Two Votes Away!

It looks as if extending those unemployment benefits that expired on December 28 for the long-term unemployed is two votes short of passing in the Senate.  All 55 Dems are for it, and they have three Republicans — Dean Heller of Nevada, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

But a majority of 58 doesn’t matter when you need 60.

Even if it passed the Senate, good luck in the House of Crazies.

The Dems shouldn’t have done the Murray-Ryan deal without an extension of benefits.

Advertisements

Dems Cave

The budget deal worked out by Sen. Patty Murray for the Dems and Congressman Paul Ryan for the GOP doesn’t have an extension of unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million long-term unemployed whose benefits run out on December 28.  It’s not as if we’re anywhere near full employment.

 

Quote of the Day

“The wrong turn we’ve taken in economic policy — our obsession with debt and ‘entitlements,’ when we should have been focused on jobs and opportunity– was of course, driven in part by the power of wealthy vested interest.  but it wasn’t just raw power.  The fiscal scolds also benefited from a sort of ideological monopoly:  for several years you just weren’t considered serious in Washington unless you worshipped at the altar of Simpson and Bowles.

“Now, however, we have the president of the United States breaking ranks, finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008.  This is going to change the discourse — and, eventually, I believe, actual policy.”

Paul Krugman, “Obama Gets Real,” NYT

It’s been so frustrating to me that during and since the Great Recession, we’ve sacrificed growth by focusing too much on each year’s deficit and the national debt.  Of course, deficits were going to spike when unemployment was so high and we were paying out so much more for unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, etc. and taking in so much less in revenues.  But we behaved as if that was not just a temporary circumstance, but our long-term destiny, and thus prolonged and deepened that temporary state, weakening us as a country and cruelly crushing a whole lot of families unnecessarily.  Keynes is (still) right, Paul Ryan is wrong, and Ayn Rand was a novelist, not an economist.  It’s time for the Prez and the Dems to lead us out of this economic wilderness.

OK, The Deficit Problem Is Solved

Well, that was easy.  From “Health Care Spending Growth May Have Slowed Permanently,” Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo:

“Health care spending growth has famously slowed over the past five years, significantly enough that the Congressional Budget Office recently revised its projections of Medicare and Medicaid spending over the coming decade downward by hundreds of billions of dollars.

“Now, research papers suggests the recent slowdown doesn’t just reflect temporary economic weakness, but also structural shifts in how health care is delivered and financed — possibly attributable to the Affordable Care Act — and thus might be a harbinger of a longer-term trend.

If they’re right, and the trend continues, it means workers can expect higher wages and the country’s projected medium term deficits are significantly overstated, which in turn suggests lawmakers’ continuing obsession with the current budget deficit, and deficits over the coming decade, are misguided.

“The study by Harvard researchers, featured in the latest edition of Health Affairs, finds, like all studies of this nature, that the recession and weak economy contributed significantly to the spending growth slowdown. Less generous benefits, resulting in higher out-of-pocket costs, accounted for 20 percent of it. Faced with less generous coverage and less disposable income, people consumed fewer health services.

“But the good news is that spending growth also slowed among those whose health benefits haven’t changed, including Medicare patients. And that suggests a more enduring trend.

“’Our findings suggest cautious optimism that the slowdown in the growth of health spending may persist — a change that, if borne out, could have a major impact on US health spending projections and fiscal challenges facing the country,’ the authors write.

“In a related article, health care economist David Cutler attributes the majority of the slowdown to fundamental changes — including perhaps slowing technological and pharmaceutical innovation, and increased efficiency among providers. If current trends continue, he concludes, then over the next 10 years ‘public-sector health care spending will be as much as $770 billion less than predicted. Such lower levels of spending would have an enormous impact on the US economy and on government and household finances.'”

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Paul Ryan!

Of course, that money will probably be spent on more war(s).

 

 

The GOP — All Politics, No Policy

“[W]hat you’re seeing clearly demonstrated here is a kind of policy nihilism on the part of the GOP that helps explain why addressing the country’s problems has become all but impossible. It isn’t enough for Boehner to disagree with [NRCC Chair Greg] Walden over Chained CPI. Boehner effectively controls the NRCC. The notion that this is a private matter between him and Walden is just hogwash. If Boehner doesn’t think the NRCC should attack Dems over a policy that GOP leaders themselves say they want Dems to join them in supporting, he could, you know, just say so. After all, if Republicans won’t say they’ll refrain from attacking Dems over Chained CPI — after embracing the Ryan plan to cut Medicare while attacking Dem candidates over Obamacare’s Medicare cuts for two straight cycles — why would they ever embrace entitlement reform, as GOP leaders themselves are asking them to do?”

Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, WaPo

Hypocrisy and politics are like peanut butter and jelly, but I really believe today’s GOP has taken things to a whole new — and low — level.  They are, in effect, refusing to govern.

Paul Ryan — Don’t Even Think About Having an Abortion

“Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan gave a speech Thursday night insisting that Republicans not cave on their opposition to abortion, but he ended up making the case for why abortion should remain legal. ‘We don’t want a country where abortion is simply outlawed,’ Ryan told the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports pro-life female candidates. ‘We want a country where it isn’t even considered.’

“That’s the big problem, isn’t it? Just because abortion is illegal doesn’t mean a woman won’t consider it. In fact, sometimes even the pro-life Republican politician she’s sleeping with [Rep. Scott Des Jarlais of Tennessee] will consider it. (Or demand it.) When abortions are illegal, women of lesser means will try to give themselves abortions with household objects, and women of more means will, as Joan Rivers put it in the 1960s, fly to Cuba or Puerto Rico and have “14 appendectomies.” Rivers joked, ‘A friend of mine had nine appendectomies in Puerto Rico but she got lucky and married the doctor.’ Not every girl is so lucky.”  Emphasis added.

Elspeth Reeve, “Paul Ryan Makes a Pretty Good Case for Keeping Abortion Legal,” The Atlantic Wire