Monday, April 15, 2013

Rubio on the Sunday Shows -- DId He Tell Us Anything Much About the Gang of Eight Proposals?

Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio hit the talk show circuit yesterday. On Meet the Press, and Face the nation, the hosts wanted to talk gun control, despite what Rubio might have wanted to talk about. In Candy Crowley's program, Rubio sort of filibustered his way through without saying much that would address the opponents questions. Only on Fox News Sunday was Rubio given a chance to extend his remarks beyond generalities and pressed to do so. And, at that show, Rubio did get at questions posed by Gang critic Chuck Grassley:

Will the bill ensure that undocumented immigrants don't get public benefits?
Marco Rubio: And then they don't qualify for any federal benefits. This is an important point. No federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no ObamaCare. They have to prove they're gainfully employed. They have to be able to support themselves, so they'll never become a public charge. (Fox News Sunday)
What is the expected cost? How will it be paid for?
Marco Rubio: Now, here's the other point I would make. Any -- you know, conservatives love dynamic scoring, which is a complicated way of saying, you know, you look at a budget issue, not just for the cost but for the benefits associated with it. That's what we've always pushed for. That's why, for example, when we talk about tax cuts, we don't think tax cuts cost the government money. We think tax cuts help the government generate more revenue because it creates economic growth.
All I'm asking for is that for this plan to be reviewed through the same standard, the same conservative dynamic scoring that we apply to tax cuts, because I am confident that if you do that, and some have already started doing that, you will find that when with we reform our legal immigration system, we get these people that are already here now paying their taxes and not taking anything out of the system, this will be a net positive for the country (Fox News Sunday)

The following Grassley questions were not answered by Rubio:

Will the bill move us closer to a merit-based system?
Will the bill be an avenue for labor unions to push Davis Bacon?
What are the concrete metrics used to measure border security? Who will determine that these metrics are met? Will it be Congress, a commission or a Secretary who doesn't think that the border matters?
Will the entry/exit system Congress mandated in 1996 finally be implemented? Will it be a part of the trigger?
Will the language be tight enough to prevent criminals--those with DUIs and other aggravated felonies from being eligible for legalization?
Will individuals already apprehended, or people in removal proceedings be eligible or even allowed to apply for the legalization program?
Will the bill ensure that the legalization program is covered by beneficiaries, and not taxpayers?
What will happen to individuals who do not come forward and register or get provisional status?
What will happen if the border is never secured? What will be the consequences, including for those who have already received registered provisional status?
Will the agency in charge of immigration benefits be able to handle the additional workload while also preventing fraud and abuse?
Will the bill encourage cooperation between the Federal Government and State and locals to enforce the laws?
How will the bill ensure that ICE agents are allowed to do their job?
Will E-Verify be mandatory for all businesses? Will there be exceptions to the rule? Will the bill require all businesses to use E-Verify now or will it drag out the requirement even though it is ready to go nationwide? Will the bill exempt or preserve State laws that require E-Verify?
What are the concessions to the unions and to the business community?
Will the new temporary worker program, which is a new model encompassing instant portability, truly work?
How will employers be held responsible for the visa holders, if at all? Is the new temporary worker program truly temporary? Will they get a special green card process?
Will the bill exempt certain industries, such as construction, from this new visa program?
Will the 11 million people here illegally get priority in this new temporary worker program? Will they be able to use it?
Will the bill require employers to first recruit and hire Americans?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chuck Grassley's Immigration Reform Questions

Chuck Grassley, speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, asks a series of (mostly) worthwhile questions to the Gang of Eight redesigning the immigration system up at the Fortress of Solitude, the Batcave, or some such similar undisclosed location. Bookmark this speech. If the most of the questions are not answered in the coming days, the reform is intended to fail (either by being ineffective in preventing further illegal immigration, or in passing in the first place).

Here they are:
Is this bill enforcement first or legalization first?
What is the expected cost? How will it be paid for?
Will the bill ensure that undocumented immigrants don't get public benefits?
Will the bill move us closer to a merit-based system?
Will the bill be an avenue for labor unions to push Davis Bacon?
What are the concrete metrics used to measure border security? Who will determine that these metrics are met? Will it be Congress, a commission or a Secretary who doesn't think that the border matters?
Will the entry/exit system Congress mandated in 1996 finally be implemented? Will it be a part of the trigger?
Will the language be tight enough to prevent criminals--those with DUIs and other aggravated felonies from being eligible for legalization?
Will individuals already apprehended, or people in removal proceedings be eligible or even allowed to apply for the legalization program?
Will the bill ensure that the legalization program is covered by beneficiaries, and not taxpayers?
What will happen to individuals who do not come forward and register or get provisional status?
What will happen if the border is never secured? What will be the consequences, including for those who have already received registered provisional status?
Will the agency in charge of immigration benefits be able to handle the additional workload while also preventing fraud and abuse?
Will the bill encourage cooperation between the Federal Government and State and locals to enforce the laws?
How will the bill ensure that ICE agents are allowed to do their job?
Will E-Verify be mandatory for all businesses? Will there be exceptions to the rule? Will the bill require all businesses to use E-Verify now or will it drag out the requirement even though it is ready to go nationwide? Will the bill exempt or preserve State laws that require E-Verify?
What are the concessions to the unions and to the business community?
Will the new temporary worker program, which is a new model encompassing instant portability, truly work?
How will employers be held responsible for the visa holders, if at all? Is the new temporary worker program truly temporary? Will they get a special green card process?
Will the bill exempt certain industries, such as construction, from this new visa program?
Will the 11 million people here illegally get priority in this new temporary worker program? Will they be able to use it?
Will the bill require employers to first recruit and hire Americans?
I do not necessarily believe any legislation must answer Grassley's questions in the way he wants them answered. But I do believe the questions are important, and they should be answered in full before the bill is rushed through. A bipartisan bill for a major reform needs to be proposed and debated in good faith before  it actually can pass, and the GOP senators and house members who want to line up behind a bill needs to have these questions answered in the sunshine, or they will be primaried if they vote for the legislation.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two Differences Between Obamacare and Medicare

Congressman Richard Neal of Mass. illustrates a difference between Obamacare and Medicare and wants to fix it:
Currently, Medicare waives cost-sharing for any colorectal cancer screening recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. However, should the beneficiary have a precancerous polyp removed, the procedure is no longer considered a ``screening'' for Medicare purposes. The unintended consequence of this is that the beneficiary is obligated to pay the Medicare coinsurance. This is an unexpected and unwelcome ``sticker shock'' that does nothing to promote screening or improve patient care. The Administration announced in February 2013 that private insurers participating in state-based health insurance exchanges must remove all cost sharing for colon cancer screenings where a polyp was removed. We must have a similar policy in the Medicare program.
To translate this out of healthcare speak, and into English:

  • Under the law governing Medicare, a colonoscopy is reimbursed at 100%. However, a colonoscopy that finds a polyp, and removes a polyp, becomes a medical procedure, and the patient is liable for a co-payment.
  • Under Obamacare, a colonoscopy is reimbursed at 100%. HHS, in regulations, forbids insurance companies from imposing a copay when a polyp is found and removed. (Current practice of insurance companies, incidentally, has been to follow Medicare.)
Leaving aside the merits of the Congressman's proposed legislation for a second, let's take a look at what Mr. Neal also illustrates:
  • Changing Medicare's benefit package takes an Act of Congress;
  • Changing Obamacare's benefits package only takes a change in regulations

How you feel about this question is probably a good way to figure out the question -- Republican or Democrat?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Apology For All Past and Future Posts

In the great International Attic that is, I have found the apology that now applies to all my posts, past or present:
I fear, I shall be thought to have treated the question in too diffusive a manner. I have not, indeed, laboured to be concise. But if the memoir is more extensive than was necessary, I flatter myself, it will be admitted that it, at least, contains some new and interesting facts. I submit it to its fate.
Please content yourself with this apology, dear reader, because it will be a chilly day in Hades before we issue another one.

I have also found a quote in the same delightful 18th century treatise on the alleged powers of rattlesnakes that I think I will feel impelled to use in some post about climate change, because it seems to apply, oddly enough, to the grim lot who insist that the globe is warming drastically, and that we are doomed to floods and drought (likely at the same time), unless we turn the thermostat down at the house low enough so that we will pray for some drastic global warming...

In any event, the quote, which is too good to waste:
The human mind, unenlightened by science, or by considerable reflection, is a foil rich in the weeds of superstition  and credulity. It is ever prone to believe in the wonderful, even when this belief, as is often the case, brings with it fears, and cares, and misery. The bondage of the mind in superstitious credulity is great and heavy. Neither religion nor virtue can give it its freedom. This it obtains from science. How important, then, even in this point of view, is the enlargement of the mind by science
It is a sad irony that this quote seems to apply to the scientists who can't quite accept that things are not quite as hot as their models predicted.

A Course In Civics

America had just emerged from a war many thought was an ill-advised foreign adventure, and many were persecuted for saying it was an ill-advised foreign adventure. Europe was acting irresponsibly. A deep recession plagued the nation. And America had just elected its first bi-racial president (maybe).

Obviously, in such a tense national atmosphere, there was a need for high school education that provided a course designed "to give the pupil an intelligent conception of the great society in which he is a member, his relation to it, what it requires of him, how it is organized, and what functions it performs." But this course should recognize "that in the field of social studies all roads lead through government. No matter whether the topic under discussion be finance, banking, public health, poor relief, transportation, or labor problems, we must at all times reckon with governmental organization,
policy and action as great factors in the situation. The study of governmental organization and the functions of public authority ought therefore to be the center or core of any high school course whose chief aim is to inculcate sound ideals of citizenship, to emphasize the duties of the citizen, and to afford any grasp of public problems."

So therefore, in December, 1920, the American Political Science Association, appointed a committee  which set about establishing a curriculum for a course in civics, designed to "to impress upon the pupil the fact that he is a member of the community and ought to be an active, constructive member of it. The teaching of the subject ought to point continually towards civic duty as well as civic rights. Scope and methods should be adjusted to this purpose, which means that social and economic forces which directly affect the activities of citizenship ought to receive adequate emphasis."

The curriculum, taken from the February, 1922 edition of the Journal of Political Science follows. The questions to the reader -- is this what we should be doing today? Is this much of what we do today? Or are the biases inherent in this curriculum (besides the racial stuff and the push for assimilation of immigrants)  much of what poisons the teaching of social science? Or is this (besides the racial stuff) indicative of a long-forgotten golden era of education about our society.

Part 1-The American Environment

Why men organize. The social instinct. The doctrine of evolution as applied to society. Heredity and environment. Individual and social heredity. The physical and the social environment of man. The chief social groups (family, tribe, community, state, etc). Individual liberty and social control.
Geography as a factor in national life and progress. The chief geographical areas of the United States. The soil. Harbors and waterways. The newer territories. Alaska and the insular possessions. Influence of geographic features upon past development. Geography and the future.
The growth of population. How the population is now distributed. The drift to the cities, its causes, extent and results. Principal occupations of the people. Immigration; its history and causes. Nature of the immigration. Present racial distribution. The negro problem. Other racial problems. Assimilation.
The effects of immigration, social, economic and political.
Importance of the family as a unit. Influence of the home in training for citizenship. Marriage as the basis of the family. The divorce problem. The community; what it is. How communities are formed. The needs and functions of the community. The community spirit. The community and the school. How the schools train for citizenship. The relation of good citizenship to community service.
The economic needs of man. Economic motives. The subject-matter of economics. The consumption of wealth. Production. The factors in production. Land and natural resources. Rent. Labor. The division of labor. Is labor a commodity? Wages. How rates of wages are determined. Capital and interest on capital. The forms of economic organization. Partnerships and corporations. Profits. Government as a factor in production. The distribution of wealth. Transportation as a factor in distribution. Exchange, value and price. Competition and monopoly. Natural monopolies. Freedom of contract. The institution of private property.

Part II. American Government

(a) The Foundations of Government
Definition of the state. Definition of government. The purpose of the state.Origin of the state. Various theories as to its origin. The basis of the state's authority. Classification of states. Relation of the state to government. The branches of government. The functions of government. Characteristics of American government. Written constitutions. Separation of powers. Federalism.
Who are citizens? How citizenship is acquired. Naturalization. The rights of the citizen. Are corporations citizens? Civil liberty; what it means and how it grew. Privileges which are not civic rights. The obligations of citizenship. Hindrances to good citizenship.
The channels of popular control. Public opinion; its nature and limitations. The election of representatives. The appointment of officials. Election vs. Appointment. Appointments with and without confirmation. Partisan appointments. The spoils system. The rise of civil service. Nature of the civil service system. Its value and limitations. Popular control through direct legislation and the recall. Origin and spread of the initiative and referendum. Direct legislation in practice. Merits and defects of direct legislation. The recall. The recall of judicial decisions.

(b) The Electoral Mechanism
Citizenship and suffrage. Development of the suffrage. Woman suffrage. Present qualifications for voting. Educational tests. Taxpaying requirements. Disqualifications. How voters are registered. Nominations. History of nominating methods. The caucus, convention and primary. Merits and defects of the primary. Election methods. The ballot. The short ballot movement. The preferential ballot. Proportional representation. Corrupt practices at elections. Absent voting. Compulsory voting.
Why political parties are formed. Nature and functions of political parties. History of American parties. What the leading parties stand for. Party platforms. The minor parties. Economic and social influences on party divisions. Party organization in nation, state and community. The machine. Rings and bosses. Party finance. Practical politics. How parties are financed. The reform of party organization.

(c) Local and State Government
Early types of local government. The county; its legal status, organization and officials. Duties of county officers. The reform of county government. City and county consolidation. The county manager plan. The New England town; its organization and the functions of its officials. The township. County districts. Incorporated communities. Problems of local government.
Growth of cities. Relation of cities to the state. Municipal home rule. Different types of city charter. The mayor. The heads of city departments. Municipal officials and employees. Civil service in cities. The city council. Boards and commissions in cities. The reconstruction of city government. The commission plan. Its extension, nature, merits and defects. The city manager. Other recent changes in city government.
City planning. Streets and public works. The protection of life and property. Parks and recreation. The city's share in public health and welfare problems. Congestion of population and its relief. New sources of revenue for cities. Other municipal problems.
The early state constitutions. How state constitutions are made. General powers residing in the states. The governor. Officials of state administration. The state legislature. Legislative procedure. The states as agents of the nation. Relations between the states. Full faith and credit. Extradition. Limitations upon the states. The reconstruction of state government.

(d) National Government
American government before and during the Revolution. The earlier attempts at union. The Confederation; its weakness. Preliminaries of the Constitution. Personnel of the convention. The convention's work. The compromises. General character of the Constitution. Methods by which it was adopted. Growth of the Constitution by amendment, interpretation and usage.
Organization of Congress. Merits and defects of the bicameral system. The Senate; its organization. Its special powers. Confirmation of appointments. Ratification of treaties. Impeachments. Its concurrent powers. Its influence. The House of Representatives. Method of election. Procedure. The Speaker. The committee system. Powers of the House. Relations between the Houses. The general powers of Congress. Congressional finance.
Nature of the presidential office. Method of nomination. The college of electors. Why great and striking men are not always chosen. The President's powers. Appointments. The veto power. Other prerogatives. Relation of the President to Congress. The President's relation to his party. The Cabinet
and the administration.
Judicial organization in outline. The Supreme Court. The subordinate courts. Jurisdiction of the federal tribunals. State courts. The common law. Statutory law. Equity. The jury system.  Constitutional limitations relating to the administration of justice. Due process of law. The unconstitutionality of laws. The law's delays. Reforms in judicial administration.

Part III. The Civic Activities

(a) Economic
The chief natural resources; their value and the danger of exhausting them. Conservation. The forest policy of the United States. National reservations. History of the public lands. Sales of land and the homestead system.
Importance of agriculture. Chief types of agriculture in the United States. Agriculture and the law of diminishing returns. Exhaustion of the soil and its prevention. Relation of agriculture to transportation. The problem of agricultural credit. The federal farm loan banking system. Agriculture and the labor problem. The work of the department of agriculture. The state agricultural
authorities. Experimental farms. The county life commission.
Purposes of commerce. Local, interstate and foreign commerce. How commerce is regulated. The interstate commerce commission and its work. Railroads and the Sherman Act. The railroads in war time. The Transportation Act of 1920. The future of the railroads. Foreign commerce; its scope and value. Government aid to shipping. The shipping laws. The merchant marine; its history. The consular service. International commerce and international exchange. Foreign commerce and the tariff. The tariff policy of the United States.
Modern industrial organization. Corporations. Combinations in industry. The control of industrial combinations. The federal trade commission. The general relations of government to industry. Labor's part in the industrial order. History of labor organizations. The American Federation of Labor; its organization and program. Methods and policies of labor. Collective bargaining. The right to strike. The closed shop and the open shop. Conciliation and arbitration. Compulsory arbitration. Industrial accidents and employers' liability. Child labor laws. Minimum wage laws. The problem of unemployment.
Money and its origin. The functions of money. The coinage of the United States. The double and single standard. Paper money. Legal tender. The functions of banks. National banking system. Federal reserve banks. Some practical operations of banking. The relation of credit to money. Credit and prices. Workings of the credit system.
Nature of public utilities. The need of public control. Franchises. Methods of public utility regulation. Public service commissions; their organization and powers. Public ownership; its merits and defects. American and foreign experience in public ownership. Public utility problems at the present day.
The cost of government. Taxation, its forms and incidence. Leading principles of taxation. Local taxes. State taxes. National taxes. Economic and social purposes of taxation. The division of the taxing power between national and state governments. Suggested reforms in taxation. Government expenditures. How appropriations are made. The new national budget system. Public debts. Methods of public borrowing. Debt limits. How public debts are repaid.
(b) Social
The chief problems of health protection. Quarantine. The prevention of epidemics. Vital statistics, their nature and use. Some instances of progress in preventive medicine. Public sanitation. Public water supplies. Milk inspection. The inspection of food and drugs. Housing regulations. The work of local health boards. State health organization. The U. S. Public Health Service.
The problem of poverty. Old and new methods of dealing with it. The causes of poverty. Its prevention. Social insurance. Crime and its causes. Crime prevention. Prisons and prison reform. The care of mental defectives. Social amelioration and reform.
The public school system. State and local school authorities. State control of education. Educational work of the national government. School finance. The newer demands in education. Vocational education and vocational guidance. The Gary system. Wider use of the school plant. Americanization.

(c) International
Defense as a function of government. Militarism. The causes of war. The prevention of war. Preparedness. The regular army. The national guard. The national army during the World War. America's part in the war. Universal military service. The navy. The problem of disarmament.
The nature of international law. The control of foreign relations. The diplomatic service. Secret and open diplomacy. Treaties. Extradition. Outstanding features of American foreign policy. The Monroe Doctrine. American contributions to international law. The war and international relations.
Traditional foreign policy. Why isolation is no longer possible. Relations with other American states. Relations with Europe. American interests in the Far East. Interests acquired during the war. Pending questions of foreign policy. The loans to European powers. Mandates and special privileges. Other diplomatic problems.
The idea of a league of nations in history. Purposes of the Versailles covenant. Its chief provisions. America's objections to the League. The League as a scheme of government. The League at work. What it has accomplished. The position of the United States in the new world order.
Results of the war on political, social and economic organization. The growth of radicalism. The soviet system. Plans for socialist commonwealths. Direct action. The reconstruction of government by constitutional means. Can democracy solve the problems of today? American contributions to democracy in the past. The ideals of democracy. What America can contribute in the future.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are Gays Uniquely Vulnerable To Domestic Violence?

In the midst of a debate about the Violence Against Women Act, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez blurted out this startling statistic:
Here are some facts my GOP colleagues may be unaware of: 40 percent of gay men experience domestic abuse, as do 50 percent of lesbian women. 
As a supporter of gay marriage -- I was a bit startled, myself. This is one of the few times I have seen a fact that would seem to argue against allowing gays to marry. Could the Congresswoman -- who was doing what Congress critters do -- demanding extra funding and programs for an interest group -- be correct?

Well, the first thing to do when fact checking a politician's statistic is to try to run down the source. And, thanks to Google, here it is -- a fact sheet from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Do these statistics make sense? Are gay men and women really somehow more violent than the general population?

Well, um, no. In the case of gay men:

Gay and bisexual men experience abuse in intimate partner relationships at a rate of 2 in 5, which is comparable to the amount of domestic violence experienced by heterosexual women.
Which means, when you untangle the language used by the advocacy group, 40% of gay males, at some point in their lives, will experience an act of domestic violence (as defined by the advocacy group.)  Nothing unusual there. Nothing special there.

The lesbian statistic, though, startles. Are gay women more violent than gay men? Well, you'd think so, from the glib language of the Congresswoman. And you would think so, from the glib language of the fact sheet:
Approximately 50% of the lesbian population has experienced or will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.
In other places, however, you can find the reason:
However, this is because lesbians (vs. heterosexual women) are more likely to
have experienced IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) at the hands of female and male partners. Many lesbian have had intimate relationships with men prior to coming out as lesbians.One study on same-sex IPV found that about half of the 79 women in the sample had had relationships with men as well as with women.
Their findings indicate that male partners may pose a greater risk for IPV than female partners: of the total sample, about 39.2% reported being raped and/or physically abused by a partner in their lifetime (30.4% by male partner and 11.4% by a female partner).
To sum up -- there is a horrifying statistic on abuse in gay male relationships -- that is no different than the horrifying statistic for heterosexual relationships. And there is a horrifying statistic for lesbians -- that has little to do with their same sex partnerships.

So -- the question is -- why is there a special need for treating GLBT  domestic violence as somehow special? When it just looks like the general population?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mitch McConnell for GOP Spokesman!!

Finally, after much harumphing and blitherage from the GOP about the sequester, we finally see someone who can make the arguments needed in this stage of the budget wars, to counter Obama's nationwide tour of terror. And that, dear reader, is Mitch McConnell.

First, it is pretty clear that McConnell knows his opponent, and can characterize him memorably:
Now here we are, with the President presenting the country with two options: Armageddon or a tax hike. Well, it is a false choice, and he knows it, but the President is a master at creating the impression of chaos as an excuse for government action--do nothing, fan the flames of catastrophe, and then claim the only way out is more government in the form of higher taxes.
Second, McConnell grasps that the way to talk about the sequester is not to embrace Obama's narrative of doom, despair, and existential anguish, a la Boehner.
There is no reason in the world these cuts need to fall on essential services or emergency responders. After all, even with the sequester, Washington will be spending more than when President Obama got here. We are only talking about cutting one-tenth of what the President spent on the stimulus bill. Enough. Enough.
And, third, McConnell links the sequester argument into the larger GOP argument regarding governing.

The President has been going around warning of utter chaos if the sequester takes effect. While I agree that those cuts could be made in a much smarter way and I don't like the fact that they fall disproportionately on defense, what does it say about the size of government that we can't cut it by 2 or 3 percent without inviting disaster? Doesn't that really make our point? Hasn't government gotten too big if just cutting the overall budget by a couple of percentage points could have that kind of an impact?
It might be a good idea if Boehner works harder at NOT being the face of the GOP. Because he has a colleague who is simply much better at it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Memes That Never Die

The year is 1953. The time being described is 1946-7. A patriotic Socialist art dealer/super spy/ millionaire describes the US government to a young German:
"In the hotel dining room...they talked about the American elections. Lanny explained the peculiar system of American government, in which it could happen that the President and Congress were fighting each other, and everything they said or did was for political effect. Meantime, the bureaucrats would go on running the country as best they could. Congress would try to handicap them by denying them funds and would set up investigating committees which would subject them to hostile questionings."
 (Source is The Return of Lanny Budd, the last in a series of spy novels (!!??) by aging muckraker and self-proclaimed socialist gadfly Upton Sinclair.) But doesn't it sound like something our President might say?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Abortion Is The Worst Issue

Abortion is the worst issue, as it pits the basic right of one person, incapable of defending himself or herself, directly against the rights of another. It's amazing how politicians of left and right never seem to have a problem finding a nice comfortable spot to park their philosophy, and then spout the talking points they've adopted ever afterwards.

The right to life is pretty paramount. But it's a good idea to reflect, every so often, that there are sympathetic and powerful stories on the other side of the question. (Note -- this is not the usual sob story about wire hangers and desperate women in back allies.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obamacare -- It Wasn't For The Children After All

From the department of foreseeable but nevertheless unforeseen  consequences comes a an Obamacare fiasco in the making. The Regulators of Obamacare have determined that employers will only pay a penalty to the IRS if the individual  coverage to its employees is deemed to be not "affordable". (Affordable means the premium is less than 9.5% of W-2 income.)

Sounds reasonable, right? Family coverage -- at $15 to $20K per year per family per year -- is going to be much more than 9.5% of the income of anyone making less than $100K. A regulatory approach like this avoids a perverse incentive for employers to hire only single individuals.

But, in the magical world created by Obamacare, the reasonable actions one set of regulators take can often have a downright insane effect on how the other provisions operate. Health law expert Timothy Jost explains this at length in his post, cited above. But here is the bottom line explanation:
The bottom line seems to be that even though an employer must offer coverage for an employee and the employee’s children, the employer will not be penalized if family coverage is unaffordable as long as self-only coverage is affordable.  If self-only coverage is affordable (defined as costing no more than 9.5 percent of the employee’s income), the employer will have satisfied the employer responsibility requirement, even though family coverage is unaffordable.
On the other hand, if self-only coverage is affordable to the employee (defined now as costing no more than 8 percent of household income) an employee must purchase it to avoid the individual responsibility penalty, but need not purchase family coverage for dependents if family coverage costs more than 8 percent of household income. Spouses of employees, presumably, can get premium tax credits if they are not offered employer coverage, but the premium the employee must pay for self-only coverage will not be taken into account in determining the spouse’s eligibility. Family members eligible for employer coverage will not be eligible for premium tax credits if the employer can purchase self-only coverage for 9.5 percent of household income or less, even if family coverage costs more.
Employers can offer unaffordable family coverage and avoid a penalty. The federal government will pay less for premium tax credits as fewer people will be eligible. And hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of children (and spouses) will remain uninsured.
What does this mean, exactly? Families will not receive a subsidy to pay for their children's health insurance, nor will they pay a penalty for failing to provide it. That results in a large incentive not to insure for the children's health care. Add to that Obamacare's removal of preexisting condition requirements on individual policies and its mandate that policies not be priced to reflect the health of the insured, and you have an even larger incentive for people struggling to play chicken with their children's health coverage.

The bizarre thing is -- a legislative fix for this is unlikely. Requiring that premium credits be granted for family members would cost the US government billions, and requiring employers to provide affordable family coverage will create an incentive to hire people who do not have children (or not hire at all). The likely result is that at least some people will gamble with their children's health, and hurry to go buy an insurance policy for a child if it looks like he or she has a major health condition.

So, the next time Nancy Pelosi reminds us that a big government initiative is really for the children -- remember to laugh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Uses and Abuses of Emergencies

The bill designed to finance emergency spending triggered by Hurricane Sandy was debated in the Senate yesterday. This bill has been one of those poster children for Congressional ineffectiveness, since the Senate passed it last session, and the House rejected it -- while doing a poor job explaining the quantity of pork in the bill. -- and then passed a similar bill in the new session to avoid looking bad. Accordingly. the bill has become one of the Exhibits in demonstrating GOP heartlessness, cruelty, and fatuity. This is true, even though  a CBO analysis tells us that only 7 percent of the funding in this bill will be spent this year--FY 2013--and roughly 70 percent of the funding will not be spent until FY 2015 and beyond.

 John McCain (Maverick, AZ), in yesterday's debate, does something the press never does (and GOP members, for some strange reason, never seem able to do), and actually lists out the non-emergency spending in the legislation. I have cheerfully plagiarized his list below. Some items are small, some are large. None require immediate, right now, no delay action (for the reasons explained by the Senator.)
  1. Some of the spending is designed to replace government vehicles ($1 million for DEA to replace 15 vehicles; $230,000 for ATF to replace three vehicles; $300,000 for the Secret Service vehicles; and $855,000 for ICE vehicles.) The Federal Government currently owns or leases over 660,000 vehicles--surely we can find replacements within our current inventory.
  2. $16 billion for Community Development Block Grant funds for 47 States and Puerto Rico that can be used for events in 2011, 2012 and 2013. (In other words -- the appropriation is not specific to folks who are camping out in budget motels waiting to rebuild their New Jersey, New York, Connecticut homes.)
  3. There is $2 million to repair damage to the roofs of museums in Washington, D.C.,
  4. 50 million for National Park Service Historic Preservation grants.
  5. $180 million for the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Watershed Protection program, which helps restore watersheds damaged by wildfires and droughts for areas including Colorado; 
  6. Highway funding for the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; 
  7. $15 million for NASA facilities, though NASA itself has called its damage from the hurricane ``minimal.'' 
  8.  $111 million for a weather satellite data mitigation gap reserve fund, a controversial program created by President Obama by executive order for ocean zoning planning; 
  9. $8.5 million for weather forecasting equipment; 
  10. $23 million for the USDA ``Forest Restoration Program'' for planting trees on private property. This program is actually a Farm Bill subsidy program that's run by a relatively unknown agency called the ``Farm Service Administration'' which is primarily responsible for managing crop insurance. Under this program, private landowners with about 50 acres of land can apply for up to $500,000 in free grants for tree planting activities. 
  11. The bill also includes $118 million for taxpayer-supported AMTRAK, $86 million more than the President's request. While some of the funding will go for repairs, money will also go to increasing passenger capacity to New York and future mitigation efforts. In a 2-page letter from AMTRAK that gives a broad description of how the money will be spent, almost all of it falls under funding for future capital projects.  AMTRAK is up and running so it is not apparent why this funding is deemed ``emergency'' spending and included in this spending package. Keep in mind, AMTRAK receives roughly $1 billion in annual funding.
  12. The bill includes $100 million for Head Start;
  13.  $1 million for Legal Services Corporation; 
  14. $3.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers-- with little clarity on how the money will be spent. More projects are not something the Army Corps can handle. They are currently experiencing a backlog of construction and maintenance projects of approximately $70 billion
By the way -- chock full of waste or not -- this bill passed the Senate 62-36. Hope the Chinese like what they are spending their money on...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our President Is Displeased

From New Republic and Franklin Foer comes a Q&A with the newly re-elected President, which just shows a man who is ready and willing to be embittered and angry. So bitter, in fact that left-leaning New Republic felt compelled to label it "Barack Obama is Not Pleased".

And of course, how can he be? I mean, the man just faced a rousing electoral triumph, but he still is faced with this:
The House Republican majority is made up mostly of members who are in sharply gerrymandered districts that are very safely Republican and may not feel compelled to pay attention to broad-based public opinion, because what they're really concerned about is the opinions of their specific Republican constituencies. There are going to be a whole bunch of initiatives where I can get more than fifty percent support of the country, but I can't get enough votes out of the House of Representatives to actually get something passed. 
Obama recognzies just how tough it is to be a Republican:
I think John Boehner genuinely wanted to get a deal done, but it was hard to do in part because his caucus is more conservative probably than most Republican leaders are, and partly because he is vulnerable to attack for compromising Republican principles and working with Obama.
He just doesn't want to admit how tough it is to be a Democrat:
The same dynamic happens on the Democratic side. I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word. And I think at least leaders like myself—and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this—are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done.  
 (Mr. President -- if you honestly believe that...Well, I do you the credit of believing that you know you are lying) But, lest anyone think that Obama believes that Democrats really  are part of the problem... don't worry -- he doesn't:
There's not a—there's no equivalence there. In fact, that's one of the biggest problems we've got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity. And so the default position for reporting is to say, "A plague on both their houses." On almost every issue, it's, "Well, Democrats and Republicans can't agree"—as opposed to looking at why is it that they can't agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?
Poor Obama. He was going to change the tone in Washington. And he did. It's now worse. Maybe he'll work off the tension by shooting some more skeet.


Friday, January 25, 2013

The Bipartisans Want Your Medigap

In all the various howlings about Medicare, most of the focus has been on raising the eligibility age (to match the future increase in the eligibility age for Social Security). But the aggressively bipartisan budgeteers have another proposal, that I think would draw as much shouting, if anybody would just pay attention to it. Let's let Senator Orrin Hatch (R) describe the idea:
We need to modernize the Medigap Program by limiting supplemental Medicare insurance plans from covering initial out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries.
What does that mean?   Essentially, the elderly would be prevented from buying a policy that pays Medicare's deductibles. Of course, there is a good technocratic reason for that:
Almost 30 percent of beneficiaries have so-called Medigap policies that provide first-dollar coverage. Multiple studies have found that this 30 percent--the ones with Medigap insurance policies--use about 25 percent more services than those without similar coverage. This overutilization of services leads directly to higher costs for all seniors on Medicare.
In other words, the folks who pay an insurance company in order to avoid paying a Medicare deductible shouldn't be allowed to do that, because those people go to the doctor too much, and use more Medicare. As the Senator tells us: "Limiting first-dollar coverage will encourage seniors to make better health care choices and ensure the highest quality outcome while lowering costs for the entire Medicare Program.":

Of course, since this idea is somewhat subtle, it garners bipartisan support:
This policy was supported by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, and it was part of the Biden-Cantor deficit reduction negotiations in 2011. In addition, the Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee included this idea as part of a set of cost-sharing reforms in their 2011 deficit reduction proposal. The President's own 2011 deficit reduction package included a similar proposal to reduce costs associated with Medigap insurance plans.
But the costs to seniors would be real. The idea of going to the doctor is a lot less attractive for that alarming but undefined pain, when you know it is going to cost you $100 or so -- and maybe more. And that's precisely the point. Medicare saves money -- and the adverse health outcomes aren't easy to quantify. But the shock, when seniors learn that something is about to be taken from them, will have ugly political results. Can't imagine those results really benefit the GOP.

There are two ways to go about Medicare reform. One is a direct way -- by raising eligibility ages that tracks improving life expectancies, and the way Tip O'Neal and Ronald Reagan dealt with Social Security. And the other is the sneaky, zero sum, cost-shifting approach that is the hallmark of so much of Obamacare. In this case, it is the senior who is being stiffed for the greater good.

This approach is sneaky. It is designed to make elders pay more, and is an interference in the little bit of the free market left to health insurers. So why are Republicans supporting it?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Did Hillary Answer GOP Questions on Benghazi?

If you are one of my two or three regular readers, then you remember that just last week, Rep. Frank Wolf placed a series of unanswered Benghazi questions into the Congressional Record. Let's do an experiment and see if any of them were answered by Mrs. Clinton in her testimony yesterday. What is striking is that Wolf's questions -- which are based on a similar list Lindsay Graham circulated back in November -- were not always asked by the GOP Senators.  In particular, none of the GOP Senators asked about one of the larger bones of contention in the days when it looked like this might be an active scandal -- why a military response was not requested. Also, the Senators did not ask about a possible Al Qaeda connection to the attack -- which was a key part of Rep. Wolf's demand for a Special Benghazi investigative committee.

The original Wolf questions are intalicized. The indented material includes Secretary Clinton's statements.

With the inexplicable release of suspect Ali Harzi by Tunisian authorities earlier this month, why are there no suspects in custody?
 Upon [Harzi's} release, I called the Tunisian prime minister. A few days later,Director Mueller met with the Tunisian prime minister. We have been assured that he is under the monitoring of the court. He was released because at that time -- and Director Mueller and I spoke about this at some length -- there was not an ability for evidence to be presented yet that was capable of being presented in an open court. But the Tunisians have assured us that they are keeping an eye on him. I have no reason to believe he is not still in Tunis, but we are checking that all the time <Response to Senator Risch, who asked directly about Harzi> 
Well, I believe that -- well, I know that the FBI has been briefing some committees -- I
assume members or staff of this committee are included -- I don't know that, but I would assume -- about the progress of their investigation. I got the most recent update from the director just a few days ago, when he returned from North Africa. They are following some very promising leads and putting together cases. They would have to speak to you directly about that, in a classified setting. But I think what they are trying to determine is how best to respond. And I think what the president clearly said is, we will respond and we will bring those to justice. And I don't think anybody should doubt this president at his word. We have some very good examples of that. It may take time, but he does not in any way divert attention from the goal of bringing them to justice. <Response to Senator Barasso,t great length, essentially asked why there were no suspects in custody>
Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, Attorney General Holder and DNI Clapper still haven't testified before Congress--what steps did they take during the attack and in the days that followed?
 First, let's start on the night of September 11th itself and those difficult early days. I directed our response from the State Department, stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan government. <Opening Statement>
========================= =================================
Regarding what I was doing on September 11th, I was at the State Department all day and late into the night. At the -- during most of the day, prior to getting notice of the attack on our compound at Benghazi, we were very focused on our embassy in Cairo. That was under assault by a group of protesters. We were assessing the security of our embassy, which is, as those of you who have been there, certainty well defensed, but there were crowds that were intent upon trying to scale the wall, and we were in close communication with our team in Cairo.
I was notified of the attack shortly after 4 p.m. Over the following hours we were in continuous meetings and conversations, both within the department, with our team in Tripoli, with the interagency and internationally. I instructed our senior department officials and our diplomatic security personnel to consider every option to just break down the doors of the Libyan officials to get as much security support as we possibly could to coordinate with them. I spoke to the national security adviser, Tom Donilon,
several times. I briefed him on developments. I sought all possible support from the White House, which they quickly provided. Tom was my first call.
I spoke with our charge in Tripoli to get situation updates. I spoke with former CIA Director Petraeus to confer and coordinate, given the presence of his facility, which, of course, was not well- known but was something that we knew and wanted to make sure we were closely lashed up together. I talked with the then-Libyan National Congress president to press him on greater support, not only in Benghazi but also in Tripoli. I participated in a secure video conference of senior officials from the intelligence community, the White House and DOD. We were going over every possible option, reviewing all that was available to us, any actions we could take. We were reaching out to everyone we could find to try to get an update about Ambassador Chris Stevens, also our information specialist, Sean Smith. So it was a constant ongoing discussion and sets of meetings. I spoke with President Obama later in the evening to, you know, bring him up to date, to hear his perspective. Obviously, we kept talking with everyone during the night. Early in the morning on the 12th I spoke with General Dempsey, again with Tom Donilon.
The two hardest calls that I made were obviously to the families of Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. And it -- you know, they, I have to say, were extraordinary in their responses and their understanding of the pride we had in both men and gratitude we had for their -- for their service.
I would also just quickly add, Mr. Chairman, that while this was going on and we were trying to understand it, get on top of it, we were continuing to face protests, demonstrations, violence across the region and as far as India and Indonesia.  There were so many protests happening, and thousands of people were putting our facilities at risk, so we were certainly very determined to do whatever we could about Benghazi. We were relieved when we finally got the last of the Americans out of Benghazi, but then we were turning around dealing with the very serious threats facing so many of our other facilities.  <Answering Sen. Menendez who asked about her activities on 9/11> 
What were the President's activities during the seven-hour period of attack?
[Per the testimony of Clinton, she talked to the President but she (unsurprisingly) was not asked any question that would elicit an answer]
Why wasn't the U.S. military deployed to assist? On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, after multiple attacks this year on U.S. and Western interests, why were U.S. military units and assets in the region not ready, alert and positioned to respond? After all, two of the four people were killed seven hours after fighting began.
I saw firsthand what Ambassador Pickering and former Chairman Mullen called
timely and exceptional coordination: no delays in decision-making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military. <Opening Statement>
 But the specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn't see those requests. They didn't come to me. I didn't approve them. I didn't deny them. That's obviously one of the findings that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen made; that, you know, these requests don't ordinarily come to the secretary of state. <Response to Sen. Corker>
I think you get a sense of the challenge ...from a statement that Admiral Mullen made. You know, he said, and I quote, "On the night of the attacks, Benghazi, Tripoli and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away. The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there was simply not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference. Having said that," Admiral Mullen goes on, "it is not reasonable nor feasible to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world <Response to Senator Shaheen>
Why do we still not have clear answers on the internal process that produced the inaccurate talking points on which Ambassador Rice relied several days after the attack?
And you know, I wasn't involved in the talking points process. As I understand it, as I've been told, it was a typical interagency process, where staff, including from the State Department, all participated to try to come up with whatever was going to be made publicly available. And it was an intelligence product, and it's my understanding that the intelligence community is working with appropriate committees to kind of explain the whole process. <Response to Senator Risch>
You know, I understand -- I've been on the other side of the table. I understand trying to figure out what was going on and why were we told this, that and the other. But I can only assure you that as the information came to light and as people thought it was reliable, we shared it, but that took some time. <Response to Senator Flake>
Why were the testimonies of the U.S. personnel who were evacuated from Benghazi on September 12--eyewitnesses who knew there never was a demonstration outside the Consulate--not immediately factored in to the judgments of our intelligence community?
Well, first of all, Senator, I would say that once the assault happened and once we got our people rescued and out, our most immediate concern was, number one, taking care of their injuries -- as I said, I still a DS agent at Walter Reed seriously injured -- getting them into Frankfurt, Ramstein --
SEN. JOHNSON: Is that --
SEC. CLINTON: -- to get taken care of, the FBI going over immediately to start talking to them -- we did not think it was appropriate for us to talk to them before the FBI conducted their interviews, so -- and we did not -- I think this is accurate, sir -- I certainly did not know of any reports that contradicted the IC talking points at the time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows. And, you know, I just want to say that, you know, people have accused Ambassador Rice and the administration of, you know, misleading Americans. I can say, trying to be in the middle of this and understanding what was going on, nothing could be further from the truth. Was information developing? Was the situation fluid? Would we reach conclusions later that weren't reached initially?...

<Senator vs Secretary cross talk deleted.You can find it on YouTube. Why didn't Secetary Clinton drill down on whether there was a demonstration or not?? Here's her now famous answer...>
 Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. But the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But, you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we'll figure out what was going on in the meantime. <Response to Sen. Johnson>
We have a disagreement about what did happen and when it happened with respect to explaining the sequence of events. We did get to talk to the DS agents when they got back to this country. We did so. It was not before September 15th. We had no access to the surveillance cameras for weeks, which helped to answer a number of questions. <Response to Sen. McCain, who took Clinton to task for her response to Johnson>
 Why wasn't Secretary Clinton interviewed by the Pickering Commission?'
[Interestingly, none of the GOP Senators asked this question]
Was the White House aware of the FBI investigation of Gen. Petraeus? If not, why not?
[Not Hillary's area of expertise. Issue never came up.]
 There are also serious questions about links of this terrorist attack to the protests at the U.S. embassies in Cairo, Egypt, Tunis, Tunisia and Sanaa, Yemen that same week--where each American compound was breached by individuals allegedly linked to al Qaeda-affiliated groups. What, if any, were the connections between these incidents and the attack in Benghazi?
Yes, we now face a spreading jihadist threat. We have driven a lot of the AQ operatives out of the FATA, out of Afghanistan, Pakistan; killed a lot of them, including, of course bin Laden. But we have to recognize this is a global movement. We can kill leaders, but until we help establish strong democratic institutions, until we do a better job communicating our values and building relationships, we're going to be faced with this level of instability.  <Response to Sen. Corker>

Monday, January 21, 2013

Remember Benghazi? Well, Somebody Still Does. Really!

As we drift into Obama's second term, and the mind of everyone in DC seems focused on piddling gun control measures and whatever the President, the Senate and the GOP are going to do  about spending, it's good to remember there are still some unanswered questions laying around from the past Obama term. Congressman Frank Wolf reminds us of questions still unanswered about Benghazi:

With the inexplicable release of suspect Ali Harzi by Tunisian authorities earlier this month, why are there no suspects in custody?
Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, Attorney General Holder and DNI Clapper still haven't testified before Congress--what steps did they take during the attack and in the days that followed? 
What were the President's activities during the seven-hour period of attack?
Why wasn't the U.S. military deployed to assist? On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, after multiple attacks this year on U.S. and Western interests, why were U.S. military units and assets in the region not ready, alert and positioned to respond? After all, two of the four people were killed seven hours after fighting began.
Why do we still not have clear answers on the internal process that produced the inaccurate talking points on which Ambassador Rice relied several days after the attack?
Why were the testimonies of the U.S. personnel who were evacuated from Benghazi on September 12--eyewitnesses who knew there never was a demonstration outside the Consulate--not immediately factored in to the judgments of our intelligence community?
Why wasn't Secretary Clinton interviewed by the Pickering Commission?
Was the White House aware of the FBI investigation of Gen. Petraeus? If not, why not?
There are also serious questions about links of this terrorist attack to the protests at the U.S. embassies in Cairo, Egypt, Tunis, Tunisia and Sanaa, Yemen that same week--where each American compound was breached by individuals allegedly linked to al Qaeda-affiliated groups. What, if any, were the connections between these incidents and the attack in Benghazi?
All of these are good questions. Even if Benghazi was just one of those foul ups that was the result of silly mistakes made by underlings, they deserve official answers.

There is just one question I would add to this list, but it was one that has bothered me about the administration's response to Benghazi from the start. Why was the administration hell bent for leather on propounding the idea that it was the exercise of free speech rights in the USA that caused the death of our ambassador? The administration did not reluctantly concede this explanation might be the case. They embraced it with the ardor reserved for a long-absent hot girlfriend, and took steps (and publicized the taking those steps) to make sure that the guy who made the video was punished.

We'll see if this goes anywhere. But the media silence on Benghazi since Ambassador Rice pulled out of the running for Secretary of State has been striking -- and media silence usually means Congressional silence.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

GOP Freshmen Explain -- Why Fight on the Debt Limit

Having averted one fiscal cliff, the GOP majority in the house now face another one -- this one tied to the debt limit authorization. Naturally, the GOP wants to get its case out there, and started with a CSPAN dog and pony show Tuesday night, featuring the Freshman GOP class of 2012. Let's look at the transcript of what they had to say:

Let's start with newly minted Congressman Luke Messer of Indiana, who wants to highlight the importance of the upcoming debt limit debate and "the need to get serious about addressing the out-of-control spending and borrowing that is jeopardizing the American Dream for our children and grandchildren"

What are the fundamental questions involved? 
The fundamental question that this Congress needs to answer is whether Washington should take more than it already does from these hardworking, taxpaying Americans?
 Um, not sure what authorizing the debt limit has to do with tax increases, but never fear, Mr. Messer is opposed to tax increases. Next up, Susan Brooks of Indiana. This is what the debt limit debate means to her:
My message today is simple: On too many big items, Congress has been kicking the can down the road for years. It's time to supply real leadership on the most pressing challenges we face. This is the only way we can restore trust in Congress.
Well, OK.  But what does that have to do with allowing the government to pay the debt? Well, because these votes are "opportunities"
We're in a position to clearly see three obvious opportunities to make real, sustainable changes. First, we know we are approaching the debt ceiling. Second, sequestration will go into effect in 2 months, and third, funding for the government will expire March 27. These are opportunities to make real changes in spending.
In other words (Obama type words, to be exact), the debt limit must be held hostage in order to make real, sustainable changes. Swell. Over to you, Jackie Walorski of Indiana:
Mr. Speaker, I want to let the people of Indiana know that in the coming weeks they'll hear many assertions in the debate over whether Congress should increase the debt ceiling. The people of Indiana deserve to hear the truth. The entire Nation deserves to hear the truth:
And what is the truth? Why must a fight on what Congress appropriates be held over whether we pay the debts we owe (as opposed by the spending we authorize)?
Each day that we delay getting our fiscal house in order, we threaten the safety and well-being of those we love and care about the most. We threaten the opportunity and promise of future generations by limiting the resources we have to invest in infrastructure and education.
All true. All beside the point raised by authorizing an increase in the debt ceiling. All of this amounts to  justification of hostage taking for the greater good. Well, maybe, someone other than a Hoosier can do this better. Congressman Robert Pittenger, please do North Carolina proud. Tell us why fighting over the Debt Limit is necessary:
Our Nation is in peril. We are threatened, not by a foreign tyrant, but by our own reckless spending. Just today, the Fitch Ratings agency warned that our AAA credit rating is at risk.
 OK. But isn't the fact that we choose fights over the debt limit -- rather than the budget -- part of the problem?
Today the Fitch Ratings agency warned that our Nation's AAA credit rating is at risk if an increase in the debt ceiling doesn't also include a credible plan for deficit reduction.
 And here, finally, we have a rationale that links GOP actions to the issue at hand!! There's only one problem. You got to ask the question -- Is it true?  Well, let's go to the Fitch press release causing the commotion:
In Fitch's opinion, the debt ceiling is an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceiling risks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible.
 Uh oh. If a media factchecker bothers to care what is said on the floor of Congress, he's going to start breaking out all the Pinocchios. This would be too bad, because Fitch does, sort of say what Pittenger claims:
In the absence of an agreed and credible medium-term deficit reduction plan that would be consistent with sustaining the economic recovery and restoring confidence in the long-run sustainability of U.S. public finances, the current Negative Outlook on the 'AAA' rating is likely to be resolved with a downgrade later this year even if another debt ceiling crisis is averted.
But sort of  is not good enough when the media is hostile -- something any GOP  spokesman needs to learn, and learn quickly. Fitch's concerns would be answered by a deal based on ordinary budget negotiations between the House and Senate, and they would be far happier if the debt limit were not the budget battleground.

If these are the GOP arguments going into the debt limit fight -- they are going to be in for a whipping. The GOP needs to learn to fight spending issues when they are working on spending bills.