>by J. P. Green, June 5, 2012 11:19 AM EST
| Democratic Strategist
The blogosphere is laden with
interesting articles about today's recall election in Wisconsin. At the
Madison-based Progressive magazine, Editor Mathew Rothschild and
Political Editor Ruth Conniff explain "What's at Stake in Wisconsin," to help set the stage:
After a year and a half of historic protests and
unprecedented citizen activism, the recall is a referendum on whether
grassroots, democratic action can overcome the power of money in the
Citizens United era...In February and March of 2011, Wisconsinites
organized the largest sustained mass rallies for public sector workers
in the history of the United States and the biggest outpouring of labor
activism since the 1930s...The whole country is waiting to see whether
or not citizens can overcome the corporate takeover of government in
The Recall coalition has a compelling case for getting rid of Walker, as Conniff and Rothschild explain:
Walker has made the largest cuts to public education in the
history of the state, eviscerating our top-tier public schools as well
as a model university and technical college system. In the birthplace of
the public employees' union, AFSCME, he overturned public employees'
right to bargain collectively. He has moved to disempower the state
legislature, do away with open meetings, and shred the robust regulatory
apparatus that has made Wisconsin a model of good government,
environmental protection, and progressive ideals.
...Even as Republican attacks on women were making headlines around
the country, Walker was quietly signing legislation to make it illegal
for women to sue for compensatory or punitive damages when they've been
discriminated against in the workplace. He rolled back accurate,
age-appropriate sex education. He cut funding for preventive health care
at Planned Parenthood clinics. He banned private health insurers from
covering abortion in state health insurance exchanges starting in 2014
in almost all instances. And he required a woman who is seeking an
abortion to have a one-on-one consultation with a doctor prior to the
procedure. The doctor must ascertain whether she is being pressured to
have an abortion, and any doctor who doesn't do that can be prosecuted
for a felony.
...Walker and the Republicans pushed through legislation endangering
Wisconsin wetlands...[pushed for] massive cuts to public education and
an across-the-board attack on everything from labor rights to tenant
rights, from health care for the poor to nursing home care for the
elderly...As for Walker's "jobs" agenda, the Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported that Wisconsin had the single worst record in the nation for
job losses from January 2011 to January 2012.
All of this in a legislative session that, the governor said, would be all about "jobs, jobs, jobs."
It's hard to name a major demographic group Walker hasn't screwed in
some way, other than wealthy Republican contributors. Also at The
Progressive, Political Editor Ruth Conniff reports
on Walker's increasing legal problems and allegations that he is a
target of a federal investigation into possibie criminal activity during
his tenure as county executive and governor. Conniff says "Recent
campaign finance filings show that Walker has transferred a total of
$160,000 into a criminal defense fund--the only criminal defense fund
maintained by a governor of any state in the nation."
Since there is no indictment yet, Walker's developing legal problems
probably won't be much of a factor in today's vote. Regardless of the
vote, however, Wisconsin voters could become increasingly sour on Walker
and his party by November, especially if Walker's legal problems
The most recent polls indicate a close election. John Nichols has a "A Wisconsin Recall FAQ" at The Nation, which sheds light on Barrett's geographic strategy:
While the Democrat has to renew his party's appeal statewide
-- after the disastrous 2010 election -- his primary focus is on the
Democratic heartlands of Dane County (Madison) and Milwaukee County, as
well as industrial cities such as Sheboygan and Racine. Statewide,
turnout fell from 69 percent in the very strong Democratic year of 2008
to 49 percent in the very Republican year of 2010.
Much of the falloff came within the city of Milwaukee, where 90,000
people who did vote in 2008 did not vote in 2010. Countywide, 134,000
people who voted in 2008 did not vote in 2010...Scott Walker's winning
margin in 2010 was 124,000 votes. A presidential-level turnout in
Milwaukee County could reverse it with 10,000 votes to spare.
Will that happen? Probably not. Milwaukee turnout will need to be
accentuated by a spike in turnout in Racine, a historical manufacturing
city south of Milwaukee where voting in 2010 was way off from 2008.
Nichols notes that, not surprisingly, Mayor Barrett, former president
Clinton and Jesse Jackson all three focused their campaigning in
Milwaukee and Racine. Nichols adds "Both sides have put top recount
lawyers on notice that their services might be needed. The Democrats
have retained Mark Elias, who guided U.S. Senator Al Franken through his
2008-2009 recount fight in Minnesota," adds Nichols. "Wisconsin law
allows for a full recount -- at no cost -- if the margin in a contested
election is less than 0.5 percent. The governor's race could be that
close, as could several of the state Senate contests."
The New Republic explores possible counter-intuitive boomerang effects of today's vote on the presidential outcome in November. Noam Scheiber worries
that a Mayor Barrett victory over Governor Walker would encourage the
Romney campaign to invest billions more in GOTV, but adds "...I do think
a Barrett win would be better for Obama in Wisconsin, since it's likely
to deter Romney from going all-out in the state, while a Walker win
would give Romney hope and probably demoralize Democrats there."
Alec MacGillis's TNR take is that a Walker win today could actually bode well for President Obama's re-election:
...There are also going to be some swing voters who are
going to be voting less on those big ideological questions than on the
more general question of whether things are going okay. If these swing
voters believe that things are gradually coming back in Wisconsin -- no
sure thing, given that the jobs expansion there has been less clear than
in Ohio -- they may decide to vote for Walker less out of ideological
solidarity than because they figure it's foolish to rock the boat with
the rare act of a recall. And here's the thing -- to the extent that
Wisconsin swing voters draw that conclusion about Walker, they may also
be led to support Obama's reelection, to stick with the guy in charge.
Hard as it may be to believe, there is no question these Walker/Obama
voters exist -- after all, the same polls that have Walker ahead of
Barrett in the polls tend to also have Obama ahead of Romney, albeit by a
Walker may benefit from a belief that Recall elections should be used sparingly. As Citizen Dave Cieslewicz puts it in his post at The Progressive:
The most problematic issue for Barrett may wind up being
voters who don't like Walker's policies but just don't believe in
recalls. Those voters probably believe that recalls should be reserved
for criminal wrong-doing, and the John Doe probe of Walker's county
executive office aides might not be enough for them.
If Cieslewicz is right, much depends on how persuadable swing voters
feel about recall elections in general, a good topic to probe in future
The latest polls point to narrowing lead for Scott Walker,
indications are it will be a close election. And regardless of the
outcome, just making it a cliff-hanger would be a great victory for
Wisconsin progressives. Perhaps even more importantly, it sets a solid
organizational foundation for victory in the next progressive campaign.
In a way, the Wisconsin Recall has already won something important:
showing how an energized, progressive coalition can inspire and educate
millions of voters. As Katrina vanden Heuval puts the election in
historical perspective in her WaPo op-ed:
...When the results come in, reflect on the vast organizing
effort that brought Wisconsin to this moment -- and imagine where it
still has the potential to go. Elections are over in a matter of hours,
but movements are made of weeks, months and years. The Declaration of
Sentiments was issued at Seneca Falls in 1848, yet women did not gain
the right to vote until seven decades later. The Civil War ended with a
Union victory in 1865, yet the Voting Rights Act was not passed until a
century later. Auto workers held the historic Flint sit-down strike in
1936-37, yet the fight for a fair, unionized workforce persists 75 years
Win or lose today, coming even close sustains hope and gives Dems
leverage in the next election. That's a victory worth celebrating.
J. P. Green
, May 29, 2012 07:08 AM EST |
The Democratic Strategist
When it comes to comparing job-creation track records as elected officials, Mitt Romney gets crushed, as The Daily Beast's
Michael Tomasky explains
: "...Romney--when working in the public sector, not the private, as he obviously would be as president--had a downright
embarrassing jobs record, especially for a state with higher-than-average education levels...This, as has been often noted,
put Massachusetts at 47th in the nation, only ahead of of Michigan, Ohio, and Katrina-ravaged Louisiana...In his seminal
book Unequal Democracy, political scientist Larry Bartels measured the effect of each president's policies on the economy
since Harry Truman by giving them all one year for their policies to start to kick in...by Bartels's rules, Obama has created
a net 3.635 million jobs. Applying the same rules to Romney's numbers through the same time period--that is, through April
of his fourth year in office, 2006--we credit Romney with 64,500 jobs. So he grew jobs by 1.9 percent. Obama's job-growth
rate is 2.35 percent."
In The New Republic,
Walter Shapiro takes a skeptical look
that the opening salvo of TV ads for the presidential campaign and finds, despite "an estimated $1-billion-plus orgy spent
trying to define the Obama-Romney race" that "all too often, the ads themselves are simply mediocre...Never in political
history has so much money been spent to convince so few voters of so little. Take, as a case in point, the dreary dozen of
TV spots and web videos put out by the Obama and Romney camps in the last two weeks. These ads offer either visual wallpaper
or run-from-the-room negativism. There is not a dollop of surprise or aesthetic flair. These are headache ads transported
to politics." Ouch.
Speaking of excessive negativity in political ads, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar has a
Bloomberg Businessweek post
up comparing two "throw granny of a cliff" ads from both parties -- they literally throw granny off a cliff --, arguing
that neither one will help much.
Todd Richmond reports
that the real story in the Wisconsin recall election may come down to: "a handful of undercard recall races could transform
Wisconsin politics just as dramatically in the long run...Pockets of voters in southeastern, northwestern and central Wisconsin
will decide recall elections that could hand Democrats control of the state Senate."
Despite media pessimism about Dems' hopes in the June 5 Wisconsin Recall vote, Abby Rapoport offers an alternative strategy
in The American Prospect, where she explains "
How Walker Loses in Wisconsin
David Crary discusses
the disconnect between opinion polls showing substantial growth in approval of same-sex marriage on the one hand and continued
disapproval in the voting booth in 32 states. "It's a paradox with multiple explanations, from political geography to the
likelihood that some conflicted voters tell pollsters one thing and then vote differently."
Karl Rove writes in the Wall St. Journal about "
Romney's Roads to the White House
" and the "3-2-1" strategy that can get him there. Lotsa "ifs" here.
Rove's rationale looks like even more of a stretch in light of Donna Cassata's AP report "
Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida -- GOP highlights in 2010 now marked by bitter Senate primaries
Meg Handley reports at U.S. News on
"Homeowners in Battleground States Dogged By Underwater Mortgages
." Says Handley:"...Florida and Ohio are the only swing states that have negative equity levels above the national average...Although
nearly one in three homeowners with a mortgage is under water, fully 90 percent of them are still current on their payments,
and stresses that negative equity doesn't necessarily equate to foreclosures."
Paul Begala does a solid job of
blistering two fat cat Republican hypocrites
, Joe Ricketts and former major league star Curt Schilling, who rail against government spending, but use plenty of it in
their dubious business ventures. Re Schilling: "The state of Rhode Island has pumped $75 million of taxpayers' money into
Schilling's unsuccessful 38 Studios, and could flush millions more down Schilling's commode. Schilling, who earned $114 million
in his baseball career, loves to lecture us bleacher bums about government spending. Then Begala throws in Romney for good
measure: "...Classic crony capitalism: privatize the gain, socialize the risk. When Romney drove GST Steel into bankruptcy,
he and his partners made $12 million in profit and another $4.5 million in consulting fees. But Romney stuck the taxpayers
with a $44 million tab for the company's underfunded pensions."
After all of the shouting of campaign 2012 is done, look at two sets of stats to predict who will win the presidential election,
explains Alan I. Abramowitz in his post "
What Does President Obama's May Approval Rating Tell Us About His Reelection Chances?
" at Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball: "...The final outcome will depend on the actual performance of the economy and the
public's evaluation of the president's job performance in the months ahead. Those interested in assessing where the presidential
race stands should focus on these two indicators rather than the day-to-day events of the campaign, which tend to dominate
media coverage of the election."
>by Michael Keegan | Wed, 05/23/2012 - 10:48am |
This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
Obama supporters are seething and the RNC is dancing with delight in the aftermath of Newark Mayor Cory Booker's nonsensical comparison of ads exposing Mitt Romney's real record on job creation with racially tinged attacks on Barack Obama's former pastor.
The RNC thinks
that it caught the Dems with their pants down, inadvertently admitting
that Romney's work at Bain Capital should be off limits. But the
indisputable fact is that Romney's experience at Bain is completely fair
game -- Romney himself made that choice when he decided to present it
as his chief qualification for the presidency. In fact, it's beyond fair
game: if this election is truly about jobs and the economy, then Bain
is one of the only games in town.
Romney, attempting to shed his record as Massachusetts governor as
fast as he can, has chosen to run almost exclusively on his record as a
"job creator" at Bain. Pay no attention to the governor behind the
curtain, whose state ranked 47th of 50 states in job creation during his term! In the process, he's mixed up some of his "job creation" numbers and cherry-picked the facts he's chosen to tell the American people. Romney keeps telling us his
side of the Bain story. But are we to completely ignore the very real
stories of factories shut down and American jobs lost? Let's hear all sides of the story. Isn't that what elections are all about?
And let's also have an honest conversation about whether or not
Romney's success in making money for investors through his position at
Bain qualifies him to be president. Venture capital and private equity
have a role to play in our economy. But making money for investors
doesn't mean that you know how to make the economy work for all
Americans. As President Obama pointed out
yesterday, the goal of a private equity firm is to create wealth, not
jobs -- most often, to make as much money as possible for a few
investors. The goal of a president needs to be an economy that works for
everybody. That's a critical difference.
Both candidates agree that this election is about the fundamental
direction that our country will take for the next four years. We should
embrace this. How about this simple concept: Let's have that full debate
about all aspects of the relevant experience of both candidates and let
the voters decide.
Heather Digby Parton
| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 10:43 AM PDT |
From the time I started blogging about a decade ago I've been writing
somewhat frantically about the GOP efforts to suppress the vote. This
should not be surprising since I started writing online in the aftermath
of the most dubious election result in history: the infamous Bush v. Gore.
Vote suppression has been with us for centuries, of course. Jim Crow was built on it. Very famous and important Americans have participated in it, including former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. But according to a 2004 report by the Center for Voting Rights it wasn't until the Jesse Jackson campaign in the 1980s that the Republicans began to organize nationally:
Democratic activist Donna Brazile, a Jackson worker and
Albert Gore's campaign manager in 2000, said "There were all sorts of
groups out there doing voter registration. Some time after the '86
election, massive purging started taking place. It was a wicked practice
that took place all over the country, especially in the deep South.
Democrats retook the Senate in 1986, and [Republican] groups went on a
rampage on the premise they were cleaning up the rolls. The campaign
then was targeted toward African-Americans." As in the past, Republicans
justified the purges in the name of preventing the unregistered from
voting. But Democrats charged vote suppression.
They formed a group called the Republican National Lawyers
Association for the purpose of manipulating the voting laws in all 50
states to the benefit of the party. Of course, they said it was for the
purpose of stopping "voter fraud" but since there was and is no evidence
of voter fraud, vote suppression was the obvious intent. They learned
the ins and outs of all local and state voting rules and figured out how
to use them for their own electoral advantage. And with the help of
other conservative groups like ALEC,
they set about making it harder to register and harder to vote. They
really made their bones in the 2000 recount, when the call went out the
morning after the election for their lawyers to descend on Florida. The
rest is history. Well, it's deja vu all over again. Here's Ari Berman:
Back in 2000, 12,000 eligible voters—a number twenty-two
times larger than George W. Bush's 537 vote triumph over Al Gore—were
wrongly identified as convicted felons and purged from the voting rolls
in Florida, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. African
Americans, who favored Gore over Bush by 86 points, accounted for 11
percent of the state's electorate but 41 percent of those purged. Jeb
Bush attempted a repeat performance in 2004 to help his brother win
reelection but was forced to back off in the face of a public outcry.
Yet with another close election looming,
Florida Republicans have returned to their voter-scrubbing ways. The
latest purge comes on the heels of a trio of new voting restrictions
passed by Florida Republicans last year, disenfranchising 100,000
previously eligible ex-felons who'd been granted the right to vote under
GOP Governor Charlie Crist in 2008; shutting down non-partisan voter
registration drives; and cutting back on early voting. The measures, the
effect of which will be to depress Democratic turnout in November, are
similar to voting curbs passed by Republicans in more than a dozen
states, on the bogus pretext of combating "voter fraud" but with the
very deliberate goal of shaping the electorate to the GOP's advantage
before a single vote has been cast.
The whole story is shocking in its brazenness.
"The reality is that in jurisdictions
across the country, overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all
too common," Holder said this week.
I have long wondered why the Democrats haven't seemed to take this
seriously. It's been happening in slow motion, but it's been happening
in plain sight. It wasn't just the 2000 election, although that should
have been enough for the Democratic party to launch a full scale defense
against this sort of connivance. And it carried on throughout the
following decade in elections throughout the country. You'll recall that
even the US Attorney firing scandal was largely about their failure to flout election laws in favor of Republicans. Better late than never, the Democrats seemed to wake up this week:
Attorney General Eric Holder told members of the
Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches
on Wednesday that the right to vote was threatened across the country.
"The reality is that in jurisdictions across the country, both overt and
subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common and have not yet
been relegated to the pages of history," Holder told the audience, made
up of black church and political leaders, during a faith leaders summit
in Washington. He also reaffirmed the Justice Department's commitment to
the Voting Rights Act, and in particular, the section of the law which
prohibits certain states from making changes to their election laws
without first getting federal approval, and which has been the focus of
several recent court challenges.
And he followed through:
The Justice Department sent a letter to Florida Secretary
of State Ken Detzner Thursday evening demanding the state cease purging
its voting rolls because the process it is using has not been cleared
under the Voting Rights Act, TPM has learned. DOJ also said that
Florida's voter roll purge violated the National Voter Registration Act,
which stipulates that voter roll maintenance should have ceased 90 days
before an election, which given Florida's August 14 primary, meant May
16. Five of Florida's counties are subject to the Voting Rights Act, but
the state never sought permission from either the Justice Department or
a federal court to implement its voter roll maintenance program.
Florida officials said they were trying to remove non-citizens from the
voting rolls, but a flawed process led to several U.S. citizens being
asked to prove their citizenship status or be kicked off the rolls.
It's not that I care so much that the Democrats win. But I really
care that Americans are allowed to vote and have their votes counted and
I expect that most people care about that too. In this regard there is a
big difference between the two parties: the Republicans have organized
around suppressing the vote while the Democrats have organized around
expanding it. The problem, as usual, is that the Democrats haven't been
nearly as good at it.
Republican state governments around the country have been working
overtime to manipulate the electoral laws and shut down the Democrats'
organizing institutions, from ACORN to unions, and wealthy plutocrats have put huge money behind the effort.
With the exception of Wisconsin, the Democrats have been behaving like
potted plants in response. One would have thought the 2000 election
would have been enough to energize them to protect the franchise, but it
clearly wasn't. Let's hope it doesn't take another stolen election to
Heather Digby Parton is guest blogging while Kevin Drum is on vacation.
John Manoogian III/Flickr image
>by Jessica Pieklo |
May 31, 2012 | 11:55 pm |
Welcome to Dispatches,
your round-up of the latest news from the
frontlines of the War on Women. Have a story from
your state or an idea on how to push back? Share
them here and fight back against the War on Women.
It’s hard to think of a day in recent memory that more succinctly
sums up Republican attitudes towards “helping” women than the votes that
went down in Congress Thursday. To start there was the vote on the
deceptively-named and flagrantly offensive Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.
Republicans paraded PRENDA as a beacon of their embrace of civil
rights, their deep-concern for the well-being of unborn baby girls, and
their sincere desire to see women of color not discriminated against in
accessing health care. Seriously.
Then there is the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Despite support in the Senate, and earlier passage in the House,
Republicans blocked a vote on the bill today. Like the beleaguered
Violence Against Women Act, the only real reason there’s opposition to
the Paycheck Fairness Act is because the Republican majority in Congress
is opposed to any measure that, at its spirit, embraces the idea that
women are full and equal participants in this economy and in this
How can Republicans think any of that is a good electoral strategy when one-third of American women
believe there is a wide-scale war on women afoot?
In case the picture isn’t quite clear, Florida offers us another good
example of Republican opposition to women exercising their civil
rights. The state enacted a stringent voter id and registration law and
other “reform” measures including voter purges. Thankfully a federal judge has stepped in to put a halt to some of the state’s worst reforms as has the Department of Justice.
While we are asking questions, why aren’t women using more effective birth control?
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller. The memorials, activism and advocacy around the occasion was a fitting tribute. Keeping them going every day forward would be more so.
Military moms get photographed breastfeeding in uniform and the right goes bananas.
Rebecca Traister brilliantly explores why single women terrify some.
Good news from Boston where a unanimous First Circuit Court of Appeals
held a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Hooray! Supreme Court review is all but a given. In the meantime, lets
celebrate this moment while we can.
It’s the final weekend before the Wisconsin recall election. Let’s keep the pressure on and vote Walker out!
Thanks for checking back and don’t forget to send in your
stories, suggestions and comments. We’ll be back each
weekday with the latest in the best and the worst
from the War on Women. So long as the battle rages,
we’ll cover the latest, so please check back!
dispatches, Dispatches from the War on Women, war on women,
>by ThinkProgress War Room on May 31, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
More Corporations Abandon Right-Wing Group Under Pressure from Progressives
There’s big news on the ALEC front today: both retail giant Wal-Mart
and Medtronic, a medical device company, have decided to dump the
secretive right-wing group. It appears that ALEC’s campaign to promote controversial voter suppression and so-called Stand Your Ground laws played a role in Wal-Mart’s decision to part ways with the group:
“Previously, we expressed our concerns about
ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission
‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets,’” Maggie
Sans, Wal-Mart vice president of public affairs and government
relations, said in a May 30 letter addressed to ALEC’s national chairman
and executive director.
“We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.”
Here’s the recap of where we stand on ALEC:
54…state legislators have now dropped ALEC.
19…major corporations have dropped ALEC, including big names like Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft, Wendy’s, Mars, Inc., Kaplan, Procter & Gamble, Yum! Brands, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Intuit,
4…non-profit organizations have dropped ALEC, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It appears that ALEC may be headed toward the same fate as the notorious climate-denying Heartland Institute, which has been abandoned by many of its corporate donors after it crossed the line one too many times.
Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed
NEW DATA: Elections supervisors throughout Florida confirm U.S. citizens improperly targeted in voter purge.
Two conservative federal appeals court judges agree that DOMA is unconstitutional.
Why did an Oklahoma hospital refuse to treat a young rape victim?
Amid Florida’s ongoing voter purge, a federal judge has blocked the states’s voter suppression law.
The Romney campaign put forth an extremely bizarre conspiracy theory about the Obama administration today.
Karl Rove’s secret money group attacked President Obama in an ad over a company that once received taxpayer money from Mitt Romney.
Politico put out a hatchet job on its competitors today. It didn’t go very well.
The gender gap in wages is real — and that’s why people should tell each other how much they’re making.
Paul Krugman became an economist because he loves science fiction so much.
>by Bruce Japsen, Contributor | Pharma & Healthcare | 5/29/2012 @ 8:22AM| I write about health care and policies from the president's hometown.
Though the health care overhaul faces an uncertain fate next month
before the U.S. Supreme Court, preparations for the massive rollout of
its medical care coverage might already be leaving a legacy of improved
The health insurance industry, often at or near the bottom of a
consumer’s customer service experience when compared to other
industries, is paying more attention and spending more money on
improving how health plans interface with patients on the other end of
the telephone, a web site or, lately, though an app.
Several big-name companies, including UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Cigna (CI) and Health
Care Service Corp. are seeing gains in customer service ratings. Though
health insurance companies still rank at or near the bottom of customer
service experiences of most consumers, the Affordable Care Act may be
spurring them to get better.
Insurance companies are taking steps to build their relationship with
customers as health plans prepare to compete between each other on
exchanges where benefit packages will be offered.
Because health plans offering benefits on state-regulated exchanges
will all offer similar benefit packages, customer service is one key way
to stand out to a potential flood of new customers. Pending next
month’s Supreme Court ruling, millions of uninsured Americans are
expected to be able to gain federal subsidies to help them pay for
coverage they will buy on insurance exchanges in 2014.
“The ability to know your members is going to be more important than ever,” said Austin
Waldron, senior vice president and chief customer service officer for
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a subsidiary of the nation’s
fourth-largest health plan, Health Care Service Corp.
Health plans also know the Affordable Care Act, as well as new
measures implemented by the Medicare program for plans that sell to the
elderly, require them to be more transparent, improve their systems and
answer their health plan members’ questions more quickly and
At least one survey earlier this year documented, independently, improved customer service at several large health plans.
The Illinois Blue Cross plan, which provides health benefits to 7.3
million people in Illinois, was among the health insurance companies
that had improved scores in a Forrester Research,
Inc. (FORR) survey across 160 brands in 13 industries having
“significant change” in Forrester’s Customer Service Experience Index
from 2011 to 2012.
With an increase of 14 points to 68, Illinois Blue Cross was second
in increase to only Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which jumped 17 points
to 77 from 60. Illinois Blue Cross still has another 8 points to go to
get into the “good range” where retailers like Walgreen Co. (WAG) and
Target (TGT) score in the 80s.
Illinois Blue Cross said it has not necessarily increased spending on
customer service but focused its investments on health plan member
education and its web site interactions.
“We have to have our systems and the robustness needed for an
additional 1.5 million to 2 million members ready to go so everything is
not a 20-minute phone call,” said Waldron. “There is going to be more
UnitedHealth Group and Cigna had increases of between 5 and 9 points
to 58 for UnitedHealth and 56 for Cigna. Humana Inc. (HUM) had a score
of 59. Those scores are still considered “poor” customer experience
index scores but not far off the “OK” range, according to Forrester’s.
Insurers say they are making strides. UnitedHealth Group said the
company invests more than $2 billion annually in “technology, including
new development, to enhance how we support customers,” UnitedHealth
spokesman Daryl Richard said.
“With these investments we are able to collect, analyze, and apply
data to predict health care needs and identify areas of improvement,”
Richard said. “We process 80 billion transactions a year, including 750
million transactions through our Web portals and mobility devices;
process more than 2 million claims and more than 1 million calls per
day; and manage over 24 million personal health records. These
investments began well before health care reform and have always been
focused on making it easier for individuals and employers to access the
health care they need.”
>by KOS | Wed May 30, 2012 at 11:32 AM PDT|
The national polls may still have this race neck and neck, but down
at the state level, President Barack Obama maintains a comfortable lead.
Remember, these numbers are the polling aggregates for each state, as
compiled and calculated by Talking Points Memo. We have found the last
several cycles that the most accurate pre-election poll is the average
of all polls in any given race. We include Rasmussen's numbers which
give Republicans an unwarranted boost, so these numbers could be more pessimistic for Team Blue than they indicate. See spreadsheet below:
No new polling in the last week from Iowa
or New Hampshire
. Those tiny shifts in Florida
, New Mexico
and North Carolina
stem from old polling rolling off or being de-emphasized from the averages.
Arizona includes new numbers from PPP, which had Romney winning the state 50-43. Colorado
went back to a to decent Obama lead thanks to a poll from the liberal
Project New America which showed Obama beating Mitt Romney 48-44,
counteracting a Republican poll earlier this month showing a tied race.
Another poll earlier this month, from PPP, had Obama crushing Romney
Michigan is back to being a big Obama lead following the release of new polling by PPP, which has Obama winning the state 53-39. Ohio
continues to look suspiciously good for Obama, and NBC reinforced that
lead with a 48-42 Obama lead last week. Ohio should be neck-and-neck.
NBC also had Obama leading easily in Pennsylvania 47-41, but
that was tighter than the existing aggregate polling, thus giving Romney
a +1.4 point shift in the aggregate. Yay for him, I guess, but he's
still getting his butt kicked. Same thing in Virginia, where NBC's 48-44 Obama lead tightened the aggregate, but still left Romney a long way from 50 percent (particularly with a Washington Post poll three weeks ago showing Obama winning the state 51-44).
Finally, several recent polls in Wisconsin put Obama
back safely on top, after an apparent recall-related intensity gap gave
Romney a boost over the past several weeks. In other words, the polls
were measuring the recall electorate, which appears to be clearly more
conservative than the expected November turnout. If that intensity gap
is reversing, hence Obama's expanding lead, that may also be good news
for the recall.
Finally, look at those margins—the tightest state with an Obama lead
is still a 5.2 percent advantage for the president, while three of
Romney's states are tighter. Arizona, at 6.2 points, is still well
within reach. And if you look at the trendlines, it's all looking pretty
good for Team Blue.
How good? This map gives Obama 329 electoral votes to Romney's 209. And it's a pretty solid 329, too.
It's a much different picture than what the national tracking polls would have us believe.
>by Steve Peoples | Updated: 2:46 p.m. Thursday, May 24, 2012 | Posted: 2:45 p.m. Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Associated Press| PHILADELPHIA |
Romney struggled to find support for his education proposals while
campaigning at an inner-city school Thursday, one day after declaring
education the "civil rights issue of our era."
The visit, the
first by the likely Republican presidential nominee to such a school,
came as he begins to court a broader cross-section of the electorate he
needs to defeat President Barack Obama in November. In a speech
Wednesday, Romney proposed expanding charter schools, which are
privately run but funded by taxpayers, and creating a voucher-like
system in which poor and disabled students could attend private schools,
also using public money.
But if praise was what he was looking
for, Romney had a hard time finding any at the Universal Bluford Charter
School in West Philadelphia, a largely African-American neighborhood
facing economic, educational and social challenges. Romney wants to deny
a second term to the nation's first black president, whose photograph
hung in one of the school's hallways.
During a round-table
discussion, teachers and local education leaders rejected some of
Romney's education prescriptions, including his assertion that class
size doesn't matter. Romney also identified two-parent families as one
of three keys to educational success, along with good teachers and
presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center,
is joined by the Universal Bluford Charter School founder Kenneth
Gamble, left, and Evie Mcniff, during a round table discussion at the
school, Thursday, May 24, 2012, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
participates in a round table discussion at the Universal Bluford
Charter School, Thursday, May 24, 2012, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, takes
part in the 6th grade language arts class during a tour of the Universal
Bluford Charter School, Thursday, May 24, 2012, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
education leader Abdur-Rahim Islam pushed back, telling Romney that
two-parent families are unrealistic in the community. "We will never get
to that second part described about having a two-parent situation,
parent support, as a key component," Rahim said.
Steven Morris, a music teacher at the school, disputed Romney's assertion on class size.
can't think of any teacher in the whole time I've been teaching, over
10 years — 13 years — who would say that more students would benefit
them. And I can't think of a parent that would say 'I would like my kid
to be in a room with a lot of kids,'" Morris said. "So I'm kind of
wondering where this research comes from."
In response, Romney
cited a study by the McKinsey consulting firm, which he said examined
education systems in foreign countries and concluded that class size
wasn't a significant issue.
While he struggled to win over the
group, Romney does not necessarily expect to do well in Philadelphia, a
Democratic stronghold. Nor does the campaign expect to steal a
significant block of the African-American vote from Obama in what is
shaping up to be a close election.
Black voters, who four years
ago helped expand the electoral map in places like North Carolina and
Virginia and lifted Obama to victory in those states, remain solidly
behind him. An Associated Press-GfK poll this month found that 90
percent of blacks would vote for Obama in November and just 5 percent
would support Romney. At the same time, just 3 percent of blacks said
Romney "understands the problems of people like you" better than Obama
But coming off a divisive Republican primary that was
dominated by staunch conservatives, Romney is eager to expand his appeal
to independents and moderate voters in swing states like Pennsylvania,
where Obama defeated his Republican opponent by 10 points in 2008. The
school visit was in line with the "passionate conservative" push that
Republican George W. Bush used to soften his image and win over moderate
voters when he was elected president in 2000.
Outside the school, Philadelphia's Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter, an Obama supporter, lashed out at Romney's visit.
nice that he decided this late in his time to see what a city like
Philadelphia is about," Nutter said. "I don't know that a one-day
experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready
to run the United States of America."
Besides discussing his
policies with nearly a dozen local education leaders, Romney also
visited with children. He shook hands with a classroom of third-graders
and stood virtually motionless for several minutes, bobbing his head
ever so slightly at times, as a music class sang and danced for him.
the discussion, the school's founder, Kenneth Gamble, told Romney that
his "major concern is the future and the destiny of African American
people in this country. Because once that problem is solved, I think
that all of America will benefit from it." Romney said he agreed.
Asked afterward whether thinks Romney understands the black community, Gamble replied: "I don't know yet."
>by Judd Legum
on May 28, 2012 at 11:00 am
Wednesday, November 7, Mitt Romney could wake up as the President-elect
thanks to one man: Florida Governor Rick Scott. With little fanfare,
Scott is undertaking an audacious plan to kick thousands of Floridians
off the ballot just before this year’s elections. It’s a sloppy, chaotic
and possibly illegal plan. But it just might work. Here’s how:
1. Scott has created a massive list of Floridians to purge from the voting rolls before the election. Late
last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt
Browning, to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter
rolls.” But Browning did not have access to reliable citizenship data.
The state attempted to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing the
voting file with data from the state motor vehicle administration, but
the motor vehicle data does not contain updated citizenship information.
The process, which created a list of 182,000 people, was considered so
flawed by Browning that he refused to release the data to county
election officials. Browning resigned in February and Scott has pressed
forward with the purge, starting with about 2600 voters.
2. The list of “ineligible” voters is riddled with errors and includes hundreds of eligible U.S. citizens.
According to data obtained by ThinkProgress, in Miami-Dade county
alone, 1638 people were flagged by the state as “non-citizens.” Already,
359 people on the list have provided the county with proof of citizenship
and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county.
The remaining 1200 have simply not responded to the letter informing
them of their purported ineligibility. Similar problems have been
identified in Polk County and Broward County.
3. Scott’s list is heavily targeted at Democratic and Hispanic voters. A study by the Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted
in a state hunt to remove thousands of non-citizens from Florida’s
voting rolls.” For example, Hispanics comprise 58 percent of the list
but just 13 percent of eligible voters. Conversely, “Whites and
Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat
4. Florida election officials have acknowledged that, as a
result of Scott’s voter purge, eligible voters will be removed from the
rolls. “It will happen,”
Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of
Elections, told ThinkProgress. On or about June 9, anyone who hasn’t
responded to the ominous and legalistic letter informing them of their
purported ineligibility will be removed from the rolls. Some eligible
voters won’t have been able to respond by that time due to travel, work
obligations, family obligations or confusion as to the purpose of the
letter. Some will forget to open it. Others may have moved.
5. Florida will likely be a close contest in 2012 and purging
eligible Democratic and Hispanic voters could tip the balance to
Romney. In the latest Real Clear Politics average of polling in the state, Romney and Obama are separated by just 0.5 percent.
Hundreds of eligible voters in Democratic strongholds, wrongfully
purged from the rolls, could easily make the difference for Romney.
6. Winning Florida could clinch the election for Mitt Romney. Nationally, the race between Obama and Romney is within two points.
It’s expected to be close all the way to election day and Florida’s 29
electorial votes would be the deciding factor in many plausible
Will history repeat itself in Florida this year? By one estimate, 7000 Florida voters were wrongfully removed from the voter rolls
for the 2000 presidential election — 13 times George W. Bush’s margin
of victory in that state after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the
>by Judd Legum on May 26, 2012 at 11:00 am
to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, eligible voters will be
removed from the voting rolls as a result of the massive voter purge
ordered by Governor Rick Scott. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a
spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told
Late last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.”
Browning could not get access to reliable citizenship data. So Scott
urged election officials to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing data
from the state motor vehicle administration with the voting file.
That process produced a massive list of 182,000 names, which Browning
considered unreliable. The Fair Elections Legal Network, which is
challenging the purge, noted that database matching is “notoriously unreliable”
and “data entry errors, similar-sounding names, and changing
information can all produce false matches.” Further, some voters may
have naturalized since their driver’s license information was collected.
Browning resigned in February. But Scott has pressed forward with his
efforts to purge voters from the rolls based on the dubious list.
Here’s the letter Maureen Russo, a U.S. citizen and registered voter in Florida for the last 40 years, received two weeks ago:
In Broward County 259 people recieved letters just like the one
addressed to Maureen above, according to the Broward County Supervisor
of Elections. So far only 7 (including Maureen) have responded to the ominous and legalistic letter. Five of the responses included proof of citizenship.
If the other 252 people don’t respond within 30 of recieving the
letter — a deadline that is rapidly approaching — they will be summarily
removed from the voting roles. Cooney, the Supervisor of Elections
spokeswoman, says some of those who are purged under this “very new”
process will “be eligible” but will have to be removed from the rolls
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and other Democratic members of the Florida Congressional delegation — as well as a coalition of voter protection groups — have called on Scott to “immediately suspend” the voting purge since the lists of ineligible voters has proven extremely unreliable.