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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Three



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Alaska’s Democratic senator Mark Begich’s first attack ad of the cycle targeted “the billionaire Koch brothers.” His fundraising focuses on the pair relentlessly: “It’s really hard to get an email from Begich without mentioning the Kochs.”

Begich summarizes his race simply: “We’re up against billionaires.”

It’s another instance of endangered incumbent Democrats embracing populist attacks on “the richest 1 percent” hoping no one will notice that they themselves are among America’s richest 1 percent, or 2 or 3 percent at the very least.

Begich is pretty darn wealthy. Because of the wide range of categories in Senate financial-disclosure forms, Begich’s 2012 net worth was estimated to be anywhere from $385,000 in debt to $3.2 million. He listed $1.7 million to $4.2 million in assets.

The District of Columbia assessed Begich’s three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom home on Capitol Hill at $965,000 in 2014, and projects it will be assessed at just over $1 million in 2015. The real-estate site Zillow estimates it could sell for $1.1 million.

(The location of the senator’s home is available through public records, but don’t be a jerk and go onto his property or bother him or his family. The above photo is from Google Street View.)

Some contend there’s no inherent contradiction between being fabulously wealthy and touting populist rhetoric. But that’s precisely the point; if you don’t espouse populist rhetoric that matches the priorities of the Democratic party, they’ll declare you’re part of the problem. Your wealth is deemed a symbol of inequality and rapaciousness if you don’t play along with the progressives and, along the way, pay up when they come knocking.

Begich and other progressives don’t complain about billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer pledging to spend $100 million on political advertising this year, or call it “buying democracy.” Steyer just recently insisted that his spending on political causes is different because . . . well, he’s one of the good guys, obviously: “They’re in a very, very different position than me and from the people that I work with.”

A millionaire or billionaire who donates to the Democrats has bought the equivalent of an indulgence, a get-out-of-demonization-free card that ensures they’ll never be called out as a scapegoat in a sputtering economy.

Think about how often Charles and David Koch are characterized as “greedy” or “selfish,” even though they’ve donated more than $1 billion to “cancer research, medical centers, educational institutions, arts and cultural institutions, and to assist public policy organizations.”

Senate majority leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate to call them “un-American,” which reflects the protection racket that progressives are running. If you donate to us, you’re cool. If you donate to the other guys, we’ll demonize you night and day.

The casual dismissal of the Kochs’ literally giving a billion dollars to charity is particularly ironic since several wealthy and prominent Democrats have given a pittance to good causes, at least according to their tax returns.

In 1997, Vice President Al Gore, earning $197,729, donated $353 to charity, about two-tenths of 1 percent of his income. Since 2000, Vice President Joe Biden’s never given more than 2 percent of his income to charity; in 2005, earning $265,908, Biden donated $380 to charity. And of course, then-governor Bill Clinton was mocked for claiming a $6 deduction on his tax return for donating three pair of used underwear to the Salvation Army. (Lucky them.)

Has any self-identified progressive ever accused those men of being greedy or selfish?

Tags: Mark Begich

Hagan and Landrieu Are in Trouble . . . But Pryor’s Okay?



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Hagan and Landrieu Are in Trouble . . . But Pryor’s Okay? Really?

This morning the New York Times drops a poll showing most southern Democratic senators up for reelection this year in trouble, with one striking exception:

Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a two-term incumbent who has been considered perhaps the most imperiled Democratic senator in the country, holds a 10-point lead over his Republican opponent, Representative Tom Cotton.

Kind of out of whack compared to other polling so far this year, showing a neck-and-neck race. Democrats will undoubtedly begin the victory party, but we’ll see if the Times’s sample is just an outlier, showing them what they want to see.

Elsewhere the Times poll finds:

Senator Kay Hagan, Democrat of North Carolina, appears more endangered as she seeks a second term. She has the support of 42 percent of voters, and Thom Tillis, the Republican state House speaker and front-runner for his party’s nomination, is at 40 percent.

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is also effectively tied with his Democratic rival, Alison Lundergan Grimes, a race that may be close because Mr. McConnell, first elected to the Senate in 1984, has the approval of only 40 percent of voters, while 52 percent disapprove. But Ms. Grimes must overcome Mr. Obama’s deep unpopularity in the state, where only 32 percent of voters approve of his performance.

For what it’s worth, you don’t see Republicans as worried about McConnell as they were late last year.

With 42 percent support, Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, has an early lead in a race that is not fully formed against a large field of Republicans. Representative Bill Cassidy, the Republican front-runner, was the choice of 18 percent, and 20 percent had no opinion. There are two other Republicans in the race, but Louisiana has no primary. So all candidates of both parties will be on the ballot in November and, absent one of them taking 50 percent, there will be a runoff in December.

So the more important number is Landrieu’s 42 percent, nowhere near enough to avoid a runoff at this point and a decent opportunity for Cassidy to put together a majority in the runoff.

Tags: Kay Hagan , Mary Landrieu , Mark Pryor

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Obama’s Earth Day Travels Will Generate 868 Tons of Carbon



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Today is Earth Day. President Obama will mark the day by flying from Washington, D.C., to Washington state — 2,328 miles, generating 568,032 pounds of carbon emissions at 244 pounds per mile — and then beginning his week-long trip to Asia, flying tonight to Tokyo — 4,792 miles, an additional 1,169,248 pounds of carbon emissions. The two trips add up to 1.73 million pounds of carbon, or 868.64 tons.

For perspective, the average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide in one year.

This figure does not count the carbon emissions from the president’s backup plane, cargo planes transporting the president’s limo and helicopter, advance staff, etc.

Perhaps the president will discuss climate change during his trip to Asia.

Tags: Barack Obama , Carbon Emissions , Environmentalism

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Two



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John Maginnis, writing in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, urges endangered Senate Democrat Mary Landrieu to campaign against the richest 1 percent and play on class envy and wealth resentment:

With [Americans for Prosperty], we have two billionaires [Charles and David Koch], the top 1 percent of the 1 percenters, muscling legislators into denying healthcare coverage to the working poor. They have written the script for Landrieu’s and the Democratic super PAC’s consultants. She will need a strong emotional message to push more Democrats to the polls, and anger is always a greater motivator than gratitude. It may not be enough to save her, but the Koch brothers’ overplaying their hand could neutralize a potent issue for the Republicans.

Maginnis notes “the Senate Majority PAC, has just started defining the Baton Rouge doctor [her likely rival, Republican congressman Bill Cassidy] as bought-and-paid-for by the richest of the rich.”

As this week’s “Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats” series will point out, Democratic lawmakers are ludicrously implausible advocates for demonizing the rich, as they are exceptionally wealthy themselves. The public is urged to turn its anger at the “richest of the rich” by the merely very, very rich.

Mary Landrieu, of course, has a net worth estimated between $894,018 and $2.6 million, with assets totaling $1.9 million to $3.1 million, according to her 2012 financial-disclosure form.

That 2012 estimate may not fully represent the booming value of her five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,247-square-foot Capitol Hill home. (Landrieu’s husband, Frank Snellings, is listed as the owner of the property on D.C. tax records.)

(The location of the senator’s home is public record, but don’t be a jerk and go onto her property or bother her or her family. The above photo is from Google Street View.)

The District of Columbia assessed the home’s value at $2.5 million in 2014, and projected its assessment for 2015 could be $2.8 million. The real estate site Zillow estimates the value of the property at $2.9 million.

Landrieu’s effort to demonize the Koch brothers for spending money in politics will undoubtedly be supported by “Friends of Mary Landrieu,” which has raised $35 million since 1995; and her leadership PAC, Jazz PAC, which has raised another $1.8 million since 2004.

Her “Big Easy Committee,” which consists of her personal campaign and her leadership PAC, is holding a $5,000 per couple fundraiser this weekend at the Loews New Orleans Hotel.

Or perhaps she’ll fume about the richest 1 percent’s selfishness over shellfish at her $1,000-to-$2,500-per-plate May 7 fundraiser for “Friends of Mary Landrieu” at Johnny’s Half Shell restaurant on Capitol Hill.

This midterm election year offers us a particularly vivid example of a party’s intellectual exhaustion as we witness rich lawmakers raising money from other rich people by emphasizing their determination to punish other other rich people.

Tags: Mary Landrieu

A Face to Strike Fear in the Heart of Putin



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At yesterday’s White House Easter Egg Roll, President Obama terrified the children in attendance by announcing that he was, indeed, in the process of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

No, no, just kidding. The above photo from the AP shows the president reading from Where the Wild Things Are.

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

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Taxpayer-Saved Automaker Asks Court to Bar Lawsuits Over Defective Switches



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Aren’t we all glad that U.S. taxpayers lost $10.5 billion saving this company?

General Motors Co filed a motion in a U.S. bankruptcy court to enforce a bar on lawsuits related to ignition defects in cars sold before its 2009 bankruptcy as it fights a class action lawsuit that seeks to set aside the restriction.

The argument of General Motors is that legally, they’re the “new G.M.,” freed from the liabilities of the “old G.M.” The plaintiffs will argue that the usual bankruptcy liability protections are null and void if a company withholds key information during the bankruptcy process — i.e., the fact that they’ve made millions of cars with a potentially lethal defect.

The taxpayer bailout is being cited by the plaintiffs as a supporting argument for letting the lawsuits proceed:

GM’s argument suggests that the U.S. Government would have agreed to extend $40 billion of taxpayer money for GM’s restructuring, and supported shielding it from liability through the sale order, had it known of GM’s intentional misconduct.

(Well . . . if the whole purpose of the bailout was to help the administration’s allies in the United Auto Workers, can we really be sure that it wouldn’t?)

This morning, President Obama’s “auto czar,” Steve Rattner, who ran the bailout, was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe . . . talking about income inequality, not GM.

Tags: GM , Obama Administration

Crist: I ‘Never Have’ Wanted to Tell a Woman What to Do With her Body



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From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

Guy Who Spent His Early Career Insisting He’s Pro-Life Now Insists He’s Always Been Pro-Choice.

Seriously, Florida. Come on.

There are a lot of Florida Democrats who will probably tell you they care about abortion — er, “abortion rights” or “reproductive rights.” The vast majority of them will, this fall, vote for a man who, during his 2006 race for governor, told a priest in Pensacola that he would sign a bill outlawing abortions except when the mother’s life was at stake. But then he told an AP reporter that he would sign such a bill only if it included exceptions for rape and incest. Also during that race, Charlie Crist attacked his GOP rival for being pro-choice. And as recently as January 2010, “Crist’s Republican U.S. Senate campaign released a statement saying he would ‘fight for pro-life legislative efforts.’”

And now he can come along and say, “even though I am pro-life, which I mean, for life, doesn’t mean I want to tell a woman what to do with her body, and I never have,” and almost every self-proclaimed pro-choice Florida Democrat will nod approvingly.

Because they don’t give a [insert your colorful metaphor here] what the heck Charlie Crist did in the past. They only care that he has a “D” after his name.

Tags: Charlie Crist

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part One



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Over at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza writes:

Here’s how Democrats can save themselves in the coming midterms elections: Use the exact same “1 percent” economic messaging that won President Obama a second term in 2012.

I suppose we’ll see. But that would seem to set up a fantastic opportunity for a Republican counterpunch on cronyism, arguing that our traditional economic culture of opportunity is being eroded by American businesses increasingly catering to a powerful Washington elite instead of customers. The administration that brought you General Motors, Solyndra, Fisker Automotive, Evergreen Solar, and so on has no leg to stand on, and these denunciations of the richest 1 percent will probably come at $16,000-or-more-per-plate fundraisers, or at the home of billionaire Tom Steyer. No one with functioning brain cells thinks Democrats have any objection to the right kind of rich people; they have a problem with rich people who don’t donate to their campaigns.

What’s more, almost every Democrat who’s going to be demonizing the “1 Percent” is in fact a member of the 1 Percent, or at absolute worst, the country’s richest 2 or 3 percent — and certainly every senator and representative is one of the most powerful and influential 1 percent, with easy access to the lucrative post-congressional life of “consulting” (read: lobbying without becoming a registered lobbyist), book deals, corporate boards, twice-a-week teaching gigs, media deals, heading up think tanks and nonprofits, etc.

When congressional Democrats denounce the richest 1 percent, they aren’t just residing in glass houses; they’re residing in glass luxury condos and mansions. Baccarat crystal, perhaps.

For example, Harry Reid’s recent statement:

You see, when you make billions of dollars a year, you can be as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow you to be. . . . What is un-American is when shadow billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system and benefit themselves and the wealthiest 1 percent.

Note how Harry Reid talks about “the wealthiest 1 percent” as if it’s someone else. By one estimate, to be in the richest 1 percent, a person needs a net worth of about $1.2 million.

Where Harry Reid spends his weeknights:

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Harry Reid’s estimated net worth, according to his most recent financial-disclosure form: $2.5 million to $6.1 million.

Speaking of “pouring money into our democracy,” since 2009, Harry Reid’s campaign committee and leadership PAC have spent $29 million on campaigns and donations to other Democratic candidates.

Tags: Harry Reid

Enough Puff Pieces About Chelsea Clinton Already.



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Let’s Ease Up on the ‘Princess Chelsea’ Coverage

Congratulations, Clinton and Mezvinsky families. It’s a wonderful time for you. Lest I be accused of attacking a pregnant woman, let’s hope that impending parenthood brings wonderful joy to Chelsea and her husband and their families, that they all enjoy some time out of the spotlight and the insufferable 2016 battlespace-preparation narratives.

Because that spotlight and those narratives can get pretty damn insufferable. Sunday I strolled through Barnes and Noble and spied on the magazine rack:

The cover text reads, “She’s Got Power, Influence, and a Plan To Change the World. Any Questions?”

Sure, let’s start with what she’s done, or what she would have done, without her father’s name or her mother’s influence.

The piece tries to dance around its obvious mission of glamorizing a young woman whose adult life consists mostly of stepping through doors opened by her parents’ power and meandering through the highest levels of high society without actually doing much:

For a decade after graduating from Stanford in 2001, Chelsea experimented with the world beyond the Clinton machine. In peripatetic bursts, she tried out international relations, then management consulting, then Wall Street, then a PhD. She even signed on for (an embarrassingly lightweight) gig as an NBC News “special correspondent.” Chelsea rationalizes this career promiscuity as a hallmark of being just another millennial, experimenting liberally until she figures out her professional purpose. But, of course, she’s not just another millennial. She’s political royalty.

Well, that’s one way of describing all that. Her brief stint at NBC represented an epic achievement of nepotism, in which she, with no experience in the field at all, somehow managed to set up a bidding war for her potential work:

To get the TV gig, Chelsea’s team played off rival networks, holding a series of meetings in New York last fall with all the major television news outlets, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. “Her agent calls, asks if you want to meet with Chelsea Clinton, you take the meeting,” one network executive tells BuzzFeed.

There was a sense in the meetings that that the news channels were auditioning for her — not the other way around — which rubbed a few of those she met with the wrong way. “They acted like we should be grateful” that she was offering herself to the networks, says the exec.

For non-political-royalty journalists, a position as a correspondent for a major network news operation’s prime time show is a major achievement, reached only after paying their dues and working hard for years, even decades. For Chelsea, it was an entry-level gig.

Early on, the Fast Company profile mentions “her White House–Stanford-Oxford-Columbia-McKinsey–hedge-fund grooming” but most of that long list stems from her familial affiliation with those first two words. How many colleges dared turn down the daughter of the president and perhaps a second future president?

Are we really to believe her path to her past jobs at McKinsey or “associate at Avenue Capital Group LLC, a New York- based hedge fund firm” was any harder than the one to NBC?

She was the youngest in her class [age 23 or 24], hired at the same rank as those with M.B.A. degrees. Her interview was more like a conversation, said D. Ronald Daniel, a senior partner. “That’s why she was a good consultant, because we are professional question-askers and professional listeners,” Mr. Daniel said.

Chelsea assures us that her past workplaces were “incredibly, fiercely meritocratic.” Sometimes in past interviews, the interviewer inadvertently expresses surprise at the seemingly high-level jobs Chelsea Clinton gets handed:

So you currently work for NBC and you’re studying for a PhD.

Well, thankfully, I’m no longer studying. I’m slogging away on my dissertation.

You’re finishing your dissertation, and you’re a provost at NYU?

Well, I was never the provost. The provost is the head academic —

Assistant provost?

So NYU, like most universities —nthis is just for your own edification, I didn’t know this either until I took a job at NYU — I took a job at NYU to fund my doctoral studies, which started there. But ultimately, the person that I really wanted to work most with was at Oxford, so I transferred back to Oxford. But in NYU, like most universities, the provost oversees all academic affairs, so everything relating to what classes get taught, and ensuring quality control there, to student life. [Editors’ note: According to the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times, Chelsea Clinton was “assistant vice provost for the Global Network University at NYU.”]

Chelsea took that “Assistant Vice Provost” position in 2010, at age 30.

Now Chelsea’s “making her move”, which warranted that Fast Company cover piece:

Now, finally, she has decided to join the Clinton family business. As vice chair of the recently rebranded Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, she is helping one of the world’s most notable philanthropies grow up.

She must have been extraordinarily talented to be named vice chair of an organization that has her name in its title, huh? What are the odds?

Throughout the piece, there’s this assumption that Chelsea Clinton was and is an exceptional achiever, without citing anything to support this: “She behaves as the overachiever that she has always been.” “She is turning the Clinton Foundation into a more entrepreneurial enterprise.” “In front of several hundred people, she displays all the earmarks of a natural leader: command of the subject matter, passion that feels authentic, and off-the-cuff comments spliced in with academic favorites such as gestalt and milieu.”

Fast Company’s correspondent Danielle Sacks deserves some credit for squeezing in some details about how Chelsea Clinton’s public image is hyper-stage-managed and airbrushed, even if the cover of the magazine completely plays along with this process:

Chelsea’s handlers are likely auditioning for White House gigs, should Hillary become president, and they bring to their current jobs all the paranoia that may serve them well in Washington. One repeatedly urges Chelsea not to change her facial expression during the cover shoot for this issue, standing so close that it’s a miracle the staffer’s mug isn’t on the cover alongside Chelsea’s. Another sits in on her interviews holding an iPhone like a stopwatch (“you have two minutes”), whisks her away when she’s in the middle of answering one final question, and scolds this journalist for even mentioning Doug Band’s name in Chelsea’s presence. It’s all an odd, occasionally funny blend of control and confusion. Their four-page press release pointing to Chelsea’s impact at the foundation only obfuscates her true accomplishments by mentioning such ephemera as visiting rural Myanmar “where she delivered the six-billionth liter of clean water to a family” or “a Starkey Hearing Foundation event in Uganda, where Chelsea helped fit patients for hearing aids.”

Dear friends on the Left: You can’t bemoan the death of opportunity in America, and rail against the richest 1 percent, and then devour puff pieces on how exceptionally talented and wonderful the offspring of our super-wealthy political leaders are, earning plaudits just by showing up with their famous last names. Paul Krugman declared that Horatio Alger was dead back in 2003. The self-made success story may not be dead, but she’s impeded by every powerful institution that sets up sweet, high-paying, low-responsibility gigs for the special children of the gilded class.

What’s really astounding is how our friends on the Left can turn their elite-status-and-wealth-resentment on and off as if it were attached to a light switch. You may recall Jim Hightower at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, sneering that George H. W. Bush was “born on third base and thought he had hit a triple.” (The quote is frequently attributed to Ann Richards.) Yeah, that 55-combat-mission naval aviator who got shot down over the Pacific and who lost his four-year-old daughter to leukemia sure lived a life of ease and comfort.

Tags: Chelsea Clinton , Hillary Clinton

Whoops! Half of Georgia’s Insurance Enrollees Haven’t Paid Yet.



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Whoops: Half of Georgia’s Insurance Enrollees Haven’t Paid Yet.

This seems rather important:

Georgia insurers received more than 220,000 applications for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act’s exchange as of the official federal deadline of March 31, state officials said Wednesday.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, though, said premiums have been received for only 107,581 of those policies, which cover 149,465 people.

“Many Georgians completed the application process by the deadline, but have yet to pay for the coverage,” Hudgens said in a statement Wednesday.

Half? Half? Sure, the nonpayment rates will be a lot lower in other places. But this indicates how much skepticism is warranted for the administration’s much-touted enrollment figures.

When progressives insist that we’re wrong and Obamacare is more popular than it seems, they’ll point to the enrollment numbers. They dismiss the national surveys, but there’s some indication that Obamacare’s meager support in the polls is actually worse than we think, because it’s being artificially boosted by respondents who are eager to declare the whole thing a success, no matter how their state exchange is actually performing.

A couple of lessons from this bit of polling research by Jonathan Easley at the Morning Consult: Healthcare.gov is uniquely and perhaps disproportionately disliked by survey respondents, and some people just tell pollsters what they want to be true, not what is actually true:

In a testament to how political affiliation potentially colors an individual’s view of the law, Morning Consult polling from November through April found that people reported more positive experiences in states with largely broken exchanges versus people who used the federal exchanges. And that includes states where the exchanges never were fully operational . . . 

We separated states into three different groups to do this analysis. The “broken” state exchange group included Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont. (While it is an inexact measurement, we put states where healthcare officials struggled throughout the enrollment period to fully launch their exchanges into the “broken” category.) The second group of states — those with relatively well running exchanges — included Washington, Rhode Island, New York, Kentucky, Colorado, Connecticut, California and the District of Columbia. All other states where included in our third group, as they used the federal exchange website to enroll customers.

Among these groups, you might expect the states with barely (or not-at-all) functioning exchanges to rank last when it comes to users’ experiences. But the federal exchanges took that spot in almost every measure. The poll has a margin of error of two percentage points, and approximately 2,000 interviews were conducted in each poll from November through April.

The analysis notes, “In the 2012 election, President Obama won all of our “broken” exchange states. That perhaps explains the rosier view voters in those states have of the law, even though the exchanges in many cases barely worked.” In other words, there’s a strong possibility some Obama voters declared their state health-insurance exchanges to be success even when they personally experienced its failure.

Tags: Obamacare , Georgia , State Exchanges

Nation Shocked to Learn Kathleen Sebelius Hadn’t Resigned a While Ago



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From the last Morning Jolt until the Monday after Easter:

Nation Shocked to Learn Kathleen Sebelius Hadn’t Resigned a While Ago

News that is surprising only in that it took this long:

Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the bug-ridden rollout of a federal health insurance program that she herself called “miserably frustrating,” is resigning as secretary of Health and Human Service… Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White House official said.

Man . . . everything this woman does gets delayed.

This is actually long past the point of having much consequence. The news is clear that Sebelius is resigning, not that she’s being fired, and there’s not even much sense that the president wanted this or thought it was an appropriate consequence for how Obamacare’s rollout proceeded on her watch.

“The White House official said that President Obama was ‘deeply grateful’ for Sebelius’ service.” Why? What would she have to do for him to not be grateful for her service?

The example has already been set. A month ago I wrote about the dysfunctional federal bureaucracy and noted, “The managers of the worst offenders rarely if ever are held accountable, and, as we’ve seen, apparently no scandal is sufficient to warrant firing a cabinet secretary. If Sebelius escaped consequence for failure, why should anyone below her worry, or anyone in any other branch of the federal bureaucracy?”

And of course, she had to offer at least one more lie on the way out the door:

On March 31, Sebelius joined HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski to discuss the Affordable Care Act sign-up deadline. When asked if she would still be part of the Obamacare effort in November, Sebelius said she “absolutely” would.

When prompted a second time to confirm her intention to remain with the administration, Sebelius declared, “I’m in.”

A lot of people chuckled over Ezra Klein’s declaration, “Kathleen Sebelius is resigning because Obamacare has won.”

How many people will call 96 doctor’s offices and find they’re not taking new patients or they’re not accepting the insurance plan they purchased through the exchange?

A gentle reminder: health insurance does not become health care until you can find a doctor to treat you.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans live in areas with an insufficient number of primary care doctors. Sixteen percent live in areas with too few dentists and a whopping 30 percent are in areas that are short of mental health providers. Under federal guidelines, there should be no more than 3,500 people for each primary care provider; no more than 5,000 people for each dental provider; and no more than 30,000 people for each mental health provider.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), unless something changes rapidly, there will be a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors in the United States (as well as a shortfall of 46,000 specialists) by 2020.

In some ways, the shortage of providers is worse than the numbers indicate. Many primary care doctors and dentists do not accept Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates, and many of the newly insured will be covered through Medicaid. Many psychiatrists refuse to accept insurance at all.

Does Obamacare still “win” if you get an insurance plan and you get a doctor? Because you sure as heck don’t!

Heck of a job, Sebbie!

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

Oh, Look, Obamacare’s Unpopular Again.



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Remember that Washington Post poll that had the public nearly split in its opinion of Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act? It had 48 percent favoring the law, 50 percent opposed. Some wondered if the law had finally become popular, or at least less unpopular.

Yeah, never mind:

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted April 3-6 among 1,010 adults, finds more continue to disapprove (50%) than approve (37%) of the 2010 health care law. Last month, the balance of opinion was similar — 53% disapproved of the law, while 41% approved.

A majority of Americans (57%) say the health care law has not had much of an effect on themselves and their families, though somewhat fewer say that today than did so last September (63%). About a quarter (24%) say the law’s impact has been mostly negative while 17% say it has been mostly positive.

On balance, more also say the law has had a negative than positive impact on the country (43% vs. 30%). But negative views of the law’s impact on the country have declined (from 49%) — and positive views have risen (from 23%) — since December.

No, really, never mind:

Tags: Obamacare , Pol;ling

Pharmacy Managers: 43% of Exchange Enrollees Had Drug Coverage Before Current Plan



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You’ve heard a lot of discussion of how many of those who signed up for Obamacare exchanges were previously uninsured, and how many had insurance, had their plan canceled, and had to sign up for a new one. Express Scripts is a giant company (Fortune 100) that manages pharmacies and prescription drug processing. They’ve got some new data to share on how their customers are purchasing or obtaining prescription drugs:

Unlike medical claims that can take several months to process, pharmacy claims adjudicate in real time. And as the country’s largest provider of pharmacy benefits – the health benefit most often used among consumers – Express Scripts is uniquely positioned to leverage our actionable data and provide early insights regarding how patients enrolled in the Public Health Exchanges are using this new benefit…

Approximately 43% of Exchange enrollees were previously enrolled in a plan with Express Scripts in 2013. The remaining 57% could have been uninsured or previously enrolled in a plan with pharmacy coverage administered by another organization.

Now, as they note, this isn’t a perfect measuring stick; in addition to having pharmacy coverage with some other organization, like competitor CVS, some folks who purchased insurance may not have filled a prescription yet. But this is a nice big sample: ‘The analysis is based on a national sample of more than 650,000 de-identified pharmacy claims from Jan. 1, 2014 through Feb. 28, 2014 for patients enrolled in a Public Health Insurance Exchange plan with pharmacy benefit coverage administered by Express Scripts.”

The Urban Institute estimated that 77 percent of the enrollees were previously uninsured; a RAND study put it much lower, at 36 percent. But one factor in the favor of the Express Scripts number is that it isn’t an extrapolation based upon public polling, it’s based on records and data of actual filled prescriptions. 

For those who worry about cost management, those who bought insurance on the exchanges are using more expensive drugs: “Our early analysis reveals that, in January and February, use of specialty medications was greater among Exchange enrollees versus patients enrolled in a commercial health plan. Approximately 1.1% of total prescriptions in Exchange plans were for specialty medications, compared to 0.75% in commercial health plans, a 47% difference. Increased volume for higher cost specialty drugs can have a significant impact on the cost burden for both plan sponsors and patients.”

Tags: Obamacare

Maine’s Independent Senator Flirts With Joining GOP



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I guess if you’re an independent, craven opportunism can be considered a form of helping your constituents:

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats, will decide after the midterm elections whether to switch sides and join the Republicans.

He is leaving open the possibility of aligning himself with the GOP if control of the upper chamber changes hands.

It’s not clear how much King would help the GOP pass their agenda items; his voting score with the American Conservative Union, after one year in the Senate: 13 out of 100.

Tags: Angus King

Positions Don’t Define Politicians, Actions Do.



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Positions Don’t Define Politicians, Actions Do.

Way back in 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama was making statements like these, suggesting he wanted to seriously reform affirmative action, shifting it from a program that evaluated people based on race and instead evaluated people based upon income:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why should your
 daughters, when they go to college, get affirmative action?”

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think that my daughters should
 probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty
 advantaged, and I think that there’s nothing wrong with us taking that
 into account as we consider admissions policies at universities. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to 
have what it takes to succeed.

The nuanced position on affirmative action was a pretty important point in establishing Obama as a Democrat who wasn’t a down-the-line liberal. The media largely concurred with his self-definition as a pragmatist or a centrist; after all, he had defied the liberal line with his criticism of the increasing national debt as “unpatriotic”, his declaration to Rick Warren that he believed marriage was “the union between a man and a woman,” and his insistence that “we’re going to have to take on entitlements, and we’re going to have to do it quickly.”

You see where I’m going with this.

Here we are, seven years later. Obama has been president for five of them. He’s run up record amounts of debt, he’s announced his support for gay marriage, and there’s no sign that any entitlement reform will be enacted during his presidency. And affirmative action remains the same as it was before, as the Obama administration argues existing programs should remain in place as they are.

All the intriguing anecdotes and thoughtful interview responses in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans compared to actual policy and decisions.

S.M. over at The Wilderness:

Barack Obama thinks his job is to lead the mob, not the country. When the mob dishes out justice, as they did with Brendan Eich, there’s nothing more for him to say.

Selfie!

Obama only speaks out when he sees something he disagrees with. That’s what progressive activists do. He doesn’t take to stage or podium and remind people of the protected First Amendment right of all Americans and that Eich’s contribution to political causes is important to the free political process of participation. As the Democrat Party binges on a Koch Brothers fueled narrative about millionaires owning elections with their wallets, they remained deftly silent about one private citizen, donating a mere one thousand dollars to the cause of his choice, a choice protected by the Constitution and upheld, repeatedly by the Supreme Court.

He adds, “Obama had absolutely nothing to do with Lois Lerner IRS targeting, which is why she talked about taking a job with his organization.”

We can scoff at Democrats, the media and a few Republicans for so easily and credulously buying into the notion that a machine politician mentored by William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright would govern as some David-Gergen-esque centrist. (And we should! And we do!) But we on the Right probably ought to remember this in a year or two, when a half-dozen or a dozen Republicans are going to tell us they’re the “real conservative” in the bunch. A lot of them will attempt to claim this mantle by running down the checklist of policy positions and declaring they agree with us on all or almost all of them.

Tags: Barack Obama

Medicaid Patients Realize They Can’t Find a Doctor



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A supporter of Obamacare finds that access to health insurance does not automatically turn into access to health care:

“I’m sorry, we are no longer accepting that kind of insurance. I apologize for the confusion; Dr. [insert name] is only willing to see existing patients at this time.”

As a proud new beneficiary of the Affordable Health Care Act, I’d like to report that I am doctorless. Ninety-six. Ninety-six is the number of soul crushing rejections that greeted me as I attempted to find one. It’s the number of physicians whose secretaries feigned empathy while rehearsing the “I’m so sorry” line before curtly hanging up. You see, when the rush of the formerly uninsured came knocking, doctors in my New Jersey town began closing their doors and promptly telling insurance companies that they had no room for new patients.

Writer Danielle Kimberly notes that doctors lament that Medicaid reimburses them far too little money for their treatment. However, doctors also lament that reimbursement takes way too long to arrive and that the paperwork and bureaucracy are far too frustrating.

A study from Merritt Hawkins released in February found that less than half the doctors in the nation’s largest cities take Medicaid patients; in 2009 it was above 55 percent.

The range varies widely from city to city and from specialty to specialty, but in some cities, it is nearly impossible to find a specialist who accepts Medicaid. Only 7 percent of cardiologists in Minneapolis accept Medicaid; only 15 percent of dermatologists in Philadelphia; only 35 percent of obstetricians and gynecologists in Denver; only 28 percent of orthopedists in Seattle, and only 32 percent of family practitioners in New York City.

Tags: Obamacare

Why Not Use Obama’s Unused 2008 Accountability Promises?



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama’s 2008 Government Accountability Promises Sit, Unkept and Unused

One more stray thought spurred by yesterday’s discussion . . . we on the Right are absolutely correct to call out the Democrats on their double standard. But in the end, we need our own single standard.

You may have noticed I’ve put together recent pieces on the hypocrisy that defines the modern Left. Progressives’ complete disinterest in keeping their promises shouldn’t obscure the fact that in quite a few cases, those promises are pretty appealing and worthwhile in their own right.

President Obama was right when he “entered office promising to limit the practice” of naming campaign donors to plum ambassadorial posts “and instead appoint more Foreign Service professionals to ambassadorial positions.” Sure, he’s completely forgotten than promise, and now more than half our ambassadors are political appointees instead of career Foreign Service. But you know what? It’s embarrassing to have wealthy nincompoops who know nothing about their host country representing this country overseas. The next Republican nominee ought to call out this disgrace, promise to end it, and keep that promise.

Sure, Obama’s loud and oft-repeated pledge to not hire lobbyists in policymaking positions is undermined by more than 100 waivers. But Americans have reason to be wary about cabinet appointees overseeing their old clients and employers.

If the next Republican president pledges to disclose meetings between executive-branch staff and lobbyists, let’s not see the new administration working around the rule by meeting with them at a coffee shop across the street.

Back in 2008, candidate Obama lamented bills rushing through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. Obama said he “will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.” And then he broke that promise, again and again. But that’s not such a terrible policy. Even if the public comment has no impact on the president’s decision to sign a bill into law or veto it, it’s an important symbolic step to emphasize accountability to the public’s views. Point out the broken promise, pledge it again, and keep it this time.

Notice all of these are decisions about the executive branch; no congressional act is needed. No cajoling of the opposition party is needed. All we need is a president willing to make the promise and willing to keep his word, even if it’s inconvenient.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said something interesting while discussing his health-care-reform proposal:

Compared to Obamacare’s baseline, ours reduces premiums by $5,000. His actually took the previous marketplace and increased it by $2,100 for a family. The reality is, our plan, I believe, actually delivers what he promised back in 2008 better than his plan does. In 2008, he talked about the need to reduce health-care costs, he opposed the mandate when Senator Clinton proposed it, and since ‘08 he’s talked about the need to keep your plan and your doctor. His plan doesn’t do those things. Our plan actually does.

The American people are deeply cynical about their government, a sentiment fueled by many, many good reasons. It’s time to get back to basics: tell Americans what you want to do, and then do it. Don’t look for loopholes, excuses, or reasons to blame the opposition. To quote the wise philosopher Daniel Lawrence Whitney . . . “Get ‘er done!”

Maybe a key element of the GOP’s comeback in 2016 will be pledging to keep the promises that Obama broke.

Tags: Barack Obama , Lobbyists , Ambassadors

New Poll Shows Rick Scott Ahead in Florida’s Gubernatorial Race



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Hmm. The conventional wisdom on Florida’s governor’s race is that incumbent Republican Rick Scott is in deep trouble.

Then again, maybe not:

Scott leads [Republican-turned Democrat Charlie] Crist 45 percent to 44 percent, in a new Voter Survey Service poll, commissioned by Sunshine State News. While Scott’s lead is within the margin of error, the poll reveals the Republican holds an important 5 point lead over Crist among Floridians more likely to cast votes in the November election.

This is the first poll showing Scott ahead . . . so far this cycle.

Tags: Rick Scott , Charlie Crist , Florida

Does an Image of Pelosi Twerking Help the Right in Any Way?



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From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

Does This Image Move the Ball in the Right Direction?

Over at Breitbart.com, they’re launching a new California-focused site, and they’ve chosen to promote the site with some graphic posters in the Los Angeles area. Some are rather funny (depicting Piers Morgan as an illegal immigrant jumping a fence), but one Photoshops Nancy Pelosi’s head onto Miley Cyrus’s body in her infamous “Twerking” pose another depicts Mark Zuckerberg with fake breasts. (You can find the entire graphic image at the link above.) The lefties are furious, and there is some rumbling in some conservative quarters that the whole thing is too tasteless to be worthwhile.

I’m sure one justification will be, “Look, you have to do something shocking to get people’s attention!” That’s true, but at some point the shocking image defines the institution and sets the expectation for the publication. What is it that the publication really wants to say? Ultimately, our objection to Pelosi, Jerry Brown, Zuckerberg, etc., is with their ideas, philosophies and policies, not how they look, right? If the illustration related to some sort of article about them, or argument relating to them — “Read our expose on how Nancy Pelosi is twerking hard for wealthy Leftist special interests!” — it would be much easier to justify. But as is, the image just says, “Hey, haven’t we made these people look silly!”

I presume what Breitbart California wants to do is bring news to people’s attention that they wouldn’t otherwise see, because other California news sources are too biased and cozy with the Democratic political establishment to report inconvenient stories. Ultimately, if your aim is to bring people the truth, I’m not so sure that an image that is false — i.e., Nancy Pelosi has never twerked like Miley Cyrus — er, we hope — reinforces the message that “you need to come here to get the real story.”

Some might argue an extremely sexual image of a woman in the political world is already cliché. Spy magazine depicted Hillary Clinton as a dominatrix in 1993, and Salon depicted Sarah Palin as a dominatrix in 2008.

The second justification for the Pelosi image will be, “The Left does it too!” And indeed they do. But when do efforts to expose the Left’s double standard reach the point where the Right doesn’t have a standard?

At some point we’re going to have to decide what we want: a political culture in which Sarah Palin, or, say, S. E. Cupp, etc. can be depicted in sexist, humiliating, and derogatory ways, as well as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary and anyone else, or one in which that’s considered out of bounds. We can’t say it’s only wrong when they do it.

I know, I know, I’m a stodgy old-school traditionalist who doesn’t understand how to fight the Left with its own tools and expose their hypocrisy and double standards, and I’m a dry, boring inside-the-Beltway insider…

Anyway, now it’s turned into one of the Left’s standard “all Republican officeholders must be held accountable for something a non-elected conservative has said” routines, like we’ve seen with Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent, and others:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, called on Republicans to press Breitbart News to remove the artwork — one of several suggestive images on the website promoting the new California site.

The image of Pelosi, beneath one of California Gov. Jerry Brown’s face photo-shopped onto a flexing body builder, includes the sub-head: “Because you can’t make this s— up.”

“To say the least, the Breitbart News ad is foul, offensive and disrespectful to all women. It is a disgusting new low and would be reprehensible against any woman — regardless of party,” Wasserman Schultz wrote. “If GOP leaders are serious about their rebrand, then both their elected and party leadership should condemn this outrageous behavior; call on Breitbart News to immediately remove the ad, and not continue to use this website as a forum for their views.”

In a tweet linking to her statement, Wasserman Schultz called the photo-shopped image of Pelosi “misogynistic.”

Again . . . was the image worth it? Does it help us?

Tags: Nancy Pelosi , Progressivism

President Obama’s Trip to Europe Was an Absolute Zoo



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“Sure, Mr. President, why don’t you go ahead and use the room with the giraffe statue?”

I hope the U.S. Secret Service checked out that giraffe.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza of President Barack Obama signs items backstage next to a sculpture of a giraffe in a shipping crate, following remarks at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium, March 26, 2014.

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

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