Expectations

Keep a light, hopeful heart. But ­expect the worst.

— Joyce Carol Oates

This week’s featured post is “Smearing Bernie, a preview“. When the right-wing media starts painting Bernie red, will the charge stick? Will it throw him off his game?

This week everybody was talking about the weather

To me, the remarkable thing about Winter Storm Jonas — other than the fact that New Hampshire was fine place to sit it out — was how far in advance it was forecast, and how closely it matched those forecasts. Days before the storm hit, I knew it was coming and that the worst of it would be just west of Baltimore. I didn’t expect 30 inches of snow at JFK Airport, but otherwise the meteorologists did pretty well.

and the Republican campaign starting to turn nasty

To be fair, if you are Hispanic or Muslim or female or gay, the Republican campaign has been nasty all along. But lately the candidates have started being nasty to each other.

Donald Trump actually used the word nasty to describe his closest rival, Ted Cruz.

He’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He’s a very –- he’s got an edge that’s not good. You can’t make deals with people like that and it’s not a good thing.

Former Republican nominee Bob Dole agreed:

I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress. Nobody likes him.

That’s an unusual thing to say about a sitting senator. The Senate has clubby aspect to it, and you can always find people in the opposing party to say (of somebody like Joe Biden or Orrin Hatch) “I disagree with him, but he’s a good guy.” In Cruz’ case, it’s a challenge to find a senator in his own party who will tell you he’s a good guy.

And Cruz’ college roommate won’t either:

Ted Cruz is a nightmare of a human being. I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality. If he agreed with me on every issue, I would hate him only one percent less.

So something odd is happening: For months, everyone has been predicting that the GOP establishment would unite against Trump. But if Cruz is the alternative, they’d rather unite against Cruz.


The NYT reform-conservative columnist Ross Douthat explains “The Way to Stop Trump“. Abstract arguments about his personality or his unfaithfulness to conservative orthodoxy or his ignorance of important issues don’t seem to shake Trump’s supporters. But Trump’s business success has left a trail of victims, many of whom are the white working-class “regular guys” Trump appeals to. Put them on camera, Douthat advises, and get people to empathize with them. Joe Sixpack types who cheer when Trump is nasty to Hispanics and Muslims might have second thoughts if they saw him being nasty to people like them. (Who’s the loser now, chump?)

Tell people that he isn’t the incredible self-made genius that he plays on TV. Tell them about all the money he inherited from his daddy. Tell them about the bailouts that saved him from ruin. Tell them about all his cratered companies. Then find people who suffered from those fiascos — workers laid off following his bankruptcies, homeowners who bought through Trump Mortgage, people who ponied up for sham degrees from Trump University.

But Douthat doesn’t seem to realize that there’s a reason Trump’s Republican rivals have been reluctant to go there: Empathy is a liberal emotion. Conservatives see empathy as weakness. (President Obama was ridiculed when he cited empathy as a reason for nominating Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. “President Obama clearly believes that you measure up to his empathy standard,” Senator Grassley said during her confirmation hearing. “That worries me.”)

Conversely, Republicans glorify strong leaders who can “make the tough decisions”. Those decisions are “tough”, not because they require personal risk or sacrifice, but because they require heartlessness: who to fire, whose benefits to cut, who to torture, how many innocent-bystander deaths are acceptable collateral damage, and so on.

One prior assumption of the Fox News Fantasy World is that conservative policies have no victims; anyone who gets hurt had it coming. So it enrages conservatives when you puncture their denial by finding actual victims and putting them on camera: the Sandy Hook parents, refugee kids, families thrown off food stamps, moms of dead soldiers, and so on. They think that’s cheating. Ann Coulter once famously denounced the widows of 9-11 first-responders (“I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.”) when they criticized the Bush administration. She saw “using their grief to make a political point” as a low blow.

So while I agree with Douthat that his strategy would work, I wonder if Trump’s Republican rivals are willing to break the empathy taboo. Democrats will, though, and that’s one reason Trump is a less formidable general-election candidate than current polls indicate.


Carly Fiorina has no chance of winning the nomination or being president, so I’m not going to cover her in any detail. But her talk in Hudson, NH Saturday morning was only a few minutes down the road, so I went. Maybe 125 people showed up, filling the local American Legion hall. The audience was polite and welcoming, but subdued.

I’m always interested to observe how a female candidate navigates the narrow passage between the Weak Little Girl and Cold Heartless Bitch stereotypes. (There’s no similar dilemma for men, which is one reason male candidates it easier.) In the debates, Fiorina has tried a little too hard to look like a strong leader and ended up sounding strident to me, so I wondered if she’d seem warmer in person. She does.

Unsurprisingly, her talk assumed the Fox News Fantasy World: ObamaCare is failing, our military has been gutted, capital-G Government is strangling the economy, the world doesn’t respect us any more, Christians are persecuted, government spending can be slashed without hurting anybody, Hillary doesn’t care about the four Americans who died at Benghazi, climate change is not worth bringing up, and so on.

Here’s what I found interesting: Carly is running primarily against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (No other candidates were named.) She yoked them together as the two sides of “crony capitalism”: Politicians like Clinton sell favors and businessmen like Trump buy them.


Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement had that unique Palin touch of incoherence, the kind that left Larry Wilmore asking, “Was she drunk?” (I don’t think so, but I understand why he wonders.) I believe Sarah envies rappers, so she comes out with stuff like this:

We are mad
and we’ve been had.
They need to get used to it.
We’re not gonna chill
In fact, it’s time to drill, baby, drill
down and hold these folks accountable.
And we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect
new, independent, a candidate who represents that
and represents America first — finally.

Pro-constitution.
Common sense solutions
that he brings to the table.
Yes, the status quo
has got to go.
Otherwise we’re just going to get more of the same.
And with their failed agenda
it can’t be salvaged
it must be savaged.
And Donald Trump is the right one to do that.

Where is William Shatner when you need him? Or Vanilla Ice? Huffington Post’s comedy editor published the notes for Sarah’s speech. And Tina Fey brought back her Palin immitation.

and the Democratic race more contentious

The main topic of discussion this week was Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare plan, which the Clinton campaign presented as a threat to every healthcare advance since Medicare. Chelsea Clinton was the most explicit:

Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance. … I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era — before we had the Affordable Care Act — that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.

Hillary herself said that Sanders would

take Medicare and Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act health-care insurance and private employer health insurance and he would take that all together and send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors.

FactCheck.org and Politifact objected. Here’s Politifact’s judgment:

Under Sanders’ plan, Americans would lose their current health insurance. However, his proposal would replace their health insurance and cover the currently uninsured. The program would auto-enroll every citizen and legal resident, all of whom would be entitled to benefits. While the plan would give governors authority to administer health insurance within their states, it includes provisions to allow federal authorities to take over if the governors refuse to implement it.

It’s impossible to predict with certainty how Sanders’ plan would play out in real life. But Clinton’s statement makes it sound like Sanders’ plan would leave many people uninsured, which is antithetical to the goal of Sanders’ proposal: universal healthcare.

But while the Clinton campaign’s charges are indeed misleading and raise too much fear, they do point to some genuine issues:

  • Allowing the states to implement single-payer gives Republican governors too much room to monkey-wrench the program, as we’ve seen them do with ObamaCare. It’s hard to estimate how much damage a Scott Walker or Sam Brownback could do while still implementing enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over.
  • Sanders’ plan still lacks important details. Ezra Klein explored this in “Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all“, in which he described the proposal as “vague and unrealistic”.
  • Politically, it’s hard to imagine how the Sanders proposal could survive the FUD campaign the health insurance companies would undoubtedly launch. The central idea — that the government is going to take away something that may be working well for you (your healthcare coverage, whether it’s private or government-sponsored) and replace it with something better — requires maintaining an unlikely level of public trust in the face of a money-is-no-object opposition campaign.

That last point deserves some elaboration: ObamaCare squeaked through Congress largely because Obama promised: “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it.” And even though that promise was kept for the vast majority (I know I kept my plan and my doctor), he paid a large political price for the cases where things turned out differently. Any new proposal that would force everyone to learn a new system and says “Trust me, it will be better” is going to run into trouble.

Making healthcare a human right is a core Democratic principle and should continue to be. But I don’t think we can get there by asking the American people to take a leap of faith-in-government. More likely, progress will be like walking a heavy bookcase across a room: Lift one side and pivot, then rock to the other side and pivot again, always letting the floor bear most of the weight. At each major step towards universal healthcare, the majority should be able to keep what they have while a minority changes; through a series of such steps — each fulfilling the promise that the changing minority betters its lot — we can walk the public over to single payer. I wish we were strong enough to lift the bookcase and carry it to its best location, but we’re not, and I can’t imagine that we will be in my lifetime.

With that in mind, I’d like to see Democrats push to restore the public option that was taken out of ObamaCare, maybe by allowing people of any age to buy into Medicare. Over time, the greater efficiency of the public option might drive private plans out of the market, leaving us with the single-payer system Sanders (and most Democrats) ultimately want. (This is essentially the case Paul Krugman made last Monday.)


Polls were all over the map, and either side could find one to say it was winning. Nate Silver’s model currently gives Clinton an 82% chance of winning Iowa and Sanders a 61% chance of winning New Hampshire. Nationally, the RCP national polling average has Clinton 51%, Sanders 38%.

and the Oregon occupation

They’re still there, and if the federal government has any plans, it isn’t sharing them. Oregon Public Broadcasting continues to be the best place to follow the story.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown seems to be losing patience with the FBI’s inaction. She describes the situation as “intolerable” and says “This spectacle of lawlessness must end.” We’re also starting to hear from the real victims: the federal employees who can’t do their jobs and may feel physically in danger. Also, the people who use the wildlife refuge for its intended purposes, like Oregon resident (and novelist) Ursula Le Guin.

The militia folks have started a “common law grand jury” to decide whether to indict local government officials for “multiple constitutional crimes”. As with everything else they do, they’re taking themselves incredibly seriously, warning reporters that it’s a “felony” to pry into the grand jury’s deliberative process.

OPB also offers a psychological analysis of the possible fault lines between the various leaders of the occupation.

My pure speculation about the federal strategy is that when they finally move, they want the public reaction to be “What took you so long?” Meanwhile, the occupiers keep posting evidence of their crimes online, making a prosecutor’s job pretty easy.

and you might also be interested in

This week’s guns-make-us-safer story comes from The Seattle Times: Thursday night, a man got drunk and took his (legal) concealed weapon to a showing of the Benghazi movie 13 Hours. He fumbled with it and it fired accidentally, wounding a woman he didn’t know. But of course, think of all the terrorists who were prevented from attacking the theater that night, for fear of meeting such a formidable patriot.

A second story comes from Mississippi, where on Saturday the wife of the owner of a gun store got into an argument (over a $25 fee) with a customer picking up a repaired gun. One thing led to another, and then led to a shootout. The owner and his son are dead. The customer and his son were taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.


Here’s a local view of the Flint water crisis.


The scientists at NOAA and NASA make it official: 2015 broke 2014’s record as the hottest year on record. By a lot.


The LA Times talks to some white Republicans in an Iowa diner: They think immigration’s a problem, but they don’t want to round up and deport the local Hispanic immigrants, even if they’re here illegally.

That rings with my memories of growing up in the rural Midwest: Folks are more extreme when they talk about abstractions than when they talk about people. There’s how you feel about “homosexuality”, and then there’s how you feel about your lesbian niece. I’m not surprised something similar happens with immigrants.


Here’s an insightful video about race, and the difference between being non-racist (easy) and anti-racist (hard).

and let’s close with something cool

The Swincar E-Spider, a different kind of all-terrain vehicle.

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Comments

  • Lee Thomson  On January 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Another for the Guns Make Us Safer Department, and reinforcing the idea that we might need a wall around North Carolina:

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/man-charged-shooting-death-good-samaritan-due-court/story?id=36501282

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 25, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Doug, I like your blog and appreciate the time you devote to providing a survey of current issues adding your own analysis. You are clearly an intelligent and contemplative individual. So I am disheartened by your take today on the single-payer health insurance issue, which I think consists of an ill-informed very superficial analysis cross-referencing pseudo-analyses by others. And a public option has less chance of working than a single-payer system. Paul Krugman is a Clintonite, you know, so he’s no more objective than any partisan and it’s no surprise he doesn’t express favor for a single-payer plan. Also, I notice that you and the VOXers and others are holding Bernie Sanders to a standard of policy detail that other candidates for President, past and present, are not held to. I can explain all this in more detail, but I don’t want to write a book length blog comment.

  • dianejyoung  On January 26, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Am I misperceiving that you use first names when referring to women (Sarah, Carly) and last names when referring to men?

    • weeklysift  On January 28, 2016 at 7:47 am

      I think it is a misperception. That may have happened in this post, but in general not. (In the day’s other post, Bernie Sanders was often just “Bernie”, and I referred to President Clinton as “Bill”.) In general, I tend to use first names when I’m speaking informally about people whose public images make us feel we know them personally, even when we don’t.

      I used “Carly” because I was in a small room with her, I was making the point that she comes off as warmer in that setting, and so I wanted to write in a more personal way. In general, I’m inconsistent about politicians. Bush is often “Jeb” in the Sift, but I can’t bring myself to refer to Trump as “Donald” or Rubio as “Marco”. Not sure why.

      Sometimes I use first names as a sign of affection. I often refer to the MSNBC hosts I like best as Chris (Hayes) and Rachel (Maddow).

  • Andrew Robinson  On January 27, 2016 at 12:31 am

    On Sanders’ health care plan, you missed Paul Krugman’s argument that the ACA was too hard fought to risk losing by starting the fight from scratch with a single payer plan. Leave the ACA until Sanders’ other priorities are implemented.

    • weeklysift  On January 28, 2016 at 7:52 am

      I left that out on purpose, because I’m not sure I buy that argument. (If Congress turns a single-payer bill into a repeal-ObamaCare bill, President Sanders could veto it.)

      I am worried about a similar scenario, though: A push for single-payer gets demonized to the point that we have another conservative sweep in the off-year elections, leading to a large congressional majority against any form of government health care, supported by public opinion.

      That’s kind of what happened in 1994, the election that made Newt Gingrich speaker. It wasn’t just that HillaryCare didn’t pass, but the campaign against it led right in to the 1994 elections.

  • Andrew Robinson  On January 27, 2016 at 12:37 am

    On gun rights, the argument I hear from advocates is not that the guy who shot the woman in the theater scares off terrorists. Rather, they argue that millions of law abiding gun owners who didn’t shoot a woman they didn’t know in at a movie that night. That is the argument that has to be overcome.

    • Andrew Robinson  On January 27, 2016 at 12:43 am

      Wish I could edit my comments: “Rather, they argue that millions of law abiding gun owners didn’t shoot a woman they didn’t know at a movie that night.”

    • weeklysift  On January 28, 2016 at 7:56 am

      I like the analogy Ta-Nehisi Coates made in a different context: “It will not do to note that 99 percent of the time the police mediate conflicts without killing people anymore than it will do for a restaurant to note that 99 percent of the time rats don’t run through the dining room.”

  • Guest  On January 29, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    “Empathy is a liberal emotion”

    Maybe that’s a way to explain Sanders to the more conservative/establishment Democrats. On most issues, especially the big ones, environment, wars, financial systems, racial justice, etc, Bernie is the most empathetic candidate. Not to say he has a monopoly on it this election cycle, but he has been leading from a position of empathy his entire career, no one else in field in either party comes particularly close, Clinton included. The obvious issue outlier is guns I suppose.

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    “But while the Clinton campaign’s charges are indeed misleading and raise too much fear, they do point to some genuine issues:”

    No, these aren’t genuine issues, as follows:

    “Allowing the states to implement single-payer gives Republican governors too much room to monkey-wrench the program,”

    No, Senator Sanders’ campaign has already addressed this – “Bernie’s plan would create a federally administered single-payer health care program.” Period. No state administration.
    https://berniesanders.com/issues/medicare-for-all/

    “…as we’ve seen them do with ObamaCare. It’s hard to estimate how much damage a Scott Walker or Sam Brownback could do while still implementing enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over.”

    The ACA was poorly drafted, allowing states to decline Federal funds to expand Medicaid (an important component of the ACA), a state choice upheld by the Supreme Court. With Sanders’ single payer plan as originally drafted, the states would either implement and administer it undiluted or the federal government would implement and administer the plan. There is no partial implementation of “enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over”. Moreover, the current proposal now provides for federal administration only, no state administration.
    http://mic.com/articles/132430/the-big-problem-with-clinton-s-attack-on-bernie-sanders-single-payer-health-care-plan#.FhkqmHcdk
    https://berniesanders.com/issues/medicare-for-all/

    “Sanders’ plan still lacks important details.”

    Really now, to be fair, no more so than any candidate’s plans in any campaigns that any of us can remember, including 2008 – “The health care plans announced by the Clinton and (especially) Obama campaigns had come under fire for being short on specifics and vague about key issues.”
    In a democracy, details get hammered out through debate and negotiating in the legislative process. For crying out loud, we’re not electing der Führer. Campaigns are aspirational (Even if most candidates’ aspirations are set low, such as those of establishment candidates favoring so-called incremental changes, if any, to the status quo, “incremental changes” being equivalent to “those changes that establishment elites will allow”). The critique that Sanders’ plan lacks enough detail is typically made by those who prefer the status quo and prefer a candidate they feel confident won’t ever make an effort to upset the status quo, except by establishment approved “increments”, the people’s preferences be damned.
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/vox-bernie-sanders-single-payer-ezra-klein-matt-yglesias/
    http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/229959-majority-still-support-single-payer-option-poll-finds
    http://pnhp.org/blog/2009/12/09/two-thirds-support-3/

    “Ezra Klein explored this in “Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all“, in which he described the proposal as “vague and unrealistic”.”

    Ezra Klein (Boss suit, $1,245; Marni shirt, $360; Tie, $160) writes for approval and recognition by the “serious people” in the centers of government and media power, probably including the Paul Krugman anointed “serious progressive policy experts”, so the hit piece you cited isn’t so much an exploration as it is a disingenuous, hypocritical emission of word flatulence flowing with the prevailing winds of the current power establishment that is ready to crown only a serious, pragmatic, incrementalist candidate. Klein wrote more positively about single-payer health insurance systems in 2007.
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/05/30/t-magazine/02-twentysomething.html?_r=0
    https://theintercept.com/2016/01/28/paul-krugman-unironically-anoints-himself-arbiter-of-seriousness-only-clinton-supporters-eligible/
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/vox-bernie-sanders-single-payer-ezra-klein-matt-yglesias/

    “Politically, it’s hard to imagine how the Sanders proposal could survive the FUD campaign the health insurance companies would undoubtedly launch. The central idea — that the government is going to take away something that may be working well for you (your healthcare coverage, whether it’s private or government-sponsored) and replace it with something better — requires maintaining an unlikely level of public trust in the face of a money-is-no-object opposition campaign.”

    Failure of imagination strikes me as a weak argument, especially since, ironically, you’re conducting a mini-FUD campaign when you make the above argument. How do you fight any FUD campaign? By educating people about the issue – “The more they know about single-payer, the more they like it.” Americans with government health plans are the most satisfied.
    Why does the entire country have to forever be held hostage to what the health insurance companies want?
    http://pnhp.org/blog/2009/12/09/two-thirds-support-3/
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/186527/americans-government-health-plans-satisfied.aspx

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 29, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    “But while the Clinton campaign’s charges are indeed misleading and raise too much fear, they do point to some genuine issues:”

    No, these aren’t genuine issues, as follows:

    “Allowing the states to implement single-payer gives Republican governors too much room to monkey-wrench the program,”

    No, Senator Sanders’ campaign has already addressed this – “Bernie’s plan would create a federally administered single-payer health care program.” Period. No state administration.
    https://berniesanders.com/issues/medicare-for-all/

    “…as we’ve seen them do with ObamaCare. It’s hard to estimate how much damage a Scott Walker or Sam Brownback could do while still implementing enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over.”

    The ACA was poorly drafted, allowing states to decline Federal funds to expand Medicaid (an important component of the ACA), a state choice upheld by the Supreme Court. With Sanders’ single payer plan as originally drafted, the states would either implement and administer it undiluted or the federal government will implement and administer the plan. There is no partial implementation of “enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over”. Moreover, the current proposal now provides for federal administration only, no state administration.
    http://mic.com/articles/132430/the-big-problem-with-clinton-s-attack-on-bernie-sanders-single-payer-health-care-plan#.FhkqmHcdk
    https://berniesanders.com/issues/medicare-for-all/

    • weeklysift  On January 30, 2016 at 7:25 am

      Actually, the Supreme Court gave states permission to decline to expand Medicaid, and had to stretch prior interpretations of the law to do so.

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 29, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    But while the Clinton campaign’s charges are indeed misleading and raise too much fear, they do point to some genuine issues:

    No, these aren’t genuine issues, as follows:

    “Allowing the states to implement single-payer gives Republican governors too much room to monkey-wrench the program,”

    No, Senator Sanders’ campaign has already addressed this – “Bernie’s plan would create a federally administered single-payer health care program.” Period. No state administration.

    “…as we’ve seen them do with ObamaCare. It’s hard to estimate how much damage a Scott Walker or Sam Brownback could do while still implementing enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over.”

    The ACA was poorly drafted, allowing states to decline Federal funds to expand Medicaid (an important component of the ACA), a state choice upheld by the Supreme Court. With Sanders’ single payer plan as originally drafted, the states would either implement and administer it undiluted or the federal government would implement and administer the plan. There is no partial implementation of “enough of the program to keep the feds from taking over”. Moreover, the current proposal now provides for federal administration only, no state administration.

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    “Sanders’ plan still lacks important details.”

    Really now, to be fair, no more so than any candidate’s plans in any campaigns that any of us can remember, including 2008 – “The health care plans announced by the Clinton and (especially) Obama campaigns had come under fire for being short on specifics and vague about key issues.” (I have cites but comments won’t allow me to post them)

    In a democracy, details get hammered out through debate and negotiating in the legislative process. For crying out loud, we’re not electing der Führer. Campaigns are aspirational (Even if most candidates’ aspirations are set low, such as those of establishment candidates favoring so-called incremental changes, if any, to the status quo, “incremental changes” being equivalent to “those changes that establishment elites will allow”).

    The better questions are:

    Do I agree with this or that candidate’s aspirational goals? and

    How likely is this or that candidate to actually push for implementation of his/her campaign plans and policies to achieve those goals on behalf of the citizenry rather than capitulate to elitist power blocs once elected? and

    As a responsible, engaged citizen, which plans and policies am I willing to advocate for and fight to be implemented after the election?

    Demands for precise details in the campaign phase and speculation about what’s “doable” is mostly an amusing hobby of sideline spectator citizens who seem to think democracy merely means casting votes every couple years in election spectacles to choose the “doers”, and in the meantime prefer to merely pontificate and not themselves actually do anything or fight for what they believe in, for the changes they would like to happen. The critique that Sanders’ plan lacks enough detail is typically made by those who prefer the status quo and prefer a candidate they feel confident won’t ever make an effort to upset the status quo, except by establishment approved “increments”, the people’s preferences be damned.

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 29, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    “Ezra Klein explored this in “Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all“, in which he described the proposal as “vague and unrealistic”.”

    Ezra Klein (Boss suit, $1,245; Marni shirt, $360; Tie, $160 – see NYT article) writes for approval and recognition by the “serious people” in the centers of government and media power, probably including the Paul Krugman anointed “serious progressive policy experts”, so the hit piece you cited isn’t so much an exploration as it is a disingenuous, hypocritical emission of word flatulence flowing with the prevailing winds of the current power establishment that is ready to crown only a serious, pragmatic, incrementalist candidate.

    Klein wrote more positively about single-payer health insurance systems in 2007.
    (I can provide cites, but not allowed in Comments – Klein’s hit piece is fully dissected in Seth Ackerman’s January 25, 2016 article “Meet the New Harry and Louise” in Jacobin Magazine)

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 29, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    “Politically, it’s hard to imagine how the Sanders proposal could survive the FUD campaign the health insurance companies would undoubtedly launch. The central idea — that the government is going to take away something that may be working well for you (your healthcare coverage, whether it’s private or government-sponsored) and replace it with something better — requires maintaining an unlikely level of public trust in the face of a money-is-no-object opposition campaign.”

    Failure of imagination strikes me as a weak argument, especially since, ironically, you’re conducting a mini-FUD campaign when you make the above argument. How do you fight any FUD campaign? By educating people about the issue –
    “The more they know about single-payer, the more they like it.”
    [Two-thirds of Americans support Medicare-for-all (#3 of 6), Posted by Andy Coates, MD on Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009, at Physicians for a National Health Program]
    Americans with government health plans are the most satisfied.
    [“Americans With Government Health Plans Most Satisfied” by Rebecca Riffkin, November 16, 2015, Gallup Poll]

    Why does the entire country have to forever be held hostage to what the health insurance companies want?

    Back in the late 18th century, politically, it was likely hard for some to imagine that the colonies would ever gain independence from the British Empire, in the 19th century an end to slavery, in the 19th and early 20th century, women’s suffrage. Frankly, I find it easy to imagine that achieving a single-payer insurance system should be easier. Why have we as citizens become so timid and compliant?

  • Kevin Ketchum  On January 30, 2016 at 12:13 am

    “More likely, progress will be like walking a heavy bookcase across a room: …”

    Doug, I think your analogy strained itself moving the heavy bookcase.

    “With that in mind, I’d like to see Democrats push to restore the public option that was taken out of ObamaCare, maybe by allowing people of any age to buy into Medicare. Over time, the greater efficiency of the public option might drive private plans out of the market, leaving us with the single-payer system Sanders (and most Democrats) ultimately want.”

    Actually, people who have seriously considered the public option have concluded that just the opposite would happen. The efficiencies of a single-payer system don’t translate to a public option in a private/public hybrid scenario. So long as private health insurance behemoths remain part of our healthcare system, a public option would be squeezed to death by the behemoths. President Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s capitulation by removing a public option from the health insurance reform debate merely saved the private health insurance companies the trouble of having to expend any effort to kill any public option that may have otherwise passed as part of the ACA. Moreover, a public option has been tried in seven states and failed.

    See ‘Public Option’ Pales Next to Single Payer By Nicholas Skala, published June 16, 2009 by CommonDreams (remarks delivered to a closed-door meeting the Congressional Progressive Caucus on June 4, 2009) and

    Single Payer vs. Public Option by Russell Mokhiber published June 14, 2009, with Blowing Our Chance for Real Health Care Reform by Dave Lindorff published June 16, 2009 at The Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center website, and

    Transcript of interview of Dr. Sidney Wolfe by Bill Moyers on May 22, 2009.

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