April 25th, 2013

The Unfolding Health Care Policy Fiasco

My, but isn’t this interesting?

Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.

The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.

A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”

Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.

Young Ezra Klein tells us that this really isn’t that big a deal; all that he says has happened is that a Republican amendment “has possibly created a problem in which the federal government can’t make its normal contribution to the insurance premiums of congressional staffers.” As a consequence, there is a need for “some method through which the federal government can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of congressional staffers.” Klein sums up:

This isn’t, in other words, an effort to flee Obamacare. It’s an effort to fix a drafting error that prevents the federal government from paying into insurance exchanges on behalf of congressional staffers who got caught up in a political controversy.

Anyone who believes that this issue can be dismissed and dispensed with because of the “drafting error” excuse ought to read Megan McArdle, who points out that the “drafting error” excuse has been worn out, and that it may now be time to consider the entire health care reform bill “one long drafting error.” Of course, we would have known that earlier if we didn’t take Nancy Pelosi’s advice to pass the bill in order to find out what is in it.

In the meantime, get ready for increases in health insurance premiums. And don’t think for a moment that those increases will be limited to Maryland.

April 25th, 2013

Quote of the Day

A few weeks ago I was talking to a very nice, very liberal wonk type who had tried to start a small business and come away with a changed vision of regulation. The most dispiriting thing, he told me, was that it wasn’t even possible to know whether he was in compliance. He’s a very smart guy with top-notch research skills, but if he’d spent all his time researching the rules, and none running his business, he still couldn’t have been sure that he was legal. (This was a tame office sort of business, not a hazmat disposal firm.) Instead, he had to pay professionals and blindly rely on what they said. This was both expensive and demoralizing.

Megan McArdle. Anyone who thinks that the economy is not being held back by excess regulation should perhaps think again.

April 23rd, 2013

Why Does the New York Times Still Employ Maureen Dowd?

It is a mystery. Anyway, in the aftermath of the gun control defeat and Dowd’s hilariously bad column on the same, here is Megan McArdle trying desperately to explain Politcs 101 to a hopelessly confused student in Dowd:

… The American President and The West Wing are not searing portrayals of effective political management. They’re drama. The first question a dramatist asks is not “Is this how it really works?” but “Is it entertaining?” And the second is “Can the audience understand this in less than thirty seconds?” Veracity is way, way down the list. If you want a clue to how realistic it all is, consider that Aaron Sorkin awarded Jed Bartlett the Nobel Prize in Economics. Then go interview some Nobel Prizewinning Economists and ask yourself whether a single one of them would have the desire, or the ability, to run for president.

Jed Bartlett doesn’t win policy debates because of his amazing tactical skills, his overpowering arguments, or the sheer persuasiveness of his granite-faced brand of urbane folksomeness. He wins them because Aaron Sorkin is a liberal and he wants Republicans to lose on the major issues. Unfortunately for liberals, Tom Coburn and John Boehner don’t have their lines faxed over from Hollywood every morning.

And Megan McArdle points us to Walter Russell Mead, whose scorn for Dowd is magnificent to behold:

Column writing is dangerous work and long success in the game can lead to the stifling of that Editor Within who keeps you from looking too stupid in print. A rich self esteem, fortifed by decades of op-ed tenure and dinner party table talk dominance, has apparently given Ms. Dowd the confidence to believe that she is a maestro of political infighting, a Clausewitz of strategic insight and a Machiavelli of political cunning rolled up into one stylish and elegant piece of work. From the heights of insight on which she dwells, it is easy to see what that poor schmuck Barry Obama can’t: those 60 votes on gun control were his for the taking, if he was only as shrewd a politician as Maureen Dowd

The President needs to get his hands dirty, our genteel and accomplished op-ed writer advises the ex-community organizer and Chicago pol. He needs to get real, get down in the dirt, muck around with the senators and exercise raw power. Don’t make empty gestures and don’t give up, she advises him: fight! fight! fight!


If only Lyndon Johnson had understood the art of political pressure as well as Maureen Dowd. “You work with us, we’ll work with you.” It’s… brilliant! Reminding her about her six year term… if that doesn’t swing her around, nothing will. “You’re a mother…” This is a set of brass knuckles no one could resist. The NRA must be thanking its lucky stars that a bumbling amateur like Barack Obama is in the White House instead of the arch-politician Maureen Dowd; Heidi Heitkamp would have been putty in her elegantly manicured hands.

It goes on like that for quite a while, so be sure not to miss the entire blog post. I’d like to think that McArdle’s patient and desperate attempt to explain the facts on the ground—added to Mead’s entirely justified contempt for Dowd’s political instincts—would alert the New York Times to the fact that its columnist is simply not on the ball. But I have my doubts that the Times will take note. It seems content to have Dowd perpetually on its payroll, perpetually writing as though she is fourteen years old.

Nota Bene: To be fair to Dowd, she does seem to get the usual gaggle of suckers to approve of her drivel. I suppose she deserves some form of congratulations for that.


Your source for a certain percentage of things related to Pejman Yousefzadeh.