The health care dog that’s not barking

With all the attention to the coming midterm elections, I think it is quite notable what a small role the Democrats’ passing of health care legislation seems to be playing in the election.  The Republicans kept insisting that it would bring about electoral disaster for Democrats (in which case they would’ve voted for it if they truly believed that), yet it really doesn’t seem to be playing a major role in any of the campaigns I’ve been reading about.  Jon Chait’s got some nice comments on the matter:

It’s obviously true that the Democrats lost a lot of support “during the health care debate.” The health care debate took about a year. My argument is that, during a period in which unemployment was rising and the Democrats controlled the entire government, Democrats would have bled support regardless of what they were debating. If they declined to carry out their campaign promises, they would have lost support. If they cooperated with Republicans to continue or deepen Bush-era tax cuts for the rich — the only policy upon which bipartisan cooperation was possible — they may have bled somewhat less support because people like bipartisanship, but it would have been terrible policy.

You can make some counter-factual argument that never attempting to pass health care would have been a good political alternative, although you have to account for the massive liberal firestorm this would have provoked. You can make a better argument that passing health care quickly instead of spend month after month sitting on Olympia Snowe’s doorstep would have been a shrewder plan. I think the conservative argument that, after investing months and months into health care, taking high profile votes in both chambers, it would have been shrewd to then abandon the whole thing to failure is transparently unconvincing. That’s a recipe for absorbing almost all the costs of passing health care reform, getting none of the benefits, and driving your base wild with rage at you.

As I argued back in March, these midterms are ultimately about the economy, not health care.

Chart of the day

From CBPP (who really know how to bring the graphs) via Ezra:

8-13-10socsec-f1.jpg

“The revenue loss over the next 75 years just from extending the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 — the top 2 percent of Americans — would be about as large as the entire Social Security shortfall over this period,” write Kathy Ruffing and Paul N. Van de Water at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Members of Congress cannot simultaneously claim that the tax cuts for people at the top are affordable while the Social Security shortfall constitutes a dire fiscal threat.”

Headline of the day

From Alternet:

“Hey Ladies, Want a Raise? Wash Your Vagina — Women’s Day Magazine’s Ultra-Sexist Ad”

This really is pretty amazing (in a disturbing and oh-so-wrong way)…

So, ladies, you say you want a raise? How should you go about getting it?…

What to do?

Fortunately, the good folks at Women’s Day and Summer’s Eve have a few words of advice for you…

What is the very first thing you should consider if you want a raise? What is the most important thing of all?

Yup, wash that vagina, and wash it good. Remember the sandalwood-scented balls. You don’t want any, ahem, untoward odors to interfere with your chances, do you? What’s that you say? You don’t have an odor problem? You’re clean, you bathe regularly, and you don’t really need advice to use a product that “cleanses away odor-causing bacteria from the external vaginal area?” What are you, a barbarian? This is a raise you’re talking about.

That was #1 on the “how to get a raise” list. What was last, least important? Well, after the “wash your vagina” advice, it must be something truly inconsequential, perhaps related to toenail hygeine with closed-toe shoes, right? Let’s look:

Accomplishments? Who cares? You’re a woman. Nobody wants to know about your accomplishments. No, what really matters is a great fresh cut flower smell from you-know-where.

Russia in color (from 100 years ago)

Amazingly cool color photographs of Russia from 100(!!) years ago.  Check ‘em all out.

Obama the Muslim

So, that previous post reminded me from something I meant to blog about last week and forgot.  Political Scientist, John Sides, filling in for Ezra last week had a really nice post about why more people think Obama is a Muslim and who they are.

Here are the trends from the March 2009 to August 2010 polls in the perception that Obama is a Muslim. I divide the sample into Democrats and Republicans. Independents who lean toward a party are counted as partisans (see here for why), so this analysis includes about 90 percent of the sample. I then divide the sample into the education categories that Pew provided: those with a high school degree or less, those with some college education, and those with a college degree or more.

The growth in this perception among Democrats is small and is consistent across education levels: a 2-4 increase within each level.  By contrast, the growth in this perception among Republicans is more notable among those with some college education (a 19-point increase) or a college degree (15 points) than among those with a high school degree or less (9 points).  In other words, better educated Republicans have changed more than the less educated Republicans. This flies in the face of the “dumb Americans” idea and provides some support for Nyhan’s hypothesis. The people most likely to hear the “Obama is a Muslim” meme are the ones whose beliefs changed most dramatically in the past 17 months.

I was a bit surprised that Sides did not mention the work of John Zaller, as this ties in quite well with his work on opinion change.  Most people assume that it is the “dumbest” or least educated Americans who will be most influenced by the media and let Glenn Beck, et al., drive their opinions.  The truth is, though, that those Americans consume very little news and political media.  You have to be exposed to information to have your opinions change.  In this case, the more educated the Republican, the greater the media consumption and thus the more the exposure to all this Obama the Muslim absurdity.  Democrats, on the other hand, aren’t going to be as exposed to the right-wing sources spreading this junk, and even if they are, obviously not inclined to believe it.

I’m sure you could find something that makes Democrats look bad and credulous in comparison to Republicans, but I truly doubt you’d find anything near this egregious.  As much as David Broder and his type (including many of my students) always want to suggest, American politics is not symmetric.

Man knows everything he needs to about Muslims

This is going down as one of my all-time favorite Onion stories.  Damn is it good:

SALINA, KS—Local man Scott Gentries told reporters Wednesday that his deliberately limited grasp of Islamic history and culture was still more than sufficient to shape his views of the entire Muslim world.

Gentries, 48, said he had absolutely no interest in exposing himself to further knowledge of Islamic civilization or putting his sweeping opinions into a broader context of any kind, and confirmed he was “perfectly happy” to make a handful of emotionally charged words the basis of his mistrust toward all members of the world’s second-largest religion.

“I learned all that really matters about the Muslim faith on 9/11,” Gentries said in reference to the terrorist attacks on the United States undertaken by 19 of Islam’s approximately 1.6 billion practitioners. “What more do I need to know to stigmatize Muslims everywhere as inherently violent radicals?”

“And now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero,” continued Gentries, eliminating any distinction between the 9/11 hijackers and Muslims in general. “No, I won’t examine the accuracy of that statement, but yes, I will allow myself to be outraged by it and use it as evidence of these people’s universal callousness toward Americans who lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell.”

“Even though I am not one of those people,” he added.

When 22% equals 100%

I’ve been talking about electoral systems and how they translate voter preferences into representation in my class this semester.  One of the major problems with our plurality system (whoever gets the most votes, wins) is that somebody can win 100% of the representation with well less than a majority of popular support.  Former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards has a nice essay in the Atlantic about the absurdity of the fact that Ben Quayle will likely represent Arizona as of next year:

It is clearly not a system that works perfectly — many citizens do not vote and a dutiful legislator will not follow even the most ardent wish of his or her constituents if thought to be contrary to the national interest, but by and large the fundamental idea — legislators are the voice of participating citizens — is generally accepted to be true.

It isn’t…

I served in Congress with Dan Quayle and have no quarrel with his son, but I do have a quarrel with a system that allows for the election of members of Congress (or governors or other officeholders) to whom most voters are opposed. Ben Quayle received 22.7 percent of the votes cast in his congressional primary; more than 77 percent of the Republicans who voted in that primary wanted somebody else to be their congressman. Quayle received just over 14,000 votes; more than 48,000 voted for somebody else, despite the fact that Quayle was the best known and most visible of the candidates. Running in a heavily Republican district, he will almost certainly become a member of Congress in January, representing a community that did not want him in that job.

Of course, Arizona voters–even the Republicans– have the option of not voting for Quayle, but barring huge personal scandal, a Republican will pretty much always win a very Republican district.  Thus, the Republican primary really is where all the action is at.  Thus, it is somewhat disconcerting that Arizona’s newest representative (even if it was one of Quayle’s competitors) will basically have one election by only winning 22% of the vote in the most competitive election he’ll face.

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