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A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Budget office tells Republicans what they don't want to hear

06/19/15 12:51PM

After several dozen pointless repeal votes, congressional Republicans haven't exactly been subtle about their intentions towards the Affordable Care Act. In fact, with a major Supreme Court case pending, GOP lawmakers are once again considering new plans to try to "repeal Obamacare" all over again.
 
But everyone involved in the debate should be clear about the consequences. The effects on millions of families would obviously be brutal, but CNBC reports today on the fiscal impact on the nation.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Friday that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would over the next decade "probably increase budget deficits with or without considering the effects of macroeconomic feedback."
 
Depending on those economic considerations, the federal deficit could increase up to $353 billion over the next 10 years as a result of a repeal of Obamacare, the CBO said.
The part about the "with or without considering the effects of macroeconomic feedback" is interesting because it gets at the root of Republican rhetoric. To hear GOP lawmakers tell it, the evidence may suggest that repeal would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but this fails to take into consideration the economic boom that the right believes would occur after Republicans tear down the existing American health care system.
 
This defies common sense -- 2014 was the first full year for ACA implementation and it was the best year for American job creation since the '90s -- but the Congressional Budget Office concluded it defies budget arithmetic, too, whether officials rely on actual math or the kind of math conservatives prefer.
 
The same CBO report, available online here, found that if Republicans succeeded in scrapping the law, 19 million Americans would join the ranks of the uninsured by 2016. The total would grow by several million in the years that follow soon after.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.19.15

06/19/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* Asked this week whether he would campaign alongside his brother, Jeb Bush replied, "I don't know. I don't know, we just started. But -- I'm -- I'm -- I'm-- you know, I'm George's brother, I love him. I know for me to be successful, this has to be about my ideas and about my life experience and about the future."
 
* We're still several weeks from Scott Walker's official campaign kickoff, but he has created a  "testing the waters" committee that allows him to legally raise money for his eventual presidential bid.
 
* Hillary Clinton told Jon Ralston yesterday that if she were a senator, she'd vote against the current fast-track trade bill, but she didn't take a firm stand on the larger trade agenda.
 
* The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Jeb Bush narrowly leading the Republicans' presidential field in his adopted home state of Florida with 20%, just ahead of fellow Floridian Marco Rubio's 18%. No other candidate reached double digits.
 
* In Ohio, Quinnipiac also shows Ohio Gov. John Kasich as the clear choice among Buckeye State Republicans with 19% support, 10 points ahead of Jeb Bush's 9%.
 
* In Pennsylvania, Quinnipiac's poll has what is effectively a four-way tie, with Rubio leading with 12%, followed by Rand Paul at 11%, and Jeb Bush and Ben Carson tied for third with 10% each.
 
* The latest Republican presidential hopeful to get caught in a plagiarism controversy is Mike Huckabee, whose columns from his tenure as Arkansas governor are now under scrutiny.
Jeb Bush, Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign stop outside a residence in Washington, Ia., June 17, 2015. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty)

Jeb Bush demonstrates the opposite of economic wonkery

06/19/15 11:20AM

At his formal presidential campaign kickoff this week in Miami, Jeb Bush pointed to a rather specific economic target. "There is not a reason in the world why we cannot grow at a rate of four percent a year," the Florida Republican said. "And that will be my goal as president -- four percent growth, and the 19 million new jobs that come with it."
 
In reality, there are all kinds of reasons why GDP growth of 4% per year is unrealistic -- reasons Bush is supposed to understand. Indeed, in the modern era, how many presidents have averaged 4 percent growth over the course of their terms? Zero. Not Clinton, not Reagan, not Obama, no one.
 
But the real fun kicks in when we consider how, exactly, Jeb Bush arrived at his 4% target. When Reuters asked for an explanation, the Republican responded, "It's a nice round number. It's double the growth that we are growing at. It's not just an aspiration. It's doable."
 
Except, it's not doable at all. Matt Yglesias flagged this piece, noting that Bush apparently chose his goal randomly, "backed by zero substantive analysis of any kind."
That ambitious goal was first raised as Bush and other advisers to the George W. Bush Institute discussed a distinctive economic program the organization could promote, recalled James Glassman, then the institute's executive director.
 
"Even if we don't make 4 percent it would be nice to grow at 3 or 3.5," said Glassman, now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In that conference call, "we were looking for a niche and Jeb in that very laconic way said, 'four percent growth.' It was obvious to everybody that this was a very good idea."
That's a great use of the word "laconic," by the way. There was no detailed economic discussion, no number crunching, no projections based on hours of pouring over spreadsheets. Bush just blurted it out, convinced that four is a round number.
Republican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference on May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

The problems of a peripatetic politician

06/19/15 10:42AM

Up until quite recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) spent very little time outside the United States. He took a trade trip to China and Japan two years ago, but the Republican governor has otherwise spent the vast majority of his time in his home state.
 
But as Walker's presidential campaign moves forward, all of a sudden, he's racking up quite a few frequent-flier miles. That wouldn't be especially noteworthy, were it not for two important issues.
 
First, Wisconsin policymakers are currently busy trying to deal with the governor's right-wing budget plan, and it's not going especially well. Walker might be able to help the process along, except he keeps leaving the country.
 
Which leads us to the second problem: as the Washington Post reported, Walker is having taxpayers pick up the tab for his travels.
Now a potential GOP contender with a lack of foreign policy expertise, Walker in recent months booked three taxpayer-funded trips in quick succession: four days in Britain in early February, a week in Germany, France and Spain in April, and now [this week's] journey to Canada.
 
The visit to Britain cost taxpayers $138,200, according to Walker's office. He has yet to release costs for the other trips.
Even if nothing were going on in Madison, it's problematic for a governor to ask taxpayers to help boost his resume in advance of a presidential campaign. But the fact that Walker keeps taking trips to foreign soil in the middle of an intense budget standoff isn't exactly improving his reputation in Wisconsin. From an AP report this week:
The dome of the Capitol is reflected in a puddle in Washington, Feb. 17, 2012.

GOP votes to make 'Obamacare' more expensive

06/19/15 10:03AM

Ask House Republicans about their priorities, and they'll talk about lowering the deficit. Ask them why they hate the Affordable Care Act, and they'll say it costs too much.
 
All of which led to yesterday, when House Republicans voted to make the deficit larger and raise the price tag on "Obamacare."
 
It was just a couple of weeks ago that Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) complained that the ACA's price tag is "skyrocketing." That, of course, is the exact opposite of the truth -- the cost of the law has fallen five times in five years. But the complaint itself is ironic given how eager congressional Republicans are to make the law cost more on purpose. USA Today reported on a little-noticed House vote yesterday:
The House on Thursday easily backed repeal of a tax on the medical device industry. But President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, which would add more than $24 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.
 
With not all House members voting Thursday, that chamber's 280-140 vote fell one vote shy of a veto-proof majority to repeal the tax, which helps pay for the expansion of health insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
How would Republicans pay for the tax cut? They wouldn't -- the GOP plan is to just add the costs to the deficit they sometimes pretend to care about.
 
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has identified this as one of his top priorities for the year.
 
Republicans not only want to make the ACA more expensive and increase the deficit; they consider this important.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks to guests at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

A tax plan that makes calculators cry

06/19/15 09:26AM

The first sign of trouble in Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) new tax plan was clear before it was even unveiled. The Republican presidential candidate assembled "an all-star team of the kookiest pseudo-economists in the history of the Republican Party" to help him craft a plan, which effectively guaranteed the proposal's ridiculousness.
 
But as Kevin Drum explained at Mother Jones, it's probably worse than you think,
According to Paul, the rich will end up paying 14.5 percent in taxes, with no loopholes to pay less. Given that the rich currently pay about 22 percent of their income in federal taxes, they should be pretty happy about that. They should also be pretty happy that he's getting rid of the estate tax entirely.
 
And the middle class? Well, they no longer have to pay payroll taxes. Just 14.5 percent of their income.
The goal, obviously, is to establish a "flat tax." Under the current federal system, there are seven marginal brackets, which rise progressively based on income. Under Rand Paul's vision, there will be one rate. Period. Full stop.
 
The ideological case against a flat tax has been obvious for years: it's inherently regressive. The United States has long accepted the principle that the wealthy shouldn't just pay more than the poor, but also proportionately more because they're better able to shoulder the burden.
 
But ideology aside, the real problem with plans like Paul's is that the numbers don't come close to adding up. The Kentucky Republican claims to want to balance the budget in a hurry, but he also supports a tax plan that would blow a multi-trillion-dollar hole in the budget.
 
"It will be the largest tax cut in American history," Paul boasted this week, "and a tax cut that will leave more money in the paychecks of every worker in America."
 
Both claims are probably true -- no president has ever considered recklessness on this scale before, and every taxpayer would probably get a sizable tax break. But that doesn't change the fact that the plan is hopelessly bonkers for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it defies arithmetic. We can't afford trillions of dollars in tax cuts.
 
There is, however, a larger context to keep in mind, because Paul isn't the only one pushing this kind of nonsense.
A boy helps a police officer move flowers left behind outside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the street was re-opened a day after a mass shooting left nine dead at the church in Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The Charleston massacre wasn't about 'religious liberty'

06/19/15 08:47AM

By this point yesterday morning, it seemed pretty clear what motivated Dylann Storm Roof, the accused gunman in Wednesday's Charleston massacre. All available evidence points to a madman driven by racism.
 
For some engaged in the broader political debate, though, there was some surprising resistance to this basic detail.
 
In conservative media, for example, there was some striking caution about ascribing motives. "We have no idea what's in his mind," Rudy Giuliani told Fox News. "Maybe he hates Christian churches. Maybe he hates black churches or he's gonna go find another one. Who knows."
 
On the same program, Fox's Steve Doocy, in all seriousness, highlighted "the hostility toward Christians," adding, that the mass shooting "was in a church, so maybe that's what it was about."
 
In the political realm, most presidential candidates took a responsible line, but Rick Santorum thought it best to connect the murders to a broader "assault on our religious liberty." The Washington Post reported on the former senator's appearance on a New York radio talk show:
The former Pennsylvania senator pointed to what he described as anti-religious sentiment.
 
"All you can do is pray for those and pray for our country," Santorum said. "This is one of those situations where you just have to take a step back and say we -- you know, you talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we're now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we've never seen before. It's a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on "The View," and also connected the shootings to religion. "It's 2015," the Republican presidential hopeful said, "there are people out there looking for Christians to kill them." [Update: see below]
 
This is almost certainly not what happened.
A Confederate flag flies outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 17, 2012. (Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters)

If the confederate flag won't come down now, when?

06/19/15 08:02AM

The political fight over the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina is hardly new. Fifteen years ago, in the midst of a contentious Republican presidential primary, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the flag a ''symbol of racism and slavery"; then he changed his mind and said it's a ''symbol of heritage"; and then he reversed course again, saying the flag should be brought down.
 
Yesterday, following the massacre in Charleston, the debate that never ended rose to the surface. The Post and Courier reported that the Confederate flag, protected by state law, continued to fly "at its full height" at the South Carolina Statehouse, even after the U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered in honor of the slayings. [Update: see below.]
 
Ta-Nehisi Coates' indictment at The Atlantic rings true.
Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice.
 
Take down the flag. Take it down now.
 
Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.
In all likelihood, state officials will ignore this sound advice, literally adding insult to injury. But before we move on, dejected and discouraged, I wanted to flag an interesting exchange that happened live last night between msnbc's Chris Hayes and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).

Before the attack and other headlines

06/19/15 08:00AM

Charleston shooting victim posted a Snapchat from the Bible study before the attack. (Mashable)

Suspected shooter Dylann Roof to appear in court in Charleston today. (WIS TV)

Suspect feared 'blacks were taking over the world.' (AP)

IN Gov. Mike Pence launches reelection bid with defiance against critics of the state's religious-objection law. (AP)

Football used in the "deflategate" game to be auctioned. (ESPN)

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Citations for the June 18, 2015 TRMS

06/18/15 11:42PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Dot Scott, president of the Charleston, South Carolina chapter of the NAACP
  • South Carolina State Representative Todd Rutherford, who represents the Richland District
  • Reverend John Paul Brown, pastor of Mount Zion AME Church

Tonight's links:

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 6.18.15

06/18/15 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Latest from South Carolina: "As Charleston reels in the aftermath of Wednesday night's shooting at a historic black church that killed six women and three men -- portraits of the victims, ranging in age from 26 to 87-years-old are beginning to emerge."
 
* HRC weighs in: "Hillary Clinton called on Thursday for action in response to the 'horrific massacre' in Charleston, South Carolina, and labeled the killing of nine worshipers at a black church there a 'crime of hate.' ... 'We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division.'"
 
* Sigh: "Charleston's Post and Courier apologized Thursday for publishing an ad for a local gun range next to a front-page story about a mass shooting in the city."
 
* Really? "The CIA did not know in advance that al-Qaeda's leader in Yemen was among the suspected militants targeted in a lethal drone strike last week, according to U.S. officials who said that the operation went forward under counter­terrorism guidelines that were eased by the Obama administration after the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Yemen this year."
 
* Get ready for a woman's face on the $10 bill: "Back in July, President Obama called putting a woman's face on American currency 'a pretty good idea.' Soon, that idea will become a reality."
 
* Hispaniola: "[F]or the last several months, under so-called Operation Shield, migrant workers [from Haiti] have been routinely seized and expelled [from the Dominican Republic]. Though this particular operation is meant to single out only those illegal migrants who have turned up since late 2011, the process is never clean."
President Barack Obama speaks alongside Vice President Joe Biden about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., at the White House, June 18, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Obama: U.S. 'should shift how we think about gun violence'

06/18/15 03:33PM

After the White House announced that President Obama would deliver remarks about the massacre in Charleston, CBS's Mark Knoller, who's quite assiduous in his White House record keeping, made a striking observation. This will be, Knoller noted, "at least the 14th time" Obama has made a public statement in response to a shooting attack.
 
And when the president spoke, he took a moment to acknowledge the familiarity of the circumstances.
"[L]et's be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.
 
"I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it's going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively."
To the degree that facts and evidence still matter, what the president said is entirely accurate. In the developed world, gun-related murders in the United States aren't just more common -- we lead the world by a large, almost farcical, margin.
 
When Americans might be prepared to "reckon with" this reality is unclear.
 
In the same remarks, Obama provided some important context about the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church itself:

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