Open Thread: Trump’s Press Secretary Begins As He Means to Go On

Remember Kremlinology? When serious people made careers parsing small bits of truth out of the USSR’s non-stop flood of bullshit, lies, and fairy tales? Yeah, that’s another Russian import I could just as well have lived without.

When even Dubya’s press secretary (“Watch what you do, watch what you say”) is embarrassed for his colleague…

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A personal note on policy evaluation

I want to lay out one of my key heuristics for policy analysis and evaluation for the next four years. But first I need to go back a little in my life to two time periods.

1992 sucked for my family. I am one of five kids. My mom worked a retail job as she was mainly trying to get all of us going in the right direction while managing half a dozen minor chronic conditions between all of us. My dad was a union electrician. Construction is a pro-cyclical industry so when times were good, they were very good and when times are slow, they are really bad. The 80s were good as Boston boomed. The late 80s after the S&L crisis plus the overbuildout of Boston sucked. He was able to get the occasional side job and short term position as an electrician and had already started to work as a cabinet maker, a newspaper deliverer and half a dozen other side jobs and hustles to hold on. We were waiting for the Big Dig to really ramp up as that would clear a log jam on the job list at the union hall.

I remember crying in happiness one day when my parents decided to get me a treat of sweet canned corn instead of frozen corn. We had not had my favorite type of corn in so long as the extra thirty cents a pound was too much of a lift.

Now fast forward.

Mid-2008 my wife had gotten laid off as her organization got a new CEO who wanted to quickly leave their mark for decisiveness and wiped out several profitable but not exciting departments. She was pregnant with our daughter. I was working as a program evaluator for a behavioral health care coordination program. It was funded by a federal grant that was due to run out at the end of FY09. We were trying to transition our funding to local and foundation money. By mid-2009, my wife was working part time at a position far below her skill level, our daughter was happy making faces at her parents, and there was absolutely no local or foundation money as 51 mini-Hoovers were in effect for state level austerity. I got laid off. The next year I stayed home with our daughter as the combination of unemployment insurance and not paying for daycare that was the best solution possible.

Now fast forward.

The past six years have been great for my family. My career has taken off. My wife’s career has launched. We have two great kids. We have stability and we have a cushion. Yesterday the induction motor on the furnace failed after a good eighteen years of service. I was able to grumble and mumble as I wrote a check to the HVAC technician but writing that check had no impact on my family’s financial stability. We’re in good shape.

Some of this is a humble brag. But most of this is how my policy evaluation heuristic is formed. If a policy helps 2009 Me or 1992 Me out more than it helps present day me out, I’m most likelyfor it. If 2017 Me is advantaged over either 2009 or 1992 Me, I’m highly likely to be opposed to it.

Dreaming of impossible dreams and guaranteed disappointment

The Wall Street Journal has a good quote on what Americans say they want for healthcare and what has to happen for that to happen:

Cheap insurance means either very little gets covered or the people who need a lot of coverage can’t get insured. Covering sick people means either massive subsidies (public or private) from the healthy to the sick and restricting the size of those subsidies means limiting choices.  Democrats got hammered for choosing to cover sick people via either Medicaid expansion or through subsidized private sector insurance with a coercive participation mechanism.  Republicans will get hammered for telling people to go die quietly in the corner and here’s a tax deduction that only matters if you’re healthy and wealthy.

This is the core problem of health policy.  There are no pure win-win solutions for the healthy and the sick at the same time.

A reminder on power in health finance debates

Just an annual reminder on where political power lies in any health finance debate.

  • Groups with lots of money have more power than groups with no money.
  • Groups that routinely vote have more power than groups that don’t vote.
  • Groups that are trusted have more power than groups that are not trusted.
  • Groups that are liked have more power than groups that are not liked.

What does that mean?

At the major lobbying group level, we always have to remember that doctors and nurses are some of the most trusted professions in America.  We also have to remember that hospitals, especially rural hospitals, are frequently the largest employer in the town or the county.  We also have to remember that the sympathetic blonde seven year old with a bowl cut whose parents are doing reasonably well for themselves will be able to get on TV and cry.

Insurers are usually slightly more popular than stink bugs and we don’t look good on TV.  Any story that involves an insurance company is usually a bad thing as we are in a position where insurers say no to the crying doctors and nurses and we fill the role of  EVIL BASTARD quite well.

Just keep these basic assumptions in mind when do a power analysis of interest group lobbying over the next year’s wild ride of health care and health finance legislation.



Worse than Worthless (alternate working title- “OWW MY BALLS”)


These guys:

The Senate’s top Republican Thursday warned that legislation enacted over President Barack Obama’s veto to allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts may have “unintended ramifications” and that lawmakers should discuss fixes to the measure.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the White House was too slow to warn about the “potential consequences” of the measure. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly overrode Obama’s veto of the measure on Wednesday.

McConnell said he told the president recently that the 9/11 victims bill “was an example of an issue that we should have talked about much earlier.”


“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but nobody really had focused on the downside in terms of our international relationships,” McConnell said.

McConnell said that the dynamic involving the bill — in which it barreled through both chambers before and proved unstoppable — was what happens when there is “failure to communicate early about the potential consequences of a piece of legislation that was obviously very popular.

It’s almost like he doesn’t know it’s his fucking job in the Senate to write bills and schedule debate to “talk about” and discuss “potential consequences.” Beyond that, it’s not like it was super hard to predict there would be consequences. In fact, a certain injury prone D-list blogger with an ice cream fetish and an animal hoarding problem thought of them pretty quick:

Also, there’s a particular somebody, gosh, what’s his name- Soetero something or other- WHO FUCKING VETOED THE GOD DAMNED BILL:

Congressional leaders plan to hold override votes in the coming days and supporters of the legislation say they are confident they can succeed in overturning the president’s action. It would be the first time during Obama’s presidency that Congress has overridden a veto.

The legislation would allow U.S. courts to waive claims to foreign sovereign immunity in cases involving terrorism on U.S. soil. The administration contends that this would break a longstanding practice that sovereign nations are protected from these types of legal threats. The result, according to the White House, is that American officials could now be sued in foreign courts over U.S. military or diplomatic actions abroad, which administration officials said poses a threat to national security.

“I recognize that there is nothing that could ever erase the grief the 9/11 families have endured. My Administration therefore remains resolute in its commitment to assist these families in their pursuit of justice and do whatever we can to prevent another attack in the United States,” the president wrote in his veto message to Congress. “Enacting [this legislation] into law, however, would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks.”

You were literally planning to hold an override vote without holding any debate as he was telling you about the fucking unintended consequences, YOU STUPID CONFEDERATE HUMPING RETROGRADE IGNORAMUS.

If the media let these guys get away with this or try to pin this on Obama, they are as bad as McConnell.

This Is, From What I Can Tell, a Real Campaign Commercial

He’s got the electrolytes we need.

Friday Night Open Thread: Branding

Guess I’m glad not to be the only one whose first thought was of an obscene gesture.

My second thought was that it looked as though the P and the stripes were trying, and failing, to keep the T under control. Which is also appropriate, if perhaps not the image I’d choose for my party candidates…

Apart from derision and schadenfreude, what’s on the agenda as we start the weekend?