House Republicans have released their latest fix for the Affordable Care Act, which would ease the requirement that employers with over 50 employees offer everyone who works more than 30 hours a week health insurance. Under the current law, if they don't offer insurance, employers pay a penalty of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee. Republicans argue that provides a big incentive for companies to cut jobs or hours, and so have titled their proposed legislation the "Save American Workers Act."
For all the debate on the effects of the tea party's and the Republican party's march to the far right at the federal level, it’s their impact at the state level that will probably be with us the longest.
Back in 2010, 11 states — Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — put Republicans in control of all branches of state government. Other states saw their center of gravity move much farther to the right. And in the years since, those states have pushed an all-out conservative agenda.
We’re used to brinkmanship in Washington resulting from conflict between Democrats and Republicans. But this shutdown is different. It’s a fight between Republicans and Republicans -- or, more specifically, Republicans and the Tea Party.
In 1995 and 1996, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proudly led Republicans into their shutdown fight with President Bill Clinton. In 2011, Speaker John Boehner was enthusiastic about using a possible shutdown and default as leverage for Republicans to make good on the promises they'd made in the last election.
One of the key ways House Republicans want to impose harsh cuts on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often referred to as food stamps) is by bringing back, in force, a policy item that had slowly been removed by the states: asset tests. Rather than minor, technocratic fixes, this is an important change that shifts the program in a major way. And, independent of what one thinks of the scale of the food stamp program, this is a particularly bad policy, and understanding why it is so bad might give us some clues about why our social policy apparatus is such a mess.
Late Thursday, the House of Representatives voted, 217-210, to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly (and popularly) known as food stamps, by $39 billion over the next 10 years, a 5 percent cut relative to current law. As Brad explained Thursday, the plan would kick 3.9 million people off the food stamp rolls the coming year. After next year, it would reduce the rolls by about 2.8 million people each year.
Watch what happens when Republican congressmen have to explain their immigration position to actual immigrants
Last Thursday, 11-year-old Josie Molina, whose father is undocumented, who asked her Congressman — the embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) — what he would do to help her father stay in the U.S. DesJarlais answered, basically, "Nothing":
Molina is hardly alone. She is one of a number of family members of undocumented immigrants to challenge Republicans in town halls this recess. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), for example, got a question from a six-year-old girl who is a U.S. citizen but who has relatives who are undocumented:
Robert Costa's behind-the-scenes look at how John Boehner and Eric Cantor pulled House Republicans back from a costly and self-destructive government shutdown presents itself as a narrative of something in Washington finally going right. But it's really a detailed look at how insane the internal dynamics of House Republicans have become.
"Asymmetric polarization" is the term political scientists use when one party becomes way more radical than the other. Most recently, it's the term Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein have used for the Republican Party becoming way more radical than the Democratic Party.
Political scientists tend to back up their case with graphs like this one, which use standard poli-sci measures of polarization that rely on long-term analysis of coalitions and you've stopped listening, haven't you?
The dream of the '90s is alive in the conservative movement. There's a new name being floated around as the solution to the current electoral woes of the GOP: Ross Perot.
Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics argues that conservatives should try to rebuild the group of "downscale, Northern, rural whites" known as the "Perot coalition." This is core to a broader debate, which Tom Edsall summarizes here, over whether or not the Republican Party should mainly focus on getting out the white vote in future elections.
The budget talks are foundering on a Republican demand that the federal government start predicting the deficit 30 years into the future. The immigration bill is hung up over Republican demands that the government achieve full control over the 1,969 mile border between the United States and Mexico. But the Obama administration's had some good news on its spying: Republicans are pretty comfortable with the federal government tracking our calls and mining our e-mails.
After the 2012 election, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made a name for himself as the most eager and aggressive of the GOP's self-flagellators. Republicans have to "stop being the stupid party," he raged. They have to compete for "the 47 percent and the 53 percent," and "any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent." Above all, they need to "stop insulting the intelligence of voters."
A majority of Americans, 53 percent, disapprove of two National Security Agency surveillance programs whose existence was reported last week. A Gallup poll found that just 37 percent approved of the NSA's efforts to "compile telephone call logs and Internet communications."
Interestingly, the most intense opposition to the programs comes from the political right. Republicans disapprove of the program by almost a 2 to 1 margin. Independents disapprove, 56 to 34 percent. But 49 percent of Democrats approve of the program, compared with 40 percent who disapprove.
In the National Review, Avik Roy writes that everyone is missing the point of the conservative reformers. The changes aren't happening, or aren't mainly happening, at the level of policy. They're happening at the level of principle. "Where many reformers differ from their ancestors is in the philosophical source of their support for free markets," he writes.
The early coverage of President Obama's budget has focused almost entirely on "chained-CPI": The inflation index that would cut Social Security and raise taxes by a couple hundred billion dollars over the next decade.
But that's missing the forest for one very scraggly tree. Budgets are a rare opportunity to cut through the two parties' rhetoric and see the numbers behind their visions for the country. In this case, the difference between Obama and the House Republicans' visions for the country is about $4.6 trillion over the next decade.
House Budget Chair Rep. Paul Ryan has released his proposed budget for 2014, which you can read below. More analysis from Ezra here, and a primer on what to know before you read the budget in today's Wonkbook.
The Claremont Review recently hosted a spirited forum on the future of the Republican Party. The closing argument from William Voegeli, a senior editor at the Review, is particularly worth considering, as it speaks unusually clearly to a key tension in the Republican coalition.
The Republican Party already has a substantively admirable agenda that, if implemented, would point America in the right direction. The Paul Ryan fiscal framework, which House Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed and which Kabaservice and Frum have criticized, will suffice as a shorthand version of that agenda. I take its essential feature to be that federal spending on entitlement and discretionary domestic programs, which has grown steadily as a proportion of our growing economy for the past eight decades, should account for a declining proportion of a growing economy over coming decades. America, that is, will bend its domestic spending curve downward until it comports with revenues from a tax system no more burdensome than the historic average. An important vehicle for realizing that change will be to means-test and voucherize entitlement programs.
After an election, the winning party typically tries to pass the policies it campaigned on while the losers go back to the drawing board to try to work up a more appealing agenda. But last night's dueling speeches revealed, strangely, the reverse.
President Obama's agenda has become much more ambitious since the election, ranging from universal pre-kindergarten to raising the minimum wage to gun control to immigration reform. But neither the Republican Party's agenda nor its rhetoric has changed a whit.
"Principle and prudence," said Rep. Paul Ryan, when asked how Republicans should proceed after losing the 2012 election. "We have to exercise our principles in a prudent way with realistic expectations while being reasonable and doing what we think is right. That means our tactics will vary but our strategy will stay the same."
The first day of the House Republicans' retreat was devoted, in large part, to persuading House Republicans to stop saying offensive things about rape and to stop thinking they can use the debt ceiling to hold the economy hostage after losing the 2012 election.
To state the obvious, these are not topics that should actually need to be covered at a retreat of House Republicans. We should be able to take it for granted that our legislators won't petulantly crash the economy or offend rape survivors. That the House GOP leadership had to mount an organized campaign to convince GOP members of those things is evidence that something has gone wrong in the Republican Party.
The argument goes like this: Boehner's initial hope -- "Plan A" -- was a deal with President Obama that a huge majority of his members would support. Boehner walked away from "Plan A," at least temporarily, because he didn't have the votes.
Has there been a House speaker in modern American history with less control over his members than John Boehner?
Over the past three days, Boehner has focused all attention on "Plan B": an effort to strengthen his hand in negotiations with President Obama by passing backup legislation that would extend the Bush tax cuts for all income under $1 million.
The political-science evidence is clear on this:There's no such thing as an election mandate. There's only what a president is able to get done with the Congress the American people gave him.
But few politicians agree. And so the days and weeks after elections are heavy with arguments about who has a mandate, and for what. The latest debate is about whether President Obama, who ran a campaign explicitly promising to raise taxes on high earners and who beat a candidate explicitly promising to refuse any and all tax increases, has a mandate to raise taxes.
by Steven Pearlstein
In case you haven’t noticed, the economy is actually getting better. Noticeably better.
Yes, it’s been painfully slow in coming, as we continue to tack against strong headwinds coming from Europe and the Middle East as well as the strong ebb tide created by the wind-down of fiscal stimulus. And certainly the recovery has been halting and uneven.
The data points for this optimism are to be found in recent reports on private payrolls (averaging just under 200,000 jobs per month for the past year), gross domestic product (growing at an annual rate of 3 percent), consumer confidence (as high as its been since 2008) and income (up 5 percent in the past year before adjusting for inflation).
On Wall Street, the Dow is at its highest point in nearly four years and Nasdaq at its highest point in a decade, reflecting both record profits and renewed investor confidence. Federal and state tax revenues are beginning to come in better than projected and households are continuing to whittle down their debt, with a savings rate of 4.5 percent. There are even enough green shoots in the housing market to suggest that residential construction might contribute to GDP growth this year rather than subtract from it. Revisions of government data are now reliably up rather than down.
And yet, there are those on the Republican right and the Democratic left who have so much invested in a bad economy that they are reluctant to acknowledge any of this good news.