What it takes for kids to get ahead

Yesterday’s post reminded me of this terrific Thomas Edsall column from about a month ago that I had meant to share.  It’s about the role of non-cognitive skills in how children get ahead.  One of my favorite topics ever since reading How Children Succeed.  (Seriously, read it).  Edsall:

In a 2014 paper, “The Character Factor: Measures and Impact of Drive and Prudence,” Reeves and two co-authors, Kimberly Howard and Joanna Venator, focus on what they call “performance character strengths” and the crucial role played by noncognitive skills in educational attainment, employment and earned income. These character strengths — “perseverance, industriousness, grit, resilience, curiosity, application” and “self-control, future orientation, self-discipline, impulse control, delay of gratification” — make significant contributions to success in adulthood and upward mobility…

Paul Tough, a writer heavily influenced by Heckman’s work, noted last year in an essay in the Atlantic, “How Kids Learn Resilience,” that research reveals that “students will be more likely to display these positive academic habits when they are in an environment where they feel a sense of belonging, independence, and growth” and where they “experience relatedness, autonomy, and competence.”

This kind of environment is difficult to replicate in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Instead, Tough writes, many of the kids brought up in these desolate areas have developed “a hyperactive fight-or-flight mechanism,” which conveys the warning

at car-alarm volume: I don’t belong here. This is enemy territory. Everyone in this school is out to get me. Add to this the fact that many children raised in adversity, by the time they get to middle or high school, are significantly behind their peers academically and disproportionately likely to have a history of confrontations with school administrators.

The result is a vicious circle: family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation…

What is to be made of all these findings?

First, the spectrum of noncognitive skills and character strengths are a major factor in American class stratification. Whether these factors are more or less important than extrinsic forces like globalization, automation and declining unionization remains unclear, but changing family structures are evidently leaving millions of men and women ill-equipped to ascend the socioeconomic ladder.

Second, neither religious leaders nor practicing politicians nor government employees have found the levers that actually make disadvantaged families more durable or functional. As a corollary, the failure of government efforts to affect or slow down negative developments has left an opening for conservatives to argue that government interventions make things worse.

For liberals and the Democratic Party, the continued failure of government initiatives to achieve measurable gains in the acquisition of valuable noncognitive skills by disadvantaged youngsters constitutes a major liability.

So, here’s the damn agenda.. figure out what policies and programs (and there’s increasing evidence and research on the matter) best promote non-cognitive skills (and if they are not government programs, figure out how to encourage them through public policy) and advocate like hell for these policies.

 

 

Who benefits from child care? Moms and boys (and society)

Okay, daughters, too, but one of the interesting findings of research into this area is that boys benefit more than girls.  Lots of interesting stuff in this Upshot piece from Claire Cain Miller:

Helping parents pay for that care would be expensive for society, too. Yet recent studies show that of any policy aimed to help struggling families, aid for high-quality care has the biggest economic payoff for parents and their children — and even their grandchildren. It has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay. It’s especially helpful for low-income families, because it can propel generations of children toward increased earnings, better jobs, improved health, more education and decreased criminal activity as adults. [emphasis mine]

Damn.  That’s an impressive list.  What a tremendous potential investment for government to make.  Alas, we wouldn’t want to take women away from their “essential” role or fail to ignore the fact that lots of women need to work for simple economic reasons.

For a country that struggles far too much with inter-generational mobility, the latest research should provide plenty of incentive:

A powerful new study — which demonstrated long-term results by following children from birth until age 35 — found that high-quality care during the earliest years can influence whether both mothers and children born into disadvantage lead more successful lives. The study was led by James J. Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist at the University of Chicago.

“They’re engaged more in the work force, they’re now active participants of society, they’re more educated, they have higher skills,” Mr. Heckman said. “So what we’ve done is promoted mobility across generations.”

And, it really is amazing how profound the impact is on males:

When the boys reached age 30, they earned an average of $19,800 more a year than those in the control group and had half a year more education. (The small sample size — 37 boys in the programs who stayed in the study — means the difference was not very precisely estimated.) When the girls reached 30, they had two more years of education and earned about $2,500 more, the study found.

In their mid-30s, men who attended the program were 33 percent less likely to be drug users, had fewer misdemeanor arrests and were less likely to have high blood pressure.

The conclusion that boys benefited more than girls meshes with other research findings that boys are more sensitive to disadvantage and responsive to intervention.

And dollars and cents– a hell of an investment:

The program was expensive — $18,514 per student a year — but after calculating effects like the cost to society of unemployment, crime and poor health, the researchers concluded that it returned $7.30 for every dollar spent. In addition to Mr. Heckman, the researchers were Jorge Luis García of the University of Chicago and Duncan Ermini Leaf and María José Prados of the University of Southern California.

The article mentions Ivanka Trump championing programs like this.  Encouraging, I guess.  But talk to me when Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell realize this is a far better use of taxpayer dollars than tax cuts for rich people.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Totally agree with Mark Joseph Stern that Democratic politicians need to get out in front on marijuana legalization:

The lack of mobilization from lawmakers is especially puzzling given how neatly marijuana legalization aligns with the goals of the self-styled resistance to Trump. Progressive Trump opponents not only tend to favor legalization on its own, they also broadly support the goals behind legalization. It’s true that the Trump era has reinvigorated liberals’ support for federalism, mostly out of necessity as blue states band together to protect sanctuary cities and fight Trump’s travel ban. But it has also intensified liberals’ opposition to mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system. Concerns about overpolicing and racism in law enforcement are what animate progressive support for legalization, along with a healthy respect for states’ rights and personal liberty.

And yet, on pot as on so many other issues, Democratic politicians are failing to respond to their base’s stated preferences.

2) Damn the militarization of the police and all the needless no-knock warrants.  And shame on our judicial system for making them way to easy to get.  People die and lives are ruined over these.  And, because, some police departments think it is a good idea to break into a house at 5am, basically unannounced, over a few ounces of marijuana.  Ugh.

3) Basically 75% of my twitter feed yesterday was about the NYT’s big Comey story. Many, many tweets mentioned the fact that the story completely ignores the role of the media in all this.  Relatedly, Drum lays out the clear case for why Comey’s letter was the decisive factor.  I agree.

4) Jacob Levy on Kushner and the problem of nepotism in a democracy.

5) I came across this latest example of classic interest group politics via a FB ad.  I’m 100% convinced that NC ophthalmologists are only interested in the welfare of their patients in attempting to stop optometrists from performing four types of simple surgery that they have been doing successfully in three other states.  I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with protecting their turf and their incomes.  My favorite is their “poll” stating, ” Almost nine out of 10 North Carolina voters oppose legislation that would allow eye-care providers who have not been to medical school to perform eye surgery, a new statewide public opinion poll found.”  As if 1 in 100 NC voters actually has any idea what this legislation is actually about.

6) Ben Mathis-Lilley, “There’s No News Right Now Because Trump Doesn’t Actually Do Anything.”

None of this is really surprising. As has been well-documented, Trump—though he claims to be a “builder”—actually made most of his hay in the private sector by licensing his name. He’s the guy who makes big promises at the ribbon-cutting and gets the name of the project in the newspaper, not the guy who gets the permits and arranges the funding and hires the subcontractors. He doesn’t make things; he talks. (When he does try to make things, they go bankrupt.)

7) While everybody was focused on Betsy DeVos and K-12 education, those in the know were aware that her real damage would be to higher education and college students.  When it comes to student loans, she’s already at it.

8) The saga of North Carolina’s contaminated water gets a nice feature in the Atlantic.  Thanks, NC Republicans!

9) Somehow I missed that prostate cancer screening is back in the news.  Good take on the latest from doctor/blogger Kenny Lin, whom I am now going to start following.  Short version: official take is now that you should at least discuss PSA test with your doctor.  Ongoing reality.  Getting a PSA test makes it about 10 times more likely you will end up incontinent or with sexual dysfunction than the likelihood it will save your life.  No thanks to that trade.

10) Great EJ Dionne column on Trump:

Two issues are paramount in American politics. The first is whether President Trump will get away with his arrogant dismissal of the public’s right to a transparent government free of corrupting conflicts of interest. The second is whether those who would hold him to account remain focused, mobilized and determined.

They are related. There are many reasons to stand against Trump, but the one that should take precedence — because it is foundational for decent governance — is his autocratic assumption that he is above the expectations that apply to us normal humans.

Should Trump separate himself completely from his business interests, as presidents had been doing for more than four decades? His implicit message is always: No, I can do what I want.

11) The political impact of helicopter parents.  Really.

Using a survey conducted at multiple universities in the U.S., we find that helicopter parenting has a significant impact on the policy attitudes of college students. Specifically, students with helicopter parents are more likely to express support for both government surveillance and social welfare policies than are students without helicopter parents. Given the growing trend of helicopter parenting, these findings will likely have substantial implications for both the political science classroom and public opinion in the near future.

12) Excellent Isaac Chotiner piece on how Bill O’Reilly was very much the proto-Trump:

But the aspect of The O’Reilly Factor that always shocked me was a different kind of resentment, which took the form of the anchor’s unrepentant solipsism. It’s simply impossible to overstate how much of each night’s show was consumed by O’Reilly’s own grievances. He skirmished with everyone from Matt Lauer to Rosie O’Donnell to Al Franken, and those fights would invariably become the topic of the day on his show. He spent countless hours talking about himself—usually as the victim of various conspiracies. (Frequently, George Soros was the conspiracy’s prime mover.) He would drone on about the New York Times and how it was out to make him look bad. It was endless, and it was exceptionally boring—to everyone except his legions of viewers and fans.

I never really had a theory for how this supposed man of the people got away with talking about nothing but himself. Then Donald Trump came along. Here was another rich guy who built a following speaking up for the working man. Like O’Reilly he seemed entirely driven by resentment: at President Obama, at the media, at the people who doubted him. And like O’Reilly, he spoke almost entirely of himself. His stump speeches were shocking, in part, because they were rarely about anything other than Donald Trump.

13) Interesting Rebecca Traister piece on the role of women’s reproductive rights within the Democratic party.  That said, I’m tired of throw-away lines like this:

For some time now, Sanders — who, it should be noted, has an extremely strong legislative record on reproductive rights — has spoken somewhat carelessly about a populist strategy that exchanges some core Democratic beliefs for the set of issues that are most important to him. “Once you get off the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues, there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand,” he said in 2015. In January of this year, at a CNN Town Hall, he reiterated, “Yes, of course, there are differences on issues like choice or on gay rights … But on many economic issues, you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views.”

Sanders is wrong that reproductive rights (or gay rights, for that matter) are separate from economic issues. The ability to control reproduction is central to women’s social, professional, and economic stability, and the women most likely to require abortion services and to be negatively affected by restrictions on access to reproductive health care are poor and low-income women, disproportionately women of color.

Really, I get it.  But still, let’s just not pretend people think about and conceptualize these issues the way they do matters like taxes, jobs, minimum wage, etc.  Oh, heck, as long as I’m letting Traister annoy me:

The deprioritization of reproductive rights was part of the strategy that helped Rahm Emanuel, chair of the DCCC, win the House for Democrats in 2006. But Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, argues that we should evaluate that strategy now with an understanding of its longer-term implications: “It did not result in more progressive legislation or in a durable governing coalition,” she says. “It depressed the base and predicated the rise of the Tea Party.”

Right.  That’s what led to the rise of the Tea Party.  Dumbest, most obviously self-serving political analysis ever?

14) The many forces pulling Trump in a more conventionally conservative direction.

15) Love Josh Marshall’s post on Trump’s “militant ignorance.”

What is endearing, terrifying and hilarious about Trump is not simply his ignorance, really his militant ignorance, but his complete lack of self-awareness about his ignorance. Trump told a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that his understanding of the problem of North Korea changed dramatically after hearing ten minutes of history from the President of China. Needless to say, Trump didn’t need to admit this. But neither was it candor.

So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew – things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.

In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to. In other cases, this would make sense. If Trump discovered that humans could fly if they hold their nose, close one eye and say “Shazam!” I’d want to know. Because that’s awesome. And I wouldn’t think worse of Trump for not knowing it before. Because this is new and amazing information. But learning that health care policy is complicated is a different kind of discovery.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) I miss James Surowiecki, but Adam Davidson is a great replacement at the New Yorker.  Nice column on the absurdity of Trump’s “buy American” executive order:

Snap-on Tools is actually a good example of why Buy American is a fairly meaningless phrase. It is no easy feat to find a product manufactured entirely of material from the U.S., produced by people in the U.S., using tools made in the U.S. In this sense, the executive order recognizes that no blanket order to buy only American will work. The products we buy are made of raw materials transformed into intermediate goods that are then assembled into a finished product. It’s not possible, or even advisable, to insure that an entire production chain will occur in one country. So a politician who wants to increase the percentage of American-made content in the products that are sold here needs to dig deeper. How will the U.S.-made content of a good be defined? Will it be by weight, by dollar value, by labor hours involved? Each metric would have different findings. A car’s bulk, for example, is primarily made up of steel, aluminum, and glass produced by huge machines with not much labor. However, some of the smaller, fussier bits are made by hand in the U.S. Gas tanks, for example, because of strict emissions laws, are surprisingly complex and require a lot of engineering and manual assembly and are often made in the U.S. A gas tank might be relatively cheap and light, but for American workers it’s worth a lot more than many tons of steel. Very quickly, any discussion of the U.S.-made content of any product will turn to the value of intellectual versus physical content…

There is a real problem in the American economy. For much of the twentieth century, there was a wind at the back of working people—a steady increase in jobs, wages, and opportunity for those with basic education and a willingness to put in a hard day’s work. We have shifted from the era of good work for many to the age of the hustle, where those with luck, good connections, education, and ambition can do far better than their grandparents could have dreamt, while those without see their incomes stagnate or fall and face a future filled with doubt. A sober and serious look at the U.S. economy leads, inevitably, to the conclusion that we haven’t cracked this problem yet. In place of serious consideration from the White House, we have absurdist, self-contradicting theatrics.

2) Very cool NYT Magazine feature on how Singapore is creating more land for itself.

3) Small potatoes, but so telling.  Local government knows best; except when the Republican legislators in Raleigh know better.  Again.

4) Jason Lloyd on improving the relationship between science and society.

5) Got into an interesting discussion about racism and Trump based on this Monkey Cage posting looking at 2016 ANES data.  Just measuring racial resentment, the big difference is that Democratic voters now score way lower, not that Republicans were higher in 2016.  That said, I think the key fact is that racial resentment is presumably more important in impacting vote choice than it was prior to Obama.

6) Max Fisher on why North Korea is such a damn difficult problem.

7) Not at all surprised to learn that– not just high school students– but college students don’t learn so great at 8:00am either.  Only 8am class I ever had was teaching one– Intro to American Government in my 2nd year at Texas Tech.

8) I’m basically not a baseball fan at all anymore.  But I used to be, and thus I very much enjoyed this 538 article on how the “save” statistic ruined relief pitching and how it should be replaced.

9) And let’s stick with sports to mention how much I love this concept for fixing the awful endings of so many basketball games.  I learned about it from this Slate sports podcast where it was discussed.  I especially enjoyed Josh Levin’s point that the end of hockey games becomes even more hockey and is great.  In contrast to the end of basketball ruining what we love about the sport.

10) Seth Masket on Trump’s poor record of accomplishment:

The Republican Party, although enjoying control over a great many governments within the United States right now, is facing a significant crisis in that it can’t translate its ideals into law. The one notable legislative success of the Trump administration’s first hundred days — Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch — is the exception that proves the rule. He was a person sent by the White House, rather than a bill formulated in a chamber that’s hostile to democratic lawmaking procedures. There was no negotiation over who he was; it was simply a matter of a yes or no vote.

Writing laws isn’t nearly that easy. Even if Ryan and Trump get better at it, they have significant hurdles to overcome.

11) Found this article about why America has fewer IUD choices than other developed countries surprisingly interesting.  Mostly, because it’s another example of us just being worse at sensible policy.

12) Good on Prince Harry for fighting against the stigma on mental health.

13) It’s entirely possible I shared this when it came out 2 years ago, but I really do like Aaron Carroll’s simple rules for healthy eating.

14) Really liked this Op-Ed entitled, “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.”

Quick Hits (part II)

1) Social science says don’t spy on your teenager.  (But if you know your teenager is reading this blog post you wrote, does that change things?)

2) Recent research finds that children of older mothers have higher cognitive ability at age 10.  If I was teaching a research methods class, I would so use this article to discuss selection bias.

3) You know I’m a fan of GMO crops, properly-used.  Alas, it can be a problem when farmers don’t use them properly and fail to plant enough refuge crops.  Some recent NCSU research:

For about 20 years, growers have made use of Bt crops to limit crop damage from pests. Bt crops, including corn, are genetically engineered to produce proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium. These proteins are harmless to vertebrates, but toxic to a specific class of invertebrate crop pests.

To date, these Bt crops have been remarkably successful. However, insect pests have shown the ability to evolve resistance to Bt proteins. In order to slow down the development of Bt resistance, farmers who plant Bt crops are urged to plant a certain percentage of their fields with non-Bt crops – called refuge crops. In fact, in the case of Bt corn, farmers are required to plant a section of their fields with refuge crops.

That’s because refuge crops provide fodder for insect pests that are not resistant to Bt proteins. These pests are then able to breed with their Bt-resistant counterparts, diluting Bt resistance in the overall pest population.

But compliance with planting refuge crops is variable. Some growers plant too little of their fields with Bt crops, and some don’t plant refuge crops at all.

4) Speaking of NCSU, my colleague Jim Zink with a post on how “Constitutional Veneration” is an obstacle to constitutional change.

 

5) How comedy gets made via an annotated Daily Show script.

6) Eduardo Porter on the need to think seriously about geo-engineering and climate change.

7) Great Brooks‘ column on Trump’s incompetence.  So good!

The normal incompetent person flails and stammers and is embarrassed about it. But the true genius at incompetence like our president flails and founders and is too incompetent to recognize his own incompetence. He mistakes his catastrophes for successes and so accelerates his pace toward oblivion. Those who ignore history are condemned to retweet it…

Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance. Up until this period I had always thought of ignorance as a void, as an absence of knowledge. But Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull.

It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.

It is in its own way a privilege to be alive at the same time as a man who is the Albert Einstein of confirmation bias, a man whose most impressive wall is the one between himself and evidence, a man who doesn’t need to go off in search of enemies because he is already his own worst one.

8) Why, yes, those champions of the little guy leading the NC legislature are looking to protect massively-polluting hog farms from lawsuits.  Maybe they should try living next-door and downwind from one of these farms!

9) In case you were wondering about the nutritional benefits of human cannibalism

10) The headline says it all, “The Texas-size scapegoating of an illegal voter is a travesty of justice.”

11) A reminder that there’s really not a lot of value to an elite college beyond a good non-elite college(unless you get tons of personal happiness from following their basketball team as a student and alumnus).  Interestingly, though, for minority students, there is a very real benefit.  Thus:

Elite colleges are most valuable for the students they are least likely to admit—and least valuable for the students they are most likely to admit. More than the size and weight of many thousand envelopes currently in the mail, that is an admissions dilemma worth fretting about.

12) Of course getting on the UNC Board of Governors is all about political donations (instead of, you know, knowing and caring about higher education).  The thing is, you are not supposed to actually admit that when vying for the position.

13) I don’t love all of this essay on how Trump has “blown up” on Republicans, but there’s definitely some good stuff:

Conservative politicians believe the electorate is much more conservative than it actually is. Once you learn this, suddenly a lot of things about how elected officials act make more sense.

The most important major divide among Congressional Republicans isn’t between moderates and conservatives, or establishment and anti-establishment politicians, but between those who know that their agenda is hugely unpopular and that they have to force it through under cover of darkness, and the louder, dumber ones who believe their own bullshit. And for those loud, dumb members, egged on by a media apparatus that has trained its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can’t deliver, those more tactical members are cowards and RINOs.

This is how Mitch McConnell ended up so hugely unpopular and despised in his own party that he attracted a high-profile primary challenger during the period when he was doing more than any other person in Washington to thwart the Democratic Party. This is how and why a deal to cut social insurance benefits with support from a Democratic president repeatedly failed to happen despite President Obama’s best efforts. And this is why Republicans couldn’t repeal Obamacare. The marginally cannier guys thought up a plausible legislative strategy for forcing through an unpopular proposal with minimum oversight, and the House Freedom Caucus guys played a key role in blowing it up because it didn’t repeal Obamacare enough.

The Freedom Caucus, a group of 30-odd true-believers (all men, of those publicly identified as caucus members, and mostly men over the age of 50), rejected the deal because it was hugely unpopular, but what they can’t grasp, or admit to themselves, is that it was hugely unpopular mainly because of the ways in which it did resemble their preferred set of policies, not because of how it diverged from them. It does not compute that a bill that follows their stated priorities—a stingier government that is crueler to its citizens of modest means—would be unpopular even among their own constituents.

14) Easily the best thing I’ve read on Trump and Syria is Frum’s take.

15) And a terrific Margaret Sullivan column on how the media so stupidly just loves any show of military force.

16) Sorry, to mess up your usual weekend quick hits plans, but here’s me at the top of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower yesterday.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) This David Roberts piece on Trump and tribalism in modern politics is so good its worth at least 3 blog posts.  Instead, it’s only part of a quick hits.  So just trust me and read it.

2) Pretty soon, you might be able to do your own sperm counts on your smartphone!  Weird and cool all at once.

3) Meanwhile, as Zack Beauchamp put it, “The FBI probe into Trump and Russia is huge news. Our political system isn’t ready for it.”  I think he’s right.  I also think we keep running out of news oxygen under Trump.

4) As tempting as it may be to have your child be your confidant, it’s not really fair to them.

5) A recent Gallup poll on personal financial well-being.  Damn, partisanship is everything:

More Republicans, Fewer Democrats Feel Good About Their Money

6) Really like this Kristof column about Trump and Russia for calling out Nixon:

The greatest political scandal in American history was not Aaron Burr’s shooting of Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps wasn’t even Watergate. Rather it may have been Richard Nixon’s secret efforts in 1968 to sabotage a U.S. diplomatic effort to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s initiative, long rumored but confirmed only a few months ago, was meant to improve his election chances that year. After Nixon won, the war dragged on and cost thousands of additional American and Vietnamese lives; it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but treason.

7) Some encouraging evidence from an NCSU study that teaching critical thinking can reduce beliefs in pseudoscience.

8) Does the Premier League emphasis on entertaining soccer hurt them in more boring Champions League competitions?  Maybe.  Personally, I’ll sure take the trade as a viewer.

9) Never been a big fan of Jim Harbaugh.  Now I am.

10) Excellent Ezra take on the health care debate we should be having.  But, of course, are not.  (Not sure if I’ve already linked that one or not this week, with all the health care stuff going on.  Short version: if you haven’t read it, do).

11) Jamelle Bouie:

Indeed, it’s hard to overstate the scope of this disaster. Social policy of this scale is a massive undertaking. It requires broad consensus, policy expertise, clear White House direction, and strong congressional leadership. And even then, failure is always on the horizon. It took Democrats more than a year—and countless crises and complications—to craft and pass the ACA. What we’ve seen, over the past month, is that none of these ingredients exist among the present batch of Republican leaders in Washington. The Republican Party has no vision for health policy reform, no mutually agreed set of goals or principles. Instead, it has seven years of anti-Obamacare demagoguery. At the same time, President Trump’s ignorance—and overall disinterest in the business of policy—means his White House has little to negotiate or bring to the table. Paul Ryan’s inexperience as a congressional leader means he can’t corral members for difficult votes. And beyond problems of leadership, the fact that Trump and Ryan would essentially play games with 18 percent of the economy makes it clear that the Republican Party is unprepared for the responsibility of governance.

12) A day in the life of Fox News.  Short version: it’s disgusting.  E.g.,

One notable way Fox News stood apart from its competition, as it has been known to do for years, was in the stories it chose to highlight and the tone — in some of its opinion shows, unapologetically supportive of Mr. Trump and his agenda — with which it covered them.

There was extensive coverage of the health care vote, for example, but there was also considerable time given to topics, like a rape case in Maryland, that viewers would not have heard about if they had turned to CNN or MSNBC. The rape case, which involved an undocumented immigrant and went virtually uncovered on most networks, received almost hourly updates on Fox, and at times was used as proof that Mr. Trump’s calls for tighter borders and a crackdown on immigration were justified…

And while other networks were devoting time to the apology made by Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House committee investigating Russian interference in the election, for not sharing information about intelligence with the committee’s top Democrat before giving it to Mr. Trump, Fox was touting a report about “potential” evidence that Mr. Trump’s team may indeed have been surveilled by the Obama administration. It was presented as vindication of Mr. Trump’s earlier assertions that his phones had been wiretapped.

 13) I agree– it’s ridiculous to judge the quality of a college basketball conference by two weeks in March.

14) Not at all surprisingly, before popping pills for GERD, people should exercise and eat a healthy diet.

15) Krugman accurately predicted the failure of “replace” back in January due to the inexorable logic of the three-legged stool of Obamacare:

Here’s how I put it exactly 7 years ago:

Start with the proposition that we don’t want our fellow citizens denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — which is a very popular position, so much so that even conservatives generally share it, or at least pretend to.

So why not just impose community rating — no discrimination based on medical history?

Well, the answer, backed up by lots of real-world experience, is that this leads to an adverse-selection death spiral: healthy people choose to go uninsured until they get sick, leading to a poor risk pool, leading to high premiums, leading even more healthy people dropping out.

So you have to back community rating up with an individual mandate: people must be required to purchase insurance even if they don’t currently think they need it.

But what if they can’t afford insurance? Well, you have to have subsidies that cover part of premiums for lower-income Americans.

In short, you end up with the health care bill that’s about to get enacted. There’s hardly anything arbitrary about the structure: once the decision was made to rely on private insurers rather than a single-payer system — and look, single-payer wasn’t going to happen — it had to be more or less what we’re getting. It wasn’t about ideology, or greediness, it was about making the thing work.

It’s actually amazing how thoroughly the right turned a blind eye to this logic, and some — maybe even a majority — are still in denial.

16) Tax cuts (not reform, cuts) are going to be much harder now.  See Chait’s point #3.

17) Will Oremus on how the media is finally figuring out how to cover Trump’s lying:

It isn’t that Time, the Wall Street Journal, and others haven’t confronted Trump on specific claims. They have, of course. But they’ve failed until now to recognize that his untruths amount to something much more than a series of claims to be evaluated and debunked just as the claims of any politician must be. Trump’s reliance on dishonesty is not incidental to his character, or his appeal, or his approach to politics. It is his defining feature, shaping everything from how he talks, to the views he holds, to the way he conducts business and politics. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just go read the Time interview again and chase it with the Washington Post’s fact-check.

Trump’s lies are, and have long deserved to be, a top story in their own right. That the mainstream media have largely failed to treat them as such reveals the depth of its entrenched conventions around journalistic balance and respect for the presidency. Too many reporters and editors allow those conventions to constrain what should always be their core mission, which is to tell the public what they know to be true, no matter whom it offends or embarrasses.

The focus on Trump’s credibility may be late in coming, but it’s welcome nonetheless.

18) Of course we shouldn’t expect kids to sit still in class.  So dumb that we do.  Apparently, there’s some very cool programs to insert short movement breaks into the school day.  I think I’m going to email this to my kids’ elementary school principal.

19) Harold Pollack’s take on the Republican health care mess is another must-read:

As the conservative health-care analyst Philip Klein notes, the contrast with Obamacare couldn’t have been greater. Well before the Obama presidency, Democratic congressional leaders, interest groups and policy experts prepared the groundwork for the ACA, hammering out messy compromises, aligning House committees, working with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, all of whom proposed plans similar to what became the ACA. Then in 2009 and 2010, the House and Senate held dozens of hearings over the course of months, not days, and accepted more than 150 Republican amendments along the way. Learning the lessons of President Bill Clinton’s prior failed health reform effort, President Obama let Pelosi and her Senate counterpart Harry Reid take the lead, but he knew the intricacies of the legislation inside and out. Ryan and Trump threw in the towel after just 18 days.

So why did Republicans fail? In a word: insincerity. Republicans had seven years to do their own hard work, to coalesce around a credible conservative alternative to the ACA. They might have used this time to work with Republican governors, to explore which conservative policy ideas seem to stick, which aspects of ACA needed to be retained. They might have crafted a more moderate bill along the lines of the Cassidy-Collins bill, which would have given liberal states and Republican governors who adopted Medicaid expansion much greater leeway. Or they might have refined another conservative model, such as Avik Roy’s modifications to ACA exchanges, to turn ACA’s exchanges in a more conservative direction. They might have prepared the American public for whatever plan they chose…

There was a conspicuous smallness to this AHCA effort, a puzzling shoddiness given the human and political stakes. Many in the GOP, above all President Trump, seemed strangely uninterested in the policy details. To the extent Republicans did have an animating passion, it was to puncture President Obama’s legacy—and to avoid looking foolish by failing to honor their “repeal and replace” rhetoric.

Only they had no viable replacement. For all their endless warnings about how Obama’s signature health law was hurting American families, driving up costs and putting us on the path toward socialism, it turns out they didn’t care enough to put in the work.

20) Is increasing secularization making political conflict worse?  Peter Beinart makes the case.

21) Meanwhile, Sarah Posner on how Trump hijacked the religious right.

22) Super disturbing first-part of NYT series on over-militarization of the police (in form of no-knock SWAT raids).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Best on-line auto part ever.

2) Dahlia Lithwick on Gorsuch’s views on religious liberty:

It’s not just the great deference Gorsuch shows religious adherents that is worrisome. He also believes that the views of religious adherents are beyond factual debate. Again in the Hobby Lobby case, he wrote that companies must pay for “drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.” That claim is simply false, even with regard to Plan B. It is a religious conclusion, not a medical or legal one. Whether that view is his or he simply declines to probe whether the religious conclusion is accurate, the effect is the same: He has written into a legal opinion a religious “fact” not supported by medical science.

This kind of thinking matters especially when the tremendous respect for religious dissenters is not balanced against the harms incurred by nonadherents. Gorsuch sometimes minimizes or outright rejects the third-party harms of religious accommodations. As Yuvraj Joshi points out at NBC, “while the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby considered the impact of the case on women, Judge Gorsuch’s opinion does not even acknowledge the harmful effects of denying access to reproductive health care on female employees and dependents. Instead, his sole concern is for religious objectors who feel complicit in the allegedly sinful conduct of others.”

What that means going into this week’s hearings is that religious liberty works only one way. All of this tremendous deference to the religious sensitivities of the objectors is balanced against, well, no solicitude at all for the interests on the opposing side.

3) Even the former police chief of Greenville, NC takes way too much grief from Trump’s Border Patrol.  Of course, his name is Hassan Aden.

4) This is pretty cool– how chickens can help save threatened wildlife (short version: by being a far more sustainable food source).

5) What the TSA budget should cut (air marshals) and should not cut (pilot training and more).

6) Loved Thomas Frank’s Success and Luck .  Somehow, I missed this piece in the Atlantic last year on how we way undervalue the role of luck in our successes.  Conservatives, of course, are especially guilty of this.

7) Six police wearing body cameras were involved in a shooting, yet, somewhat mysteriously none of them have footage of the key moments.

8) Just so we’re clear– and Steve Coll certainly is on such matters– Tillerson is proving to be a horrible Secretary of State.  Very bad choice for a position that really matters.  And snubbing NATO??!!

9) The marijuana haters were convinced teen marijuana use would go way up with legalization.  It hasn’t.  Were they right about literally anything?  These people have no credibility in a serious policy debate on how we should best regulate marijuana (and the answer sure is hell ain’t the Schedule I status quo).

10) On Jeff Sessions‘ irrational fear of drugs:

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared last week. The main problem with that message: It isn’t true.

Yes, using drugs, both legal and illegal ones, can destroy your life, but typically it doesn’t. By arguing that drug education should proceed from a false premise, Sessions reminds us what was wrong with the Just Say No propaganda he would like to revive.

11) It is truly hilarious how Trump’s pathetic intellect thinks that if he didn’t know something, other people didn’t either.  (E.g., this intellectual giant just learned Lincoln was a Republican).

12) I’m a big fan of Catholic social teaching.  I wish the American bishops were (they seem to be far more concerned with what gay people are up to).  Anyway, love this post on how Trump’s budget violates the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

13) James Fallows on Trump’s wire-tapping lies and the very real cost to his credibility.

The inevitability of this moment, when a new president says Trust me, is why so many veteran officials have warned about Donald Trump’s habit of incessantly telling instantly disprovable lies. Some of the lies don’t really matter: “biggest inaugural crowd ever,” when photos showed it was comparatively small. Some of them obviously would matter, if they were true: millions of illegal voters, wiretapped by Obama. But of course they’re not true, and everyone except Trump and his coterie can look at the evidence and know that. Thus the problem: If an administration will lie about facts where the contradictory evidence is in plain sight, how can we possibly believe them on anything else?

14) Wow.  The horrible, horrible conditions on buses used to transport prisoners across state lines are an embarrassment and abomination.  Alas, given that this is the US criminal justice system, I can’t say I’m surprised.

15) Time to re-think the dinosaur family tree.

16) Inside the auto manufacturing boom in Alabama— dangerous working conditions.

17) Josh Barro on Trump, the bad dealmaker, is great.

18) Ezra on the matter is even better:

So what the hell happened?

The answer can be found in Trump Steaks. And Trump University. And Trump Vodka. And Trump Suits. And Trump’s fragrance line, his board game, his ghostwritten books, his energy drink, his eyeglasses, and his chocolate bars.

Yes, these are all real Trump products. And they expose the reality of Trump’s dealmaking. Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products.

 Trump, a lifelong teetotaler, didn’t scour the globe to find the very best vodka. No — someone offered him an opportunity to make a quick buck by putting his name on a product he wouldn’t ever touch and he took it. Trump University was a far darker scam. Trump Steaks were, and are, a joke.

This is Trump’s pattern: He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.

This was Trump’s approach to the health care bill, too. He let someone else worry about the product and he simply licensed his name, marketing support, and political capital. Trump didn’t know what was in the American Health Care Act, and he didn’t much care. It broke his promises to ensure health care for everyone, to protect Medicaid from cuts, to lower deductibles, and to guarantee choices of doctors and plans — but he didn’t pay attention to any of that. In private, Trump was apparently bored by the subject and eager to move onto tax reform.

 But being president of the United States isn’t like being a downmarket consumer brand. The products you put your name on matter. And the deal isn’t done once you’ve appeared at the ribbon-cutting and hyped up the project. You still need to persuade members of Congress to vote for the bill — and they’re apt to wonder what will happen to them when 24 million people lose their health insurance and millions more find themselves forced into crummier, higher-deductible care.

19) It’s just insane how so many Republicans think it the height of injustice that men buy health insurance plans that cover mammograms and childbirth.

20) Ezra on how Ryan has played Trump is terrific.

21) I make no apologies for being a “distracted” parent when my kids were younger.  Little kids are great.  They can also be boring.

22) And, we’ll conclude with Alec MacGillis’ terrific piece from 5 years ago (and so relevant today) where he sees through how Paul Ryan has scammed everybody into believing he’s a thoughtful policy wonk.

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