Not the Onion: signing statement edition

Read it and bang your head into the wall until the darkness engulfs and silence descends.

Open thread



Sunday Evening Open Thread: Pictures from An Exhibition(ist)

What’s on the agenda — preferably upbeat — as we wrap up this thoroughly dispiriting weekend?


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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



Must Have Been The Brown Acid…

ETA: Given Betty’s post immediately below, this should settle any last doubts that this blog is not a member of any organized political party…(a gazillion quatloos to all those (many here) who nod to the illustrious forebear who put that opening to such good use).  I’ll leave this one up for the Rose-Mary Woods photo, which is worth the price of admission. But Betty got there first in all the relevant detail, so that’s where I’m heading for the fun of the discussion.)

———————————–

…the flashbacks seem so real.

At 8:32 this morning, the usurper occupying the Oval Office tweeted this:

I have several reactions.

First, this:

(For all you kids out there, that’s Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, demonstrating how she managed to “accidentally” create an eighteen minute gap in the Oval Office tapes, perfectly placed to eliminate some very interesting discussion of Watergate matters.)*

Second: A question for the legal minds here:  Bob Bauer has an interesting piece over at the Lawfare Blog assessing where Trump has reached on the obstruction of justice spectrum, clearly written before the shitgibbon released the tweet at the top of this post.  He argues (as I, a non-lawyer, read him) that there is an emerging fact pattern consistent with obstruction, but further focused inquiry would be needed to generate an actual case.  So, does this new tweet, explicitly threatening a potential witness in such an obstruction, advance the argument that the president is engaged in an actual, legally-jeopardizing attempt at obstruction?

Third: “Subpoena” has such a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it.  I shouldn’t still be surprised, but I am: how dumb do you have to be to announce the possibility of evidence that one had no prior reason to suspect might exist?  This tweet from Garry Kasparov is so spot on:

And with that, it’s back to the 18th century for me! (Isaac Newton, musing on the virtues of government debt…)  Have at it, y’all.

*Ancient tech nerd that I am, I am totally grooving on the IBM Selectric there. What fabulous machines… ETA: So — you can retire my tech-nerd creds. That’s not a Selectric. Ahh well….

 



Wonk shade

Dan Diamond brings together the wonderful health nerd traditional of #HealthPolicyValentines and topical commentary on the firing of the NSA for being compromised by the Russians.

I needed this laugh.

Open Thread



Monday Morning Open Thread: Where’s the Clue-by-Four?

trump-distracts-maga-voter-luckovich

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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Professor Krugman’s looking for one, in “Fast Food Damnation“:

… What I see a lot, both in general political discourse and in my own inbox, is a tremendous sense of resentment against people like Hillary Clinton or, well, me, that isn’t about policy. It boils down, instead, to something along the lines of “You people think you’re better than us.” And it has a lot to do with the way people live.

If populism were simply about income inequality, someone like Trump should be deeply resented by the working class. He has gold toilets! But he gets a pass, partly — I think — because his tastes seem in line with those of non-college-educated whites. That is, he lives the way they imagine they would if they had a lot of money.

Compare that with affluent liberals — say, my neighbors on the Upper West Side. They aren’t nearly as rich as the plutocrats that will stuff the Trump cabinet. What’s more, they vote for things that will raise their taxes and cost of living, while improving the lives of the very people who disdain them. Objectively, they’re on white workers’ side.

But they don’t eat much fast food, because they believe it’s unhealthy and they’re watching their weight. They don’t watch much reality TV, and do listen to a lot of books on tape — or even read books the old-fashioned way. if they’re rich enough to have a second home, it’s a shabby-chic country place, not Mar-a-Lago.

So there is a sense in which there’s a bigger cultural gulf between affluent liberals and the white working class than there is between Trumpkins and the WWC. Do the liberals sneer at the Joe Sixpacks? Actually, I’ve never heard it — the people I hang out with do understand that living the way they do takes a lot more money and time than hard-pressed Americans have, and aren’t especially judgmental about lifestyles. But it’s easy to see how the sense that liberals look down on regular folks might arise, and be fanned by right-wing media.

The question is, what do you do? Again, objectively those liberals are very much on workers’ side, while the characters who play on this perceived disdain are set to betray the white working class on a massive scale. Is there no way to get this across other than eating lots of burgers with fries?

Yes, a big chunk of the Trump/GOP’s appeal is old-fashioned all-American racism (and misogyny). But there are people of color (and plenty of women) who voted for Trump, under the rubric that he’d “shake things up” or similar. How does the Democratic sane Party appeal to voters who would rather punish themselves and their loved ones than be — in their minds — looked down on?
***********

Apart from that ongoing dilemma, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?



Reminder: The unpopular stuff was needed

Via TPM, Senator Corker (R-TN) is stating an impossibility:

“You really do have to have 60 votes to replace and you know reconciliation can create some hangover effects as we’ve seen with the health care bill itself and with the Bush tax cuts and all of that so are you better off going ahead and attempting to put something in place that will work that does away with all the negatives that exist in ACA, but builds on some of the positives?” Corker asked. “Again, President-elect Trump mentioned, I thought wisely during the campaign, that replacement and repeal should be done simultaneously.”

The negatives (mandates, reinsurance, risk adjustment, risk corridors) and the annoying (narrow networks, HMO’s, high cost sharing) were needed to make the popular stuff work (guarantee issue, community rating) work.  Definitions as to what counted as a qualified plan were needed.  Definitions as to what counts as an essential health benefit were needed.  All of the negatives were needed .  They can be tweaked and twisted.  The continual enrollment concept changes the form of a mandate but performs the same function of making going without coverage too expensive to be attractive.  The negative stuff was not put into the bill for shits and giggles.

About the only major things in the medical coverage expansion sections of the ACA that don’t need the negatives of the ACA are Medicaid expansion and the Under-26 coverage expansions.  Those are easy things that are severable from the core of the three legged stool.  One is state by state single payer and the other is an expansion of multi-payer community rated/guaranteed issue coverage.

We’ll see this refrain at least four times a week for the next four years.  Health policy is hard even if the objective is to present a patina of coverage in order to loot.  Actually providing a usable coverage expansion is harder.

 

Update 1: Victor in comments makes a very good point:

I think it is also fair to point out that most of the stuff on the revenue side was also unnecessary. The ACA can work without the employer mandate or the cadillac tax although the Cadillac tax is a good economic policy. The employer mandate was a fine rule from a fairness issue but can easily cause labor market distortions.