Quick hits

1) Excellent piece from Dahlia Lithwick— the lawyers and judges are not going to save us:

The Framers erected an edifice of law intended to constrain power, and the president believes that framework is made of spun sugar and cobwebs. The United States is a nation built upon, as John Adams told us, “a government of laws and not of men.” The Trump administration adheres to no law, and whatever men or women keep faith with the law rather than him are discredited as biased against the president. This only goes one way: Norms are for losers, and laws are for poor people. And now Trump has his dream team of mob lawyers and mad dogs hard at work proving that the only lawyer without a disabling conflict of interest is the one pledging fealty to him.

Don’t expect congressional Republicans to squawk. They will fight for the rule of law and the norms of good governance at precisely the moment when their jobs are on the line. The promise of a raft of newly minted blogger-judges and tax cuts will always win out over fealty to the Constitution. [emphasis mine] This is a problem that requires our focused long-term attention to money in politics, partisan gerrymandering, and voter suppression. And this is, in the end, a problem only because Americans—myself included—are prey to a form of magical thinking about law and the Constitution. The Framers believed the law would fix it, and that makes it easy to hope that the lawyers will fix it. The lawyers became the wizards, and the Constitution became a book of spells, and the best thing a citizen could hope to do is make a donation to a group of lawyers who could perform the right incantations, fondle the correct talisman, and save democracy.

2) I was trying to explain to my kids the other day about a horse-sized duck vs 100 duck-sized horses.  Found this nice Atlantic piece investigating the origins.

3) Really enjoyed the NYT story on the radically different approaches to Catholicism of the bishops of NYC and Newark, NJ.  I’ll definitely take the latter.

4) Among other things, nepotism is just bad business.  What is the chance that your offspring is actually the best person to run the company, etc.  Tales from Trump Inc.

5) Jeff Sessions pretty much never ceases to amaze me with his awfulness.  One of the absolute worst policies in America is civil forfeiture.  Of course, Sessions wants to expand it.

6) What’s most concerning about this health care take is that it’s from Norm Ornstein

Republicans don’t fear the backlash from a bill that will hurt lots of people, including their own voters.

Some think the simple fact of acting, and getting a policy victory, will help. Others may actually believe that the bill will work—hard as that is to believe. But the ideological view that cutting government magically brings freedom and prosperity and good health is strong among many Republicans in Congress. Nonetheless, the more rational or pragmatic ones know that this bill will hurt a lot of people, with a heavier concentration among the white working-class voters that are a mainstay of the current GOP. So why no fear? For one thing, the large tax cuts for the ultra-rich may guarantee that the web of billionaires contributing huge sums to 501(c)4s and other entities to help elect Republicans will double down. In the special election in Georgia’s sixth district, Democrat Jon Ossoff collected a mind-boggling sum for his campaign from small donors; if Karen Handel had not been able to match that with a flood of independent ads financed by big money, we might have seen a different outcome.

For another, with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court instead of Merrick Garland, states under GOP control and possibly even Congress will pass more and more draconian voter suppression laws (New Hampshire just joined the ranks) that will get a much more favorable treatment down the road. They will be aided by Trump’s outrageous new commission on voting, co-chaired by the king of voter suppression, Kris Kobach and including an all-star list of other voter suppressors, which is already intimidating voters. Money and voter suppression laws could well enable Republicans, even if this disaster of a bill passes, to keep control of both houses at least until 2020—and during that time, they can do even more to tilt the campaign finance system and narrow the electorate to their advantage.

7) John Cassidy’s health care debacle take:

The larger lesson of this sorry episode is that nobody—not McConnell, or Trump, or House Speaker Paul Ryan—can resolve the contradictions of today’s Republican Party. Once the political arm of the Rotary Club and the affluent suburbs, the Party is increasingly one of middle-class and working-class voters, many of whom are big beneficiaries of federal programs, such as Medicaid and the Obamacare subsidies for the purchase of private insurance. But the G.O.P. remains beholden to its richest, most conservative donors, many of whom espouse a doctrine of rolling back the government and cutting taxes, especially taxes applicable to themselves and other very rich people. It was the donors and ideologues, with Ryan as their front man, who led the assault on the Affordable Care Act.

8) Chait #1 on health care:

Republicans have spent eight years assuring the public that they, too, shared the goal of protecting people with preexisting conditions from price discrimination. Sunday, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price tore down the tattered façade. Asked why insurers called the Republican health-care plan, which allows them to charge higher premiums to the sick than the healthy, unworkable, Price insisted they would just go back to the way things worked before Obamacare. “It’s really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare,” he said on ABC. “A single risk pool, which is what they’re objecting to, is exactly the kind of process that was — that has been utilized for decades.”

Republican policy elites consider such an admission obvious, even banal. To the great mass of the voting public it would come as a shock…

It is true that Democrats have spent several decades accusing Republicans of trying to deny health insurance to the poor and sick. That is because Republicans have indeed spent several decades trying to deny health insurance to the poor and sick. [emphasis mine] As Paul Ryan said earlier this year, he has been dreaming of deep cuts to Medicaid since his kegger days. It is not a popular position by any means. But fanatical hatred of the welfare state does have a constituency among the major institutions of the conservative movement, many of which are well-funded and important to rallying base voters.

9) More Chait:

In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.[emphasis mine]

10) Meanwhile, Senate Parliamentarian actually did her job and eviscerated the Senate plan as largely inconsistent with the 50-vote reconciliation rules.  Nice summary from Drum.

11) Universal college admissions tests are of particular benefit to low-income students.  Wake County has all students take the ACT.  Good evidence that every school system should have universal SAT or ACT.

12) Are you a carbaholic?  Survey says yes.  That said, all carbs are not created equal and you can do quite well sticking with the healthier ones.

13) Really depressing developments in Poland.  Democracies are not self-perpetuating.  You’ve got to work to keep them going.

14) My beach read this past week was American War El Akkad’s years working as a reporter in war zones and refugee camps by Omar El Akkad.  Terrific book that really sticks with you.   clearly pay off in the realistic portrayals of a future American civil war.

15) I think Josh Barro has a lot right about liberal/cosmopolitanism values creating a cultural alienation with a lot of voters who might otherwise be open to the Democratic party.  I also think Drum’s critique of Barro is pretty accurate and that there is genuine contempt for those in “flyover country” that presents a real political problem.

16) Loved Todd VanDerWerff’s take on what makes the storytelling in “Mad Men” so good.  He also points out that “Bojack Horseman” uses a similar storytelling technique.  No wonder I love them both.

17) Nick Hanauer’s essay in Politico is simply fabulous.  Read it.

It simply isn’t true that reasonable wages, decent labor protections and higher taxes on the rich would destroy the economy. Such were the norms back in the 1950s and 1960s when America’s growth rates were much higher—and there’s no empirical evidence to suggest that we couldn’t support similar norms today. The truth is that when economic elites like us say “We can’t afford to adopt these higher standards,” what we really mean is, “We’d prefer not to.” We like to frame our claims as objective truths, like the so-called “law” of supply and demand, but what we’re really asserting is a moral preference. We are simply defending the status quo.

In my circles, few seem to want to confront the reality that our political environment won’t improve until the actual economic circumstances of our fellow Americans improve. We rich folks crave the variety and stimulation of progressive blue cities, yet we’re often not willing to fight for basic progressive policies like higher wages and the right to organize. We pound the table, ranting about diversity and inclusion without recognizing that the 43.7 percent of Americans earning less than $15 an hour, mostly white and rural, simply cannot afford to be included in our pricey, progressive, pluralistic enclaves. We smugly #resist when an airline beats a passenger bloody, but we do so from the safety and comfort of our own private planes, literally looking down on the shuttered factories and struggling small towns of middle America as we luxuriously jet from coast to coast.

Today in America, tens of millions of lower- and middle-class workers are routinely subject to poverty wagesunpaid overtimewage theftdehumanizing scheduling practices and the constant threat of automation or off-shoring. But the plight of these workers rarely comes up in conversations with my peers. Maybe the problem isn’t sexy enough. Maybe it seems too big. Maybe it requires the uncomfortable admission that some of our outsized profits are coming at their expense. But whatever the reason, we’ve let the problem grow too large to ignore.

Many of my peers prefer to hide behind the enduring myth that today’s crisis of economic inequality and insecurity is the result of forces unleashed by unstoppable trends in technology and globalization. “It’s not my fault I have so much while others have so little,” we comfort ourselves, “it’s the economy.” That is nonsense. There’s no intrinsic reason why the social and political changes delivered by technological advances and globalization have to massively concentrate wealth in the hands of the few. We simply exploited changing circumstances to take advantage of people with less power than us. [emphasis mine]

 

Advertisements

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: