Ken Dilanian at Talking Points Memo summarizes the USA FREEDOM Act, which passed on Tuesday after several sections of the PATRIOT Act expired late Sunday night. Does the USA FREEDOM Act represent a step forward for us in reclaiming the rights the PATRIOT Act took away? Yes. Was it a bill worth supporting? No. And if we had supported it, saying this is the best we can do -- which we did do, as late as November, with better versions of the USA FREEDOM Act -- then something worse would have passed, something that would have pleased Great and Bounteous All-Seeing and All-Knowing Real American President Mitch McConnell. We'll be talking about this matter again.
The New York Times finds that nearly three in five Americans (including one in three Republicans) think we need to take urgent government action to address the growing gap between rich and poor. The Times also finds that, contra Pew's rather optimistic assessment, more than half of Americans oppose "fast-tracking" "free" trade deals and that almost two of three Americans want "some form of trade restrictions." Left out in the article (which does link to the survey) is the news that nearly three of four Americans think corporations have "too much power."
Ho hum, CNN reports that some health insurance corporations are contemplating massive premium hikes for their policies on the federal exchange, and they're calling that "Obamacare sticker shock." We don't learn until paragraph 9 that most corporations won't get the rate hikes they seek, since state insurance commissioners can simply deny such hikes in 36 states; they could have put that information earlier, but then "Obamacare sticker shock" might have seemed like drama or something. (Click through, if you dare, to the article entitled "You'll Pay a Lot More to See the Doctor with Obamacare," which begs the question, "more than when folks were routinely taking their kids to the ER for the sniffles because they didn't have any insurance?" I mean, yes, a single-payer health care system would be a lot better, but Affordable Care Act hysteria is quite offensive.)
Hillary Clinton calls for at least 20 days of early voting in every state. The proposal is classic Clinton: it sounds bold, it would do some good, it would earn a lot of popular support, but it wouldn't solve the really big problems folks have when they try to vote, problems that begin and end with the malice of politicians who don't want the "wrong kind of people" to vote.
Pennsylvania state judge rules that McDonald's franchises therein can't pay their employees in prepaid bank cards, and Chase decides to refund said employees any fees they might have incurred by using the cards. The defendants plan to appeal, and might well find a judge willing to accept their argument that prepaid bank cards, which incur fees at the whim of the bank that issues them, are somehow exactly the same as cash, check, or direct deposit, but the current ruling and Chase's reaction are both causes for celebration.
Finally, Ted Cruz claims that John F. Kennedy would be a Republican today because he proposed a massive tax cut and Republicans are the party of tax cuts. You may recall that President Kennedy proposed cutting the top tax rate from 91% to 70% (which Congress didn't accomplish until after he died); the current top tax rate, that same tax rate which elicits so many don't-tread-on-me tantrums from the right, is 39.6%. For such a bright fellow, Ted Cruz sure sounds stupid sometimes.