So Step Away With Your Fist Fight Ways

This ain’t back in the day:

Many Americans can’t remember anything other than an economy with skyrocketing inequality, in which living standards for most Americans are stagnating and the rich are pulling away. It feels inevitable.

But it’s not.

A well-known team of inequality researchers — Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — has been getting some attention recently for a chart it produced. It shows the change in income between 1980 and 2014 for every point on the distribution, and it neatly summarizes the recent soaring of inequality.

It’s been 40 years since the right wing long game to destroy the middle class and the poor began, and they are winning. Unprecedented propaganda efforts have coal miners slapping “Friends of Coal” bumper stickers on their cars, broken workers are chanting “right to work” as they struggle to crush the unions that would and once did protect them, and the courts have been stocked with corporate friendly judges. In my state, literally. There are things we can do about it (if we band together and chip away at the GOP stranglehold in Washington):

The problem is that wealth and capital income are not distributed evenly. In 2014, the average wealth of the bottom half was $349. For the top one percent, it was over $16 million.

Rich people in our society don’t just have high capital income levels. They also have high capital income shares. That is, a large portion of the income collected at the top of our society comes from capital rather than from labor. In 2014, just 5.1 percent of the bottom half’s income came from capital. For the top one percent, around 58.9 percent of income came from capital.

It is worth emphasizing just how much income at the top of society comes from passive ownership of investments rather than from working. The top 0.01 percent of individuals in society have an average income of $28 million. Three-fourths of that income, or $21 million, came from capital in 2014.

If we want to get serious about creating a fair and egalitarian society, we must confront capital directly. Wage levels are important. Benefit levels are important. But getting those things right will not be enough so long as nearly one-third of the national income flows out passively to a handful of people at the top of society.

Current liberal efforts to tackle wealth inequality are woefully inadequate. Policies aimed at building the assets of low-income families, the typical approach to this issue, rarely succeed on their own terms and, even if they did succeed, would only be an insignificant drop in the bucket. For wealth and capital income to become more fairly distributed throughout society, the ownership of existing assets must be reordered towards that end.

But, as we know, the perfect was the enemy of the good in the last election, and we have this:

Different policies could produce a different outcome. My list would start with a tax code that does less to favor the affluent, a better-functioning education system, more bargaining power for workers and less tolerance for corporate consolidation.

Remarkably, President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress are trying to go in the other direction. They spent months trying to take away health insurance from millions of middle-class and poor families. Their initial tax-reform plans would reduce taxes for the rich much more than for everyone else. And they want to cut spending on schools, even though education is the single best way to improve middle-class living standards over the long term.

Most Americans would look at these charts and conclude that inequality is out of control. The president, on the other hand, seems to think that inequality isn’t big enough.

I don’t know what it is going to take to unite “the left”- whatever that means anymore. Hell, I don’t even know what to call myself anymore because I support single payer, higher tax rates, higher capital gains, decriminalization, demilitarization, reinstatement of the draft, am pro-choice, etc., ad nauseum, but because I voted for Hillary I’m apparently a neoliberal. At any rate, I thought the election of Trump would unify “the left,” but it has apparently made us more fractious than ever. But we need to get our shit together, because things done changed.



More Byrd droppings

Following on on Betty’s post this morning, keep on calling.

Senator Sanders in his role as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee has had his staff arguing hard to the parliamentarian over the past few weeks. They are arguing over every point in the Senate bill(s) that are still be scrawled on napkins in the Senate dining room on whether or not provisions are directly budget related and therefore only need a 50 vote threshold or are primarily policy and need a 60 vote threshold. They’ve won some big fights. It looks like they won an even bigger one this morning.

What that means is the waiver provisions need 60 votes. This is important from a policy perspective as the current waiver system in the ACA allows states to experiment if they can insure as many people, at the same or better actuarial value while protecting the most vulnerable and costing the federal government no more money. The provision that is now subject to a 60 vote threshold would allow the state to do whatever it wanted just as long as it cost the federal government no more money.

Politically this is important because the Senate leadership, Secretary of Health and Human Services Price and CMS Administrator Verma have been promising Republican senators that they’ll issue magical waivers that will give enough flexibility to states to keep everyone or at least enough people whole despite pulling out $750 billion dollars in Medicaid funding and several hundred billion net dollars from the individual market. That is a fantasy of the least interesting tripe but it waivers of unimaginable power are being pushed behind the scene. Those waivers can’t be part of the bill.

And if they are part of the bill, that means the legislative filibuster is dead which should help when we have to clean up this mess.



It’s Baaaaacccckkkk (Sort Of, Maybe)

It is impossible to overstate the Republican commitment to ripping health care from millions, while taking a chainsaw to our medical system.

Rand Paul has just announced that he will vote “Yes” on the Trumpcare motion to proceed as long as he is given a clean vote on his amendment, which would simply repeal the ACA (which, given the CBO evaluation of a similar proposal, would lead to something on the order of 17 million without health care next year, and 32 million Americans left in the cold by 2026).

That’s still not enough to get Trumpcare to the floor if the other declared “Noes” hold out, but each senator McConnell can peel away significantly increases the pressure on those who remain opposed.  And certainly, Paul’s cave reminds us that counting on any Republican to maintain a party-base-unpopular position as a matter of principle is a mug’s game.

This won’t be over until the GOP loses its majority in one house or the other.

Image: Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1515



ACHA review

Here are a few lowlights of the AHCA Congressional Budget Office score. I’ll try to keep this non-technical.

  • Medicaid is still getting changed from an entitlement that is responsive to changing needs to a block grant
  • 23 million people will lose coverage compared to current law projections
  • The MacArthur/Upton waivers are expected to destroy the individual markets that cover 15% of the country
  • Most of the premium decreases are due to older and sicker people being priced out of the market
    • Real easy to have low premiums when you don’t cover anyone who is likely to need services
  • Pre-existing condition protection is effectively destroyed by splitting the risk pool.

Relevant tweets below the fold:
Read more



Medicaid in the President’s budget request

The Department of Health and Human Services accidentally leaked their own budget this evening. Bob Herman at Axios saved a copy. The biggest aspect of the budget is it laid out another $600 billion dollars in cuts to Medicaid and CHIP over ten years in addition to the $820 billion in Medicaid cuts in the AHCA.

Between these two documents Medicaid would lose 47% of its federal funding over a decade.

Loren Adler at Brookings thinks the cuts would be to tie the AHCA block grants to no more than inflation rate growth without regard to population or case mixture. As the Baby Boomers retire, more of them will require nursing home care that is currently paid for by Medicaid but there would be no federal money.

This is a budget wishlist that pits old people versus kids, the disabled against the pregnant and state budgets against upper income tax cuts in the federal budget.

Call Congress and give them an earful.



Call and visit Congress today

The vote for the AHCA in the House is scheduled for sometime around 1:00pm today.

Call your Congressional office today.

If you are in the DC Area there is a protest at the Hill at noon time.

If you are out and about, see if you can visit your Congressional district office to let them know that a vote for the AHCA will result in their names added to an Arya Starkesque mantra.



Time to call Congress

The AHCA has more lives than a serial killer in a horror movie franchise.

The House Freedom Caucus has an agreement to make the bill worse by allowing states to completely opt out of guarantee issue and essential health benefits.

Steven Dennis of Bloomberg has a good fast analysis of the changes:

Most of the House Freedom Caucus is most likely on board with this bill. That reduces the firm no’s that are not in the HFC down to about 20. The No’s from March need to hear from you again. The unknowns and the shaky yeses need to hear from you.

They also need to be reminded of the following:

There is a minimal blocking coalition of Republican representatives who sit in seats that voted for them and Hillary Clinton. Time to remind them that they can’t survive an electorate that is nine points more Democratic in 2018 than it was in 2016. They know that, but let’s remind them.

So time to call Congress again.

I am convinced that any Republican only health care bill will either pass by 3 votes or fail by at least 15 votes.