Posts Tagged ‘cohn

12
Nov
13

Silence Is Sometimes Golden

‘Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt’ ~ Abraham Lincoln

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Jonathan Cohn: Bill Clinton’s Obamacare Comments Are Wrong

in a new interview already getting attention and sure to get more, Clinton didn’t explain things very well. He made a statement that’s likely to create some misimpressions about the possibilities of health care reform, while giving the administration and its allies yet another political headache.

He said that some young people facing higher premiums under the new system should have the right to keep their old plans, even if it requires a change in the law. Clinton framed it carefully: He said specifically he had in mind only those young people whose incomes were higher than four times the poverty line, making them ineligible for subsidies. (That’s about $45,000 for a single adult.) But he also suggested it was a matter of principle, because those people had heard the vow that they could keep their plans: “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

Clinton’s statement makes it seem as if there is some simple way to let people keep their current plans—to avoid any disruption in the existing non-group market while still delivering the law’s benefits. As readers of this space know, no such magic solution exists.

Broadly speaking, the Affordable Care Act seeks to make two sets of changes to what’s called the “non-group” market. It establishes a minimum set of benefits, which means everything from covering “essential” services to eliminating annual or lifetime limits on payments. At the same time, the law prohibits insurers from discriminating among customers: They can’t charge higher prices, withhold benefits, or deny coverage altogether to people who represent medical risks. They have to take everybody, varying price only for age (within a three-to-one ratio) and for tobacco use.

More here

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16
Sep
11

‘obama gets it. do his followers?’

Jonathan Cohn (TNR): …. The speech President Obama gave last Thursday was everything it needed to be. It was bold, with Obama using it to introduce a jobs program large enough, and sufficiently well designed, to reduce unemployment. And it was straightforward. Obama made it clear he wanted action, now…

….. the most important, and most unexpected, development was what Obama did after the speech. He went on the road, conveying the same message … speeches can’t alter the public debate. But sustained, focused campaigns can. That’s how one begins.

…. Next week Obama returns to Ohio for yet another speech – this time in front of a bridge. And it’s not just any old bridge. It’s the Brent Spence Bridge …  “functionally obsolete” ….  Oh, and did you notice the location? Steve Benen did:

…that the bridge starts in Ohio’s 8th congressional district (home to House Speaker John Boehner) and ends in Kentucky (home to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) makes it a nearly perfect example. By making infrastructure investments – investments that used to enjoy bipartisan support before the GOP slipped into madness – the Obama administration can repair the Brent Spence Bridge, putting locals back to work, and improving local transportation and commercial needs.

…. but the only hope for getting something through Congress – or making an effective political statement, if the Republicans block action – is to apply pressure. And that pressure needs to come from at least two other places.

One is the grassroots …. Are they making phone calls and emails to Congress? Are they getting involved in campaigns?….

…. This much I know: Obama is doing his part to focus the debate on jobs, to pass legislation that can boost the economy, and to frame a clear political choice for the voters. In short, he’s leading. But even the best leaders need help from some followers.

Full article here

11
Jul
11

monday

Live here

Steve Benen: … let’s note two broader truths. The first is that Republicans don’t really give a damn about debt reduction. They care about taxes and shielding the wealthy from having to pay a little more. The parties, then, are talking past one another — Dems think they’re involved in a good-faith effort to reduce the budget shortfall with a sensible, balanced approach to bring the budget closer to balance. Republicans think they’re involved in an effort to cut spending — not because of the deficit, but because it’s what they like to do anyway — and protect tax giveaways.

… The second is that Republicans, as is their new nature, simply can’t bring themselves to even consider compromise. Americans elected a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate, and a Republican House. Given these circumstances, GOP leaders are absolutely convinced that the only fair resolution is that Republicans get everything they want, and Dems simply go along. And if Dems balk, Republicans will crash the economy on purpose.

It’s nothing short of insane.

Talks will resume today, and are scheduled to continue, literally every day, until there’s an agreement.

Full post here

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Jonathan Cohn (TNR): Does anything matter to Republicans more than protecting tax cuts for the very wealthy? Developments of the last 18 hours suggest very strongly that the answer is no.

… Such a large deal would have required Republicans to agree to new revenue, in some form. And at least some of that money would have come from higher taxes (in terms of total collections, if not rates) on the very wealthy. Boehner hinted that might be acceptable, as part of a compromise….

But other Republican leaders, like Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and certain conservative agitators, like the writers of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, made very clear they disagreed. No matter how big the Democratic concessions, no matter how risky the prospect of postponing a deal on the debt ceiling, they were not willing to embrace a package that meant higher taxes, particularly taxes on the wealthy. And according to reports in this morning’s papers, those voices finally prevailed.

…. as the skeptics, like my colleague Jonathan Chait, were predicting all along, Boehner isn’t really in charge of the House Republican caucus. The lunatics are. And it looks like they’ve won.

Full post here

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Ezra Klein: The more I hear about the breakdown of the debt deal, the more this seems to have been a straightforward humbling of John Boehner. Here’s how a Democratic aide described the talks to Politico’s Mike Allen:

A number of folks in the room were struck by the fact that Cantor did virtually all of the talking for House Republicans, while Boehner basically just sat there.

Think that’s just Democratic spin? Here’s how a top Republican lawmaker described it to John Bresnahan, Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman:

“It’s crazy to think the speaker was considering a trillion [dollars] in tax increases. After all, we’re the anti-tax party,” said one veteran Republican lawmaker close to leadership. “Cantor brought him, the economy and our party back from the abyss. Cantor is strengthened, clearly. And it’s another example of the speaker almost slipping beyond the will of the GOP conference.”

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Political Carnival

Thanks desertflower

14
Apr
11

more reaction to that speech

Eleanor Clift (Daily Beast): In his carefully worded deficit speech, the president assured Democrats that his inner liberal is alive and well – slamming Paul Ryan’s budget proposal as “deeply pessimistic,” and vowing that the radical plan is “not going to happen as long as I’m president.”

Obama is a man who rations his emotions, but watching his speech today, and listening to the direction of his reforms, his inner liberal is alive and well.

He would direct less money to the top 1 percent and hold the line for people who have no clout on Capitol Hill. He can’t deliver everything liberals want, but this fight is as much about leadership as it is about the numbers. After a slow start, Obama is suited up and ready for the battle…

…After commending Republican Paul Ryan for coming forward with a plan, he deftly skewered it as “deeply pessimistic” that if enacted would lead to “a fundamentally different America,” one that will leave some 50 million Americans to fend for themselves…

The central issue of our day should be jobs, but Republican messaging and the arrival of the Tea Party has made it the country’s rising debt. Obama enters the debate at an optimal moment when Republicans have put down markers that many Americans find objectionable – from trying to defund Planned Parenthood to privatizing Medicare. A lot of Democrats would like Obama to just say no, but that’s not Obama’s inclination. There is a serious challenge in getting the budget under control. It’s not a crisis, but it is a partisan confrontation about the role of government, and Obama showed in his speech today that he is ready to seize the moment on behalf of his party’s ideals and constituents.

More here

Michael Shear (NYT): In the hours before President Obama’s 44-minute speech on the nation’s mounting debt, liberal groups were whipped up into a frenzy, warning that Mr. Obama was poised to capitulate — once again, in their view — to Republican philosophy on taxes, the deficit and spending cuts.

On Tuesday, one group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, wrote its members that in the upcoming speech, “President Obama will do what no Republican president has been able to do: put Medicare and Medicaid on the table for potential cuts.”

The e-mail was an indication that there remains deep suspicion of Mr. Obama, at least among what a White House official once called the “professional left.” The group warned that such a speech would add to a politically dangerous softening of Democratic support for the president.

In fact, the address on Wednesday appears to have done exactly the opposite for Mr. Obama. The speech’s several starkly partisan moments and his willingness to draw clear lines in the sand over the issues of taxes and Medicare sparked a significant amount of praise among liberal members of the president’s party.

“Liberals have wanted a full-throated affirmation of why government is a good thing,” wrote Jonathan Bernstein, a political blogger. “Obama delivered, with perhaps his strongest case for a liberal vision of government that he’s given so far during his presidency.”

More here

Jonathan Cohn (New Republic): President Obama’s speech today was about policy and politics. But it was also about principles, as Obama made clear early in his remarks…

…If there is an essence of the liberal vision for America, that passage captures it. It’s the idea that a modern, enlightened society promises economic security to all, notwithstanding illness, accident of birth, or age. The liberal vision is not an imperative to establish equality, as its detractors sometimes claim. But it is expectation that government will guarantee sustenance, peace of mind, and simple dignity – that the pursuit of these goals will bolster, rather than impede, freedom.

In the era of Roosevelt and Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, Democrats talked openly and proudly of this mission. But in the last few years, at least, Democrats have seemed less comfortable with such rhetoric, or at least comfortable with their loftier ideals than Republicans have been with theirs. This contrast has been vivid in fights over the economy, climate change, and health care, with Democrats making sensible, nuanced arguments about growth rates and Republicans making hyperbolic, simplistic claims about “socialism.”

Not on Wednesday. The president can seem like a compulsive mediator, desperately seeking opportunities to forge common understanding among adversaries. It’s an admirable quality and, frequently, an aggravating one. But in the budget speech Obama drew a clear contrast between his vision of America and that of the Republicans….

…Obama has laid out a credible plan for reducing deficits and, more important, he has described a vision of America he wants to defend. For today, at least, that seems like enough.

Full article here

Jonathan Chait (New Republic): Obama’s Speech: The Umpire Strikes Back….. The President expressed moral outrage in a way I’ve never heard him do before, and in a way I didn’t think he was capable of. After his spokesmen have feebly pawed at Ryan’s plan for lacking “balance,” it was jolting to hear Obama lambaste Ryan with language like this:

“I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves.”

This attack, by the way, is completely fair. Moreover, Obama made the crucial step of attacking Republicans for doing these things while cutting taxes for the rich. It’s impossible to overstate just how commanding a position Obama holds here with regard to public opinion. People overwhelmingly favor higher taxes on the rich. They even more overwhelmingly oppose cutting Medicare. The Republican plan to impose deep Medicare cuts in order to free up room to cut taxes for the rich is ridiculously, off-the-charts unpopular. If Republicans want to take this position, Obama has to make them pay dearly.

The most important line in Obama speech was his explanation that Republicans forced him to extend upper-bracket tax cuts, but “I refuse to renew them again”. That’s the line in the sand I’ve been looking for.

More here

Boston Globe Editorial: President Obama … gave a cogent explanation for how mounting government debt will drive up interest rates for businesses and consumers and hinder the nation’s ability to protect its interests abroad. And he noted the public’s complicity in the problem, stating that “most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys”. When two-thirds of the federal budget goes to Social Security, health care, and national defense, there’s no use in pretending, as the Tea Party does, that cutting waste and abuse alone will get government spending under control.

Obama made a strong case that part of the fix should include raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. While the incomes of 90 percent of Americans have declined in recent years, he noted, those of the wealthiest 1 percent have skyrocketed. And not, one might add, because the bottom 90 percent are lazier than the top 1 percent. The sacrifice should begin with those who’ve benefited disproportionately from changes in the economy.

On the spending side, Obama made it clear he opposed House Republican budget guru Paul Ryan’s plan to cut Medicare’s costs by turning it into a voucher program, and offered instead the much fuzzier idea of using a commission to reduce the cost of health care itself. While Ryan’s plan has the advantage of clarity, applying it without also overhauling a woefully inefficient health system necessarily means that many senior citizens would go without care they need.

…While most Americans are understandably concerned about reducing the federal deficit, the country’s economic future depends on its quality of education and infrastructure, as well. With diligence and good will, Congress can find the right balance. Obama deserves credit for challenging both parties to do so.

More here

16
Feb
11

the party of no alternative

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Jonathan Cohn (Senior Editor of The New Republic): Conservatives and Republicans had a lot to say about the budget President Barack Obama released on Monday. None of it was good. The budget doesn’t do enough to stabilize federal finances, they said. And it doesn’t do enough to slow rising health care costs.

…But for all of those critics out there, furious that Obama hasn’t proposed a more fiscally responsible budget, I have a question: Do you have an alternative? More specifically, do you have an alternative that would both slow federal health care spending and be politically viable? The answer, I think, is no.

…The health law does more than simply create or expand government programs. It cuts wasteful spending, such as subsidies to private insurance companies. It also raises some taxes. Put it all together and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the program actually generates more money than it would spend. Repeal it and the government’s bottom line actually gets a little worse.

….Remember, the government’s health care costs were out of control before the health reform debate even began. That’s why the overhaul starts up so many initiatives that attempt to improve the efficiency of medical care, making it possible to reduce costs without reducing care. Some will work, some won’t. But the only way to find out is to try them. If lawmakers repeal the measure, those experiments will stop – and we’ll be right back where we started.

Of course, conservatives and Republicans sometimes vow to repeal “and replace” the health law … it generally means enacting a hodge-podge of familiar conservative initiatives… no serious economist believes these steps will, by themselves, substantially slow down health care spending either for the government or for society as a whole…..

….the conservative alternatives don’t offer better guarantees. In fact, the promises they make are far more illusory.

Full article here




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