Open Thread: Social Notes from the Wingnut Wurlitzer Incubator

Can’t be a good sign when your dream candidate would rather play footsie with Steve “Chaotic Evil, Only Less Competent” Bannon. Marc Short’s a tool (and not a sharp one); any locals want to tell us more about Tom Ricketts? From the Chicago Tribune:

The Heritage Foundation has narrowed its search for a new president down to a shortlist of finalists, a group that includes Todd Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, and Marc Short, a senior Trump White House official, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

The conservative think tank’s trustees, however, remain torn over their decision. Kay Coles James – a Heritage board member who served as the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under former president George W. Bush and is close to Heritage founder Edwin Feulner – has been mentioned by several associates as someone who could serve in a temporary capacity if the board cannot settle on a candidate…

Heritage’s board includes many wealthy right-wing figures, including Steve Forbes, Rebekah Mercer and Thomas Saunders.

The top job at the influential conservative outpost has been open since May, when Jim DeMint, the Republican firebrand and former South Carolina senator, was pushed out, though Fuelner has been serving as the interim president. The search process is still in flux, and it is not clear if the top candidates under consideration have officially been contacted by the Heritage board – or would even accept the position…

Trump selected Ricketts to serve as deputy commerce secretary, but in April he withdrew his nomination from consideration, citing an inability to untangle his financial holdings to the satisfaction of the Office of Government Ethics.

Ricketts’ father helped finance Future45, a super PAC that spent lavishly for Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, giving the group at least $1 million through the end of September, FEC filings show. Joe Ricketts and his wife, Marlene, also contributed nearly $344,000 to support Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party. The Ricketts’ financial support for Trump was a dramatic reversal from the primaries, when Joe and Marlene Ricketts gave more than $5.5 million to Our Principles PAC, a super PAC that ran a slew of hard-hitting ads against Trump.

Short, the director of legislative affairs at the White House, comes with strong conservative credentials, previously leading Freedom Partners, the political operation for billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and before that working for Vice President Mike Pence when was a rising star on the right during his days in the U.S. House.

It is unclear if Short has expressed interest in the job, and he has not met with the Heritage board. But if selected – and if he were to accept – he would represent yet another high-profile departure from Trump’s administration, which has already faced a steady stream of turnover and shake-ups…



Distributional benefits of underwriting in the ACA world

There are strong rumors that President Trump will issue an executive order that will allow individuals to buy association health plans. These plans are not regulated by the ACA, instead they are regulated by ERISA. If the executive order or the subsequent rule making that comes from the order are upheld in court, these plans would be allowed to medically underwrite and risk rate their premiums.

So what does that mean for people who are looking to buy insurance on the individual market?

We need to split the universe of buyers into two risk groupings:high risk and low risk. Low risk individuals will get good underwritten rates and high risk individuals will get bad underwritten rates. Risk can be a function of medical history, hobbies, zip code, age or any other factor that an insurer has ever used to divide their risk pool. I think that we also need to divide the universe into three income groups. People who make too little for Exchange subsidies, people who make just enough for Exchange subsidies and people who make too much for Exchange subsidies.

I want to look through the distributional implications prospectively first:

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Open Thread: Oh Joy, Another Crappy Reboot…


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… Of a series nobody enjoyed the *first* time…

Matthew Yglesias, at Vox“The Harriet Miers of the Fed is ready for a comeback”:

Back in the younger and more innocent days of January, 2006, then-President George W. Bush decided to appoint a nice-looking and well-off young man named Kevin Warsh to a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors that he had no apparent qualification for…
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Stupid Idea For David To Destroy

David’s post below got me thinking on single payer vs. universal coverage — I’m with David (and Elie). Don’t care how we get to health care for all Americans, as long as we get there.

So here’s my stupid idea: a move in stages.*

Stage one: Medicare For All Kids.  Same program, just for every kid up to the age of 18–or 26, to match current ACA practice.

The reasoning in my wholly non-expert addled brain being twofold: first, kids are, as a group, cheap to cover, so the financial lift here is presumably manageable.  Second: this has an aspirational frame that can be used to persuade.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take (I took) risks on my own behalf I would never have done had I my son to keep safe when I started my own small business.  I don’t know how many people have deferred or abandoned dreams because they couldn’t go insurance-naked for their kids.

That’s anecdata, but David Leonhardt made much the same argument way back in 2010 in defense of the bill that became Obamacare. Medicare For All Kids, presented as a way to unleash Americans’ entrpreneurial spirit, would be a proposition on which I think Democrats could go to town.

The next stage is to take the step that didn’t find our David’s 218-51-5 support in the last go-round:  Medicare (buy-in?) For All Over 55.  This is a form of public option, and it would expand the single-payer approach to more and more of those either utterly unable to take on health risk themselves (kids, the post-work elderly) and those whose age-adjusted risk is growing to the point where it threatens to become unmanageable.   Again, this would require persuasion, but the idea that older but not old folks who might face, say, a 2008-like crisis of employment should find a ready avenue to coverage is, again, a case that can be made (by a better political rhetorician than me).

That leaves 27-55 year olds on their own — or rather, within the existing Obamacare/expanded Medicaid universe.  But it establishes a template for a single payer form of coverage without requiring a wholesale change over of a system with tons of interested parties and rent-seekers eager to defend their turf.

So — to steal Ta-Nehisi Coates’ old line: talk to me like I’m stupid.

What’s wrong with a crabwise walk towards increasingly universal health care, along these lines or better ones? For both politics and policy, what would be wrong w. introducing, say a Medicare For All  Kids bill in this Congress, just to get that ball rolling?

David? Anybody?

*”We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Image: Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1907



New American Horseshit

Earlier this week, the think tank New America expelled a subsidiary called Open Markets, led by Barry Lynn. New America is funded in large part by Google. In June, Open Markets put out a press release lauding the European Union’s multi-billion dollar sanctions against Google. You connect the dots. Here’s a backgrounder.

New America’s leader, Ann-Marie Slaughter, has been furiously and ineffectively spinning this week. (Atrios’ one sentence on her leadership pretty much says it all.) Her latest excuse-making exercise includes this gem:

Nothing we say is going to convince the many people who want to believe a David versus Goliath story of Barry Lynn versus big bad Google. On the contrary, Barry’s new organization and campaign against Google is the opening salvo of one group of Democrats versus another group of Democrats in the run-up to the 2020 election, at a time when I personally think the country faces far greater challenges of racism, violence, a broken political system, and geographic and partisan divisions so great that we are losing any common sense of what we stand and strive for as a country.

Translation: if we don’t shut up about my little think tank imbroglio, we may lose the 2020 election.

That really is some prime bullshit. First, monopolies contribute to our “broken political system”. Raising consciousness about the way that monopolies make our lives shitty, and being the party with a solution, is an election winner in 2018, 2020 and beyond. Second, if our party is so fucking delicate that a little debate in 2017 is going to sink our 2020 chances, maybe we need to talk about that instead of sweeping it under the rug. Third, I think we’re on the way to party unity over a key set of policies that are going to have broad appeal to our traditional constituencies. For proof of that, see the recent unity over Medicare for all between Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders.

Frankly, I’m sick of shit stirring and fear mongering with the goal of shutting people up. The only fear I have after reading Slaughter’s piece is that someone will think that she has some insight into the Democratic party. She needs to find a way to save her $500K a year gig that doesn’t involve claptrap like this.



So Step Away With Your Fist Fight Ways

This ain’t back in the day:

Many Americans can’t remember anything other than an economy with skyrocketing inequality, in which living standards for most Americans are stagnating and the rich are pulling away. It feels inevitable.

But it’s not.

A well-known team of inequality researchers — Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — has been getting some attention recently for a chart it produced. It shows the change in income between 1980 and 2014 for every point on the distribution, and it neatly summarizes the recent soaring of inequality.

It’s been 40 years since the right wing long game to destroy the middle class and the poor began, and they are winning. Unprecedented propaganda efforts have coal miners slapping “Friends of Coal” bumper stickers on their cars, broken workers are chanting “right to work” as they struggle to crush the unions that would and once did protect them, and the courts have been stocked with corporate friendly judges. In my state, literally. There are things we can do about it (if we band together and chip away at the GOP stranglehold in Washington):

The problem is that wealth and capital income are not distributed evenly. In 2014, the average wealth of the bottom half was $349. For the top one percent, it was over $16 million.

Rich people in our society don’t just have high capital income levels. They also have high capital income shares. That is, a large portion of the income collected at the top of our society comes from capital rather than from labor. In 2014, just 5.1 percent of the bottom half’s income came from capital. For the top one percent, around 58.9 percent of income came from capital.

It is worth emphasizing just how much income at the top of society comes from passive ownership of investments rather than from working. The top 0.01 percent of individuals in society have an average income of $28 million. Three-fourths of that income, or $21 million, came from capital in 2014.

If we want to get serious about creating a fair and egalitarian society, we must confront capital directly. Wage levels are important. Benefit levels are important. But getting those things right will not be enough so long as nearly one-third of the national income flows out passively to a handful of people at the top of society.

Current liberal efforts to tackle wealth inequality are woefully inadequate. Policies aimed at building the assets of low-income families, the typical approach to this issue, rarely succeed on their own terms and, even if they did succeed, would only be an insignificant drop in the bucket. For wealth and capital income to become more fairly distributed throughout society, the ownership of existing assets must be reordered towards that end.

But, as we know, the perfect was the enemy of the good in the last election, and we have this:

Different policies could produce a different outcome. My list would start with a tax code that does less to favor the affluent, a better-functioning education system, more bargaining power for workers and less tolerance for corporate consolidation.

Remarkably, President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress are trying to go in the other direction. They spent months trying to take away health insurance from millions of middle-class and poor families. Their initial tax-reform plans would reduce taxes for the rich much more than for everyone else. And they want to cut spending on schools, even though education is the single best way to improve middle-class living standards over the long term.

Most Americans would look at these charts and conclude that inequality is out of control. The president, on the other hand, seems to think that inequality isn’t big enough.

I don’t know what it is going to take to unite “the left”- whatever that means anymore. Hell, I don’t even know what to call myself anymore because I support single payer, higher tax rates, higher capital gains, decriminalization, demilitarization, reinstatement of the draft, am pro-choice, etc., ad nauseum, but because I voted for Hillary I’m apparently a neoliberal. At any rate, I thought the election of Trump would unify “the left,” but it has apparently made us more fractious than ever. But we need to get our shit together, because things done changed.



It’s Baaaaacccckkkk (Sort Of, Maybe)

It is impossible to overstate the Republican commitment to ripping health care from millions, while taking a chainsaw to our medical system.

Rand Paul has just announced that he will vote “Yes” on the Trumpcare motion to proceed as long as he is given a clean vote on his amendment, which would simply repeal the ACA (which, given the CBO evaluation of a similar proposal, would lead to something on the order of 17 million without health care next year, and 32 million Americans left in the cold by 2026).

That’s still not enough to get Trumpcare to the floor if the other declared “Noes” hold out, but each senator McConnell can peel away significantly increases the pressure on those who remain opposed.  And certainly, Paul’s cave reminds us that counting on any Republican to maintain a party-base-unpopular position as a matter of principle is a mug’s game.

This won’t be over until the GOP loses its majority in one house or the other.

Image: Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1515