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Affordable Care Act supporters wave signs outside the Supreme Court after the court upheld court's Obamacare, June 25, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

'Obamacare' pushes uninsured rate to historic lows

05/17/16 12:55PM

About a year ago, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) talked to MSNBC's Chris Hayes about the Affordable Care Act, and the Republican was dismissive of the law's effect on the uninsured rate. "It has not plummeted," Gregg scoffed.
 
The more Chris stuck up for reality, the more indignant the retired senator became. "Your ability to understand your numbers is worse than Obama," Gregg said, ignoring numbers that happened to be true.
 
I think about that exchange every time new data is released showing the effects "Obamacare" has had on the nation's uninsured rate. The Huffington Post reported this morning on the latest figures, by way of the CDC, which Judd Gregg might find fascinating.
More than 7 million previously uninsured Americans gained health coverage in 2015, the second full year of the Obamacare coverage expansion, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
During the fourth quarter of last year, just 9.1 percent of U.S. residents, or 28.6 million people, had no health coverage, the National Health Interview Survey found. That's a decline of 2.4 percentage points and 7.4 million people from a year before.
 
The additional 7.4 million insured builds on the 8.8 million previously uninsured people who got covered in 2014, the first year of the Affordable Care Act's full benefits.
The full report from the CDC is online here (pdf).
 
Now that the uninsured rate has dropped to 9.1%, it's worth asking the question about historical context: when was the last time more than 90% of Americans had health insurance? Never. As long as officials have kept track of coverage totals, we've never seen figures as encouraging as these.
 
A year ago, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) argued, in all seriousness, "There's just about as many people uninsured now as there were before the Affordable Care Act."
 
In light of the latest evidence, that's not just wrong, it's demonstrably ridiculous.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.17.16

05/17/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* As Rachel reported on the show last night, Priorities USA, the leading super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, is launching its first round of television ads targeting Donald Trump this week. The spots are set to begin airing in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Nevada.
 
* If you haven't seen the ads themselves, last night's segment is worth your time.
 
* Speaking of ad buys, the DSCC is launching another round of television commercials in competitive Senate races, investing $12 million in three states. While voters in Illinois and Wisconsin will see ads, the bulk of the money is headed for Pennsylvania in support of Katie McGinty (D) in her race against incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R).
 
* As if the Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders split wasn't alarming enough, labor unions and environmentalists are now clashing "over an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars for an ambitious voter turnout operation aimed at defeating Donald J. Trump in the November election."
 
* Any chance Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) will run as an independent presidential candidate against Donald Trump in the fall. "I'm not gonna do that," the governor said yesterday.
 
* Speaking of the search for a Republican to run on an independent ticket, Bill Kristol is still leading the effort, and over the weekend, Breitbart ran a headline calling Kristol a “Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” Breitbart, it's worth noting, is a prominent far-right website with influence in GOP politics.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

Congressman to journalist: 'You're looking at me funny'

05/17/16 11:28AM

It's the kind of scene one might expect to see in a commercial: as two children bicker, a parent asks what's wrong. "He's looking at me funny!" one of the kids cries.
 
Unfortunately, once in a while, the lines blur between childhood cliches and the public conduct of members of Congress. The Hill reported overnight:
Vulnerable Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) accused the top editor of a newspaper of looking at him "funny" during an interview with the publication's editorial board.
 
"Well, you're looking at me funny. I mean, I don't appreciate that. I don't appreciate that. That's kinda condescending. I don't appreciate it," Blum, a freshman lawmaker, told Brian Cooper, the executive editor of the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa.
If Blum's name sounds familiar, it's probably because the far-right Iowan recently made headlines for arguing that the economy is too good in and around the nation's capital. The Republican congressman insisted, "We need to cause a recession ... in Washington DC."
 
The Telegraph Herald in Dubuque -- which actually endorsed Blum's campaign in 2014 -- asked about his pro-recession message when the congressman complained the editor was looking at him "funny."
 
Blum added, "Yes. Yes. Federal government needs a recession. Correct. Yeah."
 
The paper's executive editor later said he has no idea why the federal lawmaker reacted the way he did.
The Union flag flying above the Houses of Parliament where lawmakers are expected to vote in favour of joining air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in central London on 26 September, 2014. Photo by Justin Tallis/Getty.

Trump manages to alienate people on both sides of the pond

05/17/16 10:48AM

Just last month, a prominent British politician went so far as to insist President Obama is "anti-British" on a historic scale. Indeed, Nigel Farage complained Obama "is the most anti-British American president there has ever been."
 
It was one of the stranger criticisms of the president we've heard of late. For one thing, George Washington and James Madison actually waged wars against the U.K., so history doesn't appear to be on Nigel Farage side. For another, by all appearances, Obama has taken care to preserve the "special relationship" and sees the British as unshakable allies.
 
But for those who remain concerned about the future of U.S.-U.K. ties, now would be an excellent time to appreciate a simple detail: While President Obama is not a problem; his demagogic possible successor may be.
Donald Trump has hit back at criticism from Britain's leaders by describing himself in an interview with Piers Morgan as "not stupid" and a "unifier."
 
The presumptive Republican nominee made the comments to Good Morning Britain, the breakfast show of NBC News' U.K. partner ITV.
The trouble appears to have begun with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was asked to respond to Trump's anti-Muslim proposals. Cameron, understandably, said precisely what many Americans have said: Trump's ideas are "divisive, stupid, and wrong." Soon after, London Mayor Sadiq Khan characterized Trump's views, quite fairly, as "ignorant, divisive, and dangerous."
 
Trump wasn't pleased. In reference to Cameron, the presumptive Republican nominee said, "It looks like we're not going to have a very good relationship." He added, "I'm not stupid, okay? I can tell you that right now. Just the opposite."
 
As for Khan's comments about Trump's ignorance, the GPO candidate responded, "Let's take an I.Q. test."
 
It's tempting to try to explain to Trump that I.Q. tests don't measure knowledge or ignorance, which means his retort was effectively gibberish, but I'm reasonably certain he wouldn't understand the explanation.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a get out the vote event at James E. Bruce Convention Center in Hopkinsville, Ky., May 16, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Latest polls point to changing 2016 landscape

05/17/16 10:46AM

As the political world shifts its focus from primary speculation to running-mate speculation, general-election polling starts to take on the kind of salience it lacked in recent months. It's still very early -- Election Day is 174 days away -- and the presidential race is very likely to take multiple turns, but it's not too early to start establishing some baselines for future comparisons.
 
Take the new NBC News/Survey Monkey results, for example.
Attention is now rapidly moving to the hypothetical match-up between the leading candidates with an emphasis on a [Hillary] Clinton and [Donald] Trump contest. In this week's poll, Americans are nearly split between their choice of Trump or Clinton; her margin over Trump narrows from 5 points last week to 3 points this week to 48 percent to 45 percent.
 
This early data indicates a very close race right now – though that may change considerably before November.
A closer look at the details reveals roughly what one might expect to see: men prefer Trump, women prefer Clinton. Those with less education back the Republican; those with more support the Democrat. Trump enjoys a lead among white voters, while Clinton enjoys even larger leads among every other racial and ethnic constituency.
 
This is obviously just one poll, and some of the others show the former Secretary of State with a more comfortable advantage. By one metric, Clinton's average lead is about six percentage points, which is hardly overwhelming, though it's triple the size of President Obama's lead over Mitt Romney on this day four years ago.
 
There is, however, one detail that's easy to overlook, and which may not be immediately obvious from looking at the top-line data: the race for the Republican nomination is over, which is more than Democrats can say.
Democratic Caucus in Nevada

The fallout from Nevada's Democratic unrest

05/17/16 09:23AM

In contemporary politics, when there are reports of partisan activists making death threats, throwing chairs, and scrawling ugly messages on walls, it's easy to assume Donald Trump supporters are responsible. But in Nevada, it's actually Bernie Sanders' proponents.
 
We talked yesterday about the alarming unrest at the Nevada Democratic Convention, held in Las Vegas over the weekend, which ended with security shutting down the event, followed by pro-Sanders activists rushing the stage, "yelling obscenities," and "throwing chairs." The New York Times reported overnight that Sanders supporters soon after leaked the state chairwoman's phone number, and she's received calls threatening her life and the lives of her children and grandchildren.
 
As if that weren't enough, Sanders backers scrawled messages on the walls outside the state Democratic Party headquarters -- "You are scum" was one of them -- and the Democratic offices were closed yesterday out of fear of possible security concerns posed by Sanders advocates.
 
If state party officials were, in fact, responsible for genuine abuses at the convention, perhaps some of the outrage would at least be understandable, but Jon Ralston, Nevada's top political reporter, published a piece late yesterday saying that the opposite is true.
Despite their social media frothing and self-righteous screeds, the facts reveal that the Sanders folks disregarded rules, then when shown the truth, attacked organizers and party officials as tools of a conspiracy to defraud the senator of what was never rightfully his in the first place.
 
Instead of acknowledging they were out-organized by a Clinton campaign chastened by county convention results and reanimated to cement the caucus numbers at the Paris, the Sanders folks have decided to cry conflagration in a crowded building, without regard to what they burn down in the process.
The Nevada Democratic Party also took some time yesterday to publish a piece explaining that, despite the near-riot on Saturday, and death threats that have followed, the convention was actually fair to Sanders and his supporters.
 
Last night, the state party also lodged a formal complaint with the Democratic National Committee against the Sanders campaign. It concluded:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks at a sheet of notes and talking points as he speaks during a rally in Eugene, Ore., May 6, 2016. (Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP)

The enthusiastic embrace of ignorance

05/17/16 08:40AM

President Obama delivered a powerful commencement address at Rutgers University over the weekend, taking some time to celebrate knowledge and intellectual pursuits. "Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science -- these are good things," the president said, implicitly reminding those who may have forgotten. "These are qualities you want in people making policy."
 
He added, "Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It's not cool to not know what you're talking about. That's not 'keeping it real,' or 'telling it like it is.' That's not challenging 'political correctness.' That's just not knowing what you're talking about."
 
Donald Trump heard this and apparently took it personally. The presumptive Republican nominee responded last night with arguably the most important tweet of the 2016 presidential campaign to date:
"'In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.' This is a primary reason that President Obama is the worst president in U.S. history!"
I assumed someone would eventually tell the GOP candidate why this was unintentionally hilarious, prompting him to take it down, but as of this morning, Trump's message remains online.
 
In case it's not blisteringly obvious, candidates for national office generally don't argue publicly that ignorance is a virtue. But Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate, offering an enthusiastic, albeit unconventional, embrace of ignorance.
 
Don't vote for Trump despite his obliviousness, support him because of it. The Know-Nothing Party may have faded into obscurity 150 years ago, but it's apparently making a comeback with a new standard bearer.
An Aedes Aegypti mosquito is seen in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia, Feb. 2, 2016. (Photo by Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters)

Congressional Republicans balk at taking Zika threat seriously

05/17/16 08:00AM

It's been three months since the White House, working in coordination with the CDC and public-health experts, first sent Congress a $1.9 billion emergency budget request to address the Zika virus threat. The Republican majority has spent every week since looking for an excuse to do nothing.
 
The good news is, House GOP leaders unveiled their proposal yesterday to address the emergency. The bad news is, the Republican bill is practically a punch-line to a bad joke. The Hill reported:
House Republicans on Monday introduced a bill to provide $622 million in additional funding to fight the Zika virus this year.
 
The measure is fully paid for, in part by shifting over unspent money that was intended to fight Ebola, the House Appropriations Committee said.  The House is likely to vote on the bill, which would provide a fraction of the $1.9 billion requested by the White House, this week.
Keep in mind, Senate Republicans endorsed a $1.1 billion emergency package last week, which falls far short of what the administration and public-health experts believe is necessary. But the House GOP sees that bill as too generous, so Republicans in the lower chamber cut that total roughly in half.
 
Worse, note the trajectory of the debate. Soon after the White House made the case for the $1.9 billion Zika response, House Republicans said the administration should simply redirect $600 million that had been allocated to combat Ebola. The trouble, of course, is that this money (a) is far short of the $1.9 billion needed, and (b) is still being used to address Ebola in West Africa.
 
That was a month ago. Yesterday, House Republicans, after weeks of careful deliberation and analysis, introduced legislation to push the same discredited idea.
 
In other words, the more serious the Zika threat becomes, the less serious GOP lawmakers are about addressing it.

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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