Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dogs, Not Barking

Right to it:

1. Ross Douthat mentioned this one today: as far as we know, it turns out that employers are not dumping their employees on the exchanges. At least so far. I do think it's likely that over time the ACA will wind up pushing people out of employment-linked insurance, but it appears that a fast, destabilizing dump isn't happening. Good Douthat piece, by the way, especially in that he's absolutely right that the best way to think about the ACA now is in terms of potential outcomes and the future policy questions they will raise, not "success" or "failure."

2. I talked about this yesterday...this one is less a dog not barking than a dog barking in the wrong direction, or something like that. Republican Senators are apparently doing a "filibuster" stunt today to protest the nuclear option (or maybe it's more of a "what have you got?" protest)...but they're really not shutting down the Senate. @Mansfield2016 nailed this one (and really, follow if you're interested in judicial nominations at all, including Senate procedure and reform issues): Republicans haven't objected to overnight time counting towards post-cloture time, something they could do. The same was true yesterday for the recess for party meetings. In addition, Republicans haven't objected to having committees meet. And as other have noted, the budget wars have semi-thawed, with Senate nukes apparently having no effect at all. Yes, they have forced a few votes which weren't necessary, and by not yielding back post-cloture time (so far!) they're definitely delaying and obstructing. But remember that GOP obstruction of nominees has been the norm for years now. This very much appears to be ordinary delay, not nuclear fallout. I'm increasingly confident that I was right on this one.

3. Afghanistan casualties continues to be, in my view, a very big and very undercovered story -- especially when troop deaths aren't happening. The last coalition troop death was back on November 17, and there were only four in November (3 US deaths). For the year, the coalition total is 148 (118 US), down from 402 (310) last year. This year will be the fewer coalition troop deaths in Afghanistan since 2005 (US since 2007); it will be fewest combined (Afghanistan plus Iraq) troop deaths since before the Iraq war began. I don't think we've really spent enough time thinking about how being at war for over a decade matters, or how it will matter when the Afghanistan adventure ends, or at least mostly ends, in just a few more months.

4. And the real reason I did this one today: the Fairness Doctrine is back! Well, not the Fairness Doctrine itself, of course, but conservative paranoia that it's coming back any second now. Via friend-of-blog John Anderson.


  1. Following Douthat, I was thinking the other day that, if there is a bad ACA death spiral (even if just a federal budget death spiral), that might greatly accelerate the journey to single-payer. The reasoning: a death spiral would arise because a demographic group (the young healthies) are unwilling to be exploited (as they perceive it) by the system. Should that occur, single payer is the natural solution for a universal health care system, for while the young healthies are still exploited in a single-payer environment, there are no bills or fees reminding them of sticker shock - instead the costs are handled via a patchwork of opaque taxes.

    Which is sort of interesting to consider, in that I would guess that while many liberals support single-payer in theory, they wouldn't trade their current large group plan for single payer. If a death spiral does occur, the transition to single payer could be rapid...and quite jarring, perhaps.

  2. Chuck Hagel. Seems like only yesterday we were told that he was a stuttering moron who could never, ever handle being Secretary of Defense or that he might do something worse, like hand the nuclear codes over to "The Mullahs" or whatever.

    Very little news about him in the past year, which probably falls under the "no news is good news" theory about what you want in a Defense Secretary.


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