Saturday, January 28, 2017

GOP Hit Seniors With Higher Healthcare Costs

NPR: Republican lawmakers meeting in Philadelphia this week say they want their replacement of Obamacare's Affordable Care Act to be done by spring. There is no consensus on a plan yet, but several Republicans in Congress have already circulated proposals that could reduce or eliminate features of the federal health law that have benefited older Americans. Here are some examples:

Prescription drugs

The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicare's prescription drug benefit. Before the ACA, people on Medicare had to deal with a gap in that insurance coverage that came to be known as the doughnut hole. That's the point at which Medicare would stop paying part of the cost of drugs, and beneficiaries would have to buy them at full price. Then, when the patient's out-of-pocket costs reached a level deemed to be "catastrophic," Medicare would start paying most of the cost of the drugs again.

A 2011 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that when patients had to pay full price, they'd skip some of their prescribed medications — and that could, potentially, result in sicker patients and higher costs for Medicare.

Gradually, the ACA has been closing the doughnut hole coverage gap. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, beneficiaries have saved more than $23.5 billion in prescription drug costs. It's unknown if this program would be maintained in a Republican plan that replaces the ACA.


Medicaid is commonly thought of as the program that provides health care for the poor. But it also pays for long-term care for a lot of older people, including the majority of nursing home residents.

One idea in some of the Republican proposals for replacing the Affordable Care Act is to turn Medicaid from a guaranteed benefit into a block grant to states. States would get a fixed amount of money from the federal government, and could make their own decisions on how to spend it.

That's an idea that's been popular for some time among conservatives such as House Speaker Paul Ryan. They argue that states know their needs better than Washington does, and the block grant would give states flexibility in meeting those needs.

Critics fear this could do away with many protections that federal law currently provides for vulnerable older people. They also worry about what might happen in an economic downturn, when the demand for Medicaid goes up, but the amount of federal money allocated for it stays the same. For example, would states have to choose between cutting services for poor children versus cutting programs for the frail elderly?

Limiting the cost of insurance premiums for older adults

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could charge people in their 50s and 60s many times more than they'd charge a younger person for the same policy. The affordable care act put a limit on that. Now Insurance companies can only charge older people three times as much as they charge people a few decades younger. But the various GOP replacement proposals either set higher limits — five or six times higher — or they don't have any limits at all.

A study sponsored by the Rand Corporation and the Commonwealth Fund found that if older Americans were charged five times more for insurance than younger people, about 400,000 would no longer be able to afford to buy health insurance.

Friday, January 27, 2017

GOP Looking For A Healthcare Strategy

The Washington Post has obtained a secret recording of a closed-door meeting between Republican lawmakers – and it reveals them expressing serious doubts about how they are going to live up to their promises to the American people of getting rid of Obamacare, while at the same time initiating a replacement without creating chaos.

In the recording, a number of concerns were raised, but chief among them was how they were going to do this in a way that wouldn’t hurt them when the next election comes up.

What’s most striking about the conversations, however, was that key Republicans admitted that they didn’t know what to do as far as a replacement plan is concerned.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

But Clinton Won By 2.86 Million Votes

Democrats who are having trouble moving on from the first stage of grief — denial — over Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump still defend the loss by saying, "but Clinton won by 2,864,974 votes nationwide, even if she did lose the electoral college vote." But a critical look at the numbers reveals a national problem for Clinton, and Democrats in general.

Clinton’s 2.86 million-vote edge came from but 489 of our 3,144 counties. In 2016, 209 of the 676 counties that cast majorities for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 backed Trump, many in the Midwest. The space between is best measured by economics. The 16 percent of counties supporting Clinton account for 65 percent of our GNP, and their median home price is 60 percent higher than in counties carried by Trump.
It was Obama’s voters who didn't turn out to vote in 2016, or who voted for Trump, who put Trump over the top in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. If Trump produces, they’ll reward him with a second term. If he doesn’t — and he needs to create lots of high-paying jobs in the face of automation and a global economy moving in other directions — then they’ll be ripe to come home to the Democratic Party — if Democrats give them an appealing nominee.
While Clinton earned 900,000 more votes than Obama in California in 2012, and almost 600,000 more in Texas, she underperformed him in the swing states, and particularly Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Voter turnout, key to both of Obama’s victories, fell to its lowest level in two decades, with Black voter turnout dropping sharply after twenty years of steady rises.

The Pew Research Center conducted an unusually robust survey of the 2016 electorate. In addition to having asked people how they voted, Pew’s team verified that they did, giving us a picture not only of the electorate but also of those who didn’t vote. There are a number of interesting details that emerge from that research, including a breakdown of President Trump’s support that confirms much of his base has backed him enthusiastically since the Republican primaries. The data also makes another point very clear: Those who didn’t vote are as responsible for the outcome of the election as those who did. Ninety percent of Bernie Sanders’ primary supporters did vote, and they voted for Hillary Clinton. In contrast, only 75 percent of Clinton’s 2008 primary supporters voted for Barack Obama in the general election. The 2015 non-voter group includes a larger than typical block of long time Democratic voters who were not motivated to voter for Clinton.

Donald Trump owes his victory in the Electoral College to three states he won by the smallest number of votes: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So it's fair to say that the 2016 presidential election was decided by about 77,000 votes out of than 136 million ballots cast. According to the final tallies, Trump won Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points (44,292 votes), Wisconsin by 0.7 points (22,748 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (10,704 votes). If Clinton had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260.
Trump's victory in these three states was a big shift from 2012, when Obama won Michigan by 9.5 points, Wisconsin by 6.7 points, and Pennsylvania by 5.2 points. Although the national vote swung only about 3 points toward GOP in 2016 (leaving Hillary Clinton as the narrow winner of the popular vote), these three states swung by 6 to 10 points toward the Republican presidential nominee.

So what accounts for the swing? A close look at the exit polls reveals a slightly different story in each state, but most of the change is due to the fact that Clinton performed much worse than Obama did among middle- and low-income voters.

In Pennsylvania, overall turnout was up from 2012 (from 5.6 million to 6 million), but the racial composition of the electorate was significantly different. Clinton won 92 percent of African-Americans and Obama won 93 percent of African-Americans. But in 2012, black voters made up 13 percent of the electorate; in 2016, they comprised just 10 percent of the electorate.

In terms of raw votes, that means roughly 130,000 fewer African-Americans voted in Pennsylvania in 2016 than voted in 2012. If those voters had shown up on Tuesday, that alone would've been enough for Clinton to hold Pennsylvania by a razor-thin margin.

Clinton lost white voters by 16 points (40 percent to 56 percent); in 2012, Obama lost white Pennsylvania voters by 15 points (42 percent to 57 percent). But white voters accounted for 81 percent of of the 2016 electorate and 78 percent of the 2012 electorate.

The big shift in Pennsylvania occurred among to lower- and middle-income voters. Among those earning less than $50,000, Clinton won by 12 points (54 percent to 42 percent); in 2012, Obama won this group by 36 points (67 percent to 31 percent). Clinton and Obama won the same percentage of voters earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (41 percent) and the same percentage of those earning more than $100,000 (45 percent).

In Wisconsin, turnout was down slightly (from 3.06 million in 2012 to 2.95 million in 2016), but the racial composition of the electorate was the same, according to the exit polls: 86 percent white, 7 percent black, and 4 percent Latino.

In the last two presidential elections in Wisconsin, the Democrat won almost the same percentage of black voters (94 percent in 2012 and 92 percent in 2016). But Clinton lost white Wisconsin voters by 11 points (42 percent to 53 percent), whereas Obama lost white voters by only 3 points in 2012 (48 to 51).

The biggest swing was among voters earning less than $50,000. Clinton won that group by 4 points (49 percent to 45 percent); Obama won that group by 25 points (62 percent to 37 percent). Clinton lost those earning $50,000 to $100,000 by 6 points, but Obama lost them by just 1 point.

There was also a big swing among Wisconsin voters earning $100,000 or more: Clinton edged out Trump among this group by 2 points (48 percent to 46 percent), but Obama lost that group by 20 points in 2012 (39 percent to 59 percent).

In Michigan, turnout was only up slightly (from 4.72 million to 4.79 million ballots cast). The white share of the electorate shrunk from 77 percent to 75 percent, while the black share was down from 16 percent to 15 percent, and the Latino share was up from 3 percent to 5 percent. Obama and Clinton won close to the same percentage of minority voters, but Clinton lost white voters by 21 points; Obama lost them by 11 points.

The big shift, again, came among voters earning less than $50,000. (Median household income is $49,000 in Michigan and about $53,000 in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania).

Clinton won Michiganders earning less than $50,000 by 11 points (53 percent to 42 percent); Obama won them 26 points (62 to 36 percent). Obama lost those earning $50,000 to $100,000 by 1 point (49 percent to 50 percent); Clinton lost them by 8 points (43 percent to 51 percent). Among those earning $100,000 or more, Clinton lost by 8 points (43 percent to 51 percent); Obama lost them by 4 points (48 percent to 52 percent).

As the election results sink in, anyone who wants to attribute Trump's victory to racism will need to account for the fact that it was white Obama voters who provided Trump with his margin of victory in the three states that decided the election.

The state that gave Trump his largest margin of victory was Texas, where he beat Clinton by only 807,179 votes out of 8,969,226 total votes cast. While Trump won 30 states, his margin of victory ranged from less than 100,000 votes up to just over five hundred thousand votes, state by state, except for Texas and his 642,000 vote margin in Tennessee.

Clinton won 21 states, including DC, but her margin of victory in the states she won was not as good as Trump's victory margin, in the states he won.
Ave. margin of victory in winning states:
Trump: 56%
Clinton: 53.5%
Trump: + 2.5 points
Clinton's national vote lead comes from seven states where she won very out-sized victories over Trump. These seven states, topped by California, allowed Clinton to run up her popular vote victory by 2,864,974 votes. In fact, Clinton loses by 1.4 million votes when California's vote tallies aren't included as part of the national aggregate of votes.

State Clinton Trump Win
CA 8,753,788 4,483,810 4,269,978
NY 4,547,218 2,814,346 1,732,872
IL 3,090,729 2,146,015 944,714
MA 1,995,196 1,090,893 904,303
MD 1,677,928 943,169 734,759
NJ 2,148,278 1,601,933 546,345
WA 1,742,718 1,221,747 520,971
California is the only state where Clinton's margin of victory was bigger than President Obama's in 2012 — 61.5% vs. Obama's 60%. Clinton got 6% more votes than Obama did In 2008, but the number of registered Democrats in the state climbed by 13% over those years.

What's more telling is the GOP won almost all of the swing state Senate elections, including a robust showing in the diverse swing state of Florida, and a blowout in crucial Ohio.

In the U.S House distributed national aggregate of votes, Republicans topped Democrats by more than 2.7 million votes, nearly equaling Hillary Clinton's national popular vote total — not because more people voted Republican, but because fewer Democrats turned out to vote for Clinton, so they didn’t vote for their House, or Senate, Democratic candidates.

An astonishing spectacle of the election aftermath is the false account of why Trump won. The accepted wisdom is that Trump succeeded in awakening a popular movement of anger and frustration among white, blue-collar, less educated, mostly male, voters, particularly in non-urban areas. Trump promised them jobs, safe borders, and dignity, and they responded by turning out in masses at his pre-election rallies and eventually at the ballots, carrying him to victory.

This story is mostly wrong. Trump did not win because he was more attractive to this base of white voters. He won because Hillary Clinton was less attractive to the traditional Democratic base of urban, minorities, and more educated voters. This is a profound fact, because Democratic voters were so extraordinarily repelled by Trump that they were supposed to have the extra motivation to turn out. Running against Trump, any Democratic candidate should have ridden a wave of anti-Trump sentiment among these voters. It therefore took a strong distaste for Hillary Clinton among the Democratic base to not only undo this wave, but to lose many additional liberal votes.

Take Michigan for example. A state that Obama won in 2012 by 350,000 votes, Clinton lost by roughly 10,000. Why? She received 300,000 votes less than Obama did in 2012. Detroit and Wayne County should kick themselves because of the 595,253 votes they gave Obama in 2012, only 518,000 voted for Clinton in 2016. More than 75,000 Motown Obama voters did not bother to vote for Clinton. They did not become Trump voters – Trump received only 10,000 votes more than Romney did in this county. They simply stayed at home. If even a fraction of these lethargic Democrats had turned out to vote, Michigan would have stayed blue.

Wisconsin tells the same numbers story, even more dramatically. Trump got no new votes. He received exactly the same number of votes in America’s Dairyland as Romney did in 2012. Both received 1,409,000 votes. But Clinton again could not spark many Obama voters to turn out for her: she tallied 230,000 votes less than Obama did in 2012. This is how a 200,000-vote victory margin for Obama in the Badger State became a 30,000-vote defeat for Clinton.

This pattern is national. Clinton’s black voter turnout dropped more than 11 percent compared to 2012. The support for Clinton among active black voters was still exceedingly high (87 percent, versus 93 percent for Obama), but the big difference was the turnout. Almost two million black votes cast for Obama in 2012 did not turn out for Clinton. According to one plausible calculation, if in North Carolina blacks had turned out for Clinton as they had for Obama, she would have won the state.

Whatever Trump successfully stirred among GOP voters was not enough to win the election. Trump won despite being flawed in many ways, because Hillary Clinton was deemed even more flawed by her own base.

It is remarkable and surprising that the elections were decided by Democrats distaste for Clinton and not Trump’s ability to reach expand the Republican vote. Think back to the weeks leading to the elections. There was a shared sense that the Republican party was losing and even disintegrating because it was unable to clamp down on a renegade candidate, having allowed populism to prevail in the primaries. The Democratic party, by contrast, was thought to be on the verge of victory and even a sweep of the Senate because it was cold calculated, using its ironfisted internal machination to discard the populist candidate and to present the then-thought more “electable” Clinton. How wrong that perception turned out to be!

Clinton's 2016 loss culminates a trend of losses for Democrats over multiple election cycles. Democrats lost another net 43 seats in legislatures across the country in 2016, after previously losing 910 seats during Obama's administration. Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in 2016.

Democratic Decline Down Ballot

The economically ascendant counties Clinton won, largely urban and suburban, are geographically isolated. Democrats occupy archipelagos — islands of the relatively privileged surrounded by what has become, to them, an unknown largely rural land, in which less educated and more aggrieved voters dog paddle to survive. The counties that switched their votes from voting twice for Obama to Trump were far smaller, whiter, and slower-growing than the rest of the Obama coalition. The population of counties that flipped to Trump was 78% white. But individual voters in those counties that flipped didn't switch from Obama to Trump, for the most part they just didn't vote for Clinton or they voted for a third party presidential candidate.

The growing economic disparity among voters aggravates a growing “despair gap” of in equality. A study by the Center for American Progress found a direct correlation between the percentage of “underwater” homes and counties that voted for Trump. Similarly, a sociology professor at Penn State found Trump fared better in counties where the mortality rates caused by drugs, alcohol, and suicide were highest. What issued from Trump’s America was a desperate and angry cry for economic help.

After the 2016 election, Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Republicans hold more total state legislative seats in the nation, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920. Democrats now have total control of just 13 state legislatures.

States With Unified Party Control
Republicans dominate state legislatures to gerrymander political power in America.

Republicans gained 2 more states' governor-ships in 2016, after already gaining 12 over the last 8 years, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922. Democrats had also lost 69 US House seats and 13 US Senate seats since 2009 and barely managed to stem further losses in 2016, with only a net two seat gain in the U.S. Senate resulting in a 52-48 Republican majority, and net six seat gain in the U.S. House, resulting in a 241-194 Republican majority.

Number of electoral votes won:
Trump: 306
Clinton: 232
Trump: + 68

Popular vote total:
Trump: 62,958,211
Clinton: 65,818,318
Clinton: + 2.8 million

Popular vote total outside California:
Trump: 58,474,401
Clinton: 57,064,530
Trump: + 1.4 million

Some blame James Comey and the FBI. Some blame voter suppressionand racism. Some blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. Some blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry.

But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: centrist neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party – is no match for right wing extremism. The choice to follow the neoliberal centrist policy strategy is what sealed our fate to losing more than 1,000 elected office seats to Republicans. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?

Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal centrist policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.

At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.

For the people who saw security and status as their birthright – and that means white men most of all – these losses are unbearable.

Donald Trump speaks directly to that pain. The Brexit campaign spoke to that pain. So do all of the rising far-right parties in Europe. They answer it with nostalgic nationalism and anger at remote economic bureaucracies – whether Washington, the North American free trade agreement the World Trade Organisation or the EU. And of course, they answer it by bashing immigrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading women. Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they threw the party.

Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.

Neo-fascist responses to rampant insecurity and inequality are not going to go away. But what we know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left. A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal. Such a plan could create a tidal wave of well-paying unionised jobs, bring badly needed resources and opportunities to communities of colour, and insist that polluters should pay for workers to be retrained and fully included in this future.

It could fashion policies that fight institutionalised racism, economic inequality and climate change at the same time. It could take on bad trade deals and police violence, and honour indigenous people as the original protectors of the land, water and air.

People have a right to be angry, and a powerful, intersectional left agenda can direct that anger where it belongs, while fighting for holistic solutions that will bring a frayed society together.

Such a coalition is possible. In Canada, we have begun to cobble it together under the banner of a people’s agenda called The Leap Manifesto, endorsed by more than 220 organisations from Greenpeace Canada to Black Lives Matter Toronto, and some of our largest trade unions.

Bernie Sanders’ amazing campaign went a long way towards building this sort of coalition, and demonstrated that the appetite for democratic socialism is out there. But early on, there was a failure in the campaign to connect with older black and Latino voters who are the demographic most abused by our current economic model. That failure prevented the campaign from reaching its full potential. Those mistakes can be corrected and a bold, transformative coalition is there to be built on.

That is the task ahead. The Democratic party needs to be either decisively wrested from pro-corporate neoliberals, or it needs to be abandoned. From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, to the Occupy alumni who took the Bernie campaign supernova, there is a stronger field of coalition-inspiring progressive leaders out there than at any point in my lifetime. We are “leaderful”, as many in the Movement for Black Lives say.

So let’s get out of shock as fast as we can and build the kind of radical movement that has a genuine answer to the hate and fear represented by the Trumps of this world. Let’s set aside whatever is keeping us apart and start right now.

The Democratic Party has been obliterated. Hillary Clinton's narrow loss to Donald Trump was the shock felt 'round the world, but there's been an even deeper decline in the Democratic Party at the state and local level. The Obama administration has overseen the loss of roughly a tenth of the party's Senate seats, a fifth of its House and state legislative seats, and a third of its governorships, something which hasn't been seen since the repeated routs of Republicans in the 1930s.

There are unquestionably many factors behind this result. But I want to focus on the biggest one that was completely under Democrats' control. It is the same thing that killed the Republicans of Hoover's generation: gross mishandling of an economic crisis. Democrats had the full run of the federal government from 2009-10, during the worst economic disaster in 80 years, and they did not fully fix mass unemployment, nor the associated foreclosure crisis. That is just about the most guaranteed route to electoral death there is.

In the 1970s, the Democrats gradually embraced the neoliberal ideology of markets and deregulation, setting the stage for later disasters. One under-noticed corollary of this was forgetting the previous generation's economic wisdom. More and more, Democrats embraced the ideas that markets were self-regulating, that unions were not worth defending, that monopolies were nothing to get worked up over, and that large deficits were by definition bad.

A similar process of forgetting had been happening within the profession of economics, and so outside of a small minority of heterodox critics, the 2008 Great Recession struck economists unawares. The ones who hadn't forgotten their Keynes and Minsky, like Paul Krugman, quickly regrouped and presented the Democrats with the policy that solved the Great Depression: huge fiscal and monetary stimulus. When there is a self-fulfilling collapse in spending, the government must step in as the spender of last resort, as it did during the New Deal and World War II.

In the early months of the Obama administration, when it seemed like the world was falling apart, this logic gained much purchase, leading to the passage of the Recovery Act stimulus package. But even then Krugman and company ran headlong into a problem of ideology. Centrist Democratic senators insisted, for no reason other than sticker shock, that the stimulus could only be so big — not even close to the estimated size of the economic hole left by the collapse. Krugman's arguments that it should be massively larger than that estimate — in order to hedge against an underestimation of the size of the collapse, which was prescient indeed — fell on deaf ears.

And after the first stimulus failed to restore full employment, the ideology problem got much worse. The D.C. political and media elite, including President Obama and most other Democratic big shots, became absolutely obsessed with cutting the deficit. The ensuing austerity (much of it caused by post-2010 Republican obstruction, to be fair) dramatically slowed the recovery. It is only in the last year that unemployment has declined to a reasonably good level, and the fraction of prime working-age people with a job is still worse than the bottom of the previous two recessions. What's more, the fruits of the recovery have been highly unequal, with much of the income flowing to the top 1 percent, and most rural places left out. (Sound familiar?)

The problem was that the party never really internalized the logic of Keynesianism, and as a result was incapable of thinking strategically about their political position. Neoliberalism had become hegemonic ideology, which takes serious effort to lever out of someone's head, and nobody was in a position to do it. Practically the whole party — and indeed the "nonpartisan" media as well — had been raised on the idea that deficits are bad for their entire lives (cemented in place by hundreds of millions of dollars in agitprop spending from Wall Street ideologues). Keynesianism — which implies things like "you can fix a recession by printing money and handing it to people" — sounded extreme and suspect. Media budget coverage to this day is usually written with an implicit presumption that deficit cutting is the ultimate good in budget policy.
That's how the party ended up with its most vulnerable members — centrist Blue Dogs in the South — hawking austerity during the worst mass unemployment crisis in 80 years. Almost all of them lost in 2010. That loss, in turn, paved the way for many of the other major problems Democrats are having. That was a census year, and huge Republican victories allowed them to control the subsequent redistricting process, in which they gerrymandered themselves a 7-point handicap in the House of Representatives and in many state legislatures.

That brings me to the foreclosure crisis, the handling of which was even worse. Instead of partially ameliorating it as with employment, the Obama administration helped it happen. As David Dayen writes in Chain of Title, the financial products underpinning the subprime mortgage boom were riddled with errors, and in order to be able to foreclose on people who had defaulted, they had to commit systematic document fraud. This epic crime spree gave the White House tremendous leverage to negotiate a settlement to keep people in their homes, but instead the administration co-opted a lawsuit from state attorneys general and turned it into a slap on the wrist that reinvigorated the foreclosure machine. There was also $75 billion in the Recovery Act to arrest foreclosures, but the administration's effort at this, HAMP, was such a complete disasterthat they only spent about 16 percent of the money and enabled thousands of foreclosures in the process.

As a direct result, the homeownership rate has plummeted to levels not seen since the 1960s.

This disaster is somewhat harder to explain, because it seems so nuts. Why on Earth would anyone do this? Once again I think the problem is ideology. Neoliberal-inspired deregulation hugely empowered the financial sector, and finance — fueled by impressive-sounding and complicated products developed by the some of the smartest people in the country — came to occupy a disproportionate portion of total economic output and an even larger fraction of corporate profits. From thence it became a major source of campaign contributions. As Washington became saturated with the money and ideology of bankers, assisted by partisans of the "self-regulating market" like Alan Greenspan, it came to seem that the main task of banking policy was keeping an increasingly bloated and unstable Wall Street on its feet.

So when the crisis happened, the main thing the political system managed to do was fling money at bankers until the financial sector was stabilized. Afterwards, the idea that bankers might have committed crimes — might in fact have had whole floors of people committing crimes all day long — was simply too big to swallow. So Democrats — many of whom no doubt had plush consulting gigs in the back of their mind — basically looked the other way. No bankers went to jail, and over nine million people lost their homes.

This is not to absolve Republicans of their obstruction in Congress or President-elect Donald Trump or anything else. But the fact of the matter is that Democrats had two golden years to fix the depression, restore the housing market, hold Wall Street to account, and cement a new generation of loyal Democrats, and they bobbled it.

President Obama's spectacular charisma — and his savvy campaign against a filthy rich vulture capitalist in 2012 — papered over these problems to some extent. But for most of his presidency America has basically ceased to function for a huge fraction of the population. Fair or not, the party perceived to be responsible for that situation is going to be punished at the polls.

Hillary Clinton was an extraordinarily terrible candidate for the Democrats to run in 2016.

Donald Trump's approval rating is 38 percent. President Obama's just bumped up to 57 percent. No amount of furious dissembling from humiliated Clinton partisans will convince me that Obama — and very probably Bernie Sanders — wouldn't have beaten Trump handily.

So what gives?

Let me start by noting that the overallpolls were off, but not by that much. They predicted a Clinton victory by about about 3 points. And in the popular vote, that prediction was reasonably close.

What tipped the election was about 100,000 votes spread across just three states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Here's where the polls did seriously botch things. Trump won these states by 1, 0.3, and 1.2 points respectively (assuming the close result in Michigan holds). The poll averages showed Clinton winning these states by roughly 6 points, 3 to 7 points, and 2 to 5 points respectively, depending on who you ask.

Some people did correctly point to this outcome being a possibility. Remarkably, most of them relied heavily on gut-check analysis. Zach Carter and Ryan Grim wrote way back in February that Trump could win by peeling off Rust Belt states, based on little more than intuitions about trade and general voting patterns. Michael Moore hypothesized something similar. Nathan J. Robinson wrote around the same timethat Clinton would lose because she is a wooden, uninspiring campaigner who was almost uniquely vulnerable to Trump-style attacks on character and integrity.

Van Jones was perhaps most prescient of all. In June, he argued that Trump would not gaffe himself out of the election, because outrageous statements help him get attention on social media; that tut-tutting about his lack of realistic policy would not work, because voters neither know nor care about that; and that he could potentially win over Rust Belt whites attracted to Trump's anti-trade messaging, because "we're not paying attention to a big chunk of America that is hurting — that would accept any change, the bigger the better."

With the benefit of hindsight, I think we can add a couple more factors to the pile. First is the self-deception of the Clinton campaign and its media sycophants. She did not visit Wisconsin at all between April and the election, and largely abandoned Obama's working-class message from 2012 in favor of portraying Trump as a dangerous, woman-hating maniac.

They were enabled in this by pro-Clinton publications, which churned out endless slavish portrayals of Clinton as some kind of wizard of politics and policy, whose grasp of fine detail would surely deliver the electoral goods. In fact, it turned out that her vaunted algorithm-driven turnout machine was contacting tons of Trump voters. Paul Romer points to the problem of "mathiness" in economics, where complicated and intimidating theoretical symbolism is built up without establishing clear linkages to the real world. Lots of computers, theories, and datasets might be the most sophisticated way to attack voter turnout, or it might be a way to simply appear sophisticated while dismissing people whose ideas don't come packaged with a science-y veneer. (Something similar seems to have happened to the wonky election-simulator people.)

Then there is the Clintons' omnipresent aura of scandal and corruption, which is about 50 percent unfair double standard and 50 percent totally their fault. The political media has been obsessed with the Clintons for 20 years to a frankly psychotic degree, particularly given how much worse the stories about Trumpwere. On the other hand, the Clintons enable that coverage with a paranoid and secretive attitude, and an obvious hatred of the press. The Clinton Foundation coverage was unfair compared to the much worse Trump Foundation, but then again, there was some genuinely skeezy stuff in there. There's a good chance that FBI Director James Comey's vague letter about emails to congressional Republicans, which led to an extremely ill-timed media firestorm, tipped the election to Trump. But then again, she might have avoided the whole story by following the dang rules in the first place.

I always assumed that if Clinton were nominated for president, the race would be dominated by some weird quasi-scandal that dragged on for month after month. It's not fair, but it is simply the reality of the Clintons. At some point, one simply has to take that into account.

That brings me to a final point: Clinton's general political affect. She is not a great campaigner (by her own admission), a rather robotic speaker, and most of all, a dynasty politician who very obviously got the nomination because the party elite cleared the decks for her. Given how the party has evolved, her political history was filled with devastating indictments of her judgment and priorities. Even after getting a reasonably good party platform (after just barely beating back about the most unlikely primary challenger imaginable), she was a non-credible vehicle for it. Without Obama's mesmerizing charisma and political energy, her image was defined by things like taking millions of dollars for secret speeches to Wall Street banks and refusing to release the transcripts. She simply was not a good fit for the party, and a terrible avatar of the party in a country furious at self-dealing elite institutions of all kinds.

Hillary Clinton was a heavily compromised candidate and bad campaigner who grossly misjudged the political terrain, and thus bled just enough of the Obama coalition to let Trump sneak past. If we ever get to vote again, let's hope the party learns from this epic disaster.

And that, now, is the key question: Where do the Democrats go from here?

The Democratic Party is a smoking crater. Despite winning more votes at the national level, and more votes for the House of Representatives, the party has lost the presidency, Congress, 69 percent of state legislatures, and 33 governorships. Republicans are only a handful of state houses away from being able to amend the Constitution on a party line vote.

What is to be done? A mood of despair permeates the many liberals I know who are talking and writing about the result. Hillary Clinton was a decent candidate running against a deranged, racist maniac who lied constantly and endlessly about everything. Perhaps the thing to do is hope that after four years of Trump looting the country, America will have wised up to the con.

That is a luxury we can't afford, at least if we care about trying to preserve the world biosphere and civilization in anything like its current state. I suggest that the only reasonably promising route forward for the Democrats is full-throated social democracy, with the full complement of race, gender, and LGBT-specific protections. It's the only way to restore enough of the working-class white votes won by Obama without losing margins among black and brown voters.

Clinton's loss was extremely narrow, resting on only a handful of votes in three Rust Belt states. Many factors could have plausibly tipped the balance: FBI Director James Comey's letter, Republican vote suppression, Clinton's stunningly incompetent tactics and uninspiring campaign, and her lack of appeal to the working class of all races. Remove any one of those and Trump probably wouldn't have made it over the top.

Now, I should admit that I did predict a Clinton win. I blindly trusted the poll aggregators, and that made for some really bad calls. Just about everyone in political writing (with a few exceptions) needs to eat some crow, and I'm no exception.

However, back in April 2015, I also argued that Clinton was disastrously misjudging the politics of the presidential race. I suspected she would pitch her campaign largely to the money seats, and run on fiddly little tax credits instead of strong, simple, universal social programs. I thought she would do this out of some combination of not wanting to alienate the donor class and genuine ideological commitment.

That prediction panned out unfortunately well. But in hindsight, the argument against running such a campaign is even stronger than it appeared. Back then, I argued that Clinton might take a hit in fundraising, but that it wouldn't be a big deal because political spending isn't worth nearly as much during presidential campaigns. But Bernie Sanders' campaign shows that with a credible social-democratic agenda, you can raise staggering sums from millions of small donors. He was quite competitive with Clinton money-wise, and indeed surpassed her in some periods.

Conversely, Clinton's insider ties to Big Finance deeply harmed her. Taking millions of dollars to give secret speeches to banks, then refusing to release the transcripts, looks (and probably is) horrendously corrupt. Democrats' coziness with big corporations, especially the Wall Street swindlers who wrecked the economy, is hurting them coming and going.

What Democrats need is a set of policies and personalities that will mobilize a hard core of committed activists. And again, if the Sanders campaign is any indication, strong, universal benefits — tuition-free college for everyone, single-payer coverage (or the nearest thing to it) for everyone, retirement security for everyone, and so on — coupled to an anti-corruption message, cricket-bat regulation of Wall Street, all sold by a credible candidate, inspires fervent enthusiasm.

People like benefits that are simple, guaranteed, and easy to access. Conversely, ObamaCare is disliked in part because its most visible part, the exchange system, is an obnoxious pain in the neck. Means testing is bad policy and worse politics; the way to make sure billionaires don't benefit unduly from social programs is by hiking their taxes.

As part of this, Dems should also shed their preening "wonky" self-presentation. Hillary Clinton had a whole office stuffed full of policy experts churning out papers on everything under the sun, and it was all for naught. Remember that the point of campaigns is to set values and priorities, not lay out hugely complicated policies that do little but flatter the campaign's sense of its own expertise. How many people were swayed by Clinton's last-minute plan to make the Child Tax Credit somewhat more refundable for certain parents? I'd wager it was in the triple digits at best.

That's not to say that realistic ideas are bad, or that one should be deliberately dishonest, but that the time for drilling down on the minute details is after the election is won.

Genuine, credible populism will also help Democrats with some of their other problems. Vote suppression, for example, often works by making voting a huge pain in the neck, not explicitly illegal. Democrats need real enthusiasm and institutional structures like unions (which will be addressed in the final entry in this series) and pro-democracy nonprofits to help people turn out in the face of these headwinds.

Finally, there is the issue of specific concerns around race, gender, religion and so on. I have not dwelt on this much because I take it as axiomatic that Democrats cannot abandon these constituencies. Some have suggested that perhaps Democrats should ditch identity concerns so as to better pursue white voters, like Bill Clinton did when he attacked a black female rapper and oversaw the execution of a mentally disabled black person in 1992. But not only would it be morally monstrous to abandon minorities at this time (Trump surrogates are already defending a proposed registry of Muslim immigrantsby referencing Japanese internment camps during World War II), the country is far more diverse now than it was 24 years ago. Any capitulation to social conservatism risks bleeding off non-white votes the party cannot afford to lose — and besides, all you need to win the presidency at least is a handful of white voters in a few key states. Democrats must abandon neoliberalism, not social justice.

Therefore, the new party leadership, both formally and in the figurehead sense, should be diverse and committed to left populism. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and especially Keith Ellison (who looks to be a lock as chair of the DNC) are excellent choices. They are the most credible populist voices that simultaneously demonstrate that the party has a place for everyone, even white men. Indeed, they are where the party's coalescing center of gravity already is now that the Clintonite wing has completely discredited itself.

The best place to start is by a scorched-earth opposition against the building Republican plan to destroy Medicare and replace it with some sort of voucher system. It's probably impossible to save ObamaCare at this point, but Medicare is immensely popular, and old people vote more than any other age demographic. Trump, by contrast, is already horrendously unpopular. Once it becomes clear that his "Make America Great Again" shtick is a complete fraud, Democrats should be able to do extremely well promising to protect and expand social insurance.

For all her generally terrible electoral performance, Hillary Clinton did do well in some unusual places. Broadly speaking, these were rich areas — like Orange County, California, which went Democratic for the first time since 1936, and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is chock-a-block with financiers. Of course, it didn't compensate for Clinton falling far behind Barack Obama's margins with the working class, both black and white.

But one place where Clinton managed to hold on was Nevada, where tremendous effort from unusually strong local unions managed to win her the state — and preserve a Senate seat for the Democrats as well. As Democrats think about how to rebuild their shattered party, there is no way around labor unions.

For decades now, America's few remaining strong unions have been locked in something of a codependent relationship with the Democratic Party. As union density has eroded from a third of all workers down to about a 10th, and a mere 7 percent in the private sector, unions have spent tons and tons of money trying to elect Democrats. As of late October, unions had spent well over $100 million on the 2016 election— an increase of nearly 40 percent compared to 2012.

Unions do this out of fear of Republicans, who loathe unions and smash them whenever possible, and out of a desire to remain influential in the Democratic Party. This latter strategy was particularly noteworthy in the Democratic primary, where most of the big, left-leaning unions lined up behind Hillary Clinton despite the undeniable fact that Bernie Sanders was the more pro-labor candidate. (Just examine who was on the picket lines.) The union leadership judged that Clinton was going to win, and got in line so as to preserve their status among the party elite, particularly the notoriously grudge-prone Clintons.

This is a good example of when operational conservatism slides into mere timidity. Sometimes the less risky move is also the bolder, more aggressive one. It was reasonably clear even by the spring that Clinton was an extraordinarily weak candidate and nominating her was a terrific gamble. Had the big unions thrown their weight behind Sanders, he might have won the primary, and quite possibly would be president-elect now — the greatest political victory for labor in decades. At least he could not have done any worse than Clinton.

But more fundamentally, in terms of positive, pro-labor policy, unions have little to show for their loyalty. Since 1976 Democrats have repeatedly sold out the working class with deliberately vicious recessions, trade deals that led to massive outsourcing and job losses, and weak at best domestic policy. In 2009, when Democrats had super-majorities in both chambers of Congress, they barely even tried to pass a card checklaw which would have made it easier to organize a workplace. Both moderate Democrats and the Obama administration basically gave up on that without a fight.

The calculation seemed to be that since unions can't possibly get behind Republicans, then Democrats can just take them for granted. That way they can cater to big business and Wall Street as well. But they failed to understand that the decline of unions is undermining the party's political strength. Unions are what turn alienated working people into energized political actors and voters.

Both the union leadership and the Democratic Party elites have their priorities skewed. Unions ought to be concentrating almost all their efforts on organizing more people. Spending tens of millions of dollars to elect a candidate who barely cares about unions, who then proceeded to lose to the most unpopular presidential nominee in the history of polling, was a mind-boggling waste of money. They didn't even manage to deliver their own members, who only went to Clinton by 8 points.

In return, Democrats must understand that without unions, there is no prayer of restoring the party's broad competitiveness. Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, but at the state and local level the party has been virtually annihilated. Without an organized core of support, they simply cannot contest the right-wing advantage in money and their associated army of ideologues. And when it comes to bedrock left-wing institutions, it doesn't get any more foundational than unions. For centuries they have been the signature way the working class makes its political presence felt.

So Democrats should do what unions want without asking. They should understand that unions' job is to organize, and their job is to make it easier for unions to organize, with credible promises to pass card check, repeal Taft-Hartley, and update the labor law framework, when they get the chance. They must become a labor party, and quick, because the hour is late. National anti-union legislation and legal harassment is probably coming, and public sector unions are going to be hit hard. It will take a furious effort to simply keep labor from being rolled back, much less expanded.

But there are few other places to turn for Democrats, and none with the proven track record of labor. This will mean, of course, losing some of the rich votes Clinton rolled up in Orange County and the Acela corridor. But luckily, there aren't that many rich people, and Trump's pose as a defender of the working class looks for all the world to be a complete sham. Trump is already deeply unpopular, and will become even more so when his presidency sinks into corruption. It should be easy enough to win back most of those union voters who did go for Trump. More important but more difficult, if the party and organizers can help each other to create tens of millions of new union members, they can start winning back political power at every level of government.


Daily Kos Federal and State District Returns by State

Who Put Trump in the White House?

Kim Moody, a co-founder of Labor Notes and author of “In Solidarity: Working-Class Organization and Strategy in the United States,” published a tough critique of Democratic mistakes and misguided strategy, beginning long before 2016, in a Jacobi Magazine article, "Who Put Trump in the White House? The Democratic Party has been collapsing for years, but no one noticed before Trump came along."

“While there was a swing among white, blue-collar and union household voters to Trump, it was significantly smaller than the overall drop in Democratic voters,” writes Moody.  Moody blames a reduction in direct door-to-door human contact campaigning with lower-income voters in favor of purchased media forms of campaigning, including TV ads, for falling turnout for Democrats.

Democrats purport to be the party that champions improved living standards for working people, but they have been unable to deliver in recent years, owing increasingly to the Republican’s strategy of all-out obstruction. Moody explains “centrist liberalism” is a doomed philosophical foundation for Democrats because it is associated with the Party’s failure to produce needed economic reforms.

Many in the Democratic Party are coming to grips with the reality that voters increasingly reject centrist public policies Democrats have been promoting, legislating, and campaign on for two decades.

Democrats lost another net 43 seats in legislatures across the country in 2016, after previously losing 910 seats during Obama's administration. Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in 2016.

Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Republicans hold more total state legislative seats in the nation, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920. Democrats now have total control of just 13 state legislatures.

Republicans gained 2 more states' governor-ships in 2016, after already gaining 12 over the last 8 years, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922. Democrats had also lost 69 US House seats and 13 US Senate seats since 2009 and barely managed to stem further losses in 2016.

Moody concludes, "Democrats are going to need a much bolder economic strategy that acknowledges the failures of the past and points the way to a more robust advocacy of the kind of economic agenda that empowered the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Democrats should not allow the Trump Administration to claim ownership of a massive investment in infrastructure upgrades and twist it into another corporate raid on the federal treasury. Instead, revitalizing America’s crumbling infrastructure should be the signature project of the Democratic party, and protecting the integrity of it, is the central challenge of the next few years."

Read the full article at Jacobin

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk - 01/24/2017

Listen to "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" talk radio program cohost Rheana Nevitt Piegols and special guest cohost for the evening Texas Young Democrat Michael Messer discuss standardized testing in Texas public schools, charter school vouchers and much more... Program recorded live on Tuesday January 24th, at 8:30 PM CST.

Standardized Testing Overwhelming Texas Public Schools

A standardized test is a test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or "standard", manner. Standardized - one size fits all - tests are theoretically designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.

The chief indicator by which most public schools and educators are judged today is student performance on standardized tests. If a school's standardized test scores are low, the school's teachers and staff are judged to be ineffective.

Standardized test scores are what state legislators who allocate public school funding today rely on to evaluate public school performance levels. Test scores determine not just how much funding public school districts and individual schools within districts get, but which public schools are allowed to stay open and which are closed and then turned over to charter school corporations to operate.
Test scores are also used to hire, fire, and compensate teachers. Today, 35 states require teacher evaluations to include these scores as a factor—and many states have introduced new tests just for this purpose. Test scores are also used to determine whether students can move on to middle and high school, be admitted to Honors and AP programs, and graduate from high school.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Republicans Plot Deep Cuts To Seniors' Social Security Retirement Checks

Republican Rep. Sam Johnson (R Tx.), the chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee announced in December his "plan to permanently cut save Social Security."

Johnson's Social Security Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 6489) includes cuts Republicans have been impatient to enact for decades. Johnson bill violates candidate Donald Trump's firm promise to protect the program.  But members of President Trump's new administration are not only on board with the Republican plan to cut Social Security benefit checks, they strongly favor privatizing Social Security.

Johnson has led Republicans on the Social Security subcommittee for a decade, so it’s not surprising that the bill is made up of a lot of ideas they have supported in the past. Johnson's Reform Act proposes 15 changes. Of those, 10 have impacts under 0.10 percent of funding. Many are considered "negligible." The big cuts come in three provisions of Johnson's bill:
  1. Raise the retirement age from 67 to 69 for Americans who are currently 49 or younger
  2. Change the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) benefit formula that determines the size of a retiree’s initial payments
  3. Change the method for calculating inflation so the program's cost of living adjustments rise according to chained CPI, a far less generous metric than the current law’s inflation index. 
Other cuts come in the form of means-testing requirements, or on limits on what spouses or other auxiliary beneficiaries can receive.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

March Then Act - Building Political Infrastructure To Win

Those who participate in protest marches must take the next steps to define actual demands and priorities for candidates to take to voters in 2018-20. They must work every day to help those candidates win their elections. It can be done. If you don't think it can, just remember the tea party did it during the last President's first mid-term in office.

But without a path from protest to power, the Women's March will end up like Occupy. It is exciting when a protest meme leaps from social networks to the streets, capturing the imagination of millions. But it is all too easy to succumb to the false hope that a big splashy protest march is a transformative tsunami that leads to ballot box victory on election day. A big splashy protest march is only the first step on the long and often difficult road to winning elections.

Democrats have about 90 weeks until early voting starts for the Nov 2018 election. Activists at the county and neighborhood levels must work every week to identify every Dem leaning voting age citizen, documenting their contact and demographic info. As Democratic leaning people are identified, county level organizations must plan and execute programs that build relationships with those people to make them an active part of the Democratic base.

Those programs must be designed to invite that disconnected part of the electorate to participate in regular conversations at house and town hall meetings, and on social media. Democrats must do old fashioned base building work, and learn how to combine Internet and mobile communication with those traditional community organizing activities to accomplish that mission.
In the realm of political plays, it does seem that the most important number for Democrats in the near term is Democrats need gain only 24 U.S. House seats to be the majority in that chamber.

As the majority party, Democrats can block legislation, conduct investigations, and more to limit the GOP agenda, and perhaps set the stage for bigger gains in 2020. It's do-able in a wave year - maybe a pro-women wave election year.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

DNC Chair Candidate Forum Live Stream

When they meet on February 23–26, 2017, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect a new chair. They will signal whether or not the party will boldly begin to transform itself back into the party of New Deals and Great Societies sought by the new generation of Democrats. Those 400-plus voting members of the DNC must take stock of the need to strike a bold new direction to reverse the party's losses.

This group of DNC voting members is dominated by state party chairs and political appointees, and overlaps substantially with the super-delegates from the 2016 Democratic primary. Party insiders estimate that roughly two-thirds of the DNC members supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during that race.

Democrats lost another net 43 seats in legislatures across the country in 2016, after previously losing 910 seats during Obama's administration. Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in 2016.

Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Republicans hold more total state legislative seats in the nation, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920. Democrats now have total control of just 13 state legislatures.

Republicans gained 2 more states' governor-ships in 2016, after already gaining 12 over the last 8 years, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922. Democrats had also lost 69 US House seats and 13 US Senate seats since 2009 and barely managed to stem further losses in 2016.

And Democrats face a more challenging election map in 2018 than they faced in 2016. Survival of the Democratic Party is literally on the line.

There are now seven declared candidates for the 2017 Democratic National Committee chairmanship election:
  • Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director of the Idaho Democratic Party
  • Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota 5th District|
  • Jehmu Greene, Political Analyst
  • Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Tom Perez, 26th United States Secretary of Labor
All seven DNC Chair candidates will participate in a panel discussion forum on the future of the Democratic Party on Monday, January 23 at 7 p.m. in Washington, DC at George Washington University, hosted by Democracy in Color. You can view the forum via live stream. (View Recorded Live Stream Video.)

Watch FB live stream video of the five candidates already running for DNC Chair address committee persons at the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) meeting on Saturday, December 17, 2016.

Click Here to watch Huffington Post's January 18th DNC candidate forum live stream video.

Guide to the Candidates (Information from candidates’ campaign websites.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk Inauguration Special

Join "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" talk radio program cohosts, Rheana Nevitt Piegols and Michael Handley for an inauguration special program Friday evening at 9:00 PM CST. Together with Texas Young Democrats Kristi Lara and Kevin Numerick, Rheana and Michael will talk about Obama and Trump, Democrats going forward, and the GOP agenda to repeal Affordable Healthcare, gut Social Security, gut Medicare, gut Medicaid, scrap the Paris climate agreement, privatize public education, outlaw contraceptives, privatize our national parks and more...  We invite our listeners to call in and share their thoughts as we say goodbye to President Obama and look ahead to the GOP agenda.

Listen to BlogTalkUSA's special "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" program with Michael Handley and Rheana Nevitt Piegols at 9:00 PM CST, Friday, January 20th, by phone at (515) 605-9375. Press 1 to ask your question, make a comment, and share your thoughts!

Click this link to listen:

Download/subscribe to podcasts of our weekly "Eyes Wide Open - DemBlogTalk" program at iTunes:

Listen to BlogTalkUSA "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" with Michael Handley and Rheana Nevitt Piegols every Tuesday evening at 8:30 PM CST by phone at (515) 605-9375. Press 1 to ask your question, make a comment, and share your thoughts! Use this link to listen online:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Economics of the Affordable Care Act

Any effort to replace the Affordable Care Act will be confronted by the same structural imbalances in the health care economy that the legislation’s authors faced.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have vowed to repeal, was crafted to overcome two basic problems in the provision of health care in the United States. First, the costs are incredibly skewed, with just 10 percent of patients accounting for almost two thirds of the nation’s healthcare spending. The other problem is asymmetric information: Patients have far more knowledge about the state of their own health than insurers do. This means that the people with the largest costs are the ones most likely to sign up for insurance. These two problems make it impossible to get to universal coverage under a purely market-based system.

The problem with the skewing of health care costs is that while most people’s health spending is relatively limited, it remains very expensive to provide care for the costliest 10 percent. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects that per capita spending on health care in the US will average $10,800 in 2017. But the cost for the most expensive 10 percent of patients will average $54,000 per person, compared to an average of just $6,000 for everyone else. The cost for the healthiest 50 percent of patients averages under $700 per person.

Covering the least costly 90 percent of patients is manageable, but the cost of covering the least healthy 10 percent is exorbitant. Very few people could afford to pay $54,000 a year for an individual insurance policy. Furthermore, if insurers were to set their premiums in accordance with overall averages, they could anticipate a skewed patient pool. The more healthy half of the population, with average costs of less than $700 a year, would either limit their insurance to catastrophic plans that only cover very expensive medical care, or go without insurance altogether.

Click here to read the rest of the story:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Majority Support Paris Climate Agreement

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found Americans, by a 56-31 margin, want the U.S. to stay in the pollution-cutting pact. Another poll found 61 percent, counter to Trump, want the EPA's powers strengthened or preserved.

Donald Trump prepares to take office this week with an overwhelming majority of Americans saying in a new poll they don’t want him to carry out his campaign pledge to “withdraw” the U.S. from the international Paris Climate Agreement.

Fifty-six percent oppose withdrawal from the agreement, which was endorsed by 195 nations in 2015 and aims to shift humanity’s production of energy sharply away from fossil fuels, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll, published today.

Even Most Republican Voters Say Government Has Responsibility For Healthcare

For Democrats, public policy for using the federal government to make affordable health care available to American workers is an election winner! More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) say the federal government should be responsible for health care coverage, compared with just 32% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

Democrats can win by promising American workers a Medicare-for-all "public option" health care coverage. As the debate continues over repeal of the Affordable Care Act and what might replace it, a growing share of Americans believe the federal government has a responsibility to make sure Americans have health care coverage, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

AARP: GOP Plan To Convert Medicare From “Defined Benefit” To “Defined Contribution” Program

As news of Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s proposed conversion of Medicare from a “Defined Benefit” to a “Defined Contribution” program spreads, it is stirring fears among the 57 million beneficiaries who rely on it to cover prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospitalizations. Democrats and consumer groups, including AARP, have pledged their opposition Ryan's plan.

Ironically, Ryan is proposing to convert Medicare into the very system he is rushing to repeal — the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”) — but without its protections, such as the requirement that private insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Ryan claims that the ACA must be killed quickly because “we have to bring relief as fast as possible to people who are struggling under Obamacare.” Out of one side of his mouth, he asserts that young, healthy Americans are struggling to buy private health insurance, even though the government provides them with subsidies to help with the cost and requires that they can’t be turned down because of pre-existing conditions. Out of the other side of his mouth, Ryan claims that seniors and people with disabilities will be just fine with a government provided subsidy in the form of a voucher, and no other protection!

In a special report, AARP details what the state of Medicare is today and provides what you need to know about the upcoming debate in Washington over the nation’s most important health care program:
A Battle Looms by Bill Walsh

Republicans Plan To Destroy Social Security and Medicare

Republicans are desperate to destroy Social Security and Medicare. These two programs demonstrate government at its best. The federal government runs these two extremely popular programs more efficiently, universally, securely, and effectively than the private sector does with its alternatives — or indeed could, no matter how well those private sector programs were designed. This is in direct conflict with their fanatically-held beliefs that the private sector should run everything.

Republicans will do whatever they can, quietly, secretly, to destroy Social Security and Medicare. Republicans want to avoid political accountability by destroying Social Security and Medicare without leaving clear fingerprints.

When Republicans Repeal Affordable Healthcare

What happens when the Republican Party repeals the Affordable Care Act without enacting any kind of replacement? According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican-backed Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 — which passed a Senate vote in late 2015 but died due to President Obama’s veto — would drastically slash the number of Americans who have health insurance, while at the same time ensuring higher premiums and chaos in the insurance market.

Here are the CBO’s five biggest reasons the GOP’s repeal plan is a disaster for American health care:
  1. 18 million Americans would lose their insurance in the span of a year. Under the bill passed by Republicans — which would keep insurance market reforms in place but would gut both the Medicaid expansion and subsidies for people to buy private insurance — an estimated 18 million people would lose their health insurance within just one year.
  2. An additional 9 million would lose their insurance shortly after the first year of repeal. Once the elimination of both subsidies and expanded Medicaid happen, the number of people who lose their insurance thanks to the legislation will total 27 million. Over the long run, the CBO projects that the number of uninsured in the U.S. would increase by 32 million by 2026 over what it would have been without repealing the ACA.
  3. Premiums on the individual market would skyrocket by 20% to 25% relative to where they’d be without repeal within a year. In part because the GOP plan still bars insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, insurance premiums on the individual market would increase by as much as 25% within a year of Obamacare repeal, as insurers would scramble to raise prices to cover the costs of insuring more sick people.
  4. Premiums would then go up by 50% after the GOP eliminates the Medicaid expansion and private insurance subsidies. Once people who buy insurance individually lose access to subsidies to help them offset the costs, insurers will raise prices even higher — in fact, the CBO estimates that “premiums would about double by 2026” under the GOP’s bill.
  5. Half the country would be stuck in an area where no insurers would offer them non-group coverage. As if the projected price increases for individual market buyers weren’t bad enough, the CBO also says that many insurers will simply pull out of individual markets in many places, as “about half of the nation’s population lives in areas that would have no insurer participating in the nongroup market in the first year after the repeal of the marketplace subsidies took place.”
Repealing Obamacare is a huge tax cut for the rich. This did not play a major overt public role in the 2009-’10 debate about the law, but the Affordable Care Act’s financing rests on a remarkably progressive base. That means, as the Tax Policy Center has shown, repealing it would shower money on a remarkably small number of remarkably wealthy Americans. Read more about the GOP's tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Democratic Party Base Is Cell Phone Only

The most recent numbers on US wireless (cell phone) only households released in December show the inexorable rise of households without any landline telephone. The new report discloses that as of the first half of 2016, 49.3 percent of all U.S. households have no landline phone, an increase of 2 percent over the previous year, which is a statistically significant difference within this very large study. At 59.2 percent in 2015, the latest year individual state statistics are available, Texas has the highest cell phone only adoption rate of all 50 states.

Further, among households with both landline and cellular telephones, 16.3 percent received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones. Combined, 65.9 percent of American households are only or almost only reachable by calling a household member using their mobile cell phone number. At 75.8 percent, Texas has the highest prevalence of adults in wireless-only (59.2%) and wireless-mostly (16.6%) homes.