Monday, December 29, 2014

Mandate madness; What did the 2014 midterms mandate the GOP Congress to do?

2015 could be Washington’s year of mandate miscalculations.  If Republicans rely on the 2014 midterms as their legislative compass and their interpretations miss the mark, they could  lay the groundwork for a backlash in  2016 .  Their challenge for the GOP in Congress  is trying to decipher what are and what are not voters’ mandates to pass certain legislation when most of the electorate did not vote and other  factors contributed to their reelection.
 This was the lowest turnout since 1942 with only one third of the electorate bothering to vote.  In presidential elections the average is over 60%.  To claim there was a mandate that represents widespread views about issues is a stretch.
 The Associated Press pollster’s conclusion about this November election was: “Those on either side of the aisle express sharply divergent views on top issues, making it difficult for lawmakers to discern a clear mandate for governing “.
 Adding to the confusion, voters voted one way on ballot issues, yet voted for candidates who believe the opposite. The only conclusion is that party loyalty trumped dedication to issues in 2014. In Colorado a personhood amendment went down in flames yet Cory Gardner was elected Senator (by a 2.5% percentage point) even though his name remained on a personhood- like bill in Congress.   70% in a recent NBC Wall Street Journal poll favored the elements of the Senate bi partisan compromise on comprehensive immigration, but 48% opposed presidential action depending upon party affiliation.   Every GOP candidate in the Midterms preached repeal of Obamacare, many winning races, yet other polls show 60% of voters did not want repeal and liked the individual elements. Disapproval of Obamacare followed party affiliation per a Gallup poll. Four red states voted to raise the minimum wage while their party has fought it tooth and nail in Congress.
 If there was a mandate, it was for parties to work together per a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. That is wishful thinking. Partisanship runs deep and is heavily determined by demographics, a phenomenon that could be called tribal, a “people like us against them” mentality.  Per the AP exit poll, 87% of Republicans vs 61% of Democrats were white. Women outnumbered men in the Democratic electorate; the ratio was reversed with Republicans.  20% of those backing Democrats and only 12% of Republicans made less than $30,000 per year. 40% percent of Republicans were church going white evangelical Christians, while only 11% of Democrats were. Republicans “are disproportionately southern” and rural compared to Democrats.
Complicating the mandate picture are special interests and a deepening divide between establishment and Tea Party Republicans.  Most within the GOP may agree on the problems, but they see solutions and priorities differently.
 In the end, the interpretation of voter mandates matters little for legislators who are more concerned whether their political contributors’ ox gets gored or  is well fed. Given the enormous cost of campaigning and the loosening of campaign laws to permit more contributions from corporations and the wealthy, that should be no surprise to anyone.

A version of this appeared in the Jan. 2 2015 Sky Hi News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Peace on earth, goodwill to men sorely needed this Christmas season but so hard to achieve

Peace on earth, goodwill toward men, one of the messages of Christmas, is sorely needed in our troubled world. This year has been less about major wars, but more about individuals gone berserk and sudden rise of terrorist jihadists acting in regions or as lone wolves anywhere.  Modern media has been both the messenger and the tool of the perpetrators that give acts of violence world-wide impact. We have yet to find a consensus for the best response.

 In the United States there are two schools of thought. One is always to meet violence with violence and the other is to search for peace. President Obama seems determined to leave office with a more peaceful world by resolving some nagging conflicts and addressing recent explosions of violence both at home and abroad, but he faces some tough challenges.

 Since he cannot run for re-election, he at least is freed from the consequences of a political backlash if he takes controversial measures. Using his executive powers, he is burying the hatchet with hostile regimes and bringing together those who feel they have been treated unfairly.

Beginning with dialogues with Iran and historic reverse of a fifty year policy toward Cuba, Obama has taken steps to bring Peace on Earth.  Obama had already stopped torture of prisoners immediately when he took office and he is consistent in condemning past torture practices brought to light by a Senate report.

Our country is plagued by riots and police assassinations from Ferguson to the boroughs of New York, heated by racial tensions and angry speech from by both sides of the racial divide. The violence is an accumulative effect of high profile incidents of apparent racial profiling by police  ending in death of Black men and youth.  Obama is threading the needle between empathy with minority communities and finding ways to bring communities and policing together.  It is a delicate balance, but it is a uniquely credible opportunity given he is the first Black president.

The case for peace is as much a matter of pragmatism as it is a moral imperative. Violence begets more violence. One kind of violent action becomes a template used by others who are, or who are not, fighting political causes. Some fueled by personal revenge, hate, or mental health issues copy the latest violent techniques so they, too, can go down in a blaze of publicity.

Abroad, we have learned that using military force works only in the short term.  Our ultimate goal should be to win over hearts and minds so that jihadists lose fertile ground in which to plant their flags. Otherwise we will be involved in a never ending or reoccurring warfare. Sadly, Iraqi villagers seem willing to exchange ending strife for ISIS order no matter how cruel and oppressive.  Oppression eventually breeds revolt and a search for a better way. The very difficult challenge for Obama is to craft policies that appeal to the better angels in the long term while helping Iraq halt ISIS’ military advance and doing it without our full military engagement. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

American unexceptionalism and the Senate torture report

If the Senate report on CIA torture practices in the early post 9/11 days revealed anything, it was when fear for national security prevails, the US behaves like most other countries. We become unexceptional.  We trample human rights and engage in practices for which we would be ashamed under normal circumstances. Those who boast of American exceptionalism need to temper their flag waiving.

That we are willing to admit that violating our own values is wrong decades later may set us apart and is indeed exceptional behavior. Most nations do not do this. Without condemning such actions, we become the pot calling the kettle black in calling out others for brutal treatment of POW’s or violation of human rights. At least the report clarifies our standards for others to follow.

Sen John McCain (R-AZ), a former tortured POW himself, attested on the Senate floor torture does not work, but (that)…” isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. … It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.”

The GOP shouted the report was a partisan move and it was full of (unspecified) untruths, that circumstances justified it, it worked, our brutal treatment is less brutal than others, and it will stoke our enemies’ fire.

 The report presents truths no one has yet refuted. Even current CIA Director John Brennan could not deny the “techniques”  called enhanced interrogation (EIT) did take place and detainees died or were subjected to “ harsh, abhorrent”, and unauthorized  practices.

Left to debate was whether it worked.  Brennan said the “program” did provide “useful” intelligence,  saying it was “unknowable” if saying EITs were responsible for extracting that information. Firing back, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said the report clearly documented the intelligence extracted took place before the water boarding or other “EIT”s occurred.

Consider the times, respond the report’s critics, as if to say we can excuse our behavior in the fog of fear of future attacks post 9/11.  Our country has been there before: in 1798 the Federalist controlled Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts claiming a fear of a French war on our shores. The acts allowed us to deport and imprison those we thought might subvert us and allowed us to confiscate their property during wartimes. The Sedition Acts muzzled those criticizing the US government. All were contrary to the Bill of Rights.

These Acts, too, were entangled in politics. The Federalists were proponents of the Alien and Sedition Acts; the Democratic-Republican Jeffersonians opposed.   The descendants of the Federalists, the GOP (McCain excepted), are now trying to justify EITs use. They are being true to their earliest roots of throwing under the bus our first amendment protections whenever national security is threatened.

 The sedition acts later expired.   The alien laws survived and were used to detain, imprison, and confiscate property of American-Japanese in World War II. Those acts, too, were condemned by history, just as the EIT program is being condemned a decade later.
A version of this appeared in the  December 19, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

If there is any one reason to support Obamacare, this is it

If there is any one reason for Obamacare (ACA), this is it.  The ACA will not eliminate debt because there are still deductibles some will be obligated to pay, but fewer will go insurance naked,  some states still have not extended Medicaid to the near poor who do not have enough income to qualify for ACA insurance,  and some ACA plans have high deductibles.  From the New York Times Dec. 11, 2014: "One in five American consumers — 43 million people — have blemishes on their credit reports because of overdue medical bills, while medical debtsmake up more than half of collection items on credit reports, according to a newly released federal report.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released the report Thursday ahead of a public hearing on medical debt collection in Oklahoma City. "

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ferguson: lessons for the world about American exceptionalism

Ferguson: Lessons for the world about American exceptionalism
We in America take pride in the exceptionalism of our form of government and our caring about human rights.  We could be exceptional in another way: the example we set.  Ferguson dramatized the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We can hope the takeaway for the world will be, while local government sometimes fails, the federal government’s reaction was the good part, and American values and governing systems finally prevailed. 
As a frequent traveler spending time with family and friends scattered over Europe, what I do know is that those abroad look to the U.S. for setting a standard.  When we successfully meet challenges similar to what they themselves experience, they watch us closely to see if there is a template for future policies that might work for them too.
Europe itself has had its checkered past in dealing with “others” and experiencing civil disobedience that became violent.  In post-World War II, the 1990s Balkan wars are the poster child of hatred and ethnic cleansing. There have been other localized ethnic and racial violent protests, some suppressed, some resolved peacefully.  Spain still is in pain, though for now, violent separatist movements have either been dealt with by compromises or by granting more autonomy to its restless parts.  Paris suburbs experienced violent uprisings in their Muslim community over discrimination. 
What American democracy does provide is a model for peaceful regime change by honest elections, the rule of law, and outlets for frustration when citizens perceive their government is unfair.  Human nature is to rage when unfair treatment is not pacified by hope that the powerful are listening.
Channeling violent and anarchic anger to lawful and constructive actions takes leadership and empathy. President Obama showed both.  He was uniquely equipped to let Ferguson know he understood.  No one conveys credibility like one who has experienced discrimination himself and who looks like the aggrieved.  In the Trayvon Martin case, Obama said that if he had a son, he would have been Martin’s age, and in Ferguson, he agreed minorities had a real problem with police, and "the problem is not just a Ferguson problem, it is an American problem."  His empathy went only so far.  He had no sympathy for those who destroyed property.  They were criminals and should be prosecuted.  He supported those who protested peacefully.  To justify his endorsement of peaceful protesters to those who sympathized with rioters, his message was, “I've never seen a civil rights law, or a health care bill, or an immigration bill result because a car got burned."
Now it is up to local governments to do their part in accepting the existence of a police problem with minority relations and to take steps to change.  It may take honest reevaluations, federal pressure, minority hiring, retraining of police forces,police body cameras, and changing protocols and attitudes.  We must affirm that peaceful protest is more effective than violence.  It is then that we are indeed an exceptional nation worthy of being a standard for others to follow.

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News Dec. 6, 2014

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.

A version of this appeared in the 11/26/2014

PS 11/24/2014: Oklahoma is not typical. Per a survey conducted by Hart for Bloomberg only 28% of voters disapprove of the President's executive order. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

There are millions who are giving thanks this season for Obamacare (ACA).  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 around a total of over 17 million will have subscribed to it, even discounting a 400,000 recently reported 2014 miscount and updated forecasts. Yet the law is still more unpopular than popular. Why?
One reason is that only 16.5% of Americans could not afford or qualify for health insurance before Obamacare.  The rest of us with employer insurance, or Medicare or Medicaid, or individual private market insurance had to be convinced that either we were not harmed or we benefited from the law.     
The administration did not help its popularity when it bungled the roll out and made some misrepresentations that if the three million with substandard individuals who bought policies liked their insurance or doctor, they could keep them. The GOP raised a ruckus. However,  when it comes to the many millions who signed up for Obamacare, the GOP is  raising no ruckus about those they would leave high and dry without insurance. They still plan a vote to repeal Obamacare while not offering  another way to provide similar benefits to the same numbers.  
The GOP also used fear mongering and flat out lies to turn people against Obamacare.   Remember “death panels” and “death spirals” or costs bankrupting the country or Medicare being robbed to pay for the ACA?   Remember when the GOP told us exchange premiums would soar so high that Obamacare would collapse in a financially unsustainable “death spiral”? It is not happening. 2015 exchange premiums have risen only 1% on average nationwide.    No government panel has told anyone to pull the plug on Grandma. The GOP inferred that the ACA would take away Medicare benefits.   Instead, the savings in the law added 14 years to the life of Medicare per the non-partisan independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and no traditional benefits have been lost.

The challenge for the Administration was to convince the public that even those who had insurance were now protected from abuse from anti-consumer practices of insurance companies.   Most consumers did not even know they were victims until they faced bankruptcy because of their inadequate policies.  Employees’ human resources departments provided them with limited choices and left buried  in fine print caps on coverage, dumping the sick, not covering some pre-existing conditions, discrimination against women, and using premiums for over inflated overhead instead of covering medical services .     The GOP wants employees to return to “those good ole ’days” by removing mandates on employers to provide insurance.
The CBO originally concluded the ACA would reduce the deficit over ten years.  Those forecasts have changed relatively little compared to the size of the deficit.   Simply repealing the ACA, per the CBO, would run up the deficit.  Chipping away at income streams, taxes, mandate fines without finding other “pay fors” as the GOP wants to do, would also rack up the deficit.

(This is a revision and update of an earlier version) The edited version was published in the  December 12, 2014 The CBO understands the finances, even if Gruber thinks the public does not.  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. 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  or call 855 752 6749 for free in person help. Consumer Reports has a site that may help you understand the law at  
 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

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   They did not impeach either Reagan or Bush for taking unilateral action using executive authority. Obama, of course, is different?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Deal or no deal in the next two years?

Deal or no deal in the next two years?

Here is how it will likely play out.  The GOP will have to tread carefully on compromising with the White House with an eye to keeping their base happy, but  the White House has even less motivation to compromise since the lame duck President is not up for reelection.  There may be some deals, but they will be few and far between. Otherwise, it is back to ye ole gridlock .

One reason, among others, that Republican Cory Gardner beat Democratic Senator Mark Udall in Colorado was that he convinced voters that he was the one to end gridlock and reach across the aisle.  Now the new GOP Senate majority will have to make good on those words.  If the more radical GOP dominated  House  bills are taken up by the GOP senate and passed on to the White House while  knowing in advance the President will veto them,  the GOP’s intentions to reach across the aisle will look like an empty gesture.

Where there is most likelihood of bi-partisan deals is when a large number of their respective base supporters would not be ticked off or the legislation would meet a need felt by all sides or create some jobs. Observers believe that means mostly infrastructure improvements, corporate tax reforms, trade agreements, and maybe some energy export legislation.

If the GOP Senate sends legislation to the President on tax policy that does not make the middle class feel better about their economic situation, or opposes minimum wage,  or equal pay, and yet continues the great income disparity, they may give  Democrats a campaign gift for 2016:  class warfare…the rich vs the middle class.  Here is where the GOP has the most incentive to compromise and Democrats should be willing, too.  It would make both parties look good.

Where there is least likely to be a deal is with Obamacare. The President will use his veto pen if the GOP legislation weakens the financing mechanism, or otherwise fundamentally tinkers with health care reform. Essential to the financing mechanism are the individual and employer mandates which broaden the pool to keep it affordable and fiscally sound and able to cover pre-existing conditions. The GOP has not yet agreed on a financially feasible way to allow the millions who like and need their Obamacare plans to keep their Obamacare plans.

 If the GOP Senate continues to oppose comprehensive immigration reform, and fights the President over executive action, they may find themselves up a creek. Opposing legislation containing a dream act and a pathway to citizenship may inspire a stronger Hispanic turnout against the GOP in 2016.  If the GOP softens its position to appeal to Hispanic voters, their own party may revolt.  So many of its newly elected senators ran on anti-immigrant platforms.

The president also has every reason not to compromise on the immigration issue, either. He needs to make good on promises to the Hispanic community he has made and broken so many times. Any more delays or tepid deals would hurt the 2016 Democratic candidate, since a fed up Hispanic community could sit on their hands or split votes.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What did not happen in the midterms

If you believed the pundits at the beginning of this summer, the midterms were going to be about Obamacare and the economy.  In fact, jobs and the economy were at the top of the voter concern list in any poll.  But in nearly every Senate race, not only in Colorado, it became as much or more about social issues and last-minute fearmongering about the rise of ISIS and Ebola.   How did that happen? 
Aside from campaign strategy that crafted negative political ads to put fire in the belly of specific demographic groups, something else was at work.  Neither Obamacare nor the economy turned out to be political gold mines. None of the disasters predicted earlier happened to Obamacare.  In fact, the American Medical Association said it was working as designed; eight million both signed up and paid premiums and would not take kindly to the GOP trying to yank away insurance the most ever were able to afford for the first time in their lives.  Nationwide, ACA premiums did not soar.  The GOP came up with no viable alternatives, so calls for repeal became underplayed lip service.
In Grand County the percentage of the uninsured was cut by half in the first nine months of the year, and the ACA will kick into higher gear with mid-November enrollments.  The premiums in the Colorado exchange will rise only a little over 1% this coming year and the silver plan will fall by over 10%.  Nationwide ACA premium increases came in under 5% increase.    In Connecticut 2014 rates had been very high, but giant United HealthCare decided to participate in the state ACA exchange for 2015, and premiums dropped by nearly 5%.
Partisanship was another factor.  Voters viewed Obamacare through glasses tinted by their politics.  Democrats liked it; Republicans did not.  Polls showed that individual provisions of Obamacare, with subsidies and Medicaid expansion making insurance affordable for the lower middle class and providing coverage of preexisting conditions, were always popular.  Better-heeled Republicans still thought Obamacare was a failure.  It did not benefit them, and besides, Obama’s name was attached.  Polls were so dismal that Democrats could not make a big deal of its success.
The economy had improved considerably, but not enough for everyone to beat the drums of victory or to damn the results with any credibility.  Many in the lower income brackets had found jobs, but wages were depressed, and trickle-down economics barely dripped or worse.  On the other hand, core constituents of the GOP, those in the upper income levels and most seniors, were doing fine, thank you. They felt the rewards of a booming Wall Street and a more robust business sector, but they wanted it to do even better.
Democrats did accuse the Republicans of opposing minimum wage or making it more expensive to finance college, but it never seemed to be a decisive argument that appealed to the middle class. Only incumbent governor John Hickenlooper made it a campaign slogan that “Colorado was back” and the economy was among the best in the country.

PS 11/5: Hickenlooper beat Republican Bob Beauprez to return to the state house, while Democrat Mark Udall lost to Republican Cory Gardner. 45% to 50%..  Most down ballot state positions were voted Republican and the state Senate got a majority Republican after being Democratic.  It took a great deal of thought and splitting votes for Hickenlooper to win under those circumstances and it makes his victory all that more significant.

Monday, October 27, 2014

NY Times: ACA working mostly, with exceptions, but it caused a political backlash

Cut and paste on your browser:.  New York Times analysis: Is the ACA working? Mostly, with exceptions and it caused a political backlash

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cory Gardner is a red flag for Colorado's political and income middle

Cory Gardner is a red flag for Colorado’s political and income middle. 

Cory Gardner, opposing Democratic Senator Mark Udall in Colorado, is ranked as the 10th most conservative member of Congress.  Colorado is hardly the 10th most conservative state in the union.  Gardner sounds and looks moderate, but his legislative positions were, are, and would align closely to his Tea Party House colleagues.  This election is also about electing a senator for the next six years who will represent your views and will be voting to determine Supreme Court vacancy  replacements.

Gardner’s and Udall’s visions of freedom are very different.  Udall promotes freedom for individuals from an intrusive government, a maverick leader in the Senate against overreaching NSA surveillance.  He is a strong advocate for the ability for women and men to choose their reproduction schedules and whom they marry.  Freedom for Udall also means freedom from worry about affording health care and college for their kids.

 Gardner’s vision of freedom is to gut environmental laws and favor tax policies for business while supporting greater government interference in choices individuals can make.  His position on reproductive rights and marriage equality are the most extreme of any, even criminalizing abortions and doctors, opposes birth control practices that interfere with his belief that life begins at conception.

The U.S. unemployment rate is now back to pre-crash levels and in Colorado it is below the national average. The deficit has been cut in half and the national economy is growing at 3%.  Colorado has the highest economic growth in the nation which is not only due to an improving national economy, but to a booming energy sector.  Science denier Gardner is not even sure humans cause global warming. Mark Udall prizes a balanced approach to natural resource development and Colorado’s growth is evidence that approach can work.

Gardner, unlike Udall, has voted in Congress to make it even more difficult for the middle income earners to recover from the Great Recession. He has voted to cut Pell grants and opposed decreasing interest rates on student loans or refinancing student loans to lower rates.   Most Colorado families depend upon women working, but Gardner has voted against raising the minimum wage or furthering equal pay for women in the workforce.

One of the most underrated boosts to middle income earners is the ACA (Obamacare), which both the GOP and Gardner still want to repeal.  Gardner offers no alternative, no fixes no workable way to pay for covering preexisting conditions. He has no viable plans to make health insurance affordable for 30 million Americans, mostly middle income, who once again would have to choose between losing their home or health care treatment because they could not qualify for or afford insurance. 

 No traditional Medicare coverage was lost due to the ACA (contrary to a very misleading Gardner ad), and the ACA added 14 years to the life of Medicare.  Gardner supports changing the efficiently administered Medicare program to provide a voucher system and block grants to states that upends a system that now guarantees coverage that keeps up with costs and gives stability to co-pays.

A version of this appeared in the October 30 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crossroads Skips Context in Colorado

Crossroads Skips Context in Colorado  Perfect example of how an out of context quote can skew the election.  This is the ad Crossroads GPS is running in Colorado attempting to scare women about Udall, claiming he is soft of ISIS...."not an imminent danger".  This is  checking out the ad and if the Udall campaign has failed is to counter this with more vigor. He has run ads quoting generals praising him, but that one ad is just not enough.   Udall does believe that ISIS will be a danger to the US if we do not act now.  That's a whole different take.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

If Obama is viewed as a failure, then the GOP Congress is viewed as more of a failure.

GOP candidates claim the Obama administration is a “failure.”  A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll concluded, though, that the American people were “fed up” with Washington, and they were 20% more fed up with Congress than they were with President Obama.  If Obama is viewed as a failure, then the GOP Congress is viewed as more of a failure.  

If the measure is how much Obama achieved of his own agenda, the answer is most of it has been successful.  His major failure so far is not passing comprehensive immigration reform, not from lack of trying.  Most of his domestic accomplishments, such as economic recovery and health care reform, were enacted before the obstructionist Tea Party took over the House.  Perhaps the greatest success Democrats had was keeping the economy from going over the brink into another Great Depression, using passage of stimulus spending and tax cuts and also clever fiscal policy.  The unemployment rate is now back to pre-crash levels, and the economy is showing a 3% growth rate.  Austerity measures (which the GOP pushed for the U.S., too) are threatening to force Europe into recession or deflation, and also into continuing high unemployment.

The GOP Congress still wants to repeal Obamacare, but offers no alternative, no workable way to pay for covering preexisting conditions, and has no plans to make it more affordable for 30 million Americans. 

Gardner, ranked as the 10th most conservative member of Congress and opposing Mark Udall for Senate in Colorado, wants to repeal Obamacare.  Obamacare ends discrimination against higher women’s premiums, and it also covers birth control and cancer screenings.  Gardner also pushes federal laws that not only criminalize abortion from the time of conception, but cripples in vitro fertilization, bans IUDs and some other birth control methods, and Gardner wants women to pay out of their own pockets for the few over-the-counter methods left that are legal.  (Ending Obamacare ends insurance coverage of the pill, too.)  All federal laws, including Obamacare, are already currently forbidden from covering any abortions, so that's not happening.

Armageddon as predicted by the GOP did not happen to Obamacare (ACA).  More signed up for coverage and paid premiums than forecast.  Early indications are that 2015 average premiums within exchanges will show little change from 2014.  The American Medical Association in their July journal found that the ACA is successfully working as designed.  Medicare cuts?  No traditional coverage was lost, and 14 years were added to the life of Medicare.

Energy policy?  The GOP Congress wants to ditch environmental protection laws to boost energy production.  However, while protecting the environment, Democratic “all of the above” energy policies, including promoting alternative energy sources, have permitted the U.S. to become the largest producer of natural gas in the world, and the U.S. will begin having enough oil production very soon to begin exporting. Gardner is still denying humans are responsible for global warming against the proof provided by scientists held in high esteem in the field.

Ebola?  We should not forget that the GOP congressional budget priorities were to reduce funding to the CDC.  Officials confirmed this caused a slowdown in the search for vaccines.  The president's choice for Surgeon General has also been blocked by the GOP members of Congress, which is why a "czar" had to be chosen to provide some guidance and continuity during this time.

Promoting the middle class?  The GOP congressional policies cut Pell grants, oppose decreasing interest rates on student loans, and oppose raising the minimum wage or furthering equal pay for women in the workforce.

For more, visit
America's Fed Up: Obama Approval Rating Hits All-Time Low, Poll Shows - NBC News
  "The frustration carries over to the nation’s political leaders, with President Barack Obama’s overall approval rating hitting a new low at 40 percent, and a mere 14 percent of the public giving Congress a thumbs up.""  Yet, congressional Republicans are viewed more negatively than congressional Democrats.....

Congressional Job approval ratings
No Answer
Congressional Republicans
Congressional Democrats
Despite the Republican advantages over all, Americans continue to broadly disapprove of congressional Republicans even more than congressional Democrats. "

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Number of uninsured admissions drops: Report says uncompensated care will cost hospitals $5.7B less this year - Mohave Daily News: News

Number of uninsured admissions drops: Report says uncompensated care will cost hospitals $5.7B less this year - Mohave Daily News: News

This is not a local story; it is an Associated Press national story.  What it does show is that when Obamacare is implemented fully (none of this refusal to expand Medicaid as many red states have done), hospitals get stuck less with covering the expenses of the uninsured or those who cannot pay their medical bills. They cover it by raising their charges to those insured, which in turn causes insurance premiums to go up.  The estimate is that this cost shifting pre Obamacare resulted in the insured families paying $1000 more per year in health insurance premiums. The question  now becomes: will the insurers pocket the savings or will they pass it on in the form of lower premiums to the insured.

Whether the slowdown in current health care costs per family is happening now because of the recession or Obamacare is open to discussion. With less spending money and loss of employer provided insurance due to layoffs, consumers cut back or delayed health care treatment.  There for sure has been a very significant decrease in the cost of Medicare, extending its life 14 years.  The administration is claiming the per family costs have already been $1600 or more...but that is not in premium costs, but in the cost of health care in general per family.  The Washington Post gave that claim two pinocchios, but it took a lot of discussion to reach that conclusions, mostly because the impact of the recession is not figured into the equation.

 My thought is that the impact of Obamacare is more likely to be felt more in the future since the program is not yet fully implemented, including the failure of nearly half of the states to expand Medicaid coverage and the penalties for non coverage (the mandate) will only begin to increase this next year. Cost shifting impact has not yet been fully felt yet though  medical  provider cost reduction measures had been taken a couple of years in advance of its implementation.

The challenges to covering more in Colorado and having more sign up to Obamacare were explored in an Oct. 15, report
From the report: "
Flying Solo: Why Uninsured Coloradans Go Without Health Insurance
October 15, 2014

The Colorado Health Institute released a report today analyzing the reasons given by uninsured Coloradans for not having health insurance.
"Flying Solo: Why Uninsured Coloradans Go Without Health Insurance" is based on data from the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS), the premier source of information about coverage across the state.
The report, written by Research Analyst Natalie Triedman, comes as Colorado prepares for the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act. Beginning November 15, it will run through February 15, 2015.
The biggest barrier, by far, is cost. Four of five uninsured residents say they don’t have coverage because it costs too much. No surprises there, but it speaks to the importance of affordability, as well as communicating the value of health insurance.
The second most common reason for being insured was that a person lost their job or changed employers. This “churn” will be an important consideration moving forward.
The most dramatic change in reasons cited for being uninsured came from uninsured Coloradans who said they don’t need health insurance. The percentage more than doubled between 2009 and 2013, increasing from 11.1 percent to 24.9 percent, the biggest shift among the reasons cited. This could reflect a number of factors, including objections to “Obamacare” and its individual mandate."