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Monday, April 6, 2015

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, yeah we're talking to you ...!  
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These Spuds would be better  in Congress than the Duds (excuse us, we mean Republicans) there now... !

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Scientific Studies Prove Wingnuts And Rich People Really ARE Psychopaths

From the "Tell us something we didn't know" Department:
by Elisabeth Parker 
Have you ever wondered why wingnuts and rich people act like psychopaths? It turns out what we’ve always suspected is true. Recent scientific studies reveal that wingnuts — and the rich CEOs they serve — really ARE psychopaths
That goes a long way towards explaining why those extreme right-wingers in Congress refuse to raise the minimum wage while CEOs pay themselves thousands of dollars per hour; why right-wingers spew toxic anti-government vitriol while the dirty energy industry spews toxic waste; why Wall Street bankers got away with criminal acts that wrecked our economy but never served any time in jail; and why — when big business hurts people and things — U.S. tax payers always wind up paying the bill.
Since we often casually refer to rich, right-wingers — like Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, John McCain, and Sarah Palin — as “psychopaths” because they’re mean and… well… psycho, let’s first talk about what a “psychopath” really is. The psychopath can have a variety of destructive and antisocial traits, but they always have one thing in common: Lack of empathy, and lack of remorse for the harm they cause. Dictionary.com defines the word as:
“A person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc. […] Also called sociopath: a person afflicted with a personality disorder characterized by a tendency to commit antisocial and sometimes violent acts and a failure to feel guilt for such acts”
Furthermore, there’s a particular type of psychopath who shows what is referred to as the “Dark Triad” of negative traits: Narcissism (a big ego), Machiavellianism (will do anything to get ahead, no matter how evil), and basic psychopathy. Because, seriously, there’s no other possible explanation for how right-wingers can deport children, cut food stamps, destroy our natural resources, deny couples the right to marry, force women to bear children against their will, and expect millions of their fellow Americans to work for slave wages, and still sleep at night.
University of Florida study: wingnuts more likely to be ‘dark triad’ psychopaths.
Michael Cook from Bio Edge reports on the results of two studies by the University of Fla. at Tampa’s Marcus Arvin, which links wingnut views on current issues to “dark triad” psychopathy. The latest, published in the medical journal Neuro Ethics states that hardcore wingnut views are “5 to 30 times more likely to be related to antisocial traits than socially liberal views.”
Cook adds that Arvin further claims there’s only a “one in 100,000 chance that his findings are wrong.” That’s right: Those who held extreme wingmut views on the following issues were 5-30 times more likely to be dark triad psychopaths. ”
“preventing illegal immigration, deporting illegal immigrants, building a fence along the US-Mexican border, making English the official US language, not providing public schooling to the children of illegal immigrants, teaching “intelligent design” in public schools, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (including waterboarding), defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, obeying UN rules, climate change, environmentalism.”
Wow. That explains a lot. After all, it takes a very special kind of person to cut food stamps and vital public services to fund more wars and more tax cuts for the rich.
Rich People are more likely to be psychopaths, too.
And guess what? Studies find rich people are more likely to be psychopaths, too. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a series of seven University of Calif. at Berkeley studies which reveal  that rich people are more likely to be break rules, cheat, act greedy and selfish, feel less empathy towards others, and feel a sense of entitlement than the rest of us. In fact, an experiment with a rigged game of Monopoly showed that even people who merely feel rich will start to act that way. Or, to quote from the video, “those in the role of top dog started talking like one.”
Even though they knew the game was rigged, “those in the role of top dog started acting like one,” while the “poor” players started playing more nicely with others, even when they were rich in real life. Here’s a fascinating video with a PBS report on these studies.
Bud Meyers, a blogger who wrote about this study, slyly adds:
“This might help explain why some people like Wal-Mart’s Christy Walton can rake in $1.2 million a day in unearned income with stock dividends, while at the same time, refusing to pay her employees a living wage in earned hourly income — costing the taxpayers $6,000 per employee in government entitlements (aka “wage subsidies”). It seems that some of these people just can’t help themselves…they’re mentally ill!”
Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) is what makes wingnuts so mean.
In the wake of racist L.A. Clippers owner Don Sterling’s spectacular self-inflicted demise last year, Paul Rosenberg from Salon explores why Sterling’s such a bigoted jerk, and why wingnut blowhards like Rush Limbaugh (who is at least savvy enough to deny being a racist even though he is one) so quickly jumped to defend him. To explain why these extreme right-wing positions so often seem contradictory, hypocritical, and crazy to the rest of us, Rosenberg explains, “the defense of hierarchy is what conservatism’s all about,” and quotes from a 2003 paper by Stanford University’s John T. Jost:
“The core ideology of wingnuttery stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.”
Rosenberg then tosses a new form of psychopathy into the mix: Social Dominance Orientation (SDO). As Wikipedia explains, SDO is “a measure of an individual’s preference for hierarchy within any social system.” They add that this includes the “domination of lower-status groups.” Extreme wingnuts, of course, tend to have high SDO scores, believe in a “dog-eat-dog” world, and are hence more inclined to encourage — or at least accept — discrimination against women, people of color, LGBTs, non-christians, immigrants, the poor, and even the merely not-rich.
So when rich, certified wingnut psychopaths like Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, Mike Pence, and Ted Cruz screech hysterically about LGBT people, religious “freedom”, guns immigrants, blacks, Muslims, Obama, women, etc. we now know where all that hate and anger comes from.
Why idiots vote for wingnut psychopaths.
So why do idiots keep voting for and listening to these wingnut psychopaths anyway? Rosenberg’s Salon article explains that the answer lies in a surprising phenomenon called Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). Dr. Bob Altemeyer, a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba (in Canada), introduced the concept of RWA in 1981 and has conducted untold numbers of studies and collected vast amounts of data ever since. He then wrote an influential book on the topic, “The Authoritarians,” in 2006, which was drawn from heavily by Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel and Watergate conspirator John Dean in his book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.”
As explained in Wikipedia, people who fit the RWA profile are more inclined to obey people in power without question — but only when they’re seen as “legitimate” and not from Kenya — and to punish those who do not conform.
“Right-wing authoritarians are people who have a high degree of willingness to submit to authorities they perceive as established and legitimate, who adhere to societal conventions and norms, and who are hostile and punitive in their attitudes towards people who don’t adhere to them. They value uniformity and are in favor of using group authority, including coercion, to achieve it.”
That’s why they forgive the never-ending transgressions of those they see as their superiors, while piling on perceived enemies for far lesser crimes (#BENGHAZI!). The majority of RWAs are highly conventional as people, and more inclined to follow orders and go along with their crowd.
And smaller number of RWAs who are also psychopaths with SDO are all too happy to take charge and exploit their followers.
NOTE: “The Authoritarians” is available free of charge as a PDF, or for purchase in audio and book formats.


More Bad News For Republicans As President Obama Sets A New Job Growth Record

obama accomplishments and legacy
Well, this is awkward for Republicans. The Obama economy has set yet another job growth record in the private sector.
The first of five key points Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, made about the stats from the Bureau of Labor was that March makes the 61st straight month of job growth—“extending the longest streak on record”.
Upon the March job numbers being released by the Bureau of Labor, Furman issued a statement in conjunction with making five key points, the first of which was that this is the 61 straight month of job growth, the longest streak on record:
The private sector has added 12.1 million jobs over 61 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 126,000 in March, driven by a 129,000 increase in private-sector employment. This particular month’s job gains were below the recent trend, as job growth in a number of industries slowed somewhat (see point 5). Over the past twelve months, the private sector has added 3.1 million jobs, nearly the highest year-over-year growth in the recovery so far.
Here’s a graphic from Furman of the Obama surge:
Chart  via Jason Furman with stats from Bureau of Labor
All is not rosy, as job growth slowed beneath the recent trend, but it is still rocking a record streak — with hourly earnings continuing to rise, which is a critical point for working Americans.
Furman summed up the findings, “The March employment report reflects a pace of monthly job growth below the recent trend, coming on the heels of February’s strong report. The unemployment rate was stable, broader measures of unemployment fell, and hourly earnings continued their rise. A range of factors including the weather and the global economic slowdown have affected economic data for the first quarter. The President has been clear that he will continue to push for policies including investments in infrastructure and relief from the sequester that would help ensure the strong underlying longer-term trends persist.”
The other recent record holder for job growth was another Democrat, President Bill Clinton. These trends give you an indication as to why Republicans are trying to avoid domestic issues in the 2016 race. Adding insult to injury, these job gains are in the private sector- that sector Republicans pretend to be experts at, and keep promising that their trickle down theory is the master of.
Back in September of 2014, President Obama shattered President Clinton’s previous record of 51 consecutive months of private sector job growth. In September, I compared these two Democratic Presidents with Presidents Bush I and II, and even with President Reagan:
An excellent record of job growth under a Democratic President is not an anomaly. President Clinton added a total of 23.1 million jobs, while George W. Bush only added 3 million over his entire 8 year term and his father, George H.W. Bush, only added 2.5 million but he did that over one term. Heck, Ronald Reagan only added 16 million jobs, and he is held up by Republicans as the business God.
Before Republicans spit out more of their Obamacare job killing talking points, someone might want to familiarize them with this 61 month streak of adding jobs under Obama. It’s a record, and it’s been a record for a while, so it’s something that’s hard to miss if you’re awake and operating within some realm of reality.
Other points of good news are that real aggregate weekly earnings have risen “nearly 5% over the last twelve months”. That’s purchasing power of wages and salaries for private sector employees. “Aggregate earnings are nearly 7 percent above their pre-crisis peak.”
In all of this good news, we’ve all been aware that people still needed to make better wages, that wages have stagnated and have not risen to keep pace with inflation. Indeed, as the top 2% get wealthier and wealthier, working Americans are working more for less. The Obama administration has been working hard to fix this, and has taken to going around Republican obstruction in Congress on this issue to work directly with mayors and governors around the country, and with private companies, to push for a raise to the minimum wage.
So it is more good news that hourly earnings have risen. But we still need better wages for working families.
Republican have done everything possible to kill any chance of an economic recovery from the Bush crash, so they can hardly take credit for private sector job growth under Obama. Republicans went so far as to shutdown the government and force it to operate under their slash and dash sequester, which negatively impacted public sector jobs and hurt real Americans. They have refused to pass Obama’s jobs bills.
Republicans have stood in the path trolling recovery at every turn, to no avail.
(Just like they have here on this blog with the same results).

Boehner and McConnell Approval Ratings Plummet As Republicans Sink To New Lows

boehner-mcconnellRepublicans dreams have turned into nightmares as the approval ratings for Congress, Speaker Of the House John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have plummeted since the Republican takeover of Congress.
According to PPP, “Congress (11/78 approval), John Boehner (20/66 approval), and Mitch McConnell (20/56 approval) are all brutally unpopular. It’s a given that Boehner and McConnell are deeply unpopular with Democrats, but they also fare quite poorly with Republicans. The House Speaker has a 35/50 approval within his own party, and it’s 31/43 for the Senator Majority Leader. Both of them are even more unpopular with independents than they are with the overall electorate, with Boehner at 13/73 with them and McConnell at 16/61.”
In other words, Boehner, McConnell and the entire group of Congressional Republicans are universally unpopular. Among Republicans, Boehner and McConnell are disliked because some view them as too moderate, and there is a widely held belief by listeners of conservative talk radio that the Republican congressional leadership compromises with President Obama too much.
For everyone else who resides on planet Earth, Republicans are unpopular because of their refusal to pass popular legislation while they continue to push an unpopular agenda that is far out of step with the non-Republican segments of the country.
The myth that Obama is unpopular president falls apart when his approval ratings are compared with what Congressional Republicans are averaging. President Obama is more than twice as popular as the Republican leaders of Congress. Obama has the sort of approval numbers that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can only dream about.
Republicans were hoping that their takeover of Congress would lead to a boost in approval ratings, but the opposite has happened. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are being held accountable for their agenda and the poor performance of the Congress that they are in charge of. McConnell and Boehner are in free fall as the Republican-misled Congress gets less and less popular by the day.

McConnell Warns Foreign Nations That GOP Will Undermine Obama Climate Change Deals

Exactly six years and three months ago, Republicans embarked on the unprecedented political strategy of plotting to deliberately undermine any and everything Barack Obama attempted to do as President of the United States. In January 2009 it was undermining the new President’s attempt to save America’s economy after Bush Republicans nearly destroyed it and they have continued their efforts unabated two years into Obama’s second term. Whether it was deliberately attempting to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States, or align with a foreigner to subvert a crucial United Nations agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, there is no length too extreme for Republicans to undermine a President they hate because he is African American.
Now, taking a page out of a freshman Senator Tom Cotton’s playbook, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a threat to the world’s nations that America is an exceptionally deceitful country that cannot be trusted to honor its pledge to reduce carbon emissions and help diminish the devastating effects of global climate change. McConnell release his warning directly after President Obama announced America’s ‘official plan‘ to cut the nation’s greenhouse emissions by as much as 28 percent according to an agreement brokered by the United Nation’s with the world’s leading polluters. It is bad enough that in service to the Koch brothers Republicans are waging a ferocious war to prevent carbon emission reduction policies at home, but to warn other nations America cannot be trusted is beyond the pale; and a relatively new and despicable tactic of Republicans to interfere with the Constitutional authority of the Executive Branch.
McConnell’s statement issued Tuesday warned signatories to the U.N. brokered agreement to “proceed with caution” before pledging to cut their own nation’s carbon emissions because America will not meet its own goals; a portent that Republicans will continue their Koch-funded war on the Environmental Protection Agency, America’s economy, and the people’s health and welfare. McConnell said, “Even if the job-killing and illegal Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the United States could not meet the targets laid out in this proposed new plan. Our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal.”
First, notice that McConnell claimed the agreement the President made with foreign nations is illegal, and a further Republican assertion that this African American President, unlike a white Republican, cannot negotiate with foreign nations regardless he is the legal head of the Executive Branch of government. This is precisely what 47 Senate Republicans claimed when they issued an open letter to Iranian leaders warning them that any nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama Administration will not be honored. In fact, McConnell issuing a statement to foreign nations that America will not honor its agreement over carbon emissions is no different than the traitorous-47’s letter to Iranian hardliners at the behest of the foreigner Benjamin Netanyahu. It is further proof that Republicans not only regard the elected head of the Executive Branch is himself illegal,  anything he does is illegal; for McConnell to warn foreign nations in that sense is reprehensible.
This is not the first time McConnell has taken it upon himself to issue edicts about the legitimacy of this President’s environmental agenda. Almost exactly a month ago, McConnell penned an op/ed telling governors to “reject Obama’s mandate for clean-power regulations” after the President’s historic deal with China to address climate change; a deal China is taking the lead in adhering to by closing down coal-fired power plants on an enormous scale as reported here. As part of his servitude to the Koch brothers, McConnell lied like the lying liar he is and told the nation’s governors that, “The Obama administration’s so-called ‘clean power’ regulation seeks to shut down more of America’s power generation under the guise of protecting the climate. Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class. Without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism. Refusing to go along at this time with such an extreme proposed regulation would give Congress more time to fight back. We’re devising strategies now to do just that.”
McConnell is not satisfied doing the will of the Koch brothers on the national level, now he is attempting to expand the billionaire oil magnates’ influence internationally by warning “America’s foreign partners” that the exceptional United States cannot be trusted to follow through on its commitments. This latest attempt to subvert the President’s single-handed efforts to combat the devastating effects of climate change after a truly frightening report from the United Nations on the terrifying severity of climate change.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on climate changed released the final installment of an extremely comprehensive study based on the analysis of 800 scientists. Despite what climate deniers like McConnell claim, the study’s grim conclusion is that the Earth will face “severe, pervasive and irreversible damage if we don’t switch to zero- and low-carbon sources of electricity” with no room for stunts like McConnell’s. It guarantees that “human beings and the planet’s ecosystems will suffer unprecedented losses from even more severe and frequent weather events” that are wreaking havoc on people around the world than anyone can even begin to imagine in their worst nightmares. According to the study, “We have the means to limit climate change. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
Republicans are unfazed by such dire predictions and one GOP Senate aide said he “doesn’t see there being a lot of willingness from Republicans to allow the administration to cede any authority to the U.N. on climate policies or elsewhere, and I don’t really think that kind of a position will hurt us politically going into 2016.” That sentiment informs why Mitch McConnell has no qualms doing the will of the Koch brothers on the international level and warning other nations concerned about the fate of their countries and citizens that no matter what scientists say, or this President attempts, America cannot be trusted, and will not do its part, to limit climate change regardless the “severe, pervasive, and irreversible damage” to the planet.

Foreign Policy

It's not even close

In Face Of Strong Iran Deal, GOP Has No Choice But To Lie

In Face Of Strong Iran Deal, GOP Has No Choice But To Lie
Advocates of perpetual war are struggling to find a serious objection, so instead they just lie.

Republican Mark Kirk has no idea what appeasement means

We’re going to go ahead and invoke Godwin’s Law on this one.


Frustration among the Republicans is Great and it's even better for the Planet when they are frustrated in their plots and schemes

‘You people serve no purpose’

Rally against the Koch brothers attempt to buy Los Angeles Times (peoplesworld/Flickr)Here's an apparent voice of sanity in the GOP.
A Florida Republican had the guts to tear into the Koch Brothers and their cronies during a Senate hearing on Thursday for wanting prosperity for themselves...

Colorado Republicans Are Pushing Koch Legislation To Seize Federal Land

It is unclear how a state can have "joint jurisdiction" over land it does not own and has no claim to ...
Koch-brothersMost Americans know someone whose life is governed by avarice, or greed, that intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth and power. If nothing else, Republicans and the people they represent epitomize avarice in that there is nothing they will not take from the American people. Over the past six years Republicans have taken unemployment benefits, retirement, overtime pay, equal rights, voting rights, food, and healthcare from Americans to hand over to their wealthy donors. Now, they are involved in a scheme to take federal land that belongs to the government and the people to enrich the Koch brothers due to the billionaire’s greed for wealth and power.
Last month Two Colorado Republicans, state Senator Kent Lambert (Colorado Springs) and state Representative Stephen Humphrey (Severance) began pushing a Koch bill, SB 39, calling for “joint jurisdiction” with the Federal government over national forests and Bureau of Land Management land. It is unclear how a state can have “joint jurisdiction” over land it does not own and has no claim to, but the Colorado Republicans’ effort is a first step in a much more ambitious scheme; seizing and handing authority over federal land to the billionaire Koch brothers to drill for oil, mine, and log without “interference” from the federal government.
The Colorado bill is part of an ongoing Koch-funded and driven initiative started by Utah Republicans for Republican-misled states to seize control of public lands from the federal government to open them up to oil, mining, and logging interests; interests, by the way that are wholly-owned and operated subsidiaries of Koch Industries. The Colorado Republicans claim, like most Republican-misled Western states that the Koch brothers will better manage the land without federal government interference; government interference includes regulations from environmental and conservation agencies as well as interference by President Obama who has authority to designate pristine ecological and archeological sites as “federally protected” land; something the Kochs and Republicans are not going to tolerate any longer.
When the land is seized by the state, the federal government will have no regulatory authority over what will have effectively become privately-held land including all BLM land, wilderness areas, and national parks; all areas Republicans and the Kochs complain bitterly should be opened up to unrestricted exploitation. This is not a new development and is part of an ongoing conservative campaign asserting that the federal government has no right to own, or claim authority over, any land in any state; particularly Republican-led Western states.
There is a concerted effort underway in every Republican-misled Western state to seize government property to satisfy the greed of the Kochs who, with their Republican puppets, have panted to exploit all federal land, including federally-protected wilderness areas and national parks, for profit for decades. In fact, in 2012 Utah Mormons passed a law demanding that the federal government cede its ownership, and immediately turn over the titles, of all federal lands in Utah including all wilderness areas and national parks to Republicans to sell off to the Kochs to have free rein to “manage” as “owners” and be exempt from federal oversight.
Utah, Colorado, and several Western states have already revealed their plan to pay for the cost of managing their newly-seized federal lands, including national parks, by leasing or selling national forest land to lumber and paper companies that are owned by the Kochs to be logged without interference from the overreaching federal government. They also plan to sell underground mineral rights to the oil  and gas industry for unregulated drilling, and allow mining companies to have unrestricted access in federally-protected, pristine lands such as designated wilderness areas and of course national parks that are on land Republicans, the Kochs, and cretins like Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy claim the federal government has no legal right to own or regulate. This is in spite of the simple fact the federal government purchased and holds the titles to the land which makes it the American public’s land.
Americans surely remember that Cliven Bundy summoned armed militias to wage war on federal officials last year because he claimed the federal government had no authority to remove his cattle that were illegally grazing on its own land; shortly thereafter he repeated the same claim over federal land in Utah despite he lives in Nevada. When Utah Republicans objected to being prohibited from riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) through federally-protected archeologically-historical Indian burial sites on BLM land, Bundy’s supporters made an illegal ride through Recapture Canyon in southeastern Utah anyway. Bundy summoned like-minded criminals with the message that “We need to re-establish who is in control of the land. This is your next stand. Will you be there to help them like you helped us?”
Republicans have spent the past six years taking nearly everything from the American people to provide more wealth for the greed-driven and power-hungry Kochs. They have also taken away Americans’ equal and civil rights for their religious base that the Koch brothers heavily fund. Republicans have even taken Americans’ right to vote away to give control of the government to the Kochs, and now they are on a crusade to seize federal land to give to the Kochs to satisfy their greed. Obviously, there is little left for Republicans to take from the people to give to the Kochs, so they have turned their attention to seizing American public’s federal land and like everything they have seized or stolen, it is to satisfy the greed and lust for power of the Koch brothers.

It's The Economy, Stupid

Miami Beach Official Blasts Florida's Inaction On Climate Change

The Miami Beach city commissioner on Friday lamented the lack of support the southern, coastal city has received from the Florida legislature in addressing the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels."We send our lobbyists to Tallahassee and beg for every little bit we can…but we're not getting help from anybody else," Commissioner Michael Grieco said at a sea level rise summit, according to Fusion. "Some people in Tallahassee don't want to deal with realities."

Tucker Carlson: I'm Not A Bullshitter, But Fox News Owns Me

Tucker Carlson: I'm Not A Bullsh*tter, But Fox News Owns MeTuckie gave a short explanation of his Fox News indenture to anyone who cares.

‘Tea Party’ protesters opposed to Florida land deal were mostly actors hired by Big Sugar

Tea Party Miami (Facebook)
"Big Sugar supporters hiring actors to pretend to protest is pathetic. Someone should ask who is paying for artificial sweetener to make polluting the Everglades and our drinking water easier to swallow."

Wingnuts are dumb ...

... and want to get dumber

The Obamacare Doomsday Cult Struggles to Adapt to World That Did Not End

by Jonathan Chait
As Obamacare continues to operate successfully, conservative elites have renewed their pleas for the party to develop an alternative beyond demanding the law’s repeal. The trouble is that anti-Obamacare dogma sits so deeply at the GOP’s core that any discussion of health care must pay fealty to their belief that the law has failed utterly. The Republican Party in the Obamacare era is a doomsday cult after the world failed to end. Its entire analysis of the issue is built upon a foundation of falsehoods.Michael Tanner, a health-care analyst at the Cato Institute, has a column for National Review usefully summarizing the most current iteration of anti-Obamacare talking points. Most of Tanner’s piece is devoted to arguing for alternative proposals, but he begins with the ritual incantation of Obamacare doomsaying. Tanner does not argue that Obamacare is wrong because conservatives philosophically object to using taxation and regulation to transfer resources from the rich and healthy to the poor and sick. Instead he makes eight substantive claims about the law’s impact on health-care access. Every single one of them is overblown or demonstrably wrong.
Here’s Tanner’s litany of failure:
Millions of Americans were forced to change insurance plans, and others found themselves pushed into smaller networks with few choices of providers. Premiums rose. Businesses, laboring under the higher costs imposed by the law, have slowed growth; many have delayed hiring, or shifted workers from full- to part-time. The potential impact on the quality of care remains troubling.
Let’s take these claims in order.
1.“Millions of Americans were forced to change insurance plans.” The specter of mass dislocation was a major anti-Obamacare talking point at the end of 2013 and 2014. The new health-care regulations banned a lot of unpopular practices, like lifetime limits on how much an insurer would pay, or discriminating against preexisting conditions. So it is true that many people who held insurers in the old, barely regulated insurance market needed to find new plans. On the other hand, that market had enormous year-to-year churn anyway. The main way for insurers to make money was to exclude customers who were likely to get sick, so they threw people off their insurance all the time.
We now know that the new churn created by Obamacare was much smaller than conservatives insisted at the time. A recent study by the Urban Institute found that policy cancellations were not “millions,” but under a million. As the authors explain:
These estimates suggest that policy cancellations caused by noncompliance with the ACA were uncommon in 2014 in both the nongroup and ESI markets, and the number and rate of cancellations in the nongroup market in 2014 was far smaller than in 2013. The nongroup market has historically been characterized by high volatility: an analysis of pre-ACA nongroup coverage patterns from 2008–11 shows that only 42 percent of nongroup enrollees retained their coverage after 12 months.
2. “ ... and others found themselves pushed into smaller networks with few choices of providers.” It is true that many people who enrolled in the new exchanges have insurance plans that limit their choice of doctors and hospitals, which is called “narrow networks.” There is no evidence that Obamacare caused this. The law overwhelmingly covers people who had no insurance to begin with. You can’t be “pushed” into a “smaller” network when your previous network was nonexistent.
As Jonathan Cohn laid out in an excellent and balanced explainer on this issue, insurers have been using narrow networks to control costs for decades. “That’s been the case for decades,” Larry Levitt told him, “The only real connection to the Affordable Care Act is that the health reform law is making insurers compete for customers more aggressively.”
If narrow networks are spreading, it is because the Obamacare exchanges are bringing consumer choice into the system. Overwhelmingly, the customers enrolling in plans with narrow networks are not being “pushed” so much as they are choosing them. As a McKinsey study from last year found, 90 percent of eligible customers have access to broader networks of doctors and hospitals. But most customers choose plans with narrow networks because they would rather not pay the higher premiums required to access broader networks. If we think narrow networks are inadequate, one response would be to require insurers to include more doctors and hospitals in their plans, but this would add to costs — an odd argument for a conservative to make.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, on 25 March 2015.
3. “Premiums rose.” It is true that some people will pay higher premiums. If you previously held a catastrophic plan that covered little to none of your medical expenses, you may now be paying higher premiums in return for having insurance that covers the cost of medical care. Likewise, if you were uninsured and now have coverage, your new premiums are now higher than your old premiums, which were zero. This is exactly what the law intended to do.The argument between the law’s supporters and critics centered on whether it would succeed or fail at its goal of restraining health care inflation. Historically, the cost of health care has grown at a much faster rate than the cost of other goods. Since Obamacare has taken effect, that trend has sharply reversed itself. Analysts debate the degree to which this enormous success is the result of the new law’s reforms versus outside factors. But the cost of Obamacare insurance premiums has come in well under official projections.
Tanner himself asserted that Obamacare would absolutely increase the cost of health care. “While we were once told that health-care reform would “bend the cost curve down,” we now know that Obamacare will actually increase U.S. health-care spending,” he wrote in 2012. This has been proven false. The federal government is spending less, even with the coverage expansions provided by Obamacare, than it was projected to spending before Obamacare became law:
4. “Businesses, laboring under the higher costs imposed by the law ... ” This is the opposite of the truth. The cost of providing health care to employees for business, after years of rapid growth, has stayed unusually flat:
5. “ ... have slowed growth.” Actually, 2014, the first year of Obamacare’s implementation coincided with the fastest growth in GDP since the start of the recession.6. “many have delayed hiring … ” In fact, 2014 was also the best year for job creation, not only since the recession but since 1999.
7. “or shifted workers from full- to part-time.” Nope, the share of part-time workers has also fallen since Obamacare took effect.8. “The potential impact on the quality of care remains troubling.” This is a really vague statement. Measuring the quality of health care is nearly impossible in general. What’s more, tanner’s formulation has not one but two weasel words (“potential,” “troubling”) that distance him from any verifiable claim.
That said, there’s plenty of evidence that the Affordable Care Act is improving the quality of care. The percentage of Americans delaying medical care for financial reasons has dropped sharply. The rate of hospital-acquired infections (a key target of the law, which changed hospitals’ financial incentive in order to drive down infections) has fallen. Customers who bought insurance through the exchanges report high levels of satisfaction with the quality of their care. One study found that Obamacare is saving around 50,000 lives a year; after President Obama cited the figure, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler set out to debunk the claim, only to determine that it checked out.
This is the reality that the entire Republican Party has failed to come to grips with. The American health-care system before Obamacare was an utter disaster — the most expensive in the world and also the only one that denied access to millions of its own citizens. Obamacare set out to change those things, and it has worked.
There is one remaining indictment of the law that Tanner makes, and it’s true. “The law remains extraordinarily unpopular, with opponents topping supporters by nearly 11 percentage points, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average,” he argues. It is notable that opponents of Obamacare have fixated on the law’s poor polling. In a recent column, Reason’s Peter Suderman quibbles halfheartedly with the law’s demonstrable success in carrying out its goals — suggesting that the astonishing drop in medical inflation may be owed to outside forces — before reveling for six paragraphs in his major point, which is continued lack of public approval. “Obamacare is simply not well liked,” he concludes, “This is the political reality — and President Obama still refuses to embrace it.”
It is telling that, having lost every substantive argument about the law’s operation, their sole remaining refuge is an argument about its perception. It’s true: Their lies got halfway around the world before the truth could get its pants on. Indeed, if you google most of the factual disputes I discuss above, you’ll get a lot more hits from conservatives making hysterical and false predictions than you will find from reports showing those predictions failed to come true. Those myths still hold enormous sway over public opinion. Far more Americans believe Obamacare has death panels, which is false, than believe its costs have come in under projections, which is true. Conservatives have won the propaganda war over Obamacare. The trouble is that they think this is an indictment of Obamacare, when in fact it’s an indictment of them.

Walker Tries To Nail LBGT Rights Advocates To The Wall Over Indiana, Fails Miserably

Image by WisPolitics.com. Licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wispolitics/4094057718/
Scott Walker acts like he’s a master of words and understanding public opinion. Sadly (for him), he just stuck his foot in his mouth again.

Wiccans say Indiana religious freedom law opens the door to polygamy, nude rituals at the Capitol

Scott Kaufmanby Scott Kaufman
Young pagan Slavic girl with fern leaf (Shutterstock)The Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence last week has found support from a most unusual source — practicing Wiccans.
The Daily Beast‘s David Freedlander spoke to Dusty Dionne, a High Priest and High Summoner of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, who confessed that while he believes “these bills are horrible,” they do provide a unique opportunity for practitioners of his faith.
“If they are going to up this can of worms,” he said, “we are going to shove it right in their face.” For example, he explained, many Wiccans believe “that love is the law,” so while polygamous marriages are not a tenet of Wiccan theology, “whatever we want to do with marriage we can do. Carte blanche. If I want to marry a horse, I can marry a horse.”
Wiccans would also legally be able to refuse drug tests in states with religious freedom laws, because “natural” substances like marijuana and hallucinogens are “herbs” used to enhance experience at officially sanctioned religious ceremonies. Moreover, Dionne explained, giving the blood or urine samples required for such tests would run contrary to their belief that the “body is a temple,” and “if you come for a piece of my temple, I can say no.”
They would also be free to dance naked on state Capitol steps so long as the moon was full, as a Wiccan holy text — “The Charge of the Goddess” — sanctions the practice.
But Heather Greene, an editor at Wild Hunt — a website that offers news and political analysis from “A Modern Pagan Perspective” — told Freedlander that while she supports legislation that allows those in marginal religions to practice freely, she shares with the mainstream doubts about the efficacy of the Indiana bill.
“The concern,” she said, “is that recent RFRA language is so broad that it will ultimately lead to both religious and LGBTQ discrimination.”
Dionne, however, remains undeterred. “We are the fifth-largest religion in America,” he said, “and we are the fastest growing. If they pass these laws, we are going to beat a fucking drum.”