went to Social Security.  The money was taken by the government and replaced with non-marketable government IOUs.  These IOUs cannot be used to pay benefits, and they cannot be converted into cash.  For all practical purposes, they are worthless.

In summary, the Republicans launched a two-front war against Social Security in 1983.  The “Leninist plan” was a detailed blueprint for bringing down the current Social Security System.  It called for guerilla warfare against the current system and its supporters.  Billions of dollars have been spent on implementing the plan, and millions of Americans are now beginning to question the solvency of Social Security.  This fear and uncertainty is likely to make confused Americans more willing to consider the need for reforming the system.  At the same time, on the second front, every dollar of the $2.7 trillion that is supposed to be in the trust fund for paying benefits to the boomers has been spent as general revenue.  If the money had not been spent, and there really was $2.7 trillion in marketable U.S. Treasury bonds in the trust fund, Social Security would have no immediate problems today.  It would be able to pay full benefits for another 20 years.  But the money is gone, and Social Security is now running permanent annual deficits.

If the Republicans win their war against Social Security, America is the big loser.  Our democratic system will have lost its ability to deliver to the public what the majority of Americans want.  Instead, minorities, with wealthy backers, will be able to impose their values on the majority.  America will have been put on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder.

Dr. Allen W. Smith is a Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at Eastern Illinois University. He is the author of seven books and has been researching and writing about Social Security financing for the past ten years. His latest book is  

The Impending Social Security Crisis: The Government’s Big Dirty Secret. Read other articles by Allen, or visit Allen's website.

“Code words for race”: What’s really behind GOP’s poverty and welfare obsession


“Code words for race”: What’s really behind GOP’s poverty and welfare obsession


When Paul Ryan decried the "culture" of inner cities it followed a long conservative tradition, a scholar explains

 “Code words for race”: What’s <em>really</em> behind GOP’s poverty and welfare obsession 
Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Tami Chappell/AP/Ed Reinke)

“We have got this tailspin of culture,” Paul Ryan told ex-Reagan drug czar Bill Bennett Wednesday, “in our inner cities in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working, or learning to value the culture of work. So there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.” Under fire from politicians and pundits, the Wisconsin congressman – perhaps the congressional GOP’s leading voice on fighting poverty – backtracked but didn’t apologize, saying he’d been “inarticulate,” and that his cultural critique applied to “society as a whole.”

To consider those comments – and how politicians of both parties appeal to race, class and supposed “welfare queens” 18 years after America gutted welfare – Salon called up University of Southern California political scientist Ange-Marie Hancock. “I do think that they are code words for race,” said Hancock, the author of “The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen.” “But I also think they are code words for class.” A condensed version of our conversation follows.

Did anything in that quote [on Bill Bennett’s radio show] surprise you?

Nothing in that quote surprised me, other than the fact that it could have been pulled from 1994.

So I was really surprised that Paul Ryan was reverting back to arguments that have been circulating for decades, really — but certainly in the 1994 welfare reform debate, these were highly salient, particularly among House Republicans.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee called those comments “a thinly veiled racial attack,” which “cannot be tolerated.” She said that “when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”” Do you agree?

Yes, I do think that they are code words for race. But I also think they are code words for class … Paul Ryan is making a specific kind of argument, using code words that are very commonly used to signify a black underclass or black poor population …

The idea of “dog whistle politics” is that you use code words that allow you plausible deniability. So of course Rep. Ryan can say: “I’m not racist — I didn’t use the word ‘black’”; “I didn’t use the word ‘poor’”; “I’m only talking about that slice of people who live in the inner city, who may or may not be black.”

So is this an appeal to racism and to classism?

I think it is an appeal to racism and classism, in the sense that it offers a specific diagnosis of what kinds of things are wrong in some of our center cities in the United States. And it locates the problem so the problem is diagnosed to be in the people, and the cultures of the people themselves, rather than some of the structural economic shifts that have gone on that have left lots of our central cities without significant job sectors, without significant property tax bases.

In your book “The Politics of Disgust,” you argued for an intersectional understanding of the way that race and gender and class play a role in the imagination, particularly of the “welfare queen.” How does that kind of intersection come into play here?

What we’re talking about here, in what Rep. Ryan said, is the idea that his construction of the so-called inner city … is really about a certain population. And so when he talks about “culture,” and that it’s the culture that creates the “tailspin” … what we’re really talking about is this idea of race and class together …

He has plausible deniability on racism by saying he was talking about the inner city and not race. He has plausible deniability on classism by saying he’s not just talking about poverty without talking about this idea of culture …

One of the primary reasons why we use race and class together is to avoid the debates that have gone on in the past 50 years … [over] whether it’s race or class. In many cases it does have to do with a specific combination … and so we get more value out of looking at race and class as complementary factors that would explain certain kinds of outcomes, versus as competing factors.

What is at stake in the rhetorical move that the congressman is making?

What’s at stake … are several policies that have been on the chopping block for the Republicans in this past Congress. So anything from the debate recently that happened over food stamps, to previous years where they were talking about SCHIP and healthcare for children who were in poverty … All of these kinds of programs are now being subsumed under this idea that there is a cultural problem that needs to be fixed – and, he specifically said in that excerpt from the radio interview, [that] government is not going to be able to solve this …

The rhetorical move to the inner city as a place that’s culturally flawed allows him to then also say government is not able to solve problems that are based in culture.

And his reference to ["Bell Curve" author] Charles Murray … Ryan’s citation of Murray as well as other conservatives’ citation of Murray’s work — what does that reflect about … what the scope of the mainstream conversation — among politicians, among pundits — is about how we explain poverty and racial inequality?

Murray’s work has been debunked by scholars, all different kinds of social scientists …

The fact that the Republicans and Paul Ryan are still willing to rely on this kind of flawed social scientific analysis, I think, is designed to keep the conversation focused on a debate about whether or not cultures can be inherently flawed – so, whether or not central city culture is the kind of thing that needs to be reformed — instead of really trying to be imaginative and innovative about the ways in which government can be part of the solution …

It keeps the rhetorical debate on their own turf, which constrains the different kinds of policy options that might be on the table.

Comments like Ryan’s – do you see them as outliers? Do you see them as of a piece with the way U.S. politicians talk about poverty and inequality?

I think this is one of the rare instances where the House Republicans tend to be united … There is a certain kind of unity in how they explain poverty, and then how they then act in terms of the policies that they do not support like unemployment insurance and food stamps …

I think that there has been a significant shift in public opinion. I think part of that has to do with the millennials … coming online and coming of age, if you will, during a time where the economy has been struggling. So I think that’s part of how you get something like Occupy Wall Street — they start to understand that these things are not simply individual in terms of their explanations. So it’s not simply that you’re an individual who doesn’t work hard enough, or an individual who hasn’t had the right mentors or examples in your life, but there’s something bigger going on here.

What about the way that Democrats talk about the causes of poverty and inequality?

They still remain, for the most part, in a kind of context that is very much associated with capitalism, quite logically because that’s the kind of system that we have …

You see a more ecumenical approach among the Democrats, in terms of government playing a role, but then also there being a role for individuals to kind of use their own efforts, and also a role for the nonprofit and philanthropic sector as well …

More in step with what I think the rest of the country is thinking about in terms of poverty: I think most Americans, following the Great Recession, understand that the enduring poverty is not simply about individual effort, or not simply about coming from a flawed culture.

On a CPAC panel last week, Robert Woodson, who’s been taking Paul Ryan on what he describes as a “quiet listening tour” through poorer places in the United States, faulted “some of our scholars” for being too focused on “the failures of the poor” rather than focusing on “studies of people who have been redeemed from that bad start” … What do you make of that kind of argument?

There is a growing type of scholarship that … focuses on success rather than problems … I think the idea that we do need to look at how people have become successful, and figure out ways in which to scale that up, so that it can become a statewide or a national kind of outcome — I think that’s laudable …

The idea of conservatives being too pessimistic; I’m not sure I would frame it as pessimistic. I think I would frame it more as an ideological orientation that is geared toward individual explanations rather than systemic explanations.

You wrote in your book that “Historically, evaluations of welfare recipients’ lack of work ethic and hyperfertility became serious catalysts for policy options as the social construction of welfare recipients shifted from White to Black and from widow to never-married single mother.” The transformation of the welfare system in ’96 – did that lead to a transformation in welfare politics, and the phenomena that you criticized about welfare politics in the U.S.?

Sadly, no. So the phenomenon of the so-called welfare queen continues to rear its ugly head. It seems to be the social construction that never goes away, unfortunately. And again, this is despite the fact that it’s been routinely debunked …

One of the reasons why it has such lasting potential has to do with how it actually confirms some of, again, the ideological and prejudicial biases that we already hold … We are, of course, socialized into having implicit biases that are racialized, that are gendered, in very specific ways – that are also classed in very specific ways. And so the welfare queen endures partly because it matches up with — meaning that it’s consonant with – some of these preexisting implicit biases. So, the idea that blacks are lazy, that is an implicit bias that we carry around in our head even if we wouldn’t consciously say that we agree with that statement.

And so the welfare queen endures partly because it’s consonant with implicit biases that we learned by observation and imitation when we were very, very small children.

In the 2012 campaign, after the Romney campaign started attacking the White House for supposedly gutting welfare reform, the pushback from the Obama campaign including charging that Romney, as governor, “petitioned the federal government for waivers that would have let people stay on welfare for an indefinite period, ending welfare reform as we know it, and even created a program that handed out free cars to welfare recipients.” That response from the Obama campaign … were you troubled by that?

Yes, in a word. The response itself I understand is part of campaign politics. But the idea that, you know, giving welfare recipients free cars is somehow problematic … [that] it violates, somehow, our American values — that program was actually a response to the idea that those who were being required to work did not have access to reliable transportation to actually make it to work …

There’s a lot that gets lost in kind of these charges and countercharges, that really does actually lead the women — mostly women — who are working through TANF and other kinds of programs to actually twist in the wind. And it renders them invisible.

Paul Ryan said today that he was “inarticulate” but that he “was not implicating the culture of one community, but of society as a whole.” Is that a satisfying explanation?

I don’t think it’s a convincing explanation, for two reasons.

One, I think Paul Ryan has established himself as kind of the intellectual center of the Republican Party. And so the idea that he would somehow not be familiar with the “culture of poverty” arguments which have been around for nearly 50 years … seems a bit hard to believe …

[Second,] the question that was asked was directly about inner cities. And so the idea that … one sentence he’s talking about inner cities, and the next sentence he’s talking about society in general – having listened to it, it did not sound to me like he was speaking about society in general.

Josh Eidelson

Paul Ryan’s race flap even worse than it looks


Paul Ryan’s race flap even worse than it looks


The notion that Ryan was dog-whistling to racists is actually the best-case scenario. Here's the scary alternative

Paul Ryan's race flap even worse than it looks 
Paul Ryan (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
I spent a depressing amount of time this weekend trying to think up a scenario in which someone might say the following without being motivated, to at least some degree, by malign intent.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

What I came up with was strained and unlikely, but troubling if true.
In case you slept through last week, the person who said this was congressman and one-time GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. It ignited a fairly heated debate over whether he was intentionally trafficking in racial code words to pander to white conservatives. Ryan claims he spoke inarticulately and was thus misunderstood. For proponents of the dog-whistle theory, the fact that Ryan cited Charles Murray, author of “The Bell Curve,” was the smoking gun.

For my part, I don’t think they need a smoking gun, because Occam’s razor does all the dirty work. You can take Murray completely out of the equation and the likelihood that Ryan wasn’t at least subconsciously playing to the prejudices of resentful or racist whites is pretty low.

But let’s assume Ryan’s playing it straight, and his defenders, like Slate’s Dave Weigel, are correct when they argue that this is just how Ryan and other conservatives “think about welfare’s effects on social norms.” If that’s true, it’s actually a bigger problem for the right. If Ryan was even a little bit aware of how people would interpret his remarks, or understood the reaction to them when it exploded online, we could just say that some conservatives want to play the Southern Strategy at least one more round, and leave it at that. Close the book on this controversy, without drawing any larger conclusions about the state of conservative self-deception.

But if Ryan genuinely stumbled heedless into a racial tinderbox then it suggests he, and most likely many other conservatives, has fully internalized a framing of social politics that was deliberately crafted to appeal to white racists without regressing to the uncouth language of explicit racism, and written its origins out of the history. If that’s the case it augurs poorly for those in the movement who are trying to broaden the Republican Party’s appeal, because it’s easier to convince people to abandon a poor tactic than to unlearn rotten ideology.

In his 1984 book “The Two Party South,” political scientist Alexander Lamis quoted a conservative operative later revealed to be Ronald Reagan confidant Lee Atwater, who traced the evolution.
”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N—-r, n—-r, n—-r,’” Atwater explained. “By 1968 you can’t say ‘n—-r’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘N—-r, n—-r.”’
Treating intergenerational laziness of inner-city men as established truth, and bemoaning the ways social spending programs supposedly nurture that “culture,” blends seamlessly into Atwater’s framework.

Weigel interprets the fact that Charles Murray has lately softened his claims as exculpation for Ryan and other conservatives who cite him. But Murray’s just following a social Darwinist’s rendition of the trajectory Atwater traced. I suspect both men are wiser to their intentions than their apologists give them credit for. There are ways to promote conservative social policies that aren’t remotely racialized — they just don’t ignite the passions of resentful white people in a politically meaningful way. If I’m wrong, though, conservatives better hope the party doesn’t nominate Ryan or any like-minded thinkers in 2016.

A quick point of trivia: I first learned about Atwater’s comments years ago, in this New York Times column by Bob Herbert questioning why anybody was surprised to hear GOP education secretary-cum-talk radio host Bill Bennett say, “I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”

Guess whose program Ryan was a guest on when he stepped in it last week?
Brian Beutler Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at bbeutler@salon.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Republicans Have Thrown 2 Million People Off of Unemployment Benefits Since Dec 28


more from Sarah Jones
Wednesday, March, 5th, 2014, 10:23 am


2 million and counting. That’s the number of people who’ve been kicked off their unemployment benefits after Republicans deliberately let the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expire, according to a new analysis from Ways and Means Committee Democrats.

“The estimate includes the number of people in each state who have lost coverage since the program’s Dec. 28 expiration. Every week, 72,000 people, on average, are losing their unemployment benefits nationwide without an extension of the program.”

If this isn’t happening to you or someone you know, you might not realize that these are real people. People who want to work and are looking for work, and have been kicked to the gutter by Republican values. Here’s a state by state breakdown of these real people, provided by the Ways and Means Committee Democrats.

State: Estimated Number of People Losing UI Thru March 8

AK: 8,608
AL: 19,267
AR: 15,838
AZ: 25,754
CA: 339,101
CO: 31,468
CT: 35,035
DC: 7,215
DE: 5,446
FL: 109,654
GA: 76,362
HI: 4,131
IA: 11,300
ID: 6,831
IL: 116,136
IN: 28,969
KS: 10,746
KY: 24,769
LA: 12,601
MA: 79,777
MD: 33,862
ME: 6,723
MI: 76,580
MN: 22,269
MO: 34,944
MS: 18,092
ND: 2,377
NE: 4,392
NH: 2,504
NJ: 124,569
NM: 9,731
NV: 26,023
NY: 178,177
OH: 57,869
OK: 10,638
OR: 31,221
PA: 109,061
PR: 39,777
RI: 8,323
SC: 22,785
SD: 508
TN: 31,423
TX: 105,409
UT: 6,231
VA: 21,969
VI: 1,762
VT: 1,485
WA: 38,876
WI: 39,777
WV: 10,731
WY: 2,023



*North Carolina was ineligible for the federal unemployment insurance

But if that’s not enough reason to care, perhaps knowing that Republicans refusing to renew long term emergency unemployment benefits will cost us all 240,000 jobs this year will increase the stakes.

This is the Republican economy — nothing for the people, everything for the corporations. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) even tried to use unemployment benefits to kill Obamacare, so if Democrats will stab Americans in the back and kill another program that is helping people and has boosted both personal income and spending, Republicans would consider not filibustering emergency help.

On February 6th of this year, McConnell led his Senate Republicans into no votes on yet another thing that used to have bipartisan support during economic hardship — the extension of long term benefits for the unemployed. This was bipartisan because not only did it help the people directly, but it helps the economy as well. Republican Senators blocked a three month extension on benefits for the long term unemployed. “Democrats were united in support of restoring unemployment benefits, but only one Republican, Dean Heller of Nevada voted to extend the benefits.”

It goes without saying that House Republicans have blocked the effort numerous times. If you see a program that might help the economy and does for sure help people, you can just forget it even being put up for a vote in this House. And the Senate will operate just like the House if Republicans win the majority, as we can see from the Republican Senate Minority Leader’s votes.

Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) laid out the cost of one Republican vote, “A financial crisis is confronting more and more families every day that Republicans fail to support an extension of this vital program. One Republican vote in the Senate is all that stands in the way of two million people and their families coming one critical step closer to seeing their financial lifeline restored as they look for work.”

Republicans Have Thrown 2 Million People Off of Unemployment Benefits Since Dec 28 was written by Sarah Jones for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Wed, Mar 5th, 2014 — All Rights Reserved


Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Brief History Of The Republican Alternative To Obamacare: Your Sunday Morning Conversation

A Brief History Of The Republican Alternative To Obamacare: Your Sunday Morning Conversation

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How to explain the history of the "Republican alternative to Obamacare?" It seems to reside in a realm where time elongates and reality warps. I cannot remember a time in which Republicans weren't fervently offering an "Obamacare alternative." Simultaneously, I cannot remember a time in which Republicans weren't fervently urging the creation of new "Obamacare alternatives." To borrow a line from Christopher Durang, I don't know if this is the trick of memory, or the memory of some trick.

At times, the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" seems to be forever on its way, but never arriving -- as if it were the public policy embodiment of Zeno's dichotomy paradox. New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, who's spent many a day navigating this Beckettian wilderness, suggests that the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" exists in a quantum reality, where they "reside in a state of quasi-existence, and any attempt to summon them into political reality will cause them to disappear."

More often than not, the history of the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" reveals itself as a cyclical set of traditions, repeating themselves over the years in political press conferences and pundit sparring. It goes something like this:

1. Republicans propose "alternatives" to Obamacare that don't go anywhere.
2. Allied partisans urge them to finally get serious and come up with a replacement.
3. They make new promises to keep at it.
4. Their return to the drawing board prompts columns from liberals about how the GOP lacks an alternative.
5. Allied partisans then criticize liberal pundits for saying there is "no alternative plan," citing the many plans that have been proposed, that went nowhere.
6. New alternatives are proposed and/or promised nonetheless, and the cycle repeats.

This cycle resembles Rust Cohle's "membrane theory" from the HBO show "True Detective." Time is a flat circle, in which Republicans have always been proposing alternatives to Obamacare, their proposals just cycling through their lives like carts on a track. The "Republican alternative to Obamacare" exists in an eternity where there is no time, nothing can grow, nothing can become, nothing changes, and everyone is reborn, but into the same effort to replace Obamacare that they’ve always been born into.

How many times have we had this conversation? I went back to the beginning to find out. By the end, I was ready to crush some Lone Star tallboys.

March 2009:

As Democrats begin to coalesce around a plan of their own, the GOP alternative is still nonspecific. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offers that Medicare's prescription drug benefit is "a good pattern of how a competitive marketplace works."
"Health care is a privilege." -- Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.)
April 2009: 

Igor Volsky of ThinkProgress reports that the GOP's alternative plan still basically resembles the McCain plan: "The recent trickle of so-called consumer-driven health care 'principles and recommendations' are a preview of the likely Republican alternative to comprehensive health care reform. Earlier this month, the Health Policy Consensus Group, headed by the conservative Galen Institute, published 'a vision for consumer-driven health care reform' and today Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review pens a New York Times editorial in which he explains that ... 'universal coverage' is 'misguided." Policy makers should focus on giving Americans 'more control' of their coverage instead."

May 2009: 

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), along with Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) introduce their Patient's Choice Act. Ezra Klein notes: "It's clear that many traditionally Democratic concepts have been embraced. To put it simply, the plan wants to encourage a version of the Massachusetts reforms ... in every state. There are some differences, of course. The plan doesn't have an individual mandate. It doesn't have an obvious tax on employers. But it strongly endorses State Health Insurance Exchanges."
The bill was referred to committee, but nothing ever came of it.

rove alternative obamacare

June 2009:

"I guarantee you we will provide you with a bill." -- Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Karl Rove: "In politics you can't beat something with nothing, so it is critical that the GOP offers an alternative to President Barack Obama's government-run monstrosity."

So here they come! The next semi-official GOP alternative to Obamacare is presented by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.). Time's Jay Newton-Small terms it "a four-page exercise in public relations that left out how many of the 47 million uninsured Americans would be covered, how it would be paid for or even how much it would cost." It rolls out alongside nine other "alternative plans."
"I started reading a couple, three of the Republican plans, but frankly, there's only so much time in the day." -- Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
July 2009:

In late July, the GOP-alternative effort briefly falls into contradictions. In a July 23 conference with GOP House leadership, Blunt declared, "As the president has gotten less specific, we have been more specific.” Cantor proclaimed that the GOP had a "third way" to do health care reform. A day before, however, Blunt had said that the GOP would not bother introducing a bill: "Our bill is never going to get to the floor, so why bother? We clearly have principles; we could have language, but why start diverting attention from this really bad piece of work they've got to whatever we're offering right now?"

The next week, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) would give it another shot, introducing the "Empower Patients First Act." Igor Volsky remarked that it was "almost identical" to four other GOP proposals that had been previously floated, and wondered, "What was wrong with the other four bills?"

August 2009:

GOP partisans begin to get testy. Morton Kondracke, writing for Real Clear Politics, says, "There's no question that Republican criticism has helped undermine support for President Barack Obama's health plan. But it hasn't done much to help Republicans. That's because while Republicans actually do have alternative ideas on health care reform, they have spent most of their time accentuating Obama's negatives." American Thinker's Paul Shlichta suggests that the GOP's failure to coalesce around a "counterproposal" is "political suicide."
Easier said than done, and the partisans aren't any better at coming to consensus. Justin Quinn urges the GOP to unite behind the "Improving Health Care For All Americans Act." Herman Cain begs the GOP to unite behind the "Empowering Patients First Act."

September 2009:

"The Republican health care plan for America: don't get sick ... if you do get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly." -- Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)
October 2009:

The Hill reports that the GOP is still at square one, debating what to do:
Some House Republicans are growing frustrated that their leaders have not yet introduced a health care reform alternative.For months, the message from House GOP leaders on a health care bill has been similar to ads for yet-to-be-released movies: Coming soon.
According to several GOP lawmakers, the leadership is split over how to proceed in terms of unveiling an alternative to the final Democratic bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) intends to unveil as soon as this week.
A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Philip Klein in the American Spectator: "Taken together, these criticisms have helped to weaken support for and build opposition to Democratic initiatives, but they have done nothing to advance an alternative vision for the health care system."
November 2009:

The GOP introduces its alternative in the form of an "Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute Offered by Mr. Boehner of Ohio" to what was then the Democrats' bill, the "Affordable Health Care for America Act."

The Congressional Budget Office promptly torches it. Ezra Klein surveyed the damage: "The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan. And amazingly, the Democratic bill has already been through three committees and a merger process. It's already been shown to interest groups and advocacy organizations and industry stakeholders. It's already made its compromises with reality. It's already been through the legislative sausage grinder. And yet it saves more money and covers more people than the blank-slate alternative proposed by John Boehner and the House Republicans."

December 2009:

Jonathan Chait: "The Republicans eschewed a halfway compromise and put all their chips on an all or nothing campaign to defeat health care and Obama's presidency. It was an audacious gamble. They lost. In the end, they'll walk away with nothing."

February 2010:

The Weekly Standard offers a "one-page" alternative to Obamacare called "the Small Bill." Its praises are sung by people ranging from "people who work at the Weekly Standard" to "people who work at the National Review."

The White House offers to meet with legislators to hash out a health care reform bill. GOP lawmakers are optimistic that they can convince the White House to "scrap" the bill that's emerging. Their counterproposal? "A blank piece of paper." Meanwhile, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is shaping up to resemble a 1993 health care reform proposal floated by the GOP.

March 2010:

"And, once we defeat Barack Obama, we need to proceed to repeal this disastrous plan before it can ruin our health care system. Then we must replace it with a Republican alternative that relies on the marketplace, tax incentives and individual responsibility to provide health care to all Americans." -- Dick Morris
May 2010:

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) is defeated in the second round of balloting at the 2010 Utah State Republican Convention. Among Republicans, Bennett was the most earnest in working on an Obamacare alternative. His sin, however, was partnering with a Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the effort. As the Deseret News reported, "His seven opponents had claimed he was not conservative enough for Utah, and had attacked him for voting for a banking bailout and for pushing a bipartisan health care reform proposal."

June 2010:

Once again, the GOP managed a pileup of competing alternatives. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) offers RedState readers "four commonsense alternatives to Obamacare," detailing H.R. 5421, "To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010." The bill was referred to committee, and nothing came of it.
Meanwhile, House leadership microwaved an old alternative plan, repackaging it as H.R. 5424, "To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 and enact the Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act." The bill was referred to committee, and nothing came of it.

July 2010:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Fred Barnes in the American Spectator: "Republicans have two great issues: health care and reform. They ought to go beyond advocating repeal of ObamaCare, tell voters what they'd replace it with, and explain the benefits."
August 2010:

Writing for Fox News, Christian Wilton suggests that a GOP-controlled Congress needs to "refuse to appropriate money required for federal agencies to implement Obamacare, buying time to offer a Republican alternative." Buy time? They've been at this for over a year and a half!

September 2010:

The GOP releases its "Pledge To America," which includes a promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with ... a bunch of stuff that's already in Obamacare.
October 2010:
"We could come up with a health care system that the American people would not only be proud of, but would actually love. ... We've never had a real conservative majority." -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
The Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey reports: "Conservatives are campaigning on promises to repeal Obama's overhaul, but a few admit their proposals haven't changed much in the last few years."
Some conservatives acknowledge that the healthcare program offered by party leaders is largely unchanged from the proposals the GOP pushed when it held majorities from 2000 to 2006. During that period, insurance premiums skyrocketed, businesses reduced benefits and the number of Americans without health insurance rose.
November 2010:

With a new House majority, Cantor reboots the effort to come up with an alternative. In a letter to incoming members, he writes: "Our new Republican majority will move to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with commonsense alternatives that lower costs while protecting those with pre-existing conditions." Newly minted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed the sentiments: "We must do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common-sense reforms to bring down the cost of health care.” Rep. Camp tries to interest people in one of his old proposals.

December 2010:

The GOP struggles, once again, to unify its approach. Cantor's call to protect patients with pre-existing conditions -- ground he ceded to Obamacare -- wasn't embraced by the incoming freshmen. As Andrea Stone reported:
North Carolina's Renee Ellmers, a Palin protege, opposes requiring insurers to accept patients with pre-existing conditions -- including pregnancy. Austin Scott of Georgia, another House freshman, was asked if there was any part of the law he supported. He replied, "No, ma'am, there are not."
Meanwhile, right-wing pundit infighting commences over Charles Krauthammer's suggestion to not attempt to defund Obamacare, on the grounds that a defunding effort would naturally be blamed for the law's failings. Krauthammer supported allowing the bill to be implemented, so it would fail on its own. This was met with disagreement.

January 2011:

House Republicans check off one of the entries on their bucket list by passing the "Repeal And Replace The Job Destroying Health Care Law." While the symbolic bill is long on "repeal," it doesn't offer much in the way of "replace." In fact, Cantor characterized the effort to construct an alternative to Obamacare as something that Republicans were, once again, embarking on for the first time, telling reporters that the vote for the bill meant they were ready “to begin work to construct an alternative health-care vision” that would be their “so-called replacement bill.”

Bloomberg reported that "Republican leaders didn’t offer specific alternatives" or a "timeline for moving forward with their proposals." The bill would die in the Senate.

February 2011:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Jeffrey Anderson in the Weekly Standard: "But while Americans want repeal, they don’t just want repeal. And thus the House Republicans are now confronted with their greatest challenge -- and opportunity -- in the whole span of the health care debate. They need to show the American people that the choice is not between Obamacare and nothing. They need to provide a meaningful, sensible alternative to Obamacare’s comprehensive failings."
Days later, the American Thinker's Jim Guirard had a brainwave: "We must focus on an alternative plan which can and should result in a simultaneous repeal and replacement of ObamaCare."

"As soon as the time is right," he specified.

March 2011:

WNYC reports that the GOP was hard at work "mull[ing]" an "Obamacare alternative": "Because now, Republicans (and their presidential hopefuls) must face the task of figuring out just what kind of health care law they'd like to see." Meanwhile, Ezra Klein opines:
It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Republicans. They managed to make it through the health-care debate without offering serious solutions of their own, and -- perhaps more impressive -- through the election by promising to tell us their solutions after they'd won. But the jig is up. They need a health-care plan -- and quickly.
Jennifer Rubin -- missing Klein's point by a country mile -- responded by citing numerous past examples of Republicans coming up with plans and insisting that Klein was "pretending there is no alternative to the deeply flawed ObamaCare."

April 2011:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin in The New York Times: "Republicans have an effective slogan for their health care agenda: 'repeal and replace.' The problem is, they can agree only on the first half; agreeing on what to put in place of last year’s health care law is the hard part."
May 2011:

2012 hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich wade into the health care reform waters, with mixed success. The Wall Street Journal offers the optimistic assessment that the "Republican primary contest ... could feature a robust debate on health care, with GOP candidates challenging the Democratic law while defending their own variations."

July 2011:

"When they took control of the House, Republicans could barely stop talking about their plans to 'repeal and replace' the health care reform law. Six months later, they hardly talk publicly about those plans at all. And they’re nowhere close to 'replacing' the law." --Politico
September 2011:

Ryan gives the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" another shot, proposing an expanded variation on his voucher system for Medicare.

October 2011:

Another dispatch from LA Times reporter Noam Levey indicates that, once again, the effort to come up with the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" is just getting underway: "Other conservative healthcare experts are developing an alternative to the law, an effort that could protect Republicans from past critiques that their healthcare plans left tens of millions of Americans without medical coverage."
Later in the same article, Levey reports, "A Republican replacement plan could build off a 2009 House GOP plan, said James Capretta, a former George W. Bush administration official who is developing a replacement strategy." (So much for dodging those "past critiques.")

November 2011:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Deroy Murdock in the National Review: "Washington Republicans nevertheless have been unwilling or unable to lock themselves in a hotel ballroom for a long weekend and devise a single plan as the official GOP alternative to Obamacare. Lacking a proposal around which Republicans and their limited-government allies could coalesce, the Right rightfully hammered Obamacare but never offered its own coherent package. Lesson: Never try to defeat something with nothing."
January 2012:

The Hill reports that "House Republicans will be ready with a plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare law once the Supreme Court determines the law’s fate this summer," thus giving them six more months to come up with something. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) -- who told The Hill that the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" would be ready regardless of the court's decision, "listed a number of policy ideas Republicans would consider in a replacement bill"...that were already part of Obamacare.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Romney's alternative plan is "light on details."

February 2012:

rubin alternative obamacare

Months after she castigated Ezra Klein for "pretending there is no alternative to ... ObamaCare," Jennifer Rubin says that the Republicans need to come up with the "Republican alternative to Obamacare." She writes, "Conservatives need to let the public know what the alternative to ObamaCare may be. If, unlike Obama, Republicans care about getting a mandate for their agenda, they would be wise to start laying out what a market-oriented alternative to ObamaCare would look like."

March 2012:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: James Capretta and Robert Moffit in National Affairs: "Now that Obamacare is with us, the law cannot be reversed without a credible proposal for what should take its place."
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reportedly scaling back expectations, telling Ramesh Ponnuru, “We would want to more modestly approach this with more incremental fixes ... Not a massive Republican alternative.”

April 2012:

The mystery of the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" deepens. "Do Republicans have an alternative to ObamaCare?" asks The Week. "Is There a Republican Alternative to Obamacare?" wonders Uwe Reinhardt. Fox News insists, "There is a Republican health plan. The only problem: Just as Democrats don't want to talk about ObamaCare, Republicans are just as afraid to talk about their plan as well."

May 2012:

The Hill reports:
Republicans might not offer a comprehensive plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare law if the Supreme Court strikes it down this summer.House Republicans had said they would have a healthcare bill ready to go by the time of the ruling to present a clear alternative to the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act.
But now, with the high court’s ruling just weeks away, some conservatives are urging the party to abandon that strategy, fearing voters will recoil from another sweeping revamp of the healthcare system.
"The political dynamics are such that you can loudly promise to craft an alternative a million times, and then quietly take back that promise in a small article published in The Hill." -- Jonathan Chait
July 2012:

A year and a half after Eric Cantor said the GOP was ready "to begin work to construct an alternative health-care vision" that would serve as his party's "so-called replacement bill," Cantor tells Tom Brokaw: "Tom, you knew back in 2009 when the Obamacare bill was being considered on the House floor, we put forward our alternative. So to sit here and say we don’t have a replacement is not correct."
Meanwhile, other Republicans were proceeding under the assumption that alternative plans were still needed -- and they continually offered "alternatives" that resembled the Affordable Care Act.
By mid-month, however, the L.A. Times reports that the GOP had "all but given up pushing alternatives to the sweeping legislation the president signed in 2010."
A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Gail Wilensky, who headed the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President George H.W. Bush and advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during his 2008 presidential campaign, says: "One of the big questions that the public needs to ask Republicans who are so focused on repeal is what will come in its place."
November 2012:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Ex-Romney adviser Avik Roy in Forbes: "Republicans have, rightly, spent the last three years campaigning against Obamacare. ... But conservatives are sorely mistaken if they believe that they can continue to campaign against Obamacare, without offering their own strategy for making health care more affordable for American families and the federal treasury."
December 2012:

Politico reports that Rep. Price becomes the latest GOP figure to suggest that the process of developing a "Republican alternative to Obamacare" needed to be rebooted: “It’s incumbent upon us to put forward positive, alternative solutions,” Price said at a Politico Pro breakfast panel discussion.
January 2013:

Jennifer Rubin offers a post-election lamentation:
The problem in the 2012 election was not that Mitt Romney didn’t seek to repeal Obamacare or that he had a state plan with one element (an individual mandate with an exchange); it was that he refused to spell out in particular detail an alternative. James Capretta and Jeffrey Anderson make a compelling case in the Weekly Standard that Republicans must do this ... without an alternative, the duo correctly point out, there will be no groundswell of support to dump Obamacare and no effective scene setting for the 2014 and 2016 elections."
Once again, I'll remind you that at one point Rubin got awfully snippy at Ezra Klein for "pretending there is no alternative to the deeply flawed ObamaCare." Now the lack of an alternative is the backbone of her urgings.

March 2013:

A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Mona Charen in Washington Examiner: "As Obamacare's rising costs and constricted choices alienate the American people, Republicans should be ready with an alternative that is market-oriented, assembled and on the launchpad."
April 2013:

The "Republican alternative to Obamacare" returns to its conceptual stages, where it becomes part of a pundit pileup in Cloudcuckooland. Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru write in National Review that Republicans "need to realize that without ... an alternative their objections to Obamacare will ring increasingly hollow," adding, "Even though they cannot become law for at least four years, such ideas must become Republican orthodoxy if the party is plausibly to call for repeal.”

Levin and Ponnuru propose an alternative. Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein are not impressed. Ben Domenech is not impressed with their non-impressediveness.
Jonathan Chait notes that the GOP has had ample opportunity to come up with an alternative, but hasn't put many to a vote:
Republicans haven’t done so for pretty clear reasons. These alternative proposals are much less technocratically simple than they pretend. (You can’t just throw terms like “well-designed” at the Congressional Budget Office.) They cost money Republicans don’t want to spend. They upset voters and interest groups Republicans don’t want to upset.
May 2013:

"Together, we could provide more cost-effective care and do something more about spiraling healthcare costs. But really, the only true Republican alternative to Obamacare is Nothingcare." -- Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)
Ryan becomes the latest Republican to reboot the effort to create the "Republican alternative to Obamacare," telling those gathered at the Wisconsin state party convention: “The nation is watching. The broken promises are being realized in front of their eyes and in their daily lives. ... This is the moment that we have to offer them real hope and give them real alternatives.”
A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Ross Douthat writes in The New York Times: "The fact that the G.O.P. isn’t really offering such an alternative at the moment clearly makes the case for repeal weaker than it otherwise might be, and it makes the case for resistance weaker as well."
June 2013:

Rep. Price of Georgia decides to give the "Republican alternative to Obamacare" another try, with H.R. 2300, the "Empowering Patients First Act of 2013," which repeals the Affordable Care Act and, among other things, replaces it with "refundable tax credits of up to $5,000 for low-income individuals and families to purchase health insurance on the private market." In June, the bill is referred to committee, and nothing further comes of it.

Meanwhile, the Weekly Standard's Jeffrey Anderson laments that his party's candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination didn't succeed in their efforts to develop a "Republican alternative to Obamacare," writing, "if a credible Republican candidate had entered the presidential race with the goal of making Obamacare — and a compelling GOP alternative — the focus of the campaign, Obama would likely now be living in Hyde Park rather than across from Lafayette Square (albeit still at public expense)."

July 2013:

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) tells Newsmax that "House Republicans plan to have an alternative to Obamacare ready by this fall." Really. They totally mean it this time.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin is increasingly sounding like the people she once haughtily criticized: "Without a GOP alternative to Obamacare, their complaints are empty and their votes unlikely to be taken seriously by voters. It is long, long past the point at which Republicans should have begun crafting and selling their alternative. ... Where is the market-based health-care plan?"

August 2013:

August brings another spin of the "Republicans need an alternative!" to "Not fair, we have lots of alternatives!" cycle. Obama, in a news conference, criticized Republicans for not proposing a replacement bill: "They used to say they had a replacement. That never actually arrived, right? I mean, I've been hearing about this whole replacement thing for two years." It's understandable: let's recall that mere weeks ago, Rep. Brady was saying the alternative would not arrive until the fall.

Obamacare opponents did not take this well. John C. Goodman insists that "there is a serious GOP proposal," citing the "Patients Choice Act" proposed by Ryan and Coburn. ("This is essentially the health reform plan that John McCain proposed when he ran for president in 2008," he writes.) He'd later tell Fox News' Jim Angle, "I think the president has an incredibly short memory." Forbes contributor Chris Conover was similarly incensed: "It’s arguably the favorite myth of progressives, the oft-repeated claim that Republicans have no health plan."

Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells "a gathering of GOP operatives that lawmakers who criticize Obamacare but offer no alternatives will be left with 'zero answer' for constituents who ask for a policy solution to the president’s health care reform law."

"I would bet for most of you, you go home in the next two weeks while your members of Congress are home and you look at them in the eye and you say, ‘What is your positive replacement for Obamacare?’ and they will have zero answer,” said Gingrich.

Short memory, I guess.

September 2013:

Having missed all of August's harangues about how unfair it was to suggest that there were no "Republican alternatives to Obamacare," because so many already existed, the Republican Study Committee goes ahead an unveils a new one anyway, called the "American Health Care Reform Act of 2013":
“First of all, we start by repealing Obamacare,” RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said of the new bill.Among other reforms, the GOP-sponsored bill would allow consumers to shop for insurance across state lines, let individuals and families deduct health care costs for tax purposes the way employers do and inject billions of dollars into state high-risk pools so people with preexisting medical conditions can gain coverage.
ThinkProgress' Sy Mukherjee remarks: "If that all of this sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans have been proposing some combination of these ideas since at least 2007." The bill is referred to committee on Sept. 18, and nothing ever comes of it.

October 2013:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) jumps into the "create a Republican alternative to Obamacare" game on Twitter, proposing that every American should receive the same benefits that lawmakers receive through the Federal Employee Health Benefits program. Business Insider's Josh Barro terms this replacing "Obamacare with Obamacare."
A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Rob McKenna in Smarter Government Washington: "It’s time for Congressional Republicans to unite under solid, practical alternatives to Obamacare and give the public a positive vision."
November 2013:

The Republican Study Group's alternative plan, the "American Health Care Reform Act of 2013," is said to be gaining "support" and "momentum," but I've already spoiled the ending for everybody, so I guess you'll have to appreciate the dramatic irony.
Meanwhile, the Onion gets into the game of making fun of the "Republican alternatives to Obamacare," with a list of their own that includes such proposals as "Repeating the phrase 'you can keep your current doctor' over and over until something happens," and "A true market-based solution -- perhaps a convenient website -- where uninsured people would pay for their own health insurance from private providers," and "Whatever the opposite of tyranny is."
A GAME-CHANGING IDEA EMERGES: Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin offer a breakout idea in The Wall Street Journal: "What Republicans can and should do is offer the public something better. Now is the time to advance a conservative reform that can solve the serious, discrete problems of the health-care system in place before ObamaCare, but without needlessly upending people's arrangements or threatening what works in American medicine."
December 2013:

Despite the fact that the calls for a "Republican alternative to Obamacare" are coming from inside the house, conservative partisans ignore the urgings of Ponnuru and Levin and lapse into another round of being aggrieved at the way Democrats keep saying that they've not come up with an alternative.
Meanwhile, Rep. Price tells Fox News that the GOP will really, totally, seriously "bring forth a bill" that will "unite Republicans around health care issues" sometime after the first of the year, and that's a promise, for real, this time.
"You can't beat something with nothing," Price added, sagely.

January 2014:

A new year dawns and with it comes yet another unveiling of a "Republican alternative to Obamacare." And the GOP had been at it for such a long time that it was second-bite-at-the-apple time for Sens. Coburn and Burr, who joined Sen. Hatch in creating the "Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act." "Mirabile dictu," sang out Ross Douthat, "an actual health care reform proposal!"

The glad tidings did not last long. "Within hours of the new plan coming into contact with political reality, things began to fall apart," wrote Jonathan Chait:
The first blow to its coherence came when the authors faced questions about their proposal to cap the tax deduction for employer-sponsored health insurance, a politically risky but economist-approved change that provided most of its money for covering the uninsured. Asked about this piece of their plan, the authors changed the language within hours to ratchet back its scope, insulating them from political attacks, but also neutering its value.
After that came the Congressional Budget Office report that described the way Obamacare would cause labor supply to shrink from the labor markets, as recipients escaped "job lock," or took advantage of the Obamacare subsidies to reduce their hours or retire. The GOP opted to describe this as "job killing," but what they didn't take into consideration was that this new plan from Coburn, Burr, and Hatch "would likely have approximately the same “job-killing” impact as Obamacare."

February 2014:

cantor alternative obamacare

"Republicans can easily pick [Obamacare] apart, but they won't win over voters without their own ideas." -- Karl Rove, once again
Chait returns to this theme a month later, gathering string from numerous pieces of reporting, all suggesting that the process of crafting a "Republican alternative to Obamacare" is beginning anew.

Daniel Newhauser, giving Roll Call readers the inside scoop in a piece titled "GOP Leaders to Huddle on Obamacare Alternative," describes the process with sentences like: "House Republican leaders will meet Friday to begin crafting an alternative to Democrats’ health care law." An interview with Eric Cantor by The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib (in a piece titled "Cantor Pushes the GOP to Spell Out Its Agenda"), yields these quotes from the House majority leader:
"Our members are going to get very excited if we can provide alternatives, not just be a party that's against whatever the president is for."


"We may have an opportunity for an alternative to be put in place."
Emphasis mine throughout. As Chait notes, all of this has a purpose:
Carping from the sidelines is a great strategy for Republicans because status quo bias is extremely powerful. It lets them highlight the downside of every trade-off without owning any downside of their own. They can vaguely promise to solve any problem with the status quo ante without exposing themselves to the risk any real reform entails. Republicans can exploit the disruption of the transition to Obamacare unencumbered by the reality that their own plans are even more disruptive.
"The amazing thing," says Chait, "is that House Republicans have managed to sustain this any-day-now stance since the outset of a health-care debate that began five years ago."

Welcome to Year Six.

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