Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez – What a Team! (Part II)

I inadvertently pushed some buttons yesterday with Part I. Today, John Stoehr, who writes his own newsletter and is a columnist at the Washington Monthly, wrote a long tweet stream about the incident. It turns out that my hypothesis wasn’t quite right, but it was close. Here’s the starting tweet, and I’ll put the rest of the thread into a more readable form.

One of the biggest obstacles in the history of American liberalism has been this tendency among liberals to accept as true things liberalism’s enemies say about it and them.

Newly elected members of the US Congress arrived for orientation. @Ocasio2018 spoke at a sit-in featuring about 200 people outside Nancy Pelosi’s office.

The “protest,” as it was called, was organized by an advocacy group aiming to raise awareness about climate change and to advocate for more green-energy jobs.

This was manna to Ocasio-Cortez, who made history as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress after unseating US Rep. Joe Crowley, the former No. 3 in the House Democratic leadership.

The 29-year-old Latina has been stumping for liberal candidates across the country, making liberal arguments in unapologetically liberal ways. That she spoke with activists demanding action from leading liberals should have come as no surprise to anyone any time anywhere.

But then came this bit of disinformation from the spokeswoman of Paul Ryan to Capitol Hill reporters, which set the tone for the entire day: “Huh, well this is unconventional,” AshLee Strong wrote in an email. “The incoming speaker is getting protested by one of her freshman.”

From this point onward, Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t doing what a young dynamic liberal legislator does. No, no, no! She was “protesting” Pelosi!

AshLee Strong paved the way for every Capitol Hill reporter to tell a story they had been wanting to tell even though the narrative” was based on a falsehood: that this unruly mob can’t be controlled.

This “narrative” drew the ire of liberals who would have otherwise cheered Ocasio-Cortez. It rekindled the battle between the youngs and the olds, between “centrists” and “leftists,” and between “insurgents” and “the establishment.”

Worse, it inspired some liberals to trot out the old (often vaguely sexist) nomenclature: Ocasio-Cortez was grandstanding. She was showboating. She was this, that, and whatever. Too many liberals accepted as true what liberalism’s enemies said about it and them.

Thing is, when you actually listen to the women, a different picture comes to light. Not only was Ocasio-Cortez doing what young dynamic liberal legislators are supposed to do—bring new energy and new ideas to the table—she was charting her own course while forging alliances with established powers. She created a bridge between an energized under-30 base & the party’s leadership. She’ll likely be an invaluable ally as Pelosi plots a way forward.

Few can say they’ve accomplished more on their first day.

Bloomberg reported the incident was a challenge to “party unity.” The Times said earlier these renegades may be unwilling to “toe the party line.” Fox’s Laura Ingraham thrilled at the sight of Nancy Pelosi trying to wrangle newly elected “insurgents.” None of it was true.

As is the case when women rise to power, people are eager to project onto them what they want to see, and are not listening to what they are actually saying.

Reporters can be trusted to frame politics in conservative terms. That’s what happened. Right-wing media can be trusted to cement the view that the Democrats are “a mob” and risk “overplaying their hand.” That’s what happened. But liberals ought to know better.

Here is what Ocasio-Cortez said to activists: Should Leader Pelosi become the next Speaker of the House, we need to tell her that we’ve got her back in showing and pursuing the most progressive energy agenda that this country has ever seen.

Later, to the news media: AOC: One of the things I admire so much about Leader Pelosi is that she comes from a space of activism and organizing. And so I think that she really appreciates civic engagement. What I’m here to do is to support the folks who are here. This is about uplifting the voice and the message of the fact that we need a Green New Deal and we need to get to 100 percent renewables because our lives depend on it. … ***We are here to back [Pelosi] up.***

To which, Pelosi said: We are inspired by the energy and activism of the many young activists and advocates leading the way on the climate crisis. We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

Um, yeah, no. This was not a protest, as Republican AshLee Strong said. It was activism. This was not disunity. It was unity.

This isn’t the Tea Party. This isn’t a conservative party. It’s a liberal and democratic party. Reporters should cover it as such if only for the purpose of accurately representing reality.

But liberals weren’t listening either. They should have been. Instead, they accepted as true what liberalism’s enemies said about it and them.

As I’ve thought about it today, it has occurred to me that it would be a good idea for liberals to represent the interaction as if it were planned and a total success. That’s what Republicans would have done.

Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez – What a Team!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led a protest on global warming outside Nancy Pelosi’s office this morning.

The “adults” I’m seeing on Twitter are stroking their beards (yes, they’re all men) and telling Ocasio-Cortez to show a little respect.

But what if Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez planned this together?

What if Pelosi has plenty of material for a Green New Deal?

Control of the House only means that Democrats won’t be able to get a lot of legislation passed. What they can do is generate enthusiasm for their program and show that the Republicans have no agenda to benefit ordinary people.

Global warming is the biggest issue for young people I talk to. It’s their world we’re wrecking. The hardest problem in dealing with it is getting people’s attention and convincing them something can be done about it.

Start the action right away. Show young voters that their concerns are important and their votes counted. Let the Republicans think (like the “adults”) that there’s a split between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez to give them false confidence. Get publicity – conflict will do that.

I don’t see any downsides here. Even if Pelosi was blind-sided by the demonstration, she’s smart enough to make use of an opportunity.


726 Days of perspective

Yesterday, I posted something that would have been ridiculous to even think about 726 days ago.

Utah, Nebraska and Idaho all voted to expand Medicaid last night.

Funding Expansion via a tobacco tax in Montana is failing. The Montana legislature and governor will now need to figure out what they want to do next.

The next round of Medicaid Expansion stories is in the governors races in Kansas and Maine.

Five states can plausibly expand Medicaid at some point in mid-2019 or on January 1, 2020. Another state, Virginia, is currently enrolling people into Medicaid with a go-live date of January 1, 2019. The deals for subsidized individuals on the Exchange are, in some counties, ridiculously good (there is an op-ed I really need to write and shop around about this!)

I went silent for a week for my own health and to actually process and think. I’m glad I did that.  I had two reaction posts the week after the 2016 election.


We’re going to lose a lot.

Let’s acknowledge that and then let’s figure out how to fight to prevent the losses that are preventable and get back into a position where we have at least one veto point if not the entire shebang.

This week, we got divided government again. It is not the whole shebang, but it is a veto point that is not reliant on marginal Republicans doing “not Republican” things.


  • the poor-shaming Medicaid waivers that tie Medicaid to work requirements will go through in thirty three seconds or less….
  • Cost control is out the door. So insurers and more notably, providers will be snorting the finest coke off the tight asses of the best hookers again.
  • Any Republican plan will include throwing more tax advantages at HSA’s (which are great for people who are truly insuring against hit by the meteor events AND have money) and telling everyone else to pay more for their own care

At least two of those things are true.

Work requirement waivers are slowly working their way through the courts and are being implemented and achieving their actual objectives of reducing enrollment in Arkansas. HSAs are continually promoted to solve any and all problems. Insurers and providers are profitable. I expect ACA insurers in 2018 to be Scrooge McDucking it at year-end. I am happily surprised and supportive of the efforts by CMS to eliminate some of the more perverse billing and organizational incentives.

We got here because we got to choose how to fight and probably lose in that fight which we happened to win. In May 2017, I wrote:

We aren’t going to win often but we get to choose how to lose. We can roll over without trying to defend our values and our morals or we can fight as hard as we can to either get a policy win or inflict significant political costs on Republicans to increase the probability of future policy wins by either putting the fear of losing their seats into them which constrains future opportunity space or flipping those seats in 2018.

More subtly, we tell stories to ourselves. I want those stories that I tell to myself about me to be true. Defending and improving the ACA is one of those stories that I tell myself. The ACA benefits 2009 me far more than it benefits the 2017 me. It is a gut check. Am I full of shit or do I actually believe in what I think I believe in.

In comments, TenguPhule asked:

Is this the modern version of come back with your shield or on it?

It was.

And we came back with our shields.

Representative MacArthur (R-NJ-03) was defeated last night as provisional ballots were counted.  He authored the work-around that barely got the AHCA out of the House last May.  After January 3rd, the ACA’s fundamental structure and ,more importantly, funding streams including Medicaid Expansion will be untouchable without Nancy Pelosi’s permission.

Far more importantly, some of the winning Republicans were running on their supposed support of covering pre-exisiting conditions.  The truth values of those statements are highly variable but the fact that Republicans who won needed to make these statements means the default assumption of the social contract is changing.  Preexisting conditions are now part of the social contract.  And this will be even more true in 2020 when there are another two years of embedding, another two years of people getting bad news from the doctor and they worry about many things but not reclassification risk, another two years of the default status quo becoming stronger and another two years of Millennials aging into their priming voting years.

Yes, there will be administrative actions.  The new proposed rules of requiring separate bills and envelopes for abortion coverage will decrease total coverage and specific abortion coverage riders.  That is important but it is chipping at the edges instead of taking a sledgehammer to the framework.

And if you told me 726 days ago that the arguments would be on administrative rule-making within the framework of the ACA, I would have thought that the time traveller went into the wrong time stream.



Thursday Morning Open Thread: You Come At the Queen…

It’s entirely possible that Nancy Pelosi will not be the Speaker, come January. But whoever wants to take that seat better be well prepared to do as good a job as she’s done — and that’s one hell of a task!

Pelosi once had plans to retire with the election of the first female president. Those plans were quashed when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Now, if she can surmount internal Democratic politics, Pelosi has the potential to reshape the Democratic Party and play a central role in the explosive expansion of power by women in politics, which led to significant Democratic gains among female voters in Tuesday’s elections and an incoming House class that includes more than 100 women for the first time….

As it stands, the raw arithmetic of the incoming Democratic majority remains an obstacle. An expected Democratic majority of 11 seats or thereabouts could give a small group of Democrats leverage to demand a shake-up of a leadership team that is distanced from the younger and more activist Democrats who will soon join the House.

Four sitting Democrats voted against her in the last speaker election, and at least 12 of the incoming House Democrats made statements critical of Pelosi on the campaign trail, ranging from a general call for new leadership to a firm refusal to support her becoming speaker again. Seven more Democratic candidates in that category are running in races yet to be called…

Speaking to reporters, she put her pitch more succinctly: “It is not about what you have done; it’s about what you can do.”

But it did not escape many that the issue most responsible for the Democratic takeover — the party’s support for Obamacare and its protection of preexisting conditions — was only made possible because Pelosi forced the health-care legislation through during her first turn as speaker….

An argument in her favor, in the Atlantic, by Steve Israel:

In Nancy Pelosi’s office, steps away from the House floor, there’s a mahogany cabinet that encloses four separate television screens. They’re tuned to the cable-news networks and C-SPAN at all times.

Leaning against that cabinet is a stack of baseball bats. It’s the bats, not the screens, that tell the story of Pelosi’s approach to leadership, including maintaining her own in the Democratic caucus.

I frequently sat in Pelosi’s office when I was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in 2012 and again in 2014. I watched her negotiate legislation, manage disparate factions of her caucus, and contemplate her future. There was always an amply filled bowl of Ghirardelli chocolates on an end table. And off to the side, in my peripheral vision, were those bats. The message was clear: We can achieve our goals pleasantly or unpleasantly, but we will achieve our goals…
Read more

Donald Trump, Tax Fraud, and His Fellow GOP Thieves/Enablers

Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair, “Republicans: If Dems Release Trump’s Tax Returns, No One Will Be Safe”:

Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the Times investigation, Democrats renewed their calls for transparency, with Representative Richard Neal telling The Wall Street Journal his party would use the authority of the Ways and Means Committee to commandeer a taxpayer’s records for confidential review—something that can be done without full approval from the House and Senate. And Republicans are having none of such talk. “This is dangerous,” an incensed Representative Kevin Brady tweeted… “Once Democrats abuse this law to make public @realDonaldTrump tax returns, what stops them from prying/making public YOUR tax returns for political reasons?” For good, fear monger-y measure, he concluded by hashtag-ing “#AbuseofPower” and “#EnemiesList.”

And, sure, Democrats could go after your tax returns for political reasons, but that would probably require you to be a sitting president who’s refused to release them on your own, and who’s been accused of “outright” tax fraud based on an investigation by The New York Times. If that describes you, you might have reason to worry! On the other hand, Congress has had this power for nearly 100 years and has not seen fit to “abuse” ordinary Americans with it it for political gain. One time it was used? In 1974, when Congress investigated Richard Nixon’s returns and determined that he was, in fact, a crook. But we’re sure that’s totally not what Brady & Co. are worried about here…

Professor Krugman, “Trump and the Aristocracy of Fraud”:

Until recently, my guess is that most economists, even tax experts, would have agreed that tax avoidance by corporations and the wealthy — which is legal — was a big issue, but tax evasion — hiding money from the tax man — was a lesser one. It was obvious that some rich people were exploiting legal if morally dubious loopholes in the tax code, but the prevailing view was that simply defrauding the tax authorities and hence the public wasn’t that widespread in advanced countries.

But this view always rested on shaky foundations. After all, tax evasion, almost by definition, doesn’t show up in official statistics, and the super-wealthy aren’t in the habit of mouthing off about what great tax cheats they are. To get a real picture of how much fraud is going on, you either have to do what The Times did — exhaustively investigate the finances of a particular family — or rely on lucky breaks that reveal what was previously hidden.

Two years ago, a huge lucky break came in the form of the Panama Papers, a trove of data leaked from a Panamanian law firm that specialized in helping people hide their wealth in offshore havens, and a smaller leak from HSBC. While the unsavory details revealed by these leaks made headlines right away, their true significance has only become clear with work done by Berkeley’s Gabriel Zucman and associates in cooperation with Scandinavian tax authorities.

Matching information from the Panama Papers and other leaks with national tax data, these researchers found that outright tax evasion actually is a big deal at the top. The truly wealthy end up paying a much lower effective tax rate than the merely rich, not because of loopholes in tax law, but because they break the law. The wealthiest taxpayers, the researchers found, pay on average 25 percent less than they owe — and, of course, many individuals pay even less.

This is a big number. If America’s wealthy evade taxes on the same scale (which they almost surely do), they’re probably costing the government around as much as the food stamp program does. And they’re also using tax evasion to entrench their privilege and pass it on to their heirs, which is the real Trump story.
Read more

Monday Morning Open Thread: Interesting Times

Just ran into a motto for our current moment: A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

Friday Morning Open Thread: Where Did She Come From?

Molly Ball is a good writer, even if Time is a less-than-worthy venue:

Nancy Pelosi stopped caring about what people think of her a long time ago, so she has no qualms about eating ice cream for breakfast with a stranger. Dark chocolate, two scoops, waffle cone. It’s a freezing January morning in Baltimore’s Little Italy, where Pelosi grew up in the 1950s. “You know what’s good about ice cream in this weather?” she says. “It doesn’t melt down your arm while you’re eating it.”

We are sitting in an Italian café on Albemarle Street, alone save for the staff and Pelosi’s security detail, to whom she has offered coffee. The Trump era has many Democrats in a panic, but Pelosi inhabits a more cheerful reality. She is convinced that America has hit bottom, has seen the error of its ways and is ready to put her back in charge.

The 78-year-old former House Speaker knows what her critics say about her: that she’s too old, too “toxic,” too polarizing; that after three decades in Congress and 15 years leading her party’s caucus, she has had her turn and needs to get out of the way. But there’s a reason she sticks around. Had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, she says, “we’d have a woman at the head of the table.” When that didn’t happen, Pelosi realized that without her, there might not be a woman in the room at all.

Pelosi is one of the most consequential political figures of her generation. It was her creativity, stamina and willpower that drove the defining Democratic accomplishments of the past decade, from universal access to health coverage to saving the U.S. economy from collapse, from reforming Wall Street to allowing gay people to serve openly in the military. Her Republican successors’ ineptitude has thrown her skills into sharp relief. It’s not a stretch to say Pelosi is one of very few legislators in Washington who actually know what they’re doing.

But few people talk about her in those terms. Instead, Pelosi is regarded as a political liability…

The attacks on Pelosi are particularly ironic in this political moment. Since Donald Trump’s election, American women have poured into the streets, signed up to run for office in record numbers and surged to the polls. Many of them look a lot like Pelosi once did. They are brainy, liberal and comfortably situated moms who have looked at the political system with the exasperation of a person who has seen her husband get the laundry wrong and realized that she’s going to have to do it herself. If Democrats regain congressional power in November, as most experts expect, it will be by riding a tidal wave of female rage. But rather than tout their female leader–the first woman Speaker in history, and the odds-on favorite to reclaim the title–many Democratic politicians, both male and female, are running in the opposite direction. In this season of female political empowerment, Pelosi’s power still rankles.

It seems to enrage people that Pelosi feels entitled to things: money, power, respect. Of course it does–a woman is always held responsible for her reputation. Clinton, in her years running for President, was asked over and over again some version of the question, Why do you think people don’t like you? (Despite not being on any ballot, Clinton, too, figures prominently in the Republicans’ fall campaign strategy.) A powerful woman is always defined less by what she has done than by how she makes people feel.

Pelosi isn’t humble. Many women, she thinks, are afraid to show pride and need to see an example of confidence. Besides, making sure you get your due isn’t something you can delegate. One former Pelosi aide told me everything she does is rooted in this combination of obligation and entitlement: the sense that someone ought to do something, and she is the only one who can do it. Pelosi seems to feel no need to apologize for her status in the way women are expected to and men rarely are. Perhaps the assertion of ego by a woman is the most radical act there is: the refusal to submit or be subordinate.

It is not in Pelosi’s nature to cower or grovel. She will be who she is–liberal, privileged, unpopular–and let the chips fall where they may. To some Democrats, Pelosi’s is an attitude of unconscionable selfishness: she’s willing to damage her party to hold on to the position she believes she deserves. The story of Nancy Pelosi is, inevitably, the story of what people think of her. The way she is recognized and remembered, the way she is held to account. And so Pelosi doesn’t have the luxury of not caring about what people think of her: it’s the question on which her future, and the future of American politics, depends…

When things get really, really ugly, the Media Villagers and their donors will ‘graciously’, temporarily, allow a woman to leave her proper place and come clean the place up. Or, sometimes, a Black man, as a less-emasculating alternative. Hey, speaking of the cleanup squad: