Why the Shutdown Needs to End

October 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

House Republicans unveiled a plan yesterday to raise (or suspend) the debt ceiling for six weeks but leave the government shutdown in place, raising the specter that the shutdown could continue for weeks — maybe all the way until November 22, the GOP’s proposed new debt limit deadline.  There is growing support among policymakers on both sides of the aisle to reopen the government — and here’s why ending the shutdown sooner rather than later is so vital.

Day by day, the real-world problems that the shutdown causes will grow, and more and more of the “make do” steps that federal agencies and states have used to limit the damage will run out.… Read more

Potential GOP Demand to End Shutdown Would Undermine Health Reform

October 11, 2013 at 9:49 am

Some Republican senators reportedly will seek to include a House-passed bill to delay health reform’s premium and cost-sharing subsidies in legislation that (among other things) would reopen the government.  Proponents claim this House bill is an anti-fraud measure, but its real effect would be to undermine health reform.  The bill would prevent the new insurance marketplaces (or exchanges) from operating effectively starting on January 1 by keeping millions of lower- and middle-income uninsured Americans from obtaining subsidies for which they qualify — and which they need to afford coverage.… Read more

Ryan’s Proposal: More of What Got Us Here in the First Place

October 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

While some in the media are portraying Paul Ryan’s op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal as a breakthrough that offers hope of ending the impasse over the government shutdown and debt limit, it is nothing of the sort.

The column is heavy on PR and spin; parsing the first part of it requires separating inaccuracies from half-truths.  Particularly noteworthy is the opening, which labels President Obama as the culprit.  “He’s refusing to talk,” Ryan laments.

Actually, Obama reiterated Tuesday that he’s ready to talk and that everything — including health care — can be up for discussion, but the government needs to reopen first and everyone needs to back off the threat of default. … Read more

Early Results From Connecticut Show Health Reform Is Helping Young Adults Get Coverage

October 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Enrollment in health reform’s new marketplaces (sometimes called exchanges) began last week, and Connecticut already has reported encouraging results about young adults signing up for the coverage that will take effect on January 1.

Almost one-third of those who applied for coverage through Access Health CT, Connecticut’s state-run marketplace, in the first five days are under 35, according to Kevin Counihan, the exchange’s CEO.  (Connecticut is one of 17 states operating its own marketplace; the rest of the states are partnering with the federal government on their marketplace or having the federal government operate the marketplace for them.)

This is an early report, but it’s a promising indicator of health reform’s potential to reduce the rate of uninsurance among young adults — and address this group’s need for greater coverage options. … Read more

While Government Remains Shut Down, Republicans Propose Another Committee — And One That’s Not Supposed to Discuss Revenues

October 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Critical government services have been shut down for over a week, federal employees and contractors are going without pay, and the nation is fast approaching a potentially catastrophic default on its obligations.  But instead of addressing these problems, the House Republican leadership now wants to appoint a committee (termed a “working group”) to recommend ways of reducing the deficit — without raising any revenues.  The proposal — which the House will vote on later today — is deeply disappointing.

Not only does the legislation do nothing to reopen the government or avoid default, delaying badly needed action on these fronts while the working group talks. … Read more

Kaiser: Costs Will Grow More Slowly in States Expanding Medicaid

October 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured’s annual survey of states on their Medicaid budgets, released yesterday, shows why states should expand Medicaid to adults with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty line, as health reform makes possible:  in the 25 states that have decided to expand Medicaid, Kaiser projects that state spending on Medicaid will grow by 4.4 percent in 2014 — compared with 6.1 percent for the states that are not moving forward with expansion (see chart).… Read more

History Isn’t Repeating Itself — This Shutdown Is Different

October 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

Former Reagan Administration official Joseph Morris argues that there’s nothing unusual about policymakers using a government shutdown to work out policy differences.  In an October 2 Washington Post column, he claims the Reagan years prove it and, therefore, people should stop criticizing House Republicans for shutting down the government to extract changes in health reform.

But the evidence that Morris cites undercuts his arguments.  This time indeed is different, and it’s far more dangerous to the economy and the functioning of American democracy itself, as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote last week. … Read more

“Emerging” House Republican Offer Could Spell More Trouble on Shutdown, Default

October 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The nation may be in for more trouble on the government shutdown and debt limit than many commentators realize — if Robert Costa’s recent National Review piece accurately reflects House Republicans’ thinking on their next steps.  In “The Emerging Offer,” Costa describes the “offer” that House Republican leaders are assembling, which suggests that what House Republicans will portray as a reasonable, middle-ground compromise is anything but.

The offer largely represents yet another effort to push — as ransom for President Obama and Congress to pay in exchange for House Republican agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt limit — a set of highly unbalanced policies that are favored by one end of the political spectrum. … Read more

Why Isn’t Poverty Falling? Blame a Too-Quick Retreat on Unemployment Benefits

October 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

If you are wondering what’s behind the stubbornly high poverty rate, which has remained virtually frozen for the last two years despite continued economic growth, one thing is unemployment insurance (UI).  Not too much UI — too little.  As our new report explains, if the UI system hadn’t weakened, poverty would have fallen in the last two years, instead of remaining stalled at around 15 percent.  And UI will shrink further in just a few months unless Congress acts.

UI benefits kept 1.7 million people — jobless workers and their families — above the poverty line in 2012, according to Census figures. … Read more

The Extremist Boehner Rule

October 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Some House members are urging Speaker John Boehner to resurrect the so-called “Boehner Rule,” which demands that policymakers accompany any increase in the debt limit with equal or larger cuts in spending.  The Boehner rule would require the most radical transformation of government in nearly a century, producing policies that can only be described as extremist, as we explain in an updated paper.

The Boehner rule would require new spending cuts in any year in which the federal debt grows in dollar terms, even if it is stable or shrinking in relation to the economy.… Read more

In Case You Missed It…

October 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget and taxes, health reform, the economy, nutrition programs, and Social Security.

  • On the federal budget and taxes, we compiled a roundup of our recent posts and analyses related to the federal government shutdown.  Robert Greenstein warned that rewarding the use of a shutdown to extract an otherwise unachievable legislative goal would lead to more shutdowns.  Sharon Parrott noted that authorizing piecemeal legislation to temporarily fund politically sensitive programs is no way to govern.
Read more

States’ Decisions Not to Expand Medicaid Leaving Low-Income Adults in a Coverage Gap

October 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm

In this week’s opening of health insurance marketplaces (also called exchanges), many people are learning — unfortunately and ironically — that they don’t earn enough to qualify for help buying coverage.  That’s because their incomes fall below the thresholds to qualify for premium subsidies, and they live in states that aren’t accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid to low-income, childless adults.  Many of the states that aren’t expanding Medicaid are among those with the highest rate of uninsured adults (see charts, below).… Read more