Speaking of “let us savor….”

Tom MacArthur, Republican Congressman of the New Jersey 3rd, has lost his reelection bid:

The AP called the race today, which came as a surprise to MacArthur. Per TPM:

The Associated Press may have called his tight race for his Democratic opponent, but Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) isn’t quite ready to concede.

MacArthur seemed surprised when TPM asked him about the Wednesday AP call as he walked to the House shortly before 3 p.m. ET.

“I hadn’t even seen the AP call,” he told TPM when asked about the news. “I have no reaction because I haven’t seen it.”

Thanks, Angry Dad in Scrubs.



Cost Control Constituency and California’s Props 8 and 61

Healthcare cost control is tough politics. Every dollar saved is a dollar out of someone’s wallet. The benefits are far more diffused in either incrementally lower premiums or slightly lower taxes than the counterfactual projection. Our political system is optimized to emphasized the loud screams of concentrated minorities who are losing something while the vast majority of the potentially and incrementally better off won’t base their vote on a single issue. And when faced with a simple yes or no vote, our socio-political system on healthcare costs are split between insurers, academics and politicians versus hospitals, doctors and nurses or at least the public face will be hospitals, doctors, and nurses talking about the cute kids they heal or how they help Grandma.

California has had two major cost control ballot propositions in the past two cycles. In 2016, Proposition 61 attempted to tie the effective purchase price of drugs bought by the state of California to a price ceiling set by the Veterans Administration. It lost in 2016 by seven points.

In 2018, Proposition 8 would have limited what dialysis clinics could charge their non-governmental payers. It failed miserably.

In both cases, the industry segment that was targeted for cost controls (Pharma and dialysis) dumped an incredible amount of money into the campaigns. In both years, well over $100 million was spent by the industry segment at risk. It worked. It also shows how valuable the current payment system can be. And it previews the scope of fights that could occur if/when proposals to cap provider payments to 120% or 150% of Medicare are advanced.

Loss aversion among well organized, well funded, strategically competent actors is a powerful political force in American politics. It will quite frequently defeat proposals that promise diffuse, incremental and hard to detect broadly distributed benefits. California’s cost ceiling propositions are object lessons to this nostrum.



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Good News for Democrats!

And while Ms. Abrams continues her battle against the voices of disenfranchisement…

One factor of the investigation announcements by prominent Democrats, right now, is to encourage what are politely called ‘wavering’ Repubs — those whose future chances don’t rest on applauding Trump’s every verbal bowel movement, not to mention those with a skeleton or seventeen in their personal closets — to consider whether it might be wiser to join forces and call for ‘bipartisanship’ rather than pin their hopes on the not-looking-so-Teflon Donald.

From the company paper, in the town where national politics is the monopoly industry:

…[M]ultiple Democrats who will be chairing committees in the new Congress made clear that they already have a clear idea of the matters they’ll be investigating and they’re ready to use their subpoena powers if the administration refuses to cooperate. You can be sure that when all this begins, Republicans will portray it as madness, a chaotic eruption of politically motivated probes with no legitimate purpose. The truth, however, is that Democrats seem to know exactly what they’re doing…

When Republicans inevitably begin whining that Democrats are being too aggressive in all this oversight, remember how they be-clowned themselves through the Obama years, trying to gin up one phony scandal after another, including mounting seven, yes, seven separate investigations of Benghazi. We can and should have vigorous debates about what is being uncovered, how to understand it and what should be done about it. But the last thing we should do is waste our time arguing about whether there are too many investigations.

If the Trump administration is a bastion of integrity and public-spiritedness, that’s what the investigations will reveal. And if the president himself has displayed nothing but the highest ethical standards and respect for law throughout his career, that’s what we’ll learn. The sense of dread spreading over the White House and the Republican Party right now isn’t because they think House Democrats will waste everyone’s time with these investigations; it’s because they know there’s so much misbehavior to be uncovered. The public deserves to see and understand all of it, and if that winds up hurting Republicans, they have only themselves to blame.



Arizona just called

First the big news from Arizona:

And now the important news from Arizona:

And…

Both of those tweets are notable because they should not be notable in a healthy political system. The McSally concession came pretty much as soon as it was apparent that there just weren’t the votes for her to win. It took a few days but the Arizona process worked well and to spec. This is a graceful bog standard concession with a disappointed candidate and a good dog.

The tweet by the outgoing Senator is push back on conspiracy theories that if unanswered delegitimate electoral politics. This should be a nothing burger as well in a healthy political environment. Yet it too is noteworthy.



Florida Recount: Ballots Are the New Caravan

I’ve been too busy scraping, sanding, painting, unpacking, rearranging, etc., to pay much attention to what’s happening with the Florida recounts. To be honest, I don’t expect anything to change after the mandatory recounts; my guess is Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis will be certified as the winners of the senate seat and governor’s office and that Democrat Nikki Fried will maintain her lead for ag commissioner — maddeningly the only statewide win by a Democrat in Florida this cycle.

My wingnut county went for the Republicans overwhelmingly, as expected. Local reports say the recounts here are proceeding without controversy. Even the Democratic official overseeing the county recount says he trusts the Republican supervisor of elections to complete the job with integrity.

Contrast that with the screeching from Rick Scott and the orange fart cloud in the White House. Scott has always been a crook and jumped on the Trump bandwagon early. But one thing he’s done that struck me as smart politically was to cast himself as a hardworking, capable businessman rather than a Fox News ideologue, even if that’s what he was all along.

He dropped that ruse this go-round, absurdly (and ironically, given his own shady business history) crying “rampant fraud” before the damned votes were even counted the first time and going on the Hannity show to gin up hysteria and anger about the recounts. It looks orchestrated from the top since Lil’ Marco has irresponsibly joined in.

The orange fart cloud foolishly declared this morning that the ballots in Florida are “massively infected” (ballots are the new caravan) and that officials must stop state law-triggered recounts and declare election night calls the official tally. Real Banana Republican stuff.

Similarly, Scott ordered the state’s department of law enforcement to investigate fraud and was promptly told there’s no fraud to investigate. Their source of that information is the Republican secretary of state. Now Crooked Pam Bondi has joined in, sending a letter of concern to the department of law enforcement (headed by a Scott appointee!) since they declined to join the hysteria. Possibly this is her US AG audition tape, who knows.

It’s Trumpification at the state level. It echoes the dangerous split between career law enforcement employees at the federal level and their duties to citizens that is caused by Trump trying to press them into service as political props and enforcers. No good will come of any of it. It’s not surprising, but it’s dangerous and disturbing.

There’s a “massive infection” alright, but the disease vector isn’t the ballots in South Florida. The opportunistic infection is Trump in a host weakened by Republican parasites. Only their utter defeat will ensure the survival of the patient.



Monday Morning Open Thread: Off to A Good Start



On the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month of 1918 World War I Did Not Come to an End

(Satwinder Sehmi’s Calligraphy: In Flander’s Field)

As Veteran’s Day 2018 comes to a close, and with it the commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, it is important to remember that World War I did not actually end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. While it is true that the armistice was signed and peace talks would soon begin, World War I did not stop on November 11, 2018. Rather, and more accurately, it transformed into a series of low intensity conflicts that would simmer until reigniting into World War II. At the heart of those conflicts was a war of ideas. One of these ideas was national identity. Specifically, how ethno-national minorities that were left behind the lines, so to speak, when the armistice was signed would relate to the governments they now lived under, their ethno-national majority neighbors, and how those governments and those neighbors would relate to them. Out of these tense, taut, and often violent relationships between ethno-national majorities and minorities in post World War I Europe would grow other even more dangerous ideas such as fascism, in its corporatist, nationalist-syndicalist, and racist forms. Even, to a certain extent, Leninism, was unable to escape the nationalist tensions that resulted from the way World War I never really ended.

The great power competition that had led to World War I was changed by these clash of ideas – nationalism, fascism, communism – and, as a result, World War II and the Cold War were as much wars of ideas and ideology as they were wars of conquest and for territory. These ideas were about how to better organize state and society. And they placed the ideas of liberty and liberal democracy in all of its various types in direct conflict with the totalitarian ideas of fascism on the extreme right and communism on the extreme left. And just as different forms of liberal democracy would develop, so to would different variations of fascism and communism. These clash of ideas, of how states, societies, and even the global system should best be structured, would lead to both World War II, a long Cold War, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a number of conflicts fought by the proxies of the two post World War II superpowers. to a certain extent they are also an undercurrent in the US’s seeming forever war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As 2018 moves towards 2019, the world is once again faced with a war of ideas. The ideas of well ordered liberty and its expression in the different types of liberal democracy are once again facing off against totalitarian ideas from both state and non-state actors. Vladimir Putin challenges the US and its EU and NATO allies and partners with his promotion of managed democracy as a façade for the kleptocratic organized crime state he has created in Russia. Xi Xinping, recently declared as President for Life, promotes his fusion of Maoism, state controlled capitalism, and Chinese nationalism through his Belt and Road Initiative. ISIS continues to promote an extreme version of tawheed, the Islamic theological understanding of the unity of the Deity, which includes violently imposing its doctrine on believers and unbelievers alike. 

The War to End all Wars did not do so because it could not do so. Nor did World War II. Now has any other war. So while we recognize and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, we need to be realistic about what we face both within and without the United States. We need to remain vigilant in order to ensure that well ordered liberty prevails in this 21st century war of ideas.

Open thread.