2017 Politics open thread, July 2-8

Any political thoughts this week?


30 thoughts on “2017 Politics open thread, July 2-8

  1. I want to continue our discussion, but we now have a new thread. I had a chat today with some German, Dutch and Swedish colleagues on higher ed, and I asked them lots of questions on how their systems work. Evidently in Sweden and Germany, admission is to specific majors at specific universities, and the slots are capped. So in both those countries, admission is strictly based on grades. However, they said, in many fields there are more slots than majors, so it isn’t a big deal. In the Netherlands, everyone has a right to go to any school/major, so grades are not considered. Also in the Netherlands, tuition is $3000 a year, but in Germany it is free. All of the people I spoke with said that CS is getting slammed right now. The person from the Netherlands is the program director for CS at his school. and he said they jumped from 100 admissions to CS to 200 in one year. He said that it was rather a crisis as they tried to figure out how to deal with it. All of the people I spoke with said that the surge in CS is straining their programs.
    But, here is a big thing. I asked them how they recruit students. Advertising and recruitment is a big budget item at many US universities, with lots of people on the payroll so I was curious. They all looked at me, baffled. Recruitment? they asked. No, they don’t do that. No, there is no budget for that, They do design new programs in response to industry needs, and hope that will be attractive. The Dutch guy said he thought the reason for the huge one year enrollment surge was in part because they had started a new track in game design and development. But, they all agreed that their schools do not spend money on advertising and recruitment. So I think that is another way that European universities keep costs low. And that ties back to the lack of fancy buildings, which i the US are largely a recruitment tool.

  2. MM, our friends in places like Australia, Spain and South America tell us that many of their students apply to and attend local schools, and often continue to live at home. The whole model of residential colleges (thousands of them) that both compete for students and turn many applicants away is literally a foreign concept. Is that also true for the colleagues you’ve met there?

  3. MM,

    And by grades do you mean the score they received on the Abiturprüfungen?

  4. German and Swedish universities do have dorms but I think the most common thing is for students to rent rooms in apartments near campus. And students do live at home, although keep in mind that many American students do too.
    I think the difference is that living in a dorm at a European university is not the all-encompassing experience it is in the US. Dorms are just a convenience because university towns have severe housing shortages in many cases. While I see a lot of activities around the university here, and I recall lots of activities at the German and Dutch universities I have been around, it doesn’t look like they are sponsored by the university itself. Universities in these countries don’t have sports, don’t have offices that plan student fun activities, don’t have service learning centers, and don’t have offices of student success. It is a much more bare bones experience. Americans may want a fancier experience, but then they need to understand that is why they end up paying so much.

  5. Rhett, they said “grades”. I did not press them as to the exact meaning.

  6. MM,

    Free admissions: Every applicant who fulfills the university entrance qualification will be admitted. This is usually practiced in subjects in which many students quit their studies, e.g., mathematics, physics or engineering. Sometimes, the number of students who fail a course can be as high as 94 percent in these programs.
    Local admission restrictions: For degree programs where only a limited number of places is available (numerus clausus, often abbreviated NC), criteria by which applications will be evaluated differ from university to university and from program to program. Commonly used criteria include the final grade of the university entrance qualification (which takes into account the grades of the final exams as well as course grades), a weighted grade point average which increases the weight of relevant school subjects, interviews, motivational letters, letters of recommendation by previous professors, essays, relevant practical experience, and subject-specific entrance exams. Such restrictions are increasingly common at German universities.

    So in practice somewhat similar to the US in terms of admission criteria*.

    * For all the talk of hooks and extracurricular US college admissions in practice is almost all down to GPA and test scores.

  7. ” For all the talk of hooks and extracurricular”

    Hooks and ECs matter most for HSS. The less selective the schools, the less the hooks and ECs matter, thus, for many if not most US schools, most hooks and ECs don’t matter much as far as getting accepted.

    OTOH, certain hooks will open a lot of doors WRT non-need-based financial aid.

    And in many cases, high GPA and test scores can be hooks.

  8. And in many cases, high GPA and test scores can be hooks.

    Then you’re not using “hook” in the usual sense. You’re using it to mean “qualification.”

  9. @RMS – I think my high SATs were a “hook” at my undergraduate (and med school). I was way above the average – so it made me stand out.

  10. “Then you’re not using “hook” in the usual sense.”


    I was referring to my previous paragraph about hooks for non-need based financial aid. High test scores, high GPAs, and NMSF/NMF status often serve as hooks in that context.

  11. The schools that use hooks in the usual sense are typically not using them for non-need-based financial aid.

  12. I don’t venture into this forum very often but I just watched yet another discussion on N. Korea that made me consider whether our president can pull out a victory, or at least escape a disaster, in this rapidly escalating situation.

    Here’s my simplistic understanding.

    NK is about 18 months away from being able to strike our west coast with nuclear weapons.

    Part of China’s propping up of NK has been due to their overriding objection to a unified Korea, but now they may be more persuadable that it’s time to act against NK. They have the capability to depose Kim Jong-un by buying off most of his minions.

    The US has the choice of: a) A legitimate preemptive strike, military/cyber/other, to obliterate NK while also causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, including some Americans. Or b) Real economic sanctions against China that would likely trigger severe economic distress on us and other countries. Or c) ???

    I’d rather risk losing my cushy retirement than losing millions of lives. Someone else in my family cynically pointed out a silver lining to war would be economic prosperity.

  13. After reading a few books on the (failed) attempts by German officers to take out Hitler, I’m wondering whether taking out Kim isn’t an option. To quote Michael Corleone, “If history has taught us anything, it’s that you can kill anyone”

  14. “NK is about 18 months away from being able to strike our west coast with nuclear weapons.”

    Wouldn’t a key factor be the state of our missile defense systems?

    If we have effective systems, then the main concerns would be monitoring for such missiles, and the possibility they might be deployed against closer targets, likely without such systems.

  15. @Milo: Is it political irrelevance? Or is it energizing their base? I usually don’t spend much time on the politics thread, but I have seen some of the discussion about health care that talks about how the Republicans can’t agree because they are each pandering to the folks back home who get them elected. And I also remember a fair bit of discussion earlier about did Hillary lose because she was just a bad candidate (subtext: “and Bernie would have slaughtered”) or did Trump just energize people because he spoke to them in a way regular politicians did not, or did the left just really not turn out to support her (subtext: “like they would have for Bernie”)?

    It seems to me that the same political forces are at play on the left as on the right, and so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if folks on that far edge are following the same tactics — see, I TOLD you so, this is what happens when you don’t turn out for the primaries/for the election, etc.

    It is honestly what is most frustrating to me about politics today, because the interests of the nation as a whole are best served if our politicians can work together and compromise, but the interests of the individual politicians seems to be largely to grandstand and mislead and cater to the most extreme portion of their base.

  16. Like the rest of us, politicians respond to incentives. So long as voters reward them with election and then re-election for pandering and grandstanding, they’re going to keep doing it. Just look at the growing list of untouchable issues — entitlement reform, tax treatment of 529 plans, mortgage interest and charitable contribution deductions, tax exemptions for employer-provided health insurance, and state/local tax deductions. Sensible people understand the need to re-examine all of them, but voters won’t let them.

  17. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the Left is irrelevant right now, only the far Left, or, perhaps, the portion of the far Left that does nothing but find fault with absolutely anything the President does or says.

    A natural comparison would be the Tea Party, but I think there are also some key differences. For all their faults, I think you knew what the Tea Party stood for: less government, and one not headed by President Obama. The Vox/Slate crowd, as far as I can perceive, doesn’t convey anything other than Trump = Hitler. There are several problems with that: one is that, as time goes on, it will become irrefutable that he is not Hitler. Another is that he particularly (and maybe only) thrives when he’s the underdog. He’s spent his whole life framing himself as the underdog from Queens whom the elites have rejected. He can’t live without a Goliath to fight against, so when Hillary finally quieted down, he turned on CNN. Imagine if CNN had just said “Yeah, we’ve covered you unfairly and with terrible bias. We’re going to fix that,” and they actually DID. Maybe they just ignored him other than dryly reporting the minimum of what the Administration does on a daily basis. But, for example, they act so distraught about a Tweet share with their logo superimposed that they give it a week of nonstop round-the-clock coverage, plus they dispatch investigative teams to root out the identity of the meme’s creator–WHY? For what possible reason?

    Both the President and CNN (and the rest of the media) want and need this fight.

    I’m jumping around a lot, I realize. Getting back to your point, I think that the Tea Party was successful energizing their base for the 2010 and 2014 midterms. One advantage was that they were very clear what they stood for. A second was that their stated priorities better-aligned with what middle-of-the-road voters favored (less government, government takeover of healthcare is BAD!, less taxes) even if they didn’t necessarily favor the details. Today, by contrast, the passionate arguments from the Far Left — the Travel Ban is evil! — are rejected by the vast majority of Americans (61% overall favor the ban, including even 41% of Democrats). We don’t even need to talk about transgendered bathrooms.

    A final advantage for the Tea Party, and Republicans in general, is that their population is more advantageously distributed. So while taking back Congress (and I’ll never again say “never”) is not impossible, it’s a lot more difficult. Even if districts weren’t gerrymandered, Democratic voters are inefficiently concentrated in too few areas.

    So if they’re energizing their base, they’re doing so against policies that 60% of voters support, and they’re doing it in places that don’t really help them, anyway. The Georgia special election showed that, for all the media hype about the #Resistance and pussy hats, not even the educated and affluent Republicans have shown any real sign of turning against the President.

    AHCA is a huge vulnerability right now for Republicans, to be sure. James Carville surmised that whichever party acts on health care suffers. Americans want everything and they don’t want to pay for it, and there’s no politically expedient way to handle that. But while Republicans are slowly putting a noose around their necks with healthcare, Democrats are setting their own trap by suddenly embracing “single-payer” as the only viable solution. Before it was an interesting solution, a possible solution, but not politically viable, not right for America, Hillary said “We’re not Switzerland!” to Bernie. Not any more. Bernie is one of the platform makers now, and Elizabeth Warren has come out for single payer. I think either Harris or Gillibrand has, as well. That means it’s very quickly going to become a litmus test for any Democratic hopefuls in 2018 and 2020, particularly for Presidential candidates.

    The Republicans, when out of power, knew better than to set this trap for themselves. They never said “We hate Obamacare, and this is what we’re going to do to fix it.” They knew that it was more than enough to simply say “We hate Obamacare.” The Democrats are so damn principled, they don’t seem to realize, or maybe just don’t care, that we’re exactly one year away from shifting all this health care rhetoric from a debate about the right amount of cuts to Medicaid vs. whether slowing the growth is even a cut, to the far-easier-to-understand “Do you REALLY want single-payer government health care for all which means you’re going to lose your doctor and the whole country will be turned into the VA system?” Three guesses which side wins that debate. Freshen up the 1994 commercials, update them for high-def TV, and Trump is reelected in a landslide.

  18. The problem the Republicans have is that all they did say was, “we hate Obamacare.” Over and over again. So, they have kind of painted themselves in to a corner. They have to do something or they will really anger their base. But WTF are they going to do? Health ins is a terrible thing to have to sort out. Particularly when you have a split party. The Republicans seem to be held together by their opposition to things and not by any sort of actual policies. Good way to win elections but a terrible way to govern.

  19. Kate, ITA with that. I don’t know how it shakes out, but my guess is that they repeal ACA — more like “repeal” — and replace it with something that is little changed from ACA with the notable exception of limits on the growth of Medicaid (basically what they have now, perhaps a slightly more mild version).

    If the Democrats wanted the best winning strategy, I think they’d say “OK, let’s see how that works out.” But Sanders and Warren et al. are going to say “Horrible!!! We need single payer!” which will play well in VT and MA, but which is also exactly what Trump needs. Something to attack:

    “This is a HARRIBLE idea!”

  20. The fundamental for problem for Democrats and health care is that, as we have discussed many times on here in other flavors, the vast majority of Americans don’t sense the vulnerability of their own health, health plans, and financial situations. The same unyielding optimism that makes them think college tuition will just take care of itself, that retirement will just take care of itself, makes almost all of the 90% or 95% who already have coverage through an employer or Medicare, or even through Medicaid, figure that what they have is good enough.

  21. I wish Sanders and Warren would be quiet. Bernie should focus on his wife’s investigation.

  22. The question I would ask you then is do you just want Democrats in power or do you actually want a chance at progressive policies?

  23. I am probably not the right one to ask. I am not really a progressive. I am pretty middle of the road. I don’t want single payer. I think our corp taxes should be restructured. I don’t think corporations are evil. But the right totally lost me a while ago with their religious ridiculousness and NRA bs, so I vote for the Dems now.

  24. “Just look at the growing list of untouchable issues ”

    Nah – the list hasn’t grown -that’s the same old stuff. You can include military expenditures and support for farmers under entitlement reform.

  25. This is an interesting article. This woman, who had insurance, posted about her son’s health journey. Kid had heterotaxy. She posted one of the medical bills, for which she was only responsible for $500. The insurance covered the rest. The trolls came out of the woodwork and accused her of stealing from them, told her her son’s life wasn’t worth that much, that she should just have another kid. Apparently now even “regular” insurance (not just Medicaid and Medicare) is “stealing” from others and you and your children should just die to keep the premiums down.

    Story does have an upbeat ending, though.


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