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“The poor, the disabled, women, children, the elderly — these are the demons you must slay to be a Republican senator.”

[ 35 ] June 22, 2017 |

Dylan Matthews has an excellent rundown of the major victims of TrumpCare. So many lucky duckies! In fairness, the suffering of the richest households suffering under the yoke of a 3% tax on their investment income will be alleviated.

This is also a crucial point:

It’s not as if Republicans convinced the public that this shit-and-Drano sandwich is a good law. They got into a position to pass it by relentlessly, shamelessly lying about what they wanted to do, while the media was wanking on about email server management.


Mitch McConnell is a Repulsive Piece of Shit

[ 116 ] June 22, 2017 |

As we have discussed, the Senate version of the Republican plan to strip health insurance from tens of millions of people to pay for an upper-class tax cut somehow manages to be even more disgusting than the House version:

The core of the Senate bill, like the House version, is a massive cut to Medicaid, which millions of low income Americans rely on for health care coverage. The Senate bill will reportedly phase out the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, although the process won’t start until 2021. In the end, the impact is the same. The Congressional Budget Office found that rolling back Medicaid expansion would cost 14 million people their health insurance.

But the Senate bill makes even deeper, more dramatic cuts to Medicaid that, over time, would leave more low income Americans without health coverage. Instead of a program that pays for health coverage for people who need it, the House and Senate versions of the Republican health care bill place per capita caps on the program. In other words, the federal government will only send states, who administer the program, a certain amount of money no matter what the actual cost of care may be.

The Senate version, according to a report in Bloomberg, makes even deeper cuts than the House.

The poor and the disabled, for some reason, aren’t thrilled about this. McConnell’s response is very fitting:

Chaos erupted outside the office of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Thursday, shortly after Republican leaders unveiled their closely guarded plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Capitol police were seen physically removing demonstrators, many of whom were in wheelchairs and holding medical equipment, as they chanted their disapproval of the draft legislation.

“No cuts to Medicaid,” they said, while blocking hallway access from McConnell’s office.

The Republican Party in 2017: “please let us sign your death warrant in peace.”

…more here.

TrumpCare is a Human Rights Catastrophe Being Advanced Through an Undemocratic Process

[ 77 ] June 22, 2017 |

The Senate version of the AHCA is here, and it’s morally repugnant.

It will probably pass although it has virtually no public constituency, and as Beutler says this will happen in part because the undemocratic process McConnell used played the media like a fiddle:

For the reasons spelled out above, I think this misdiagnoses the source of the challenge and the solution to it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t lock down the bill-writing process in order to block liberals from going over the bill with a fine-tooth comb. His chief insight was in recognizing a bias—not among liberals, but within the news industry—toward what you might call “new news.” Things we didn’t know before, but do know now. It is that bias, more than anything else, that has brought us to the brink of living under a law that almost nobody on the planet has seen but that will uninsure millions to pay for millionaire tax cuts.

And it’s not just the quantity of coverage, either. The Times did run an A1 story on the AHCA, and the results were surely pleasing to the people looking to take insurance away from 23 million people to pay for an upper-class tax cut:

President Trump had urged Republican senators to write a more generous bill than a House version that he first heralded and then called “mean,” but Republican leaders on Tuesday appeared to be drafting legislation that would do even more to slow the growth of Medicaid toward the end of the coming decade.

This is not a neutral way of describing upwards of a trillion dollars and Medicaid cuts. This is just pure, undiluted Republican spin. Holding a vote two days after the release of the CBO score will help obscure the truth, but the media shouldn’t need a new score to tell the public the truth.

I have to say, it sure is weird how much federal spending for the poor and federal consumer regulation you eliminate when you repeal a neoliberal bailout of the health insurance industry.


[ 110 ] June 22, 2017 |

Jarrod Dyson bunted for a base hit in the bottom of the 6th inning in last night’s game, igniting a 3-run rally and ultimately a come-from-behind Mariner victory. This is a good thing! Since Justin Verlander had not allowed a baserunner before Dyson’s single, however, we will inevitably get the hawt takes:

Emma Baccellieri’s response is perfect:

Seattle wins, 7-5. Blessed be those who laugh in the face of silly rules in order to do their jobs; cursed be the Detroit bullpen.

As is that of the Mariners’ Twitter feed:

Most of these “unwritten rules” it’s allegedly “bush league” not to observe are bullshit. But the “don’t bunt to break up a perfect game” rule is beyond stupid. Dyson’s job is to compete and help his team win the game, not to preserve the opposition’s arbitrary statistical accomplishments. The end.

Trump Going to War Against American Labor

[ 46 ] June 21, 2017 |

I assume that “Trump/Ryan/McConnell aren’t going to do too much damage except the courts” takes are going to be thin on the ground (although they do exist, even with what would be the worst domestic legislation passed by Congress since at least Taft-Hartley barrelling towards passage.) But in case you were wondering, Trump will reshape the NLRB and the results will be very bad:

The moves arrive after Mr. Trump’s proposed deep cuts to the Labor Department and job-training programs across the federal government. And just last week, the administration disclosed that it opposes the labor relation board’s position that employers cannot require employees to waive their rights to bring class-action cases — an issue the Supreme Court will hear arguments about this year.

Now, by filling two vacant seats and swinging the board from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority, Mr. Trump could reverse the following actions:

A ruling that increased the likelihood that companies could be held responsible for labor violations committed by contractors and franchisees.

A ruling that made it easier for relatively small groups of workers within a company to form a union.

A ruling that granted graduate students at private universities a federally protected right to unionize.

Rules allowing union elections to proceed on a faster timetable. Many business groups refer to the current regulations as “ambush” rules, complaining that employers no longer have sufficient time to make the case to workers against unionizing.

On Monday, the White House announced the nomination of Marvin Kaplan, a lawyer serving on a federal health and safety commission, to one of two vacant seats on the board, which currently has a 2-to-1 Democratic majority. A second nomination is expected shortly.

And, of course, while this is going on the Trumped Supreme Court will be dealing a massive blow to public sector unions.

Erik has been beating this drum forever, of course, but if you’re looking to explain Democratic losses in the rust belt the very successful war on organized labor by state and federal Republicans is more important than Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics by a factor of about six billion.

Democrats Are Not Doomed, But They Face Significant Challenges

[ 160 ] June 21, 2017 |

GA-6 has consistently sent liberals to Congress — what’s wrong with Democrats now?

I have a radical policy of agreeing with pundits when I agree with them and disagreeing with them when I disagree with them. With this Jon Chait post, I can do both! First, where he’s right:

It’s certainly true that Jon Ossoff’s underperformance of the polls (he was nearly tied in the polling average, and is losing by almost 4 points) should incrementally adjust one’s view of the Democrats’ prospects. But the reason the party has lost all four special elections is glaringly simple. It is not some deep and fatal malady afflicting its messaging, platform, consultants, or ad spending allocation methods. Republicans have won the special elections because they’ve all been held in heavily Republican districts.

The special elections exist because Donald Trump appointed Republicans in Congress to his administration, carefully selecting ones whose vacancy would not give Democrats a potential opening. It feels like Democrats somehow can’t win, but that is entirely because every contest has been held on heavily Republican turf.

The overall measure of Democrats’ standing at the moment is not whether they have won, but how they have performed relative to the partisan composition of the districts in which they are running. That gauge remains quite positive. As Dave Wasserman points out, in the four special elections, they have overperformed the partisan baseline in their districts by an average of 8 percentage points…


On the other hand, Trump’s standing could well deteriorate between now and then, given that the only crises he has faced so far are ones he’s created, and his managerial prowess has not exactly inspired confidence. In 2009, Democrats not only won four straight special elections to replace departing House Democrats, they also flipped a House seats from a retiring Republican. Imagine how despondent Democrats would feel if they lost a Democratic seat with Trump in office. At the time, Democrats saw the victory as evidence that they were safe from a midterm wave. “This election represents a double blow for national Republicans and their hopes of translating this summer’s ‘tea party’ energy into victories at the ballot box,” crowed the Democrats’ House campaign chairman. As it turned out, the situation deteriorated pretty badly over the next year.

DEMOCRATS ARE DOOMED takes these special elections are very silly. Republicans won them because they’re districts mostly consisting of conservative white Republicans, which allowed them to overcome the negative headwinds created by Trump. The same headwinds on a national scale would be a serious problem for them in 2018.

On the other hand, this take is not good:

Matthew Ygelsias’s take on Ossoff’s defeat urges Democrats to change course, citing, among other models, “Jeremy Corbyn’s surprisingly strong showing.” Corbyn, of course, lost his race, just as Ossoff did. And Corbyn, unlike Ossoff, ran nationally (rather than in a heavily conservative district) and faced a deeply discredited incumbent. An average Labour nominee not encumbered by Corbyn’s left-wing baggage would probably have won a clear victory. But since Corbyn did lose by less than he had been expected to a few weeks before, momentum transmuted his narrow defeat into a galvanizing victory, just as it transmuted Ossoff’s narrow defeat into a debacle.

As I’ve said before, this counterfactual is inherently useless because 1)the generic alternative Labour candidate doesn’t exist, and 2)we don’t have any idea whether they would have done better. But given that Labour’s comeback accelerated after the release of the manifestos, citing Corbyn’s ideology as a net negative isn’t very persuasive. It’s true that people are conflating structural limitations on the Labour vote with low expectations of Corbyn, but still he exceeded any reasonable ex ante expectation.

I do largely disagree with the underlying Yglesias claim that Corbyn can be repeated in the U.S., but for different reasons. First of all, the national British electorate is rather different than the electorate in suburban Atlanta. And second, and more importantly, I don’t buy at all the idea there’s One Magic Trick that can get the American media to cover policy rather than trivia. The British media was at least as hostile to Corbyn as the American media was to Clinton, but still it covered and discussed the party manifestos rather than writing an endless series of stories about Corbyn’s email management practices in the final weeks of the campaign. Clinton had a coherent, popular agenda she talked about a lot — it didn’t matter. We’re seeing this again under Trump. The media has been pretty hostile to Trump, but it’s focused on Russia, not the AHCA, although Democratic elected officials are talking about the latter plenty.

The Democrats could have favorable enough conditions to win in 2018 anyway. But policy messaging is only going to get you so far with a media that has consistently preferred to discussed personality trivia to discussing policy, and seems convinced its coverage of the 2016 elections was just great. I’m all for working the refs and trying to change things, and clear policy messages can’t hurt, but we also have to deal with the actually existing media environment rather than assuming a better one.

On a Night of Hot Takes, Only One Take Can Be the Hottest

[ 238 ] June 21, 2017 |

Above: Beloved Democratic Politician Offers Closely Reasoned Defense of Fellow Leftist Icon George W. Bush

And here she is:

If Sam Nunn and John Breaux taught us anything, it’s that Dems can win in the South, as long as they offer full socialism. Zell/Webb 2020 — a real left alternative to Hillary Clinton’s tepid centrism! What else are we going to attack Republicans with, spitballs?

GA-6 Open Thread

[ 282 ] June 20, 2017 |

Upshot model is here and 538 liveblogging here.

However this election comes out, it certainly proves that running on a platform identical to my policy views is the best strategy for every race in every jurisdiction.

…looks like two more moral victories, alas.

There Ain’t No Cure For Clinton Derangement Syndrome

[ 52 ] June 20, 2017 |

Shorter BoBo: “I didn’t understand Whitewater at the time, and I still don’t understand it, and two special prosecutors — one of them picked because he was a Republican partisan — concluded that it involved no wrongdoing whatsoever by the Clintons, but I’m still sure it was a real scandal and Trump/Russia isn’t. Now let me shoot this watermelon.”

The Media Is Massively Failing on the AHCA

[ 47 ] June 20, 2017 |

Unlike email server management or people asking for diplomatic passports and being turned down, the media does not see an attempt to strip health care from 23 million people using an opaque process major news. JMM has a good explanation:

We almost certainly know the gist of the impact of this bill, when we figure the political and budgetary parameters Senate Republicans are operating in and the eventual need to pass a bill that emerges from a conference committee through both houses of Congress.

McConnell is taking shrewd advantage of the particular hang-ups and thought processes of most Democrats and many journalists, how they get tangled up in policy literalism and boxed out of being able to speak clearly about the political reality that is coming. To be more specific, even if they don’t quite get that this is happening, many Democrats think that there’s nothing to discuss or attack since we don’t know the fine print of the legislation despite the fact that its broad scope and impact are clear.

To look at this from another perspective, do you think if Democrats were on the verge of passing a bill, the outlines and impact of which were clear, but were keeping the legislative text secret that Republicans would be finding themselves hamstrung about raising a public stink about the bill? Of course not. Indeed, they’d be death paneling it on top of whatever was actually true about the legislation. Caring about policy, caring about the lives of people affected by legislative decision is a good thing – it’s critical to democratic self-government. But it has the byproduct or side-effect of policy literalism which is politically catastrophic. I say ‘politically’ both in the sense of winning political fights but also in the more general sense of allowing political debates in which citizens have concrete factual information upon which to make decisions. The first is only relevant to partisans; the second is highly relevant for journalists too.

Media norms that it’s only news is part of the explanation, but only part of it. If Obama and Reid had tried anything like this it sure as hell would have been major news even if there was no finished text to write about — Fred Hiatt would be calling for Obama’s impeachment daily. As a corollary to Murc’s dictum about how to the media only Democrats have agency, only Democrats are actually expected to adhere to norms.

Whatever the explanation, the media failed massively on health care during the campaign, and it’s failing massively again. Maybe it wouldn’t matter — but as Josh says, it was the wave of negative coverage generated by the CBO score that stopped the first House attempt. And whatever the outcome, this is a hugely important story the public should be informed about.

The Supreme Court and the Partisan Gerrymander

[ 49 ] June 20, 2017 |

I have a piece up at –appropriately enough — Democracy on the big gerrymandering case the Supreme Court agreed to hear next term:

Gill involves a particularly egregious case of gerrymandering. In 2010, a unified Republican government hired consultants to use sophisticated computer software in order to redraw districts in a way that would maximize Republican seats in the legislature, by concentrating likely Democratic votes and carefully diffusing Republican ones. The results were remarkable. In 2008, 29 districts in the state Assembly were within three points of the state’s presidential vote; in 2012, the first election after the gerrymander, there were only seven. And these changes produced the intended skew: Wisconsin Republicans got less than 49 percent of the vote—but won 60 of the seats in the state’s 99-member Assembly. Since then, Republicans have continued to parlay a nearly evenly split electorate into huge legislative majorities.

The potential constitutional issues with partisan gerrymandering should be obvious. An electoral map that awards 60 percent of the seats of a legislature to a party that got less than 50 percent of the vote in a two-party race is at complete odds with the essential holding of the great Warren Court decisions Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims. These decisions held that when states deliberately refused to redraw districts to reflect population shifts, with the inevitable result of effectively disenfranchising urban voters, they violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Reynolds held that in all elections, except those for the United States Senate (which is permanently malapportioned by the Constitution), legislative districts had to be drawn to reflect a “one person, one vote” standard. It is hard to see how districting that intentionally overrepresents one group of voters and underrepresents another can be constitutional under these precedents.

And yet, the Supreme Court has allowed partisan gerrymandering to get worse and worse over the years. In the 2004 case Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Supreme Court declined to rule a partisan gerrymander of the Pennsylvania legislature unconstitutional. Four justices—Antonin Scalia, William Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas, and Sandra Day O’Connor—held that partisan gerrymanders were inherently “non justiciable.” That is, even if partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional, they are inherently a “political question” that cannot be resolved by the courts. According to Scalia’s plurality opinion, the appropriate remedy to a partisan gerrymander is the power given to Congress in Article 1, §4 to alter legislative districts, not judicial review.

But like the pre-Baker argument that all districting claims were nonjusticiable, this argument is transparently specious. For example, Democratic Congresses in the first half of the twentieth century had no incentive to alter malapportioned districts that favored state Democrats (and, therefore, also favored House incumbents because state legislatures draw congressional districts.) Petitioning a Republican Congress and President to remedy constitutional gerrymandering that favors Republicans in 2017 will be equally futile. This is precisely the kind of failure of ordinary democratic processes where judicial review is most defensible.

Despite the fact that Frankfurter’s assertions that the Supreme Court should not enter the POLITICAL THICKET of redistricting are some of the more specious in the history of the United States Reports (“the remedy available to disenfranchised voters is to petition their state representatives!”), they’re becoming Republican conventional wisdom. Indeed, their Evenwel concurrence suggests that Alito and Thomas believe Reynolds v. Sims was wrongly decided, and a Trumped-Up Court could very well severely curtail or outright overrule one-person-one-vote. And if Kennedy votes to uphold gerrymandering as extreme as Wisconsin’s, it will have been overruled de facto in any case.

Some Notes on Ziglar v. Abbasi

[ 27 ] June 20, 2017 |

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that multiple Bush administration could not be sued for constitutional violations committed during the arbitrary, indefinite detentions after 9/11. A few points:

  • The Beltway rule about the Bush administration’s many illegalities remains that nobody can ever be held accountable for anything.
  • It’s worth noting that these immunity rules are purely judge-made. Kennedy, in a familiar argument, couches this judicial policy-making in the language of deference, suggesting that it’s up to Congress to determine whether executive branch officials can be held accountable for legal violations. But this is silly. The presumption should be that they’re liable for legal violations unless Congress says otherwise.
  • This is the latest iteration of a classic conservative bait-and-switch. It’s particularly dark comedy with respect to the Fourth Amendment. On the one hand, the exclusionary rule should be limited or eliminated because WHY SHOULD THE CRIMINAL GO FREE BECAUSE THE CONSTABLE HAS BLUNDERED and civil suits are a better remedy. On the other, conservative judges invent rules that immunize more and state officials from accountability for anything. 
  • Kennedy leans hard on national security justifications. But as Breyer observes, inter arma enim silent legēs has a pretty ugly track record. From the Adams to Wilson to FDR to Bush, national security has provided a pretext to deny rights to political opponents, dissenters, and unpopular racial minorities. The level of judicial deference Kennedy advocates has proven to be inappropriate again and again.


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