Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Moral Is: Don't Nominate HRC Again

Jon Chait does the best post-mortem yet of the election.

His takedown of Bernie Sanders is important to read, too.  I would quibble that we may come to see James Comey's actions as decisive, but it's clear that Clinton's liabilities were what allowed that to BE decisive.

This is a key 'graph:
The most unpopular nominee in the recorded history of polling managed to very, very narrowly beat the second-most-unpopular nominee in the recorded history of polling in handful of swing states, while losing the national vote by 2 percent. Because of this, Democrats can escape their nominating disaster. Republicans can’t. None of us can, course — a fact that is very bad for the country, but also good for the opposing party.

Here is the genesis of my new word: Trumpenfreude (n), A state of taking pleasure in the failures of your national government because it proves you were right about an overgrown racist Oompa Loompa becoming chief magistrate.

His conclusion is particularly apt:
The party that needs to search its soul about whether it has the capacity to govern competently is not the one out of power. And what should concern Democrats is not whether they’ll get back in power but what will be left of the country when they do.

And that's the downside of Trumpenfreude.  I firmly believe that - if we have free and fair elections - Trump loses in 2020.  Perhaps in epic fashion.  But he could so damage the country that digging out from his mess could be beyond the powers of any one party.

America has had a nice run as a "hyperpower," but those days are likely over.

Make American Mediocre Again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Take Your Medicine!

I hate rooting against America, but Trump has kinda lead me to that place.

I have no idea if Obama had some sort of Vulcan mind control over OPEC, but it's fascinating that OPEC has finally decided to jack up prices.  Are the Saudis doing this for their own fiscal needs?  Most likely.  But are they sending a right cross to Trump's jaw for his anti-Muslim rhetoric?  Could be.

One of the real reasons we've had fair economic winds the last two years have been incredibly low oil prices.  If that changes, the US economy will drag some.  Add in a trade war or two, and....

The Robots Took Our Jobs

The blue line is manufacturing output in the United States.  The red line is employment in the manufacturing sector.

It wasn't Mexicans.  It wasn't the Chinese.  (I mean, yeah, that didn't help, but....)

Democrats need to coalesce around a plan to ban self-driving vehicles in interstate commerce.


All that lovely teal?  That means the most popular job in that state is driving a truck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Aligned Federalism

I'm trying to come up with a theory of Aligned Federalism, whereby "blue" states work together to create policy agendas that put market pressure on the malefactors of great wealth.  My thinking was originally on energy policy.  If the entire Northeast and Pacific Coast decided to support alternative energies, that could really boost the market, no matter what the federal government does.

Richard Mayhew has an interesting example of how this might work with prescription drugs.

The Assault On Healthcare

Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare are the essential building blocks of American health care coverage.  While a touch less than half (49%) get insurance from their employers, over a third (36%) get their insurance from the government.  Roughly 7% get their insurance from a "non-group" provider, which presumably is mostly the exchanges.

Trump's announcement that Tom Price will be his head of HHS lets you know that he will back GOP efforts to dismantle not only Obamacare, but Medicare, too.  GOP ideas to make health care "work" are pretty much terrible.  They seem to believe in Magic Unicorn Ponies like HSAs and buying across state lines that won't do much of anything to help people afford health insurance.

This is a frankly unbelievable move on the part of the Republican party.  Their electorate is overwhelmingly older and fearful. This is a natural wedge issue for Democrats.

However, the obvious concern is that the Democrats suck at politics.

Basically, Shumer has two tasks.  He has to keep his entire caucus in line.  That shouldn't be difficult.  If I'm Max Baucus or Joe Manchin I'm eager to run as a Savior of Medicare.  That fits into people's pre-existing narratives of what the parties stand for.

The trickier part will be finding three GOP Senators to preserve Medicare.  There are some natural rebels in Arizona, who also have a large elderly population to serve who could provide two votes.  Collins and Murkowski are also not prone to radical swings.  Marco Rubio has national ambitions that would probably be sunk by attacking Medicare.  Pat Toomey has shown some moderation and I wouldn't rule out even Tim Scott or Lindsay Graham breaking with their party over this.

To some degree, the assault on Medicare feels like a diversion to keep attention focused there while they dismantle Obamacare.  Maybe, but both fights are important.  And both need to be waged with discipline and ruthlessness.  There is no time for "Yes, but..." This has to be framed in terms of extremes.  Ryan and Price will argue that they aren't "ending" Medicare, they are simply introducting "choice."  Semantically that's true, but practically it's false.  Don't get caught defining terms or being reasonable.  Fight like hell.

Make the GOP radioactive heading into 2018.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Today In Trumpistan

You want to know what Trump's contribution to America will be?  Massive swindling.

Here's a very good take on how Trump will launch a four year assault on our legal institutions and rule of law.

A Pervasive Myth

One myth my wife and I struggle to fight against is the pervasive myth that the media is both all powerful and extremely liberal.  The media is in fact a fractured, wounded beast and its real bias is towards reporting conflict over substance.

But there is another myth that is pervasive, and that is that politicians always lie on the campaign trial.  In fact, just the opposite is true.

Trump is going to do exactly what he said he was going to do.  If it's a trade war - and I perversely hope he tries - it will lead to a recession.  Smoot-Hawley, folks.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Is Important

Economic populism did not help the Democrats, even when they ran on it in the Senate races.  Feingold ran WORSE than Clinton in Wisconsin, despite bona fide reformer credentials.

Again, it's not necessarily about economic populism.  It's about white identity politics.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Reshuffling The Deck

How are we to unravel Trumpistan?  How do we redraw the electoral map?  Obviously, finding a way to win back Pennsylvania is clearly a priority.  However, I think the manifest failures of the impending Trump Kleptocracy will manage some of that.

Additionally, you have to reclaim the cultural allegiances of some of the white working class, and the best way to do that is to break down cultural barriers.  I think activists for African, Muslim and Hispanic Americans need to train themselves to sit with these WWC voters and engage with them - not politically, but socially.  Not with the Armor of Grievance strapped on tight, but from a position of trying to find what you have in common.

Trump's pitch about urban hellholes was never intended to win black votes, but to scare rural WWC voters about the swarthy hordes of Philly, Detroit and Milwaukee.  If you can engage those voters, go to their communities, start a home and away softball game, potluck dinners and church socials, then you can demystify and unravel the "othering" that has defined out current politics.

Some of that is apparent in this story about how white voters broke depending on how far they moved from their place of birth.  Those that left home voted for Clinton.  Those that stayed home voted for Trump.  If WWC voters won't leave Erie or Eau Claire, then you have to go and visit them.

That's the easy part.

If Democrats/liberals really want to change the electoral and - more importantly - the congressional map, then they need to un-do the Big Sort.

Take Wyoming, for instance. Trump won Wyoming by 120,000 votes.  Demon spawn Liz Cheney won the House seat by 75,000 votes.  If you could move 200,000 young, liberal voters to Wyoming, you could flip the House seat, 3 electoral votes and 2 crucial Senate seats.

How about Montana?  Trump won by 100,000 votes, Ryan Zinke won the House seat by 80,000 votes and Steve Bullock, a Democrat retained the governorship by 18,000 votes.  Again, moving about 200,000 young, liberal voters to Montana nets you a House seat, a Senate seat and 3 electoral votes.

Of course, how do you convince half a million people to leave sunny California for the wilds of Wyoming and Montana?  The answer, to me, is Colorado.

Colorado is currently brushing up against some limits, as more and more of those young, culturally liberal people move there.  Water, as always, is the limiting resource in the West, and Montana and Wyoming aren't immune to that.  But as the Colorado Front Range fills up, why not expand up into Cheyenne and Laramie?  As Boston expanded it spread into southern New Hampshire.  That helped counterbalance the more traditional northern parts of the state.  Clinton won New Hampshire by winning Nashua.

Making Cheyenne and Laramie part of the Front Range political ecosystem might work.

For Montana, it's harder and easier.  Harder, because there isn't any natural ecosystem to link with, easier, because there is a natural appeal to living in Montana.  Clinton already won Gallatin County (Bozeman) and Missoula County, but she barely won Gallatin.  She lost Lewis and Clark County (Helena) and Cascade County (Great Falls) by a few thousand votes.  She got crushed in Yellowstone County (Billings).  Having been to Billings, I doubt any Democrat will excel there, but growing the populations of Missoula and Bozeman (and to a lesser degree Helena and Great Falls) would counterbalance the rural votes and the oil kingdom of Billings.

If I could live in Montana, I would.  So the question is: How do you create the sort of jobs that would get people to move there?  How do you create a Front Range type of political ecosystem in Montana?

The obvious answer is technology.  There is no reason why Silicon Valley has to be in Silicon Valley, except cachet.  It's cool to have a Palo Alto zip code.  But the Bay Area is running out of room.  That's not close to being a joke.

So how can we move roughly a million Bay Area tech jobs to Bozeman and Missoula?

Do that and suddenly things begin to change.  Can you find room for half a million tech jobs in Boise?  That makes Idaho a purple state.

Demographics will eventually flip Arizona and maybe Texas and Georgia.  Maybe North Carolina, too.  But to really change the political map, we have to change the population map.

We have to break down the Big Sort.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I'm Thankful They Are Starting To Focus

Looks like Democratic leadership is finally beginning to wake up and focus on Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system.

Democrats have a two front war to wage the next four years.

One front will be against what I imagine will be the single most corrupt administration in US History.  I expect Trump and his unqualified minions will commence to loot the state in ways that would make Mobutu Sese-Seko blush.  Everyone who is worried about Trump creating concentration camps is missing the point (I hope).  He will create an organization to build the camps, his cronies will create companies to build the camps and then they won't get built and his cronies run off with the cash and kick back bribes to Trump, Inc.  When they aren't looting the Treasury, they will likely be so dangerously incompetent that they could start a war or a depression.

Democrats have to fight that battle.

But they also have to fight the usual battles against the far right ideologues of the Republican Congress, led by the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver from Wisconsin.

Pushing back on Medicare is the first glimmer that they realize the dual threats facing them.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Future

When I first heard of Universal Basic Income, I was incredulous.  But the more I read about it, the more it seems the way out of our current economic predicament.

As Thomas Piketty discovered, wealth inequality is the historical norm.  What changed is that for a few decades, it was possible to have a middle class existence and real material comfort from a working class job.  Recently, the pace of automation and globalization have destroyed that ability.  While most people in the US have what they need, they are constantly a lost paycheck away from real problems.

Work is no longer a guarantee of a decent quality of life.

That single fact is the most important fact in politics today.  What's more, it will only get worse.  Stern, in the above interview, makes the point I've been making about self-driving trucks: they will decimate the working class.  The fact that no one cares about this, the drive for progress for progress's sake, is what drives the anxiety of working class voters.  And Trump isn't going to help.

The other issues Stern notes are also important.  First, conservative intellectuals like the UBI. It gets rid of the need for an elaborate welfare state.  Everyone gets a $30,000 stipend and then the markets can function.  You want more?  Earn more.

Second, and more critically, moving to UBI will require us to re-evaluate how we think of work.  I am my job.  I take pride in my work.  What would UBI do for that?

Essentially, UBI would require an entirely new form of economics.  The thing is, our current economics are broken.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Might As Well

I agree with everything Josh Marshall says about the idea that the vote was hacked.  It is very, very unlikely that anyone hacked the election.  It's just too hard, though I could see any one state (cough North Carolina or Wisconsin cough) engaged in vote suppression, given their history.  Overall, though, Trump outperformed among WWC voters in so many different states that it's hard to ascribe this to voter fraud.

However, as fraught as the national mood is, go ahead and do an audit to remove any stigma or question over the election results.

If it were possible to advise Trump on anything, I would advise him to lead the way.  "Please, recount some votes.  I'm confident of the results."  He'd never do it, but it would be sound strategy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The New New Math

Ezra Klein is right.  One of the most infuriating things about being a Democrat is watching the party leadership behave like an abused spouse.  Their are huge structural problems that Democrats face, but being unpopular isn't one of them.  Their ideas certainly aren't, even if their candidate was.

Mitch McConnell introduced parliamentary levels of party loyalty to a congressional system of government.  Schumer needs to introduce the idea of a shadow government.  Otherwise, the Democrats fecklessnness will lead to further problems down the line.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Ed makes some critically important points.

For all the "Democrats lost the White Working Class" pieces, the fact is that Democrats have been working to help the White Working Class.  It wasn't elites or even the very poor who benefited from Obamacare.  It wasn't Republicans offering to raise the minimum wage.

The Rust Belt rusted, because the circumstances that created the American Industrial Heartland are gone.  The Thirty Golden Years, from 1945-1975 were a unique time in world and American history.  They aren't coming back.

I would differ with Ed on one point.  The voters that voted for Trump voted for more than anger.  I do think they voted for hope.  Hope that Trump would destroy the system that has ground them down.  Looking at his transition team, it's very, very, very unlikely that Trump is going to do anything about their problems.

Maybe he winds up keeping Obamacare and giving it bipartisan cover.  Maybe that helps.  I can't see his infrastructure plan working, because it's a farce and a giveaway to construction companies more than actually building anything.  I agree with Jon Chait, that Democrats better sell their votes very, very dearly to support any infrastructure bill, because it is likely to be a corruption funnel and they should keep their fingerprints off of it.

But Trump doesn't give a shit about his voters.  He has stiffed workers over and over and over again.  Clinton probably screwed up in accenting his personal vileness over his professional malfeasance.  They should have hammered home the number of people Trump has screwed over. C'est la guerre.

Those WWC voters who flocked to Trump are likely going to get screwed.  And frankly, selfishly, it's not the place of the Democratic party from 2017-2021 to solve their problems.  Trump can't solve the Problem of the Rust Belt, because he's an idiot and because there is no solution.  Building a sea wall in Tampa isn't going to create jobs in Dayton, Ohio, providing the sea wall even gets built.

Instead, we will get massive tax cuts for the rich and an assault on Medicare and Obamacare.  We will get crony capitalism in spades.  

Sadly, the only way to blunt the impact of the rural WWC voter is to watch Trump screw up.  That lacks agency, but it's probable.  And if he doesn't, maybe all us elites were wrong about everything.  I doubt it, though.  Steve Bannon was crediting his theory of politics to Andrew Jackson, a man whose fiscal policies unleashed one of the worst depressions of the 19th century.

Buy gold.