The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Are y'all for real?

No. Just no. Really, no, they're not:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) admitted as much as he left the meeting Friday. Reporters asked why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Barton, for what it's worth, was one of the loudest proponents of ACA repeal. Until, you know, it was possible.

Why does anyone take the Republican Party seriously? I mean, really?

You don't have the votes, you don't have the votes!

Despite controlling two of three branches of government and most of the third, the Republican Party suffered a humiliating defeat this week when Paul Ryan couldn't muster enough votes to destroy health care in the U.S. We can all breathe a little easier:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

[Ryan] said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 votes and still pass the bill.

So 24 million Americans get to keep health insurance, and we can actually move a little closer to parity with the rest of the developed world.

The GOP health-care plan

It looks more and more like the Republican Party created a trap for itself in its hysterical opposition to the Affordable Care Act, making the (I am not kidding) "World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017" a non-starter for clear majorities in Congress:

If the health care of 20 million or more Americans weren't at stake, I'd say bring the popcorn.

Long day, so much to read later

Tabs open but not read in my browser:

There was one more item, but it's too big to gloss over.

Thanks, Obama!

Two big Obama stories today.

First, the president has commuted Chelsea Manning's sentence. She'll be freed in May:

In recent days, the White House had signaled that Mr. Obama was seriously considering granting Ms. Manning’s commutation application, in contrast to a pardon application submitted on behalf of the other large-scale leaker of the era, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who disclosed archives of top secret surveillance files and is living as a fugitive in Russia.

Asked about the two clemency applications on Friday, the White House spokesman, Joshua Earnest, discussed the “pretty stark difference” between Ms. Manning’s case for mercy with Mr. Snowden’s. While their offenses were similar, he said, there were “some important differences.”

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

(Brian Beutler notes that Snowden's future is pretty uncertain now, too.)

Second, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, should Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, it could lead to 18 million people losing health insurance right away and another 12 million in 20 years:

The bill that the budget office analyzed would have eliminated tax penalties for people who go without insurance. It would also have eliminated spending for the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies that help lower-income people buy private insurance. But the bill preserved requirements for insurers to provide coverage, at standard rates, to any applicant, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

“Eliminating the mandate penalties and the subsidies while retaining the market reforms would destabilize the nongroup market, and the effect would worsen over time,” the budget office said.

The office said the estimated increase of 32 million people without coverage in 2026 resulted from three changes: about 23 million fewer people would have coverage in the individual insurance market, roughly 19 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage, and there would be an increase in the number of people with employment-based insurance that would partially offset those losses.

Republicans complained that they will pass an alternative plan, but no one is taking this seriously. Because they're not.

 

We're #1!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Lake View neighborhood of Chicago has some epic binge drinking:

The data looked at the 500 largest cities in the country, split into more than 28,000 smaller areas. Large swaths of Lake View ranked in the top 1 percent for binge drinking nationally in 2014, the most recent year data were available.

The CDC estimates that in some parts of Lake View, more than a third of residents are engaged in binge drinking, which is defined as more than five drinks at a time for men and four drinks for women.

The CDC’s new local data fits in with what researchers have previously found about drinking at the state level. In 2014, 20 percent of Illinois adults reported binge drinking, compared to 16 percent nationally. 

If you've ever seen Wrigleyville after a Cubs game, none of this would surprise you.

Price is wrong

With Trump set to appoint Rep. Mike Price (R-Ga.) to head Health and Human Services, he's making good on his threat to destroy Obamacare. Even if the legislation doesn't disappear, Price will do everything in his considerable power to hobble it until it stops working altogether. Here's Greg Sargent:

Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price’s own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

Did people benefiting from Obamacare who voted for Trump really expect repeal to happen? I think we need more reporting on this question. Yes, Trump did repeatedly say he would repeal Obamacare. But he also said he would replace it with “something terrific.” And he explicitly went out of his way to create the impression that he does not agree ideologically with Republicans who are hostile to government efforts to supply health care to those who can’t afford it.

Now, it’s always possible that many voters backed Trump in the full knowledge that their Obamacare might be repealed, for other reasons — because, for instance, he’ll supposedly bring manufacturing and coal jobs roaring back. Before long, those voters will learn whether their bet was a well-placed one. It’s also possible that Trump will surprise us all and insist on some kind of replacement that somehow preserves much of Obamacare’s coverage expansion. And a kick-the-can-down-the-road scenario which keeps deferring the harshest fallout from repeal is also a possibility.

But it now looks more likely that we’ll see a substantial rollback of the progress toward universal health coverage we’ve seen in the past few years. News organizations love to venture into Trump’s America to hear voters explain that Trump spoke far more directly to their economic struggles than Democrats did. Maybe now we’ll get more coverage of those inhabitants of Trump’s America who are set to lose their health care, too.

How many Trump voters will lose their health insurance as a direct consequence of his election? Krugman estimates 4 million, and shows his work.

Elections have consequences.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones

Workers digging London's Crossrail tunnel have helped uncover a 350-year-old mystery about the Great Plague:

[T]he Great Plague...killed 100,000 Londoners (roughly a quarter of the city’s population) around 350 years ago.

Last year, workers constructing a future new ticket hall at Liverpool Street Station unearthed a charnel pit adjoining the old Bedlam Hospital, in which 3,000 skeletons were interred. Now it turns out that some of these skeletons had the answer to a centuries’ old mystery, hidden away in their teeth.

Scientists at Germany's Max Planck Institute took samples from the teeth of 20 of these corpses, and this week confirmed what historians have long suspected but been unable to prove: London's Great Plague was caused by the Yersinia Pestis bacteria, exactly the same pestilence that killed around one-third of Europe's population in the 14th century, under the name the Black Death.

The BBC has more.

My stack is stacking up

Too many things to read before lunchtime:

Now, back to work.

News tuff to read

I may or may not have a letterspacing error in the headline...

Short list today, so I may do it after work before rehearsal:

Not to mention, I still haven't finished the Economist's special Christmas issue. Maybe I need a long flight or two?