Worth Reading #10: Paul Krugman: A Thin Line Between Hate And Love (March 27, 2010)
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RomneyCare Final Passage Aftermath Watch: No, the Republican Party Is Not Returning to Sanity Any Time Soon...

UPDATE: Ed Luce protests at my use of him as a straw man. He is correct to do so. I owe him an apology, and I hereby apologize.


Andrew Sullivan:

The Daily Dish: "The other day I went to look at their platform for the Democratic Party for our nation. I couldn't understand any of it.  I don't speak any French," - Gov. Tim Pawlenty in New Hampshire Friday.

Ed Luce:

America: The recovery position: The Republicans will probably regain their balance...

Only if they get shellacked in the November 2010 election. Otherwise, given who will turn out in Iowa and New Hampshire in the winter of 2012, we face a long future of total Republican insanity. I have been told that the Republicans will soon regain their balance at least once very single Friedman unit since the winter of 1980, when George H.W. Bush denounced Ronald Reagan's enthrallment to "voodoo economics." Hasn't happened yet. George H.W. Bush's budget director Richard Darman may ahve said that "at some point partisan posturing must yield to the responsibility to govern"--but nobody in his political party has ever listened to him.

Somewhat more annoying is that Ed Luce gives airtime to David Gergen:

People will wake up one morning and realise that the healthcare bill hasn’t brought socialism to America. And Democrats will wake up to realise we have not magically solved all our healthcare problems. People should calm down a little. There has been a tendency to exaggerate recently.

Can Gergen point to a single Democrat who thinks that RomneyCare "has magically solved all our healthcare problems"? I don't know one, or know of one. The most that people are saying is that we have moved from having by far the worst health care financing system in the OECD to a health care financing system that is merely bad by the standards of the OECD...


UPDATE: Ed Luce protests. He has a very good point. I agree that his belief that the Republican ship will right itself is only one aspect (and not a major aspect) of his--quite good--column. But it is an aspect. And it is that belief that the Republican ship will right itself that I have been hearing ever since 1980:

and that I want to dispute.

I don't see the Republicans regaining their balance until the summer of 2012 at the earliest, when whoever wins the presidential nomination in the spring of 2012 tries to figure out how to win the presidency. That's the point of the quote that Andrew Sullivan highlighted from Pawlenty, who counts as the most reasonable Republican governor right now (save possibly for California's). Pawlenty--and everyone else--will be focused on the 2012 winter-spring Republican primary electorate for the next two-plus years. Until the summer of 2012 they will be talking to their base and to their base only--either to turn it out for November 2010 or to win its approval in winter-spring 2012.

Ed Luce emails:

Brad, you quote as selectively and out of context as any journalist. People reading your blog would be surprised to read the sentence in my piece that appears after the one you quoted: "But the apoplexy of recent days suggests they [Republicans] could take time to graduate from the anger and denial stages of loss." They would probably also be surprised to read the preceding part, which mocks Republicans' grasp of history and Hitler, refers to Boehner's Armageddon comment and the "anti-Christ" poll. The word "balance" in the sentence you do quote is clearly used in a different context to how you present it in your blog. Likewise, your readers probably wouldn't expect the piece to include sentences such as the following (and which helps frame it), "As Republians have been doing their best to demonstrate all week, Washington is not a very bipartisan town nowadays." A full reading renders your choice of headline - and therefore your reading of the piece - pretty eccentric... Finally, why is it such a sin to quote David Gergen? David has advised four presidents usually has a shrewd and very interesting perspective to share. Whether you agree with him or not is secondary to the question of whether he is worth hearing, which I certainly think he is. As indeed are you - and I always read your blog with interest. But I can't let you stand uncorrected on your selective misreading of my piece. Best wishes, Ed.

Here's the full context:

So what happens next? Three consequences are apparent. First, Mr Obama seems to be getting better at governing....

Second, success at home helps abroad....

The third consequence, and in some respects cause, of Mr Obama’s healthcare victory is the at least temporary capture of the Republican party by its radical wing. At a dinner in Washington this week, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker and likely 2012 presidential candidate, described Mr Obama’s bill as the biggest threat to the “American way of life since the 1850s” when the country was heading for civil war.

Others, perhaps only sketchily aware of Adolf Hitler’s career, which is not remembered for efforts to extend healthcare to the uninsured, continue to toss around words such as “Gestapo” and “fascist”. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, saw the passage of what by normal standards should be seen as a centrist bill as “Armageddon”. Meanwhile, according to a Harris poll this week, 24 per cent of Republicans think Mr Obama “may be the anti-Christ”.

The Republicans will probably regain their balance. But the apoplexy of recent days suggests they could take time to graduate from the anger and denial stages of loss. It also suggests they will continue trying to block most of Mr Obama’s initiatives. As one of his advisers says: “With enemies like these, who needs friends?”...

My point is that I don't think the Republicans will regain their balance--not in the next Friedman Unit, and not in the next four Friedman units--unless, of course, they get shellacked in November 2010. I think Matthew Yglesias puts his finger on it:

Matthew Yglesias: Remembering the Goldwater Campaign: I think that to understand what’s wrong with the conservative movement today, you need to think about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign. In ‘64, the GOP establishment felt that Goldwater was too radical. They said that nominating a hard-rightist like Goldwater would be counterproductive. But conservative activists worked hard, and they did it. Goldwater got the nod. And, just as the establishment predicted, Goldwater got crushed. And just as the established predicted, it proved to be counterproductive. The 1964 landslide led directly to Medicare, Medicaid, Title I education spending, and the “war on poverty.” In the 45 years since that fateful campaign, the conservative movement managed to gain total control over the Republican Party.... But it’s only very partially rolled back one aspect of the Johnson administration’s domestic policy. Which is just to say that the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure.... But the orthodox conservative tradition of ‘64 is that it was a great success that laid the groundwork for the triumphs to come.... Which is to say that it... can’t think rigorously about its own goals. 2009-2010 has already seen the greatest flowering of progressive policy since 1965-66. No matter how well Republicans do in the 2010 midterms, the right will never fully roll back what the 111th Congress has done. And yet... if they win seats in 2010, conservatives will consider their behavior during 2009-10 to have been very successful...

As to why it's a sin to quote David Gergen, it's because David Gergen misrepresents the position of Democrats on the meaning of the passage of RomneyCare. Nobody is saying that it solved all of our health-care problems. Right-wing Democrats are saying it's a step, and as much as government can do, but not a complete step. Left-wing Democrats are clear that it is an inadequate step and wondering whether it is a forward step at all--or just a bill whose major long-run impact will be to enrich pharmaceutical companies and doctors while imposing a regressive health-care tax on America's working class. And the professionals--well, let me turn the mike over to Henry Aaron and Robert Reischauer:

Making the legislation a success requires not only that it survive but also that it be effectively implemented.... The legislation tasks federal or state officials with writing regulations, making appointments, and giving precise meaning to many terms. Many of these actions will provoke controversy. Performing them will take staff, money, and time. Given the current federal deficit and beleaguered state treasuries, needed staff and funding will be hard to come by. Even with adequate resources, implementing health care reform will be complex and difficult. Much of this challenge is inherent in the complicated and diverse ways in which health care is delivered and paid for in the United States. Part of the challenge arises from the likelihood that as implementation proceeds, unforeseen challenges will emerge.

To get some flavor of what lies ahead, consider the following. The law provides for income-based credits payable by the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to insurers on behalf of households that apply for coverage through state-managed health insurance exchanges. IRS filing units (whether individuals, couples, or families) are not always the same as the units covered by a health insurance policy. Eligibility for health insurance subsidies should be based on current income, but the IRS has income information only for past years. Mechanisms for exchanging income information between the IRS and the state insurance exchanges will need to be developed, as will ways of handling subsidies when definitions of a family unit vary and when family composition or income changes....

Other issues arise because the legislation asks state officials, some of whom oppose the reform, to play a large part in its implementation. The bill calls on each state to set up its own health insurance exchange and permits the exchanges to operate under widely varying rules.... Averting insurance-company competition that is based on risk selection will require aggressive state oversight, which some states may be unwilling or unable to provide. These responsibilities will be terra incognita for many state administrators. Even when goodwill prevails, administrators will find implementation very difficult. However, the experience of the Commonwealth Connector... offers encouragement....

Furthermore, parts of the reform are bound not to work as expected. For example... Medicaid rolls in some states will expand by 50% or more. It is unclear whether these states will be able to find enough providers who are willing to accept the anticipated payment rates to serve this expanded population, even as the demand from better-paying patients for services is growing. If they don’t, will they raise provider payment rates, curtail Medicaid benefits (as states are legally authorized to do), or simply let patients fail to find doctors who are willing to provide them with care? To further complicate matters, some families may be able to buy insurance in several distinct ways, depending on their income, family composition, and state policy. Different family members may be eligible under Medicaid, under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), through the exchanges with subsidies, through the exchanges without subsidies, or through a yet-to-becreated state basic health insurance plan. If employers offer plans that meet federal standards and cost households no more than stipulated fractions of the worker’s income, employees will not be eligible for insurance through exchanges, but if employment based insurance does not meet federal standards or is too costly, employees will have the option of buying insurance through the exchanges — with or without subsidies, depending on income. Small changes in income can push some, but not all, family members from one form of coverage to another.... These and myriad other implementation difficulties will fuel continued political controversy.

Passage of health care reform legislation is a cause for celebration. But supporters must not relax.They should prepare to meet the serious challenges that remain.... Far from having ended, the war to make health care reform an enduring success has just begun. Winning that war will require administrative determination and imagination and as much political resolve as was needed to pass the legislation.

No Democrats of my acquaintance or knowledge believe what David Gurgen imputes to them--that "we have magically solved all our healthcare problems." Indeed, the sentence I have heard most often about health care in the past week has been: "Gee. Nancy-Ann Min DeParle's next fifteen months in the White House are going to be a tougher job than her last fifteen months."

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