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Socialism for white people

Socialism for white people

hospitalOver the past year a close neighbor has struggled through the painful, debilitating complications of a chronic illness. Treatment costs approached seven figures, but not once have we sponsored a GoFundMe page or a bake sale to help with expenses. Such a move is unnecessary, because we are already collectively funding his care.

Americans with good jobs live in a socialist welfare state more generous, cushioned and expensive to the public than Denmark or Norway. We pool our resources to share the burden of catastrophic expenses. But unlike Denmark and Norway, our system doesn’t cover everyone.

Election 2016 has prompted a wave of head-scratching on the left. Why would economically struggling blue collar voters reject a party that offers to expand public safety net programs? The answer is simple – they don’t want these programs. Working class white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one I and my neighbors still enjoy.

When it seems like people are voting against their interests, you have probably failed to understand their interests. We cannot begin to understand this election until we understand the power and reach of socialism for white people.

Like most of my neighbors I have a good job in the private sector. Ask my neighbors about the cost of the welfare programs they enjoy and you will be greeted by baffled stares. All that we have is “earned” and we have no use for government support. Nevertheless, taxpayers fund our retirement saving, health insurance, primary, secondary, and advanced education, daycare, commuter costs, and even our mortgages at a staggering public cost. Socialism for white people is all-enveloping, benevolent, invisible, and entirely reserved for the “deserving.”

My family’s health insurance costs about $20k a year, of which we pay only $4k. The rest is subsidized by taxpayers. You read that right. Like virtually everyone else on my block who isn’t old enough for Medicare or employed by the government, my family is covered by private health insurance subsidized by taxpayers at a stupendous public cost. Well over 90% of white households earning over the white median income (about $75k) almost universally carried health insurance even before the Affordable Care Act. White socialism is nice.

Companies can deduct 100% of the cost of their employees’ health insurance. That results in roughly a $400bn annual transfer of funds from the state and federal treasuries to insurers to provide coverage for the Americans least in need of assistance. America pays about as much to subsidize my private healthcare as we spend annually on Medicaid. This is one of the defining features of white socialism, the most generous benefits go to those who are best suited to provide for themselves. Those benefits are not limited to health care.

When I buy a house for my family, or a vacation home, the interest I pay on the mortgage is deductible up to a million dollars of debt. That costs the treasury about $75bn a year, about what we spend to fund the food stamp program. My retirement savings are also tax deductible, diverting another $75bn from government revenues. Other tax preferences carve out special treatment for child care expenses, college savings, commuter costs (your suburban tax credit), local taxes, and other exemptions.

By funding government programs with tax credits rather than spending, we create an enormous social safety net that grows ever more generous as household incomes rise. It is important to note though that you need not be wealthy to participate. All you need to gain access to socialism for white people is a good corporate or government job. That fact helps explain how this welfare system took shape sixty years ago, why it was originally (and still overwhelmingly) white, and why Trump voters backed their candidate instead of Bernie Sanders. Blue collar voters are not interested in democratic socialism. They want to restore their access to a more generous and dignified program of white socialism.

In the years after World War II, the western democracies that had not already done so adopted universal social safety net programs. These included health care, retirement and other benefits. President Truman introduced his plan for universal health coverage in 1945. It would have worked much like Social Security, imposing a tax to fund a universal insurance pool. His plan went nowhere.

Instead, nine years later Congress laid the foundations of the social welfare system we enjoy today. They rejected Truman’s idea of universal private coverage in favor of a program controlled by employers, but publicly funded through corporate tax breaks. This plan gave corporations new leverage in negotiating with unions, handing the companies a publicly-financed benefit they could distribute at their discretion.

No one stated their intention to create a social welfare program for white people, specifically white men, but they didn’t need to. By handing control to employers at a time when virtually every good paying job was reserved for white men the program accomplished that goal.

White socialism played a vital political role, as blue collar factory workers and executives all pooled their resources for mutual support and protection, binding them together culturally and politically. Higher income workers certainly benefited more, but almost all the benefits of this system from health care to pensions originally accrued to white families through their male breadwinners. Blue collar or white collar, their fates were largely united by their racial identity and employment status.

By excluding lower income farm laborers, janitors, kitchen laborers or household servants, white voters could create a commonality of interest among themselves, keeping the cream of the nation’s production. Until the decades after the Civil Rights Acts, very few women or minorities gained direct access to this system. Thanks to this legacy it remains today a disproportionately white safety net, though that character is changing­­

Still today white families are twice as likely as African-Americans to have access to private health insurance. While two thirds of white children are covered by private health insurance, barely over one third of black children enjoy this benefit.

White socialism has had a stark impact on the rest of the social safety net. Visit a county hospital to witness an example. These places are marked by crowded conditions, neglected facilities, professionalism compromised by political patronage, and long waits for care. Fall outside the comfortable bubble of white socialism, and one faces a world of frightening indifference.

When Democrats respond to job losses with an offer to expand the public safety net, blue collar voters cringe and rebel. They are not remotely interested in sharing the public social safety net experienced by minority groups and the poorest white families. Blue collar workers want to restore their access to the privileges of white socialism. They would sooner break the entire system then let higher income whites escape with their privileges intact.

Democrats seem oblivious to the dynamics that made the ACA so radioactive among working whites. Apart from the broad aversion to welfare programs, the plans and premiums available under the Act pale in comparison to life under white socialism. Lower income families will pay premiums more than double what I enjoy for plans that still require much higher deductibles and lower coverage. What the country is willing to spend to help middle income taxpayers fund their own health coverage is a pittance compared to the subsidy granted to my employer to subsidize my health coverage.

When union manufacturing jobs are replaced by service sector work, the decrease in wages may be less than one would expect. However, the loss of benefits and dignity is astonishing. Service sector employers are less likely to carry a full-time workforce, locking workers out of the white social safety net of health and retirement benefits. Many of these former industrial workers might want to go into business for themselves, but the structure of our safety net locks the self-employed out of critical benefits.

Visit a hospital in France and the absurdity of white socialism becomes apparent. Care available to everyone in that country is of the highest quality and conditions are excellent. There is no good reason for public healthcare to be a sink of misery and ineptitude. We have developed a two-tiered system consisting of well-supported socialism for white people alongside poorly supported socialism for everyone else. Falling into the hands of “government health care” is a frightening prospect for US workers. Democrats have done nothing to ease those fears.

Any system in the US capable of delivering quality health care for everyone would have to start by eliminating the white socialism I enjoy. Structural issues have made this extremely difficult. Employer-based tax credits carved blue collar and professional white voters away into their own powerful interest block. Then in the 60’s, Medicare carved away elderly voters in a protected block with their own interests. These two powerful blocs found their needs met.

Any new taxes or burdens that might expand the social safety net to other groups always carried the potential to threaten socialism for white people. Affluent whites who might suffer from higher taxes consistently found political support from lower income whites who enjoyed benefits at the fringes of the white social safety net.

In a strange irony, the collapse of the old industrial order may break this alignment. Blue collar workers have found their access to white socialism increasingly threatened. Meanwhile the rest of the social safety net remains a frightening environment, under-funded and poorly administered, no substitute for what white workers have lost.

A rebellion by working whites aimed at restoring their access to white socialism may have a counter-intuitive impact. They might break the whole system. Oddly enough, Republicans in the current Congress are devising plans that would ruin the misguided system that gave us a two-tier social safety net.

Almost any credible ACA replacement proposal would eliminate the corporate tax deduction for health insurance, replacing it with an individual deduction. In Republican hands the tax subsidy can be expected to underfund health coverage for almost everyone, cutting even my neighbors and myself away from the cushion we enjoy from employer-negotiated plans. Along the way it would take employers out of the picture, removing their political power which has played such a vital role in preserving socialism for white people.

In effect, Republican plans would put nearly everyone in the same miserable, leaking boat. If they succeed in this effort, we might still lack an effective system. All we would need to make the system work is adequate funding. The structural obstacle built into the political system would be removed. Once white Americans were cut loose from the protected space we enjoy under our unique form of corporate socialism, we might finally be ‘all in it together’ sufficiently to deliver political support for truly universal health care.

Like so many other present challenges, our broken health care system grew from a legacy of bias in favor of white men. While this separate but unequal system continues to exist, voters left just outside its bounds will fight to regain their access rather than embracing reform. A Republican plan that would individualize the health care tax credit will probably fail to fix our health care system, but it might be just the disaster we need to push us toward competent reform. There is a chance that Trump and the GOP could accidentally open the gateway to true, universal health insurance in the US. We might soon see the end of socialism for white people.


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    1. Most interesting, Brent, but not hopeful. FDR had the intelligence and political courage to reform existing institutions to accommodate pressing societal needs, but he also was able to convince an angry, disillusioned, poverty-stricken public to trust his leadership.

      “What we now need, hence, is not so much to find new political ‘leaders’ capable of designing and enacting grand plans to lead us further up the complexity pathway, but to ensure that we can make collective choices that are fit and appropriate for an age of scaling-down expectations. There is no sign that this could happen anytime soon, or even that it might be possible. It is therefore entirely reasonable to expect that our economic, technical, political and social systems might continue to become increasingly dysfunctional and drift towards breakup point. ”

      Indeed, addressing this problem will require a depth of analysis – political and societal – that our current adversarial process is incapable of addressing.

    2. The Monbiot piece that links the Arbair essay, is equally despondent about man’s ability to “heal itself”.

      “The social, environmental and economic crises we face require a complete reappraisal of the way we live and work. The failure by mainstream political parties to produce a new and persuasive economic narrative, that does not rely on sustaining impossible levels of growth and generating illusory jobs, provides a marvelous opening for demagogues everywhere.”

      We now have the demagogue who is morphing (via appointment) into a cabinet of similar demagogues led by a party – the Republicans – whose priorities depend upon perpetuation of the problems that must be solved.

      Full circle.

  3. For those following today’s ridiculous stunt with Trump & Carrier, this is a perfect illustration of a strong candidate for the most infuriating thing that the Orange Wonder’s done. So many of his supporters have put their faith in him, hoping that he can “deal” (read as legally dubious grifting of taxpayer money) their way out of the future.

    That isn’t going to happen and those poor workers at Carrier have only had the inevitable delayed for a while longer. What’s going to happen to truck drivers when automated trucks make their debut? Service workers at McDonalds when automated ordering machines are brought in? There’s no tax break that can put this off or even slow it down, even if we had the money for it, which we don’t.

    Few things crash harder than blind faith in a con artist. This is going to be brutal.

    1. Eh, the Carrier deal isn’t the worst thing he’s done. I’m still pissed off at the fact that one of my friends has received a letter saying “You don’t belong in this neighborhood, nigger” and another one of my friends was accosted at a shopping mart and told to “go back to Mexico!” despite the fact she’s second generation citizen. These are things that did not happen in my lifetime but in my history books and stories of podunk towns in the South. Now they’re happening to my friends in cities.

      Corporate welfare more or less props up most of the jobs that exist in any form throughout our system, and would have been practiced under Hillary as well. Any candidate we’d get from this cycle would have more or less kicked the can down the road, except maybe Jill Stein who shake a medicine ball over the can and say a prayer.

      The dangers Trump brings to the Presidency are the clear intentions to systematically dismantle our civic, legal, and judiciary institutions, the threats of violence and abroad and undermining of civil rights domestically, and the endless barrage of mis- and dis-information now becoming more than just a social media phenomenon, but an actual hegemony of our culture.

      A few factories here there saved by corporate welfare, and a big tax cut for the richest of the rich, in addition to the usual privatization shenanigans of the GOP, are all things we could survive and manage under a usually less wrong leader like McMullin or Johnson… or Clinton.

      1. I’m not talking about Carrier itself being the single worst thing he’s done. That would be understating the case by a country mile. What I’m saying is that it’s reflective of the enormity of the con job that he’s played on the entire country, which IS the worst thing he’s done. #DonTheCon

      2. “all things we could survive and manage under a usually less wrong leader like McMullin or Johnson… or Clinton.”

        Yeah, I made a few comments here about how Clinton was very likely to continue to the policies that created the current situation, appointing the usual Wall Streeters to Treasury, Council of Economic Advisors, etc. Thinking to prepare people for the worst.

        The miscalculation I made was that the worst was actually Trump winning and appointing the usual Wall Streeters…

  4. Did you know that the percentage of Americans who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has been going down from about 75% to under 30% since the 1930s?

    I didn’t either. The same trend can be found in Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand and Britain. Just as creepy as a DT presidency, right?

    These researchers are looking into it.

      1. This brings to my mind an NPR hourly newscast from a few days ago in which the reader said something like (I paraphrase):

        “President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted last night that there was widespread voter fraud in 3 states, a claim which has been debunked.”

        It struck me how difficult it will be for the media to quote our new president and constantly have to qualify what he says with the words “a claim which has been debunked,” to essentially say, “The President says the following, but he is lying.”

        Any deference or respect from the media towards the presidency is thus destroyed, if you can’t even trust the words of your president, the person who is supposed to speak for and represent the nation. The only 2 ways for the media to deal with someone like Mr. Trump is to go into full opposition mode or simply remain on the sidelines, coyly adding again and again the disclaimer that “his claims have been debunked.”

      2. The words of the President of the United States should be imbued with truth, integrity, nobility, and even humility when appropriate. His words should edify and inspire his people.

        The American people deserve better than a leader whose words can’t be trusted, whose words offend and destroy.

      3. Creigh, I agree the media should call out the president when he’s wrong. My point is that the default position between the media and the president should be one of respect, for the media to assume and expect the best of the president, and then call him out when he says or does something wrong.

        In the case of Mr. Trump, because of the mistrust his words inspire, it has been an adversarial relationship from the start, so the media will have to be always on guard.

      4. Tutt, to me, one of the interesting things about lies is that when they are unchallenged, cheered by supporters, his supporters are helping him create an alternate reality.

        That’s not good. Our real reality is hard enough to deal with.

        And how to cover his tweets? Report verbatim, then challenge? Provide data on the number and time of day they were sent? Create fact check history of his tweets? Legitimate outlets are struggling with it.

        But like Creigh I think some news outlets have been slapped upside the head hard and not as tempted to resort to they say, they say reporting. Facts matter. Data matter.

      5. It’s media’s job to scrutinize, question, report. No one likes to get criticized but if they work in the media, it comes with the territory. If media had done their jobs early on in the campaign process instead of after the nomination, things might have evolved differently for the GOP. It’s hard to feel sorry for them getting “out-tweeted” on news. What the media has to do is start ignoring Trump. Report only hard news, not every “may appoint or had dinner with” …They are doing the same thing they did when they gave him all the free media coverage.

        Deal with it.

      6. I think the media’s role is pretty cut and dried here, but what I find myself struggling with is how to respond to people on social media — whether to challenge them and risk sounding like an ass or to let stuff slide. Do I still have a point to make, or am I at some point just trying to get the last word in.

      7. EJ

        There is extensive research on people’s behaviour on social media and how they react to someone challenging their views. It’s a fascinating field of enquiry that (until now) was often very academic for a lot of people.

        From what I understand, the takeaway is that you cannot change someone’s mind in any meaningful sense by disagreeing with them on social media, because human minds see social media as less about discussion and more about flag waving. People who like your flag will cheer, people who dislike it will boo, and people who have been feeling isolated will be comforted that someone else out there feels as they do. You will not, however, make converts in the process.

        It’s still worth doing, however, for two reasons. Firstly, it reassures and comforts people who believe as you do, and that can be important. Remember that the internet is extremely visible (there are probably thousands of people reading this right now – hi there! Wie geht’s?) and reaches a lot of people who are otherwise quite isolated. If someone is surrounded by Trumpetry and feeling the burden of it, then simply knowing that someone else feels the way they do is vital.

        This leads to the second reason: humans cope poorly when they’re surrounded by messages which conflict with reality. If everyone is shouting that black is white, people will start to believe it even if they know it’s wrong. For this reason, while it is very easy to let social media be dominated by loud idiots, the consequences of doing so are very bad indeed.

        Yes, you cannot convince anyone by disagreeing with them on the internet. But you can help all the bystanders; and on the internet there are many bystanders.

      8. Figuring out how to speak in public after DT’s rhetorical success is something I’m very interested in.

        For my exam, I attempted to contrast traditional beliefs about what makes a successful speaker with the performance of DT, who exhibited none of those characteristics. It’s clear logic does not apply. Something else is at work.

        So maybe there’s a Creigh Gordon presence that demonstrates understanding of how money works and a desire for consumers not to get screwed.

        Creigh Gordon’s tweets and facebook posts clarify terminology and poke a little light-hearted fun at those who use banking terms to obfuscate. Creigh Gordon helps people deal better with the banking world.

        Scholars who try to understand why people are persuaded would now say that over time, Creigh Gordon’s followers are developing an affinity for him. He hasn’t changed their minds about anything but they feel aligned with him.

        I think that’s what Chris has done here and what DT did in his campaign.

      9. “it was assumed that we are a healthy liberal democracy and not susceptible to authoritarian rhetoric.”

        Still pissed off about this. I can’t imagine Trump being any more clear about his fascism other than praising Hitler… He already went out of his way to praise modern fascists in other countries.

        June 16th, 2015 through November 9th, 2016 was the biggest and slowest shockwave I’ve ever seen, as pretty much every basic principle of baseline fundamental level critical thinking just flipped right the fuck over and disappeared. People always complain about the three other pillars of democracy (the government, business, and the media), but the fourth pillar was even more weak.

  5. I’ve always said the only way we get to Medicare for all (the only healthcare solution that works in the rest of the world, and even in our own country) is when enough people die under our current system. That body count hasn’t risen high enough yet. What this election has taught me, however, is that the body count needs to rise much higher than I ever believed to get Americans to do the right thing.

    So while I agree with your conjecture that things getting worse with the Republicans may spark the real reform we need, I’m much more pessimistic than you: I think the Republicans will make it much worse than you think, *and*, that still won’t be enough for people to come to their senses.

    Your assumption rests on a “credible” Republican plan. There is no such thing. I’m not even talking about idealogical differences: every Republican plan out there lacks logical coherence or internal consistency. Opening insurance markets across state lines will only create a race to the bottom in regulation, not new competition. And there are already only a few large insurance carriers anyway (that create subsidiaries to deal with intra-state regulatory issues). And providing vouchers without enforcing the ban on underwriting means sick people will still not be able to afford insurance.

    For example, I chuckled when I heard Trump say he might “delay” the repeal of Obamacare by a few years, and that he wanted to keep the “good” parts of it like its ban on pre-existing conditions. What does he think makes Obamacare plans unaffordable? After all, they’re run by the same insurance companies that provide non-Obamacare group policies, so it can’t be “stupid govt bureaucrats” or some other conservative bogeyman. The only reason non-obamacare plans are cheap for healthy people is because they can drop you the minute you become sick. This even works if you’re on an employer-based plan: a real sickness, the type that incurs 7-figure costs, is bad enough that you usually stop working. Assuming you weren’t on your spouse’s plan, in 6 months, COBRA runs out (assuming you have enough savings to pay the unsubsidized cost of your employer’s plan while keeping food on the table with your unemployment benefits), no private insurance will sell you an individual plan, and you race through your savings until you’re poor enough to qualify for medicaid. With any luck, that happens before you die from delayed treatment that you couldn’t afford.

    That’s also why, IMHO, even your plan won’t work: a payroll tax that pays for a universal voucher doesn’t protect you when you’re sick. You’ve stated your family insurance costs $20k. I assume (and hope! 🙂 that your family is generally healthy. Assume in your plan you’ll get a voucher for the full $20k. But the minute any of you gets sick, that premium in the individual market will zoom to $100k. In fact, for many conditions, you will simply not be able to find any insurance at any cost. How does a voucher help you there?

    Every conservative plan for reform (including yours, and Obamacare) has a fundamentally incorrect assumption: you assume people die from lack of health *insurance*. That’s false. People die from lack of health *care*. Private insurance is just one method of getting people that care. Paying for private insurance without tightly regulating that market until it basically behaves like a public system merely ensures that we’ll spend a lot of money on insurance which will be siphoned off and not actually spent on delivering care.

    At the end of the day this is the iron logic of health insurance: ban on underwriting, no individual mandate, low costs, private insurance market: pick 2. The rest is just a thousand pages of fine print.

    1. Not all people who develop serious illnesses that run into seven figures have neighbors like Chris…….BTW, when I participated (twice) on COBRA plans, the duration of coverage was 18 months which was designed to enable people to find new employment with benefits or find individual coverage. Longer COBRA periods are available under certain conditions.

      I googled your single payer physician health plan and it is interesting….especially when this fundamentally is exactly how health care was delivered when I was a child! I doubt mega-insurance companies would ever cede their market to such a simple concept.

      1. Stephen,
        You would think 20 million people looses healthcare would be an incentive for something. But remember a lot of the adults in that number either voted for Trump or did not vote. Just a guess, but i bet most are Fox News watchers. and most think Obama was born in Kenya!
        The republicans were perfectly willing to allow all these people to have no health insurance years ago when George W. was President. I can not see why they would care now.
        And looking at the proposed cabinet members, I do not see one person who gives a damn about anyone at the bottom of the ladder!
        Hopefully a few decent republicans will step up and vote with the Dems to stop a lot of what will be proposed. But forgive me Chris, but are there any decent republicans in congress??

  6. Paul Ryan’s plan on voucherize Medicare is going to have a similar effect in that the wealthier retirees can pay the difference to get a sound plan while the majority will be left to wilt on the vine. Many older people who help give control of the government to Trump and Republicans are in for a rude shock.

    1. One can be reasonably sure that Paul Ryan and the Republicans will try to make their Medicare overhaul as politically palatable as possible, but you’re right. Regardless, I’d doubt even one in ten of those who’ve given them that power were seriously considering the repercussions of what they were doing. Find a few articles by major news outlets and you’ll find interviews with people who still don’t believe that such changes could actually happen.

      People are foolish, their priorities skewed to an infuriating degree and now shit’s about to hit the fan in a truly serious way.

      1. Justanotherhuman: As a 54 year old with a chronic health condition this is what fear. Speaking selfishly, my hope is that Medicare will somehow be left alone, and that the people who are perfectly happy with the “white socialist” system will raise their voices to oppose changing the employer-based system.

        Speaking as a citizen, I hope we can work toward universal coverage, although the political environment looks insanely difficult on that front admittedly.

      2. Jeff, my reading of Ryan’s Better Way proposal for medicare is that 55 will be the cut off to be grandfathered into traditional medicare – although as stated above, that is NO guarantee that medicare even for those who are grandfathered will not be changed.

        So, hope your birthday happens before January 20th.

      3. That’s true. A Better Way kicks in in 8 years but that doesn’t mean other changes can’t happen before then…all sorts of things – dis-allowing or drastically reducing medical deductions, changing coverage on the supplemental policies to not fully offset medicare’s coverage, change what procedures are covered. Home health is taking a big hit and many elderly people depend upon its services who are home-bound….the list is long and unless you’re in a situation where you participate in these programs, you likely won’t understand what I’m even talking about.

        Repeal and delay replacement until after the 2018 election is the plan I’ve heard most often to get rid of the ACA….Pretty slick……

        It’s sickening to look ahead and see what is going to happen to health care in America…literally.

      4. Mary: in terms of the age cut-off for making changes to Medicare, that is what I have read as well. Question: what sources would you recommend for reviewing Ryan’s Better Way plan? I’ve gone to the Better Way web site but it does not seem to dig into specific policy recommendations so much as state finely wordsmithed talking points.

      5. I’ve been following this plan’s development for a long time so have absorbed some of the detail in that manner. Obviously, Republicans want to promote a plan by outline and leave out the details. The plan has passed the House so there should be a house bill that has more detail in one document. I’ll work on that for you when I have time. What everyone needs to clearly understand is this: Trump didn’t mean most of what he promised; his appointments are clearly indicating what he is willing to support; and the GOP plan all along has been to privatize medicare. Read The Hill link I posted above. It’s prescient.

      6. Jeff, I haven’t had time to dig out the HBill on Ryan’s plan, but here is an excellent article with lots of link potential that offers historical perspective. As I’ noted, I’ve been following Ryan’s plans over the years and they’ve morphed along the way, but the bottom line has always been privatization. As the TPM article and others observe, this will make care for the elderly and disabled more expensive individually with less coverage. This is why I have been more discouraged about GOP control than Trump’s election. I know what is coming is going to be terrible for ordinary Americans.

        Maybe you could explore it more fully and get back to the gang about what you learn. I’ll do more when I can.

      7. Thank you, Mary – the TPM article set up a nice context and continuum. I’m curious to see how the fault lines around health care emerge beginning in January.

        It seems in some ways that Speaker Ryan has softened the language and the impact of his policy recommendations over time. I’m skeptical that this will continue to be the case now that Republicans hold power.

      8. It helps if one knows that Paul Ryan (except for a very brief stint working for a weiner shop..months) has “always” worked in government. Thus, he has always been the beneficiary of the very government he is proposing to take down…Guess he feels that having been inside all these years that he is an expert. Political reality has been more responsible for changes he’s made but he’s emboldened now. He lives in the same bubble many do whose entire careers have been in government. He hasn’t had to work in the marketplace he is now responsible for helping function. Ryan lies outright in his statement that the ACA is bringing down medicare. As has been pointed out numerous times, the ACA has extended the solvency of medicare by years – an inconvenient truth. Ryan is young, brash, cocky and insulated from the consequences of the changes he is proposing by years of potential earning power courtesy of you and me, aka taxpayers.

  7. Great article from Brookings on point with as to why poor and middle class white people supported Trump and the disappointment they will face in their expectations of change. Note this article speaks only to this demographic, not the upper middle class Trump supporters. Their reasons were likely Hillary hate, SCOTUS/anti-abortion, the economy, blind GOP allegiance, or simply f**k u….It’s clear there are many reasons other than racism, but the net result is going to be tragic for our country – even those who thought things were really bad before. Just wait.

    “Loss of relative status is painful, no doubt. But it is the inescapable price of equality. Trump has no cure. Nobody does. In the meantime, he has provided some temporary psychological relief. But it won’t last.”

    “Trump is cultural heroin. He makes some feel better for a bit. But he cannot fix what ails them, and one day they’ll realize it. When that day comes, what will happen? Perhaps those who voted for the past will realize that it cannot be conjured back up again, and embrace, or at least accept, the world as it is today. Perhaps some of those who voted for him will turn to a more progressive populism. Perhaps, and most worrying of all, when the pain returns they will turn to an even stronger drug than the one he offered.

  8. America didn’t deserve Barach Obama. He was a statesman, not a politician, and the Republican Party made damn sure he was never able to achieve the heights he was capable of reaching. He could have overcome the inexperience and contributed so much more but he could not overcome a vile, obstructionist party who determined from day one to not allow him to succeed. Instead, the Republicans give us people like GW Bush and DJ Trump. For all the chaos that exists in the Democratic Party, they are better people. Now they have to become better politicians. Hopefully they won’t have to sacrifice one for the other as the Republicans have.

    1. That’s true, but everyone was trying to find a way to scrap that system. Truman’s proposal sent everyone into a panic, especially doctors and hospitals – they had started to make some serious money pitching their own insurance products.

      The Republican proposal in 1954 took the threat of socialism and transformed it into a corporate giveaway. A lot of companies were already doing this as a continuation of wartime practices.

      1. You make a great point about doctors and hospitals. They’ve stood in the way of every major reform in the health insurance market. They opposed Medicare as the slippery slope of communism, even as it made them enormously rich and funded a huge expansion of hospitals, medical schools, and other health infrastructure. Similarly, they opposed Obamacare, Hillarycare before that, and Medicare for all currently (with some notable exceptions, like the group Physicians for a National Health Program).

        But that may change. Most doctors oppose Medicare for all because private insurance pays them more than medicare. But that’s changing. As insurance companies merge and gain pricing power, reimbursement is declining fast. In southern California, for example, Medicare is now the *ceiling*, not the floor: many HMOs will only pay less than that.

        Once private insurance generally pays at medicare rates or less, most doctors will switch to supporting medicare for all, at which point the private insurance companies will lose a key pillar of their public support. Will that be enough to turn the tide? We’ll see soon enough…

  9. Just be careful, Chris, that you don’t devolve into ‘cum hoc ergo propter hoc.’

    The story of American style capitalism (or corporatism, for the cynical) and the story of American style racism are tightly interweaved but not necessarily correlated. America could have gone full socialist during the time that you described and yet still that socialism would probably disproportionately advantage white people. There’s nothing inherent in the work-welfare system that was designed to be racist (as a whole; specific legislations, maybe, but each would have to be proven on their own) even if the work-welfare system is about as American a ‘solution’ as you can come up with.

    White people had all the advantages in the system they designed that had all white people designing it for all the advantages — it’s a bit of a circular logic based on, not necessarily an ‘accident’ of history, but nevertheless a circumstance. Yes they built the whole system for themselves, but that would be true even if they did so in any other fashion than the one we have.

    I do understand that this issue of cum hoc ergo propter hoc comes to a head when you look at the big tent of the modern Republican party: basically, pro-privatization billionaires subsidizing the angers and fears and resentments of piss poor white folks. But the kleptocratic system of Russia would do the same for white folks if implemented in America. The mixed market communism of China would do the same for white folks if implemented in America. Scandinavian socialism happens to not be so easily accessible to, you know, non-Scandinavians.

    And, under every accounting, the white folk would still have to deal, eventually, with the incessant and irrepressible fact that the world is made out of more people than white folk. They’d get angry and bitter in every political and economic system built around America’s history of racial grievance and pluralistic immigrant society. Hopefully we retain the liberal democratic system (liberal in the Fukuyama sense of capitalist) that allows the non-white folk to keep catching up to the white folk, regardless of what regulatory or welfare system is in place.

    1. The only way non-white people will catch up with white people will be when they vote for people who want them to succeed. This will NEVER happen with the Republican Party. All the kum ba ya in the world won’t change the fact that the people in charge of the Republican Party do not want to share the free market system with brown people. Their track record affirms their intent even when they play games at election time to curry favor, aka “votes”.

  10. >] Almost any credible ACA replacement proposal would eliminate the corporate tax deduction for health insurance, replacing it with an individual deduction. In Republican hands the tax subsidy can be expected to underfund health coverage for almost everyone, cutting even my neighbors and myself away from the cushion we enjoy from employer-negotiated plans. Along the way it would take employers out of the picture, removing their political power which has played such a vital role in preserving socialism for white people.

    Gotta tackle this one first as I can’t imagine it’s going to be as smooth as all that. Assuming, for the moment, that a “credible” alternative to the ACA comes out and actually gets voted on, wouldn’t our corporate powers feel they want to keep that 100% deduction they get, or is it more likely to say that they just want to get the health care issue off their plates once and for all?

    Setting that aside, what’s honestly worrisome for me is that “political power” you speak of. Corporations have had it for so long, shouldn’t they loathe suddenly someone trying to take it away from them? That could make for some interesting political dynamics, no doubt, but maybe visceral Republican hatred of the ACA is enough to actually cajole Republicans in Congress into doing it regardless? Trump’s election being the giant middle-finger it was, it’s not hard to imagine some Republicans feeling antsy about openly siding with Big Business.

    >] “A rebellion by working whites aimed at restoring their access to white socialism may have a counter-intuitive impact. They might break the whole system. Oddly enough, Republicans in the current Congress are devising plans that would ruin the misguided system that gave us a two-tier social safety net.

    Health care aside, this is my most pressing concern as I don’t readily understand what that means for us. Trump, being the Great White Hope he is, had a lot of people’s faith riding on him that’s about to come crashing down as he falls flat on his orange face and Republicans in Congress get ready to decimate the social safety net. What does that mean for all those people and what’s their next move?

    Honestly, I don’t mean to blow things out of proportion, but this could get dangerous, if it hasn’t already. Our economy’s natural progression via automation and robotics is accelerating (an example being driverless vehicles putting millions of truck drivers at risk of losing their jobs in the coming years) in a way that’s going to hit home real fast for people. Trump can’t and won’t fix their problems, so what’s their response when they realize the man they put their faith in will not only fail them, but likely make their problems even worse?

    1. Corporations have been trying to kill this system for decades, going back to the Clinton era. This was a great thing for industrial era companies, but in a far more competitive, talent-driven environment it just doesn’t help anymore. They would much rather have government take care of it.

      The present arrangement forces all of them to compete not just on what they do for a living, but on a whole collection of otherwise useless and very expensive HR functions that they only have to support in the US. It’s dead weight. Plus, it makes it harder to relocate talent from other countries because our health care system is confusing and lousy.

      Corporations are the main inspiration behind Ryan’s plan to rescind the corporate tax credit for health care and turn everyone loose. They also pressed to make the ACA do something similar and simply failed. Trump has more or less endorsed this approach, though everything Trump says is confusing and inconsistent. Hard to say what he might do about this or anything else.

      If Republicans succeed with this plan, the Trumpentariat might at first be excited about it. Who doesn’t want a gigantic new tax credit, right? I’d be surprised if one in fifteen Trump voters with corporate-sponsored health insurance knows what their insurance actually costs. If presented with a 5K tax deduction as an alternative they would probably cheer. When Democrats try to warn them, Brietbart will tell them that math is for liars and they’ll disregard what they hear.

      By the time they find out that their stupid new tax deduction has cost them their employer-sponsored health plan and they now have to replace a 15-20K insurance policy with a 5K deduction – it will be too late. Oh, and when they figure out that a 5K tax deduction comes out to something like $0, because a family earning 80K already pays almost nothing in income taxes, well maybe they will blame it on Obama somehow. But they’ll be good and f’d.

      At that point, the old alignments will be broken. As screwed up as that situation may be, it may finally inspire people to rub their eyes and start looking around. And when they do, all it would take to get a fully competent system would be a modest payroll tax and a small income tax hike. Then everyone’s vouchers would be large enough to pay for reasonable coverage and we would have a system just like Holland.

      So, it may be a rough ride, but it might take us somewhere nice.

      1. Well, hallelujah! We can finally agree on something today! Put everyone on the plan, pay for it through a modest but universal tax of some kind, spread the risks, keep people healthier, and let people focus on living their lives, work, etc. People shouldn’t have to worry about something like this. It’s insane and it’s cruel.

      2. One might hope from such a massive clusterfrack that Republicans might finally concede that you can’t solve health care through tax credits and “market-based solutions”, but I won’t hold my breath.

        That said though, there are a few genuine silver linings to be gleamed:

        – All political movements needs an open. Economic crises aside, a genuine health care crisis across every state in America would certainly prove such an opportunity.

        – You’ve talked about the country being primed for a hard shift to the left, and health care has always been modern Democrats’ lifeblood. One can imagine after years of being constantly pummeled by Republicans over the ACA that Democrats would practically be salivating at the thought of going on offense over it again. Chances are they’d take it too far, but at least it would give them a focus again.

      3. Ah, the “hard shift to the left” prediction……..that’s rather hard to believe when one looks at the ever-reddening map of America….there will indeed have to be a cataclysmic event to force this shift….I don’t see the GOP accommodating such a shift voluntarily, nor allowing Trump to enable it. How might this occur? Electoral math aside, a two million plus popular vote lead doesn’t signal a shift….my guess would be the huge number of millennials and genXers who are finally going to get fed up with being screwed. A new party, perhaps? I’m fine with that as long as equality and fairness are fundamental tenets. I really, really don’t see this hard shift left happening any time soon, and “soon” is looking pretty ugly about now to me. A lot of damage can be done to Democracy in 4 years with total control of the process.

      4. ” We cannot begin to understand this election until we understand the power and reach of socialism for white people.”

        Hindsight is marvelous, isn’t it? All these indicators were out there yet most here failed to see them at any stage of this race….This election was of such serious importance that to accept there are people out there who voted with anything less than serious purpose is difficult if not impossible for me to understand. The lessons here weren’t just those of white people. Many black people chose not to vote, and Hispanic people didn’t accrue to Clinton in the numbers expected. It’s complicated and all the Monday morning quarterbacking in the world won’t change a thing.

      5. >] Health care crisis….with this guy in charge?

        …Yeah, if Price gets to implement his own personal plan, Chris will end up having been too optimistic. Just a quick summary:

        – Complete repeal of the Medicaid expansion with nothing to replace it with. Ouch.

        Oh, and for perspective, even Cruz’s own plan leaves Medicaid untouched. When you’re out-righting Ted Cruz…

        – Tax Credits that are structured as follows: $900 for children under 18; $1,200 for those between 18 and 35 (um… thanks, I guess?); $2,100 for those between 36 and 50; $3,000 for those 51 and older (LOL).

        – Capping the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored coverage. $8,000 for individual policies and $20,000 for individuals. Not quite the doomsday day Chris envisions via eliminating the deduction entirely, but if Paul Ryan gets his say in…

        – Oh, and I’ve saved the best for last. It lets insurers charge sick people more if they haven’t maintained “continuous coverage”, say in an instance where someone lost their job and couldn’t afford coverage for a while, an insurer could charge up to 150% of the standard premium for up to two years. Double Ouch.

      6. Yep. That’s what I have been cautioning about….And, that’s just HHS. The guy being considered for immigration is just as hard line. For all the “they” won’t be able to get all this through Congress talk, Trump is picking the most hard-line people available…people with track records so we should know what’s coming. Betsy DeVos – vouchers/charters, shifting $20Billion from public ed to begin her lifelong ambition to privatize education in America. Sessions…And we don’t know who will end up AG. It’s going to be bad, awful. And if the filibuster gets in the way of their plan, it will go.

      7. “At that point, the old alignments will be broken. As screwed up as that situation may be, it may finally inspire people to rub their eyes and start looking around. ”

        Well, the problem I find with this is that for the majority of my politically involved life, people keep saying, “And THEN the Republican base will learn!” and instead they just double down and become crazier.

      8. Damn right. The GOP and their base will never change. I hope I live long enough to see white people in the minority in this nation. It will then be interesting to see if the former minority treats the former majority as badly as they were treated. The Hispanics I know probably won’t, it’s not consistent with their cultural values, but boy do the old white privileged boys deserve a take down!

      9. Under the ACA your employer on your W2 form has to state how much they and you pay. So if the Trumpet does not know it is deliberate ignorance. Also if you are single and make 80K per year you are heavily taxed. Even older couples who have no other dependents and make a good living pay significant taxes. One thing that my old employer was good at was offering programs that reduced your tax load. After all it is not what you make but what you keep and that was another tool for recruitment and retention. And being a local government they mainly got no tax savings as they pay no income taxes. Some programs though cut yours and their tax load on payroll taxes.

      10. “Under the ACA your employer on your W2 form has to state how much they and you pay. So if the Trumpet does not know it is deliberate ignorance.”

        I’d normally like to take this side but there are two problems with it.

        One, people in general are just really bad at personal finance, even where they’re relatively successful and financially stable. Most people don’t understand this sort of information or where to look for it. I follow personal finance blogs and am pretty disciplined and rigorous on my monetary usage, but I didn’t know this information. For that matter, I don’t have employer-sponsored health insurance, and I’m like the 60+% of people who don’t. ‘Full time jobs’ are increasingly less ‘a thing’ anymore.

        The second issue is that this argument is close to the argument privileged people make when they say that if someone isn’t successful, it must be their own fault. After all, YOU know the rules of the game, so if THEY don’t, it must be a matter of their character instead of them not having the same support system you have.

        You can have a statement on some employee paperwork that says “Insurance rate full cost: $50,000/year” or something, but remember when you first get your job how much paperwork and numbers you fill out. I am literally the only person I know who tries to read through all that stuff, and in one case when I DID have a corporate job with health benefits, the HR manager said I was the only person in the company that seemed to take an interest in optimizing my benefits package.

        Most people just look for the line to sign whatever they need to sign and move on. You can say it’s ‘their fault’ but on the other hand, attention is limited and not everybody can be attentive to everything.

      11. There remains a very significant difference between white socialism in the US and what you get in Europe, and not just in Scandinavia. I grew up in Europe and lived in several countries over there.

        Maybe the biggest difference is that benefits are not tied to an employer. European people would react in disgust if their employer gained control over their healthcare and retirement plans. Europe laughs at the fact that when a company goes bankrupt in the US, the employee’s pension plan becomes insolvent as well. People find it ridiculous that you loose healthcare at the same time you loose a job. COBRA sucks. Right at the time when you loose your income you are faced with a bill of the order of $1,500 per month for COBRA coverage. And that is not tax deductible.

        Also the idea that your hospital bill triples if you don’t have insurance. Insurance companies get rebates, but you don’t.

        Even the white socialist US system is a far cry from where it needs to be. There is no comparison to the peace of mind you have in Europe. And we still have not explained why health-care cost are the absolute highest in the US.

        A lot still needs to change. And I agree with Chris that we might have to go through the tunnel of darkness before we become enlightened to consider alternatives; until we can have a rational debate about issues in this country. Looking at Europe would be a great start as each country has a different system with years of experience managing it.

      12. Martin, you are dead right. We have templates for health care delivery that is more affordable and has better outcomes. The problem is that health care delivery has been privatized and large insurance companies are billion dollar operations and they do not want to lose market share.

        I was listening to CNBC today and an executive with a pharmaceutical company was asked how Trump would impact their industry. He responded that they were all breathing a sign of relief because they knew if Clinton won, she would require them to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. Now, of course, that will not be a concern.

        For all the criticism about socialized medicine, these systems seem to keep people living longer, healthy lives than here in the U.S. generally. Of course, those who have access to $20K/year health plans are in an ideal situation, but for millions of Americans, this is not the case.

      13. A “rough ride might take us somewhere nice”…….spoken like a 40 something person who makes a good living, is probably healthy, and has lots of time on the clock to wait for the ride to end…..

        It won’t be nice for people who are sick and need health care. For parents who have to watch their children suffer, or older people who can’t work to earn more money, or middle class folks who might lose their jobs.

        It won’t be nice at all. The only sure thing I see is that the wealthy are going to benefit and everyone else is going to suffer. It’s that simple.

    2. Ryan-
      Healthcare makes for strange bedfellows. The biggest supporters of a public health system (from Medicare for all to vouchers) is big business. While health insurance may have been a way to compete for employees in the 40s/50s, it’s just a headache now. It’s been said before that GM is a giant pension and health insurance company that produces a few cars on the side. They have health insurance beneficiaries in every zip code in the country (thanks to retiree and even widow benefits). Plus it’s a competitive disadvantage compared to European and Asian companies that don’t have to provide insurance for their workers. Indeed Toyota made news a few years ago when they chose Canada for a new plant and specifically mentioned that they chose Canada because they didn’t have to pay for health insurance there.

      Their bedfellows are their unions: unions support a public system because then they don’t have to keep fighting for health insurance every year, and can focus their efforts on increasing wages, etc.

      The ones who opposed things like pay-or-play and Hillarycare in the 90s were small businesses who felt it would force them to start paying for a benefit they currently don’t provide.

      On the opposite side: the ones opposed to removing the tax deduction for health insurance are *not* large companies. As long as it’s universally applied, the cost of insurance would rise for everyone, they would pass it on to their employees in the form of increased contributions and/or benefit cuts, and carry on as before. Small businesses don’t care either way since they don’t provide it anyhow.

      The ones opposing it are unions, because they largely have the type of gold-plated, high cost insurance plans that would be hit hard and cut heavily if the tax deduction was applied. This is despite the fact that the tax deduction benefits the CEOs / managers more than the line workers the union represents (who are in a lower tax bracket and therefore derive less benefit from the tax break).

      Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of health policy 🙂

  11. I’m not quite getting the connection to racism. The following three examples involve white families.

    My husband and I have always had health insurance through our employers, so yes, we have been extremely fortunate. However, I wonder if “socialism” is the right term to use. True, the companies we worked for were able to write off the cost of health insurance and we were able to deduct health related expenses on our taxes, but the main burden for providing care wasn’t paid by the government.

    My husband had three major life threatening events during the past few years. The company he worked for paid for most of the claims through Aetna. My husband paid the quite hefty deductibles and out of pocket costs as well as the reasonable monthly charge for insurance. My husband is now on company retiree insurance. Not much has changed except we have to pay higher premiums.

    Don’t get me wrong, being able to deduct health costs has been nice, but in no way could this be classified as socialized medicine for whites.

    Contrast our situation with that of my husband’s sister and her family. Both “Amy” and “Don” have degrees but their incomes have had them hovering around the poverty line for much of their married life. Their kids have been on Medicaid almost the whole time.

    Emergency Room visit? No problem. It’s covered. Expensive medication? No problem. As far as the kids were concerned, Medicaid covered almost all of their expenses.

    Don recently became completely disabled and Amy has to stay home to care for him. Don’t get me wrong. They have my complete sympathy, and I’m glad that they have health care, but to somehow suggest that my husband and I are part of the white privileged socialistic cartel while we usually pay over $10,000 a year and Amy and Don get their health care for free is a little nuts.

    Amy, Don, my husband and I are all in situations where our medical needs are being met. I think that voter dissatisfaction over health care has been a problem not for the financially stable like my husband and me or for the lower income like Amy and Don, but for a large third group of people.

    My sister “Kay” and her husband “Mike” would be considered middle class. They usually have insurance, but their kids were on Medicaid after Mike was laid off during the last downturn. Kay told me frankly that it would have been better financially if Mike had taken a lower paying job because they would be receiving government benefits that would more than make up for the lower income.

    Kay and Mike are Ohio voters whose situations are not all that different from all the others who voted for Trump. You can try to form a narrative about racial inequality, but would this really give you the actual reason why Trump appealed to so many people in the rust belt?

    1. I don’t this he’s saying all white people enjoy this access to “white socialism” or that no minorities benefit from it, but it seems to be one of those things where if you can break into these upper-middle class jobs you and your family are basically covered, often regardless of skin color. However due to both historical reasons and current inequalities whites enjoy this at a disproportionate number (even though class is usually a bigger indicator of well-being than say race or gender).

      Many working class whites are upset that this system is getting wrecked in favor of a “everyone is poorly covered” system as opposed to the traditional “Some are very well covered, others not covered at all” system. They view the upper-middle class as basically being willing to throw them under the bus for either greater profits or to make up for past injustices even though they don’t think the upper middle class would have to pay the price for it.

      Yeah but I would probably say it’s increasingly more of a class thing than a race thing, even if a disproportionate number of beneficiaries to the system are still white.

      1. People who derive benefits via corporate employment don’t seem to understand that the taxpayer is helping defray the cost of their premiums and the cost to the employer by the tax incentives government has created for employers. That’s where the taxpayer helps subsidize private health insurance coverage.

      2. Please excuse the long, convoluted comment. Thanks for the replies.

        My main concern was that racism was again being touted as root cause of why white, blue collar folk turned out for Trump.

        Wouldn’t it make sense to lay more weight to economic issues?

        Believe it or not, I’d like people of all income levels to have access to good health care.

        The problem is that the middle class has a harder time paying for it. Most of the poor (especially those who live in states that cover Medicaid for adults) don’t have to worry about medical expenses. The government covers them.

        The people in the lower middle are the ones who have to pay a disproportionate amount for their medical care.

      3. Mary, as I explained in my top comment, the government allows companies to deduct expenses and employees usually can take deductions for their part of insurance and medical care from their taxes. This is not socialism. It is a quite nice deduction.

        Government (state and federal) pays for almost all the health care costs for lower income people.

        The rational for calling this situation socialism for whites escapes me.

      4. The only reasons corporations offer health insurance is because they get a tax credit for their contributions and because their employees expect it as part of their benefits package. This helps them attract and retain quality employees at the same time. Small businesses are in a much tougher spot. Remove the government insurance subsidy and see how long big companies continue to offer coverage to their employees. What Chris is suggesting is that if all these “silent” government subsidies across a myriad of deductions we “expect”were removed , those dollars would be significant and could be more equitably shared by more people than they are at present. I can assure you, in reading “A Better Way”, that is not the GOP plan. Instead, the plan awards even larger tax cuts for the wealthiest of people and cuts safety net programs. If you doubt this, I suggest you read the plan.

        My position on health care is quite simple: it should be a right for all Americans, accessible and affordable, not a privilege for either those who can afford it (via corporate employment, personal wealth) or those who receive it gratis (poor and disabled). America needs to have a conversation with its people about what is most important to them. Lawmakers may find the greatest priorities will include safety net programs – at the top, not dead last. There are competing interests and it doesn’t help that those who design the plans, vote on the plans, mostly are so privileged they are not negatively impacted by the changes they foist on everyday Americans. That’s why so many people are pissed. We simply have to fund a quality plan and put all on it to spread risk and create a healthier society. It is fact that the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in America is due to medical reasons. The Republican view is to limit and reduce health benefits whereas I believe neither wealth nor employment, nor health nor age should limit one’s access to quality, affordable health care. It is a major financial commitment for any country but it is the right thing to do.

        My husband and I pay almost $10K a year for 3 insurances – Medicare, private supplemental coverage (AARP), and Medicare Part D (RX). This sum does not include co-pays and deductibles. As working people, we contributed to FICA, but given our ages (and my husband’s chronic health problem), we will receive far more from the “government – aka/Taxpayers et al” than we ever contributed, although we contributed our entire work careers. I am grateful to have Medicare and Social Security even though we also prepared additionally through personal savings. A serious, long-term illness can destroy a family’s savings and their lives. It shouldn’t come to that.

      5. >] My main concern was that racism was again being touted as root cause of why white, blue collar folk turned out for Trump.

        Wouldn’t it make sense to lay more weight to economic issues?

        Objv, I may be misinterpreting you somewhat, but you talk as if racism and economic issues are separate. They’re not. They’re two sides of the same coin in that even if someone isn’t racist or even if they find it abhorrent and fight actively against it in one form or another, they can still benefit from a system that was built in large part on racism.

        That’s the real kick in the nads here. Effectively, the argument has to be made that millions of people who aren’t racist in turn benefit from racism. Not their fault in large part, but that beneficial system still has to be torn down as it’s standing in the way of our betterment as a country and as a people. Fear and uncertainty naturally follow and people inevitably start freaking out and talking persecution complexes and blame games.

      6. “Effectively, the argument has to be made that millions of people who aren’t racist in turn benefit from racism. ”

        Ryan, is it clear here that whites are benefiting from racism?

        If anything it would be the opposite.

        People with health insurance, at most, get a tax deduction. They still have to pay for a good part of their insurance and care.

        Poor children and adults who have access to Medicaid usually have their expenses covered.

        My examples were of white family members, but say my lower income nephew was African-American and had to go to the emergency room because of a broken arm. His care would be covered under Medicaid.

        Another nephew who was white and middle class also had to go to the emergency room. His parents had insurance but had to pay the deductible and out of pocket which ended up being thousands of dollars.

        So, would this be white privileged socialism? The reasoning escapes me.

      7. >] Ryan, is it clear here that whites are benefiting from racism?

        Of course they are, it’s not even up for dispute. Consider the simple fact that African-American families have, on average, only a paltry 10% of the net wealth of an average white family. With the current pace of things, improving though they are, it would take CENTURIES for them to catch up. How that plays into things like being able to afford health insurance and the like speaks for itself. You think racism hasn’t played a part in that obscene disparity? Please. Housing discrimination is another post in and of itself.

        >] “My examples were of white family members, but say my lower income nephew was African-American and had to go to the emergency room because of a broken arm. His care would be covered under Medicaid.

        Another nephew who was white and middle class also had to go to the emergency room. His parents had insurance but had to pay the deductible and out of pocket which ended up being thousands of dollars.

        You appear not to have realized it, but what you just said is a perfect illustration of the problem. Yes, Medicaid does help to cover some of the gaps, but it doesn’t fully compensate for it and as a result, it was only a few years ago that more than one in five nonelderly Blacks (21%, specifically) were uninsured, compared with only 13% for nonelderly Whites.

        Furthermore, you speak directly to how Medicaid affects Black children, but its coverage is far less pronounced for Black adults, for whom over a quarter were still uninsured just a few years ago. Care to take a whack at what that number will be once Republicans are through with the ACA and its Medicaid expansion program? It ain’t going to be pretty.

        The ACA and its Medicaid expansion, for those states that actually went along with it, have helped to driven our uninsured rate to record lows. Thanks to Republicans in Congress and the “economic anxieties”/racially-tainted-history-that-no-one-wants-to-cop-to, that progress is about to have a sledgehammer taken to it. If you think racism doesn’t have a role to play in that, you’re fooling yourself.

      8. Just a quick question, Mary. What specifically can larger companies claim as a tax credit above and beyond claiming health insurance cost as a business expense?

        I realize that employees benefit from company sponsored insurance plans because they aren’t taxed on them, but is there really any additional benefit tax wise for employers?

      9. I am not a CPA, but it is my understanding that employers contribution to employee health care cost varies. Here’s a couple of links that may explain it further. There are minimum contributions required by employers that are determined by number of employees as well as other factors explained in the links. It’s too involved for a simple answer. Read it and see if you can answer your own question(s). I do not know if ancillary costs for processing health care service coordination are allowed.

      10. Ryan, I make no argument that there have been many instances of racism in this country and minorities have been hurt badly by unjust practices.

        Racism certainly exists, but it is wrong to blame every action on racism.

        It is better to consider multiple ways of looking at a situation. People tend to fall for a pre-determined narrative when making judgements.

        Is health insurance really white socialism? If so, many of my white friends and relatives have been missing out.

      11. Ob, stick a fork in it! What Chris, Ryan and others are saying is that being white has privileges. By birth. Few white people, see themselves as racists nor do they appreciate how good they have it simply by being white. Everyone? NO! Overt racism is much less common than the arrogant, rude, bullying Delta flyer who was all over the news today. However, most white people do not see themselves as privileged by their congenital race and fail to appreciate the inherent privileges being white in America accords while ignoring the disadvantages other people of other races have. If you can’t understand this, stop speaking on this topic.

      12. OB, cost of health insurance is a business expense for corporations and not taxed. It is not included as income for the employee either, so the employee doesn’t pay taxes on it either. In that sense it’s a tax benefit for the individual, but one that the corporation has control over.

        Chris: “No one stated their intention to create a social welfare program for white people, specifically white men, but they didn’t need to. By handing control to employers at a time when virtually every good paying job was reserved for white men the program accomplished that goal.”

      13. As a business expense, health care contributions by employers are deductible, so there is that incentive. Remove that and see what happens to employer health insurance!

        Also, my understanding of a proposal in A Better Way is to make employer health premium contributions taxable income. Another provision being considered is not allowing deferral of employer benefits for tax purposes…not sure how that would work with regard to the traditional IRAs but 401K plans would evidently be treated just like Roth Iras with immediate tax payment requirements.

        Creigh, are you familiar with these provisions in the Better Way Plan?

      14. >] Ryan, I make no argument that there have been many instances of racism in this country and minorities have been hurt badly by unjust practices.

        Racism certainly exists, but it is wrong to blame every action on racism.

        It is better to consider multiple ways of looking at a situation. People tend to fall for a pre-determined narrative when making judgements.

        Is health insurance really white socialism? If so, many of my white friends and relatives have been missing out.

        Objv, this isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s not about blaming everything on racism or turning a blind eye to it, but the fact remains that our racial history and present play a large role in our society and our economy. They still unjustly affect outcomes and the ability of minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, etc) to afford health insurance. It disproportionately helps whites to be better off simply because they’re white.

        Is it the sole reason for all our problems? No. Is it a very significant contributing factor? Absolutely.

        It’s just plain silly to say that you can look around, see some “white friends and relatives” that you perceive as not benefiting and call it a day. That’s not refuting anything. All that says is that you perceive it that way and nothing else.

        Whether you choose to define it as “white socialism” isn’t even the point. Dwelling on it is just getting into the weeds of an argument of semantics; effectively pointless. What you, I and everyone else needs to focus on is whether or not our society and our economy still disproportionately favors Whites in terms of their economic success and outcomes compared to others. The answer to this is sadly yes and we need to address it. That means crafting solutions to housing, health insurance, upward mobility and everything else needed to build a successful, proud life.

      15. Objv – Your view of the Health insurance reality is correct. For the here and now. But not in the recent past.

        I don’t think our system that we have now is overtly racist. It just works out that way.

        Consider a poor uninsured child in the 40’s thru the 70’s. After corporations started offering health insurance in lieu of higher wages. Can you take this child for checkups? Maybe there’s a free clinic. Maybe not. Where do you take him with a fever. Emergency room. They have to treat you if you show up at the emergency room. Whoa, only since the 70’s. Thats when Reagan fixed that problem. Before that indigents were turned away from commercial hospitals.

        In the above period, costs were passed through the insurance company. Most workers with insurance paid very little for a doctors visit

        But you are right, things have changed. And that is part of the backlash of the “middle class”.

        So what so we do with a poor child that breaks an arm? Shoo him out of the emergency room if he doesn’t have insurance? No, we have to take care of him and eat the cost in some way, and that pisses off those that have been losing their corporate benefits and paying more for the benefits they still get.

      16. Whew, too many replies … Where do I even start here?

        My comments were made in relation to Chris’ supposition that company sponsored health insurance was socialism for white people. My comments were not meant to cover racism or inequality in general.

        Since Chris’ stated goal was to try to understand why so many white working class people voted for Trump, why the hostility toward me? I’m giving input from the perspective of a Republican who reluctantly voted for Trump.

        Linking health insurance to racism does not help explain why people voted the way they did in the rust belt. I grew up in that area and still visit frequently.

        Are you, my fellow contributors, actually interested in finding out why so many people crossed party lines to vote for Trump or does it just feel better to amble down the same mental path where everything is tied to racism?

      17. >] Since Chris’ stated goal was to try to understand why so many white working class people voted for Trump, why the hostility toward me? I’m giving input from the perspective of a Republican who reluctantly voted for Trump.

        With all due respect, Objv, you’re not getting away with that little bit of revisionism. In Chris’ “Voice of Trumplandia” post, you said quite clearly that you “cheerfully” voted for Trump (any of my fellow commentators here are free to look back and see for themselves) while you ranted on about how Clinton was corrupt, greedy and… whatever.

        You voted for Trump and you own him for, at least, the next four years or until he gets impeached. Period.

        >] “Linking health insurance to racism does not help explain why people voted the way they did in the rust belt. I grew up in that area and still visit frequently.

        People voted the way they did in the so-called “Rust Belt” because their lives suck, they’ve felt neglected and forgotten and Trump was the only one, for better or worse, who gave those people a reason to feel like he was listening to them, as misguided and frankly stupid as that belief was and is.

        No one, Chris included, is arguing that health insurance was somehow at the top of the list as to why Rust Belters voted for Trump, and you know that perfectly well. It is however indicative of a broader economic trend that serves to explain the bigger picture in that the shadow social safety net that for so long gave these people, even if they’re not overt racists, a sense of security and dignity for so long has been slowly torn apart.

        >] “Are you, my fellow contributors, actually interested in finding out why so many people crossed party lines to vote for Trump or does it just feel better to amble down the same mental path where everything is tied to racism?

        Okay, Objv, that, right there, is complete and utter bullshit. It has been explained to you more than once, by me and others here, that racism is NOT some blanket excuse for everything that’s happened. It is a very significant and terribly important part of it, yes, but it’s not the only reason.

        You, my fellow commentator, are the one fighting against acknowledging its importance, not giving so much as an inch in this fight. True, you’ve said that racism has led to a lot of unjust outcomes in our history, but that’s about the lowest of low-hanging fruit there is. I’ve not read so much as a single admission from you about anything you’ve gotten wrong in this debate or that you feel you’ve learned, if you feel you’ve learned anything at all, that is.

        Honestly, I don’t know why you insist on giving this impression of stubbornness. I’m a young white male and, in ways I likely never gave a second thought at the time, I’ve benefited from a racial history that favored people who looked like me. And though you’re a woman, if you’re white, then you’ve benefited from that culture too, albeit in different ways from me. That we don’t comprehensively recognize how is precisely the problem. It’s a harsh truth of our world that needs to be acknowledged and changed.

      18. Ryan – My previous post was a mess. But I’m going to defend this statement.
        * I don’t think our system that we have now is overtly racist. It just works out that way* By the way, I’m talking about Health insurance/care.

        A company that discriminates in its hiring policies is racist. Providing health insurance to attract employees, not racist. No more that providing free coffee to your employees. Now, it may work out that whites get more free coffee than blacks but that is not racism. This is an all white company. Now every thing we do for every employee is NOT overt racism. Getting a really good health insurance plan is not racism. The racism is already baked into the system with the hiring practices of said company.

      19. Objv-

        A few points:

        1) A tax deduction is the same as govt spending. Economically speaking, there is no difference between giving an individual a tax break, vs. taxing them the same amount and “spending” it on them. Republicans like to hide their forms of socialism as “tax breaks” because they can avoid the tax-and-spend label, and because it hides the benefit so people can still hate the government and feel it does nothing for them.

        So the question isn’t “are you receiving govt largesse?” because a tax break is still govt largesse. The question is “how much are you receiving?” If your health insurance costs $20k (like Chris’s does), and you’re in a high bracket, that means the govt is spending ~$8k subsidizing your health insurance ($7k for the Feds and $1k for state income taxes). Of course, you and your employer are paying another $13k on top of that, but that doesn’t reduce the dollar value you’re getting from the govt. Even in socialist countries like the UK, you can buy supplemental insurance, which is essentially what you’re doing.

        In 2011, Medicaid spent $3,427 per adult and $2,463 per child. Assume the usual 4-person family, that is $11,780. IOW, the govt is spending only 1/3rd less on you than they are on a medicaid family. (Please note, I’m not trying to imply this is unfair or you don’t deserve the tax break; I’m a democratic socialist Bernie supporter after all 🙂

        2) Medicaid does not provide equivalent care to private insurance. Yes, they have no copays or deductibles, but as Chris points out, the quality of the care they have access to is much worse than yours. Very few docs accept medicaid, which means they must go to ERs for even routine care (most of which is skipped as a result). Studies have consistently shown that, even independent of overall financial status, medicaid coverage does not provide as good care as can be had by medicare or private insurance.

        At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone on this forum begrudges you your health insurance. I for one, am glad that you have good insurance and can afford it. I mean that sincerely. And yes, a big part of the reason you have good insurance is because you worked hard to get a good job, and pay the extra money needed to get a good plan.

        But I think this is the argument we’re trying to make:

        1) that insurance is possible because of a government subsidy that is nearly as big as the one govt gives to poor people (medicaid).

        2) this subsidy is available only for those people with good jobs (and those married to them, such as housewives who don’t get any tax break for their work).

        3) traditionally those good jobs have been reserved (if not by law, then at least by social norms) for white men.

        4) Now that those jobs aren’t strictly reserved for white men, white men are being forced to compete for them against women and minorities.

        5) For those white men losing that competition, there are two choices: the Dems are offering them to go on medicaid like poor black people do, and get worse health care (county hospitals, ERs, etc.). Trump is offering to forcibly give those jobs back to white men (by deporting Mexicans, curbing immigration, etc) where they can enjoy the benefits like subsidized private insurance.

        I think that’s the argument Chris is trying to make. Note that a white man can say he’s not being racist / sexist when he says he just wants his job back, and in many ways, he’s not. But the question to ask is “how does he want his job back?” If he says “help me get better educated so I can better compete for that job”, then I’m all for it. And as a Bernie supporter, I’d also support the answer “re-work the trade deals so some of those jobs come back to our country” because this expands the pool of jobs available for everyone. But if the answer is “deport those Mexicans stealing our jobs and make women stay at home where they belong”, then that’s where I say this person is a racist / sexist who’s just upset he lost a free and fair competition for a job.

        While I’m willing to grant there are probably a lot of Trump supporters who would give the 2nd answer above, you surely agree that there were a tremendous number of Trump supporters who would give the 3rd answer?

    2. Ryan, I’ll admit my language was confusing. In Trumplandia I mentioned that I did not vote in the primary because the only choice was Trump. I was reluctant to vote for him. I did take exception to many of the things he has said, and most of all, his arrogance.

      By the time the general election rolled around, Trump Jr. had swung by the little city In NM where I live and also Shiprock which has a high Native American population. Even though Trump himself hadn’t stopped here, his son did a great job connecting with the people of this area. I watched his speech in Shiprock online and he was enthusiastically received by the Navajo people there. My husband and I tried going to the rally near us, but we couldn’t find parking, so we went to vote early. Mike Pence had made a stop in Durango (an hour north of us), but I am not aware of any Hillary related rallies by anyone in her campaign.

      I felt that the people of our area had been reached out to and heard, so by the time I cast my ballot, I did it “cheerfully.” Hopefully, this explanation will clarify my feelings about Trump.

      I do not in any way “own” anything Trump does in the future. You Democrats put forward a lousy, corrupt candidate. Just about any Republican could have won against her.

      I blame you for Trump. 🙂

  12. EJ

    Off-topic, but I’m interested in your thoughts, Chris:

    Some of the things being said about the Wisconsin election are starting to sound very, very dodgy. I am not a man who believes in conspiracies, but it’s increasingly hard to take any other view of it.

    Nonetheless, there is no precedent for a US election result being overturned at this late hour. Trump has already put the American Republic into uncharted political territory, but if Stein succeeds in getting her recounts then we will have sailed off the map entirely.

    Hypothetically, if Stein gets all three of her recounts and Clinton is found to have won Michigan and Pennsylvania, what do you think will happen? Will Clinton accept victory? Will Trump accept defeat? Will there be blood in the streets?

    1. We’ve already tossed out all the norms and standards, so why not more uncharted territory? If there’s fire under that smoke, I would expect a court fight. A concession is not legally binding, and Gore took his back, justifiably, when it looked like things were not quite settled just yet. Stein has standing to ask for this, she’s put up the $, and filed ahead of the deadlines. No legal way to stop this. It could end up before SCOTUS. But if there are shenanigans, I want them exposed. Trump’s perfectly free to pay for recounts in VA and NH, if he truly thinks there was fraud (although really he’s BS-ing again).

      Even if it flipped a few states, HRC would be so horribly hamstrung that it would be a Pyhrric victory for Dems. And I absolutely would expect some violence from the deplorable segment of Trump’s base.

    2. I’ll tell you what “should” happen, the election results should be overturned. This might require a recount of every state in the Union’s votes, but the integrity of the election and the results should have constitutional protection. Given the evidence of known Kremlin hacking of emails, and known voter suppression, why wouldn’t a recount be legitimate. And, for the record, it would have to be non-partisan controlled and would results accepted for either candidate. It is the integrity of the process not the integrity of the candidates that is at stake here. If the results of these swing state recounts put Clinton ahead in the EC, Trump should rightfully demand a nation-wide recount, and all candidates (assuming this process was unimpeachable in method) abide by it. It is incredible that we are even having to consider this possibility.

      Want to break things? Burn the house down? Bring it on.

  13. Isn’t the argument for all of these socialized tax cuts that they incentivize good, society-stabilizing behavior? Want better health care? Get a job. Want the mortgage deduction? Buy a house. Want further deductions? Get and stay married, and then have some kids to boot.

    Before you furiously type at me, I recognize the inherent bias in this system and how all of the above examples are not as easily achieved for some as they are for others.

    And also let it be known that my family desperately needs a better health insurance system. My husband and I are both self-employed, and we get royally screwed every year. If things continue, 2018 looks to be the year when our insurance costs finally eclipse our mortgage costs.

    I fully support a universal safety net. Still, I wonder about the motivating effects that targeted tax cuts/incentives give to our country.

    1. All true. And incomplete.

      We want to incentivize work, so why not find a way to include farm laborers? Why not include stay-at-home mothers? It doesn’t take many additional questions to reveal the real motives here. We built an entire social welfare system, at enormous cost, and handed it to employers – which translates for the most part into large corporations. That’s who controls entry, access, and the definition of our benefit plans.

      Why would we do something so dumb? To avoid having to share resources with certain people. That system gave primary control to corporations, but in so doing it also transformed nearly every wage earning white male into an individual gateway into American Socialism for White People, quite a powerful and lucrative benefit. Special.

      Once you start letting women work in corporate jobs, that benefit weakens. When Hispanics and African Americans and immigrants start getting good corporate jobs, that benefit weakens still further. When it takes a solid college education and credentials, rather than just a recommendation from your uncle down at the factory, to gain access to white socialism, people start to feel betrayed. The system no longer works for them, no longer listens to them.

      They need to “take our country back” or, Make America Great Again.

      The beauty of course is that they might actually succeed this time in destroying the system. And corporate America is happy to help. Right now every company in the US, regardless of what they do for a living, also has to compete on their ability to manage a collection of HR benefits. They would be happy to be rid of that role. Once that happens, socialism for white people largely evaporates. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

      1. To be clear, Ryan and the GOP have made their blueprint public…not too many details of course, that might make people nervous….Gotta get “A Better Way” into law before we let the nation of sheep know there’s a gorge waiting for them to fall into. So, let’s see, block grant medicaid so that the same people who are setting medicaid eligibility will now have full control over distribution of the money based criteria they determine …..voucherize medicare so that as people get old they will either stay well and live or die because their treatment/care is capped….radically change health care for all Americans not employed by corporations, because, well “corporations are people too” and they have to make profits you see and all those other folks just don’t matter….ignore climate research because we don’t really need to know if there is any scientific basis for global warming in order to have to change the status quo which would cut into profits….deny women any type of access to contraception and health control so that they are reduced to beasts of burden…change tax laws so that the wealthy keep even more of their money while paying for their tax cuts by cutting or eliminating or radically altering the safety net….torpedo those pesky regulations and let the big banks and big companies run their businesses like they want…who cares if fracking is causing earthquakes and impacting water tables or chemical companies spewing noxious fumes into the sky that people breathe…and SCOTUS? Man, you just gotta have the right people on that committee to sweep up when a few things slip past the states and Congress….workmen’s comp laws? Who needs ’em.

        God the list is so long I could write a tome but it’s too frustrating.

        Yeah, I’d say there is a real good chance that Republicans might succeed in destroying the system, but those who are making the laws always benefit at the expense of the rest. I can’t wait to see how all these white people who voted for Trump and the Republican plan will manage once the safety net is destroyed – the one you suggest they don’t really care about….One day there will be a reckoning that paying it forward is not only right it is smart. I take no pleasure in people getting hurt at the expense of making the wealthy even more privileged.

        Our society is coming un-glued. I don’t like what I see happening in America. It’s becoming a nation that is forgetting to care for its people, and those who are in a position to benefit most, are the ones who are making the rules…either directly (Congress) or indirectly (lobbyists).

      2. “We built an entire social welfare system, at enormous cost, and handed it to employers – ”

        Possibly it’s my misunderstanding of history, or not following the sequence of events that led to employer-led social welfare, but I’m not seeing that. The New Deal was government designed and government run. The Great Society was as well. When did these government run programs get co-opted by business? What am I missing? are you suggesting that it was the intent of the two Democratic presidents who championed these two major social safety net programs to hand it over to big business? How did I miss that intent by Roosevelt and Johnson?

      3. This is neither the New Deal nor the Great Society. Our modern health care system was constructed during a brief period when Republicans controlled Congress.

        Apart from this, our pension system was similarly constructed, along with the 401K system that would eventually take its place. Subsidies for college savings, mortgage interest, commuters, and health savings accounts operate along a similar logic. Instead of charging a tax on a sliding scale related to income, in which higher incomes contribute more and gain relatively less, they do the opposite. Highest incomes reap the largest rewards while also escaping from taxation.

      4. When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing that my husband (in his 80s) and I, at 73, were able to save at all without the benefit of all those deductions for everything….heck, we felt lucky to participate in individual IRAs when the maximum deduction you could set aside was a whopping $500/year, but you can bet your knickers we took advantage of it. As small business owners, there was no 401K, no deduction for college costs for kids, no cafeteria plan for health costs, no pensions, interest rates were in the teens for business loans….. I wonder how we made it……….oh, we lived simply, saved as much as we could, paid what Uncle Sam required, paid off all debts before we got really old, and there was that $500 IRA set aside…Man, wouldn’t have made it without that government incentive!

      5. I have seen this played out in miniature. The company I retired from about 18 years ago decided to do away with it’s generous pension plan, and retirement health benefits for new employees. They got a 403B plan, our 457B plan but were paid the same as older employees. Old employees were grandfathered into the old benefits. Well that did not work out so well. Under the old plan top notch personnel were recruited and after vested in the pension plan almost wholly retained. This enable the utility to run with much fewer employees than it’s rivals, at a higher reliability and more efficiently (cheaper rates). New employees recruited under the new benefit package were several levels less qualified and much more likely to leave. This cost the company in it’s maintenance and operation far more than they saved. They did do one smart thing by leaving the older employees on the old benefit package we stayed. But I had already ran modeling with spreadsheets and would of changed employers if I was forced into the new benefit package. I was not alone either. Eventually they included for new workers a retroactive cash balance plan, the 403B plan and a medical insurance saving plan they paid for with the right to purchase their medical plan with the money till Medicare. Basically the same benefits I now enjoyed based also on longevity. It depends on what you need in your workers and how large is the supply. And this Utility is like the community it serves minority majority. I think companies would like to make a two tier system with hard to find employees that generate large profits well paid including benefits and the rest wage slaves. Only about 15 % of workers I think would fall in the premium class. That is a recipe for bigly and huge social unrest. Trump is just the first warning shot across the bow. We got the producing part well tuned but not the distribution part of the economy. I would rather your vision of the economy Chris but if this is not done right we will end up with a socialized state with new masters. And to me that is not freedom.

      6. >] The beauty of course is that they might actually succeed this time in destroying the system. And corporate America is happy to help. Right now every company in the US, regardless of what they do for a living, also has to compete on their ability to manage a collection of HR benefits. They would be happy to be rid of that role. Once that happens, socialism for white people largely evaporates. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

        Unless we outnumber them at the voting booth, that decline leads down a very dark path. Neither Trump nor anyone else can bring back an imagined past that has so many flocking into the arms of right-wing populism. It’s a story seen more and more around the world (France, Germany, etc.), not just here in the US.

        Fortunately for us, our backdrop in just how narrow Trump’s victory was along with the continuing decline in his base of support is a silver lining, but Millennials and other groups have got to get their shit together and be organized in four years.

    2. A personal example of Chris’s assertion that the current system only encourages the type of work that white males typically do: my mother has a long term very disabling condition which started a few years ago. By medical standards she easily qualifies for Medicare and social security disability. Unfortunately, she was a stay at home mom all her life. Which means she does not qualify because you need to have paid into social security and Medicare for a minimum of 10 quarters to be eligible for disability coverage. So until she hits 65, she needs to get private insurance. Since my dad is retired, this means an individual Obamacare plan.

      In her era, this is what was expected: the husband worked, the wife stayed home. But if my dad was the sick one, he could get on Medicare right away. But my mom can’t. See how the system is biased? My dad isn’t sexist. But the disability safety net is tailored to cover him and not my mom.

      1. WX Wall, I’m sorry about your mother’s health problems and inability to qualify for medicare early. It’s funny, your mom can qualify for social security benefits on your dad’s income but not health care…rather upside down, isn’t it? You must have many concerns about her health coverage given the threats to ending the ACA.

  14. A question I asked before but not in full:

    You said that you think that the most probable way for someone to break the stalemate is the emergence of a more credible version of Sanders. But I see three problems here

    1) why would whites be more likely to vote for such a person in 2020 given everything you laid out here?

    2) even if they are, why would such person be able to do anything given the gridlock?

    3) what makes you think new Sanders can arise given that SJW-ism has largely replaced economic leftism in America?

    1. The answer is simple – novelty.

      Something interesting emerges from interviews with some of the dumbasses who claim to have voted for both Obama and Trump – novelty. They are consistently unable to articulate any sort of policy reason for their decision. They voted for someone they thought would “shake things up.” In other words, they neither understand nor care much about politics, but it would be interesting to see a new logo.

      And that’s why a more capable version of Sanders might score some points. There’s a considerable body of extremely low-information voters who will gravitate toward a novel outcome whatever it is. Democrats weren’t offering that this time and Republicans were.

      1. Thanks, that answers the first question. But this person still would not be able to do anything given the gridlock. No way democrats get filibuster-proof majority anytime soon. So you answered 1 but not 2 and 3.

      2. EJ

        I’m not convinced by the “desire for novelty” argument. There are many novel ideas that people could have gravitated towards if they just wanted to shake society up. They could have supported trans* rights, could have agitated for proportional representation or direct democrach, could have demanded a universal basic income, could have reinstituted the open-door immigration system, could have paid reparations to Black people or returned land to Native nations, could have dissolved the army, or any one of a thousand other actually radical ideas. Instead, what they did was demand more of the same things that they’d been demanding throughout the years of the Tea Party and the neoconfederate movement.

        This makes me believe that “shake things up” is a dog-whistle term, like “family friendly” or “women’s health”, and that taking it at face value will be as fruitful as taking those at face value. I’m not sure what it means, though. Thoughts?

      3. Correction: Republicans weren’t offering novelty, Trump was offering novelty. The two just “happened” to be convenient quasi-partners in name only. I maintain that the GOP will use Trump to achieve their ends and vice versa. Sooner or later, the marriage has to blow up.

        BTW, Trump said the reason he chose the Republican Party to run on is their base would believe anything. Apparently that was the smartest deduction he made in his decision to run for President.

      4. It has been proven that Trump’s base included a wide range of backgrounds…the low-information voter (who reviled in their “deplorable” categorization) but many, many more who either hated Clinton or had some other purpose for their vote (abortion rights trumped adultery and grabbin’ em by the pussy, all those “gay” people who “are destroying marriage between one man and one woman, minorities who need to go back where they came from, women who are getting too smart for their britches, etc.

        I can agree that there was a group with the f**k you attitude but when the final post-election numbers sift out, I think we’ll find it was more complicated than these folks. It is becoming evident that the Clinton strategy was flawed in the face of the “novelty” candidate who was lighting up the media. At this juncture, it doesn’t matter that she would have been an extraordinarily competent POTUS, what matters is how it ended…It’s like football, one team may have dominated the entire game in skills, coaching and execution but in a tight match up, a fumble or a caught hail mary pass puts you in the win column, and that’s all history will record.

      5. “I’m not convinced by the “desire for novelty” argument. There are many novel ideas that people could have gravitated towards if they just wanted to shake society up. ”

        EJ, NOBODY gives a shit about novelty of ideas, Chris is talking about novelty of people.

        American society is a cult of personality, not a cult of skill, expertise, and not even a cult of character. If America was a cult of skill or expertise, Climate Change denialism would be fringe and Hillary Clinton would be President (But HW Bush would have won a second term.) If America was a cult of character, Sanders probably would have won.

        People always call for ‘new movies’ from Hollywood, but the profitability of Hollywood movies is directly correlated to celebrities starring in them, familiar genres, and established franchises and properties. Star Wars 7.5 coming out in a month is going to make more in its opening weekend than Moonlight makes its entire run, period end of story halas full stop.

        The same is true in politics. Individuals say they want new ideas but they vote for the person who ‘speaks to me.’ That phrase is dogwhistle for confirms my own biases.’

        Look at the whole ‘fake news’ debate. Everyone wants fake news to be reigned in so that it stops polluting our civic discourse. What wingnuts mean is that CNN should be shut down. What moonbats mean is that FOX News should be shut down. Neither qualify for that special case of fabricated misinformation both sides consume greedily.

        We don’t have a cult of expertise because the world is too complex for expertise to expand beyond relatively narrow specialists. A cult of expertise is also ‘necessarily’ elitist. I, an unrepentant technocrat, nevertheless understand that the best economist doesn’t represent the best interests of the impoverished, the climate scientist the best interest of productivity. The big dream of a pluralistic society such as ours is to nurture a cult of character.

        A cult of character is one that would recognize that no one person can be an expert on everything, but with principles and wisdom that person could still lead. A cult of character is a society where a person takes responsibility for their mistakes, which implies that they both make mistakes, and recognize them, can take action to adjust them, and has the self awareness to communicate that action.

        We don’t have that cult, if we ever did. People who claim that Trump is a successful businessman aren’t that dissimilar to those who claim Star Wars 7.5 must NECESSARILY be a better movie than Moonlight, because it made more money so it attracted more audience so more people liked it so it must be better. A colleague once looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Paris Hilton must be smart, because she manages to keep making money in her career.’ I asked him if Nicolas Cage is so smart now that he’s gone bankrupt buying castles, and he said, Cell were still talking about him, aren’t we?’

        In that same vein, people actually give Trump credit for ‘free earned media,’ using the language of advertising to claim he had special insight into media exposure, that it was a savvy and cognizant plan he executed like some sort of chess game or ballet dance. This assumption isn’t any smarter than the argument that he must be smart because he is worth billions.

        He is worth billions despite being a disaster, and he earned media because of being a disaster. Only in a cult of personality can any oxygen breathing two legged mammal give this walking trash heap credit for the ‘work’ that he has done. Certainly there is something to be said about Clinton’s character… But nobody, not one person, spent more than a few minutes on her ideas, here or on any other medium.

        Ideas don’t run campaigns. And character doesn’t win them. If anyone defeats the fascist we just elected in the next four or eight years, it’s because they’ll have a novel personality, not because they have useful ideas.

      6. EJ

        Thank you for that, Aaron. That’s a well (and exhaustively) made point.

        Personally, I made sure to take the time to read through all the policy proposals from all our parties in detail. However, I accept that I’m an exception (and a technocrat, as you say.)

      7. That’s why I keep urging this group to acquaint themselves with Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan. Of course details are lacking but one should be aware of what a party’s agenda is. In this election, as Chris stated, many people voted “for the hell of it”, or, not having made the effort to examine allegations but rather took them at “face value”. Lazy, irresponsible, dangerous exercise of a precious right.

    2. 2) We’re not actually all that gridlocked. Any half-capable politician could have cut through the GOP obstruction in the last Congress pretty easily. Clinton would have shredded those guys. It is unpopular to point this out, but it’s true that the apparent Congressional gridlock had a lot to do with Obama. He wasn’t very good at working with Congress, either when he was in Congress or from the WH. The gridlock is likely to continue for now, but only b/c Trump and his people are a whole new level of incompetent.

      3) All I see on the left is confusion and acrimony, which is all I have seen there for a decade. We probably won’t get a Sanders from the left, we’ll get something more like a Clooney or an Affleck. And those guys will adopt whatever policy positions are the most eye-catching and compelling.

      1. I’m not. See my comment above. It’s too simplistic, Chris, to lay the blame for what did or did not happen all at the feet of Obama or the Dem Party while totally ignoring the obstruction of the GOP. Sorry, I’ll concur with fault on both sides, but with the lion’s share on the part of the Republican Party’s feet. They got what they wanted – gridlock and sadly it paid off for them with the surprise ascendancy of DJT. Now the GOP has a long, straight super highway with no traffic lights.

      2. Not ignoring. Just looking at the entire picture. The GOP can be broken just like the Democrats. Nobody tried.

        In 2008 the biggest knock on Obama was that he was too green for the job. That criticism turned out to be dead-right.

      3. I totally hold Obama responsible for what he “didn’t” achieve when he had two years of majority control; however, the gridlock of the remaining 6 years belong totally to GOP obstruction. I’d be very interested in your examples of how Obama could have worked with the GOP in these years to have accomplished anything more than he did with Boehner on averting another government shutdown, and he was driven out by the FC as a result). Everything else Obama achieved had to be accomplished through E.O or regulations. I am evidently not seeing the failures or the possibilities you do for cooperation on any legislation of mutual interest without total capitulation by Obama. Please, be more specific.

        I do agree with the chaos and dysfunction of the Dems but with absolutely NO effort at cooperation by the GOP, they were in one battle after another to keep the GOP from passing or eliminating legislation that denuded their agenda. This, of course, means the GOP was “effective” in gridlocking the process but if one looks at their obstruction in the broader perspective, the GOP was singularly responsible for delayed economic recovery and much, much more that would have benefited America, generally…all with the goal of their own agenda. Democracy lost big time.

      4. You know how you break apparent gridlock? Politics.

        Threats, offers, carefully coordinated financial support for potential primary and general election opponents, planted stories in the press, revealing what I know about what you do with your free time – or even making something up. That’s how Johnson broke through gridlock far worse, and far more committed than what Obama faced.

        Obama just tried to reason with people, and he didn’t even do it very well. He was notorious for agreeing to things in private then hedging or backing out. He left potential allies to twist in the wind when word got out (sometimes through WH leaks) about potential deals. By mid 2010 both Republicans and Democrats were very nervous about the Admin’s ability to play the game. Once people had been burned, they didn’t come back.

        Obama is a great guy. Maybe too great a guy. Clinton is more of a soulless mafiosi. She probably would have gotten a lot done.

      5. If the price for dominance over the GOP is to utilize threats, falsehoods, planting stories in the press, alleging free time improprieties to play the game with Republicans, then I’d rather Dems lose. I have read Johnson’s biography and I understand that he utilized these tactics in his control of Congress, but he was wrong to do so. Somehow we have to get to a point in the Democratic process where reason and consensus work again, even if imperfectly. The irony in my expectation is that had Johnson not been elected, there would have been no Civil Rights Act nor the Great Society legislation, right? So now we have come to the wonderful place where domination and falsehoods are the recommended tools to achieve control? Like the GOP has been using them for the last number of years? Should we settle for this as the only alternative to a wipe out in elections? Who can tell the “best” lies, create more “swift boat falsehoods”, plant more crap in the media hoping they won’t fact-check or not caring if they do cause it’s already “out there”?

        NO. That is not how Democracy “should” operate. The process is broken and the Republican Party has largely broken it. Blame Democrats for being asleep at the wheel, for not doing the hard work of building and nurturing their party agenda, but placing the blame on them for what the GOP has done to this nation does not wash with me. Watch what happens from this point forward and tell me if Democracy “for the people” is working. In many of your posts you speak to the time when consensus was a respected part of the political process, where reason was part of it along with bargaining. Why should Americans settle for less? Shouldn’t the goal here be to move away from the nasty, false, dominance operation to a better process that respects reason?

      6. Chris,

        Completely disagree.

        2) It takes to two to tango. Could Obama have reached out more to the GOP? You bet! But there is ZERO evidence that they would have accepted the reach out. As Mitch McConnell deftly noted, if the GOP votes for something the President is for, it means it is “ok” and the parties “agree”. Agreement means that if if something goes sidewards, both parties are responsible. McConnell understood his party will be rewarded for obstructing everything. He was proven correct.

        3) Your analysis presumes there is a major party of the left in this country. There is not. There is a party of the center (Democratic Party) with a left wing and a party of the far right (GOP) wit a diminishing moderate/center-right wing. If there was a party of the left in this country, Obama would have set forth a more robust FDR like program in response to the Great Recession. But, of course, that would mean much higher marginal tax rates than 39.6% and would piss off the centrist base of the party. As further evidence of my position, Bernie Sanders or someone like him wins the Democratic nomination and not a centrist like Clinton if in fact the Democratic Party was a party of the left.

      7. It is rare lately that I’m agreeing with Chris, but I think he’s spot on in his assessment of Obama working with the GOP.

        All the caveats that yes, the GOP has sucked and generally relished in their role as the loyal opposition.

        Obama does not seem to have twisted many arms, offered many carrots, or done the requisite number of less-than-pleasant-in-the-light-of-day maneuvering that is needed to function as the President today. He was having and difficult enough time controlling the Democrats and making concessions within the Democrats on ACA.

        He is very good at presenting a rational argument, and he “lectures” well, but the GOP generally interpreted that as “scolding”.

        Just take a minor, completely irrelevant issue – like golf. Obama loves golf but doesn’t mix golf with work. I get it. He needs the decompression time. Bush in his first term was running for at least an hour a day. Presidents need decompression time.

        Obama almost never played golf with GOP folks, and when it did happen, it was widely considered awkward and painful. How hard would it have been to set up some more regular rounds with a few GOPers?

        Would it have mattered? It probably shouldn’t matter, but there are a number of quotes from various GOP folks about Obama never inviting them to play golf.

        – Dangling a carrot to one congressional district versus the other?

        – Letting the press talk about how the GOP “negotiated hard and presented some good ideas so we are changing x, y, and z,” while really getting something on Issue Q behind the scenes.

        – “Hey, Bob (aid to a random House representative), it is good to talk with you, I know it is hard to connect. Yeah, I heard about some of the difficulty the congressman’s nephew had with having to drop out of college. It is a good thing the press hasn’t picked up on that. Well, the reason I’m calling is to see if you guys have time to talk about HB2312?”

        Obama was 8 years too early. Another term and a half in the senate would have done him some good in understanding how to get things done.

      8. We agree that Obama needed more seasoning to understand and participate more effectively within the political process. He also chose as his LT, Rahm Emmanuel who didn’t help him at all. But here’s where I disagree with you and Chris. The tactics utilized by the GOP were reprehensible and undemocratic. They “knew” better, and they took full advantage of not only Obama but of the American people in the process. Tough, you say. Maybe, but we don’t really know except from comments from some of the Republicans that Obama didn’t try to work with them. I know the Dems tried to include Republicans in the debate on the ACA, to the point of making a huge number of changes recommended by them. Would HRC been more effective had she beat Obama as Chris suggests? Probably. At the very least, she understood the process. I voted for Obama so I share blame for failing to make a better assessment of the skills that would be needed to deal with the Republicans who flat out, openly, arrogantly refused from the get-go to work with O. While we’re performing our autopsy here, let’s not overlook or forgive the role the GOP played in this at a time when millions of people were out of work, had lost homes, and our economy was in tatters. The GOP had an obligation to help our nation recover. They had the skills and experience to work with Obama. Instead, they did what they did. If the worst thing we can blame Obama for was political naivete and not wanting to play golf with people who had openly called him names and refused to help, I’ll take a man like that anyday over GWB or DJT. That the best the Republicans can do? Then we’re in worse trouble than any of us can grasp.

      9. To understand the relative failures of Obama and the even more spectacular likely failures of the upcoming Trump regime, it might be helpful to revisit this question in a different framework. Look closely at the failures of JFK and the success of Johnson in overcoming absolutely unbending, committed Congressional opposition to Civil Rights reforms.

        We’re talking about two Democratic Presidents, each dealing with fierce opposition from Congressional Democrats. One failed miserably. One succeeded.

        Even with these sources, you don’t get a picture of the way Johnson personally intervened to cajole, threaten, persuade, and intimidate individual Congressmen and Senators. It is this kind of hands-on, personal muck-work that is essential to get complex legislation through a divided body. Clinton probably would have been a pro at this. Obama never did it at all.

      10. Interesting links, Chris. Politics at its most elemental and maybe best understood after the passage of time……The Johnson biographies I read are the trilogy by Caro. I highly recommend them all.

        It will be interesting to see if the GOP takes down Trump or Trump takes down the GOP, or, if they learn how to coexist. What is certain, from my very pessimistic view of the future actions of the GOP, is that the price will be paid by the people of our country – not those who are ensconced in the ivory halls of Congress and the White House.

      11. >] “If the price for dominance over the GOP is to utilize threats, falsehoods, planting stories in the press, alleging free time improprieties to play the game with Republicans, then I’d rather Dems lose. I have read Johnson’s biography and I understand that he utilized these tactics in his control of Congress, but he was wrong to do so. Somehow we have to get to a point in the Democratic process where reason and consensus work again, even if imperfectly. The irony in my expectation is that had Johnson not been elected, there would have been no Civil Rights Act nor the Great Society legislation, right? So now we have come to the wonderful place where domination and falsehoods are the recommended tools to achieve control? Like the GOP has been using them for the last number of years? Should we settle for this as the only alternative to a wipe out in elections? Who can tell the “best” lies, create more “swift boat falsehoods”, plant more crap in the media hoping they won’t fact-check or not caring if they do cause it’s already “out there”?

        mime, I could not possibly disagree with you more on this and, frankly, your assertions are contradicting themselves. First you say that if the only way to win over the GOP is for Democrats to sink down to their level, then you don’t want them to win and then immediately afterwards you say that “somehow” we’ve gotta get reason and consensus back into our politics. These two statements do not mix. Rationalize Dems losing by their lack of moral fiber whichever way you want, they still lose and Republicans feel their way is vindicated.

        And let’s be perfectly clear, your ideal, even an imperfect version of it, has NEVER been the way our politics have functioned. Not. Ever. Go back to the turn of the last century when Teddy Roosevelt was president and you’ll find, even with Republicans controlling the Congress, gridlock, resistance and all-around cowardice that would’ve halted a lesser man. If the Speaker of the House of the time had had his way, we never would’ve gotten the Antiquities Act that’s saved so much of our land as national landmarks.

        None of that’s to say that Roosevelt wasn’t a swell fellow to sit down and have a beer with (I’m sure he was), but he got so much done during his time because he had one of the greatest political minds of his time and outwitted, manipulated and frankly just kicked his adversaries’ respective asses to get the outcome he wanted, even when those adversaries were his fellow Republicans.

        In essence, what you’re talking about is an effective overhaul of our entire political system that’s been around for far long than either you or I have been alive. That just ain’t gonna happen.

      12. I believe there is a difference between creating falsehoods and working the political process for all it’s worth. Johnson was a master at political process and he was infamous for his threats and arm-twisting. But, more significantly, it was his knowledge of the political process that enabled him to succeed.

        As for my naivete about not being willing to substitute subterfuge for reason and fair use of the process, guilty as charged. I don’t see criticism of using lies to subvert the process at odds with a desire for a process that openly, fairly uses the process to obtain a given goal. Republicans have done a better job of building their party apparatus but I have little respect for how they have done so. The means don’t always justify the end.

      13. To compare the work that Johnson accomplished to that of Obama is difficult, considering the divisions that happened in the intervening years. Remember, we still had the dixiecrats and moderate and liberal Republicans at that point. It easier to imagine deals that crossed ideological and party lines. And remember, a lot of our present political reality came from Johnson’s progress.

        I can’t imagine any Democrat president getting much done in the present political environment. That is without control of both houses.

      14. >] “I can’t imagine any Democrat president getting much done in the present political environment. That is without control of both houses.

        That’s kind of a silly comparison to make. Johnson didn’t just have majorities in both houses, he had super majorities with a lot of liberal Democrats and Republicans to vote for his Great Society legislation. Now none of that is to detract from his skill both as a legislator and an arm-wringer, but everything should be taken in context.

        Did his majorities help his agenda? Absolutely. Would he have been able to make the most of them without his personal skill and finesse? Not a chance.

      15. If I were Obama, I wouldn’t want to play golf with any of those GOP yahoos either. Maybe that’s why GWB was a runner. That way he didn’t have to talk to anybody.

        I can’t wait to read O’s book he said he was going to write following his presidency.

      16. I have to agree with Chris here. I liked Obama as a person in 2008, but I supported Hillary because I felt Obama was too green and very, very naive about what it takes to push real change through Congress (nevertheless, after the primary, I worked on Obama’s campaign because I still liked him, and McCain lost me for good when he picked Palin).

        I would love for government to work by a bunch of enlightened philosopher-kings discussing rationally and civilly all possible solutions and compromising and working toward the best solution. Outside of Schoolhouse Rock, it never works that way. While we no longer chop off monarch’s heads as part of the political process, it’s still a pretty bloody process.

        My two political heroes are FDR and LBJ. They did more to advance our society than any other president since Lincoln. And they were the meanest, dirtiest horse traders you ever saw.

        FDR broke the longstanding tradition of not running for a third term. When the Supreme Court started to get uneasy about the expanded federal powers FDR needed for the New Deal, he threatened to expand the Supreme Court so that he could pack it with his cronies. He threw out the Monroe Doctrine and got us involved in WWII. His tactics bordered on creating multiple constitutional crises. But in each instance, his policy was correct. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.

        LBJ was a similar master politician who accomplished far more than JFK by getting down and dirty in Congress (it’s ironic that the one thing he wanted to accomplish but couldn’t, ending the Vietnam War, was because he was intimidated by the military establishment, whereas JFK’s singular achievement was avoiding WWIII during the Cuban missile crisis by telling the military establishment to go f*ck themselves, he wasn’t bombing Cuba. This was probably because JFK was a Harvard-educated, Boston blue blood who wasn’t intimidated by credentials, something that LBJ, a working class graduate of the Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College, always felt self-conscious about).

        You don’t even have to go that far back: GWB got an authorization to go to war in Iraq despite the Dems holding the Senate and thousands of people protesting in the streets, by essentially calling any Dem who disagreed with him a traitor. He also passed Medicare part D, no child left behind, and his massive tax cuts, under either a Dem-controlled or narrowly Repub-controlled Senate.

        What irked me (as a liberal) the most about Obama though, was that I felt he used the President Puppy Dog routine only when it came to pushing for liberal ideals (like Medicare for all, Wall St. reform, ending the wars, etc). But he had no problem demonizing liberals who stood in the way of accomplishing his more conservative objectives (e.g. the Grand Bargain sequester, Obamacare, Terror Tuesday kill lists, starting a war in Libya, etc.).

        IOW, Mary, Obama knew how to play the game very well (at least after a few years): use LBJ tactics to accomplish the center-right policies he actually believed in, and roll over and play President Puppy Dog when he needed an excuse for why he couldn’t push the center-left policies his liberal supporters wanted.

        I’ll leave with just two examples from Obamacare: Obama claimed Republican obstructionism was why he couldn’t get a public option passed in Obamacare. But the truth came out later that in private negotiations with insurance companies months before the legislation was actually written, he promised there would never be a public option in exchange for insurance companies supporting the plan. The next 6 months of feigning inability was just political theater to placate the liberal wing.

        Similarly, there was much debate about essentially extending what’s known as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits govt funding of abortions, to ACA plans. The Senate passed the ACA without such an extension, while the House passed the ACA with the extension. Rather than taking the fight to the Senate/House conference committee, or leaning hard on Dems in the House (remember they had a commanding majority at this time) to drop the extension, he cut a deal with pro-life House Dems that he would sign an Executive Order to prevent such funding, regardless of what language came through the final reconciled legislation, sidestepping Congress and throwing his pro-choice supporters who wanted to fight, under a bus. So much for Schoolhouse Rock legislative process… But ask him to use such tactics for a liberal goal, and he rolls over and yelps.

      17. You’re going to miss the Obama you diss. Perfect he isn’t/wasn’t, but he is far ahead of most others who have served in that office in terms of character, compassion, temperament, and dignity. We can disagree on the quality of the man while agreeing he could have been more effective as a politician.

      18. Mary-
        I already miss him. But only because of the orange beast that’s currently slouching toward bethlehem 🙂

        If it was Bernie or Hillary waiting in the wings, I’d say January can’t come soon enough!

        But if you don’t mind a question: which President do you think was better, Obama or Bill Clinton?

      19. Obama is the better person and with time and experience would have been a more effective politician. Clinton was the better politician entering the presidency by virtue of years of experience as a governor, which I believe is more valuable for preparing one for POTUS than serving in Congress. In his second term, Obama was a better politician but by then Republicans had majorities in both houses and were even more committed to total obstruction. A more competent politician would have used his first two years with majorities in Congress more effectively than Obama did; however, I don’t think it is accurate to fault Obama for not breaking the gridlock imposed by the GOP in years 3-8.

        It is amazing how we can all be so smart in our analysis on the back end and miss so badly on the front end. Which says to me that we need to temper our opinions about what is involved in serving in office. As I have mentioned before, I served for 4 years as an elected school board member of a large school district. It was invaluable and humbling and rewarding, but mostly it taught me how hard it is to serve in elected positions when you’re trying hard to do a good job. (Those who are using positions as stepping stones don’t have nearly as many ulcers…)

      20. Mary-
        I’m going to go further and say Obama’s weakness in the first two years *enabled* the Republican obstruction of the next 6 years. Once the Republicans realized there would be no real consequence to obstructing him, and that indeed, that they could extract significant concessions without delivering the expected votes in return, it emboldened them to go further once they got real power. There’s a reason, for example, that presidents never veto a bill if they think there’s even a chance that veto could be overturned. Because once a veto is broken, that threat no longer works and no one’s afraid of it.

        For Obama, that moment came during the debate for fiscal stimulus. He had massive majorities in the Senate and house, sky high incoming approval ratings, and economists both left and right telling him to go for it. And it’s about spending money for God’s sake! The easiest thing to pass in Congress! But he failed. In the end he compromised massively on his original proposal and barely squeaked the final plan through. Republicans figured out that if Obama can’t get a trillion dollar gravy train through Congress, he’s a lame duck before he even starts. And they treated him that way ever since. BTW, this is not just a posthoc analysis: lots of Democrats at the time, including Paul Krugman, excoriated him for caving on fiscal stimulus, arguing that if he can’t pass that, there’s no way he’ll ever pass health care reform, wall Street reform, etc.

        How you deal with Congress your first year sets the tone for the rest of your presidency. Every president knows that. And based on his first year performance, lots of Hill watchers predicted Obama’s future troubles.

        PS. you mentioned you live in Houston. If you ever go to Austin I highly recommend a visit to the LBJ museum. LBJ recorded his phone calls, and they have clips from a bunch of them that you can listen to in the museum on different topics / events. It’s actually funny to see how slick he was in cajoling, threatening, sweet talking, and wheeling dealing senators, congressman, and even people like MLK. The contrast to what I imagine a conversation with Obama would be like couldn’t be bigger!

      21. I’ve acknowledged Obama’s inexperience in his first term but I strongly disagree that anything he had done would have changed the McConnell commitment to totally obstruct him. Should he have tried regardless? Certainly.

        I’ve been to the LBJ museum and it is outstanding.

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