Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Last Call For Austerity Hysteria

And finally tonight, just another reminder of what a GOP takeover of the Senate would mean: the Ryan Budget on President Obama's desk, facing a "sign it or shut down the government" moment.

Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Tuesday will lay out a tough, election-year budget that purports to come into balance by 2024, in large part through steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, just as millions begin to see its benefits.

But even with those cuts, Mr. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is counting on a boost of economic growth to balance the budget, a boost he says will be gained by reducing the deficit. Many economists believe such dramatic spending cuts — especially those affecting the poor — would have the opposite effect, slowing the economy and lowering tax receipts.

“This budget stops spending money we don’t have,” writes Mr. Ryan, the Republican party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012 and a possible presidential contender in 2016. “A balanced budget will foster a healthier economy and help create jobs. This will ensure the next generation inherits a stronger, more prosperous America.”

For now, the Ryan Budget is a cruel April Fools' joke.  But if the GOP gets control of the Senate, there won't be anything from stopping them from passing his budget next year (assuming they eliminate the filibuster or find enough shell-shocked Democrats to go along) and putting it on the President's desk.

In his plan, military spending through 2024 would actually rise by $483 billion over the spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act “consistent with America’s military goals and strategies,” while nondefense spending at Congress’s annual discretion would be cut by $791 billion below those strict limits.

In all, Mr. Ryan says, spending would be cut by $5.1 trillion over the next decade. More than $2 trillion of that would come from repealing Mr. Obama’s health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, a political move that has become much more difficult with the closing of the first enrollment period. As many as 10 million Americans have gotten health insurance through the law, either through private policies purchased on insurance exchanges, through expanded Medicaid or private policies purchased through brokers but subsidized by the law.

As with past budget proposals, Mr. Ryan seeks to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, then turn the health care program for the poor into block grants to the states — saving $732 billion over the decade. He would also cap and block-grant food stamps, starting in 2020, cutting that program by $125 billion in five years. The budget relies on imposing new work requirements on food stamp and welfare recipients.

Such an approach “empowers recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payrolls,” Mr. Ryan writes.

Hard to get them off the rolls when the massive cuts would damage the economy to the point where millions of jobs would be lost.  Oh yes, and he's going to destroy Medicare too.

Here's the hard numbers:

But the toughest cuts would come from domestic programs that have already been reduced steadily since 2011, when Republicans took control of the House. Mr. Ryan’s 2024 domestic spending figure would be lower in nominal dollars than such spending was in 2005. Adjusted for inflation, it would be a 29 percent cut from today’s levels, and 28 percent below the average level of Bush administration spending.

A 30% cut to domestic programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.  And yet if the GOP wins the Senate, that's exactly what we'll face.

What 2014 Could Look Like

A reminder from David Weigel that turnout is everything in 2014:

In 2006 the electorate was 79 percent white. Didn't hurt the party; boosted by the Iraq War backlash, Democrats won 47 percent of the white vote, up from 41 percent in 2004.

Then came 2008, the best Democratic election in a generation. Barack Obama won only 43 percent of the white vote in an electorate that was 74 percent white.

In 2010 the electorate vanilla'd up again—77 percent white this time—and the white vote for Democrats collapsed. They won only 37 percent of it, and only 34 percent of white men.

Now, here's the part that worries Obama. In 2012 the president won re-election despite his share of the white vote tumbling to 39 percent. How'd he do it? Whites made up only 72 percent of the electorate. Michael Dukakis had won exactly as much of the white vote as Obama, and look how he turned out. Twenty-four years of growing racial diversity and a black candidate at the head of the ticket worked wonders.

In 2014 the Democrats fret that the electorate will slip back to 2010 levels of diversity. They prevented a similar tumble in Virginia last year, but Virginia's now a stronger Democratic state than the ones where most competitive Senate races are taking place—Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina. (Democrats already expect to lose South Dakota and West Virginia, both states that have fallen out of the competitive range in presidential elections.)

Hence the voter ID laws reducing minority and college age turnout.  If there's another 2010-style turnout mix, the Republicans will not only win the Senate, but could very well get enough seats to surpass the 55 Democrats have now.  And the House?  Out of reach for the Dems for a generation.  Republicans with 250+ seats in the House?  You can throw away any shot at President Obama getting anything done.

The problem with the GOP blocking everything is that voters are giving up.  Republicans permanently blocking immigration reform is a perfect example.

Across the country, immigrant-rights advocates report mounting disillusionment with both parties among Latinos, enough to threaten recent gains in voting participation that have reshaped politics to Democrats’ advantage nationally, and in states like Colorado with significant Latino populations. High hopes — kindled by President Obama’s elections and stoked in June by Senate passage of the most significant overhaul of immigration law in a generation, with a path to citizenship for about 11 million people here unlawfully — have been all but dashed.

If black, Latino and Asian voters stay home on top of white voters giving up, 2014 will be, in the immortal words of Francis Underwood, "butchery".

Republicans Don't Know They've Lost On Obamacare

If the reaction Sunday of GOP Sen. John Barrasso is anything to go by, the GOP has no idea how to handle the news that Obamacare is working for millions of Americans.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Sunday dismissed the White House’s recent announcement that Obamacare enrollment had reached more than 6 million people, calling it a meaningless figure.

I don’t think it means anything. … I think they’re cooking the books on this,” said Barrasso on “Fox News Sunday.”

Cooking the books.  Republicans will never believe a single American soul has been helped by Obamacare, except 9.5 million previously uninsured Americans have gotten coverage.  They exist, so Republicans are simply going to pretend they don't.

Steve Benen sums it up:

Even by GOP standards, this was a rather extraordinary moment. A member of the Senate Republican leadership – indeed, the chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee – went on national television to accuse the White House of perpetrating a fraud based on nothing but his own hopes.

It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is to take Barrasso’s complaints seriously. For one thing, note the extent to which the far-right senator wants to have it both ways. When enrollment totals were low, Barrasso said the figures were very important. When enrollment totals surged, Barrasso said the figures don’t mean anything. At least some form of intellectual consistency would be a welcome change of pace, but it’s apparently in short supply.

For another, there’s literally no evidence to suggest the enrollment totals are illegitimate or have been “cooked” for political purposes. For a Senate leader to make such a reckless accusation out of frustration – a U.S. senator is apparently annoyed by American consumers gaining access to affordable medical care – is deeply irresponsible.

Nobody should be surprised by this, of course.  But this is where the Republican rhetoric has descended to, that of deeply hateful, stupid people.


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