CBO's overlooked caution: 'ObamaCare' impact on deficit 'highly uncertain'

I don’t think anyone in this town believes that repealing ObamaCare is going to increase the deficit.

John Boehner, speaker of the House, Jan. 6, 2011, at his first press conference as speaker.

The Congressional Budget Office, in response to a request from John Boehner, opined Tuesday in a letter to the speaker that GOP-sought repeal of the Affordable Care Act would increase the nation’s federal spending deficit, adding $109 billion from 2013-2022.

And, as might be expected following the release of the CBO’s letter, partisan voices are either assailing the nonpartisan CBO estimate as illusory or using it as a cudgel against the health care law’s opponents.

Virtually all miss the nuances of the CBO’s letter regarding the fiscal impact of H.R. 6079, the Repeal of Obamacare Act. No one really knows if the deficit will increase or decrease whether the ACA survives or is repealed.
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How to get ahead on Capitol Hill: Use a leadership PAC to buy power

I’m in my second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m a Republocrat. I like the job. It pays $174,000, has great medical benefits, provides a really nice private gym to use, and lots of people have to be nice to me. And there are those $110,000 in taxpayer-funded fringe benefits I get (including plush retirement plans, paid time off, and contributions to Social Security and Medicare taxes). I’ve got a staff to answer the phone and email, run my Twitter and Facebook stuff, and deal with those damned constituents. And I’m in a relatively safe district, thanks to that Republocrat-friendly redistricting bill passed in my state last year. Hey, sometimes people let me use their corporate jets! (Well, as long as I keep quiet about those trips and pay commercial airfare for it.)

Yeah. This is a sweet gig. I want to stay here. In fact, I want to … move up. Be in the leadership. Be a mover and shaker. Now how am I gonna do that beyond kissing the speaker’s ass (and those of his damn deputies, too) and voting however he (or she) tells me to?

It will take money for that Republocrat to ascend higher in the House’s toadying ladder of leadership. Lots of money. And as we know, House members (and senators) have a vehicle to collect and dispense money to other House members — the leadership political action committee. A principal reason for the existence of leadership PACs to is buy friends and influence on Capitol Hill. Apparently, hard work and intelligence are insufficient.
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Reinventing ourselves again

Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird … it’s a plane. Nope, it’s Super Congress. Where caped, congressional crusaders will wage the battle between good and evil far above the heads of mere mortals and senior citizens living on Social Security. It will be where the “leaders” of both parties (and they’re not leaving any room in this Super Congress for a desperately needed third party) get together to make the big decisions, so it will also function as a reward for years of dedicated ass-kissing, lying and soul-selling. There’s a good reason why the leadership of both parties is for this Super Congress idea; they always manage to find common ground when it’s time to screw you and me. And the best – by far – way to grind the American people into destitution is to enshrine the oligarchy with extra-political rights.

Never let a crisis go to waste, even if you have to invent the crisis to seize.
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Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

GOP swallows blue pill of delusion, votes to strip EPA of greenhouse gas authority

It’s no surprise that the Republicans in the House of Representatives want to do away with the EPA’s rules on greenhouse gas emissions. But H.R.910, the bill to strip EPA authority over greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, provides at least two examples of how Republicans have chosen the blue pill of delusion instead of the red pill of reality. Continue reading

Who's serious about reducing the deficit?

Cut Medicare payments and tweak Social Security. Cut defense spending by directly reducing spending and getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Raise income, corporate, and payroll taxes. These issues essentially define what it means to be serious about eliminating the federal deficit, because all of them need to happen before the deficit can truly be brought under control. Serious people can debate how much of each is necessary and where to make the largest changes, but anyone who rejects even one of the issues is either ignorant of the scale of the problem, blindly beholden to their preferred ideology, or lying.

Yesterday we discussed these issues. Today we look in greater detail at the public statements of various individuals and organizations to see if they are actually serious about cutting the deficit, or if they just claim to be serious.

The Republican Party

Since President Bush II presided over a massive expansion of government during his eight years in office, the GOP has, in most respects, become the party of “spend and don’t tax.” Continue reading

Speaker wannabee Boehner recycling platitudes of speakers past

The three pillars of any democracy are the rule of law, transparency, and a functioning civil society. Over decades, all three of these pillars have been chipped away in the people’s House.

A wonderful sentiment, don’t you think?

House minority leader John Boehner, R-OH, spoke these words to conservatives in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute this week. I was moved: If I could be convinced he would adopt the solutions he offered in this speech in a fair, even-handed manner, I’d vote Republican in November. (Well, maybe not … he and 434 other people actually still call their congressional pay-to-playground the people’s House despite their average annual median income of $650,000.)

If the GOP takes control of the House, Boehner would displace Nancy Pelosi as speaker. (There’s even a Boehner for Speaker website.) Given that pundits of many political persuasions believe a GOP takeover is within reach, some of his ideas merit inspection — but he is not their most credible advocate.
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Republicans are "rebranding": round up the usual suspects

You have to love the headline: GOP set to launch rebranding effort

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Coming soon to a battleground state near you: a new effort to revive the image of the Republican Party and to counter President Obama’s characterization of Republicans as “the party of ‘no.'”

CNN has learned that the new initiative, called the National Council for a New America, will be announced Thursday.

It will involve an outreach by an interesting mix of GOP officials, ranging from 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and the younger brother of the man many Republicans blame for the party’s battered brand: former President George W. Bush. Continue reading

Carbon capitalism

American-style capitalism, sans regulation, has earned its present bad rap. Even so, some market mechanisms do work quite well. Commodities pricing is discovered and costs kept low because markets are very efficient at making sure that metals, oil, food, etc. are moved to where the demand is the highest from where the supply is greatest. Similarly, a market in traded sulfur emissions imposed by the Clean Air Act has enabled fossil fuel plants to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions (the main source of acid rain) dramatically since the market’s inception.

Markets don’t work for everything, however. The sulfur dioxide emissions market works because the effects are not hyper-localized – farmers in Kansas and Iowa won’t notice the difference between the emissions from coal plants in Denver, Boulder, or Fort Collins. However, in the case of mercury emissions from coal plants, an emissions market would be a very, very bad idea. Coal-produced mercury precipitates out of the air in a plume immediately downwind of the emissions source, and so there’s no way to fairly balance the increased emissions of one coal plant with the lower emissions of another. In this case, all the increased mercury emissions would to is poison more mothers and children.

But because markets work so well for so many things, the creation of a cap-and-trade market for carbon dioxide (CO2) makes a lot of sense. In a similar fashion to sulfur dioxide and unlike mercury emissions, CO2 emissions mix well with the atmosphere and so trading emission credits between one source and another is viable. Continue reading

Boehner: capitalism is taxation

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) stated on March 3 that “‘Cap-and-trade’ is code for increasing taxes, killing American jobs, and raising energy costs for consumers.” His claim is based on the fact that carbon-intensive energy sources such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum supposedly provide 85% of the energy consumed in the United States. And if energy prices go up as a result of a cap-and-trade market on carbon emissions, then that means the increase is a tax.

Let’s put aside for a moment the audacious claim made by the Heritage Institute (source of the 85% number mentioned at Boehner’s website) that nuclear power is renewable – it’s lower carbon, but it’s hardly renewable in the same sense as solar, wind, tidal, or geothermal. No, let’s focus instead on Boehner’s intentional blurring of the definitions of “capitalism” and “taxation.” Continue reading

Daily Brushback: A question for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio

S&R: Rep. Boehner, Chairman Bernanke called yesterday for Congress to pass a stimulus plan to help stabilize the U.S. economy. Studies have shown repeatedly that stimulus plans directed at the poor are the most likely to both help those who need the money the most and to have the greatest economic benefits for the country – the poor are most likely to spend any money given them instead of save it or use it to pay down existing debt. The same studies have shown that your preferred stimuli – corporate tax cuts, capital gains tax cuts, an “all of the above” energy development plan, etc. – fail to provide significant stimulus to the economy in less than one to two years and are not cost effective for that reason. Given these facts, why should Americans who are suffering from a bad economy right now support your plan when they won’t see any improvement for at least another year?


[C]learly this was not something that we expected to happen, given the history of this bridge, the inspection process, and how this bridge was rated.

— Mary Peters, secretary of Transportation, during an Aug. 4 White House press briefing about the collapsed Minnesota I-35W bridge that “[s]tate bridge inspectors [had] warned for nearly a decade before its collapse that the Interstate 35W bridge had ‘severe’ and ‘extensive’ corrosion of its beams and trusses, ‘widespread cracking’ in spans and missing or broken bolts … [with] certain components were ‘beyond tolerable limits’ … ”

This record is not tainted at all, at all. Period. You guys can say whatever you want.

— San Francisco Giants right fielder Barry Bonds at a press conference after breaking Hank Aaron’s career home-run record of 755 home runs Tuesday night.
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George Bush: Using the Constitution to destroy the Constitution

By Martin Bosworth

In an act of absolutely unmitigated gall, George Bush is using the power granted to the Executive Branch by the Constitution (Article II, Section 3) to force Congress to stay in session, that they might pass a law legalizing his warrantless wiretap surveillance program–the same program that violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures” without sworn legal oath and verification.

The mind boggles. Continue reading