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LOL Nothing Matters

[ 192 ] June 23, 2017 |

The AHCA is despised by the public and opposed by most interest groups. Why is there a good chance it will pass the Senate? I think this is exactly right:

Since taking office, his signature values — showmanship, shamelessness, and corruption — have spread like kudzu in official Washington. It’s now a country where Cabinet secretaries go on television to lie and claim that a $600 billion cut to Medicaid won’t cause anyone to lose coverage. It’s a country where the speaker of the House introduces an amendment to erode protections for patients with preexisting conditions and then immediately tweets that it’s just been “VERIFIED” (by whom?) that the opposite is happening. Republican senators who a couple of months ago were criticizing the House bill’s Medicaid cuts as too harsh are now warming up to a Senate bill whose cuts are even harsher.

The watchwords of Trump-era politics are “LOL nothing matters.” If you’re in a jam, you just lie about it. If you’re caught in an embarrassing situation, you create a new provocation and hope that people move on. Everything is founded, most of all, on the assumption that the basic tribal impulses of negative partisanship will keep everyone on their side, while knowing that gerrymandering means Republicans will win every toss-up election. If you happened to believe that Republicans in office would deliver on their health care promises, well, you might be interested in a degree from Trump University.

And, again, the structural advantages Republican have are a huge part of the story. It’s not that public opinion won’t affect voting behavior at all. It’s just Republicans can afford to be more unpopular because of how severely instutitions are tilted in their favor.

Another point worth making is that while Trump is the vulgar, transparent face of dishonesty and norm destruction, McConnell is the more crucial evil genius. His crucial insight is that you can systematically violate norms without paying much or any electoral price. This should probably be a separate follow-up to Dan’s excellent post below, but McConnell putting party above country when shown clear evidence of Russian election subversion is the ultimate example. Trump is more a logical culmination of McConnell’s Republican Party than an accident. And this is part of the reason why the idea that Trump would be the Republican Carter — the end of a political coalition — is so deeply misguided.


The United States, Russia, and the 2016 Election

[ 289 ] June 23, 2017 |

The Washington Post has a comprehensive report on Russian electoral interference and the Obama Administration’s attempt to handle it without unduly interfering with the US election.

In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy. It was a case that took almost no time to solve, traced to the Kremlin through cyber-forensics and intelligence on Putin’s involvement. And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences.

Those closest to Obama defend the administration’s response to Russia’s meddling. They note that by August it was too late to prevent the transfer to WikiLeaks and other groups of the troves of emails that would spill out in the ensuing months. They believe that a series of warnings — including one that Obama delivered to Putin in September — prompted Moscow to abandon any plans of further aggression, such as sabotage of U.S. voting systems.

Denis McDonough, who served as Obama’s chief of staff, said that the administration regarded Russia’s interference as an attack on the “heart of our system.”

“We set out from a first-order principle that required us to defend the integrity of the vote,” McDonough said in an interview. “Importantly, we did that. It’s also important to establish what happened and what they attempted to do so as to ensure that we take the steps necessary to stop it from happening again.”

But other administration officials look back on the Russia period with remorse.

“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. “I feel like we sort of choked.”

You need to read the report now. And then take a look at Thomas Rid’s series of Tweets on the cyber side of the equation.

To the extent that the report is accurate, it reinforces a number of important domestic and international political themes.

First, Moscow clearly believed that electing Trump, or at least weakening Clinton and faith in the US electoral system, served Russian interests. Of course, we already know this. But the length’s that Moscow was willing to, including tampering with the mechanics of the election process, should remove any doubts about the seriousness of the situation. For scholars and analysts, this means waking up to the degree that power politics are about far more than military and economic interests. But in terms of immediate US national interests, it highlights just how damaging Trump’s dispositions are to American security.

The reasons why Moscow preferred Trump over Clinton, and saw even a continuation of Obama foreign policy as a threat, are rooted in a desire to destabilize institutions and arrangements that have overall served the United States, and its allies, very well. It’s easy to dismiss the #neverTrump wing of the Republican foreign-policy establishment as neoconservatives overly prone to military adventures—because it’s generally true. But where neoconservatives, liberal hawks, and progressives should agree is in the desirability of the basic infrastructure—however in need of reform—of the liberal order.

Second, it should not require much elaboration to note the insanity of far-right fantasies concerning the Obama administration’s willingness to manipulate the political process in ways that undermine democracy. Ample evidence, even before the details of this story (again, if true), suggests that Obama and his advisors were far too cautious—and too concerned wth not putting their thumbs on the scale.

Third, we are facing a national emergency when it comes to the electoral process. The Obama Administration believes that it deterred much worse than classic information warfare. What will a Trump administration do? So far, they are attempting to weaken the sanctions voted on by the Senate. This should not bring comfort.

This goes far beyond coercive diplomacy. We can’t ‘slow walk’ the investigation into electoral meddling, and we need to throw serious resources behind electoral integrity measures designed, first and foremost, to secure the voting system. My gut instinct: this requires moving to paper ballots and rethinking how we secure voter rolls.

The second concern is how to cope with Russian information warfare. Here, the GOP is stuck in a political, but not a moral, vise. The marriage between right-wing media and foreign information warfare—both in form and content—serves Republican interests. It helped, at least at the margins, elect Donald Trump. But don’t think that the left doesn’t—or won’t—face a similar problem. We already saw this surrounding the Clinton-Sanders primary battle. In an era of intense political polarization, it’s going to be very hard to push back against disinformation that proves electorally useful. Over twenty years of embracing domestic disinformation laid the groundwork for extreme vulnerability.

Fourth, what does this mean for progressive policy toward Russia? I’ve spent many years trying to navigate between, on the one hand, a clear-eyed assessment of the clash between American and Russian interests and, on the other hand, a strong desire to avoid a new “Cold War.” When I volunteered as part of the unofficial Sanders foreign-policy cell, the course seemed clear: our bright line should be NATO allies. Regardless of whether NATO expansion was a good idea, the United States has an overriding interest in the security of our NATO partners. Ukraine, for its part, required a balancing act. Again, regardless of American mistakes, we needed a calibrated approach that did not recognize the legitimacy of, or facilitate, Russian efforts in Ukraine while also keeping in mind that Ukraine is not worth war with Russia. So, when it looked like Clinton would win the election, this meant progressives needed to prepare themselves for criticizing overly aggressive moves by a future Clinton administration.

Now, I just don’t know. I still worry about the risks of pushing the geostrategic relationship in overly confrontational ways. Indeed, the Trump administration seems to be sleepwalking into very dangerous territory in Syria, behaving schizophrenically toward NATO, and sending rather mixed signals about the overall relationship, This lack of obvious policy coordination at work here—and overall ambiguity it creates in the relationship—might prove the most dangerous of the possible approaches. It creates very significant risks of miscalculation. But it’s clear that the default position among too many progressives—of dismissing attention to Russia’s role in 2016 as ‘McCarthyism’, or seeing it purely through the lens of left-liberal policy fights—is hopelessly naïve.

I hate to be that person, but this is my bottom line: it’s all bad.

The Theory That Democrats are the Only Actors in American Politics

[ 160 ] June 23, 2017 |

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 01: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., arrive for a news conference in the Capitol’s Senate studio on budget negotiations, October 1, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

I’m not sure if we will ever reach peak Stoller, but this is amazing:

Even for useless “messaging” speculation, this is incredibly dumb. To state the obvious, if Pelosi’s attack on TrumpCare focused on red tape rather than death and suffering, Stoller would be attacking her for that — and this would be considerably more plausible. And there’s an even bigger problem here: TrumpCare is massively unpopular. In a polarized country, it’s almost impossible for any policy to be this unpopular. If it passes, it won’t be because Democratic messaging isn’t good enough. It will be because a variety of antidemocratic elements — some baked into the constitutional cake, some Republican-created — give Republicans a huge electoral advantage that insulates most Republican legislators from backlash. But, for whatever reason, a lot of online “leftists” are as allergic to structural analysis as Mark Halperin himself.

As one commenter observed, one reason Stoller is making such a transparently silly argument is that the real point is “Nancy Pelosi sucks.” But I think it goes further than that. Another thing that mainstream journos and people who play tough-minded leftists online have in common is a belief that Democrats are the only relevant actors in American politics. The beauty about “messaging” arguments is that precisely because they’re unfalsifiable you can always tell a story about how the Democrats could have won. If a Republican Congress won’t pass Obama’s legislative agenda, it’s Obama’s fault. If a Republican Congress passes terrible legislation with zero Democratic votes, it’s the Democrats’ fault. If you lose your car keys, it’s because of bad Democratic messaging. Republicans don’t really have any agency or effect on American politics; every political outcome is controlled by the Democratic Party regardless of who controls the levers of power.

Evidently, your felt need to advance this asinine line of reasoning will be much greater if your brand is assertions that the party of Medicaid expansion and Sonia Sotomayor is the same, or perhaps even worse, than the party of destroying Medicaid to pay for an upper-class tax cut and Sam Alito. What else are you going to do, admit you have no idea what you’re talking about and find someting else to do for a living?

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 93

[ 100 ] June 23, 2017 |

This is the grave of Gerald and Betty Ford.

Gerald Ford was a conservative Midwestern Christian. This defined him and it defined his politics. We don’t really remember Ford as a strong conservative these days. That’s for a few reasons–Reagan ran to his right in 1980, he was a pretty genial guy, and Chevy Chase’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live. But make no mistake, Ford is a critical figure in the national shift to the right.

He was first elected to Congress in 1948. He served there until 1973. He basically did nothing of note in terms of policy. He never wrote a major piece of legislation. But he was good at the internal politics of the Republican Party. No one really disliked him. He was honest. Because of these personal qualities, he was named to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After the landslide election of 1964, which left Republicans trailing Democrats 295-140 in the House, the increasingly small group of House Republicans convinced Ford to become Minority Leader. Lyndon Johnson had little respect for him, telling reporters “Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.” But Johnson’s own disastrous policy in Vietnam undermined him and his party and Republicans won the presidency in 1968. Ford became a key player in Congress in promoting Nixon’s agenda. But in the end, his achievement as a long-term Congresscritter was pretty modest.

When Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice-President in 1973, Nixon turned to Congress for help selecting a new VP. Congressional Republicans pushed for Ford very hard. First, he was honest and inoffensive, which Nixon needed. Second, he was at the end of his political career and really wasn’t a threat to anyone’s ambitions. It would be a nice cap to a nice career.

And then Nixon resigned.

Ford became a president at a time when white backlash combined with cynicism toward government due to Vietnam and Watergate to create a climate that was largely favorable to the Republican Party. Sure, Watergate was a huge weight on Republicans during Ford’s years. But Congress was moving to the right. The economics profession had already shifted far to the right, so policy experts were increasingly critical of Keynesian economic programs and they were influencing both Republicans and Democrats. The electorate had turned on 60s liberalism with ferocity and the white South was transitioning quickly to the Republicans. Ford contributed to this. In his heart, Gerald Ford was a small-town Midwestern politician with small-town Midwestern values. He distrusted government, disliked taxes, and while the climate of the times meant that creating a society of inequality and division such as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are presently undertaking did not seem possible, he would use his power to turn the government back to what he thought its proper role.

Basically, Ford vetoed everything he could. In his short tenure, Ford vetoed 66 bills. That’s not much compared to FDR’s 635 vetoes(!!), but he had a very short tenure. It’s also more than the last 4 presidents combined, including the Cheeto we have in the Oval Office now. 11 of those were overridden. Most of these vetoes concerned spending measures and expanding the welfare state. For instance, he vetoed the 1975 amendment to the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Act, which strengthened that law. I guess school lunch was offensive to Ford’s small government ways. That one was overridden. Basically, anything Ford thought would add to the size of government or not combat inflation was tossed. This was an important moment because Nixon, grumbling the whole time, signed these laws. But Ford did not. The rising conservative movement was making its presence felt, with very real national policy implications, as conservatives are currently smashing the poor’s face into the sidewalk with their extremist health bill.

And of course, he was the greatest friend New York City ever had.

On social issues, he was pretty liberal, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and being pro-choice, even though he hedged his bets on abortion while in politics. Betty deserves a lot of credit for this.

On foreign policy, he basically did whatever Kissinger wanted, which of course implicated him in all sorts of horrible actions. The ridiculous response to the Mayaguez Incident of course did not hurt him at all because Americans always like a president who kills some brown people in a nation they know nothing about. Ford’s approval jumped 11 points after this. Ford basically funded Suharto’s genocidal attacks on East Timor, which became a nation during the Ford administration. Probably 90 percent of the weapons the Indonesian military had during this invasion came from the U.S., mostly since Ford took over. Ford and Kissinger personally gave Suharto their blessing for this. I guess the East Timorese were a communist threat or something. But hey, only up to 300,000 people died because of this. Of course, Ford continued the American support of Kissinger’s good buddy Augusto Pinochet, not to mention the other South American dictatorships. He did continue the detente policy with the USSR and China that Nixon began, which was largely positive.

He did do something that would be almost unthinkable today: suspend new arms agreements to Israel because of that nation’s continued intransigence in bargaining with its neighbors. Despite Congressional outrage over this, he held his ground until Yitzhak Rabin signed SINAI II.

Of course what I have not mentioned yet is Ford’s pardon of Nixon. This probably cost him the presidency. It was a fantastically stupid move for anyone harboring political ambitions. Yet it had no long-term implications for the Republican Party. He also won himself in 1976 and then of course Reagan wiped the floor with Carter in 1980. He was under consideration to be Reagan’s VP in 1980 but he demanded unprecedented power that included naming Kissinger Secretary of State. Reagan went with George Bush instead. Ford retired to elder statesman and golf status before dying in 2006.

As for Betty Ford, she had the fate of too many women married to politicians–a husband who was never at home. She always took a back seat to his political career. Even in the Ford Presidential Museum, Betty is portrayed as someone who really suffered because of her husband’s ambitions. She had to raise the four kids basically by herself. This drove her to drinking, for which she became famous when she finally quit and then used her resources to found a center where at least rich people could receive high treatment for addiction. She was also a social liberal and quite outspoken for a First Lady, commenting on many social issues from breast cancer (which she survived) to abortion to gun control. She talked openly about sex with her husband and understood why people smoked marijuana. Conservatives hated her. She died in 2011.

All in all, Ford was a pretty mediocre president, which makes me about 1 million times better than the last two Republicans.

Gerald and Betty Ford are buried at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, you can see two great objects. First, Squeaky Fromme’s gun. Second, the staircase that led from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to the last helicopter leaving. Unfortunately, you can’t climb it.

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

[ 129 ] 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.


[ 108 ] June 22, 2017 |

Moving this comment from Epidemiologist to the top, regarding the arrests of disabled people by the Capitol police:

This is a friendly reminder to share this stuff widely.

Personally my FB is still really mixed and is not blowing up nearly enough about this bill being released and the treatment of protestors. You can help change all that! You can also help the ADAPT members’ civil disobedience and the abuse they received in response have the greatest possible impact to actually save lives by making sure people see it and know about it. This is a great example of a really powerful moment, complete with images, that crystallizes the issues and that no one should get to not know about by the end of today.

Everyone here is someone’s smart friend or their political junkie acquaintance. You have credibility with people around you that you may not even know about. You should spend that social capital now to try to fight evil and save lives. Words like “unAmerican”, “evil”, and “murder” are not hyperbole here. Personally my favorite hashtag is #cowardcaucus. How helpful of the Republicans to make it relevant again the day they released this bill by refusing to look people with disabilities in the face.

Bill Cosby to hold sexual assault workshops

[ 50 ] June 22, 2017 |

Because America 2017 this is a real headline.

First powerpoint slide:


Framing effects and health care

[ 91 ] June 22, 2017 |

Jon Chait makes an interesting point about how McConnell and Co. are taking advantage of social psychology to ram through their health care bill:

If the bill passes — which, at this early moment in the lightning-fast process, seems quite likely — it will be because McConnell took advantage of the anchoring effect. The starting point is a brutal, cruel piece of legislation with massively unpopular features. (The public overwhelmingly opposes Medicaid cuts, which are the bill’s most pronounced effect.) It will reportedly draw public opposition from at least some holdout Republicans. At that point, the holdouts will be able to wrest relatively small concessions from McConnell.

These concessions will have outsized political impact. They will be new and newsy, and reporters will be drawn from the old story — the outlines of the bill — toward the newer developments. The major coverage of the bill will likely focus on changes in the proposed law that make coverage more affordable. The overall law will still make coverage less affordable overall, but that large fact will remain in the background.

Social scientists call this this “anchoring effect.” People tend to have hazy ideas about what is sensible or fair, and have a cognitive bias toward “anchoring” their sense of the correct answer by whatever number is presented to them initially. In one typical experiment, people in job interviews who start by mentioning absurdly high sums, even as an obvious joke, could get higher offers.

The Senators who negotiate those small changes will attract outsized attention, and their public imprint will disproportionately shape coverage. This effect might wear off over a longer period of time, but it can well succeed in the compressed time frame McConnell intends to permit.
That is how a House bill that seemed to be dead was quickly resurrected. Representative Tom MacArthur proposed an amendment, and his amendment, however tiny, represented movement. The movement, not the overall contours of the bill, dominated both news coverage and the vulnerable members’ thinking. In the end, the revised version of the House bill reduced the number of insured Americans by 23 million rather than the original 24 million. It was the 1 million fewer, not the 23 million remaining, that mattered most when it counted.

But Democrats should be able to take advantage of some other psychological tendencies to make the GOP pay at the ballot box. As famously demonstrated by Kahneman and Tversky, prospect theory could be summarized as, “people hate to lose more than they like to win,” or, alternatively, “people value keeping what they have more than they value gaining something they don’t yet have.”

Here’s a classic example: Suppose you are given $1000. Then you are presented with the following option: you can get another $500 for sure, or flip a coin, and, if you call it correctly, get another $1000. Now a risk neutral person will (if we assume no declining marginal utility associated with the sums in the example) be indifferent between these two options, since $500 more for sure is statistically identical to a .5 chance of winning $1000.

Now change the example in this way: You are given $2000. You must then either give $500 back, or flip a coin, and if you lose the coin flip you have to give $1000 back, while if you win you keep all $2000.

Statistically speaking, these scenarios are identical: the expected value of all four options is $1500. But a large majority of people consistently chooses the sure thing in scenario A, while an equally large majority chooses to flip the coin in scenario B. Why? Kahneman and Tversky found that people are on average much more reluctant to give something back that they already have than they are to gamble on acquiring a statistically identical gain. In other words, people are risk averse when considering potential gains, and risk seeking when contemplating potential losses.

This suggests that, politically speaking, it should be much more difficult to alter the status quo to give people health care than to alter it to take it away. Which in turn suggests that the GOP attack on the ACA is going to be a political disaster for them (with due caveats for voter suppression, dark money, white identity politics etc.)

Mitch McConnell is a Repulsive Piece of Shit

[ 117 ] 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.

Throwback Thursday: The Wayfaring Stranger Song

[ 32 ] June 22, 2017 |

Joan Baez and her husband David Harris with their son after his release from prison for draft resistance, 1970

While I’m still technically on vacation and will be on a transatlantic flight on Friday, I had a burst of inspiration and had to write this one up a little early.

The Wayfaring Stranger song is an old American folk song that has been passed around the bluegrass, western, country western, folk and rock music scene for over 100 years. I’m unable to confirm an exact date of origin or an author, but the Bluegrass Situation says:

“Some historians have traced its genesis to the 1780s, others, the early 1800s. Depending on who you’re talking to the song may be a reworked black spiritual, a lifted native hymn, or even a creation of nomadic Portuguese settlers from the southern Appalachian region.”

That’s quite a variety of origins, if you ask me. No matter, the song has stuck with American communities of faith in their settlement and migration experiences. The song itself can be reworked into many different genres and contexts as it is simply about a narrator longing to end a life of toil and go on to the afterlife where his family resides.

Here are some of the more interesting versions that I’ve found that put a unique social and historical stamp on the interpretation of the song.

Johnny Cash (2000)

If I had to choose one version as the standard, it would be the Johnny Cash version. This particular recording was taken later in his career, and his voice carries that sense of age and weariness. Anyone want to fight me on it? Too bad. I don’t care.

Joan Baez (1969)

A legend of music for social justice, folk singer Joan Baez recorded a version of Wayfaring Stranger in 1969. It is from her album “David’s Album” which she recorded for her husband David Harris who was about to be imprisoned for draft resistance in the Vietnam war era.

Jack White (2003)

Jack White, a musician I love but wish he wouldn’t talk so we’d never know how much a jerk he was, recorded a version for the Civil War era romantic drama Cold Mountain, which he appeared in. I’m not an expert on music from the Civil War era, but it seems to me Jack made a point of making it sound like something that was authentic to the era. I’ve never seen the film, but the longing of soldiers to return to a physical home is a common theme of art about that era. While the song is clearly about dying, I can see it being about both death and a nostalgia for a pre-war existence.

Ed Sheeran (2011)

British singer song writer recorded this one take song using loops. An interesting method. But to me his version feels empty. He’s just singing an old song in his British pop artist vocals, no appreciation for the history and emotion. Ughhhh British cultural appropriation of American folk music, amirite?

Alex Boye (2014)

An incredibly talented London-born musician of African origin, Alex Boye has pushed his own unique brand of blending modern pop with African instruments and rhythm specifically for the YouTube crowd. Energetic and creative, he sometimes goes into dramatic territory. Especially with this song where he adds an incredible violinists and an African chorus while giving us sweeping vistas. To imagine a song about hardship and longing for death in an African context I think is a fantastic way to build new understandings, but Alex isn’t trying to turn it into a lecture. He’s just singing his song, and us social theorists can unpack it all by ourselves without ruining the show. If anyone recognizes the language Aleis singing in besides English, let me know.

Interestingly, there is also a video of Alex performing the song on a evangelical worship music show called “Hour of Power” where the song is listed as a “hymn”.


Other than the Johnny Cash version, Neko Case is my favorite.

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.

13 Angry Men release draft of their Make Americans Sick Again bill

[ 38 ] June 22, 2017 |

Better pull harder on those bootstraps, America.

Full text of the discussion draft.

What’s in the bill: To help people pay for insurance, the Senate bill proposes tax credits based on income level, a feature of Obamacare, rather than on age, as the House bill calls for. The bill would make anyone earning up to 350% of the poverty level eligible for credits; Obamacare caps that at 400%. Additionally, the credits would be capped at a lower percentage of overall medical costs than those under Obamacare, making them less generous overall.

What it means: While the tax credits would be more generous for older Americans than the House bill, fewer middle-income people would get financial support to pay for coverage — and those who do would get less.


What’s in the bill: Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which extended the program to those making 100% to 138% of the federal poverty limit, would be phased out over four years. 90% of the current federal funding would be provided in 2020 and it would decrease by 5% each year until 2023, after which it would be eliminated. People would not be allowed to join the expansion from 2020 onwards. The tax credits will be available to people that fall off the expansion.

What it means: While this would save the federal government money, it also means the millions of people that have gained access to Medicaid would be rolled off. These people would be able to fall back on the less generous tax credit and access coverage through the individual insurance market.

And of course there’ll be attempts to stop women from receiving health care.

What’s in the bill: No plans purchased using funding from the bill can cover abortions. Additionally, none of the funds allocated by the bill can be given to healthcare providers that are involved with abortion.

What it means: In addition to restricting anyone who uses the credits or other funds from getting plan that covers abortions, this would effectively defund Planned Parenthood. It is unclear if this will pass Senate rules.

If you don’t already have it in your contacts, here’s how to get in touch with your senator.

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