Congress, the Death Panels' Death Panel

The Affordable Care Act contained many provisions meant to help "bend the curve" of heath-care costs, including cuts to provider payments, incentives for doctors and hospitals to keep patients healthier, and pilot programs to test innovative new ways of providing care. It also included the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a group of medical experts who would evaluate treatments, drugs, and the like to see if Medicare was getting the most bang for its buck.

You might remember that, as part of a truly unprecedented campaign of disinformation, prominent health-care expert Sarah Palin declared the IPAB to be "death panels," asserting that despite what the text of the law might have said on Planet Earth, in her reality, the elderly and disabled would have to travel to Washington and come on bended knee before the IPAB's star chamber to beg for their lives.

Palin's efforts notwithstanding, the ACA passed and became the law of the land. So what do you do if you're a Republican congressional leader, and according to the law you're supposed to appoint some of IPAB's members? The answer, we found out today, is that you will basically stomp your feet and say "No no no no!" Exploring new frontiers of obstructionism, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner announced that they will simply refuse to comply with the law. In a letter to President Obama, they declared that they wouldn't appoint the six IPAB members they are allotted, because "We believe Congress should repeal IPAB, just as we believe we ought to repeal the entire health care law." Which is sort of like saying that because you don't think the government should force you to register your car and get license plates, you just won't.

Presumably, President Obama will go ahead and appoint the three IPAB members the law allots him, and the Democratic leaders will appoint the six they are allotted. But maybe not, since the board has to be confirmed by the Senate, and we can be sure that Republicans would filibuster any and all nominees, so there wouldn't be much point. In which case, the duties of the IPAB fall to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a concentration of power in the executive branch one might think Republicans wouldn't like. It's almost enough to make you think that they don't really care about exactly how Obamacare gets implemented, so long as they get to make a stink and tell the folks back home they're fighting it with all their might.


"The Belgian restaurant lists 115 beers on its menu, but not Miller Lite, Ryan’s beer of choice. 'I ended up getting some lager I’d never heard of,' said Ryan, who mistook the place for a French joint."

Michael Scherer, reporting on a secret meeting between Paul Ryan and the White House chief of staff



  • The Census released its latest data on who voted in the 2012 election, and the results offer more proof that our country is changing fast. 
  • Black people voted at a higher rate than white people for the first time in history, and white voter turnout dropped for the first time since 1996. Young voters also failed to turn out like they did in 2008.
  • "About 1 in 4 voters last year was either black, Asian or Hispanic, reflecting a steady increase in minority participation in presidential elections."
  • And how it translated in the final vote tally? Well, we can just call 2012 "That timeMitt Romney lost 83 percent of minority voters."
  • Hispanics didn't have quite as robust a turnout rate, but Pew notes that, as younger Hispanics turn 18, they will become a more and more influential demographic.
  • As Ruy Teixeira puts it, "I think it tells you you get what you pay for. We know there's this sleeping giant of the Hispanic electorate. So if you don't do anything, or you just do the average amount, you'll get your average turnout."
  • Lexington steps back from the data to note, "Not every future Democrat may be able to tap into the same enthusiasm among African-American voters. And Mr Romney, a stiff, gosh-darn-it plutocrat and grandfather, was pretty much the worst Republican candidate you could imagine for turning out young voters. It is possible to imagine young rural whites, say, being more excited by a folksier, more populist conservative candidate."
  • Ed Kilgore, on the other hand says, "Black turnout in presidential elections has been increasing steadily since 1996, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue that pattern in 2016 even if both major-party tickets lack an African-American candidate."
  • D.C. had the best voter turnout, while West Virginia had the worst, with fewer than half of voters casting ballots.
  • Unsurprisingly, swing states had pretty great turnout on all fronts.



  • Sarah Jaffe tells the story of cash-strapped Oregon, a state (like many others) facing the unenviable choice between raising taxes or cutting services due to budgetary shortfalls. Oregon's unions, though, have another idea: tax the banks that got them into this mess in the first place. “It's completely unacceptable that bank accountability feels too big for anybody in power to do something about. We hear that from the U.S. Senate, the governor, they say 'It's a problem that's too big for us.' We say that's completely unacceptable. We have to start somewhere.”
  • Demand-side Scandal: It's that thing where Republicans like Darrell Issa and Ted Cruz call Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times” and then proceed to spend the next two years fruitlessly plumbing the depths for anything to hitch some national outrage to. Jamelle Bouie explains what happens when the supply for malfeasance can't keep up with conservative punditry's demand. 



  • Dogs in the workplace: You either love 'em, or hate 'em, or feel indifferent about 'em. But over at Slate, Farhhad Manjoo has had enough. "Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults. It’s a dog’s world. We just live in it. And it’s awful."
  • Time's cover this week proclaims the arrival of the "Me Me Me Generation." To which Elspeth Reeve replies, um, EVERY generation is the Me Generation.
  • Mother Jones explains why "The Most Controversial Chart in History"--that is, climate scientist Michael Mann's 1998 discovery that the Earth's temperature is indeed rising after a millenia of relative stability--caused such a fuss among climate-change deniers, and how it has since stood up to rigorous scientific examination. 
  • TPM's Brian Beutler asks: Is Ted Cruz the Democrats' latest crush? Well, a love/hate crush.
  • A few days ago, The Onion's Twitter feed was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army, and for a short time its 5 million Twitter followers were forced to suffer through a bizarre mix of anti-Israel "jokes" and President Obama "memes."  A postmortem byThe Onion's tech team illustrates just how easily the hackers were able to trick staff members into revealing their passwords, thereby gaining access to influential social-networking accounts.



American's hate Congress—that's nothing new. In fact, Congress's current 16 percent approval rating is actually a smidgen better than it was last year, a time when it sunk to 10 percent on two separate occasions. But what American's really hate is YOUR Congressman. Theirs is OK—46 percent still approve of the job their own representative is doing. 

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