Why the Republicans really hate Obamacare

With ever more information/results coming in, it is pretty clear that, while certainly imperfect, Obamacare is basically working as intended.  And by any account, far from the total disaster Republicans were predicting.  So, what’s a Republican to do?  Admit the actual problem with Obamacare– great post by Chait:

Conservatives spent years predicting Obamacare would collapse in all manner of gloomy scenarios. But those predictions all occurred in the run-up to the law coming on-line, on the basis of sketchy, preliminary data or pure conjecture. But in the months since the law has come into effect, a steady stream of far more solid data has come in, and the doomsaying predictions are being hunted to extinction. The right’s ideological objections to Obamacare remain, but I can’t think of a single practical analytic claim they made that still looks correct. Just within the last week, numerous predictions of Obamacare skeptics have suffered ignominious deaths. Consider a few:

[feel free to click through and consider]

And so conservative objections to Obamacare are finally turning from the practical to the philosophical. In response to reports that Obamacare insurance turns out to be affordable, Roy, who has spent months warning of rate shock, mocks that “other people’s money will pay for it.” Conservative columnist Byron York likewise argues “Obamacare’s ‘good news’ applies only to the poor.”

It is true that Obamacare is far more helpful to people lower down the income scale. The poorest people get Medicaid, which is free. Those higher up the income ladder get tax credits, which phase out at $45,000 a year for an individual, and $94,000 a year for a family of four. (I wouldn’t call people earning under those levels “poor.”) Of course, people who get employer-sponsored insurance also get their coverage paid for with “other peoples’ money.” The difference is that employer-sponsored insurance uses a tax deduction, which gives the largest benefits to those who earn the most money, as opposed to Obamacare’s sliding scale tax credit, which gives the most to those who earn the least.

But at least conservatives are now representing their true bedrock position on Obamacare. It is largely a transfer program benefiting people who either don’t have enough money, or pose too high a health risk, to bear the cost of their own medical care. Conservatives don’t like transfer programs because they require helping the less fortunate with other peoples’ money.  [emphasis mine]

Yep.  That’s pretty much it.  Of course, they don’t actually want to say that too loudly, so they rely on the other complaints that simply haven’t panned out.  Also, while Chait (and me) see those needing the benefits as “less fortunate” many conservatives see them as lazy, undeserving, leeches on society, and therefore not deserving of any benefit.

Photo of the day

Oddly enough, I’ve yet to come across any particularly good World Cup photo galleries from my usual sources.  I actually went to FIFA this morning– they don’t separate the wheat from the chaff, but there’s plenty of great photos in here.  I just love the expressions and body postures of those in the free kick wall:

Saturday, 21 June 2014
CURITIBA, BRAZIL – JUNE 20: Emilio Izaguirre of Honduras takes a free kick during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between Honduras and Ecuador at Arena da Baixada on June 20, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Quick hits

Lots of time spent watching World Cup means less time blogging and more quick hits.  Here goes:

1) Speaking of the World Cup, I enjoyed this interactive feature on the club teams of players.   What happened with the Uruguayan player who lost consciousness and was allowed back on the field was unconscionable.  Led me to an interesting story of Tyler Twellman, an American who had his career ended by concussions.   On a light note, enjoyed this Telegraph critique/ranking of World Cup uniforms.

2) Enjoyed this piece in the Nation telling liberals to stop looking for intellectually honest conservatives.

3) Scientific ideas that people get wrong.

4) Every time I drive on the 6-lane (3 in each direction) interstate 95 between Richmond, VA and Springfield, VA, I think, this is insane.  There’s 8 lanes between Durham and Burlington, NC.  I’m quite convinced they need to add more lanes and it would be a good thing.  This Wired article says I’m wrong.  Build more lanes and more traffic just fills them up before you know it.  I don’t doubt that is generally true, but I think traffic in NoVa is already pretty maxed out and that this would really help.

5) Derek Thomspon on why audiences hate hard news.

6) My wife asked me why China, with all its people, is not good at soccer.  Fortunately, I had read this Economist article on the very topic just a few hours before.

7) Why we call soccer “soccer” here in the US (and Australia– love the Socceroos).

8) Andrew Sullivan lets loose on the crazy fever swamp of nonsense that is Fox News.

9) Bill Ayers on the “hard choices” college administrators make.

10) Six things Michael Mann (hockey stick graph) wants you to know about scientists and climate change.

11) Among the best short pieces I’ve read on teaching critical and creative thinking.  I’m going to be using a bunch of these ideas in the future and sharing with the teaching grad students I supervise.

12) Okay, don’t expect you to read beyond the abstract (couldn’t find a nice blog summary), but maybe swing voters who change their minds during an election are basically a myth.

13) It seems are legal system is ever more about sticking it to poor people.  Another sorry example (though, wear your seat belt, damn it).

14) How Led Zeppelin invented modern rock.

15) Oh my, this satirical ad about throwing a “first moon” party is just brilliant and hilarious.

16) Advice on sex to sons before heading off to college.

17) Regardless of what one things of the name Redskins, Jonathan Turley makes a compelling case that the patent office well overstepped its bounds.

18) Don’t know that I agree with everything in this education reform rant, but it’s a helluva rant:

We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.

We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending America is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism…

We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.

We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.

We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them…

We did this by failing to properly fund schools, making them dependent on shrinking property taxes and by shifting the costs of federal mandates to resource-strapped states and local communities.


Lottery and teacher raises

So, the Republicans in NC know they are getting hammered for their lack of concern for K-12 education.  Our teacher pay has fallen close to bottom in the whole country.  The political solution– teacher raises, of course.  The state Senate plan calls for pulling this off by removing thousands of teachers’ aids from the classroom in early grades.  Hmmm.  It’s not like those aids are helping kids learn how to read or anything like that.

The NC House has an even better plan to pay for teacher raises, though– budget alchemy.  They are simply going to find millions of new dollars by increasing the lottery advertising budget.  More ads-> more lottery tickets sold -> more money for education.  Alas, the lottery administrators say that the changes will never bring in the amount that the legislature is planning on for the raises.  In part, because other parts of the budget place restrictions on what the lottery can do.  The lottery officials explained this to the legislators, but they are not interested.  Via the N&O:

 — The state’s lottery director said in public on Wednesday the lottery cannot meet a $106 million target set by lawmakers in the state House because they wrote several other lottery restrictions into their plan, undermining a signature part of the House budget that passed on Friday.

The lottery’s target would help finance pay raises averaging about 5 percent for school teachers across North Carolina, under the House plan.

In an interview, Alice Garland, the lottery’s director since 2011, said she expressed concern about missing the target privately to a key House budget writer, state Rep. Nelson Dollar, before the House adopted its spending plan – and that documents were provided to key officials.

She said she was told by Dollar to stay quiet about it.

Wonderful.  My theory…  They know that next year it won’t actually bring in enough money for the 5% raises; but  this year, before the election, they can say– look, we care about teachers and education.  And heck, even if that’s not their actual intention, hard to see how it doesn’t play out something like this if this is the version of the law that comes to pass.  Shame on NC voters if they are fooled (though I fully expect them to be).

Scalia and language

Scalia’s originalism is such intellectual crap.  I always love a piece that cogently makes this point.  In this case, the New Yorker’s Jeff Shesol does so in regards to Scalia’s dissent in a recent 2nd amendment case where the Supreme Court, 5-4, allowed a law that prevents straw gun buyers:

What Kagan has done, in a neat twist on Scalia’s analogy, is to highlight the ambiguity and contingency of language. And that, for Scalia, is something that can never be acknowledged, because it would lay bare the game he plays. His approach has always been to reach for a dictionary; find, in one edition or other, a definition that drives toward his predetermined decision; and express, eyes wide with disbelief, utter amazement that anyone could even think of seeing it any other way…  [emphasis mine]

In other instances, Scalia’s word games have had profound, societal implications, leading to—in at least one case—a dramatic shift in constitutional law. In District of Columbia v. Heller, which Scalia considers his greatest achievement, he relied not on one but on three eighteenth-century dictionaries to “clarify” the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” By the time that Scalia had finished his exegesis, the “prefatory clause” about a militia had been clarified into irrelevance, and “bear arms” had been so scrutinized and squinted at and worked over that Americans awoke to find that they had a new, individual right to carry a handgun—a right that cannot be found in the language, plain or otherwise, of the Constitution. Michael Waldman, who has just published a book on the Second Amendment, observes that Scalia, in his opinion, “has the feel of an ambitious Scrabble player trying too hard to prove that triple word score really does exist.”


The utter failure of Iraq

Great post from Ezra putting Iraq in big picture perspective:

The news that the US and Iran might cooperate to save Iraq’s government is a measure of just how badly the Iraq war failed to achieve its aims…

This is crucial context for the Iraq War. The Bush administration didn’t just want to invade Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s (nonexistent) stockpile of illegal weapons. They wanted to invade Iraq to create a liberal, democratic counterweight to radical Islam. They wanted to create a country that would, through its glittering example, erode the foundations of Iran’s theocratic regime and al Qaeda’s deadly ideology.

It was called the Democratic Domino Theory. First Iraq would become a beacon of political freedom and economic success. Then, one by one, the populations across the rest of the Middle East would rise up and force their countries to follow. The war on terror wouldn’t end with a fight. It would end with a vote…

A decade later Iraq is becoming the things it was meant to destroy. It could become a Shiite dominated state dependent on Iran for its security. It could become a weak or broken state that serves partly as a haven for the Sunni terror organization ISIS. It could end up as both.

The one thing it will not be is the liberal, democratic counterweight to radical Islam that the Bush administration sought. There is no one in the Middle East who looks to the Iraqi state and sees a better life for them and their children.

The totality of the Bush administration’s failure in Iraq is stunning. It is not simply that they failed to build the liberal democracy they wanted. It’s that they ended up strengthening theocracies they feared…

And all this cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.

Yep.  Meanwhile, Dick Cheney– the wrongest of the wrong and a genuine war criminal– has the nerve to blame it all on Obama.  Nice takedown by James Fallows.  And a much more strongly worded response from truth-out concludes thusly:

Really, there’s no one who’s done more to damage America’s reputation around the world and embolden our enemies than our former Vice President.

The Iraq War was the best Al Qaeda propaganda video ever, and whatever Cheney might say about the surge and how successful it was, the truth is that there were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded…

American history has had its share of villains – J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy, and Richard Nixon come to mind as some of the worst – but there is no one in recent history who has disgraced our country quite like Dick Cheney has.

He lied his way into an illegal war, profited off that war, and shredded the Constitution. He’s a war criminal and has the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people on his hands.

Dick Cheney should be rotting in a prison cell at The Hague, not writing editorials for the Wall Street Journal.

I’m sure there’s reasonable arguments to be made about what Obama could have done differently and better with regards to Iraq.  But it’s kind of like blaming a firefighter who used bad hose technique for a house burning down rather than blaming the arsonist who spread gasoline and lit the match.

Modern marriage and parenthood

Nice piece in the Atlantic about the demographics of modern marriage.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I just think the “capstone” idea of marriage is dumb:

First, the cornerstone theory of marriage no longer applies. Culturally, young adults of all social classes and income levels are less likely to think of marriage as the “cornerstone” of their lives—that is, the first thing they do as adults. Instead, people now think of it as a “capstone”— sort of a trophy for having earned a B.A., obtained a job, and generally learned to live on their own for a while. The national marriage age has gradually ticked up as a result. For people who don’t have all the stones leading up to the capstone, though, the entire order of operations gets messed up.

Don’t have the right person to marry till you have accomplished these goals?  Fine.  But the idea that you should not get married until you have achieved a particular set of goals seems silly to me.  If you are mature enough and have the right person, what does it matter if you have the job you want, the degree you want, etc.?  Why not have that person you love fully invested in your effort to achieve those goals.  Okay, my little rant.  I like my cornerstone marriage.  Anyway, as for the interesting demographics:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes … actually reverse that. First comes the baby, then, we’ll see.

For people who don’t have a college degree, having a child in wedlock has become the exception, not the rule. According to a new analysis presented at the Population Association of America, among parents aged 26 to 31 who didn’t graduate from college, 74 percent of the mothers and 70 percent of the fathers had at least one child outside of marriage. Even among mothers who had high school degrees or some college but no B.A., the majority of births occur among moms who are either single or cohabiting…

Second, marriage is increasingly something only educated people do. As my former colleague Jordan Weissmann wrote, the less a man earns these days, the less likely he is to have ever been hitched. College-educated people are increasingly only marrying other college-educated people, and they’re more likely to get married overall. One reason less-educated women are having children out of wedlock is that college-educated men are not interested in marrying them.

“The college-educated young adults can see a good future, where they’re likely to find a good partner, pool two incomes, and they’re willing to wait to have kids till they can do that,” Cherlin said. Meanwhile, the less-educated women “don’t see the possibility of finding partners with good incomes. And many are unwilling to give up the opportunity to have a kid by waiting.”

So, what’s wrong with this?  Actually, it’s bad for kids.  Whether married or cohabitating, kids benefit from a stable home. And they are not getting that from unmarried American moms:

The plurality of the moms in the study who didn’t finish high school before having a kid (36 percent) are actually not single: They’re living with a boyfriend. And that would actually be okay, if those relationships were stable. The trouble is, they’re not.

Unlike in Western Europe, where couples cohabit for years and sometimes decades, often with kids, less-educated Americans tend to rotate in and out of cohabiting relationships as the years wear on. They have children with multiple different partners, creating complex webs of child obligations, step-parents, and half-siblings.

“One might say ‘who cares?’ [about the cohabitation],” Cherlin said. “In fact, the French don’t seem to care. Scandinavian people do the same thing. But our cohabiting relationships aren’t like theirs.”

“I’m not saying everyone has to be married, but it’s best for children if their parents are in stable relationships. It doesn’t have to be marriage, it doesn’t have to be two different genders. The problem is the instability of the kids’ lives as they live through all these comings and goings.”

No great thoughts from me on this, just find it all quite interesting.

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