This is what happens when a major political party is run by the propagandists of the conservative media entertainment complex — you get conspiracy-palooza week — to shake down the rubes for their money and to get ’em all riled up over some perceived grievance that has no basis in fact.
First up, yet another hearing on #Obummercare. Things did not go as planned. The New York Times reports, Called by Republicans, Health Insurers Deliver Unexpected Testimony:
House Republicans summoned a half-dozen health insurance executives to a hearing Wednesday envisioned as another forum for criticism of the Affordable Care Act. But insurers refused to go along with the plan, and surprised Republican critics of the law by undercutting some of their arguments against it.
Insurers, appearing before a panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, testified that the law had not led to a government takeover of their industry, as some Republicans had predicted. Indeed, several insurers said their stock prices had increased in the last few years.
The executives also declined to endorse Republican predictions of a sharp increase in insurance premiums next year, saying they did not have enough data or experience to forecast prices. And they said they were already receiving federal subsidy payments intended to make insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income people.
Great line from Paul Waldman at the Washington Post: “May I remind the witnesses that we brought them here for the purpose of a partisan media circus, and we expect them to cooperate!”
LA Times business editor Michael Hiltzik reports, The insurers speak: Yes, people are paying their Obamacare premiums:
Things continue to get tough for the Obamacare dead-enders, those increasingly lonely opponents whose only comeback against the flow of good news about the Affordable Care Act is to conjure up absurd arguments against it (I mean you, Cato’s Michael Cannon) or, if all else fails, make stuff up.
That latter effort was put in the grave Wednesday by a panel of health insurance spokespersons summoned to Washington by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The committee, fans will recall, recently issued an utterly bogus report claiming that of all enrollees on the federal ACA website, only 67% had paid their first month’s premiums. That’s important because health insurance coverage isn’t official until the first payment is made.
As we reported, experts jumped all over the figure, pointing out that it overlooked that the payment deadline for a huge percentage of enrollees hadn’t been reached by the cut-off date for the committee’s survey, April 15, and that the due date for many others hasn’t been reached to this day.
The committee, vowing to get to the bottom of things, called the insurers to testify. Almost unanimously, they told the commitee: You’re all wet.
Their figures show that among enrollees whose due dates have passed, the payment rate is in the 80% to 90% range. That matches the consensus expectation among experts.
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One other aspect of the collapse of anti-Obamacare arguments is worth noting: even fiscal conservatives have begun falling into line. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Government, one of Washington’s most reliable deficit scolds, on Tuesday issued an analysis acknowledging that the ACA has helped to bring down projections of federal healthcare spending from 2011 to 2021 by $900 billion.
The group called this “a remarkable slowdown,” which is high praise in their book. For anti-Obamacare dead-enders still claiming that the ACA will increase the federal deficit — a claim the Congressional Budget Office has consistently debunked — this is another data point to give them a sad.
Sarah Kliff, formerly of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog but now with Ezra Klein’s new project vox.com, reported Obamacare may have helped save 15,000 lives. And Igor Volsky at Think Progress reports Obamacare Is Already Providing A Big Boost To Publicly Traded Hospitals. So there’s more good news.
So, the question is why – why would Republicans call a hearing and invite witnesses that would shred the Republicans’ own argument.
Answer: The conservative media entertainment complex closed information feedback loop. “The moral of the story is that epistemic closure is a dangerous thing.”
After IRS official Lois Lerner asserted her constitutional 5th Amendment right not to answer questions from Darrell “Grand Theft Auto” Issa last year, the House finally got around to holding her in contempt of Congress and requesting a special prosecutor — because it is conspiracy-palooza week this week in the House. House votes to hold ex-IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt:
Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor, has repeatedly denied that his client did anything wrong. “Today’s vote has nothing to do with the facts or the law,” he said in a statement. “Its only purpose is to keep the baseless IRS ‘conspiracy’ alive through the midterm elections.”
In fact, the real IRS scandal here is that any of these 501(4)(c) “social welfare” organizations engaged primarily in political activities were ever given tax exempt status at all. The law requires that they be “exclusively” engaged in nonpolitical “social welfare” activity. Lawrence O’Donnell has explained this legal point thoroughly. What did the IRS do wrong?, and The REAL IRS scandal finally goes to court.
Also, a new Democratic staff report released this week by House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) shows months of interviews by Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) majority staff yielded absolutely no evidence of White House involvement or political targeting in the IRS’s enhanced screening of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. All 39 People Interviewed By Issa Committee Report Zero White House Involvement In IRS Screening:
This appears to contradict the allegation by Issa last May that this “was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year, so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.”
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As ThinkProgress exclusively reported last month, a series of 22 IRS “Be On the Look Out” keywords lists released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations were explicitly flagged for extra scrutiny for longer than Tea Party entities.
Finally, the House GOP conspiracy-palooza week would not be complete without the new House Select Committee on #Benghazi!, chaired by South Carolina teabagger Trey Gowdy, who has never met a conspiracy theory that he did not believe and forward to his friends.
The GOP is not above fundraising off the biggest carnival sideshow in D.C. Top House Benghazi Investigator Has Used The Tragedy To Raise Money (Like I said, it is about shaking down the rubes for their money):
Trey Gowdy on Wednesday called on other Republicans to refrain from fundraising off Benghazi because he said the issue “transcends politics.” Yet just minutes prior to his comments, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out a fundraising email using Gowdy and his committee as the hook. “You’re now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let’s go after Obama and Hillary Clinton,” it says, offering readers an opportunity to donate.
Gowdy later said the NRCC should stop the campaign. “I cannot and will not raise money on Benghazi,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
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Thus, the reality is that for Republicans and their right-wing media and Tea Party allies, the Benghazi tragedy that resulted in four Americans and a U.S. Ambassador being killed is at this point nothing more than a way to raise money.
As Steve Benen observes, “Democrats can’t decide whether to boycott a rigged investigatory process. Republicans can’t decide whether the rigged investigatory process should be exploited for cash.” A controversial cash cow. “Republicans have their cash cow and it’s simply too lucrative to give up, propriety be damned.”
Paraphrasing Steve Benen, watching conspiracy-palooza week “unfold in real time reinforces an unsettling truth: the only legitimate scandal on display on Capitol Hill right now is how Republicans are conducting themselves.” House GOP isn’t investigating a scandal; it’s causing one.
Remember in November. Kick ’em all out!