Favored Few

There are two ways of viewing the Government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776.

– Franklin Roosevelt, “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination” (1932)

This week’s featured post is “Turn the Page“. It’s my suggestion for Democratic messaging in 2018.

This week everybody was talking about the unveiling of McConnell’s secret ObamaCare repeal bill

There are several good summaries of what’s in the bill, but the two main facts you need to know are:

As the husband of a cancer survivor, I worry about pre-existing conditions. Atlantic‘s summary:

Simply put, the Senate bill will open the door to states forcing people with pre-existing conditions into segregated markets that will lead them to pay far, far higher costs than everyone else.

The bill doesn’t allow insurers to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions directly, a point you’ll hear a lot from its defenders. However, an insurance company can structure its offerings to herd healthy people into bare-bones plans that cost little, but don’t cover the kinds of things people with pre-existing conditions are likely to need, like prescription drugs. (To keep her cancer from coming back, my wife takes a drug that costs thousands per month. So far insurance has covered almost all of that.) Plans that offer more complete coverage will then appeal mainly to the very sick, and their premiums will sky-rocket accordingly.

This is the flip side of a Republican claim that sounds sensible on the surface: Rather than mandate the same coverage for everybody, their bill lets people choose the coverage that makes sense for them. As a result, though, healthy people leave the insurance pool that pays for more extensive coverage, leaving only sick people.

On the question of whether it has the votes to pass, no one is even asking the 48 Democratic senators to vote for it; Democrats were completely shut out of the drafting process and the bill is going straight to the floor with no committee hearings. So far five Republicans have said they’ll vote against it “in its current form“, which could mean their votes are available if they can get a concession or two to assuage their angry voters. Several others have expressed concerns which James Fallows interprets with some cynicism:

So far in 2017, “concerns” from GOP Sens has always meant, “I’ll make sure the bill/nominee winds up with 50 votes.” Any diff this time?

Norm Ornstein believes that McConnell designed the bill with intentional problems that various recalcitrant senators can take credit for fixing, thus justifying their “reluctant” vote.

FWIW, the betting markets are split on the repeal of various ObamaCare provisions.

I have thought all along that smart Republicans wouldn’t want the bill to pass, because then they’ll own the ensuing disaster. You can keep voters from knowing what’s in a bill before you vote on it, but once it becomes law they’re going to find out. As Ross Douthat put it:

The Obamacare replacement that the House sent to the Senate might as well have had a note scrawled across its pages: Save us from ourselves.

But neither would any individual politician want to be seen as the reason the GOP’s highest-profile promise gets broken. So the smart move is to make someone else the fall guy for killing ObamaCare repeal.

First the House Freedom Caucus was on the hook. Then they renegotiated the bill in a way that passed the buck to House Republican moderates, who caved, passing the buck to the Senate. Now Senate conservatives and moderates are maneuvering against each other. If neither blocks the bill, then the onus will fall on the House again to accept the Senate’s changes. This game of chicken will be lost either by some handful of Republican congresspeople, or by millions of Americans who won’t be able to afford the insurance they need.

Probably the best outcome for Republicans politically is for the House and Senate each to pass a bill, and then blame each other for why no bill makes it through both houses. Then their candidates can tell the voters: “I voted to keep my promise, but those jokers in the other house screwed us up.”

Medicaid: Democrats need to remember that the very poor have been successfully demonized as lazy bums looking for handouts, but the working poor — the couples struggling to raise kids on some combination of just-above-minimum-wage jobs — still have a lot of public sympathy. Those are the people Medicaid expansion has helped, and they’re the ones the Republican bill will hurt.

I don’t know if he thought it up himself, but I just saw somebody comment on Facebook: “Hail Mary, full of grace, please leave Medicaid in place.”

Meanwhile, ObamaCare itself is more popular than it has been since 2010.


and the Georgia special election

Democrat Jon Ossoff lost 52%-48%. You can make the same excuse Democrats have made in the other special election: It’s a Republican district; Tom Price won it in 2016 by over 20 points. Still, Ossoff had gotten 49% in the jungle primary, and netting that extra 1% didn’t seem like it should have been that big a lift. But it was. (BTW, his 48% Tuesday doesn’t necessarily mean that he lost support; turnout was higher. Ossoff got 124K votes Tuesday, versus 92K in the primary.)

Georgia-6 is a well-educated suburban district where Trump won by only 1%. So the Ossoff-wins theory was based on two ideas: (1) Republicans who voted for Trump reluctantly are ready to turn against him. (2) Voters who have turned against Trump are willing to take it out on the whole GOP (or possibly they’re just too dispirited to show up to vote). But that didn’t happen, at least not in sufficient numbers.

Nate Silver’s crew “plays the Democratic blame game“.

natesilver: For me, there are basically three prototypes of campaigns that Democrats will need to run in 2018: (i) anti-Trump; (ii) anti-Republican; (iii) anti-incumbent.

I think Georgia 6 ought to have been an anti-Trump campaign, given that Trump is a much bigger liability in Georgia 6 than the GOP overall is and that people are doing pretty well there economically.

For me, there’s lots of room for populist progressives to do well as anti-Republican and anti-incumbent messengers. I actually don’t think they’re ideal as anti-Trump messengers, however, which is what you needed in this district.

The New Yorker‘s John Cassidy more-or-less agrees:

In a district as red as Georgia’s Sixth, the disheartening truth is that Ossoff probably wouldn’t have done better had he run to the left. While many Republicans have some misgivings about Trump, they have even more serious misgivings about voting for a Democrat. According to that same opinion poll in the Journal-Constitution, just one in three Republican voters said that they were supporting Handel to express support for Trump. What motivated them, they said, were traditional Republican issues: taxes, government spending, and illegal immigration.

but I’ve also been thinking about the role of religion in politics

In Friday’s NYT, Daniel Williams published an op-ed that drew a lot of comment, “The Democrats’ Religion Problem“, which concludes:

Only through a willingness to ground their policy proposals in the religious values of prospective voters will they be able to convince people of faith that they are not a threat to their values but are instead an ally in a common cause.

I’m debating whether to write a more complete discussion of this next week, but I think this article drew attention because it simultaneously points to an important issue and gets it wrong.

The bigger problem, which hits Republicans in exactly the same way when they talk about science, is establishing authenticity. Voters want to know that what you’re saying is not just a talking point that you could reverse tomorrow, but is rooted in values that come from a part of your identity that has some staying power. (Fleshing out the science analogy: When I hear a politician dissemble on global warming, it makes me wonder what evidence he wouldn’t be able to rationalize his way around. Does truth actually mean anything to him?)

The point shouldn’t be that all politicians need to learn how to talk about God, even if they don’t really believe. It’s that if you can’t use the language of the old-time religion, which is the traditional way to express deep-rooted values, how are you going to communicate that depth?

In other religion-and-politics news, the Southern Baptists condemned white supremacy.

and you might also be interested to know …

The Washington Post had a big Trump-and-Russia story Friday, outlining what the Obama administration knew about Russian interference in the election and when it knew it. The general theme is that Obama could and should have done more in response, but was worried what else Putin might have up his sleeve and believed that Clinton would win anyway.

The most interesting new fact:

The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

So the plan came all the way from the top, and had Putin’s personal attention. And somehow our side knew that.

California failed to move forward on a statewide single-payer healthcare plan. Nevada’s governor vetoed a buy-into-Medicaid plan that basically would have given everyone in the state a public healthcare option. Vermont made an earlier unsuccessful attempt at single-payer.

In an economy so dominated by interstate or international corporations, I have a lot of doubt about whether single-payer can be made to work at the state level. I’m rooting for somebody to prove me wrong.

Another place where I hope to be proved wrong: I’m generally skeptical of technological solutions to environmental problems — clean coal, geo-engineering, and so forth. But a carbon-capture plant just opened in Switzerland.

That Carrier plant in Indianapolis that Trump “saved” just before he took office? They’ll be laying off 338 workers in July, and another 290 just before Christmas. And the $16 million Carrier pledged to invest in the plant? That’s paying for job-killing automation, not for new production that creates new jobs.

Important story in yesterday’s NYT about the collapse of retail in rural areas. My hometown (Quincy, Illinois) is exactly the kind of place the article is talking about: Once a manufacturing town, it remade itself as a regional center. Its new economy is largely based on the regional hospital, the area’s biggest community college, and a cluster of big chain stores that draw customers from a 30-40 mile radius. (Many of the even smaller towns within that radius have seen their retail completely dry up. It’s hard even to keep a local convenience store going.) That base then supports other commerce (like restaurants and small boutiques) that maybe you wouldn’t drive 40 miles for, but you will visit because you’re in town anyway.

That new economy isn’t collapsing yet, but you can see the strain as people get more and more stuff from Amazon and other online retailers that have no local presence. Home Depot and Old Navy may not hire as many people or pay them as well as the old factories did, but working there beats being unemployed.

Chris Mooney writes in the WaPo about the effects of climate change on the coral reefs of the Florida Keys.

Ecologists describe the 360-mile-long Florida Reef Tract as a global treasure. It is the world’s third-largest barrier reef, although much less famous than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

But less than 10 percent of the reef system is now covered with living coral. Scientists anticipate that as early as 2020, it could be in line for almost yearly bleaching events, in which heat stresses upend the metabolism of corals, in some cases killing them. The reefs experienced back-to-back major bleaching events in 2014 and 2015.

… “When I was a child in the ’60s, the water was so clear I used to think of it as being Coke bottle blue,” said Stafford, citing the colored glass some Coke bottlers used. “And the reef was so healthy, all the coral was very alive. I don’t recall even thinking about bleaching or coral death or coral diseases back then.”

Killing the reef habitat is not just a moral catastrophe, it’s an economic problem for an economy based on tourism. Fighting global warming might cost jobs in West Virginia, but not fighting it costs jobs in Florida.

Jared is back from the Middle East and it turns out that Israeli/Palestinian peace is actually a hard problem. Who knew?

Murray Energy founder Bob Murray wasn’t going to be the focus of John Oliver’s piece on coal mining, but then his lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to try to intimidate Oliver. This was the result. (The Murray segment starts around 12:45. Be sure you don’t miss the closing.) And yes, Murray is suing.

After the Knicks drafted Frank Ntilinkina Thursday, Nate Silver fantasized about them re-acquiring Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Then they could

play a lineup of Ntilinkina, Antetokounmpo, Kuzminskas, Porzingis, and Hernangomez and lead the league in Scrabble points for the foreseeable future.

and let’s close with a lesson in bad writing

The humor site McSweeney’s gives step-by-step instructions for getting from a simple, active sentence like “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” to the more obscure “Speed was involved in a jumping-related incident while a fox was brown.”

In a similar way, the article points out at the end, “A police officer shot a black person.” can turn into “The St. Louis County Police Department was involved in an officer-involved shooting after officers came under heavy gunfire.”

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Larry Benjamin  On June 26, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    “The bigger problem, which hits Republicans in exactly the same way when they talk about science, is establishing authenticity. Voters want to know that what you’re saying is not just a talking point that you could reverse tomorrow, but is rooted in values that come from a part of your identity that has some staying power.”

    So how did Trump, a man whose life exemplifies the polar opposite of everything Jesus stood for, manage to win record support among Evangelicals; higher support than even George W. Bush, an actual Evangelical, enjoyed? I’m convinced it happened during the debate when the candidates were questioned on “partial-birth abortion.” Clinton gave a reasoned, thoughtful explanation of how, in rare cases, this procedure might be necessary to save the mother’s life. Trump countered by pounding on the table and yelling “they’re ripping babies out of wombs!” I could imagine a pro-life person seeing that and thinking “finally, someone gets it.” This was enough for them to put aside their other misgivings about Trump’s behavior and character – he convinced them that he shared their passionate and absolute opposition to abortion.

    If Clinton had responded with “he just hates women and enjoys it when they die in childbirth,” that might have helped galvanize support on her side.

    • jh  On June 29, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      This is the analogy I would use::

      You get a call from your friend that she just got dumped. You know that this friend and her boyfriend have had a rocky relationship and that, frankly, both are at fault. But when you go there, you bring a bottle of wine and the mp3 “I will survive” and commiserate with the friend. You don’t say “But Shelly, maybe you shouldn’t have -insert possible cause that could be attributed to Shelly- to Bob.” You say “Bob’s a jerk. He doesn’t deserve you. You are an amazing human being. It was all Bob’s fault.”

      That’s what Trump gave his voters. He didn’t give them the hard truth. He affirmed their bullshit. He used racism, xenophobia, fear of Clinton, and all sorts of nonsense that was exactly what his audience was primed to believe because that is what is “true” in their culture. Blacks, according to Trump’s voters, are criminals and liars who do drugs and waste their taxpayers’ money.” Trump will never point out that red states are more dependent than blue states on federal aid – which is a transfer of wealth from blue states to welfare red states.

      In contrast – after 30 years of smearing Clinton, with constant Benghaaaaaaazzzzzzziiiii investigations (that have suddenly stopped, I wonder why?), and HRC’s difficulty in connecting in a way that seemed authentic to the listener – didn’t really inspire people to go out and vote. So what if she appears to be a more authentic christian than mr. two corinthians walk into a bar. The religious leaders the Trump voters believed were Trump/republican supporters. The trump voter is a follower and they are frighteningly naive about how much their trusted leadership manipulates and abuses them. That’s why they fell for child sex rings fake stories or the obvious lie that “Hillary is going to jail”. All Trump did was affirm their beliefs and mirror them back and then go “I’m great. I’m the one who will win for everybody.”

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 29, 2017 at 8:50 pm

        If the Democrats want to re-take the White House in 2020, they need to find a charismatic figure who can communicate in sound bites. One thing Trump (and Sanders) proved is that you can run for president without the need for a billion dollars to buy TV ads; you hardly need any money at all if you can dominate the news media and get as much coverage as you want for free.

        I’m afraid the Democrats are going to run another 20th century big-money campaign in 2020, and if Trump is still around, he’ll kick their ass because he will run a 21st century campaign. The lesson we should take from Joel Ossoff’s loss is that unlimited money won’t necessarily win an election. And you’re wasting your time courting “independents.” Rally the base where you can find them and keep the message short and sweet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: