The wasteland of TV news

I turned on the TV at 6:30 tonight with the hope of catching a Seinfeld rerun (alas, Family Guy– if there’s a rhyme or reason to which TBS plays on a given night, somebody please tell me), but since there was none I gave ABC news a try for a few minutes.  It was a “Breaking News” story about what Trump had to say about “complicated” health care today.  The report was horrible.  It simply laid out what Trump said and what McConnell and Ryan had to say on the matter.  It was barely more than stenography posing as journalism.  There was no suggestion at all of the impossibility of Trump’s promises.  No attempt to add any context to Ryan’s proposal or explain that replacing direct subsidies with tax credits would have a huge negative financial impact on millions.

Nothing the report said was untrue.  No lies.  But virtually no effort to add the context to help the average viewer of this newscast understand how what Trump and Ryan said would actually effect them.  You know what?  It’s hard to do in the short amount of time a TV story gets.  But not impossible.  NPR typically does policy stories with exactly the kind of important context lacking here.  In absolutely can be done.

Cable TV news takes a lot of criticism for pretty poor journalism (rightly), but it sure as hell is not restricted to just cable.  In general, TV journalism, is lazy, shoddy journalism.  Forget any kind of ideological bias.  That’s your problem right there.  And why I will be more vociferous than ever in telling my students to get their news from newspaper organizations and not TV news ones.

“nobody knew that health care could be so complicated”

Trump said that today.  Honestly, I literally laughed out loud when I first came across that on twitter.  Yes, sadly, the American president is truly, laughably stupid and ignorant.  Of course, if you care about American health care (and a bunch of other stuff), that’s no laughing matter.

Is ACA repeal/replace dead?  No, but maybe ICU.  Chait’s short-take:

Last week, though, Chait wrote a terrific piece thoroughly outlining the incredibly politically difficult situation Republicans have left themselves in on health care.  You should read it.  But here’s the highlights:

A second, much deeper problem is that the beliefs Republican members of Congress do agree on are not shared by their voters at all. The Kaiser Family Foundation extensively interviewed Trump voters who have Obamacare to ask what features they would like changed about the law. Most of the voters like Medicaid, and dislike the fact that exchange plans have high deductibles. A KFF poll finds that 84 percent of Americans, and 69 percent of Republicans, want to keep the law’s Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, the House Republican plan would slash funding for Medicaid and massively increase insurance deductibles. A belief in higher deductibles is the conservative movement’s central health-care policy conviction. Conservatives believe that forcing consumers to have “skin in the game” — giving them a financial incentive to use their bargaining power to hold down the costs of their own care — is the singular feature the health-care system most needs. [emphases mine]

Republicans were able to paper over this yawning chasm between what their base demands and what their elites are offering for the last eight years only because they have been able to avoid a specific alternative. Republicans attacked Obamacare for its high deductibles, and Trump promised a replacement that would give everybody better coverage for less money. But their proposals would do the opposite.Multiplesourcesreport that the House Republican replacement plan was supposed to come out this week, but was delayed after an initial analysis by the Congressional Budget Office yielded a horrific score. Their plan would cut the average subsidy level for a person buying insurance on the exchanges from $6,314 to $3,643, according to a preliminary calculation by the liberal Center for American Progress…

Obamacare did create some losers: The very rich pay much higher taxes, and young, healthy people have to pay higher premiums on the individual market. (The latter could one day become winners under Obamacare should they grow unhealthy or un-young.) They made a lot of noise — remember the media freak-out over the tiny number of people who lost their plans in the individual market? — but they were vastly outnumbered by the winners: millions of people who could now have access to insurance who once could not afford it.

The Republican plan, based on its skeletal outlines, has just the opposite effect. It would create very few winners and an enormous number of losers. One percenters would enjoy lower taxes, and healthy people could turn their Health Savings Accounts into lucrative tax shelters that don’t force them to cross-subsidize sicker people. On the flip side, though, millions of people who get insurance through work would be taxed to finance the GOP plan. Hospitals, doctors, and pharmaceutical makers would all lose business because millions of their customers would suddenly be unable to afford medications and treatments, having been forced onto skimpy, catastrophic plans.

Republicans may not have even realized until recently how deeply their ability to make political hay on Obamacare depended on not having power. They could posture against every inconvenient aspect of an industry nobody has ever liked, and promise all things to all people, with no responsibility to fulfill their grandiose promises. Now the dynamic has reversed

If Republicans somehow muster the partisan discipline to tear down Obamacare, as opposed to settling for minor changes, they will have to be willing to endure searing political pain.

And this is all happening before Republicans have published a detailed plan. That is the most amazing aspect of all. Obamacare repeal faces dire peril, and the most painful steps have yet to come.

Yep.  Complicated indeed.  Of course, there’s ways through these, but they all involve liberal policy solutions of more, not less, government involvement.  So, given their ideological commitments, Republicans are in a very complicated position indeed right now.

The Democrats have ruined everything!

Or not.

Unlike some people I know (who, just maybe are reading this), I did not follow the DNC Chair election all that closely.  Mostly, because I don’t think who the person ultimately is matters all that much.  Not many people attributing Trump’s win to former RNC Chair Reince Priebus.  That said, I followed closely enough to find the reaction of the far-left Bernie lovers (mind you, not suggesting that all Bernie lovers are far-left) seriously annoying and off-putting.  Not surprisingly, I’m not alone in this as fellow pragmatic liberals Drum and Waldman have good takes on this.  Drum:

The election for DNC chair is over, and Tom Perez won:

What do you call it when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results? Oh yeah: the Democratic Party.

Sigh. This is so ridiculous. I know that Keith Ellison was the “Bernie guy” and Perez was the “Obama/Hillary guy,” but it’s nuts that this got turned into some kind of ideological showdown. Not only are Ellison and Perez about equally progressive, but DNC chair isn’t a policy position anyway. It’s a fundraising and managerial position. I didn’t really care one way or the other between the two because I have no idea which of them is a better manager and fundraiser…

Besides, national-level purity contests are stupid. Democrats are fine at the national level. It’s every other level that they suck at. Anybody who spends any time or energy continuing to fight over some national standard of progressiveness at the DNC is just wasting everyone’s time. From a party standpoint, state and local races are all that matter for the next couple of years.

And Waldman really lets loose:

As soon as Tom Perez beat out Keith Ellison to become the next chair of the Democratic Party, the grumbling began, in press releases and Facebook posts and tweets. Instead of a real progressive whose heart beats to the thumping rhythm of grassroots organizers marching purposefully down the street to win over their fellow citizens, Democrats chose another establishment stooge, just showing how out of touch these captives of big business are! This party doesn’t deserve the support of true progressives!

Give me a break.

That the race between Perez and Ellison turned in some quarters into a depressing rerun of the 2016 primary campaign was perhaps inevitable, even if neither Perez nor Ellison saw it that way. But there are some people for whom taking affront is their preferred mode of political engagement, who wouldn’t know who they were if they weren’t shaking their fists at a corrupt establishment. To those people, I say: You might want to do some thinking about what the Democratic Party is, and isn’t.

But the idea that Tom Perez is an establishment stooge is laughable. He rebuilt the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division after the horror of the Bush years, turning it into an aggressive advocate for the rights of all Americans. He was one of the most pro-worker labor secretaries we’ve ever had. And people who have worked with him positively gush over his skills as a manager and leader.

Not only that, Perez, Ellison, and pretty much everyone else agree on what Democrats need to do right now. They need to rebuild the party at the state and local level, spreading their message everywhere and becoming competitive in districts they’ve been ignoring. They need to be unbending in their opposition to what Donald Trump and the Republican Congress are trying to do. They need to focus on registering voters and fighting voter suppression efforts. In short, they need to construct the foundation on which future electoral victories will be built.

Nevertheless, there are some people who appear angry that the Democratic Party is not the ferry boat that will carry us across the poisonous River of Accommodation to the socialist utopia that awaits on the other side. Which is true. It’s a liberal party, not a radical leftist one. But it has also moved significantly to the left in the last few years, on a whole range of issues.

Then again, maybe I’m just an establishment stooge.

Photo of the day

This image of the Oscars audience at the moment of the all-time epic screw-up is pretty priceless.  Especially Matt Damon and the Rock:

The stunned Oscars ceremony audience after learning that "Moonlight" and not the previously announced "La La Land" had won the best picture award. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The stunned Oscars ceremony audience after learning that “Moonlight” and not the previously announced “La La Land” had won the best picture award. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Why I know so few smokers

It’s always fun talking to my kids about “back in my day.”  Like when people smoked in restaurants.  Or, improbably and horribly given the recycled air, on airplanes.  Anyway, I was telling David about the significant and ongoing decline in smoking and found this nice collection of charts.  I think this one of smoking by education level is most interesting:

Given that most everybody I know has an undergrad or grad degree (or, is at least well on their way to the first), not surprising that– thankfully— I know hardly any smokers.

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