"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Many former Obama supporters…especially the younger crowd…have lost considerable faith in Obama and the Democratic Party. Neo-Neocon notes that the political disillusionment encompasses both parties, and cautions that the “throw the bums out” mentality, however understandable, can be dangerous. She quotes from a book by Milton Mayer called They Thought They Were Free, which is an exploration of German attitudes from the 1920s through World War II. Interviews were conducted with 10 “typical” Germans, who Mayer refers to as “friends,” a couple of years after the war’s end. Excerpt:
National Socialism was a repulsion of my friends against parliamentary politics, parliamentary debate, parliamentary government—against all the higgling and the haggling of the parties and the splinter parties, their coalitions, their confusions, and their conniving. It was the final fruit of the common man’s repudiation of “the rascals.” Its motif was “throw them all out.” My friends, in the 1920′s, were like spectators at a wrestling match who suspect that beneath all the grunts and groans, the struggle and the sweat, the match is “fixed,” that the performers are only pretending to put on a fight. The scandals that rocked the country, as one party or cabal “exposed” another, dismayed and then disgusted my friends…
My friends wanted Germany purified. They wanted it purified of the politicians, of all the politicians. They wanted a representative leader in place of unrepresentative representatives. And Hitler, the pure man, the antipolitician, was the man, untainted by “politics,” which was only a cloak for corruption…Against “the whole pack,” “the whole kaboodle,” “the whole business,” against all the parliamentary parties, my friends evoked Hitlerism, and Hitlerism overthrew them all…
Indeed, revulsion against the dysfunctionalities of a parliamentary democracy can lead to something much, much worse. Weimar government and Weimar society had their problems, but they were infinitely preferable to what replaced them.
Also, most Germans in the 1920s and 1930s—like people in other European countries—keenly remembered the spirit of self-sacrificing idealism that had prevailed in 1914, and a considerable proportion of them believed that this idealism had, in one way or another, been exploited and betrayed. Idealism betrayed leads to cynicism, and cynicism can lead to new and twisted forms of idealism.
Erich Maria Remarque’s novel The Road Back is largely about the loss of idealism and social trust in the years following World War One…although it is set in Germany, the same factors were operative, if to a lesser degree, in the other European belligerent countries. One of the characters in the story is Ludwig Breyer–a serious aspiring intellectual as a student, a dedicated and responsible officer in wartime. A few years after the war’s end, he is shattered by the feeling that it was all for nothing:
They told us it was for the Fatherland, and they meant the schemes of annexation of a greedy industry.–They told us it was for honour, and meant the quarrels and the will to power of a handful of ambitious diplomats and princes..They stuffed the word Patriotism with all the twaddle of their fine phrases, with their desire for glory, their will to power, their false romanticism…And we thought they were sounding a bugle summoning us to a new, a more strenuous, a larger life. Can’t you see, man? But we were making war against ourselves without knowing it!…The youth of the world rose up in every land believing that it was fighting for freedom! And in every land they were duped and misused; in every land they have been shot down, they have exterminated each other.
One could do a present-day riff on this speech: “They told us it was for the environment, and they meant the handouts of taxpayer money to crony capitalists. They told us it was about improving education for the poor, and they meant protecting the privileges of incompetent administrators and teachers’ union…etc”
In the book, Ludwig Breyer’s despair drives him to suicide…and there were doubtless many real-life veterans who came to similar ends. Others, though…among veterans but also among those who had been too young or too old to fight..attempted to recapture the 1914 sense of idealism and unity through involvement in extremist politics of one band or another…and we know how that ended.
…because it increasingly seems that the first three digits must be One, Nine, and Three.
Kanye West says Obama’s problems with getting things done are because “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people”…(also, “Black people don’t have the same connection as oil people.”)
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is one example of those “progressives” who think patriotism is all about obeisance to the government and the Leader, rather than being about love of country.
A third-grade textbook, said to be compliant with the new Common Core standards, portrays Obama with the kind of messianic iconography commonly used by totalitarian governments in praising their rulers.
I just received Scott Walker’s new book and went to it right away. It is an interesting look at the time in and around the Wisconsin “protests” (I use quotation marks around the word ‘protest’ intentionally).
I expected more of an autobiography of Walker, and that is really the story that I wanted. It is always interesting to me to see how the formative years of people affect how they make decisions and treat others later in life. That is not what this book is about.
What this book is about is still an interesting topic. Walker goes in depth to explain just how bad former Governor Jim Doyle had left the State of Wisconsin’s finances due to accounting tricks and other gimmicks.
More importantly, Walker takes a deep dive to explain the scam that the unions were running with their automatic withdrawals of dues, monopolistic health insurance practices, overtime abuse, and other things – and how he was going to fix it.
Walker then goes in depth to explain what it was like during the “protests” and what was going on behind the scenes. He used the term “theater of the absurd” and that really hit home. Most (all?) of the “protests” were absolutely absurd.
As I was reading the book, I had to admit that I wasn’t really learning much of anything as far as the nuts and bolts of the legislation, “protests”, senators fleeing, and all the rest were concerned. I was actually at the capitol for much of the protests and have been following all of these things daily and I knew about all of the litigation and all the rest. But what was of interest to me were the personal stories of abuse that Walker and the Republican legislators were subjected to, including their families. Also of interest was Walker’s strength that he found in God and that he never wanted to go back or apologize to anyone for anything. He was doing what he thought was right, and decided to do his best and let the chips fall.
Walker also explains in detail the campaign during his recall and that this ad turned the tide:
Walker also takes a jab at Obama for not showing up to support Barrett in the recall election.
Toward the end, Walker seems genuinely angry at the Romney campaign for bungling, well, everything and goes into detail about what he did wrong, and how these things can be corrected moving forward.
I recommend the book so you can get an inside view of what the “protests” were like here in Wisconsin a few years ago, and to understand how Walker implemented his reforms to swing the state from an enormous deficit to a surplus today. His faith is featured throughout the book and he makes no apologies for what he has done.
It is an easy to read book that won’t take you long to plow through, especially if you find the subject matter interesting as I do. I hope to see a full autobiography on him in the future. Hopefully when he is sitting in the White House.
The Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.
There’s a lot of upside for Republicans in how this went down. It came at a time when Republicans control the House and are likely to do so for the duration of President Obama’s second term, so the weakening of the filibuster will have no effect on the legislation Democrats can pass. The electoral map, the demographics of midterm elections, and the political problems bedeviling Democrats make it very likely that Mitch McConnell will be majority leader come 2015 and then he will be able to take advantage of a weakened filibuster. And, finally, if and when Republicans recapture the White House and decide to do away with the filibuster altogether, Democrats won’t have much of an argument when they try to stop them.
As Taranto puts it:
“”The political problems bedeviling Democrats” is a marvelous bit of understatement. The abject failure of ObamaCare has made the prospect of a Republican Senate in 2015 and a Republican president in 2017 much likelier. Thus even from a purely partisan standpoint, rational Democrats would have been more cautious about invoking the nuclear option when they did than at just about any other time in the past five years.”
The filibuster maneuver by Reid is not a demonstration of strength. It is an admission of weakness. The idiots at HuffPo and the LA Times are beating their chests in joy at the prospect of eternal Democrat majorities that can ignore those pesky Republicans.
In fact, what Reid is acknowledging is that the Democrat majority in the Senate is going away and now is the time to pack the courts and regulatory agencies with ideologues and get all the anti-business regulations in place while they can. The hard left, which believes in magic and Cargo Cults, is cheering them on.
“Under any administration, federal agencies seek to implement the president’s policies by developing regulations,” Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington who has represented coal-heavy utilities, said. “But in most cases, the judges on the D.C. Circuit are the people who decide whether those regulations comply with federal law.”
I fully expect to see anti-fracking regulations roll out soon, once the Obama appointments get confirmed by the rump Senate. However, what goes around, comes around.
It is our understanding that the Supreme Court exception was included to satisfy pro-abortion extremists, the most active and basest part of the activist base. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reported yesterday that the two biggest such groups, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America, both declined comment on the nuclear move, “leaving it unclear whether they are concerned about their ability to block future objectionable”–i.e., Republican–”nominees.”
The abortion lobby sees the future better than giddy leftists who think government creates wealth and jobs.
Majority Leader Harry Reid has succeeded in getting the Senate to change the rules such that most of Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.
This action is simply one more manifestation of the Democrats’ hostility toward any limitations on government power…at least, any limitations of government power as long as they are in control (which they clearly intend to be for a long, long time.)
While the Obama administration is clearly more hostile toward the institutions of American democracy than even most previous Democratic presidents have been, still, the desire of Democrats to remove constraints on government power goes back a long ways. As I noted in a comment to this post, Woodrow Wilson believed that separation of powers was obsolete…he argued for this viewpoint based on extremely simplistic reasoning about the “organic” nature of government and the assertion that an organism could not have “organs offset against each other as checks, and live.” (As I also noted in the same comment thread, one would think that anyone who had run any kind of organization would understand the need for “organs offset against each other as checks.” even at the simple level of an auditing department and the separation of payment authorization from payment execution…and, of course, the concepts of feedback control and homeostasis clearly demonstrate the need for those “organs offset against each other” in any complex system.)
Also in the same thread, Vader cited someone who had said that Wilson’s belief in his own moral righteousness was so great as to approach mental illness. This is clearly also true of Obama, probably to an even greater degree than it was true of Wilson. And people with this level of arrogance, of course, tend to be especially impatient of any restraints on their power.
But it goes far beyond Obama himself. The growth of educational credentialism has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people who believe that their college degrees…entirely irrespective of any actual accomplishments that they have made or actual knowledge that they possess…have given them preternatural wisdom and hence they right and duty to control the lives of their less-enlightened countrymen.
American democracy is in grave danger. The 2014 elections will probably be the last chance to keep this country..and the world…from going down a very dark path. I’m reminded of a speech Winston Churchill gave during the years of appeasement, specifically in March 1938, in which he spoke of Britain and its allies:
descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
What can be done is Congress creating a new option in the form of a national health insurance charter under which insurers could design new low-cost policies free of mandated benefits imposed by ObamaCare and the 50 states that many of those losing their individual policies today surely would find attractive.
What’s the first thing the new nationally chartered insurers would do? Rush out cheap, high-deductible policies, allaying some of the resentment that the ObamaCare mandate provokes among the young, healthy and footloose affluent.
These folks could buy the minimalist coverage that (for various reasons) makes sense for them. They wouldn’t be forced to buy excessive coverage they don’t need to subsidize the old and sick.
Who knows ? Maybe Jenkins reads this blog. It’s so obvious that the solution should be apparent even to Democrats.
The revelation came out of questioning of Mr. Chao by Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.). Gardner was trying to figure out how much of the IT infrastructure around the federal insurance exchange had been completed. “Well, how much do we have to build today, still? What do we need to build? 50 percent? 40 percent? 30 percent?” Chao replied, “I think it’s just an approximation—we’re probably sitting between 60 and 70 percent because we still have to build…”
Gardner replied, incredulously, “Wait, 60 or 70 percent that needs to be built, still?” Chao did not contradict Gardner, adding, “because we still have to build the payment systems to make payments to insurers in January.”
If the ability to pay the insurance companies is not yet written, how can anybody sign up ?
Gardner, a fourth time: “But the entire system is 60 to 70 percent away from being complete.” Chao: “There’s the back office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems…they still need to be done.”
Gardner asked a fifth time: “Of those 60 to 70 percent of systems that are still being built, how are they going to be tested?”
President Obama’s veto threat of the Upton bill to legally do what he is trying to do by illegal means, delay the individual mandate, has firmly established a sad fact. The United States has a lawless president. Impeachment would be a three ring circus and unlikely to be worth the effort. President Obama has indeed not let a crisis go to waste and is trying to legitimize presidential lawlessness by picking a test case where the he is doing lawlessly what the Congress wishes to do lawfully. It’s a threat of precedent, not a present threat to the lives and health of anyone today.
A more appropriate response than impeachment would be to wake up America that there is an important and symbolic issue at stake. Speaker Boehner can do this simply by denying the President an honor. He can deny President Obama the use of the House chamber for the State of the Union address. A currently substanceless threat to our legal tradition is responded to by a substanceless slap of rebuke. Let the President write his address and let it be read from the well by a clerk.
The idea that the President has so dishonored his office that he no longer can enter the House is a powerful image that alerts the people to a problem but does not stop us from carrying on with the serious task of government. Impeachment should not be our first resort. Who wants President Biden? This measure also has the advantage that it plays to Boehner’s strengths and requires no approval from anyone else. He can take this decision unilaterally. He should.
Recently I wrote about how the district I live in is perhaps the most gerrymandered district in the entire country. Great pains have been taken by the Democrats that run Illinois to ensure that my vote can’t count and the legislator that runs our state district doesn’t even have to bother courting voters like me. Even among Illinois legislators (not exactly the highest quality bunch) my guy is famous for not even voting to impeach Blago. Literally we have the worst of the worst representing us, but he is effectively immortal since all he has to do is win the Democratic party primary and he’s in, due to basic mathematics and party-line voting.
While I know writing posts like this is just like shouting into a toilet Rolling Stone recently came out with an article about Red State gerrymandering. While my district in the article above was in the state legislature, our Illinois US House of Representatives balance has been similarly adjusted to ensure that a 50/50 or so state leans completely blue. Of course the entire article acts as if this is a Republican phenomenon, when in fact both parties are equal opportunists at this sad game.
There is a shred of hopefulness in all of this in some electoral advancements coming out of California, of all places. They have a system where the two top vote getters in the primary battle it out on election day, even if they are from the same party. In this sort of system, the Democrat or Republican that reaches out to the constituents in the middle from the other party has a shot at beating a stone ideologue that will generally cruise through the party primary (like my state representative). This solution was “California Proposition 14“. In parallel, they also have a citizen’s commission to draw districts so that they make more sense rather than be amazing gerrymander constructions. It is too soon to tell if California’s results will help that much but it seems like a step in the right direction.
I don’t want to wear out my welcome with posts but this is a topic that has interested me for many years. When I retired from practice, I spent a year at Dartmouth trying to learn how we can improve health care delivery and reduce cost without reducing quality.
The Obamacare web site now has lost its happy photo of the Obamacare girl. The fact that she is a non-citizen seems appropriate. The web site is supposed to be fixed by November 30. Will that happen ? Well, maybe not.
On Friday, the man tasked with the digital fixes said the site “remains a long way from where it needs to be” as more and more problems emerge.
“As we put new fixes in, volume is increasing, exposing new storage capacity and software application issues,” Jeff Zients told reporters on a conference call.
And at Tuesday’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney again said there was “more work to be done” on repairing HealthCare.gov.
Carney, along with Zients and other administration officials, have repeatedly said the November 30 deadline is to get the health care website working for a “vast majority” of Americans looking to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
So, what happens December 2, the Monday after the “glitches” are fixed ? First, they won’t be fixed. The contractor that designed the program, not just the web site, has a terrible record.
The American life insurance system was established in the mid-1700s. The earliest forms of health insurance, however, did not emerge until 1850, when the Franklin Health Assurance Company of Massachusetts began providing accident insurance, to cover injuries related to railroad and steamboat travel. From this, sickness insurance covering all kinds of illnesses and injuries soon evolved, but the first modern health insurance plans were not formed until 1930.
The Baylor program for school teachers was the first in 1929.
Medical insurance took stride in 1929 when Dr. Justin Ford Kimball, an administrator at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, Texas, realized that many schoolteachers were not paying their medical bills. In response to this problem, he developed the Baylor Plan – teachers were to pay 50 cents per month in exchange for the guarantee that they could receive medical services for up to 21 days of any one year.
In those days, the concern was lost wages more than hospital care.
In 1939, the American Hospital Association (AHA) first used the name Blue Cross to designate health care plans that met their standards. These plans merged to form Blue Cross under the AHA in 1960. Considered nonprofit organizations, the Blue Cross plans were exempted from paying taxes, enabling them to maintain low premiums. Pre-paid plans covering physician and surgeon services, including the California Physicians’ Service in 1939, also emerged around this time. These physician-sponsored plans combined into Blue Shield in 1946 and Blue Cross and Blue Shield merged into one company in 1971.
The modern insurance plans were very recent in origin. I was there for much of it. The commercial insurers fought the status of Blue Cross, which was not required to have reserves. Blue Cross asserted that it promised hospital care, not payment, so reserves were not necessary.
The 1940s and 1950s also saw the proliferation of employee benefit plans, and the included health insurance packages became more and more comprehensive as strong unions negotiated for additional benefits. During the Second World War, companies competing for labor had limited ability to use wages to attract employees due to wartime wage controls, so they began to compete through health insurance packages. The companies’ healthcare expenses were exempted from income tax, and the resulting trend is largely responsible for the workplace’s present role as the main supplier of health insurance.
From the first, commercial insurers focused on employer plans while Blue Cross and Blue Shield (which was founded by the California Medical Association to pay doctor bills) were individual plans.
In 1954, Social Security coverage included disability benefits for the first time, and in 1965, Medicare and Medicaid programs were introduced, in part because of the Democratic majority in Congress. In the 1970s and 1980s, more expensive medical technology and flaws in the health care system led to higher costs for health insurance companies. Responding to higher costs, employee benefit plans changed into managed care plans, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) emerged. Managed care plans are unique in that they involve a particular network of healthcare providers that have been verified for healthcare quality and that have agreements with the insurer about price and related issues. HMOs were originally primarily nonprofit, but they were quickly replaced by commercial interests, and managed care only succeeded in temporarily slowing the growth of healthcare costs.
Two major changes came in the 1970s. In 1978, the federal government established what were called Professional Standards Review Organizations or PSRO. All doctors had to receive training in how to do these reviews and it was immediately apparent that cost was the only consideration, not quality of care.
I decided to educate myself and took a course from an organization called “The American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians. I took the exam and passed, then attended the annual meeting. This was about 1986. People I met at that meeting informed me that the exams were graded by throwing them up in the air. Any that landed balancing on one edge were flunked. Nonetheless, the experience was valuable because I could see what was coming.
I was president of the Orange County Medical Association that year and had served for eight years on the Commission on Legislation of the CMA, now called The Council on Legislation. This gave me an opportunity to meet many legislators, many state level and some federal. The impression they made on me was that few knew anything about medicine and most were not very intelligent.
It’s kind of complicated so I will summarize. You are screwed !
There are accusations that insurance companies are using this to drop high risk subscribers. Maybe that is true but it is the consequence of ignorant people designing Obamacare. Did these guys ever set up a new business ? As Casey Stengel once said to the Mets , “”Can’t anybody here play this game?”
We are also told that “in all the furor, people forget how terrible many of the soon-to-be-abandoned policies were. Some had deductibles as high as $10,000 or $25,000 and required large co-pays after that, and some didn’t cover hospital care.” Never mind that we have seen cancellations of insurance policies with deductibles much lower, and customers forced to purchase replacement policies with higher deductibles, and with premium increases of 100%, if not higher.
Then there is this argument.
Why can’t people opt out of mental health coverage if there is not a reasonable chance that they will need that coverage? Why can’t they get mental health coverage when it is needed? After all, pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied, so in the event that mental health coverage is needed down the line, it can be obtained and the insurance companies cannot deny people who already have pre-existing mental health conditions. The Times assures us that over-coverage–and the high premiums that come with it–is “one price of moving toward universal coverage with comprehensive benefits.” They don’t explain why having unnecessary coverage is a step towards social justice, but as we saw from the beginning of this intelligence-insulting, repulsively dishonest op-ed, the New York Times is less about explaining, and more about covering up a disastrous rollout with disastrous policy consequences for the country.
Peggy Noonan, who has frustrated me with her obtuseness at times, gets it now.
Politically where are we right now, at this moment?
We have a huge piece of U.S. economic and social change that debuted a month ago as a program. The program dealt with something personal, even intimate: your health, the care of your body, the medicines you choose to take or procedures you get. It was hugely controversial from day one. It took all the political oxygen from the room. It failed to garner even one vote from the opposition when it was passed. It gave rise to a significant opposition movement, the town hall uprisings, which later produced the tea party. It caused unrest. In fact, it seemed not to answer a problem but cause it. I called ObamaCare, at the time of its passage, a catastrophic victory—one won at too great cost, with too much political bloodshed, and at the end what would you get? Barren terrain. A thing not worth fighting for.
So the program debuts and it’s a resounding, famous, fantastical flop. The first weeks of the news coverage are about how the websites don’t work, can you believe we paid for this, do you believe they had more than three years and produced this public joke of a program, this embarrassment?
She assumed that it wasn’t worth it if it worked !
The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy in to fix.
They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information.
I live in the River North district of Chicago, a vibrant area full of professionals, high rise buildings, and a large service economy. We are adjacent to the Loop (and many of the people who live here chose this area so that they could walk to work) which employs many of these residents in an internationally competitive group of companies, both public and privately held.
In my interactions with these residents, few are political, and I would say that most Illinois citizens I’ve met over the year could be considered middle-of-the-road. However, due to factors unique to the state of Illinois, the state is dominated by Democrats who control most of the levers of power at the state, city, county and local levels. As such, a state of mostly moderate individuals is set up, governed, and managed as if it was the most left-leaning state in the country.
Ken Dunkin is our Illinois State representative for the 5th District, and he helpfully sent me this brochure that outlines his goals and accomplishments as a state legislator. This update provides a great window into the mindset of an Illinois Democrat.
Ken Dunkin is famous for being the only Illinois legislator to skip Gov Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment hearing, and thus being a de-facto loyalist to the bitter end. It is really hard to add anything more to that sort of fact; even his fellow Democrats finally came to the conclusion that Blago had to go, but not Ken.
I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.
Is it likely that a person with the latter worldview will come out of a meeting knowing/understanding more than he did when he went into it?
Fernandez begins with a discussion of Obama’s technique with favored columnists.
get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours. …
“It’s not an accident who he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,” said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. “He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,” said another. …
These people are, like him, unsophisticated in technology. They are lawyers or journalists and the numbers of math and science courses represented in the room are few.
Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.
These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.
This strikes me as a huge insight into why this administration doesn’t understand the trouble it is in.
So, the main-line establishment GOP – apparently seeing the writing on the wall and determined to make themselves even more irrelevant – is now going to go all-out against Tea Party sympathetic candidates in the next elections. They have seen the enemy and they is us … that is, us small-government, strictly-Constitutionalist, fiscally-responsible, and free-market advocates, who were the means of ensuring certain outcomes in hotly contested races, and that Mitt Romney even had a ghost of a chance in the last round. Nope, obviously those partisans who feel that our government should be guided by strict adherence to the Constitution, not spend more than it takes in, and not be rick-rolled by crony capitalists and the lobbyists who do their bidding, are – to put it frankly – dangerous radicals who must be excised from the GOP organization.
Because, you know, it is so much better to be a meek and polite little opposition party occasionally allowed to dip a snout into the trough. Insisting on a degree of fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and truly free markets is apparently just too dogmatic, too radical, and un-collegial within the rarified inside-the-beltway establishment GOP.
The latest meme I’ve noticed on the Obamacare implosion is that the Republicans are to blame. After all, it’s Romneycare, or it’s the idea of the Heritage Foundation.
In fact, the mandate was promoted by Hillary in 2008 and opposed by Obama. Of course, he doesn’t know much about what is going on so we can understand. In fact, the entire website fiasco, slipped by him, unnoticed.
President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, quotes White House senior adviser and longtime Obama friend Valerie Jarrett: “I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”
Oh well, at least we know if we really get in trouble, we have someone who can bail us out. I don’t doubt the comment about him never being challenged intellectually.
My profession is much in the news at the moment, so I thought I would pass along such insights as I have from my career, mostly from a multibillion-dollar debacle which I and several thousand others worked on for a few years around the turn of the millennium. I will not name my employer, not that anyone with a passing familiarity with me doesn’t know who it is; nor will I name the project, although knowing the employer and the general timeframe will give you that pretty quickly too.
We spent, I believe, $4 billion, and garnered a total of 4,000 customers over the lifetime of the product, which was not aimed at large organizations which would be likely to spend millions on it, but at consumers and small businesses which would spend thousands on it, and that amount spread out over a period of several years. From an economic transparency standpoint, therefore, it would have been better to select 4,000 people at random around the country and cut them checks for $1 million apiece. Also much faster. But that wouldn’t have kept me and lots of others employed, learning whatever it is we learn from a colossally failed project.
So, a few things to keep in mind about a certain spectacularly problematic and topical IT effort:
Large numbers of reasonably bright and very hard-working people, who have up until that point been creating significant wealth, can unite in a complete flop. Past performance is no guarantee, and all that. Because even reasonably bright, hard-working people can suffer from failures of imagination, tendencies to wishful thinking, and cultural failure in general.
Morale has got to be rock-bottom for anybody with any degree of self-awareness working on this thing. My relevant moment was around the end of ’99 when it was announced, with great fanfare, at a large (200+ in attendance) meeting to review progress and next steps, that we had gotten a single order through the system. It had taken various people eight hours to finish the order. As of that date, we were projecting that we would be doing 1,600 orders a day in eight months. To get an idea of our actual peak rate, note the abovementioned cumulative figure of 4,000 over the multi-year lifespan of the project.
Root cause analysis is all very well, but there are probably at least three or four fundamental problems, any one of which would have crippled the effort. As you may infer from the previous bullet point, back-office systems was one of them on that project. Others which were equally problematic included exposure to the software upgrade schedule of an irreplaceable vendor who was not at all beholden to us to produce anything by any particular date, and physical access to certain of our competitors’ facilities, which they were legally required to allow us into exactly two (2) days per year. See also “cultural failure,” above; most of us were residing and working in what is one of the most livable cities in the world in many ways, but Silicon Valley it ain’t.
Not to overlook the obvious, there is a significant danger that the well-advertised difficulties of the website in question will become a smokescreen for the fundamental contradictions of the legislation itself. The overall program cannot work unless large numbers of people act in a counter-incentived (possibly not a word, but I’m groping for something analogous to “counterintuitive”) fashion which might politely be termed “selfless” – and do so in the near future. What we seem likely to hear, however, is that it would have worked if only certain IT architectural decisions had been better made.
This thing would be a case study for the next couple of decades if it weren’t going to be overshadowed by physically calamitous events, which I frankly expect. In another decade, Gen-X managers and Millennial line workers, inspired by Boomers, all of them much better at things than they are now, “will be in a position to guide the nation, and perhaps the world, across several painful thresholds,” to quote a relevant passage from Strauss and Howe. But getting there is going to be a matter of selection pressures, with plenty of casualties. The day will come when we long for a challenge as easy as reorganizing health care with a deadline a few weeks away.
You know, the last eight years or so have educated me – at least socially and politically – as much as the eight years that I spent in high school, college and the first year in the military ever did. Who says you stop intellectually developing after your mid-forties? I suppose the most-eye-opening development is that I have now seen for real and in real-time that which I had only read about in history books; mainly the development, perpetuation, care and feeding of “The Big Lie.” As defined by the erratic but invaluable Wikipedia, that is “a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
But the ‘big lie’ has worked, over and over again – and most especially and effectively when it is chorused from every corner and by every authority. The latest example and the one which I find most personally outrageous is this one; (found through Legal Insurrection at the National Review); one Alan Grayson, a Democrat member of the House of Representatives has sent out an email to his supporters casually equating the Tea Party with the KKK. As a southern Democrat, Rep. Grayson is, of course, an expert on the KKK, seeing that they served as the shock troops of Southern Democrats. Other leading Democrat Party figures have passed remarks just as disparaging of the Tea Party; I suspect that they are actually mistaking the straw-man Tea Party construction of their own mind, rather than the earnest, hardworking and mostly middle-class fans of fiscally-responsible, strict Constitutionalist and free-market policies which made up most of the Tea Party members I am acquainted with. How such a body of people can be made out to be the sinister Goldsteins and calumniated with such vicious enthusiasm, solo and chorus is almost beyond belief – but they are, and it is only getting worse.
A good portion of the citizens of the United States are being ‘othered’ by those who disagree with them politically and philosophically – and by people you would have thought would know better. The establishment media and pop-culture organs are aiding and abetting this, not realizing that it is only a short step from ‘othering’ to declaring open season – literally. The next step is already being contemplated, although it is hard to tell how seriously the petition to arrest and try the leaders of the Republican Party for sedition, merely for having had the temerity to oppose the current administration. There is something bad in the water, when being in political opposition is considered ground for criminal charges. The comments appended to this story, and this one are dispiriting to read, for too many commenters voice enthusiastic agreement and approval. To be fair, a good few commenters warned against this criminalization of political dissent – since the sauce for the Tea Party goose might just as easily be served up with the progressive gander. Taken all together, this does not augur well and it certainly heats up the cold civil war a couple of more degrees.
UPDATE: I posted this as much for myself as for others to read. Today, Peggy Noonan weighs in. In case this is behind the paywall, here is her conclusion.
Even though it’s huge, and those who are reporting the story every day are, by and large, seasoned and have seen a few things, no one seems to know how it will end. Because it’s new territory. Does anyone believe the whole technological side can be fixed quickly? No. The president may eventually accept a brief delay in implementation—it is almost unbelievable that he will not—but does anyone think that the economics of the ACA, the content as set out and expressed on the sites, will flow smoothly, coherently, and fully satisfy the objectives of expanding health-insurance coverage while lowering its cost? You might believe that, but early reports of sticker shock, high deductibles and cancelled coverage are not promising. Does anyone think the president will back off and delay the program for enough time not only to get the technological side going but seriously improve the economics? No. So we’re not only in the middle of a political disaster, we’re in the middle of a mystery. What happens if this whole thing continues not to work? What do we do then?
This is the Titanic, folks.
I have watched the failed rollout of Obamacare this past three weeks and wondered where it was going. I have some suspicions. There is a lot of talk about delaying the individual mandate, as Obama did with the employer mandate. Megan McArdle has a post on this today. I think it is too late to fix or delay Obamacare.
With Nov. 1 storming toward us and the health insurance exchanges still not working, we face the daunting possibility that people may not be able to sign up for January, or maybe even for 2014. The possibility of a total breakdown — the dreaded insurance death spiral — is heading straight for us. The “wait and see if they can’t get it together” option no longer seems viable; we have to acknowledge that these problems are much more than little glitches, and figure out what to do about them.
Am I exaggerating? I know it sounds apocalyptic, but really, I’m not. As Yuval Levin has pointed out, what we’re experiencing now is the worst-case scenario for the insurance markets: It is not impossible to buy insurance, but merely very difficult. If it were impossible, then we could all just agree to move to Plan B. And if it were as easy as everyone expected, well, we’d see if the whole thing worked. But what we have now is a situation where only the extremely persistent can successfully complete an application. And who is likely to be extremely persistent?
Very sick people.
People between 55 and 65, the age band at which insurance is quite expensive. (I was surprised to find out that turning 40 doesn’t increase your premiums that much; the big boosts are in the 50s and 60s.)
Very poor people, who will be shunted to Medicaid (if their state has expanded it) or will probably go without insurance.
Levin points out: It is now increasingly obvious to them that this is simply not how things work, that building a website like this is a matter of exceedingly complex programming and not “design,” and that the problems that plague the federal exchanges (and some state exchanges) are much more severe and fundamental than anything they imagined possible. That doesn’t mean they can’t be fixed, of course, and perhaps even fixed relatively quickly, but it means that at the very least the opening weeks (and quite possibly months) of the Obamacare exchanges will be very different from what either the administration or its critics expected.
The insurance industry is already reacting to Obamacare and this will quickly become irreversible. This article is from September.
IBM, Time Warner, and now Walgreens have made headlines over the past two weeks by announcing that they plan to move retirees (IBM, Time Warner) and current employees (Walgreens) into private health insurance exchanges with defined contributions from employers.
The article calls it “maybe a good thing” but that supposes the exchanges will function. What if they don’t for a year or more ? What will health care look like in November 2014 ?
What happens next — as we’ve seen in states such as New York that have guaranteed issue, no ability to price to the customer’s health, and a generous mandated-benefits package — is that when the price increases hit, some of those who did buy insurance the first year reluctantly decide to drop it. Usually, those are the healthiest people. Which means that the average cost of treatment for the people remaining in the pool rises, because the average person in that pool is now sicker. So premiums go up again . . . until it’s so expensive to buy insurance that almost no one does.
Will that be apparent a year from now ? I’m sure the administration, and the Democrats, will do almost anything to avoid that. What can they do ? They’ve already ignored the law to delay the employer mandates. It’s too late to delay the individual mandate because individual policies are being cancelled right now.
Today, I find a nice discussion of global warming and cooling over the past epoch. The Greenland ice cores are, or should be, the gold standard of temperature measurement. For example.
Records of past temperature, precipitation, atmospheric trace gases, and other aspects of climate and environment derived from ice cores drilled on glaciers and ice caps around the world. Parameter keywords describe what was measured in this data set. Additional summary information can be found in the abstracts of papers listed in the data set citations.
Watching CNBC. Bove says that because the stock market isn’t in a major sell-off the pols can’t get away with the kind of bad deal (my interpretation) that they want. He warns investors: “The only good strategy at the moment is to get out of the way. The politicians will get the panic they seek.”
CNBC spins this as: lawmakers need a reason to act to avoid gridlock. What Bove is actually saying is that there is a conflict of interest between the pols, particularly the Democrats, who want to bust the sequester and force the full implementation of Obamacare as scheduled, and American taxpayers. This is why Obama says, “this time I think Wall Street should be concerned”. Nice stock market you’ve got here, pity if something were to happen to it.
It appears that Obama is trying to do with the markets the same thing that he did with the national parks: make the government shutdown costly for ordinary Americans, whom he hopes will then find new cause to support him. The media will keep trying to reframe this crass partisan shakedown as Obama working to prevent disaster, but what he’s really doing is transparent to anyone who pays attention.
From a system perspective, not a human perspective, compensation for work in capitalism is the system’s way of communicating to people that the system needs more or fewer people in a job. Not enough bricklayers means rising salaries and too many means lower salaries. The trend continues until the number of people doing the work roughly matches what is needed at the market clearing price and the people are generally satisfied with the compensation.
So what does that tell us about the US distribution of population in the labor market? The distribution of compensation is highly skewed and madly demanding more people get into the job of running companies. It’s highly lucrative work that on balance tends to create labor demand. Our lack of labor demand and the resulting salary stagnation are not a harmless consequence.
But people aren’t rushing into the CEO business anywhere near the numbers necessary to drive compensation down. It’s not like the current crop of CEOs is uniformly magnificent and we simply cannot do better. The wrecked companies littering the corporate landscape around the country are a testament to that. And failure at being a CEO would seem not to carry the same penalties as a spectacularly public malpractice for a doctor or lawyer.
So why has CEO production not drawn attention of the same people addressing the “IT shortage”? Why doesn’t the CEO grooming process create more candidates that drive costs down? Why is shareholder value being squandered in so many cases in highly compensating a stream of short lived, not very good chief executives, who drive the company into disaster time and again?
I hadn’t thought of this situation, only because I didn’t have enough imagination to see that politics trumps all with Obama.
A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.
This just didn’t occur to me. It should have. After all, what was Benghazi about ?
This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.
It is just amazing that the politicians know so little about technology (this was the guy with the Blackberry who made fun of McCain) that they did not understand that saying something doesn’t make it happen.