Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jesus, Chuck Grassley [R-IA], etc.

As always, this bit of straight dope re: healthcare is pilfered from E. Klein, this time from a piece entitled "Why We Can't Have Bipartisanship in Two Easy Quotes..."

Quote one:

As recently as a month ago, Chuck Grassley ... announced that the way to get universal coverage is "through an individual mandate." He told Nightly Business report, "That's individual responsibility, and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility." Earlier this year, Grassley told Fox News that there wasn't "anything wrong" with mandates, even if some may view them "as an infringement upon individual freedom."

Quote two:

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Finance Committee's senior Republican, said the mandate is among the reasons that he couldn't support the bill despite months of negotiations with Mr. Baucus. "Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not," he said.

Jeebus effing cripes, cats. We enabled this Iowan-ese craphouse!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rocks Off! Chasepack GOP PACs

Do I have reason to believe I might get a chance to dig Eric Cantor [R-VA] vibes in a few early primary debates circa 2012? Might I glom some Huckabee-on-Santorum values-athons?

from Marc Ambinder
Here's a list of other possible 2012 hopefuls, their PACs, listed by the amount of money raised + given so far this year. (Bobby Jindal is not included in the list; I couldn't get an official answer on whether he has a PAC, but signs of one are non-existent, and a Louisiana political operative I talked to hadn't heard of one.)

Mitt Romney, Free and Strong America PAC:
$2,318,789 raised, $1,845,423 given

Eric Cantor:
$1,004,593 raised, $983,451 given

Rick Santorum, America's Foundation:
$494,547 raised, $556,905 given

Sarah Palin, SarahPAC:
$732,867 raised, $276,200 given

Mike Huckabee, Huck PAC:
$304,673 raised, $336,589 given

Mike Pence, Pen PAC:
$115,588 raised, $111,593 given

Haley Barbour
, Haley's PAC:
$14,050 raised, $14,560 given

Ron Paul, Liberty PAC:
$1,221 raised, $24,871 given

Join Me In Throwing Up, Just a Little, Into the Back of My Mouth

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dean Baker Should Pay Rent in my Skull

These thoughts are as intimately built into my daily to-and-fro-ing as the records, medicine ball and vertical blinds pictured above:
The size and energy at the anti-health care reform protests last weekend were impressive. While some of the leaders are clearly racist nutballs who can’t accept that an African American is in the White House, many of the tens of thousands who showed up in Washington and elsewhere came out in response to their perception of a government that does not respond to ordinary people.

They have a basis for this complaint. It is hardly a secret that President Obama cut deals with the health insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and other powerful interest groups. This may have been necessary for him to get a health package through Congress, but it’s hard to blame people for being suspicious.

Many of the protestors were not against the government playing a role in health care. In fact, one of the mostly widely expressed concerns was that the President Obama’s health care plan would worsen the quality of Medicare.

Supporters of reform believe that this reform will be a step forward in providing quality health care for everyone, but how confident can anyone be in this view? If there is no public insurance option, as is likely to be the case, how confident can we be that regulators will prevent the sort of abuses that are currently widespread in the insurance industry?


What do we get if the federal government requires people to buy insurance, which quite possibly would be bad insurance, and provides subsidies to do so? By definition this would mean more people have insurance, but it doesn’t mean that people will have good health care. And, in the process, we will have made the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the hospital industry considerably more profitable.

This is an example of what was known in last fall’s presidential campaign as “spreading the wealth around,” but as is generally the case in this country, the direction of redistribution is upward. The government would be taxing ordinary people and/or requiring them to make direct payments to insurers, in order to enrich major corporations and their top executives. Certainly the townhallers have every right to be upset about being forced to give their money to the multi-millionaires running United Health, Cigna, and the rest.


It is clear that most of the health care reform protestors don’t have a clear conception of the policy issues. But they do have a real basis for concern that they are about to be ripped off for the benefit of the rich and powerful. It would be nice if those of us who support reform could honestly assure them that this is not the case.
Maybe this call for Dems to "honestly assure" us about upward redistribution is my version of wanting the movement for reform to "keep it simple"? I dunno, but this is the article of the week, so far.

"Is [Obama] On the Wrong Channel?"

Consider this a video supplement to my question from yesterday. I actually find the "sweat equity" argument about the "full Ginsberg" strategy to be pretty compelling in a parlor-room sense. Also, I appreciate Chris Matthews' particularly crabby attitude, here.

Not That You'd Notice From Democrats' Rhetoric, but...

Poverty Rose, Median Income Declined, and Job-Based Health Insurance Continued to Weaken in 2008 — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

News like this galls me more than 1,000 Tea Parties, to tell you the truth:
The figures reflect the initial effects of the recession. Median household income declined 3.6 percent in 2008 after adjusting for inflation, the largest single-year decline on record, and reached its lowest point since 1997. The poverty rate rose to 13.2 percent, its highest level since 1997. The number of people in poverty hit 39.8 million, the highest level since 1960.

These data include only the early months of the recession. The figures for 2009, a year in which the economy has weakened further and unemployment has climbed substantially, will look considerably worse, and the figures will likely worsen again in 2010 if, as many economic forecasters expect, unemployment continues to rise in that year. (In the last two recessions, the unemployment rate continued rising for 15 to 19 months after the recession officially ended.)

The society is becoming more unequal by the day: read for yourself, check the charts, etc. Now, who here has faith that the sitting administration can/will tinker with the political economy in a serious enough way to alleviate these most acute consequences of Reaganism's 30-year advance, let alone push back against the strucutures-in-dominance which produce them?

At Long Last: Le Trigger D'Olympia Snowe [R-ME]

Ezra reporteth - and it smells like "we're fucked!"
What this says, basically, is that the public option triggers into existence in a particular state if there aren't two or more health insurance plans that cost less than 13 percent of a family's income (or a bit less below 300 percent of the poverty line).

Color me unimpressed. I could imagine a stringent trigger that becomes more aggressive with each passing year: Start at 13 percent of income, say, but by 2019, it needs to be 11 percent of income, as the idea is that insurers need to be competing to bring down costs. But this isn't that trigger. It's also hard to see a public plan in a couple of states wielding much power. It would be better if, say, five states failing to meet the affordability threshold triggered a national public option. But, again, this isn't that trigger.

The "bright" side -- if you want to call it that -- is that health-care costs are going to continue to rise faster than incomes. Within a decade or so, it'll be likely that very few states will have comprehensive policies costing less than 13 percent of income. In that scenario, the trigger does produce a bunch of public plans, at least over the long run.

But in that scenario, the plan is in all sorts of trouble, as the individual mandate is too stringent, and the subsidies are ineffective, so it's a bit hard to say what changes get made. My sense is that Olympia Snowe does not, in fact, want 50 public plans, but that does look like the long-term outcome of the trigger. The question, I guess, is how ingenious insurers will be at creating crappy plans that don't cover much but provide two "affordable choices" to delay the trigger. That doesn't seem like a good incentive for the system, but it's definitely there.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cigars and Shinobi

Having just bragged of the Obama-era-new-liberal-consensus that I think is in the offing, lemme now share this grotesque, John-Edwards-b/w-Dave-Matthews-level microcosm of why said New Era might be abhorrent in its own "green neoliberal" way:
After his big five television interviews on Sunday, President Obama carved out an even larger slice of time for one print journalist, hitting the links for 18 holes of golf with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

The only other players, according to a pool report, were Ray Lahood, the Transportation Secretary, and Marvin Nicholson, a White House aide who previously worked on the Obama and Kerry campaigns.

Friedman joins a small, elite list of opinion journalists from traditional outlets who have been granted private -- and largely off the record -- audiences with The President. Back in January, Obama spent about 75 minutes with Friedman's Times colleagues Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, along with National Journal's Ron Brownstein, Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson. That meeting balanced out a longer dinner for conservative opinion journalists from traditional outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, such as George Will, Bill Kristol, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Peggy Noonan and Paul Gigot.
Next up is "cigars and Shinobi" with Jim Rome?


NWRepublican has long been a consistent, theoretically agile voice of the Northwestern libertarian blogo-tendency, and blogger ZEO12 inaugurates a new era of white, male hero narrative in his recent post about the end of 'racism' discourse as a rhetorical weapon of the Left. ZEO12 provides a great deal of food for thought, discussing how conservatives like Joe Wilson represent a transcendence of PC-inspired white guilt, and a new, redemptive willingness on the part of patriots to endure inconvenient, once-paralyzing charges of 'racism' from what he (and Pat Moynihan) call the "liberal left."

[T]oday a curious thing is happening. The charge of “racism” appears to be losing its power to intimidate. In the past, a charge of racism, no matter how baseless, made opponents give up a fight and shrink back into a corner. However, today average Americans who have lived through the decades of racial ultra-sensitivity, are finally waking up to the fact that no matter what they do, no matter how hard they try to prove that they are not racist, it will never be enough to stop the liberal left from using the charge of “racism” against them. So, they are giving up trying. They are becoming unconcerned if they are called "racist." Since they know the charge will be thrown at them no matter what they do, it doesn’t matter any more. And with that, the charge of “racism” has lost its power to intimidate.
I congratulate ZEO12, and like-minded readers, on this new-found confidence and sense of direction, for it restores my confidence that Obama's (more "multicultural") neoliberalism will remain hegemonic until conservatives abandon these market-friendly Rand-spasms, throwback-y white-identity-politics, and gun-related theatrics, in order to hatch a worldview that endeavors to resemble the world of USA, 2009. There can be no better evidence that the Tea Party movement, however spectacular and provocative, is in some ways a non-economic, pyrrhic cultural campaign to restore a definitively-vanquished (WASP-y) America, than this class of assertion. It is an assertion, not-so-coincidentally, built upon this genre of flag-covered-clothing-wearing, "greatest country in the goddamn world"-intoning, self-congratulation:

And, the truth of the matter is that America today is, by any objective measure, the most racially tolerant and diverse culture on the planet today and undoubtedly in history. Americans, far, far more than any other people, nation, or culture, have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that they are not racist and that their nation is no longer racist.

Despite theoretically dwelling in the same region of the same country on the same planet, the assertions above speak to an equally "objectively measurable" fact: ZEO12 and I live on entirely different rocks. This allows me to enjoy his writing, admire his satirical wiles, and wish him good luck on his home planet: that, after all, is what agreeing to disagree should be all about.

Horn of Chasepack(s) -- Then and Now

Romney Praises Tea Partiers At Values Voter Summit - Hotline On Call
Huck's win - Ben Smith -
Ah, these two little-bitty anecdotes are nice gestures in the direction of the inevitable. Be it sooner, later, or whenever: the blithely anti-government, anti-politics, anti-politician Tea Party movement is going to be pressured back into a) electoral politics, b) candidate-based activism and, c) the (impossible) necessity of sullying themselves with the businesses of governing and government.

The WWE wing of the GOP? - Ben Smith -
Linda McMahon Has Some Talent Working For Her - The Atlantic Politics Channel
No, seriously, Linda McMahon -- WWE co-founder, spouse of the ever-annoying Vince McMahon -- is entering the Republican primary to dance with (ultimate chasepack legend) Chris Dodd. See below for a true, true, too-true summation of McMahon's prospects that amounts ever-so-pleasantly to a textbook example of damning-with-faint-praise:

"At some level it's not a surprise that someone with a lot of money who is bored in her job would run," said Roy Occhiogrosso, a veteran Democratic strategist and Dodd supporter. "It certainly lends itself to all kinds of interesting metaphors."

A Question?

Is "health insurance reform" failing because the plan "is too complex" or "doesn't make sense"?!

According to Robert Reich, FDR once summed up his unwilligness to pursue national healthcare as part of the New Deal by saying, "I just cannot explain it." Reich believes that (some of) the problems Dems have faced arise as the consequence of the existing plan lacking simple, self-evident entitlements and reforms as well as effective moral/psychological frames for these entitlements and reforms.

My question is, what does this insight actually illuminate? Aren't the institutional (but also individual, emotional) responses against health insurance reform - let alone the tinkering with the foundational architecture of the public/private division of labor in our political economy - pretty much inevitable in our liberal (-capitalist) democracy?

Isn't it a truism of US democracy that the politics of public/private are rife in all of our great debates, but that these politics always end up weirdly refracted through, translated by and spoken in caricature-ish, moralistic terms of nation, race, identity and catastrophe? Wouldn't that happen regardless of whether or not the President's health insurance plan was less than 140 characters?