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“Hahaha Congress Thought the States Were Competent to Do Anything. What a Bunch of Clowns. In Conclusion, Let’s Give More Power to the States.”

[ 49 ] July 30, 2014 |

Paul Ryan, as you may have heard, has yet another “let them eat states’ rights” anti-poverty plan out.  I note that this very old and very terrible idea is a source of grim amusement, given the latest conservative legal theory being used against the ACA:

The notion that “let them eat states’ rights” is a new and exciting idea is particularly perverse given some other recent developments. To the widespread applause of Republicans, a panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals read the Affordable Care Act as not providing subsidies to people purchasing health insurance on federally established exchanges. According to defenders of the decision, this was not a drafting mistake; they say Congress intended to only make the subsidies available on state-established exchanges, but were surprised by how few states went along.

As a reading of the ACA, this argument is absurd — clearly Congress anticipated that some states would not establish exchanges, which is why the federal backstop was created. Virtually nobody involved in creating the ACA believes that the law was designed to create federal exchanges that wouldn’t work. It is fair to say, however, that some Democrats were surprised by how many states proved unwilling or unable to establish their own exchanges.

But consider the implications of this. The latest conservative legal argument against the ACA boils down to: “you screwed up — you thought the states actually wanted to provide people with health care!” And the Supreme Court re-writing the ACA in 2012 to make it easier for states to reject the Medicaid expansion has also been a catastrophe, with Republican statehouses inflicting easily avoidable pain and suffering on millions of people to prove their anti-Obama bona fides.

So — why is devolving anti-poverty policy to the states supposed to be a great idea again?

The ACA has given us a very powerful lesson: “coercive federalism” is far more effective than “cooperative federalism.” The vastly improved Medicaid would have been much more vastly improved had it just been a federal program like Medicare. Hopefully we’ve learned something.

I give the concluding line to Charlie Pierce: “[B]lock grants to the states suck. They always have and they always will, and Paul Ryan knows this, which is why he gave them a pretty new name in the first place.”

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Go Teach Pro-Capitalist Propaganda History at Arizona State University

[ 150 ] July 30, 2014 |

I don’t often comment on specific academic jobs but this really stuck in my craw. At Arizona State University:

The School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (SHPRS) at Arizona State University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, from the 18th century to the present. Anticipated start date: August 2015. In addition being a member of the School’s history faculty, the successful candidate will be affiliated with the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU, working closely with colleagues in program development and advancing the Center’s involvement in the wider community in Phoenix and Arizona.

Required qualifications:

Ph.D. in History or an appropriately adjacent field, specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, 18th-century to the present, at the time of appointment.

Desired qualifications:

Broad command of the economic, political, and intellectual history of capitalism and political economy, in modern Europe and/or the United States
Demonstrated ability to teach introductory, upper-division, and graduate courses in the above fields, as evidenced in cover letter and CV
Research focus on (a) the relations between free-market institutions and political liberty in modern history; (b) on the contribution of economic theories and ideologies to the formation of public policy related to major sectors of modern economies such as industry, healthcare, housing education and related topics; or (c) on the intellectual history of the leading normative principles of modern political economy–economic freedom, growth and efficiency; distributive justice; political liberty, and constitutionalism.

In other words, tell us how awesome you think capitalism is if you want this job. I was immediately suspicious–”the relations between free-market instituitons and political liberty”???–and asked around. Well, who do you send the CV to? Noted Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly fan Donald Critchlow. See this Reddit thread Critchlow did that begins with him criticizing “revisionist” history that focuses on race as a start to his politics.

Critchlow was hired to head the new Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU. That sure sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not:

The center has already received significant external support. It will house the Jack Miller Library on Constitutional Principles, a significant collection of classical books on political liberty and fundamental principles at the heart of American civic, cultural and constitutional life, and the Journal of Policy History, a peer-reviewed academic quarterly focused on the application of historical perspectives to public policy studies. The Miller Center is a non-profit, non-partisan and non-sectarian organization dedicated to the support of scholarship, teaching and study of the central ideas and themes of American history and the broader traditions of Western Civilization.

Additionally, a five-year grant providing up to $1.129 million dollars from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization that supports research and educational programs focused on exploring the sources of well-being, will provide seed funding for the center. A post-doctoral program, faculty-student community workshops, a lecture program, student reading groups and library will offer many of the center’s activities.

Heck, why not name this the Charles Koch Chair in Corporate Hackery! And here I thought conservatives couldn’t get jobs in academia. I wonder if ASU has decided to keep this fair and balanced by allowing the CPUSA to host a center and use Venezuelan oil money to fund a position?

So the Center for Political Thought and Leadership should at least try to be relatively objective in its presentation of material, right? The center is just opening. So who is giving its opening keynote address in January? Rich Lowry! Well, you know that is going to be great. Was Dinesh D’Souza not available? Bill Kristol too busy urging policy makers to bomb brown nations?

Very nice Arizona State University. Congratulations on giving up on even the pretense of integrity by accepting Koch money to start an extremist center dedicated to serving the needs of billionaires. And I don’t know what role the History department had in this choice, but I for one would be far beyond disgusted were I a member of the department and I’d speak out about it.

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Beaches

[ 159 ] July 29, 2014 |

Beaches are indeed pretty unpleasant.

Hot, boring, and gross is not a great combo for me. Give me a rocky coastline and tide pools any day. Or some mountains.

This is your late night thread on me asserting my aesthetic preferences are objectively correct.

Request in comments for picture of hiking at Mt. St. Helens, a far cooler experience than the beach, granted.

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Labor and Climate Change

[ 1 ] July 29, 2014 |

The stereotype is that unions oppose any action to fight climate change. Certainly that’s true for some unions, especially the Laborers and United Mine Workers. But it is not true for all unions. In fact, like most issues, organized labor is divided over climate change. That however means there are unions that see the absolute necessity for alliances with environmental organizations and to participate on the side of environmentalism. After all, climate change is very much a working class issue as the effects will be felt disproportionately by the poor.

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No Labels, Mo’ Money

[ 22 ] July 29, 2014 |

It might be a laughable and inevitable failure at influencing American politics, but in terms of separating suckers from their money NoLabelsAmericansElectUnityFriedmanForever is working out perfectly well.    I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin looks at these grifters with wistful admiration.

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That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

[ 102 ] July 29, 2014 |

Hobby Lobby puts its pro-life, pro-child policies into practice:

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant.

Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.

“They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says.

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex.

There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company.

Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law.

Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

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Undue Burden

[ 19 ] July 29, 2014 |

5CA holds what should be obvious – Mississippi’s most recent anti-abortion statutes violate a woman’s reproductive rights:

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic won a major victory at the conservative 5th Circuit of Appeals, which said a law intended to make the state “abortion-free” and close the clinic was unconstitutional.

“Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion,” wrote E. Grady Jolly, a Reagan appointee, for the panel. The law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges to local hospitals, which Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization had been unable to obtain, “effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi’s borders.”

The judges’ hands were tied by the fact that a separate 5th Circuit panel had already said an identical law in Texas, where it has closed about half of the state’s abortion clinics, was constitutional even if it had no basis in medical necessity. Today’s ruling, which is on the preliminary injunction, says the law is only unconstitutional as it has been applied to the Jackson clinic, citing a principle that states can’t violate their citizen’s rights by claiming they can go out-of-state.

The admitting privileges law was scheduled to take effect in July 2012, but was blocked by a lower court, which said if the state got its way, the result would be “a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not in others.”

Whether Anthony Kennedy is willing to ascribe any content to the “undue burden” standard, even in such an extreme case, is unclear.

Meanwhile, America’s most trusted news source has a sneak preview of Mississippi’s next legislative session.

 

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WWI Nutshell!

[ 45 ] July 29, 2014 |

Your World War I graphic of the day:

A couple thoughts:

  • The Western Front and the Isonzo Front give an incomplete understanding of the static nature of World War I warfare; there was considerably more movement in the east than in the west.
  • Nevertheless, the ability of a country like Serbia to hold its own for as long as it did does suggest important differences in military tactics and technology between 1914 and 1940.
  • It’s easy to appreciate the potentially decisive impact of the Ludendorff Offensive, especially in the wake of successful Central Power offensives in 1917.
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Chait on Israel

[ 209 ] July 29, 2014 |

Count Jonathan Chait among the long-time supporters of Israel depressed about the nation’s dead-end stance toward Gaza:

The story further reveals that Netanyahu appeared on several occasions to approach the brink of agreement, but pulled back in the face of right-wing pressure within his coalition. Numerous figures in the story attempt to plumb the Israeli Prime Minister’s psychology — does he truly have it in him to go over the brink and make peace, or is he merely bluffing? — but the exercise turns out to be ultimately futile. Either Israeli politics or Netanyahu’s own preferences kept Netanyahu from striking a deal. And since that failure, the most moderate leadership the Palestinians ever had, and probably ever will have, has been marginalized.

Viewed in this context, the campaign of Israeli air strikes in Gaza becomes a horrifying indictment. It is not just that the unintended deaths of Palestinians is so disproportionate to any corresponding increase in security for the Israeli targets of Hamas’s air strikes. It is not just that Netanyahu is able to identify Hamas’s strategy — to create “telegenically dead Palestinians” — yet still proceeds to give Hamas exactly what it is after. It is that Netanyahu and his coalition have no strategy of their own except endless counterinsurgency against the backdrop of a steadily deteriorating diplomatic position within the world and an inexorable demographic decline. The operation in Gaza is not Netanyahu’s strategy in excess; it is Netanyahu’s strategy in its entirety. The liberal Zionist, two-state vision with which I identify, which once commanded a mainstream position within Israeli political life, has been relegated to a left-wing rump within it.

Couple of points. First, going forward into the future, I have no idea how this turns out well toward Israel. Netanyahu seems to count on only ally as necessary–the Republican Party in the United States. Yes, there are still many many Democrats who are 100% on the side of Israel as well and AIPAC’s power in U.S. politics can’t be overestimated. But as they insult Democratic presidents and blow off John Kerry, they are going to lose support. And if Israel is starting to lose people like Jonathan Chait, then it’s support in the U.S. is showing real signs of eroding. Yes, Chait is still holding on to wrong ideas on this issue–such as his claim that the Palestinians are to blame for the decline of the Israeli left. But still, it’s a remarkable essay.

Within their own land, the demographic crisis is inevitable, leading to the nation needing to choose between inclusion and going full apartheid. It’s pretty clear that the Israeli public is moving toward the latter choice, not only in Gaza but in right-wing intimidation and violence against left-wing Israeli critics of the violence. Netanyahu is doing nothing but strengthening Hamas. If anyone can point out some way these attacks help Israel in the long run, let me know because I can’t think of any.

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McDonald’s Ruled a “Joint Employer”

[ 29 ] July 29, 2014 |

Big news for workers’ rights today. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled McDonald’s a “joint employer.” This basically invalidates the claim used by fast food corporations that franchise out the stores that they are not responsible for what happens to the workers. Of course this is going to be challenged, but it opens up an attack on one of the ways corporations protect themselves from liability while undermining workers’ rights. The ability of workers to, say, sue McDonald’s for the bad working conditions of their stores would be a major gains in labor rights.

Lydia DePillis wrote on the potential of this decision a couple of weeks ago
:

That may be true of some franchise models. In the case of McDonald’s, though, advocates argue that the fast-food giant’s franchise agreement and actual business practices are so restrictive and pervasive that franchise owners have little latitude with their staffing arrangements and no choice but to keep labor costs as low as possible. In a somewhat unusual arrangement, McDonald’s even controls its own real estate and extracts exorbitant rents from its franchisees, who are on the hook for expensive renovations. All that has driven profit margins down to the point where former McDonald’s executive Richard Adams, now a consultant, estimates that about a quarter of franchises don’t even generate positive cash flow for the owner. That doesn’t give them many options.

….

It’s not just fast food, though: The Browning-Ferris decision could impact janitors, nurses, assembly-line techs, clerical workers, you name it. But what does having a joint employer look like in practice? How do you bargain with two bosses at once?

For the closest example of how this might work, look to show business, says Catherine Fisk, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine.

The big movie studios, after all, haven’t directly employed the people they depend on — like writers, set designers and lighting techs — since the 1940s. But they all know they have to deal with the unions that represent them, which set standard rates for their services. “You get access to all that labor, but you’re going to pay minimum terms,” says Fisk. “People who work in Hollywood recognize that if they all start working for half as much, writers won’t be able to pay their mortgages.”

Things could work similarly in other types of service industries, if it were clear that a large employer couldn’t just pick the contractor that agreed to provide labor for cheap.

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Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free

[ 95 ] July 29, 2014 |

What is life like inside the immigrant detention centers the U.S. has set up to house the thousands of migrants fleeing Central American gang and drug violence?

I went down to Artesia, New Mexico last week to see for myself what has become of these vulnerable families. What I found brought me to tears. Mothers and their children are being hidden away, held in inappropriate detention facilities without access to adequate services, medical care, or legal counsel. And they are being deported in the middle of the night without warning and without the opportunity to a fair hearing.

I was able to speak first-hand with several of the moms, all who shared their feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. I could see the fear and desperation in their eyes. Many of the moms are young and some have been recently widowed, with painful stories of domestic abuse and wide-spread violence driven by drug cartels and gangs. Their stories reflect what the research has consistently documented: increasing rates of gender-based violence in Central America, where rape is now a common fate for women and girls as young as 8-years-old. In fact, in Honduras, gender-based violence is now the second highest cause of death for women of reproductive age. And yes, while these mothers themselves were targets of violence in their home communities, what ultimately drove these mothers to flee was not their own safety. They were fleeing for the sake of their children, many of whom were just too little to make the journey on their own.

One mother, Carla, told me her story while weeping, her two-year old daughter wiping her mother’s tears with visible concern on her round face. Carla fled Guatemala City after her husband was murdered. Once apprehended by Border Patrol, she and her daughter were held in a freezing, crowded cell and she was denied a blanket for her daughter. Carla had to remove her own t-shirt just to try to keep her daughter warm. She suffered the same conditions when she was transferred to Arizona, where officers laughed and insulted both her and her daughter, calling them “poor” and other names. When we met, Carla told me that her daughter had been suffering from severe diarrhea for more than five days, and that the doctor insisted she just keep giving her more water. In fact, all of the mothers I spoke to informed me that their children were suffering from some sort of dietary issue, whether it was diarrhea, not eating, or losing weight. I was told over and over again, “there is no medicine here, just water.” Carla said she had to beg for more than 24 hours just to get a diaper for her daughter.

These are basically inhuman conditions and are the official American response to a refugee crisis. If we aren’t going to allow people into our nation escaping horrifying violence, then what do our values mean? And then even if we aren’t sure we are going to allow them into our nation, is it that hard for a nation this wealthy to provide humane conditions while we figure out what to do? The answer to that question of course is no, it is not that hard. We could obviously provide diapers for babies. And we don’t.

….On how U.S. policies have made the Central American crisis much worse.

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Unlike Its Opponents, People Who Supported the ACA Wanted it to Work

[ 32 ] July 29, 2014 |

Josh Blackman offers another attempt to argue that Congress actually intended the federal exchanges the ACA established not to work. Inevitably, it’s transparently wrong because like many ideological opponents of the ACA he appears to be incapable of understanding what proponents of the ACA were actually trying to accomplish.

Any such argument, as we know, starts with the nearly insurmountable hurdle of ascribing an intent to the drafters and enacters of the ACA that (aside from some stray comments from one consultant that 1)do not suggest that a denial of subsidies would be permanent and 2)are inconsistent with what the consultant assumed in 2010 and explicitly argues in 2014) is wholly rejected by said drafters and enacters and is held only by the most fanatical opponents of the ACA. Blackman, needless to say, cannot adduce any actual supporter of the ACA who agrees with his interpretation, a rather serious problem since the bill was written and enacted by supporters, not opponents. Instead, he tries to infer an intent to create federal exchanges that wouldn’t work from the structure of the Medicaid expansion:

As further evidence of legislators’ state of mind, we could take the fact that the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion worked exactly on this theory of carrots and sticks. Uncooperative states, and their residents, would be punished.

In 2010, Arizona inquired about what would happen if it declined to expand its Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. The federal government replied that it would eliminate its contribution to the state’s Medicaid budget entirely. The Department of Health and Human Services sent Arizona Governor Jan Brewer an ominous and pointed letter: “In order to retain the current level of existing funding, the state would need to comply with the new conditions under the ACA.” This observation was followed by a stark warning: “We want you to be aware that it appears that your request…would result in a loss of [all] Medicaid funding for Arizona.”

This argument fails on multiple levels:

  • It completely fails to understand the point of cooperative federalism.  The legislators who voted for the ACA were not trying to “punish” states or their citizens — they were trying to offer a good enough deal that states would agree to expand Medicaid coverage.  The didn’t think that the citizens of Arizona would be punished; they assumed Arizona would take the money, just like it takes the money to establish a state drinking age.
  • The original structure of the Medicaid expansion also makes clear how nonsensical the Halbig interpretation of the ACA is.  Asserting that the ACA intended the federal exchanges not to work suggests that the legislators assumed that the vast majority of states would establish exchanges and were surprised by the scope of the opposition at the state level.  But the fact that Congress made all Medicaid funding contingent on accepting the expansion indicates that Congress fully anticipated substantial state resistance.  If Congress didn’t think that offering a huge pool of money funding more than 90% of the expansion was sufficient incentive for some states to take it, why on earth would it think that the mild disincentives inherent to not setting up state exchanges (citizens do not get subsidies…but are also therefore exempt from the mandate) would be sufficient?  The answer, of course, is that it didn’t.  It assumed that some states would be unwilling and/or unable to establish exchanges.
  • Which brings is to the final crucial point: Blackman cannot explain why Congress bothered to authorize the federal government to establish the state exchanges at all.  If the federal backstop was absent, then the Blackman/Halbig interpretation would be plausible.  But Congress did create a backstop, because it assumed that some states wouldn’t establish exchanges, but wanted the exchanges to be operative in all 50 states.  Blackman is asking us to believe that Congress correctly anticipated that some states wouldn’t establish exchanges, created a mechanism that would correct this problem, but then intended for the solution not to work.  To restate this argument is to refute it; it’s an absurd reading of the statute.  Which is why (one very ambuguous and repudiated coming and going exception aside) no supporter of the statute agrees with it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably have to say it again: reading people who are fundamentally hostile to the ACA in principle trying to explain its objectives is like watching an elephant trying to play a toy piano.  Projection is a poor means to determine legislative intent.

…see also.  And definitely read Beutler on Halbig troofers.

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