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“No, Toby. And no more questions about whether this is a joke.”

[ 27 ] May 28, 2015 |


In fairness, Pataki was able to get elected governor and didn’t nearly destroy a prominent corporation, so I guess as long as Fiornia remains in the race he can’t actually be the biggest joke in the clown car. Indeed, that would be more a distinctive status than he merits.

They Still Criticize What They Can’t Understand

[ 99 ] May 28, 2015 |


Megan McArdle knows she wants the Supreme Court to gut the ACA. But like many ACA troofers she is not entirely sure which particular version she wants to go with. At a minimum, though, she remains committed to the idea that it’s entirely plausible that the Moops invaded Spain:

These articles, however, often don’t provide important counterarguments. For example: Congress indisputably chose exactly that crazy, insane, totally inconceivable structure for the Medicaid expansion passed in the same law. In fact, it was considerably more coercive: if you didn’t expand, you lost all your Medicaid funding, not just the new stuff. Why would Congress choose a structure that might result in a net loss of insurance coverage? We can sit around and speculate, but ultimately the correct answer is “Who cares? They did.”

No matter how much you flog this cardboard horse, it’s never going to become ambulatory. There remain two obvious problems with this analogy, both fatal. First of all, unlike with the Medicaid expansion, there was no threat, which is a rather obvious problem with the assertion that Congress was trying to coerce the states. In this respect, citing the Medicaid expansion is an own goal. And in addition, the Medicaid program had no federal backstop. For the analogy to hold, the ACA would have had to make no provision should states fail to establish insurance exchanges; if this was the case McArdle’s reading of the statute would be plausible. But the idea that Congress went to the trouble of establishing a federal backstop but then designed it to fail is simply absurd. The federal backstop to the exchanges is nothing like the Medicaid expansion; McArdle is conflating two different types of cooperative federalism that are very different.

So how does McArdle deal with the latest story showing that nobody who drafted or voted for the statute shares her obvious misreading? Why, Gruber, Gruber, and more Gruber, plus some additional bullshit:

Actually, this is not crazy, but very wise. Memory is incredibly fallible, especially about stuff you’re highly motivated to believe.

We now have two cases of wonks who were closely connected to the drafting process, who said at one point that the King interpretation of the statute is insane to anyone who followed the construction of the law … and can be found on tape at an earlier point (in one case, during the legislative process) advancing exactly the theory that they subsequently declared completely and obviously insane. Do I think that their later argument was a strategic lie? No, despite conservative shouts that I am being naive. Scout’s honor, cross my heart and hope to die, I think that they simply forgot what they’d earlier believed.

Memory is so very terrible, and this law is so very complex.

First of all, these two wonks did not say what McArdle says they said. Senate Majority Leader, Speaker of the House, President, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and newly elected NDP premier of Alberta Jonathan Gruber didn’t say that tax credits wouldn’t be available on federal established exchanges; he said that the federal government might be too slow in setting up federal exchanges, a very different argument. I assume the second unnamed “wonk” she’s referring to is Jonathan Cohn, who prefaced comments that weren’t about the final statute with “[t]his is not something I’ve looked into that closely.” Even if Gruber and Cohn did definitively state at the time that tax credits would not be available on federally established exchanges, this would be not very meaningful cherry-picking (especially since neither person drafted or voted on the relevant provisions. One thing that McArdle conveniently ignores from the latest Pear story is that the father, architect, and midwife of the ACA Jonathan Gruber does not actually appear in the account of the drafting process.) But she doesn’t even have the cherries.

The obvious other problem with the “memory is fallible so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” argument is that it’s not just ex post facto accounts of the statute but the contemporaneous process that shows no evidence that anyone ever thought that tax credits would not be available on federally established exchanges. Why did the CBO never consider the possibility that the federally established exchanges wouldn’t provide tax subsidies if the statute unambiguously established this? Why did not state officials even consider this possibility? Why was there no controversy about what would have been a highly unusual and highly consequential policy choice? Why do many other parts of the statute assume that the tax credits would be universally available? Memory is fallible, but this case the memories gain additional by being consistent with all of the relevant available evidence. McArdle’s magic realist version of the law, conversely, is both nonsensical on its face and is supported by no evidence involving anyone involved with the legislative process whatsoever.

But why should we focus on what divides us? Let’s reach across those party lines and find a point of consensus:

That doesn’t mean I know how the court will rule next month; cases rarely end up at the highest court of the land unless there are at least two plausible readings of the words.

Indeed — the I.R.S. reading is, at an absolute minimum, plausible. So the government wins! I’m glad McArdle was able to stumble, however inadvertently, into the correct conclusion.

The Death of the Cool

[ 91 ] May 28, 2015 |


Scott Walker has something cool for the ladies: mandatory sexual assault for those seeking abortions!

During the interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch, Walker defended a bill he’d signed in 2013 that required women get the ultrasounds.

“The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons who are 19 and 20, and we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”

I suppose demonstrating that he doesn’t understand the concept of consent shows that Walker is really serious about winning the nomination — surely it’s a litmus test.

Against Consensus Decision Rules

[ 38 ] May 28, 2015 |

This has been a longstanding hobbyhorse for Loomis, too, but L.A. Kauffman is very much making sense here:

If the forty-year persistence of consensus has been a matter of faith, surely the time has now come for apostasy. Piety and habit are bad reasons to keep using a process whose benefits are more notional than real. Outside of small-group settings, consensus process is unwieldy, off-putting, tiresome, and ineffective. Many inclusive, accountable alternative methods are available for making decisions democratically. If we want to change the world, let’s pick ones that work.

Refusing to Tinker With the Machinery of Death

[ 9 ] May 28, 2015 |

Good for the Cornhusker State:

Nebraska became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday when lawmakers boldly voted 30-19 to override the governor’s veto.

There are 10 inmates on Nebraska’s death row — the 11th died this week — but the state has not executed anyone since 1997 and only recently ordered the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection. It’s the 19th state to abolish capital punishment.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum came together to pass a repeal bill three times. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a first-term Republican, then vetoed the legislation on Tuesday. Thirty senators were needed to override him.

One one level, the impact on this is relatively small, since the death penalty is rarely used in the state. But it still matters, particularly since the legislature had to override a veto. It’s good that legislators were willing to do it in a Republican state, and hopefully the trend will continue.

“But there is one thing in this story that checks out. There does appear to be a University of California Los Angeles.”

[ 65 ] May 27, 2015 |

Shattered Glass

Oh my:

In that section, he lists as one of his awards: “Emerging Instructor Award, UCLA Office of Instructional Development, 2013-2014. One of three UCLA graduate student instructors selected for excellence in their first year of teaching” (formatting his). But a staffer in the office of instructional development told Science of Us that it does not give out an award of that name. “I don’t know if he either misnamed our department or if it’s from another department,” said the staffer, who only agreed to be quoted if I didn’t use her name. “I’m not clear on what happened.”


I emailed LaCour for comment, and he asked if I’d hold off on publishing this until he released a planned statement about the whole affair. I told him I couldn’t unless the statement contained information pertinent to the nonexistent teaching award. Shortly thereafter, a browser extension I installed to notify me when his website changed pinged me. His website’s link to his CV, which he’d taken down from his site recently, is now back up. This version no longer lists the Emerging Instructor Award, and the entire “Original Grants & Data” section has been cut.

Somehow, I don’t think his allegedly forthcoming explanation is going to be convincing. (See also this.) You almost have to feel bad for the guy at this point.

Further thoughts on the larger issue from Azari and Drezner.

Exculpating the Republican Party, 1960s Edition

[ 42 ] May 27, 2015 |


One thing that many people “know” about the 1964 Republican presidential nomination is that Nelson Rockefeller lost, despite being a frontrunner, because of his marriage to the late Happy Murphy. One obvious problem with the narrative is that if the rejection of Rockefeller was based on “character” reasons, the support should logically have gone to ideologically similar candidates like Romney or Hatfield. Instead, it went to Goldwater. This is because more important than his affair and marriage was that he was a liberal on civil rights:

The day before the Rockefeller wedding, and the day after Birmingham exploded, Joseph Alsop of the Washington Post, one of the era’s leading pundits, concluded that “Rockefeller’s heaviest single handicap” was his aggressive and consistent liberal record on race. This was especially true after Birmingham, which shocked the nation and convinced many in the Republican Party that they needed to stay far away from the controversial issue of civil rights. Alsop noted that Rockefeller’s strength as a candidate was a concern among party professionals, who believed his nomination would forfeit all support from southern states—and a fair amount of support in other regions, too, for that matter—in the general election. A remarriage, in Alsop’s opinion, would give some Republicans cause to rethink Rockefeller’s nomination and to reconsider Goldwater, who, they believed, could successfully carry every southern and border state. While nominating Goldwater would most likely mean losing the urban North, some Republicans preferred to take that chance.

If we’re going to pretend that Rockefeller getting steamrolled by Goldwater was about something other than his ideology being too liberal for Republicans in 1964, I’d prefer that we cite his fascist architectural tastes and leave poor Happy alone…

The Aftermath of a Moops Invasion

[ 92 ] May 27, 2015 |


Should the Supreme Court declare that the card says “Moops!”, I’m inclined to paint the resulting scenario black. Certainly, most people in red states will have to take Flight 505 to another state if they want to be able to purchase health insurance on a functional exchange. I am waiting for the media to accurately report that this would be a crisis created by a highly partisan Republican Supreme Court and the failure of Republican legislators to act, but they remain under the thumb of “Both Sides Do It” narratives. There may be some rays of optimism — doncha even bother congressional Republicans with acting to put more pressure on Obama, and it’s not always going to be easy for one of the two frontrunners for the Republican nomination when he’s goin’ home to chaos. But the servant of the Koch Brothers he (and the rest of the Republican leadership) is and will humbly remain, and despite the disastrous consequences I think we’d probably be left high and dry.

“First you didn’t want me to get the pony. Now you want me to take it back. Make up your mind!”

[ 61 ] May 27, 2015 |

This attempted Politico hit job on Elizabeth Warren really is something. It would be dumb to attack Warren for participating in a NAFTA tribunal in general; you can be a critic of a system while still participating in it while it exists. (You may some recognize this silly “hypocrisy” charge from such classics as “how can you criticize Citizens United while still trying to raise money?”) But to suggest there’s some kind of hypocrisy for Warren participating in a NAFTA tribunal in order to advance her substantive position that these arbitrators should have less power? Please.

At Least He’s Well-Positioned to Get a Job at Jukt Micronics

[ 66 ] May 26, 2015 |


More than one person in the academic world told me that the “Original Data & Grants” section of LaCour’s curriculum vitae — basically just a longer, academic version of a résumé — is wildly unrealistic. For various institutional reasons, it’s simply difficult for graduate students in political science to rack up all that much grant funding. And yet LaCour lists $793,000 worth of grants received from various foundations, including the Haas and Ford foundations, on the strength of his persuasion research. (LaCour appears to have pulled the CV down from his website sometime over the last few days, but I downloaded a copy before he did.)


The largest of these is a $160,000 grant in 2014 from the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. But Patrick J. Troska, executive director of the foundation, which is focused on projects that combat discrimination, wrote in an email to Science of Us, “The Foundation did not provide a grant of any size to Mr. LaCour for this research. We did not make a grant of $160,000 to him.”

A political science professor at a large research university told me that the numbers on the CV should have stood out to the many older, more experienced researchers LaCour interacted and worked with during his time as a Ph.D. student.

It does seem odd, in particular, that nobody at UCLA noticed that $800K in grants was resulting in little or no money being spent.

An (Almost) Accurate History of the ACA

[ 54 ] May 26, 2015 |

Jonathan_Gruber_at_US_House_Oversight_Cmte_in_2014Above: Father, Architect, and Sole Creator of the ACA


A very useful account of the statutory language that launched the lawsuit that is as dangerous as it is silly:

“I don’t ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies,” said Olympia J. Snowe, a former Republican senator from Maine who helped write the Finance Committee version of the bill.


The words were written by professional drafters — skilled nonpartisan lawyers — from the office of the Senate legislative counsel, then James W. Fransen. It appears that the four words now being challenged were based on the initial premise and were carelessly left in place as the legislation evolved.

The language of the Finance Committee bill was written largely by Mr. Fransen and a tax expert, Mark J. Mathiesen, while much of the health committee version was written by William R. Baird, a public health expert. The two committees worked on separate tracks.

This is mostly accurate.  However, let me re-write that to clear up some minor errors:

“I don’t ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies,” said Jonathan H. Gruber, a former Republican senator from Maine, Senate Majority Leader, Speaker of the House, President, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and 211-game winner who helped write the Finance Committee version of the bill.


The words were written by professional drafters — skilled nonpartisan lawyers — from the office of the Senate legislative counsel, then Jonathan Gruber. It appears that the four words now being challenged were based on the initial premise and were carelessly left in place as the legislation evolved.

The language of the Finance Committee bill was written largely by Mr. Gruber and a tax expert, Jonathan H. Gruber, while much of the health committee version was written by Jonathan H. Gruber, a public health expert. The two committees worked on separate tracks.

These minor corrections aside, I think you can see what the report is driving at.

Oh, and what about the assertion that nobody ever considered the possibility that a state would not set up a health iusurance exchange? Well, funny thing:

But senators and staff lawyers came to believe that some states — “five or 10 at the most” — would choose not to set up exchanges, said Christopher E. Condeluci, who was a staff lawyer for Republicans on the Finance Committee.

Did many members of Congress underestimate the number of states that would establish exchanges? Absolutely! Did they assume that every state would do so? Of course not! It’s unfortunate that Pear once assumed that, but I’m glad that he’s cleared this up. And to state the obvious, Congress did not set up a federal backstop that was designed to fail.


And so we are left with a lawsuit that is likely to gain at least three, and possibly as many as five, votes on the Supreme Court despite the fact that it rests on a history that is almost literally insane. Even those of us who have a low estimation of the intellectual standards of the conservative movement have been astounded by its ability to persuade itself of a historical theory so clearly at odds with reality.

Memorial Day Links

[ 137 ] May 25, 2015 |
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