Senate version of Tax Cut bill cuts insurance for 22 million

So the CBO score for the Senate Republican’s tax-cut err healthcare bill is out and it’s about as bad as the House version:

CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 15 million more people would be uninsured under this legislation than under current law—primarily because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 22 million in 2026. In later years, other changes in the legislation—lower spending on Medicaid and substantially smaller average subsidies for coverage in the nongroup market—would also lead to increases in the number of people without health insurance. By 2026, among people under age 65, enrollment in Medicaid would fall by about 16 percent and an estimated 49 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.

They also note that the ACA is not failing:

Although premiums have been rising under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference between that percentage and the premiums for a reference plan (which is the second-lowest-cost plan in their area providing specified benefits). The subsidies to purchase coverage, combined with the effects of the individual mandate, which requires most individuals to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by enough people, including people with low health care expenditures, for the market to be stable in most areas.

Nevertheless, a small number of people live in areas of the country that have limited participation by insurers in the nongroup market under current law.

The rest of that second paragraph explains why there is a problem in small areas:

Several factors may lead insurers to withdraw from the market—including lack of profitability and substantial uncertainty about enforcement of the individual mandate and about future payments of the cost-sharing subsidies to reduce out-of-pocket payments for people who enroll in nongroup coverage through the marketplaces established by the ACA.’

Yup, they conclude it’s because of the actions of Donald Trump (who has told the IRS not to enforce the penalty for the individual mandate and has said he might cut the future payments for the cost-sharing subsidies) and Republicans in general.

So, the final analysis is we have to cut insurance for 22 million people so there can be large tax cuts for the rich, the ultra rich, and major corporations.

Republicans don’t care about the integrity of the voting booth

The Washington Post has a major article on Russia’s attempt to influence the election:

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Russians had hacked into multiple political organizations (the DNC and RNC among others), had distributed fake news stories, and had tried breaking in to multiple states’ election systems. Here is the Republican response:

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance. The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday. Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims.

Donald Trump, of course, continues to doubt that the Russians were behind anything

But let’s go back to look at Brian Kemp, here’s a story about him:

In the weeks leading up to the 2012 election, Helen Ho, an attorney who has worked to register newly naturalized immigrants to vote in the Southeast, made an alarming discovery. Some new citizens that her group, then known as the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, had tried to register in Georgia were still not on the rolls. Early voting had begun and polling places were challenging and even turning away new citizens seeking to vote for the first time.

After more than a week of seeking answers from the office of Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, which oversees elections, AALAC issued a sharply worded open letter on October 31 demanding that Georgia take immediate action to ensure the new citizens could vote.

Two days later Ho received her response. In a letter, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, offered few specific assurances about the new voters in question and informed Ho that his office was launching an investigation into how AALAC registered these would-be voters. Kemp’s office asked that AALAC turn over certain records of its registration efforts, citing “potential legal concerns surrounding AALAC’s photocopying and public disclosure of voter registration applications.”

The investigation targeted her group not for any voter fraud, per se, but for more technical issues, such as whether canvassers had people’s explicit, written consent to photocopy their registration forms before mailing the originals to the elections office. Kemp’s investigation into AALAC lasted nearly two-and-a-half years. This past March 12th, it ended with no finding of violations.

In 2010—for the first time in the county’s history—the county elected a majority-black school board. This upset victory followed a sudden surge in local black voting that was catalyzed by a group of get-out-the-vote activists.

For weeks after the historic primary, Kemp’s armed investigators, along with officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, went door-to-door in Quitman’s black neighborhoods. Without evidence of actual voter fraud in Quitman, the state’s case against the town’s voting activists came to rely on allegations of less glaring breaches of absentee ballot procedure.

State agents arrested a dozen voting organizers, three of whom had won seats on the county school board. With the charges pending, Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, issued an executive order temporarily removing those women from their posts, reinstating the county’s white-majority school board.

A Quitman resident named Lula Smart faced 32 felony counts that could have carried more than a hundred years in prison, largely for charges of carrying envelopes containing completed absentee ballots to the mailbox for voters. Smart told me that in the first year of the prosecution she contemplated taking her life.

Another Quitman resident, Debra Dennard, faced two felony charges of voter fraud for helping her father fill out his absentee ballot. Her father, David Dennard, is missing both legs and is partially blind. Mr. Dennard says that with his daughter’s assistance he voted for just who he wanted to without any coercion or meddling. “All she did was help me—just as she helps me with almost everything,” the father told me last year. “I knew who I wanted to vote for, and I signed the ballot myself.”

Last September—four years after the election in question—a jury in Quitman cleared Lula Smart on every count against her. This past December, the state dropped all of its remaining charges against the group. A dozen arrests netted not a single conviction or plea deal in Quitman. (One member of the group died in 2012.)

Kemp sure seems to want to make sure there is no voter fraud …. when it might help Democrats. On the other hand, he’s not going to allow a Democrat to investigate possible problems–not because he has a problem with an investigation he just is for local control. Well, unless he wants to overturn the voters’ will in a town.

If it isn’t obvious, Republicans don’t care about voter fraud they care about people voting for Democrats.

That’s why I love this story:

Two members of a presidential commission charged with investigating alleged voter fraud want the panel to focus on what could be the biggest fraudulent scheme of all: attempted Russian hacking of numerous state election systems.

The call, by the secretaries of state in New Hampshire and Maine, presents a potential change in direction for a special commission that has widely been seen as a political smoke screen to justify the president’s unfounded claims about widespread fraud by individual voters in such places as New Hampshire and California.

That’s funny, Trump set up a panel to investigate ‘voter fraud’ because he didn’t like all the stories saying that Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes. Now it very well might be investigating Russian voter fraud that helped him win. Tee hee.

The GOP Tax Cut is here

The Senate GOP has finally released its plan for massive tax cuts for the rich, what they call their healthcare bill. Other places will look at all the details, so I’ll just look at the important bits:

The 400 highest-income taxpayers alone would receive tax cuts worth about $33 billion from 2019 through 2028, which is more than the federal spending cuts from ending the Medicaid expansion in any one of 20 expansion states and the District of Columbia.  In fact, the tax cuts for the top 400 roughly equal the federal cost of maintaining the expansion in Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Alaska combined.  (See Figure 1.)  Policymakers face a stark choice: maintain the Medicaid expansion coverage for 726,000 people in these four states, or advance the pending legislation and cut taxes by millions of dollars a year for 400 households whose annual incomes average more than $300 million apiece.

I left that last bit in just for laughs–the choice for Republicans is clear: tax cuts for the ultra rich.

Households with incomes above $1 million a year would get annual tax cuts averaging more than $50,000 apiece

Meanwhile, the House-passed bill would spend about $700 billion from 2019 through 2028 on tax cuts mainly for high-income people and wealthy corporations from repealing the ACA taxes that fall on them, we estimate based on Joint Committee on Taxation data.

Now if you cut taxes by $700 billion you’re going to have to cut benefits by about the same amount. Since Republicans are back in power they no longer care about the deficit but Reconciliation rules (this bill is going through the Senate using this) means it can’t increase the deficit by much.

So, remember that this is what Republicans are for: cutting benefits to millions of who are poor or middle-class to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich and especially the ultra-rich.

Reminder: torture=terrorism

It seems that the two psychologists who came up with torture regime are being sued:

The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Spokane, Wash., was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several former prisoners of the Central Intelligence Agency. The New York Times has obtained the video depositions of Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell, as well as those of two former C.I.A. officials and two former detainees. Newly declassified agency documents have also been released in the case.

and here’s what they say:

“I think any normal, conscionable man would have to consider carefully doing something like this,” Dr. Jessen said in a newly disclosed deposition. “I deliberated with great, soulful torment about this, and obviously I concluded that it could be done safely or I wouldn’t have done it.”

No, anyone with a conscience would have refused to do it. And it made them rich:

Under the agency’s direction, the two men said, they proposed the “enhanced interrogation” techniques — which were then authorized by the Justice Department — applied them and trained others to do so. Their business received $81 million from the agency.

It seems that Jessen has a different definition of tried:

Dr. Jessen indicated that the two men had some reservations. “Jim and I didn’t want to continue doing what we were doing,” Dr. Jessen testified. “We tried to get out several times and they needed us, and we — we kept going.”

Soon after, the C.I.A. asked them to use the techniques to interrogate a terrorism suspect, something with which they had no experience.

“I had been in the military my whole life and — and I was committed to and used to doing what I was ordered to do,” Dr. Jessen said. “That’s the way I considered this circumstance.”

He does know that “I was just following orders” isn’t an excuse, right?

Drs. Mitchell and Jessen were sent to the jail to carry out the techniques, including waterboarding. Water was poured over a cloth covering Abu Zubaydah’s face to simulate drowning. He underwent the procedure 83 times over a period of days; at one point he was completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising from his mouth, according to the Senate report. A newly declassified August 2002 cable from the prison to headquarters noted: “At the onset of involuntary stomach and leg spasms, subject was again elevated to clear his airway, which was followed by hysterical pleas. Subject was distressed to the level that he was unable to effectively communicate or adequately engage the team.”

It’s important to remember that both the CIA later decided that Zubaydah didn’t know any more and the FBI had thought he was cooperating before they started torturing him.

It also seems Jessen and Mitchell don’t have spines:

“They kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue,” Dr. Jessen testified.

Dr. Mitchell said that the C.I.A. officials told them: “‘You guys have lost your spine.’ I think the word that was actually used is that you guys are pussies. There was going to be another attack in America and the blood of dead civilians are going to be on your hands.”

So, you see, they had to continue with the torture. It’s important to remember the consequences:

Suleiman Salim, a Tanzanian captured in 2003 and also held by the C.I.A. in Afghanistan, was beaten, isolated in a dark cell for months, subjected to dousing with water and deprived of sleep. He said he suffered from flashbacks, headaches, sleeplessness and ringing in his ears.

“I don’t feel like being with people, I like being with myself, and I don’t like walking around to see people,” he said in his deposition, also through a translator. “I feel like I’m so weak and I can’t do anything.”

And it’s important to remember that they knew they were doing some terrible:

In his deposition, Dr. Mitchell revealed that he, along with others, urged the C.I.A. to destroy videotapes the agency had made of some interrogations. The destruction of the tapes became the subject of investigations both by the Justice Department and Congress.

Dr. Mitchell explained his reasoning about the graphic images of waterboarding and other practices: “I thought they were ugly and they would, you know, potentially endanger our lives by putting our pictures out so that the bad guys could see us.”

And it’s important to remember that the reason the CIA decided to torture even though the FBI said it wasn’t necessary was that they were trying to prove that Iraq was linked to al Qaeda–there was no link.

Go here for my list of real world reasons that torture is terrible.

Trump administration out to cut contraception

It seems that Trump officials in Health and Human Services lie as much as he does (via here):

Secretary Tom Price, who has claimed that “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control on her own (despite the high up-front cost of the most reliable contraceptives).

She (Teresa Manning) insists that contraception is ineffective, despite evidence that hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

She (Charmaine Yoest) asserts that condoms (whose use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by at least 70%) do not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Yoest also claims contraception does not reduce the number of abortions and says that to accept this argument “would be, frankly, carrying water for the other side to allow them to redefine the issue in that way.”

Yoest and Manning are joined by Katy Talento, who has been named to the Domestic Policy Council, in claiming that the most effective types of contraceptives cause infertility and miscarriages. Talento has published some particularly outlandish articles on this topic, mis-citing a 2012 study whose author disavowed her description of his work in asserting that contraceptives are “breaking your uterus.”

Even worse, Yoest continues to cite long-discredited studies that used retrospective reporting to support her assertion that abortion causes breast cancer, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary from properly constructed prospective studies. … Nor, as she has claimed, does abortion cause mental illness; in fact, a long-term study that compared women who were denied abortions with those who were able to obtain them revealed that it is being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term that is associated with near-term adverse psychological outcomes.

Perhaps the most insidious and politically potent assertion by these appointees is that common forms of contraception are actually abortifacients.

Hormonal contraceptives work primarily by preventing ovulation and thereby preventing fertilization. Even in cases in which they affect the endometrium, studies more recent than those used for the initial Food and Drug Administration–approved labeling have shown they do not interrupt an established pregnancy.

These people are against contraception but they know that a large majority of Americans support the use of contraception:

More than nine-in-ten adults think using birth control is either morally acceptable (36%) or not a moral issue at all (57%); just 4% say using contraception is morally wrong.

so they try to bend the definition of contraception to claim it’s abortion. It’s not and they’re lying to try to get rid of contraception.

Republican tax-cut bill has no transparency

It seems Republicans don’t want anyone to know about their healthcare proposal:

This has become more evident each day, as the Senate plots out a secretive path toward Obamacare repeal — and top White House officials (including the president) consistently lie about what the House bill actually does.

There was even a brief moment Tuesday where Senate Republicans flirted with the idea of banning on-camera interviews in congressional hallways, a plan quickly reversed after outcry from the press.

Republicans decried the secrecy of the ACA but:

“There were hundreds of hearings and markups that lasted days — or in the case of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, months,” Rovner recalls in her piece.

Senators wanted to talk about the Affordable Care Act and why they believed they needed to pass it. They gave floor speech and after floor speech defending its provisions. Patients had months to lobby their legislators on particular issues that they thought were important. A few months ago I interviewed one woman, for example, who successfully lobbied former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) to add a ban on lifetime limits in health insurance.

I remember Christmas Eve 2009 in particular, when I lived in New York and my roommate’s family came to visit for the holiday. They opened presents in our living room. I was holed up in my bedroom watching the Senate vote on the ACA, the culmination of a 25-day floor debate.

They really don’t want any time for the public to complain:

There are some factors that could slow down the Senate. In comparison to the House, the Senate is barred from voting on a bill before a cost and impact estimate is released from the nonpartisan CBO.

But if the Senate is to really vote before they leave town for a week on June 30th, a goal that many Republicans hope is still achievable, that leaves little time for the public to see legislation. A CBO score takes 10 to 14 days to produce. There are only 17 days left before the end of the month.

The approach is broadly similar to the process that produced the American Health Care Act in the House last month. At the time, leaders released a finished bill and voted on it within 24 hours — so fast that the Congressional Budget Office couldn’t estimate its cost and effects for another three weeks. The move was a jarring shift after years of promises from House GOP leaders to slow down major legislation and post all bills online several days before a vote.

That last bit is obviously ironic as Republicans never seem to have a problem breaking promises or norms.

Some Republicans are complaining about the secrecy:

“I’ve said from Day 1, and I’ll say it again,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. “The process is better if you do it in public, and that people get buy-in along the way and understand what’s going on. Obviously, that’s not the route that is being taken.”

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, offered a hint of the same frustration felt by Democrats seeking more information about the bill.

“I come from a manufacturing background,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve solved a lot of problems. It starts with information. Seems like around here, the last step is getting information, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily the most effective process.”

Mr. Paul said he had no plans to bring out the copy machine again, but he suggested that the Senate’s current course left something to be desired. “My preference would be a more open process in committees,” he said, “with hearings and people on both sides.”

but they obviously don’t really mean it. After all there are at least three Senate Republicans saying they would like the bill to be more open and yet it’s not open. Since there are 52 Republicans in the Senate and all Democrats are opposed to the bill, three Republicans could kill the bill. This gives them a lot of power and yet, somehow, they’re not using it to make the process more open. That tells you they don’t really care. Just like Republicans don’t care if millions of Americans lose their health insurance.

Fuck violence

A Congressman along with three others was shot today:

A rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, wounding House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen and aides dove for cover. The assailant, prepared with ‘‘a lot of ammo,’’ fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died.

The only type of thing this type of violence is good for is creating more violence. Violence can come from any political faction and in all cases is both unacceptable and stupid.

And there’s much too much of it:

A UPS employee opened fire at a San Francisco package delivery facility on Wednesday, killing three employees and then himself as officers closed in, police said.

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