Early Morning Open Thread: Queen of the Useful Idiots

Talent does what it can, genius does what it must, and when it comes to gumming up the wheels Dr. Jill Stein has shown a certain genius. The latest from Reuters:

Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to conduct a statewide recount of votes cast in the presidential race, as requested by a Green Party candidate seeking similar reviews in two other states where Donald Trump scored narrow wins.

The recount process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in Wisconsin, is expected to begin late next week after Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said.

The state faces a Dec. 13 federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission.

The recount fee has yet to be determined, the agency said in a statement on its website. Stein said in a Facebook message on Friday that the sum was expected to run to about $1.1 million.

She said she has raised at least $5 million from donors since launching her drive on Wednesday for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – three battleground states where Republican Trump edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by relatively thin margins…

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Who bears the risk

Who bears the risk?  That is a fundamental question of our political system.  In the United States, we are a mixed economy where there is a mixture of private risk bearing and public risk bearing.  All industrialized nations have a mixed economy where there is public and private risk bearing.  The difference is the split between public and private risk bearing and how much exposure the private individual has to bear if things truly get bad.  In the United States, we have traditionally had a comparatively small proportion of public/governmental risk bearing.

Our retirement system has counted on either private sector funded defined benefit plans or private sector funded defined contribution plans.  Defined benefits, if they were funded well enough, collectivized the risk of an individual outliving their average savings.  Social Security is a minimal insurance against outliving savings and destitution.  It is not a particularly rich benefit compared to other national public pension plans.

Medicare is insurance against the catastrophe that is old age.  Getting old means getting unhealthy and needing expensive care.  Very few people can self-insure against the care that they need to have a long and full life.

That is the fundamental question that animates our politics. How much do we self-insure and allow for tail risk to smash individuals who have no ability to self-insure and how much do we collectively insure while using the ability of the federal government to operate with a nearly infinite shadow of the future and much looser budgetary constraints than any individual. It is not a fight about voucherization of Medicare as the right design could produce vouchers that perform the same insurance function at the same cost to the individual. It is not about Social Security privatization. It is about how much idiosyncratic risk do we expect people to bear.

Let’s Not Follow Sanders Off the Cliff

Remember last week when some folks were reassuring us that criticism of “identity politics” in the wake of the Democrats’ loss wasn’t code for throwing marginalized people under the bus? Here’s TPM’s report on a speech Bernie Sanders delivered in Boston yesterday:

In a speech Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged attendees to move away from “identity politics” and towards policies aimed at helping the working class.

Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, according to a report from WBUR.

“The working class of this country is being decimated — that’s why Donald Trump won,” Sanders said, according to the same report. “And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down.”

Sanders also urged the crowd to move the party away from what he called “identity politics.”

“It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That is not good enough,” he said, according to the same report. “What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

Let’s unpack some of the insulting, revisionist implications that follow from this speech. My first “Go Fuck Yourself, Sanders” goes to the implication that Clinton ever asked anyone to vote for her just because she’s a woman. She didn’t, so fuck that bullshit, and fuck Sanders for implying that she did.

The second goes to the wholesale purchase of the cherished and increasingly accepted in some circles wingnut-fomented meme that the Democrats don’t represent “real America” and got what was coming to them for turning their back on the working class in favor of embracing the elites. That’s a lie we believe at our peril.

The DLC is dead, and good riddance. I agree there has been too little attention paid to those hurt by globalization, too much happy talk about the jobs that would flow in from that process, too much eagerness on the part of some Democrats to curry favor with big donors. We’ve debated that endlessly here throughout PBO’s two terms; it was debated endlessly in the primaries, and that message was incorporated into the Democratic Party platform. Sanders didn’t invent it, and he doesn’t own it now.

But since we’re the reality-based party, supposedly capable of handling nuance and complexity, we can — in theory — simultaneously acknowledge the accomplishments of a highly successful two-term Democratic president who pulled us from the brink of a second Great Depression, got an additional 20 million people access to health care coverage, helped make sure marriage equality became the law of the land, turned a catastrophically high flood of job losses into a stable, less than 5% unemployment economy, etc.

During the primary, Sanders shit all over that, as did Trump in the general. But it doesn’t follow that a Sanders-like message — from anyone, including Sanders — would have been a winner. For every one WWC vote an “everything sucks after eight years of Obama” platform might have pulled in, how many votes would be lost from Democrats who believe in this president and have supported his agenda? Greater than Trump’s margins in the Rust Belt, is my guess.

And finally, what I find most infuriating about Sanders’ take is that he’s ignoring the people who actually DID embrace identity politics in this election cycle: That would be Donald J. Trump and the millions of voters who embraced WHITE identity politics. The Democrats ran on an inclusive message. Trump did the opposite. Again, for every WWC vote we’d gain by embracing a very specific kind of identity politics to chase Trump voters, how many would Democrats lose? Well, mine, for one.

Two final thoughts: the first is that politicians are running around trying to pound the round peg of this election loss into the square hole of their own agenda. Yes, we need to examine the causes and learn the appropriate lessons, but they are myriad. Any simple solution, such as turning the party’s soul over to a man who couldn’t win the Democratic primary, would be compounding the problem rather than solving it, IMO. Yes to sharpening the economic message to more loudly broadcast an appeal to ALL voters. Yes to making sure future candidates’ messages — and arguably the candidates themselves — excite people since we seem to be in the reality TV era of politics. But not just “no” but “FUCK NO” to the idea that the Democrats lost because of “identity politics.”

Second, so much of this intramural squabbling is crab bucket politics. We’ve got an unhinged, pathological liar, authoritarian conman poised to take office, and he is shaking out the KKK bedsheets and emptying the armoires where the brown shirts are stored to fill his administration with the very worst pricks imaginable. A man who is openly setting up a kleptocracy to funnel loot to the pack of parasites who are accompanying him to DC. A man who will rage-tweet all night about perceived disrespect shown at a Broadway show to his beady-eyed, bible-humping VP and remain utterly silent about the hundreds of hate crimes psychos nationwide are perpetrating in his name.

Perhaps we have more important things to focus on, is what I’m saying. And it’s flat-out unseemly for a politician with standing in the Democratic Party to focus elsewhere, even if he does have a book to flog.

Trump Surrogate To Trump Supporters: You’ve Been Had

Remember how the Trump phenomenon is a referendum on the decades old bait-and-switch scam practiced by the Republican Party?  You know, how every election the rubes get promised an end to abortion, teh gheys prayed-away, Obamacare repealed,  the Kenyan Mooslim Usurper hounded out of town — and especially how they were going to get their country back from all those folks of the wrong hue, speaking the wrong language and flooding across the border with canteloupes for calves?  And how after every election all that never happened and it was back to business as usual and Washington’s just a sack of skunks with a reek you can smell in Topeka?

I bet you remember too how Trump rolled the whole rotten corpse of your granddaddy’s GOP and all its deal-making, C.R.E.A.M.ed leaders traitors by speaking the unspeakable and vowing to do what none of the weaklings and failures would or could dare to imagine.  Round up the invaders and ship them — toddlers and abuelos alike — through the yuuuuge, classy gate in that yuuuge and beautiful wall?

Well, guess what Trump-rubes.  You’re being rolled.  Again.


Here’s Trump-surrogate and GOP congressman Chris Collins blowing the gaffe:

Collins said he believed the wall Trump promised to build along the US-Mexico border would be more an idea than a physical wall. “I have called it a virtual wall. Maybe we will be building a wall over some aspects of it; I don’t know….

“I call it a rhetorical deportation of 12 million people,” Collins said.

He then gestured toward a door in his Capitol Hill office.

“They go out that door, they go in that room, they get their work papers, Social Security number, then they come in that door, and they’ve got legal work status but are not citizens of the United States,” Collins said. “So there was a virtual deportation as they left that door for processing and came in this door.”

Collins added: “We’re not going to put them on a bus, and we’re not going to drive them across the border.”

And there you have it folks.*  Trump is, as ever, a fraud.  His prominent supporters know it.  His opponents know it.  The only question is when his voters figure it out, should, FSM-forbit, the scalp ferret and its pedestal ever take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

*Please note that, of course, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that a prominent Republican acknowledges that there isn’t going to be a terrifying episode of ethnic cleansing here in these United States.  I’m just drawing attention to the fact that, in what should surprise no one, the con is strong in this candidate and this party.

Image: Georges de la Tour, The Cheat with the Ace of Clubsc. 1634 or before

This’ll Hurt

First — thanks again to Anne Laurie and the whole crowd for all the kind thoughts thrown my way on my Guggenheim news.  I’ll post on the sweet/bittersweet backstory to that when I get back to the computer that has the photograph I need.  Here, I’ll just say that yup: it’s been a good week, and that there is no gift I value more right now than that of time.


That said, on to the fun stuff:  cheering the discomfiture of our foes (while regretting the collateral damage) — and hoping against hope that this kind of news will, in not-too-long-a-time, have the right effect.

What news, you ask?


The Boss took no prisoners in explaining his decision:
To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them.

It does suck for NC Springsteen fans — many-t0-most of whom I’d bet loathe this law as much as Bruuuuuuuuce does.  But public and bitter consequences are the only way I see of driving the point home.  The legislative assault on civil rights led by Republicans all over the country is exactly the kind of crap up with which we will not put.

So, to celebrate Mr. Springsteen — and to give just a little salve to our North Carolina pro-E-Street-anti-bigotry cohort, here’s a little something from 1978:


Image:  Antonio de Pereda, Allegory, c. 1654

Late-Night Cranky Old Dem Open Thread

Bernie Sanders won three caucuses over the weekend — just as was predicted — and added 53 delegates to his tally, per Bloomberg Politics. Yay Senator Sanders!

(Of course, because Democrats tend to award delegates proportionally, Hillary Clinton added 40 delegates even though she lost all three races.)

The hardcore #BernieBros are not the type to win graciously, alas. Via Dengre’s twitter feed, Shane Ryan, Paste Magazine:

Recent online chatter would have you believe that the “Bernie or Bust” movement is populated by those who don’t care about the consequences that might befall poor people, women, and minorities in the event of a massive progressive desertion that hands the presidency to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz…

But there’s a very deep irony in the fact that the supporters of the status quo candidate, Hillary Clinton, have the audacity to accuse progressives of ignoring the under-privileged. The reason we support Bernie Sanders is because we care about those people, and we are those people—otherwise, we’d be neoliberal Democrats or Republicans. Clinton’s white, middle-to-upper-middle class foot soldiers have, by the very nature of their support, essentially written off the bottom half of American society. They’ve outed themselves as members of a privileged class who cherish conservative economic policy for the way it protects and bolsters their kind, but who happen to endorse liberal social views—most likely because they were born in a blue part of the country. Denying that privilege, and weaponizing it against Sanders supporters who actually give a shit about the sprawling, growing underclass of America, is a dirty trick that would make Karl Rove proud…

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CAP and the Republican primary

I just want to highlight two tweets I saw since Cole dropped his truth bomb:

And a question as to why Rubio is not dropping out:

The anti-Trump agenda is ensnared in a massive collective action problem. The anti-Trump movement is better off if Rubio drops out. However, the problem is simple for a party that really does not believe in collective action problems solved through societal actions and instead believes or at least publicly spouts off that everything can be modeled on the basis of individual rational behavior to get optimal societal results. There is a stable equilibrium that is extraordinarily negative for the anti-Trumpers where everyone is asking the other individuals to impale themselves on the barbwire so that they can use the body as a bridge to get into Trump’s trenches.

Let’s just look at Rubio for his incentive structure. Right now, he has shitty chances. The betting market has him at 8% chance of nomination and probably an implied 4% to 5% chance of the White House. Those odds suck, especially compared to his odds in December. However they are better than his 2020 odds. He has gone 1 and done in the Senate. He has indicated he actually hates the process of governing so a run for Governor in 2018 and then a summer long camp-out in South Carolina in 2019 is unlikely. If he loses now he becomes 2012 Rick Santorum without a natural base of dedicated supporters and a similar humiliating loss.

8% odds suck. They are much better than his 2020 or his 2024 odds.

So why would he get out?

Applying that same logic to all to Kasich and Cruz, and their odds suck now, but they are better than they would be in 2020.

And given that the promises that are made in March of 2016 are highly contingent promises that Trump can first be beaten and then Clinton can be beaten plus the promiser has few strong constraints in his actions after Election Day, the promises made to move someone out are not particularly valuable nor credible.

The traditional solution to a collective action problem is to have an external entity be able to move people off of stable but negative equilibriums and compensate losers from the much larger net social gains. The RNC is not a strong governing entity and Republicans don’t do collective action problems well anyways…

So pass the popcorn.