Monday, November 12, 2012

Miss McConnell Is Scared


I don't know if it's Ashley Judd he's afraid of or a primary from the teabaggy right but the 70 year old Miss is not looking forward to begging Kentucky voters to send him back to Washington for the sixth time. He's already spending all of his time raising money from the corporate lobbyists he takes his walking orders from.
McConnell hasn’t paused his 2014 campaign fundraising juggernaut for a millisecond. He raised money throughout the 2012 election cycle. And the day after last Tuesday’s election, McConnell hosted a fundraiser in the nation’s capital.

It appeared to be the only fundraiser in Washington last Wednesday, according to Political Party Time, a calendar of political money-raising events kept by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation.

The event was billed as a dinner and was held at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices on Capitol Hill. Political action committees paid $2,500 to attend, and individuals paid $1,000.

...As in the two previous election cycles, the GOP appears to have an advantage. But in 2010 and this year, some of the Republicans nominated to run for what looked like GOP-friendly seats proved too extreme for voters, and the advantage-- and control of the Senate-- evaporated.

Many Republican consultants and strategists are talking about how their party can avoid yet another setback in 2014, possibly playing a more direct role in the primaries-- a previously forbidden zone for GOP leaders.

As we reported last week, however, this presents a very delicate balancing act for McConnell. He mustn’t irritate the conservative, tea party base that turns out for GOP primaries, but he also must try to get Republicans chosen in GOP Senate primaries who are electable, i.e., acceptable to the more centrist electorate that turns out for the general election.
These days, Miss McConnell doesn't take a sip of water or go to the men's room without thinking about that balancing act. Everything hinges on it. The problem for Republicans, said chief congressional watcher for the conservative American Enterprise Institute Norman Ornstein, is that “you have a party now that is driven and dominated by a wing which is not conservative but radical, I believe, and it’s a problem at the presidential nominating process level, it’s a problem at the congressional nominating process level, it’s problem in primaries as we go ahead.”

He can handle his election campaign any way he likes, of course, but it gets scary for the rest of us when his campaign gets in the way of public policy. And that is exactly what's happening... every day and in every way. Many people in Washington-- presumably Boehner among them-- had to have been concerned when McConnell granted the Wall Street Journal an interview over the weekend and, with an eye on Kentucky politics, said he won't back a Grand Bargain unless Medicaid is cut and the eligibility for Medicare is raised again. Last Tuesday, President Obama had one of his weakest performances anywhere in Kentucky. He won a mere 37.8% of the vote-- less than from any state that seceded from the Union except Arkansas. And Obama won only 4 of the states counties-- Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington) plus tiny, Franklin and Elliott. But did Miss McConnell misinterpret that defeat for the demonized president to mean Kentucky voters want to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid?
"Let me put it very clearly," says the five-term Republican senator from Kentucky. "I am not willing to raise taxes to turn off the sequester. Period." On Jan. 1, Washington faces both a huge tax increase and an automatic spending cut known as the "sequester," which could tip the economy back into recession. A newly emboldened President Obama is likely to take his soak-the-rich case straight to the people, I remind the senator. The political pressure to capitulate could become intense.

"Look, he may think it would be helpful to his presidency to continue to divide and demonize us," says Mr. McConnell. "But my answer will still be short and firm: No. We won't agree to any tax increases that will hurt the economy."

...What kind of a deal would Mr. McConnell accept? The senator's top priority is long-term entitlement reform. "Changing the eligibility for entitlements is the only thing that can possibly fix the country long term." He wants means-testing for programs like Medicare. "Warren Buffett's always complaining about not paying enough in taxes," he says. "What really irritates me is I'm paying for his Medicare."

The senator will also press for the Medicaid reforms, such as block-granting money to the states, that are part of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget. But Mr. McConnell doubts that Democrats would ever go for the Ryan idea for Medicare premium support, allowing seniors to shop around for their preferred health-insurance plan.

The $16 trillion question: How much is Mr. McConnell willing to give on taxes in exchange for those entitlement reforms? "The country doesn't need a tax increase; we have a spending problem. But they control a big part of the government and they insist on taxes. I'd be willing to pay the ransom [of higher taxes] if I thought we were going to get the hostage out." By that he means every dollar of taxes would have to be matched by a dollar of entitlement savings.

How do you ensure that any deal doesn't lead to immediate higher taxes and disappearing spending cuts? "That's a good complaint," Mr. McConnell acknowledges. "In the past, when we've gone along with revenue, the taxes happened and the cuts never did." He believes that if you "change the eligibility for entitlements," those changes will stick, as with an agreement that "Reagan and Tip O'Neill made to raise the age for Social Security that happened 25 years ago."

Any tax and entitlement deal would likely leave unresolved the newest budget-busting entitlement: ObamaCare. "It's the single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in modern times," Mr. McConnell says, "and the single biggest step in the direction of Europeanizing the country. It can't possibly work." Democrats don't understand that now, he continues, but "people are going to be coming at us in hordes asking for us to revisit it" and fix the mounting problems.

He says that in the towns he visits in Kentucky, "the health-care providers who are dealing with patients on a daily basis-- big hospitals, rural hospitals, nonprofits-- are all freaked out about virtually every aspect of the Medicare cuts that affect today's seniors and today's providers. Seven of nine justices on the Supreme Court said the Medicaid part of it is genuinely optional. Smart states won't take this additional burden." Employers are dropping their coverage. He predicts the law will come apart on its own.
The most Republican congressional district in Kentucky is the 5th in the eastern mountains. It's the most rural district, the poorest, the whitest and the least educated. The district just reelected right-wing corporate whore Hal Rogers with 78.2% of the vote. The 75 year Rogers, widely known as the Prince of Pork, is both the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected to federal office. Rogers is doing great and the small owner class in the district he cavourts with is as well. But the average person there is dirt poor. Last year the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Democratic staff took a look at how Ryan's (and Rogers' and Miss McConnell's) plans for Medicare and Medicaid would impact the people who live in the 5th.
The Republican plan raises costs for seniors and individuals with disabilities enrolled in Medicare, reduces their benefits, and puts private insurance companies in charge of the program. For current beneficiaries, important benefits-– such as closing the hole in Medicare’s drug coverage – would be immediately eliminated. For individuals age 54 and under, Medicare’s guarantee of comprehensive coverage would be replaced with a “voucher” or “premium support” to buy private health insurance. By design, this federal contribution does not keep pace with medical costs, shifting thousands of dollars in costs onto the individual.

This analysis shows the immediate and long-term impacts of these changes in the 5th Congressional District in Kentucky, which is represented by Rep. Harold Rogers.

The Republican proposal would have adverse impacts on seniors and disabled individuals in the district who are currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Increase prescription drug costs for 9,400 Medicare beneficiaries in the district who enter the Part D donut hole, forcing them to pay an extra $93 million for drugs over the next decade.

• Eliminate new preventive care benefits for 140,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district.

The Republican proposal would have even greater impacts on individuals in the district age 54 and younger who are not currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Deny 500,000 individuals age 54 and younger in the district access to Medicare’s guaranteed benefits.

• Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage by over $6,000 per year in 2022 and by almost $12,000 per year in 2032 for the 106,000 individuals in the district who are between the ages of 44 and 54.

• Require the 106,000 individuals in the district between the ages of 44 and 54 to save an additional $24.8 billion for their retirement-- an average of $182,000 to $287,000 per individual-- to pay for the increased cost of health coverage over their lifetimes. Younger residents of the district will have to save even higher amounts to cover their additional medical costs.

• Raise the Medicare eligibility age by at least one year to age 66 or more for 57,000 individuals in the district who are age 44 to 49 and by two years to age 67 for 394,000 individuals in the district who are age 43 or younger.
And as far as Miss McConnell's demands that there will be no Grand Bargain unless the age for Medicare is raised again, the Ryan budget had already propsed that, raising the eligibility age two months per year from its current level of 65 until the eligibility age reaches 67 in 2033. There are 451,000 individuals in the district age 49 or younger who would have to wait at least one extra year to join Medicare. There are 394,000 individuals age 43 or younger who would have to wait two extra years to join Medicare. The report also claims that "In the district, there are 106,000 individuals who will enroll in Medicare for the first time between 2022 and 2032. Under the Republican plan, their cumulative out-of-pocket costs for Medicare coverage during their first 20 years of program eligibility would increase by $34.4 billion compared to their costs under traditional Medicare, an increase of 235%." 78.2% of these folks just voted for Rogers and nearly as many are likely to vote for Miss McConnell-- unless the Democrats somehow figure out a way to break through with a message that shows them what "their" political party is doing to their families.

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At 9:21 AM, Blogger John said...

THE biggest entitlement expense is our perpetual war machine.

It is estimated at more than half the budget.

That's where the cuts should start, that's what sequestration is about.

If Ms McConnell doesn't like it, she can cram an ICBM ... sideways.

How many perpetual war profiteers in the Prince of Pork's district?

John Puma

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Alicia Morgan said...

Amen to that. I heard that McConnell's new priority is making sure that Obama is a two-term President.

As Ted Kennedy so eloquently put it: "What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"

Why does it rankle your last nerve to think that someone, somewhere, your tax dollar is being spent on a hungry child's meal instead of a pork barrel project that you've been paid big bux to promote?

Someone should put Mitch in his terrarium and give him some extra lettuce.


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