Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Ming-Na Wen, 50.

Good stuff:

1. Sean Trende is right about ACA and the future of liberalism.

2. Adam Serwer on closing Gitmo.

3. Potentially big good news: CMS is now saying that they've fixed "two-thirds of the high priority bugs responsible with issues with 834 transactions." This is about the crucial communications between the exchanges and insurance companies, and it was an even bigger problem in October than the visible problems at On the other hand? They're apparently nowhere close to being ready to pay subsidies to insurance companies. But delaying that will just be costly; the 834s could be a system-destroying disaster. Sarah Kliff is covering the daily ACA updates.

4. Scott Lemieux with the case against judicial filibusters. I (more or less) disagree, but the more practical issue here isn't really about whether filibusters are good for democracy or liberals or conservatives; it's that they're good for individual Senators, and (again, like it or not) they're going to be reluctant to surrender them.

5. And Brendan Nyhan on the ACA press frenzy.


  1. Sean Trende is of course right. Liberalism is all about promoting what sounds good over what works. When your politics is all about ignoring the consequence of your actions, how can mere real-world evidence compare with the lofty self-congratulatory ideology you tell yourself?

    We've all known for years that liberalism is a disaster when implemented. It doesn't stop liberals from pushing that garbage. Why should one more data point change their minds?

    1. It's even worse than that, Anon. The states that defied Obama's big government power grab and decided to set up exchanges where private insurers compete to offer policies to the uninsured who do not have employer-based coverage - the same plan Paul Ryan envisions in his proposed Medicare reforms - are working splendidly. Take that, Obama, people are getting insurance no thanks to you and your ridiculous Obamacare. I can only hope that he's gnashing his teeth in regret. Down with Obamacare, long live the Affordable Care Act!

    2. The states that defied Obama's big government power grab and decided to set up exchanges where private insurers compete to offer policies to the uninsured who do not have employer-based coverage - the same plan Paul Ryan envisions in his proposed Medicare reforms - are working splendidly.

      Not according to the progressive NYT. You should read your own paper before outgassing low-quality sarcasm.

  2. Fingers crossed M.A.O.S. continues to pick up in quality, figure out it's characters. Ming-Na Wen is too good as Melinda May to let that go to waste.

    1. I notice that IMDB says Ming-Na Wen was born in 1963 and yet lists two credits in the early 1950s. Now that's talent.

    2. Wait, she's been in something other than The Single Guy?

      We're currently early in Buffy Season 2 with the youngest daughter (entering high school, so of course, just as we watched Daria with both kids when they started middle school). Anyway...the first half dozen episodes of Buffy are more promising than the first half dozen of "Agents...", but it's not as if they were consistently brilliant, either. And Dollhouse, which I like a lot, started slower than this one.

      I'm not giving up hope that it'll turn out to be a great show. Even though it hardly even hints of that, so far.

      (Oh, and I haven't watched this week's yet, so if there's discussion of it...)

    3. Why can't they all be like Firefly, and just be pure gold from the get-go? (Although the pilot isn't quite as good as the rest of Firefly)

    4. It's almost as if it's hard to make consistently brilliant TV!

  3. Trende's argument is that an epic Obamacare disaster would be an example of "you win some, you lose some", and tomorrow will be a better day. Surely no matter what happens to Obamacare, there will still be liberals, if not for ideological reasons, then merely because a lot of folks will still find the GOP viscerally repulsive.

    I do think an Obamacare catastrophe could be far worse than "you win some, you lose some", for reasons that, curiously, no one is discussing. That Obamacare death spiral? It amounts to some indeterminate (and AFAICT - no one is estimating) multi-hundred billion dollar hit to the budget. One way to describe the death spiral would be "We thought we had a way to pay for comprehensive health care for the sick and uninsurable, but apparently its the newest unfunded entitlement".

    At a certain level...big deal. Part D wasn't a particularly well-funded entitlement, that's nothing new. The problem is...well, over to you, Paul Krugman. Professor Krugman is the patron saint of the "Damn the debt torpedos" crowd, and yet even he acknowledges that a moment of serious reckoning is coming in re: the unsustainability of the budget, in particular the increasing sustainability of the elderly, at very high cost. That conversation is hopefully several years away, but it says here that it will be a difficult one for liberals, as it will amount to the rolling back of a part of the Great Society, perhaps imposing significant suffering on the relatively helpless to keep the ship afloat.

    And if the ACA flames out in a death spiral, every dollar of unfunded entitlement (that the ACA becomes) can be pretty much added on top of what is bound to be a difficult conversation for the left a few years down the road. Will it be enough to kill liberalism in America?

    That's a question of scale, of course. Probably not. But I'd certainly be willing to bet Trende if he is assured that liberalism will no doubt be fine.

    1. CSH: But wouldn't you just expect some doubling-down behavior? I mean, the ACA's failure seems very unlikely to me to be proximate.

      As you note, we can keep kicking a number of cans down the road. Let's assume that the ACA "fails", but that this doesn't happen until at least 2020 (which I think is overly conservative...I'm not sure how it could truly be a failure before a much longer timeline, but let's just assume that). By 2020, it will have been a full decade since the law was passed. You and I *might* remember that it only went into effect in 2014, but the great unwashed masses? They really do not seem to have grasped the sheer size of Medicare, Social Security, or defense, so I'm not thinking they'll be able to parse this one out very well. So, it's 2020 and ACA is failing (which, to the untrained eye, looks just like massive budget deficits). I'm a liberal in 2020; what do I do? Well, if I remember 2009 (or, some columnist I read does), I "remember" that what we REALLY wanted was single-payer, and this was a compromise anyway. Thus, the ACA's failure is just more evidence that "I was always right." But, even if I don't go down that (actually, kinda sensible) road, I can go down the road of "budget deficits? Tax the rich and cut defense!", in much the same way as conservatives can think a tax cut solves all woes.

      I think Trende is often guilty of way overselling things, but is actually preaching some sense here. The only thing that fells ideologies is massive, systemic failure when the party that pushes that ideology is clearly in control of things (cf 1929), or when the basis for that ideology is incredibly dated (like fighting over gold vs silver coins in a world where the population shifts dramatically to being wage earners to whom the debate makes no sense). Futurism is a field with a terrible track record, but the latter seems very unlikely to me, so we're left with the former. If the entire house of cards comes crashing down under a unified government that's lasted for a while (at least a full presidential term, and really towards the end of a second term), there's potential there. Shy of that, there'll be a lot of muddling through.

    2. Paging Hans!

      But barring that...

      You just can't emphasize enough that most regular people don't think in ideology. Or at least, they don't think consistently in ideology. Most people believe the cliches of left *and* right, or if not "believe in" then respond to, given the correct prompts and context. Conservativism wasn't dead in 1934 or 1964, liberalism wasn't dead in 1980 or 1994, and neither of them will be dead any time soon, pretty much no matter what.

      As far as shifting the polling, as I said in a PP piece recently, that's easy: elect Obama and people will shift (in polling responses) to the right, elect Rubio or Pence or whoever and they'll shift to the left. Works like a charm, every time. Probably doesn't mean much.

    3. Thanks for the comments, guys. I take Jonathan's point that there will always be a tent for liberals (and conservatives) if for no other reason than its a place where the g-d conservatives (or liberals) are not. Matt's also correct that the ACA, per se, won't sink liberalism, but the impact of an implosion might still be extremely damaging.

      I don't have any figures in mind, but I understand that, when Krugman talks about the budgetary moments of truth to come, he is thinking in terms of fairly modest, palatable adjustments. Hopefully! A bad ACA implosion, whether attributed to the ACA or not, necessarily makes those adjustments less modest. Potentially quite a bit less modest, no?

      You're right Matt that liberals will still favor increases to high-end tax rates or defense cuts to sabotaging the Great Society in squaring that circle. Slight digression: if we're talking 10 years hence, the realities of globalization will deter more confiscatory taxes on the wealthy or corporations, and increasingly asymetric warfare will keep the defense budget large. Alas, recipients of entitlement largesse will no doubt lack comparable support in that conversation.

      So. I don't know how much Krugman has in mind when he talks about closing our future budget gap, let's say its something modest like $100 B/year. Perhaps the US can strip that from entitlements without damaging the overall enterprise.

      Now suppose that $100 B becomes $600 B as a result of the ACA. Again, liberals won't *blame* the ACA. But if the forces of globalization and robust defense require virtually the entire budget gap be closed via entitlements, what had been a $100 B slice is now $600 B.

      Take $600 B out of entitlements, for whatever reason, and whomever is to blame, and people are going to ask themselves, what the heck is the point of having a Great Society when it can be easily rendered so not Great?

      Which would, it seems to me, be fairly bad for liberalism, even if no one blamed the ACA as such.


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