NOAA: The Hottest Spring On Record

Eco Watch: “This past May was the hottest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). ‘The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for May 2015 was the highest for May in the 136-year period of record, at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F),’ said NOAA. This breaks the previous record, which was set last May.”

It was also the hottest March to May on record and the hottest January to May on record as well. So, if trends continue, as they are predicted to, this year will surpass last year as the hottest on record.


Republicans to Extend Subsidies If Struck Down By Supreme Court

ABC News reports that congressional Republicans “will move to temporarily continue health care subsidies for millions of people if the Supreme Court overturns the aid.”

“In addition, the GOP proposals would dissolve many of the basic requirements of President Obama’s health care law, including mandates that most people buy coverage and most companies provide it to their workers… Such an effort would be sure to encounter solid Democratic opposition in Congress and a veto from the president, who has championed the law’s extension of health coverage to millions.”

“The high court is expected to rule on a lawsuit brought by conservatives and backed by the GOP. They say that under the law, the aid is limited to states operating their own insurance marketplaces, and is not allowed for the roughly three dozen that use the federal website. Democrats say the overall bill’s context makes clear that the subsidies were designed to go to residents of every state.”

As Democrats Trend Leftward, Maybe There’s Hope for Bernie Sanders

Gallup: “Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years. Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal. This is compared with 39% in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party’s nomination, and 30% in 2001.”

Left-Leaning Democrats

“Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton faces a more liberal base than she did when she last ran for president in 2008, and no doubt will be calibrating her positions accordingly. The shift in the electorate may help explain the attention being garnered by long-shot candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who has used the label ‘socialist’ to describe himself and who is avowedly liberal across the board.”

Most Impacted By an Obamacare SCOTUS Ruling Live in GOP Districts

Jonathan Cohn: “A new report suggests the impact [of the Supreme Court Obamacare subsidies case] would fall disproportionately on their own constituents, rather than those in Democratic districts — by a margin of 2-to-1.”

“The research comes from FamiliesUSA … The report’s subject is the potential geographic impact of King v. Burwell, the lawsuit that the court heard in March and on which it is likely to rule by the end of the month.”

“Using Affordable Care Act enrollment data from the Department of Health and Human Services, the organization has estimated the number of people in each congressional district who would lose their tax credits from a court decision against the law.”

“The results? Some 4.2 million of those who would lose tax credits live in congressional districts with Republican representatives, the FamiliesUSA researchers said. Just 2.1 million live in Democratic districts.”

“It’s not at all surprising that Republican districts would have more affected people, since the states where officials wanted nothing to do with Obamacare tend to have more conservative voters. Those are also the states where Republican lawmakers have been able to draw district lines in ways that boost their numbers in Congress. But the ratio of Republican to Democratic voters in these states isn’t anywhere near 2-to-1.”

OMB Chief Optimistic on Tax Reform

Maxwell Murphy reports on Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan’s “optimism that Congress will reform the corporate tax rate and simplify the tax code this year.”

“If done right, he said, a cut will not add to the deficit in the long run, and will actually save money over the first 10 years. He did not specify how this would occur… Earlier in the day, Congressman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, suggested that sweeping tax reform would need to wait until 2017 when a new president is in office.”

“In addition, the government needs to raise or suspend the nation’s debt ceiling or it will again be faced with sequestration come October, Mr. Donovan said. Another government shutdown this fall can’t be ruled out, he said, but the ‘odds are better than 50/50′ that Congress can agree on measures to avert such a scenario.”

House Republicans Open to Funding Needle Exchange Programs

“Faced with a health crisis resulting from a rise in heroin use in many of their home states, House Republicans are easing their longstanding opposition to federal funding in support of needle exchange programs,” according to the New York Times.

“In the past, they have backed not only a prohibition on buying needles but also on spending any federal dollars ‘to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug.’ But an outbreak of AIDS and hepatitis tied to heroin and other drug use in states like Indiana and Kentucky has led conservative public officials in those states to reverse themselves and allow needle exchange programs as a way to combat the spread of disease and bring drug users into treatment programs.”

“Under the proposed bill, federal money could go toward the support of exchange programs if the state or local community ‘is experiencing, or is at risk for, a significant increase in hepatitis infections or an HIV outbreak due to injection drug use, and such program is operating in accordance with state and local law.’”

Economists Predict Shockwaves If Supreme Court Rules Against Obamacare

“As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether people in 34 states can continue to receive Obamacare health insurance subsidies, economists are projecting billions of dollars in lost healthcare spending for hospitals, drugstores and drugmakers if the justices say the payments are illegal,” Reuters reports.

“The immediate consequences of such a ruling would fall on the 6.4 million people who receive the subsidies and live in states that did not establish their own insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, instead relying on the federal website.”

“Health economists calculate the economic impact of a ruling against the subsidies in different ways, but one thing many agree on is that about two-thirds of people who receive subsidies through would drop their insurance altogether rather than foot the entire bill. Businesses that have benefited from spending by the newly insured would take a hit, though estimates of the lost revenues vary significantly based on which assumptions are built into the calculation. For instance, a Kaiser Family Foundation economist put the 2015 figure at about $15 billion, based on the proportion of insurance premiums that are earmarked solely for medical costs under the healthcare law.”

Which Presidential Candidate is the Most Conservative?

Pablo Barbera in the Washington Post: “One characteristic all candidates share is that they have active and popular Twitter accounts. And as I showed in an article published earlier this year in the journal Political Analysis — now freely available online as an Editors’ Choice article — it is possible to analyze the candidates’ Twitter networks to compute precise ideological scores and thus identify how conservative or liberal each of them is.”

“The intuition behind this method is simple: Citizens prefer to follow on Twitter those political accounts that they perceive to be ideologically close to their own positions.”

The figure above “displays the ideological scores of all declared and rumored major primary candidates as of June 1, estimated using their Twitter networks applying this method. To facilitate its interpretation, I have also indicated the location of a few major news outlets, as well as the distribution of ideological scores for all Twitter users (in black) and for Republican and Democratic members of Congress (in red and blue).”

Majority Wants Congress to Keep Obamacare Subsidies

L.A. Times: “Nearly two-thirds of Americans want Congress to ensure that residents in every state can receive insurance subsidies though the Affordable Care Act, according to a new national poll conducted as the Supreme Court prepares to decide a legal challenge that could strip away the subsidies in more than 30 states.”

“Asked whether lawmakers should pass a law ‘so that people in all states can be eligible for financial help,’ just one-quarter of those surveyed said no, according to the poll by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.”

Figure 7

“State action is preferred even by Republicans, who favor a state marketplace over no action, 44% to 42%, despite the fact that the health law remains deeply unpopular with the GOP. Nearly 70% of Republicans view it unfavorably.”


Catholics Divided Over Global Warming

Pew Research: “On the eve of a forthcoming encyclical by Pope Francis on the environment and climate change, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that U.S. Catholics’ views on global warming are broadly reflective of American public opinion writ large; a solid majority believe that Earth is warming, but there is much more division over the cause and seriousness of climate change. Moreover, the poll shows that climate change is a highly politicized issue that sharply divides American Catholics, like the U.S. public as a whole, mainly along political party lines.”

Deep Partisan Divisions in Catholics' Views on Global Warming

With Insurance Subsidies in Limbo, Advocates Look at Options

“With a Supreme Court decision looming that could lead to the loss of health insurance for millions of Americans,” the Washington Post reports that “supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health-care law already are mobilizing for the next stage of the battle: influencing policy alternatives if the court upends a key component of the law.”

“At issue in the court case is whether it is legal for the government to provide subsidies to consumers in the almost three dozen states that have not set up their own insurance exchanges and instead rely on the federal marketplace… The latest swirl of activity is not aimed at the justices, who presumably voted on the outcome of the case some time ago. Rather, it targets the American public, the media, and especially federal and state officials who may be confronted with the uncomfortable prospect of millions of people being unable to afford health coverage.”

“In the face of a federal standoff, states could try to fix the problem themselves by setting up their own marketplaces. Pennsylvania, Delaware and Arkansas have received conditional approval from federal officials to do so. But in many affected states, there is strong political opposition to anything that would preserve Obamacare. Even without the political hurdle, states face logistical obstacles — not enough time or money — in trying to get new state exchanges up and running before the next round of open enrollment in the marketplaces begins in November.”

Americans Show No Confidence in Their Major Institutions

Gallup: “Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below the historical average for each one. Only the military (72%) and small business (67%) — the highest-rated institutions in this year’s poll — are currently rated higher than their historical norms, based on the percentage expressing ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the institution.”

Confidence in U.S. Institutions, 2015 vs. Historical Average for Each Institution

“Americans continue to show lower levels of confidence in most of the major institutions central to U.S. society, with only the military and small business getting ratings in 2015 that are above their historical averages. That speaks to the broader dissatisfaction Americans have with the state of the nation more generally over the past decade as the U.S. has faced serious economic, international and political challenges. Americans have tended to be more confident in U.S. institutions when the economy has been strong, such as in the mid-1980s and the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although Americans are now more upbeat about the economy than they were in 2008-2013, they are not yet convinced that the economy is good, given that their assessments of national economic conditions remain more negative than positive.”