The Corporate Overlords

To be fair, the Republicans attack on internet privacy is not quite as bad as it may seem.  Timothy Lee with the proper context in Vox:

The good news is that nothing is going to change right away. The Obama regulations [to protect privacy] weren’t scheduled to take effect until later this year, so the Republican bill simply preserves the status quo, which allows ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers. And while the law currently allows ISPs to do this, most aren’t currently doing it.

What the bill does do, however, is open the door for ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers in the future. Which means that customers who don’t want their ISPs sharing this kind of information with advertising networks are going to have to do some extra work to opt out of any programs their ISPs eventually put into place…

Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin has the most thorough explanation of the Republican bill and the Obama regulations it blocks. A key point he makes is that all the major ISPs have promised that if they start selling customers’ private data to advertisers, they’ll give customers a chance to opt out.

So if you don’t want to participate in a program like this, you’ll need to keep an eye out for announcements by your ISP.

 The problem is that it’s not clear where a program like this might be announced and what customers might have to do to get themselves excluded. It’s possible customers will get an email announcing the change, but it’s also possible ISPs will simply post a notice in an obscure corner of their websites, where most customers won’t notice. We also don’t know when any particular ISP might announce a program like this. So if you’re worried, there might not be a better option than periodically checking your ISP’s website or setting up a Google News alert for your ISP’s name and privacy.

That said, maybe not quite as bad as you thought ≠ good or okay. To hell with Republicans on this. This legislation passed by pure party line vote in both houses. The only people I’ve seen defending this are delusional-level partisans (okay, that might be most partisans), and, of course the internet providers. Yes, they need to compete on equal ground with google, etc., they claim. For one, I’m already paying Time-Warner a bunch every month for my internet. When it comes to google, we have an implicit deal– they provide me an amazing search engine and I provide them data about my searches.

Anyway, what’s amazing about this is what complete and utter disregard they have for the interests of their ordinary constituents as compared to their corporate overlords at TWC, Comcast, etc.  And, obviously, they know they can get away with such a transparently anti-consumer law.  This is a party who’s primary legislative goal is tax cuts for rich people yet has managed to win complete control of government based on scaring people of government, gays, minorities, political correctness, etc.  What’s one more giveaway to the rich guys over the interests of ordinary Americans.

My 11-year old saw me reading this article this morning, and even trying to be as fair as I could (as Lee is here) to the GOP position, my son was just incredulous that Republicans could and would act this way.  He’s got a point.
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Tax cuts uber alles

Terrific piece from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in Vox.  Short version: GOP obsession with tax cuts for rich people over actually sensible health care policy did them in.  Lots of good stuff:

In fact, the AHCA suggests that Republican elites remain unified (if not completely) around one goal: tax cuts for the rich. The problem for them is that this goal is shared by few outside their donor class. [emphases mine] It is also at odds with another of their core priorities: cutting back the American welfare state…

For years, Paul Ryan has been the chief policy spokesperson for a loose but increasingly formidable Republican coalition with ambitions to fundamentally reorient the American state. For years, he and his allies have argued that if Republicans were given unified control of government, they would forge a new governing contract, embodied most concretely in a series of doomed budget bills that were the main reason for Ryan’s reputation as a serious policymaker.

These bills had three unifying features: They massively cut taxes, especially on the affluent; they massively cut spending, especially on the poor; and they hid the huge deficits they were certain to produce by using budget-scoring sleight of hand…

The AHCA similarly displayed the current GOP coalition’s overarching priorities. And what it showed, first and foremost, was that those priorities were profoundly out of step with public opinion on an extremely visible issue.

Much has been made of the extremism and intransigence displayed by the Freedom Caucus, which occupies the far-right wing of the far-right GOP. And indeed, that intransigence is a serious and ongoing problem for a GOP determined to govern alone. The core problem, however, was the staggering disapproval of the bill itself, which provoked outrage among the public (a mind-boggling 17 percent approval number in a Quinnipiac poll); anger among the organized interests most engaged on the issue; and resistance among Republicans outside of Washington. Tellingly, only eight of 33 Republican governors signed a letter of support for the bill…

Were these ugly outcomes evidence of sheer policymaking ineptitude? Incompetence was certainly a factor, but the main reason for the bill’s flaws was the overriding priority Republicans placed on repealing the taxes on high-income households and on health care companies — taxes that had financed the Affordable Care Act. The AHCA was, above all, intended to deliver a huge tax cut to a narrow set of beneficiaries. All else flowed from this central objective.

Yep.  It is actually an amazing and historically impressive feat for the Republicans to have attained and maintained so much power when their transparently most important policy objective is tax cuts for rich people.  I also think that implies some pretty depressing things about the functioning of our democracy.

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