Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last Call For More Gruber Grubbing

New Republic health care reporter Jonathan Cohn pens a look into the actual truth behind the statements made by MIT health economist and Obamacare advisor Jonathan Gruber, and discovers what America needs most is health economists with political common sense.

Faithful readers of the New Republic may remember Gruber’s role in what became a significant, if ultimately ironic, moment of the 2008 campaign. It’s easy to forget now, but when Obama first ran for president he rejected the idea of an individual mandate. John Edwards, who had included a mandate in his plan, and Hillary Clinton, who planned to include one in hers, attacked Obama for this—and cited a rough calculation that reform without a mandate would mean an additional 15 million people without health insurance. The figure had come from an article I wrote at the time. My source for the figure was a back-of-the-envelope extrapolation by Gruber. 
Obama campaign staff were not pleased. But after Obama won the election, and decided upon health care as a priority, his advisers tapped Gruber to provide calculations. The Department of Health and Human Services hired him as a contractor and paid very good money for his services—nearly $400,000, fees that are, health care experts tell me, roughly in line with what private consulting firms charge for similar work. In that capacity, Gruber provided the White House and sometimes its congressional allies with data—predictably similar to what CBO official projections would ultimately show—that they could use to devise policies or to defend their positions in public.

It’s possible that Gruber offered informal advice along the way, particularly when it came to positions he held strongly—like his well-known and sometimes controversial preference for a strong individual mandate. Paul Starr, the Princeton sociologist and highly regarded policy expert, once called the mandate Gruber's "baby." He didn't mean it charitably. But lots of outside advisors were offering the Administration opinions. On only one occasion, to my knowledge, did Gruber meet directly with President Obama in an advisory role. In that instance, he was part of a delegation of outside economists urging Obama to adopt reforms that would help restrain the cost of care. Otherwise, Gruber’s role was primarily to provide numbers.

So no, he wasn't the "architect" of  Obamacare any more than the CBO is the architect of the Obama budget.  What he said was politically tone-deaf, and all of us need to remember that Republicans are doing is using that to justify taking health coverage away from millions of Americans.

That's the only actual scandal here.

Frankly My Dear, I Can't Even

Salon's Tim Donovan argues that Millennials really have no reason to vote for either party, and should just stay home and write posts in Salon about how Millennials aren't voting.

For those of us who follow “millennial issues,” this generation’s low turnout hardly came as a surprise. Last April, the Harvard Institute of Politics found something surprising while talking with young voters: considerably more young Republicans expected to vote than Democrats. Armed with this troubling data, Democratic candidates had months to adapt their messaging and court our votes. What happened? Universally, Democratic candidates didn’t bother to address the (very real, very serious) problems that are on the minds of many millennials: the racist and costly drug war, ballooning student loan debt, long-term unemployment, flat wages at shitty retail and restaurant jobs, and an imperiled climate. Democratic strategists seemed to assume that running as the Not-Republican Party would carry them to victory among young voters. Perhaps they were just too comfortable, believing that, since millennials would never vote for Republicans, those votes were secure. The election firmly behind us, we all know how well that turned out. 
If Democratic strategists thought they could simply ignore the needs of millennial voters because we find Republican politicians to be noxious, hopefully this election taught them a lesson they won’t soon forget. People who need jobs, a pay raise, or just some debt relief are unlikely to put partisan loyalty over more immediate needs. Personally, I’d vote for Rand Paul for president faster than you can say “libertarian wacko” if I thought he would actually end the drug war, slash corporate welfare and plow the savings into student loan debt relief or a robust infrastructure bill. If someone like myself — a pajama-festooned, latte-sipping, liberal hipster who writes for Salon, fer chrissake – is willing to ignore party preference in favor of actual legislative gains, I can only assume that less ideologically committed millennials are even more willing to vote Republican for the right candidate or platform. 
Democrats are far too committed to being a centrist, business-friendly party that eschews economic populism at every turn. Hating your opponent might be a motivating impulse for some voters, but there’s already a party that believes in nothing beyond the destruction of its ideological enemies. Where’s the party for the rest of us, a generation who’ve come of age under the heavy thumb of neoliberal maximalism? Where’s the party that promises to fight back with unapologetically progressive politics? My suspicion is that the growing segment of disengaged millennials are looking for left-leaning candidates willing to shed the yolk of Clinton-era conformity and compromise — and they’re not finding it. (Help us, Elizabeth Warren, you’re our only hope!) Indeed, a simple examination of the exit polling seems to confirm this interpretation. Democrats lost millennials this cycle (as they did in 2012 compared with ’08), but it’s not like the Republican Party made any comparable gains among young voters that would suggest we’re moving rightward. Young people may be abandoning the Democrats, but it’s not because they’re rushing to endorse the public policy platform of Reince Priebus. (Thankfully.)

 You know what this says to me?

This says "I shouldn't have to vote for a party that isn't 100% on the issues I want, so I'll sit at home instead.  And I don't really give a damn if the Republicans win as a result."

And it's painfully clear that is exactly where Millennials and young Gen X voters like myself under 40 are.  Why should our generation have to eat the crap samdwich, when our grandfathers only had to survive the Civil Rights era and our fathers had to make it through Reaganomics?

The people that actually vote want to put out generation in indentured servitude in more ways than one, but why should we care, right?

Jesus wept.  If you consider voting for Rand Paul, you're not a goddamn progressive, you're an asshole.

New Tag:  Millennial Stupidity.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions


Does Mary Landrieu have a prayer?


She's going to lose by double digits and end up working for an energy lobbyist firm anyway because of Keystone XL, which will pass the Senate as it did the House but get vetoed.  Then she'll work to get it approved by the State Department anyway some time next year, depending on if Nebraska's Supreme Court blocks the routh through the state or not (it won't.)

Thanks for playing.


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