“Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it.” — Will Rogers
— Why buy coverage when you don’t have to?: Serious question. Obamacare’s individual mandate is meaningless, at least for the first two years. So meaningless in fact that Americans can escape it by claiming virtually any hardship. “Filed for bankruptcy in the past six months? Had medical bills you couldn’t pay in the past two years? Been a victim of domestic violence? Received a shut-off notice from a utility company? If you don’t want to buy insurance under Obamacare, you don’t have to. No penalty,” Politico explains. “The individual mandate may be the most despised part of Obamacare, but the reality is that it’s much smaller than people think. It’s riddled with exemptions, hardships and other loopholes that allow millions of people off the hook for enrollment by March 31.”
— Keep Calm and Join the Rebellion: Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) end of quarter money bomb began this morning. As of 7:15 am, he’s already raised $6,021.14. Amash is facing an establishment-backed primary challenger. “We’ll fight their army of starched collars and pinstripe suits with a different type of army — the grassroots,” the campaign says via Facebook. “The great news is that we far outnumber them. For every $1,000 check a lobbyist can cut to Brian Ellis, I’m confident there are 100 grassroots supporters who can send Justin $35 at www.justinamash.com.”
There were no balloons and confetti this weekend to mark the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. The law has come the most polarizing issue in the country, one that is almost certainly going to play a role in the 2014 mid-term election.
CNN host John King went through the most recent poll numbers from Pew Research this weekend, noting that Obamacare “is on life support,” as 53% of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, while just 41% approve.
Facing the real possibility of a Republican wave this fall, Democrats have pivoted on the “fix” Obamacare message, one that didn’t do much good for them in the recent Florida special congressional election. Peter Suderman recently explained that the “fix” message doesn’t really make much sense because Democrats aren’t saying how they would do to actually address problems with the law:
“Where is the politician who has not promised to fight to the death for lower taxes — and who has not proceeded to vote for the very spending projects that make tax cuts impossible?” — Barry Goldwater
— What’s to come for Republicans: Erick Erickson has some wise words over at RedState this morning about what Republican-base voters should expect from Democrats, who are staring down potentially heavy losses this year. “What the Democrats will do to offset their turnout operation is voter suppression efforts. They will use every story possible to embarrass Republicans. Attacks on the Republican base; mischaracterization of statements; taking remarks out of context; highlighting unknown Republicans at the local, county, and state level who’ve said something that can be spun — you name it, the Democrats will do it,” wrote Erickson. “They will abandon the case for themselves and instead try to keep Republicans at home or embarrass them into voting for a Democrat. You will see the full media bias as national news networks, newspapers, and web sites focus on random local Republican politicians demanding to know if Candidates X, Y, and Z support that person’s remarks.”
Though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already warned that proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage could cost the economy at least 500,000 jobs over the next two years, President Barack Obama and Democrats are still trying to push the increase through Congress, mostly because they believe it plays to their favor in an election year.
The issue may be an easy way to score political points, but the Wall Street Journal makes note of new survey which found that most businesses would adjust to an increase in the minimum wage by reducing hiring and increasing prices for goods and services, and some would even layoff workers:
Just over half of U.S. businesses that pay the minimum wage would hire fewer workers if the federal standard is raised to $10.10 per hour, according to a survey by a large staffing firm to be released Wednesday. But the same poll found a majority of those companies would not cut their current workforce.
“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” — P.J. O’Rourke
— House GOP Obamacare alternative still missing: Republicans have made Obamacare repeal a central part of their campaign platform, but they’ve yet to coalesce around a single set of specific proposals to pitch to voters, even though there’s been a lot of talk about rolling out a plan this year. “Republicans aren’t even convinced they will find consensus on any specific set of new health care bills. The ideas they’re discussing — the ability to buy insurance across state lines, wider use of health savings accounts and cutting federal regulations — are the same principles they have kicked around since 2009,” wrote John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman. “But the party is not much closer to finding a proposal — or set of proposals — that would garner enough Republican support to pass the House.”
— Who’s watching the watchers?: The Defense Department’s internal watchdog was left in the dark about the NSA’s most controversial domestic surveillance program. “The bulk of that is in reviews that we have done, and in the collaborative work that we have done with the NSA IG,” Anthony Thomas, who is charged with oversight over the NSA, told The Guardian. “From my own personal knowledge, those programs, in and of themselves, I was not personally aware.” Oh, and he’s not investigating the NSA over the programs either, despite the ongoing controversy. That’s comforting.
More than 500 economists, including three Nobel laureates, have signed a letter warning lawmakers of the “serious consequences” of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a policy being pushed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats.
“One of the serious consequences of raising the minimum wage is that business owners saddled with a higher cost of labor will need to cut costs, or pass the increase to their consumers in order to make ends meet,” the letter states (PDF). “Many of the businesses that pay their workers minimum wage operate on extremely tight profit margins, with any increase in the cost of labor threatening this delicate balance.”
The economists point to the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the $10.10 minimum wage proposal. The CBO estimated that such a significant increase in the minimum wage would cost the economy 500,000 jobs, perhaps as many as 1 million, over the next two years. “Many of these jobs,” the letter notes, “are held by entry-level workers with limited experience or vocational skills, the very employees meant to be helped.”
The economists explain that the minimum wage is “a poorly targeted anti-poverty measure,” noting that [e]xtra earnings generated by such an increase in the minimum wage would not substantially help the poor,” again pointing to the findings of the CBO report.
Jonathan Turley continues to be one of the few leftists with a conscience when it comes to the concentration of power in the executive branch. Though he agrees with many of President Barack Obama’s policies, the Georgetown law professor, who recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee, has serious concerns about the means through which he has enacted them.
In a post at his blog on Friday, Turley responded to latest major change in the law, in which the administration ostensibly delayed enforcement of the individual mandate, blasting President Obama for ignoring the Constitution and criticizing Democrats for enabling the administration: (emphasis added):
There’s a disgusting pattern emerging of Democrats attacking Republican candidates’ records of service to the nation. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) recently complained that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), his general election opponent, has a “sense of entitlement” because of his military service.
“There’s a lot of people in the Senate that didn’t serve in the military,” Pryor, who never served and is the son of a politician, told NBC News. “I think it’s part of this sense of entitlement that he gives off is that almost as like ‘I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.’ That’s not how it works in Arkansas.”
But this sort of attack doesn’t end with Pryor, who is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year. A group supporting Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) in his quest for reelection recently released an ad in which they attack Dan Sullivan for being born in Ohio and owning a home outside of Alaska.
“Dan Sullivan, born and raised in Ohio, and the recent owner of a home in [a] swanky D.C. suburb,” the narrator says in an ad produced by Put Alaska First. “Documents show that while Sullivan pocketed a Maryland tax credit for residents living there, he was voting in Alaska, claiming to be one of us. Now he wants us to make him our senator.”
“Dan Sullivan, if elected, he won’t just go to Washington, he’ll go home to Washington,” the narrator adds.
Not only did Democrats got to bed on Tuesday night after a frustrating loss in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, they woke up Wednesday morning to reports of the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which shows a trainwreck ahead for their party.
A special election doesn’t necessarily mean electoral victory for any party, and neither do polls released more than seven months away from election day. But the WSJ/NBC News poll shows that Democrats’ problems don’t end at a special election, no matter how hard they try to spin it.
— Obama’s approval at a new low: Just 41% of Americans approve of President Obama’s job performance, down from 43% in January. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove, which is up from 51% at the beginning of the year and matches his previous high in December. President Obama’s approval rating has not been above water since June (48/47).
— We’re headed in the wrong direction: Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say that the United States is headed in the wrong direction, while 26% believe we’re “off the wrong track.” Compare that to 41/53 in October 2012, the month before President Obama won reelection, and 32/58 in November 2010, when Republicans won control of the House of Representatives. Needless to say, that’s not a position in which Democrats want to be.
It seems like a forgone conclusion that Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives this fall. That’s why Democratic donors are turning their check books to the fight for the Senate, an electoral battle that increasingly favors Republicans. That’s why President Barack Obama is hitting the “panic button,” so to speak, by warning Democrats that the 2014 mid-term election could be a disaster:
Obama has increasingly sounded like the nerdy kid in a bad horror movie constantly warning his friends to stay out of danger as he’s called on the Democratic base to not be complacent in 2014.
“You’ve got to pay attention to the states,” he begged at a recent fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association. Obama lamented that Democrats don’t think state-level races in the 2014 midterms are “sexy enough.”
Raising cash for Senate Democrats in Virginia, Obama said Democrats tend to get “a little sleepy” and “distracted.”
“We’re good at Senate and House elections during presidential years — it’s something about midterms,” Obama said. “I don’t know what it is about us.”
The White House insists, however, that they’re not even considering the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would mean that President Obama agenda, already on thin-ice as it is, would be dead-on-arrival in Congress.