White House Postpones Employer Mandate For Medium Sized Employers

Republicans have been trying to blame everything on the Affordable Care Act including long standing health care issues, unemployment, the poor performance of Denver in the Super Bowl, and Justin Beiber’s recent antics. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but to blame Obamacare for any of these problems is untrue. I’ve already discussed the false claims from conservatives that the Congressional Budget Office shows that Obamacare will increase unemployment when it will actually do the reverse and decrease unemployment.

Unemployment is a serious problem but the attempts to tie it to the Affordable Care Act do not hold up. In addition to the information released by the Congressional Budget Office, the argument that employers are not hiring due to the mandate to provide insurance coverage also fails to hold up. The argument fails to take into account the subsidies which will help employers provide the coverage, along with the fact that the employer mandate had not been scheduled to start until 2015. The White House has today announced a further delay in the employer mandate until 2016 for employers with 50 to 99 employees. (The mandate does not affect employers with under 50 employees).

Derek Thompson has more on the myth that Obama has been killing jobs or is responsible for an increase in part-time employment.

Paul Krugman looked more at the unemployed, and how the right wing is impervious to evidence regarding government action.

Steve Benen explains once again what the “insurance trap” means and why freeing people from having to keep their current job to maintain their insurance is a feature, not a bug, of Obamacare. Face it, if the conservatives don’t understand this yet, they are (intentionally) never going to understand.

Update: Sarah Kliff has a good rundown of the additional changes announced today including relaxing the requirements for employees covered by large companies. The most important change is probably that volunteers won’t be counted as full-time employees. There had been some speculation that volunteers such as volunteer firefighters would be covered by the  mandate, making it more expensive to use such volunteers. She also makes the valid point that, as the majority of companies offer insurance, the postponement of the employer mandate won’t affect very many people.

The conservative reaction has been to denounce this as a dictatorial action from Obama. If these people are so concerned about potential abuse of Executive power, where were they during the Bush years when Republicans backed the Unitary Executive theory which would greatly expand the power of the President (or during the Busy years, the Vice President)?

Update II: Two more thoughts on the conservative spin:

Strange that they are complaining so much about a delay in the employer mandate when they have been predicting such dire consequences of the mandate.

The reason much of this, right or wrong, is being done by executive order is that the system is broken. We know whose fault that is. Congress has voted, at last count, 47 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act but the Republicans are not willing to work on fine tuning the law as would normally be done after such a huge law was passed.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Medicaid Is Not The Route To A Single-Payer Plan

Corrente is a far left blog which I generally have little interest in, but there are bound to be times when our interests overlap. Today I must say they are right while Paul Krugman and several other liberal writers/bloggers, who I would generally side with over Corrente, are wrong. Paul Krugman and some other liberal writers have been praising Medicaid expansion as if it is a path towards a single-payer plan. A writer at Corrente counters with a post saying that Paul Krugman is wrong about Medicaid.

The writer describe some of their negative experiences in a Medicaid program and concluded:

This is not the system Krugman imagines. He’s not alone; most Democrats and many people who describe themselves as progressive are celebrating the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare as an extraordinary advance. In terms of coverage, they’re right. In terms of steering the country toward health care equity, they’re wrong. Medicaid patients are too often treated as second-class citizens, and the problem is likely to worsen without the kind of drastic reform I mentioned earlier.

There are at present about 150 million Americans being served by at least a half-dozen single-payer systems. We need to take the most popular of those systems and expand it to provide cradle-to-grave coverage for everyone in the country, and improve it to achieve the health care equity that Americans deserve and that President Obama has described as a basic human right. We need Medicare for all.

Medicaid, as the author acknowledged, varies from state to state and even within different parts of states. Some people will have better or worse experience, but the fact remains that in general Medicaid patients are second-class citizens in the health care system. Access to care does vary, but is far different from the health care experiences of most Americans who have insurance or are covered by Medicare. My office receives quite a few calls each week from both people on Medicaid who do not have physicians and from those who desire to get away from the second-class care they often receive in the clinics which will see them. While better than no coverage, to those who have better coverage Medicaid would represent all the horrors of government run health care which the right has been crying about.

I bet that Krugman, and those who echo his views, would change their minds very quickly if they had to give up their private physicians and obtain all their care through Medicaid clinics.

The blogger at Corrente is also correct that, while Medicare is not perfect, Medicare for all would be a much better model for a single-payer plan. It is far better than Medicaid, while still keeping costs down.

I must conclude by also pointing out that Medicaid expansion is not without benefits. Having Medicaid is still far better than having no coverage, despite misinterpretations being spread by conservatives regarding studies of Medicaid expansion in Oregon. I previously discussed this topic here. When the Affordable Care Act was being considered in Congress while the Democrats technically had sixty votes, there weren’t sixty votes for either a pubic option or even a Medicare buy-in, due to opposition by Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson. With limited money to expand health care coverage, and the impossibility of a single-payer system based on Medicare getting through Congress, Medicaid expansion was an understandable compromise to provide some coverage to the working poor. That does not make it a desirable model for moving to a single-payer plan.

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False Objectivity, Media Bias, And The Budget

One area where conservative media bias can be seen is in reporting on the budget. Media reports commonly report measures which cut the deficit as good and those which increase the deficit as bad. This view may or may not be correct, but it is not an objective position. There are counter arguments that, during a time of economic slowdown when interest rates are low and the infrastructure has largely been neglected, the economy would do better in the long run if we did borrow more to stimulate the economy and improve infrastructure. Continued austerity budgets are not necessarily the best policy. Looking at priorities beyond shrinking the deficit might make sense at a time when government spending is dropping at the greatest rate since the demobilization after World War II.

The  Columbia Journalism Review looked at media coverage of government spending, finding that the media often confuses support for what is seen as a centrist view in support of cutting the deficit as objectivity:

Under the norm of objectivity that dominates mainstream political journalism in the United States, reporters are supposed to avoid endorsing competing political viewpoints or proposals. In practice, however, journalists often treat centrist policy priorities—especially on fiscal policy—as value-neutral. That’s wrong. While it’s widely accepted that the federal government faces limits on what it can borrow in the financial markets, there is significant disagreement, including among experts, over the priority that should be given to reducing current deficit and debt levels relative to other possible policy objectives. It is, in other words, a political issue. Reporters often ignore this conflict, treating deficit-cutting as a non-ideological objective while portraying other points of view as partisan or political. That’s why it’s not accepted for reporters to explicitly advocate, say, abortion bans or recognition of gay marriage, but criticism of the president for not advocating entitlement cuts with sufficient fervor can run in a “factcheck” column.

This confusion between centrism and objectivity cropped up again in coverage of the budget deal, which often portrayed the fact that the agreement did little to cut the federal debt as a failing. The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery, for instance, was implicitly critical, writing that “the deal would do nothing to trim the debt, which is now larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any point in U.S. history except during World War II.” McClatchy’s David Lightman also suggested that the lack of more aggressive deficit-cutting was a flaw. The bill is “likely to still increase the federal deficit, if only slightly, this year and next,” he wrote, and is “hardly the grand bargain that’s eluded Washington for years, much less a plan to make a serious dent in the government’s $17.2 trillion debt.”

Stories in the Associated Press and Christian Science Monitor opined even more directly about the bill’s supposed merits. The AP’s Charles Babington tried to take a value-neutral perspective by aligning himself with “[p]eople hoping for a government that works better.” These people, he writes, “can’t decide whether to cheer or lament a bipartisan budget bill,” noting that it “should avoid a repeat of this fall’s government shutdown and flirtation with default” but “comes nowhere near the more ambitious efforts to address long-term spending and debt.” He again reiterates later in the article that the deal “does little to dent the nation’s $17 trillion debt.” The CSM’s Mark Trumbull similarly wrote that “Congress can postpone a grand bargain that reforms the tax code and restrains the growth of entitlement spending, and the economy won’t collapse,” but added that “delay isn’t a good thing for the economy.”

The same pattern often crops up in the sourcing for budget stories. I’ve questioned the media’s insistence on “he said,” “she said” reporting about matters of fact, but there’s no reason to think that centrist deficit hawks have a monopoly on wisdom about the nation’s federal budget priorities. So why are the claims of groups like the Concord Coalition or the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget presented in articles like Montgomery’s and Lightman’s as neutral, non-ideological perspectives that don’t need to be balanced with offsetting quotes from other points of view? The same deference is rarely given either to conservatives who want more aggressive cuts in the size of government or liberals who would give greater priority to public spending.

The root of these problems is the philosophy of “objective” journalism itself, which forces reporters to try to draw lines between opinion and fact that often blur in real life. But even if reporters aren’t willing to rethink objectivity, they should try to understand why prioritizing deficit reduction over other competing values is a kind of ideology of its own.

Evaluating a policy based upon what is thought to be centrist is especially hazardous in the current political climate where both parties have moved towards the right on economic issues in recent years, with the Republicans taking an especially radical position. As a consequence, what is now thought as centrist in this country would be to the right in much of the world.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Star Trek, Batman, Star Wars, JK Rowling, SHIELD, Sleepy Hollow, Utopia, Breaking Bad

Doctor Who

The BBC has released the above poster for the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, to be named The Day of The Doctor. It will be the second from last episode staring Matt Smith, also staring David Tennant and John Hurt.

Steven Moffat discussed filming the final episode with Matt Smith at the TV Choice Awards, where Doctor Who won for Best Drama Series. David Tennant won the Best Actor award for his role on Broadchurch. Miranda Hart of Call the Midwife won for Best Actress. (Jessica Raine,who plays Jennie Lee on Call the Midwife, played Emma Grayling in the Doctor Who episode Hide and has a role in the upcoming movie on the development of the series, An Adventure In Space And Time.)

Peter Davison

Peter Davison will be appearing in the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. While he has confirmed the appearance, he states he is unable to give any specifics. My suspicion is that he has a cameo role in the special but does not reprise his role as the Doctor unless the story can give a plausible explanation for showing a former version of the Doctor who has also aged. Pictures appeared on line of Tom Baker in his scarf starting rumors that he would also appear but it turns out it was to film a skit for another show.

startrek-lensflare-spock-tsrimg

In follow-up of the controversy I mentioned last week, TrekMovie.com has posted another opinion arguing that Star Trek is Not  Broken. Those who are not happy with how J.J. Abrams is handling Star Trek might be happy to hear that he will not be directing the next Star Trek movie now that he will be busy with Star Wars. I fear that this won’t change many of the problems cited by fans but at least it might mean less lens flare.

There has been even more controversy over the choice of Ben Afflect to play Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. The CEO of Warner Brothers defended the choice, describing this Batman as “kind of tired and weary and seasoned and been doing it for a while.”

Besides the upcoming Star Wars trilogy, Disney is going to take advantage of buying the rights by putting out additional movies. Variety reports that they will be origin movies. There will be a lot of Star Wars as “one ‘Star Wars’ trilogy film or ‘origin story film’ would also appear on the release schedule each year, starting with the seventh installment in the ‘Star Wars’ saga that J.J. Abrams will direct and Disney releases in 2015.”

Warner Brothers is returning to a recent major source of income for the studio. J.K. Rowling is going to write a new movie series taking place in the Harry Potter universe. After recently reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I think she does have a better future in writing such movies then detective novels, although the two aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s not that I didn’t like the book, but I read several far more entertaining novels over the summer, and there are plenty of similar mystery series already out there.

Grant Gustin of Glee will play The Flash on Arrow, and potentially on a spinoff show.

marvels-agents-of-shield-shield

Cult Box has a spoiler-free review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Gawker reports that some of the scripts were not very good and Joss Whedon had to rewrite them. The web site for the series is now on line.

The Detroit News reviews another new genre show, Sleepy Hollow. More on the show at TV Line.

ABC is working on an alternate reality series which sounds interesting. The show, entitled The Thirteen, takes place in an alternative present day in which the colonies did not win independence from England and are still fighting the English for independence.

Paul Krugman and John Amato both recommend Orphan Black, which I certainly agree with.

utopia

Utopia writer Dennis Kelly has discussed conspiracy theories, over population, and the second season of the series:

There’s going to be a second series of Utopia isn’t there?

There is. It’s currently being written. It’s being filmed in two months [speaking on the 22nd of August]. I’ve got two months before the first block. You film it in two blocks so episodes one, two and three, and then four, five and six. Marc Munden who directed one, two and three, and really set up the look for Utopia – and that’s what people talk about a lot when they talk about Utopia – he’s a brilliant director, more like a filmmaker than a TV director really, and he’s fantastic to work with. He’s come back and he’s going to do the first block again. He has a much more involved role in the whole series, which is great.

Can you give us any ideas about what series two might contain?

We’ve got a very odd first episode, which people are either going to really like or really say ‘what the fuck did you do that for?’ and I’ve got no idea what the reaction’s going to be. Some of the characters are coming back, you’ll definitely see Arby again, and Jessica. There’s a lot of people dead unfortunately and a lot of people will die [laughs].

Do you have a finite end for Utopia in mind?

I think I do, I think so, yeah. Not necessarily a good one. [Laughs].

Luc Besson is interested in doing another movie in the world of The Fifth Element.

Trailer for Last Days on Mars posted here.

The cast of Dexter teased the finale.

Joking Bad, Jimmy Fallon’s parody of Breaking Bad, can be viewed above. The series ends this month. A spinoff is being considered based upon Saul Goodman before he became Walt’s lawyer. The Hollywood Reporter lists Saul’s top moments.

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Drinking Scandal And The State of the Union

It is a sad commentary on the state of political discourse in this country that so many people are far more concerned about Marco Rubio drinking water than the competing arguments made during and after the State of the Union Address. We saw a thoughtful look at our current problems from Barack Obama and then Marco Rubio responding with the usual Republican bromides and straw man attacks, showing that the current Republicans have nothing to say about the real world, and no capacity for coming up with meaningful solutions to our problems.

I was sure happy it was Barack Obama on my television screen last night as opposed to Mitt Romney. Rubio’s speech showed how if Mitt Romney had been elected, the entire State of the Union Address would have been full of the same types of lies, distortions and irrational arguments that we heard from Rubio in the Republican response.

Obama had already debunked the gist of the Republican response with lines such as these: “Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” and “deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.”

Rubio’s throat became dry and he took a sip of water. Big deal. I object more to seeing him fall back on perpetuating the same false narratives about Democrats which Republicans have been relying upon for years to avoid read debate over the issues. Criticize him for trying to pass of a plan which would destroy Medicare as a means to save him. Criticize him, as Paul Krugman has, for his simplistic and untrue explanation for the economic crisis, and ignoring the Republican Party’s role in crashing the economy and obstructing attempts at recovery. Compared to this, drinking water is trivial, even though it will probably be the lead skit on Saturday Night Live this weekend. This is what Rubio will be remembered for, regardless of the significance. It would have been cooler, even if unacceptable, if he had reached for a beer instead. It would have been a far better speech if he had presented some actual ideas.

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Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration

Today Barack Obama joined a small group of people who have taken the oath of office more than twice. The oath was repeated in 2008 to avoid giving right wingers another reason to deny Obama’s legitimacy after John Roberts made an error when first administering the oath. (I note Roberts did use a note card today). He was sworn in for his second inauguration in a private ceremony on January 20, with the public event postponed to Monday. Only FDR and Obama have taken the oath of office four times. Bill Clinton is the only other president to my knowledge to have been sworn in more than twice as one of his inaugurations also occurred on a Sunday.

With Obama being sworn in, dogs everywhere gave a sigh of relief. Maybe now that Obama has been sworn in two more times Karl Rove is willing to give up hope for a Romney victory and concede defeat. Tea Partiers and Mitch McConnell swear to oppose Obama’s agenda and make him a two-term president. (Surprisingly some commentators do not realize how the Republicans really did decide to oppose everything Obama did on the day of his first inauguration.) All the living former presidents were in attendance except for George H. W. Bush, for health reasons, and George W. Bush, because everyone in Washington hates his guts.

Getting serious, Obama gave a liberal speech to mark the start of his second term (full text here and video above). He sounded neither like the socialist Republicans claim he is or the conservative a handful on the far left claim he is. James Fallows found this to be a startling progressive speech. Think  Progress called this a landmark moment for LGBT equality. Obama made a strong push for taking action on climate change.

While Obama has learned he cannot compromise with the extremism and intransigence of Congressional Republicans, I do like see Obama continue to try to explain how the real world works to conservatives in the hopes that there are some who will listen. Radical conservatives and libertarians believe a mythology that the free market is something which exists in nature, and that any government action is an abomination. In reality, markets are a creation of men and require government regulation to exist. Rothbardian anarch0-capitalism provides a fun background for some science fiction stories, but cannot exist in the real world. Obama explained:

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

He did learn it is politically dangerous to point out the truth that businessmen did not build the infrastructure they depend upon after the Republicans themed their convention around misquoting Obama, claiming Obama was saying businessmen did not build their businesses.

Obama’s record is not perfect. No president’s record is. Even if he did not do everything hoped for by the left, in a two party system, and with the constraints on presidential power, Obama did have a strong first term. Even his frequent critic Paul Krugman has been acknowledging this in recent columns, such as yesterday’s column, calling Obama’s record a Big Deal:

Health reform is, as Mr. Biden suggested, the centerpiece of the Big Deal. Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman; they’ve finally succeeded.

True, this wasn’t the health reform many were looking for. Rather than simply providing health insurance to everyone by extending Medicare to cover the whole population, we’ve constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through.

But this was what was possible given the political reality — the power of the insurance industry, the general reluctance of voters with good insurance to accept change. And experience with Romneycare in Massachusetts — hey, this is a great age for irony — shows that such a system is indeed workable, and it can provide Americans with a huge improvement in medical and financial security.

What about inequality? On that front, sad to say, the Big Deal falls very far short of the New Deal. Like F.D.R., Mr. Obama took office in a nation marked by huge disparities in income and wealth. But where the New Deal had a revolutionary impact, empowering workers and creating a middle-class society that lasted for 40 years, the Big Deal has been limited to equalizing policies at the margin.

That said, health reform will provide substantial aid to the bottom half of the income distribution, paid for largely through new taxes targeted on the top 1 percent, and the “fiscal cliff” deal further raises taxes on the affluent. Over all, 1-percenters will see their after-tax income fall around 6 percent; for the top tenth of a percent, the hit rises to around 9 percent. This will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution that has taken place since 1980, but it’s not trivial.

Finally, there’s financial reform. The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it’s certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.

Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn’t as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favored Mr. Obama in 2008 — but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost).

All in all, then, the Big Deal has been, well, a pretty big deal

While Obama’s record was not perfect, there is no problem which would be handled better if the Republicans had taken the White House. Just think of the executive orders which were not issued today because Mitt Romney did not have the opportunity. Romney, like Republicans before him, would have probably immediately reinstated the Global Gag Rule, limiting access to abortions world wide. While it would probably take more than a quick executive order, he would probably have made an effort to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He may have immediately put an end to federal funding of stem cell research. Who know what else what he would have done to accommodate the far right on his first day alone.

Seeing Barack Obama sworn in to be president for the next four years is a Big Deal.

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Bruce Bartlett on Reality vs. The Conservative Movement

The conservative movement suffers from being dominated by extremists who drive out anyone who does not agree with all the counter-to-fact and irrational views which they now hold (which are very similar to the extremist views which William F. Buckley, Jr. purged from the conservative movement in the 1960′s.) Bruce Bartlett, who worked in the Reagan Administration, has found that it is not possible to simultaneously look at reality and be welcomed by other conservatives:

I’m not going to beat around the bush and pretend I don’t have a vested interest here. Frankly, I think I’m at ground zero in the saga of Republicans closing their eyes to any facts or evidence that conflict with their dogma. Rather than listen to me, they threw me under a bus. To this day, I don’t think they understand that my motives were to help them avoid the permanent decline that now seems inevitable.

Bartlett described his days in the conservative movement. His earliest disagreements were criticism of the second Bush administration, along with Congressional Republicans, from the right for their fiscal irresponsibility. This led to him writing the book, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.  While MSNBC sometimes criticizes Obama from the left, the right wing noise machine didn’t have room for dissident views on the right:

Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News. My publicist was told that orders had come down from on high that it was to receive no publicity whatsoever, not even attacks. Whoever gave that order was smart; attacks from the right would have sold books. Being ignored was poison for sales.

I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal.* Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well. More epistemic closure.

Bartlett’s analysis of the economy after the economic crash found him agreeing with Paul Krugman, and disagreeing with the right’s mischaracterization of Obama as a socialist:

Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

He understands that the conservative echo chamber is largely responsible for Romney’s loss:

At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.

I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. They comfort themselves with the fact that they held the House (due to gerrymandering) and think that just improving their get-out-the-vote system and throwing a few bones to the Latino community will fix their problem. There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward. The alternative is permanent loss of the White House and probably the Senate as well, which means they can only temporarily block Democratic initiatives and never advance their own.

I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.

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Quote of the Day: Paul Krugman On Republican Anti-intellectualism

“The truth is that the modern GOP is deeply anti-intellectual, and has as its fundamental goal not just a rollback of the welfare state but a rollback of the Enlightenment.” –Paul Krugman, blogging on the topic I discussed here and here.

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Obama In Rolling Stone

Barack Obama is on the cover of Rolling Stone. The interview started out with Obama making a point which I think many Democrats have missed. Obama has been criticized for trying to attract Republicans when it is obvious that Republican politicians have no intention to  compromise. They prefer to block anything proposed by Obama for political gain, regardless of how much harm they do to the country. However, in trying to make his policies attractive to Republicans, it is Republican voters, not politicians, who Obama wants to attract. Many are brainwashed by Fox and the right wing noise machine, but Obama showed in 2008 that he can attract enough former Republican voters to win in states where Democrats had not won recently.

Let’s talk about the campaign. Given all we’ve heard about and learned during the GOP primaries, what’s your take on the state of the Republican Party, and what do you think they stand for?
First of all, I think it’s important to distinguish between Republican politicians and people around the country who consider themselves Republicans. I don’t think there’s been a huge change in the country. If you talk to a lot of Republicans, they’d like to see us balance the budget, but in a balanced way. A lot of them are concerned about jobs and economic growth and favor market-based solutions, but they don’t think we should be getting rid of every regulation on the books. There are a lot of Republican voters out there who are frustrated with Wall Street and think that they acted irresponsibly and should be held to account, so they don’t want to roll back regulations on Wall Street.

But what’s happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn’t get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that’s true. You have every candidate onstage during one of the primary debates rejecting a deficit-reduction plan that involved $10 in cuts for every $1 of revenue increases. You have a Republican front-runner who rejects the Dream Act, which would help young people who, through no fault of their own, are undocumented, but who have, for all intents and purposes, been raised as Americans. You’ve got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

If you want to lower the deficit, reduce government intrusion in individual’s personal lives, have lower taxes on the middle class, and a stronger defense against al Qaeda, all things I would expect Republican voters to support, Obama has been the one to offer more sensible positions on these issues.

As for Mitt Romney:
Given all that, what do you think the general election is going to look like, and what do you think of Mitt Romney?
I think the general election will be as sharp a contrast between the two parties as we’ve seen in a generation. You have a Republican Party, and a presumptive Republican nominee, that believes in drastically rolling back environmental regulations, that believes in drastically rolling back collective-bargaining rights, that believes in an approach to deficit reduction in which taxes are cut further for the wealthiest Americans, and spending cuts are entirely borne by things like education or basic research or care for the vulnerable. All this will be presumably written into their platform and reflected in their convention. I don’t think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, “Everything I’ve said for the last six months, I didn’t mean.” I’m assuming that he meant it. When you’re running for president, people are paying attention to what you’re saying.
Drug policy is an area where many of us who did vote for Obama were disappointed. He did address this issue:

Let me ask you about the War on Drugs. You vowed in 2008, when you were running for election, that you would not “use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.” Yet we just ran a story that shows your administration is launching more raids on medical pot than the Bush administration did. What’s up with that?

Here’s what’s up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, “Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.” What I can say is, “Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.” As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.

The only tension that’s come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, “This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.” That’s not something we’re going to do. I do think it’s important and useful to have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of the things we’ve done over the past three years was to make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. We’ve had a discussion about how to focus on treatment, taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to deal with this issue. I think that’s an appropriate debate that we should have.

Changing the legislation is important, and I do wish Obama would propose some meaningful changes. There is no doubt that the medical marijuana laws are used for people to obtain marijuana for uses beyond medical uses. On the other hand, it is clear that prohibition does not work and there is no point in using government to try to prevent the use of marijuana. I back the position of the California Medical Association in having doubts about the system for medical marijuana but believe the answer is to legalized marijuana and get government out of this issue.
Obama showed his support for the free market, while contrasting his views of a market economy from those of the Republicans:

Occupy Wall Street seems to have influenced your rhetoric. Has it had a deeper impact on your thinking about America?

You know, I think that Occupy Wall Street was just one vivid expression of a broader anxiety that has been around in the United States for at least a decade or more. People have a sense the game is rigged, so just a few people can do well, and everybody else is left to scramble to get by.

The free market is the greatest generator of wealth in history. I’m a firm believer in the free market, and the capacity of Americans to start a business, pursue their dreams and strike it rich. But when you look at the history of how we became an economic superpower, that rugged individualism and private-sector dynamism was always coupled with government creating a platform so that everybody could succeed, so that consumers weren’t taken advantage of, so that the byproducts of capitalism, like pollution or worker injuries, were regulated. Creating that social safety net has not made us weaker – it’s made us stronger. It liberated people to say, “I can move to another state, but if I don’t find a job right away, my kids aren’t going to go hungry. I can start a business, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to be able to land on my feet.” Making those kinds of commitments to each other – to create safety nets, to invest in infrastructure and schools and basic research – is just like our collective investment in national security or fire departments or police. It has facilitated the kind of risk-taking that has made our economy so dynamic. This is what it means for us to live in a thriving, modern democracy.

One of the major arguments we’ll be having in this election season is a contrasting vision that says not just that government is part of the problem, but essentially that government is the entire problem. These guys, they don’t just want to roll back the New Deal – in some cases, they want to go back even further.

Obama also reads some of the blogs as well as op-ed writers:

Do you read Paul Krugman?I read all of the New York Times columnists. Krugman’s obviously one of the smartest economic reporters out there, but I also read some of the conservative columnists, just to get a sense of where those arguments are going. There are a handful of blogs, Andrew Sullivan’s on the Daily Beast being an example, that combine thoughtful analysis with a sampling of lots of essays that are out there. The New Yorker and The Atlantic still do terrific work. Every once in a while, I sneak in a novel or a nonfiction book.

There’s far more in the full text of the interview.
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Video Of President Obama’s Speech Presenting the American Jobs Act

Video above. Text and my comments on the speech were in the previous post. It must have been a good speech if Paul Krugman liked it, despite thinking Obama should have gone further.

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