While Weasels Gnaw Our Flesh

Just a quick hit to remind everyone that while the criminal investigation of Trump and co. widens, they’re still pissing on us at every opportunity, and calling it rain.

So how’s this: it’s going to be legal again/stay OK for profit-making higher ed to rip off their students/protect the banksters:

The U.S. Department of Education is hitting pause on two of the Obama administration’s primary rules aimed at reining in for-profit colleges.

Department officials said they will block a rule, set to take effect next month, that clarifies how student borrowers can have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded or misled by their college. The plan was first reported by Inside Higher Ed Wednesday.

The Trump administration will pursue a do-over of the rule-making process that produced that regulation, known as borrower defense to repayment, as well as the gainful-employment rule. The latter holds vocational programs at all institutions and all programs at for-profits accountable when they produce graduates with burdensome student loan debt.

Given that college debt is one of the most iron-clad ways to crush upward mobility, this is another move by Trump and the grotesque DeVos to ensure that the current class structure in the United States remains intact.

Putting this in the long view:  the GI Bill, followed by the prioritization of public higher education in the 60s by leaders like Governor Pat Brown of California and Governor George Romney of Michigan, put first class advanced education and training within reach of an unprecedented amount of Americans.  The retreat from that ideal led by (mostly but not exclusively) Republican state governments, beginning with Reagan in California and then in the White House, have incrementally narrowed that opportunity.  Now, the combinatio of cost and constraints on access meant that the debt involved makes higher education as much or more a burden as it is the engine of a better life.

Today’s Republican party is just fine with that.  DeVos is not an outlier; this isn’t on Trump, or only on him.  The idea that higher ed (or education in general) is a business in which students are the product on whom to make a profit is utterly destructive of either a democratic ideal or any plausible concept of social justice.  And it is the core tenet of today’s radical conservatives calling themselves members of the Party of Lincoln.

One last thought:  I had dinner last week with a Democratic Party senior statesman.  He told me that in his view we’ve made the mistake of thinking better policies are argument enough for elections.  They’re not; we surely know that now, right?

Instead we have to convey something more, the framework in which specific good policies can work.  DeVos’ current obscenity gives us a hint as to what that might be. Republicans throw obstacles in the way of Americans making better lives.  Democrats are — and we should say so as loud as we can — the party of opportunity.

At least that’s my take.  I know it’s hardly original.  But whatever the particular frame you may favor, I think one of our biggest needs right now is to find a way to both describe and be (ever more) the party that can lay claim to affirmative allegiance, and not just the true fact that we are better than the other side.  Your feeling?

(Oh — and happy Father’s Day, all.  This thread should be open enough to tell us your plans, completed or still in prospect, for the day.  Mine? Pick up one of the rib-eyes on sale at Whole Paycheck today, and smoke it in the Weber egg.)

Image: Winslow Homer, The Country School 1871



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Staunch in Opposition (to Reality)

For all the chaos of Lord Smallgloves’ mis-administration, some things remain eternal. The sun rises in the east; the tides go in and out; and Megan McArdle is proudly, aggressively stupid on the internet:

After years of failing at the grown-up business of passing legislation, small wonder the Democrats would like to let the Republicans have a try at being the adults in the room. In politics, saying “no” is a great deal of fun…

At the moment, of course, the empty gesture of blocking Gorsuch is delighting many on the left, who finally feel like their party has grown a spine. If this follows the pattern that evolved on the right, however, that feeling will turn out to be increasingly costly…

Democrats desperately need to become competitive again outside of a handful of urban agglomerations, not just because their rural failures cost them the presidency, but also because of all the other offices they’ve lost at every level of government below the White House. But making themselves more competitive is probably going to require backing away from an immigration position that was skirting dangerously close to “open borders,” and placing less focus on identity politics. If they try to do this, their base will (correctly) perceive themselves losing power and status in the party, and they will be incandescent. Their first priority will be extracting signals of loyalty to themselves, not winning elections … and if the Republican experience is any guide, they may well get what they want.

Bless her cold, self-satisfied, shrunken heart.

Apart from rolling our eyes, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Punitive 1115 waivers will be approved

The Medicaid 1115 waiver program allows states to apply for and receive permission from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive certain federal guidelines for Medicaid. Almost every state has a 1115 waiver for something. They are most commonly known as the alternative pathway for Medicaid Expansion for Red states.

CMS just released a letter last night indicating that it has new guidance and new desired boundaries for 1115 waivers that it will now approve. CMS is looking for more punitive waiver applications as well as indicating that it is willing to take Indiana HIP 2.0 HSA based Medicaid expansion to a national scale.

Deprioritizing etc — Really — your administration wants to cut $880 billion from Medicaid over a decade for upper income tax cuts so please cut the sanctimony.

Here is the work requirement.

The Obama Administration would not tie Medicaid to work requirements. Medicaid is a medical program. There are other work search and job training programs that are optimized as such.

This is a combination of splitting the poor into the deserving and non-deserving as well as an introduction of friction to decrease enrollment. Most people on expansion are either working, looking for work, in school or a primary care giver for dependents with significant needs. There are very few lazy lay-abouts. Instead these requirements create more hurdles that people have to jump, more hoops they have to shimmy through and more opportunities for their paperwork to be messed up. It aligns with the ritualistic humiliation of drug testing requirements for unemployment and TANF benefits. It is an assertion of power.

It won’t significantly reduce costs. The Kentucky 1115 application that was submitted last summer is good proof of that.
Read more



The Common Inheritance, The Common Defense

A bit of self promotion here, but I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe that might be of interest to some here.

It’s a look at what the idea of the commons — not just the abstract, model commons of Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, but the historical commons as actually lived and used — can tell us about current problems.  The TL:DR is that commons are not inherently prone to tragedy, but that the preservation of communal goods requires…wait for it…communal action: regulation, self-regulation.

This is, of course, exactly what the Republican Party denies — more, loathes and condemns.  With Trump, they’re getting their way, but its vital to remember that the consequences that will flow from these decisions are not down to him, or simply so: the entire Republican power structure is eager to do this, and when we pay the price, we must remember who ran up the bill.

Anyway, here’s a taste from my piece.  Head on over to the Globe’s site if you want more.

The idea of the commons is deeply woven through the history of the English countryside. Shakespeare captured this idyllic approach to nature’s wealth in “As You Like It,” when the shepherd Corin explains to the cynic Touchstone the joys of his life. “I earn that I eat, get that I wear,” he says, adding that “the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck” — in the unowned, readily shared Forest of Arden.

There can be trouble in such an Eden, as Hardin pointed out in an influential 1968 paper. Hardin asked what would happen if access to a commons were truly unfettered — if Corin and every other villager ran as many sheep as they could there. In such cases, Hardin argued, the endgame is obvious: Too many animals would eat too much fodder, leaving the ground bare, unable to support any livestock at all.

The evolution of resistance to antibiotics fits that story perfectly. The first modern bacteria-killing drug, penicillin, came into widespread use in 1944, as American laboratories raced to produce millions of doses in time for D-Day. The next year, its discoverer, Alexander Fleming, used his Nobel Prize lecture to describe precisely how this wonder drug could lose its power, telling the sad tale of a man who came down with a strep infection. In his tale, Mr. X didn’t finish his course of penicillin, and his surviving microbes, now “educated” (Fleming’s term), infected his wife. When her course of penicillin failed to eradicate these now-resistant microbes, Mrs. X died — killed, Fleming said, by her husband’s carelessness. It took just one more year for this fable to turn into fact: In 1946, four American soldiers came down with drug-resistant gonorrhea, the first such resistance on record.

 

Go on — check it out.  You want to hear about the great Charnwood Forest rabbit riot.  You know you do…

Image: Jacopo da Ponte, Sheep and Lambc. 1650.



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Look, See CPAC 2017 — See CPAC Run!

Yes, the American Conservative Union’s combination trade show and meat market is cheesy and ludicrous when it’s not revolting, but on the other hand, the President-Asterisk and the people actually running his administration are in attendance

Jennifer Jacobs, at Bloomberg, “Bannon Rallies Conservatives for ‘Economic Nationalist Agenda’“:

President Donald Trump’s top advisers girded conservative activists for battle with the nation’s political and media establishments to deliver his campaign agenda of trade protection, immigration limits and a shrinking of government regulation.

“Every day is going to be a fight,” Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said. “We want you to have our back.” He warned that “the corporatist, globalist media” are “adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.”…

Vice President Mike Pence reinforced Bannon’s us-against-them rhetoric when he took the stage Thursday evening.

“The media, the elites, the insiders, everybody else who profits off of preserving the status quo, they dismissed our president every step of the way,” Pence said. “And in dismissing him, they also dismissed millions of the hard-working, forgotten men and women who make this country great. And worse yet, they’re still trying to dismiss him. They’re still trying to dismiss all of us.”

Bannon, Priebus and Pence assured the thousands of activists that Trump wouldn’t back down from his campaign promises. Pence said, “We’re in the promise-keeping business these days.” Bannon said he’s proud that Trump has refused to moderate his message or to give any ground on delivering on his campaign commitments…

Although Trump was ridiculed at last year’s CPAC conference by rival presidential candidates and skipped the gathering to campaign elsewhere, prominent members of his administration this year dominate program…

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway also talked to the group Thursday. Other Trump administration officials scheduled to speak include Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency; deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka; and Andrew Bremberg, director of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council. Trump is set to address the gathering on Friday…

Rosie Gray, at the Atlantic, on “The Bannon-Priebus Buddy Act“:

While a suit-clad Priebus offered standard fare about taxes and regulation, Bannon, in khakis and no tie, went in a different direction. His appearance was a reminder of how unusual it is that Bannon, whose career in politics thus far had consisted of aggressive opposition not just to the left but to establishment Republicans in Priebus’s mold, has ascended in such a short period of time to the highest levels of power in the White House.
Read more



Picking At It Open Thread: Milo Hanrahan?!?… (Part 2.5)

One last burst of antiseptic splashed at the political acne that is Milotm, before we turn to the MRSA of CPAC. Dorian Lynskey reports how a shallow actor played the bad guy for money:

… Yiannopoulos was born Milo Hanrahan in Kent in 1984 and grew up in a financially comfortable but emotionally fraught family. He later adopted his beloved Greek grandmother’s surname, but prefers the pop-starry mononym Milo. On Twitter, before he was permanently banned last July, he operated as @nero. After dropping out of two universities – Manchester and Cambridge – he wrote for the Catholic Herald and covered technology for the Daily Telegraph. On the Telegraph’s blog pages, under editor Damian Thompson, he became a professional troll; a clickbait provocateur who hated the left more than he loved anything…

Yiannopoulos found his stepping stone to America in Gamergate, an online movement that claimed to campaign for ethics in videogame journalism while subjecting women in the industry to brutal harassment. Unlike older conservatives, Yiannopoulos understood what was bubbling up on platforms such as Reddit and 4chan: a new gamified form of hard-right discourse based not on ideas but on memes, harassment and “saying the unsayable”, driven by white male resentment toward minorities and so-called “social justice warriors”, the au courant name for political correctness. It didn’t matter that he had recently mocked gamers as “unemployed saddos living in their parents’ basements”. For Milo, Gamergate was an exciting new front in the culture wars and the career boost he craved…

Yiannopoulos preached the topsy-turvy gospel of the “alt-right”: liberals, feminists and people of colour were the oppressors and bigotry was a rebel yell. “I always thought journalism was about sticking up for the many against the powerful few,” he told Fusion in 2015. Yet in the same interview he implied it was all a show: “I didn’t like me very much and so I created this comedy character. And now they’ve converged.” Whenever he gets into trouble, he blames the character. On Monday, he attributed his justification of child abuse to his “usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humour”. Last year, he flippantly told Bloomberg Business Week: “I’m totally autistic or sociopathic. I guess I’m both.”

In 2015 Yiannopoulos spotted his next opportunity, and perhaps a kindred spirit, in Donald Trump, a man he calls “Daddy”. (He rarely speaks to his own parents.) With Trump, the backlash against political correctness went nuclear and via Bannon’s Breitbart, Yiannopoulos became a far-right hero and gleeful scourge of liberal “snowflakes”. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him “the person who propelled the alt-right movement into the mainstream”.
Read more



Under Cover of Darkness Open Thread: CPAC, Milo, and the Limits of Cleek’s Law (Part the Second)

Cleek’s Law: Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily.

Roy Edroso, at Alicublog:

I see Milo Yiannopoulos’ friends have turned on him. Just kidding — they were never his friends; just a bunch of conservatives and libertarians who took him up because, one, he hated things they also hated (liberals, women, the transgendered, et alia); two, he celebrated things they also celebrated, primarily the vicious, spiteful treatment of anyone weaker than themselves; and three, because he was ostentatiously gay — indeed an old-fashioned caricature of homosexuality straight out of the Liberace playbook — and allowed himself to be associated with them, which gave conservatives and libertarians two things they thought would advantage them in the dreary Culture Wars they’re always pursuing: glamour and victim status…


Read more