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Democrats say they are happy to see Republicans race to the right, since they believe it will put the eventual GOP nominee out of step with the general electorate. Some Republicans are nervous about that possibility.

“You have to be careful when you are doing this — that you don’t so embrace your base that it becomes impossible to move and have some flexibility or nuances in your position moving forward,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said.

Brent Budowsky:
A brief word about the dark side of the Internet and social media. The Friday New York Times reported how there are some — a small minority of Twitter users with small minds — who have taken their racism to Twitter to make bigoted attacks against the nation's first black president. I will not dignify their garbage by repeating their racist insults, but I will say this: Twitter should require, at the least, that those who abuse their free speech rights with racism and political hate should have their real names used when they write these rants of racism. Let their husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, bosses and colleagues at work know exactly who they are and exactly what poisonous thoughts they think.
More politics and policy below the fold.
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Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams, writes Growing Global Inequality Gap 'Has Reached a Tipping Point':
 With the gap between the rich and poor growing worldwide, a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published Thursday suggests that the only way to reverse such rampant inequality is by implementing government measures aimed at balancing the playing field

Chief among those measures: Tax the rich and push for gender equality.

In its 34 member states, income inequality has reached record highs, the OECD found in its study, In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. The average income of the top 10 percent was 9.6 times higher than the bottom 10 percent, the OECD found. In the U.S., it was 19 times higher.

"We have reached a tipping point," said OECD secretary-general Ángel Gurría. "The evidence shows that high inequality is bad for growth. The case for policy action is as much economic as social. By not addressing inequality, governments are cutting into the social fabric of their countries and hurting their long-term economic growth." [...]

The OECD recommends a wide range of solutions to reverse the growing wealth gap, including removing the obstacles that prevent mothers from working; doing more to provide youth with useful skills and allow workers to continue updating those skills over time; and redistribute wealth through taxes and transfers, which the report describes as a "powerful instrument to contribute to more equality and more growth."

The report is 300+ pages and I am still working my way through it. But it's worth some of your time, even if you skim. There's nothing radical proposed, which is too bad, because that's what is needed. The data, however, are important to our understanding of what is happening and what to do about it.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Buying the Occupation:

The only people who actually know what’s going on regarding the supplemental appropriations bill on Iraq are insiders and those with a good connection to a few of them. The rest of us can only guess based on what we’re reading from suspect sources. And, because coming up with a supplemental bill is a process until it becomes a product, the situation can change from morning to afternoon, if not hour to hour. What may have been true yesterday, or at noon today, may not be the case at the moment. [...]

As the neoconservative Max Boot wrote today in the The New York Times:

But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that even in the unlikely event that all these bills are approved by September, they will mark a turning point in the war. At best they will give Gen. David H. Petraeus and President Bush some signs of progress they can point to in arguing for more patience from the American public to give the "surge" a chance to work.
More patience. For those elected Democrats who still don’t get it, what this means is that Mister Bush and his mentors and minions expect to run out the clock until they can wash their hands of the occupation come January 2009. They will come back in July and September and point to a few "successes" in the splurge of blood and bucks, and try to persuade enough in Congress to stick with the program for another few months.

Tweet of the Day
The Duggar girls - the real victims - have become completely invisible in all this.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Duggar! Boy Scouts face reality. Irish abroad heading home to vote in today's historic referendum on marriage equality. Greg Dworkin rounds up stories on ACA entrenchment, Christie's recovery attempt that hometown papers aren't buying, handicapping who gets into the GOP debates, Obama's (un) lame duck status, a peek inside Am. Board of Internal Medicine finances, and O'Reilly's in hot water (and denial) again. NYT reporter way out on a limb on Hillary. Armando joins in to discuss the Duggar & O'Reilly. Kansas, whose governor blows a lot, ups its punish the poor game. Journos reconsider the "Fight for $15." Self-driving cars might not necessarily kill us all.

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Fri May 22, 2015 at 07:00 PM PDT

Cartoon: Crime and injustice

by rebeccahendin

Reposted from rebeccahendin by Barbara Morrill

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Screenshot from HHS billboard marketing health insurance exchanges
Running health insurance exchanges, states have found, is a complicated and expensive proposition. For a handful of states, that meant opting to use the federal Obamacare exchange, which is now threatened by the Supreme Court in the King v. Burwell case, the challenge that says Congress intended to only allow subsidies to go to people buying insurance on exchanges established by states. The prospect of losing those subsidies, as well as the fact that federal support to states to maintain the exchanges ends next year, is leading states to explore merging exchanges, a provision that is allowed under the law.
The idea is still only in the infancy stage. It’s unclear whether a California-Oregon or New York-Connecticut health exchange is on the horizon.

But a shared marketplace—an option buried in a little-known clause of the Affordable Care Act—has become an increasingly attractive option for states desperate to slash costs. If state exchanges are not financially self-sufficient by 2016, they will be forced to join the federal system,

"What is happening is states are figuring out the money is running out," said Jim Wadleigh, the director of Connecticut’s exchange, hailed as one of the most successful in the country. "At the end of 2016, everyone has to be self sustaining." […]

"In the last seven business days, I've probably had seven to 10 states contact me about contingency plans," Wadleigh said, though he declined to disclose the names of states he's been talking to. "You can imagine the political backlash that would be if the names got out."

And, of course, King. Some states actually do care about the tens of thousands of their residents who could lose subsidies and believe merging with states that have their own is a viable solution, since they sure as hell can't count on a Republican Congress to come up with one. How far states can go in combining systems is the big question. States are still responsible for regulating health insurers operating within them, and many insurers don't operate across state lines, complicating any regulatory aspect that they have to deal with.

But they could share technology and things like call centers and navigators. States would still have to work out things like cost-sharing and divvying up administrative responsibilities. But it could be the best solution available barring congressional action.

Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) addresses the National Review Institute's 2015 Ideas Summit in Washington, April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1B18W

The chair of the Federal Elections Commission has crying "uncle" in the face of a deadlocked commission. Which is really too bad, because 2016 is shaping up to be one long exercise in candidates skirting the edge of campaign finance laws, such as they are.

As the 2016 campaign unfolds, Hillary Rodham Clinton will benefit from one rapid-response team working out of a war room in her Brooklyn headquarters—and another one working out of a "super PAC" in Washington.

Jeb Bush has hired a campaign manager, press aides and fund-raisers—yet insists he is not running for president, just exploring the possibility of maybe running.

And Senator Marco Rubio’s chance of winning his party’s nomination may hinge on the support of an "independent" group financed by a billionaire who has bankrolled Mr. Rubio’s past campaigns, paid his salary teaching at a university and employed his wife.

Bush, though, is the one who is stretching the bounds of the law—and credulity—to the stretching point, with his "if I'm running" routine. Since he's not actually declared officially, by his advisers' reasoning anyway, he hasn't had to register with the FEC and thus can go all around the country soliciting as much money as he wants for his allied Super PAC and for the "non-profit" organization also affiliated with him, and he can coordinate with them. That includes paying all the people who are advising him in his "not yet" campaign.
All share some variation of the name "Right to Rise," and Mr. Bush has headlined fund-raisers for the groups, even putting his name on invitations to more than 300 donors who attended a Right to Rise conference in Miami in April.

Technically, however, the super PAC is controlled by a Republican campaign lawyer in Washington. The regular PAC is run by a Florida accountant who has also prepared Mr. Bush's taxes. (Mr. Bush is merely the PAC's "honorary chairman.") And the nonprofit group is controlled by a former Bush aide who is widely described as the head of Mr. Bush’s policy team, but who has said the nonprofit will merely be "engaged in policy generation that is consistent with Governor Bush's optimistic, conservative message."

Oh, so he's just the chairman. The chairman who has an "optimistic, conservative message" that the whole country must hear, starting with Iowa and New Hampshire. But don't call it Bush's campaign. It's more like a hobby. An extremely lucrative hobby.
Do as I say, not as I do. That particular idiom about hypocrisy is especially true if you're a Republican espousing "family values." A good example of this occurred recently when the media obtained a 2006 police report indicating that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting Duggar family, molested at least five underage girls when he was a teenager. And some of the victims were his sisters. Duggar, his wife and his parents released separate statements admitting to the charges, while also saying he "acted inexcusably" and mentioning God in almost every other sentence.

The entire 19 Kids and Counting series is predicated on the oddity of watching a woman have a "litter" of children, and also appealing to an evangelical audience who wants to see a wholesome family with "Christian values" in all their goodness. Those values usually entail total female submission, chaperoned dating, and clothing restrictions as part of the Quiverfull movement. The Duggar's religious views have made them popular among conservatives, with Republican candidates, anti-choice groups and anti-gay movements using the family members for publicity and photo ops. Josh Duggar, in his capacity as an executive director at the Family Research Council (FRC), has been outspoken in arguing against equality for gays, and claiming the LGBT community is a threat to the well-being of young children.

With the disclosure of these incidents of molestation, Josh Duggar resigned from the FRC, in what is likely the first step of social conservatives and Republican politicians cutting ties with the Duggar family. It's quite a thing when Duggar has to resign from a group which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in order to spare them shame. And therein lies a bit of the rub. Even before he was revealed to be a sexual predator, there was enough out there where Republicans should have been ashamed to be seen with Duggar. Because now there are a lot of pictures of Duggar standing next to 2016 Republican presidential candidates and tweets where the Republican National Committee (RNC) felt Josh Duggar's thoughts on Hillary Clinton were important.

Continue below the fold for more.

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Doctors for the 99 Percent march from Zuccotti Park to St. Vincent's Hospital to demand its reopening and health care for all. October 26, 2011
Healthcare reform is not done. Not by a long shot. While Obamacare has gone a very long way toward getting people insured, and in creating some good reforms and regulations on private insurance, private health insurance can still be pretty sucky. And according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund it's pretty sucky for nearly a quarter of the population which has private insurance.
The Commonwealth Fund counts adults as underinsured if they meet one of two conditions: their out-of-pocket costs totaled 10 percent or more of their income or if their deductible was 5 percent or more of total income. And they found that 23 percent of Americans with insurance fit into this category—up from 12 percent in 2003.

Underinsurance matters because it appears to deter people from seeking care. Underinsured people are far more likely to not go to the doctor when they have a medical problem; a quarter of the underinsured report doing this, compared with 12 percent of those with more robust coverage. They skip prescriptions, follow-up tests, and specialist visits at a rate that's inching closer to the uninsured —people with no coverage at all.

That's a very large group of people and they have been hit very hard financially: "47 percent of respondents said they exhausted their savings to pay medical bills, 23 percent were dealing with collection agencies and 7 percent had to declare bankruptcy." The major problem is deductibles, which just keep growing.
The share of privately insured adults who had a health plan without a deductible fell from 40 percent in 2003 to 25 percent in 2014
That chart shows the shrinking number of health plans that don't include deductibles—from 40 percent in 2003 to 25 percent in 2014 at the same time that deductibles are growing. Now more than in 10 people with private insurance has a deductible of $3,000 or more, up from just 1 percent in 2003. Wages and salaries are not keeping up with those increases, and in fact employee compensation has largely stagnated because health insurance costs are growing so fast for employers.

It does help that Obamacare includes essential benefits, including basic physical exams, cancer screenings, etc. But if one of those screenings requires specialized care, or follow-up testing or expensive prescriptions, co-pays and deductibles can put that follow-up care in jeopardy for too many people—44 percent in this study. That's how many "reported not getting needed care because of cost in the past year, including not going to the doctor when sick, not filling a prescription, skipping a test or treatment recommended by a doctor, or not seeing a specialist."

Having health insurance is better than not having health insurance. But if you can't afford to actually use that insurance without risking financial disaster, then it's clearly not much of a safety net. These costs have to come down. The best way yet demonstrated for healthcare spending to be controlled is through single-payer systems. So healthcare reform in this country is going to have to take the next step and expand Medicare.

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Rhetorical Candles on the Birthday Cake

Pearls of wisdom and piles of horse dung from various political types born in May:

"Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of people remain in poverty, while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance."
---President John F. Kennedy

"I’m not a scientist, man."
---Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

"The foundation of a strong economy and job creation begins with providing every child in America with the best possible education, including students with disabilities."
---Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)

Sheet cake decorated with American flag and
Daily Kos turns 13 next Tuesday.
"Women deserve a Congress that responds to their needs---not wages war against them."
---Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

"I'm like David Duke without the baggage."
---Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)

"The U.S. cannot force Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to make peace or to act for the common good. They have been in conflict for 1,400 years."
---Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light - but hey, that would be going into sexual details.
---Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC)

"I remember when I first came to Washington. For the first six months you wonder how the hell you ever got here. For the next six months you wonder how the hell the rest of them ever got here."
---President Harry S. Truman

"My dad always told me to stand up to bullies, and Bill O'Reilly is kind of a bully. He's the kind of kid who hits other kids on the playground, and when you hit him he runs to the teacher and says, 'Teacher, sue him!'"
---Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

"I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”
---Fmr. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

“It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”
---Late SF Supervisor Harvey Milk

Happy birthday to one and all, even the creeps. And a safe holiday to the rest of ya. Your west coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

Who won the week?

6%118 votes
5%106 votes
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18%338 votes
19%341 votes
2%53 votes
7%141 votes
2%43 votes
7%125 votes
1%29 votes
6%110 votes

| 1780 votes | Vote | Results

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Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) questions financial regulators about the effects of the Volcker Rule on employment in Washington on February 5, 2014.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Sen. Maria Cantwell's very dubious trade for her "fast track" vote Thursday to allow the Trade Promotion Authority legislation to go forward. She demanded from leadership, and got, votes in both chambers to extend the Export-Import Bank, the federally backed lender that helps corporations sell products overseas. One upside of Cantwell's deal is that it is at least going to create a headache for House Republicans.
It gives the bank’s staunchest opponent — House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas — the opportunity to show his influence in the Capitol. If he musters the votes to shut down the bank, it would end one of the longest-running fights within the Republican Party.

But if Hensarling fails, and Congress keeps the bank’s government-backed loans flowing to buyers of American exports, the issue is sure to continue dividing the GOP—and its leaders. […]

Hensarling will square off against other Republicans, who will offer amendments to reform the bank—but not shut it down. Tennessee Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher will play a key role in the fight. He has penned a plan with what many consider serious reforms to the institution. […]

Idaho Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador argued that Boehner shouldn’t allow a vote on the bank without having it go through committee—which it never will, due to Hensarling’s opposition.

"I don't know if it makes it harder [to kill the bank]," he said of Boehner’s move. "I think he should not be doing that. I think he should allow the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction to work on this issue. What really matters is what the majority of the Republican conference wants. If the majority is not OK with it, it shouldn't be coming to the floor."

If the Republican House isn't going to be actually doing anything important about actually legislating stuff to help the nation, than they might as well be spending their energy on internecine warfare and tearing one another to shreds. And given the general bent of the current congressional majority, we're all probably better off if they're not governing.
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking at an event hosted by The McCain Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
Hang on, we have to savor this for a while:
Chris Christie says the media owes him an apology over the Bridgegate scandal.
Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
“I do believe there's an absolute bias and a rush to judgment. You all know this, you saw the coverage of me 15 months ago. I was guilty, I had done it,” Christie said on CNBC Thursday morning. “Now we're 15 months later, where are the apologies pouring in? Not one thing I said the day after the bridge situation has been proven wrong.”
"... beyond a reasonable doubt, I mean," he did not hasten to add.

And so we are left in the curious position where Chris Christie has had his own staff and associates indicted for doing an illegal thing that endangered the public safety for no other reason than to further the career of Chris Christie, but the man in charge sees his own non-indictment as vindication. As presidential material, no less. He's New Jersey's own Scott Walker, he is.

On Thursday, Christie said the uproar over the lane closures was overblown and covered more than other stories like the IRS scandals or Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

“I think if you objectively looked at it you would say it was. At the time Bridgegate was outgunning, six or seven to one the IRS scandal,” Christie said.

If you're not going to pity him, Chris Christie will pity himself, thank you very much.

Expect Christie to be running on a platform of not indicted. It's a crowded platform, but it at least differentiates him from Rick Perry.

Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill

Click to enlarge.

A Pew survey came out last week showing that the ranks of Christians are declining in America, while the unaffiliated and other faiths are growing. Of course Christianity will remain a super-majority in the U.S. for decades to come, but it offers some hope that in the distant future, the religious right might lose their grip on national politics. Maybe.

Governor Rick Scott speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida. September, 2011
The Obama administration has offered Florida Gov. Rick Scott a partial compromise in Scott's ongoing fight to get federal money for health care that's not Obamacare Medicaid expansion money. Scott has asked the administration to reverse its decision—made and communicated to the state a year ago—to end a demonstration program that funded a Low Income Pool, funds that went to hospitals providing charity care. The administration is coming part way.
On Thursday, it proposed cutting more than $1.6 billion over two years in funding for Medicaid's Low-Income Pool in Florida. The offer, made in a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to state officials, signals public progress in the negotiations that have been ongoing for months in that there actually is something on paper.

The LIP program has been the linchpin of the administration's fight with the state over Obamacare. It would be getting cut whether the state expands Medicaid or not, but CMS reminded Florida yet again Thursday that expansion would help make up the revenue it's about to lose through LIP—about $2 billion annually, by some estimates—while covering hundreds of thousands of poorer residents.

"We believe that Medicaid expansion as evidenced by experience in other states would bring significant benefits to low income Floridians and the Florida health care system," the agency wrote.

That's a 55 percent cut to the LIP for next year, from $2.16 billion funding this year to $1 billion next year and then to $600 million the following year. From 2006-13 the state got $1 billion a year, then got the big bump up last year. CMS is clearly letting Florida know that they can't count on this money to bail them out in their next budget crisis. It's also a signal to other states, including Texas, whose LIP money will be up for renewal in the near future. This funding was never intended to be a permanent healthcare solution, especially so after Medicaid expansion passed with Obamacare.

What this means for Scott's bogus lawsuit against the administration isn't immediately clear, but House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told his caucus that he believes this funding could resolve the current budget crisis. The legislature reconvenes next month to try to come up with a budget and stave off the government shutdown Scott has been threatening.

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