My latest column for Kaiser Health News: With Republican governors complaining that the Affordable Care Act doesn't give them enough flexibility, President Barack Obama on Monday offered a compromise: He'd allow them to opt out of the law altogether, just as long as they had an alternative method of providing universal coverage. Although a few Republican governors responded positively, the party's more visible leaders were quick to condemn the move as meaningless.
Mitt Romney’s Republican rivals for president continue to pummel him over the health care reforms he enacted in Massachusetts. And my colleague Jonathan Chait is relishing every minute of it. Noting that Romney’s latest strategy “seems to be curling up into the fetal position and hope everybody gets tired of kicking him,” Jon remains convinced that Romney’s cause is hopeless: “My advice? “Find something to do other than run for president.” Jon is probably right and, to be quite honest, I have no great enthusiasm for Romney these days.
A quick recap of the standoff over the budget: Republicans want to snip off some $60 billion in government spending for the rest of the year. Democrats are arguing that the steep cuts cheered on by conservatives would hit essential programs that people actually need and use—good-bye Pell Grants, good-bye food-safety inspectors, good-bye well-functioning Social Security administration, and so forth. Worse still, economic forecasters—including Ben Bernanke have argued that slashing federal spending right now would drag down the economy.
For those who missed it on the TNR home page, I have an article in our latest print edition about Durant Tuuri Mott Elementary School in Flint, Michigan. DTM serves a low-income, high-risk student population in the middle of one of the most distressed communities in America. But it’s kids are performing well on tests and, based on what I observed over a series of visits, those test scores are no aberration. The kids are really learning. The article’s main purpose is to convey some first-hand observations about the effects of No Child Left Behind.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has used his state’s budget deficit as an excuse to attack collective-bargaining rights. He argues that Wisconsin simply can’t afford collective bargaining. Nevertheless, as has widely been reported, his claimed $137 million deficit could be addressed without touching these rights. Indeed, it’s simply false to argue that eliminating collective bargaining has really anything to do with the budget deficit, especially since unions have already offered pay concessions. But what is most surprising about Walker’s attack on collective bargaining is its speed.
Consumer confidence has fallen in the last two weeks. According to Gallup, the likely cause is rising gas prices. And how do rising gas prices affect political perceptions of the president? History offers proof of correlation, if not causation. Via Bloomberg Business Week: Translation: The White House can't be too happy about this, as Nate Silver noted today. Of course, President Obama is a longtime champion for trying to wean Americans off of fossil fuels.
The conservative mind has some strange notions about civility in political discourse. Apparently it's wrong to suggest that somebody making $500,000 a year should go back to paying higher taxes, as the wealthy did during in the Clinton era. Conservatives call that "class warfare." But it's just fine to suggest that somebody making $50,000 a year should give up salary, benefits, and the right to collective bargaining, as long as that person is a public employee. Conservatives call that "reducing government waste." OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. Or am I?
I had thought that everything useful had already been said about the president’s determination that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could no longer be defended. Then, I saw the statement by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Unemployment was arguably the most important issue of the 2010 midterm campaign. Voters were frustrated with it. Republicans promised to reduce it. But Mark Zandi, the economist from Moody's, says the Republican plan to slash $60 billion in federal spending between now and the end of the fiscal year would have the very opposite effect: It would result in 700,000 fewer jobs.
Scott Walker wants to bust Wisconsin's public employe unions and, in the process, weaken his political opponents. But his agenda has another element, one that's more about policy. Ed Kilgore explains in his column today: Walker also has an economic vision for his state--one which is common currency in the Republican Party today, but hitherto alien in a historically progressive, unionist Midwestern state like Wisconsin.