Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
A specter haunts Democratic-led Washington. It's the specter of a special election in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states, not just slipping through Democrats' fingers but in the process dooming health-care reform. But it doesn't have to -- even if things go badly in the Bay State.
In case you haven't heard, Massachusetts voters will go to the polls today to choose someone to serve the remaining three years of the late Ted Kennedy's Senate term. The Republican candidate, state Sen. Scott Brown, is running a surprisingly strong campaign, while the Democrat, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, has been lurching from one bumble to another. A spate of polls in the last week showed the race to be essentially a dead heat.
It's also striking that most conservatives, through a method that might be called the audacity of audacity, have acted as if absolutely nothing went wrong with their economic theories. They speak and act as if they had nothing to do with the large deficits they now bemoan and say we will all be saved if only we return to the very policies that should already be discredited.
Last night, the eighth season of the Fox hit 24 debuted. The show is ridiculous from top to bottom, but I'll admit it – I enjoy it. And I feel bad about it.
24 isn't just a guilty pleasure. When I plow through a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, I may not be doing my waistline any favors, but I'm not really hurting America. When I watch 24, on the other hand, I feel like I’m doing Dick Cheney's work for him.
Faced with an electorate that is generally dissatisfied yet still overwhelmingly Democratic, Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown decided to call in renowned ferret opponent and terrorism ignoramusRudy Giuliani. This could actually be quite a mistake on Brown's part.
So the White House and congressional leaders got together with union representatives, and came to an agreement on the so-called "Cadillac tax" provision of health reform, the one labor was opposing because it could tax their benefits. Some of the details, as Jonathan Cohnexplains, are as follows:
-- Exempting vision and dental benefits from the calculations of plan value
-- Raising the threshold at which the tax kicks in, from $23,000 a year for a family plan to $24,000 a year. (The threshold for individuals goes from $8,500 to $8,900.)
-- Making additional adjustments to the formula based on age and gender