Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Latest Attempt to Tar baby Obama with Obamacare, Discredited

A former figure from the bad old 'Shrub' days has emerged to try to heap discredit on the reductions to the deficit in the Obama health care reform popularly called on the right 'Obamacare'.  (The term 'tar baby' of course refers to the Uncle Remus stories as a metaphor.)
Except that we've all seen how Republican math and especially the disasterous Republican economics work -- not very well.
It is so much Koch Brothers crap, and pretty inferior crap at that, not that the threshold is very high at the best of times.  I have to wonder if it might be that this is being trotted out now because the right is not so sure that the legislation will be axed by the SCOTUS after all. 
If that is true then they must need something new to feed to Faux News-ance, in part because the Murdoch media is totally on-board with any schlock, facts be damend, and does little research.  They're willing to engage in broad misrepresentation and little if any real journalism ever.
So, here is what FOX won't tell you, but we will.  Besides, they need something to take the heat off of them as new Murdoch scandals hit the news cycle.
From the New York Times:
The Bogus Obamacare-Deficit Study
The Washington Post has an apparent blockbuster story today. It reports that a new study finds that Obamacare will increase the budget deficit, not decrease it, as the Congressional Budget Office has found:
President Obama’s landmark health-care initiative, long touted as a means to control costs, will actually add more than $340 billion to the nation’s budget woes over the next decade, according to a new study by a Republican member of the board that oversees Medicare financing.
That sounds pretty legit, right?
Actually, no. It’s not even remotely legit.
The first thing to understand here is that this is not a study by a government agency. It’s a paper by Charles Blahous. Who is Charles Blahous? He’s a Republican policy guy. By tradition, the president appoints a member of each party to serve as a trustee of Medicare and Social Security. Blahous, who served under George W. Bush and was active in his attempt to introduce private accounts into Social Security, is the Republican trustee. But the other trustee, Robert Reischauer, has zero to do with his paper. It was published by the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded organization that produces some quality work as well as a fair amount of schlock that does not meet the standards of your typical university economics paper. This paper is an example of the latter.
The Affordable Care Act spends a bunch of money to cover people who are too poor or sick to afford their own health care. To pay for that, it raises some taxes and cuts a bunch of spending from Medicare. The new revenue and the spending cuts outweigh the cost of the new spending, which is why the Congressional Budget Office projected it to reduce the deficit. Projections always have a margin for error attached, but the CBO’s two year update actually bumped up the savings projections a bit.
You may wonder what methods Blahous used to obtain a more accurate measure of the bill’s cost. The answer is that he relies on a simple conceptual trick. Medicare Part A has a trust fund. By law, the trust fund can’t spend more than it takes in. So Blahous assumes that, when the trust fund reaches its expiration, it would automatically cut benefits.
The assumption is important because it forms the baseline against which he measures Obama’s health-care law. He’s assuming that Medicare’s deficits will automatically go away. Therefore, the roughly $500 billion in Medicare savings that Obama used to help cover the uninsured is money that Blahous assumes the government wouldn’t have spent anyway. Without the health-care law, in other words, we would have had Medicare cuts but no new spending on the uninsured. Now we have the Medicare cuts and new spending on the uninsured. Therefore, the new spending in the law counts toward increasing the deficit, but the spending cuts don’t count toward reducing it.
That is a completely bizarre assumption. It’s not an assumption that any scoring agency ever applies in other situations. We assume that, in the absence of action, Congress will keep paying Medicare benefits. That’s why we have all these projections of future deficits. If Blahous’s assumptions are right, then we don’t really have an entitlement problem at all. Medicare can’t exceed its trust fund, so problem solved! You know how Paul Ryan has been stalking the halls of Congress with disaster-movie music in the backdrop, warning that we’re about to become Greece? He should relax! (Also, Blahous’s methodology would show that Ryan’s budget looks way worse, too.)
Anyway, that’s the trick. Assume the Medicare savings don’t count because Medicare would have reduced its payments anyway, and boom — Obamacare now increases the deficit.
There actually is a bit more in the paper, but it’s even less persuasive. Blahous suggests that Congress might roll back some of the cost savings in the law. And yes, of course that’s a risk — Republicans are trying to repeal the entire law. If Congress repeals some of the cost savings, then they won’t save money.
That’s not a way of saying Obamacare
Indeed, the whole argument is so bizarrely weak you have to wonder, “What is this doing on the front page of the Washington Post?” Here is what I think is going on. The author of the Post story, Lori Montgomery, is the author of a recent debt-negotiation narrative that seems to have been spoon-fed to her by John Boehner. Montgomery inserts a few cautionary notes into the story, but basically frames it the way Blahous would like.
Blahous is the Republican trustee for Medicare, so that title offers the hook for a paper he writes that, by adopting some mighty odd hypothetical scenarios, says that Obamacare will boost the deficit. Blahous’s government position gives the claim enough juice that it can be pitched as a “study” by a government official, as opposed to just another Republican-authored polemic, which would never receive such prominent or relatively credulous coverage. The next step is for conservatives to adopt Blahous’s figure as the “true” figure — but of course never to apply his strange assumptions to the GOP budget or to any other proposal — and browbeat the media into citing that alongside the CBO figure, for “balance.”

If this work is as poor as it appears to be, I would hope that the President might find someone better qualified to fill that role than this guy.  It is worth noting that 'W' hasn't endorsed anyone, but then even his parents seem to recognize that their son is widely considered a huge disgrace and a liability, in a recent interview with /Romney where the absence of 'W' having endorsed anyone was larger than any other /Republican elephant in the room.

Republicans; they really should fund better math education, as well as better science; they utterly suck at both, which makes for bad policy.  It's crap that only someone completely blinded by ideology could swallow............which pretty much leaves a few wandering listless few remaining tea partiers, the occasional wild-eyed fanatic right wing evangelical out of touch with reality, and the other right wing hard-core extremist fringies.

And of course the payroll of politicos paid by ALEC, directly and indirectly to be their corporate stooges.  Between the defections almost daily of entities running from the bright limelight on the corruption, and the failure of the right to even pretend they have actually drafted legislation, it's just not the force to be reckoned with that it was when shrouded in secrecy hiding the big money expenditures.  Now it's just big and rotten and increasingly an embarrassment, a virtual albatross for politicians and members alike.

Why whatever do I mean?

Things like this:

Oops: Florida Republican Forgets To Remove ALEC Mission Statement From Boilerplate Anti-Tax Bill

Progressives have long tried to expose the influence the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wields in state house across the country, but one Florida lawmaker is making it too easy.

Funded almost entirely by large corporations, ALEC produces “model legislation” favorable to industry that state lawmakers can introduce as their own bills. Usually, the legislators tweak the language of the bills to make them state-specific or to obfuscate their origins. Usually, but apparently not always.

In November, Florida state Rep. Rachel Burgin (R) introduced a resolution (PDF here) that would officially call on the federal government to reduce corporate taxes, but she apparently forgot to remove ALEC’s mission statement from the top of the bill, which she seems to have copied word-for-word from ALEC’s model bill:

As the government transparency group Common Cause reports, “Burgin quickly withdrew the bill hoping that no one had noticed and then re-introduced it 24-hours later, with a new bill number (HM 717), but now without the problematic paragraph.” Apparently no one noticed until this week.
While it’s no secret by now that conservative lawmakers in state capitals everywhere have used ALEC’s legislation to tear down environmental and labor regulations, curb voting rights, and coordinate a business-friendly agenda nationwide, it’s rare to see it on display so clearly.
I'm betting that when it comes to the battle of the PAC ads later in the election cycle, ooopsie daisies like this one are going to get much more attention.
I'm also betting that the Tea Partiers, many of whom were organized and transported on Koch brothers money, in their mega-astro-turfing of the Tea Party will NOT be so surprised to find out how easily their participation has been bought.  I think they will be mad as hell, this time at the Koch Brothers as well as the sane and moderate conservatives in their own party for a change.
It is more than fair and reasonable to expect that when we elect people to public office to serve as legislators they will 1. serve us, not out of state corporations and special interests; 2. that legislation won't be drafted by non-legislators IN SECRET; and 3. the legislation itself is largely crap, resulting in endless legislation and poor outcomes, and is often MORE intrusive than liberal big government.
The light is finally dawning.............or about to.
The wrong people are getting all full of the tar from the proverbial tar baby.

Poor Koch Brothers; they still have pots of money, but it seems they're running out of pots of tar. And those pots of money, the ones they spend in aid of dirty tricks, are just not buying elections the way they used to do.  People are getting wise to election tampering and robocalls misdirecting voters to the wrong polling place or on the wrong date, or any of their other playbook of bad politics.
One people know them for what they are, they just don't work at all well.
Meanwhile, that Occupy movement seems to be gathering steam just as ALEC and the corporate puppeteers are losing theirs.  In the immortal words of Scooby Doo, "Ruh ROH!"
Time to start drawing the rats leaving the sinking ALEC ship:

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