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Affordable Care Act opponents argue in King v. Burwell now before the U.S. Supreme Court that Congress intended to withhold subsidies from the states unless they established their own exchanges. If SCOTUS agrees, ACA opponents expect the ruling to effectively gut the federal exchanges operating in over half the states and to seriously undermine Obamacare.

Even as this argument seems to have fallen apart, should the court strike down the federal exchange subsidies, Republicans in Congress vow not to reinstate consumers’ health insurance tax credits.

Steve Benen writes:

Remember, as far as the public is concerned, a clear majority of Americans would expect the Republican Congress to protect consumers from hardship. Indeed, Greg Sargent this week flagged the latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that nearly two-thirds of Americans would expect lawmakers to keep existing subsidies in place if the Supreme Court ruling goes the wrong way. Only a fourth of the country would expect Congress to do nothing.

The same report found that even most Republicans support states setting up exchange marketplaces so that families can continue to receive subsidized access to medical care. This is, of course, the exact opposite of what GOP policymakers have in mind.

Ezra Klein reframes that outcome, arguing that Republicans’ plan for Obamacare’s demise has become “a plan to rip themselves off.” Klein elaborates:

If the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the subsidies will basically shut off in (mostly) red states. And congressional Republicans won’t do anything about it. That means Republicans in those states will be paying the taxes and bearing the spending cuts needed to fund Obamacare but getting none of the benefits.

Which is to say, the biggest fight in American politics in recent years began with Democrats creating a law that was a giant subsidy from blue states to red states and has evolved into Republicans working to turn the law into a giant subsidy from red states to blue states. It is very, very weird.

Not really. Republicans, especially in the 15 refusenik states Klein identifies, have a unremitting knack for cutting off their noses to spite their faces (and their children’s). They have principles and they stand in on them.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
04

Which one are you working for?

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Those of us already pondering how to approach 2016 campaigns follow in Robert Woolley’s footsteps. The strategist for Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 presidential reelection campaign originated using message control, targeting, and opposition research, say Washington Post’s Dan Balz and John Maxwell Hamilton of Louisiana State University and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Campaign technologies have changed more than many tactics, they argue.

But to fight its way back after a disastrous 2014, Democrats will have to do better than more of the same in 2016. The left will have to step up its game, writes Sean McElwee. Much more than a standard bearer, the left needs a movement:

The left must remember that leaders do not make movements; rather, movements make leaders. Instead of vacillating from one hero to another, the left must create a formidable power base from which to both defeat Republicans and shift Democrats to the left.

Turnout increases with income, McElwee writes, which leads Democrats to target higher income voters groups that do turn out. This compounds with them favoring policies that appeal to higher income voters, leaving poor non-voters even less incentive to go to the polls.

Mass mobilization of core constituencies is the first key to winning. Problem is, the very solutions McElwee offers are the ones Republicans — now in control of roughly 70 percent of state legislatures — are systematically targeting: eliminating same-day registration and expanding ID requirements. Not to mention eliminating or shortening early voting.

Party leaders cultivating more progressive candidates would help, especially more workers and African American candidates to help boost turnout among the half of Americans with working-class jobs. “The good news,” McElwee reports, “is that research suggests that people of color are actually just as likely as white candidates to win: the problem is that they often don’t run.”

Obviously. But there’s a reason for that besides old-boy gatekeepers among Democrats’ leadership. Money.

Legislation and regulations aimed at getting money out of politics is another obvious solution McElwee offers (like same-day registration, etc.) that both lower barriers to entry and tend to favor the left’s base voters. But we have a chicken-and-egg problem. If you expect to pass them, you have to have control, but how do you get control unless you pass them?

But McElwee nails the master solution, saying, “a progressive America will require work.” Working Families Party and groups such as New York Communities for Change have busted their tails to advance just the kind of policies that benefit Democratic constituencies and candidates.

I can’t count the times I’ve heard from a disgruntled progressive, “We need a third party in this country.” My response is always the same.

“I can name a half-dozen third parties off the top of my head. Which one are you working for?”

Sadly, that usually ends the conversation.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo”. Transposition in original corrected to 2016.)

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Dec
23

Why you … you want to punish success!

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I wanted to follow up on Steve Fraser’s comments to Bill Moyers. Fraser is wondering when people in this new Gilded Age age will rise up to oppose the robber barons, as our forebears did 100 years ago. He spoke of how, out of the social upheavals that ended the Gilded Age, Americans created a social safety net, a “civilized capitalism that protects people against the worst vicissitudes of the free market.” But the wealth worshipers of the second Gilded Age have shredded it, and an even deeper, more pervasive corruption has overtaken Washington, and with a direct line to Wall Street:

It is the consummate all embracing expression of the triumph of the free market ideology as the synonym for freedom. In other words, it used to be you could talk about freedom and the free market as distinct notions. Now, and for some time, since the age of Reagan began free market capitalism and freedom are conflated. They are completely married to each other. And we have, as a culture, bought into that idea. It’s part of what I mean when I say the attenuating of any alternatives.

That is, TINA. (There Is No Alternative.) Yet that’s just what many jobless Millennials are searching for.

“It is axiomatic in our current political culture,” says Fraser, “that when we say freedom we mean capitalism.” I would add, that when we say capitalism, we mean, principally, one particular style for organizing a business: the modern corporation.

What Milton Friedman called capitalism in 1962 looks more like an economic cult today. Question the basic assumptions behind corporate capitalism, publicly point out its shortcomings and suggest we are overdue for an upgrade, and the Chamber of Commerce practically bursts through the door like the Spanish Inquisition to accuse you of communism and heresy. Why you … you want to punish success! It’s weirdly reflexive and a mite hysterical. What their blind fealty and knee-jerk defense of this one particular style for organizing a capitalist enterprise says about them, I’ll leave for now. It suffices to say I find it rather peculiar.

We think we invented capitalism. Yet there have been “capitalist acts between consenting adults”* since before Hammurabi. We don’t call one capitalist enterprise the world’s oldest profession for nothing. There’s a restaurant in China that has been in operation for nearly 1000 years. And pubs in England that have been in business for 900. All without being incorporated in Delaware or the Cayman Islands. (Communists?)

The fetish for the current economic model isn’t about money or ideology, but, like The Matrix, about control. For some and not for others. Working people in the first Gilded Age, says Fraser, “summoned up a kind of political will and the political imagination” to civilize capitalism,” to say to themselves, “we are not fated to live this way.”


Kudzu invasion, by FrenchKheldar via Creative Commons

Now, corporate capitalism is pretty successful at what it does. But then, so is kudzu, another invasive species. I used to live on the edge of a field of kudzu. In the summer, I had to cut it back with a machete each week to keep it from taking over my yard and eating my house. On those hot, summer afternoons, not once did a passing neighbor wag a finger in my face and accuse me of “punishing success.”

Corporate capitalism has become an invasive species that has taken over government of, by, and for the People. Sen. Elizabeth Warren very publicly called out one such creeping pest recently. She suggested it was time we cut it back. She’s right.

We upgrade our hardware and software every couple of years. When was the last time capitalism got a new operating system? And what might that look like?

* h/t Robert Nozick

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Nov
05

“TUI”

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TUI

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Nov
03

Seeing is believing?

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Rachel Maddow this morning has a Washington Post op-ed about the biennial fear fest that so conveniently comes on the heels of Halloween. This year’s popular ghoulies: “Ebola, the Islamic State, vague but nefarious aspersions about stolen elections and a whole bunch of terrifying fantasies about our border with Mexico.” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), for example, claimed “at least 10 ISIS fighters” were captured sneaking into Texas from Mexico. No one has seen them, but that is no proof they don’t exist.

About those “vague but nefarious aspersions”:

And in the conservative media, there is even more to worry about. Conservative blogs lost their minds recently over a surveillance video showing a Latino man delivering completed ballots to an elections office in Maricopa County, Ariz. Ballot stuffing! Blatant fraud! Caught red-handed! 

Actually, delivering other people’s ballots to elections offices is perfectly legal in Arizona. Even Republicans have asked Arizonans to bring their early ballots to campaign events this year, so they could be collected and dropped off at polling places. But when the person doing the same thing was Latino, the blogs made it seem like the guy was hiding under the bed, ready to grab your foot if you got up in the night.

The “voter fraud” fraud works like that, and from some of the same con artists who told repeated lies until two-thirds of the country believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks and had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Even after nothing was found, people believed. Because they’d become complicit in perpetuating the fraud. In the Arizona video, like James O’Keefe’s videos, the eyes believe they saw something they didn’t. It reminded me of this sleight-of-hand demonstration where Teller of Penn and Teller describes how people trying to read others’ intentions “aid and abet the trick”:

“Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” – Benjamin Franklin
“People say believe half of what you see. Son, and none of what you hear.” – Marvin Gaye

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
21

Warren on message

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Not unlike ghosts in The Sixth Sense, The Village hears just what it wants to. Itself, mostly, and the jangle of coins. The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson hears in Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts something different, something many Democratic politicians lack: a clear message.

Stumping for Democrats across the country, Warren has a powerful message that ordinary persons can hear if the Village cannot. Like South Dakotan Rick Weiland’s
prairie populism
, Warren (born in Oklahoma) gets traction from a populist narrative:

There once was consensus on the need for government investment in areas such as education and infrastructure that produced long-term dividends, she said. “Here’s the amazing thing: It worked. It absolutely, positively worked.”

But starting in the 1980s, she said, Republicans took the country in a different direction, beginning with the decision to “fire the cops on Wall Street.”

“They called it deregulation,” Warren said, “but what it really meant was: Have at ’em, boys.”

Americans who have been had by the boom-and-bust economy that resulted (and which Democrats abetted) are tired of being lectured about pulling themselves up by their bootstraps by a Wall Street elite wearing golden parachutes. Warren says plainly what the faltering middle class knows in its gut, “The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it.” Warren is ready to fight when it seems many Democrats — including the incumbent president — just want to go along to get along.

Robinson writes:

So far this year, Warren has published a memoir, “A Fighting Chance,” that tells of her working-class roots, her family’s economic struggles, her rise to become a Harvard Law School professor and a U.S. senator, and, yes, her distant Native American ancestry. She has emerged as her party’s go-to speaker for connecting with young voters. She has honed a stump speech with a clear and focused message, a host of applause lines and a stirring call to action.

A Democratic candidate with a stirring message derailed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid eight years ago, Robinson concludes. It might just happen again.

The Village parachute riggers are on notice.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
05

Sunday Morning Music

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Had a great time yesterday at Blue Ridge Pride!

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Aug
31

Round and Around

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Hipster Wheel

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Aug
16

Quiet car trips home

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The following is a crosspost from nevernesters.com

On the Sunday Arielle and I got back from Texas we stayed over at her sister and brother-in-law’s house in Charlotte, grilled out, had beers and played with their pair of boys, who are four and two. They’ve got a great guest set-up, do my Charlotte in-laws, with a big private room downstairs. When we sleep over, we invariably awaken to the commotion upstairs: a Battle of Britain-level bombardment enacted by stampeding toddler feet.

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Aug
06

Enough with the altar calls

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I got into a bit of an internet tussle after referring to Dr. Barber’s sermon in Asheville and mentioning that altar call aspect of his speech. Someone corrected me, saying that it was not in fact either a sermon or an altar call.

But I am not convinced of that, and despite the obvious good things that the Moral Monday movement has accomplished in terms of publicity and enthusiasm, I feel like it plays into an aspect of politics that is a long term loser for the Democratic side.

It’s not that I don’t like his kind of theater. I appreciate Reverend Barber, and also admire the folks who support him. He’s doing a good thing. To a point.

My issue is that this kind of appeal to emotion, phrasing political arguments in terms of subjective behavioral observations leaves too much room for the other side to dismiss the argument, because it is always easy to discredit the other side’s opinion.
Unless it can be also made into an intellectual argument, steering away from emotional appeals, it is just another form of church, where we all congregate and congratulate ourselves for being better than they are. That’s never going to work, and in fact is probably one of the largest things wrong with the world right now.

Rather than insinuating that our side is morally superior to the other side, as objectively real as that may be, the way to make real progress is to demonstrate that the policies of the other side simply do not work and consistently create results that are objectively, demonstrably and measurably bad for far more people than those who might benefit. Facts. Just plain facts. A torrent of facts.

I want to see people chaining themselves to the Governor’s desk, not because he’s morally repugnant, but because his policies are mathematically repugnant.

Lots of people out there are voting against their own interests on a consistent basis because they can’t bring themselves to identify emotionally with liberalism. They can’t get past social issues, issues that are always about emotional appeals to moral superiority. It plays right into the gridlock.

Our group catharsis and the momentary high we get from it are not worth the resulting alienation of other groups who look at the display and instantly begin fighting against it. We need to take that away from the other side because it is one of the only things left that works for them.

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