The 24 states that have refused to expand Medicaid are losing out on some $423.6 bln between now and 2022 that could go to provide health care for the working poor, according to a new study from the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Over the next ten years, Joan McCarter noted at DailyKos.com (8/11), Florida will lose $66.1 bln; Texas, $65.6 bln; North Carolina, $39.6 bln. Even states with small populations, like Idaho ($3.3 bln) and Wyoming ($1.4 bln) are foregoing huge amounts of funding relative to state budgets. Most of the states argue that the eventual costs of expansion will be far too high, so they are being fiscally prudent in rejecting it. This study puts that argument to rest. As Jonathan Cohn noted at NewRepublic.com (8/11), “The Urban Institute researchers have made projections for just how much money each state is implicitly giving up by refusing to expand Medicaid. Georgia is a good example. According to the Urban report, Georgia would have to spend an additional $2.5 bln over the course of a decade in order to finance its share of the Medicaid expansion. But the state is giving up more than ten times that—$33.5 bln—in federal funds.”

There’s plenty else the states are missing out on, besides having a potentially healthier population, McCarter noted. “In 2015 alone, these 24 states could create 172,400 jobs and their hospitals would receive $168 bln in new reimbursements. The economic shot in the arm from Medicaid expansion could do wonders for some of these struggling states. But it’s far more important to most of these Republican legislatures and governors to fight Obama.”

Uwe E. Reinhardt, an economics professor at Princeton, noted in the New York Times (8/13) that if the governor and the legislature refuse to accept the federal deal — as 24 states have so far — they in effect vote against one of the most fantastic cash-flow deals ever offered them.

“And it gets worse. The state’s citizens are paying taxes to the federal government to help cover the federal payments made to other states who do accept the new deal, but the state gets nothing in return. In states that accept the deal, possibly millions of poor citizens will get insurance coverage they now lack. Furthermore, doctors, hospitals and other providers of health care in the state would see their revenues increase and thus could offer more jobs to residents of the state.

“As just one example, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and his state legislature are among those who have made the decision to reject the Medicaid expansion. With 24% of the population uninsured at any one time, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country. True, as the Urban Institute study cited above shows, the deal would require Texas to invest $5.7 bln of state money during the decade from 2012 to 2022. But in return Texas would receive $65.6 bln of federal money, of which Texas hospitals would receive $34.3 bln, undoubtedly leading them to hire many more Texans.”

Some governors and other Republicans have expressed fear that, in the end, the federal government will just renege on the deal now being offered, leaving the states to pick up the entire tab of the Medicaid expansion, Reinhardt noted. There is no historical precedent for this in Medicaid. But states are free to drop out of the Medicaid expansion if they choose to.

“In short, this economist is puzzled by the thinking among the leaders of the 24 states who have refused to accept the highly profitable deal offered them under the Affordable Care Act (23 states have accepted the deal; three are still debating it).

“Straight economic theory makes me wonder how long these states’ citizens and the powerful lobbies of doctors and hospitals will sit by idly watching this behavior. My prediction is that these politically powerful interest groups will ultimately prevail and get the deal done.”

IMPROVING ECONOMY DOESN’T HELP OBAMA. Polling shows a public still struggling to regain its economic footing six years after the financial meltdown of 2008. Americans’ real economic distress is one reason why President Obama is not getting credit for a steadily dropping unemployment rate and improved economic growth, Amy Walter wrote at Cook Political Report (8/6). The other reason a (slowly) growing economy isn’t boosting Obama’s numbers is more political in nature and ultimately more problematic for Democrats.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted 7/30-8/3 found that more than 70% believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and President Obama’s approval rating hit a new low at 40%. A recent CNN/ORC poll conducted 7/18-20 showed 41% of Americans saying the nation’s economic conditions are good, a (modestly) brightening perspective on the economy, Watler wrote. Buried in the 8/1 story by CNN: “But it’s a different story in the South, where the number of southerners who give a thumbs-up to the economy has remained stubbornly stuck at 34%.” Perhaps the economy has not recovered as strongly in the South as it has in other parts of the country. However, it’s also true that voters’ perception of the economy is as much about partisanship as it is about the unemployment rate or the growth of GDP. If you’re a Democrat, you think the economy is getting better. If you are a Republican, you don’t.

So, with President Obama’s approval rating in the 30s/low 40s in most of the South, it should come as no surprise that southerners aren’t feeling particularly bullish about the economy, Walter wrote. “This is a big problem for Senate Democrats in 2014. With the battle for the Senate taking place in mostly southern, mostly red terrain, an improving economy may not be enough to keep the Senate in Democratic hands.”

She concluded: “While economists use data points to make assessments of the economy’s health (unemployment rate, GDP growth, etc.), voters are more likely to use their perceptions of the president to determine if things are getting better or not. Those perceptions are driven as much by partisanship as anything else. The more Washington engages in partisan fire-fights on issues ranging from Obamacare to immigration, the more hardened those partisan perceptions become, which is why even an improving economy isn’t lifting Obama’s approval ratings.”

CONGRESS MORE POPULAR THAN PUTIN. Americans like the banks that they hate more than they like Congress. But Congress still beats Russian President Vladimir Putin, so that’s something. Joan McCarter wrote at DailyKos.com (8/6). So says a new poll from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News.

Just 21% of Americans have a favorable view of Wall Street, compared with one-third who have a negative view. But that 12-point differential means Wall Street isn’t as unpopular as both Democrats in Congress, who have higher favorability ratings but also higher unfavorability ratings, and Republicans in Congress, who are viewed less positively than Wall Street and far more negatively, Nick TImaraos wrote at the Wall Street Journal (8/6).

The poll finds profound anxiety in the public about the economy, with 54% agreeing “the widening income gap between the wealthy and everyone else is undermining the idea that every American has the opportunity for a better standard of living,” McCarter noted. Well more than two-thirds, 71%, were personally impacted by the recession “a lot” or “just some,” and 64% say they are still hurting from it. Forty percent say someone in their household has lost a job in the past five years, 27% have at least $5,000 in student loan debts, 20% more than $2,000 in credit card debt, and 17% reporting that they’ve got a parent or an adult child living with them because of economic or health reasons.

No wonder “79% of respondents are dissatisfied with the US political system, including nearly half who are very dissatisfied.” And 71% of them pin that on the “inability of elected officials in Washington to get things done to improve the economy.” What does that mean for November? Pollster Peter Hart isn’t sure: “We’re unhappy, but we aren’t coalescing around an issue.”

GOP LAWSUIT, IMPEACHMENT TALK PUSHES INDIES TO DEMS. Republican talk about impeachment is not helping them with the general electorate. In fact, a new poll shows it’s killing them among swing voters: The McClatchy-Marist College poll conducted 8/4-7 shows political moderates oppose the impeachment of Obama 79% to 15%. And if the House GOP did initiate impeachment proceedings, moderates say it would turn them off so much that they would be pulled toward the Democrats. By 49-27, moderates say impeachment would make them more likely to vote Democratic than Republican in 2014.

John Boehner’s lawsuit stunt isn’t doing the party any favors either, “Hunter” noted at DailyKos.com (8/13). Americans say 58% to 34% that the GOP should not sue Obama, and moderates agree 67-22. Moderates also say by a 50-25 margin that the lawsuit makes them more likely to back Democrats in 2014.

“These are brutal numbers,” Hunter noted. “Whether they translate into increased turnout for Democrats is, as always, the big question. It probably depends mostly on whether Republican leadership can convince their members to clam up about both issues from now until November. And you can see why Republicans have started to get so very bristly when Democrats talk about either.”

ARMING SYRIAN REBELS WOULDN’T HAVE STOPPED ISIS. Did the United States make a huge mistake by not aggressively supporting and arming the Free Syrian Army back in 2011-12? Did this decision produce a power vacuum that prompted the rise of ISIS in Iraq? Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and the Project on Middle East Political Science at George Washington University, says no to the first question at WashingtonPost.com (8/11).

“In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve,” Lynch wrote. “...Worse, as the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective. ... An effective strategy of arming the Syrian rebels would never have been easy, but to have any chance at all it would have required a unified approach by the rebels’ external backers, and a unified rebel organization to receive the aid. That would have meant staunching financial flows from its Gulf partners, or at least directing them in a coordinated fashion. Otherwise, US aid to the [Free Syrian Army] would be just another bucket of water in an ocean of cash and guns pouring into the conflict.”

On the second question, Lynch said the idea that more US support for the FSA would have prevented the emergence of the Islamic State isn’t even remotely plausible. “The open battlefield and nature of the struggle ensured that jihadists would find Syria’s war appealing. The Islamic State recovered steam inside of Iraq as part of a broad Sunni insurgency driven by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloody, ham-fisted crackdowns in Hawija and Fallujah, and more broadly because of the disaffection of key Sunni actors over Maliki’s sectarian authoritarianism. It is difficult to see how this would have been affected in the slightest by a US-backed FSA (or, for that matter, by a residual US military presence in Iraq ...). There is certainly no reason to believe that the Islamic State and other extremist groups would have stayed away from such an ideal zone for jihad simply because Western-backed groups had additional guns and money.”

DEMS READY FOR FOLEY IN CONN. Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin went to the polls Tuesday (8/12) to pick nominees in a number of races that will be important this fall. David Nir recapped the action for DailyKos.com, along with ratings of each race’s competitiveness:

• CT-Gov (R): As expected, 2010 nominee Tom Foley will carry the banner for his party once again, but considering how dominant a frontrunner he’d always been viewed as, his 56-44 win over state Senate Majority Leader John McKinney was kind of wimpy. Foley will now try to unseat the man who narrowly defeated him four years ago, Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy, who wasted no time in dropping a blistering new negative ad on Foley’s head, in which Foley’s brand of vulture capitalism makes Mitt Romney look like a socialist.) This race will be hotly contested. (Tossup)

• MN-Gov (R): Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who was formally endorsed by his party at its convention back in May, secured the GOP nomination for governor with 30% of the vote on 8/12. Former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers was in second with 24%, and former state House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour each took 21. Johnson will be a serious underdog to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. (Likely D)

• MN-01 (R): In something of an upset, businessman Jim Hagedorn won a 54-46 victory over Iraq and Afghanistan vet Aaron Miller, who had been touted by the NRCC. Hagedorn is the son of ex-Rep. Tom Hagedorn, who represented the area back in the 1970s, but he raised almost nothing—not that Miller raised much more. In any event, national Republicans are unlikely to spend much time on this district against incumbent Rep. Tim Walz (D). (Likely D)

• MN-06 (R): Say goodbye to US Rep. Michele Bachmann, friends. Ex-state Rep. Tom Emmer handily won the GOP primary to succeed her, defeating Rhonda Sivarajah 73-27. In this dark red district, he’ll prevail easily in November. Only Bachmann, with her extraordinary lack of a filter, was capable of making this seat competitive, but give Emmer some time—he may yet one day fill his predecessor’s considerable shoes. (Safe R)

• WI-06 (R): At around midnight on election night, the AP called the GOP primary for Congressional District 6 for state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who at the time had around a 10-point lead over fellow state Sen. Joe Leibham. But Sheboygan County recalculated its results in the wee hours, leading Leibham to claw his way back to just a 215-vote deficit—and the AP to withdraw its call. Both candidates now have 36% of the vote apiece, and a recount looks imminent.

Democrats very much want Grothman to hang on, since he could make this race interesting all on his own. After US Rep. Tom Petri (R) announced his retirement, Team Blue managed to land a decent recruit on paper, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. However, Harris has raised almost nothing so far, but if Grothman spouts off, donors might open their wallets. (Likely R)

RESEARCHER FINDS ONLY 31 VOTER FRAUD CASES IN 14 YEARS. Democrats have charged that voter ID laws that Republican legislatures have passed, purportedly to prevent voter fraud but effectively disenfranchising millions of seniors and working-class voters who tend to vote Democratic, are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles, has tracked actual voter fraud cases for years and has found a total of 31 cases of individuals accused of representing themselves as someone else at the polls in general, primary, special and municipal elections since 2000. Some of the cases involved multiple ballots. More than 1 bln ballots were cast in that period. And Levitt wrote in the WashingtonPost.com (8/6) that many of those claims may be debunked as a problem with matching people from one big computer list to another, or a data entry error, or confusion between two different people with the same name, or someone signing in on the wrong line of a pollbook.

“In just four states that have held just a few elections under the harshest ID laws, more than 3,000 votes (in general elections alone) have reportedly been affirmatively rejected for lack of ID,” Levitt wrote. “(That doesn’t include voters without ID who didn’t show up, or recordkeeping mistakes by officials.)  Some of those 3,000 may have been fraudulent ballots. But how many legitimate voters have already been turned away?”

Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com (8/6) that “every single one of these cases involves just one or a few people. There’s not a single credible case in the past 15 years of any kind of organized voter impersonation scam of the kind that might actually affect the outcome of an election. There’s just no there there.”

But it’s enough to make it more difficult for millions of Americans to vote.

OBAMA COULD END ARGENTINA’S DEBT CRISIS. President Obama could end Argentina’s debt crisis with a simple note to the federal court invoking his authority to conduct foreign policy, Greg Palast wrote for TheGuardian.com (8/7).

“Obama could prevent vulture hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer from collecting a single penny from Argentina by invoking the long-established authority granted presidents by the US constitution’s “Separation of Powers” clause. Under the principle known as “comity,” Obama only need inform US federal judge Thomas Griesa that Singer’s suit interferes with the president’s sole authority to conduct foreign policy. Case dismissed.

“Indeed, President George W Bush invoked this power against the very same hedge fund now threatening Argentina. Bush blocked Singer’s seizure of Congo-Brazzaville’s US property, despite the fact that the hedge fund chief is one of the largest, and most influential, contributors to Republican candidates.

“Notably, an appeals court warned this very judge, 30 years ago, to heed the directive of a president invoking his foreign policy powers. In the Singer case, the US State Department did inform Judge Griesa that the Obama administration agreed with Argentina’s legal arguments; but the president never invoked the magical, vulture-stopping clause.”

Palast noted that Obama capitulated to Singer the last time they went mano a mano. It was 2009 and Singer, through a brilliantly complex financial maneuver, took control of Delphi Automotive, the sole supplier of most of the auto parts needed by General Motors and Chrysler. Both auto firms were already in bankruptcy.

Singer and co-investors demanded the US Treasury pay them billions, including $350 million in cash immediately, or – as the Singer consortium threatened – “we’ll shut you down.” GM and Chrysler, with no more than a couple of days’ worth of parts on hand, would have shut down, permanently forced into liquidation.

Obama’s negotiator, Treasury deputy Steven Rattner, called the vulture funds’ demand “extortion” – a characterization of Singer repeated by Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Ultimately, the US Treasury paid the Singer consortium a cool $12.9 bln in cash and subsidies from the US Treasury’s auto bailout fund.

Singer responded to Obama’s largesse by quickly shutting down 25 of Delphi’s 29 US auto parts plants, shifting 25,000 jobs to Asia. Singer’s Elliott Management pocketed $1.29 bln of which Singer personally garnered the lion’s share, Palast noted.

In the case of Argentina, the US State Department warned the judge that adopting Singer’s legal theories would imperil sovereign bailout agreements worldwide. Indeed, it is reported that, in 2012, Singer joined fellow billionaire vulture investor Kenneth Dart in shaking down the Greek government for a huge payout during the euro crisis by threatening to create a mass default of banks across Europe.

Singer also has mounted legal attacks on JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, BNY Mellon, and UBS, demanding they pay him the money that Argentina had paid them over the last decade. Furthermore, Singer’s lawyers persuaded the judge to stop BNY Mellon, Argentina’s agent, from making $500 mln in payments to Argentinian bondholders.

Palast noted that Singer has become the biggest donor to New York Republican causes. And Singer recently gave $1 mln to Karl Rove’s Crossroads operation, another political attack machine.

“In other words, there’s a price for crossing Singer. And, unlike the president of Argentina, Obama appears unwilling to pay it.”

KKK GETS SHOUTED DOWN IN N.C. When the Ku Klux Klan announced it would rally at the Montgomery County courthouse in Troy, N.C., a counter-protest was organized via the Internet and drew several hundred people to Main Street to let the approximately Klansmen know they weren’t welcome, the Asheboro, N.C. Courier-Tribune reported (8/9).

“Young black people here today are seeing something they have never seen before. We have come a long way in this country and there is no place now for spreading hate and ignorance,” said William Cagle of Biscoe.

Donald Loften from Troy agreed. “Young people today will not stand for this. When I was a little boy, the KKK coming to town would have put fear in my heart, but not anymore,” Loften said. “This country has come so far since those days. Where I work, we all work together every day. It’s a shame and disgrace for society that this hatred can go on, but I guess there will always be that 10% who want to hate somebody. They want to stir up trouble, but they are dealing with a different mentality now. People have no fear of them.”

Troy Police Chief Kenny Allen said there were no incidents and no arrests. Troy police, assisted by officers from Biscoe and Mt. Gilead, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the state Highway Patrol and the Forest Service kept anti-Klan protesters across the street from the KKK group.

“The officers were very professional and very efficient,” Allen said. “They (the KKK) exercised their First Amendment right and left eight minutes ahead of their scheduled one hour.

LATINO VOTE UNLIKELY TO BE CRUCIAL THIS YEAR. Republicans have repeatedly failed to pass anything of substance regarding immigration, and their latest fiasco over the border crisis makes their haplessness more apparent than ever. But will it matter this November? Nate Cohn says no in the New York Times (8/5).

“Hispanic voters are all but absent from this year’s most competitive Senate battlegrounds. Hispanic voters make up about 11% of eligible voters but represent 5% or fewer of the eligible voters in eight of the nine states deemed competitive by Leo, The Upshot’s Senate model.

“....Hispanic voters will have even less influence over the composition of the House, which is all but assured to remain in Republican hands. ...The reason is simple. In districts held by House Republicans, Hispanics represent only 6.7% of eligible voters. The Hispanic share of eligible voters is nearly as low in the House battlegrounds, 7.4%.”

Add to this the fact that Hispanics already vote for Democrats in large numbers, and Republicans just don’t have very much to lose. Even if they lost another 10% of the Hispanic vote (an improbably huge number), that would represent considerably less than 1% of the total vote. That just won’t make a difference except in a few of the very tightest races, Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com (8/4).

The main exception here is Colorado, which has a substantial Hispanic population. But Colorado has never been a likely Republican pickup anyway, so it’s unlikely to affect overall Republican chances of taking control of the Senate this year.

Now, as Cohn says, in a tight race anything can make a difference. And the Senate race is tight enough that control could easily come down to one close race in one state. If Georgia ends up being decided by a 51-49 vote, it’s just possible that Hispanic turnout could make the difference.

Probably not, though, and this is a good illustration of the current dynamics in American elections: national demographic trends are making it harder and harder for Republicans to win the presidency, but those same trends don’t affect congressional votes that much as long as Republicans can hold onto their base. So the GOP can maintain its ability to obstruct, but is losing its ability to lead, Drum wrote.

In other words, you should probably get used to gridlock. It’s not going away anytime soon.

WEAPONS RESEARCHERS SKEPTICAL OF ‘IRON DOME’ SUCCESS. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, developed in cooperation with the US government, is credited by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest with saving “countless Israeli lives” by intercepting missiles fired from Gaza. Time magazine wrote in 2012, a year after the system’s premiere, that Iron Dome was the “most effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen.”

The US government has given its Mideast ally about $700 mln to develop the system, and President Obama recently signed a bill to provide another $225 mln to the missile defense system, Dylan Scott reported at TalkingPointsMemo.com (8/12), and the Israeli military says Iron Dome — which fires missiles to take down incoming rockets heading into Israeli population centers — has a success rate of about 85%.

But independent research by a Massachusetts Institute of Technolocy professor who specializes in ballistics has called that official figure into question. In fact, according to the analysis by Ted Postol, the Iron Dome system might actually disarm as little as 5% of the rockets it attempts to intercept. The number could be higher, depending on a number of variables, but the bottom line argument is that the system is not nearly as successful in stopping rockets being fired into Israel as official sources suggest, Scott reported.

Postol was one of the central figures in debunking the high success rate of the Patriot missile system alleged by the US military in the early 1990s, using a methodology very similar to the one he’s now employed to analyze Iron Dome. A House subcommittee that rebuked the military’s claims about the Patriot system relied heavily on Postol’s research.

“Among people who really know what they’re talking about, I don’t think this is subject to dispute,” Postol told TPM by phone. “The only way that there would be controversy about this is if you had a political agenda.”

Postol’s research can be read in full in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (http://thebulletin.org/evidence-shows-iron-dome-not-working7318).

Both Postol and Richard Lloyd, another critic of Iron Dome, attribute the low casualties in Israel mainly to the low firepower of the rockets and to Israel’s excellent early-warning system and network of shelters, Peter Coy reported at Bloomberg Businessweek (7/21).

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2014


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