Target for the Evening Open Thread: David Frum, Immigrant, Wants to Pull Up the Ladder Behind Him

Not The Onion: the subhed is “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will“.

Now that TNR is effectively defunct, perhaps we should change the sarcastic tagline to #EvenTheLibertarianTheAtlantic

Best rebuttal I’ve seen so far:

David Frum is an elitist by both profession and temperament and has been cloistered among America’s tiniest percentiles of rich, blood-drenched scumbags literally for longer than I’ve been alive. He has no fucking clue what “voters” want or will do, beyond what he can glean from election results cherrypicked to support his argument that border enforcement trumps all other political values—and that Donald Trump’s ascension expresses specifically this, rather than a broader systemic breakdown that allowed a minority white-identity party to claim an election it otherwise definitively lost. That’s why last autumn’s kayfabe panic over the migrant caravan gets credulous treatment in his analysis, but the immediately subsequent ass-kicking the nativist Republican party took in the midterm elections, at the hands of the comparably immigration-tolerant Democrats, scores nary a mention.

Which is to restate the obvious: David Frum is not speaking for, cannot speak for, “voters.” He is speaking for himself, and for some fellow members of his small and absurdly overrepresented social class. What he is saying is Rich establishment conservatives like me would rather go fascist than tolerate brown people. He is talking himself into supporting Trump in the 2020 election. He wants you to know that, when it happens, it will be because immigrants gave him no choice. It must be nice to be able to do that in the pages of The Atlantic.



New Dems and revisiting Alexander-Murray

The New Democratic Coalition wants to revive Alexander-Murray again. Modern Healthcare has the details:

The 101-strong New Democrat Coalition wants to fund reinsurance and cost-sharing reduction payments in a package that closely resembles the deal struck last Congress by Senate health committee leaders Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.)….
To prod leadership into action, the group sent a letter urging prompt committee action to key committee leaders—Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) of Energy and Commerce, Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) of Ways and Means, and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) of Education and Labor.

Kimberly Leonard notes that this has an interesting intra-caucus tension:

An associate jackal sent me the letter which will be below the fold.

Alexander-Murray was a good bill for its context. It sought to address significant concerns and possible concerns. Everything in that bill except for the catastrophic plan section had a straight forward chain:

Identifiable Problem — Clear text with a clean logic model — Problem addressed with a high probability of solving the problem that was identified

  • It appropriated funds for Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) for two years as almost everyone except for Balloon-Juice readers were convinced that not funding CSR would do very bad things to the market.
  • It handled a variety of 1332 issues that several states had complained about.
  • It sent the healthcare.gov navigation and enrollment assistance funding away from HHS and to the states.
  • It kicked CMS in the butt to get Section 1333 (interstate compacts for opt-in multi-state markets) regulations written.
  • Significant reinsurance funding to lower non-subsidized premiums.

All of that made sense at the time.

And most of that bill still makes sense. Section 1332 waiver boundaries and rules can be cleaned up. Navigation and enrollment assistance to the states at Alexander-Murray levels would increase enrollment. Section 1333 regulations would be a good thing for states that want to create larger, inter-state risk pools to reduce variance costs. Reinsurance or other forms of assistance would help the non-subsidized buyers.

However as I have argued many times, the termination of cost sharing reduction subsidies is not sabotage. It instead has actually strengthened the market. The cohort of people earning between two and four times the federal poverty level are seeing much lower net of subsidy pricing.

As I noted in October 2017, the world has changed:

Inaction means, over the long run, more people will get low(er) out of pocket expenses/lower deductible insurance for lower premiums through structured, subsidized exchanges. I think that after a year or two, the expected social contract of what “acceptable” publicly subsidized insurance will move to Gold instead of Silver plans. Lower cost Gold plans and very affordable Bronze plans will increase long run uptake of PPACA insurance among people who earn between 200 percent and 400 percent FPL. This is a group with more political power than Medicaid recipients and Medicaid recipients were able to successfully mobilize to defend their interest this year. Appropriating CSR and thus maintaining the status quo is closer to conservative policy and ideological preferences than resetting the effective benchmark to Gold.

Ironically, we’re now far closer to the Obama 2007 healthcare plan today than we were on January 19, 2017.

There can be good reasons for liberals and Democrats to agree to appropriate CSR. Rep. Pallone’s 2018 HR 5155 appropriated CSR but used the fund flow to expand CSR eligibility and levels as well as expand premium tax credit subsidy eligibility to more people. But the fundamental nature of the ACA has changed due to the termination of CSR and the politics have changed since October 2017 when there was a legitimate fear that not paying CSRs would cause the market to collapse.

But that trade-off has to be made with a recognition of reality. Terminating CSR has created a different market that is more favorable, in isolation, to Democratic policy preferences than Republican policy preferences. The New Dem coalition needs to realize that it was not effective sabotage but a backdoor incidental strengthening.
Read more



Curmudgeonly Post On Recurring Science Ignorance

Before I get more emails on this.

Boy, 14, creates nuclear reactor in his bedroom

What he built – not created, built – is called a fusor or fuzor. Instructions for building one abound on the internet.

A boy, yes a boy as opposed to a girl or gender-nonconforming kid, does this every few years, with adoring parents who manage to get him into the news.

I am irritated by the recurring science ignorance of the reporters who don’t just tell the parents to fuggetaboutit.

I am also irritated by the recurring meme of boy science genius. It’s a message to girls that boys are the only ones who do this kind of thing or will get credit for it. One of these BOYS, a few years back, was hailed as the next Einstein because he had some uranium ore in his garage. He didn’t even finish college. Have you heard of him? I can’t even remember his name.

That is all. Open thread.



SHENANIGANS in NC-09

Open thread



The Last Days Of The American Empire…Soft Power Edition

I’m working on an column about, among other things, the arc of federal support for science since World War II.  As I was trying not to think about our national emergency national emergency this morning, I tripped over the following thought…

The funding deal Pelosi, McConnell et al. worked out included $1.375 billion for new barrier construction along the border (not, technically, a or the wall). That’s a win for the Democrats and a defeat for Trump, as it’s a tiny fraction of the amount that the bigot-in-chief sought, and that would be necessary to truly fortify the frontier.  For what follows I’m going to ignore the faux emergency through which the would-be dictator seeks to seize other money to pay for some useless shit, and just look at that number.

So, what makes for a powerful country?  I’d argue that the ability to project force around the world is in many  ways the least significant part of it.  Certainly, in a globally connected world, with the full range of surveillance technology and so forth, the notion of using technology perfected by, say, 1400 or so, overlapping fortifications, to keep folks out is…

Shit stupid.

US power since the middle of the last century has certainly been headlined by the military; but our capacity to influence life at home and abroad on a daily basis, in the hour-by-hour experience of billions, has turned on everything else, from our cultural impact (jeans! Rock and roll!) to, crucially and perhaps most significantly, the scientific, medical and technological revolutions fostered by the American research community.

That’s what got me going about even the seemingly de minimus amount of barrier funding in the spending bill.

The NIH budget for 2019 is $39.3 billion. In constant dollars, that’s nine percent below the peak funding achieved in 2003.  About 80% of that money goes to research grants — so just shy of $32 billion pays for folks to address all the ills that befall Americans, and citizens of the world.  For FY 2018 the National Science Foundation received $6.334 billion for research related activities.* *There are, of course, other significant pots of research money in the federal budget — DoD, DoE and Commerce all fund a lot.  But the NSF is where curiosity-driven basic research gets its support, and the NIH is, of course, the one that as we all age we notice a lot, so that’s where I’m focusing this exercise in futile rage.

A first, obvious point. The money spent on the barrier would add more than twenty percent to recent NSF research budgets, and would represent a four percent boost to the NIH.

Within those numbers these factoids: the average research project grant at NIH in 2017 provided a skosh over $500,000 to award winners. The NSF funds such a wide range of projects and disciplines that the figures are a little opaque, but still, as of 2016, the average grant offered an annualized $177,100, while the median figure was $140,900 per year.

You can see where this is going.  That barrier money could fund almost 2,800 more principal investigators trying to figure out cancer, Alzheimers, antiobiotic resistance and all the rest.  It could pay for more than 12,000 researchers pursuing basic science — the kinds of questions with pay offs that can’t be anticipated, but that have, over the last century, utterly transformed the way humans live on earth.

FTR: I do know that budgets don’t work as sort of implied above. They’re political documents, so spending on foolish stuff is often the price to be paid to spend some on smart ideas.  If we somehow avoid pouring a billion plus into  holes in the ground along the Rio Grande, that money doesn’t readily flow to a lab.  But the exercise is worth doing anyway, if only to point out how little, in budget terms, it would take to turbo charge research in this country.

The reasons for doing so extend beyond the value of knowledge for its own sake, of course, there’s the economic benefits of scientific research. There is an open argument about the size of the multiplier for each dollar invested in basic research, though less controversy about the benefits of investing in more translational or directly motivated work of the sort that shows up in many/most NIH proposals, for example. But the bottom line is that trying to figure out how nature works is good for the national (and global) bottom line.

Instead, we’re buying bollards.

And that’s how the American century ends.

Not with a catastrophic collapse, but the decision to put our national treasure to work in dumbest possible fashion, leaving aspiration, well being and wealth on the table.

With that — I’m done, and you’re up. Open thread.

*There are, of course, other significant pots of research money in the federal budget — DoD, DoE and Commerce all fund a lot.  But the NSF is where curiosity-driven basic research gets its support, and the NIH is, of course, the one that as we all age we notice a lot, so that’s where I’m focusing this exercise in futile rage.

Image: Vincent van Gogh, The Ramparts of Paris1887