This dirty little secret is the real reason why repeal is so hard for Republicans

The Affordable Care Act has widely been held aloft as one of the leading drivers of the deepening polarization of American political life — it has been bitterly fought over for years and has loomed as a great embodiment of all that ideologically divides the two parties. Yet in a strange twist, the GOP debate over repeal has actually revealed that there is a surprising amount of hidden consensus on health care.

.. nutshell, what the debate has really shown is that the passage and implementation of the ACA has given rise to a latent majority in Congress — or at least one in the Senate — that has more or less made peace with the ACA’s spending and regulatory architecture and its fundamental ideological goals

.. GOP Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas that neatly illustrates the point. Moran is a GOP loyalist who previously headed the GOP Senate campaign arm and sits firmly in the mainstream of today’s GOP. Yet even he is having trouble supporting the GOP bill.

.. He did not describe the task facing Republicans as repeal; it was “repair, replace, whatever language people are using.”

Pressed by activists and voters, Moran said that he did not want to cut back Medicaid. “I have concern about people with disabilities, the frail and elderly,” Moran said. “I also know that if we want health care in rural places and across Kansas, Medicare and Medicaid need to compensate for the services they provide.”

After the town hall meeting, Moran told reporters the version of the GOP’s bill that he opposed put too much of Medicaid at risk.

.. He is suggesting that, while able-bodied adults might allegedly be scamming their way onto the Medicaid expansion, this issue should not be taken to justify the deeper cuts to Medicaid. And this, as Weigel notes, unfolded in one of “the reddest parts of a deep red state.”

.. The bottom line is that Republicans who currently oppose the Senate bill object to it because it would roll back federal spending in a way that would hurt millions and millions of people. This includes Moran and moderates such as Dean Heller of Nevada, Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Rob Portman of Ohio, all of whom have made variations of this argument. Some, such as Collins and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, have even objected on the grounds that this would finance a massive tax cut for the wealthy, and that this is indefensible.

.. All of this is dramatically at odds with the ludicrous spin coming from GOP leaders such as John Cornyn of Texas and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who argue that the millions left uncovered under the GOP bill will be choosing that plight, because they will have been liberated from the hated ACA mandate.

.. To summarize, Republicans are arguing both that

  1.  millions won’t actually be hurt by these Medicaid cuts, either because they aren’t really cuts, or because everyone will have “access” to health care later; and that
  2. if many millions of people go without coverage who would otherwise have been covered, they did so by choice.

it is of course possible to make a principled argument against the mandate, Republicans are doing something else entirely: They are hiding behind their arguments against the mandate to evade acknowledging the true human toll their proposed Medicaid cuts would inflict.

What this really means is that they are basically fine with rolling back the ACA’s massive coverage expansion to facilitate a massive tax cut for the rich, but just won’t say so out loud.

But all indications are that moderate Republican senators — and even senators such as Moran — are not fine with this outcome.

Now, these objecting senators may still end up supporting a revised GOP bill in the end, due to party pressures and other factors. But if they do, they will only justify it by pretending that a few additional last-minute dollars (in relative terms) added to the bill would put a meaningful dent in the enormous coverage loss

.. This would mean their current objections were insincere.



Tax Revenge in Kansas

Republicans and unions raise rates higher than in Massachusetts.

 The press accounts gleefully talk of how “moderate Republicans” joined with Democrats to raise taxes to address exploding state deficits. But substitute “Republicans backed by teachers unions” for moderate Republicans, and the real picture comes into focus.
At bottom the Kansas tax vote was as much about unions getting even with the Governor over his education reforms, which included making it easier to fire bad teachers.
.. the 2012 tax cuts that reduced the top rate on personal income taxes to 4.9% from 6.45% and eliminated income tax for small businesses filing as individuals.
.. Mr. Brownback was unlucky in his timing, given the hits to the agricultural and energy industries that count for much of the state economy.
.. Mr. Brownback’s reform mistake was that in eliminating taxes on “pass-through” small businesses, the Governor created a loophole that allowed law firms, accounting agencies, consultants and many others to declare wage income to be business profit and pay little or nothing. This caused lower tax revenues than Mr. Brownback predicted
.. public unions support the state GOP’s liberal wing.
.. The one relevant Kansas lesson is that Republicans in Washington need to be careful how they write any tax reform for “pass-through” businesses. One way to do that is to avoid letting pass-through tax rates get too much lower than rates on wage and salary income

Brownback Tax Cuts Set Off a Revolt by Kansas Republicans

Gov. Sam Brownback’s leadership of Kansas came to be synonymous with a single, unyielding philosophy: Cut taxes, cut the size of government, and the state will thrive.

But this week, Mr. Brownback’s deeply conservative state turned on him and his austere approach. Fed up with gaping budget shortfalls, inadequate education funding and insufficient revenue, the Republican-controlled Legislature capped months of turmoil by overriding the governor’s veto of a bill that would undo some of his tax cuts and raise $1.2 billion over two years.

.. “Email after email after email I get from constituents, say, ‘Please, let’s stop this experiment,’” she said.

.. First elected governor of Kansas seven years ago by a wide margin, Mr. Brownback wasted no time steering the Republican Party on a hard-right turn. In his first term, he helped push out moderate Republicans from the Legislature. Under his leadership, Kansas loosened restrictions on guns, made it harder for women to get abortions and passed some of the strictest voting laws in the country.

Most famously, he instituted the largest income tax cuts in Kansas history, a move that he promised would act “like a shot of adrenaline in the heart of the Kansas economy.”

.. In 2014, Kansans paid $700 million less in state taxes than the previous fiscal year

.. And in March, the Kansas Supreme Court found that the state’s spending on public education was unconstitutionally low

.. Democrats, like Senator Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, cheered the end of “Sam’s march to zero.”

.. [Kris Kobach] .. “Kansas does not have a taxation problem; it has a spending problem,”

Republicans Keep Repeating the Same Tax Mistake

For budget wonks, the saga of the Kansas budget will be reminiscent of the Reagan years, when supply-side tax cuts resulted in big deficits. The administration had hoped that the tax cuts could be paid for by a combination of faster economic growth unleashed by lower marginal rates, and the infamous “magic asterisk” (in which unidentified spending cuts were promised, details to come later).

.. Reagan was forced to do another tax reform a few years later, hiding the fact that he was increasing taxes by cutting marginal rates but doing away with the generous exemptions that had dramatically lessened what people actually paid. Nonetheless, it took two more tax hikes — under Bush the First, and Clinton — to get the budget into some semblance of structural balance.

The answer is, I think, that a lot of Republicans have a view of how taxes affect labor markets that is simple, intuitive, and wrong.

.. Many of you will recognize that I am describing the famous Laffer curve. And the Laffer curve is absolutely right — for some effective tax rates. It has not, however, turned out to be correct for the tax rates actually prevailing in the United States during the later postwar era. Relatively modest decreases from modest tax levels do not increase economic growth enough to offset the losses from the lower tax rate, at least not in the short or medium term. In fact, they may not increase economic growth at all.

.. People who expected great things from tax cuts were essentially hoping that labor supply was very elastic

.. Yes, as your hourly wage rises, each additional hour of leisure is more costly in terms of other stuff you could buy. On the other hand, it’s also more enjoyable.

.. If you have a yacht and can afford to cruise around the world staying in fine resorts, each hour of leisure lost is more painful.

.. I haven’t even gotten into complex effects, like the fact that many high-income, high-status people like working.

.. most of what happens in the economy will end up being determined by other factors,

  • such as regulation,
  • technological change,
  • demographics,
  • and the individual decisions made by millions of people about what they want to do with their lives.

Sam Brownback Calls on Donald Trump to Mimic His Kansas Tax Plan

Controversial measure hasn’t led to the growth the governor had forecast for the Sunflower state

 Sam Brownback, the Kansas governor whose tax cuts brought him political turmoil, recurring budget holes and sparse evidence of economic success, has a message for President-elect Donald Trump: Do what I did.In 2013, Mr. Brownback set out to create a lean, business-friendly government in his state that other Republicans could replicate. He now faces a $350 million deficit when the Kansas legislature convenes in January and projections of a larger one in 2018. The state’s economy is flat and his party is fractured.

.. About half of pass-through business income in the U.S. is earned by the top 1% of households,

.. Mr. Brownback’s policy gave businesses an incentive to come to Kansas. But it also gave existing businesses a big tax break—or a reason to restructure to avoid paying taxes—without creating any new jobs.

.. In Washington, the Kansas idea—preferential business tax rates—is part of the Republican plan for the biggest federal tax overhaul in 30 years.

.. “They had many more owners of small businesses than they expected, because it doesn’t take much to reorganize yourself.”

.. At least 330,000 entities used the zero rate, more than 70% above projections.

.. The cuts have done little to jump-start Kansas’ economy overall—with growth for this year projected to be flat, compared with 2% GDP growth nationally. Ratings firm Standard & Poor’s twice downgraded Kansas’ bond ratings.

.. Those cuts contributed to dismal approval ratings for Mr. Brownback. He’s the country’s least popular governor, according to a 2016 MorningConsult survey.

Trump’s CIA pick is seen as both a fierce partisan and serious student of national security issues

In closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill, Pompeo has been an intense critic of a covert CIA program to train and arm moderate rebel forces in Syria, according to U.S. officials who said that dismantling the program — or at least subjecting it to a major re-evaluation — would likely be at the top of his agenda if he is confirmed.

.. Pompeo is not widely known among the CIA rank and file but that his nomination was greeted at least initially as a reassuring development at a spy agency that has been treated largely with disdain by Trump.

.. Pompeo’s ties to the arch-conservative tea party movement and scant background on intelligence issues were also cited as a cause for concern among some CIA veterans.

“The tea party owns the drones now,”

.. He attended a dinner this week with CIA Director John Brennan at the home of former Republican congressman Mike Rogers, who had previously been seen as a leading candidate for the CIA job under Trump. The gathering included cast and producers of the CIA-themed show “Homeland,” according to a person familiar with the event.

.. Pompeo reportedly has close ties to the Koch family, Kansas billionaires ..

.. Articles in Kansas papers indicate that Pompeo built much of his wealth with investment funds from Koch industries and that his campaigns for Congress have been backed by Koch money.

.. In just five years in Congress, he has built a political following by staking extreme positions in polarizing debates

.. Pompeo was one of the more outspoken Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, saying that the Obama administration was guilty of a scandal “worse than Watergate.”


During hearings, his questions to administration witnesses were often among the most accusatory. In October 2015, when Clinton testified for the second time, Pompeo grilled her on her relationship with slain U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. He asked a series of rapid-fire questions about why Stevens did not have her personal telephone number, did not know her personal home address and had never “stopped by your house.”

.. Separately, in remarks that drew sharp criticism from U.S. Muslim organizations, Pompeo said that Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam were “potentially complicit” in the attacks.

.. Pompeo cautioned against equating all Muslims with terrorism, saying that a “line needs to be drawn between those who are on the side of extremism and those who are fighting against them.”

The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana

Wouldn’t it be important for those candidates to explain why their program wouldn’t fail the country in the same way it had failed the Green Mountain State? If you think yes, then you should demand that Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz explain why their tax policies won’t fail America in the same way they’ve failed the people of Kansas.

.. In 2010, the tea-party wave put Sam Brownback into the Sunflower State’s governor’s mansion and Republican majorities in both houses of its legislature. Together, they implemented the conservative movement’s blueprint for Utopia: They passed massive tax breaks for the wealthy and repealed all income taxes on more than 100,000 businesses. They tightened welfare requirements, privatized the delivery of Medicaid, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies and 2,000 government employees. In 2012, Brownback helped replace the few remaining moderate Republicans in the legislature with conservative true believers. The following January, after signing the largest tax cut in Kansas history, Brownback told the Wall Street Journal, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’ ”

.. The Koch-backed Kansas Policy Institute predicted that Brownback’s 2013 tax plan would generate $323 million in new revenue. During its first full year in operation, the plan produced a $688 million loss. Meanwhile, Kansas’s job growth actually trailed that of its neighboring states. With that nearly $700 million deficit, the state had bought itself a 1.1 percent increase in jobs, just below Missouri’s 1.5 percent and Colorado’s 3.3.

.. This data is not lost on the people of Kansas — as of November, Brownback’s approval rating was 26 percent, the lowest of any governor in the United States.

.. Leaving aside the low bar the Texas senator sets for himself — my giveaway to the one percent will cost a bit less than the Iraq War! — Cruz only stays beneath $1 trillion when you employ the kind of “dynamic scoring” that has consistently underestimated the costs of tax cuts in Kansas. Under a conventional analysis, the bill runs well over $3 trillion, with 44 percent of that lost money accruing to the one percent. John Kasich’s tax plan includes cutting the top marginal rate by more than ten percent along with a similar cut to the rates on capital gains and business taxes.