Building a Wall of Red Tape to Thwart EPA’s Climate Rule

Inside Climate News: “State legislatures in coal-dependent parts of the country are taking action to delay complying with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.”

“Since the 2015 legislative session convened last month, at least a dozen states have introduced bills that effectively increase bureaucratic red tape and stall states from submitting compliance plans to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And, in some cases, the bills grant legislatures the power to veto their states’ carbon emission reduction plans.”

“The maneuvering has quickly spread well beyond the borders of coal-rich states. In Nebraska, Arizona and South Dakota, lawmakers are trying to require that their states’ environmental agencies prepare a preliminary report detailing the plans’ impact on the economy.”

“‘The overall strategy is to find ways to choke the state plan with red tape one way or the other,’ said Aliya Haq, a director in the climate-and-clear-air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ‘These bills are all misguided in that they ironically limit the state’s options,’ she said.”

Killing Obamacare by Legal Assassination

Timothy Egan argues that “Republicans are attempting one of the most brazen manipulations of the legal system in modern times. To pull it off, they’re relying on a toxically politicized judiciary to make law, and to make a mockery of everything that conservative legal scholars profess to believe.”

“In less than two weeks’ time, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell — the net result of a well-orchestrated, well-financed, five-year campaign to kill President Obama’s signature achievement by legal assassination.”

“So, consider just who stands to lose most if the health care subsidies for people in two-thirds of the states are denied … More than 80 percent of them are lower- or middle-income people, working part time or full. Most of them are white. And majority of them are in the South. So much for helping your base.”

“So long as judges do their dirty work, Republicans don’t have a problem with politicizing the judiciary.”

‘Obamacare is a Job Killer:’ A Myth Debunked

Bloomberg: “The biggest entitlement legislation in a generation is causing barely a ripple in corporate America.”

Obamacare “is putting such a small dent in the profits of U.S. companies that many refer to its impact as ‘not material’ or ‘not significant,’ according to a Bloomberg review of conference-call transcripts and interviews with major U.S. employers.”

“That’s even after a provision went into effect this year requiring companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide coverage, and after more workers are choosing to enroll in existing company coverage because of another requirement that all Americans get insured.”

“The collective shrug from the nation’s biggest employers undermines the arguments of Republicans, who call the law a job-killer as they seek its repeal.”

“While U.S. health-care costs continued to rise faster than inflation in the five years since the law was passed, their rate of growth has slowed. Employers spent an average of $11,204 per worker for health benefits in 2014, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, according to Mercer LLC. That growth rate was 6.1 percent or more each year from 1998 to 2011.”

Obamacare Decision Could Cost Billions

Greg Sargent: “If you want a sense of just how far-reaching the impact of a Supreme Court decision gutting Obamacare subsidies could prove, new data on health care signups released this week provide a fresh way to game out such a ruling’s consequences.”

“The new HHS data also provides a breakdown of the number of sign-ups in each of the three dozen states on the federal exchange — precisely the states that would no longer get subsidies if the Court invalidates tax credits to people in all federal exchange states.”

“This provides a way of approximating just how much money in tax credits each state could lose if the Court rules that way … Here it is in chart form (a note on methodology is below), detailing the impact of such a ruling on the 14 states that stand to lose the most:”

tax credits for GS

“The column on the left details the approximate total number of people in each state who qualify for subsidies. The middle column details the average amount in subsidies per person. And the column on the right details the approximate total number of dollars per month that are set to flow into each state — money that would presumably stop flowing if SCOTUS guts the subsidies.”

A Republican Flip-Flop on Obamacare

Greg Sargent comments on Glenn Kessler’s article regarding Republicans’ interpretation of the Affordable Care Act.

“GOP Senators John Cornyn, John Barrasso, and Orrin Hatch, along with Rep. Paul Ryan, are all previously on record making statements that appear grounded in the assumption that subsidies would be available to people who got health care on the federal exchanges, in addition to state ones. The King lawsuit, of course, alleges that the ACA does not authorize subsidies to all those people, and now, Cornyn, Hatch, and Ryan have signed a brief siding with the challengers. Meanwhile, Barrasso is openly rooting for the Supreme Court to ‘bring down’ the law.”

“Some of these statements have been previously aired. What’s new here is that these Senators and their spokespeople have now attempted to explain their shift in views. Most of their explanations, Kessler concludes, are pretty weak, and amount to an ‘unacknowledged flip-flop.’”

“Cornyn has perhaps the weakest defense … His concerns about the budget make little sense if one believes that the citizens in about three-quarters of the states would not qualify for premium subsidies.”

“The more media scrutiny this lawsuit receives, the more trumped-up and circus-like it looks. And there are still plenty of questions about it that remain unanswered.”

Obamacare’s Success Raises Stakes for SCOTUS Case

New York Times: “The Obama administration said Wednesday that 8.6 million people in 37 states had selected or renewed health plans through the federal insurance marketplace, and that most of them would suffer if the Supreme Court blocked premium subsidies for consumers in those states.”

“That group is part of the 11.4 million people who President Obama said the day before had signed up in the enrollment period that ended on Sunday. Consumers using the federal marketplace accounted for three-fourths of the total.”

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said it was “inconceivable that Congress meant to deny premium assistance to them — simply because their states did not set up exchanges — while providing it to residents of New York, California and other states that run their own insurance marketplaces.”

“In a comment that sounded like a message to the Supreme Court, just a few blocks from her office, Ms. Burwell said, ‘Americans don’t want the progress that we have made to be taken away from them.’”

Is the Tea Party Going Green?

Carolyn Kormann in the New Yorker writes about a surprising new advocate of solar: the Tea Party.

Debbie Dooley, a Georgia Tea Party member and “fierce solar-power advocate” argues that solar gives people “energy autonomy. ‘The average person cannot build a power plant, but they can install solar panels on their rooftop, and they should be able to sell that energy to friends and neighbors if they wish,’” she said.

“Dooley and her environmentalist partners have tacitly agreed to disagree about many things, starting with climate change. ‘That’s something we don’t get involved in,’ she said. ‘If you mention climate change, they’re going to tune you out.’ She meant her Tea Party compatriots, of course, with whom she emphasizes, when she talks about solar energy, the free market, consumer choice, and national security. ‘Rooftop solar makes it harder for terrorists to render a devastating blow to our power grid,’ she said.”

“Utility companies are not wrong to fear rooftop solar … Hence an ALEC campaign … to promote legislation to penalize individual homeowners who use rooftop solar and to label them ‘free riders.'”

In 2012,  ALEC “‘sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states,’ many with the goal of blocking renewable-energy efforts and weakening clean-energy regulations. The model legislation developed by ALEC in this area is called, of all things, the Electricity Freedom Act.”


Immigration Ruling Savages Attempts to Address Nationwide Crisis

New York Times Editorial Board comments on the decision by Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen, of Brownsville, Tex. to block the first of President Obama’s immigration programs.

“Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas was so excited at Monday’s decision that he jumped on Twitter to say Mr. Obama’s amnesty order ‘has been ruled unconstitutional.’”

“No, it hasn’t.”

“What he did not do was dispute the president’s broad authority to decide whom to deport, which is exactly what the Obama administration did in prioritizing the removal of immigrants who pose a threat to public safety or national security. Yet the judge blocked the action, which he called ‘a massive change in immigration practice.’”

“He danced around the fundamental point — as the Supreme Court reiterated as recently as 2012 — that setting immigration policy is the prerogative of the federal government, not the states.”

“On immigration, the Republicans seem to want only to savage the president’s efforts to address a pressing nationwide crisis, just as they have on health care reform. They are good at unleashing rage against Mr. Obama’s supposed lawlessness, but they have no meaningful solutions of their own.”

Obamacare 2015 Enrollment Beats Expectations

The Hill: “This year’s ObamaCare enrollment officially beat expectations with at least 11.4 million Americans signing up in the second year, the White House announced late Tuesday.”

“The new estimates put the Obama administration ahead of its target of 9 million signups for 2015 and far ahead of its totals from the marketplace’s first year — though well below initial predictions.”

“This year’s approach has been vastly different, with just minor technical glitches and a less-flashy outreach strategy.”

“The new figures are likely to fluctuate, however, as the government weeds out customers who signed up but did not pay their premiums. Last year, the administration was forced to take several hundred thousand people off its rolls who did not pay premiums. The final enrollment tally was just below 7 million.”

Is Ted Cruz Right About Rising Inequality?

Max Ehrenfreund questions Sen Ted Cruz’s claim that inequality has worsened with the Obama administration’s policies: “I chuckle every time I hear Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton talk about income inequality, because it’s increased dramatically under their policies.”

“That’s not true, though.”

According to David Leonhardt, “the steps that the federal government took in response to the [Great Recession], including tax cuts and benefit increases, have mostly helped the nonwealthy.”

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“The income of the top 1 percent – both the level and the share of overall income – still hasn’t returned to its 2007 peak. Their average income is about 20 percent below that peak. Yet we have all become so accustomed to rising inequality that we seem to have lost the ability to consider the alternative. Maybe it’s because many liberals are tempted to believe inequality is always getting worse, while many conservatives are tempted to believe that the Obama economy is always getting worse.”