Monday, June 29, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jonathan Last imagines how Bernie Sanders' success as a protest candidate will lead to Zombie Hillary, the undead candidate who just keeps attacking.
And if there's one thing we've learned about Hillary Clinton over the years, it's that she never backs down.

Not when the press went after her for Travelgate. Not when the House of Representatives was drafting articles of impeachment against her husband. Not when she was clearly losing the 2008 nomination. Not when she was being investigated for Whitewater, or Benghazi, or State Department emails, or ... well, you get the idea.

Like a zombie, Hillary keeps coming. Relentlessly. Remorselessly. It doesn't matter how damaged she is or how ridiculous she looks in whatever position she's taken.

So no, Bernie Sanders probably can't win enough delegates to deny Clinton the nomination. But by driving her to the left, alienating her from the Democrats' activist base, and showing that she can be beaten, he could turn her into a zombie candidate who takes for granted the 46 percent (or so) of the vote she has as a floor, but is never able to add to it.

That's pretty attractive scenario for Republicans. Except, of course, that it might not come to pass. And that even if it does, sometimes the zombies win.

Sean Trende had an interesting analysis of how political polarization has served to weaken support for the Confederate flag.
Because Democrats no longer see any electoral payoff in talking to guys with Confederate flags in the back of their pickup trucks, they no longer have any incentive to make even weak gestures toward keeping the flag around. Progressives are freed from their need to keep up their awkward dance with rural Southerners for the sake of maintaining some degree of power in the South (a dance that dates back at least to FDR’s reluctance to endorse anti-lynching laws). Polarization has forced them – and freed them – to explore new paths to power.

At the same time, it’s important to realize that most prominent Southern Republican politicians have roots in either the suburban or old establishment Democrat wings of the party. I doubt if Nikki Haley or Bobby Jindal grew up with much affection for the Confederate flag. The same goes for Mitch McConnell – who entered politics in Jefferson County (Louisville), an old Union town whose Republicanism was strong enough that it almost voted for Herbert Hoover in 1932.

This isn’t true across the board – Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who initially defended the flag, grew up in a rural small town in his state – but for the most part, I don’t think most Republicans in leadership positions ever had much use for the Confederate flag beyond political calculations. With rural whites now largely polarized into the Republican column, Southern Republicans no longer have to go hard after their votes. If anything, they need to watch their flanks in the suburbs and in the business wing of the party, and so it is now more natural for them to move against the flag.
That's not something I'd thought about, but it makes a lot of sense.

This is how far recycling mania has gotten. Trashmen are now employed to go through people's garbage to see if residents need to be fined for not following recycling rules for their garbage.

Kimberley Strassel has some fun with a new linguistic marker - interpreting statements under the John Roberts standard that words mean the exact opposite of what their clear meaning is.
The one fun part of this week’s Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare is that it has given the country a new way to evaluate everything Democrats say. Take Barack Obama’s pronouncement Thursday that the court’s ruling in King v. Burwell means “the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”

Those words are pretty clear. Mr. Obama surely meant them. Yet all we have to do is give them the old Roberts High Court treatment, and—voilĂ !—we discover the exact opposite meaning. Far from putting this debate behind us, the ruling has freed Washington to take it up. Now that the long months of waiting silently and expectantly for the court’s decision are over, debate on ObamaCare is about to explode in a way not witnessed since 2010.

The reason rests in another of Mr. Obama’s statements Thursday: “there can be no doubt this law is working.” Apply those Roberts Rules of Plain Textual Interpretation, and we find that what the president means is that families are still losing their doctors, still getting hit with double-digit premium hikes. What he means is that the law remains as unpopular as ever.

One big impact of Obamacare that people might not realize is the effect it has had on employment.
The economics of Obamacare are very bad. The law is inflicting broad damage on job creation and new-business formation. It ruins job incentives by making it pay more not to work, thereby intensifying a labor shortage that is holding back growth and in turn lowering incomes and spending.

Across-the-board Obamacare tax increases are inflicting heavy punishment on investment — right when the U.S. economy desperately needs more capital as a way of solving a steep productivity decline.

Because of Obamacare, there’s an additional 0.9% Medicare tax on salaries and self-employment income, a 3.8% tax increase on capital gains and dividends, a cap on health-care flexible spending accounts, a higher threshold for itemized medical-expense deductions, and a stiff penalty on employer reimbursements for individual employee health-policy premiums.

Each of these tax hikes is anti-growth and anti-job.

There is so much talk about “secular stagnation,” inequality, and stagnant wages these days. But there’s little talk about the negative economic impact of Obamacare. It’s a much bigger story than SCOTUS jurisprudence.

A couple of examples.

First, there’s the problem of the 49ers and the 29ers. The business mandates and penalties imposed by Obamacare when small firms hire a 50th employee or ask for a 30-hour workweek are so high that firms are opting to hold employment to 49 and hours worked to 29. Lower employment and fewer hours worked are a double death knell for growth.

The BLS sheds light on this: Although part-time work has fallen during the recovery, to 7 million from around 9 million, it hovered around 4 million during the prior recovery. Part-time employment, which as a share of total employment peaked at around 20% in 2010 and has slipped to about 19%, hovered around 17% during most of the prior expansion. Obamacare?

Everybody is complaining about the low labor-force participation rate and the equally stubborn reduction in the employment-to-population rate. But why are we surprised? Obamacare is effectively paying people not to work.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan argues that Obamacare disincentives will reduce full-time equivalent workers by about 4 million principally because it phases out health-insurance subsidies as worker income increases. In other words, Obamacare is a tax on full-time work. After-tax, people working part time yield more disposable income than working full time.

Once the Democratic celebration after winning King v. Burwell subsides, they might realize that they have complete ownership of the nightmare that the law has created of our nation's health care.
The driving force behind health reform has been the desire to control rising health-care costs. From 2008 onwards, President Obama promised that his reform agenda would reduce the annual cost for the typical American family by no less than $2,500. After a while, it became a rather tiresome talking point. But it was pure nonsense from the start.

Health-care spending increases were slowing down well before Congress enacted Obamacare. But with the onset of Obamacare, health-insurance premiums in the exchanges jumped by double digits, while deductibles increased dramatically. If you liked your doctor, you would be able to keep you doctor, the president insisted, but maybe not, in reality, depending upon whether or not your physician networks narrowed. Looking toward 2016, health insurers say premium costs will soar.

In the days, weeks and months leading up to the King v. Burwell decision, commentators obsessed over the roughly 6.4 million persons who could lose health-insurance subsidies. With the Court’s ruling, they can keep the federal subsidies. But that doesn’t come close to ending the debate.

Roughly 6.4 million persons in thirty-four states could have been negatively affected if the Court struck down the federal exchange subsidies. But there is a much wider universe of persons adversely affected by the law: the roughly 15 million persons in the individual and small group market who don’t get—and won’t get—the federal government’s health-insurance subsidies. Under Obamacare, millions of Americans are forced to pay more for their government standardized coverage, regardless of whether they like it or not, whether they want it or not, or whether or not it forces them to pay for medical procedures that violate their ethical, moral or religious convictions.

So, the debate will intensify over the primary issue: costs. In every state, the fundamental components of state health-care costs—the demographics, the underlying costs of care delivery and the competitiveness of the markets—are juiced up by expensive federal benefit mandates and individual and group insurance rules and regulations. These all drive costs skyward. As my Heritage colleagues have demonstrated, this regulatory regime forces young people to pay up to 44 percent more in premiums. Washington’s subsidies simply try to hide the true costs of the law; they don’t control them.

The law remains unworkable. The complicated insurance subsidy program itself has been a mess. H&R Block reported that about two thirds of subsidy recipients had to repay money back to the government because they got bigger than allowable subsidies. With the individual mandate, the administration has been granting lots of exemptions to insulate most of the uninsured from any penalty. That’s rather predictable; after all, even candidate Barack Obama argued that an individual mandate was unfair and unenforceable.

Jim Geraghty explains why political offices should not be "family heirlooms."
Look, if you build the family business, you’re entitled to hand it down to your children. To contradict our president, “You built that. Somebody else didn’t make that happen.” If you do build something, you’ll have a lot of discretion about how you spend the money that comes in, and who takes over when you leave the scene. If you think junior’s got what it takes to run the place well, you go right ahead.

But political offices aren’t supposed to be family heirlooms. Because they didn’t build that. They don’t own those offices; they occupy them -- at our discretion.

Of course both parties have their dynasties and offspring gliding relatively easily into elected office. On the GOP side, there’s son-of-a-senator George H.W. Bush, and his offspring George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, and of course Jeb’s son, Texas land commissioner George P. Bush. Then there’s Liz Cheney, Ben Quayle, and Shelley Moore Capito (her father was governor of West Virginia),

Last November, the election of an 18-year-old Republican state delegate in West Virginia was a brief sensation . . . of course, her election seems less stunning when you realize her father is a state senator and was a state delegate for many years.

On the Democratic side, Hillary clearly climbed to the top with a lot of help from Bill; Almost every key race for Democrats in the red states in 2014 featured some offspring of a longtime political figure: Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason Carter running for governor in Georgia, Florida congressional candidate Gwen Graham, Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, Senator Mark Begich (his father was Alaska’s congressman), Senator Mary Landrieu (her father was mayor of New Orleans), Arkansas senator Mark Pryor . . . then there’s New York governor Andrew Cuomo, California governor Jerry Brown (his father was governor), and the entire Kennedy clan . . . (You’ll recall quite a few folks contended Caroline Kennedy was a terrific choice for U.S. Ambassador to Japan because she had “good genes.” Suddenly there’s widespread belief that ambassadorial skill is contained in DNA strands.)

Joel K. Goldstein at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball refutes the idea that it is just about impossible for one party to hold the White House for three terms even though George H.W. Bush was the only one to do so since 1952.
In essence, the six “third term” elections the incumbent party lost since 1951 include one (1952) for a sixth term, one (2000) where it won the popular vote and narrowly lost the electoral vote, and three (1960, 1968, 1976) where it narrowly lost the popular vote and could have won the electoral vote with a shift of just a few votes. In these four elections, the incumbent party was hurt by its campaign behavior. So in the six races for a third term (excluding 1952), the incumbents won one decisively (1988), lost one decisively (2008), and lost four virtual dead heats marred by campaign problems, which generally included the failure to exploit or obtain cooperation from the incumbent president.

Running for a third term surely imposes some disadvantage. Change is an alluring campaign slogan that allows the outs to promise something better without specifics. The incumbent party has a record to defend, and weak points can be hammered without considering whether the outcome of roads advocated by the other party but not taken would have been worse.

The takeaway from campaign history since 1951 is not that an incumbent party faces long odds in winning a third term. It is rather that campaigns matter. It is hard to imagine McCain prevailing in 2008 given unhappiness with the war in Iraq and the economic collapse under George W. Bush. Yet Humphrey almost won despite Johnson’s disastrous Vietnam escalation, and Ford almost won notwithstanding Watergate and his then-unpopular decision to pardon Nixon, the mastermind of the cover-up. George H.W. Bush won, in part, because he ran a much better campaign than did his rival, Michael Dukakis, and he successfully enlisted Reagan to advance his cause. Had Nixon (1960) and Gore (2000) won, as they should have, and/or Humphrey and Ford, as they could have, no one would be claiming that presidential candidates from a party that has won two in a row are disadvantaged.
That's an analysis that the Clinton campaign must like. Of course, that means that she would have to run an excellent campaign, something she has not demonstrated that ability to do. But the GOP should bet their future on her political weaknesses.

Oh, how lovely. A battle between Donald Trump and Univision. They're offended by his idiotic remarks about Mexicans and are pulling out of televising Miss USA.

Well, of course. Using the phrase "trigger warning" is now a trigger.

Jonah Goldberg marvels of how liberals twist racial identities to suit their purposes. Elizabeth Warren can be a Native American simply if she wishes to define herself as one. But Bobby Jindal must be denied his Indian heritage since he believes in a Melting Pot-version of America.
So: We live in a world where Bobby Jindal is a fake Indian, but it’s racist to say an older white woman[Warren] isn’t a real one (the correct term being “Native American,” of course). Nikki Haley is a villain for “suppressing” her Indian roots, but Senator Ted Cruz is a fraud for touting his Cuban roots. (Cruz was recently grilled by Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin about how authentically Cuban he really is. At least Halperin later apologized.)

In Barack Obama: The Story, biographer David Maraniss recounts how Obama didn’t see himself as an American in college, mostly hanging out with Pakistani students as a fellow “outsider.” But as his political ambitions grew, he realized that had to change. His friend Beenu Mahmood told Maraniss that Obama was “the most deliberate person I ever met in terms of constructing his own identity.”

In Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, he writes passionately about his conscious decision to identify as black, despite his mixed heritage, “to avoid being mistaken for a sellout.” Obama scrubbed any hint of white identity, eventually returning to the name “Barack” instead of “Barry.” One has to wonder: What if he’d made a different choice? Would the Washington Post and other outlets tout the line, “There isn’t a lot of black left in Barack Obama”?

I very much doubt it, so long as Obama ran as a Democrat.

This is one way to pretend that schools are improving.
The failing scores of five students who took the Regents in January were switched to passing scores of 65 or higher on their transcripts, the city Department of Education has confirmed.

One junior saw his scores upped to pass two exams required for graduation — Living Environment (biology) and algebra — even though he had failed both classes. The student insisted he deserved a break on the exams because “I studied my ass off.”

In 2011, the state banned “scrubbing” — the practice of re-scoring tests that fall just short of passing. In 2013, the DOE tried to fire a teacher who raised the scores of five students on a Regents physics exam. In 2014, city scores plummeted after a new rule barred teachers from grading tests given at their own schools.

Now, the city has sanctioned it.

“This is Scrubbing Part 2,” a veteran educator said of the Automotive HS score changes. “The teachers used to do it. Now it’s the administrators.”

Automotive HS is one of the city’s 94 low-performing “Renewal” schools — which Mayor de Blasio showered with $31 million this school year and has vowed to revamp with $163 million next school year. The state Education Department has branded Automotive and seven other city schools “out of time,” meaning the schools require significant revamping or a shutdown.

While declaring Regents scores “final,” state officials last week said exams may be re-scored “if the superintendent of schools has compelling reason to believe that an essay was not scored in accordance with the rating guide or according to the required procedures.”