Republican “moderates” and health care

You know how to get labelled a “moderate” Republican.  Pretend like you care about things like health care for poor people before voting otherwise.  It has proven to be a damn successful trick.  Josh Marshall (emphases in original):

As we noted a few weeks ago, the Iron Law of Republican Politics is that the GOP moderates always cave. But the cave is never without a stage managed drama. And that appears to be the part of the story we’re now entering.

Axios just reported that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is expressing concern over Medicaid cuts in the Senate Trumpcare bill. “I don’t look favorably on it, that’s for sure,” Capito told Axios.

Please.

It’s been clear from the word go that taking an axe to Medicaid was the entire point of this exercise, indeed, an inevitable end point given the budgetary priorities. These are beyond ending Medicaid expansion. They’re the starvation diet Republicans put Medicaid on after kicking everyone off their coverage kicks in.

This is sort of a subchapter of what I discussed in my last post about ‘policy literalism’. It is not only that the ‘GOP moderates always cave.’ It is that we are asked to (and almost always do) indulge this fainting couch routine or a furious bout of chin stroking that comes as a prelude to the cave.

If Capito doesn’t get that this was part of the plan all along she’s literally a fool since this has been a publicly discussed goal from the git-go. This is almost to a certainty a safety-net version of what wingnuts now commonly call “virtue-signaling”, in this case a staged demonstration or interlude put on for effect to soften the blow of signing onto the policy outcomes that are frankly unconscionable. In other words, virtue-signaling but virtue-signaling in bad faith.

This isn’t negotiating or putting a foot down. It’s play acting. It is so consistent, routine and predictable that it needs to be reported as such. Much like hiding behind the lack of a legislative text, on the off chance Sen Capito is serious, she should do something to make that clear. Otherwise, it’s just a yarn, just more nonsense to hide the ball and pave the way for the preordained outcome.

Yep, yep, yep.  And it’s not just Capito, of course.

Meanwhile, great take from Greg Sargent on how Republicans’ strategy of secrecy is working and why they need to rely on secrecy:

Unfortunately, there are signs this morning that the Republican strategy is already working precisely as intended.

First, let’s note that the secrecy adopted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is explicitly designed to shield the Senate GOP health-care bill from as much debate and public scrutiny as possible. The text of the bill will be available for all of one week before it is likely to be voted upon, after having been drafted in such secrecy that even Republican senators complained that they were being kept in the dark. There have not been, and apparently will not be, any hearings before the vote…

But this rolling scandal doesn’t end there. This compressed schedule is not only designed to limit debate on the bill. As the Journal reports, the vote is being rushed for the express purpose of getting it done before the July 4 recess, because the failure to do so “could open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents,” some of whom might be “concerned about losing their health coverage.” Thus, the schedule is also explicitly designed to shield lawmakers from public exposure and questioning about the immense human toll the measure they are considering could have — before they vote on it. [emphasese mine]

As Brian Beutler has argued, GOP leaders are not merely lying about what is in the bill. They are also lying about the process itself, because copping to what they are actually doing would implicitly admit that their bill — which is very likely to be almost as cruel in its broad strokes as the House bill — cannot survive genuine public debate. This new polling illuminates the point: Republican leaders are willing to endure the public’s disapproval of their efforts to hide the bill from the public (to the degree that they care about that disapproval at all), precisely because those efforts are keeping the public ignorant about what they actually intend to do to our health-care system.

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Photo of the day

Came across this cool Flickr group of photos shared to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Alas, seems like all the photos shared are actually “all rights reserved.”  I decided to search bird photos with creative commons license and soon happened upon this pretty awesome one.

White heron,(Egretta alba modesta)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

White heron,(Egretta alba modesta)

A rare bird

Rare in New Zealand, with a population of just 100–120 birds, the elegant white heron or kōtuku (Ardea modesta) is nevertheless common in India, Japan, China and Australia, where it is known as the great egret. With a long, slender neck, yellow bill and thin legs, white herons grow to 92 centimetres in length and 900 grams in weight. In flight their long neck is held kinked. During breeding their bill darkens and a veil of fine feathers extends beyond the folded wings and tail, accentuating their graceful profile.

The future of the Democratic Party

This Franklin Foer feature in the new issue of The Atlantic is really, really, really good.  There’s a dozen different parts I wanted to excerpt, but here’s a few of the best:

That blue wall, of course, turned out to be less sound than Democrats allowed themselves to understand. In an election so close, any number of explanations for defeat are plausible. Hillary Clinton didn’t battle just a demagogue, but also the adroit meddling of Vladimir Putin, the pious intervention of James Comey, and widespread misogyny. Still, the nagging question remains: If the Democrats couldn’t muster a coalition of the cosmopolitan to take out Donald Trump, can they ever count on that coalition? Clinton’s defeat reflects badly on her candidacy, but also exposes the limits of the Democratic Party, which has sustained failures at nearly every tier of government over the past eight years.

Demography’s long arc may yet favor the Democrats, but in the meantime the U.S. electoral system penalizes a party with support concentrated within and around metropolises. White voters without college educations remain a vast voting bloc—especially important to Democrats in Senate races and in contests to control state governments. As the Democrats seek to recover, they need a deeper understanding of the forces that have driven these voters beyond the party’s reach…

At the core of Warren’s populism is a phobia of concentrated economic power, an anger over how big banks and big businesses exploit Washington to further their own interests at the expense of ordinary people. This fear of gigantism is a storied American tradition, descended from Thomas Jefferson, even if it hasn’t recently gotten much airtime within the Democratic Party. It justifies itself in the language of individualism—rights, liberty, freedom—not communal obligation.

There’s a growing consensus among center-left economists that the dominance of entire industries by a few enormous companies is one of the defining economic problems of the era…

To win again, the Democrats don’t need to adopt an alien agenda or back away from policies aimed at racial justice. But their leaders would be well advised to change their rhetorical priorities and more directly address the country’s bastions of gloom. The party has been crushed—not just in the recent presidential election, but in countless down-ballot elections—by its failure to develop a message that can resonate with people beyond the core members of the Obama coalition, and by its unwillingness to blare its hostility to crony capitalism. Polling by the group Priorities USA Action shows that a stunning percentage of the voters who switched their allegiance from Obama to Trump believe that Democratic economic policies favor the rich—42 percent, nearly twice the number who consider that to be true of Trump’s agenda.

The makings of a Democratic majority are real. Demographic advantages will continue to accrue to the left. The party needs only to add to its coalition on the margins and in the right patches on the map. Doing that does not require the abandonment of any moral principles; persuasion is a different category of political activity from pandering. (On page 60 in this issue, Peter Beinart describes how Democrats might alter their language and policies regarding immigration to broaden appeal without sacrificing their principles.) A decent liberalism, not to mention a savvy party, shouldn’t struggle to accord dignity and respect to citizens, even if it believes some of them hold abhorrent views.

Victories in the culture wars of the past decade seemed to come so easily to liberals that they created a measure of complacency, as if those wars had been won with little cost. In actuality, the losers seethed. If the Democrats intend to win elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond, they require a hardheaded realism about the country that they have recently lacked—about the perils of income stagnation, the difficulties of moving the country to a multicultural future, the prevalence of unreason and ire. For a Democratic majority to ultimately emerge, the party needs to come to terms with the fact that it hasn’t yet arrived.

Now, find some time to read the whole thing.  Seriously.

The stickiness of affluence

Brookings Scholar Richard Reeves has an important new book out on our problems with limited intergenerational mobility.  Typically, we think about this problem as not enough opportunity for the bottom 20%.  And that is a real problem.  But Reeves recasts it as an issue of the to 20% “hoarding” the American Dream.  Here’s his NYT Op-ed distilling the key points:

Beneath a veneer of classlessness, the American class reproduction machine operates with ruthless efficiency. In particular, the upper middle class is solidifying. This favored fifth at the top of the income distribution, with an average annual household income of $200,000, has been separating from the 80 percent below. Collectively, this top fifth has seen a $4 trillion-plus increase in pretax income since 1979, compared to just over $3 trillion for everyone else. Some of those gains went to the top 1 percent. But most went to the 19 percent just beneath them.

The rhetoric of “We are the 99 percent” has in fact been dangerously self-serving, allowing people with healthy six-figure incomes to convince themselves that they are somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans, and that it is just the so-called super rich who are to blame for inequality…

Politicians and policy wonks worry about the persistence of poverty across generations, but affluence is inherited more strongly. Most disturbing, we now know how firmly class positions are being transmitted across generations. Most of the children born into households in the top 20 percent will stay there or drop only as far as the next quintile. As Gary Solon, one of the leading scholars of social mobility, put it recently, “Rather than a poverty trap, there seems instead to be more stickiness at the other end: a ‘wealth trap,’ if you will.”… [emphases mine]

On the one hand, upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up. To the extent that there is any ethical deliberation, it usually results in a justification along the lines of “Well, maybe it’s wrong, but everyone’s doing it.” …

The upper middle class is also doing lots right, not least when it comes to creating a stable family environment and being engaged parents. These are behaviors we want to spread, not stop. Nobody should feel bad for working hard to raise their kids well.

Things turn ugly, however, when the upper middle class starts to rig markets in its own favor, to the detriment of others. Take housing, perhaps the most significant example. Exclusionary zoning practices allow the upper middle class to live in enclaves. Gated communities, in effect, even if the gates are not visible. Since schools typically draw from their surrounding area, the physical separation of upper-middle-class neighborhoods is replicated in the classroom. Good schools make the area more desirable, further inflating the value of our houses. The federal tax system gives us a handout, through the mortgage-interest deduction, to help us purchase these pricey homes. For the upper middle classes, regardless of their professed political preferences, zoning, wealth, tax deductions and educational opportunity reinforce one another in a virtuous cycle.

 Also, a very nice summary of Reeves work from Annie Lowrey in the Atlantic:

The one percent have well and truly trounced the 99 percent, but the 20 percent have done their part to immiserate the 80 percent, as well—an arguably more relevant but less recognized class distinction.

Why more relevant? In part because the 20 percent are so much bigger than the one percent. If you are going to raise a considerable amount of new income-tax revenue to finance social programs, as many Democrats want to do, dinging the top one percent won’t cut it: They are a lot richer, but a lot fewer in number. And if you are going to provide more opportunities in good neighborhoods, public schools, colleges, internship programs, and labor markets to lower-income families, it is the 20 percent that are going to have to give something up.

Reeves offers a host of policy changes that might make a considerable difference: better access to contraception, increasing building in cities and suburbs, barring legacy admissions to colleges, curbing tax expenditures that benefit families with big homes and capital gains. Still, given the scale of the problem, I wondered whether other, bigger solutions might be necessary as well: a universal child allowance to reduce the poverty rate among kids, as the Century Foundation has proposed, say, or baby bonds to help eliminate the black-white wealth gapfostered by decades of racist and exclusionary government policy, as Darrick Hamilton has suggested. (So often, the upper-middle class insulating and enriching itself at the expense of the working class has meant white families doing so at the expense of black families—a point I thought underplayed in Reeves’ telling.)

Yet, as Reeves notes, “sensible policy is not always easy politics.” Expanding opportunity and improving fairness would require the upper-middle class to vote for higher taxes, to let others move in, and to share in the wealth. Prying Harvard admission letters and the mortgage interest deductions out of the hands of bureaucrats in Bethesda, sales executives in Minnetonka, and lawyers in Louisville is not going to be easy.

I had a smart FB friend comment on the Lowrey article, “my parents lifted me into the upperclass as defined here, my obligation is to — send my kids backwards?”

No.  Your obligation is to stop perpetuating the unfair advantages keeping them where they are.  If they fall back, chances are it won’t be that far.  And it will because somebody in a lower quartile actually earned their way up, displacing your children.  If it means we actually give Americans a real chance of lifting themselves out of poverty, I’m for letting my own kids fall back a quartile.  \

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