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.

AHCA-palooza

Wow.  I’ve been saying for a long time that Republicans had basically given themselves an impossiible task, but, still, I didn’t expect themselves to embarrass themselves this badly.  So many reason for this failure (and huge win for the American people).  But, as I’ve been thinking about it, I really do think the core of it is that we already have a conservative version of health care reform– it’s called Obamacare.  This legislation was, from the start, built upon ideas from the Heritage Foundation, and working with existing markets in the hopes of crafting genuinely bipartisan legislation.  Obama worked his ass off to get Republicans, but they simply decided to oppose everything he did as a matter of principle.

So, we end up with the ACA, which Republicans unanimously opposed and endlessly bad-mouthed.  But it is, in large part, a conservative vision of health care reform.  But, if they’ve mercilessly bad-mouthed actual conservative reform, where does that leave them to go?  Well, the Freedom Caucus of 2010 status quo health care that pretty much nobody else actually wanted, or a stupendously incoherent vision of health care reform offered by Ryan and pals.  Neither of those are remotely political palatable– hence, the crash and burn.

Anyway, lots of smart writing on this.  A sampling:

1) Jon Bernstein on Republicans allergy to thinking seriously about policy:

Really, however, this is only the latest climax of a long cycle of Republican dysfunction which dates back to George H.W. Bush’s administration, when House radicals upended Bush’s budget deal with Democrats in a dramatic floor vote.

Those radicals, led by Newt Gingrich, eventually took over the Republican conference in 1995, and promptly shut down the government twice. They stripped the House of the resources it needed to legislate, and committees of their institutional memory by term-limiting their chairs. They capped it off with an irresponsible impeachment of a popular president. After that, Gingrich was gone, but the Republican House just got worse, with a decade marked by repeated mismanagement and corruption.

When Republicans regained their House majority in the 2010 election, they had a chance to change their ways, but they showed they were no different, even shutting down the government again.

Meanwhile, despite pledging as soon as they took office to write a bill to replace Obamacare, they never bothered to do the hard work of actually putting together a policy. Oh, there are real conservative health ideas out there. But the party as a whole, and the House in particular, just didn’t bother. And it’s not just health care: They can’t, or won’t, create viable policy. There’s no Republican immigration bill, no Republican replacement for Dodd-Frank, and on and on. They rarely even manage to talk policy beyond cliches and symbols.

2) Ezra, who has been more indispensable than ever this week:

Let’s be clear about what happened here. The American Health Care Act failed because it was a terrible piece of legislation. It would have thrown 24 million people off insurance and raised deductibles for millions more — and the savings would’ve gone to pay for tax cuts for millionaires. It broke virtually all of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, and was opposed not just by Democrats but also by Republicans.

Big policy change is hard. The modern Republican Party has built itself in opposition. Paul Ryan won fame designing budgets that were never meant to pass, and by criticizing Barack Obama. Donald Trump established himself as a political force through his leadership of the crackpot birther movement. This is a party that has forgotten how to do the slow, arduous work of governing. Perhaps it’s worse than that. This is a party, in many ways, that has built its majority upon a contempt for the compromises, quarter-loaves, and tough trade-offs that governing entails. They need to learn from this defeat, or they are doomed to repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it. [emphases mine]

3) Chait:

The right’s insoluble problem is that people who have insurance like it. Employer-sponsored insurance is popular. Medicare is popular. Medicaid is popular. To the extent that the exchanges in the ACA are not that popular, it is because they are less like those forms of insurance and more like the kind of insurance conservatives prefer — they have higher deductibles, more price discrimination between old and young, and more market competition. Any employer-sponsored insurance plan is going to cover essential health benefits. It’s going to charge the same price to the young and the old alike. In other words, it is going to spread the risk of needing medical care throughout the population it covers.

Conservatives disagree philosophically with the very concept of insurance as most Americans experience it. Insurance means spreading risk, which is a form of redistribution. Republicans postured against Obamacare from the left, denouncing its high deductibles and premiums, and promising a better, cheaper plan that would cover everybody. Their plan, inevitably, did the opposite. All politicians overpromise, of course. But the Republicans did more than overpromise. They delivered a policy directionally opposed to their promises.

It is not possible to write a bill that meets public standards for acceptable health-insurance coverage within the parameters of conservative ideology.

4) Michael Tomasky:

But in Republican-Ryanesque-Randian ideology, the individual mandate was evil, and the subsidies of course were horrendous. So they absolutely had to go. But, Republicans promised, we’ll keep the pre-existing conditions thing, because people like that! And we don’t want to look heartless.

 But it is impossible to keep that without the other two “legs of the stool,” in the parlance. Impossible. I give the Freedom Caucus people this much credit: They at least were honest enough to say hey, we don’t mind seeming heartless at all—we want to get rid of the pre-existing conditions thing too! But that wasn’t something leadership could embrace politically. So Ryan and all the Republican leaders have been peddling a lie to the American people for seven years, telling them they could have this wonderful thing and could have it for free. Conservatives are supposed to know better than liberals that nothing is free.

5) Love how Jeet Heer sticks it to Paul Ryan:

Trump’s big mistake was not just political—thinking that Ryan could muster the votes to pass the law. It was also a matter of policy—believing that Ryan actually had some idea of what a good plan would be. But it’s not just Trump that got bamboozled. Almost everyone in American politics has bought into the idea that Ryan is a pillar of GOP competence and seriousness…

Trump shouldn’t feel too bad: He’s not the first to be fooled by Ryan. The Speaker, not the president, is the greatest political fraud of our time. It’s been Ryan’s triumph to fool people all over the political spectrum (liberals and centrists as well as conservatives) into thinking that he’s a different sort of Republican, a policy maven with a genuine mastery over numbers who can grapple with the policy thickets of the tax code and health care. Unlike demagogues like Sarah Palin or Trump, Ryan was someone who eschewed dishonest and polarizing rhetoric in favor of honest debates about the issues. You could disagree with Ryan, so popular folklore went, but he was someone you could have a real policy discussion with…

Ryan has been a scammer all along. He’s not a more serious Republican who offers a welcome relief from the frothing of the Tea Party. He’s an Ayn Rand acolyte who fully shares the agenda of the hard right on economic matters. And his long con is now obvious for all the world to see. “Never give a sucker an even break,” W.C. Fields used to say. Anyone who continues to think of Paul Ryan as a legislative wizard or a serious policy thinker richly deserves to be called “sucker.”

6) A true must-read from Frum:

In that third week in March in 2010, America committed itself for the first time to the principle of universal (or near universal) health-care coverage. That principle has had seven years to work its way into American life and into the public sense of right and wrong. It’s not yet unanimously accepted. But it’s accepted by enough voters—and especially by enough Republican voters—to render impossible the seven-year Republican vision of removing that coverage from those who have gained it under the Affordable Care Act. Paul Ryan still upholds the right of Americans to “choose” to go uninsured if they cannot afford to pay the cost of their insurance on their own. His country no longer agrees.

Whatever else the 2016 election has done, it has emancipated Republicans from one of their own worst self-inflicted blind spots. Health care may not be a human right, but the lack of universal health coverage in a wealthy democracy is a severe, unjustifiable, and unnecessary human wrong. As Americans lift this worry from their fellow citizens, they’ll discover that they have addressed some other important problems too. They’ll find that they have removed one of the most important barriers to entrepreneurship, because people with bright ideas will fear less to quit the jobs through which they get their health care. They’ll find they have improved the troubled lives of the white working class succumbing at earlier ages from preventable deaths of despair. They’ll find that they have equalized the life chances of Americans of different races. They’ll find that they have discouraged workplace discrimination against women, older Americans, the disabled, and other employees with higher expected health-care costs. They’ll find that their people become less alienated from a country that has overcome at last one of the least attractive manifestations of American exceptionalism—and joined the rest of the civilized world in ameliorating and alleviating our common human vulnerability to illness and pain.

7) This Joe Barton quote is so telling.  They’ve just been playing games.  Governing is serious.

8) And this David Leonhardt thread is spot-on.

Whatever happens with health care from here on, remember, there’s nothing on the horizon to change the underlying dynamics that doomed this repeal and replace effort.  The American public absolutely does not want a return to pre ACA health care (and Republicans spent years and years lying that they would bring lower premiums and deductibles) and within their own party, the Republicans are hopelessly divided (and amazingly ignorant) on health care policy.

Photo of the day

What else but one of the best Trump photos ever.

Image result for donald trump truck

And Time with a nice feature on all the fun people have been having with this.

The huge lie at the heart of the Republican’s health care efforts

Donald Trump constantly says Obamacare is falling apart and we have to do something now to avoid some sort of health care catastrophe.  Just not remotely true.  Of course, this whole “Obamacare is falling apart” is one of the central GOP talking points on the matter.  And it’s just not true.  I was especially intrigued listening to this NPR  interview yesterday.  Loved how they fact-checked in the middle of a recorded interview:

[Alabama Congressman Bradley] BYRNE: That turns out to be bogus. I was just going through a pretty detailed review of that CBO analysis. They say 24 million people will, quote, “lose insurance.” Eleven million of those people – and this is CBO’s analysis – won’t lose their insurance. They’re presently required to have insurance. And they’re going to elect to drop their insurance because they don’t want to have to have that insurance – 11 million out of the 24 million.

MCEVERS: And just a clarification here. We checked the congressman’s numbers. And he’s sort of right. If the requirement to have insurance goes away, a lot of people likely will drop their plans. But many will drop those plans because they won’t be able to afford them if subsidies shrink or disappear. OK. Now back to the interview.

Great.  Good journalism.  Here’s Byrne later, though:

MCEVERS: One more sort of big picture question. You know, what’s the rush to push this bill through tomorrow? You’ve got, you know, still some conservative Republicans who don’t like the bill, obviously Democrats who don’t like the bill. Why not wait until there’s a sense that more people would be onboard?

BYRNE: What we are hearing from people in the health insurance industry is that these plans are deteriorating so rapidly that we cannot wait. If we don’t get something going now, we’re not going to be in a position to try to repair these insurance markets before they fall apart. [emphasis mine]

Again, that’s grossly untrue.  I guess we can’t expect even NPR to fact check all the lies spilling out of Republicans on this.  For the record, here’s Vox on the non-implosion (as determined by the CBO].  It’s also worth noting that a huge part of the Republican “reform” is slashing Medicaid.  Nobody is actually suggesting Medicaid is imploding (okay, probably some Republicans are).  But the truth is they just want to do less to help poor people have health care.

Oh, and just before publishing this, I came across this Josh Barro column that fits the theme of Republican lies on health care (even though it is different lies):

The difference on healthcare is that Republicans never had an ideology about it. So they were willing to lie, and there are two facts about the healthcare debate that a liar can exploit quite effectively until he is actually expected to make policy. People are always upset about how much healthcare costs, and healthcare is very complicated, so it is hard for voters to tell whether a politician is actually able to keep his or her promises about it.

If you went around telling abortion opponents that you would ban abortion and abortion-rights advocates that you would give abortions out free, the two sides might notice you were promising two incompatible policies. But for years, Republicans were able to capitalize on public ignorance and get away with promises that amounted to “much less expensive and much better.”

Their political strategy was cynically brilliant until it led to their getting elected…

The need to actually make policy is exposing the fact that Republicans made many healthcare promises they never intended to keep.

Republicans have denounced insurance plans sold under Obamacare as insufficient, because the deductibles and co-payments under some plans are so high that many people feel they can’t afford care even if they are insured. But the AHCA would allow insurers to sell plans that would cover an even smaller fraction of insured people’s healthcare expenses.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that deductibles for an individual-market insurance plan on average would rise by $1,550 under the AHCA.

Republicans complained that premiums were too high for people to afford, and then they proposed a law that would cut premium subsidies by hundreds of billions of dollars and would leave some people near retirement age with insurance premiums of more than half their income…

Through the years, healthcare experts on the right have allowed themselves to be used as window dressing for a party that was never actually interested in taking their policy advice.

The experts would write white papers about conservative approaches to healthcare. Republican politicians would indignantly wave the white papers around and insist that they had not only one plan for healthcare but many plans, and they involved high-risk pools and selling insurance across state lines and something something patient-centered mumble mumble mumble and whatever was in the paper was going to be way better than Obamacare.

Ryan even developed an undeserved reputation as a healthcare “wonk.”

But those white papers were always just paper. The plans described in them were never going to be implemented by an actual Republican government, which would not be interested in paying for the plans the papers described. The only thing Republicans ever intended to use them for was indignant waving.

It was all a lie. And the lie is finally about to be punished.

AHCA– the stripped-down Chevy Cruze of health care

Been reading lots of good stuff on the Republicans incredibly misguided repeal and replace efforts.  Here’s my tortured analogy.  Obamacare is a car.  Not a great one, say a Chevy Cruze.  Gets the job done, but surely much to be improved.  Problem is, lots of Republicans think the car should not exist.  Other Republicans are unwilling to take the whole care away because of the obviously negative political implications (and, maybe to some small degree, some of them actually care some little bit about human suffering of their fellow Americans).  But they’ve got to do something.  They’ve promised.  And, damnit, Trump needs a win.  So, what to do we get?  A Chevy Cruze where they’ve traded in the fuel injection for a carburetor.  Downgraded the 6-speed transmission to a 3-speed.  Replaced the automatic windows with old style cranks (like my beloved 1992 Geo Prizm).  Oh, yeah, and sold off the back seat so rich people can have a tax cut.  But, hey, it’s something, it’s “repeal and replace.”  There your Republican health care.

Some various good stuff…

1) The NYT Editorial nails it: a bill in search of a problem:

It also reflects a fundamental reality: Unlike President Barack Obama, whose clear objective was to expand access to medical care, the Republicans have no coherent idea or shared vision of what they want to achieve and what problem they mean to solve.

Do they want to cover nearly as many as are covered under the A.C.A.? A few senators, like Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, say they do, but a majority from the party are not willing to spend the money that would be needed to do that. Or do they want to significantly reduce government spending and regulation of health care, leaving Americans to navigate the free market on their own? Conservatives like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina are arguing for that, but the rest of the congressional Republicans do not want to go down this treacherous path…

The bottom line: The Republican proposal would not increase “competition and consumer choice” as Mr. Ryan claims. It certainly wouldn’t deliver on President Trump’s promise of “insurance for everybody.” And it wouldn’t be the full repeal of the A.C.A., or Obamacare, that many Republicans have been promising their base for the last seven years. That is why some hard-liners say they will oppose the new bill, which the House is expected to vote on as early as Thursday.

2) Ezra Klein:

This is a trap for Republicans. Both the process and the substance of the American Health Care Act have revealed a political party that has lost sight of the fact that the true test of legislation isn’t whether it passes, but whether it works.

Republican leaders have moved this bill as fast as possible, with as little information as possible, and with no evident plan for what will happen if the bill actually becomes law and wreaks havoc in people’s lives. This is not the health reform package Donald Trump promised his voters, it’s not the health reform package conservative policy experts recommended to House Republicans, and it’s not the health reform package that polling shows people want.

About the only thing that can be said for the revised bill is this might be the health reform package that can pass the House. And that appears to be the only problem Republicans care to solve right now.

3) And this Ezra piece on the health care debate we should be having and are not is great and full of big picture stuff; you should read it:

Reason No. 1: The coherent conservative position on health care is extremely unpopular. The most telling line in Douthat’s column is this one: “Republican politicians may offer pandering promises of lower deductibles and co-pays, but the coherent conservative position is that cheaper plans with higher deductibles are a very good thing, because they’re much closer to what insurance ought to be.”

Consider how remarkable that sentence is. Douthat is saying, sympathetically, that Republicans routinely promise a policy outcome 180 degrees from the one they’re pursuing. As much as politicians are lambasted as spin artists, this level of misdirection is rare, and for good reason — if you build public support for the opposite of the changes you want to make, those changes are unlikely to endure.

There’s a reason Republicans offer such self-destructive promises. Sparer plans with higher deductibles and higher co-pays are extremely unpopular. They’re the most unpopular part of Obamacare, which is why so many Republicans — including Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump — have used high deductibles as a cudgel with which to attack the law.

Republicans have used this unpopularity to their advantage, instead of trying to sell Americans on the advantages of high deductibles and laying the groundwork for the day when they might move the health care system in a more conservative direction. They are paying for that decision now, and they will suffer dearly for it if their plan actually passes.

 

The politics of the judiciary

Excellent column from EJ Dionne on Gorsuch.  The man is surely qualified, but he is disingenuous as hell about this (kind of like Roberts and his ridiculous and no-relationship-to-reality “balls and strikes” line).  EJ:

With a shrewdly calculated innocence, Judge Neil Gorsuch told a big fat lie at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Because it was a lie everyone expected, nobody called it that.

“There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge,” Gorsuch said.

Actually, allow me to first mention that Gorsuch said “Democrat judge” on several occassions.  That’s how Fox News viewers talk, not genuinely non-partisan people.  That’s a hell of a tell.  Anyway…

We now have an ideological judiciary. To pretend otherwise is naive and also recklessly irresponsible because it tries to wish away the real stakes in confirmation battles.

The best scholarship shows an increasingly tight fit between the party of the appointing president and how a judge rules. It’s a point made in “The Behavior of Federal Judges ,” by Lee Epstein, William Landes and Judge Richard Posner, and also in research by Neal Devins and Lawrence Baum. [Just for the record, Lawrence Baum is a hell of a guy]

Face it: If partisanship and ideology were not central to Supreme Court nominations, Gorsuch would be looking at more years in his beloved Colorado. Notice that I referred to the Supreme Court seat as belonging to Garland, the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, nominated by President Barack Obama to replace the late Antonin Scalia. In an appalling act of extreme partisanship, the Republican-led Senate would not even give Garland a hearing.

It’s frustrating that so many minimize opposition to Gorsuch as merely the payback for Garland the Democratic base yearns for. This content-free way of casting the debate misses what’s really going on: Thanks to aggressive conservative jurisprudence, we have a Supreme Court that, on so many issues, continues to push the country to the right, no matter which party controls Congress or the White House.

The reason Republicans wouldn’t even let the moderately liberal Garland make his case is that conservatives who regularly denounce “liberal judicial activism” now count on control of the Supreme Court to get results they could never achieve through the democratically elected branches of government.

They could not gut the Voting Rights Act in Congress. So Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s court did it for them. They could never have undone a century’s worth of legislation limiting big money’s influence on politics. So the Citizens United decision did it for them.

Preach it, EJ!

And, while I’m at it, I’ve always hated “originalism” and “textualism” is they are as inherently subjective as any other interpretive framework, and I think particularly ill-suited for interpreting a 200+ year old document for the moderm world.  Thus, loved this Op-Ed from law professor Ken Levy:

Originalism is just one of the theories that Judge Gorsuch shares with the late Justice Antonin Scalia; another is its closely related cousin, textualism. Textualism says that when interpreting the Constitution, judges should confine themselves to the words of the Constitution. Originalism says that if the words are at all unclear, then judges need to consult historical sources to determine their meaning at the time of ratification, and the correct application of these words to new cases should clearly follow…

But Justice Scalia failed to realize that textualism is actually self-undermining. Nowhere does the Constitution explicitly state that textualism, no less originalism or any other method, is the correct theory of constitutional interpretation. Justice Scalia also failed to realize — or at least admit — that textualism and originalism rarely determine a unique outcome for constitutional questions…

The meanings of many words and phrases in the Constitution are not at all obvious. Examples include “right,” “unreasonable,” “probable cause,” “due process,” “excessive,” “cruel and unusual” and “equal protection.” Even if we could find clear definitions of these terms in a dictionary, current or historical, applying these definitions to cases that the founders did not anticipate only expands the range of ambiguity (and therefore interpretive possibilities).

I’m a big fan of Levy’s argument for principled pragmatism:

Contrary to Justice Scalia and his many disciples, there is a third way to interpret the Constitution, beyond textualism (and originalism) and pure subjectivism: principled pragmatism. Principled pragmatism says that judges should consider not only the constitutional language as the ratifiers interpreted it but also the constitutional language as we moderns interpret it, the structure of the Constitution as a whole, the overall purposes of the Constitution as stated in its preamble and — yes — the public policy consequences of each possible decision. Once these additional factors are taken into account, they may still point in the same direction as the ratifiers’ intent. But they may also point in a very different direction.

Anyway, Gorsuch will surely regularly rule in keeping with his own conservative ideological priors and use “originalism” to justify it.

AHCA in one amazing chart

From a new Urban Institute report via Chait:

Image

I keep having various charts like this left up on my laptop when my 11-year old son gets on it and takes a look.  He is literally incredulous how anybody could be a Republican.  Even doing my best to be fair, he just cannot understand at all how this political party has any adherents except the very wealthy.  Then again, he’s also totally comfortable with minorities, empowered women, and gay people ;-).

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