Friday, December 27, 2013

Andrew Sullivan's Terrible Awards

I've actually never taken the time to look into Andrew Sullivan's annual "Daily Dish" awards before. They mainly focus on, much like Sullivan's writing, political punditry. So he has one like the "Malkin Award" for unhinged conservative kookery.

That sounds like good fun and games.

But then some of his nominee's this year are just terrible. He's giving out a "Dick Morris Award" for worst prediction, but awarded it to one made by Paul Krugman from 1998! It was:
The growth of the Internet will slow drastically [as it] becomes apparent [that] most people have nothing to say to each other…. By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s...
So yeah that's obviously wrong, but why are you awarding the 2013 Awards to something from a decade and a half ago? If you are going to use historically wrong predictions, why not nominate Field Marshall Montgomery's claim in the fall of 1944 that the war would be over by Christmas? Why not nominate the claims by Confederates that one southern solider was worth 10 Yankees? What on earth does this have to do with 2013?

And if we are going to use past predictions why aren't Sullivan's predictions about the Iraqi nuclear program and how great the Iraq War was going to be (or any other warhawk's predictions) put up every year too?

Then it gets worse. He nominated Kevin Drum's prediction that:
“Traffic on the Obamacare sites will settle down pretty quickly, and that will take care of most of the overloading problems. The remaining load problems will be solved with software fixes or by allocating more servers. Bugs will be reported and categorized. Software teams will take on the most serious ones first and fix most of them in short order. Before long, the sites will all be working pretty well, with only the usual background rumble of small problems. By this time next month, no one will even remember that the first week was kind of rocky or that anyone was initially panicked. … I’ll say this: If there are still lots of serious problems with these websites on November 1, I’ll eat crow. But I doubt that I’ll have to,”
But isn't that where we basically are today? And where we've been since late November? Oh okay, everything wasn't fixed with the Obamacare website by November 1, but most people agree it was working pretty well by mid-November. Is Sullivan really saying that Drum missing when the website would be workable by two weeks is some massive failure? And hell, this is pretty qualified prediction ("I'll eat crow.") to boot.

I know some people who love Sullivan for some reason, but I really don't get him. His strengths are so massively outweighed by his faults. Oh well maybe next year Sullivan will get nominated for his prediction on September 16, 2001 that, "The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -and may well mount a fifth column." Turns out we didn't, that was wrong prediction too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Tories And Saint Elsewhere

Paul Krugman made an excellent point in his column today about David Cameron's tenure as British Prime Minister. Basically after taking over in 2010 the new Conservative government imposed harsh austerity on Britain in attempt to "trim their way to growth." The results where spectacularly bad with the British economy is still smaller than it was five years ago. Now that the economy is finally starting to grow again, all be it at a very slow pace. As a result David Cameron's Tories are claiming vindication after half a decade of failure. Krugman pointed out that claiming victory now is a lot like the old Three Stooges gag where Curly bangs his head against the wall:
Economies do tend to grow unless they keep being hit by adverse shocks. It’s not surprising, then, that the British economy eventually picked up once Mr. Osborne let up on the punishment.

But is this a vindication of his austerity policies? Only if you accept Three Stooges logic, in which it makes sense to keep banging your head against a wall because it feels good when you stop. 
Yes, exactly.


Over at The Good Men Project I had a number of posts recently. I talked about our failed embargo against Cuba, how Republicans are open to new revenues when they are called "fees," the silliness of trying to depoliticize Nelson Mandela, the annoying GOP tendency to see outrages at every funeral attended by Democrats, Rick Santorum's attempt to bring back the death panel myth, and how Paul Ryan is a lot like those German nihilists from "The Big Lebowski."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Time's Person Of The Year And Saint Elsewhere

So the Pope got named Time Magazine's Person of the Year and there's a lot of talk about whether this is a "good" or "bad" choice. The choice sort of makes sense to me, the Pope is important and moving the Catholic Church away from doctrinal questions about regulating human (largely female and gay) sexuality and instead addressing things like social inequality and poverty will probably be important in the long run.

But honestly Time's list has always struck me as being pretty goofy. Sometimes they seem to try and pick "the most important person" that year, sometimes they seem to want to pick "the person(s) we should all try and be like", and sometimes they pick intangible patriotic concepts for some reason like "The American Fighting Man" or "Middle Americans." Heck they even come up with really silly ideas that aren't really people at all like "The Computer." And some people on the list I had to look up because I had no idea who they were like like Pierre Laval.

Basically its a silly list that tends to grow sillier as the years go on, picking the Pope is a vote for trying to make the list less silly, but it's not like it actually matters or anything.


Over at The Good Men Project I talked about how the minimum wage will likely be a big issue in 2014 and how shows like Scandal and House of Cards gets conspiracies in politics all wrong.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Michelle Obama Is Not A "Feminist Nightmare" And Saint Elsewhere

Recently Politico decided to publish an article about why Michelle is a "feminist nightmare." To be sure, these types of "provocative" articles are in no small way a sort of clickbait. By writing an article designed to annoy feminists you can cause a lot of people to post about the article and why they didn't like it on social media and their own personal blogs. You can even get professional writers to take you to task as well. You might look kind of silly in the end, but at the same time you drive traffic to your site, if only from people who are mad at you. In the blogging biz we call this "trolling."

But personally I found the Politico article haranguing Michelle Obama to be really frustrating. Why? Well, there's basically no nice way to say this, so I'll just say it: in her Friday cover Michelle Cottle showed a deep lack of understanding about how the government of the United States actually functions.

To review: the First Lady does not hold a policy or administrative position, like say United States Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, in fact her position is not even an elected or appointed office. So saying things like "...Michelle Obama is not about to tap her inner wonk..." is silly because not tapping your inner wonk makes sense when you aren't in a policy position. And again I hate to be rude, but the last time the a First Lady was given a major policy initiative was when Hillary Clinton was put in charge of the First Clinton Administration's health care policy. As I recall it ended in disaster. Not because Hillary Clinton is dumb or anything like that, but because of the fact that her position was very much unsuited for the task of building a coalition in Congress to pass a bill. It's not her fault that it failed, the failure was in large part because of a flawed approach to passing bills in Congress and Bill Clinton's overall dismal transition during his first two years.

It's like if I told Cottle that she needs to do more to improve education in the Mississippi Delta. She would probably respond with something like "Yes John, I agree that is a problem, but I'm a writer, not a philanthropist or Governor of Mississippi so I don't really control the educational policies there." I could then write a screed about how Collet "isn't a good feminist" because she doesn't care about the issue of girls being poorly educated in the Mississippi Delta but that would be silly because it's the institutional and structural reality that's driving things, not her failing as a feminist or whatever.

Michelle Obama raising issues like obesity in low income and minority communities does in fact make sense because these are issues that otherwise completely ignored. So actually she knows exactly what she's doing.


Over at The Good Men Project i recently wrote about how the issue of unemployment hasn't exactly gone away, I also revisited the media's coverage of George Zimmerman over the summer and compared to it the silence now that he keeps getting caught up in incidents of alleged domestic violence, and wrote about why we should be thankful for our politics.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

On The Minneapolis Fed Shake Up

There's been a big staff shake up at the Minneapolis branch of the Federal Reserve. If you don't know much about the Fed you should first read Matt Yglesias's great overview from 2011. I'd also recommend Paul Krugman great piece for The New York Times Magazine from 2009 about the state of the "dismal science" to get a good look at divisions inside the discipline.

Simply put, the Minneapolis Fed, along with a few other regional branches like Dallas and Kansas City, have been consistent advocates of a hard money approach to monetary policy. They've been arguing for years now that the Fed should tighten credit in order to head off non-existent and imaginary inflation.

The result has been a divided central bank under Bernanke that knows what it needs to do, for example pull out all the stops to help alleviate unemployment and heal our nation's economic wounds, but can't go "all the way" so to speak because of Ben Bernanke's moral cowardice and a wrongheaded obsession with "consensus" that allows the hard money wingnuts to tie the Fed's hands.

Enter Narayana Kocherlakota, the current president of the Minneapolis Fed. Kocherlakota is the former chair of the economics department at the University of Minnesota (along with the University of Chicago a stronghold of hard money fire eaters and the idea that the marketplace is what some have called "a perfectly self-correcting instrument" and other such silliness) who, unlike few members of his profession, has changed his mind over the past few years in light of the the experience of the "Lesser Depression." Basically Kocherlakota used to be a hard money kook and believed that there was nothing that the Federal Reserve could possibly do to ease unemployment. Then he actually changed his mind about something in light of reality. Kocherlakota decided that there were things that the Fed could do to help address unemployment and, amazingly, publically annouced this view.

He recently appeared to have decided to fire his research director, then another researched was removed, and yet another monetary policy "adviser" named Ellen McGrattan was forced into taking unpaid leave. Ellen didn't like that one bit and she was all outraged to Minnesota Public Radio, "I'm a monetary adviser, by the way. The job is to advise the president. He has chosen not to use me in that capacity."

To which I would reply with something along the lines of:

"Yes he did, and good for him! Your "research" is a bunch of silly nonsense that has been proven totally wrong over the last five years and you refusing to take this into account shows that you are a terrible "adviser." You coauthored a paper back in 2008 where you argued that monetary policy can't do much to affect the unemployment rate. This was obviously pretty silly back then and now is an egregious error, (note that Ireland, Iceland and Israel all dealt with the global downturn with different monetary policies, this has resulted in radical different experiences between them. So yeah, you're an "expert" on monetary policy in the same way phrenologists were "experts" on intelligence.) no matter. You'll obviously get an easy gig teaching econometrics or whatever at the University of Minnesota where you and the rest of the "New Classicals" can be bitter about how horrible Obama is and what an unappreciated genius Alan Greenspan was. Okaythanksbye."

I've noticed some hand-wringing by econ folks on twitter over this new development. They, and the Wall Street Journal, seem to be following the view that this has nothing to do with disputes about policy and is more of a Kocherlakota-going-nuts type story. To which I have to say: I honestly don't care. Maybe Kocherlakota got drunk and did this on a whim, maybe he really is a mad dictator obsessed with power, maybe he just believes in things like the idea of the free market and meritocracy and thus doesn't believe high level research gigs at a branch of the Federal Reserve are entitlements that should be handed out to the enlightened few. As I see it, it's just great to see these folks kicked to the curb. In fact as MPR has pointed out this will probably severly strain, and maybe even break, the long standing ties between the Minneapolis Fed and the University of Minnesota's econ department, "If the Minneapolis Fed is going to split from the U's economics professors philosophically, it's not clear whether that mutually beneficial relationship will hold up."

But that relationship not "holding up" is a really good thing! Rather than letting one of the branches of the Fed be captured by hard money kookery and Randian nonsense from the so called "freshwater" school of economics, we could see people who are, you know...uhh...right about stuff, take over in Minneapolis! It will also put pressure on the U of M's econ department to be...uhh...right about stuff instead of resting on the laurels of a "close relationship" with a branch of the Fed.

All in all this is a wonderful development.

This post probably sounds a little harsh, but as I see it these people kind of deserve it. The hard-money-inflationistas that call Minnesota and the University of Chicago home are responsible in my book for a great deal of human suffering in this world. As someone who graduated from college into what would soon become the disastrous job market that they helped to create and prolong, I can't feel sorry for them. Now we are even.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Celebrities Behaving Badly And St. Elsewhere

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a nice post up riffing off of an Andrew Sullivan post about Alec Baldwin being a bigot. I honestly don't really follow celebrity news so I didn't realize all the things that Baldwin has in fact said. And yes I would have to agree with with both of them and say that from what I've read yes, Alec Baldwin has behaved in an abusive bigoted way and I really wish so many progressives wouldn't jump up to defend him.

Having said that I do want to say that I find these kinds of posts to be a bit frustrating. Rather than using the events as a spring board for say talking about the phenomena of racism and homophobia, a lot of authors go down the rabbit whole of writing a lot about how a certain person is terrible. And while I'd agree that Alec Baldwin has behaved in a terrible manner in the past, I don't think you can get a whole lot of mileage in the whole social change realm out of proving that one person (one celebrity even) is awful. Sadly enough, the world is full of terrible people.

Ta-Nehisi goes a little further and expands onto some important political points:
One need not believe that LGBTQ human beings are equal to support their right to marry, any more than one needed to be an anti-racist to support abolition, or an anti-sexist to support women's suffrage. There any number of self-interested reasons to support the advancement of civil rights.
I think that is spot on, but unfortunately Sullivan basically writes up a giant Alec-Baldwin-Is-Awful-And-Liberals-Should-Stop-Carrying-Water-For-Him type polemic and then debates some emails he says he got from liberals trying to carry water for Alec Baldwin (this is one of Sullivan's more annoying tendencies, he picks emails that "make the other sides argument" instead of actually engaging with the other side head on). And I'd agree this is an important argument to make! But the conversation could be so much more than that.

This will probably blow over, just like Mileygate and Imusgate and our periodical Tom Bernardgates here in Minnesota and, well this list could go on for pages. Maybe if enough people make enough of a stink we can get MSNBC to discipline Baldwin, or at least make him take some anger management classes or something, but the reality is Miley is bigger than ever (and probably right now is thinking of ways to outdo it in her next VMA appearance) and Imus and Bernard are still on the air and so on and so forth.

Which I think is a shame, because we could be having an interesting conversation about what it means to be homophobic, but instead are getting a lot of debate about how someone is a jerk.


Over the past two weeks at The Good Men Project I've been writing up quite the storm, well the usual two posts per week. But you should still go read them! I talked about why a hypothetical president Hillary won't change Washington all that much, I also highlighted how awful Ted Cruz's dad Rafael is, I talked about why the 2013 elections don't tell us much about what will happen in 2014, I also did a Veterans Day post about the legacy of the Iraq War (this was a bit out of my wheelhouse, but I was really pleased with the outcome), and today discussed the future of Obamacare (it's not going anywhere).

Read them all!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On Greg Mankiw And Conservative Punditry

Greg Mankiw is the chair of the economics department of Harvard University. He is also a life long Republican political actor who was Dubbya's chairman of Council of Economic Advisers and latter became one of Mitt Romney's chief economic gurus. For some strange reason he, like Niall Ferguson, has decided to venture out of the stuff confines of academia (and ruining the national economy) and step into the silly world of conservative political punditry.

Why? I have absolutely no idea. But it has resulted in the chair of Harvard's economics department saying a lot of silly stuff. Take this recent post about how Obama is a dirty filthy liar for the whole "if you like your plan you can keep it" phrase we've been hearing a lot recently. Here's Mankiw's epic argument that employes Watergate rhetoric in the title for some reason:
President Obama is getting heat over his often repeated claim that, under his healthcare reform, "If you like your plan, you can keep it." It is clear now that for millions of Americans, particularly those who participated in the individual insurance market, that is simply not true. You can argue that the plan they will get under the Affordable Care Act is better, but it seems undeniable that the President's sales pitch was factually incorrect.

As someone who has previously worked for a President, I am fascinated by how the White House staff let President Obama so consistently and so publicly make a false statement. Presidential speeches undergo a painstakingly thorough review process. It seems that there are only three possibilities:

1. The White House staff did not know the statement was false. That is, they did not understand the law the administration was promoting.

2. The White House staff knew the statement was false, but they decided to keep this fact from the President. That is, they let the President unwittingly lie to the American people.

3. The White House staff knew the statement was false and told the President so, but the President decided to keep saying it anyway. That is, the President consciously decided to lie to the American people.

These are the only three possibilities I can envision. None of them reflects particularly well on what has been going on in the White House.
Unpacking this is going to be tough but let's give it the ole (Midwestern, wannabe-Ivy-League-but-not-quite-there-Northwestern) college try.

First of all Mankiw is being really vague and unhelpful when he talks about "staff" (even if he is someone who has "who has previously worked for a President" he really shows a lot of ignorance for how the institution of the modern American presidency actually functions). To review, yes there are the senior staffers that we all know from The West Wing. There are also around 2000 odd people who "work for a president" in the sense that they are staff members of the Executive Office of the President. So when Mankiw complains that "That is, they did not understand the law the administration was promoting." I would say, "Yes, junior staff assistants in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, do not in fact know "the law" works."

Just as Mankiw doesn't in fact know how the law works. That is if I were to ask him to make a comprehensive list of all the changes to people who get their health insurance through there employer, he could probably just list some general points. Because that's how national health care policy works. It's monstrously complex and few people actually really understand the ins and outs.

But to point our how his general post is really wrong, I'd say that there is a fourth reasons (in fact I can think of more of them than that). That is President Obama used talking points, rhetoric really, to advance his agenda when talking about how to change our health care system. Basically one of the biggest impediments to expanding access to health care historically is that middle class suburban constituencies (those vital swing voters that decide national elections) react to plans of changing health care policy as attempts to strip away their decent health care. This is the story from the Clinton era, or Ronald Reagan announcing that Medicare will destroy the medical profession for that matter.

So while saying "if you like your plan you can keep it" might be not the most truthful talking point to say, it still makes sense from a presidential standpoint. Basically you need to sell the idea of giving poor people access to health care to to suburban moderates, and if it all works its like how Medicare Part D is part of the American policy structure.

Mankiw's decision to moonlight in conservative punditry strikes me as being really weird. Like Furegson weird. I don't know why he does it, so I'll just file it in the more evidence that the Republican Party is dysfunctional file.

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Politics (And Russell Brand)

I had two pieces up at The Good Men project recently that were sparked by current events but really just touch more on my ideas about the nature of democracy. In the first I’m talking about why Terry McAuliffe is probably going to be the next governor of Virginia. And what drove me to write it is how McAuliffe’s impressive performance is being mocked by liberals all over the internet who seem to see him as a Clinton/plutocratic stooge. I’d hardly call McAuliffe my political role model, and yes he is winning in no small part because the GOP nominated a unreconstructed bomb-thrower who really, really wants to bring back Virginia’s unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws, but I think there’s some more to this than that.

Simply put a lot of liberals and progressives throughout the Obama years have treated complaining/criticizing the powers that be in the Democratic Party as being action. But while that sort of things can be fun and seem like political action, they really aren’t. McAuliffe was easily beaten in a three way Democratic primary back in 2009, but now he’s on top. Why? Well because he actually did the work necessary to win in 2013 while progressives in Virginia couldn’t find anyone to run instead of him. We could be electing a much different Democrat this year in Virginia, someone more like Tim Kaine, but since a lot of liberals didn’t do anything in this race we won’t be.

Good progressives don’t get elected into high office because they’re nice, when they win they do so because a lot of people worked really hard to get them there.

The other piece is about Russell Brands latest political diatribe(s). I personally think this type of “revolutionary” rhetoric is pretty pointless all things considered. And I basically lay out my reasons why in the article and comments, so go check it out if you want to see why calling for total revolution is silly if you can’t even be bothered to vote. But if you want a simpler version of it I’d just say something along the lines of this: when you call for a “revolution” do you mean literally a revolution as in an actual overthrow of the state? Or do mean a figurative “revolution” as in a lot of political and social change? If you want a literal revolution I will say that you will almost certainly fail and a lot of people will get killed in your attempt. And even if you succeed the order you create in the aftermath of destroying the old one will probably be worse. Even revolutions that go well, like the American Revolution, have problems. Our revolution gave us independence but it also resulted in slavery being legitimized in the Constitution, which in turn almost certainly assured the Civil War. So yeah, in "The Game of Revolutions" even when you win, you lose.

If you mean a figurative revolution, like say the expansion of marriage equality in the last five years, well then you mean an organized political movement to change laws and things like that, which means you need to engage in politics, which means you need to do a lot of hard work. Voting is just the start of that and if you can't even be bothered to do that when you start calling for revolution you are just acting like an all around clown.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On Writing For Free

I guess I am really late to this conversation but I really want to throw my hat in the ring when it comes to debates about writing for free. As someone who writes for free a lot my views are pretty typical. Writing for free is great! It is obviously a huge boon for journalism and human society in general and if you are interested in doing it you totally should. If you refuse to do it out of some strange sense of solidarity with with privileged white professional journalists or because you'd rather watch TV or go for a bike ride, well nobody is forcing you to write for free and you can totally watch TV or go for a bike ride instead of writing that blog post.

The whole thing started after Nate Thayer, a professional freelance journalist, wrote an epic series of posts about how outraged he is that some junior editor from the Atlantic had written him an email asking him if he would like to showcase a blog post he wrote (for free) on the Atlantic. She also pointed out that she couldn't cut him a check because her freelance budget was all tapped out at that particular time.

I feel Nate's pain, it really is hard out there for freelancers, but I think his response was profoundly unprofessional and kind of jerky. It also will probably lead this editor to think that trying to work with professional freelancers is a fool's errand and lead her to stop showcasing their work and paying them.  From Nate's email: 
I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts. 1200 words by the end of the week would be fine, and I can assure you it would be well received, but not for free. Frankly, I will refrain from being insulted and am perplexed how one can expect to try to retain quality professional services without compensating for them. Let me know if you have perhaps mispoken.
Don't be afraid to tell us what you really think Nate!

Honestly I think the whole focus on writing “for free” or “unpaid labor” is a bit of a red herring. It’s not important to “be paid” so much as it is important to be paid enough to be able to support yourself if you want to be a full time freelancer. Looking back on The Great Nate Thayer Freakout of 2013, if that editor had replied with something like “oh Nate great news, I moved some money around and we can afford to pay you! Would you prefer a check for 12 dollars or 11 cents for every 1,000 unique visitor’s your piece generates here at The Atlantic?” Thayer probably would have gotten even more mad. Why? Because it’s not the principle that he’s not being paid anything, although I can see how someone who considers themselves a professional journalist could get upset by the principle here, it’s that Nate is not getting paid enough to, as he put it to New York Magazine “… pay my f@#$%^& rent. Exposure doesn't feed my f@#$%^& children. F@#$ that!”

So if I can be a white male privileged jerk here and get in some mansplaining: under the old “sell pieces of trees” model of journalism there was a niche for professional freelancers who would write for lots of places and get paid by the word. It was always a small privileged group, the gatekeepers were few and far between and a lot of people never made much money at it. Out of the model came much great journalism, and also a lot of garbage as well. But as publishing has moved online this particular economic watering hole if you will has basically dried up. So if you want to try and making a living as a freelancer you’ll probably not succeed and thus you should only do it if you are independently wealthy or have a spouse/partner who is willing and able to be the sole breadwinner for your family for long periods of time. You can however try and get a job as a staff journalist, or get a regular nine to five gig and write on the side. In fact, Nate even admits as much when he explains to the editor that, "Ironically, a few years back I was offered a staff job with the Atlantic to write 6 articles a year for a retainer of $125,000, with the right to publish elsewhere in addition..." Since Nate's screed about the evils of the Atlantic became a internet sensation, that even requited the freaking editor-in-chief to issue a statement defending the Atlantic, that offer probably doesn't still stand. But you sure showed that twenty-something junior editor Nate!

The new online model of journalism sucks and is cosmically unfair to professional freelancers who want to earn a decent amount for their writing, but it’s just the reality of how the new economics of the business work. As I see it freelancers should either go into this with both eyes open about this new reality or try another road. Or not, just make sure you can "feed your f@#$%^& children" in some other way.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chris Christie Could Win

I have a piece today in The Good Men Project about how Chris Christie's past relatively liberal stances on social issues don't automatically disqualify him from being the GOP's nominee in 2016. Looking back on the coverage of 2012 it's pretty obvious to me now that a lot of really smart people spent way to much time arguing why Mitt Romney couldn't be the nominee (Jonathan Chait I'm looking in your direction) and way too little time looking at why people like Newt or Herman Cain couldn't.

The main arguments where similar to the people being bearish on Christie's chances, namely past moderation on social issues and support for the policy model for Obamacare. But in hindsight this is pretty silly. Romney was able to deal with abortion just by flip flopping and embracing Republican boilerplate language. And while Ross Douthat may acknowledge that Romneycare really did pave the way for Obamacare when he lies awake in the deep hours of night, it didn't actually turn out to be that much of a liability. Policy is complicated and most people, even committed partisans don't pay that much attention to it. The same thing happened in 2008 when Obama was seen as the more "liberal" or "progressive" candidate compared to Clinton when on policy stances it really didn't appear that way.

As I put it in the pieace:
Christie can get around his past stances as long as he is willing to adopt the current party line while running for President. Rand Paul calling for a foreign policy of isolationism means he can be vetoed by power groups inside the Republican Party. But as long as Christie is willing to change his stances and prove his loyalty over the next few years by saying “he evolved” on issues (like Obama and same sex marriage), he should be fine.

As long as Christie doesn’t lose next month or completely fail as Governor over the next two years he will clearly meet the convention qualification to be the GOP’s nominee. And as long as Christie doesn’t become an outspoken advocate of abortion rights or another Democratic position he is very much inside the socially moderate and pro-business “country club” tradition of the Republican Party.
Anyway, you should check it out and like it on the facebooks or whatever.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More on Cory Booker

On Friday I wrote a column over at The Good Men Project on Cory Booker. My main point is that rather than hating Booker liberals would be smart of welcome him to the Democratic Party. I've written about progressives and Booker before and I really feel the same as I did back then. Simply put Booker is a mainstream Democrat who will overwhelmingly vote with his party, and vote just like any of the other candidates that ran against him in the Democratic primary (who he all crushed by the way). And while he may disagree with some progressives on issues like school reform, he is hardly some corporate stooge. In fact he is focusing on some very important issues a lot of progressives have forgotten as of late.

I find it kind of interesting that so many self described progressives from outside of New Jersey have taken to bashing Booker. Matt Yglesias has argued it's all about teacher's unions and education reform, and maybe that's part of it, but I honestly doubt that it explains all of it. After all if someone hates Booker this much because of his stances on education reform as a mayor and candidate, they must absolutely despise President Obama who has made reform a major theme of his administration with things like Race to the Top. And while it's true that proving your a "real progressive" in some online circles online has consisted of bashing Obama since before he was sworn in in 2009, it's kind of rare that outrage over education reform is thrown Obama's way even by progressives that don't like him.

As I see it all the Cory hating we've been seeing is one of the negative sides of progressiveism in the Obama Age. Since so many progressives have defined a lot of their politics by what they don't like about various factions of the Democratic Party over the last five years, there isn't much room for a person like Booker who embraces things likes school reform while also promoting often neglected issues like criminal justice reform or tackling childhood poverty. Instead a lot of people just see "bankster tool" or "teacher basher" or whatever and act accordingly. The sad thing for me is Booker is in many ways a great way for progressives to define themselves positively be embracing a new reform agenda that is becoming increasingly viable in the case of things like criminal justice reform. At the very least it's not to early to start talking about what a post-Obama liberalism might look like.

Unfortunately we just get a lot of people still mad about TARP and Larry Summers and 2009. Oh well.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shutdown Fever!

I been writing a lot about Shutdown 2013 (which is thankfully passed) over at the Good Men Project. My basic take is that the GOP is a really dysfunctional party and that's why you had a chaotic series of events where first they wanted to threaten default if they didn't get their way, couldn't agree on what the ransom should be in exchange for not defaulting, then shutdown the government because Ted Cruz wants to be president, then refused to list what their demands were, then refused to explain why they shutdown the government in the first place with it then finally falling apart at the 11th hour when they had to get Harry Reid and the House Democrats bail them out.  And the reason for their final collapse? The ultra conservative "crazy caucus" apparently didn't think threatening default was enough and thus shot down Boehner's last attempt at passing a bill that raised the debt ceiling with GOP policy riders.

I don't think you can explain this chain of events without having the the idea that the GOP is dysfunctional be part of the explanation.

You should go check out how GOP extremism was the cause of all this, how I thought it was pretty obvious that they'd cave, talked about the debt ceiling battle, and finally talked about how the conservative information feedback loop helped cause this whole debacle.

Friday, October 11, 2013

No It's Not Redistricting

Over at Slate David Weigel had a piece a few days ago arguing that it was the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts after the 2010 election that is causing all of the problems in Washington these days. Well actually that's not what he says, he says, "this is a straw man." But then goes on to argue, "The point isn't that gerrymandering gave us this Congress; it's that it was designed to keep this Congress and to protect (mostly) Republicans from harm if they screw up terribly." Which is a pretty similar claim.
Weigel makes a big mistake here though. He argues that the redrawing of lines after the 2010 census by Republican controlled governments in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio meant that those states would send a lot more Republicans to Congress than under the districts drawn after 2000 (when they also sent a bunch of Republicans to Congress.) And he's right to some degree. The GOP lost the popular vote for the House by around 1.5 million votes but still kept control. But where he goofs is assuming "gerrymandering" (a term he doesn't bother to define) is a process that creates supper conservative districts. 
The reality is gerrymandering, drawing congressional districts in shapes other than compact squares (there I defined it), involves choices. If you pack a bunch of Republicans in a district, as its congressman you don't have to worry about Democrats beating you. And yes your only real worry once you get elected is getting bounced out by a tea party challenger. But partisan gerrymandering designed to maximize a party's representation is done by making districts just safe enough, %55 as a typical win number is the magic number I've heard, then you cram all the Democrats into supper liberal urban districts. In short gerrymandering to maximize Republican seats will make those seats that much more unsafe. So you can have the GOP being crazy because of gerrymandered supper red seats, or the GOP with an electoral advantage because of gerrymandering. But you can't have both.
After all why does drawing "safe seats" cause people to shut down the government or risk breaching the debt ceiling? If Dave wants us to believe this he really needs to ties this together, not just point out how different the map is in one state or another after redistricting. Yes politicians can be paranoid about primary challenges, but for 230 members of Congress to all be cowering at all time is something more, something pathological. 
Furthermore their is nothing about being a Republican, even a Republican elected in 2010, that forces you do terrible things like take the economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt limit or shut down the government for reasons we have yet to learn. Yes the map in 2012 probably helped Republicans on the margin, but then again so did the natural advantage of running as an incumbent.
The irony here is that Dave's been arguing for days now that the "moderates" that the media is reporting will vote for a clean CR won't actually do so. So the idea that more "moderate" Republicans from "competitive" districts would solve our problem is refuted by Dave's own reporting.

The problem is that the GOP is dysfunctional, different districts might put them in the minority, but it won't change this.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

On The NIH Patch

I case you missed it, the Republicans have devised a new stratagem to prove that all the bad things happening in the shutdown are really just the Democrat's fault. For example, the shutdown has caused the National Institutes of Health to close one of the experimental research hospitals which normally treats around 200 people including around 30 children with cancer who really have no hope other than experimental types of treatment because all the conventional methods have failed. Closing this cancer treatment program has been a bit of a PR nightmare for the Republicans because they are obviously 100 percent responsible for shutting down the government and thus closing this cancer treatment program along with a lot of other government programs.

The Republicans are now trying to pass a number of "patches" or bills to refund particular agencies and programs including the cancer program. The idea is both to make the GOP's shutdown look less bad and also try and force Democrats in Congress to take tough votes as reopening certain particular programs means that there is less overall pressure on the Republicans to end the shutdown. I doubt that re-opening a few small but highly visible programs will change the political calculations on Capitol Hill but you never know.

And on a broader note let me just say that I’m quite glad to see Republicans are finally willing to acknowledge that the government does in fact do some useful, vital even, things.

But these conservative criticism of Democrats who don't vote refund specific programs strikes me as being pretty bizarre. If it’s okay to criticize the Democrats for voting against the NIH patch, surely it must be even more legitimate to criticize the GOP for shutting the NIH down in the first place. The fact remains that the Republicans are pursing of policy of hostage taking, first with a government shutdown and now with a potential debt limit breach. They and they alone are responsible for the unfortunate side affects, like denying children access to life saving cancer treatments.

As another Republican politician put it: “Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events. This, plainly stated, is your language…

In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”"

I really doubt this strategy will bear much fruit. But it's important to remember what a pathetic and awful argument it really is.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Green Lantern Theory Of Congress And St. Elsewhere

With the shutdown in full swing now is a great time to look back at Matt Yglesias's old idea of the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics. Yglesias coined the idea back in the Bush days to point out the absurdity of the conservative claim that the only thing limiting America in foreign policy was a lack of willpower. In 2009, political scientist Brendan Nyhan pointed out an emerging liberal Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency where Obama could get things like a public option or a much bigger stimulus if only he tried harder. Both cases where of course widely off the mark about how the world works and what is in fact possible.

House Republicans seem to have created a Green Lantern Theory of their own in recent years. Call it the Green Lantern Theory of Congress. Under this theory Congress can force Obama to agree to gut his own healthcare bill and do all sorts of other things as well, as long as they demonstrate a sufficiently strong iron will. Alas this theory doesn't seem to be doing any better in the real world than Bush's one about the Middle East. 


Over at the good men project I talked about how shutting down the government is a goldmine for some conservatives, how the "New Hillary" is turning into the same "Old Hillary" (at least in the press's eyes) of yesteryear, and weighed in on the ongoing food stamp wars.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Free Trade And Inequality

Matt Yglesias has a great piece up about emerging trends that show that free trade might not be a universal good. The standard theory among most economists is that while free trade between nations might cause concentrated job losses and economic trouble for a few (like auto workers lay off is Detroit because of imported cars) there will be broadly diffused gains from more commerce, economies of scale, opening foreign markets etc. But what the new research is showing is that more than just causing job losses in certain industries, free trade has caused a shift in the balance of power between labor and capital in capital’s favor. As Matt Puts it, “the labor share of national income has fallen because many more industries are exposed to foreign competition in a way that's systematically advantaged the owners of capital.”

Obviously we need to wait for more data before this can be confirmed but it does seem to vindicate the political rhetoric of people like Ross Perot and Dick Gephardt. Free trade does in fact “ship jobs oversees” and even worse it makes it harder for people whose jobs stay in the US to bargain for more wages and benefits.

More broadly this seems to be evidence that when we talk about “inequality” we are talking about more than the fact that Steve Jobs has more money than God or we’ve seen stagnant wage growth for the middle class over the last few decades. We are talking about a shift in the political economy of American society that puts more and more power in the hands of owners of capital and less and less in the hands of the vast majority of American workers. So any policy designed to deal with inequality can’t just be about the old liberal tried and true method of raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for more public services or transfer payments to the poor (although doing that is still very important). We have to look for policies that will transfer bargaining power from owners of capital back to labor.

I imagine a million labor activists and occupy people are now saying “see, I told you so” to neoliberal sell outs like me. And in some ways they have a point. But I would also stress that we should be looking for new policies to deal with this new situation. So taxing the rich to pay for early childhood education Bill de Blasio style is a great idea, and by all means let’s find ways to make it easier to join a union, but we can’t stop there as those policies have, at best, only slowed this trend over the last few decades. So we should be looking at ways to make our monetary policy honesty strive for full employment because jobs are great but also because tight labor markets give power to labor in bargaining over wages by definition. We should try and reform banks and Wall Street but also acknowledge that a social policy that rewards going massively into debt to buy a big house, i.e. American housing policy since World War 2, is going to structurally empower capital by putting most people massively in debt to banks.

Basically our regular liberal policies of tax and spend and more regulations is probably not enough to change growing inequality and we need to be looking for new and novel ways to tackle this problem.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Problem With Economic Debates And St. Elsewhere

I really liked Jonathan Chait's look back at the "resolution" of all those debates economists were having over the last few years.  As he sees it, and I'd have to agree, a whole slew of conservative ideas about economics were proven completely false by events over the past few years, with the biggest one probably being the claim that government austerity will lead to growth. But this hasn't resulted in conservatives and their intellectual leaders changing their theories about how the economy works or embracing new policies in practice. Instead they simply don't bother to defend their ideas anymore. Meanwhile the demands for more austerity have, if anything, gotten louder:
Meanwhile, however Republicans resolve their long-term vision debate, they have coalesced around a short-term vision. It is to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, maintain short-term austerity, weaken labor laws, loosen financial regulation, and defend every tax deduction enjoyed by the affluent. I don’t see how this policy mix could be remotely defended in light of actual circumstances. Almost nobody on the right seems to want to defend it. But nobody seems interested in placing even the slightest pressure on the Congressional party to alter its stance, either.
I think that sums it up almost perfectly.

I guess one of the core problem here is that the discipline of economics is still gripped by the ideal that it should aspire to be a value neutral technical science, like chemistry or something, while the bigger political and moral questions about what we want an economy to do are ignored. But of course those questions don't go away just because you choose not to answer them. So instead of creating a value neutral scientific system of economics we've created a system where actors with political goals, like weak labor markets or less state involvement in market outcomes, can pretend to be value neutral "experts" using whatever argument they can find to advocate for a conservative policy agenda that transfers wealth from the poor to the rich and power from labor to capital. It's a huge problem for economics, I don't see many people addressing it.


Over at The Good Men Project I wrote about why Obama should take his case about strikes in Syria to Congress, dismissed the silly idea that recent events vindicated Mitt Romney somehow, talked about how incredibly shallow much of the media coverage over the crisis in Syria has been, and looked at the future of gun control in the wake of two recall elections in Colorado.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Jannet Yellen And The Soft Bigotry Of Low Monetary Policy Expectations

I've found the debate over who Obama should appoint to be chair of the Federal Reserve to be quite fascinating. The contest has basically boiled down to being between Janet, Yellen the current Fed vice chair, and Larry Summers formerly of the White House economic team and Harvard University.  Unfortunately for us, the discussion itself has been notably free of content in the liberal blogosphere. Basically everyone except Brad Delong thinks Summers is history's greatest monster either because he once said something that made the faculty at Harvard mad and/or he once worked with with Robert Rubin. We are then told that Yellen would be much better because she's "more qualified" (whatever that means) and also because nominating her will fix some messy issues around identity politics for the Obama Administration. Meanwhile very little at all is said about her views or record on monetary policy itself, the most important part of being chair of the Fed.   

What strikes me about this whole argument is that we liberals have concocted a terrible way to debate who should become one of the most powerful people in the world.

Some smart progressives have been pointing out for a while that we basically ignore the Federal Reserve system even though it holds enormous clout when it comes to controlling the American economy and thus a variety of policy outcomes that we liberals care about (including who wins elections). It largely does this by controlling monetary policy (a phrase that only appears in Amanda Marcotte's anti-Summers article once, in a quote where we learn that "[Yellen is] very knowledgeable about monetary policy.") In short the chair exercises enormous influence on the Fed's board o' governors that sets the interest rate in the American economy through a variety of policy tools. By lowering interest rates the Fed can general encourage the economy to grow, and in certain times of high growth that can encourage inflation. The Fed can conversely raise interest rates which in turn can cut back on inflation, but this also have a tendency to slow and economy or start a recession by making it harder for business and consumers to get credit. In theory the Fed has a "duel mandate" to reduce unemployment and keep inflation low, but in recent years they don't really act like that at all.

While the Fed (and a lot of people in the press) likes to portray itself as a "neutral" entity with all our best interests at heart that does things to manage the economy like a "maestro", the reality is quite different.

In fact in Anderson's Concise History of the Federal Reserve Since Greenspan we can read the story of two Fed chairs not acting like highly qualified geniuses controlling the economy, but rather political actors working in a political system. As Anderson explains, we recently have had two pretty bad Fed Chairs who are terrible in altogether different ways. Noted Ayn Rand follower Alan Greenspan decided in the late 90's to "cool the economy" i.e. cause a recession to make sure the Democrats lost the White House pop a dangerous bubble because of "irrational exuberance." Then the Maestro did an about face in the early aughts and kept rates at record lows to make sure Bush got re-elected fight the terrorists. While this succeed in wining the election not having the American economy go off a cliff after 9/11, it unfortunately laid the ground work for the creation of the American housing bubble, one of the biggest speculatory bubbles in world history. After Greenspan left Ben Bernanke failed to deal with the bubble until it popped and nearly destroyed the world economy. Fortunately Uncle Ben was able to keep the great white ship, the SS Wall Street Banks, off the rocks during the grim days of late 2008 and early 2009. Unfortunately for the rest of the American people his response to deal with unemployment and a shrinking economy since then has been woefully inadequate. This resulted in the American people suffering years of high employment, slow growth, pain and misery. Oh and since 2010 he's been assisted in crafting his timid and far to weak response to this "Lesser Depression" but his able deputy, one Janet Yellen. And all this happened despite the fact that Bernanke was considered "the most qualified" person for the job.  Which is a round about way of saying that the Fed's monetary policy is very important and the "how" and "why" of the manner in which one creates the Fed's policy can be more important than the "qualifications" on one's "resume".

Which brings me to the problems of liberal commentary on Summers and Yellen. While tens of thousands of words have been written on the subject, the question of how each would employ monetary policy (to what ends? for whose benefit?) has largely been ignored by liberals. A typical New York Times anti-Summer editorial uses the phrase monetary policy only once, in a paragraph not about monetary policy at all:
Mr. Summers’s reputation is replete with evidence of a temperament unsuited to lead the Fed. He is known for cooperation when he works with those he perceives as having more power than he does, and for dismissiveness toward those he perceives as less powerful. Those traits would be especially destructive at the Fed, where board members and regional bank presidents all bring their own considerable political power and intellectual heft to the Fed’s decision-making on monetary policy and financial regulation. Putting Mr. Summers in charge would risk institutional discord or worse, dysfunction. 
So basically Summer's shouldn't get the job because he might say something that hurts the feelings of the hard money people on the Fed's board of governors who have been arguing for higher interest rates and tighter money (and thus less growth and higher unemployment) to stop non-existent inflation. This sort of discussion is like trying to pick a presidential nominee based on musical tastes, not only is it irrelevant, but it distracts from the important questions about the position that should be being asked.

As I see it, there wouldn't be much policy difference between these two. Both are brilliant center-left economists with longstanding ties to the Democratic Party. Both would focus on lowering unemployment as their main goal over stopping non-existent inflation. And while their styles and personalities may differ, it's hard to know whether these differences would be better or worse for the American public. Summer's rougher style might alienate allies and make his job harder, but then again a swift kick in the pants might get the Fed to start actually addressing unemployment in a meaningful way. Meanwhile Yellen might change the direction of the Fed, or she she might turn out to be full of the same weakness and moral cowardice that have been driving Bernanke's "two steps forward, one step back" policy for years now. There's no way to tell, we'll have to wait and see.

But when it comes to the liberal project in general it really is frustrating to see so many smart people ignoring monetary policy and what the Fed actually does for the same warmed over meal of accusations of sexism and hatred of Robert Rubin. Full employment really could transform American society in more ways than one, but too many liberals seem to not understand this, or just not care. This makes me sad.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

AIPAC And St. Elsewhere

A big question to think about when it comes to the political reality of potential strikes in Syria is the solidity of public opinion opposing them. As far as I can tell there are no major organized interests backing the opposition even if it is the majority of public opinion. But there are influential groups supporting intervention, for example AIPAC is planing a full court press supporting intervention starting Monday. It will be interesting to see what happens considering there is normally so little daylight between AIPAC and most Republicans, and Democrats for that matter. Historically organized groups beat big trends in public opinion when it comes to squeezing Congress, so it will be interesting to see if that holds true. At the very least, Obama will be in for a tough sell when it comes to convincing Congress, which strikes me as being a good thing.


Over at the Good Men Project I talked about Maine's kooky Republican governor, why Chris Christie can't afford to skip Iowa and how terrible the GOP still is at reach out to minority voters. You should read those pieces and like them on the facebooks and such.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Doom Of Republican Economic Policy

The New York Times had some really great reporting today about the reality and politics of the federal government's SNAP (formally food stamps) program. It's a great portrait of people struggling at the fringes of American life in rural Tennessee including a 20 year old mechanic unable to find steady work to support himself, wife and one year old son, a woman who left her job in slaughterhouse after she got cancer (she get's the most at a whopping $352 a month to support a family of four) and a 62 year old former welder who can't work anymore because of lupus, this lucky ducky get's a $125 per month.

Juxtaposed to this is the new and improved Republican Party which is now making gutting SNAP, and other benefits like it, a high priority. As one Heritage Foundation scholar quoted in the article puts it, “I think food stamps have in the Republican mind become the symbol of an out-of-control, means-tested welfare state.” A standard bearer in this new struggle just happens to be the member of Congress that represents these folks:
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps. 

“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said. 
When someone get's $125 to buy food it's a national tragedy. We someone get's $3.5 million in farm subsidies, it's a statistic. 

This article got me think about an old Matt Yglesias article about a similar problem facing the GOP when it comes to raising the minimum wage. Basically the argument goes like this, the Republican Party knows it continual embrace of unpopular economic policies is costing it at the ballot box and making it harder to win elections. But the hardline nature of modern conservatives and conservative organizations makes it impossible to embrace any practical solutions to things like poverty, food scarcity or rising inequality. To paraphrase Yglesias this is not because there are no conservative thinkers with policies about how to tackle these problems, but because none of those policies is going to be embraced in practice by Republican politicians. For one because if they are, those politicians would get RINOed. And second because as Ayn Rand taught us long ago, taking from the rich to give to the poor isn't just bad policy, it fundamentally morally evil and thus can never be accepted.

Now Republicans could of course respond to this by promoting their own ideas about how to help struggling families. They could embrace Milton Friedman's idea of a negative income tax, or a higher earned income tax credit, or a bigger tax deduction for dependents, or any other policy you'd like to suggest. But of course they won't, for the reasons outlined above. Meanwhile some politicians will keep trying to throw up smoke screens about how they are "concerned about these issues" and that's probably the best the GOP can hope for. Meanwhile we'll be stuck with the same you-didn't-build-that/47%/Lucky-Duckies GOP we've had for a quite a while.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mr. President, Please Don't Bomb Syria

I really liked James Fallows recent post about his readers' and his own doubts about the plan to bomb Syria in response to the horrific chemical attack that recently occurred there. I'd have to agree with him that Obama's "red line" statement turned out to be a major error on the President's part. As I see it the Administration greatly under estimated the possibility that Assad might use chemical weapons and then compounded the error by greatly underestimating Assad and his regime's ability to cling to power (or perhaps overestimating the capacities of the rebel groups).

This has put Obama in a tough spot, but it's utter nonsense that the President is now "forced" to respond militarily to uphold American "credibility" or anything else. Oh I'm sure if we don't bomb Syria there be a lot of blow back in the press about "projecting weakness" and such from the usual hawk suspects who have already jumped on the war band wagon, but there will be no lasting damage to Obama or American interests if he decides to just ignore his past statements and make new ones. All the usual suspects told us how terrible it would be if we just up and left Iraq for years. When we finally did just that, the sky didn't fall, no more than it would if we left Afghanistan next year. This same dynamic played out during the Vietnam era for years.

If I could give advice to Obama, and granted I really have no formal credentials or standing to do this, I would just paraphrase the character Marla Daniels from HBO's The Wire:

"If you attack Syria and the conflict escalates, or spreads to a neighboring country, you'll be blamed for that. If you attack Syria and it doesn't deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons or it doesn't cause him to fall from power, you'll be blamed for that too. If you attack Syria and it does deter Assad from using chemical weapons and he instead just uses conventional arms to massacre people, you'll also be blamed for that. The game is rigged. But you cannot lose if you do not play."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

While Miley Cyrus Was Prancing Around, And You Were Outraged...

...some important things were happening!

The fall out of The Great Miley Freak Out Of 2013 has moved on from it's initial stages of general outrage; to outraged paired with more outrage that your allies aren't being outraged in the right way: and finally into the loftier realm of "what-does-it-all-mean-ism."  While it's all been very fun pointing out that a 20 year old whose been basically raised since childhood in the spotlight of fame and privileged can act in a less than ideal way when put back in the spotlight of the VMA's, more important things have been happening.

In Michigan a few hours ago, Republican governor Rick Snyder teamed but with the state senate Democrats and another eight state senate Republicans to pass a bill allowing the expansion of Medicaid in their state under the terms of Obamacare. To review Obamacare is a giant bill with all sorts of provisions, but one of the most important ones is the expansion of Medicaid to cover all Americans who don't have insurance and live at, or below, 133 percent of the poverty line. This policy was enforced on states in the original bill by offering states the carrot that the federal government would pay 90 percent of all new Medicaid costs caused by this expansion and the stick that if the states didn't adopt the expansion of Medicaid they would risk their current Medicaid funds. The Supreme Court, in all it's glory, decided this was unconstitutional for some reason, and replaced this carrot and stick approach with an all carrot approach in which sates would get the federal funding, but could refuse and not risk their current monies if they chose to do so.

The result of John Robert's infinite wisdom is that a number of states have refused to let their uninsured citizen's get health care via Medicaid because Obamacare is bad and stuff.

But as the political scientists and economists like to say, incentives work. The money, and perhaps the moral reality of expanding healthcare to people needing it compared denying it to them out of a sense of pique, has enticed several brave Republican governors to defy The Crazy and try and expand health care access. As Snyder put it, "This is about one element that we control here in Michigan that we can make a difference in here in people’s lives.”

Of course this doesn't mean that other states will now fall like dominoes. If Michigan adopts the expansion of Medicaid as it's expected to do once the state house passes it only 24 states and the District of Columbia will have signed on to it. But this still represents that Obamacare is well on it's way to being ingrained into our society as well as being embraced by more and more states. In other words,basically all this nonsense over not funding Obamacare is squabbling over bragging rights about who held out the longest. Obama won a long time ago.