The GOP cares wholly about attacking the president. By Ezra Klein
On March 17, 2007, after beating cancer and losing and regaining his voice, Levon Helm and his band played the Beacon Theater. It was a great personal triumph, and as you will see at the beginning of this clip, he offers his gratitude to his doctor. He got five more wonderful, music-filled years after this show. Tomorrow, May 26, he would have turned 73. I have found the story of this great American artist to be quite moving, felt compelled to write about his struggles and his constancy, and naturally, I’d love for you to read it. The Book of Levon is available digitally through amazon and in paperback through lulu.com
Give yourself a Levon Helm birthday present!
It’s always something of a surprise when someone you know becomes involved in a public controversy of some sort, especially when legal matters are involved. Never was I more shocked than when I read that James Rosen, Chief Washington Correspondent of Fox News, was named by the Justice Department as a possible criminal “co-conspirator” for his alleged role in publishing sensitive security information.
James Rosen is a friend of mine. I’ve known him about eight years; I’ve edited several excellent articles he wrote, shared some meals, and swapped some emails, some of which, I gather, have now been read by the FBI. I know him to be a meticulous reporter, a person of good judgment, the author of a deeply researched biography of John Mitchell that has convinced me that Nixon’s Attorney General got a bum rap in Watergate, an enthusiastic expert on a number of subjects ranging from William F. Buckley Jr. to the Beatles, a gifted mimic, an even more gifted caricaturist, and a good family man. James is probably my most conservative friend—I saw John Bolton at James’s book party, but I smelled no sulphur—but he is not a dogmatist.
The Justice Department can go to hell. James is getting legally muscled because the government wants to stop leakers, and thinks the best way to stop leakers is to criminalize the people who report the leaks, that is, reporters. It is shocking that this action is being performed by the Obama administration; one had such higher expectations of Obama, although no more. Once again we see that power does corrupt. And this why we need people like Rosen, because when we have stars in our eyes we are often blind to the limitations of public officials in whom we have invested our hopes and aspirations. Our leaders are only human, susceptible to temptation, and therefore must be watched, watched, watched, by leakers, and by reporters.
Add this to the AP debacle, and it seems clear that someone in the administration has gone badly off the rails. Obama needs to dump Eric Holder, and pronto. I stand with Rosen.
I have three laws of politics. I don’t know if they explain everything, but they often explain something, and that’s enough for me.
Malanowski’s First Law of Politics is that the rich and powerful will always act in their own self interest.
Malanowski’s Second Law is that the rich and powerful will then get the rest of us to act in their interest as well, usually by making us believe that we hold this interest in common.
Malanowski’s Third Law is that when the rest of us figure out ways to act in our own self-interests, the rich and powerful are likely to outlaw whatever we’ve come up with.
These laws came to mind this week when reading about the appearance of Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The Senators—a couple of them, anyway—wanted to hear about how Apple avoids paying so much tax. Cook, for his part, wanted to talk about how Apple actually pays so much tax.
As Floyd Norris explained in the Times, “What Apple did was transfer rights to its intellectual property to a subsidiary that was incorporated in Ireland — and therefore not subject to immediate United States taxation — but managed in California. Under Irish law, that freed the subsidiary from Irish taxation.”
In other word, Apple uses an artificial company to avoid taxes. Apple, in its defense, points out that this Irish subsidiary has rights to the company’s patents and trademarks in Asia, Africa and Europe, but not in North or South America. “Apple kept those rights in its United States operation,” says Norris, “It thus appears to pay more United States taxes than it could have.” So Apple uses sham company—and is a hero.
“Apple doesn’t use gimmicks,” Cook argued. He’s right, and that’s just the point. He doesn’t have to use gimmicks. The whole system has been gimmicked for him.
Were you or I ham-handed enough to invent something to avoid paying taxes—invent a child say, or identify a Irish business associate as a dependent—we would face prosecution. Apple sets up an Irish front, and it enjoys the support of legislators, judges, tax attorneys, accountants, and other high-minded people everywhere. Apple isn’t rigging the game; it’s playing a game that has been rigged for them—and against the broad middle class.
Surely the weirdest thing about Weiner’s announcement was Andrew Cuomo’s clumsy interjection of himself into the race. At a meeting of the editorial board of the Syracuse Post-Standard, Cuomo was chatting about term limits for legislative leaders, like Speaker of the Assembly. Cuomo doesn’t believe in them. He said, “It’s basically democracy. Those are grownups (in the Assembly) who are picking, who pick their leader.”
“So if Anthony Weiner wants to run for mayor, he can run for mayor,” probed Steven Rogers, the chairman of the media group.
Cuomo: “He runs? He runs.”
Rogers: “And if we elect him?”
Cuomo: “Shame on us.”
Whoa! Shame? That’s not a word you hear every day, especially ascribed to an action of the electorate. (Actually, having spent many years listening to the public pronouncements of Andrew’s father Mario, I can believe Andrew heard it every day. Catholic-inflected guilt was very much part of Mario’s schtick.) The shock of the honest, unfiltered comment was refreshing, in a slap-of-after shave short of way.
Unfortunately, having realized that a governor has no business offering an opinion, honest or otherwise, about a candidate in municipal primary, Cuomo quickly tried to weasel out of it, and in an entirely unconvincing, dishonest way. A spokesman was sent forward to explain that the governor’s comment was “made in jest.”
Andrew’s formative years in politics were spent as his father’s chief enforcer, and one never had the impression that he diverted any time sharpening his wit that could have been better spent sharpening his sword. The most hilarious part of this was not the jest; nor was it even the suggestion that the humorless Cuomo might have committed a jest. It was that the person who made that suggestion preferred to remain anonymous.
Anthony Weiner launched his campaign for New York City mayor this week, and did nothing to explain why. One could not even ascribe to him the usual default explanation, which is “because the job is there for me to win.” There is, of course, a long hot summer during which his explanation may emerge, but as we all know, when a candidate doesn’t come out of the box with that part of his story ready to go, it seldom falls into place.
He is, on the face of it, looking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Forget his humiliating tweets, which he wears now like a digital albatross—he’s just the wrong guy. Weiner is a high energy reformer, best on the attack, Bella Abzug without the hat. New York is emerging from twelve years of Michael Bloomberg, and we’ve never had it so good. Mild mannered Mike has presided over a dozen years characterized by low anxiety—no tumors of maladministration, no stomach-churning municipal scandals, no sense of confrontation, either in City Hall or on the streets. Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani had their good points, but they woke up looking for a fight. Not Bloomberg; he has been the essence of calm. He can’t be Bloomberg, and he can’t attack Bloomberg.
Bloomberg has been like Bennie Goodman, the head of a great band who occasionally steps forward with remarkable solos, as he did most brilliantly when defending the construction of the Islamic Cultural Center near the World Trade Center site. The two leading Democrats, Christine Quinn and John Liu, and the leading Republican, Joseph Lhota, are more or less like members of that band; the one who wins is the one who will best convince voters that he or she will be like Mike (Quinn has a huge lead in the polls.) Weiner is like Eddie Van Edder, he of the searing guitar solos; he belongs somewhere else. Maybe he was sending us a sign when he debuted his campaign website and featured a photo of the skyline of Pittsburgh.
So why is Weiner running? For people to see him differently, he has to be seen in the first place. He’s auditioning for something, to be determined.
I don’t have any particular Memorial Day rituals, other than making a real effort to think about the meaning of the holiday. If you have any, particularly if they are cool and different, please feel free to tell us about it in the comment thread, if anyone’s still reading late Friday on a holiday weekend.
Here are some final items of the day:
* Threat becomes reality: Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns launches two-week, $350,000 ad buy in Arkansas blasting Mark Pryor for voting against Manchin-Toomey bill. They might want to take a look at the gun views of Pryor’s likely opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton.
* Federal appeals court hears arguments on potentially explosive issue of government’s power to deem employees “unfit” for “sensitive” positions.
* Michelle Nunn, daughter of Sam, reportedly in the race for her father’s old Senate seat representing Georgia. She’d probably have a clear field among Democrats.
* At Ten Miles Square, Keith Humphreys administers a short quiz on political history that illustrates the power and limitations of stereotypes.
* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer discusses the movement towards “fossil fuel divestment” and why it probably won’t hurt the bottom lines of college endowments.
And in non-political news:
* Unnamed bidder at Cannes auction ponies up $1.5 million for seat next to Leonardo DiCaprio on Virgin Galactic space trip.
That’s it for another scandalicious week. Jamie Malanowsi will be in for Weekend Blogging tomorrow and Sunday; I’ll be back for the Mini-Jumbo Holiday Edition on Monday.
Let’s close the day with one of my very favorite Randy Newman songs, and one of the strangest and most touching love songs ever, “A Wedding in Cherokee County.” It’s mildly off-color, and comes with a hilarious prologue from Newman about the song’s genesis.
At Ten Miles Square, there’s a piece by Henry Farrell examining the somewhat hazy definitions governing those distinctive Beltway institutions (though they exist all over the place), “think tanks,” playing off some unwelcome recent publicity about such entities employing lobbyists:
It would be grossly simplistic to see think tanks as just clandestine lobbying shops. UC San Diego sociologist Thomas Medvetz has an interesting book on the delicate balancing acts that think tanks have to perform in order to continue and to succeed. He borrows his ideas from Pierre Bourdieu, arguing that think tanks are in a liminal position between the worlds of politics, literature and academia, trying to borrow prestige from each of these worlds while resisting being defined by them.
I’d go further: think tanks emerged into important Washington institutions because of a market failure, primarily in academia, which due to its own internal dynamics could not supply the Washington policy-making machine with the material it needed in a timely fashion. In doing so, think tanks in fact competed with lobbyists, who were also meeting the market demand for justifications (or rationalizations) of specific policies among politicians.
The hazy definition of “think tank” is separate from the hazy definitions governing tax-exempt status for various kinds of political activities that we are hearing about so much right now. Most if not all think tanks are actually 501(c)(3) “charitable” organizations, which unlike the 501(c)(4)s in the news recently cannot engage in campaign activities or even partisan politics at all. But you have (c)(3)s attached to (c)(4)s and even to non-tax-exempt groups, so there’s plenty of gray territory to navigate. For example: the American Legislative Exchange Council, that infamous and very efficient transmission belt that places legislative proposals largely drafted by corporate lobbyists directly into the hands of conservative state legislators, who in turn often inflict them on the their constituents, is a 501(c)(3), and also calls itself a “think tank.”
The important thing to remember is that none of these institutions or the specific names and rules under which they operate makes a whole lot of sense unless you look at the whole political picture. Form doesn’t always follow function, but by and large the money goes where it can have the greatest impact with the least “leakage” in dollars, time, legal scrutiny, and wasted effort. That’s worth keeping in mind next time you hear that the 501(c)(4) “scandal” is all about poor, bare-bones citizens groups just wanting their opinions to be heard.
Off-year elections being rare beasts, we are going to hear an awful lot between now and November about the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, whether or not party handlers get a grip on him and convince him to babble inanely and incessantly about jobs and fiscal responsibility instead of the topics that most obviously interest him. But as E.W. Jackson has risen to national fame, I’ve been asked by several people: Why does he call himself a “Bishop.” Isn’t he a Baptist and a politician?
Turns out it’s not as weird as it sounds to a lot of people. There is a small but significant trend among conservative evangelicals and specifically Baptists and pentecostals, primarily (though not exclusively, viz. the late and notorious Bishop Earl Paulk of Atlanta) among African-Americans, to use the term “Bishop” as a simple (and often self-designated) honorific for a prominent church leader.
This all sounds strange and even scandalous to those from traditions where “Bishop” connotes an exceptionally elevated position in a denominational hierarchy, and even more so to those who identify the title with an Apostolic Succession claiming to date from New Testament times. But from even my rudimentary understanding of Church History, the term “Bishop” (from the Greek episkopos, meaning “overseer” or “guardian”) originally just meant the principal celebrant of the Eucharist in any given church—what we would refer to now as a “pastor” or “rector.” As the early church grew, the Bishop’s assisting clergy, known eventually as “priests,” took over the daily ministerial duties in individual churches while the Bishop gradually became a figure with great spiritual and administrative authority.
So you could argue the title as appropriated by E.W. Jackson is closer to the original model than that of the powerful hierarchical figures with whom the term has come to be identified. Either way, I won’t begrudge him the prefix, and will be happy to say between now and election day: Man, that Bishop is crazy! We’ll see if he gains another title on November 5.
At the Lunch Buffet, I noted that Molly Ball of The Atlantic had done another one of the periodic efforts to contrast Republican “rebranding” or “renewal” discussions with those Democrats went through in the 80s and 90s (though some would start earlier, particularly those tuned in to the role of the Washington Monthly and other intellectual and media elites in that process). I didn’t make too big a deal over Ball’s piece because it’s a familiar story, and one that I wrote up myself back in November.
But at TAP Paul Waldman came at the issue from a different and very useful perspective, one that would probably be congenial to all those political scientists who think us gabbers and ideologues invariably overemphasize the role of words and ideas in politics. A sample:
I think the degree to which political success comes from the public agreeing with you on issues is being dramatically overstated. If you look at the ups and downs of the parties over the last 20 years, a couple of other factors—timing, and what your opponents do—matter a whole lot more.
Let’s quickly run over this history, starting with the Democrats’ first revival, with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. Was it important that Clinton was a centrist Democrat who sought to neutralize the party’s electoral problems on being seen by white voters as too solicitous of black people and too soft on crime? Sure. But had the country not been in a recession in 1992, that wouldn’t have been enough. And if that was a Democratic revival that went beyond one guy getting elected, it didn’t last very long; two years later, Republicans took over both houses of Congress.
That brings us to the opposition factor. After the Gingrich Revolution, voters got to see the new version of the Republican party, and they were completely turned off. In 1996, Clinton ran one ad after another featuring pictures of Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich together to taint Dole with the stain of the unpopular House Speaker. But what got him re-elected, more than anything else, was the humming economy. We could argue about how much credit he deserved for it, but the importance it had was undeniable, and it wasn’t a judgment voters were making about his New Democrat philosophy that got him a second term.
Then four years later, despite all that New Democrat repositioning, George W. Bush gets elected and the Democratic Party is back in the toilet. And what brought them back? Was it yet another repositioning? Nope. It was George W. Bush. The abysmal failure of his presidency was what allowed Democrats to win back both houses of Congress in 2006. Then in 2008, Barack Obama got elected because of both a continued rejection of Bush and the economic meltdown.
Now I would agree with a lot of this analysis, though I don’t think those who appreciate “party renewal” efforts can much be accused of ignoring the opposition; in a two-party system any sort of deliberate course of action is inherently dialectical, and seeks to exploit and even promote weaknesses in the other party. That’s what strategy is all about. I’d also warn against treating external conditions that affect politics—economic trends and wars, for example—as bolts from the blue. The general economic conditions of the country, and arguably the housing and financial meltdowns, in 2008 were predictable consequences of conservative policies, as were the events in Iraq and in New Orleans, to cite two factors often identified as key contributors to the collapse of support for George W. Bush. And maybe Bill Clinton or New Democrats didn’t deserve overwhelming credit for the economic boom of the late 1990s, but they certainly didn’t do anything to get in its way.
Beyond that, though, of course political party strategists have to deal with circumstances beyond their control and understand the limitations of ideology, rhetoric or even discrete public policies in changing election outcomes. But the area where intentions matter, however small, is precisely where it’s important to get things right. For a long time Democrats implicitly believed that it was true risky to try anything new to win voters that might unsettle the New Deal Coalition; better to wait for the right year and the right candidate for president and then get back to governing, which is what progressives did best anyway. The same psychology is at work among Republicans today, which is why they are forever blaming everything other than their governing philosophy for electoral setbacks.
Fair enough to criticize Apple for their tax evasion, but it’s sometimes forgotten that Congress can actually change laws.
I’m letting my blood pressure subside after thinking and writing about Rick Perry. I’m not sure why he bothers me so much—my entire life I’ve known and gotten along with lots of people who share his views. It’s probably the strutting and preening and self-congratulation that suffuses most of his public utterances. Maybe some sense of that explains his self-destruction during the 2012 presidential nominating contest more than any analysis of his policy positions or debating skills.
Whatever; let’s talk about something else. Here are some pre-Memorial Day snacks for your consumption:
* Another big interstate highway bridge collapses, this time in Washington State. Luckily, no one was killed.
* Obama deplores sexual assaults during commencement address at Annapolis. Hope the brass were listening.
* Think the MA Senate special election race is heating up? GOP candidate Gabriel Gomez calls Democrat Ed Markey “pond scum.” This guy’s no RINO, nosiree.
* The Atlantic’s Molly Ball takes the latest swing at comparing Republican “rebranding” efforts to those of Democrats in the 80s and 90s.
* New Q-Pac 2016 trial heat poll of Iowa shows HRC leading Rubio there 48-37, but only leading Rand Paul 46-42.
And in non-political news:
* U.S. beer sales continue to lag, though this weekend will help the brewers some.
Back after a moonlighting break.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry somehow felt compelled to put out a formal statement in response to the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to admit openly gay participants:
The Boys Scouts of America has been built upon the values of faith and family for more than 100 years and today’s decision contradicts generations of tradition in the name of political correctness. While I will always cherish my time as a scout and the life lessons I learned, I am greatly disappointed with this decision.
We hear this sort of crap so often that it’s easy to avoid thinking through the “logic” involved. What part of scouting requires a particular sexual orientation? What is the essence of “straight scouting,” and how does it differ from “gay scouting?”
Then there’s the “faith and family” bromides. Plenty of gay folk are people of faith. Plenty of straight folk belong to faith communities that don’t have a problem with gay people. Who made Rick Perry Pope? As for family: who comes to mind when you think of those who have fought against allowing gay people to have normal family lives? Rick Perry truly lives in a house with no mirrors.
Finally, there’s the obligatory swipe at “political correctness,” a mindless conservative habit that’s really beginning to bug me. Here are two words that describe the national effort to open up previously closed institutions to all Americans that are a bit more descriptive than “political correctness:” justice and equality. And if that’s too much for Rick Perry, how about the official motto of his state: Friendship. Some kids will get to experience scouting, a development that has zero impact on Rick Perry, and he can’t even refrain from expressing his “disappointment,” which I’m sure he will express a lot more savagely next time he’s running in a Republican primary or sharing his idea of the Gospel of Peace and Love at some borrowed conservative evangelical pulpit.
Shame on you, governor.
Since it’s Furlough Friday, a day when by recent tradition conservatives get together to festively celebrate how little across-the-board budget cuts actually affect anyone who matters, some findings from last week’s WaPo/ABC poll, as explained by ABC’s Gary Langer, are perhaps in order:
The federal budget sequester may be dampening a rise in economic optimism: Nearly four in 10 Americans now say sequestration has hurt them personally, up substantially since it began in March - and they’re far less sanguine than others about the economy’s prospects overall.
Thirty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve been negatively impacted by the budget cuts, up from 25 percent in March. As previously, about half of those affected say the harm has been “major.”
And as the effects of the sequester spread, the trend lines are unmistakable and cut across partisan and ideological lines:
More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of sequestration, now by 56-35 percent - again, a view influenced by experience of the cuts. Eight in 10 of those who report serious harm oppose the cuts, as do about two-thirds of those slightly harmed. But the majority, which has felt no impacts, divides exactly evenly - 46 percent favor the cuts, vs. 46 percent opposed.
Further, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 39 percent overall “strongly” disapprove of the cuts - but that soars to 66 percent of those who say they’ve been harmed in a major way. (Just 16 percent overall strongly approve.) Experience of the cuts even trumps partisanship and ideology: Among Republicans, conservatives and Tea Party supporters who’ve been harmed by the cuts, most oppose them. Support is far higher among those in these groups who haven’t felt an impact of sequestration….
Ideology has an effect: Forty-seven percent of “very” conservative Americans approve of the cuts, as do 42 percent of those who call themselves “somewhat” conservative. It’s 36 percent among moderates and 24 percent among liberals. But again, impacts of the cuts are a bigger factor in views on the issue. Among conservatives hurt by the cuts, 65 percent disapprove of them; among those unhurt, just 34 percent disapprove.
This means, of course, that the strongest constituency for the sequester is “very conservative” voters who have not been personally affected by the cuts. If that sounds like the “conservative base” that exerts a particularly strong influence on Republican lawmakers, maybe we have an explanation for why so many of said lawmakers incautiously chortled about the whole thing being a nothingburger that proved government had plenty of excess fat to shed.
They might want to rethink that position.
If, like me, you’ve been watching the meteoric rise of Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who has been lavishly touted as the Next Big Thing (or at an absolute minimum, the next U.S. Senator from Arkansas) by many conservative opinion-leaders, this item from HuffPost’s Zach Carter earlier this week was an eye-opener:
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday offered legislative language that would “automatically” punish family members of people who violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, levying sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
The provision was introduced as an amendment to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, which lays out strong penalties for people who violate human rights, engage in censorship, or commit other abuses associated with the Iranian government.
Cotton also seeks to punish any family member of those people, “to include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including, “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids,” Cotton said.
“There would be no investigation,” Cotton said during Wednesday’s markup hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “If the prime malefactor of the family is identified as on the list for sanctions, then everyone within their family would automatically come within the sanctions regime as well. It’d be very hard to demonstrate and investigate to conclusive proof.”
After other Committee members pointed out this sort of “blood guilt” was inimical to a least two major constitutional doctrines and was a practice associated with figures like Stalin and Kim Jong Il, the ramrod-straight Iraq/Afghanistan vet and alumnus of Harvard Law School and McKinsey & Company withdrew his amendment, but not before pointing out that Iranians aren’t Americans and a little collective guilt might be necessary to keep sanction-violaters from transferring assets to family members.
This incident doesn’t particularly surprise me, since Cotton isn’t just some “hawk,” as he is often described (thanks to his background, his constant sponsorship by neocon leaders, and his proud and apologetic defense of the foreign policies of George W. Bush), but a fellow who clearly thinks extremism in the defense of liberty—or at least his idea of liberty—is no vice. And his extremism isn’t confined to issues of national security, as I noted in a January post examining Cotton’s argument that a national debt default might be just what the doctor ordered.
If Cotton represents the future of the Republican Party, or the kind of politician who can “rebrand” it, then we better all get used to long-term polarization and vicious partisan conflict. Speaking just for myself, I have zero interest in compromising with this dude, and I’m quite certain he would reciprocate the sentiment.
For months now we’ve been told that the Affordable Care Act would produce a cataclysm of skyrocketing health insurance premiums, particularly in the individual insurance markets that the law most affects. Earlier this week alarms were raised particularly in California with the news that three major insurance companies had decided against participating in the health care exchanges that would offer Obamacare coverage.
So it’s a bit of a shock—sort of a reverse sticker shock—today to learn that preliminary assessments of the cost of the new, improved (because subject to new minimum coverage requirements) policies in California once the exchanges are up and running will in most cases be lower than what citizens of this high-cost state are accustomed to paying. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn summarizes the news:
Based on the premiums that insurers have submitted for final regulatory approval, the majority of Californians buying coverage on the state’s new insurance exchange will be paying less—in many cases, far less—than they would pay for equivalent coverage today. And while a minority will still end up writing bigger premium checks than they do now, even they won’t be paying outrageous amounts. Meanwhile, all of these consumers will have access to the kind of comprehensive benefits that are frequently unavailable today, at any price, because of the way insurers try to avoid the old and the sick.
Sarah Kliff of Wonkblog has more details:
Health insurers will charge 25-year-olds between $142 and $190 per month for a bare-bones health plan in Los Angeles.
A 40-year-old in San Francisco who wants a top-of-the-line plan would receive a bill between $451 and $525. Downgrade to a less robust option, and premiums fall as low as $221.
These premium rates, released Thursday, help answer one of the biggest questions about Obamacare: How much health insurance will cost. They do so in California, the state with 7.1 million uninsured residents, more than any other place in the country.
Multiple projections expected premiums to be relatively high.
The Congressional Budget Office predicted back in November 2009 that a medium-cost plan on the health exchange - known as a “silver plan” - would have an annual premium of $5,200. A separate report from actuarial firm Milliman projected that, in California, the average silver plan would have a $450 monthly premium.
Now we have California’s rates, and they appear to be significantly less expensive than what forecasters expected.
On average, the most affordable “silver plan” - which covers 70 percent of the average subscriber’s medical costs - comes with a $276 monthly premium.
Such numbers, it is important to note, do not reflect the actual cost to the estimated 2.6 million Californians who will qualify for Obamacare tax subsidies (available to those with incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty rate).
One of the “horror stories” we’ve been hearing from Obamacare opponents for years now is that the whole scheme will collapse once healthy, low-income young people realize they’ll face large news costs for the kind of minimum high-deductible catastrophic coverage they actually need. They’ll bail, it has been suggested, not only from Obamacare (screwing up the broad-based risk pools that make affordable coverage for older and sicker people possible), but from Obama’s political coalition as well. So this comment from Kliff about the California numbers is worth noting:
For a less robust “bronze” plan, which covers 60 percent of the average beneficiary’s costs, the tax credit could actually cover the entire premium for low-income twenty-somethings.
None of this should really be that surprising; the idea that a broader pool plus competition and guaranteed benefits would provide a better bargain (plus vastly greater security) for consumers in the individual market was central to the entire Affordable Care Act architecture. But it’s taken a while for facts to catch up with all the negative agitprop. It won’t keep House Republicans from voting to repeal the entire law a 38th or 39th or 40th time before the bulk of the Affordable Care Act becomes effective next year. Still, it’s nice to see some reality-based evidence amidst all the hysteria.
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