Republicans in Congress have made no secret of the fact that their top priority this month will be repealing the Affordable Care Act, which has helped more than 20 million Americans get affordable health coverage. As The New York Times reports, the key repeal votes could start as early as today and next week.
Within hours of the new Congress convening on Tuesday, the House plans to adopt a package of rules to clear the way for repealing the health care law and replacing it with as-yet-unspecified measures meant to help people obtain insurance coverage. Then, in the week of Jan. 9, according to a likely timetable sketched out by Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, the House will vote on a budget blueprint, which is expected to call for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Later, in the week starting Jan. 30, said Mr. Walden, incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel will act on legislation to carry out what is in the blueprint. That bill would be the vehicle for repealing major provisions of the health care law, including the expansion of Medicaid.
But as Jonathan Chait brilliantly lays out in an essay for New York magazine, the GOP is a long way from finding agreement on a plan to replace Obamacare – and will probably never get there.
Covering people who can’t afford to pay for their own medical care means making other people pay for it. You can do that through direct tax-and-spend transfers, or through indirect regulatory methods (like making insurance companies overcharge healthy people and undercharge sick ones). Republicans oppose these methods because they oppose redistribution in general. And yet politics requires them to promise a plan that does not deprive Americans of access to treatment. This is the reason none of their plans has advanced beyond the white-paper concept phase —either they contain too much redistribution to be acceptable to the GOP, or too little coverage to be acceptable to the public, or both.
New Orleans-area residents are invited to learn more about the ways ACA repeal could affect Louisiana citizens and the state budget. A community forum is scheduled this coming Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Corpus Christi-Epiphany Community Resource Center (2022 St. Bernard Ave., New Orleans). Leaders from 504HealthNet, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, the Advocacy Center and Voices of the Experienced (VOTE) will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. More information is available by clicking here.
Tough decisions on tax reform
Tax reform is at the top of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ agenda in 2017. Although the details of the governor’s reform plans have yet to be outlined, the final report of a tax restructuring task force offers broad hints of what’s to come: Lower rates on income and sales taxes in exchange for a broader tax base and the elimination of prominent loopholes. The goal is to stabilize the state’s revenue base and move Louisiana away from the epidemic of mid-year budget cuts that have harmed our universities and eviscerated safety-net programs. But as the inimitable Jim Beam explains in the Lake Charles American-Press, the odds are “50-50 at best” because of entrenched opposition from lawmakers.
Compounding problems for the Legislature is the Republican Gang of No’s insistence that state spending has to be cut before they will agree to additional taxation. Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria and one of the leaders of the pre-inauguration speaker plot, has complained that the task force should have made more spending cuts. The task force explained why spending cuts are difficult in its summary of recommendations. Much of what the state spends each year is constitutionally and statutorily dedicated and a substantial portion of the budget comes from federal matching funds that can’t be utilized for anything other than their designated purpose. The choice legislators face is clear. They need to make the tough decisions necessary for the state to end its constant budget shortfalls. If Republicans put the state ahead of their political ambitions, Louisiana could finally be on a sound financial footing in 2017.
The 4th Amendment in Evangeline Parish
Authorities in Evangeline Parish routinely violated the Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure over the course of several decades, according to a Justice Department investigation detailed by The Advocate’s Jim Mustain. On more than 900 occasions over a three-year span, residents were arrested and detained for up to a week without any probable cause, and without the ability to make phone calls or consult a lawyer. The excuse offered by parish officials: They didn’t know their actions were unconstitutional.
“The willingness of officers in both agencies to arrest and detain individuals who are merely possible witnesses in criminal investigations means that literally anyone in Evangeline Parish or Ville Platte could be arrested and placed ‘on hold’ at any time,” the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division wrote. The government used words like “staggering” to describe the prevalence of illegal confinement in this northern corner of Acadiana, raising concerns about the specter of “coerced confessions.”
Although the investigation couldn’t determine if the practice was more widespread in African-American communities, black residents of the area left no doubt about who was being targeted.
Several residents told The Advocate they have been harassed by police, particularly by officers enforcing a remarkable 2010 city ordinance that requires pedestrians to wear reflective gear while walking around at night. Violators can be punished with a $200 fine and up to 30 days in jail. “They only use that to search your pockets,” said Tevin Thomas, 24, who has been ticketed for failure to wear reflective gear. “They’re basically trying to catch a drug charge on you. It’s not right around here.”
Economic growth and the Trump agenda
President-elect Donald Trump has promised to boost economic growth, which has been lagging at around 2 percent annually this century compared to the 4 percent rate that was commonplace in earlier eras. But as the New York Times’ Neil Irwin reports, the steps necessary to achieve that growth would run headlong into other parts of the Trump agenda.
Economic growth can happen two ways: More hours are worked, or more economic output is generated from each hour of labor. But if the economy quickly became more productive, it would, at least in the short run, also risk the livelihoods of some of the very working-class people whom Mr. Trump pledges to help. And the surest way to increase the number of hours worked is to allow more immigration, which would be directly at odds with Mr. Trump’s get-tough stance on that topic.
Number of the Day
36 – Total minutes devoted to issues reporting by the three major broadcast news programs in 2016. Which is one more reason to subscribe to the Daily Dime. (Source: Andrew Tyndall via Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times)