News outlets are reporting that Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, will not return for the second term of the Obama administration.
Jackson will probably be remembered as the point person for the first US attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It wasn’t necessarily a position that she—or Obama—chose. But partisan gridlock ensured that there would be no legislation addressing emissions, and Jackson inherited a Supreme Court decision from the Bush administration that indicated the Clean Air Act required some sort of action. Within months of the inauguration, Jackson’s EPA used Bush-era research to issue an endangerment finding on greenhouse gasses. Three years later, that finding led to the first limits imposed on carbon dioxide emissions by large sources, limits that would severely curtail the construction of new coal plants.
By the time they were issued, however, a sharp fall in the price of natural gas was already doing more to limit the use of coal than any EPA regulation could. (Fracking, which led to the plunge in prices, was also the subject of some initial EPA oversight.)
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Arizona authorities can enforce the most contentious section of the state’s immigration law, which critics have dubbed the “show me your papers” provision.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton clears the way for police to carry out the requirement that officers, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.
The provision has been at the center of a two-year legal battle that resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June upholding the requirement, ruling against the Obama administration, which filed the initial challenge.
The Obama administration declared a measure of victory at the time, as the court said local police cannot detain anyone on an immigration violation unless federal immigration officials say so.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is the closest thing Washington has to an official scorekeeper of government finances. Its regular budget reports are waved aloft by Republicans and Democrats alike, usually to cite some numbers (often out of context) to prove a point. Thus it’s been with the CBO’s excruciatingly fair-minded reports on Obamacare.
When the CBO evaluates the budget impact of a piece of legislation, the process is known as “scoring.” During the contentious debate over the law in 2009 and 2010, the CBO’s scoring efforts carried a lot of weight. The agency concluded the law would not make federal deficits worse, but actually lower them over time. There were howls, as there always are over CBO findings from those who disagree with them. And the agency does have to adhere to some rules for evaluating budget issues that don’t make sense in the real world. But the CBO is largely viewed as an honest broker in what are devilishly complex matters.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in June upheld the law’s constitutionality. While the court upheld the law, it freed states from compliance with one of its major provisions—an extensive expansion of Medicaid to pay for health services to millions of low-income Americans without health insurance.
The states are free to either accept the ACA’s Medicaid expansion or keep their programs pretty much as-is without facing any penalties from Washington bureaucrats. Many states, mostly those led by anti-Obamacare Republican governors, have either told the feds to take a hike or are sitting out the decision until after the November election.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the health care case is best understood as an attempt to maximize damage to established legal precedent while minimizing damage to the particular law under consideration. On the one hand, Chief Justice John Roberts wanted to maintain the Supreme Court as a playpen for anti-government sophistry. On the other, Roberts wanted to avoid getting pilloried as a right-wing extremist who doesn’t care whether people get health insurance or not. Out of this jumble of warring impulses, Roberts crafted a ruling that inadvertently strengthens the liberal case for further consolidating health care policy at the national level. The Court is practically begging Washington to take over the state-federal Medicaid program.
Roberts provided the critical fifth vote upholding Obamacare’s most contentious feature—the individual mandate, which will require virtually all Americans to acquire health insurance. He did so by the (slightly circuitous) route of interpreting the penalty for not being insured as a tax. That strategy allowed Roberts to join the conservatives in restricting, at least theoretically, future applicability of the Commerce clause—which horse-and-buggy “originalists” maintain has been, since Franklin Roosevelt’s day, distorted to justify illegitimate government expansion.
More surprising, though, was the decision to strike down a separate provision in the law: the requirement that states choosing to participate in Medicaid, as they all now do, offer the program to a much larger class of people. Such federal mandates are, as a matter of law, utterly routine. The conservative legal case against the Medicaid mandate is weak, since the states have the option not to join Medicaid. The program, created in 1965, didn’t enjoy full state participation until 1982, when Arizona climbed aboard. On practical grounds, governors and state legislators have often complained that federal mandates in general, and Medicaid mandates in particular, impose costly state-spending requirements. But that’s a difficult argument to make against Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, because the federal government will fund 100 percent of it for the first three years, starting in 2014, before gradually lowering its share to 90 percent in 2020 and thereafter. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, no court had given the Medicaid part of the legal challenge to Obamacare any credence.
The Congressional Budget Office is out with its analysis of how the Supreme Court decision will impact the Affordable Care Act’s budget. The big ticket takeaway is this: The non-partisan scorekeeper estimates that 3 million people fewer people will gain coverage due to states opting out of the Medicaid expansion, resulting in $84 billion less in federal spending.
Let’s break down those numbers a bit. The Congressional Budget Office does not list out which states could pass up the Medicaid expansion. But it does predict that “some states will probably forgo the expansion entirely.”
The CBO then estimates that for every person who does not enroll in Medicaid because of that, and goes uninsured, the federal government saves $6,000 in spending by 2022. For the average person who does not enroll in Medicaid, but instead gets subsidized coverage from the health insurance exchange, the federal government spends $9,000 - $3,000 more than they would have had those individuals been in Medicaid.
“With about 6 million fewer people being covered by Medicaid but only
about 3 million more people receiving subsidies through the exchanges
and about 3 million more people being uninsured…the projected decrease in total federal spending on Medicaid is larger than the anticipated increase in total exchange subsidies,” the CBO concludes.
The Supreme Court Decision Hasn’t Ended the Threat to Obamacare. but It’s Made It Easier for the President to Defend It.
President Obama gave a subdued, if satisfied, statement on Thursday, after learning that the Supreme Court had upheld the Afforable Care Act. But he finished it off with a personal note. He told his fellow Americans about a letter hanging in his office, from an Ohio woman named Natoma Canfield.
Canfield, a breast cancer survivor and self-employed housekeeper, had written the letter in late 2009, as the fate of what would become Obamacare remained very much in doubt. She had gone into debt paying her medical bills, eventually dropping insurance because it had become too expensive for her to afford. She ended up getting charity care at the Cleveland Clinic, after Obama first mentioned her story publicly in 2010. But, Obama said, “I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law. It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.”
I’ve never met Ms. Canfield, so I can’t tell you anything more about her story. But, like a lot of journalists who write about health care, I’ve met hundreds of people who faced crises like she has. Every story of hardship is different. Some people had no insurance. Others had insurance, only to discover it didn’t cover what they needed. But the common thread in these stories is the fundamental unfairness of it all. Whatever their very human faults or mistakes, these people were all victims of misfortune, sometimes financial and sometimes medical—and, as a result, their livelihoods and in some cases their very lives were at stake. They lived in the richest country in the world, yet paying for basic medical care, something the citizens of every other developed country take for granted, was a struggle.
If Roe v. Wade is indicative, a high-profile Supreme Court decision can influence the public’s view of a controversial issue.
Democrats and Republicans are furiously trying to rally public opinion to their respective sides, following the Supreme Court ruling that largely upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. The intense political maneuvering raises a key question: Does this sort of definitive legal decision influence voters’ views on the issue at hand?
One very high-profile example—the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which effectively legalized abortion—suggests the answer is yes. At least, that’s the conclusion of a recently published study, which finds the court’s action appears to have “boosted public support for abortion, at least in the short term.”
“The results of our exercise indicate that the Court is able to sweep opinion on its side, even in highly controversial areas it is deciding on for the first time,” a research team led by political scientist John Hanley of the University of California, Berkeley writes in the Political Research Quarterly.
Lila Rose and others want celibate old catholic farts in dresses to be able to dictate to the supreme court.
The new strategy by anti-choice groups, though, is to try to portray Obamacare advocates as waging a war on women, attempting to turn the war on women frame on its head. “Women will be especially hurt by today’s decision,” said Concerned Women for America president Peggy Nance in an overheated statement. “As we have seen with the contraception mandate, the politicization of so-called women issues by the left leaves the majority of women extremely vulnerable to the exploitation of a few radical groups that exert much political influence in Congress and the White House.”
Meanwhile, Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, which supports the contraception mandate, said the group was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, but “we are also aware, however, that the battle to ensure that individuals can make conscience-based decisions about their healthcare is not over. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made clear that it will stop at nothing to block the ability of women and families to access contraception, even if it means derailing policies and programs that provide healthcare to those in need. CFC will continue to speak for the millions of Catholics whose views are not represented by the bishops, and who support increased access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for all women and men as a matter of social justice and sound public policy.”
UPDATE: Lila Rose, producer of the deceptive anti-Planned Parenthood videos, issues a statement with some truly dubious word choices and arguments:
Today, the Supreme Court has upheld nothing more than a Ponzi scheme to expand the abortion business. If this legislation is not overturned by the next administration, Obamacare’s socialist-style diktats will be used, not to provide better or more affordable health care, but to expand Planned Parenthood’s abortion empire across the backs of American taxpayers and people of conscience - and at the expense of our religious freedoms.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez provides a quiz on “spot the immigrant” in discussing the Supreme Court decision on Arizona v. U.S. related to SB1070, the Show Me Your Papers law.
The Republican Plan B is to repeal Obamacare on Day 1 of a Romney presidency.
Good luck with that.
First, today’s Supreme Court decision will make it a lot harder to elect Mitt Romney. President Obama has just been handed a fearsome election weapon. 2012 is no longer exclusively a referendum on the president’s economic management. 2012 is now also a referendum on Mitt Romney’s healthcare plans. The president can now plausibly say that a vote for the Republicans is a vote to raise prescription drug costs on senior citizens and to empower insurance companies to deny coverage to children for pre-existing conditions. Those charges will hurt—and maybe hurt enough to sway the election.
Second, even if Republicans do win the White House and Senate in 2012, how much appetite will they then have for that 1-page repeal bill? Suddenly it will be their town halls filled with outraged senior citizens whose benefits are threatened; their incumbencies that will be threatened. Already we are hearing that some Republicans wish to retain the more popular elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Which means the proposed 1-page bill will begin to grow.