Home / General / The <i>Harper’s</i> Story on the ACA is a Disgrace

The Harper’s Story on the ACA is a Disgrace

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You can pretty much discern the quality of Trudy Lieberman’s would-be takedown of the ACA from the ostensible left from the one paragraph that isn’t behind the paywall:

In July 2009, as the Affordable Care Act moved through Congress, Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, laughed at the idea that any legislator would actually read the bill before voting on it. If such full-body immersion were necessary to support the A.C.A., he said, “I think we would have very few votes.” In March 2010, just before the law passed, speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a similar point. Addressing a national conference of county officials, she declared, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

Durrr, a bill restructuring the American health care industry had a lot of words in it! We’ll pretend not to know how the contemporary legislative process works! We’ll take Nancy Pelosi egregiously out of context! (Although, in fairness, Lieberman does at least include the full sentence, which if you look carefully means that she’s not arguing anything like what it’s being implied she’s arguing.)

It is, I suppose, theoretically possible that an article that leads off with talking points that have been Fox News staples for many years could still be good. I didn’t take the hint and actually read the thing, and in this case the smart money is right. Some of the argument is reasonable, if banal — health care in the U.S. remains too expensive for many individuals and is too costly in general. Inevitably, Lieberman suggests that the real winner from the ACA are health insurers, although she doesn’t explain why they spent so much money to oppose the bill that is a massive windfall. (It’s true that the ACA provides more customers for insurers; it also has regulations that make many of these customers unprofitable.) Her discussion of employer-provided insurance is replete with post hoc ergo propter hoc problems.

Since there’s a limit to how many words I’m willing to type out, though, I wanted to focus on one particularly egregious part of the article, her treatment of the Medicaid expansion. It’s obviously not a surprise that this kind of attack on the ACA would yadda-yadda the Medicaid expansion. But the way Lieberman deals with Medicaid is considerably worse than had she ignored it altogether. Here is pretty much everything she has to say:

To its credit, the law also allowed sick people to buy insurance and more of the neediest Americans to qualify for Medicaid. But in the 21 states that chose not to expand their Medicaid programs, the poorest of the poor are ineligible for ACA subsidies and, in many cases, receive no help from the regular Medicaid program.

That’s it — the next paragraph moves onto another point, with both the Medicaid expansion and guaranteed issue consigned to a two-sentence “to be sure” graf in a lengthy article. The first problem is that the description doesn’t remotely convey the magnitude of the change involved in changing Medicaid to a program that was required only to cover a fraction of the very poorest to a an entitlement for everyone within 133% of the poverty line. But even worse is that she points out the states that have not taken the Medicaid expansion while failing to mention the Supreme Court re-writing the program. Her language effectively blames Congress for not creating a backstop to the version of the bill written after the fact by John Roberts, which is remarkably dishonest. Later, she cherry-picks Tennessee as a case study for how the ACA has worked for the poor, and after describing a state in which Republican officials refused to implement the ACA’s Medicaid expansion concludes that the ACA — not the Supreme Court, not the state officials — “failed a substantial part of the population it was actually designed to help.”

This shoddy analysis leads to other problems:

Perhaps these would have been reasonable tradeoffs for truly universal coverage. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that even under the A.C.A there will be 35 million Americans without health insurance, down from about 52 million when the law was passed…Shoshanna Sofaer of the American Institutes For Research suggested that the ACA should be held to the highest possible standard. In three to five years, she said, we would know whether the law “led to anything remotely resembling universal coverage.” But this gets to the root of the problem. Whatever the slogans suggested, the ACA was never meant to include everyone.

The reader is likely to infer that 35 million is something like the ceiling of the ACA (she doesn’t mention, for example, that the CBO data expects the number of uninsured to go down to 27 million by 2017.) But even a ceiling of 27 million uninsured assumes, inter alia, that not a single other state will take the Medicaid expansion — not even Maine or Wisconsin or Virginia. And, obviously, an ACA that worked as intended with a full expansion would, in fact, be well down the road to universal coverage.  In the kindest construction, this is a fuzzy discussion of the issue that gives the reader very little idea how many Americans will have insurance in 10 years should the the ACA survive, and the one fact it selects leaves a highly misleading impression.

There are a lot of problems with American health care despite the major improvements of the ACA, and there’s certainly a good article waiting to be written about them, putting the accomplishments and limitations of the ACA in fair perspective. Lieberman’s relentlessly tendentious assessment is not even close to being that article.

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  • Murc

    You know what, I’m gonna take it to the next level: I would view any legislator that actually spent their time reading the full text of legislation as manifestly incompetent at their jobs.

    Laws are technical documents. Laws have to be technical documents. They’re dense, impenetrable. They’re written in jargon. They’re difficult to understand without special training, and they run to thousands of pages. A simple change to the US code might take literally hours to read end-to-end.

    I don’t want my representatives wasting their fucking time on reading the washing machine manuals of governance, especially not when these guys have staffers whose full-time jobs are to do that in their stead. I want members of Congress out there doing their actual jobs, which is politics; wheeling and dealing, meeting with constituents and interest groups, participating in caucus strategy, plotting how to destroy their enemies.

    Not sitting in a room by themselves reading bills that a staffer could have summarized, entirely accurately, for them in a three-minute briefing.

    • Scott Lemieux

      This, exactly. And when the first sentence of the article repeats this asinine talking point, you know it’s going to be piece of shit. (I’m surprised she didn’t bring up Obama using a teleprompter.)

      • MobiusKlein

        Does the VP of Engineering have to read every line of code? Or hire people that know how to read code?

        • Vance Maverick

          Nobody reads code, silly. Us engineers are paid to write it.

          • carolannie

            Yes, and when there is a line of code that causes a problem, we correct the line, we don’t throw the whole program away under the pretense that the one line determines what the program was supposed to accomplish.

            Perhaps engineers should run the country. Imagine…

            • Lee Rudolph

              Perhaps engineers should run the country. Imagine…

              Please, no.

              • Ahuitzotl

                Hey, when we say blue screen of death, we MEAN it

            • njorl

              The country would run more efficiently if we standardized people’s height and weight. We should probably scrap Detroit for spare parts, but it might be interesting to reduce it to its core elements and try and get it airborne instead. I’m not seeing the need for two Dakotas.

              • Ahuitzotl

                or two Carolinas. Plus, we need to tow Hawai’i closer, or start working on the TPP (Trans Pacific Pontoon)

            • Procopius

              Everybody has forgotten, but that was actually a proposal back during the Depression. It was called Technocracy. Thorstein Veblen among others recommended it. Robert A. Heinlein based a couple of his stories on the idea. One that comes to mind it The Roads Must Roll, where he imagined a transcontinental network of moving beltways rather than highways. Unfortunately, politicians seem to be necessary, and it’s unfortunate the Republican Party doesn’t have any at the moment.

              • Lee Rudolph

                Technocracy (as an organization, not merely—or should that be, not even?—a movement) was still around sometime in the mid-to-late 1950s [1], when one of its representatives came to my elementary school classroom to try to indoctrinate ustalk to the class about it. I remember only three things about that day: it may have been the first time I ever saw the yin-yang (I remembered their version as red and black, but Wikipedia tells me it’s red and white); the man instructed us that the problem with HABIT is that when you think you’ve gotten rid of it, there’s still ABIT left, then you try some more but a BIT remains, and even with one more try IT is still there; and he demonstrated that when a flimsy sheet of paper, easily torn, is folded double, then double again, then double again, it is untearable (except that my friend Roy managed to tear it one fold more than the man had claimed to be the human limit).

                I don’t know how many years after that it took for me to recognize the essential fascism of at least the third of those lessons.

                [1] Indeed, Wikipedia says it still is. Weird stuff, but not as entertaining as the Rosicrucians.

              • Matt McIrvin

                Though in The Roads Must Roll, the Technocrats are the bad guys: it’s the ideology of the labor agitators who are threatening to break the whole terrifyingly fragile system unless the heroic union-busters can stop them.

          • SFAW

            Nobody reads code, silly.

            You must work at Microsoft.

            Us engineers are paid to write it.

            Then again, maybe not.

          • Procopius

            OK, I’ve never worked as a programmer, but back in the ’70s and ’80s there was a lot of discussion about programming I used to read the magazines that published little programs in BASIC and had articles on data structures. I used to read Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Programming and Orthodontia when it still was about computer power to the people. There was a book called The Psychology of Computer Programming that pointed out that during the ’30s IBM chose to hire women music majors to train as programmers, because there training in analyzing musical forms was as rigorous as training in mathematics and they were cheaper. There was a lot of discussion about ways to improve code quality and guys like Edsger Dijkstra and Nicklaus Wirth were maybe not household names, but well known to computer enthusiasts. In those days there was one school of thought that said the way to achieve perfect code was for groups of programmers to meet at the end of the day and read their code to each other. Then criticize it. Apparently this was close to torture for people who were totally invested in their code, who regarded an attack on their code as an attack on their person. If engineers no longer read code, maybe that’s why we hear about these massive break ins.

      • Sly

        Well, why shouldn’t the President of the United States spend hours every week memorizing speeches? It’s not like it’s a busy job or anything.

    • Phil Perspective

      I want members of Congress out there doing their actual jobs, which is politics; wheeling and dealing, meeting with constituents and interest groups, participating in caucus strategy, plotting how to destroy their enemies.

      LOL!! Democrats plotting to destroy their enemies?!? Thankfully I wasn’t drinking anything while reading that.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “LOL!! Democrats plotting to destroy their enemies?!?”

        I think he meant the DFHs.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Oh … I thought he meant other Democrats

          • Procopius

            Naw, that’s not what Clinton’s New Democrats do.

    • And a Congress that didn’t draft laws in dense, precise, legalistic language would be ceding a great deal of power to the executive and judicial branches.

    • Jackov

      Nice sentiment but much of a member’s time is spent fundraising,
      often alone in a room with a phone.

      • SFAW

        alone in a room with a phone.

        Or in David Vitter’s case, with a wetsuit.

  • joe from Lowell

    Attributing shortcomings in the American health care system to the ACA serves only to make reform itself seem like the problem, as opposed to making additional reform seem like the solution.

    If I tried to come up with a messaging strategy to prevent further health care reform, I don’t think I could come up with anything more effective than telling people that whatever concern they have about health care is the fault of the Democrats’ health care reform efforts in 2009.

    If you’re actually concerned about getting universal coverage for those remaining people, you’d write about the problem of the uninsured, just like it was 2005. If you’re writing about how that’s totally the fault of those Democrats who passed Obamacare, you’re relitigating your old internet flame wars.

    • Scott Lemieux

      No, no, no. As long as we convince everyone that the ACA sucks, the nationalization of the health insurance industry will come as night follows day.

      • joe from Lowell

        I always wondered why every conservative organization in America puts so much effort into convincing everyone that the ACA sucks.

        That must be it.

        • dp

          Always nice when they get help from “liberals,” eh?

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        I don’t understand what these people are trying to do. It makes no sense- even if you think we could have gotten more than we did, this *is* what we have- why keep trying to tear it apart this far in?

        • tsam

          Some people just can’t help but concern troll everything. Supposed liberals constantly wring their hands over the “broken entitlement system” and of course we’re all doomed unless…we reduce government spending?? Reform entitlements? Gosh, that rhetoric sounds vaguely familiar. It’s what you do when you don’t have any ideas for improving the problem.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            I was going to go into a drawn-out thing about “but this is Harper’s! they don’t worry about broken entitlements and reducing spending”

            and then I remembered that I quit reading the magazine a long time ago- in large part because of how frivolously above-it-all Lewis Lapham had become, and because for an anniversary edition they put Tom Wolfe on the cover with Mark Twain- as if Wolfe could carry Twain’s typewriter

            so i guess the answer is that it’s just holier-than-thou useless bullshit from people who don’t know any better

            • weirdnoise

              It’s the magazine for “liberals” who also subscribe to Architectural Digest.

            • Lost Left Coaster

              I dropped my subscription a while ago. The quality of Harper’s dropped precipitously throughout the early 2000’s. The beginning of the end for me was when they published that notorious HIV-denier article.

            • Ahuitzotl

              I cant think of anything more useful for Tom Wolfe than carrying Twain’s typewriter.

              Might be a while before it moves, of course.

        • Sly

          I don’t understand what these people are trying to do.

          Get you to care more about their ideological bona fides than the health and well being of millions of people.

        • Matt McIrvin

          I’ve come to think there’s a segment of the left who have so internalized the idea that power gives you dirty hands that they’re intent on tearing down everything they or their own allies actually achieve, so as to remain clean.

      • LiveFreeOrShop

        The ACA does suck, but until we can rein in the money, there’s not much chance to get anything passed for the 99%. What’s the stat from that Princeton study…only a third of legislation supported by a majority of Americans ever gets passed”? But legislation supported by the top 10% of income earners has a 61% chance of being enacted. Anyway, I’m hoping for a Medicare-type progression to a more civilized healthcare system. But I doubt it.

        • urdsama

          But the very nature of the ACA is to funnel money to those who are the problem.

          While there are positives in the ACA, it was in many ways the worst possible outcome:
          1. It fixes just enough for people to say it is an improvement.
          2. It forces people to buy health insurance, not health care, and puts the bulk of that money into the pockets of private companies.
          3. You have a percentage of people who don’t want to “rock the boat” for fear they may lose what meager coverage they do get and insurance companies making sure it stays the way it is.

          The end result is the current system will stay in place for the foreseeable future until things get so fucked up the entire system collapses.

          It’s a feature not a bug.

          • Scott Lemieux

            it was in many ways the worst possible outcome

            It was in no way whatsoever the worst possible outcome. Jesus Christ.

            and puts the bulk of that money into the pockets of private companies.

            Nope. By law 80-5% of premiums now have to go to providers and hospitals.

            The end result is the current system will stay in place for the foreseeable future

            Yeah, we were totally going to get an American NHS if not for that meddling ACA.

            • urdsama

              Yes, it was. Quit being naive.

              Nope, what? You really think the insurance companies can’t get around the pathetic regs that were put in place? Do you really think they will be enforced? Here is a hint: how many bankers went to jail? And what rules do exist to govern those providers and hospitals? The providers and hospitals still have massive ability to rip people off, or be creative on what doctors are covered by what policies. The entire structure is byzantine at best and is designed to confuse and fuck over the average patient.

              Yeah we would have if Obama hadn’t been intent on being the worst poker player possible and showing his hand.

              • Hogan

                You really think the insurance companies can’t get around the pathetic regs that were put in place?

                How many of those regs can you name?

                • urdsama

                  I don’t have to. I can find plenty of news stories about how various HMOs, hospitals, and insurance companies have:

                  1. Been fined pitifully small amounts for not following the current rules.
                  2. Found ways to restructure provider lists and placed many critical specialists out of network – all perfectly legal.
                  3. Found creative accounting methods to follow the rule of law but ignore the spirit.

                  Who do you think helped write the ACA? The protests from the insurance companies were small and served as kabuki. Nothing else.

                • Malaclypse

                  Found creative accounting methods to follow the rule of law but ignore the spirit.

                  Cool. Can you name an example, since there are, and I quote, plenty? Because I love accounting stories.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Yes, it was. Quit being naive.

                No, it really wasn’t.

                Do you really think they will be enforced?

                Of course. They have been and they will continue to be. I also note that you’re essentially making a libertarian argument here. Why not repeal the Clean Air Act — it will never be enforced anyway!

                Yeah we would have if Obama hadn’t been intent on being the worst poker player possible and showing his hand.

                Yes, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu would totally have voted to nationalize the entire American health care industry if only Obama had used a better negotiating strategy. And that brilliant strategy is walking into an Audi dealership and offering 20 bucks for the most expensive car on the lot.

                • urdsama

                  Yes, it really was. This was a perfect outcome for insurance companies. Offer just enough so that you divide the proles. Some will say it’s great and some will say it’s shit. (And I’m not even including the GOP garbage. This division is all within the left/liberal/progressive sphere.) This ensures that nothing will change because 1.) there is no unified support for something better and 2.) it’s not quite shitty enough to have major upheaval.

                  Reasoning fail. I can fully support regulations but also recognize when the system has been co-opted by those who would be regulated. Once again, did you really miss the amount of influence the insurance companies had on the ACA?

                  Oh please, that tired excuse again? What pisses me off about the tact Obama took was that he seemed half in the bag on the issue. He didn’t fight. He didn’t use the bully pulpit to rally public support. He didn’t seen to care. If he had done these things and lost, I’d be upset but at least I could say he tried and it wasn’t possible. As it is, none of us can say that the ACA was the best option or that we couldn’t have gotten a better system.

                • Malaclypse

                  This was a perfect outcome for insurance companies.

                  You can tell, because they spent millions lobbying against it.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  his was a perfect outcome for insurance companies.

                  1)This is deeply silly. Insurance companies strongly opposed the ACA for obvious reasons. 2)Even if it was true, so what? Wal-Mart benefits enormously from food stamps. It’s very hard to give people benefits in a way that doesn’t benefit a private company.

                  Once again, did you really miss the amount of influence the insurance companies had on the ACA?

                  I saw that they tried to influence it, and walked away from the table when they didn’t get what they wanted and threw a ton of money to stop it. OTOH, you’ve provided zero evidence that the regulations will go unenforced.

                  He didn’t use the bully pulpit to rally public support.

                  Hahahahahahahaha.

                  He didn’t seen to care.

                  You have got to be fucking kidding me.

                • tsam

                  1.) there is no unified support for something better and 2.)

                  That’s a flat out lie. Find me a liberal who doesn’t ultimately want socialized medicine.

                  There are two kinds:
                  –The kind that understands that we probably did as well as we could, considering the right wing noise machine and the obstinate senators we had at the time.
                  –The kind that thinks we got royally screwed by having another 15 to 20 million more people insured at the moment, and the number climbing every year.

                  Do you really believe that the White House staff didn’t run all this shit by the House/Senate leadership when they were putting the outline together?

                  Do you really think that setting up a national system (thereby wiping out the insurance industry) was really that good of an idea?

                  This is step 1. Now start putting out ideas for step 2 instead of bitching about step 1.

                  I suggest telling the states that didn’t take the expansion and set up exchanges that it would be a real shame if something were to happen to those military bases and federal projects…

                • AstroBio

                  I’m guessing urdsama already had decent insurance…

  • matt w

    the poorest of the poor are ineligible for ACA subsidies and, in many cases, receive no help from the regular Medicaid program.

    So, if I’m correct, these are the exact same poorest of the poor who received no help from Medicaid before the ACA was passed?

    • Scott Lemieux

      It’s embarrassing that Lieberman wrote this sentence and it’s even more embarrassing that an editor let it through. You might as well stamp “this article is written in bad faith” on every page.

      • It’s absolutely grotesque.

        And, for that matter, false even disregarding what it fails to mention: the ‘poorest of the poor’ were frequently covered by Medicaid before; the people fucked over by Robertscare were the merely poor.

    • tsam

      Well, ya know, that’s just…um OH LOOK AT THE THE TIME. I GOTTA RUN

    • tsam

      Also, yeah, those are the ones. THANKS, OBAMA

      • Scott Lemieux

        Medicaid would have covered people it never covered if not for that meddling Affordable Care Act!

  • dp

    This is very disappointing, particularly given that it’s in Harper’s, which is usually quite good. I’d have expected better editing, if nothing else.

    It seems as though she fell for every anti-ACA talking point there is, which is fine if you’re a layman, but not so much when you’re a journalist producing a major piece.

    • Scott Lemieux

      It’s of a piece with the recent articles by Henwood and Reed. Not only do the editors not excise egregious howlers in these “not a dime’s worth of difference” articles by authors capable of vastly better work, they seem to actively encourage them.

      • David Allan Poe

        I don’t know if it’s Harper’s that changed, or me. I used to really look forward to an issue, and now if I pick it up I glance at the book reviews to see if there’s anything interesting and that’s about it.

        I certainly wouldn’t want to see it go away, since it’s something of an institution of American letters, but the last few years of Lapham’s editorship really went downhill fast, and the two editors since then haven’t really seemed to have any particular stamp of their own. They’re all the overwrought sanctimony of Lapham at his worst without the sense of playfulness he occasionally let through.

        I think of it now as the magazine that ruined Thomas Frank, which bums me out because the Baffler in its heyday was pretty awesome.

        • LiveFreeOrShop

          Lapham left several years ago and sadly, the magazine has occasionally produced some very nutty stuff ever since. Thomas Frank has gone off the deep end (yeah, the Baffler was great and I still often think of “Commodify Your Dissent”)but Harpers didn’t have anything to do with that. If anything, I’d say Frank ruined Harpers.

          Regardless, I admit that the magazine is inching its way off my subscription list.

  • Becker

    I support the law, broadly speaking, but, as I’ve been discovering this week, what’s the point of expanding Medicaid if no provider will accept it?

    I’m probing a slowly expanding hole in a wisdom tooth right now. Every morning it feels like another little bit dissoved in my sleep. It’s hardly even a tooth with a hole in it anymore. It’s more like it’s 75% of a tooth.

    • States are only required to provide dental coverage to Medicaid patients who are children. Coverage for adults is optional. MediCal does provide dental coverage, called Denti-Cal, but the number of dentists in the network seems to be pretty small. Kind of obnoxious.

      From what I can tell, optometry is not covered at all.

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      You can’t blame the ACA for the fact that dentists don’t take medical insurance – they never have, regardless of whether its Medicaid, Medicare, bought on the individual market, employer-provided, etc. Dental insurance has always been a completely separate market (at least in the US) – usually not even the same insurers.

      • Tell me: did you read my comment, made an hour and a half before yours, before you made yours? It is not true that Medicaid does not ever cover dental care.

        • Becker

          Washington state’s expanded Medicaid actually does cover adult dental. Trouble is that no regular dental office takes adult Medicaid patients. Many of the non-profit clinics won’t either. Many of those places, you have to basically be indigent or disabled to qualify. I’m just an unemployed nobody.

        • MobiusKlein

          RR was making a general point about ALL medical insurance in the US.

          As in, if any bone in my body is rotting and causing me immense pain, my medical insurance covers it.

          Unless that bone is tooth shaped and near my tongue – in which case I’m a sucker for not buying yet another insurance product I guess.

          • WAT?

          • UserGoogol

            Teeth aren’t bones, but yeah.

            There’s various semi-reasonable reasons why dental insurance is administered separately, but the fact that people can end up being able to get one but not the other is definitely a real minus.

  • Anonymous37

    A Harper’s takedown from the ostensible left doesn’t surprise me after the cover story in their June 2015 issue. “What Went Wrong” by David Bromwich was their attempt at a critique of Obama, also supposedly from the left.

    I could pretend that I was willing to read it with an open mind, but I wasn’t. By 2015, I’ve already read plenty of “from the left” criticisms of Obama, and Bromwich’s first paragraph claim that “anyone who voted twice for Obama and was baffled twice by what followed — there must be millions of us — will feel that this president deserves a kind of criticism he has seldom received” had me ready to stop reading at the first bit of tendentious dishonesty I saw.

    I overlooked the substance-free and unfalsifiable criticisms like “[Obama] campaigned better than he has governed. The same might be said about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but with Obama the contrast is very marked” and “winning has always been important to Obama: to win and be known as a winner”. It was the fifth paragraph that was more than I could take. Here it is:

    Meanwhile, Obama’s hesitation in assuming his practical responsibilities was unmistakable; it could be glimpsed at unguarded moments. There was his comment in response to a peevish remark by John McCain during the February 2010 health-care summit, which the president moderated. “Let me just make this point, John,” he said, “because we are not campaigning anymore.” He meant: there are lots of things that we shouldn’t argue about anymore. McCain looked more bewildered than affronted, and his emotion was shared by others who noticed the curt finality of the reply.

    So much bullshit in so few words. What the fuck does Obama laying down the law with McCain have to do with “hesitation in assuming his practical responsibilities”? Why shouldn’t Obama be curt, if that’s even an accurate assessment of the tone of his comment, in response to a “peevish remark”? And where the fuck does Bromwich get off in pretending that his interpretation is truly what Obama “meant”?

    Well, at least they always have a cryptic crossword. Unlike the fucking Atlantic.

    • random

      Of course, if Obama had been all diplomatical there, he would have gotten the exact same result and this article would condemn him for not being more forceful with McCain.

      • Anonymous37

        Absolutely — the criticism in that paragraph is impossible to defend against. Which is what Bromwich intended. That sort of attribution of intent would be unfair to level against most authors, but if anyone deserves it, it’s Bromwich.

        And one other point I didn’t get in before the 5 minute editing window closed: Obama’s reply had a “curt finality”? It’s just about as clear as it can be that the words Bromwich quoted did not have any sort of finality; there’s no fucking way it wasn’t the first sentence of a longer reply. And therefore it also meant that Obama was arguing, and therefore it was extremely unlikely to have been evidence of “hesitation”.

        • Hob

          How anyone who actually witnessed the 2008 presidential campaign could possibly take that remark to mean “John, we shouldn’t argue any more,” rather than “John, your bullshit serves no purpose for anyone anymore, and I no longer have to pretend to respect it,” is beyond me.

          • Hogan

            Yeah, if telling a senator “Stop posturing so we can get something done here” isn’t assuming practical responsibilities, I don’t know what is.

    • tsam

      this president deserves a kind of criticism he has seldom received

      Like fair and reasonable criticism that’s offered in good faith? I don’t see a ton of that around. Not that much from the left and not a bit of it from the right.

    • Baffled twice? Being baffled once is bad enough — Obama explicitly ran as a conciliatory centrist — but twice? Anything there is to seriously gripe about with Obama happened in the first term, excepting TPP.

      Obama has governed to the left of his campaign on most issues, other than parts of foreign policy.

  • I see that Sam Seder’s Majority Report podcast/radio show has an interview with her. I haven’t listened to it, but the short description doesn’t make me feel confident about it.

  • MDrew

    If you read the whole thing, Scott, you’ll also have helpfully confirmed for you that Jonathan Gruber was in fact the law’s sole author, and was also chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Majority Leader, Speaker of the House in 2009 and ’10.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    For her next piece, she can complain about how Congress screwed over African American voters by not paying attention to the Equal Dignity of the States when they renewed the Voting Rights Act.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Harper’s is a grand American institution of letters and has published the likes of Mark Twain, etc., etc., blah blah blah…and they’re still trying to coast on that history, with editorial staff who are really phoning it in. I used to subscribe, but I dropped it a while ago. The quality of a lot of the articles just isn’t what it used to be. And I’m all in favor of left-wing critiques of the President, the Democratic party, the ACA, you name it — but, you know, good, fair critiques, not right-wing bullshit repackaged as if it were coming from the left. It’s lazy lazy thinking.

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