The Wages of Apathy

Absurd “potty prefect” laws, eroded reproductive rights, increased voter suppression, etc. — Samantha Bee explains yet again why it’s not enough to elect good presidents:

In last night’s show, Bee also did an exposé (emceed by Patton Oswalt as Alfred Hitchcock!) on crisis pregnancy centers, the anti-choice propaganda outlets that masquerade as abortion clinics, luring young women in so religious nutjob charlatans can dispense heaping helpings phony statistics and guilt — at taxpayer expense in Georgia.

If you’re dialed into politics enough to hang out at this blog, chances are you vote in every single election. But as you lean on your more loosely affiliated friends, relatives and neighbors to get their asses to the polls this year to prevent the Trumpocalypse, maybe spare a moment to emphasize the importance of state, local and midterm elections too?



PPACA and PVI

The Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index is an attempt to categorize how much more red or blue a state is compared to a national average.  It works by taking the average national two party vote share of the past two elections and calling that the zero index value.  States with vote shares for the Democrats that are above that index value are considered to have a D+x PVI.  States that vote more Republican than the index value are considered to have an R+x PVI.  It is very closely related to the hypothetical uniform swing.

It is a decent indicator of partisan lean of a state although it lags on fast changes (The eastern mountain states probably have an actual PVI above the reported PVI).

I want to point out some of the states whose Senators voted for PPACA and what their 2010 PVI was as a public service announcement:

Alaska R+13

Nebraska R+13,

North Dakota R+10 *

North Dakota R+10

Louisiana R+10

Arkansas R+9

Arkansas R+9

South Dakota R+9,

West Virginia R+8

West Virginia R+8 *

Only two of those seats are still held by Democrats.  None of those seats are on the top tier of the Democratic target list for 2016.

These ten seats were a minimal majority blocking coalition.  Another 8 Democrats were sitting in Republican leaning seats and plus the asshat Lieberman as a massive opportunity cost in Connecticut.  That is 19 Democrats in the Senate including any plausible majority combination where fulfilling major liberal policy goals was either personally distasteful (at least 1) or  politically challenging giving their home turf.  The actual policy space was severely constrained.



The ACA and throwing money at a problem

Andrew Sprung, guest-posting at the Incidental Economist, has reviewed an interesting little e-book that is on my to read list:

ObamaCare is a Great Mess: A View of the Affordable Care Act Without Partisan Blinders & How to Fix It. By Jed Graham. Amazon, June 2015

Mr. Graham writes that there are a couple major problems with the ACA going forward.  The first is that the subsidies are not rich enough to be attractive to people who make more than 200% FPL.  Secondly, the subsidies are only sufficient to cover Bronze plans with big deductibles instead of cost-sharing Silver plans with low deductibles but 15% higher premiums.  Thirdly, the subsidies end too soon.  While finally the plans are too costly for young people which is leading to a sicker and older risk pool than projected.

Andrew has done a good job of dismantling the second point as he has been pointing out that the vast majority of people who are eligible for cost-sharing Silver plans are buying those plans as the deductibles are far more reasonable than slightly cheaper Bronze plans.

However, the other problems have a very simple solution.  Shovelling money at them.  The subsidy formula could theoretically be tweaked so that slope upwards of the personal contribution at a given income level is far less, the base line plans could be reset so a Silver is 75% actuarially value where the additional actuarial value is paid for by subsidy dollars instead of individual dollars.  The subsidy formula could be easily tweaked so that no family pays more than X% of their income for a QHP without regard to the income level so there is no income cliff/work disincentive at 399.99% FPL.

All of those are fairly simple tweaks that are not disruptive to the fundamental delivery of health care and health insurance to the greater population.  And these are all problems where throwing money at the problem is a valid and viable solution.

We did not get these policy tweaks in PPACA because the Democrats, and more importantly, the marginal decision makers in the Democratic caucs were petrified of writing a bill with a “bad” CBO score.  There was a line of thought that a “responsible” and “small” bill would help preserve a majority or at least more of the marginal district Democrats.  Going bigger would have produced a better bill ( and if the bill contained more cash going out the door in 2012/2013, a slightly better economy).

In reality, Democrats who represented significantly Republican leaning districts as the country became more polarized had to count on two things to stay in office.  The first was that any particular opponent was a kid-diddling goat fucker.  The second was a good economy with significant wage gains.  A good CBO score on a polarizing bill is about the ninety-ninth ranking aid to re-election.  A “responsible” bill pandered to elite consensus without actually getting any additional people to vote for “responsible” Democrats.

 



The Super-Genius Shitweasel Strategy (Updated — Open Thread)

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Today’s Supreme Court decision on Obamacare makes the law about as settled as it can be given that congress and most statehouses are run by hairspray-huffing shitweasels who occupy an alternative dimension where “flush billions down the toilet” = “fiscal conservatism.”

Shortly after the Supreme Court decision today, our shitweasel governor here in FL announced that he’s dropping a lawsuit he filed against the Obama administration in an attempt to extract a $2 billion handout via a low-income care program — after declining to expand Medicaid to the 800K Floridians who would qualify under Obamacare.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is dropping a lawsuit against the Obama administration after reaching an agreement over federal hospital funds.

State and federal health officials reached an agreement in principle earlier this week to continue funding Florida’s hospital low-income pool for two more years, but at a lower cost. Florida will receive $1 billion this year — about half of what the state had been receiving — and $600 million next year. In a statement Thursday, Scott said his lawsuit was essential to getting the funds extended.

Scott’s lawsuit accused the federal government of tying the funds to whether or not the state expanded Medicaid.

The Obama administration and the Florida Senate wanted to expand Medicaid to roughly 800,000 Floridians. But Scott and Florida House Republicans opposed to taking money tied to so-called Obamacare.

Yes, you read that right: These morons turned down $6 billion or so annually because it has Obamacare cooties but were prepared to go to court to shake the feds down for a relatively paltry $2 billion. As a result of this super-genius bluffing strategy, Scott got $1 billion this year and $600 million next year, and he deems it a victory for fiscal prudence.

As far as I know, Scott hasn’t yet outlined his double-secret negotiating strategy for next time the money dries up, which will be 2017. God willing, President Hillary will send him home pants-less with a $400K mortgage note on Stately Scott Manor. This would all be laughable if people weren’t literally dying because of Scott & Co.’s pigheadedness.

ETA: Open thread for anyone who wants to use it for one. We’ve had a lot of Obamacare threads today. In other news, the AP says Chris Christie is going to announce a run on Tuesday. They’re gonna need a bigger clown car (and no, that’s not a fat joke — there are just so MANY clowns!).



Battle Flag Acquisition Strategies

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Early this morning, I was doing some research on the endurance of corporate culture, studying how sometimes the spirit of a smaller, acquired firm can permeate the larger, acquiring organization. It’s not unusual for a big behemoth to acquire a scrappy smaller company solely for the purpose of infusing the moribund giant with fresh blood, and when the companies’ interests align, it can create an unstoppable marketplace force…for a while.

With that dynamic still on my mind, I moseyed over to Booman’s place and read a post that hit upon something that has been bothering me about the focus on the rebel flag in the wake of the domestic terrorist massacre in Charleston:

But the focus on the Confederate Flag can have an unfortunate side effect. What, after all, does that flag mean when it doesn’t simply mean white supremacy?

It’s meaning in those cases in nearly identical to the meaning of the modern conservative movement. It’s about disunion, and hostility to the federal government, and state’s rights. It’s anti-East Coast Establishment and anti-immigrant. It’s about an idealized and false past and preserving outworn and intolerant ideas. It’s about a perverse version of a highly provincial and particularized version of (predominantly) Protestant Christianity that has evolved to serve the interests of power elites in the South. It’s about an aggrieved sense of false persecution where white men are playing on the hardest difficulty setting rather than the easiest, and white Christians are as threatened as black Muslims and gays and Jews.

“Those blacks are raping our women and they have to go.”

That’s what the Confederate Flag is all about, but it’s also the basic message of Fox News and the whole Republican Party since the moment that Richard Nixon promised us law and order.

But it’s not black people who have to go.

It’s this whole Last Cause bullshit mentality that fuels our nation’s politics and lines the pockets of Ted Cruz just as surely as it has been lining the pockets of Walmart executives.

Today, maybe the governor down there had an epiphany. Maybe this massacre was the last straw. But, tomorrow, we’ll all be right back where we began with Congress acting like an occupying Confederate Army.

If we solve a symbolic problem and leave the rest untouched, then what will really change?

You can’t bury the Confederate Flag without, at the same time, burying the Conservative Movement.

Let’s get on with it.

He’s right. For many white people, the rebel flag represented moldy old myths about the antebellum South. But think about how nicely that mythology dovetailed with the lies about the pre-Civil Rights era that paleocons like Pat Buchanan tell themselves.

Like a moribund corporation, the GOP acquired Confederate culture with the Southern strategy, harnessing the racism in the South and its echo nationwide to build the present day Republican Party. That’s why Ronald Reagan launched his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. That’s why an always-wrong, New York City-born legacy hire who is relentlessly eager to send other people’s kids off to die in glorious causes is tweeting nonsense that his ancestors would find…puzzling:

So, the rebel flag should come down in South Carolina and every other state capitol in the former Confederacy, and with surprising (to me) swiftness, it looks like it will. That will be more than a symbolic victory; it will be the partial righting of a very old wrong.

But there’s a danger in “otherizing” the South in this context. It’s not wrong to condemn its blinkered myth-making and prideful backwardness, but there’s a hazard in moral preening within and outside of Dixie, a risk of declaring a tidy victory when the dinosaurs in the state capitols of the former Confederacy finally sink into the tarpit they’ve thrashed in for 150 years.

The risk is that we’ll lose focus on the modern day “Congress acting like an occupying Confederate Army,” as Booman put it. At its core, the Southern strategy was an attempt to roll back progress by hitching the anti-New Dealers’ star to the creaky old Confederate wagon. Its organizers weren’t all or even mostly slack-jawed yokels waving rebel flags. They included a fiery libertarian business man from Phoenix, a glib B-movie pitchman who hailed from Northern Illinois and a twitchy, paranoid Quaker from California.

To achieve true victory, we have to finally drive a stake through the heart of the Southern strategy, not just the Confederacy. So let’s make expunging the rebel flag from the public square the opening salvo in a larger battle to take our country back. Yes, that’s right, TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK. With no lies and decaying myths about what that means. The flag that represents it isn’t spotless. Its founding was rooted in slavery, genocide and the oppression of women. But unlike its dying counterpart, this flag is worth saving.



Three Time Losers

I’m sure most of us have many reasons to fervently hope that whichever hairball the GOP horks up for the presidential nomination in 2016 is soundly rejected by voters. But for me, not least on that long list is the hope that a third straight drubbing at the polls might prompt the Republicans to do some serious soul-searching.

Three presidential losses in a row prompted many Democrats to sell out the New Deal and adopt the corporate-friendly DLC bullshit line. Maybe Bill Clinton had to ride the Third Way slide to two-term victory — that’s debatable. We didn’t have to be happy about it, but it was better than another Poppy Bush term or a Bob Dole presidency.

Anyhoo, in this morning’s Wake Up Sheeple thread, I mentioned that losing three presidential races in a row (please FSM, let it be so!) would be a big fucking deal for Republicans. Not everyone agreed. Valued commenter JustRuss made some excellent points in the following reply:

To a party that cared about governing, sure. But “the party” is mostly the money, and they just want the government to stay the hell out of their way. And with the IRS and EPA being starved, TPP and other trade deals in the hopper, Citizen’s United, fracking bans being overturned left and right, they’re doing fine. Sure, it would be nice to have a Bush in the White House, but they’re getting most of what they want regardless. Having a Democrat in the White House gives them someone to blame when things go sideways and is a great focus for the rage their constituents are addicted to.

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m not convinced you’re right either.

Those are all great points, and if the GOP could ride the current status quo forever, I’d agree that they could just disregard presidential losses indefinitely. But I don’t think they could maintain the status quo in the face of a mounting string of losses at the presidential level, even if they managed to keep winning in mid-term and state-level elections for a while.

Presidential elections in this country (maybe everywhere else too — I don’t know) are about a lot more than a transfer of specific powers; they’ve morphed into an absurd, trillion-dollar reality show spectacle, with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Politics is a team sport.

And people don’t like losing over and over. If it keeps happening, they swear off the sport or find another team. Oh sure, some diehards will stand with their shitty loser team through thick and thin (maybe 27% or so). But the fan base won’t have a healthy growth rate, and the less committed will slink off to sulk at home or maybe even join another bandwagon.

That’s my theory, anyway. What do you think?



Gray power and death bets

The midterm electorates have been +17, +20 and +25 points old people versus young people.  Old people want their Medicare and Social Security untouched or enriched, and don’t give a fuck about birth control as they are no longer in the childbearing cohort, and have minimal direct stakes in costs that are only incurred in fifteen or twenty years from now.  They are making a death bet that the costs of their good times today won’t be borne by them as they’ll be dead when the bill comes due.  It is a rational bet.

The younger cohort has been steady in their mobilization.  The fascinating and scary thing to me is the increasing mobilization of the post-60 crowd.  Some of that is natural demographic growth as the Boomers are steadily adding to that cohort every day, but the percentage of possible voters to actual voters seems to be increasing at a higher rate as well.  Throw in the fact that the oldest voters in 2010 were slightly more Democratic leaning than their younger cohorts, and the older Boomers replacing them are more Republican this is a bad sign for the next couple of mid-terms for Democrats.

We have a presidential electorate where the young participate and issues with a 15 year pay-off  horizon are on the table, and then we have an off-cycle electorate that assumes that they’ll be dead in 15 years, so let the good times roll.