Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finance Committee Public Option Results

The results were 8 ayes and 15 nays on the Rockefeller public option amendment. Baucus, Conrad, Carper, Nelson, and Lincoln were the Democratic nays. And now they have a vote against a public choice on their record. Considering the polling, I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.

The Schumer amendments are coming up.

And just to be clear: I think the majority of the American public's take on all this is quite right. They're in favor of health care reform with a public option. That makes sense. And they're against being forced to give their money to the bloated, lobbyist-ridden private insurers, That also makes sense.

I think the "centrist" Dems are really, really underestimating the extent to which they'll be punished for mandates-without-public option. They're letting their fear of the Republicans and the lobbyists take the place of their politician's instincts for keeping the public onside. The public isn't onside. The public isn't onside at all.

And that may make sense for some. I imagine Baucus has a plump 'n juicy board seat at WellPoint waiting for him. But at least a few are in deep trouble, and Baucus' board seat isn't worth their jobs. I just hope they figure it out before they end up screwing themselves and everybody else.

Edit: Schumer's amendment gets Nelson onside. Baucus et al are going to start looking reeeeally isolated if HELP's bill is stronger, and if Harkin is right about the votes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Finance Committee Harassment Time!

Okay, as McJoan says over at DailyKos, (and Jane says at FDL) if you live in any of the following states, you've got phone calls to make:

Contact info for all Dem Senators on Finance is below the fold. The focus should be on Baucus, Nelson, Conrad, Lincoln, and Carper. But if you live in any of the states represented by the Senators below, calls to them certainly won't hurt, as well as "thank you" calls to Rockefeller and Schumer.

Max Baucus MT (Committee Chair)
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-2651
Fax: (202) 224-9412

John Rockefeller WV
e-mail
Phone (202) 224-6472
Fax (202) 224-7665

Kent Conrad ND
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776

Jeff Bingman NM
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-5521
TDD (202) 224-1792
Toll Free (in NM) 1800-433-8658

John Kerry MA
e-mail
Phone (202) 224-2742
Fax (202) 224-8525

Blanche Lincoln AR
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-4843
Fax: (202) 228-1371

Ron Wyden OR
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-5244
Fax: (202) 228-2717

Charles Shumer NY
e-mail
Phone:(202)224-6542
Fax: (202) 228-3027
TDD: (202) 224-0420

Debbie Stabenow MI
e-mail
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4822
TTY: (202) 224-2066

Maria Cantwell WA
e-mail
Phone: 202-224-3441
Fax: (202) 228-0514
TTD: (202) 224-8273

Bill Nelson FL
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-5274
Fax: (202) 228-2183

Robert Mendez NJ
e-mail
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4744
Fax: (202) 228-2197 fax

Thomas Carper DE
e-mail
Phone: (202) 224-2441
Fax: (202) 228-2190

Some of these people are supporters, like Rockefeller. That's a good thing. They're right to do so. So if you live in, say, West Virginia, please make a point of calling up Rockefeller's people and tell them that you support his stance. Positive reinforcement is as important as negative reinforcement.

Now, for those who need a bit of encouragement, I'd go beyond the magic phrase ("If you don't support a public option, I'll devote every spare moment and dollar I have to your primary opponent") to highlighting these key things, also from Kos:

The only groups that the public option is really unpopular with are insurance companies and hardcore Republicans. Well, guess what? Corporations don't vote, and the core Republicans weren't going to vote for Dems anyway. They're irrelevant.

The people that do matter support a public option. That's the bottom line.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The American Public Will Not Tolerate Being Forced To Buy Private Insurance

It's as simple as that.

They will go along with mandates that allow them to choose between private and public plans, as the Anzalone poll posted on Kos reveals. But there must be a publicly-run choice.

I'd suggest you remind your Congressional Rep—and Senator—that all the insurance money in the world won't help them keep their jobs if the voters find them intolerable.

The Best "Yo Momma" In American History

John Kyl, explaining why he wanted to strip maternity care from BaucusCare:

Kyl: "I don't need maternity care."

Stabenow: "I think your mom probably did."

Brilliant.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Note on Messaging

Now that Mass. has appointed a temporary replacement for the late Sen. Kennedy, the Dems have 60 votes again. But that might not help them:

One of the toughest Democrats to corral in the Senate confirmed on Thursday that he is not committed to helping his party block a Republican filibuster on health care legislation.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has long been a skeptic of Democratic-led health care reform, specifically the public option for insurance coverage. But in the wake of Paul Kirk's appointment as a temporary replacement for the late Senator Ted Kennedy -- which gives the party 60 caucusing members -- leadership and allied Democratic groups have renewed their hopes that the Nebraskan would commit to voting for cloture, the 60-vote hurdle that would allow health care to be considered by up-or-down vote.
So, the note. Don't use the word "cloture". Using the word "cloture" implies that there the Senate actually requires a super-majority to pass a bill. It doesn't. It's 50 plus the veep, always has been. What "Cloture" does is stop a filibuster. THAT is the word you should be using.

You say "cloture", and people think procedure. They tune out. You use "filibuster", and all of a sudden, it's obstruction. Even better, you can paint those who aren't willing to make the vote happen as supporting the filibuster. On something as vital as health care reform, that makes them sound like asses.

So look at two ways of describing this story:

Ben Nelson won't commit to voting for cloture? "Meh, boring procedure."

Ben Nelson supports a Republican filibuster on health care? "Isn't he a Democrat? Why is he supporting the Republicans? What an ass!"

See? So don't use "vote for cloture". Use "support the filibuster".

(Or, even better, say "He's filibustering", because that's pretty much what you're doing if you won't vote for cloture. But either works.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh, Hey, It's Beck's First Real Victim!

It was only a matter of time until somebody got killed for being a "fed":

The FBI is investigating whether anti-government sentiment led to the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the word 'fed" was scrawled on the dead man's chest.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment. An autopsy report is pending.

Investigators have said little about the case. The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, said Wednesday the man was found hanging from a tree and the word "fed" was written on the dead man's chest. The official did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is helping state police with the case.

"Our job is to determine if there was foul play involved — and that's part of the investigation — and if there was foul play involved, whether that is related to his employment as a census worker," said Beyer.
"Whether there was foul play involved"? What, did the guy scrawl "fed" on his own chest?

Anyway, hands up everybody who didn't see this one coming....

...

...Yeah, I thought so.

Edit: This is the man those redneck pricks killed:

William E. Sparkman’s education story is one of thoughtful parental involvement for his son and for himself, and personal fortitude in the face of very difficult circumstances, including very serious personal illness.

He thought of it as volunteering in his son’s classroom. He never imagined it would lead to a career change.

Sparkman began his career path as a sports editor for the Mulberry Press in Mulberry, Fla. and through various jobs thereafter, landed him in London, Ky., just as his son, Josh (now 18 years old) was entering Johnson Elementary School.

His son could pass any test, but was struggling with completing the required assignments, so Sparkman thought that by volunteering in the classroom, he could help his son’s learning situation.

Eventually, he was offered the job of a paraeducator. Several years into the job, he realized he was doing many of the same things that the teachers were doing. Talking with several other paraeducators, he learned they were all going to school, working on their teacher certifications.

“Being a single parent, I knew I couldn’t quit my job and I would have limited nights to go to school, so it could take a long time to finish, “said Bill. “I checked around and discovered Western Governors University, and began online classes in September 2005. WGU offered everything that I wanted. I didn’t have to sit in class and I could go as fast or as slow as I needed to.”

Bill was making great progress when a life-threatening brick wall popped up. A cyst had formed on the right side of his neck and it was found to be Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Refusing to let that get in his way, he persevered. He began the necessary medical treatment and continued to do his student teaching.

“My mentor and college advisor, Carol Williams, provided me great support through this obstacle and continued leading me down the path to graduation. Carol lives in Atlanta, Ga., but she kept in constant contact with me the majority of my two-and-a half years in online studies through phone calls and e-mails,” Bill said.

Kelly Greene, of the Laurel County School system, is in charge of filling the vacancies for any teachers who are absent on any given day, so Bill kept Kelly up-to-date on his progress throughout his treatments.

“While in the process of getting his degree, Bill was never not available,” said Greene. “He was always very upbeat that early in the morning, willing and ready to go to work.”

Sparkman spoke with Greene at length about his being diagnosed with cancer. Sparkman assured her that he wanted her to continue to call him for work.

They went over in detail what he would have to do throughout his treatment, particularly on Fridays, when he would be unable to work due to the lengthy chemotherapy treatments. Greene said Sparkman was very conscientious as a substitute teacher and did not want his treatment to hurt his chances of being called into work.

Greene described Bill Sparkman as a man with a great attitude and added that someone with his enthusiasm and willingness to work is remarkable, given the situation.

Sparkman graduated from WGU in December 2007 with his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education.

With warnings from his doctor about traveling by plane, Bill took the long way to his graduation ceremony in February 2008 by driving all the way across the country to Salt Lake City to attend graduation in person and to receive the diploma he had worked so hard to earn.

“It took me five days to make the four-day trip, thanks to Mother Nature, and the harsh road conditions in Wyoming,” Sparkman recalled. “But once I got to Utah, it was clear sailing the rest of the way.”

“WGU is the only accredited university where you can obtain a bachelors degree in education,” said Sparkman, “and as more people discover WGU, I believe that more great teachers will be there for more students and be able to provide the support everyone deserves.”

Last Friday was Sparkman’s final chemotherapy treatment. He is happy and hopeful that the treatment worked and is totally successful. He’ll get the news of his final test results on tax day, April 15.

Although he realizes that his doctor will not be able to tell him he is totally cured, Sparkman is looking forward to hearing that his cancer is in remission, enough that he’ll only have to go in for a checkup ever 6-12 months.

Today, Bill Sparkman patiently waits for a math teacher position to open as he continues to substitute teach in various schools throughout Laurel County. Along with his commitment as a substitute teacher he also works evenings at the Campground Elementary in its after-school program.

“I think things are looking pretty good as there are eight schools throughout Laurel, Knox, Whitley and Clay counties,” said Sparkman, reflecting on his future as a teacher. “Working for the U.S. Census Bureau, I’ve become familiar with the numerous opportunities the school systems have to offer. I’m hoping to stay here in Laurel County, but I’d be willing to travel to any of the other schools, if that’s where a position opens. My home, my life is here in Laurel County, and this is where I want to stay.”

Sparkman takes no personal credit for his remarkable recovery.

“I know a lot of people were out there praying for me, and I have no doubt that it was a mixture of God’s will, the doctors, and my friends and family that got me through this,” he said.

“I don’t know who played the biggest part in getting me well, but I’d be happy to bow down and kiss whoever’s feet were in front of me.”
Bill Sparkman was a cancer survivor, a teacher, and a single parent: someone who overcame tremendous obstacles to get an education.

There are no words.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Michael Moore+NYC Cops=Tru Luv 4-Eva"

Well, THIS was unexpected:

Over lasagna, he told me about an incident that occurred while he was filming that exemplifies how the economic crisis cannot be looked at through a left vs right prism.

It happened while he and his crew were shooting the climax of the movie, where Michael decides to mark Wall Street as a crime scene, putting up yellow police tape around some of the financial district's towers of power.

While unfurling the tape in front of a "too big to fail" bank, he became aware of a group of New York's finest approaching him. Moore has a long history of dealing with policemen and security guards trying to shut him down, but in this case he knew he was, however temporarily, defacing private property. And his shooting schedule didn't leave room for a detour to the local jail. So, as the lead officer came closer, Moore tried to deflect him, saying: "Just doing a little comedy here, officer. I'll be gone in a minute, and will clean up before I go."

The officer looked at him for a moment, then leaned in: "Take all the time you need." He nodded to the bank and said, "These guys wiped out a lot of our Police Pension Funds." The officer turned and slowly headed back to his squad car. Moore wanted to put the moment in his film, but realized it could cost the cop his job, and decided to leave it out. "When they've lost the police," he told me, "you know they're in trouble."

I'm looking forward to the Moore film. They're incredibly polemic, but I'm not exactly in a position to fault him for that, and he drives the point home.

The only problem is that the majority of Americans almost certainly agree with him. Popular rage against the banks and their masters is still inflamed, a year after it was revealed how badly they betrayed everyone. But because of the way the system has been designed, it doesn't really matter how much the public hates them: the "Commanding Heights" are held by them and theirs. That's one of the reasons there's so much inchoate populist anger in the United States right now—anger that's only going to get worse as the "jobless recovery" continues.

It looks like the cops are no exception. Bully for them.

Dion's Final Indignity, and a Return to Form

And now, on top of the Cauchon debacle, there's this:
The controversy is a harbinger for other difficulties in the Quebec wing of the party. Coderre has pressured some long-serving MPs with safe seats to resign, according to a number of Liberal sources. They told CBC News the party wants those seats for star female candidates as part of its renewal process.

The sources said former party leader St├ęphane Dion, along with Bernard Patry, Raymonde Folco, and Lise Zarac, have all been asked to step aside.
Well, well, well. So after failing at the one thing that Dion did pull off—winning a leadership election—and working tirelessly to undermine him behind the scenes, Iggy's nasty little Quebec cabal is unleashing the final indignity. That despite Ignatieff not really doing much better than Dion did.

(Well, except soliciting donations from the richest 1% of the country.)

Meanwhile, found in The Hill Times:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is lagging behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper in recent public opinion polls because Canadians still don't know what the Grit leader stands for. To get their leader elected as the next Prime Minister, Liberals should be more proactive in communicating his positions on important public policy issues, political insiders and pollsters say.

"He's put absolutely nothing on the table. It's just empty rhetoric," a top Liberal who supported Mr. Ignatieff (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ont.) in both of his leadership campaigns told The Hill Times last week. "It's not enough to say, 'That in good times we're going to bring forward the progress...' If he goes into an election and doesn't really have anything substantive to put on the table, we're looking at a massacre..."

...And a Nanos poll on the leadership approval of party leaders showed that Mr. Harper had the support of 31 per cent of Canadians who felt he was the most trustworthy leader, compared to Mr. Ignatieff whose support was tied with NDP Leader Jack Layton (Toronto Danforth, Ont.) at 14 per cent. On the question of the most competent leader, Mr. Harper had the approval of 36 per cent of Canadians compared to Mr. Ignatieff who was at 20 per cent. In addition, the survey, conducted Sept. 3 to Sept. 11 with 1,002 Canadians and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20, showed that 32 per cent of Canadians believe Mr. Harper has the best vision for Canada, while only 20 per cent believe that of Mr. Ignatieff.
So iggy's numbers are dropping like a stone. Less trustworthy than Harper? That snake? Yeah, that's very, very bad. And it looks like a few Liberals are no longer afraid of him or his, either.

And in comes whatzisname to build that fear:

She's nicer than me, so she'll never say this: "Hi, I'm Warren. I'm not nice. I intend to find out who you are, little Hill Times source weasel, and I intend to take a chainsaw to your political ambitions, however modest they may be."

Like I say: Susan's nice, I'm not. But I'm going to defend Iggy as vigorously as I defended JC. And, moreover, I'm pretty good at finding people, when I'm focussed.

Which, this morning, I am.
Definitely a return to form. The Liberals have returned to form, being completely unsure how to deal with a united Right under a leader that Canadians have become used to, and presuming that leadership is the problem. (Not that Iggy's leadership has been wonderful, but his factions' greatest sin was assuming that Dion's leadership was the flaw LAST time.)

And Warren's returning to form, proving just how much he despises freedom of expression. He's once again trying desperately to shut people up by using fear and intimidation, thus proving why the source would have sought anonymity to begin with. It's a bit like the campaigns of Joe Klein and his ilk, shooting down those who would disrupt the cozy Village media...except this time with actual consequences.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Iggy Blows Off Another Progressive

In my best Iago-the-Parrot voice:

"Oh there's a big surprise! That's an incredible - I think I'm going to have a heart attack and die of not surprise!"

For those Americans who may not be familiar with Canadian candidate nominations, there are no primaries. Instead there are private members' nomination meetings. But, critically, candidates can be appointed by the leadership. Yes, the people who nominally choose the leader can be chosen in turn by the leader.

(Yes, I said "Canada". Not "Iran". Though I can appreciate the confusion.)

Now, this is generally a tremendously bad idea. If the people on the ground don't get to choose their candidate, they have no stake in the candidate...and if they have no stake in the candidate, they aren't going to do the heavy lifting that turns a candidate into a parliamentarian. So this was kind of an extreme move.

So who, exactly, was so odious that he got turfed aside by the leadership?

Martin Cauchon, the former justice minister who made history with same-sex marriage and his effort to decriminalize marijuana, has apparently lost in his bid to re-enter politics.

The Liberal Party is expected to run a prominent businesswoman in Montreal's Outremont riding, a onetime Liberal fortress Mr. Cauchon once held for 11 years.
And from a relatively prominent Canadian blogger, Adam Radwanski:

On one side, you've got a former justice minister who was at the forefront of his party's socially liberal agenda earlier this decade, and who's taken time off from his law career to contribute thoughtful essays on the future of federalism. On the other, you've got a former immigration minister best remembered for the Shane Doan idiocy, who's managed to veer off-course even as an opposition critic.

If Ignatieff were to choose the latter to the exclusion of the former, it would say a great deal about what he looks for in people, and what he wants his party to look like.
Well, I think it's pretty clear what he wants his Liberal party to look like: "not terribly liberal".

Yep, Iago, heart attacks all 'round.

Hey, Look! Bipartisanship!

Well, okay, it's the kind of bipartisanship where Democrats roll over in yet another pathetic, desperate attempt to get Republicans to stop saying mean things about them. It never works, of course, but surely it'll work NEXT time, right?

Of course, that kind of bipartisanship is terrible. But it's the only one that ever happens— the Republicans wouldn't even bend on the meaningless censure that delusional asshole Joe Wilson! So if you want "bipartisanship", that's the only kind you'll get.

Naturally, to the people whining about bipartisanship, that's the entire point.

Remember How I Said Canadian Opinion Journalism is Terrible?

Here's exhibit "B": Kelly MacParland giving the world's worst advice to Iggy.

See, I can almost respect good concern trolling. For all that he's an idiot, David Brooks concern trolls so well that he can write whole books worth of it and people actually buy it. So if it were competent, believable concern trolling that MacParland was up to, it might be respectable too.

But it isn't. Hoo boy, it isn't. Not only does he sabotage it by saying "don't listen to advisers!" in an feeble attempt to be cute, and not only does take as a given a lot of assertions about the public that he can't even superficially support, he is simply unbelievable. Anybody who writes ridiculous blog entries talking about how Iggy is "trapped in the '70s" because he hasn't joined the Reagan Revolution is going to lack credibility as a concern troll... but if you're going to try, damned well don't LINK to it! They'll just click through, think "welp, this guy's a throwback" and go read Coyne or something!

Honestly, it's more sad than anything else.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More on Cochrane

I suspect that he may have read the last few entries. One of them was linked on DeLong, after all.

Yet I equally suspect that I won't see any response. After all, I am only a pseud, and thus have not proven myself initiated in the Mysteries of his order. I am an outsider, and thus not even a "traitor". I'm nobody.

That this was, and is, the entire point of this enterprise will not have occurred to him.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Snowe Might Back BaucusCare After All? (Also: MoveOn Mistargeting)

Snowe might be for it after all?

I'm wondering who's been leaning on her. Surely not the insurance industry, who absolutely love the bill as a massive, massive giveaway? Or "deficit hawks" who know that the cost of the whole thing will be dumped on the middle class?

A Republican backing the worst damned thing to come out of the Senate since the Dixiecrats. I'm only surprised there aren't more.

Edit: Oh, and MoveOn is apparently targeting Republicans with mean ads.

Whoopdy doo. They aren't the problem. At this point America would be better off with MORE obstructionist Republicans, since they would almost certainly vote for Max Baucus' "crush the middle class on behalf of my health insurance overlords" bill.

If MoveOn was serious, they'd be targeting Democrats, not Republicans. But then Rahm would get all shouty, since the White House has made it perfectly clear what their preferred choice is.

"Critical Thinking is a Detriment to Learning Economics!"

From "Jeff V.", who commented on my earlier post on Krugman and doctrinaire "Freshwater" economists:

I spent the 2007-08 year as a first year student in a PhD Finance program at a Top University. All the classes I took were in the econ department for the first year; I was basically a first-year econ student.

The financial crisis was unfolding while I was there; one might expect that it would be a very interesting time to be in the graduate econ classroom. I can briefly summarize for you how the financial crisis was discussed, both inside and outside the class room:

Nothing at all. The most significant economic and financial event in decades was happening out in the Real World, but it didn't penetrate the bubble of Academia. Rational expectations and Gaussin distributions were still taught as gospel truth, and woe upon the student (me) who questioned the orthodoxy.

I still remember a professor advising me that critical thinking is a detriment to learning economics.

I still remember a professor scolding me that it would be inappropriate to teach anything realistic in his classroom.

I still remember my advisor yelling at me "Have an open mind! Stop questioning things!" after I questioned the relevance of theory in the face of recent events.

Rather than receiving a broad education to develop well-rounded students, it was more of an indoctrination; designed to instruct students what to belive, rather than teach us how to think.

I am no longer a PhD student, largely because I couldn't accept the fact that academic economists I met have no interest in understanding how an actual economy actually works; they just enjoy irrelevant and overly-complicated math models.
The bolding of that earlier sentence was mine. I can't think of any more damning indictment of the current state of economics. Any of you who have seen the inside of a graduate seminar knows that questioning and debate are practically mandatory: a lot of profs will deliberately put out arguments they don't believe just to provoke debate. You won't find one scientist in a thousand who thinks that critical thinking is a detriment to their field. Far from it: they believe, correctly, that it's at the heart of the enterprise.

But that's the issue, isn't it? Enterprise, I mean. As someone else "g" pointed out, this whole thing is heavily supported by the business community—along with their apologists in government and the business media. The whole raison d'etre for funding economics as a field is to support the doctrine of giving corporations a free hand to do whatever it takes. Sure, economists also provide them innovative new tools to game the system and make fat killings by creating collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and whatnot, but that's not why the money really flows. It flows because only a certain sort of person would actually think that what's going on is right and proper., you need the "Freshwaters" there to indoctrinate them.

That's probably why Krugman (and Keynes!) infuriates them. Marxists, they can handle. Outsiders, they can handle. But people who know economics, believe in markets, know the lingo, yet don't agree with the Holy Axioms?

See for yourself. This is a response to Krugman's blog post:

It’s worse than that. My academic friends, even those outside the core of the fresh-water perspective, think you [Paul Krugman] are a traitor. This is partly because you challenge the academic dogma that the use of math is necessarily the dominant force in economics, and partly because you are airing in public internecine strife they feel is best kept concealed. All those grants could be threatened if anybody saw just how useless the bulk of the profession is.
Just like FDR and Keynes, Krugman is seen as a traitor to his class. And you know what?

Good for him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Krugman Carving Up the "Freshwater" Economists

(Edit: Welcome to visitor's from Brad DeLong's site. I'm a big fan of his going way back, and he's one of the economists I do respect.)

For those who haven't read Paul Krugman's devastating article about the current state of economics, this may not mean much. But, fortunately, you have the delight of reading it to look forward to.

So don't let me detain you.

For the rest of you, here's his reaction to, well, the reaction:
I gather, though, that the usual suspects are utterly outraged at my suggestion that freshwater macro has spent several decades heading down the wrong path. They’re smart! They work hard, using hard math! How dare I say such a thing?

And all of this, of course, without a hint of irony.

For when freshwater macro took over a good part of the field, its leaders gleefully dismissed all the work Keynesian economists had done over the previous few decades, often with sneers and sniggers.

And that same adolescent quality was evident in the reactions to the Obama administration’s attempts to deal with the crisis — as Brad DeLong points out, people like Robert Lucas and John Cochrane (not to mention Richard Posner, who isn’t a macroeconomist but gets his take from his colleagues) didn’t say that when serious scholars like Christina Romer based policy recommendations on Keynesian economics, they were wrong; the freshwater crowd declared that anyone with Keynesian views was, by definition, either a fool or intellectually dishonest.

So the freshwater outrage over finding their own point of view criticized is, you might think, a classic case of people who can dish it out but can’t take it.
From what I know of your more Randroid economists, this isn't a big surprise. This sophomoric nonsense is the worst damned thing about modern economists, and what makes me automatically suspect the findings whenever its axioms and methodologies crop up in other fields.
But it’s actually even worse than that.
Oh?

When freshwater macro came in, there was an active purge of competing views: students were not exposed, at all, to any alternatives. People like Prescott boasted that Keynes was never mentioned in their graduate programs. And what has become clear in the recent debate — for example, in the assertion that Ricardian equivalence rules out any effect from government spending changes, which is just wrong — is that the freshwater side not only turned Keynes into an unperson, but systematically ignored the work being done in the New Keynesian vein. Nobody who had read, say, Obstfeld and Rogoff would have been as clueless about the logic of temporary fiscal expansion as these guys have been. Freshwater macro became totally insular.

And hence the most surprising thing in the debate over fiscal stimulus: the raw ignorance that has characterized so many of the freshwater comments. Above all, we’ve seen the phenomenon of well-known economists “rediscovering” Say’s Law and the Treasury view (the view that government cannot affect the overall level of demand), not because they’ve transcended the Keynesian refutation of these views, but because they were unaware that there had ever been such a debate.

It’s a sad story. And the even sadder thing is that it’s very unlikely that anything will change: freshwater macro will get even more insular, and its devotees will wonder why nobody in the real world of policy and action pays any attention to what they say.
"Raw ignorance." Rather harsh, but I can't see how to rebut it. Saying that you disagree is one thing. That's perfectly legitimate. Saying that you teach your students one viewpoint in preference to another? That's also legitimate. Spending more time on one school of thought instead of another? Kind of questionable, but still ubiquitous.

But not even teaching what Keynes was about? That's not even wrong. That's just ignorant. No, not "ignorant" as an epithet, it quite literally breeds ignorance. That's not being an educator. That's the game of indoctrinators. Cults do that.

I knew freshwaters was screwed up. But I have to admit, I wasn't expecting cultists.

Edit: Some of the commentators bring up John Cochrane's response, which includes rather a lot of "if markets are irrational, surely government regulators are even MORE irrational!" That strikes me as a clarion call to shut down the FDA. But never mind that. Take a look at this howler:
Paul, there was a financial crisis, a classic near-run on banks. The centerpiece of our crash was not the relatively free stock or real estate markets, it was the highly regulated commercial banks. A generation of economists has thought really hard about these kinds of events. Look up Diamond, Rajan, Gorton, Kashyap, Stein, and so on. They’ve thought about why there is so much short term debt, why banks run, how deposit insurance and credit guarantees help, and how they give incentives for excessive risk taking.
Yes. The problem of widespread speculation in almost totally unregulated markets like CDOs and credit default swaps—by investment banks like Lehman and Goldman Sachs—was the regulation on commercial banks.

Riiight.

What parts aren't "gub'mint is worse!" or "Paul just doesn't understand us beautiful flowers" are generally "you're trying to turn back the clock on 30 years of science!" As seen here:
Imagine this were a respected scientist turned popular writer, who says, most basically, that everything everyone has done in his field since the mid 1960s is a complete waste of time. Everything that fills its academic journals, is taught in its PhD programs, presented at its conferences, summarized in its graduate textbooks, and rewarded with the accolades a profession can bestow, including multiple Nobel prizes, is totally wrong. Instead, he calls for a return to the eternal verities of a rather convoluted book written in the 1930s, as taught to our author in his undergraduate introductory courses. If a scientist, he might be a global-warming skeptic, an AIDS-HIV disbeliever, a creationist, a stalwart that maybe continents don’t move after all.
This is one of the goofiest damned things I've ever read.

It's not even argument from authority. Leave aside the arrogance of assuming that one branch of thought could stand in for the entire field. These sorts of reversals happen all the time, and especially in social sciences. Would linguists get away with this sort of whining if they were trying to rebut Chomsky? Would behavioral psychologists be able to use this as a response to cognitivism? Would IR liberals be able to beat back realists (or vice versa) by saying that they're based on old books? Would the vaunted criminal "profilers" be able to use it to rebut the growing tide of people who question the efficacy of their methods?

No, of course not. Even the crustiest, most hidebound Marxian would laugh at the attempt. Only the most ignorant, closed sort of mind would even try.

But here we are, with Cochrane proving the point about Freshwater insularity and ignorance more eloquently than Krugman could have ever dreamed.

Snowe's Officially Out

Here's a big surprise:

Senate Democrats are going to have to move forward on healthcare without a single Republican supporter after Sen. Olympia Snowe said Tuesday she could not back the Finance Committee’s bill.

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed to win any Republican backer despite weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors to strike a deal.Snowe (Maine), who was one of three Republicans who backed the $787 billion economic stimulus package, was being lobbied heavily by the White House, and some centrists view her refusal to strike a deal with Baucus as troubling. But concerns about how the plan would be paid for prompted her to back away in the hours before its release.

“I do have concerns and I’m not sure they can be addressed before he issues [legislation] tomorrow,” Snowe said.
It makes sense. "I would be disowned by my caucus and am terrified of going without the Conservative Machine" is an understandable concern.

So what now?


Faced with the prospect of having to pass legislation without Republican votes, Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod met with Senate and House Democrats on Tuesday to stress the importance of party unity on healthcare reform — a message most directly aimed at centrists who now are critical to its passage.

Democrats control 59 seats in the Senate. Without a single Republican vote, they would be forced to advance healthcare using a budgetary maneuver that requires only a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats are prepared to use budget reconciliation as a last resort.

“We’ve always had a place at the table for Republicans. There’s one there today. We hope it bears fruit,” he said. “If we can’t get the 60 votes we need, then we’ll have no alternative but to use reconciliation.”

Axelrod told senators that passing healthcare reform would give them a boost in the 2010 midterm election, according to a person who attended the meeting.

Axelrod also said that polls showed that public disapproval over Democratic reform proposals — which swelled in June and July — leveled off during the month of August, despite the publicity attracted by conservative protests, said another source in the meeting.

Axelrod’s speech seemed aimed at Democratic centrists who are concerned about the failure to attract Snowe

In August, Obama and Baucus narrowed their focus to winning over Snowe after it became clear that other Republican negotiators voiced sharp criticisms of Democratic proposals during the congressional recess.
Well, that's over. So can Baucus just retire his terrible, terrible "make health insurance exec rich" scheme and let HELP do its job now? It was only even intended to bring Republicans onside, and that's over.

Sure, Axelrod is talking about "centrists" because that's just a habit at this point: but you've already got Rockefeller and others stating unequivocably that they won't vote for BaucusCare in its present form, and a tidy little civil war going on in the House over the prospect of having to sell it to constituents. He needs to worry about progressives, too, because they aren't happy. Not at all.

If the Democrats must own this health care bill, then it is in their electoral interests to set the "win Republicans" mindset aside and make the bill the best possible piece of legislation they possibly can. If they do produce good legislation that helps people, I'm sure that the public will come onside, as it stops being "the unknown" and starts being something that the understand and take for granted. (Like Medicare, Social Security, civil rights, and everything else.)

And, yes, they should stop listening to the lobbyists. Not just because it's right, but because it's in their interests. Lobbyists may deliver potloads of money, but they don't deliver votes. They don't volunteer to go doorknocking, they don't get out the vote, they don't sell it to their neighbours, and they probably won't even spring for television advertising. The best-funded campaign in the world will avail you nothing if you can't win the votes. And, folks, you'd best believe me when I say that BaucusCare won't deliver a single one.

Let the Republicans bail. They're the party of Glenn Beck and signs with Obama-as-Hitler on them at this point. The only reason they're as influential as they are is because Democrats (and, naturally, the media) allow them to be. You fear them, you triangulate them, you adopt their framing—and everybody else follows suit. That's where their power comes from. Without it, they're nothing.

Stop cringing, for once, and take up the power that you always had.

“The Baucus framework is just an absolute joke,”

So, who said that? Pelosi? Ezra Klein? digby? Nope!

It was Wendell Potter. And who's Potter? Well, let's see:
Wendell Potter, the former Cigna executive-turned-whistleblower, told a small group of reporters Monday that the Baucus health care plan is an “absolute gift” to the industry.

“The Baucus framework is just an absolute joke,” said Potter, Cigna’s former head of corporate communications who has been speaking out against insurance industry practices. “It is an absolute gift to the industry. And if that is what we see in the legislation, (America’s Health Insurance Plans chief) Karen Ignagni will surely get a huge bonus.”

Potter said the proposal would not provide affordable coverage. It gives the industry too much latitude to charge higher premiums based on age and geographic location, fails to mandate employer coverage, and pushes consumers into plans with limited benefits, Potter said.

Private insurers “want to have ‘benefit design flexibility.’ Those are three very worrisome words,” Potter said at a briefing arranged by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “By being able to have benefit design flexibility, they will be able to design plans that are so limited that more and more people will be in the ranks of the uninsured.”

Several Senate Finance Committee Democrats have raised similar concerns, saying the health care overhaul could mandate Americans to buy coverage that isn’t affordable and doesn’t offer adequate coverage.

This issue has dominated behind-the-scenes discussions, and several members pledged Monday night to address it with amendments in the Finance Committee markup next week.

"It's very clear, at this point in the debate, the flashpoint is all about affordability,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “I personally think there’s a lot of heavy lifting left to do on the affordability issue.”

Finance Chairman Max Baucus said the bipartisan group was "doing our very best to make an insurance requirement as affordable as we possibly can, recognizing that we’re trying to get this bill under $900 billion total.”
Well, hey, let's hope it works!

I bolded that early section, because it shows the path that America's headed down if Baucus' courtesy-of-WellPoint plan becomes law. We always knew it was going to be bad. We always knew it was going to be a terrible bill. We always knew it was going to be a gift to the health insurance industry whose manifold failures led to this debate in the first place.

But, you have to admit, none of us were expecting a former health insurance exec to call them out on it!

Never mind the Senate, I'm wondering if Baucus even has the committee votes for this. Rockefeller is out, Schumer wants a public option in reconciliation, and the Republicans are all probably going to bail out, including Snowe. That doesn't leave him a lot of latitude, and this new embarrassment is only going to make it tougher.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. This thing deserves to die in committee. It shouldn't even hit the floor. Harkin's HELP committee is producing the only bill that should see the reconciliation table. Anything that helps that happen is fine with me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

xkcd Is Completely Inaccurate

I've never used Wordpress.

Blogger all the way.

Edit: I find this particularly amusing considering that, at least by today's standards, I was one of the earliest bloggers. (2002 isn't as early as the guys who started in the late 1990s, but political blogging didn't really hit it's stride until 2001, and progressive/liberal blogging until 2002.)

Goes to show how times change.

(Not that there is any shortage of "Demosthenes" pseudonyms out there. I just believe that I was the first blogger to use the name.)

Remember When We Thought America Was Going Progressive?

Those were good times.

Now, of course, Baucus not only gets to let former health insurance veeps dictate what Americans will be forced to buy, but apparently he's going to gut the climate change bill, too. No doubt to make as many Republicans and lobbyists happy as possible.

All this by a man who represents a vanishingly small percentage of the American people.

Forget getting rid of Republicans. The Republicans are irrelevant. Wilson is a sideshow that has been seized upon by Dems like manna from heaven to distract from the realities of the health care situation. The key goal was, is, and will remain getting rid of bad Dems.

The more, the merrier.

A Bit of Clarity

There's a lot going on right about how the public option is off the table.

So let's be perfectly clear. Right here, right now. Mandates without a public option are worse than what America currently has. No ifs, ands, or buts. All the laws against recission, against blocking reform, and even the medicaid expansion pale in comparison.

You want clarity? The government is going to force you to give money to a health insurance corporation. That's clarity. If there's a monopoly or oligopoly in your area? Too bad. If you have a moral objection to the heinous shit that they do? Too bad. If they offer crap coverage at terrible rates? Too bad. If their premiums are ruinous? Too bad. Pay up, suckers, the execs have corporate jets to buy.

You can't vote them out, because they don't listen to you, they listen to their shareholders. You can't avoid them, because they'll be there wherever you go: the scummy corps will quickly crowd out the good ones, as is ever the case with a captive market. All you can do is get your ass out of the country as quickly as possible, and find somewhere that has a sane health care system, crafted by people who think the middle ground isn't between Joe Lieberman and Joe Wilson.

The only people who benefit from this are health insurance execs and institutional shareholders. They know that, with crystal clarity. So should you.

Ugh.

Well, you know the speech had problems when David Brooks is praising it.

Edit: though this bit is funny:

White House officials no longer mask their exasperation with the liberal obsession on [The public option].
That'd be Rahm.

It also shows that the opposition is working. Rahm wouldn't be annoyed if it wasn't a problem.

Far Better Use of Those Dollars

dday today:

John Aravosis uncovers an amazing nugget in TIME Magazine. Apparently, there are Democrats who saw Rep. Joe Wilson yell "You Lie!" at the President of the United States and thought, "that guy has a point." And they happen to be the ones writing the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee.
The controversy over Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shouting out "You Lie!" at the President over his claim that illegal immigrants wouldn't benefit from health-care reform apparently sparked some reconsideration of the relevant language. "We really thought we'd resolved this question of people who are here illegally, but as we reflected on the President's speech last night we wanted to go back and drill down again," said Senator Kent Conrad, one of the Democrats in the talks after a meeting Thursday morning. Baucus later that afternoon said the group would put in a proof of citizenship requirement to participate in the new health exchange — a move likely to inflame the left.
So many things wrong with this, starting with caving to an extremist...

...Not to mention the fact that buckling to these demands will not get one Republican vote on any health care bill.

This is the Senate Finance bill, not the overall bill. But Democrats are so wishy-washy when it comes to, well, anything, that we actually could see this rotten, xenophobic, piss-poor policy in a bill supposedly designed to expand access to health care.

I know a lot of money has been flowing to Joe Wilson's opponent in 2010, but a far better use of those dollars would be to funnel them toward primary opponents for Kent Conrad and Max Baucus.
Yeah, funny, ain't it? I saw the things on Kos about raising money for Joe Wilson's Democratic opponent. (The link is here, for those who want to help.) That's a worthy goal, and Miller seems like a solid candidate.

But I can't help but agree with dday that Joe Wilson isn't the problem. After all, idiots like that are hardly in short supply in the Republican party; you're never going to excise them from the House, nor should you expect to. The problem is The Blue Dogs, and their stubborn belief that if only they cave in to everything the Republicans complain about, the Republicans won't have a leg to stand on and will stop being so mean.

THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

The blue dogs are motivated by fear. They're craven in the face of both noisy Republicans and grasping lobbyists. They've blocked everybody else out. But that isn't a bad thing, not necessarily. You, as progressives and liberals, just have to make them fear you more. It worked for the Republican base, it works for progressives, liberals and social-democratics elsewhere, and it can work for Dems in America too.

That's why Rahm, the patron saint of maudlin centrists, is threatening and screaming at progressive organizations to get in line. Fear, with a touch of greed, is the only thing Rahm and his centrist pets know. If you can't replace them—though they richly deserve it—then you might as well scare them.

And that's why you should think carefully before lending your time and money towards beating bad Republicans, instead of bad Democrats. Things may change. I hope they change. But right now, focusing on beating Republicans would just empower the terrible Dems, and make things that much worse.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Democracy! (Brought to You By General Electric)

Yes, as dday (channelling Dahlia Lithwick) points out, the Roberts court is quite likely to knock down the rules that prevent corps from pretty much dictating public opinion:
The Supremes heard that Citizens United case yesterday, and Dahlia Lithwick sez be very afraid.
When we first met this case, it involved a narrow question about whether a 90-minute documentary attacking Hillary Clinton could be regulated as an "electioneering communication" under McCain-Feingold. The relevant provision bars corporations and unions from using money from their general treasuries for "any broadcast, cable or satellite communications" that feature a candidate for federal election during specified times before a general election. A federal court of appeals agreed with the FEC that the movie could be regulated. Citizens United, the conservative, nonprofit advocacy group that produced the film, appealed. The issue last spring was whether a feature-length documentary movie was core political speech or a Swift Boat ad. But the court surprised everyone when it ordered the case reargued in September, this time tackling the constitutionality of McConnell and Austin.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas are already on record wanting to overturn these cases. Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts have been inclined to wait. The question today is whether we wait no more [...]

Solicitor General Kagan stands to defend the FEC, not in a frock coat but a tasteful blue pantsuit, and when Scalia pounces on her, two sentences into her opening, she scolds him as if he were an impudent 2-L: "I will repeat what I said, Justice Scalia: For 100 years this court, faced with many opportunities to do so, left standing the legislation that is at issue in this case." Kagan is so loose and relaxed, you'd think this was her 100th argument. Which allows Roberts to dispense with the kid gloves and accuse her, respectively of "giving up" an argument she made in her opening brief and "changing positions." When she is asked, in effect, if she wants to lose this case in a big way or a little way, Kagan is eventually forced to reply, "If you are asking me, Mr. Chief Justice, as to whether the government has a preference as to the way in which it loses if it has to lose, the answer is yes."

One of the ways the Roberts Court hopes to make all conflicting case law in the campaign finance realm disappear is to blame all prior bad case law on Kagan. When everyone is thoroughly confused about what rationale the government may advance in order to limit corporate spending, Roberts can gleefully conclude that all of Austin "is kind of up for play. …" Poof. And Austin is a problem no more.

As Kennedy bemoans the "ongoing chill" of limiting corporate speech, Scalia recites a lyric ode to the greatness of America's "single shareholder corporations. … The local hairdresser, the local auto repair shop, the local new car dealer." Kagan points again to the "100-year-old judgment of Congress that these expenditures would corrupt the federal system," forcing Scalia to retort that "Congress has a self-interest" and that "I doubt that one can expect a body of incumbents to draw election restrictions that do not favor incumbents." Kagan corrects him, noting that "in fact, corporate and union money go overwhelmingly to incumbents." And that this law "may be the single most self-denying thing that Congress has ever done."

Kagan goes on to distinguish humans from corporations by pointing out that "we have beliefs; we have convictions; we have likes and dislikes." When she urges that it's in the corporation's self-interest to maximize profits and that "individuals are more complicated than that," Scalia does another verse on "the new auto dealer who has just lost his dealership." It's a vision of fluffy corporate bunnies so compelling, it makes you want to give Exxon a great big hug and an African violet for the holidays [...]

Olson very effectively uses his five minutes of rebuttal time to taunt Kagan for the government's changed positions. And while it looks as though there are five votes to fundamentally alter the way American elections will work, we've been through enough renditions of the Roberts Court slapping litigants around at oral argument then loving on them in decisions to make such predictions unwise. Of course, as Waxman suggests in his closing, it does take a somewhat "self-starting" institution to be deciding a case about campaign finance laws in which no litigant has directly raised the issues and no factual record even exists.
As Dahlia says, you can't predict the findings from the questions, but it seems pretty clear what side these guys fall on. Elegies for "one-man corporations" don't usually issue from the mouths of those who want to restrict their power.

But I did want to quote something else:

If you read through these arguments, and the general set of opinions of the Court over the last term, you can only conclude that George W. Bush was a successful President. With a legacy that far exceeds his lack of accomplishments in domestic or foreign policy. Bush handed the Court to the Federalist Society right for a decade or more, and while the legal system can still put up a fight with respect to civil liberties, on most issues the ultimate answer will fall on the side of the corporation over the people every single time without question. And that's a frightening prospect.
I'd agree, except to note one thing: for both Roberts and Scalia, the problem wasn't Bush and it wasn't the Republicans. It was Democrats. Remember when they were "keeping their powder dry"? When they were trying to bank "political capital", as if such a beast existed out of the minds of clueless opinion journalists? And how the whole reason America ended up with those guys on the Bench is because of the good ol' Blue Dogs that never met a Republican they didn't like? Me too.

Never forget that the Roberts Court, like the gutted, possibly extinct public option, is the fault of [b][i]centrist Dems[/i][/b]. Good ol' lumbering DINOs, nobody else.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Prez's Health Care Speech: Could Have Been Worse

Not much more to say than that, really. Tort reform is meaningless twaddle that won't pull in any Republicans, but it was a somewhat more spirited defense of the public option than I had expected.

The weakest moment was right at the beginning. Equating advocates for single-payer, the near-ubiquitous system elsewhere, with nutbars who want to tear down employer-based insurance? Good job, thanks a bunch. It did serve as a way of reminding people what progressives have actually bargained down from, but it was still insulting. Not surprising, but insulting. The bit where completely misrepresented how collective bargaining works was almost as bad, but it didn't match up to the dishonest equations being made.

The best bit from Obama was probably when he started calling out the Republicans for being responsible for the debt. Dems don't talk about that enough, and it's one of the reasons the Republicans have been schooling them over the past few months. The Republicans are trying to hide their legislative history, and it's revealing that the Dems have been too terrified or too dense to call them on it.

The best bit overall, however, wasn't from Obama. It was from that unbelievable ass that was yelling "LIES!" while Obama was talking about illegal immigrants not getting insurance. It was supposedly Jim Wilson (R-SC) but it's not confirmed. It was such a ridiculous move that it's probably severely damaged the Republican brand among independents, and even that segment of the Republican party that has reverence for American institutions.

(Clearly not a large group, but they do exist.)

All that said, the mouthpieces on CNN have said that it's an endorsement of Baucus's crappy insurance-veep-authored bill, and not anywhere near as strong a defense of the public option as progressives would have wanted. He DID keep the door open, and he did lay out the rationale. But it's clearly up to Americans to get in touch with their legislators and tell them that they want a public option to be available to keep insurance oligopolies from getting fat on mandated insurance.

The Magic Words are still in effect. That hasn't changed at all. Remember and repeat, everybody who lives in a district/state with a Dem representative:

"If you vote for a bill without a strong public option, I will spend every spare moment and every spare moment helping your primary opponents."

No debate. No discussion. Just that. Obama kept the door open, but he clearly won't pull them through. it's up to you: you'll have to push.

SO GET TO PUSHING.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Krugman on Slaying Reaganism

Paul Krugman on the Public Option:
Let me add a sort of larger point: aside from the essentially circular political arguments — centrist Democrats insisting that the public option must be dropped to get the votes of centrist Democrats — the argument against the public option boils down to the fact that it’s bad because it is, horrors, a government program. And sooner or later Democrats have to take a stand against Reaganism — against the presumption that if the government does it, it’s bad.
Well put.

This is how far America has sunk. Where once people wondered whether or not capitalism was going to survive, we've now seen the resurgence of anti-government kneejerking, as if the government didn't have to rescue the market from itself less than a year ago. Were it just the Republicans, it wouldn't be so much of an issue. But now all are seeing just how deep the Ronnie Rot goes within the Democrats as well.

No Surrender

Greg Sargent quotes CPC head Raul Grijalva:


Dem Rep. Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is issuing a strong rebuke to fellow liberals who may be inclined to accept a compromise involving a public option “trigger,” saying it would amount to waving a “white flag” and “a surrender.”

Grijalva made the claim after I checked in with his office for a comment on today’s Roll Call story reporting that some “key” House progressives are open to such a compromise. In a statement emailed to me, Grijalva said that most House progressives would in fact stand firm and still vote against a bill with a trigger:

“The vast majority of CPC is not prepared to wave a white flag on public option. A trigger would be a surrender.”

If the “vast majority” of the five dozen or so House progressives did vote against the bill, as Grijalva vows they would, it wouldn’t pass.

Also noteworthy: Grijalva’s description of a trigger as “surrender” leaves liberals no wiggle room to support it. When it comes to the trigger, House progressive leaders are refusing to budge.

No, there is no wiggle room. Bravo, Raul: you've figured out that the White House must learn that it cannot ever take progressives for granted, and that no amount of screaming Rahm Emmanuel can change that.

The White House has clearly decided it wants to jettison the plan, if not in public: Jane Hamsher points out that behind the scenes the progressives are getting "hammered" by the White House. All the more reason to stand firm.

Baucus Plan Written by former VP of Astroturfing Health Insurance Company

Courtesy of Firedoglake, we have a VERY interesting tidbit from "WilliamOckham" on Emptywheel (another FDL site, but I digress):

Gotta run to a meeting, but I think this is telling. Take a look at the document properties of the pdf that ew links to above. The author is Liz Fowler. The Liz Fowler who was vice president for public policy and external affairs for Wellpoint, the nation’s second-largest health-insurance company, until she re-joined Baucus’ staff in Feb. 2008. She had done an earlier stint with Baucus from 2000-2005.
That smell? It's cordite. It's what tells you that you've found A SMOKING GUN

I just checked, and it's still there. Liz Fowler. And who is she? Well, among other things, she was (prior to working for Baucus) the VP for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint.

And who is WellPoint? Well, they're a health insurance company. But more importantly, if you give 'em a quick Wiki check, they're this:
In July 2008, WellPoint subsidiary Anthem Blue Cross agreed to a settlement with the California Department of Managed Health Care. In order to resolve allegations of improper rescission (cancellation of policies due to claims), WellPoint paid $10 million and reinstated 1,770 policy-holders whose plans they had cancelled. They also agreed to provide compensation for any medical debts incurred by these policy-holders in the meantime. However, WellPoint did not officially admit liability.[5]

In August 2009, WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross unit, the largest for-profit insurer in California, contacted its employees and urged them to get involved to oppose the Democratic Party-led Congress' plan for health care reform. "Regrettably, the congressional legislation, as currently passed by four of the five key committees in Congress, does not meet our definition of responsible and sustainable reform," Anthem said in a company e-mail last week. The proposals would hurt the company by "causing tens of millions of Americans to lose their private coverage and end up in a government-run plan." Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit watchdog organization in Santa Monica has asked California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to investigate its claim that WellPoint Inc. pushed workers to write their elected officials, attend town hall meetings and enlist family and friends to ensure an overhaul that matches the firm’s interests. According to Consumer Watchdog, California's labor code directly prohibits coercive communications, including forbidding employers from "tending to control or direct" or "coercing or influencing" employees' political activities or affiliations. "WellPoint has not been contacted by the California attorney general and has not seen any complaint; therefore, we cannot respond to any questions at this time,” a company spokesperson said. [6]

So, to review. The person who wrote the Baucus plan—the one that Obama is going to use to bring Snowe on board—is intimately tied with a company that engaged in wide-scale "improper recission" around the time that she was employed there, and which (allegedly) all but forced its employees to participate in an effort to astroturf the already-ridiculous town halls.

And MoveOn, CAP, Media Matters et al won't say boo, because they're pants-pissing terrified of losing access to the White House.

But you can. You don't owe them a damned thing. Just remember the magic words.

Quick Question for Kos:

You state in your KO interview that "The notion that Obama is going to abandon progressives is ludicrous".

Hasn't he already abandoned them?

(Well, sure, he sent Rahm to scream at them when they tried to defend progressives' interests against Rahm's pet "blue dogs". But I don't think that's quite what you meant.)

Not that I expect Kos to respond. It's been a good while since he was a commentator on my little YACCS comment system back in 2002. He's got television interviews to do. But one lives in hope.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Oh Christ on a Crutch

Elections are about choices. And the choice that is coming is simple and important. It's a choice between change, or more of the same.

I think I know what choice people will make.
I know you guys have a fixation on Obama's 2008 campaign, and it was a good campaign, but for the love of all that is Holy don't rip off his damned slogans.

Not only does it not suit the milquetoast, Tory-lite persona that your man Iggy has adopted since his return to his frozen homeland—it isn't going to resonate now that progressives think that Obama sold them out, and the transformational aspects of the 2008 campaign are all but dead.

Obama's Washington was "more of the same". Best not remind people of that.

Kleiman Sums Up the Van Jones Thing

Nothing more to say but this:

There’s an important general lesson here: If you want to say batsh*t-crazy stuff and still be treated as a respectable participant in the national debate, you’d better be a Republican. Suggesting that President Bush invited the 9/11 attacks in order to start a war is really no crazier than suggesting that President Obama wants to let terrorists loose in the United States, or that he plans to kill old people and disabled children, or that there’s something sinister about his encouraging schoolkids to study hard.
Actually, no, there is one other thing. The fact of his resignation is going to embolden Republicans and sap the morale of Democrats. Not his statements, extreme statements don't sap a damned thing. His resignation. The hard-right wingnuts like Beck will feel even more emboldened, and Democrats will be even more afraid to speak their minds and call out the Republicans on their nonsense. Why would they? The Republicans will savage them, and the Dems will abandon them.

I just hope that somehow, someday, a Democrat will know what belonging to a real political party feels like.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pelosi:"A Bill Without a Strong Public Option Will Not Pass the House"

So says TPMDC:

If you weren't already convinced that the House and the Obama administration are on a collision course, you might be now.

The latest statement out of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is unequivocal: "A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House," Pelosi said.

Pelosi has said the same thing in the past, but with the fight over the public option reaching a fever pitch--and the White House signaling left and right that they're walking away from it--her renewed insistence is telling, and will no doubt come as encouraging news to progressives.

"If someone has a better idea for promoting competition and reducing health care costs, they should put it on the table," Pelosi said. "Eliminating the public option would be a major victory for the insurance companies who have rationed care, increased premiums and denied coverage."
Good. I've been saying a lot about "punishing them". This sort of reaction is what you want, though. Contact Pelosi (snail mail is best, phone is almost as good, email if you must) and tell her that you want her to stand tall on this issue. And contact your rep and remind him or her of the Golden Rule, while also saying that if they DO stand tall, you will stand with them.

And, yes, if there is a better option, than it should be put on the table. But there isn't one, and that's not what this Snowe-job is about.

(Well, there is a better option. It's called single payer. But as it is...)

No, this is about the Broders of the world. The people who fetishize Republican names on Democratic bills so much that they'd be willing to let the world burn before they'd allow the Dems to pass something on their own. This is about keeping them happy.

And they're not worth it.

"It's the Structure, Stupid!" No, It's Not. It's About Power

Ezra responds to the somewhat blistering criticism of his apologism for Obama abandoning his base by arguing, well, this:

Put simply, it's the structure, stupid. The health-care system is like a house. It's easy to add the furnishings later. It's not that hard to upgrade the kitchen, or redo the trim, or re-carpet the floors. Some of that might be expensive, but it's not actually hard. But it's really, really hard to add another room, or rip out all the wiring, or build a bathroom that wasn't previously included.

So too with health care. There's a basic structure that's been present in all of the bills, and for good reason. It's a structure that a lot of good and smart people have put a lot of time and energy into thinking through. It creates a universal system through an individual mandate and an employer mandate, and makes that system affordable and dependable through a mix of subsidies, insurance market reforms, and out-of-pocket protections. It creates health insurance exchanges that individuals and companies can choose to enter if they prove more efficient and consumer-friendly, and that offer an array of different insurance options, some public, some private.

And who, exactly, will be adding these things? Sure, you can add rooms to the house. But you can't walk into somebody's house and start adding things, because you don't have the power and authority to do so. Nobody can do the same thing for your house, either. They don't have the power. And, let's be honest, they don't have the intention, either.

So who, exactly, would have the power and intention to make these changes? Liberals? The way that this is moving, they would have practically no power whatsoever. Remember, power is about consequences: it's about getting people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do, and that is all about showing that there are consequences if they don't go along with you. The Republican base has showed that there are consequences to spurning them: you lose primary battles in the House and Senate to people who will go along with you. Pretty soon they don't need to exact any consequences: they can just threaten to do so, and the threat will be credible enough that lawmakers will go along with it. Eventually, you don't even need to threaten, because they know what the base will do and adjust their behavior accordingly.

But the Democratic base won't have that. They can't exact a price for ignoring them, and any attempt to threaten the Dems will lack credibility. They'll be powerless. In fact, they already are powerless, of course—or else Obama, his various White House apparatchiks, and Big Media Types like (tragically) Ezra wouldn't be treating them like a puddle of especially foetid scum that is best avoided when it can't be ignored. Without action, that belief won't change.

What about the people that do have power? Will they have the desire to change things for the better? Well, no, clearly not. The "centrists" won't. Those few who aren't wingers with the wrong letter beside their name are too frightened of the right. The Republicans certainly won't, they'll just change things for the worse. The media won't: their fetish for useless, worthless bipartisanship was half the reason the impressionable, timid Democrats ended up in this horrible mess. And they basically do what the conservative movement tells them to. Corporate America certainly won't.

As for the Obama Administration? If they actually cared, there would be a public option, and this whole debate wouldn't be taking place.

So sorry, Ezra, but your "house" doesn't hold water. Those with the power to change things won't, because they're happy with the way things are.

And those with the desire to change things? We're just scum. Powerless scum. Beneath notice. Beyond contempt.

Straightforward Answers to (Surprisingly) Dumb Questions

"Can you beat centrists at their own game?"

Yes. If you couldn't, the Republican base wouldn't be as successful as it is.

Ezra says that progressive should support the health care bill, no matter how bad it is, because otherwise nothing will pass. Well, yes. That's true. But if we're talking about bad bills, progressives and liberals shouldnt want them to pass. If we're talking about health care bills that are actually worse than the status quo, then we don't want them to pass.

And, more importantly, does Ezra want the base to fight for anything at all? It sure doesn't seem like it. Look at this:
There's no successful model for blunting the power of centrists to write -- or kill -- the final compromise. President after president has found himself foiled by congressional centrists. George W. Bush never truly managed to bring Susan Collins, George Voinovich, or Olympia Snowe to heel. His tax cuts were smaller than he wanted, his Medicare expansion was pricier than conservatives liked, and his attempt to privatize Social Security was batted back. Bill Clinton fared little better. The hardest votes are the people who don't fundamentally want to vote for your agenda, not the people who do. And those are always the votes you get last.

The outcome of this strategy, then, seems to be that the Democratic Party pretty much collapses into infighting and fails to pass its top priorities and loses a bunch of seats in the next election. The media explains that the liberal Nancy Pelosi and her liberal House Democrats caused the electoral disaster, or that Democrats couldn't agree on an agenda. Long term, I'm not sure who that helps.
Honestly, this isn't difficult. The Democratic party is already "infighting". It's just that it's a one-way fight. The "centrists" (read: right-wingers) are mowing down progressives again, and again, and again. Progressives aren't getting a damned thing out of this Administration or this Congress, and they're sick and tired of it.

And Klein's historical analogies don't hold water, either. In ALL of those cases, the Republican base showed tremendous power in holding the government's line. No, they didn't get everything they wanted, but they have got one hell of a lot more of what they wanted than liberals are now.

The reason why? Because they will be obstinate. They will run primary challenges. They will choose to lose a district rather than compromise their principles. They do it, because they know that during the next vote, and the one after that, and the one after that, the reaction of the higher-ups in the party will be "can we sell this to the base". Democrats clearly couldn't give a damn about their base. (Certainly journalistic Washington doesn't.)

Klein (and Yglesias, and a lot of the other disappointing former-bloggers-turned-washingtonians) doesn't get that many progressives see no future whatsoever for them in the curent Democratic party. They aren't going to be listened to, they aren't going to be respected, and the country will just keep moving in the Republicans' direction until the whole damned thing burns.

Whether the Dems lose seats in 2010, or in 2012 is totally irrelevant. Progressives aren't the Democrats. They aren't part of the team, nor will they ever be. Progressives are in it for good policy and good governance. Nothing more.

No, the base has to confront the fact that it will not be listened to, not ever, unless they put their foot down.

So that's exactly what they must do.

"Buy a one-way bus ticket to any city and be poor there."

You know why I embraced Mark Ames' very personal attack on "Jane Galt", Megan McArdle, when others were whining about how it was mean? Because, as digby reminds us four years ago today she wrote shit like this:
(as quoted on Corrente)
“It seems to me that the poor should have had the EASIEST time leaving. They don't need to pay for an extended leave from their home, they could have just packed a few belongings and walked away to start over somewhere else. What did they have to lose?

When the wealthy evacuate, they leave behind nice houses, expensive cars, possibly pets that they treat as members of the family, valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. This makes it emotionally difficult for wealthy people to leave. But by definition, the poor do not have this burden: they either rent their homes, or they are in public housing; their cars are practically junk anyway; and they don't have any valuable possessions. This is what it means to be poor. These people could just pick up their few belongings, buy a one-way bus ticket to any city and be poor there. Supposing they even had jobs in NO, it's not like minimum wage jobs are hard to come by.”
This is not some random douche. This woman has a comfortable sinecure at the Atlantic Monthly. This woman has been embraced by the media establishment.

Hell with THEM, too.

Don't Elect Democrats(?)

One of the most interesting aspects of this debacle, at least from a theoretical standpoint, is the preferences being shown by the Democrats and Republicans respectively. It's a big deal from a strategic point of view.

A significant number of Dems, and at the very least a few in the White House, value bipartisanship over almost anything else. They're willing to sacrifice anyone and anything in order to get an "R" on their side. That's the whole reason the Health Care bill is being gutted and turned into a shadow of what America actually needs.

The Republicans, on the other hand, couldn't give a damn about bipartisanship. Remember, according to Republicans, "bipartisanship is another word for date rape". They'll take the support if it's offered, but they don't need to, because they know that one of these bipartisanship-hungry Dems will do it for them.

So, fine. Dems are gutless cowards. But what does this mean for you, the American citizen? It means that you might not want to vote for a Democratic Senatorial candidate, even if you agree with what he or she believes, if you have a relatively moderate Republican Senator.

Why? Well, think about it. As the Republicans lose seats, the remaining Republicans are going to be more and more extreme in their views. They have to be, otherwise they face serious primary challenges. If the Dems try to go to one of these Republicans for the all-important "R" on the bill, they will have to give up a lot.

But here's the key part: the fewer the Republicans, the more right-wing the legislation will have to be to get that "R". You end up in an odd situation where it doesn't matter how many Dems you have in either house, because the key vote here isn't a Democratic one, it's a Republican one. The Democrats, spineless that they are, have given the Republicans an effective veto, and the key question is what kind of Republican gets that veto.

So what's the incentive for voting in another Democratic Senator? There isn't one. As long as they have a bare majority they'll control the committee appointments. As long as they give the Republicans a veto, it's in your interest to have as many moderate Republicans in the Senate as possible—you have to get past that veto. Voting in more Dems will just mean worse Republicans and worse legislation.

Sure, the House is different. Vote for as many House Democrats as you see fit, nobody in the House supports this idea of a Republican veto. Remember the magic phrase, mind you—"If you vote for a bill without a public option I'll do eveything I can to elect your primary opponent" is still the operating principle here—but this veto thing isn't an issue.

Remember, it doesn't matter to you, as citizens, which team is holding the ball. What you want is good legislation and good government. Whatever gets that is in your interest.

So go ahead. Vote for a moderate Republican Senator, or just stay home, or vote for a third party. If the Dems's ridiculous, insipid embrace of a Republican veto means that their interest in more Senate seats contradicts your interest in a good government, then TO HELL WITH 'EM.

Obama Sells out America

If it is true that Obama is willing to sell out the public option—ensuring jacked-up health care costs for millions of Americans and a windfall bonanza for private insurance companies—then there's only one thing to say:

"If you vote for any health care bill without a public option, I will spend every dime and moment I have on your primary opponent's campaign".

The house must draw a line. And you will have to ensure they do it.