Paul Waldman

On "Owning" Health Care

These guys aren't too worried about owning health care.
In the search for silver linings to a Supreme Court decision striking down part or all of the Affordable Care Act, many people have suggested that should it happen, Americans will turn all their displeasure about the health care system on conservatives. Specifically, it is that that they will "own" the health care system. James Carville says that if the ACA is overturned on a 5-4 vote, "The Republican party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future." Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger says , "If the court were to strike down this major reform effort, 40 years in the making, the court would own the resulting health care system for the next decade and beyond. It’s a slightly highbrow version of the universal rule: 'You broke it, you bought it.'" The Republican party is one thing, but the Supreme Court "owing" health care? What does that mean? That people will be protesting outside the Court when their premiums go up? First of all, they won't, and second of all, I...

Lockheed Martin's Creative Lobbying

Lockheed Martin federal contracts.
When the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, many people predicted that big corporations would start buying elections, now that they were allowed to spend as much money as they wanted on campaigns. While that certainly might happen in the future, it hasn't happened so far, probably because they're worried about the PR backlash that could result from too much partisan activity. Instead, the ones donating millions have been extremely rich individuals, most of whom are Republicans. But that doesn't mean corporations don't have clever ways of playing the political game. To wit : Lockheed Martin is contemplating a pre-election move that could shake up the political landscape. Right before Election Day, the company is likely to notify the "vast majority" of its 123,000 workers that they're at risk of being laid off, said Greg Walters, the company's vice president of legislative affairs. Walters's comments are some of the most specific threats yet from an industry that's...

The Misery of the Romney Spokesperson

Your questions frighten me. Please speak to my press secretary. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Mitt Romney adopted a clever "strategic vagueness" strategy on yesterday's immigration ruling, which so far hasn't seemed to get anyone too angry at him (although I doubt it will do anything to stanch the bleeding of Latino votes away from him). As somebody tweeted yesterday, if you asked Romney what kind of pizza he wanted, he'd reply that Barack Obama has failed to lead on pizza choices. We've often talked about how uncomfortable Romney is when he gets questioned about his policy positions, but we should take a moment to extend our sympathies to the people who actually have to do most of the talking at times like this, the beleaguered campaign flaks whose job it is to say the things Mitt Romney would say if he were talking to reporters, and not say the things he wouldn't say. One of those flaks, Rick Gorka, found himself surrounded by reporters after the ruling and had to deliver one of the most painful dances of evasion you'll ever see. It went on and on, but here's a taste . You...

Telecommuters Playing Video Games While Outworking Their Office-Bound Colleagues

Flickr/Jeremy Levine Design
I work at home, which I much prefer to going into an office every day, for a whole host of reasons. There's the lack of a commute, which means that the hour and a half I used to spend every day in transit is now devoted to sleep, time with family, and even sometimes more work. There's money saved by not commuting. There's the ability to bathe at a time of your choosing. Most importantly, there's the feeling of autonomy you get from knowing that there isn't someone looking over your shoulder at all times, monitoring your movements. But what are people who work at home actually doing with our time? The short answer is, goofing off. But that's only part of the story : Based on a survey of 1,013 American office workers, conducted in June by Wakefield Research, 43 percent watch TV or a movie and 20 percent play video games while officially working from home. Parents are more likely than those without children to partake in these two activities, which aren’t work-related. Employees might...

Floors and Ceilings In Health Care

Flickr/Francis Bijil
When Rick Santorum said during the campaign that inequality is a good thing, a lot of people were surprised. Santorum was attacking a straw man—he was arguing that everyone shouldn't have precisely the same income, while no one actually believes that they should—but it was revealing. One of the questions that we've neglected to ask in our health care debate is just how much inequality we are willing to tolerate—or in the case of conservatives, want desperately to maintain—in this particular arena. Conservatives like Santorum have an ideological commitment to inequality, the idea that some people simply deserve to have more than others. While conservatives used to believe that the identity of those who get more should be determined by birth (inherited membership in a favored class), these days they say that it should be determined by merit , which they tend to define tautologically as the state of being wealthy. Wealth is determined by merit, so if you're wealthy, it's because you're a...

The Benefits of Medicaid

The Affordable Care Act
In tomorrow's New York Times , Annie Lowrey has an interesting story about a study researchers were able to do in Oregon when the state had to hold a lottery to give people Medicaid coverage, leading to the perfect conditions for a randomized field experiment on what effect obtaining insurance could have. The results were pretty encouraging: In a continuing study, an all-star group of researchers following Ms. Parris and tens of thousands of other Oregonians has found that gaining insurance makes people healthier, happier and more financially stable. The insured also spend more on health care, dashing some hopes of preventive-medicine advocates who have argued that coverage can save money — by keeping people out of emergency rooms, for instance. In Oregon, the newly insured spent an average of $778 a year, or 25 percent, more on health care than those who did not win insurance. For the nation, the lesson appears to be a mixed one. Expanded coverage brings large benefits to many people...

Friday Music Break

Ben Harper, "Diamonds on the Inside"
For today's edition of Idealistic Reggae Tunes About Personal Empowerment and the Power of Individual Action to Produce Meaningful Change, we have Ben Harper, doing "With My Own Two Hands." Which I thought would be a nice thing to play, since next week the Supreme Court may well undo the most meaningful piece of social legislation passed in the last half century. Enjoy!

What the Romney Outsourcing Story Doesn't Tell Us About the Romney Presidency

A call center in India (Sonamsaxena)
One mark of a skilled pundit is the ability to take the day's news and mold it to shape his or her own pre-existing interests, beliefs, prejudices, and hobbyhorses. In that spirit, let me offer my thoughts on an interesting article today in The Washington Post , revealing that while Mitt Romney was the head of Bain Capital, the firm invested in companies that specialized in outsourcing jobs overseas. What does this tell us about a potential Romney presidency? Let's look at the facts first, keeping in mind that Romney was at Bain until 1999: Bain’s foray into outsourcing began in 1993 when the private equity firm took a stake in Corporate Software Inc., or CSI, after helping to finance a $93 million buyout of the firm. CSI, which catered to technology companies like Microsoft, provided a range of services including outsourcing of customer support. Initially, CSI employed U.S. workers to provide these services but by the mid-1990s was setting up call centers outside the country. Two...

Mitt Romney Pretends Congress Doesn't Exist

Trust me, this'll be easy. (Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Mitt Romney went before a group of Latino public officials today to offer some remarks on immigration. Calling it a "plan" would be too generous, although there were a couple of details, some of them perfectly reasonable, like giving green cards to people who get an advanced degree at an American university. But the part everyone has been waiting for—his reaction to President Obama's recently-announced mini-DREAM Act—was pretty disappointing, because it engaged in a kind of magical thinking that has become increasingly untenable: Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure. As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal...

What Will Conservatives Say If Only the Mandate Is Struck Down?

Looking forward to the FreedomLibertyCare plan. (Flickr/Speaker John Boehner)
There seems to be a consensus building that the most likely outcome from the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act is that it will strike down the individual mandate but leave most of the law in place. Just how disruptive this will be to the near future of health care in America is open to debate (see Sarah Kliff for the optimistic take), but there's another question I'm wondering about: How are conservatives going to react? Obviously, they'd prefer it if the law was struck down in its entirety. At the same time, they've centered their criticism on the mandate. This started as a purely opportunistic move, since the mandate was not only unpopular, but it offerend the most likely legal vehicle to undo the ACA. But once that decision was made, they spend the next couple of years talking about how that mandate is the very essence of tyranny. That process of arguing almost certainly convinced them that what they were saying was true. The other provisions in the law range from things...

Losing on Health Reform

An anti-Obamacare ad, in which a D-Day veteran explains how universal health insurance is as great a threat to our freedom as Nazism was.
When the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, we'll begin a new chapter in this saga, one that will probably (well, maybe) involve sorting through how the law's implementation will work once the individual mandate is struck down. But we've reached the point where there's no denying that the fight over public opinion has been lost, and that ground may never be regained no matter how hard the Obama administration or progressives might try. Perhaps it was inevitable. The administration passed an extraordinarily complex piece of legislation that sought simultaneously to solve a multitude of problems, each in its own way. At its heart was a compromise, an idea taken from conservatives to solve a problem created by the very fact that everyone was so insistent that we maintain the patchwork of private, employer-provided insurance, and this conservative idea provided conservatives the vehicle to get their allies on the Court to strike down the...

Tax Reform Silliness

Flickr/401K 2012
Barack Obama did a bunch of big things in his first term—passed health care reform and ended the war in Iraq, most notably. If he wants to do something big domestically in his second term (especially since he seems to have lost any inclination to do anything about climate change), one natural area to try would be tax reform. It might actually be possible to arrive at something both Democrats and Republicans could live with, if we put aside Republicans' desire to make sure he never accomplishes anything, ever (which will continue into his second term). Republicans already have their own tax plan, which lays out some goodies they'll give people (especially wealthy people, you'll be shocked to learn) while conveniently avoiding any specificity on how the goodies will be paid for. Some analyses have been done on the Republicans' plan, and they don't look too good : The tax reform plan that House Republicans have advanced would sharply cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and could leave...

Context Is Everything

President Obama, about to get yelled at. (White House video)
In the wake of Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro's heckling of President Obama the other day (I called him an "asshat," a judgment I'll stand by), many people argued that we should be respecting "the office of the presidency," even if you don't like the person who occupies it. Jonathan Chait says this is wrong: This wave of fretting over respect for the institution implies that we owe the president more respect than we owe other Americans — a common belief, but one at odds with the democratic spirit. In his farewell address, Jimmy Carter (or his speechwriter, Hendrik Hertzberg) summed up that spirit quite pithily when he said that he "will lay down my official responsibilities in this office to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of president, the title of citizen." The problem with Munro's heckling of Obama is that heckling is wrong, whether the speaker is president or a candidate for the PTA. You don’t start screaming at somebody in the middle of...

That's How He's Gonna Roll

Do I come down to where you work and heckle you? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
There isn't all that much benefit to civility in politics. Oh, everyone will say that they prefer candidates who are polite and courteous, but in reality most of us find it amusing when our own side is uncivil, and appalling when the other side is. There are limits, of course—that asshat from the Daily Caller who heckled President Obama during his prepared remarks the other day was condemned by pretty much everybody across the ideological spectrum. But of late, things have gotten pretty juvenile, as when the Romney campaign sent its bus to an Obama event to drive around out front honking its horn. Truly an inspiring testament to the democracy forged by the Founders those many years ago. Naturally, somebody asked Romney himself about this, and he reacted with the kind of response candidates give when asked about something strategically critical to their campaigns, like negative advertising: Mitt Romney has declined to call on his supporters to stop heckling President Barack Obama's...

Romney Tells Inane Lie About Post Office, No One Notices

Not even close to 33 pages.
UPDATE : Turns out that Romney may have been talking not about the change of address form the doctor had to file with the Post Office, but the one he had to file with Medicaid. But as Greg Sargent tells us , the form providers have to file with Medicaid to change their addresses is ... two pages long! More than a postcard, in other words, but a whole lot less than 33 pages. I think my point—that candidates shouldn't repeat any damn fool thing some random person tells them as though it were the truth, just because it accords with their ideology—stands. In all the furor that gripped the country over Wawagate , I almost missed this tidbit from James Fallows, who despite being a national treasure and one of America's finest journalists is subjecting himself to the indignity of traveling with Mitt Romney's campaign. Apparently, on the stump yesterday Mitt described how "a doctor told him that he had to fill out a 33-page change-of-address form, several times, to get the post office to send...

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