It’s the Economy, Still

Looks like the fact — and, more important, the meme — that the Republicans are doing everything they can to further damage the American economy, in a deliberate attempt to improve their own electoral chances in 2012, might finally be gaining some traction:

E.J. Dionne at the Washingon Post, on “Gridlocking the Lives of the Jobless“:

The economy needs another jolt, but Congress is in gridlock. Democrats, or most of them, realize that their political futures and the well-being of millions of households hang on whether unemployment can be brought down. Yet Republicans have the capacity to block even the smallest steps forward…
For the moment, Republicans have no interest in moving the nation’s debate toward investments in job creation because they gain twice over from keeping Washington mired in discussions on the deficit. It’s a brute fact that Republicans benefit if the economy stays sluggish. And despite their role in ballooning the deficit during the Bush years, they will always outbid Democrats on spending cuts….

Kevin Drum, as befits a Mother Jones progressive, is pessimistic:

I wonder if this is ever going to become a serious talking point? It gets batted around now and again by the odd newspaper columnist or blogger, but that’s about it. No serious person in a position of real influence really wants to accuse an entire party of cynically trying to tank the economy, after all.
But it would sure make headlines if Obama decided to take up this ball and run with it. He’ll never do it, because it wouldn’t be postpartisan or pragmatic. But Republicans are all set to turn the next 18 months into the World War III of political campaigns, and this would sure be a way of showing them that two can play at that game.

Jonathan Cohn at eventheliberal TNR fact-checks the Republican’s “economic nonsense“:

A lot of us are begging, even pleading, with President Obama to focus more on economic stimulus and less on deficit reduction. But let’s not kid ourselves. President Obama isn’t the obstacle to passing a new jobs program. The Republican Party is…
According to the very best evidence we have, the Recovery Act prevented the economic downturn from becoming a full-brown depression or something very close to it. And private sector employment has been growing, albeit in fits and starts. The primary reason employment overall isn’t growing faster is that public sector workforces are shrinking, because low tax revenues are forcing local and state governments to balance their budgets with spending cuts.
Read more

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms Open Thread

Because I know not everyone checks the Great Orange Satan, I take the liberty of reposting this awesomely wonderful bit opening the Tony Award broadcast:

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Like the theater, everyone is welcome to this thread.

Oh — and feel free to fill in the “they” of your choice as to who just might worry about the freedoms celebrated above.


Tuesday Evening Open Thread

(Tom Toles via

I’m taking my entertainment where I can find it, and Doghouse Riley remains a reliable respite:

Reader, I’m assuming you’re an adult, which means you’re just as flummoxed as I by the phenomenon of people over 25, with IQs at or above bathwater, openly proclaiming themselves libertarian. I’m assuming you’re aware that every man-made object you’ve touched today involved some degree of regulation by government, and that you probably understand why, and perhaps are even conversant with 19th century fatality rates from railroad and industrial accidents directly attributable to laissez-faire. Or, if you’ve only been paying attention since the dawn of the 21st century, you might recall how large-scale domestic processors of meat, eggs, spinach or peanuts have behaved when they thought no one was watching, let alone how the Chinese believed a soupçon of automotive solvents added that certain something to pet food.
What I’m saying is there is no way you can believe this shit and claim to’ve thought anything out. And in a country which has seen armed international conflict over the shooting of a pig, mass panic over a science-fiction radio broadcast, injury to hundreds of its citizens who thought a picture of a lemon on a free sample bottle of dish soap meant it would zest up a glass of iced tea, and the career of Sarah Palin, the Great Light Bulb Rebellion is absolutely the stupidest political movement of all time.
However, we’re nothing if not a resourceful race, and there’s nothing so dire, misinformed, or risible that mentioning The Ol’ Perfesser can’t make worse…


What’s everybody praying for in your neighborhood this evening?

Open Thread: Choose Your Death

Since they’ve resorted to sending me emails, I guess CNN really, really, seriously wants everyone to know who’s “hosting the first Republican Presidential primary debate in the “First-in-the-Nation” primary state of New Hampshire on Monday, June 13 at 8 p.m. ET from Saint Anselm College. The debate will be moderated by John King, CNN’s chief national correspondent and anchor of John King, USA….”

Tonight’s particpants vying for the chance to lose in 2012 are Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, RonPaul, Pawlenty, Romney, and Santorum. (The Fox “inaugural debate” slate back on May 5 — don’t ask me why that wasn’t the “first”, I am not now nor have I ever been an RNC member — was Cain, Gary Johnson, RonPaul, and Pawlenty.) CNN is “providing viewers a social experience to engage with the live broadcast” (liveblogging, twitter, facebook) but none of you can afford to pay me enough to sit through that unedited farce.

On the other hand, this is what the BBC had scheduled for Monday evening:

Terry Pratchett’s BBC documentary reopens debate on assisted dying
When his own time comes to die, the author Sir Terry Pratchett has said, he would like to be sitting on a chair on the lawn at his home, with a brandy in one hand and a glass of life-ending chemicals in the other. “And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.”
The question of his own death – and the right to choose its timing and manner – has become more pressing for 63-year-old Pratchett since his diagnosis in 2007 with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Now the vastly successful fantasy writer has made a documentary about the subject of assisted dying, for which he travelled to Switzerland to film the final moments of Peter, a British man suffering from motor neurone disease who had chosen to end his life at the Dignitas clinic…

I hope the whole documentary gets posted online afterwards, not least because Pratchett is one of the living writers I most admire.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread

(Signe Wilkinson via

When Thomas Friedman, America’s Most Conventional Dispenser of This Week’s Conventional Wisdom(tm) , sours on the business of unfettered consumption and announces bitterly that “The Earth Is Full“, is it really so surprising that more than a thousand sensible, middle-class Americans would volunteer for a “One-way ticket to Mars “?

… It was not proposed as a suicide mission, although the chances of a long life on Mars probably aren’t great. Rather, it was pitched as what would potentially be the greatest scientific adventure and exploration of all time.
The idea was floated by two scientists, Paul Davies of Arizona State University and Dirk Schulze-Makuch of the University of Washington, in an article in the Journal of Cosmology. One of the journal’s editors, Ron Becker, said that as the hundreds of e-mails flowed in from prospective Mars explorers, the initial reaction of both researchers and journal staff was to dismiss them as not serious. But that changed as it became apparent that many of the correspondents were quite sincere…
The idea, which is clearly not what NASA managers have in mind for Mars exploration, has now led to the release of “A One Way Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet,” a compilation of articles from the Journal of Cosmology, plus some additions from scientists with the Mars Society and others.
Among the articles in the book are “The Search for Life on Mars,” “Medical Care for a Martian Transit Mission and Extended Stay on the Martian Surface” and “Sex on Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development and Sex in Outer Space.” The authors include dozens of NASA researchers, some former astronauts and some scientists and advocates who have pushed for decades (with no success) for a human mission to Mars….
Schulze-Makuch said the idea would be to start a colony on Mars, not simply to send astronauts there and abandon them. He imagines them living in the shelter of a lava tube or some habitat they take with them, and imagines that a stream of others would follow. Robotic exploration has shown there is substantial water ice below the Martian surface, so many of the ingredients for survival are present…

To boldly go!

… And in a far more immediate timeframe, Book Chat reminder: I will put up the first post on When Everything Changed this evening, at 8pm EDT. What else have people got on the agenda for a too-soon-summer midweek?

30 million people have gone missing, again

The actual, as opposed to imaginary, health care plan that Paul Ryan put forth and the entire Republican Party signed onto (pdf) has many, many pieces but I’d like to point to the provisions for covering the uninsured. There aren’t any. The GOP health care plan repeals the parts of the PPACA that cover the uninsured, and replaces them with nothing.

Considering that we just had a two year debate on some hypothetical, abstract group we called “the uninsured” I’m a little confused as to why they aren’t popular anymore. The uninsured didn’t really go away. Nothing changed for them when Paul Ryan shot to stardom. Ryan’s awesome charisma is apparently powerful enough to completely eclipse the (formerly) urgent needs of tens of millions of people. That’s a little disconcerting. Where’d they go?

Ryan’s plan repeals the PPACA, except for the portion where 500 billion or so is cut from the privatized portion of Medicare, Medicare Advantage. Despite what the honorable Paul Ryan is telling FOX News personalities and viewers, Ryan’s plan retains the 500 billion or so in Medicare Advantage cuts.

Back when the uninsured were popular we discussed the provisions within the PPACA to cover the uninsured endlessly. What we didn’t do is talk about who they are, as a broad group.(pdf)

I think the broad demographic and class information on the uninsured goes a long way towards explaining why it took 30 years to pass anything at all to address their health care access problem. I think the same information also may explain why tens of millions of people have mysteriously dropped out of the fawning media coverage of the GOP health care plan.

This is who they are:

More than three-quarters of the uninsured are in working families—sixty-one percent are from families with one or more full-time workers and 16% are from families with part-time workers.

The vast majority of the uninsured are in low- or moderate-income families. In total, nine in ten of the uninsured are in low- or moderate-income families, meaning they are below 400% of poverty. The new health reform law targets these individuals through broader Medicaid eligibility and premium subsidies through health insurance exchanges for eligible individuals with incomes up to 400% of poverty that do not have access to employer sponsored insurance.

Adults are more likely to be uninsured than children. Adults make up 70% of the nonelderly population, but more than 80% of the uninsured. Most low-income children qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but low-income adults under age 65 typically qualify for Medicaid only if they are disabled, pregnant, or have dependent children. Income eligibility levels are generally much lower for parents than for children, and adults without children are generally ineligible. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid will be expanded in 2014 to provide eligibility to nearly all people under age 65 with income under 138% of the federal poverty level.

Young adults, ages 19 to 29, comprise a disproportionately large share of the uninsured, largely due to their low incomes. Young adults have the highest uninsured rate (32%) of any age group. More than half of uninsured young adults are families with at least one full-time worker, but their low incomes make it more difficult for them to afford coverage.The median income of uninsured young adults in 2008 was $15,000.

More than half (63%) of nonelderly uninsured adults have no education beyond high school, making them less able to get higher-skilled jobs that are more likely to provide health coverage. Thosewith less education are also more likely to be uninsured for longer periods of time.Minorities are much more likely to be uninsured than whites. About one third of Hispanics are uninsured compared to 14% of whites. The uninsured rate among African-Americans (23%) is also much higher than that of whites

It is not now and has never been politically advantageous to address the health care access problems of the working poor and lower middle class- particularly younger people within those groups- because “the uninsured” don’t have any real cohesive organized advocacy or lobbying clout.

That’s why politicians didn’t get anything done on this, prior to the PPACA. There was little or no anticipated political return on the huge political risk inherent in actually doing something to address the chronic problem.

The same uninsured who were (supposedly) vitally important to our national conversation a year ago have gone missing again. Nothing changed for them, yet Paul Ryan somehow succeeded in leading the circus away from any discussion of how his bold and brave plan leaves them, once again, high and dry. Weird how this particular group of Real Americans keep dropping out of our national conversation. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they weren’t important.

Late Night Open Thread: You Kids, Off My Lawn Get

Because I am old and ADD, I endorse Barney Frank’s insta-news stance, as reported by John Hudson on the Atlantic Wire:

I don’t get news on my phone. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. I want substance. I’m not betting on stocks. I don’t deal in emergencies and I don’t know CPR. There’s enough possibility of misunderstanding as it is without 140 character tweets. Of course, when you’re talking about somebody getting shot, tweets have been good. But generally, I want more than you can get on a phone.

(ETA: Thanks to commentor Kdaug)