Thursday, April 03, 2014

Cruising the web

I see that the artist who first drew Mr. Clean died today. My dad was involved in that initial campaign because he was on the ad account handling P&G's ad campaigns. He said that P&G was originally very hesitant to go with the design at first because they feared that 1950s housewives would be scared at the idea of this muscular, bald, piratical guy in their kitchens. They didn't realized that many women would be thrilled to have such a guy magically appear in their homes. And if he cleaned the floor - that's just an additional benefit.
Apparently the focus grouping on the campaign was very high and that convinced P&G to risk terrifying women with Mr. Clean's appearance in their kitchens. Women know what they like.

Liberals are wetting their panties about the Supreme Court decision striking down aggregate levels of donations for any individual. You'll be hearing cries about rich people dominating politics. But they seem to be awfully willing to cut back on people's freedom of speech whenever it might favor someone else. Rich Lowry, with help from John Roberts, explains,
The First Amendment is for strippers, flag burners, pornographers, funeral protesters and neo-Nazis, but not for people trying to give money to political parties or candidates. They are a suspect class, marked out as a threat to democracy because they want to participate in democracy.
In his decision for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that contributing to a candidate is political participation just like volunteering for a campaign or urging others to vote. As such, it is an exercise of the right to political speech and association.
“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some,” Roberts writes, “but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects.”
Limits on what a person can donate to any individual candidate still stand under the idea that large contributions could corrupt one candidate.
But if you accept the base limits, the aggregate limits on the total anyone can give to candidates in a single cycle ($48,600) and to party committees and PACs in a single cycle ($74,600) make no sense. By the logic of the law, if a contribution to one candidate of $5,200 or less is not corrupting, there should be no fear that a donor giving a couple of dozen candidates that amount will be corrupting. Each of the candidates is receiving the proscribed amount or less.
Once a donor has hit the aggregate limit, though, it functions as an outright ban on further donations to candidates or parties — even though these individual donations aren’t corrupting. This is an impingement of his or her political rights without any possible upside of preventing graft. In other words, it is obviously a violation of the First Amendment.
One Democrat, the South Dakota candidate for senator, Rick Welland, claimed that McCutcheon v. FEC “may be the worst decision made by any Supreme Court since the Dred Scott case reaffirmed slavery in 1857.” Think of what that includes: decisions that established that separate but equal segregation was just fine, allowed white primaries and literacy tests for voting, or justified Japanese internment. But allowing individuals to contribute money to politicians...that trumps all of those.

David Freddoso points out that this decision allows donors to give to the candidates they prefer rather than the parties.

Democrats are all worried about money in politics, but they seem to not be so concerned about the really big money in politics that favors them.
Of the 20 largest current overall political donors, the majority favor Democrats, and favor them strongly: 62 percent of the biggest donors’s money goes to Democrats....

Big money in politics isn’t two libertarian billionaires in Kansas — it’s teachers and real-estate agents, union goons of various denominations, and a sprinkling of military contractors. And it is heavily pro-Democratic.
If you oppose big money in politics, why should unions get a pass?

But the teachers unions don't even notice the disconnect as the AFT came out yesterday wailing about this decision.
Randi Weingarten’s organization is the twelfth-largest political spender in modern history, with “millions and millions of dollars to buy elections.” The other major teachers’ union, the National Education Association, is the third-largest political spender in modern history. Of the top 25 groups on that list, precisely three lean Republican, and none in the top 15. The NEA and the AFT are not among the Republican-leaning groups.

This isn’t about getting rich guys out of politics — it’s about the NEA and the AFT keeping competition off the field.
Here, via the WSJ, is some more wisdom from Chief Justice Roberts' decision:
"If there is no corruption concern in giving nine candidates up to $5,200 each, it is difficult to understand how a tenth candidate can be regarded as corruptible if given $1,801, and all others corruptible if given a dime," Chief Justice Roberts wrote. "The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse." Well said, and we especially like the dig at newspapers that think it's fine for Congress to limit everyone else's speech but theirs.

These usual suspects will now be wailing anew about "big money" in politics, but the reality is that the biggest winners in McCutcheon may be the political parties. The campaign-finance reformers have empowered the wealthy by limiting contributions to parties, which can have a moderating impact on campaign messages. If parties have more money to donate, then Super PACs financed by the superrich might have less influence.

Shaun McCutcheon, the man who brought the case that ended in his victory this week, recalls his favorite moments from the oral hearing.
One of our lawyers, Erin Murphy, framed the issue this way: “By prohibiting contributions that are within the modest base limits Congress has already imposed to combat the reality or appearance of corruption,” she said. “These limits simply seek to prevent individuals from engaging in too much First Amendment activity.”
The justices apparently agreed. Once a citizen has made sufficient contributions to reach the total limitation set by federal law, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “you are telling him that he can’t make that contribution, however modest, certainly within the limits Congress has said does not present the problem of corruption, to a tenth candidate.” That result has a “First Amendment cost,” he concluded. “It seems to me a very direct restriction on much smaller contributions that Congress said do not present a problem with corruption.”
One thing I didn’t anticipate was just how fun the hour-long hearing of our case was. It was serious humor, of course. But I did laugh when Justice Scalia said the existing legal complexities, while they “sap the vitality of the political parties,” also encourage “drive-by PACs for each election”—referring to the mostly unregulated and unaccountable private groups in both parties that have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars, especially in presidential elections.
The worst comment came from Donald Verrilli, who as solicitor general represented the executive branch in defending the law. The First Amendment, he said, was not designed to protect a citizen’s right to give a fancy Maserati to the secretary of defense. Justice Samuel Alito responded that such a donation would be illegal. “We’re talking here about campaign contributions,” he lectured Verrilli.

The WSJ asks a legitimate question in response to Obama's victory lap about Obamacare's signups: "If the law is now such a success, why are Senate Democrats still fleeing?"

James Taranto is not impressed with Obama's victory lap announcement that debate is all over about his signature law.
One obvious objection is that Obama declared the debate "over" while engaging in the debate by delivering a high-profile speech on the subject. Wouldn't the way to appeal to people who are tired of hearing about ObamaCare be to refrain from talking about it? When you talk about not talking about something, you're still talking about it.

Further, being tired of the debate is not the same thing as being happy with, or accepting of, ObamaCare. Scott notes that 51% of independents and 47% of Republicans in the KFF poll said they were tired of the debate. That compares with 58% of Democrats. Of all respondents who had a favorable and unfavorable view of ObamaCare, respectively, the figures were also 58% and 47% tired. Overall, the unfavorables outnumbered the favorables, 46% to 38%. Do the arithmetic and you find it's essentially a wash: 22% are favorable and tired, 21.6% unfavorable and tired.

There's an interesting disconnect here between the political class and the population at large. Whereas the adults Kaiser polled were not especially polarized on the question of whether they were tired of the debate, those of us who debate for a living--politicians, pundits and policy wonks--are. As best we can tell, ObamaCare proponents like Scott are overwhelmingly anxious for the debate to go away, while critics such as your humble columnist are eager for it to continue. That suggests the critics are more strongly convinced we have the better of the argument.
Even Jimmy Fallon, who fawned over Michelle Obama, is not impressed with President Obama's victory lap speech.
That’s right, the White House said that it surpassed its goal for people enrolled in ObamaCare. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you make something mandatory and fine people if they don't do it. And then keep extending the deadline for months. It’s like a Cinderella story. It’s just a beautiful thing. You make everyone do it. Isn’t it great how many people do it? But if you still haven't enrolled, you might have to pay a penalty called the individual shared responsibility payment, which is 1% of your salary. Then Americans said, ‘Man, good thing I don't have a job.

Governor Andrew Cuomo took Mayor Bill de Blasio to school by trumping the mayor's attempts to kill charter schools.
The budget deal that Governor Andrew Cuomo concluded over the weekend with state legislators overrules nearly all of Mr. de Blasio's assault on charters. It requires New York City's school district to find space for charter schools or provide a $3,000 per-pupil subsidy for private space. The subsidy would grow over time.

The mayor is also prohibited from charging charters rent and nixing co-locations without the schools' consent. Charter operator Eva Moskowitz, a particular target of Mr. de Blasio's union allies, will be able to open three schools as planned this fall. This is especially good news since her Success Academies are holding their annual lottery for admission on Friday and they include some of the top performing schools. Fifth-graders at Harlem Central Middle School, which Mr. de Blasio sought to close, have the highest pass rate of 2,254 schools in New York on state math exams.
Pay attention to this analysis:
One of the biggest players in Obamacare's exchanges says 15 to 20 percent of its new customers aren't paying their first premium—which means they're not actually covered.

The latest data come from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose members—known collectively as "Blues" plans—are participating in the exchanges in almost every state. Roughly 80 to 85 percent of people who selected a Blues plan through the exchanges went on to pay their first month's premium, a BCBSA spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The new statistics, particularly from such a large carrier, help define how many people are actually getting covered under the Affordable Care Act.

The Blues' experience is in line with anecdotal estimates from other insurance executives, who indicated earlier in the enrollment process that they received payments from about 80 percent of people who selected their plans.