By E.J. Dionne
Reaching agreement on a health care bill is harder in theory than it will be in practice.
Between now and the day the measure goes to President Barack Obama’s desk, there will be many crisis points, much posturing and dire warnings of impending failure. There are real differences between the bills passed by the House and the Senate. The last few votes are always the most difficult to get.
But more than negotiators can afford to acknowledge openly, there is broad agreement on the kinds of concessions the Senate can make to the House and still preserve the 60 votes needed for passage. Indeed, some of those concessions will be eagerly sought by progressive Democratic senators.
Over the last week, I’ve been talking with key figures in the House, Senate and White House, and the outlines of a deal are becoming reasonably clear. The public option is, alas, dead. But the idea of setting up a national insurance exchange—alongside state exchanges—where the uninsured can purchase coverage is very much alive. The House is demanding this as the price for giving up on the public plan, and a national exchange would provide for much more consumer-friendly regulation of health insurance policies.
Almost everyone in both houses wants to find ways of making insurance more affordable. Steps in this direction would include more generous subsidies for the purchase of insurance than those in the Senate bill, and expanding on its Medicaid provisions. The bill’s overall price tag will grow from the Senate’s $871 billion over a decade, probably to somewhere in the range of $930 billion to $950 billion....(Remainder.)
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
As health care reform nears the finish line, there is much wailing and rending of garments among conservatives. And I’m not just talking about the tea partiers. Even calmer conservatives have been issuing dire warnings that Obamacare will turn America into a European-style social democracy. And everyone knows that Europe has lost all its economic dynamism.
Strange to say, however, what everyone knows isn’t true. Europe has its economic troubles; who doesn’t? But the story you hear all the time — of a stagnant economy in which high taxes and generous social benefits have undermined incentives, stalling growth and innovation — bears little resemblance to the surprisingly positive facts. The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.
Actually, Europe’s economic success should be obvious even without statistics. For those Americans who have visited Paris: did it look poor and backward? What about Frankfurt or London? You should always bear in mind that when the question is which to believe — official economic statistics or your own lying eyes — the eyes have it.
In any case, the statistics confirm what the eyes see.
It’s true that the U.S. economy has grown faster than that of Europe for the past generation. Since 1980 — when our politics took a sharp turn to the right, while Europe’s didn’t — America’s real G.D.P. has grown, on average, 3 percent per year. Meanwhile, the E.U. 15 — the bloc of 15 countries that were members of the European Union before it was enlarged to include a number of former Communist nations — has grown only 2.2 percent a year. America rules!
Or maybe not. All this really says is that we’ve had faster population growth. Since 1980, per capita real G.D.P. — which is what matters for living standards — has risen at about the same rate in America and in the E.U. 15: 1.95 percent a year here; 1.83 percent there.
What about technology? In the late 1990s you could argue that the revolution in information technology was passing Europe by. But Europe has since caught up in many ways. Broadband, in particular, is just about as widespread in Europe as it is in the United States, and it’s much faster and cheaper....(Remainder.)
Posted by Bret M-C at 8:52 AM
By Theodore Olsen
Together with my good friend and occasional courtroom adversary David Boies, I am attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8—the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex.
My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?
My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.
Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it....(Remainder.)
Posted by Bret M-C at 8:44 AM
By Media Matters
While guest-hosting Fox News' Glenn Beck, Andrew Napolitano claimed that under "the Senate version of the health care bill," "everyone who receives health care from their employer" would have to "pay an income tax on the value of that health care." In fact, the Senate bill would tax benefits provided by employers only above a certain level; the provision has been referred to as a tax on "Cadillac plans."...(Remainder.)
Posted by Bret M-C at 8:42 AM
By Peter Henderson
OAKLAND, California (Reuters) - California's ban on gay marriage goes to trial on Monday in a federal case that plaintiffs hope to take all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and overturn bans throughout the nation.
Victory for gay rights groups in the Supreme Court, which might not choose to take the case if it is appealed that far, would make marriage a fundamental constitutional right without exception and overturn laws and state amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman in 40 states.
A loss in the top court, two ranks above the action that starts on Monday, would derail efforts to win in state courts that have been a hallmark of the gay rights movement thus far.
The case begins in a San Francisco court presided over by District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who clearly enjoyed preliminary sessions, joking with lawyers between barrages of pointed questions.
The United States is divided on gay marriage. It is legal in only five states, although most of those, and the District of Columbia, approved it last year.
The approval of California's Prop 8 in November 2008 was a sweet victory for social conservatives in a state with a liberal, trend-setting reputation and showed off the resounding success conservatives have had at the ballot box on the issue....(Remainder.)
Posted by Bret M-C at 8:30 AM
Right-Wing Apologist and Lunatic, Monica Crowley, Trying to Revive BS Claims that Waterboarding KSM Led to "Actionable Intel"
By Media Matters
On the January 10 edition of The McLaughin Group, Monica Crowley revived the dubious claim that "[w]aterboarding extracted a lot of very critical, actionable intelligence from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed," echoing the oft-repeated conservative claims that 2004 CIA documents prove enhanced interrogation techniques were effective and that the Bush administration's interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) resulted in the thwarting of an attack in Los Angeles. In fact, a 2004 CIA inspector general's (IG) report of the CIA's interrogation program stated that "[t]he effectiveness of particular interrogation techniques in eliciting information that might not otherwise have been obtained cannot be easily measured"; KSM reportedly said he "gave a lot of false information ... in order to make the ill-treatment stop"; and the Bush administration said the L.A. attack was thwarted in February 2002 -- more than a year before KSM was captured....(Remainder.)
Posted by Bret M-C at 8:24 AM
Posted by Bret M-C at 8:23 AM