Tag Archives: Politics News

Paul Krugman slams Wall Street for “undermining our economy and our society”

Paul Krugman slams Wall Street for "undermining our economy and our society"

Paul Krugman (Credit: AP/Lai Seng Sin)

I know this is the second consecutive Salon article, but economist, Paul Krugman has something to say and I wanted to share it…

Salon

The New York Times columnist argues that America’s large financial sector has done more harm than good

In his latest column for the New York Times, best-selling author and award-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that the financial sector of the American economy is not only outsized but that it’s hurting the economy and making Americans’ lives worse.

Citing journalist Michael Lewis’ new book on high-frequency trading — which opens with a story about an expensive tunnel being drilled for fiber-optic cable to cut down the communication time between Chicago’s futures markets and the stock market in NYC by three milliseconds — Krugman argues that American public policy has become overly influenced by high finance, with inequality and economic instability as a result. “[American] society,” Krugman writes, “is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.”

After claiming that the large financial sector in the U.S. doesn’t increase overall prosperity and doesn’t promote economic stability, Krugman writes that its primary function seems to be to prey off of less powerful economic actors. “[Wall Street's] playing small investors for suckers,” Krugman says, “causing them to waste huge sums in a vain effort to beat the market.” The result, Krugman posits, is a select few Wall Street players making a lot of private profits while contributing little to the overall public.

Krugman continues:



In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing — maybe less than nothing — in return. [NYU Professor Thomas] Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.

So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It’s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that’s undermining our economy and our society.

 

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Filed under Economic Inequality, Paul Krugman

America’s next great president: Why Obama’s departure paves the way for the next FDR

America’s next great president: Why Obama’s departure paves the way for the next FDR

Russ Feingold, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren (Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing/AP/Tony Dejak/Joshua Roberts)

I like the ideas set forth in this piece…

Salon

Why can’t Barack Obama be more like Lyndon Johnson? The fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, commemorated by living presidents at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas, last week, has renewed interest in comparisons between the two presidents. Critics of Obama complain that he might have been a more effective president had he been less aloof and more willing to bewitch, bully and bribe members of Congress as Johnson did. Defenders of Obama compare the Affordable Care Act to Johnson’s Medicare and Medicaid, and point out that Obama after 2010 had to face a divided Congress, unlike Johnson, with his Democratic supermajorities.

The discussion is superficial, reflecting a focus on personalities and short-term electoral considerations. It’s worth viewing the differences between Johnson and Obama in a broader historical context.

In the 1930s, as a young member of Congress from Texas, Lyndon Johnson became a favorite protégé of President Franklin Roosevelt. On becoming president after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Johnson saw his task in domestic politics as completing the New Deal (even as, in foreign policy, he sought, with disastrous results in Vietnam, to carry out the liberal Cold War containment policy inherited from Harry Truman). From the perspective of 2014, we can view Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society as a single era of reform, interrupted by the “conservative coalition” of right-wing Southern Democrats and northern Republicans that dominated Congress in the 1950s. From civil rights to universal health care, most of the programs that Johnson managed to get enacted in the 1960s had been proposed in the 1930s or 1940s, if not earlier. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to the New Deal-Great Society combination as “the New Deal.”

The New Deal was the American version of the social reforms that transformed other advanced industrial democracies in the twentieth century. All of the other English-speaking countries as well as the democracies of Western Europe at some point adopted worker-protective legislation, social safety nets and — following World War II and the horrors of Nazi racism — the outlawing of white supremacy. In this wave of twentieth-century reform, the U.S. was mostly a laggard, not a leader. In the late nineteenth century, Imperial Germany pioneered workers’ compensation and Social Security, and before World War I Britain adopted many reforms that were delayed in the U.S. until the 1930s.

Continue reading below the fold…

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Filed under U.S. Politics

5 things conservatives lie about shamelessly

5 things conservatives lie about shamelessly

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us are not surprised by the following list, it’s just good to know it’s out there for all to see…

Salon

The right still somehow insists that climate change isn’t real and that the ACA will euthanize old people

Mark Twain once famously said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Twain wasn’t praising lies with this comment, of course, but modern-day conservatives seem to think he was dishing out advice instead of damning the practice of dishonesty. Conservatives have figured out a neat little rhetorical trick: One lie is easy for your opponents to debunk. Tell one lie after another, however, and your opponent’s debunkings will never catch up. By the time the liberal opposition has debunked one lie, there’s a dozen more to take its place.

Science educator Eugenie Scott deemed the technique the “Gish Gallop,” named for a notoriously sleazy creationist named Duane Gish. The Urban Dictionary defines the Gish Gallop as a technique that “involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it.” Often users of the Gish Gallop know their arguments are nonsense or made in bad faith, but don’t particularly care because they are so dead set on advancing their agenda. Unfortunately, the strategy is so effective that it’s been expanding rapidly in right-wing circles. Here are just a few of the most disturbing examples of the Gish Gallop in action.

1. Creationism. It’s no surprise creationists inspired the coining of the term Gish Gallop, as they have perfected the art of making up nonsense faster than scientists can refute it. The list of false or irrelevant claims made by creationists, as chronicled by Talk Origins, numbers in the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, and more are always being spun out. Trying to argue with a creationist, therefore, turns into a hellish game of Whack-A-Mole. Debunk the lie that the speed of light is not constant, and you’ll find he’s already arguing that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Argue that it’s unconstitutional to put the story of Adam and Eve in the science classroom, and find he’s pretending he was never asking for that and instead wants to “teach the controversy.”



“Teaching the controversy” is a classic Gish Gallop apology. The conservative wants to make it seem like he’s supporting open-minded debate, but instead he just wants an opportunity to dump a bunch of lies on students with the knowledge that they’ll never have the time and attention to carefully parse every debunking.

2. Climate change denialism.This strategy worked so well for creationism it makes perfect sense that it would be imported to the world of climate change denialism. Climate change denialists have many changing excuses for why they reject the science showing that human-caused greenhouse gases are changing the climate, but what all these reasons have in common is they are utter nonsense in service of a predetermined opposition to taking any action to prevent further damage.

Skeptical Science, a website devoted to debunking right-wing lies on this topic, has compiled a dizzying list of 176 common claims by climate denialists and links to why they are false.  Some of these lies directly contradict each other. For instance, it can’t both be true that climate change is “natural” and that it’s not happening at all. No matter, since the point of these lies is not to create a real discussion about the issue, but to confuse the issue so much it’s impossible to get any real momentum behind efforts to stop global warming.

3. The Affordable Care Act. It’s not just science where conservatives have discovered the value in telling lies so fast you simply wear your opposition out. When it comes to healthcare reform, the lying has been relentless. There are the big lies, such as calling Obamacare “socialism,” which implies a single-payer system, when in fact, it’s about connecting the uninsured with private companies and giving consumers of healthcare a basic set of rights. In a sense, even the name “Obamacare” is a lie, as the bill was, per the President’s explicit wishes, written by Congress.

But there are also the small lies: The ACA funds abortionUnder the ACA, old people will be forcibly euthanized.  Obamacare somehow covers undocumented immigrants.  Congress exempted itself from Obamacare (one of the lies that doesn’t even make sense, as it’s not a program you could really get exempted from). Healthcare will add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

The strategy of just lying and lying and lying some more about the ACA has gotten to the point where Fox News is just broadcasting lies accusing the Obama administration of lying. When it was reported that the administration was going to hit its projections for the number of enrollments through healthcare.gov, a subculture of “enrollment truthers”  immediately sprang up to spread a variety of often conflicting lies to deny that these numbers are even real. It started soft, with some conservatives suggesting that some enrollments shouldn’t count or arguing, without a shred of evidence, that huge numbers of new enrollees won’t pay their premiums. Now the lying is blowing up to the shameless level, with “cooking the books” being a common false accusation or, as with Jesse Watters on Fox, straight up accusing the White House of making the number up. Perhaps soon there will be demands to see all these new enrollees’ birth certificates.

4. Contraception mandate.The ACA-based requirement that insurance plans cover contraception without a copay has generated a Gish Gallop so large it deserves its own category. Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check chronicled 12 of the biggest lies generated by the right-wing noise machine in just the past couple of years since the mandate was even announced. It is not “free” birth control, nor is it “paid for” by employers. The birth control coverage is paid for by the employees, with benefits they earn by working. The mandate doesn’t cover “abortifacients,” only contraception. No, birth control doesn’t work by killing fertilized eggs, but by preventing fertilization. It’s simply false that the prescriptions in question can all be replaced with a $9-a-month prescription from Walmart, as many women’s prescriptions run into the hundreds and even thousands a year. No, it’s not true that the contraception mandate is about funding women’s “lifestyle”, because statistics show that having sex for fun instead of procreation is a universal human behavior and not a marginal or unusual behavior as the term “lifestyle” implies.

5. Gun safety. The gun lobby is dishonest to its core. Groups like the NRA like to paint themselves like they are human rights organizations, but in fact, they are an industry lobby whose only real goal is to protect the profit margins of gun manufacturers, regardless of the costs to human health and safety. Because their very existence is based on a lie, is it any surprise that gun industry advocates are experts at the Gish Gallop, ready to spring into action at the sign of any school shooting or report on gun violence and dump so many lies on the public that gun safety advocates can never even begin to address them all?

A small sampling of the many, many lies spouted by gun industry advocates: That guns prevent murder, when in fact more guns correlates strongly with more murders. That gun control doesn’t workThat gun control is unpopular.  That any move to make gun ownership safer is a move to take away your guns. That a gun in the home makes you safer when it actually puts your family at more risk. That guns protect against domestic violence, when the truth is that owning a gun makes abuse worse, not better. Even the standard line “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a distracting bit of dishonesty, since most gun deaths aren’t murders but suicides.

How do you fight the Gish Gallop, when trying to debunk each and every lie is so overwhelming? There are a few tactics that help, including creating websites and pamphlets where all the lies can be aggregated in one place, for swift debunking. (Bingo cards and drinking games are a humorous version of this strategy.) A critical strategy is to avoid lengthy Lincoln-Douglas-style debates that allow conservatives to lie-dump rapidly during their speaking period, leaving you so busy trying to clean up their mess you have no time for positive points of your own. Better is a looser style of debate where you can interrupt and correct the lies as they come. I’ve also found some luck with setting an explicit “no lies” rule that will be strictly enforced. The first lie receives a warning, and the second lie means that the debate is immediately terminated. This helps prevent you from having to debunk and instead makes the price of participation a strict adherence to facts.

 

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Paul Ryan’s race flap even worse than it looks

Paul Ryan's race flap even worse than it looks

Paul Ryan (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Salon

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

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 wasdeliberately 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?

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Gallup Poll Finds Democrats More Compassionate; Republicans More Psychopathic

According to Gallup, these are not the traits of a Conservatives…

No doubt most Progressives already knew this, but a Gallup poll makes it official…

The Huffington Post

Gallup headlined on 28 January 2014, “Democrats and Republicans Differ on Top Priorities,” and reported that the biggest difference between supporters of the two Parties concerned “The environment,” where 71% of Democrats said it’s important to them, versus only 32% of Republicans who did: a whopping difference of 39%, between the two Parties, considered that issue to be important. The second-biggest difference was on “The distribution of income and wealth”: 72% of Democrats, versus only 38% of Republicans – a 34% difference. Third came “Poverty and homelessness”: 82% of Democrats, versus 53% of Republicans – a 29% difference. Fourth came “Education”: 91% of Democrats, versus 70% of Republicans – a 21% difference.

Here were the four issues on the conservative end, the four issues where Republicans scored the largest amount higher (more concerned) than Democrats: First, “The military and national defense”: 76% of Republicans, versus 61% of Democrats – a 15% difference – considered that issue to be important. Second, “Taxes”: 69% of Republicans, versus 56% of Democrats – a 13% difference. Third, “Terrorism”: 77% of Republicans, versus 68% of Democrats – a 9% difference. Fourth, “Government surveillance of U.S. citizens”: 45% of Republicans, versus 37% of Democrats – an 8% difference (but if the President had been a Republican, Democrats might have been more concerned about that issue than Republicans would have been).

Clearly, selfish fears swept concerns on the Republican side, whereas concerns for others (and especially the weak) swept concerns on the Democratic side.

One can therefore reasonably infer from this survey that the main difference between Democrats and Republicans is the difference between compassion versus psychopathy.

If these findings are accurate, then one will expect that in political primary elections, where candidates make their appeals to members of their own Party, Democratic candidates will compete with one another mainly on the basis of their proposals for improving things for everyone but especially for the most vulnerable; whereas Republican candidates will compete with one another mainly on the basis of their proposals for improving things for their individual voters. And, in the general election, one will expect that the Democratic nominee will have been chosen on the basis of his concern for everyone, while the Republican nominee will have been chosen on the basis of his concern for Republicans.

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Tom Coburn To Leave Senate At End Of 113th Congress

tom coburn senate

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) | Tom Williams via Getty Images

What’s going on in Congress that’s driving so many politicians to end their terms?

The Huffington Post

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn will finish out the current congressional session and then resign from his seat nearly two years before his term is scheduled to end, he said in a statement released late Thursday.

The 65-year-old Republican said he would give up his seat at the end of the current session in January 2015. His term was scheduled to end in 2016, and Coburn already had vowed not to seek a third.

Coburn, a physician from Muskogee, recently was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer, but said his decision was not about his health.

“Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer,” Coburn said, referring to his wife. “But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires.

“As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong.”

Known as a conservative maverick during his three terms in the U.S. House in the 1990s, Coburn continued that role after being elected to the Senate in 2004. He was a fierce critic of what he described as excessive government spending, and was most vocal about opposing the earmarking of special projects.

His resignation is certain to draw the interest of a deep bench of ambitious Republicans in Oklahoma. State law requires the governor to call a special election in the case of a vacancy.

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Nearly Half Of Americans Grasp The First Amendment About As Well As Sarah Palin Does

first amendment poll

(Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images) | NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

More than 4 in 10 Americans think the First Amendment protects them from being fired for what they say, and more than 3 in 10 think it applies to situations like A&E’s now-revoked suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.  But they’re wrong.

In the new survey, 45 percent of Americans said the First Amendment does not allow people to be fired from a job for expressing their views, while only 36 percent said such firings are allowed under the Constitution. Twenty percent said they weren’t sure.

Moreover, 35 percent think the First Amendment does not allow a television network to suspend an on-screen personality for expressing a politically incorrect point of view, while 43 percent said such a suspension is permitted under the Constitution. Another 22 percent said they weren’t sure.

In fact, the amendment — which starts with the phrase “Congress shall make no law” — protects Americans only against the government’s intrusion into free speech and does not apply to the acts of private employers. But that didn’t stop politicians and others from weighing in after “Duck Commander” Phil Robertson was suspended by A&E in December for comments he made about homosexuality and pre-civil-rights-era race relations that many people found offensive.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said that, even if he might find Robertson’s opinions offensive, “this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.”

“In fact,” Jindal continued, “I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) also weighed in, posting on Facebook that “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

The high-profile conservative defenders of Robertson’s right to offend others showed a welcome, and very American, belief in the importance of free speech. What they seemed to be missing was a basic understanding of what actual protections people have or have ever had in the private sector. (Perhaps Jindal is not familiar with the use of “morals clauses” in entertainment industry contracts, which allow a performer to be fired for behavior that may bring the network into “public disrepute.”)

That confusion about constitutional rights isn’t limited to Republicans, the new poll finds. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans, 38 percent of independents and 29 percent of Democrats said they believed the First Amendment applied in a similar situation. More generally, 50 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of independents said they think the amendment shields people from being fired for things that they say.

The poll respondents were more confident about situations in which the First Amendment is, in fact, applicable. By a 72 percent to 14 percent margin, Americans correctly said that the First Amendment does not allow people to be arrested for expressing their views. By a 62 percent to 21 percent margin, they said the government is not allowed under the amendment to prevent certain points of view from being expressed on TV. (But take note: In practice, there are limits to even well-established speech rights.)

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John Boehner Took Money From Freedom Industries, Company Behind West Virginia Chemical Spill

john boehner freedom industries

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Is it me or does this picture of John Boehner look like “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”?

The Huffington Post

An executive at Freedom Industries, the company behind last week’s chemical spill in West Virginia, donated $5,000 to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2013, according to a report in The New Republic on Tuesday. The story was published on the heels of Boehner’s first public comments on the leak, in which he rejected the need for stricter environmental and energy regulations and instead questioned whether the Obama administration was adequately enforcing existing rules.

According to the report, OpenSecrets.org reveals that Boehner’s campaign received two separate amounts of $2,600 and $2,400 in July 2013 from Doug Simons, Freedom Industries’ vice president of sales and marketing. The New Republic published the story after receiving a tip from Walter Klapper at Colorado Front RangeThe Daily Kos pointed out Saturday, meanwhile, that Freedom Industries also has ties to the conservative Koch Brothers.

Boehner expressed confidence in existing regulations at a Tuesday morning press conference, after he was asked if the spill demonstrated the tradeoff that comes with deregulation.

“The issue is this: We have enough regulations on the books. And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs,” Boehner said. “I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

“Somebody ought to be held accountable here,” he added. “What we try to do is look at those regulations that we think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing the economy jobs. That’s where our focus continues to be.”

Boehner also asked why the Elk River storage facility, owned by Freedom Industries, that was the site of the spill hadn’t been inspected since 1991. Critics have pointed out that while West Virginia law requires inspections on chemical production facilities, it does not require them for facilities used for chemical storage.

The West Virginia spill left more than 300,000 people without access to clean tap water for days, and dozens of residents in need of medical treatment.

“The Speaker has long been skeptical of new regulations, especially when those already on the books aren¹t being effectively enforced,” said Cory Fritz, Boehner’s campaign spokesman. “The House Energy & Commerce Committee is actively monitoring the federal investigation and working to obtain the facts behind this spill, as is appropriate.”

This article has been updated with comment from a spokesman for Boehner.

 

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Obama Administration Making New Exemption For Individuals With Canceled Health Care Policies

health care exemption

H/t: TW – who writes,  this change should help a lot of people and diffuse much of the GOP’s anti-ACA talking points (‘bitching points’).

The Huffington Post

The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will allow individuals whose health care policies were canceled under the Affordable Care Act’s new rules to qualify for a hardship exemption, meaning they are not required to purchase a plan under the new law.

In a letter to six Democratic senators who had requested the change, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that those who had their plans canceled under the law are now eligible for “catastrophic,” or bare-bones plans. As The Hill notes, those plans were previously intended for individuals under age 30 and others who qualify for a hardship exemption.

“I agree with you that these consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption and I can assure you that the exemption will be available to them,”Sebelius wrote in the letter. “As a result, in addition to their existing options these individuals will also be able to buy a catastrophic plan to smooth their transition to coverage through the Marketplace.”

The letter was sent to Democratic Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Angus King (Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.).

“This is a common-sense clarification of the law. For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been cancelled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option,” Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said of the exemption.

The announcement comes just four days ahead of the December 23 deadline by which individuals must select a plan to ensure no lapse in coverage.

Earlier Thursday, the administration projected fewer than 500,000 individuals whose plans had been canceled would enter 2014 without coverage.

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported:

The officials at the briefing said that it was impossible to know the exact number impacted. But, they argued, the group was smaller than what has been reported because many of these individuals were being auto-enrolled into new plans.All told, the officials projected that fewer than 500,000 people would enter the New Year having had their insurance policy cancelled and not purchased a new plan.

The goal is to reduce that number as much as possible. And to encourage sign-ups after the New Year, the White House is planning a more aggressive public relations campaign. The docket includes cabinet-level visits to targeted districts, more community outreach through administration allies (churches, races and farmer markets were listed as venues where the ACA would be pitched) and paid media. 

Continue reading here…

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Capitol Shooting: Police Shoot, Kill Female Suspect After Car Chase

Police inspect a car on the median of Constitution Ave in front of the Hart Senate Office Building following reports of a shooting on October 3, 2013 in Washington, DC (AFP, Mandel Ngan)

The Huffington Post

A woman driving a black Infiniti with a young child inside tried to ram through a White House barricade Thursday, then led police on a chase toward the Capitol, where police shot and killed her, witnesses and officials said.

Tourists watched the shooting unfold on Constitution Avenue outside the Capitol as lawmakers inside debated how to end a government shutdown. Police quickly locked down the entire complex temporarily, and both houses of Congress went into recess.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tex., who said he was briefed by the Homeland Security Department, said the woman was killed. Asked if she was armed, he replied: “I don’t think she was. There was no return fire.”

Capitol Police later confirmed that all of the shots during the incident had been fired by law enforcement officers.

Police described it as an isolated event and saw no indications of terrorism.

The pursuit began when a car with Connecticut plates sped onto the driveway leading to the White House, over a set of lowered barricades. When she couldn’t get through a second barrier, she spun the car in the opposite direction, flipping a Secret Service officer over the hood of the car as she sped away, said B.J. Campbell, a visiting tourist from Portland, Ore.

A fleet of police and Secret Service cars chased the Infiniti toward Capitol Hill.

“The car was trying to get away. But it was going over the median and over the curb,” said Matthew Coursen, who was on his way to a legislative office building when the Infiniti sped by him. “The car got boxed in and that’s when I saw an officer of some kind draw his weapon and fire shots into the car.”

Coursen watched the shooting from his cab window.

“I thought to myself, ‘The car is getting blocked in. The car is going to surrender,’” he said. “Now the cop has his weapon out. The car kept trying to get away. Then he fired shots.”

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said a child was taken from the car to a hospital but said he knew of no harm to the youngster. Tourist Edmund Ofori-Attah said the child appeared to be about 2 to 3 years old.

A police officer was injured in the traffic accident but Gainer said the injuries were not life threatening.

“We heard three, four, five pops,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who was walking from the Capitol to an office building across the street. Police ordered Casey and nearby tourists to crouch behind a car for protection, then hustled everyone into the Capitol.

“There were multiple shots fired and the air was filled with gunpowder,” said Berin Szoka, whose office at a technology think tank overlooks the shooting scene.

The shooting comes two weeks after a mentally disturbed employee terrorized the Navy Yard with a shotgun, leaving 13 people dead including the gunman.

Before the disruption, lawmakers had been trying to find common ground to end a government shutdown. The House had just finished approving legislation aimed at partly lifting the government shutdown by paying National Guard and Reserve members.

U.S. Capitol Police on the plaza around the Capitol said they were working without pay as the result of the shutdown.

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