Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

What Bill and Hillary Clinton Don’t Get: That the way to win Rust Belt white blue-collar voters isn’t to go centrist; it’s to go economic populist.

The changes to the platform testify to the strength of the Sanders campaign, and, like that campaign, they are a sign that the dynamism within the party arises right now from its left­wing faction, led by politicians like Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

What is less clear is if Mrs. Clinton is aiming to dispel that momentum with some gestures, including a few planks in a platform, or if she intends to actually lead the Democrats in the direction demanded by Mr. Sanders — a direction that would mean a radical redefinition of what was once understood to be Clintonism.

Hillary Clinton’s New Democrats, the NYT editorial board, yesterday

One thing that puzzles me is the anger among so many pundits that the Sanders supporters who still protest and won’t vote for Clinton are doing so because Sanders didn’t get everything he wanted in the platform.  These pundits are offended that there remain such vocal holdouts notwithstanding the extensive concessions to Sanders that were made.

But as I mentioned earlier this week and as the NYT editorial board understands, for (I believe) most Sanders supporters—those who, like me, will vote for Clinton, and those who will not—the critical issue is whether she intends to renege on her current support of those platform concessions, in the remainder of the campaign and then, if elected, as president.

One line late in Bill Clinton’s speech concerned me.  I don’t remember the precise phrasing, but it suggested that voters should vote for Hillary Clinton because her policy proposals are affordable and possible to get through Congress.  The line, in borrowing Hillary Clinton’s selling point on her policies over Sanders’ throughout the primary campaign except suddenly just before the California primary, struck me as a dog whistle to, I guess, moderate Republicans that it’s the proposals she campaigned on, not the ones in the platform, that she plans to offer and push.

Washington Post columnist and blogger Dana Milbank, a Clinton supporter all the way and one who throughout the summer, fall and early winter trashed Sanders’ proposals as utterly unrealistic, surprised me by writing (I guess) Monday afternoon, in a lengthy post titled “Clinton leaves Democrats’ liberal wing high and dry”:

That the Sanders supporters were frustrated is understandable. Clinton and the Democratic Party have given the progressive wing of the party short shrift in favor of an appeal to the political center. …

Clinton, after securing Sanders’s endorsement, chose as her running mate Virginian Tim Kaine, who has a centrist reputation and has been a free-trader.

Then there was the leak of DNC emails, which proved what Sanders had long alleged: The party was working to help Clinton defeat him. Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was ousted after the email revelations, but Clinton promptly named her an “honorary chair” of her campaign.

From a strategic perspective, this is probably a mistake. Clinton’s playing down of the progressives in Philadelphia comes from a belief that she can do better among the non-college-educated whites who have been the core of Trump’s support. But her deficit among non-college-educated white voters, about 30 points, isn’t much worse than President Obama and John Kerry did. Rather than making overtures to the shrinking ranks of blue-collar white voters (just over 30 percent of the electorate, down from half in the 1980s) who aren’t likely to be persuaded, Clinton could have used her vice-presidential selection and her convention to boost enthusiasm among progressives.

I certainly agree with Milbank that this probably is a mistake, but for an additional reason as well as the numeric one he cites.  The substantial number of white blue-collar workers in the upper Midwest and northeast who support Trump not because of his Build the Wall and bar-Muslims promises but instead for the strictly economic-populist reasons that Trump uses as bait.  Some of these voters voted for Sanders in the primaries and caucuses.

Hillary Clinton should remember that taxes and net wages aren’t the only thing that matters to people’s bottom line—her repeated claims to the contrary during the primary season in challenging Sanders’s proposals notwithstanding.  Suffice it to say that healthcare deductibles and co-payments and healthcare insurance premiums, whether deducted from wages or salary or paid independently, are for many, many millions of people not affordable. If she does not understand that, she truly is out-of-touch.  Same for college affordability.  Etc.

The Clintons reflexively reach for centrism as their crutch.  Always.  But they appear unaware that the very definition of centrism has changed within the last year and a half.  As someone who views their electoral success as a personal existential necessity, I wish Clinton would consider this.

Meanwhile, Greg Sargent reports this morning that during an interview of Trump this morning Bill O’Reilly said there “has to be” a federal minimum wage. And then Trump said this:

There doesn’t have to be. I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people. I know it’s not very Republican to say…I would say 10….But with the understanding that somebody like me is going to bring back jobs. I don’t want people to be in that $10 category for very long. But the thing is, Bill, let the states make the deal.”  (Italics Sargent’s.)

Sargent added:

So basically, Trump flip-flopped and then back-flipped, holding three different positions in succession. The real story here is that Trump has no actual position on the minimum wage. His whole candidacy is a scam.

To me it looks less like a flip-flop than that Trump actually doesn’t recognize that the two are mutually exclusive.  The states can’t legislate—Make the deal? With whom?—a lower minimum wage than the federal minimum wage, since it’s not a federal minimum wage if states don’t have to adhere to it.

So maybe all Clinton has to do in order to win white blue-collar votes in the Rust Belt is quote that quote there.  Most blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt know that a federal minimum wage is, y’know, a federal minimum wage.  And that states can’t make a deal on that.

Trust me on this; they know.

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I doubt that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.

I’m not sure whether this is a serious post or not.

How likely is it that Donald Trump, if elected, would serve more than a few months of his term?  How likely is it that he will even continue as the nominee much beyond the convention?, Me, Angry Bear, Jun. 3

That sentence is how I ended that post.  A few days later I read, on Politico, I think, that conservative Republican donors (yes, that’s redundant, but that’s what the article said) are trying to persuade the RNC to pass an emergency rule change at the opening of the convention to release the delegates from their primary commitment on the first ballot.  (The article said this group was leaning toward favoring Scott Walker as the nominee, to which I said to myself, “Please do.  That’ll put the Rust Belt states in your corner!”)

But last night, after I posted this post arguing that the Dems and progressive pundits should not conflate media coverage of and about Trump himself, which obviously is extensive, and media coverage of Republican congressional policy proposals, which is almost nonexistent and which Ryan says Trump has assured him that he will help implement, I read this piece by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank.  It’s titled “Trump exploits Orlando’s tragedy to smear Muslims and Obama.” Posted at 6:35 p.m. it ran through all of Trump’s many statements yesterday, and one by Trump surrogate Roger Stone.

As I read that, I realized that Trump likely won’t be the nominee.

I recalled reading a news report late last week that I had expected to gain significant traction.  Titled “Florida AG sought donation before nixing Trump University fraud case,” by CNN’s Tom LoBianco, Drew Griffin and Scott Zamost, it is stunning even by current standards: The Florida AG, Pam Bondi, announced in 2014 that she was considering having Florida join litigation by several states alleging fraud by Trump U.  There had been many complaints to Bondi’s office by former victims.  A few days later, Bondi, who was running for reelection, solicited a $25,000 campaign donation from Trump, who obliged.  A few days after the check was received, Bondi announced her decision against having Florida join he lawsuit, claiming insufficient evidence.

My first thought was that Trump wouldn’t be calling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” much longer.  My second thought was that Trump will be indicted after a plea deal with Bondi.

The article was posted at 9:31 p.m. on Friday.  Perfect timing for Sunday’s papers.  Then there was the Orlando horror, barely more than 24 hours later.  And Trump’s appalling reaction, on Sunday and throughout the day yesterday, and I guess into today.

And mainstream Republicans’ reactions to Trump’s, which Greg Sargent recounts.

Politico’s Jake Sherman reports today that Trump will meet with House Republicans on July 7:

“Since Mr. Trump became the presumptive nominee, members have asked for us to organize an opportunity for our conference to spend time with him before the convention,” an aide to McMorris Rodgers said. “The chairwoman announced to members at the morning’s conference that on July 7th they will have the chance to meet with Mr. Trump; share their policy priorities, learn about his plans to unite the party; and get details about his plans to move America forward. This was the first date that worked with everyone’s schedules for a special conference. Details of exact time and location will be forthcoming.”

I’m interested in what they tell Trump are their policy priorities.  And what happens 11 days later, when their convention begins.

____

UPDATE: Greg Sargent writes:

After President Obama ripped Donald Trump today for betraying American values and further endangering the country with his ban on Muslims and all around hatemongering, Trump responded in a brief statement to the Associated Press:

“President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people.

“When I am President, it will always be America First.”

He titles his post “Republicans discover nominating world’s most famous birther might not be a great idea.”  Perfect.

I meant to say in my original post, but for forgot to, that I think the Republicans will say that their primary motive in refusing as a party to nominate Trump is based not on ideology but on Trump’s clear mental instability, which poses am existential threat to this country.  For some of them, that will be their motive.  For others it will be ideology.

I think they’ll point out that Trump did not win a majority of that primary and caucus popular vote, and they’ll say that since the effective end of the primary season more than a month ago Trump’s mental instability has become obvious enough that some voters who voted for him probably would not do so now.

I do suspect–possibly naively, I recognize–that for many party elites, concerns primarily about ideology and even the likelihood of devastating electoral losses are starting to seem like unaffordable luxuries.

Added 6/14 at 5:16 p.m.

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Is it just me, or is the Clinton campaign’s take on how to appeal to African-American voters really demeaning?

It’s worth noting that Clinton has an interesting built-in advantage here. Clinton is campaigning as the candidate of continuity, at least in the sense that she is promising to build incrementally on the Obama agenda, while Sanders is implicitly arguing that the change of the Obama era has been woefully insubstantial when compared with the scale of our challenges. Clinton’s positioning as the steward of the Obama agenda may alone give her an edge with nonwhite voters.

Hillary Clinton is placing a huge bet on nonwhite voters, Greg Sargent, this morning

To me, one of the most striking things about Clinton’s campaign is the ships-that-pass-in-the-night feel between the very nature of her campaign and the public mood, generally but certainly among a very large swath of Democrats and Dem leaners.  Mostly, her campaign is about her.  A week or two ago, I clicked a link to a video of an event in New Hampshire a day earlier in which Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s introduction of Clinton, as the latter stood nearby waiting to take the stage, consisted (at least in the clip I saw) of reminding the crowd of how awesome Clinton was throughout that 11-hour Senate-committee Benghazi hearing. As if that absolutely, definitely, for sure indicates that she will cow Republican senators and House members into enacting progressive legislation she wants.

It really fascinates me that so many prominent Democrats and progressives think that’s the end-all-and-be-all as an indicator of a successful Hillary Clinton administration.  These folks really should get out more. To, say, well, almost anywhere outside of Washington, DC or New York City.

No surprise that Clinton talks incessantly about herself.  On Tuesday it was that SHE WON THE IOWA CAUCUSES.  Earlier it was that she’s now a grandmother.  And in between these persuasive arguments was an equally persuasive one: That she knows how it feels to be the one to have to decide whether a presidential inauguration public ceremony should go on in the face of a credible threat of a terrorist attack.

That link is to a post of mine from two weeks ago in which I also said this:

What worries me more than anything else about a Clinton general election campaign is her propensity to say obviously silly things. Elsewhere in that speech, in Clinton, IA on Friday, she again repeated her (and her daughter’s) complaint—without any hint of recognition of irony—that Sanders’ single-payer healthcare insurance plan would kill Obamacare.  As if it weren’t the very purpose of a single-payer healthcare insurance system to eliminate private healthcare insurance for the benefits that the single-payer plan provides.  As if the purpose of Obamacare was to create some living monument to Obama, rather than to provide healthcare insurance to people who had no access to it, and provide decent insurance to people who had policies that provided almost no coverage.

Which I think makes the point that that quote above from Greg Sargent highlights: Clinton believes that African-Americans think the purpose of Obamacare was to create some living monument to Obama, rather than to provide healthcare insurance to people who had no access to it, and provide decent insurance to people who had policies that provided almost no coverage.  And that they think that everything else Obama did must be preserved in granite because, well … Obama.

They like him and support him.  And aren’t as discriminating in their analyses as, y’know, whites.  Or at least as whites who don’t feel that very same way about Ronald Reagan (a rapidly diminishing crowd now, although the Republican Establishment hasn’t noticed).

I just don’t know about that.  Me?  I suspect that most African-Americans know well that Obamacare was a necessary comprise, and know that there are still many millions of people who have no healthcare insurance.  And that large premiums to private insurers, and large co-payments and deductables requiring very significant personal expenditures, don’t make for a situation in which huge numbers of Americans aren’t pervasively in fear of needing expensive medical care, or of being unable to pay the premiums, or both.

And that citizens of no other wealthy Western-style democracy live this way.

Clinton’s marketing pitch is that she is a progressive who gets things done.  “I come to you with a lifetime of service and advocacy and of getting results,” was, as noted by Dana Milbank in a commentary post that otherwise itself misses the ship, “her less-than-soaring pitch” at a community college in Nashua yesterday.  But what results exactly has she gotten?  She’s never specific, except about foreign-policy achievements as secretary of state.  And either are her many boosters among the mainstream-commentary crowd, although they recite this mantra regularly.

Milbank worries about what he says is Clinton’s tendency to get bogged down in the details of her policy proposals when she speaks at events, boring her audience.  (Maybe it’s the policy proposals themselves that are the problem.)  But from where I sit, which is not at a Clinton campaign event, the problem is the opposite of too much detail.  It’s the incessant two-or-three-sentence soundbite stupidities she repeats, again and again.

Like that she wants to raise incomes, not taxes. (A winner!)  Or that we don’t want to subside college tuition for Donald Trump’s grandchildren.  (Sanders doesn’t either; he plans to tax Donald Trump enough to pay Trump’s grandchildren’s public college tuition, should they deign to attend a public college, and have a bit left over to subsidize others’ grandchildren’s college tuition, to boot!)

The New York Times reported yesterday that some supporters close to Clinton (read: her husband, I’m betting) want her to demote the campaign’s manager, Robby Mook, whose strength is in organizing and implementing get-out-the-vote drives.  But unless he also is the one who feeds her those soundbites and tacks—and I’m betting he’s not—replacing Mook would be as effective as killing the messenger.  Mook got out the vote.  It’s Clinton who didn’t.

And it’s not promising that Clinton and some people close to her apparently don’t see this.

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Why are so many Dem-leaning pundits so profoundly clueless? [Updated.]

Today, Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who has been talking about challenging Clinton from the left, was repeatedly asked by reporters to comment on Clinton’s emails, and he repeatedly refused. Not because he doesn’t think there are legitimate questions here, but because his advisers say raising them might reflect badly on him:

“His advisers say there’s no benefit to him criticizing Clinton at this point. She’s already on the defensive, they reason, and die-hard Democrats are likely to be turned off if O’Malley sounds too much like Clindeiton’s Republican critics.”

Well, I hope that isn’t the real rationale. I suspect most Democratic voters and activists want to hear a spirited debate about Clinton’s emails; in fact, such a debate among Democrats could be more illuminating than whatever results from Republican criticism of her over it, which is likely to be polluted by overreach.

Maybe it’s time for a real Democratic presidential primary, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

Of course!  I’ve been dying to hear a spirited debate about Clinton’s emails! Because there’s obviously a lot of room for disagreement on whether or not it was a good idea for Clinton to set up a separate, private email server and commingle all her personal emails about her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral with her State Department-related emails.  And because this is, unquestionably, the issue I care most about.

So please, Mr. O’Malley, keep me and all of us Dems in suspense no longer: Would you, as president, require your Secretary of State to use the State Department email system for State Department-related emails?  And if not, would you require that your Secretary of State comply with the Federal Records Act and related laws?

Such a debate among Democrats absolutely could be more illuminating than whatever results from Republican criticism of Clinton over it.  Which obviously is saying quite a lot.

Yup.

Last weekend, O’Malley appeared at some Dem functions in New Hampshire and discussed the types of issues that Elizabeth Warren talks about, and even the types of issues that Paul Krugman talks about—and deigned to allude to the latest actions by Scott Walker and economic-policy statements from Jeb Bush.  Reading some of the specifics of his comments, I was delighted.  And I assumed that most Dems would be, too.  Maybe we’ll start gaining some traction on these things, instead of constantly having to settle for more Clinton silliness and more Clinton banalities, clichés and hints about the approximate month of her formal announcement, I thought.  Hurray! Hurray!

Then I read that some New Hampshire state senator and a few other attendees at one or another of the functions was disappointed that O’Malley effectively demurred when asked to comment on the Clinton email mess.  If he’s going to run, he has to comment on what the big issue of the moment is, the state senator said.

Which sure seems right if the big issue of the moment is, say, a substantivepolicy issue.  But best as I can tell, email policy for federal officials isn’t, really.

Then there was Dana Milbank’s comment a few days ago comparing O’Malley with the tooth fairy.  Or, more precisely, comparing people who think O’Malley could beat Clinton for the nomination with people who believe in the tooth fairy.  And this evening he has a more detailed follow-up, the thrust of which is that O’Malley was just a governor and, before that, mayor of Baltimore.  As opposed to, say, Scott Walker, who is a governor and was, before that, a County Executive.  And as opposed to, say, Jeb Bush, who was a governor and, before that, a president’s son.

I certainly get that only the Republican Party is entitled to nominate such folks for president. Which, of course, they did, in 2012.  Minus the big-city-mayor/big-county-executive part.  I’m not sure what percentage of the public outside of Wisconsin knew anything about Walker until two months ago, but many more people sure do now. For better or for worse, but that’s beside the point.  Walker didn’t have to compete for the media’s notice with someone whom the press has been obsessed with for a quarter-century—the members of the press, that is, who were covering politics in the ‘90s.  Or who followed stuff like that when they were in elementary school.

But O’Malley does have to compete for the media’s attention with Hillary Clinton.  A political media, that is, whose members apparently almost universally believe that the minimum voting age is 42.  And so competing, it appears, is impossible.

I keep reading political commentary that “we” all have already made up our minds about Hillary Clinton. Each of us either loves her or hates her, having decided which one all the way back in the ‘90s.  When some of “us” were in the primary grades in school and others of “us” were adolescents or teenagers. And when a small percentage of “us” were still in diapers.

But some of us do remember the ‘90s, if not all the specifics.  I speak as someone who does remember ‘90s politics, but who had forgotten such specifics as that Clinton said during her “pink sweater” press conference in 1994 that she had thought that her husband’s and her own unusual financial pursuits that depended upon friendships and connections during her husband’s terms as governor should have been viewed as within a privacy zone.  She couldn’t distinguish then between land development deals and cattle-futures trading, on the one hand, and buying, say, Vanguard Index Fund shares, on the other.  And so her law firm’s billing records for the Whitewater land deal (or whatever) remained hidden for two years in a White House closet until things got wackily out-of-hand, politically.

What I, unlike Sargent, suspect is that most Democratic voters and activists want to hear a spirited debate about the subjects that we actually care about. Including a spirited response to Scott Walker’s and Jeb Bush’s economic’fiscal/regulatory policy positions and their counterfactual justifications for them, and Paul Ryan’s ahistorical claims about supply side economics, financial industry regulations, and federal budget deficits in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Some discussion of what’s happening with, say, Kansas’s budget and economic growth, and maybe even Wisconsin’s, and Europe’s—and why—would be very, very welcome.

There are only two reasons why most of us want a meaningful primary debate, forced by a meaningful candidacy—and neither of those reasons is to make Hillary Clinton a stronger candidate.  One reason is to have the option to vote for a genuine economic-policy progressive.  The other is to enable our party to actually put forward the arguments for progressive economic policy, and that means ending the constant focus on this silly woman, her huge “circle,” her incessant calculations and decisions-by-committee about absolutely everything, and waiting for the next shoe (and the next, and the next) to drop.

The very, very, very, very last thing most Democrats want is a spirited debate about Clinton’s emails.  We don’t want to debate Clinton’s emails.  We want to debate actual substantive-policy issues, especially but not solely economic/fiscal/regulatory policy issues.  Government email policy isn’t on our list.  If Warren were planning to run, would anyone claim that she needed to take a break from those economic-policy/bank-deregulation/policy-of-by-and-for-the-mega-campaign-donors things and talk about the more important issue of government officials’ email-procedure?  Really?

Look. Hillary Clinton should not run for president.  Her life, her husband’s life, her family’s foundation’s life, all are too complicated for her to be able even to concentrate on serious, specific policy issues other than the women’s-movement issues whose clichés she cites, mantra-like, and has for the past 40-plus years.  These are by no means trivial issues.  They are, though, by no means what most people think should be the end-all-and-be-all of the Democratic nominee’s concerns.

I myself agree with Bill Clinton’s comments a few days ago that, on balance, their family’s foundation has done more good than harm—thanks in large part to Chelsea Clinton’s efforts to make the foundation into what it should be: something far more important than just a Bill and Hillary Clinton ad and a well-paying landing place for their many hangers-on.  Hillary Clinton should put her time and effort into furthering the meaningful goals of that organization, and wind up her career with something truly special. She should not impose so upon those who need to have this election be about what it should be about. Which is to say, about things more important than her.

I can assure Dana Milbank, and Martin O’Malley, that I don’t believe in the tooth fairy.  Even though Clinton will of course run.

—-

UPDATE:

Probing, persistent questions like these from the political press corps at Tuesday’s news conference are the sort that rival candidates would be expected to ask on the campaign trail or in televised debates, as Barack Obama did against Mrs. Clinton in 2007 and 2008 over the Iraq war and other issues.

Unlike then, however, Mrs. Clinton is not expected to face comparably aggressive opponents for her party’s nomination. Among the possible Democratic field, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland has shown little taste for cutthroat tactics.

Early in 2016 Race, Clinton’s Toughest Foe Appears to be the News Media, Patrick Healy, New York Times, today

Uh-huh.  Can’t beat Clinton unless you use cutthroat tactics.  Talking just about economic-policy/bank-regulation/big-money-dictating-policy issues hasn’t worked well at all for Elizabeth Warren.  Which is why, much as a huge swath of Democrats cares deeply about those issues, there’s no movement to draft Warren to run for the nomination, and why no one pays attention when she speaks, right? She doesn’t use cutthroat tactics against Clinton, instead using cutthroat tactics only against the Republicans.

Mr. Healy, talking about economic-policy/bank-regulation/big-money-dictating-policy is a cutthroat tactic. It’s just that the political-news media hasn’t noticed.

Updated 3/12 at 12:12 p.m.

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Political Journalists Should Follow the Lead of Insurance Industry CEOs and Read Angry Bear Regularly. Seriously.

Meanwhile, health insurers warned that Rubio’s legislation [to kill the insurance risk-corridors provision in the ACA] would lead to the government-run health-care system that most alarms conservatives. And there was the awkward fact that the risk corridors were the same mechanism Republicans used in the 2006 prescription-drug legislation.

From Obamacare to the IRS scandal, Republicans are ignoring the facts, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, today

Hmmm.  It’s interesting that the insurance companies finally are catching on.  Their CEOs must read AB.  But, given the importance of this insurance-industry awakening, I wonder why this has not (at least to my knowledge) been reported elsewhere in the mainstream media.

My suggestion to mainstream political journalists: Follow the lead of insurance industry CEOs and read Angry Bear regularly!

 

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Republicans and Dana Milbank Solve the Unemployment Problem in Germany, Canada, Taiwan and Australia: Those countries just need to repeal their universal-healthcare laws and tie healthcare insurance to full-time employment at large corporations!

It’s worth appreciating the perverse nature of the [Republicans’] lie on display [in a new web ad against North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan here. Because Republicans are absolutely wedded to their “Obamacare is a job killer” talking point, the CBO report’s findings are being distorted into proof that the law will inflict job losses on millions of workers who, in this telling, become Obamacare’s helpless victims — a labor demand argument. In reality, the report actually found it would impact the choices workers receiving the law’s benefits make — a labor supply argument.

Some conservatives have dealt with the report’s actual findings directly by arguing they prove the case against the law — that government subsidies reduce the incentive to work. Many of the good wonky writers — Jonathan Cohn, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Jared Bernstein — have already engaged this argument effectively. But that is at least a legitimate debate to have within the context of the CBO’s findings.

Morning Plum: Republicans double down on another Big Lie about Obamacare, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

Okay, look, folks.  As Sargent recognizes, there are two distinct issues concerning the Republicans’ and the news media’s treatment of the CBO report’s statement that approximately 2.3 million people will voluntarily retire or reduce their weekly hours from full-time to part-time because they no longer need to work or to work full-time in order to have access to healthcare insurance insurance.

One of those issues is the bald misrepresentation, deliberately or unwittingly, that the report said that an estimated 2.3 million workers will be involuntarily laid off because of Obamacare, and its punditry-proffered corollary that although that’s not at all what the report actually said, what the report actually said is just too complicated for the Democrats to explain to the public between now and November.

Unfortunately for the Washington Post, two of its preeminent political-analyst pundits, Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza, have become the poster journalists, respectively, for the former and the latter.

The other issue is the question of whether we should return to a healthcare insurance system tied almost entirely to full-time employment, so as to effectively preclude voluntary early retirement (raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67!) or voluntary reduction from full-time to part-time work–or the decision to leave a corporate job and start a business–for millions of Americans, lest we encourage sloth among working-age Americans.  In a transparent attempt at a sleight of hand to quietly backtrack on his jaw-dropping initial misconstruction of the CBO report, Milbank today makes himself the poster mainstream-journalist for support of repeal of Obamacare on this  ground. He says that, with a single exception, the report is “otherwise unhelpful to the health-care law.”  Suffice it to say that the exception is not the uncoupling of access to healthcare insurance from full-time employment at a large corporation; that, he maintains without explanation, is part of the unhelpful stuff.

It is, or course, Milbank rather than the report that is unhelpful, and the absent explanation is that he does not want to admit that he either misread the report on Tuesday or didn’t read it all before posting a full-length column about it.  But why does Sargent–who interpreted the report correctly from the outset–treat this as a legitimate policy dispute?  Yes, it certainly is a policy dispute.  But is it really a legitimate argument that it’s better for the economy to continue to tie access to healthcare insurance to full-time employment at a large corporation?  What evidence is there that this is so?

The United States is the only modern economy in the world that has that system.  But it is not the most successful economy in the world.  Germany, Canada, Australia and Taiwan all (I believe) have more vibrant economies these days than the United States.

As for Cillizza’s claim, reiterated yesterday after criticism of it the day before, I’ve been at an utter loss to understand why journalists and pundits think that the public won’t know by November that the people at issue in that part of the CBO report are those who have wanted to retire or work just part time but haven’t been able to because they need the healthcare insurance benefit–and that their choice to retire or reduce their weekly work hours means openings for others.  

This isn’t rocket science. This option is a fact of life in every advanced economy other than ours, and it’s a concept that almost everyone is very familiar with right here in this country.  Is the unemployment rate higher in Germany, Canada, Australia and Taiwan because their healthcare insurance systems aren’t based on full-time employment by a company that provides it to its full-time but not to its part-time employees?  Really?

This isn’t hard to explain and it’s not hard to understand.  As Sargent says today:

Indeed, even CBO director Douglas Elmendorf directly contested the characterization of jobs being “lost” during yesterday’s House hearing, noting that when people decide to ease up on work for good reasons, “we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.” Elmendorf even added that those impacted this way could include older people who decide to retire earlier than they otherwise might have, or spouses who choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby.

But instead of simply refuting the anti-Hagan ad with one showing a clip of that part of Elmendorf’s testimony, or of someone in his or her early 60s who is ecstatic to now be able to retire, or a young mother who can now choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby–as they obviously should, and presumably will–the Democrats should do this as well: point out in ads that the Republicans apparently have trouble understanding basic English-language declaratory sentences, such as the ones in the CBO report.

Rather than attacking the Republicans for dishonestly, the Democrats should take them at their word.  Their word being that they are too stupid to understand a clearly written CBO report.

Then again, I suppose the Republicans could invoke Dana Milbank and a few other mainstream journalists to show that they are not alone in that.

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Poetic Justice for Justice Alito. Maybe.

U.C.-Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals was killed a couple years ago by Senate Republicans upon the pretext that Lui had trashed Alito to the Senate Judiciary Committee in testimony during Alito’s confirmation hearing.  Lui predicted that Alito as a justice would be exactly what Alito as a justice is.  Now that Lui’s prediction has proven spot-on*, Obama should nominate him, not for the Ninth Circuit but for Supreme Court upon Ginsburg’s retirement in a year or two.

It would be at least some small poetic justice for this justice.

But Alito’s demeaning, denigrating treatment of litigants and counsel is emblematic of a veritable hallmark of the Federalist Society-affiliated appellate judges.  Certainly not all of them do that, but also certainly, several high-profile Reagan/H.W. Bush-era appellate appointees have made that type of conduct a mark of peer prestige, and others, who don’t naturally have that personality—including some appointed by Clinton—emulate it.  Something about being in with the in-crowd.  It is, or at least for a long time was, the cool thing for them to do.

*The link is to a terrific article in Slate today by Mark Joseph Stern.  But credit also must be given to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who in a column published earlier this week was, I believe, the first of the now-several commentators to report on this. 

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UPDATE: I posted a similar comment to Stern’s article in the article’s Comments thread on Slate.  In response, a commenter called Bigmouth wrote:

While I’d love to see Liu on the Supreme Court, I’d like to see the President pick fights he can actually win lol.

To which I responded:

This is one he would win if he chose to pick that fight. The high profile of the matter, coupled with the under-recognized importance of the generational change among voters–particularly the growing importance of the Millennials–and the overdue, very public highlighting of Alito’s votes and his conduct on and off the bench, would win it for Obama.

Not that I expect that lackluster, gutless wonder to actually pick this fight. But if he does, he’ll win it.

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Oh. Guess the Paul Ryan Bubble Finally Has Burst. So Sorry For Your Loss, Paul.

In subtle ways, Ryan’s budget acknowledges the results of November’s election. He isn’t seeking to do away with tax increases that have already been approved, and he accepts that tax revenue will be 19.1 percent of the economy in a decade, up from the 18.7 percent he assumed last year.
But otherwise, he continues to peddle the same ideas: the partial privatization of Medicare; a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce; and cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, education, job training and farm programs.
Public Radio International’s Todd Zwillich pointed out that Republicans lost the presidency, House seats and the combined popular vote in House races. “People outside this process might wonder if elections have consequences,” Zwillich said.

“Look, whether the country intended it or not, we have divided government,” Ryan replied, suggesting that Republicans somehow won the debate while losing the election. “Are a lot of these solutions very popular, and did we win these arguments in the campaign?” Ryan asked himself. “Some of us think so.”

Paul Ryan’s magical budget, Dana Milbank, Washington Post

And those very same some of us think upside-down is rightside-up and aliens from Mars ate their calculator and their voter tabulations.  They need antipsychotic medication.  

He proposes abolishing Obamacare — a futile gesture — but would pocket for other purposes $1 trillion in tax increases that came with the program. …

CNN’s Dana Bash asked whether Ryan was being “disingenuous” by including new taxes that he opposed.

“We’re not going to refight the past,” he explained.

If Ryan is “not going to fight the past,” Fox News’s Chad Pergram asked, why is he still trying to repeal Obamacare?

“This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on,” Ryan answered, “because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health-care system for the American people.”

Even a skilled illusionist can have the occasional Freudian slip.

Paul Ryan’s magical budget, Dana Milbank, Washington Post

Game’s over.  The mainstream media has had enough. They’re finally calling this spade a spade. Joe Welch would be proud

At long last, Congressman, the people who matter see that you have left no sense of decency. Nor a semblance of mental health. Like Joe McCarthy.

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What Mindless Cliché-Driven Centrism From a High-Profile Pundit Looks Like, in Detail.

The State of the Union ritual is by now familiar to most Americans. President Obama leads the Democratic side of the chamber to a series of standing ovations for proposals that everybody knows won’t become law. Republicans show their seriousness of purpose by smirking or making stony faces — and by inviting as guests to the speech people such as rocker Ted Nugent, who has called the president a “piece of [excrement]” who should “suck on my machine gun.”

But this spectacle, unlike [Mardi Gras], is not all harmless fun. Obama made clear that he is not entertaining serious spending cuts or major entitlement reforms. Republicans, in their responses, repeated that they are not budging on taxes. The hard choices will have to wait for another day.

The standoff gives new meaning to Fat Tuesday: The nation’s finances are a mess, but — what the heck? — let’s have another round. No wonder a new Washington Post poll found that 56 percent of Americans have a dim view of the country’s political system.

Let the bleak times roll, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, today

Yup.  Fifty-six percent of Americans want another deep recession.  Now!  Our nation’s finances are a mess.  And they want to see them become messier!  And they want a few million hungry or homeless elderly. Not necessarily now.  But soon.

The luxury of being a Centrist, at least one of this particular and common variety, is that you can spout generic truisms without ever actually tying them to specifics.  Much less to basic economics principles. Milbank’s column is so replete with unsupported and in fact completely unexplained inferences–declaratory clauses and sentences each made in its own little vacuum but offered as though dependent upon one another–that Milbank’s heard somewhere, that I wondered as I read this thing whether he’d brought his MacBook Air to a Uline plant to watch the speech last night. I mean, how else to explain this?:

Early in his address, Obama pronounced himself “more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.” He blithely proclaimed that the rest of the job could be done by making “modest reforms” to Medicare and “getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off.”

He didn’t mention that this would leave the country with a historically high debt level — and would be but a temporary fix before health-care costs explode in a decade. Departing from his prepared text, Obama challenged the idea that “deficit reduction is a big emergency, justifying making cuts in Social Security.”

Oh, horrors. After all, deficit reduction is a big emergency. And a historically high debt level–irrespective of the specifics, such as how high that debt level is relative to GDP–will crash the economy.  Just like the historically high debt levels did at the end of World War II.

“Washington’s version of Mardi Gras had begun early in the day, at the Capitol South Metro station, where members of a nonpartisan balanced-budget group, Bankrupting America, offered beads to passersby willing to ‘show us your cuts,’” Milbank writes. “By that standard, few necklaces would be distributed. Democrats and Republicans alike would sooner bare their private parts than come clean about what government programs they would cut.”  True enough.

But then, this:

Even [Paul] Ryan, who is drafting a budget that could slash domestic discretionary spending by 40 percent over a decade, doesn’t like to be specific.

Even Paul Ryan doesn’t like to be specific about cuts that would slash domestic spending by 40 percent over decade?  Even Paul Ryan?  You don’t say!

And then, of course:

And House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says, “It is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem.”

Pelosi’s formulation is just as reckless as the Republicans’ mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.”

Of course. Which is why, pre-Bush-tax-cuts, and pre-Bush-unfunded-wars, we didn’t have a spending problem. Now we do, so let’s cut Social Security!  Canada, Germany, Australia and Holland must also have spending problems.  After all, they have extensive social safety-net programs, and high standards of living.

Milbank ends by saying, “In reality, we eventually need both spending cuts and tax increases — and lots of them. But sacrifice will have to wait. In Washington, they’re still partying like there’s no tomorrow.”

No, actually, the Democrats are partying like there is a tomorrow. There’s real, if unwitting, irony in the headline writer’s choice of a heading for Milbank’s column. Although–who knows?–maybe the headline writer actually is familiar with Keynesian economics.

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