Monday, April 3, 2017

Last Call For Testing Our Patience

If there were somehow any doubt left over the fate of the Dubya "compassionate conservatism" era of the GOP, it's been put to rest in the era of Trump meanness and retribution for good.  Even at the state level, Republicans are running on punishing the poor and working class and of course the state leading the way on that front is Wisconsin and GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

Now that House Republicans have squandered their shot at reordering Medicaid, governors who want conservative changes in the health program for ­low-income Americans must get special permission from the Trump administration. 
Near the front of the line is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who not only supports work requirements and premium payments but also a new additional condition: to make applicants undergo a drug test if they’re suspected of substance abuse
If Walker gets his way, Wisconsin would be the first state in the country with mandatory drug screening for Medicaid enrollees. The governor plans to release his proposal in mid-April and submit it to the Department of Health and Human Services by the end of May. 
The approach — which also would mandate treatment for those testing positive — aligns with the goals of several Republican governors intent on tightening the program’s rules. Although the Obama administration allowed them to place expectations on enrollees, they’re hoping for far more leeway from HHS Secretary Tom Price. 
The goal behind Walker’s proposal “is to help people get healthy so they can get back in the workforce,” said Julie Lund, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Yet states that have started screening their welfare applicants over the past few years have turned up few drug users. In North Carolina, less than 0.3 percent of applicants to its WorkFirst welfare program tested positive for drugs during a five-month period in 2015. Michigan didn’t find any welfare recipients abusing drugs during a year-long pilot program in 2016. 
Opponents of Walker’s idea say the data shows that drug testing for Medicaid applicants isn’t worth the cost and effort. 
“They haven’t turned up much use of drugs among that population,” said Jon Peacock, research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

People who have problems with paying for basic medical care and prescription drugs don't exactly have a lot of extra cash on hand to pay the local meth dealer, guys.  It's common sense, but helping people beat addiction and abuse isn't the point despite Walker saying that those who test positive will be treated.

The real issue is that Walker and Republicans across the country believe that adding stigma and shame to Medicaid along with additional qualification burdens will simply keep people from signing up for help they qualify for (which if you notice has been wildly effective in curtailing access to reproductive health care through abortion procedures, there's a pattern here) because if people don't sign up for it, the program doesn't have to pay for them.

Oh, state taxpayers still have to deal with the burden of indigent care and ER visits, but hey, unhealthy poor people don't tend to stick around quite as long as drains on the tax base if you catch my drift.

If you really wanted those SNAP benefits to feed your family, you'd jump through these hoops.

If you really wanted those unemployment benefits, you'd jump through these hoops.

If you really wanted that abortion, you'd jump through these hoops.

If you really wanted to cast that vote, you'd jump through these hoops.

If you really wanted that Medicaid, you'd jump through these hoops.

Invest long in hoops futures, is the lesson.

Cruisin' For A Bruisin'

Amy Walter at the Cook Political Report surmises that unless something drastically changes the fortunes of the Trump regime for the better, Trump's dismally low popularity combined with traditional midterm losses by the party in control of the White House means that Democrats could very well be back in charge of the House in 2019.

The very public intra-party fight between President Trump and the Freedom Caucus is just the latest twist in the ongoing fight over the philosophical, strategic and ideological direction of the Republican party. As has been his mode of operation since his candidate days, Trump has taken to Twitter to shame/intimidate/cajole members of his own party. In this case, it was to get rebellious GOPers to “take one for the team” and support a flawed, but nonetheless GOP-authored Obamacare replacement bill. But, in the end, it’s not the Freedom Caucus that gets hurt by this infighting. They sit in safe Republican seats and know their voters better than anyone in DC. Instead, it’s the vulnerable GOP incumbents who lose this fight. Why? The more the GOP gets bogged down in process instead of progress, the more likely it is that their voters become disillusioned and that independent voters abandon them. Combine these ingredients with an energized Democratic base and you have all the ingredients for a disastrous midterm election in 2018 for the GOP.

In fact, if you look back at the last four midterm elections where the party in the White House lost control of one or both houses of Congress, you see that they share the following traits in common: the president has approval ratings among his own partisans under 85 percent and approval ratings among independents in the 30’s or low 40s.

For example, in November 2006, President George W. Bush’s job approval ratings among his own party were 81 percent. Just 31 percent of independents gave him a positive job rating. His party lost 30 House seats – and control of the House. Four years earlier, in the 2002 midterms, Bush’s job approval ratings among Republicans were a robust 91 percent and among independents they were at 63 percent. His party picked up eight seats in the House that year. We are less than 75 days into the Trump Administration and the president is flirting very close to the danger zone territory. The most recent Gallup survey put his approval ratings with Republicans at 85 percent, but he’s sitting at just 33 percent with independents. If he drops a few points among GOPers, Trump’s ratings today would look exactly like those of President Bush right before his party was routed in 2006.

The old rules say that the GOP is going to take serious damage in the 2018 midterms, but the real question is do the old rules even apply anymore in the Trump era?  Given the most disastrous opening 70 days in modern White House history, Trump's still at 85% with Republicans and that shows no sign of getting any worse for him.  Independents and Democrats have already bailed on this President, but it's Republicans who show up for midterms to actually vote, and that's not going to change.

Will Democrats and independents show up with enough force to counter that trend in 2018?  They sure as hell didn't in 2010 and especially in 2014, the lowest midterm turnout since WW II. 2018 better be different. and the time to lay that groundwork for candidates and turnout efforts is now.

Luckily, Democrats at the national level seem to grasp this, or at least Tom Perez does.  Whether this will translate into actual action remains to be seen.

Bill-O's Big Breakdown

The story over the weekend in the media involves new revelations about FOX News mainstay Bill O'Reilly as allegations of a pattern of sexual harassment and verbal abuse and claims by five women at the network came to light. BillO settled these claims and paid them to stay quiet, but the blowback over the weekend is now threatening FOX's most famous face.  CNN's media reporter Brian Stetler:

Murdoch associates winced on Saturday when The New York Times reported that five women received settlement payouts after accusing O'Reilly of harassment or verbal abuse. The Times said its reporting "suggests a pattern:" O'Reilly would wield his influence to "pursue sexual relationships" with women at Fox.

The story stung, but it was not surprising. For one thing, Fox executives and O'Reilly's representatives had known the Times investigation was in the works for months.

But they didn't need an investigation to know about O'Reilly's reputation. Inside Fox, there is a recognition that O'Reilly is a cable news legend, a loudmouth beloved by Fox's base -- but that he's also a liability because of his personal behavior.

O'Reilly settled a sexual harassment suit from ex-producer Andrea Mackris in 2004. (That payout accounts for $9 million of the $13 million in settlements The Times described, according to the paper.) And his ugly divorce proceedings, and the fallout from them, were documented by Gawker and its sister sites for years.

The Times (where I worked until 2013) began looking into the settlement payouts late last summer, after founding CEO Roger Ailes resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal.

The forthcoming story was the subject of C-suite office chatter throughout the winter. Murdoch associates wondered how damaging the story could be and discussed ways to blunt the impact.

The story went through an extensive legal review process. On Friday, as the Times was preparing to splash the story across the front page of Sunday's paper, a lawyer for O'Reilly threatened consequences, saying in a statement, "We are now seriously considering legal action to defend Mr. O'Reilly's reputation."

O'Reilly, 21st Century Fox said in a statement, "denies the merits of these claims."

In a statement on his web site, O'Reilly said he struck settlement deals to spare his children from hurtful headlines about lawsuits.

By the time the story came out, the Murdochs had already decided to extend O'Reilly's contract. The Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal was the first to report the new deal, and a source confirmed it to CNNMoney.

O'Reilly's contract, said to be worth about $18 million a year, was due to expire at the end of 2017; now it is unclear when it expires.

All of the parties involved declined to comment. But the news of the new deal is a contractual show of support from 21st Century Fox.

The support has limits, however. Two executives, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested Fox is taking a wait-and-see approach to the controversy that's been triggered by the Times investigation.

In other words, FOX wants to see if BillO's bad behavior becomes a burden on the bottom line numbers before they decide if his treatment of women is actually a problem.  What nice people, huh?

Of course the current occupant of the White House is a serial harasser of women and a sexual abuser and voters didn't mind at all, so why shouldn't the people covering him on TV be any different in the era of Trump?


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