Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Tanning Tax, the GOP, and the 113th Congress

Matt Yglesias had a nice item yesterday about a tanning salon owner who reportedly killed himself, blaming Barack Obama. The point Yglesias made was that, this tragedy aside, in his view the tanning tax is a silly way to finance the ACA.

I have no idea whether he's right or not. But it brings up a major question about health care reform and the Republicans. As many of us have said many times, the consequence of the original rejectionist gamble the GOP made in 2009-2010 was that they had a lot less input into...well, into anything than they would have had if they had instead attempted to negotiate for their priorities. That approach would still have yielded plenty of filibusters and unified Republican conference votes against those things that they really cared about, but it would have produced plenty of other bills that featured real GOP contributions.

All that, of course, is ancient history at this point.

But the biggest residue of the 2009-2010 rejectionist strategy is that it's been impossible for Congress and the president to go back and fix anything sloppy or ill-advised in ACA or other major legislation.

So, now we're going to be talking 2013, with a re-elected president and a Democratic Senate; repeal of ACA (or Dodd-Frank, or other GOP pipe dreams) is dead for the next four years. However, we have no idea how the House will react to that. Will they simply continue voting for repeal once a day and twice on Sundays? Or will they move, over the next six months or so, to accepting that Obamacare is really going to happen, and cooperating in improving it?

Cooperation doesn't even mean that they have to give up their opposition, to tell the truth. It just means that they would be open to old fashioned horse trading, in which they agree (for example) to allow minor legislative fixes through that would allow the law to be implemented more smoothly, in exchange for Democratic agreement with similarly sized GOP priorities. Granted, part of the problem has been that Republicans just don't have a lot of realistic legislative goals beyond keeping taxes low for upper-income filers. Still, they do have some (don't they?).

I mean, a well-functioning Republican Party might well oppose the tanning tax, and be willing to support some alternative to raise the revenues needed for the ACA. But to do so, they would have to accept that Obamacare can actually be improved (and therefore is not pure evil), and that government programs can be paid for with taxes, and therefore a party should choose the taxes it thinks best (as opposed to rejecting the whole concept of budgeting).

I don't know; there do seem to be some incentives for the GOP to accept normal legislative behavior, but there are plenty of incentives for them to stick with the crazy that (they believe) got 'em there in the first place. I guess we'll have to wait to see what happens.


37 comments:

  1. Obamacare passed without input or support from Republicans. If it continues to be a flawed, unpopular law, that's not their fault. I think it's unrealistic to expect the Republicans to bail Democrats out at this point.

    Did you consider it "normal legislative behavior" when the Democrats repeatedly refused to even pass a budget, or are they also posessed by what you call "the crazy"?

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    1. All laws are flawed; all of them need legislative fixes as they get implemented, at least to work well. Normally, that happens; these days, not.

      Moreover, it's not that Republicans should *help* Democrats; it's that they should be open to horse trading. There are presumably things that Republicans want that Democrats don't; in the normal course of divided gov't, they can cut a deal to get some of the things they don't strongly object to passed.

      I still don't get the obsession with budget resolutions. I mean, they had the Budget Control Act, and there was zero chance of a compromise budget resolution passing both chambers; I could see a case that the Senate should have passed something symbolic anyway, but it's hard to make a case that it was important in any way that they didn't.

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    2. Couves:
      The Clean Air Act was also passed without input from any Republican in Congress today (at least, I think all of them were elected since then). That doesn't change the fact that it's the law of the land, and that if there are changes they would like to see made in it, they can legislate those changes. However, since outright repeal of the Clean Air Act is about as likely as repealing Obamacare, they might as well work on fixing parts of it that they have common purpose with the Dems on.

      Plus, the bill HAD input from Republicans. They went to Blair House. They attended committee hearings. They've been in Congress over the last 40 years while Dems have been working on this. The individual mandate? Came from the Republican side of the aisle, and added into the bill to make it bipartisan. The response? Forget you.

      The GOP decided the latter behavior (support: the lack thereof) was more important, and decided that before the input. They were frozen out of the legislative process because it was abundantly clear that they had no interest in legislating. "Repeal and replace" has never had a replace component. We are now nearly 4 years past when Congress started on ACA, and 19 years past when Congress went to work on Hillarycare.

      It's just pure sour grapes. Whether there's a flaw in the PPACA of 2009 or whether the problem originates in the Congressional Health Care and Duck Neutering Act of 1802 is irrelevant. If the GOP has an idea that would improve people's lives, and this idea would get support to become the new law, then not doing so is just being petty and childish. If, on the other hand, Republicans saw the "tanning tax problem" as relatively minor, and chose to prioritize tax cuts or spending cuts or military increases or whatever, that's a VERY different question. I don't think any of us can tell Republicans that their priorities are wrong, because they are their opinions. Congress has limited time, so if "fixing the tanning tax" isn't #1 on their agenda, it doesn't really bother me.

      But, if Republicans actually believe that "we shouldn't improve health care because Americans voted for the other guys in 2008, and we were dicks and didn't participate then, so why should we legislate now that we have the majority?"......

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    3. Matt, I’d say the Clean Air Act is more settled than Obamacare.

      "The individual mandate? Came from the Republican side of the aisle, and added into the bill to make it bipartisan. The response? Forget you."

      Maybe you're just repeating a silly talking point here... but if you honestly believe that the individual mandate was an olive branch, then I think you really don’t understand the politics of Obamacare.

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    4. Grassley said that if Obama would just drop the public option and replace it with an individual mandate, then he would have a solid basis for bipartisan support for health-care reform. You can find it on YouTube.

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    5. Scott, it seems to me that the individual mandate is one of the most unpopular parts of Obamacare. Do you really dispute that?

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    6. I think you can see the same type of pathology with all the Libya hearings. These hearings could have been a good point to examine the policies surrounding our intervention in Libya and other countries in the Middle East but instead the GOP just treated it as generic partisan scandal fodder and thus made the discussion about it kinda meaningless. We could have talked about when and how the US should intervene in foreign countries, but we aren't, instead we are talking about how Susan Rice is a dolt and/or "corrupt." We also could have talked about the trade off that diplomats have to undergo surrounding security. For example locking yourself in a concrete bunker, like how the CPA acted by in large in Iraq, makes it very difficult for diplomatic personnel to understand and interact with the societies they are suppose to be helping. In addition, allowing greater access to American foreign missions can do things that more military hardware can't at all. For example, I once heard a story about an American embassy in Eastern Europe during the Cold War that opened a public "reading room" that is a room where people could go and read American books and magazines. The interest in nongovernmental information about the world was so great that when it opened the line routinely grew to be blocks long. But allowing greater access can be dangerous, just look at the bombings in Kenya in the late 90's. Is the risk worth it? If not should we even send diplomats to near war zones? These are important questions that we could be asking and that smart people like John McCain could look for the answers to. But instead we won't get to talk about that because the GOP isn't interested in that at all, just like they don't want to talk about how to control health care costs outside of vague platitudes about "markets" and "freedom." All we get is John McCain and Lindsey Graham yelling which doesn't help anyone at all.

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    7. I don't think anyone disputes that the individual mandate doesn't poll well, but so what? That does not prevent it from having been an essential part of health care thinking in the Republican Party since 1993, which it was, like most of the actual provisions in the PPACA.

      Now one can question how serious Republicans ever really were about this plan - health care is a huge issue and Republicans did nothing to enact this plan when they controlled Congress and Presidency after all - but the policy types did at least say that Republicans had a health care plan and the individual mandate was part of it, and it did even get some discussion from elected Republican pols as late as 2009 (not to mention that Mitt Romney enacted it in his state!). Sure, in 2012 Republicans say they're totally against it but this fact, just like the fact that it isn't popular, doesn't actually exclude it from having been their plan.

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    8. Couves, yes, the individual mandate is is the most unpopular part of Obamacare, but you're changing the subject. It's necessary if you are going to insist on covering everybody through private insurance.

      Here's Grassley on Fox News, June 14, 2009. This is when Obama was still promoting the individual mandate. Grassley weighs the pros and cons a bit but clearly comes down on one side.

      WALLACE: Gentlemen, let's address some of the big controversies in this debate. And let's start, first of all, with mandates.

      Senator Grassley, what's wrong with requiring individuals and companies to pay for health insurance so that all the rest of us don't have to pick up the tab for the uninsured?

      GRASSLEY: And you're probably picking up 1,000 — some estimates — $1,800 on your premiums for people that don't have health insurance because of the expensive use of emergency rooms, as an example.

      There isn't anything wrong with it, except some people look at it as an infringement upon individual freedom. But when it comes to states requiring it for automobile insurance, the principle then ought to lie the same way for health insurance, because everybody has some health insurance costs, and if you aren't insured, there's no free lunch. Somebody else is paying for it.

      So I think individual mandates are more apt to be accepted by a vast majority of people in Congress than an employer mandate would be, as an example.

      And with that goes the portability of the insurance from one employer to another so you don't — you don't have to be tied to your job.

      But there is a very important issue here, and that is that we consider that there are some people who can afford their own health insurance but decide not to buy it because they want to pay it out of pocket. Should you require those people to do it?

      I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.

      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,526301,00.html

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    9. long walk - When top officials mislead the American public about a major world event -- that is a major scandal, whether Democrats care to admit it or not.

      Anon, Republicans were against it before 2012 -- that's why they voted against it to begin with. Romneycare was the single greatest handicap he had during the primary. I seem to remember a little supreme court case as well.

      Look, if pretending that Republicans actually secretly agree with you on everything helps you guys get through the day, don't let me get in your way... But ignoring political reality ultimately isn't good for anyone.

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    10. Scott, politics is a conversation. You're simply repeating a small snippet of that conversation. Some Republicans may have liked the idea of the individual mandate, but they ultimately came to decide, overwhelmingly, that they oppose it. I'm sure the fact that the voters oppose it played no small part in this. Of course this consensus may change, since, as you point out, a conservative case can be made in favor of individual mandates.

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    11. Well of course they were against it in 2011, 2010 and 2009 even! But in 2008? Not really. 2007? No. 1993, when this was THE alternative to Hillarycare? Obviously not. How about in 1989 when the right-wing think tanks introduced the idea? Definitely not then. And it was not a secret, they were quite open about it. Though of course they disagreed with Democrats back then.

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    12. Anon,

      The reality is that no one but a few policy wonks were even talking about it until Romney made it part of MA law -- and the overwhelming response of Republicans was that they loathed it. Even Massachusetts Republicans are unhappy with what Romney did here.

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    13. Couves:
      Our point (or at least mine) is really that, if you go by what Republicans have publicly claimed on health care over the last 2 decades, that Republicans either favored an individual mandate-based approach, health insurance exchanges, or nothing, with the insurance exchanges being a very recent addition to the Republican lexicon on health care. However, when offered the very thing that many Republicans had extolled the virtues of, they all turned their noses up at it. Not just voted against the final package that included it: down the line, the GOP opposed the whole kit-and-kaboodle, and made the individual mandate central to their opposition. (Well, that and "death panels" and other distortions, but on ACTUAL policy, the mandate was their stated objection. They didn't say much bad about pre-existing conditions, Cadillac taxes, lifetime limits, or many of the other parts)

      The argument is that Republicans made the decision to oppose Obama on health care before there was any substance to that. They were opposing Obama for political reasons. The fact that the mandate polled poorly (or well, from the perspective of Republicans) made it the publically offered rationale for their objections, but their objections were fundamentally political, not based on policy.

      Now, our argument (I'm lumping most of the pushback to you in this subthread in with me, here) can be wrong. Republican objections to PPACA could have been based in principled differences on what the ideal society would look like. However, from our side of the aisle, it looks an awful lot like "Republicans SAID they liked this, then said they DIDN'T like it once we offered it to them."

      However, that's one part of it. Put aside whether Republicans were disingenuous or not. The other part of it is, well, Obamacare is now pretty settled. There will be more court cases on certain elements of it, sure. But elected Republicans have pretty much conceded that they cannot change the core of what passed after last week's elections. They lack the Senate, the Presidency, the votes to override a veto, and a "mandate". So, politically, Obamacare is now settled. Not wanting to fix existing law....well, now we're back to the question of what about Obamacare did Republicans really object to? And, we come back to: they either didn't want Dems getting credit for it, or they just didn't want any reform at all.

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    14. Matt,

      Again, the problem with your story of the Two-Faced Republican Party is that almost no one in the party was even thinking about the individual mandate until Romney made it into law. Outside of Massachusetts, almost nobody was thinking about it until Obama made it into law. As soon as Republicans learned about these laws, they decided that they didn’t like what they saw. I can tell you from my perspective in Massachusetts, that there was a lot of unhappiness amongst otherwise moderate Republicans with what Mitt Romney did. So while I’m sure there’s an element of reflexive anti-Obama-ism going on here, for most people the individual mandate is just something that violates their principles. This is obviously the case since Obama easily won reelection in spite of the majority opposition to the mandate.

      You can mess around with Glenn Beck’s chalkboard all you want, but sometimes the truth is that honest people simply disagree.

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    15. "Again, the problem with your story of the Two-Faced Republican Party is that almost no one in the party was even thinking about the individual mandate until Romney made it into law."

      The individual mandate and the exchanges were part of the Republican free-market alternative to Bill and Hillary Clinton's socialist-government takeover of health care back in 1993.

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    16. Scott,

      And when the individual mandate actually became a viable policy, how did Republicans react?

      Someone may have talked about it 20 years ago, but it came nowhere close to becoming law. I'd be surprised if most Republicans were even aware of it at the time.

      Even if Republicans did change their mind -- so what? Twenty years ago you would have been hard-pressed to find a Democrat who supported same-sex marriage.

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    17. Couves:
      Yes, there can be honest disagreement. There's honest disagreement over many issues...taxes, abortion, what-have-you.

      However, I go back to what is the actual GOP position on health care reform over the last 2 decades? I see individual mandates up until 2009. Buying insurance across state lines in recent years. Tort reform over the last 15 years-ish. Besides that, the GOP position on health care reform has been "no."

      And, if that is the GOP position...that's fine! That's honest disagreement! But, when the GOP acknowledges that health care is a problem, but doesn't actually want the few proposals they offer (exchanges, mandate)...I have a really tough time seeing anything but DIShonest disagreement. The Republicans have been moving the goalposts on health care for 2 decades.

      This isn't restricted to health care: see cap-and-trade....the GOP plan for climate change before they managed to move public opinion into sheer insanity among their base.

      Democrats have engaged in similar behavior on things like affirmative action...and more, I'm sure, but cognitive dissonance is likely preventing me from remembering more.

      But, on health care, I just have a tough time accepting that the GOP position has been honest.

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    18. Matt, how many Republicans voted for Obamacare again? Your need to find perfidy in everything Republicans do is overwhelming your common sense on this one.

      Mitt Romney is the only Republican who ever had a role in passing the mandate (actually, it was a Democratic MA legislature with a veto-proof majority, but Mitt went along for the ride), and he then discovered that the Republicans don't like it one bit. Did a few Republican pols and think-tankers talk about this over the years? Sure. But that's not the same thing as it being "the actual GOP position on health care reform over the last 2 decades"... whatever that's supposed to mean.

      And again, if Republicans did change their mind, who cares? You're allowed to do that, right? It's not exactly a secret that the party has become A LOT more conservative since the Bush admin. It's really well documented -- some call it the tea party takeover, or the ascendance of libertarian ideas. I believe around here it's known "the crazy."

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    19. The notion that Republicans have principled objections to individual mandates as such as is ludicrous and you should feel embarrassed arguing that it's true. We already have them for car insurance and no one objected to them.

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    20. Why is it you put up the lie that the ACA passed 'without input'? They had months of input and the original plan was the Republican option.

      It's a lie. It doesn't make you sound anything but a liar.

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    21. OK, everyone, take a step back...let's keep it respectful.

      "Without GOP input" is an interpretation. Perhaps a correct one; perhaps an implausible one. But let's keep the language about other commenters as generous as possible, please.

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    22. Implausible?

      I'm sick and tired with the pablum covering for lying.

      It's the same lie I hear the wingnut welfare pundit write, so why should I give a benefit of the doubt for the refrain?

      Your house, tho.

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    23. Just to clarify:

      I'd ask everyone to use generous language about other commenters. Less so for comments.

      I didn't call a strike on anyone here; no one said anything I would zap. I just thought that things were escalating over the last three comments at least, and wanted to ask everyone to step back and think before they replied further.

      I probably should have left it at that rather than calling out one specific example.

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    24. @Couves (and, I think this is obeying JB's edict to keep it respectful, as I think you and I have done through this thread),

      No Rs voted for Obamacare. That IS my point. A LOT of them voted for Medicare Part D, when it was THEIR GUY'S proposal.

      Ds have done the same, but they're simply not as lock-step about it. No Child Left Behind was originally Clinton's idea. Congressional Republicans hated it. Democrats were lukewarm. It became law when the president pushing for it had an R after his name. Dems really didn't move much on it; those who liked it before, still liked it, by and large. Some "changed their minds," but not the whole party. However, the Rs suddenly found what is really the same thing Clinton had proposed in 1998 to be awesome. That was a flip in 3 years.

      Look, preferences CAN change. Most research on Congresspeople tends to suggest that they don't change much. But the simplest explanation I can find for Republican positioning on health care is:
      1) the system is fine
      2) our position that the system is fine is unpopular
      3) therefore, we have to pretend to have fixes, when we really see nothing to be fixed

      Democrats clothe themselves in autsterity all the time, by "lowering the rate of increase" in programs and calling it savings. It's really quite similar to the Rs. My argument is that the Rs do this more often and on more issues of substance. Ds seem to me to soft-pedal their less popular viewpoints (climate change, gun control, affirmative action); Rs seem to obfuscate.

      Post-Columbine, the House passed a gun show restriction. They purposely did so as an amendment to an unrelated bill that had a clear path in the Senate. When the two chambers passed that bill, it was then substantively different. And the Republican leadership appointed the NRAs favorite legislators to the conference committee. It never met, and the gun show restriction died. But Rs from suburban districts got to vote for one!

      Charges of hypocrisy in politics are a dime a dozen. But, I really think that in this case, it's an entire party that's hypocritical on health care. And I think it matters.

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    25. Matt,

      You make a good point about Bush’s domestic agenda. It’s not unimaginable that Bush could have passed something like Obamacare. But a lot has changed in a very short period of time in Republicanland. Today it would be hard to imagine Medicare Part D or No Child Left Behind getting passed without substantial Republican opposition and even a Senate filibuster. A Republican health care plan would be possible, but only with substantial changes:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2012/04/05/would-democrats-block-a-republican-plan-for-universal-coverage-out-of-spite/

      I’ll definitely agree that a significant amount of Congressional voting is simply dictated by “whose side you’re on,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t honest and meaningful differences on policy issues, and that those differences can’t change through democratic discourse and grassroots pressure. The individual mandate clearly elicited genuine disgust by most of the GOP base. That’s a “win” for the tea party wing -- maybe the neocons will win next time… see how it works? There’s a real give-and-take on the major issues of the day. Most issues, of course, are never subject to such intense scrutiny, and neither was the individual mandate until recently.

      It makes sense that Republicans would wake up after an orgy of spending to rediscover their fiscal conservative roots. You can also say it’s “convenient” that this occurred once they left office, and I’d agree. What’s more troubling to me is how Democrats abandoned the Constitution on issues like the Patriot Act and the NDAA once their guy was in the White House. I find it hard to believe that they suddenly found themselves convinced by Cheney’s words of wisdom. Or maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised -- power, like money, is too easily used by government today.

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    26. No arguments on drones/wiretapping/torture/Gitmo here. I've been more than a little bothered by my side on this one. To be fair, a number of Dems haven't changed, but rather just soft-pedaled their opposition to Obama.

      That said, Obama's (rather cowardly, in my opinion) about-face on these issues isn't just a question of emphasis: he had choices, and made the wrong one.

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    27. Matt, that's very well put, I agree.

      I'm hopeful that we'll see a liberal awakening on the Democratic side, maybe towards 2016.

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  2. For better or worse Obamacare is viewed as a Democratic only health care plan. The Republicans have a politican disincentive to fix flaws in the bill; rather, they have every politican incentive to ensure that law is problematic and eventually unpopular. I would be surprised to see teh Republicans agree to any significant improvements to Obamacare during the next four years...

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  3. One thing worth noting is that the Republicans really seem to be buying into the stuff talk radio and Fox News are putting out; they aren't just putting on a show for the rubes back at home, they actually believe the Heritage Foundation's health care proposal is pure evil. You notice with the Romney campaign buying in to that Unskewed Polls garbage. Actual Republican policy-makers have gotten even crazier in recent years, it not surprise they aren't willing to compromise on anything.

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    1. Yeah, and you know, it's not just talk radio and Fox. I've been reading National Review for the past week (out of a deep commitment to understanding different viewpoints, of course, not Schadenfreude by any means), and with a couple of exceptions like Ponnuru, it's mostly variants of the "free stuff" argument, sprinkled with despairing remarks about how America is finished because the moocher class is now a majority. Goldberg, who I wrongly guessed would be blaming Romney for lurching leftward in the final month, sees a much more existential threat in which the "Founders' Vision" has finally lost out to creeping Euro-socialism. The less morose writers say basically the same thing, but insist that redoubled efforts can still win over Hispanics and other "free stuff" groups to the virtues of responsibility, enterprise, self-sufficiency etc.

      I mention this because if National Review is taking this line, that means it's now the establishment view on the right, and I expect it therefore to dominate the thinking of congressional Republicans. A critical mass of them is still going to resist any cutting of deals, especially over (to them) radioactive policies like Obamacare.

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    2. I'm always hearing the front piece on NPR stories conform to the right-wing version... And that's not counting their right-wing anchors, which is really frustrating. 'Hero of 9/11' for instance.

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    3. That is an interesting exception in Ponnuru, however! "The Party's Problem" is a feature article by the magazine's senior editor. And its diagnosis is quite close to David Frum's, cutting quite deep into electoral realities and the weaknesses of the party's substantive message before an electorate whose conservatism, he argues most forcefully, has always been relative and dispositional, not ideological. By saying that the electorate has always behaved in such a way, he essentially excludes any possible argument along the "free stuff"/moocher declinist lines.

      Ponnuru never once mentions Frum or The American Conservative circles, and he by no means uses the article to start directly offering suggestions for reform/retooling -- he certainly doesn't articulate the vision of modernization that Frum does in "Why Romney Lost" -- but it's a notable move toward sober self-critique. I would have thought such an article would be written by Reihan Salam (aligned with Douthat's Sam's Club Republicanism), but, no, Ponnuru -- usually a quite loyal foot soldier -- is the one to make it.

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  4. Shorter JB: "Why don't you hateful lunatics co-operate with me?"

    I can't imagine.

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  5. There was a Great Truth about the Romney campaign: America is populated by a growing, dependent underclass that threatens the viability of the state. And a Great Lie: that state of affairs came about because "those people" are not as teh awesome as Lord Mittens and his black tie cronies.

    To illustrate the lie, consider a thought experiment. Imagine the very moochiest of the moochers in the 46/7%. Now suppose that supermoocher perceived there was some probability that he could, through an extended period of challenging 90 hour workweeks, join Lord Mittens and friends in Livin' the High Life. What would that probability have to be to get our supermoocher off his ass and down to the office?

    Even if you have a "Mitt Romney is my hero" bumper sticker, you know the answer is not north of 25%. Its probably quite a bit less than that. Which leads to what I believe is the really hopeful aspect of the Obama Era in America - contra Ezra Klein, I don't think its legislation or anything like that.

    Its that the conservativish people of Scott Walker's Wisconsin are no longer afraid to elect a lesbian to the august Senate. Blacks, browns, pinks, blues, all types are no longer cowing to the sternly worded recommendations of American Crossroads that they keep voting for the pasty-faced white guy "or else!", and instead those people are voting their perceived interests.

    That's good. That's hope. That's how the country will survive. And someday, when all the various groups and interests are fully enfranchised, that's also how conservatism will come back in this country - good conservatism, not the insane xenophobic stuff we see today.

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    1. I think that is a very good point, CSH. I would just tweak your thought experiment a little bit. Let's tell Mr. Supermoocher, "go down to the office and put in 90 hours. I give you 5% chance of getting to the Romney level, but 95% chance of getting to the middle of the middle class." It would still work in most, but not all cases (only because nothing works in all cases).

      Now, let's imagine a much less rosy, but more realistic, scenario. "Go down to the office and put in 40 hours. You have much less than a 1% chance of getting to the Mitt level, but a 75% chance of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle." Not as attractive, and not as successful at getting people up and moving, but quite a bit more successful, and more attainable, than what we have. Throw in a few more things, like "don't worry that if you lose the job you won't have health care, and we'll work real hard to make sure your children can get the education they need and go to college even if you have a rough spot," and we are at a place that would not solve all problems, and not motivate everyone (because once again nothing does) but the middle class and the aspirants to the middle class would be breathing a lot easier and smiling a lot broader.

      Now remove some irritants (or in some neighborhoods major threats) like "we won't send you to prison for years on minor drug charges," and "we don't really care who you have sexual relations with as long as its a consenting adult" and "yes, you may share your benefits with your family however that is constituted" and suddenly we have a formula that might disappoint liberals (still too much inequality and too much focus on accumulation and individualism), irritate libertarians (sorry, Couves, heavily directive health care systems are inevitable, and no one will tolerate the kind of free-wheeling regulatory environment libertarian theory favors), and give social conservatives heartburn (many of them are nice people, but what passes for nice and normal in this kind of world isn't what they have in mind). However, for all the grumbling and gnashing of teeth it might be a system that works for 90% of people, maybe even 95% if we try really hard, 90% of the time, and that's a pretty livable, and pretty peaceful, society. Maybe not the Free Society libertarians want, but the pretty wide-ranging society. Maybe not the Great Society liberals would like, but a Really Good Society ain't so bad for government work (and make no mistake much of this is government work). Maybe not the Godly and Moral society Social Cons want, but still a pretty nice place, and as long as Grandma ain't a prudish old curmudgeon she shouldn't have any more to complain about than her hip replacement (hate that I had to fill out those government forms, but they paid for the darned thing), the operation her new great-Grandchild needed for a split palate (ditto), and Young People These Days.

      I just hope there's still giant sodas. But I wouldn't mind if they were all the Diet varieties.

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    2. That's excellent Anastasios. Here's hoping. If all goes well, the Diet Soda constituency will hold its own against the Anti-Aspartame constituency in the great, every-interest-has-a-platform world of tomorrow.

      If nothing else, perhaps there would be quite a bit more educational material on the tube. (I know, I know, that's been misforecast for years! But this time it will be different, as the Anti-Aspartame and Diet Soda forces will really feel empowered in the world of tomorrow).

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