Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By Next June

Where will we be by next June? Will the ACA be deemed a success? Will Congress have negotiated a budget? Will Immigration reform have passed? Will the Republicans civil war still be underway? What do the Democrats chances look like for retaking the House in November? I find that asking myself questions that include a longer time horizon help me crystallize my thoughts. So here's where I come out, at least for now:
  • The ACA will be a success, and possibly a great success. The website problems will be behind us. Somewhere between six and ten million people will have signed up for health insurance on the Exchanges. From 7 to 10 million people will also have been added to the Medicaid rolls. Here is the key item: the under 35 group will have signed up in sufficient numbers to ensure a stable risk pool in the insurance exchanges. The political storm over almost 3million people losing their individual coverage, and having to buy sometimes more expensive policies on the Exchanges, is behind us (These are the people whose insurance companies adjusted their policies in the last three years, causing them to lose their grandfathered status.) There has been no noticeable or general diminution of the quality of healthcare delivery, and the attention has shifted to those states that did not accept the Medicaid expansion. People in those states with incomes between 100% and 138% of FPL, are not able to join Medicaid or to get subsidies for buying insurance on the Exchanges. This has gotten a lot of media attention, causing problems for Republican legislators and governors. It looks like this will be a big and winning issue for Democrats in the coming elections.
  • Contrary to early expectations, a budget deal was finally reached just before Christmas. The sequester was cancelled and replaced with a combination of spending cuts, modest entitlement reform (chained CPI for Social Security, means testing for Medicare) and new tax revenues (closing loopholes). Like the vote to reopen the Government in October, the Budget vote passed with both Democratic and Republican votes. Conservatives (Tea Party) were outraged and vowed to aggressively press primary opposition to the "establishment turncoats". Obama has essentially achieved the basic deal he offered Boehner in the summer of 2011 - tax revenues ($1.0-$1.2 trillion over ten years) and $2.8-$3.0 trillion in spending cuts, totaling the original Bowles-Simpson target of $4.0 trillion - with a big difference: he also got the tax hike on the wealthy that would not have occurred if Boehner had taken the 2011 deal. The MSM has figured this out, and more commentators are questioning the "Obama is a terrible negotiator" meme.
  • Immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, has not passed. A group of moderate Republicans broke ranks and signed on as cosponsors to the Senate bill; but it was not enough. Conservatives rallied aggressively and Boehner refused to call a vote.
  • The intra-GOP battle is in full swing. All the major GOP leadership are being primaried. Heritage Action, Club for Growth and other Conservative super-PACs are pouring in money to defeat the "turncoats". The hard Right is incensed about the mainstream Republican surrender on Obamacare and then on taxes. Talk is being heard of a Third Party 2016 candidate, unless Conservatives can knock out GOP legislative leadership in the very-soon-arriving primaries.
  • Democrats are confident that they will hold the Senate and think they have better than en even chance to retake the House. GOP infighting, residual public anger over the shutdown, the emerging big success of Obamacare, and the failure of Congress to pass Immigration reform have combined to create, quite possibly, a "perfect storm" - a wave election sweeping Republicans out of office.
Those are my forecast. I'm least confident about my Budget/New Tax Revenue prediction. But I am quite sure three of the first four predictions will happen - fully supporting the possible wave election forecast in the last bullet point.

In short - I believe the Democrats will hold the Senate and retake the House. And in 2015 Obama will complete his agenda: Immigration reform; Cap and Trade, or an equivalent measure to control carbon emissions and greenhouse gases; a $9 minimum wage; modest gun control (background checks); and significant job-creating public investment (infrastructure, green energy, manufacturing enterprise hubs).

And 2016 is beginning to look like a Hillary Clinton landslide!

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