A Cynical Game

These people are just despicable:

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is the latest presidential candidate trying to downplay the role anti-abortion rhetoric may have played in motivating the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs Friday afternoon. When a reporter asked him at an Iowa campaign stop Sunday evening about suspect Robert Lewis Dear saying he was motivated by “no more baby parts,” Cruz countered that he’s also been reported to be a “transgendered [sic] leftist activist.”

Cruz explained, “We know that he was a man registered to vote as a woman.” This discrepancy on Dear’s voter registration was first reported by The Gateway Pundit, a self-described “right-of-center news website,” under the claim that he “identifies as [a] woman.” Conservatives have since run with the claim that Dear is transgender.

There is actually no evidence to suggest that he is transgender, nor a “leftist,” nor any kind of activist. In fact, all of the available information suggests he was none of those things.

It doesn’t matter if this is true or not. Not one bit. What matters is Cruz said it, that the idiots in the GOP base will repeat it, and in the minds of wingnuttia, it will just become the received view. See also “Liberal Fascism.”

Split the party in two and win with the bigger half

Just a quick  comment on a recent Vox article:

But in a head-to-head matchup among Republican voters, Trump beats Rubio 57-43. That suggests that Trump’s ceiling, at least among Republicans, is far above his current 25 to 30 percent, and he may well benefit as weaker candidates drop out.

This actually makes sense given the current polling that we have seen in the Republican race.  For most of the year, if you add up the combined polled support of Trump, Carson and Fiorina plus attribute some proportion of Ted Cruz’s vote as extraordinarily anti-Republican establishment vote, this faction is the dominant faction within the Republican primary electorate.  The sum of Trump, Carson, Fiorina often is over 50% and usually closer to 60%.  The favored Establishment candidates (Bush, Walker, Kasich, Christie, Rubio) have either dropped out, or combined can poll less then a quarter of the Republican primary electorate.

Primaries often see large swings as the differences between candidates are not stark.  However it is easier for a person to switch support to a candidate who is running in the same cluster as the candidate that the person is switching support from, than for support to go to a candidate in a distant cluster.  The anti-establishment lane in the GOP primary is bigger than the establishment, and one of the candidates can’t be pushed aside due to a lack of funds.

So when the question and answer space collapses to only a single establishment and a single non-establishment choice, people gravitate towards their closest option from their current preferred option. That means Trump is picking up all of his current support and the vast majority of the supporters of the other anti-establishment candidates while Rubio consolidates everyone else.  And one faction right now is much bigger than the other.

KY and lies

Earlier in the week, the Washington Post highlighted the story of a Kentucky voter who is on expanded Medicaid with a high cost condition and who voted for Matt Bevin who had been running on rolling back Medicaid expansion.  Quite a few liberal blogs tsk-tsk poorer Kentucky voters for voting against their direct interest.  I think there is a bit more sympathetic and cynical way to look at their decision process.

Dennis Blackburn has this splintered self-interest. The 56-year-old mechanic hasn’t worked in 18 months, since he lost his job at a tire company that supplies a diminishing number of local coal mines….

He has a hereditary liver disorder, numbness in his hands and legs, back pain from folding his 6-foot-1-inch frame into 29-inch mine shafts as a young man, plus an abnormal heart rhythm — the likely vestige of having been struck by lightning 15 years ago in his tin-roofed farmhouse….

On Election Day, Blackburn voted for Bevin because he is tired of career politicians and thought a businessman would be more apt to create the jobs that Pike County so needs. Yet when it comes to the state’s expansion of health insurance, “it doesn’t look to me as if he understands,” Blackburn said. “Without this little bit of help these people are giving me, I could probably die. . . . It’s not right to not understand something but want to stamp it out.”

They know that it is very likely that they are being lied to on major Tea Party policy planks and accept that.

Anne Laurie in this morning’s open thread is highlighting another Washington Post article that has an excellent analysis of the Republican base by Republican governor Nikki Haley:

“You have a lot of people who were told that if we got a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate, then life was gonna be great,” she said in an interview Thursday. “What you’re seeing is that people are angry. Where’s the change? Why aren’t there bills on the president’s desk every day for him to veto? They’re saying, ‘Look, what you said would happen didn’t happen, so we’re going to go with anyone who hasn’t been elected.’ ”

The Republican base voters are used to getting lied to on major policy planks.  And in the Kentucky case, that looks probable to be true as well.  Kynect is highly likely to go away, but it will be replaced by a reasonably well functioning Healthcare.gov with minimal hassle besides people having to create new accounts.  Bevin has already started backtracking from his promise to take away Medicaid expansion from Kentucky residents.  Instead, he is promising to keep Medicaid expansion but make it slightly worse and slightly more convoluted with a 1115 waiver that has to be approved by the dreaded Obama administration.

If there is an implicit assumption by Republican leaning voters that Democrats are trying to pick off with tangible policy benefits that the Republican candidate is likely lying to the voters the policy wedge disappears.  From here,  Republican leaning voters can can rationally vote on other, social and cultural grounds.  The economic policy ground will be indistinguishable when implementation comes around.

And assuming Bevins does get a 1115 waiver passed, the election was not Medicaid expansion versus no Medicaid expansion but  Coal, God, Guns and Gays versus those damn hippies in Louisville looking down at Appalachia.


What is step 2?

Via Paul Krugman an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune about a guy with a business model that the Underpants Gnomes look at as incomplete:

Under Jonathan Johnson’s leadership at Overstock.com, the company has socked away $10.9 million in gold and silver and has a three-month food supply for each employee, bracing for a financial crisis that the Republican gubernatorial candidate said is certain to come…
“We expect when there is a financial crisis, there will be a banking holiday,” Johnson, Overstock chairman of the board, told the group. “I don’t know if it will be two days or two weeks or two months. But we have $10 million in gold and silver in denominations small enough … that we can use it for payroll. We want to be able to keep our employees paid [and] safe and our site up and running.”

My wife is the Overstock user in the Mayhew household, but as I understand it, Overstock.com is a fairly typical business to consumer web portal that sells things to people and then ships orders from warehouses to people via either the US Postal Service or a number of private entities. An extremely large percentage of Overstock’s payments from customers are made via credit cards over the web.

Is that an accurate enough description of their business process?

If it is, how does having a Smaugian hoard help Overstock keep their site up and running in a bank holiday scenario?

A bank holiday would only happen if there is extreme doubt about the liquidity of the entire US banking system. It would come as all private short term (1 to 30 day) lending either comes to a halt or has credit card level interest rates attached to it. It would be a massive breakdown of social trust and every single entity that can grab cash is going to hold onto cash for as long as legally (and usually illegally) possible as the lawyers can fight later over contract breaches.

So in that scenario, who is actually going to go on Overstock.com and buy an expandable three piece luggage set?  Sure, Overstock might give their ISP four pounds of gold to keep their connection on as their bank account would be frozen, but their ISP’s bank account would be frozen so the four pounds of gold would be insufficient to keep the ISP’s lights on (which are probably going off shortly anyways as the natural gas power plant is shutting down as their supply is not being delivered unless the power plant can supply physical cash in unmarked, non-sequential twenties instead of a line of credit).

How does having a gold hoard for an online retailer actually help that retailer stay open when the rest of the social and commercial network is shutting down due to the lack of credit?


Kynecting the elections to policy

And now that officially sucks.

Tue Nov 03, 2015 at 5:22 PM PT (David Jarman): To recap, Republican Matt Bevin (whom you might remember from losing his tea-flavored primary challenge to Mitch McConnell in 2014) has won a surprising (to the extent that no poll had given him the lead) victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race.

Bevin (R-Sociopath) had run on a promise to repeal as much of PPACA as he could.  That means shutting down Kynect, the Kentucky exchange and turning down the very successful Medicaid expansion.  As Charles Gaba noted, he was promising to take away health insurance from 9% of the state.  And he looks like he won going away and with coattails.

There are two major health policy implications of a Bevins win.  The first is the switch from Kynect to Healthcare.gov.  This is not that big of a deal in and of itself.  It is a different portal and a different set of branding but subsidies flow to people who buy insurance from healthcare.gov after the King case.  The biggest downside is if Kentucky wanted to go the Wyden Waiver route, having their own exchange makes plumbing a Wyden Waiver, even a very conservative Wyden Waiver a whole lot easier.

The big policy change is Medicaid expansion.  Medicaid expansion covered approximately 420,000 Kentuckians as of this morning or 9% of the state. Bevin ran against expansion.  The best case scenario is the hospital groups march into  Bevin’s chief of staff office tomorrow and tell him flat out that their books don’t balance without expansion of some sort and they’ll lay covering fire for an extremely punitive waiver application.  That is the best case scenario and I’ll give it a 10% chance of happening.  The probable case scenario is 420,000 people are fucked as of February 1, 2016 and most of Appalachian Kentucky has medical care and medical financing resembling Third Wold nations again.

Kentucky, a red state, is highly likely to return to being a purple state on the New York TimeUpshot map of uninsurance rates:

NYTIMES Uninsurance Rate

It was a good two years of actually connecting people to health insurance without the death defying worry that a toothache could either be immediately fatal or financially destroying.


Destructive but not purely crazy

Via Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

The House Freedom Caucus seems nice:

Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnaire” which it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin…..

The government will run out of money on December 11. Unless additional funding is approved before that date, the government will shut down.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy whichprompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. This would now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker Of The House.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health)

Just as a reminder, the House Freedumb Caucus is roughly 40 Congress critters who hold the balance of power as long as the rest of the House Republicans believe that maintaining in-group norm of only passing major legislation with only Republican votes is worthwhile. They are the power bottoms of the House GOP caucus.

But they are not intrinsically crazy if the goal of the Freedumb Caucus is to both protect their own ass and make it less likely for a Democrat to be elected to the White House in 2016. Extraordinarily destructive and cynical, yes, but they are not completely crazy.

The first goal of assuring their own re-election for most of the HFC is achieved if they can get out of the Republican primary.  Right now the Republican primary electorate is extremely pissed at the “Establishment” Republicans as those Republicans have overpromised and under-delivered (ie they could not repeal Obamacare nor impeach Obama for making them think that he would take away all of their guns due to the Democrats controlling some veto points against maximalist Republican goals).  Being a Republican who the Establishment (2nd DW dimension positive) hates is a good thing in the Republican primary in R+5 or redder districts.  The few HFC in D+0 or bluer districts can only win in waves or due to local idiosyncratic circumstances.  They’re irrelevant as long as the rest of the HFC controls the 218th vote.

This is fairly straightforward playing to the base.

Now the second contention that I’ll make that the HFC demands for a shutdown or default or far more likely large contractionary policies increases the odds of a Republican being elected is pure political science cynicism.

Read more

Meanwhile, on the Republic of Gilead Campaign Trail…

Link from The Hill:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Sunday that the concept of birthright citizenship is illogical given America’s struggles with rising illegal immigration.

“I think birthright citizenship as a policy matter doesn’t make sense,” the GOP presidential candidate told host John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We have right now upwards of 12 million people living here illegally,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense that our law automatically grants citizenship to their children, because what it does is it incentivizes additional illegal immigration.”…

Brave words for a candidate born on foreign soil whose own father’s immigration to America was legally a little iffy. Except that Ted Cruz doesn’t seem to be running for President any more — he’s running for God-King in the Republic of Gilead.

Conventional wisdom is that Cruz is now deploring “illegals” in an attempt to lure the angry racists populists once Trump gets bored. I’m sure those voters would, as Austen might phrase it, make a tidy supplement to the marks already cheering for Cruz’s long con. Which wouldn’t worry me, if there weren’t a lot of desperate women going to get hurt by his ongoing maneuvers to draw Talibangelical attention…

The Washington Post, on the Iowa event last weekend:

… Here in Iowa, 57 percent of Republican caucus-goers identified as evangelical Christians, according to entrance polls. Cruz has been courting faith leaders here, dispatching his father Rafael, a pastor, to speak at events around the state and announcing Friday that he wants to recruit a pastor in each of Iowa’s 99 counties to do faith outreach.

Cruz’s Iowa campaign chairman, Matt Schultz, suggested Cruz was chosen by God. Read more