New Congress So Far (Be Afraid)

This is just the stuff that happened yesterday.

The House passed its “dynamic scoring” bill directing the Congressional Budget Office to lie about the real effects of legislation on the budget. See also Jonathan Chait, “Why the Republican Congress’s First Act Was to Declare War on Math.”

This story provides a clue why the Republicans are determined to take the CBO in hand and dictate what conclusions it will reach:

One of the House Republican leadership’s first bills of the new Congress will add some $53 billion to the deficit and cost hundreds of thousands of Americans health insurance, according to a new report by Congress’ non-partisan budget office.

The bill, the Save American Workers Act, aims to redefine the number of hours that people work each week before their employers fall under the Affordable Care Act, raising the threshold from 30 hours to 40. Under current law, larger firms that don’t provide health insurance for people who work more than 30 hours will be fined. The bill would raise the fine threshold to 40 hours.

Republicans argue that by requiring companies to provide health benefits to anyone who works more than 30 hours, the Affordable Care Act creates an incentive for employers to cut hours to less than 30. Analysts say there is no evidence of that alleged trend, however, and a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that involuntary part-time work has actually fallen since the peak of the recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The Congressional Budget Office “score” of the bill released Wednesday suggested the shift proposed by the bill could actually worsen the healthcare situation, even as it raises costs to taxpayers.

Republicans can’t have the CBO saying things like that, can they?

Two House Republicans introduced a national 20-week abortion ban. Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said that 20 weeks is “very late term.” Huh? A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. Even I can calculate that 20 weeks is the mid point, not “very late.”  Also, too:

Franks compared late abortions to torture in a statement released with the bill.

“More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America,” Franks said Tuesday.

“These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia.”

I don’t know about the number of abortions at 20 weeks or later in the U.S., but at this time it’s the broad consensus of medical science that a fetus at 20 weeks gestation lacks the nervous system apparatus required to feel pain (see “Navigating the Junk Science of Fetal Pain“).  And no infant born at 20 weeks gestation has ever survived outside the womb in recorded history. The threshold of viability currently is between 22 and 25 weeks, and at the very early end of that a fetus is so impaired that most of the time palliative care only is recommended.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. See Teresa Tritch in the New York Times: “Uh Oh, Republicans Are Trying to ‘Protect’ Social Security Again.”

Buried in the new rules being adopted by the House Republican majority for the current session of Congress is one that the drafters say will “protect” Social Security retirement benefits from being raided to pay for Social Security disability benefits. What this boils down to is using a misleading argument to tee up benefit cuts.

You can read the article for details, but basically the GOP is “fixing” something that ain’t broke. Michael Hiltzik writes at the Los Angeles Times that their “fix” prohibits reallocating money from the retirement fund into the disability fund without  “benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds.” But there was no reason to do that; the disability allocations were not putting the retirement fund in jeopardy. But if this goes through, Hiltzik says, the most likely outcome will be that disability benefits will be cut by 20 percent sometime next year.

It begins.

16 thoughts on “New Congress So Far (Be Afraid)

  1. I am elderly and survive (just) on Soc. Sec. and SSI. How long do you think this will be enough to live? Doesn’t look like long to me. That’s going to be interesting in a year or so, when I’m 75 or more. Do you wonder that I (and a whole lot of other people) am having trouble with anxiety attacks? I have always preferred to get to die quickly and quietly; that’s looking more and more unlikely. Next medical care will go down. This is not a good thing to look forward to. Thank you, Republicans. Do you really think that karma and/or god will look kindly on this when it’s your turn. Just wondering….

  2. I try to be a good Buddhist and not fucking hate Republicans, but I constantly fail. The best I can do in metta bhavana is: “May you die a painless death…IMMEDIATELY!”

  3. It will bite them in the ass big time. Their base depends on socialism more than they realize. Go ahead, make my day.

  4. Erinyes—yes, it will bite them in the ass big time…eventually….. and where does that leave those of us who need to eat, live, etc. immediately—- better hope you are young, wealthy and white male. Being old will mean even more “worthless, who needs them?”
    I’m getting old and grumpier by the day and looking forward to a really rotten old age.

  5. Well, one thing the Republicans are going to discover pretty soon is how little they can accomplish without a veto-proof majority. The Save American Workers Act and the 20-week abortion ban are pretty obnoxious, but the President isn’t going to sign either one.

    With dynamic scoring and the Social Security thing, I believe we’re talking about the House rules here, so that’s a little different. But as far as I can see, the only thing they’re going to accomplish with this dynamic scoring nonsense is to destroy the CBO. Again, it’s not like they’re going to convince Obama to sign off on their nonsense by blatantly lying about the economic effects.

    And the Social Security thing is just puzzling. Here’s a description that I found:

    On page 32 is a provision that allows any representative to raise a point of order if the House tries to pass a bill redirecting tax revenue from Social Security’s retirement fund to the disability fund.

    So for this to come into play, the House would have to be trying to pass a bill redirecting revenue to the disability fund. Which they’ve pretty much signaled their intention not to do anyway by making the rule change. So it seems kind of redundant to me.

    • I’ve seen speculation that the House Republicans plan to use the Social Security disability fund as a “hostage” in future entitlement negotiations.

  6. I’ve offered to ship President Obama a box of refills for his veto pen. I just hope, that in six years, he’s learned to stand up to these idiots.

  7. I just got informed that I got SS Disability – and now, they want to cut it at the end of next year.


    And as to everything they’re trying to do?
    Well, it’s nothing we didn’t read on liberal and progressive websites – and then try to tell the voters BEFORE last November’s election.

    Scorpion’s will be scorpions.
    Snakes will be snakes.
    And sociopathic human snakes will be sociopathic human snakes…

  8. I just got informed that I got SS Disability – and now, they want to cut it at the end of next year.


    And as to everything they’re trying to do?
    Well, it’s nothing we didn’t read on liberal and progressive websites – and then try to tell the voters BEFORE last November’s election.

    Scorpion’s will be scorpions.
    Snakes will be snakes.
    And sociopathic human snakes will be sociopathic human snakes…

  9. Buddhasteps: I too am elderly (75yo) and my only income is social security. As I have already mentioned, I just had a big event and survived. I was told they almost lost me but here I am. Now there are additional expenses for me (meds) and a big adjustment to my lifestyle. I do have two adorable offspring who are very devoted and they will help me out as much as they can. I learned a long time ago not to get my panties in a bunch over things out of my control. These are many so I focus on other things. My experience as a psych nurse and my practice in hypnotherapy taught me that we get what we focus on. So, if we focus on negative thoughts or worry about what will happen, we do create a pattern of anxiety which keeps getting repeated because it becomes a habit. Since we do not control most of what happens in this world, it is wasted energy to worry about it. I remember a Vietnam vet who worked as a detective and lived by himself in a semi-secluded area. I think he was divorced. Someone asked him about his lifestyle and if he was happy. His answer was: I have a roof over my head, plenty to eat and nobody is shooting at me, so life is good.
    I know it’s hard sometimes but it’s not impossible to have peace. Since you are “buddhasteps” you must have some beliefs about life and the universe and that can be your comfort. Here is a little mantra that may help you:
    “And God will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hands”.

  10. “Save American Workers Act”

    Good one, why not just name it the “Republican majority will save the universe act”?

  11. uncledad,
    It should really be called, “The Save American Workers from Being Paid a Decent Salary And Getting Decent Benefits Act.”

  12. What’s wrong with SAWA? I remember getting hired for a job. I was told my hours would be: 37.5 hours per week – 8 hours per day, plus a 1/2 hour (30 minute) meal break.

    Without SAWA: cut everyone’s hours by 7.5? No. We need full time employees.

    With SAWA: *COOL*! Oh, was that our Out Loud voice? Anyway: due to excessive costs, we’re no longer offering health insurance.

    With SAWA, other employers: “You will take at least one 15 minute break per week; any overtime greater than 39:45 per day must be approved by management. If you can’t complete your work in 39:45 each week, you will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. In spite of our earnest hopes, we also will not be able to offer health insurance for our serfs employees partners at this time.”

  13. Twenty weeks is actually before the midpoint of a pregnancy most of the time. Because a pregnancy is counted from the last day of your menstrual period (about two weeks before you ovulate) at 20 weeks gestational age on average you have only actually been pregnant for 18 weeks out of 38. Some uncertainty comes in with estimating gestational age, and it’s harder to estimate accurately if you are already farther along when you get the first ultrasound.

  14. All the more reason to have Medicare for all!!! Not that the Repugs will offer that one!

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