It looks like Paul Ryan calling the radicals’ bluff may have been a double-bluff. Or something. Also, Hillary Clinton is suspicious of health insurance mergers…. (More)

“I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team”

Yesterday the House Freedom Caucus weighed in on Paul Ryan’s speaker bid, and the results were … mixed:

The decision to back Ryan by the House Freedom Caucus, a group of nearly 40 lawmakers that has risen in power and stature since its founding this year, came after the Ways and Means Committee chairman spent much of his day courting its support.

The group stopped short of an official endorsement, which would have required 80 percent support, but members said a “supermajority” of the caucus would back a Ryan bid for speaker. Ryan set out a series of conditions Tuesday under which he would consider seeking the speakership; the most challenging of those was unity among all of the House Republican Conference’s warring factions. The support of the Freedom Caucus was regarded as one of the huge obstacles to meeting that condition.

In a statement, Ryan said he did not view the lack of a formal endorsement as a rejection: “I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”

Maybe. Or maybe not.

“I like Paul Ryan a lot. I like Thomas Jefferson better.”

So tweeted Cristina Marcos, quoting Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), one of ten House Freedom Caucus members who publicly opposed Ryan yesterday. Mulvaney was, of course, referring to Ryan’s proposal to modify the rule for removing a speaker … which of course would be sacrilege, because Thomas Jefferson wrote that rule. But Jefferson also helped to set up the legislative committee system that conservatives want to “disrupt.” So Thomas Jefferson is sacrosanct, except when he isn’t….

House Freedom Caucus co-founder Matt Salmon (R-AZ) was even more cutting:

“It’s like interviewing a maid for a job and she says, ‘I don’t clean windows, I don’t do floors, I don’t do beds, these are the hours I’ll work.’ It’s rubbing a lot of people the wrong way,” [Salmon] told The Hill.

“The speaker has to work more than 40 hours a week”

That reflected a widespread conservative response to Ryan’s insistence on spending time with his family:

Paul Ryan inspired a lot of discussion this week when he issued a series of conditions under which he would agree to run for speaker of the House. Many concern rules of conduct for House Republicans, which conservatives don’t like. One condition, however, has led to somewhat wider debate: Mr. Ryan said he would like relief from some of the duties of the speakership so that he can spend time with his wife and their three children.
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While some, most notably John Boehner, have said Mr. Ryan would be able to be an effective speaker and a dad, others have been skeptical. The biggest issue seems to involve fundraising – will Paul Ryan have time to raise the money the party needs if he also wants to be home for dinner? “Speaker John Boehner raised $50 million,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas. “The speaker has to work more than 40 hours a week.”

ThinkProgressBryce Covert contrasts Ryan’s personal demands with his policy demands for the working poor:

But while Ryan seeks to preserve his own balance between his work and his family, he’s pushed policies that would make doing so more difficult for others, particularly poor parents.

Ryan has put forth a number of budgets and policy proposals that call for deep spending cuts. Some of those cuts take aim at an important tool for poor parents: child care subsidies. The sky-high cost of child care in the U.S. can dwarf a parent’s income, particularly a low-income parent. Child care subsidies help defray that cost, allowing a parent to find a place to leave their children while going to work and knowing that they don’t have to rely on family members or unsafe, unstable arrangements. Without them, however, poor parents can face a tough choice between continuing to work and simply staying home because the cost is too high.

At the same time, however, he’s often said that more poor people need to be in the workforce and combat what he sees as a “culture problem” where they don’t value work. He has often cited the welfare reform enacted in the 1990s as a model of success. But by imposing incredibly strict work requirements in the name of forcing more poor people to work, the changes ensured that people who rely on cash benefits, mostly poor, single mothers, have had to hunt down any kind of job to stay enrolled. That can quickly eat into their work/family balance and take them away from time they may have spent raising their children. Today, any poor mother who needs welfare but also wishes to spend time at home raising her children will find it tough to do so.

That is consistent with Ryan’s ideology, as summarized by the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund:

His vision is one of more local control, greater personal responsibility and less tolerance for mistakes on the part of Americans on the margins of the economy.
[…]
All of his ideas, though, share a common theme. He would alter the relationship that the vulnerable, the poor and the elderly have with their government in order to allow more Americans to benefit – or to suffer – from their personal choices.

In other words, wealthy people like Paul Ryan deserve all the family time they want, even if Congress currently works only 133 days per year, because freedom. But the working poor should put in 60-hour weeks and find family or friends to watch their kids, because responsibility.

Oh, and Ryan already promised the hardliners that he won’t introduce immigration reform, because “we can’t address that issue with a president we can’t trust.” In other words, expect More of the Same:

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“I’m worried that the balance of power is moving too far away from consumers”

And Hillary Clinton is very suspicious about the wave of health insurance mergers:

As if following that playbook of popular opinion, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday her “serious concerns” about the health insurance industry, where the competitive landscape is being reshaped by two giant mergers.

“As we see more consolidation in health care, among both providers and insurers, I’m worried that the balance of power is moving too far away from consumers,” Clinton said in a statement.

Yes, make sure to mention that she’s “following that playbook of popular opinion,” because representative government means voters elect leaders to ignore voters. Or something. But I digress:

Behemoths are forming on multiple fronts: A wave of consolidation is rippling through the health care system, creating bigger insurers and bigger hospital systems.

This summer, Aetna and Humana announced they would merge, and Anthem and Cigna quickly followed suit. In the insurance market, the effects of consolidation on consumers are up for some debate. Some experts point to evidence that the business deals currently being eyed, which will take the largest five insurers and reduce them to a big three, will have negative effects on consumers and drive up premiums. But there’s nuance, too. The effects of consolidation are likely to vary widely by location (Clinton in her statement expressed concern about New Hampshire, in particular). Others think that consumers will be protected in large part by regulations that limit profits by requiring insurers to spend a minimum amount on actually providing health coverage.

If you wonder who that “others think” refers to, join the club. And it looks as if Clinton wonders too:

“I am very skeptical of the claim that consumers will benefit from them because the evidence from careful studies shows that too often the companies end up pocketing profits rather than passing savings to consumers. These companies should commit to passing on savings and efficiencies to consumers as lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs,” Clinton said.

Color me skeptical too. History shows that cartels are good for the cartel owners and bad for everyone else. That’s why the anti-trust movement began.

But let’s ignore that history and try the same thing again. Because freedom. Or responsibility. Or something.

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

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Good day and good nuts