Politics open thread, January 27–February 2

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193 thoughts on “Politics open thread, January 27–February 2

  1. I very strongly suspect that this article is leaving out important information, but just for the sake of discussion, here it is. I get irritated with my leftist friends because they throw the word “socialism” around without ever defining it. They mean a social safety net, I think, which Sweden most definitely has.

    From the WSJ: How Sweden Overcame Socialism
    It’s a model for the U.S., but the lesson isn’t what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks it is.

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Nbb8aQNTvwC6760sUQXs8cjABokFhSIw

  2. They mean a social safety net, I think, which Sweden most definitely has.

    But there is also the regulation of business aspect. Trump, for example, recently signed an executive order directing the Commerce Department to decide what vendors US companies can use as they roll out the 5G network. Those decisions will no longer be made by private companies but rather via decrees eminating from Washington.

    Why is this necessary? Because private business can’t be trusted to do what is in the nation’s best interests? That’s the very heart of socialism. Government needs to regulate business so that it works in the interest of society.

    Trump has really moved the Overton Window pretty far in favor is socialism – I’ll give him that.

    For those who lean more to the right – if Huawei is willing to sell AT&T network switches for 25% less than a US company can sell them, is it the proper role of government to prevent that sale? Or should we trust that customers will weigh AT&T’s vendors choices such that the magic hand of the free market will ensure the US network isn’t entirely controlled by Chinese State Security?

  3. At RMS’s recommendation, I read Isabel Sawhill’s The Forgotten Americans and liked it. She defines The Forgotten Americans as people 25-64 without 4 year college degrees, about 64% of the population. She often focuses on those in the lower half of the income distribution and says that’s 38% of the population. She did not clarify whether lower half of the income distribution meant “lower half of the US income distribution” or “lower half of the US income distribution of people 25-64” which matters because retirees are often lower income.

    Some points I really agreed with:
    1) The Forgotten Americans strongly emphasize personal responsibility. In her words, “Unlike elites, this group [The Forgotten Americans] does not hesitate to judge people as either moral or immoral, responsible or irresponsible, based on their behavior. They do not give excuses for bad behavior such as a lousy childhood, the easy availability of guns, the lack of jobs or other “root casues” that liberals like to cite. ” A few months ago, when we talked about how people in the top decile attribute part of their success to luck, I observed that people may not achieve in the top decile without luck, but personal responsibility keeps you out of the bottom decile. Her observation is the biggest difference I’ve observed between reading The Totebag and attending my family reunions. She quotes UC professor Joan Williams with, “the professional class seeks social honor by embracing the edgy; the white working class seeks honor by embracing the traditional.”
    2) People have lost confidence in the federal government as an institution.
    3) Automation is a bigger factor in the loss of manufacturing jobs than free trade.
    4) She would like post-high school education to be more employment-focused with career and technical opportunities and apprenticeships as an accepted path rather than college-for-all.
    5) She thinks the northern European model of financial support for university education being contingent on previous academic performance should be used more widely in the U.S., rather than having financial aid be available solely based on family income. She cites statistics about the lack of success in college for students that require remedial coursework.
    6) She points out that higher high school graduation rates have not resulted in workers with higher competence. Her example: Siemens’ attempted to hire 800 people in North Carolina. 10,000 people applied but only 15% could pass a basic screening test in reading, writing and math.
    7) She supports government-funded long-term contraception to help people avoid becoming parents until they are ready.
    8) She thinks GDP growth is overrated, largely because it doesn’t consider shifts in paid vs. unpaid caregiving.
    9) She supports expanding the EITC by making it dependent on individual worker incomes vs. household incomes, which would allow married and unmarried workers to benefit equally. She acknowledges the benefits of marriage for The Forgotten Americans and carefully considers how existing policies discourage marriage.
    10) She supports a value added tax, which would tax currently untaxed black market income and broaden the tax base.

    Places where I thought she missed the mark or I disagreed
    1) She discussed in detail the change in incomes of men with and without 4 year degrees from 1971 to ~2015 but ignored the increase in the proportion of men with college degrees. The fraction of the population with a 4 year college degree increased from 12% to 31% over that time. I would have done the same analysis with the top 30% of earners compared to the bottom 70% of earners and looked at what percentage had a college degree in each group. If feasible, I would also have excluded groups such as male teachers who earned a different wage than women solely for being male in 1971.
    2) She supports tax increases on households earning $100-$200k to improve the social safety net but doesn’t think childcare should be fully deductible. Milo and I have discussed the difference between a single earner $120k household and a dual earner $120k household and why it makes more sense to be a $70k single earner household in many cases. She looks only at the federal marginal tax rate and calls the top marginal rate 39.6%. She fails to consider state/local/social security taxes or the student loan burdens of households earning $100-$200k. I was thinking about the Obama family’s pre-White House student loans, private school bills and need for wraparound childcare because Senator Obama was seldom home as I read this section. She also uses “average” costs for childcare in dollars (~$5000) as normative without considering how many families get free childcare from relatives or have one spouse limit employment because of the cost of childcare.
    3) She supports immigration and thinks Trump supporters are wrong to oppose it but (seemingly deliberately) doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigration or skilled and unskilled immigrants. She refers once to “undocumented immigrants” in a manner that leads one to think that Trump supporters are worried about physicians whose toddlers have accidentally flushed their green cards down the toilet, not about the public safety, healthcare and public education challenges of the often-already-poor towns where unskilled immigrants tend to live. I thought the failure to substantively address the reasons WHY Trump supporters oppose illegal immigration enough to vote for him was the book’s greatest weakness.

    Overall, I thought she did a good job and I would vote for a politician with her outlook.

  4. but personal responsibility keeps you out of the bottom decile

    Is that true considering the bottom decile contains a lot of people with very low IQ, significant physical and mental illness, etc?

  5. Rhett, it’s largely but not perfectly true. My Dad observes that plenty of people could make $20/hr driving a fork truck on third shift at his plant (and that’s a living wage in a town where the median home price is $90k), if they would stay off drugs. Like many of The Forgotten Americans, he’s not convinced that drug/alcohol addiction is a mental illness.

  6. he’s not convinced that drug/alcohol addiction is a mental illness.

    It still has a huge genetic component.

    First, there is a fourfold enhanced alcohol-dependence risk in relatives of alcoholics; second, identical twins of alcohol-dependent subjects carry a higher risk for this disorder than do fraternal twins or full siblings; and third, the adopted children of alcoholics have the same fourfold enhanced risk for this disorder as do offspring raised by their alcohol-dependent parent

  7. To avoid being an opioid addict, the main thing you have to do is not start using opioids.

  8. I am adding the Forgotten Americans to my reading list. It sounds very interesting. One question: how does the author square her subjects’ strong emphasis on personal responsibility with the fact that, as a population, they seem to be failing to thrive? Is there a lot of self-blame and self-loathing going on among these people, or do they not perceive themselves as failing to thrive? My perception was that Trump’s appeal to this group was precisely his invitation to blame others (immigrants, foreign countries, urban elites, you name it) for their problems, rather than asking them to change their own behaviors or expectations. If personal responsibility is all that is required for success, then these people should be successful whether or not they were “forgotten.” And I think the general consensus — even among the studied population itself — is that they have not been successful.

  9. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/democrats-to-howard-schultz-dont-do-it/ar-BBSPslu?ocid=ientp

    Theme of the article: Howard Schultz, founder/CEO of Starbucks is considering an independent run for the presidency as a centrist candidate. Democrats are afraid because if he’s there, it’ll guarantee a Trump win. (I tend to agree with this assessment.)

    The money quote: “The chance to defeat Mr. Trump has become an organizing principle of the Democratic Party”

    Make no mistake, I’d prefer someone other than Trump. Not Anyone But Trump. What galls me is the “defeat Trump” mantra. If that’s all people want here’s an idea that just might work… Democrats sit it out. Schultz goes as an independent, picks off a few pro-Trump folks and everyone to their left. Trump loses. Mission accomplished, right?

    But no, the Democrats are not really all about “defeat Trump”. They want their party to win. Well, fine. Run someone who can actually win. (i.e. move to the middle).

  10. Fred, that was my same reaction to the article. I think if either party ran a moderate, sane candidate, that candidate would win in a landslide.

  11. I agree – a moderate is the way to go. Unfortunately, the primary system, in both parties, does not favor moderate candidates

  12. City Mom, I think you’ll like the book. The conservative view is that personal responsibility is necessary for success, not that personal responsibility is ALL that is necessary for success. The
    conservative/liberal disagreement is in the grey areas, about back pain and addiction as disabilities, not about quadriplegia and schizophrenia as disabilities.

    Sawhill discusses “the success sequence”- graduate from high school, work full time, get married, have children, in that order- and how people who do those things only live in poverty ~2% of the time (She has some charts that break out success by how many of those things people do.) She is a fan of encouraging the success sequence.

    In the same way I start from conservative assumptions that I”m not always aware of, she starts from liberal assumptions that she may not be aware of. She assumes that both parents should/want to work and that households with high incomes should support higher taxes to support a strong social safety net. I know several top decile aptitude women who are homeschooling mothers and don’t care about the quality of public schools because they don’t send their children to them and assume their children will choose to homeschool as well. Sawhlll talks a fair amount about people not voting in their own self interest by not voting Democratic but she doesn’t ever discuss the fact that the only income subset that Clinton won were households with incomes below $50,000. Maybe the book is really asking, “Why didn’t Clinton win even more overwhelmingly among households with incomes less than $50,000?”

  13. HRC was a sane moderate candidate who won the primary and then promptly lost to a republican who was neither sane nor moderate. I never hear hear commentators urging republicans to move to the middle. Why is that line only directed at the Dems? Look how well Kasich did in the primaries.

    I’m sure that some moderate Dems will run in 2020. Whether they can break through the primary process remains to be seen, though I think Biden would have a good shot. Whoever wins the Dem primary, I think a third party run would be disastrous. It virtually assures that trump will get a second term while still winning well under half the popular vote.

  14. Sawhill discusses “the success sequence”- graduate from high school, work full time, get married, have children, in that order-

    But when that logic is applied to sending everyone to college you rightly call it the nonsense that it is. Correlation is not causation.

  15. Thanks, WCE. In Sawhill’s view, is the success sequence widely practiced among the Forgotten Americans? If not (and my reading on the subject suggests that it is not, at least among some subsets of FAs), are the people who do not follow that sequence accepting personal responsibility for the consequences of their choices, or are they deflecting blame? That is where the inconsistency lies for me. I often hear conservatives talk about personal responsibility when discussing other people’s problems, but when their own families and communities have similar issues, they are quick to look for other people or circumstances to blame, and just as quick to ask the government for solutions. This ties into the discussion we had recently about Tucker Carlson’s sudden realization that government intervention in markets may be a good thing after all. He only came to that conclusion after realizing that poverty and family dysfunction were rampant among his white, rural base. He sang a different tune when those same problems were (or were thought to be) limited to minority communities in cities.

  16. City Mom said ” I never hear hear commentators urging republicans to move to the middle”

    Because of the electoral college disadvantage. Democrats have to overperform in comparison to Republicans. So Republicans can win the presidency by just winning conservatives, but Democrats cannot win by just getting liberals. They HAVE to carry some red states.

  17. Well, fine. Run someone who can actually win. (i.e. move to the middle).

    See, that’s the general response here in this particular Internet bubble, but if you read my Facebook feed, you’d see all the people who think Ocasio Cortez is way too conservative and that they refuse to go to the polls at all unless a true socialist runs. (There was a great meme the other day about Bernie supporters already getting a head start on bitching about how Bernie would have won in 2020.) I have people who are still frothingly angry that they were forced to vote for HRC instead of Bernie.

  18. “But when that logic is applied to sending everyone to college you rightly call it the nonsense that it is. Correlation is not causation.”

    Is it?
    “College for all” is nonsense because most of the population lacks the cognitive ability to attend and graduate from college. The correlation/causation thing is beside the point.

    However, there was a time, not that long ago, when a broad swath of the population followed the “success sequence” and were able to avoid poverty. Granted, it was also easier than today for a male high-school grad (or even dropout) to get and keep a job that would support a family. But it is always possible for people to make personal decisions that lead to better economic outcomes. Few kids drop out of high school in the 21st century because they have to work to support themselves, as my FIL did BITD, for example.

  19. And +1 to City Mom at 12:17. Kasich was the most reasonable, and didn’t he get less than 1% of the primary vote? Y’all are not paying attention to the way the wind blows.

  20. “Bernie supporters already getting a head start on bitching about how Bernie would have won in 2020”

    I think Bernie probably would have won in 2016 had he been nominated. He would have beaten Trump in MI, WI and PA — all of which Trump won by less than 1 percentage point. And I can’t think of a state that HRC won that Bernie would have lost.

    The people who swung the 2016 election did not vote for Trump because they agreed with his policy positions. They voted for him because he was an angry old white guy yelling about how the system was “rigged” against people like them (i.e. they were not personally responsible for their problems). Bernie hit all the same triggers.

  21. “He would have beaten Trump in MI, WI and PA”

    Far be it from me to say with any certainty what definitely would or would not have happened in 2016 under different circumstances. But I *do* think it’s important to note that, much like the Clinton campaign encouraged supportive talk of Trump and his ideas and his chances early in the GOP nominating cycle to fan the flames of chaos in that show, the Republicans were likewise going pretty easy on Bernie because he was giving Hillary hell.

    However, if Bernie had actually won the nomination, they would have opened the full firestorm of socialism, taking all your money, taxing you to hell and back, government-run everything.

    It’s possible — slightly possible — that the far left side of the Democratic Party is not quite realizing this lesson as they impose ever stricter ideological purity tests on any potential national candidates. They could be courting disaster by insisting on the [second] only candidate who could actually lose to Trump.

  22. There is no way Bernie would have won in any of those states. Socialist is an epithet in places like WI. In MI, he would have needed the black vote, but he never did well with black voters. It would have been a blowout ala McGovern. People need to look at the electoral history of the Democratic party. Every time they run a true liberal, they lose in a blowout.

    Electoral college results
    1972
    McGovern 17 Nixon 520
    1976
    Carter 297 Ford 240 (even with Watergate, the electoral college tally was close)
    1980
    Carter 49 Reagan 489
    1984
    Mondale 13 reagan 525
    1988
    Dukakis 111 Bush 426
    1992
    Clinton 370 Bush 160 (the Democrats finally ran a moderate, and did better)
    1996
    Clinton 379 Dole 159
    2000
    Gore 266 Bush 271 (finally a squeaker – Gore was a moderate from TN, with a frickin quasi Republican as his running mate)
    2004
    Kerry 251 Bush 286

    When the Democrats ran more leftwing candidates like Mondale, Dukakis, and McGovern, they did really badly. When they ran middle of the road candidates, they were able to get enough of the states like IL and WI to win. Democrats can’t just win on California, NY,MA, Washington and Oregon.

  23. MM — you left Obama’s two wins off your list. Do you consider him a moderate or a true liberal?

  24. Mooshi, I had thoughts like yours when I saw the positive press for Elizabeth Warren. She may or may not be a good candidate, but the history of Massachusetts liberals running for President in my memory has not been positive. I think the Democrats should be someone from a non-Coastal state if they want to maximize their chances of winning. I can’t imagine Trump winning again, but I couldn’t imagine him winning the first time, so what do I know?

  25. He was very much a moderate, especially in comparison to Bernie or even Kamala Harris

  26. Keep in mind, when Obama first ran, he was not even for mandatory healthcare coverage. He was a mile away from the Medicare for all crowd

  27. And I left him off because I just got tired of typing! But seriously, he won because he managed to convince a lot of middle of the road voters that he wasn’t all that scary. We were in the middle of a terrifying financial crisis, and he looked more steady and knowledgable on financial matters than McCain did.

  28. Kamala Harris also cannot win, because she is from California, a state that is detested in the swing states that Democrats have to win.

  29. MM — I remember a big issue in the primary debates was whether there should be a health care mandate. Obama was for it, HRC was not. Obama won the primary anyway, and went on to trounce McCain in the general.

    Your point is well taken, and I would not be opposed to the nomination of a Biden or Bloomberg. At the end of the day, though, I think the impact of a candidates policy positions on the so-called “swing” electorate is much less important than the emotions the candidate inspires. Obama did better than HRC in places like Wisconsin and Ohio even though she was the more politically moderate candidate. The candidate has to get people excited. That is the most important factor. Trump had no clue about policy, but he riled up people’s emotions and they came out to vote for him.

  30. Even though Obama was technically a Democrat, he acted like a Republican with his policies. Bail out; Obama-care, foreign engagement, etc.

  31. Bloomberg can’t win because he can’t turn out the black vote. He is hated among much of the NYC black community because of gentrification and a feeling that his policies were for rich white people.

  32. “No, it was the opposite”

    I thought so, too. I thought I remembered watching their primary debates and he’s playing it cool and saying “there’s no need for a mandate” and she’s trying to be the responsible one to deliver the bad news that “yes, you can’t do it without a mandate, it will collapse.”

  33. However, there was a time, not that long ago, when a broad swath of the population followed the “success sequence” and were able to avoid poverty.

    When was this exactly? Give me a year so I can look up the poverty rate data.

  34. However, there was a time, not that long ago, when a broad swath of the population followed the “success sequence” and were able to avoid poverty

    Why are you poor? Because you don’t make a lot of money. Why don’t you make a lot of money? Because you’re not a very good employee. Why are you not a good employee? Because you have a low IQ, low capacity for effort, a low level of conscientiousness, etc. Simply forcing them to marry and graduate from high school isn’t going to change the fact that they aren’t very good employees.

    You and WCE have accepted the fact that IQ is largely genetic and immutible. The data says that conscientiousness, capacity for effort, delayed gratification, etc. are also largely genetic and immutable. But you haven’t accepted that as easily as you’ve accepted the truth about IQ.

  35. Rhett, poverty data doesn’t apply here because the definition of poverty has changed. People don’t spend a third of their incomes on food anymore.

    If conscientiousness hasn’t changed because it’s genetic rather than environmental, what has changed if anything? Do Asian cultures avoid social pathologies like single parenthood because shame still plays a significant role in shaping cultural norms? Does the easy availability of drugs and video games tempt people to sloth more than they used to be tempted?

  36. WCE,

    So your theory is that poverty has increased rather than decreased? Because your food coat theory would indicate poverty has decreased even more than indicated by the chart.

  37. “There were lots of really dumb, lazy employees in union jobs in the 50s. People just forget that they were protected back then.”

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll repeat it as many times as necessary. Yes, union jobs were great and the path to the middle class in the 1950s, and oh so stable. That’s what my grandparents’ generation largely did on all sides. But that meant one great-uncle, who had been trained by the Navy/Merchant Marines in WWII and was a union person in big, blue NYC, lived in my grandparents’ basement (his older sister’s house) for years — WITH HIS WIFE — before they could save enough money to get their own place.

    DW’s grandfather, a trained electrician from the Navy and WWII had a union job with a New England utility and still had to moonlight at night for about 20 years before they were comfortable enough to drop that second income.

    And it goes without saying that the dream houses were tiny tract housing built by the Levitts, one car, no restaurants, blah blah blah.

    The way people sometimes talk about these union jobs, you’d be forgiven for thinking they paid high school graduates $80k a year from the get-go.

  38. Rhett, I would say inequality has increased but because of widespread prosperity, poverty has decreased. The 1963 food-based definition of poverty is no longer appropriate.

    “The Census Bureau determines poverty status by using an official poverty measure (OPM) that compares pre-tax cash income against a threshold that is set at three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963 and adjusted for family size.”

  39. big, blue NYC, lived in my grandparents’ basement

    I think NYC might doing a lot of the work in your argument. Presumably the same wasn’t true in Kenosha, WI or Toledo, OH. Or that someone in a similar position in NYC today is still living in an illegally converted basement apartment in their parents house in Queens. Although now they have a lot less job security.

  40. This wasn’t Manhattan. The citiy neighborhoods weren’t considered particularly expensive or prestigious.

  41. I would say inequality has increased

    So (as a thought experiment) if the government reversibly sterilized everyone at 9, forced them to finish high school and then forced them to get married before reversing the birth control inequality would decrease? I might give you the mandatory birth control but I don’t see forcing them to finish high school as being any better than forcing them to finish college.

    And if you say they have to choose it, then we’re back to selection bias.

  42. The citiy neighborhoods weren’t considered particularly expensive or prestigious.

    So homes in Kenosha c. 1955 were similar in price to Queens? How confident are you in that?

  43. “Unfortunately, the primary system, in both parties, does not favor moderate candidates”

    Are moderate candidates doing well in CA, with their top-two primary system?

    I’d like to see a change to the primary system. Ideally, I’d like to get rid of primaries and replace it with something like MVP voting, i.e., vote for your top 3 candidates, although I’d also like to see a way for people to directly vote against a candidate.

  44. That’s kind of a stupid-snark question. Obviously, there were price differences. The point is that the good union jobs of the postwar era were not as lucrative as modern nostalgia for them would suggest. People did not work only 40 hours and immediately afford nice houses on private lots and pay for all the trappings we assume are essential for middle class life.

    I’d estimate that you could probably get an entry-level job assembling Honda Pilots in Alabama and do significantly better, materially, than union workers were doing in 1950. And if you’re trained as something like electrician, and you’re geographically flexible, you’ll do much better.

  45. “the northern European model of financial support for university education being contingent on previous academic performance should be used more widely in the U.S., rather than having financial aid be available solely based on family income.”

    A lot of the available aid is predicated on a history of academic performance. E.g., many HSS are generous with financial aid, but only for students whose previous academic performance warrants acceptance.

    And a lot of aid is contingent on maintaining a certain GPA.

  46. Why don’t parties just take back control of their nominating process?

    How did they stop 30 candidates from running in other years when there was no obvious nominee? What’s different now?

  47. “the professional class seeks social honor by embracing the edgy; the white working class seeks honor by embracing the traditional.”

    It seems like a lot of the non-white professional class seeks honor by embracing the traditional.

  48. “How did they stop 30 candidates from running in other years when there was no obvious nominee?”

    Are you referring to POTUS elections?

    BITD, I don’t think they stopped 30 candidates. Look at the 2016 R primary, or how many D candidates have already announced, and how many more are expected to announce soon.

    I think the 2016 D primary was an aberration.

  49. Why are there so many more now, than, say 2004, when there was no Vice President waiting in the wings, or former First Lady for whom the party had cleared the field?

  50. Bloomberg can’t win because he can’t turn out the black vote.

    Trump got a solid 8% of the black vote.

  51. Or republican side 2008, or 2012… I know there were probably more initially than we remember, but nothing like Republicans 2016 or Dems 2020.

  52. “former First Lady for whom the party had cleared the field?”

    It may just be my recollection, but I don’t remember them clearing the field in 2004.

    It seems that more candidates emerge for elections in which there’s no incumbent, but for 2020 appears to be shaping up to be atypical.

    Perhaps part of it is that the Dems cleared the field in 2016, resulting in a glut of wannabes, and many of them, especially the older ones (e.g., Warren), don’t want to wait another 4 years.

    IOW, 2016 was atypical, and its effects are still being felt.

  53. “but I don’t remember them clearing the field in 2004.”

    That’s my point. That’s why I picked 2004. It should have been totally open. And they got Wesley Clark and Kerry and Dean, and I know some others, but not a huge number.

    2016 Rs got 17. Yes, that was very atypical at that time. But I don’t think you can continue to say it’s atypical now that the Ds have like 30 people running. It’s like the new normal. I just don’t know what changed to allow it.

  54. There’s an article in the Denver Post today about Hickenlooper making a visit to Iowa this weekend to put feelers out. One of the caucus chairs is quoted as saying something to the effect of “We need a hard core progressive candidate to excite the base – someone in favor of socialized health care, etc.”

    This is exactly the position that will doom the Dems. They need a moderate candidate who will appeal to the independents and some moderate anit-Trump Republicans. The Democratic “base” is going to vote for the Democratic candidate regardless of who it is, and as the last election showed, that’s not enough to win. They need someone with broader appeal.

  55. “explain 2016”

    On the R side, wasn’t that because of the lack of any clear front runner?

    I suppose the same could explain the D side now.

  56. you’d see all the people who think Ocasio Cortez is way too conservative and that they refuse to go to the polls at all unless a true socialist runs.

    If a moderate ends up with the nomination, they are going to vote for him/her because they sure as hell don’t want Trump to win. And the Dems can win without their votes anyway. All the extremists on both sides are a small minority, but they are the vocal ones. There are a lot more votes to be gained by both parties by going after the middle than by catering to the extremes.

  57. “We need a hard core progressive candidate to excite the base – someone in favor of socialized health care, etc.”

    WTF? They mean in addition to Bernie and Warren and I don’t know how many others?

  58. “She supports a value added tax, which would tax currently untaxed black market income and broaden the tax base.”

    How would it do that? Wouldn’t a VAT actually lead to an increased black market to avoid that tax?

    I kinda like the concept of a VAT to replace the income tax because the income tax is such a PITA and leads to the inefficient allocation of resources.

  59. “On the R side, wasn’t that because of the lack of any clear front runner?”

    Finn, you’re starting to drive me nuts. There was no R front runner in 2012, or 2008, or 2000, or 1996.

    There was no D frontrunner in 2004. (And only because of the unique Clinton marriage was there a D front runner in 2008 or 2016.

    I agree with RMS’ comment that a lot of people are saying “hey, if trump can do it…”

  60. The idea is that people’s nannies and cleaning ladies and contractors working under the table would pay their taxes when they bought groceries and household goods.

    I agree that it would be a boon for Craigslist used merchandise, but I’d guess not the dominant variable.

  61. Yeah, front runner wasn’t a great choice of words. More like there weren’t strong enough candidates to scare off a lot of the wannabes, or perhaps to scare off their financial backers.

    Perhaps Trump had something to do with that, e.g., the way he turned Jeb! into an also-ran.

  62. I don’t know, Denver Dad. I’ve seen comments from someone that she will never, ever vote for Kamala Harris because Harris is a “cop lover”. I mean, sometimes people do stay home.

  63. “She acknowledges the benefits of marriage for The Forgotten Americans and carefully considers how existing policies discourage marriage.”

    A while back, things like standard deductions and brackets were changed to largely eliminate the marriage penalty, and provide a financial incentive for single-income couples to marry.

    Under Obama, the marriage penalty re-emerged for high income couples, but for most of the middle class, the marriage incentive remains.

  64. But what about in terms of eligibility for the assistance at the low income end? SNAP, Medicaid, etc.

  65. Finn, I think couples where both have a low income are most disadvantaged by marriage because they often lose EITC eligibility. The marriage penalty is not in the “regular” part of the tax code but in the EITC part.

  66. “Why are you poor? Because you don’t make a lot of money. Why don’t you make a lot of money? Because you’re not a very good employee. Why are you not a good employee? Because you have a low IQ, low capacity for effort, a low level of conscientiousness, etc.”

    Or because you have decided to have children whose father cannot/will not help support them.
    Or because you have a prison record and cannot find an employer willing to take a chance on you.
    Or because you have a substance abuse problem.
    Or because your parents split and left you to be raised by a grandmother who has her own substance abuse problems.

    The list is endless. But the root causes are related far more to behavior than to structural oppression or deliberate indifference by elites.

  67. “Trump got a solid 8% of the black vote.”
    Trump ran as a Republican. Their numbers work differently. He had to get the evangelicals out, which he did, amazingly. Democrats count on black voters as a core part of their constiuency, just as Republicans count on white evangelicals.

  68. If the Presidential election were based on popular vote, I think the Democrats could run a true progressive and win. But because of the electoral college system, they have to take some states where moderate and conservative voters outnumber liberal voters. The Republicans, on the other hand, don’t have to win liberal states. That is why they can skew hard right but the Democrats cannot skew hard left. It sucks, but that is our system.

  69. So at this early stage who do you think the Democrats will run? Also, who “should” they run if they want to win?

    The latest commentary I’ve heard is that K. Harris is the media’s choice, but that she’s really running for VP and a Biden/Harris ticket is not a bad choice. Also, that Schultz’s main if not only reason for announcing his possible candidacy is to promote sales of his new book.

  70. Ugh, please, not Biden

    Ugh, please not Harris

    Biden is at least sane and old enough to only be a one term president

  71. Harris is quite sane. What about her is insane?

    I like Biden, but I would like to see someone under 60 this time.

  72. I know very little about Harris but my impressions are favorable. Same with Gillibrand. I found Beto intriguing until the public naval gazing.

  73. Harris is sane. I was mainly referring to the current president and most the current crop of Democratic hopefuls.

    My only real impressions of Kamala Harris consist of her refusal to engage with the interior of California and the Kavanaugh hearing when she was going through the “Have you stopped beating your wife?” questions.

    While they were going on, I ended having to go on a six hour drive and got to listen to the hearings live. I was not impressed.

  74. Harris is entirely sane, but she is from California so I fear she is unelectable on those grounds. She also has some issues with the black community, believe it or not. In the end, I care more about electability than the actual person…
    The problem with Biden is that he is old and white, and the whole Anita Hill thing is going to come up, over and over.

    I am old enough to remember the Democratic primary in 1992. It was a really crowded field, with people I never heard of. My initial reaction to Bill Clinton was “who’s that???”. So you never know…

  75. Or because you have decided to have children whose father cannot/will not help support them.

    So what does marriage do in that case? He’s just another mouth to feed.

  76. The whole effort to push marriage for the poor is confusing to me because the divorce rate is so high. Nearly 50% of all US marriages end in divorce, and divorce rates are highest among people with low incomes/low education levels — precisely the people Being targeted for marriage incentives. If the people being targeted are unlikely to stay married (even when they choose to marry without financial incentives) why push them to marry at all? Fathers have the same child support obligations whether they were married to the mother or not.

  77. “The whole effort to push marriage for the poor is confusing to me because the divorce rate is so high.”

    So replace “push” with “encourage.”

    The reason to encourage marriage is that it is the best societal institution for raising children. UMC elites know this, which is why they generally get married before having children, and stay married at least until the children are grown. Child support does not replace the presence of a father.

  78. I agree that marriage is the best institution for raising children. However, I do not think that pushing (or “encouraging”) marriage among people who are not inclined or ready to marry will bring about the stable, happy homes that everyone wants. The argument is that public policy discourages marriage among the poor. If that were true, I would expect that the poor who do choose to marry are the most motivated to do so. Yet their divorce rates are sky high. We could change our policies to encourage marriage among the less motivated poor, but it is a fantasy to think that doing so will result in lasting unions.

    As for your second point, I do not have the statistics in front of me, but I do not believe that most UMC folks “stay married at least until the children are grown.” I am pretty well clued into this because I am a divorce lawyer. The vast majority of my cases involve children under 18, and more than half involve children under 14. All of the families I work with are UMC or above. If I had to guess, I would say that families with grown children (18 or over) make up less than 20% of my practice. This makes sense — the longer a given marriage lasts, the less likely the couple is to divorce. Most divorces occur in the first 14 years of marriage.

  79. “I do not have the statistics in front of me, but I do not believe that most UMC folks “stay married at least until the children are grown.””

    Actually, the vast majority of them do. Divorce is rare, and the prevalence of it is way down, among those who are college-educated, and especially among those who were not previously divorced (i.e., serial divorcers tend to skew the overall statistics).

    https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-marriage-divide-how-and-why-working-class-families-are-more-fragile-today

  80. “I am pretty well clued into this because I am a divorce lawyer.”

    And your clients are obviously not randomly selected from the general population.

  81. Divorce is not “rare” in any demographic group. The study you linked shows that 30% of ever-married college-educated folks have been divorced. That is nearly one in three. And I agree that divorce rates have gone down in the last 10 years because far fewer people are getting married, and they are waiting longer to marry. Which leads me to my conclusion that using incentives or social pressure to push people into marriage who would not otherwise choose to marry will only lead to more divorces. Forever is a long time and marriage is not always easy, especially for the poor. The chances of success are very low if people are ambivalent from the beginning.

  82. “And your clients are obviously not randomly selected from the general population.”

    No, they aren’t. As I said, they skew UMC to wealthy. Nearly all graduated from college. Statistically, they are the people most likely to have long marriages.

  83. “Which leads me to my conclusion that using incentives or social pressure to push people into marriage who would not otherwise choose to marry will only lead to more divorces.”

    1/3 is a lot less than “most.”

    The whole point of pushing for marriage is really about pushing for marriage BEFORE HAVING CHILDREN. If some of them get divorced after that point, at least they tried. And if it means that some people don’t have kids, all the better.

  84. “Statistically, they are the people most likely to have long marriages.”

    Right, but this is meaningless. Firefighters don’t get called to non-burning buildings. (I mean, they do — medical emergencies, gas leaks, etc. — but you know what I mean).

  85. The thing is that most people want to have children. If they perceive that marriage is not attainable for them, they will choose to have children outside of marriage rather than remain childless. That was the conclusion of the book “Promises I Can Keep,” which I highly recommend. The poor moms profiled in that book all wanted to get married someday, but didn’t have access to men who were marriageable. They were willing to accept remaining single, but not willing to give up on the dream of having children, so they had children outside of marriage. It is not ideal, certainly, but it is rational. So the policy goal — if one is to be gleaned from this — should be to make men marriageable (e.g. ready to commit and meaningfully contribute to a family), rather than simply encouraging marriage for its own sake.

  86. “Firefighters don’t get called to non-burning buildings.”

    Right, but I was responding to Scarlett’s claim that “nearly all” UMC couples stay married at least until the children are grown. If that were true, then I would expect my client base to be comprised mostly of older couples with grown kids. But that is not the case. Most of my clients have young kids at home.

    According to this study from 2012, the median length of first marriage is 12 years.

    https://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-14-11-marital-duration-2012.pdf

  87. a supermajority of UMC couples stay married, period. an even stronger majority, then, stay married, or stay married until the kids are grown.

    that is true even IF the majority of those who get divorced do so before the kids reach 18 years.

  88. “If that were true, then I would expect my client base to be comprised mostly of older couples with grown kids.”

    As Milo pointed out, your client base is composed entirely of people who have decided to divorce. You’re not seeing most of the families in the denominator.

    And unless you are working for a public interest firm, your client base is also composed of people who are willing to pay for legal advice because they have assets and minor children to manage. So, of course it makes perfect sense that you are working mostly with college-educated parents of younger kids. Other divorcing couples can get by with less expensive lawyers. Or no lawyers at all.

  89. “It was a really crowded field, with people I never heard of. My initial reaction to Bill Clinton was “who’s that???”. So you never know…”

    Kinda like Obama in 2008? Or even Carter in ’76?

  90. “I mean, they do — medical emergencies, gas leaks, etc.”

    Thank you for the clarification.

  91. “I was responding to Scarlett’s claim that “nearly all” UMC couples stay married at least until the children are grown. If that were true, then I would expect my client base to be comprised mostly of older couples with grown kids.”

    And couples who’d never had kids.

  92. I read both left-wing and right-wing rags, and honest to god, they annoy me equally. There’s a piece in The Nation about the Red Hook residents and their post Superstorm Sandy problems.

    These disproportionate effects are far from coincidental. Historically, “the waterfront was the place the city put things it didn’t want to see,” says Roland Lewis, CEO of the Waterfront Alliance, a coalition of organizations focused on making New York’s waterfront accessible and resilient. “It was a place you put the highways, the railroads, the ships, the industry, and the projects.” The legacies of this decision-making have been made increasingly visible as storms surge with unprecedented force through public housing across the country, from North Carolina, to Texas, to Florida. In NYC, NYCHA apartments make up nearly one-fifth of the housing units that lie within the floodplain designated by FEMA.

    Yes. They put the SHIPS on the WATERFRONT because they’re EVIL. And the railroads that connected the shipping, and the industry that used the materials brought in from the ships and the railways, that’s all because The City is nefarious and evil.

  93. I just watched a Howard Schultz interview while on the treadmill, and maybe it was too much blood rushing to my head but I can see myself voting for him. I didn’t catch him say anything about border security or national defense, so the jury’s still out. But he had me when he told the story of turning down Elizabeth Warren’s request for a campaign donation. Nice person but too “socialist”. Maybe most importantly, he seems more authentic than almost any politician out there.
    https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/howard-schultz-i-don-t-believe-what-dem-party-stands-for-1434421827615

  94. If Howard Schultz runs as an independent, Trump wins.

    Can’t they convince him to enter the Republican primary?

  95. RMS – I think you’d have to see Red Hook to better understand the article. (My kids’ school is there.) The highway splits the community from the rest of Brooklyn. The buses run there infrequently. There is no convenient subway line nearby. Given Red Hooks proximity to Manhattan you’d think it would have better transit options. But, for reasons, that community was isolated. Keep in mind ports could have been put in numerous other locations (all of Manhattan and large parts of Queens and Brooklyn have waterfront) but the ports were built there and therefore rail lines. And then the highway (which doesn’t connect well to the ports or rail lines) and add on top the projects and poor public transportation.

  96. My random thought: Do you think the relative quiet out of Washington DC this week is because
    a) actual progress is being made between Sen Republicans, House Dems, and WH and they’re just keeping quiet hoping they’ll get it right/passed by next Friday?
    b) nothing is being done because the no one wants to be the first to move?
    c) the media is focusing on the polar vortex?
    d) combo/other?

  97. So Cory Booker is now in the race. Opinions? I have followed his career for years because of my longterm interest in Newark. I rather like him – he is a tad more centrist than Kamala Harris, but isn’t a Big Finance Billionaire like Bloomberg. I wish he hadn’t jumped on the Medicare for all bandwagon though. That is going to kill Democrats in 2020.

  98. July, the mayor before him, Sharpe James, kind of lived up to his name. He was a sharpster, indeed. Ick.
    I always wonder, though, if Booker has any dirt from his Newark days. It is hard to avoid…

  99. Given my line of work, I have been interested in how various Democrats seem to be trying to out-do each other with plans to tax the wealthy. Everything seems to be on the table — an increased top marginal income tax (Ocasio-Cortez), a new wealth tax (Warren), and a revised federal estate tax (Sanders — proposing bringing the exemption back to $3.5M from its current $11.4M). I’m curious to see if any of this gets any traction, or if it’s just an effort to appeal to the left-wing base.

  100. Oh, and I was also reading an op-ed piece the other day (can’t remember who wrote it) saying that the tax rates for dividends and capital gains should be the same rates that apply to ordinary income. Again, it seems like the Democratic candidates are thinking that everything is on the table in terms of tax policy.

  101. NoB, I remember when Obama got elected and everyone thought the exemption would go down and it went up again. If the House/Senate are still divided, though, it is REALLY HARD for anyone to push through any substantial policy changes. I saw a chart lining up when they did the Reagan tax bill, the Bush tax cuts, the ACA, and the TCJA and IIRC, all of them were when the House and Senate were controlled by the same party.

  102. I think the Democrats are going to kill their chances with the Medicare for all thing. I think voters who would consider switching from Trump to a Democrat will be voters who are craving stability after the craziness. How does proposing to completely annihilate our medical system give stability???

  103. RMS, Medicare for all might be a nice way to go, although I have my misgivings. But in an election that we direly need to win, just to keep from sliding into the abyss, why throw it all away? The right wing is already having a field day with Medicare for all. Most people in this country have employer based coverage which , while not perfect, is not something they want to risk. This one is just too easy of a target for Republicans

  104. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether the slim majority of Americans who get health insurance through their employers are edgy about Medicare for All. It’s entirely about the legislative and executive branches of government being wholly owned and operated by corporate interests, especially health insurance companies. So it’s unlikely to pass, but I will vote for whoever is will to try.

  105. I like Cory Booker from what little I know of him. He would be a front runner for me, along with Harris and Gillibrand.

  106. To me, this is not about whether we like Medicare for all or not. It is about desperately needing to win 2020. Democrats can go full out on Medicare for all, and I bet they will win huge majorities in NY and California. They may well win the popular vote on that, in fact. But they won’t win the Electoral College and that is all that matters. If the Democrats can’t claw back some of the states Trump won, it is all over. And I don’t see Medicare for all playing well in those states.
    Even the editorial board of liberal WaPo is leery.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/you-cant-have-it-all–even-with-medicare-for-all/2019/01/31/b0551dcc-24c4-11e9-ad53-824486280311_story.html?utm_term=.8ab1ef1a6483

  107. I too support single payer. I think ‘medicare’ for all is bad nomenclature. After all, medicare has for 50+ years been the health insurance for the old people. The name needs to be something like USAHealth or something like that that has not yet been copyrighted. I’m not smart enough to suggest changes to the nuts and bolts of how medicare is run when it were expended to everyone, but I suppose there are some things to change.

  108. I think most people would like to see a system with universal coverage. But universal coverage is not the same thing as single payer, and in turn, single payer is not the same thing as Medicare for all. As I have said repeatedly here, most countries with universal coverage do NOT have single payer. And even those countries with single payer have wildly different systems. Canada does everything through its provinces, for example.
    Here is an article that explains some of this
    https://www.verywellhealth.com/difference-between-universal-coverage-and-single-payer-system-1738546

  109. But Fred, no one realizes that Medicare is a government program. You can see that from all the old MAGA-hat people screaming “Keep your governments hands off of my Medicare!”. So no one will realize it’s a government program.

    Remember: The truth no longer matters. If it ever did.

  110. One other problem with Medicare for all as a political talking point is that it will be very easy for Republicans to say that implementing it will change Medicare (and they will probably be right about that). What a great way to terrify seniors into voting Republican….

  111. My personal opinion is that Democrats would have a much better chance with a candidate who runs on making the ACA strong again. At this point, the ACA is relatively popular, and people are comfortable with it. A specific set of proposals that make it work better would play well with scared suburban moderates in Trump states. Remember, many countries have achieved universal coverage with ACA style systems.

  112. Old people are already reliable Republican voters. In fact, the only age group Trump won was the 65 and up crowd.

    I support single payer health care. I don’t care whether its Medicare for All or some other system, and I would be fine with moving toward the goal incrementally if that’s what is necessary. But I am tired of hearing people exclaim that “it can’t work” when many, many other countries have managed to accomplish it. I am also tired of hearing people who are on Medicare gripe about “socialism” whenever anyone suggests expanding Medicare to cover more people. I swear these Baby Boomers are so entitled! Medicare for me, but not for thee!

  113. Here is a really great article comparing the ways in which a number of countries pay for healthcare. It is entertaining and easy to read. My personal pick of the systems is the one that France uses, just because they handle complex diseases like cancer really well. I think the German and Swiss systems are great too. Singapore’s system is too weird for the US to adopt.

  114. Mooshi is making the same points as a recent Atlantic article that showed how quickly the appeal of Medicare for all evaporates as soon as the poll respondents are told that it will raise taxes or cause them to lose their employer-provided insurance. (And if you tell them it will do both, then they REALLY don’t want it.) And the author commented that it’s the worst way to appeal to the relatively affluent inner-suburb professionals whose support the Dems have been so successful at gaining.

    They won’t just lose the Presidency by going for Medicare for All, they’ll give the House back, too, as the districts they turned over all fall into this category. The newly elected Democrats who flipped a seat are notably quiet about Medicare for All.

    And the irony here is that I could totally be convinced that it makes the most sense economically.

  115. I really want Hickenlooper to run. (RMS & DD – tell me why I shouldn’t) So yes – I agree that it would be best to have someone not from CA/NY/MA/NJ who is somewhat moderate. Personally, I don’t care about the coastal thing, but I do personally prefer a more moderate candidate. For the sake of beating Trump, I think the possibility of picking up some Western states would be a huge advantage.

    I loved Michelle Obama’s book as well, but I am a huge fan of the Obamas in general. And yes – I think he was a moderate, practical Democrat, which is right up my alley.

    I’d be for adding another bracket and raising the top marginal rate, but not to 70%. The old rate of 39.6%? Something in the 40’s? Sure. Raise significantly or eliminate the SS income cap? Yes. But that’s not going to get major headlines. I’m also not so sure about Medicare for all. So…I agree with RMS that the extreme left bugs me as much as the extreme right. (maybe not SUPER extreme far right)

  116. “fan of the Obamas in general. And yes – I think he was a moderate, practical Democrat”

    By choice, or necessity?

    I think that when a president spends most of his time with a congress controlled by the opposition, and he achieves little of what he wanted to do, it’s comforting to say in hindsight that he was moderate and practical, as though that was the plan all along.

    Bill Clinton was a moderate after Newt Gingrich took over Congress. Until then, he was Medicare for All. After that, he was cutting welfare and locking up those super-predators.

  117. Who are these people who love their private insurance so much that they can’t bear to part with it? Sure, I adore filling out endless paperwork and arguing with Aetna when they decide not to reimburse me for expenses. I love doing the math every year to figure out the optimal amount to put in my FSA for uncovered expenses and then sending in receipts when I want to access those funds. And it was so much fun when my husband changed jobs and we had to pay for COBRA for a month and then prepare a spreadsheet to analyze the best family coverage option at his new job, and then determine whether any of our doctors were “in network” under the new plan. It would totally suck if this awesome system went away and was replaced by a single, simplified system available to everyone.

    Seriously, I have never met anyone in real life who likes dealing with health insurance companies. Ever.

  118. It took me almost two years to get a plastic surgeon to remove a small growth on my forehead when I was in the navy.

  119. Totebaggers have a lot of buying power in the medical marketplace right now with generally good insurance plans. You need to be honest with yourself about how you really would feel giving that up.

  120. City Mom – It’s not the insurance companies people want to keep, it’s their doc(s). The concern many/most, as it has ever been, is that when we go to single payer/medicare for all/call it what you will we will also be going to the hated “HMO model” where you get whoever the next doc up is vs “your” doc and there is obvious rationing of healthcare services.

    Someone earlier mentioned that a lot of people don’t realize/recognize that Medicare is a government program. That’s probably right, but I don’t think it’s such a hard concept to get.

  121. I’m not a supporter of Medicare for everyone because Medicare for old people doesn’t seem to be working very well.

  122. I want Medicare for early millionaire next door retirees. So make it Medicare for 50+.

    I think the “government hands off my Medicare” meme is perhaps just a little bit overblown. I know of one guy who was pictured during the 2009/2010 ACA debates, and if he was wearing a MAGA, he would have been a lot more prescient than any of us.

    There may have been more since, or it could have achieved legendary status beyond any reality.

  123. Oh, and I’m pretty happy with our medical insurance company. I don’t always understand all the rules, but they do answer my questions and their website is getting better.

  124. A view from the ped-onc world… Back when the ACA was being proposed, and during the period that Trump and Ryan were trying to repeal it, traffic on the ped-onc mailing lists was overwhelmingly supportive of the ACA. And for good reason – the ACA gets rid of not only pre-existing condition exclusions, but also lifetime caps. These things are huge in that world. The ACA brought tangible improvements. But this year? Whenever Medicare for all comes up, people are very negative. They fear losing access to top level specialists.

  125. And to clarify – I am not saying that the people on the ped onc lists who are negative about Medicare for all are RIGHT – what I am saying is that they are very fearful and are not being convinced by current proposals. They fear the chaos of what would be a seismic change to our healthcare system. Why play with such political fire in a must-win election?

  126. “By choice, or necessity?”

    I think by choice. Obama was not really extreme by nature & was too wonky to propose anything too far from incremental. Which is what I really think Obamacare was…an incremental step that mostly used the current infrastructure.

    BUT…the main thing I’m worried with Medicare for All is mass disruption of the health insurance industry if we went directly from mostly-employer based health insurance (tax exempt) to mostly public with supplemental private insurance overnight. Huge economic impacts – macro (what happens to the economy) and micro (what happens to my own compensation package and insurance options). I don’t think it’s actually going to happen for those reasons, and I would rather have a conversation about what actually makes sense to do as a first step. Let’s talk about lowering the age gradually or having a public option that people could buy into, and nudging up the income requirements for Medicaid paid for by nudging up top tax rates a little bit, and things like that.

    That said – I agree with the others too. After seeing my parents and IL’s actually go through the Medicare + supplemental insurance sign up process, it sure doesn’t seem simpler than private insurance!

  127. Like many others, I believe Medicare for all would create a watered down version of today’s Medicare, which seems to work well for most people. And if you can pay higher premiums you get more choices. Would that still exist with a Medicare program straining to provide care for everyone?

  128. I agree with moving incrementally toward single payer (or other universal coverage system). I think all of Ivy’s ideas are good ideas, and I agree that making a 180 degree change too quickly is bound to have some adverse effects. But let’s start moving in the right direction. I do not accept that it is not achievable for this country. And it really pisses me off when people shout “socialism!” every time someone proposes moving toward a system that most of the civilized world has effectively implemented. No system is perfect, but if you suggested that the Canadians, Brits or French change to the American system there would be riots in the streets, all of our “freedom” notwithstanding.

  129. Whatever medical insurance system we move to, can we at least agree that it include dental and vision? I hate having to deal with these separately.

  130. Ivy, Hickenlooper is okay. He’s kind of the ultimate bland, moderate, white-guy candidate. He was pretty effective as governor and he didn’t get dragged into dumb side-issue fights. (For example, when he was mayor, there was drama about the Columbus Day Parade. The Italian-Americans wanted it, the “Columbus was a hideous creep” people didn’t. He basically told all of them “Shut up, I’m busy.”) He managed to get divorced without any huge scandal. I have never heard any rumors that he’s creepy or handsy. Leftists don’t like him because he’s too friendly to the oil and gas companies (that’s his background). He has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in geology, so presumably both I and WCE should like him. I find him a trifle blah, but if he’s the candidate, I will most definitely vote for him.

    His biggest issue is going to be demonstrating that he’s environmentally conscious.

  131. Whatever medical insurance system we move to, can we at least agree that it include dental and vision?

    You have my vote, said the woman spending $25K on her teeth (and that’s at the dental school!).

  132. Kerri — When I was dealing with my mother’s health care (when she was in her early-mid 80s), I found it sort of baffling that Medicare would have paid for things that I think are inappropriate for most very-old people (e.g. major heart surgery or aggressive cancer treatment), but wouldn’t pay for things that would actually really improve her quality of life (e.g. eyeglasses and replacement teeth).

  133. ” I found it sort of baffling that Medicare would have paid for things that I think are inappropriate for most very-old people (e.g. major heart surgery or aggressive cancer treatment), but wouldn’t pay for things that would actually really improve her quality of life (e.g. eyeglasses and replacement teeth).”

    This kind of thing just doesn’t make sense at all. But we can’t talk about the fact that maybe not everyone needs the most advanced heart surgery without “DEATH PANELS!!” I do get that there is not a practical way to ration care in that way…it’s just that it then ends up not making sense in the practical application.

    “He’s kind of the ultimate bland, moderate, white-guy candidate.”

    That’s what I thought. I’m okay with that for 2020. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’d love it if there was a bland, moderate, non-NE/Cali non-white-guy candidate too. (e.g., Klobuchar)

  134. Medicare works just fine in Massachusetts, even if Finn reports doesn’t work well in Hawai’i. Even better if you have an HMO style Medicare Advantage plan. I go to a local doctor (long walking distance, or 5 min bus ride) that I selected before I turned 65. All my specialists are at a hospital one town over, where coincidentally Rhode now has to drive a long way for her DS’s surgeon. My labs and radiology are done in the local medical building. I have a tier 1 of 5 of a 5-star Medicare advantage plan for zero additional dollars over the amount I am required to pay as my medicare premium to the govt. Dh has the same company’s plan that he uses at one of the oldest HMOs in the country, but pays at tier 3 of 5 because of his 4-5 times a year eye injections. (List price is 5000 a shot, real price 2000, he pays zero, but 130/mo for his supplemental premium. His visit copays and drug deductibles are lower than mine, too.) There has always been a modest cash rebate for glasses or a discount at Lenscrafters, and recently the govt has allowed Medicare advantage programs to give rebates for gym membership, diet program, and contract for significant discounts on hearing aids. Costco may still be cheaper for hearing and vision. The Med Advantage programs can apply for subsidies for overall treatment plans and reduced patient copays for long term management of congestive heart failure and diabetes. DH gets a call every month from the cardio nurse. He gets a pharmacist review of his drug regimen every three years. As a diabetic, his foot care and routine eye exams are completely covered, and I am sure if he develops some other problems they will be covered too. There is a dedicated blood thinner group that monitors that.

    My local friends who have had issues with timely care are those with seasonal residences who have to use standard Medicare with an add on supplemental plan – usually a national one like US Healthcare, establish a primary physician and often a specialist or two in each location, and often experience unfavorably the bureaucracy and delays of a warm but less expensive area.

    The in network out of network pitfalls with employer provided healthcare are legendary (See Rhode, above). Back in the day, I could stay at the same employer and they would change insurance companies every couple of years and both cut and rearrange the benefits every time. Or I would have to make unnecessary appts with all the family doctors and get new prescriptions because they would give the drug fulfillment contract to a new company and a new script was required after Jan 1. Or I had to find a new doctor if the new company had a new network. Employer provided insurance, unless you have a Cadillac or traditional BCBS plan, is no picnic. This happens even if the company is self insured, because an insurance company sets up and runs the claim process and usually provides the super insurance. We have some posters in that business – they can explain.

  135. “Whatever medical insurance system we move to, can we at least agree that it include dental and vision? ”
    Yes, THAT. I think a candidate who runs on adding dental and vision to medical insurance could win bigtime.

  136. “And it really pisses me off when people shout “socialism!” every time someone proposes moving toward a system that most of the civilized world has effectively implemented. ”

    Again, most of the world has not implemented a national Medicare-for-all system. The UK is actually not single payer – they are truly a socialized medicine system. I think Italy is also a true socialized medicine system. Canada is single payer, but it is not run at the national level. It is run at the provincial level. In the US, that would mean each state runs an insurance system. Sweden is single payer.

    Some countries are two-tier, with a mix of government and private coverage. Australia does that – the government pays a certain amount of the cost, and then people have private insurance for the rest. In fact, isn’t that how our current Medicare works? France is also two tier, with a scheme so complex that only a Frenchman could like it – but it is a really excellent system with very high quality care.

    Germany has mandatory insurance provided by a whole bunch of heavilly regulated nonprofits. Switzerland also has a system in which people have to buy insurance from heavilly regulated private companies. So does the Netherlands. And Japan.

    So in fact, true national single payer systems are not all that common.

  137. Problems with medicare seem to be unique to Hawai’i. It seems to work well for my patients – I don’t have problems getting referrals done and such. My dad says medicare is working well for him in Arizona.

    I like Hickenlooper but his problem is going to be getting “the base” on board because he’s not liberal enough.

  138. I don’t see Medicare for everyone or some sort you f universal health care as mutually exclusive with employer sponsored health coverage.

    A very limited universal coverage could be complemented by more comprehensive employer sponsored plans.

  139. This is consistent with my opinion on what is likely to come of a Medicare for all program.

    The result over time: a second-class, government-run health-care system for those who can’t afford to buy their way out of it.

    We don’t have the same level of “social trust” that other countries have, and consequently are unwilling to pay the taxes to make it work the same. Not to mention we have such different demographics and of course are much bigger than many other nations used as comparisons.

    It may sound heartless but I believe I’m being realistic to say that many totebaggers and other affluent citizens could live with a health care system “for all” that provides bare bones coverage to lower-income people but offers better options if you can pay more. I mean, we live that way with other aspects of our lives, like education for example.

    Howard Schultz Is Right About Medicare for All
    If it works in Scandinavia, it won’t work in the U.S. because Americans won’t pay the required taxes.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/howard-schultz-is-right-about-medicare-for-all-11549060591

  140. Huh… I had no idea that Hawaii was so special in regards to employer coverage:

    Hawaii, where we are based, has by far the largest share of fee-for-service beneficiaries without Part B at 22 percent, and three factors relating to the working elderly explain most of this outcome:

    -The share of Medicare beneficiaries still working is well above the national average, which is linked to the extremely high cost of living in the state.
    -Hawaii’s long-standing health reform (Prepaid Healthcare Act of 1974) requires employers to offer health insurance to employees working at least 20 hours per week.
    -A high proportion of elderly workers take up offered insurance because employer policies in Hawaii have first dollar coverage at minimal cost to the employee (as detailed in the state’s published benefit requirements).

    Well, no wonder Medicare doesn’t look like a good answer to the health insurance question. If the baseline is that everyone who works 20 hours per week gets coverage on their first dollar of care, Medicare could well be a step down for the average Wal-Mart greeter.

    https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20180119.528795/full/

  141. I’m kind of a broken record on this. Medicare is an efficient way to provide care. The administrative overhead for insurance administration is tiny compared to other insurers. Most providers like it well enough, most patients like it fine (unless they have had to buy insurance on the open market, then they loooooove Medicare).

    BTW, it’s actually not expensive to do. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/01/30/media-is-badly-botching-medicare-all-debate/?fbclid=IwAR3LP3E8Fc_Pk4WBm7_5vaIKBqnrSGQ28U9YZt6_c6SkLCb9-bZt4UsQAD4&noredirect=on&utm_term=.8a4c2d228e35

  142. Fine. I’m willing to go with Medicare for All Except Hawaii. Happy, Finn?

  143. (unless they have had to buy insurance on the open market, then they loooooove Medicare).

    This is me. Back when we had employer health coverage we were just like all of y’all. It is amazing how quickly our perspective switched.

  144. “A very limited universal coverage could be complemented by more comprehensive employer sponsored plans.”
    I think France does something like this – but again, their system is so complicated I don’t think I have ever seen an explanation that makes sense.

    My personal opinion is that tying good healthcare coverage to employment is the absolutely stupidest aspect of our system. Most countries do not do that. Whether single payer like Canada or mandatory insurance like Germany, most countries have decoupled healthcare coverage from employment.

  145. The one aspect in common for all countries with good, successful systems of financing healthcare is: heavy regulation, both of medical providers and the insurance system. That is the part that I don’t see Americans going for. But without it, you can’t build a system at reasonable cost.

    A couple of years ago, I was working on a project with a bunch of Europeans. One guy was an ethnic Swede who had moved to Germany as a teen and had lived there most of his life. About 3 years before I met him, he had moved with his family back to Sweden. He said that one of the big shockers for him was how restrictive the Swedish healthcare system was compared to Germany. He said he was put off by it at first, but then realized, as a Swede, that this was the Swedish way and that it saved a lot of money. Typical European – they are much more accepting of restrictions than we are.

  146. “My personal opinion is that tying good healthcare coverage to employment is the absolutely stupidest aspect of our system.”
    I think a lot of economists agree with this. I can’t see it changing, because most people have employer insurance, and most importantly, Congress has employer insurance. Remember all the machinations when someone tried to include in Obamacare that all of congress and their staff would have to participate? There’s a very NIMBY flavor to the healthcare debate.

  147. I think that if we strengthened the ACA approach and moved to something more like the German system, the employer based system would eventually wither – and that would be a good thing

  148. “most countries have decoupled healthcare coverage from employment.”

    Well, going all Finn here, while healthcare coverage is not linked to employment I agree, the other countries have not / never coupled the two. They never had it. How we got to them being joined is a USA invention. This system started during World War II, to offset wage controls. Companies couldn’t offer competitive wages, but they could provide healthcare benefits. This was hugely successful and the process was cemented in 1954 when the IRS decided that employer-paid health insurance premiums were tax exempt.

    Now we’ve gotten to the point where an employer offers health insurance as a recruitment/retention tool and also when very large employers change their plans and provide low premium subsidies there’s public relations hell to pay.

    I have said for a long time, pre-ACA, that if enough very large employers dropped health insurance coverage for all employees, we’d get a universal coverage model thru congress, no matter who was in charge.

  149. “A very limited universal coverage could be complemented by more comprehensive employer sponsored plans.”

    Finn — A lot of us are self-employed. What would we do under your system?

    “I think that if we strengthened the ACA approach and moved to something more like the German system, the employer based system would eventually wither – and that would be a good thing”

    Wasn’t that one of the long-term goals of the ACA? Have more and more people decide to buy policies on the exchanges, so employer-provided plans would get less and less relevant, and would eventually basically phase out completely?

  150. People who love Medicare: patients who have it, and non-Hawaii-based health care providers. People who hate it: Physicians in Hawaii, people under age 65, and people under 65 without end stage renal disease.

    Also, if the Gov. of Va doesn’t resign by the end of the day, Democrats better just give up. It’ll be g-d Al Franken all over again.

  151. Wasn’t that one of the long-term goals of the ACA? Have more and more people decide to buy policies on the exchanges, so employer-provided plans would get less and less relevant, and would eventually basically phase out completely?

    Yes.

  152. Also, if the Gov. of Va doesn’t resign by the end of the day, Democrats better just give up. It’ll be g-d Al Franken all over again.

    +1. And OMG can we stop with the “maybe it isn’t him, he’s not sure” already? Of all the pictures he had of his time in school, that’s one of four he chose to put on his page. It’s him. He thought it was funny. The only thing he didn’t know was that someday there would be a way for your yearbook pictures to appear on millions of devices in people’s pockets around the world in a matter of seconds.

  153. Lark, now he’s saying that’s not he in the photo. Of course he must’ve been in blackface at some point, because he admitted it and apologized yesterday. And it’s from 1984! Not 1958! Sheesh.

  154. And, though all blackface is offensive, that particular photo is REALLY offensive.

  155. “And, though all blackface is offensive, that particular photo is REALLY offensive.”

    Yes. What in the actual hell? Why is everyone talking about the blackface and not the KKK costume???!!!

    That said, it is certainly eye rolling at best the outrage coming from some quarters. (Those who defend Steve King for example. NOT Lark who I have never seen defend idiocy or racism.)

  156. How did that school ever allow such a photo to be published in its yearbook? Usually the photos selected by students are vetted. A yearbook, after all, does represent a school. And even back in 1984, people in education knew better than that

  157. NoB, I’m thinking self-employed people would shop for supplemental insurance in a manner similar to how they currently shop for primary coverage.

  158. Yeah, he better get out. It isn’t like it is some random photo that someone dug up and posted on social media. That photo was published! And in the 80’s when we all knew black face and KKK were bad, offensive things.

  159. “Wasn’t that one of the long-term goals of the ACA? Have more and more people decide to buy policies on the exchanges, so employer-provided plans would get less and less relevant, and would eventually basically phase out completely?”

    Yes, that was the thinking but then Trump got elected and the Republicans started whittling away at it. The plans on the exchanges have to be attractive to get people out of employment based insurance. But we really need to do it. Employment based insurance doesn’t work for a whole bunch of reasons. It is inefficient, employers hate it, and the worst part is that that people who get really sick often need to leave their job to recover, which means they lose their insurance right as they most need it.

    I think Democratic candidates should run on a platform of really improving the ACA and bringing it closer to the well regulated, successful systems you see in Germany and Switzerland. They should propose a public option and more subsidies. They should mention Switzerland a lot – most Americans consider Switzerland to be a well run bastion of capitalism. I think that would satisfy the Dmeocrat base while not scaring away moderates.

  160. I think the tax exemption for employer subsidies of employee health insurance premiums needs to be ended to decouple health insurance from employment.

  161. The plans on the exchanges have to be attractive to get people out of employment based insurance.

    Even in a best-case scenario, people won’t voluntarily leave employer health insurance until employers give their portion of the premiums to their employees. It doesn’t matter how attractive the exchange plans are, they will never be able to compete with coverage that is 75% subsidized by employers or however much.

    We pay $405 a month for health insurance through DW’s employer, and that has an out of pocket max of $6,500 or so. There is no way an exchange plan or any individual insurance can ever come close to matching that.

  162. The average annual cost per family of four of a family health insurance plan provided by an employer is 25000 to 28000. That isn’t necessarily a premium paid to an insurance company, but a combination of service fees paid to an insurance company for administration, pretax wages used for employee contributions or FSA set asides, a prorata share of self insured costs borne directly by the employer, and premiums for the big ticket item insurance. All of those are entirely deductible from taxable corporate income , even if some is paid by the employee out of pretax dollars. So obviously no one is going to want to give up “subsidized” employer health care unless they get a compensating wage increase to buy insurance elsewhere at a market rate. The wage increase in lieu of health insurance, ignoring FICA effects for lower wage employees, does not change corporate income.

    People with sick children or a host of minor pre-existing conditions can’t buy effective insurance in a purely private market. They need ACA/state insurance law protections to do so. And the 57 year old wife or 23 year old child of the 65 year old who goes onto Medicare have to find their own insurance, too, even if they are not in a position to obtain full time work, or move to Hawaii.

  163. Yeah, it’d be hard for me to give up my employer-based health insurance unless I got the employer portion loaded into my pay. Employer portion of medical premium for 2018: $16k. My portion: $350. Yeah, it’s a high deductible plan but our family deductible if we use preferred providers (and pretty much everyone here is a preferred provider) is $3000; max OOP is $6000. I know I can’t replicate that on the open market.

  164. Are we the only people who have employer-based insurance, but pay the whole freight? That’s what the partners have to do at DH’s firm. $21,468K for the two of us per year.

    Medicare for All Except Hawaii!

  165. @RMS – I think that’s common among partners in firms, but not amongst us little people. ;)

    Our family coverage employer portion via DH is worth over $30K per his W2. No effing way they add that to his salary in a conversion to non-employer coverage.

    I think it’s crazy that things evolved this way, but it’s impractical (and politically impossible) to change it overnight. That’s why the ACA was a good first step – had it been implemented fully (e.g., with Medicaid expansion and robust state run exchanges). I also like the idea of a public option as the next step, but it seems many Dems have abandoned that in favor of the sexier “Medicare for all”.

  166. @RMS – I think that’s common among partners in firms, but not amongst us little people. ;)

    Mmph. I bet your “little people”‘s HHI is the same as mine. But yes, it is absolutely not the kind of thing I would complain about in any other social setting.

  167. Just a reminder from the land of the little people that ACA subsidies disappear at $75,000 HHI, so thoughts and prayers to me and DH paying full freight. The couple I know who fall into the “legal secretary without benefits and guy who shampoos your carpets” category just don’t have insurance. It is a real problem for middle class people for whom $2300 a month is more than an annoyance.

  168. That should have been couples. I know a bunch of people without insurance because they make just over the limit.

  169. HFN, the fact that I am bitching about my expenses when we make and have plenty of money doesn’t blind me to the fact that there are people (MANY people) who are much worse off. I totally get that.

    L, one of DH’s partners, a guy with a wife and two kids at home, just ditched the firm insurance and went with Kaiser. It was cheaper. I can’t bring myself to do that because decades ago, if you ditched employer-based insurance and then wound up without any, you couldn’t ever get back into the private market. You couldn’t get back into the high-risk pool in your state, either. I know the ACA changed all of that, but it’s still hard to let go of the fear that if you change from employer-based insurance, you will never be insured ever again.

  170. I was truly only joking RMS. One first world problemer to another. Maybe the political thread isn’t the right place for that! I work for a giant conglomerate so the structure just isn’t the same as a law firm/accounting firm.

    Maybe raising the income limit for ACA subsidies is another good incremental step.

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