Sunday, March 1, 2015

Elected, Perchance to Govern?

Mitch McConnell, moderate. I thought I'd never see that characterization, but after last week's embarrassing, incompetent, dangerous gambit the House Republicans played, he's looking like the only GOP adult in the room. John Boehner seems to have lost his caucus and is now dependent on the far right to dictate what gets done in the House, and what's getting done is virtually nothing. Kicking the Homeland Security funding argument to this week will do nothing except make Friday night another frantic opportunity for brinkmanship and Obama-bashing. In the end, Homeland Security will get funding and the president's immigration changes will stand. The real losers will be the people who work for the agency as they bite their nails and wait to see if they'll be getting paid for another week. If terrorists read American news sources, they are surely laughing at us.

Not content to make itself look bad on the domestic front, the Republicans doubled down and asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come and speak to a joint session of Congress, an honor he will deliver this week. Never mind that his visit, essentially a jab at the Obama administrations efforts to negotiate a nuclear treaty with Iran, will only put more on strain US-Israel relations, although there are reports that things might be getting less strained. Mr. Netanyahu, I'm sure, will have important things to say. The problem is that he might want to think twice before attaching himself to the clown car Congress that can't seem to find money to pay for homeland security, much less debate a serious issue like a possible Iranian nuclear weapon.

This is also the week that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, the case that challenges whether the federal government can give subsidies to people who buy health insurance on the federal exchange. The plaintiffs believe that only those who buy policies on state exchanges should get subsidies. Which of course begs the question, if the court rules for the plaintiffs, will they work feverishly to make sure that the states without exchanges set them up quickly so the law can work and millions of people can keep their health care?

Of course not.  This is most likely the final attempt to destroy a law that is working wonderfully and is fundamentally changing the health care landscape for the better. Also, the states that would suffer the most if the subsidies are struck down will be the poorest, reddest states in the country. You know, the ones whose citizens vote against their interests by electing governments that seek to limit the programs their people desperately need.

And the state that would suffer the most? Florida. Does Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio have a fall back plan if millions of Floridians lose their health insurance? No. Do both of them want to be president? Of course, but what a catastrophe either of them would be.

And finally, this week will see the rollout of the PARCC tests across the nation. School districts are hoping that their technology holds up and that students can navigate the many screen they'll need to use in order to answer the questions. Some families have decided that they don't want their students to participate, so they've opted out, or "refused" to take the tests as the officials like to characterize it, The testing will take almost three weeks and then return in late April or early May, taking more valuable time and resources from classrooms and actual learning. The tests will mean almost nothing to students, but for teachers, they will count for 10% of their yearly evaluation (in New Jersey, at least). I give these tests five years, and then the education establishment will move on to something newer.

March is certainly roaring in.

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