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“I Was Told There Would Be No Math”

[ 47 ] July 21, 2017 |

I have a piece in the LA Times about how the Republican Party is so strongly committed to upward wealth distribution and cruelty-for-its-own-sake that it can’t produce a health care bill that can produce a CBO score that can even look good against a phony baseline of their own proposals:

The result would be the worst of both worlds for insurers and the now-insured. Obamacare’s historic expansion of Medicaid would be eliminated, and so would the subsidies that make purchasing insurance on individual exchanges more affordable. But insurers still would be required to issue insurance regardless of preexisting conditions, and this insurance still would have to provide comprehensive coverage.

Guess what would come next? An almost-immediate death spiral: Effective premiums would skyrocket, which means that only the sick and desperate would maintain insurance while healthy people fled the market in droves, causing prices to increase even more. (You may have heard that the ACA is already in a death spiral, but this is simply false — the existing exchanges have, for the most part, stabilized.)

In other words, the ORRA would devastate Medicaid and completely destroy the individual market for health insurance. Maybe the number of people who would lose coverage would be somewhat less than the CBO’s projected 32 million, and maybe it would be even more, but it’s somewhere in that ballpark, and no logical analysis would conclude otherwise.

Although repeal-without-replace is the GOP’s worst idea yet, the party’s latest affirmative replacement plan isn’t all that much better, as the CBO score issued Thursday makes clear. It would cut coverage by 22 million, raise premiums by 20% on average and cut Medicaid by $772 billion while giving the wealthy and corporations $541 billion in tax breaks. Deductibles would be an outright disaster; someone making $26,500 in 2026 would pay $13,000 — or half his income — compared with $800 under the ACA.

So it’s the same old, same old. The House bill that passed in May, as well as the Senate’s two proposals for remaking Obamacare, would all substantially cut the spending that helps people afford insurance on the individual markets. All of these schemes would lead to a huge increase in the number of uninsured. None contain any material benefit to anyone except wealthy taxpayers.

These bills were never going to be popular if scored accurately. There’s just no way to slash costs without slashing the insurance rolls. That’s simple math.

As we recently discussed, if this bill dies in part because the CBO is able to compel the media to print accurate information about Republican healthcare proposals, the GOP may well respond by breaking the CBO.


TrumpCare Ain’t Dead

[ 72 ] July 20, 2017 |

Every iteration of the Republican health care bill gets terrible CBO scores, because cutting hundreds of billions of dollars out of federal health care spending means tens of millions of people losing their insurance. For this reason, every Republican proposal is staggeringly unpopular.

And yet, the bill could still pass:

The real fate of American health care lies with five Republicans — Dean Heller (R-NV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — whose behavior since McConnell rolled out BCRA 2.0 has been strange.

These five all clearly and unambiguously stated that the Medicaid cuts in BCRA 1.0 were too severe. But then McConnell went back to the drawing board and came up with a new piece of legislation that made no changes whatsoever to the Medicaid provision. At that point, you would expect everyone who called the Medicaid provision a deal killer to say no to the new bill. And that is, in fact, what Collins did. But the other five all laid low.

Once the bill was dead due to objections from the right, the moderates came out of the woodwork and announced their opposition. But the pattern we saw in the House was that once the Freedom Caucus was fully on board with the leadership’s plans, moderates lacked the backbone to actually kill the bill.

The Senate moderates have the power, right now, to band together and kill the bill by fundamentally rejecting the idea of massive insurance coverage losses. They could cross the aisle and work with Democrats on fixes to stabilize the exchanges. But they keep rather pointedly not doing that.


But until work starts on a bipartisan deal, it’s dangerous to assume that repeal is dead. Relying on conservatives to kill a fundamentally conservative bill is inherently risky, and if the perception that repeal is dead demobilizes opponents, then the odds of more moderate Republicans doing anything only fall. Obamacare repeal looked dead in the House at one point, but the very perception that it was dead turned out to give it new life. The only people who can really kill repeal are so-called moderates — who’d have to say no to coverage losses and yes to bipartisanship.

There are three key factors here. First, Republican “moderates” are distinctly immoderate; if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Second, as Yglesias says, the desire for a Republican “win” might override the objections of marginal senators who don’t like the bill as policy or politics. And, third, is the insanely favorable-to-Republicans Senate map in 2018. If passing this bill put Mitch McConnell’s ability to confirm a potentially transformative Supreme Court nomination for the last 2 years of Trump’s first term at serious risk, it would already have been sent to the glue factory. But with the political bill probably not due until 2020, McConnell would be willing to pass it is he can get the votes.

Is this likely? Not that I can see. Is it impossible? Definitely not, and it is incredibly dangerous to assume that.

If Barry Goldwater Had Won In 1964, We Wouldn’t Have Had Any of These Problems

[ 245 ] July 20, 2017 |

Zaid Jilani’s commentary on domestic politics overwhelmingly consists of two things: 1)a consuming hatred of the Democratic Party and 2)a genuinely pathetic belief that, against all evidence, real left-wing transformation will come from the white nationalist death cult that currently controls Congress and the White House and is still desperately trying to strip health insurance from 20-32 million people to pay for an upper-class tax cut.  I can’t say that the latest iteration is self-parody — the argument is self-paradoic by definition — but something about him laundering his bullshit through a 91-year-old leaves an additionally sour taste:

Shortly after Trump won the nomination to be the Republican Party’s presidential contender, Fine wrote to his campaign to offer him a plan to expand Medicare. “Start with Medicare for children and all military vets (half are already under Medicare because they are over 65), then 60-65, etc. etc,” Fine said he advised. “An important conservative result: the VA hospital system would became available to all, for services and for badly-need additional training hospitals for young doctors.”

After the death of the Senate healthcare bill yesterday, The Intercept reached out to Fine for comment about where Congress should go next. “Single payer is the only real answer and some day I believe the Republicans will leap ahead of the Democrats and lead in its enactment,” he speculated, “just as did Bismarck in Germany and David Lloyd George and Churchill in the UK.”

Otto Von Bismarck, a conservative German leader known as one of the fathers of the welfare state — the Social Security Administration even maintains a webpage honoring him for establishing the first public retirement program in the world — helped establish the foundations of the modern German health insurance system in 1883.

David Lloyd George was a member of the British Liberal Party (the successors to the Whigs, not to be confused with the Labour Party) who was inspired by Von Bismarck’s work in Germany. He spearheaded the passage of the National Insurance Act of 1911, which created a system of health insurance to cover industrial workers.

And although Winston Churchill was not the driving force behind the establishment of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, he both supported it in theory and later prevented his fellow Tories from strangling it during his 1951 to 1955 tenure as prime minister.

All three are examples of conservative politicians coming to terms with popular demands for the government to act to prevent their citizens from being financially destroyed by sickness and injury. It remains to be seen whether the GOP will learn the same lesson.

Oh, I think we’ve seen quite enough.

So, sure, the American welfare state is almost entirely the product of Democratic Congresses, including the most recent Democratic House, which enacted a historic expansion of Medicaid (a law which nonetheless sucks because it was enacted by the Democrat Party.)* Still, despite the fact that the Republican conference consists almost entirely of right-wing fanatics, they might totally enact single-payer.  And the relevant supporting evidence consists of two European politicians, steeped in completely different traditions of conservatism than the American one, who supported programs the most recent of which passed in 1911. And to make the case a little deeper, Jilani looks for a way to give Winston Churchill the credit for a policy passed by Labour. If President Gillibrand signs a bill creating a Medicare buy-in in 2021, I look forward to Jilani’s piece giving Paul Ryan the credit for it.

I also look forward to his next piece, “one day, the Supreme Court will rule the death penalty categorically  unconstitutional, and I believe Neil Gorsuch and Sam Alito will leap ahead of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to provide the decisive votes.”

*You also have to love the follow-up tweet:

I concede the point — if reactionary ideologues weren’t reactionary ideologues, they would be more likely to pass left-wing policies they’ve dedicated their careers to opposing. Hard to see any holes in that logic!

Populist Trump Administration Continues to Drain the Swamp

[ 44 ] July 20, 2017 |

This is a terrific piece about the Trump administration seeking to undo a major new CFPB regulation:

But much like the bulk of Trump’s agenda, that assault remains in the aspirational phase, and the agency continues to do its work. Earlier this month, the CFPB released a major new rule, flat-out barring financial institutions from using forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts to stop class-action lawsuits.

Now, Trump has sent out his lead attack dog to overturn the arbitration rule — a former bank lawyer who has used the very tactic the CFPB wants to prevent.

Class-action lawsuits are often the only way abusive behavior is checked. Take one of the more flagrant examples relating to overdraft fees. Millions of Americans are painfully familiar with the little perforated postcard that kindly arrives in the mail, courtesy of your financial institution, informing you that you have overdrawn your bank account and have been assessed a fee. Or, sometimes, you get three of them in the mail.

In order to make sure you get three and not one, banks in the past would re-order your transactions. The case of Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo is instructive here: a federal class-action case in California, the suit charged the bank with debit card reordering, or altering the sequence of debit card withdrawals to maximize overdraft fees. So if a cardholder with $100 in their account made successive withdrawals of $20, $30, and $110 over the course of a day, instead of getting hit with one $35 overdraft fee, Wells Fargo would reorder the transactions from high to low, thus earning three fees.

The plaintiffs won a $203 million judgment in 2010. But in an appeal before the 9th Circuit in 2012, Wells’ lawyers argued that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, gave Wells Fargo the right to compel arbitration and quash the case, even after the judgment was rendered.

The 9th Circuit ruled that Wells Fargo never requested or even mentioned arbitration for five years of litigating the case. Only after losing in court and getting a potential lifeline from the Supreme Court did the lawyers take the shot. “Ordering arbitration would … be inconsistent with the parties’ agreement, and contradict their conduct throughout the litigation,” the court ruled.

Wells Fargo eventually paid California customers, but only after six years of appeals. Yet the company is still trying to use arbitration to quash a similar class action on overdraft fees, which would affect consumers in the other 49 states. Over 30 banks have been sued for this conduct, and every one of them settled the case except Wells Fargo.

Banks have a lot riding on the CFPB rule. Luckily for Wells Fargo, a former senior attorney of theirs is now a top federal regulator. In fact, Keith Noreika worked on that class-action defense in Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo before becoming the acting chair of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

In May, President Trump hired Noreika to take over OCC, in an unusual arrangement where he would serve as a “special government employee,” retained to perform “temporary duties” for not more than 130 days, and exempt from most ethics rules or Senate confirmation.

As always, the clear lesson is that Both Sides Do It but the Democrats are worse.

Property Rights For Thee…

[ 47 ] July 20, 2017 |

Trump may be failing in his attempts to give 21 million lucky duckies the sweet freedom of no health insurance, but at least he’s giving more people the glorious liberty to be arbitrarily stripped of their property:

In America, it is legal in most states for police to take and keep your stuff without ever convicting you for a crime. Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions apparently wants to let police do this even more often.

Most states and federal law already allow what’s called “civil asset forfeiture.” This lets police seize someone’s property without proving the person was guilty of a crime; they just need probable cause to believe the assets were used or obtained in some kind of criminal activity, typically drug trafficking.

Police can then absorb the value of the property — be it cash, cars, guns, or something else — as profit, either through state programs or under a federal program known as equitable sharing, which lets local and state police get up to 80 percent of the value of what they seize as money for their departments. For police departments, this can end up a fairly profitable venture.

On Wednesday, Sessions signed an order to encourage law enforcement to use civil asset forfeiture more often, rescinding previous orders by President Barack Obama’s administration limiting the practice. The order includes some supposed safeguards, which ask law enforcement to be careful, make sure there is sufficient evidence of a crime, and more thoroughly document the evidence and probable cause justification.

“[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said on Monday, hinting at the forthcoming order. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”

And before you give Republicans spurious credit for being part of a “bipartisan opposition” to this while doing nothing about it, remember that 1)Sessions is what he’s always obviously been, and 2)the Senate voted to confirm him.

A Less-Than-Typically-Informed Old Man Who Watches Fox News All Day is Now President of the United States

[ 213 ] July 20, 2017 |

The Times interview with Trump is even more insane than the story Paul refers to below makes it sound. For example:

TRUMP: It was good. We are very close. It’s a tough — you know, health care. Look, Hillary Clinton worked eight years in the White House with her husband as president and having majorities and couldn’t get it done. Smart people, tough people — couldn’t get it done. Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics. What happened to him?

I can’t believe that Trump can’t remember poor Ben Nelson, who pulled off one of the greatest deals in the history of politics when he got ownership of the entire state of Nebraska in exchange for his vote. And he got it even though the Cornhusker Kickback wasn’t even in the final bill! Anyway, Obama could have given Lieberman the state of Connecticut for his vote for a public option, and he Didn’t. Even. Try.

So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

Also, Trump legitimately doesn’t seem to understand the difference between health insurance and life insurance.

On foreign relations:

HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.
TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.
HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.
TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.
TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand

And let us not forget his skills as a military historian:

TRUMP: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled]
TRUMP: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.

And let us not forget his vast list of domestic policy accomplishments!

But I’m talking about for my time. I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him. These are approved by Congress. These are not just executive orders. On the executive orders, we cut regulations tremendously. By the way, I want regulations, but, you know, some of the — you have to get nine different regulations, and you could never do anything. I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.

Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States of America.

Criminalizing Dissent

[ 293 ] July 19, 2017 |

Whatever what one thinks of boycotts as a strategy for opposing Israeli policy, there’s no possible defense for this legislation:

But now, a group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.


The bill’s co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate’s more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing Senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

There’s no excuse for any of these Democratic senators to co-sponsor this bill, and this is a major test for Gillibrand if she’s running for president — she needs to pull her support from this bill, and soon. This punishing people for constitutionally protected views and actions.

The ACLU’s letter is here.

The Coming War on the CBO

[ 53 ] July 19, 2017 |

One of the most important reasons the effort to repeal the ACA appears to have failed is that the Congressional Budget Office — despite being supervised by a Republican — provided accurate information about the effects of AHCA and BCRA. And this in turn compelled the media to do what it do disastrously failed to do during the campaign — provide accurate policy coverage of Republican health care proposals. The media will take claims made by Democratic politicians about the effects of Republican policy — even if unassailably true — as “views differ,” but the CBO carries real authority, and this matters.

The Republican response will be predictable:

The Trump administration is not fond of the Congressional Budget Office.

The independent, highly respected agency that analyzes the impact of legislative proposals has said the numbers in President Trump’s budget don’t add up and that Republican health care proposals would cause huge insurance coverage losses. And it will hold immense sway over the fate of Republicans’ next legislative priority: tax reform.

The White House has embarked on a rhetorical war against the agency without precedent. The White House’s official Twitter account sent out a “fact-check” video trying to debunk the CBO’s findings that Republican health bills would reduce health coverage by more than 20 million people. (At one point, the video misspells the word “inaccurate.”)

In an interview in May, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney attacked the group, saying, “At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself, has the day of the CBO come and gone?”

It’s normal for politicians to be frustrated with the CBO. It’s a highly respected nonpartisan research group whose estimates of budgetary cost and other effects of legislation are treated as very credible in Washington. That can cause problems for members of Congress and the administration when the numbers don’t come out how they like, and has earned the CBO criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike in the past, some deserved and some not deserved.

What’s not normal is trying to erase the CBO’s formal role in policymaking. The agency normally gets to decide which bills reduce the deficit, meaning they can pass the Senate with a bare majority and avoid a filibuster. That could change this year or next. Senate Republicans got a competing analysis of their health care bill from the Department of Health and Human Services. They’ve also suggested they might do the same with tax reform.

If that happens, the CBO will be weakened like never before, and face a fight for its own relevance and survival.

A  political party committed in any way to the public interest would look at the massively unpopular policy it just put forward and look into reorienting its priorities and objectives. A party that isn’t will prefer to shoot the messengers.

The “Of Course We Colluded, So What?” Stage

[ 398 ] July 18, 2017 |

It’s becoming pretty hard to assert that Trump is being subject to a witch hunt when he openly admits his campaign was doing what’s it’s accused of doing. The transition to “what’s the big deal about colluding with Russian ratfuckers anyway?” has been seamless:

There’s a transition point that comes in many scandals when the facts make it impossible to sustain the argument the administration’s allies had been using. Specifically, it requires them to go from saying, “These accusations are false; it never happened” to saying, “Sure, it happened, but there’s nothing wrong with it.”

That is where Republicans now find themselves, and there’s a deep irony at work. Donald Trump rode into office on the widespread belief that politics is corrupt and only an outsider like him could clean it up. Now, it looks like his all-purpose excuse for his own misdeeds and those of his family and advisers will be, “Hey, don’t blame me — we all know politics is corrupt!”


As numerous politicians and political professionals from both parties have attested since the story of the meeting between Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a group of Russians who were explicitly presented to them as acting on behalf of the Kremlin, that’s not just untrue but absurd. When a hostile foreign government offers you help in your campaign, what you do is call the FBI.

I can say without hyperbole that accusing the Trump campaign of doing what it admits to having done is worse than McCarthyism and birtherism put together, although needless to say I support a full investigation. And I certainly hope we don’t lose focus on the most critical question going forward, that someone who will never be the Democratic nominee for president again sucks.



Are There Any Bullets Left In McConnell’s Gun?

[ 157 ] July 18, 2017 |

McConnell makes it official that, at least for now, he’s giving up on BCRA:

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, conceded Monday night that “the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.” He outlined plans to vote now on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with it taking effect later. That has almost no chance to pass, however, since it could leave millions without insurance and leave insurance markets in turmoil.

But President Trump was not ready to give up. He immediately took to Twitter to say: “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”

Evidently, this is enormously unlikely to work. It’s worth considering that a repeal bill that could pass under the Byrd Rule (i.e. a repeal of the Medicaid expansion and the tax credits but not the regulations) would be far worse than BCRA:

Its findings aren’t pretty. CBO estimates that, compared to what’s already projected to happen under current law:

  • 18 million more people would become uninsured in the first full year after the bill’s enactment — rising to 32 million more people by 2026;

  • premiums in the individual insurance marketplaces would soar — they’d go up 20 to 25 percent above currently projected increases in the first full year after repeal, and “would about double by 2026”;

  • and access to coverage on the individual markets would plummet — about half of the US population would live in areas “that would have no insurer participating” in the individual market, CBO projects.

If McConnell brings this to a vote it would almost certainly be to call the bluffs of Trump and the recalitrant senators; it’s very hard to see this passing if BCRA couldn’t. The only thing that gives me pause about BCRA is that except for Collins the bullshit-moderate is remaining silent. Until there are at least two nays from Capito/Heller/Portman/Murkowski/Flake, the possibility of an AHCA ressurection (as Erik implies below) is there. Not very strong, but there.

It also should be obvious that the stalling of the BCRA is not part of some masterful 11th-dimensional chess strategy to guarantee the failure of an unpopular bill. If that was the case, they just would have let the AHCA drop after it was pulled the first time — nobody gets primaried based on a vote that doesn’t happen. Republicans wanted to gut the ACA, and McConnell was playing to win all the way. They’re now likely to fail this Congress, but major healthcare policy changes are an extremely hard lift. They came a lot closer than, say, Bush did to gutting Social Security, and they’re not going to give up on the goal. The fight will continue — but an important battle was won tonight, and countless Americans who made their voices heard deserve a lot of credit.


What We Know Now Is a Major Scandal, And the Truth is Probably Much Worse

[ 146 ] July 17, 2017 |

I have a piece at the Week perpetuating the McCarythite Birtherist witch hunt against the Trump campaign, whose serial lying about contacts with Russia surely has an innocent explanation:

The story of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections in favor of Donald Trump and the Republican party continues to become more tragic and more farcical. On Friday, it was revealed that the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and top Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner was also attended by Rinat Akhmetshin, an American citizen and accused spy who is connected to the Kremlin. Then, on Sunday, the Secret Service denied having vetted the meeting, a claim made earlier in the day by President Trump’s legal team.

As more details of the meeting continue emerge, and the lies by Trump Jr. and the Trump team keep piling up, it’s looking more and more likely that there was significant collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian state, and it is now beyond dispute that the Trump campaign wanted to collude with the Russians. This alone is already a huge political scandal, and things are likely to keep looking worse for Trump than better.

One thing that’s remarkable about this is that the focus on “collusion” is in large measure the result of goalpost-moving by the Trump administration and its apologists. It was never necessary for collusion to be proven for this to be a major scandal. There is overwhelming evidence that Russia used illegal, privacy-invading hacks to help skew the election in the favor of Trump and congressional Republicans — which, particularly in a presidential election decided by fewer than 100,000 votes in three states, is a huge deal. And we also know that Trump and other campaign associates openly invited and cheered the hacks and their release by WikiLeaks, and we also know that Trump isn’t interested in punishing the Russians for their interference in the election. All of this is really bad. Talking about collusion was a way of changing the subject that was valuable for Trump in part because collusion would apparently be much harder to prove.

The problem is that Trump’s associates are so corrupt and incompetent that the tactic has backfired. Earlier this year, Trump Jr. denied that the meeting Akhmetshin attended even took place. This week, his lies kept unravelling as he admitted to what had been proven, while making further claims which would immediately be disproven. In short order, Trump Jr. admitted that the meeting with a Russian official took place but said it was about adoptions, and then admitted that actually, the Trump campaign was seeking dirt on Clinton from the Russians, but only after leaked emails gave him no choice. Revealing that Akhmetshin was at the meeting constitutes a lie by omission at best.

Still, I support a full investigation!

“Neoliberalism” and the Democratic Party

[ 260 ] July 17, 2017 |

President Clinton prepares to sign legislation in the Rose Garden of the White House Thursday, Aug. 22, 1996, overhauling America’s welfare system. Visible, from left, are former welfare recipients Lillie Harden, of Little Rock, Ark., and Janet Ferrel, of West Virginia, Vice President Gore, West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton, Sen. John Breaux, D-La., and former welfare recipient Penelope Howard, of Delaware. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I found more to agree with in Chait’s big “neoliberalism” essay than Erik apparently did, but I agree that it has some major flaws that undermine its central point. I don’t mean to preempt Erik’s analysis, but since I’ll mostly be on the road tomorrow I thought I’d briefly pinpoint what I agreed with and didn’t. (I’m guessing Erik and I won’t be that far off, but obviously I’ll let him speak for himself. And, hey, at least I don’t study military history!)

Where I agree with Chait:

  • Left critics of the Democratic Party have a bizarre tendency to romanticize the New Deal/Great Society Democratic Party. Even during their brief peaks of progressive legislation, these coalitions were heavily compromised by the fact that the liberal faction of the party needed the support of Southern segregationists and marginal Republicans, respectively. And FDR’s first term and LBJ before the 1966 midterms were anomalous — during most of the period associated with the New Deal Congress was controlled de facto by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats. (The whole Taft-Hartley passing with veto-proof majorities conveniently vanishes from these accounts, although this statute had far more to do with Trump winning than Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics.)
  • “Neoliberalism” has increasingly become little more than an attempt to win an argument through the use of a pejorative term.
  • Worse than that, the “neoliberal” label is too often used to minimize the massive and growing gulf between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Where I disagree:

  • The term “neoliberal” is at least potentially valuable, describing a fetish for market-based solutions irrespective of the merit. One problem with indiscriminate usage of the “neoliberal” term is that it equates, say, the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of public insurance and much more stringent industry regulations with, say, Rahm Emmanuel’s regime passimOne reason not to conflate “liberalism” with “neoliberalism” is that the latter describes a real thing.
  • Chait is wrong to handwave away the obvious right turn in the Democratic Party in the 80s and 90s. I agree that the party has shifted left in the last decade, and Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievements — the ACA, ARRA, Dodd-Frank — are well within the New Deal/Great Society tradition in terms of both their achievements and compromises. But the four years of unified Democratic control under Carter were bereft of similar achievements, and the Democrats under Clinton failed on the one hand to pass comprehensive healthcare reform on the one hand while Clinton signed multiple conservative bills, including a welfare “reform” bill that if BCRA fails will be the worst welfare-state retrenchment in American history.

TL;DR: the tendency to conflate “liberalism” and “neoliberalism” is bad and irritating, but it’s bad in part because neoliberalism used carefully is a useful description.

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