DeVos

Plenty of good stuff written on the Betsy Devos hearings.  Jennifer Rubin:

DeVos has strong backing among Republicans, but the rocky outing damaged her reputation and her ability to make a case (hers and the incoming administration’s) for school choice and expanded charter schools. Moreover, the DeVos and Tillerson hearings should give Republicans pause about the competency of the administration. They will be the ones to cast votes for candidates who did not appear prepared; they’ll be the ones to get flak if DeVos doesn’t perform well. They may tire at some point of bailing out the White House if the new administration cannot do the bare minimum to help its own nominees. Finally, the shoddy preparation provided to those new to government service may discourage others from accepting spots. Who wants to accept a bid to go into government if your new boss sets you up to fail?

Poll after poll shows the public disapproves of the Trump transition and his nominees. Hearings like the one last night do not exactly inspire confidence. Like it or not, when Trump’s nominees do poorly, his standing with the public (rightfully) suffers.

The argument for hiring businesspeople and others outside government rests on the proposition that smart, competent people in one field can do well in another and bring new ideas and energy to government. The Trump team undercuts that argument when its ill-prepared nominees don’t sound informed or competent. Maybe both Trump and his nominees need to be put through their paces by people who respect the complexity of policy issues and the importance of the departments and agencies that they will be leading.

But I really love Charles Pierce’s typology of Trump nominees:

As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect’s Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you’d pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Stephen Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.

 

Unsurprising, but disturbing, chart of the day

From Pew:

And please, please, don’t try to argue that CNN– a network which paid money to Corey Lewandowski, among others– is in any way the liberal equivalent of Fox.  When it comes to the Republican electorate, it’s clearly a Fox News world.

The liberal hoax in animated gif form

This is what repeal looks like

CBO report out today.  Drum’s summary of the key points is good and succinct:

Senate Democrats asked for an estimate of what would happen if Obamacare were repealed. Here’s the CBO’s answer:

  • 18 million people would lose insurance. By 2026, that would increase to 32 million.
  • Premiums in the individual market would skyrocket, increasing 20-25 percent in the first year and about 50 percent by 2026.
  • Insurers would exit the individual market en masse. About half the nation’s population would live in areas with no individual insurers at all, rising to three-quarters by 2026.

That is inconvenient, isn’t it? This is what happens if you eliminate Obamacare but keep in place the ban on pre-existing conditions—which Republicans all say they support and which they can’t repeal anyway. Premiums would skyrocket, 32 million people would lose coverage, and insurers would abandon about three-quarters of the country.

This is what Republicans need to address with their “replace” plan. But they can’t do it and they know it.

How long before the Republicans just try to banish the CBO and replace it with the CRU (Congressional Unicorns and Rainbows) which would make their plans work out okay?

Democrats need to hammer and hammer and hammer on these facts above.  And hammer some more.

How Trump can have what he wants on health care

Donald Trump has said that with his health care plan, nobody will lose coverage, there will be better coverage, and it will cost less money.  Sounds impossible– yes?  Actually, only politically impossible.  Policy-wise, the entire rest of the developed world does this.  We are unique in paying so much for so little quality care.  The problem is that the rest of the world does this through more, not less, government involvement and regulation.  And we know how that goes over with Republicans.

Yglesias suggests that Democrats should offer a clear alternative plan.

Fortunately, a sound middle ground is available.

  • The version of the public option included in the House Progressive Caucus budget would reduce federal health spending by $218 billion over 10 years, by taking advantage of Medicare’s greater bargaining power.
  • Clinton’s campaign outlined three proposals to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs that the RAND Corporation assessed would reduce the ranks of the uninsured by a further 10 million while “decreasing average spending by up to 33 percent for those with moderately low incomes.”
  • Clinton’s benefit enhancements would cost $90 million, a small fraction of the $218 billion the public option would save.
  • The additional $120 billion or so could simply be allocated to the Medicare Trust Fund, contributing to further extending its life.
  • Last, while there is considerable debate as to the practical impact of Trump’s proposal to eliminate the “lines between the states” and establish a unified federal market in health insurance plans, it seems like an idea worth trying. In the context of a Republican repeal-and-replace plan, eliminating the “lines” would be a de facto total deregulation of the insurance industry. But relying on the Affordable Care Act regulatory minimums while allowing insurers to operate in as many (or few) states as they like seems desirable.

You could, of course, also throw some other favorite progressive ideas into the mix, like a Medicare buy-in for people over the age of 55 (though a good public option should make this unnecessary), steps to speed the approval of generic drugs, or the use of more aggressive pharmaceutical price negotiating techniques by Medicare.

Call it whatever you like

These and other ideas are longstanding wish-list items that have been floating around in various corners of the Democratic Party. You could, in theory, bundle them up with something technocratically sound but unpopular like a stronger individual mandate, or you could throw in something business-friendly like relaxing the employer mandate. Replacing the “Cadillac Tax” on expensive health insurance premiums (a policy labor unions hate) with a 28 percent cap on the deductibility of health insurance would probably also make sense here.

But the great thing about all these ideas is that they’re consistent with both longstanding Democratic ideas and popular things Donald Trump said on the campaign trail.

Democrats can characterize them as Affordable Care Act “fixes” or “tweaks” or “improvements” if they want to. Or they can call it an “alternative” or “replacement” to the ACA if that sounds better. Heck, they can even call it “Trumpcare.”

The important thing is that devising a plan would make two points. On the one hand, it would show that Democrats are not indifferent to the fact that the ACA has not been roses and unicorns for everyone. On the other hand, it would show that Obama’s challenge to the GOP to show him something demonstrably better for patients is honestly not that hard a standard to meet. [emphasis mine]

Yep.  It’s not hard at all policy-wise to accomplish what Trump wants.  The problem is a political one– Republicans are ideologically (one could say, theologically) opposed to greater government involvement (e.g., public option), despite the fact that this would help lead to health care for more people at a lower price.

Seriously, it’s really not that hard to dramatically Obamacare and save money doing it.  When it comes to the health care, it is simply the theology of the Republican party that prevents us from having nice things.

How to unmotivated reason

Good enough column from Kathleen Parker on the impact of Comey.  What I really like is her nice extended “what if” metaphor that is a exemplar on how to practice thinking about politics to get past your own biases:

For the undecided (or the unpersuadable), let’s pose a hypothetical: What if Clinton had publicly asked Russia to hack Trump’s records and release his tax returns — and Russia did? And what if the FBI announced less than two weeks before Election Day that it was going to investigate fraudulent practices at Trump University? Let’s say that Trump’s number dipped dramatically and he lost.

Do you reckon Republicans would be a tad upset?

Yep.  It’s honestly not that hard.  Just substitute Republican for Democrat or Trump for Obama (or vice versa) in your mind and be honest with yourself, which hopefully, isn’t that hard, and it’s a lot easier to think and analyze politics without being a slave to motivated reasoning.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Would really like to see some rigorous studies of microdosing with LSD.  I think there is some real potential there.  Alas, all we are left with is lots of anecdotes– like Ayelet Waldman’s— thanks to good old schedule I.

2) Not all that surprisingly, if you want your kids to have safer sexual practices you should, you know, talk to them about sex.  Also, boys get left out of this a lot.

3) Farhad Manjoo on how Netflix is deepening our cultural divide:

Yet for a brief while, from the 1950s to the late 1980s, broadcast television served cultural, social and political roles far greater than the banality of its content would suggest. Because it featured little choice, TV offered something else: the raw material for a shared culture. Television was the thing just about everyone else was watching at the same time as you. In its enforced similitude, it became a kind of social glue, stitching together a new national identity across a vast, growing and otherwise diverse nation.

“What we gained was a shared identity and shared experience,” Mr. Strate said. “The famous example was Kennedy’s funeral, where the nation mourned together in a way that had never happened before. But it was also our experience watching ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘All in the Family’ that created a shared set of references that everyone knew.”

As the broadcast era changed into one of cable and then streaming, TV was transformed from a wasteland into a bubbling sea of creativity. But it has become a sea in which everyone swims in smaller schools.

4) Republican legislators in two states looking to abolish tenure at public universities.  Presumably, only a matter of time before NC legislators get this idea.

5) I saw “Silence” with David yesterday and we both really, really liked it.  Powerful and thought-provoking.  It certainly took it’s time, but I was never bored.

6) The real problem for teacher in NC says an NC teacher?  Not enough time.  I will totally buy that.

7) It’s Girl Scout Cookie time.  Loved this feature in the LA Times that lays out the differences in the cookies between the two bakeries.  I grew up loving “Samoas” and my wife grew up loving “Carmel Delites.”  This graphic shows that, clearly, Samoas are superior.

8) On Ivanka Trump’s fake feminism.

9) Loved this James Kwak piece on “economism” as applied to the minimum wage:

The argument against increasing the minimum wage often relies on what I call “economism”—the misleading application of basic lessons from Economics 101 to real-world problems, creating the illusion of consensus and reducing a complex topic to a simple, open-and-shut case. According to economism, a pair of supply and demand curves proves that a minimum wage increases unemployment and hurts exactly the low-wage workers it is supposed to help…

The real impact of the minimum wage, however, is much less clear than these talking points might indicate. Looking at historical experience, there is no obvious relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment: adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum was highest from 1967 through 1969, when the unemployment rate was below 4 percent—a historically low level. When economists try to tackle this question, they come up with all sorts of results. In 1994, David Card and Alan Krueger evaluated an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage by comparing fast-food restaurants on both sides of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. They concluded, “Contrary to the central prediction of the textbook model … we find no evidence that the rise in New Jersey’s minimum wage reduced employment at fast-food restaurants in the state.”

10) Seven hard questions about health care reform that Democrats need to hold Republicans feet to the fire on.

11) The areas where both experts and the public agrees on effective gun control.  Hey, maybe give these a try!  Oh, right, Republican politicians are not in these charts.

12) Neither GRE’s nor undergraduate GPA appear to be particularly good measures of graduate school success.  Well, that makes things difficult.

13) The latest PS research on Voter ID and vote suppression.  This is important:

The proliferation of increasingly strict voter identification laws around the country has raised concerns about voter suppression. Although there are many reasons to suspect that these laws could harm groups like racial minorities and the poor, existing studies have been limited, with most occurring before states enacted strict identification requirements, and they have uncovered few effects. By using validated voting data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study for several recent elections, we are able to offer a more definitive test. The analysis shows that strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections. We also find that voter ID laws skew democracy toward those on the political right.

14) Saw some pretty strong liberal pushback against this NYT piece, but I think it is worth having a reasonable discussion over whether we should be subsidizing the purchasing of sugar soda through food stamps.  Maybe that opens a Pandora’s box, but it seems that we could probably all agree this is not something the government should be subsidizing.

15) Quirks and Quarks just did a whole show on mindfulness meditation.  This segment was the best explanation I’ve yet heard.

 

16) Good stuff from Roger Cohen:

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference. Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

17) Gender bias in health care is a real problem.  How checklists can fix it.

18) Evan Osnos on the Senate confirmation process:

Trump is making an astonishing bet that he will be the first President in a quarter century to manage not to have a single nominee disqualified. And he is betting that the American people, having just elected the first modern President to refuse to release his tax returns, are, in effect, done with ethics. He is betting that, like his oft-cited prediction that he could shoot someone and not lose votes, virtually nothing that could come out after a nominee is confirmed will undermine his Presidency. He is betting, in effect, that we’re too dumb or too demoralized to care.

19) These fake books are so hilarious.

20) I may have posted this before, but if so, I just re-came across it.  I’ve been saying for years that free, widespread, encouraged IUD use is the best anti-poverty program we could have.  Jordan Weissman explains.

 

 

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