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Voters and the Affordable Care Act in the 2014 Election

October 31, 2014 Comments off

Voters and the Affordable Care Act in the 2014 Election
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

As we approach the 2014 election, we are witnessing an unusual situation. Poll results suggest a low level of public interest and a low projected voter turnout in this election. Only about half (52%) of the public say they are currently paying attention to the election (CBS News–New York Times [CBS-NYT] poll, 2014). On the basis of past nonpresidential-year elections, less than half of U.S. adults are expected to vote.1 At the same time, congressional candidates are raising a number of important national issues, including what should be the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the years ahead.

Most Democratic candidates hold positions in favor of continuing the next phase of the ACA’s implementation mostly in its current form, whereas most Republican candidates have positions favoring some sort of major scaling back, repeal, or replacement of the legislation. For a number of different reasons, political forecasters see this election’s outcome as being very close. They give at least an even chance that the Republican Party will win majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The uncertain outcome of this election has importance for health care because of the polarized views held by each party’s candidates on the future of the ACA, federal health spending, and policies regarding federal health care regulation.

This article, which is based on an analysis of data from 27 public opinion polls by 14 organizations, seeks to examine the role of the ACA in the 2014 election and the potential implications for health care depending on the outcome. It examines the following six questions: How important is health care, and specifically the ACA, as an issue in the 2014 election? If a congressional candidate supports the ACA, are voters more or less likely to vote for him or her? What is the current level of voter support for the ACA? How does this support vary according to voters’ partisan affiliation? Do voters currently support a core principle of the ACA that it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage? What do voters want the next Congress to do with the ACA?

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ACA Advertising in 2014 – Insurance and Political Ads

October 31, 2014 Comments off

ACA Advertising in 2014 – Insurance and Political Ads
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, the law has been an often potent and divisive political issue, and has sparked an unprecedented amount of political and campaign advertising, particularly from candidates and groups that oppose the law. According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), no other federal program or policy has resulted in the kind of advertising the ACA has caused, namely the combination of new insurance “product” advertising and sustained political advertising across multiple election cycles.

This year, Americans saw the launch of the ACA’s insurance market reforms, the implementation of the state and federal exchanges where people can shop for coverage and access subsidies, and the expansion of Medicaid in many states. Alongside these policy changes, new stakeholders began to advertise to encourage participation in the new coverage options, including state and federal governments, non-profit groups looking to boost enrollment, and health insurance companies seeking new customers. The mid-term elections have also brought a new collection of political advertising with ACA messaging. These two distinct types of advertising have different goals and aims; some encourage people to take advantage of new options under the ACA, while others encourage people to vote a certain way. With both of these types of advertising making their way into American living rooms in 2014, this analysis describes the full spectrum of ads that the American public is being exposed to regarding health care, both in the context of health insurance coverage, and as a political issue in the mid-term elections.

Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back – Commons Library Standard Note

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back – Commons Library Standard Note
Source: House of Commons Library

In May 2013 elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, won a majority of seats in parliament despite gaining only 47% of the vote. The opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), led by Anwar Ibrahim, gained 51% of the vote but extreme variations in the size of parliamentary constituencies across Malaysia meant that it was unable to translate that into electoral victory.

The outcome represented a further erosion of the BN’s once impregnable political ascendancy in Malaysia. Prime Minister Najib had sought to win back enough urban Malays and Chinese-origin voters by invoking “One Malaysia” and introducing a cautious range of political reforms. He did just enough, although the opposition challenged the probity of the result.

With his leadership under significant threat within UMNO, the dominant Malay party within the BN, since the 2013 elections Najib has launched a campaign of harassment of the political opposition and focused anew on affirmative action for Malays. Longstanding sodomy charges have been revived against Anwar Ibrahim – he is currently appealing against a five-year jail sentence but if unsuccessful his political career could well be over – and he could soon also be charged with sedition. Many wonder if the PR will hold together if he is removed from the scene.

At the same time, Najib has sought to preserve his international reputation as a reformer, focusing primarily on economic liberalisation measures. But a closer look suggests that his reforming credentials are currently somewhat threadbare.

Hat tip: GP

CRS — Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress (September 16, 2014)

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes. The 113th Congress extended this authority through October 4, 2014. Congressional policy makers have debated the scope and details of reauthorization and continue to consider establishing an authority with longer duration. Some Members of Congress support an extension, either short- or long-term, of the existing authority. Other Members call for revision and more extensive codification of chemical facility security regulatory provisions. Questions regarding the current law’s effectiveness in reducing chemical facility risk and the sufficiency of federal chemical facility security efforts exacerbate the tension between continuing current policies and changing the statutory authority.

See also: Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress (September 15, 2014) (PDF)

CRS Legal Sidebar — Separating Power: Friction

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Separating Power: Friction (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Many have blamed partisan gridlock for the possibility that the 113th Congress will be deemed the least “productive” Congresses ever. Setting aside what constitutes productivity and how productivity should be measured, the President too has repeatedly cited congressional inaction in defending a series of unilateral executive actions that have only deepened existing divides between the two branches. Thus a situation has developed in which the President criticizes what he considers to be a “Do Nothing” Congress, while some Members of the House and Senate, in turn, condemn what they consider to be an “Imperial Presidency.” Although it admittedly can be difficult to distinguish institutional conflicts from political ones, the result, some would argue, has nevertheless been legislative stagnation.

Was it meant to be this way?

EU Council Library Think Tank Review — October 2014

October 27, 2014 Comments off

EU Council Library Think Tank Review — October 2014
Source: EU Council Library

In the ‘Special focus’ section, how appointments to top-ranking offices in the EU institutions continue to trigger reflections on the policy priorities for the next term and on the broad orientation of the European project; we collected several variations on the theme ‘federation’ and ‘States’, and attempts by think tanks to gauge the relative weight of institutions, or of political forces within them, in the post-2014 election scenario.

And as the October European Council approached, issues of economic and financial governance featured high on the agenda of EU think tanks, with publications on flexibility in fiscal rules, banking resolution, or the threat of deflation.

In the section on EU policies, readers will find material on energy, migration, industrial policy, food safety, gender equality, unemployment insurance and more. An equally rich variety of third countries is covered in the section on external relations.

Unleashing Metro Growth—What the U.K.’s City Growth Commission Can Teach the U.S.

October 27, 2014 Comments off

Unleashing Metro Growth—What the U.K.’s City Growth Commission Can Teach the U.S.
Source: Brookings Institution

As the United States suffers through the final weeks of a particularly bitter midterm election, something remarkable is happening in the United Kingdom. All three major parties in Britain have concluded that devolving power away from central government and toward metropolitan areas will improve economic growth and government performance. Tory, Lib-Dem, and Labour alike find themselves competing over who can articulate a more complete vision of devolution. It’s enough to make you believe in representative democracy again.

The Royal Society of the Arts’ City Growth Commission has released a well-timed report that explains the need for devolution in the U.K. and creates a blueprint for how to get it done. “The drumbeat of devolution has grown ever louder,” writes Jim O’Neill, chairman of the commission. “Over recent months, the importance of cities in driving growth and prosperity has been increasingly recognized, rising up the political agenda to the highest levels.”

These calls for devolution are long overdue in the U.K., which has one of the most centralized systems of public finance of any major OECD country. Cities lack nearly all of the powers that we take for granted in the United States—they cannot raise their own revenues, they cannot designate funding for specific projects, most don’t even have directly elected mayors. As it stands, taxes are paid overwhelmingly to central government—about 95 percent of all revenue in Britain, compared to about 65 percent in the United States, according to the OECD—and Whitehall then redistributes compartmentalized funding to all of Britain’s cities. This system prevents timely, tailored responses to pressing local issues and eliminates any incentive for innovative local policymaking.

That’s where the City Growth Commission comes in. It details two sets of recommendations: one proposing a specific process of devolution and outlining the specific powers to be devolved; the other detailing how central government can best set the stage for metropolitan success.

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