Don’t Panic Because Nate Silver Predicts Republicans Will Take Senate

I was traveling yesterday and when I finally got on line saw a lot of panic over Nate Silver predicting that the Republicans were favored to take control of the Senate. I don’t find this terribly significant.

We already knew that there was a real possibility that the Republicans could take control of the Senate and Silver’s prediction does not provide any new information. Silver making the prediction does not mean it is any more likely to occur than it was last week. He was way off in predicting a 61 percent chance the Republicans would take control of the Senate in 2012. I hope he is wrong again.

As I noted recently, Nate Silver’s predictions in the 2012 presidential election were similar to those from other sources (ignoring the Republicans who made predictions contrary to polling results). His predictions for the Senate in 2012 were also comparable to predictions being made by others at that point. His prediction for the Senate in 2014 is comparable to predictions already made by others.

There is real reason to fear that the Republicans will take control of the Senate is year, but the news of Nate Silver predicting this does not alter what we knew before he made this prediction and does not mean that it is any more likely to occur.

Please Share

Republicans, White Working Class Voters, And Race

White working class males present a particular frustration for Democratic strategists. Most independent economists agree that Republican economic policies have increasingly led to redistribution of  wealth to the ultra-wealthy at the expense of the middle class yet Republicans obtain the majority of votes from low-information white voters who are hurt the most by Republican policies.  Last week I looked at attempts by Democrats to regain the votes of white males. This is hindered by low-information voters being misled by Republican misinformation (while better educated white male voters are more likely to vote Democratic). Many vote contrary to their economic self-interest based upon social issues. This is all reinforced by the Republican southern strategy which enhances economic insecurity by playing on racial fears.

Thomas B. Edsall has an op-ed in The New York Times on How Democrats Can Compete for the White Working Class. His analysis actually leaves many reasons for Democrats to remain gloomy about these prospects. He began with some differences in attitudes between these less-educated white voters and the general population in surveys conducted by Democracy Corps:

Democracy Corps found that less well-educated whites agree, by a huge 46.2 percentage point margin, with the statement “When something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful.” This is 11.6 points more than all voters.

Similarly, the general public agrees that “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” by a 19.5 percentage point margin, while whites who did not go to college agree by half that.

He also cited a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute from September 2012 entitled “Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White Working Class in America.” This also showed that working class whites tend to be more conservative on social issues but also that this was far more the case in the south. Grouping these numbers nationally made these voters appear more conservative on social issues than is actually the case:

…while working-class whites in the South opposed same-sex marriage by 61-32 in the P.R.R.I. survey, in the Northeast they favored it 57-37; in the West they were split 47-45; and in the Midwest they were modestly opposed, 44-49. In the case of abortion, majorities of non-college whites outside of the South believe the practice should be legal, while those in the South were opposed 54-42.

In general, the findings of the P.R.R.I. study suggest that outside the South, Democrats should be able to make significant inroads among working-class whites – and, in fact, they have. In 2008, when Obama was losing nationally by 18 points among noncollege whites, in Michigan he carried these voters 52-46; in Illinois, 53-46; and in Connecticut, 51-47.

There remains another huge stumbling block to Democrats winning these white votes–race:

The P.R.R.I. study did point to one Democratic stumbling block: affirmative action and “reverse discrimination.”

Three out of five working-class whites believe “that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” This view is strongest in the South, at 69 percent, but it is the majority conviction of working-class whites in all regions of the country, where it is never lower than 55 percent.

In another key measure of white working-class racial resentment, the P.R.R.I. survey found that by a margin of three percentage points, the white working class agreed “that the government has paid too much attention to the problems of minorities.” White noncollege voters were split down the middle on this issue in the Northeast and Midwest. In the South, 58 percent agreed.

Thirty years ago, in the aftermath of the 1984 presidential election in which Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale, Democrats were deeply alarmed over the defection of blue-collar voters.

Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, conducted focus groups in 1985 in the white working-class suburbs of Detroit and found that “these white Democratic defectors express a profound distaste for blacks, a sentiment that pervades almost everything they think about government and politics.”

The perception of reverse discrimination was an even more acute source of anger: “The special status of blacks is perceived by almost all these individuals as a serious obstacle to their personal advancement. Indeed, discrimination against whites has become a well-assimilated and ready explanation for their status, vulnerability and failures.”

A separate study that year, financed by the Democratic National Committee, found that white working-class voters were convinced that “the Democratic Party has not stood with them as they moved from the working to the middle class. They have a whole set of middle-class economic problems today, and their party is not helping them. Instead, it is helping the blacks, Hispanics and the poor. They feel betrayed.”

While these attitudes are stronger in the south, I fear that Democrats will continue to face serious obstacles to attracting white low-information voters in other regions. That does not mean I disagree with Democratic attempts to  try to pick up votes. There are white working class voters who are less conservative and less motivated by race than those in the south and some might be convinced to vote more along economic interests. Even if Democrats continue to win a minority of these voters, increasing their share could still add to Democratic margins.

This strategy has also begun to backfire against Republicans nationally. The realization that Republicans have based their electoral strategy to such a considerable degree on stroking racial fears has been one reason why they have been so unsuccessful in obtaining Jewish votes, and why Republican use of racial fears on immigration issues is hurting their long term prospects due to the loss of Latino voters.

Among other measures, Democrats have attempted to improve the economic conditions of millions of workers by pushing for an increase in the minimum wage. Now Obama has escalated this with an executive order which will provide overtime pay to millions of Americans who have been denied this:

President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated.

On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement.

Mr. Obama’s decision to use his executive authority to change the nation’s overtime rules is likely to be seen as a challenge to Republicans in Congress, who have already blocked most of the president’s economic agenda and have said they intend to fight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25…

Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars’ worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama’s directive would significantly increase that salary level.

In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee’s primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.

White House officials said those rules were sometimes abused by employers in an attempt to avoid paying overtime. The new rules could require that employees perform a minimum percentage of “executive” work before they can be exempted from qualifying for overtime pay.

“Under current rules, it literally means that you can spend 95 percent of the time sweeping floors and stocking shelves, and if you’re responsible for supervising people 5 percent of the time, you can then be considered executive and be exempt,” said Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization in Washington.

Conservatives are likely to protest the use of an executive order here, ignoring the fact that Obama is just reversing a previous executive order by George W. Bush in 2004. Think Progress has more on the economic effects of this executive order. Jared Bernstein, former executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, also predicts that “a potential side effect is that you may see more hiring in order to avoid overtime costs, which would be an awfully good thing right about now.”

The question remains whether low-information white working class voters will realize that they are benefiting from such policy differences between the parties or whether they will continue to fall for right wing talking points on the economy, and allow the Republicans to continue to scare them with the prospect of blacks and immigrants challenging them for jobs.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Please Share

Number Of Uninsured Continues To Decrease

Gallup reports a continued decrease in the percentage of Americans without health insurance, including a drop in uninsured young people:

Percent Uninsured

The percentage of Americans without health insurance continues to fall, measuring 15.9% so far in 2014 compared with 17.1% in the fourth quarter of 2013.

These data are based on more than 28,000 interviews with Americans from Jan. 2-Feb. 28, 2014, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. With only a few weeks remaining in the first quarter, the uninsured rate is on track to be the lowest quarterly level that Gallup and Healthways have measured since 2008.

The uninsured rate has been declining since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18.0% in the third quarter. The uninsured rate for the first quarter of 2014 so far includes a 16.2% reading for January and 15.6% for February.

Uninsured Rate Declines Most Among Lower-Income and Black Americans

The uninsured rate for almost every major demographic group has dropped in 2014 so far. The percentage of uninsured Americans with an annual household income of less than $36,000 has dropped the most — by 2.8 percentage points — to 27.9% since the fourth quarter of 2013, while the percentage of uninsured blacks has fallen 2.6 points to 18.3%. Hispanics remain the subgroup most likely to lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 37.9%.

The percentage of uninsured has declined across all age groups this year, except for those aged 65 and older. The uninsured rate for that group has likely remained stable because most Americans aged 65 and older have Medicare.

The uninsured rate among 26- to 34-year olds and 35- to 64-year olds continues to decline — now at 26.6% and 16.3%, respectively. The February Enrollment Report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighted no significant changes in young adults’ enrollment in the health exchanges since its December report, with the cumulative total enrollment rate among 18- to 34-year-olds hovering at 25%…

Implications

The uninsured rate continues to decline after the requirement to have health insurance went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. This drop could be a result of the ACA, which aims to provide healthcare coverage to more Americans through multiple provisions, including federal and state healthcare marketplaces where Americans can purchase health insurance coverage at competitive rates.

At the end of February, HHS reported 4 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage through the marketplaces established under the ACA. With the open enrollment period scheduled to close on March 31, the uninsured rate in the U.S. will likely continue to fall. Additionally, healthcare aides in the Obama administration announced on Wednesday that Americans will be able to renew old health insurance plans for up to three years, even if the plans do not comply with ACA policies. Other provisions of the healthcare law have not yet gone into effect, such as the requirement for employers to provide health insurance to their employees by 2015 or 2016. These provisions also may affect the uninsured rate over time.

These numbers remain lower than ultimately desired but do show a significant improvement, and further enrollment in the exchanges is expected during March, after the period of this survey. Further enrollment by young, healthy adults would be advantageous, but with enrollment at current numbers the Affordable Care Act would remain viable. Some states also had delayed implementation of Medicaid expansion due to initial political opposition by Republicans (with some states continuing to refuse to expand Medicaid). For example, Michigan is not accepting applications for the expanded Medicaid program until after April 15, 2014, which should further add to the newly insured.

Most likely enrollment will also continue to increase substantially in future years. Initial implementation of the original Medicare program and Medicare Advantage plans were also hampered by problems and took time to get established. This year enrollment under policies provided under through the exchanges was hindered by additional factors including the initial computer problems and a campaign by opponents of the law to dissuade the uninsured from enrolling.

Numbers regarding reduction in the number of uninsured would provide one parameter regarding the success of the Affordable Care Act, but there are many other numbers to look at. This includes no longer having people lose their insurance due to developing serious medical problems or losing their job, no longer having people denied health care coverage due to pre-existing conditions, no longer having people declaring bankruptcy because of losing insurance, the number of people who no longer having caps on health care coverage, the number freed from the “insurance trap” forcing people who otherwise do not need to work to continue working for insurance coverage, along with the overall benefits to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office Report, frequently distorted by Republicans, shows that the Affordable Care Act will reduce unemployment, help decrease the deficit, and allow more people to leave large corporations to start small businesses.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Please Share

Support For Same Sex Marriage Increases (Except Among The Tea Party)

Support for legalization of same sex marriage has reached a new high according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll:

Half of all Americans believe that gay men and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll in which a large majority also said businesses should not be able to deny serving gays for religious reasons.

Fifty percent say the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection gives gays the right to marry, while 41 percent say it does not.

Beyond the constitutional questions, a record-high 59 percent say they support same-sex marriage, while 34 percent are opposed, the widest margin tracked in Post-ABC polling

According to the poll, public opinion is more unified on recent proposals that would allow businesses to refuse serving gays and others based on the religious convictions of the business owner. Nearly seven in 10 respondents say businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to gays. On this question, majorities across partisan lines said businesses should not be allowed to deny service.  Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a measure that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to customers based on religious grounds.

The breakdown of supporters includes little that is surprising:

Despite the changing views, deep chasms remain along religious, generational and political lines. Six in 10 evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage, while about six in 10 Catholics, non-evangelical Protestants and eight in 10 with no religious affiliation support it. Three-quarters of Americans younger than 30 support same-sex marriage, while less than half of seniors say the same.

Although support for such unions has grown to clear majorities among Democrats (70 percent) and independents (61 percent), Republicans have moved at a slower pace. Fifty-four percent of Republicans oppose same-sex marriage in the new poll, while 40 percent approve of it.

“I just don’t believe in the marriage thing; the Bible says that isn’t right,” said Musser, who opposed the Arizona legislation on the religious rights of businesses.

Republicans are split along ideological and religious lines. Support for allowing same-sex marriage is lowest, below one-third or less, among conservatives and evangelical Protestants.

Greg Sargent has this comment on where much of the this Republican support for government intrusion in the private lives of individuals comes from:

Meanwhile, opposition to gay marriage among Republicans seems to be concentrated among the Tea Party. According to the Post polling team, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who support the Tea Party oppose gay marriage by 54-38. By contrast, non-Tea Party Republicans and GOP-leaners support gay marriage by 57-36. Tea Party Republicans are often said to be more libertarian-leaning on social issues than other segments of the GOP base (such as evangelicals), but a majority of them still opposes same-sex marriage.

While the Tea Party often claims to be purely concentrated on economic matters,  as I have pointed out in the past, the Tea Party is often just a new name for the old religious right base of the Republican Party.

On the other hand, opposition to same sex marriage is declining among Catholics. A comparable change is also seen with the more liberal views coming from the Vatican under Pope Francis. While outright support for same sex marriage remains too liberal a position for him to adopt, Think Progress points out that he is open to the idea of civil unions:

In an interview published Wednesday, Pope Francis appeared to support governments that recognize civil unions to provide non-traditional couples with access to benefits:

On the question of marriage and civil unions, the Pope reaffirmed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. States seek to justify civil unions “to regularize different situations of living together,” pushed by the need to regularize the economic aspects between people, such as, for example, to ensure health care, he said. “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety”.

Over the last year, Francis has nudged the church in a more welcoming direction on issues like contraception, divorce, and marriage equality. Unlike Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI — who sermonized that same-sex marriage is a “serious harm to justice and peace,” and a “manipulation of nature” — Francis has directed the church to become more inclusive. He has also instructed American Bishops to poll how everyday Catholics view same-sex marriage, divorce, and contraception. Last year, Francis himself welcomed gays priests, arguing, “who am I to judge?” Before becoming the Pope, Francis may have supported civil unions as an Argentina archbishop, though he was simultaneously condemning marriage equality as a product of the “father of lies” that was “destructive to the plan of God” and that would “gravely harm the family.” The Vatican continues to oppose same-sex unions and has had to deny past reports of Francis’ support as “paradoxical” and a “manipulation” of his words.

Francis also discussed plans to revisit the church’s position on birth control, saying “it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and bringing it about that the pastoral practice takes account of situations and of what is possible for persons.”

While this country is quickly moving beyond the idea of civil unions to full marriage equality, support for civil unions is a welcome move in the right direction from the Catholic Church.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Please Share

The Battle For Control Of Congress 2014

While the media is increasingly talking about the 2016 presidential election, we have a major election coming up for control of Congress later this year. At present it appears that it is unlikely for the Democrats to take control of the House, and they are now fighting to retain control of the Senate. Predictions that the Republicans will hold the House and possibly take the Senate are based upon historical trends and which Senate seats are up for reelection this year. Of course it is possible to see a break from past trends.

Among the trends causing people to predict this to be a good year for Republicans: minorities and young voters don’t vote as often in off-year elections, a president’s party generally does poorly in the sixth year of the president’s term, a president’s party does poorly when the president has low approval ratings, and a president’s party does poorly when the economy is having difficulties.

On top of this, the Democrats are defending Senate seats in several red states this year, giving the Republicans a chance to pick up some seats. Fortunately the situation is reversed in 2016 with more blue-state Republicans up for reelection. Based upon these fundamentals in a presidential election which is likely to already be more favorable to the party, a Democrat winning the White House should also see a pick up of several Senate seats.

The Republican Party has been working in other ways to pick up votes. They have made voter suppression a major part of their electoral strategy, along with continuing the Southern Strategy based upon racism and now xenophobia. On the other hand, their history of racism may backfire with the increase in minority voters, possibly turning some southern states blue in the near future. We saw this first in Virginia and to a lesser degree in North Carolina. In the future this could extend to Georgia, Texas, and additional states.

Republicans have an advantage in keeping control of the House as so many House districts are gerrymandered to protect the incumbent. In addition, Democrats tend to be more concentrated in urban areas, meaning that even if more people vote for Democrats than Republicans, the Republicans will win more seats by small margins while Democrats will win a smaller number with bigger majorities. More people voted for Democrats than Republicans in Congressional races in 2012 but the Republicans retained control of the House. It would probably take at least  a seven percent margin of victory for Democrats to take control of the House. Republican representation in the Senate is also exaggerated compared to their level of support due to lesser populated Republican states having the same number of Senators as more populated Democratic states.

There are some things which could throw off the fundamentals this year, but we cannot count on voters suddenly no longer being fooled by the GOP line. At present the Republicans receive far too many votes from low-information white voters. Over time the number of younger voters who receive their fake news from Jon Stewart will overtake the older voters who receive their fake news from Fox.

While Obama’s approval rating is low, Congress has an even lower approval rating. Typically in such situations people like their own Congressman even if they disapprove of Congress. This year polls show that many people also think their own Congressman should be thrown out. Based upon this, I wouldn’t be surprised if more incumbents than usual get upset, but that might not necessarily help the Democrats over Republicans. In addition, more people see the Republicans as being more responsible for gridlock, in contrast to a common false media narrative of treating each party as being equally responsible. Maybe they will surprise the pundits and throw the Republicans out.

Another factor influencing whether predictions based upon the fundamentals must occur is that any competent Democratic strategist is aware of every point here, and the party is doing far more than they did in 2010 to try to change this. They are working to increase turnout among Democratic voters this year. They  have a technological edge both in regards to get out the vote efforts and fund raising. It even appears that the same problems which are placing Republicans at a disadvantage with younger voters is also impacting their ability to recruit young tech savvy political operatives. Besides using their technological advantages over Republicans in getting out the vote efforts, they can  motivate Democratic voters with fear of the consequences of the Republicans taking control of the Senate. Tea Party extremism has led to an end to talk of a grand bargain. Democratic compromises on entitlement programs might have discouraged some voters on the left from turning out for Democrats.

I think Democrats will do better if they can successfully explain the advantages of their policies as opposed to Republican policies. Democratic economic policies turned around the economic collapse caused by Republican economic policies, even if the Republicans have managed to slow recovery with their obstructionist moves, decided upon from the start of Obama’s term. The deficit rolled up by George Bush has dropped considerably since Obama took office. The CBO  projects a deficit of $514 billion in 2014, representing three percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This is near the average level for the past forty years, and a vast improvement from 2009 when the deficit was at 10.1 percent of GDP.

Despite early IT problems, which the Obama administration does deserve criticism for, the Affordable Care Act has turned into a tremendous success on a policy level, both in terms of health care reform and its benefits for the economy. Both the Medicare Advantage plans under George Bush and the original Medicare program had early implementation problems which took a couple of years to solve. Of course Republicans will continue to spread unsubstantiated scare stories and it is possible Obama might never received the credit he deserves. Health care premiums will be remain high on the individual market as they were high before Obamacare. Insurance companies will continue to use restricted panels of physicians and hospitals as they did before Obamacare, leaving room for Republicans to blame the Affordable Care Act for problems unrelated to the law.

Other factors could come into play. The Tea Party might oust electable Republicans and replace them with extremist candidates which the Democrats can more easily beat. While doubtful, the Tea Party might force Congressional Republicans into a situation analogous to the government shut-down before the election which reduces public support for Republicans. While it is doubtful it will really alter that many votes, even the changes in the late night comedians could help the Democrats over the Republicans.

The easy prediction is now that the Republicans will keep control of the House and control of the Senate is up for grabs. Depending upon whether the factors discussed above alter the usual fundamentals, we still might wind up seeing the pundits talking about all the reasons they knew we would have a different outcome after the results are known.

Please Share

Poll Shows More Voters Seeing Through Claims That Both Parties Equally Responsible For Gridlock

The mainstream media often promotes a false narrative that both sides of the political spectrum are mirror images of each other, each equally extreme and each being equally responsible for gridlock in Washington. Some centrists such as Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have shown that the real problem today is the extremism of the Republican Party. While the media has failed to drop their narrative, most likely due to a false belief that this is how to be unbiased, a Pew Research Center survey shows the public is starting to see through this:

By a margin of 52% to 27%, the public says Democrats are more willing than Republicans to work with political leaders from the other party. A 54% majority also says the Republican Party is more extreme in its positions, compared with 35% of Democrats.

By a 20-point margin, the public sees Democrats (52%) as being more concerned than Republicans (32%) with the needs of people like themselves, while a plurality says Republicans are more influenced by lobbyists and special interests (47% vs. 30% saying Democrats). In addition, four-in-ten believe the Democratic Party governs in a more honest and ethical way (41%), compared with 31% who choose the Republicans. But about three-in-ten (28%) do not pick either side as having an edge on honesty.

Among other findings, deficit reduction has dropped as a priority. It is not clear if this is because people actually realize how much the deficit has declined under Obama. Not surprisingly, there is a tendency for Democrats to be more concerned about the deficit under Republican presidents and vice versa. It wasn’t long ago, when Bush was in the White House, that the Republican mantra was that “Deficits don’t matter,” to quote Dick Cheney.

While more people are realizing that the Republicans are more extreme and unwilling to compromise or work with the opposition, it is questionable whether these results will translate into gains for Democrats in November. There is plenty in this, and other recent polls, which is more favorable for each party. Historically the overall pessimism and declining popularity of the president would predict a poor outcome for the president’s party in an off year election, and off year elections are also more favorable to Republicans due to decreased turnout by the young and minorities.  The safe bet would be that the Republicans will experience moderate gains, although the Democrats could pick up some House seats.

One recent polling finding does raise questions as to whether the election results will be different this year than expected. Often voters express dissatisfaction about Congress but still approve of their own representative. Plus districts are gerrymandered to keep most members of Congress safe.  Gallup found last week that a record low number feel that their own representative deserves to be reelected. Maybe this could mean an unexpected wave election will occur.

Please Share

Obama Popularity Improves Along With Successes Of Affordable Care Act

The National Journal led with Barack Obama in their list of biggest political losers of the year, comparing his trajectory to that of George W. Bush. We have a very small sample of presidents serving a second term in recent years, straining the significance of attempts by the media to make such comparisons. Bloomberg has picked up on a trend which most might have missed over a holiday. Obama’s popularity has picked up at the end of the year:

President Barack Obama has picked up five points in public approval since he’s gone away to Hawaii for a year-end family vacation.

The president’s public approval rating was hanging at 39 percent in the days before Christmas, by the Gallup Poll’s average of daily tracking surveys.

Today, in the surveys Dec. 26-28, his approval has risen to 44 percent. His disapproval rating, 54 percent pre-Christmas, is down to 49 percent.

It might also be premature to write Obama off so soon considering another recent Gallup poll which shows Obama leading the list of most admired men for the sixth consecutive year.

None of these polls are conclusive by themselves but should at least make us keep open the possibility that Obama’s popularity could rebound. A messed up web site is hardly as catastrophic as the incompetence shown in Bush’s handling of Katrina.

One factor which might be helping is that the Affordable Care Act is looking far better now than it did a month or two ago. Steve Benen points out over six million people receiving coverage. On top of the groups he looked at, an additional fifteen million are receiving coverage due to now being able to remain on their parents coverage until age 26.

Unfortunately many of the people taking advantage of these benefits probably do not even realize that they are receiving this due to Obamacare. As I discussed a few days ago, Barack Obama might never receive the credit he deserves for the Affordable Care Act as people take for granted the benefits they are now receiving while blaming Obamacare for problems in the medical system which were already present.

Please Share

Belief In God Down And Belief In Evolution Up In Harris Poll

A Harris poll shows declining belief in God and associated religious views:

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God, down from 82 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2009, a Harris Poll indicates.

The Harris Poll found 57 percent of U.S. adult say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, down from 60 percent in 2005, and 72 percent say they believe in miracles, down from 79 percent in 2005, while 68 percent say they believe in heaven, down from 75 percent. Sixty-eight percent say they believe Jesus is God or the son of God, down from 72 percent; and 65 percent say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70 percent.

Sixty-four percent say they believe in the survival of the soul after death, down from 69 percent in 2005; 58 percent say they believe in the devil, down from 62 percent; 58 percent say they believe in hell, down from 62 percent…

Just under 2-in-10 U.S. adults described themselves as very religious, with an additional 4-in-10 describing themselves as somewhat religious down from 49 percent in 2007. Twenty-three percent of Americans identified themselves as not at all religious, nearly double the 12 percent reported in 2007.

Not surprisingly, a decrease in belief in various religious views correlates with decreased belief in creationism and increased likelihood of believing in evolution: “Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.”

While it is somewhat disturbing that in the 21st century a sizeable number of people reject science and believe in creationism, the number is comparable to those who believe in other crackpot ideas including astrology:

The survey found 42 percent of adults say they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say they believe in creationism, 36 percent say they believe in UFOs, 29 percent say they believe in astrology, 26 percent say they believe in witches and 24 percent say they believe in reincarnation, or that they were once another person.

No report on the number who believe that the earth is flat or that the affordable care act includes death panels.

Breakdown by political party is also as might be expected. The survey found that 49% of Republicans believe in creationism compared to 30% of Democrats and 34% of Independents, unfortunately leaving a substantial number of non-Republicans still denying science. Republicans are slightly more likely to believe in witches than Democrats (27% to 26%) with fewer independents believing at 27%. Numbers believing in UFOs was pretty close in each group. Slightly more Democrats (31%) believe in astrology compared to 29% of Republicans and 27% of independents.

While the general trend in compared with previous polls is likely valid, consistent with what appears to be the case regardless of the polls, the exact numbers might not be exact considering that this was a fairly small online poll with margin of error not listed.

Please Share

Government Sells Off Stake In General Motors, Contradicting Conservative Predictions Of Impending Socialism

While Obama’s poll numbers remain down from last year, there has been good news this week. Following a poor roll out, the number of people obtaining health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has jumped significantly, and the number should grow as two deadlines for January coverage and for avoiding penalties approach. Another major success of the Obama administration was seen this week without very much attention. The government sold its last shares in General Motors. Beyond the obvious benefits to General Motors and the Michigan economy, this was a financial success for the government when tax revenue and money saved on unemployment  claims is taken into consideration.

This is also a  philosophical victory.  Despite record corporate profits and stock market gains under Obama, many on the right wing persist in calling him a socialist. The government investment in General Motors, called by conservatives Government Motors, was a major part of this argument. I recall many conspiracy theories on conservative blogs which predicted that by now the government would have completely nationalized General Motors and moved on to other companies. Of course to those in touch with reality, it was clear that the Obama administration saw involvement in General Motors as a desperation measure, and not something they desired to do.

Conspiracy theories of further nationalization of the means of production were not limited to fringe bloggers. Via Steve Benen, Think Progress collected these predictions in 2010. Not all are as extreme in predicting socialism, but all were wrong:

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?” [6/1/09]

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “It’s basically going to be a government-owned, government-run company. …It’s the road toward socialism.” [5/29/09]

RNC Chairman Michael Steele: “No matter how much the President spins GM’s bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign.” [6/1/2009]

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?” [6/2/09]

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): “Unfortunately, this is just another sad chapter in President Obama’s eager campaign to interject his administration in the private sector’s business dealings.” [6/2/09]

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX): The auto company rescues “have been the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism.” [7/22/09]

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” [7/22/09]

Steve also added this prediction from Mitt Romney:

To put it mildly, this isn’t what Romney expected. In 2009, Mr. “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” was so certain Obama’s policy would fail, he said Americans could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if the administration’s policy was implemented. Indeed, at the time, Romney called the White House plan “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country.” He wrote an April 2009 piece in which he said Obama’s plan “would make GM the living dead.”

 

Please Share

The Affordable Care Act, And Possibly Obama Poll Numbers, Off To A New Start In December

Barack Obama has had a bad month but told Barbara Walters that there is nowhere to go but up:

“I’ve gone up and down pretty much consistently throughout,” Obama told ABC’s Barbara Walters in an exclusive interview at the White House. “But the good thing about when you’re down is that usually you got nowhere to go but up.”

Not necessarily. It seems there is no bottom with Congress at only a six percent approval rating in an Economist/YouGov Poll.

With the gridlock caused by Republicans in Congress only likely to get worse with regards to legislation, even if there is an end to the Republican near-automatic blocking of appointees with the change in Senate filibuster rules, it is hard to see how Congress could possible get anywhere near fifty-percent approval. Obama has a far better chance of recovering support if the relaunch of Obamacare is a success.

While some of the factors causing a drop in Obama’s support were his fault, the significance has been exaggerated way out of proportion by Republicans who are not only rooting for failure but doing everything possible to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.Timothy Egan wrote:

This organized schadenfreude goes back to the dawn of Obama’s presidency, when Rush Limbaugh, later joined by Senator Mitch McConnell, said their No. 1 goal was for the president to fail. A CNN poll in 2010 found 61 percent of Republicans hoping Obama would fail (versus only 27 percent among all Americans).

Wish granted, mission accomplished. Obama has failed — that is, if you judge by his tanking poll numbers. But does this collapse in approval have to mean that the last best chance for expanding health care for millions of Americans must fail as well?

Does this mean we throw in the towel, and return to a status quo in which insurance companies routinely cancel policies, deny health care to people with pre-existing conditions and have their own death panel treatment for patients who reach a cap in medical benefits?

The Republican plan would do just that, because they have no plan but to crush the nation’s fledgling experiment. Sometimes they bring up vouchers, or tort reform, or some combination of catchphrases. Here was Sarah Palin, who is to articulate reason what Mr. Magoo is to vision, on the Republican alternative, as she told Matt Lauer:

“The plan is to allow those things that have been proposed over many years to reform a health care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there’s more competition, there’s less tort-reform threat, there’s less trajectory of the cost increases. And those plans have been proposed over and over. And what thwarts those plans? It’s the far left.”

Yes, it is a big and legitimate news story, for a presidency built on technical expertise, that the federal exchange is not working as promised. Ditto Obama’s vow that people could keep their bottom-feeder health care policies.

But where were the news conferences, the Fox News alerts, the parading of people who couldn’t get their lifesaving cancer treatments under the old system? Where was the media attention when thousands of people were routinely dumped once they got sick? When did Republicans in Congress hold an oversight hearing on the leading cause of personal bankruptcy — medical debt?

Obama should not have said people can keep their own insurance without an admission that this will not apply to everyone, even if they will come out ahead by changing plans. The web site problems should never have occurred but web site problems say zero about the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to purchasing health care coverage which cannot be terminated at the whim of an insurance company should they develop medical problems. Besides, this would not have been an issue if the states had developed their own exchanges as intended. Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has been going well in many states where a state exchange was developed. This is primarily in blue states, but Kentucky is a notable exception where Republican Governor  Steve Beshear went against his party and made Obamacare work in his state. (Correction: Steve Beshear is a Democrat)

He’s an unlikely champion, not least because Kentucky’s two U.S. senators are both implacable opponents of the program.

“I knew if I was going to make a huge difference in the health status of Kentucky, it was going to take some kind of transformational tool to do that, and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is for me,” Beshear, white-haired and greyhound-lean, said as he sat behind a big maple desk in his office. “I think we’ve started something here,” he later added, “that a generation from now you’ll see a very different Kentucky than what you see today.”

Empowered to act without the Legislature’s approval, Beshear became the only Southern governor to embrace a provision vastly expanding Medicaid eligibility and open a state-run exchange for others seeking insurance. He conceded, with a small smile, that it was easier knowing he would never face voters again. “But,” he went on, “I’m convinced that in the end this is not going to [be] a negative political issue.”

He acted, Beshear said, only after independent analysts predicted the healthcare overhaul would inject more than $15 billion into Kentucky’s economy over the next eight years, create about 17,000 new jobs and produce about $800 million in state revenue. “You cannot afford not to do this,” he said he was told.

Obamacare does work when the Republicans don’t actively fight its implementation. Even with all the Republican attempts at sabotage, it appears that the most of the web site problems are being fixed and Obamacare will be running successfully. Of course a program of this complexity won’t work without some glitches, and Republicans will continue to make a lot of noise. Another factor working against Obama is that many people do not realize the risk they were at of losing their insurance in the past.

Hopefully the American people will trust their own experience over the lies from the right wing noise machine. A delay in getting a web site working properly is a minor matter. Once the web site is working and we move into 2014 most Americans will see that they really are either keeping their old insurance or replacing it with better coverage, generally from the same company if they desire, and frequently at a lower cost. They certainly are not being forced to give up their insurance for a government-run plan as many were misled to believe. Some of us will come out behind in terms of dollars spent, but generally the policies will cover more than in the past and have one huge advantage over plans prior to Obamacare–insurance companies will not be able to stop coverage due to medical problems. The real source of people losing their insurance is not Obamacare but the failed system it is replacing. Obamacare is the solution, not the problem.

Please Share