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Inequality is more than a just an ideological cudgel

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Mike Konczal is the latest to address Adolph Reed Jr.’s Harper’s postmortem for the left, taking to the pages of The New Republic to demonstrate the naiveté animating Reed’s essay and rebut a number of his claims.

These three claims are summed up in the following three micro-excerpts,

  1. Reed: “With the two parties converging in policy…”
  2. Reed: “…what can it mean to be on the political left? The terms ‘left’ and ‘progressive’…now signify a cultural sensibility…The left has no particular place it wants to go.”
  3. Reed: “….the areas of fundamental disagreements that separate [the two parties] become too arcane and too remote from most people’s experience to inspire any commitment, much less popular action.”

On the first count, Konczal contrasts the ideological visions of both parties. Articulated in party platforms, and sometimes espoused in public, both parties clearly support different resolutions to common problems. Republicans claim to seek the privatization of services like Social Security and Medicare, while Democrats argue they should remain public and actually be expanded.

“These aren’t minor differences” as Konczal correctly notes, but neither are they always, in practice at least, very stark ones. It’s worth pointing out that Konczal decides not to quote specific instances of high profile Democrats robustly pushing for the ideological vision he attributes to them above. Democrats have been dancing around possible compromises on Social Security for years, Elizabeth Warren being the exception that proves the rule.

This highlights the limits of having “ideological differences.” The issue isn’t about whether both parties disagree enough on fundamental issues, but rather how willing Democrats are to push back over those differences. Cuts to SNAP benefits and the struggle to renew unemployment insurance for the terminally unemployed demonstrate both the tough position Congressional democrats are in as well as how little it matters that the average liberal would love to expand SS, Medicare, and funding for public schools. None of those proposals are even on the table, and there is no sign they will be anytime soon, or that either liberal Democrats or movement leftists have a strategy for how to get them there.

Konczal points to initiatives at the local level and the pitched battles between Democrats and Republicans being fought over them as signs that these ideological differences do, ultimately, cash out in important ways that affect everyday citizens enough to have them concerned. But these individual disputes, and whatever victories centrist-left Democrats may eke out of them, do littler to counteract national trends, playing out across decades, in which working class wages stagnate, the wealth created by productivity gains is accumulate by the super-rich, and the middle-class is “hollowed out.”

Which brings us to the second point of contention. Whereas Reed declares the American left “dead,” such that a new one can be formed, Konczal seems to believe this had already happened, and/or that it can successfully thrive in the current political framework.

“Inequality is shaping up to become the new focus of liberals,” he argues, in what I think is the most telling part of his entire response since it admits that eradicating inequality was hitherto not *the* priority. “Inequality can fill the gap,” between what Democrats have so far been willing to fight adamantly for and the next phase of the progressive agenda.

Konczal is basically conceding Reed’s point even while appearing to reject it. Democrats are idling, and the left’s been running on fumes, but the fight against inequality will energize both, despite having not done so in the wake of the “Great Recession,” nor in the decades which preceded it.

Konczal states Reed’s case as, “the idea that liberalism is currently exhausted,” before going on to eventually imply just that, with the only difference that he doesn’t think the naval-gazing, movement-building period Reed alludes to will be necessary cause #Inequality.

Konczal explains that there’s “nothing particularly new” in Reed’s essay, tacitly admitting both that “President Obama is much more conservative” than many thought and that the “Clinton years were nothing to get nostalgic over,” while also granting that “Reed’s other point that liberals focus too much on elections and less on ideology is correct.”

So basically, while Konczal doesn’t think Reed gives establishment liberals enough accolades for local victories, nor Democrats enough credit for ideological differences with Republicans, he does intimate his agreement with Reed’s general thesis: those on the left could stand to stick to more ideologically coherent guns a bit more often, concerning themselves less with political and electoral fights between Democrats and Republicans, and more with particularly galvanizing, first-principle-type issues like #inequality.

In other words, not the rhetorical approach taken in one of Konczal’s other articles that ran at The New Republic titled, “The New GOP Poverty Efforts Are Impractical, Incoherent, and Inhumane.”

The piece mentions Obama’s proposed 2015 budget, but spends more time bemoaning the regressivity of Republicans than it does outlining the actual merits of President’s plan, and whether it goes far enough in addressing poverty and inequality. One paragraph in the beginning is devoted to divining how “financial regulations as well as higher taxes on the rich” will fix “runaway incomes at the top,” “health care reform” will fix the “stagnating incomes in the middle,” and a “minimum wage, expanded Medicaid access, and now an expanded earned income tax credit” will fix those living at and below the poverty line, thus meeting the great “generational challenge of our times,” before spending the rest discussing how Republicans are inhumane.

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101 thoughts on “Inequality is more than a just an ideological cudgel

  1. A quibble/question: if the piece is titled “The New GOP Poverty Efforts Are Impractical, Incoherent, and Inhumane” how do we determine that the subject of the piece is about Obama’s proposed budget? If I saw that title I’d be pretty unsurprised to learn that the body of the piece touched on Liberalism’s desired proposals a bit and then spent the rest of the piece lambasting the GOP.

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  2. I think the main pushback on Reed’s essay is that he seems to be advocating for a return to Green Party Naderism and there are plenty of very valid arguments to be made that this is a really horrible and not very good idea.

    This goes back to a long standing debate that comes up frequently here and in many other places. The far-right is much more in control of the Republican Party than the far-left or even the reasonably liberal left are in the Democratic Party.

    I’m not a Matt Y type of neo-liberal. I’m suspicious of Charter schools, pro-union, and am firmly on the side of people who feel tech shows too much influence and power in the new San Francisco. I prefer Bill de Blasio to Mike Lee. Talk of disruption as being an ultra-good annoys me. But I will continue to vote Democratic because by and large they are better than the Republican party. I don’t believe in “Heightening the contradictions” and that things need to get really bad before the left comes to power.

    This has been happening since 1968. Hubert Humphrey was arguably the most liberal person to ever receive a nomination for Presidency from a major party. Certainly since Eugene Victor Debs and Henry Wallace. Yet the New Left thought he was too establishment and responded by rioting in the streets. This gave us Nixon instead. I think that if the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention did not happen, Humphrey could have won the election and this would have created a very different world. Assuming 4 resignations or deaths on the Supreme Court, we would have had four liberal justices instead of Burger, Powell, Blackmun, and Rehinquist (the joke that keeps on giving). Losing Blackmun would have been sad but we would not have had Burger, Powell, or Rehinquist and that would have been good.

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    • What do we mean by Far Left in this country? When I hear somebody talk about the Far Left, images of various types of Marxists and Anarchists fill my mind. People who disagree with the idea of capitalism and all it entails to begin with and propose some alternative societal arrangement for everybody. In the debates about the Democratic Party and whether or not its insufficiently liberal, progressive, or whatever; all I see are different types of liberals arguing amongs each other. At furthest left, some people in these debates might be categorized as Social Democrats. Everybody basically wants the same thing in terms of policy; less income inequality, a more robust welfare state, reproductive rights, protection for minority rights, better and even more economic regulations, etc. We might have different priorities but the ultimate desires are the same. Nobody questions capitalism and the market and wants to completely get rid of them though.

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      • I concur on this, part of the reason the left is milling about so much is that they’re spending most of their energy magnifying the gaps between the left and the center left into big (fake) dramatic canyons of ideology. The real ideological canyon is between the left and the far left and the people on the left side of that canyon aren’t numerous enough to rattle a state, let alone the country. The Tea Party can at least pretend to generate huge rallies.

        Maybe we should push hard for derogation… … of unions. That might produce an interesting conundrum for the right. Regulation is bad, yes but unions? It’s a nonstarter of course, every corporation in the country would fall on their fainting couch (and probably half the current unions right along with them).

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      • Excellent comment, .

        I’d add that most Democrats I know are highly interested in working with Republicans; I think there’s a sense that the ideological push back and resulting compromises can result in better policy (though I’m finding examples of this scarce on the ground at the Federal level, given the high levels of obstruction).

        Certainly, in my state, there’s been a huge boost in bipartisanship work of late; in part because veto-proof majorities are required.

        And the experiences with 3rd-party votes triggering losses matters; I’m gun shy here; it will take a good while before I’ll be comfortable with a 3rd party candidate after Bush/Gore/Nader and LePage/Cutler/Mitchell races. Reasonable people splitting their policy choices too often results in the crazy winning. (And I wish there was some way to create a ranked voting system as a result.)

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      • @north

        I think there are serious differences in the Democratic Party on many important policy issues but everyone stays in the Democratic Party because the GOP is in crazy town.

        The Far Left is largely ineffectual and too small in numbers and includes Marxists, Anarchists, GTO protestors, and radical academics like Roberto Unger.

        The real fights are between neo-liberals who might be center-right/Rockefeller Republicans and seem to use classical economics for every policy decision in a saner political climate and Democratic supporters whose liberalism is a bit more old-school. It is Michelle Rhee vs. Diane Ravitch (who interestingly started out as a Republican).

        I generally take a more old-school liberal stance. Unions are necessary to protect the interests of the working class and blue-collar workers, more deregulation is not always the answer to policy questions, I am wary of lean-in and want laws that promote and allow for work-life balance (France’s 35 hours a week), dislike at-will employment. I am not happy with the idea of measuring happiness in terms of access to affordable consumer goods completely and think workplace dignity and decency are important. I think there is truth to statements like when Cornell West observes that rich children are taught and poor children are tested. In my mind we should fight the idea of the rising number of low-paying service jobs and trying to just balance it with a social safety net and cheap access to credit/consumer goods.

        I am suspicious of how the tech industry (which is largely Democratic) views disruption as an axiomatic good. Good for their IPOs? Perhaps. Good for the majority of people? Maybe not. I am suspicious when Eric Schimdt’s recipe for income inequality happens to be things that are likely to benefit Eric Schimidt:

        http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/03/07/google_eric_schmidt_he_has_some_ideas_about_how_to_solve_income_inequality.html

        Key quote: “He senses a problem and conveniently lands on a solution that doesn’t involve any personal sacrifice on his part, or the part of other well-educated, well-paid folks he might run into on the thought-leader circuit. Which is pretty much why nobody learns much at those events, anyway.”

        Meanwhile I love that Matt Y was replaced by Jordan Weissmann. This is a step up for Slate.

        North, why should be push hard for the derogation of Unions? Just to see how the right and corporations react? We should pushing for dignity and decency in the work place. We should be pushing for employers not being able to treat their employees like shit and as far as I can tell from numerous stories, retail and service workers are often treated like shit by their employees. Then again, sadistic bullying as a management style seems fairly common across all US industries.

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      • Then again, sadistic bullying as a management style seems fairly common across all US industries.

        This comment reminds me of Corey Robin’s functional analysis of what conservatism means in practice: the preservation of power-based privileges to treat people as you see fit.

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      • ND, there might be a difference between the Neo-Liberals and Old School Liberals on how to solve the problems currently facing the United States but neither faction can be called Far Left or even Left with any justification. The Neo-Liberals and the Old School Liberals still accept the validity of capitalism and the market economy. The Old School Liberals might favor more regulation of the economy by the government but they don’t advocate for government ownership of the means of production.

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      • NewDealer,
        When Schodt says the same thing, you don’t bitch. Hell, you don’t even notice.

        When the entire fucking EU says the same damn thing, you ALSO don’t notice.

        Old news, so stale I heard about it eight years ago. It wasn’t news then, either, but hey, free lunch!

        It’s only news because a MoneyMan started opening his yap. Journalism could have done some actual research before saying anything about him relating standard party line in the European Union.

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      • There’s a mental adjustment I often have to make when reading discussions of US politics, something like:

        For “Conservative” or “Right” substitute “Extreme Right”
        For “Liberal” or “Left” substitute “Hard Right”
        For “Extreme Left” or “Socialist” substitute “Stodgy Centrist”
        For “Communist”, “Marxist” or “Lunatic Fringe” substitute “Left”

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      • Wow! The spell checker eviscerated my point about unions and inverted it. Derogation should be –DEREGULATION-, good lord that wrecked that entire point! I think liberals should push for deregulation of unions to allow those institutions to begin changing growing and experimenting more. The old deal unions had with government and corporations (if it ever was a good deal for unions) no longer is. Deregulation for unions would be a quandary for right wingers because they hate regulation but they also dislike unions. Outside of the public sphere I am generally supportive of unions though suspicious of the idea of compelling their existence.

        I’m sort of your opposite number in the party, closer to the wonks and neolibs than the old school liberals. Unions should always be a possibility hanging over corporate heads to make them worry about their workers but I worry about how they can flourish in this current labor glutted market. More deregulation is not always the answer to policy questions but for God(ess?)’s sake why do my liberal buddies always think that regulation should be the first go to for policy questions? I am cynical about the hypocrites who spin the lean-in screeds but I’m equally cynical about laws that promote and mandate different work-life balance (France’s unemployment and racism). I think at-will employment is bad stuff, but everything other than at-will employment seems to work worse. I laugh at the basic idea of measuring happiness in the first place but think that liberals retreat away from concrete measures like consumer goods costs because the only real answer to it (trade barriers) is semi racist and savagely cruel to the global poor. I think Liberals simultaneously overestimate and underestimate the rich but God(ess) knows I’m down for helping the poor if it works but think that liberals have a history of defending programs that didn’t work because at least they were something and that has damaged liberalism up to the present day. I can only sigh at the idea of fighting the rising number of low paying service jobs because unless we’re looking to harvest a crop of no jobs at all (and a rich crop it’d be) I don’t see what the alternative is and I don’t think my liberal friends do either but they feel one… somewhere.

        But that being said I’m still a liberal and I love my leftward brothers and sisters because, let’s face it, the non-liberals are worse *fistbump* or are libertarian (which is a curious case of hyper sanity if you ask me).

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      • I don’t think that is completely fair or even remotely accurate.

        I wondered if you meant deregulation.

        You do raise an interesting point/question though that is a potential limitation to the concept of a nation-state and this is balancing the needs and rights of the global poor with the needs and rights of your fellow countrymen. This is tricky and there are no easy answers. Planet Money ran a series of stories on garment workers in Bangladesh and it was valid that the garment workers did have dramatically improved lives including that meat for the year could be purchased with their bonus money.

        However, how do you encourage this without doing too much damage to your own country? I do think that there does seem to be a rising global class of the ultra-wealthy that has more in common with themselves than their fellow countrypeople and they are willing to use anything from automation to off-shoring to decrease costs and increase their own wealth.

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      • Dragonfrog, this bit of witicism might have been true in the past but its no longer true and probably wasn’t as correct as people thought it was in the past. Europe has actively and openly fascist parties running for office like Greek’s Golden Dawn, the BNP or UKIP, or the National Front in France. These parties openly use rhetoric that has to be carefully dog-whistled in the United States least its sayers face a lot of marginalization. The ability of European political parties to adopt a more openly ideological style of politics has to do with the European electoral and political systems. The more parties, the more ideology is needed to diffrentiate the parties.

        Most of the European socialist parties have really moderated during the 1980s. The Labour Party’s transformation to something very close to the Democratic Party in terms of policy and base under Tonly Blair is the most infamous example but the Socialist Party of France and other social democratic parties no longer openly challenge capitalism or globalization. At best they defend the welfare state, government involvement in the economy, and the rights of minorities. The European response to the economic crisis was much more right-leaning than the Democratic Party’s response in the United States.

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      • Speaking for myself, I want a pragmatic and practical left, one that achieves real goals to help people. And looking at history, I think markets have proven their worth at generating abundance. On the other hand, they do a terrible job generating equality and justice (plus they are kinda crappy for the ecosystem).

        So I advocate a mixed approach, markets as a base, but mitigated by democratic process and the rule of law. A generous safety net, since not everyone is born with exactly the gifts needed to exploit the economy. A deep suspicion of the wealthy, and how they use power to entrench their positions. A willingness to fight and scream and bleed.

        ’Cause remember, Stonewall was a fucking police riot, where the dykes and queens had had enough and refused be meek while the cops abused them.

        (I understand similar things happened on the march toward civil rights.)

        To recognize the power of solidarity, that we are each parts of a bigger whole, and we owe fucking everything to those who came before.

        Now it’s our turn to pay it forward.

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      • So I advocate a mixed approach, markets as a base, but mitigated by democratic process and the rule of law. A generous safety net, since not everyone is born with exactly the gifts needed to exploit the economy. A deep suspicion of the wealthy, and how they use power to entrench their positions. A willingness to fight and scream and bleed.

        Very nice. I would add one thing; regulatory certainty. We’re constantly hearing from big biz about regulatory uncertainty. But we rarely get the other side of the coin; the regulatory environment that gives us peace of mind that the businesses we invest in and work for are abiding by laws and regulations; protecting public safety and investor’s future. (And if you don’t think that matters, recall just imagine being a BP stock holder or CitiBank stock holder.)

        As small cap and pension investors, we have no way of knowing how a company is run on the ground, most of the times. Are there ash piles close to water supplies? Are there safety protocols that have been ignored? Is this unregulated, black-box financial market about to explode? Regulatory certainty helps even out those bumps even as they’re a pain-in-the-patootie for businesses. They’re also a protection.

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      • , I don’t disagree with you on markets nor do most people calling themselves leftists in the United States. My point was that most people in the United States that describe themselves as leftists are really just some variant of liberal even if they call themselves progressive.* What we are arguing about is a difference in priorities, policies, and tactics rather than philosophy. Nobody is arguing for a radically different economic or even social system.

        *If I had to describe the difference between a liberal and progressive is that a progressive would be more willing to use state power for social engineering purposes.

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      • — Makes sense. I don’t call myself “progressive,” as I have no interest in the Green Party or whatever. I’m something of a socialist on very basic things, such as housing and healthcare. I think we can afford those baselines, just as we do for schooling and roads.

        And on that note, I’m a socialist for higher education. Like our healthcare system, our present higher education system is a mess. (Says the girl who quit high school.) I consider it an investment in the collective intelligence of our nation.

        I share the group’s suspicion of the techno-evangelist crowd. I work in tech, and my “average” coworker is a over-educated dudebro with way too much Dunning-Kruger style confidence in his ability to “reason” (which means rationalize). These guys think because they can figure out how to build a kernel from source that their broad ideas have merit. Thing is, they have such narrow life experience. No humility, no sense of scale.

        I know enough about statistic and modeling to be suspicious of technocrats, but someone has to schedule the trains and design the roads. I certainly want them to do a good job. But as I just said, humility above all.

        The law of unintended consequences. Entropy always wins.

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      • That’s true – the extreme end of accepted US politics doesn’t get out anywhere near Golden Dawn territory.

        On a much more prosaic front though, the US is in many ways “already there” on points that would count as extremely right-wing in much of the first world. European conservatives wanting to enact the US status quo would have to make themselves look radical by laying out the changes they propose. US conservatives can make themselves look totally stodgy and boring, “Whoah now, let’s not rush into any radical changes.”.

        I mean, name another first world country without socialized medicine or protected and state subsidized maternity leave. I know of none on the first point, and only Australia on the second. The US at least has some first world company on the labour-union-crippling front – South Korea for instance, but that’s not exactly a potent argument that your politics aren’t far, far, to the right by global standards.

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    • “I think that if the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention did not happen, ”

      The literal hippie punching at the 1968 convention was the least important riot of 1968.

      The 1968 election was mostly sealed for the GOP when the Dems rejected LBJ for another term, then completed sealed when a Kennedy restoration was no longer possible.

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      • Except Humphrey was within 500,000 votes of winning the popular vote and not that much further from winning the electoral college. There’s some decent alternative history out there that basically posits that Nixon would’ve lost if he hadn’t appeared on Laugh-In for whatever reason.

        The 1972 election was lost from basically day one. The 1968 election was completely winnable and it’s partially the fault of the New Left that Humphrey lost.

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    • This gave us Nixon instead. I think that if the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention did not happen, Humphrey could have won the election and this would have created a very different world.

      In this alternate version of history, what is it exactly that Humphrey would have done that would have differentiated himself from Nixon? Humphrey wasn’t Eugene McCarthy. He wasn’t anti-war; he was part of the administration that escalated the war. Nixon Administration pretty much just kept up the same trajectory in Vietnam. And Nixon went to China and softened on the Soviet Union.

      It’s even more difficult to find a difference on the domestic side. Nixon’s domestic policies were pretty much a continuation of LBJ’s. And Nixon was the president who took us off the last vestiges of the gold standard and instituted wage and price controls. He famously said, “I am now a Keynesian in economics.” Hardly a conservative in the Goldwater-Reagan mold.

      It’s likely that Humphrey might not have been an outright criminal, which is a nice thing to have in a president, but the substantive policy differences aren’t really there. In fact, Nixon tacked purposefully to the left on economic issues to give the Democrats less ground to attack him in the 1972 election.

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      • This question is just too easy to answer. At the very least Humphrey would have nominated four liberal judges to the Supreme Court, worked with Senator Kennedy to pass universal healthcare, and passed Walter Mondale’s universal pre-K bill rather than veto it like Nixon did because he succumbed to Evangelical pressure. Humphrey’s version of the other domestic legislation that Nixon passed would have been more robustly liberal because it would have been a liberal President working with a liberal Congress.

        On the foreign policy level, Humphrey is highly unlikely to have escalated the Vietnam War on all fronts and would have most likely wound it down sooner. Remember Nixon sabotaged peace talks that the LBJ administration was engaged in. There would have been no bombing campaign in Cambodia that led indirectly to the Pol Pot regime.

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  3. ” Democrats have been dancing around possible compromises on Social Security for years.”
    I’d submit that the flexibility this demonstrates is a large reason why the Dems are now viewed as the adult governing party in the country vs. the GOP being the insane infant in the corner. The simple, reasonable, approach of offering some policy compromises and asking for Democratic policy compromises in return and then watching as the GOP freaks out in horror and demands complete capitulation (and the loses) has served the party well.

    I think part of the lefts problem is that outside the empirical, managerial, keep the running trains on time and the redistributive amelioration of the pain of the free market rumbling along policies that the center wonk left and their neoliberal fellow travelers espouse there’s not a lot of fresh ideas sitting on the left*. True believer lefties can snarl at their centrist milquetoast brethren but even Warren really doesn’t have much of an agenda beyond tinkering with the moderate neoliberal machine to try and tilt it a little more leftward. That’s all well and good but it isn’t much of a banner to rally an economic lefty uprising (and no one seems to be interested in trying to revive the ol’ hammer and sickle).

    *The right has libertopia at least, the left wing equivalent is currently viewed as utterly discredited by real life events.

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    • Good comment North. I’m curious about this claim, tho:

      and then watching as the GOP freaks out in horror and demands complete capitulation (and the loses) has served the party well.

      Do you mean that GOP freakouts have well served the left or the right? Cuz it sure seems to me that the histrionics aren’t really diminishing public support for conservativism or the GOP in general.

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      • I would submit it’s served the Dems pretty well. I mean look at it shorn of labels
        We have two parties in this country:
        -One has a highly energized and involved base with enormous control/influence over their party apparatus; the other has a diffused base that still struggles with their identifying labels and is paid attention to by their parties leaders primarily so those leaders can triangulate away from them.
        -One has a shining economic ideal that most of the base and the party apparatus generally agree on and pay homage to; the other has (or rather had) an ideological ideal that has been pretty much crushed into dust by the cruel wheel of history and in the absence of that ideal is forced to focus on administrative competence and moderate nostrums.

        If I were some politically uninformed observer I’d think that the former party should be expected to be thriving in the polity and the other one in general retreat. In reality the GOP is spinning its wheels horribly while the Dems are generally benefiting from the status quos. A non-trivial amount of that credit surely must go to the Dems for being nondogmatic and being seen as the reasonable compromising party in the country.

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      • North,
        I don’t consider the Right Wing Conspiracy to be a “base” of any sort.
        And if I did, I would have some trouble explaining which side he is on.

        i actually think the democrats have the more involved base — they do way better
        with street canvassing, and it’s not just the “city is easy” structural advantage.

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      • I suspect the whole ‘competency’ rating for Dems is about to jump, and jump a lot. Primarily because of ACA, too.

        Given the 6 years of horror stories, it’s relatively easy to sign up on the website now; you get your results immediately, you can re-do your application several times, and end up with (at least in my state) options for insurance that simply didn’t exist before.

        TLDR: the actual experience and cost makes of the many years devoted to mocking and thwarting the law seem foolish and silly.

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      • zic,
        More likely the republicans will just be hoist by their petard.
        Spend all that capital going against something everyone
        (by which i mean Da Money) wants? Ya gonna look stupid.
        And irrelevant, which is way worse

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      • If it were shorn of labels, we wouldn’t be talking about politics anymore!

        I disagree, and won’t go too deeply into why except to say: despite the objectively determinable insanity of the GOP’s Obama era federal level politics, and despite the objectively clown-like candidates the GOP/TP/conservatives include in primaries and sometimes even elect, and despite the retrograde dysfunctionality of lots of state level politicians, conservatism is alive and well. Some folks even think there’s a chance the GOP takes the Senate.

        The conclusion I draw is that you and I are viewing what it means to be the adult in the room very differently than lots and lots of other people.

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      • You can’t underestimate the impact of Todd Akin talking about rape. He not only cost himself the election, I’m pretty sure that people in New Hampshire and people in Washington (to pick two states out of the air) voted for Democrats because of his statements.

        And there is always at least one Republican candidate somewhere who is more than happy enough to find something like that to talk about pretty much every election.

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      • Still, I’d say that the GOP taking the Senate is likely and that’s despite their tantrums and fit throwing. Obama’s own missteps, the GOP’s cynical (but on some levels effective) all-out assault on every aspect of his administration and the brutally gradual pace of the US’s recovery (never mind that the austerity model nations recoveries were even worse) plus the natural advantages the GOP has in districting, timing and being the opposition party to a two term president all assure them of that. Their madness has lost them at least two presidencies, two congresses and enabled their opponents to institute the ACA, one of the biggest GOP policy losses since FDR.

        I don’t share your optimism for conservatism’s welfare at the moment. They have pretty much flat out -lost- on one subject (Gays) and when is he last time that happened? They’re mostly losing on another item (drug prohibition) though it’s a somewhat bipartisan issue. They’re an utter shambles on foreign policy (neocons are a pejorative term right now) and what’s worse they don’t even realize how bad they are in this field. Their supporting demographics are insular, elderly and diminishing in size, the centrist squishes thing they’re crazy and the young think they’re out of touch.

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      • from your lips to God(ess?)’s ears. I have plenty of fear about the ACA… the young aren’t bought in yet, the poor are astonishingly determined to hate it wherever the GOP has support (many places) and Obama’s endless defensive crouch and mincing retreats on the policy keep undermining it. I honestly hope it succeeds despite all that but I fear that it won’t visibly succeed enough to help any time soon.

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      • North,

        I don’t share your optimism for conservatism’s welfare at the moment.

        Well, I wouldn’t use the word “optimism” to describe it…

        But if you think the GOP will take the Senate, then we’re actually in agreement on the issue. The GOP is alive and well despite their {fill in most accurate descriptor here}.

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      • I do not think the GOP will take the senate.

        I do not think the base — the primary voters — will resist the far-right crazy candidates, and we’ll see another wave of unelectables out of the stable.

        I do think the GOP will continue to make significant gains at the state and local level, however, and this is a huge concern, particularly for education.

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      • What do you make of this article?

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/10/democrats-have-a-young-people-problem-too/

        Key section: “If we zero in even further on the youngest of the millennials in these polls — those who turned 18 during Obama’s first term — the potential challenges for Democrats become even clearer. Among self-reported voters who were 18 years old in 2012, Mitt Romney, not Obama, won the majority: 57 percent. Romney also won 59 percent among 19-year-olds, and 54 percent among 20-year-olds. These youngest voters of 2012 had entered the electorate in 2010-2012, when Obama’s popularity was much lower than the high point of his inauguration. Only among “the oldest of the youngest” — 21-year-olds, whose political memories would have been forged during Obama’s first year in office and perhaps during his first presidential campaign — did Obama win a clear majority (75 percent).”

        Now I do agree with you on everything else and other research suggests that the GOP has basically lost a generation but it might be more that the future will be minority voters for the Democratic party and white libertarians perhaps?

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      • Well, it’s interesting, and possibly something to look at, but when dealing with that small number of voters of any demographic, the MoE on that polling is probably pretty enormous.

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      • “They have pretty much flat out -lost- on one subject (Gays)”

        True.

        “and when is he last time that happened?”

        1865

        “They’re mostly losing on another item (drug prohibition) though it’s a somewhat bipartisan issue.”

        It’s very much a bipartisan issue. Bush 1 elevated the Drug War to it’s current form, Clinton escalated it, Bush II maintained it, and Obama is only very narrowly (and very lately) de-escalating it – which is the least controversial thing he has done. i.e. when is the last time the Fox News / talk radio crowd criticized the President for the reducing the cocaine/crack disparity or the most recent Holder proposal to reform sentencing guidelines.

        Lower crime makes everyone a lot less drug warriory but the thought on the right that someone may be having fun, and the thought on the left that someone may be doing something unhealthy – while yet other people profit – will keep some version of the drug war going on for a while. Look at the vaping issue.

        “They’re an utter shambles on foreign policy (neocons are a pejorative term right now) and what’s worse they don’t even realize how bad they are in this field.”

        The neocons are not the only game in town on the GOP side. Look at the fights between Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. True, all the elders – people that have been office for more than a half dozen years – are tarnished by the Iraq War, but many Democrats carry the stench of that too – including the current and previous Secretaries of State, as well as the likely next President of the United States.

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      • The only reason I chuck “somewhat” into my bipartisan point on the drug war is due to a question of bases Kolohe. The further left you go in the Dems the more anti-drug war the people get. The basic source of Dems fears of ramping down the Drug war is having it used as a cudgel against them, vested interest and (to my mind) a very small principled group who think that it’s bad for you. That latter group, however, is getting pummeled by the science of the issue (I’m of the opinion that now that the media is turning on pot the science is going to really start getting out). The GOP in contrast has an elderly base that is pro-drug war pretty much by virtue of their culture, age and inclinations. If you exclude the libertarians what other elements of the GOP’s coalition are against the drug war? Not many I think.
        You are entirely correct on vaping. It’s a Dem driven item but I continue to think that it’s opportunism (looking for a legislative scalp to crow about against an old foe scary scary niccotine) rather than idealism driving the Dems on the subject.
        The neocons aren’t the only game in town but they’re the dominant one. The debate at CPAC was truly between Rand Paul and Rubio with Cruz simply doing a nakedly opportunistic triangulation (I’ll sit to Rubio’s libertarian side so if Rand implodes I’m the next natural choice). I grant that the Dems older members are also splattered with the Iraq mess but they have a few things going for them: It was done under a GOP banner and most importantly Obama got us out of those places. If the GOP was going to clean house and put up a fresh face with no old guard in sight then maybe they could paint Hillary as the neocon in the race but unless they do that they have to wear Iraq.. especially since their neocons are all still perched at the microphones of the GOP message apparatus decrying Obama for drawing down in the Middle East and not getting us into Syria or Iran.
        And I feel for Rand Paul in a way. Here he is metholodically building himself up as a sane moderate libertarian voice on the subject of foreign policy and then uncle Vlad gets all handsy with Crimea and suddenly it’s 1982 for the GOP again and they’re seeing soviets and feeling that sweet siren call of the cold war.

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      • It’s an interesting study but as Jesse notes it’s kindof small and the issues are spongy compared to the issues that drive the young away from the right. Something to watch for of course.

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      • when dealing with that small number of voters of any demographic, the MoE on that polling is probably pretty enormous.

        Based on the reported sample size of 617 millenials, it’s going be +-3.95 percentage points, with a 95% confidence level. Not ideal, but not at all what would be considered enormous.

        My numbers can be double-checked with any of the tools listed here.

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      • Is it 617 millenials or 617 people aged 18-21? That’d obviously give two very different MoEs. Not asking you to do the work, I’m just not seeing the link to the poll in ND’s link.

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    • I would argue that the left should push for these things.

      1. A focus on workplace dignity and decency. People should not be fireable for legal activities done during off work hours. Management should not be allowed to treat employees like shit and subhumans. Part of this could be real laws that promote life-work balance like the maximum hours law by the French (which seems absolutely dreaded in the US). What’s wrong with a society that says that people have a right to enjoy downtime without feeling like they will be at risk of losing their jobs.

      2. Finding ways to get out of the temp/freelance economy that seems to be the new normal and finding ways to get rid of how companies just contract and sub-contract everyone.

      3. Real universal healthcare.

      4. Education that promotes actual education instead of a lot of concern trolling about being competitive on the global market place and producing worker drones. Again Cornell West is right, rich children get taught and poor children get tested.

      5. Stop using GDP as a measure for everything. NPR’s Planet Money just had a story on the birth of The Economy as a concept and now it seems to be used for everything.

      I like RFK’s criticisms of the GDP

      http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/24/robert-kennedy-gdp

      6. Push for actual reform of the Criminal Justice system. This includes taking away the power of DAs to overcharge in order to get plea bargains. Increasing resources for Public Defenders so they meet with their clients instead of just seeing them for the first time and a mass plea bargaining session. Ending the concept of mass incarceration and encouraging more reasonable sentences and rehabilitation. Punishing police and correctional officers who abuse their positions and overreact. Not allowing the police to buy used equipment from the army and demilitarization.

      7. Reforming the NSA/CIA severely.

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      • 7. Reforming the NSA/CIA severely.

        OT: But I’ve been anxiously awaiting a post about DiFi’s Senate speech on CIA surveillance and the Constitutional Crisis! Seems like a ripe topic of discussion on a whole bunch of levels with stuff for everyone to love and hate.

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      • I admit that number 6 is probably the hardest because there are also plenty of tough on crime people in the Democratic party and this is a sincere belief. I am just cynical of the idea that our prison over-population problem will be solved with drug law reforms.

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      • I admit that number 6 is probably the hardest because…

        Sure it’s hard. But anyone who thinks our current criminal justice system is defensible on any level is obviously smoking a banned substance and oughta be incarcerated. The fact that some lefties don’t wanna change their views outa convenience or comfortable ignorance doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy goal to advocate.

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      • 1. The first bit of this is simply draw down the war on drugs and moral legislating to which I’m all for. The second part, though, from treating employees like shit to promoting (mandating) work-life balance on strikes me as enormously difficult. France has some interesting ideas but they also have some very unhappy outcomes. If you make it super hard to fire someone then employers will suddenly get extremely picky about hiring people. If you make it hard for them to be picky then they just stop hiring to the maximum extent they can. There’s a lot of squishy intangibles here which make it difficult to appraise.
        2. Again I fret on this… the assumption is if we banish temp/freelancing then suddenly the old 50’s middle class job to punch rivets job comes galumphing back. Maybe I’m a pessimist but I’m afraid those jobs would simply go away. You know how we liberals dislike nepotism (and it’s marketing accepted twin networking)? Well a major way companies hire people that don’t have network connections is through low risk temp jobs. You do away with that and then what happens if the only way to get a job is to know the right person?
        3. I’m sympathetic. That said the market compromise thing that the ACA is has (out of political necessity) to be given a chance now since we liberals own it. Thanks Obama.
        4. I’m agnostic on this but if we start talking about free university for all then I get off the bus. Do we really want to create 4-8 more years of high school?
        5. The useful thing about numbers is you can count them. You can even count platitudes with numbers. I remain skeptical that numbers can very accurately measure subjective happiness.
        6. I’m totally down with this, but for the record I would like unicorn that craps out rainbows while we’re at it (the rainbows would reveal where the leprechauns hide their gold so I’d be rich rich rich!)
        7. I also support reforming the NSA/CIA and my inclined reform is to take their budget/personell list, run both documents through the same shredder they used on the interrogation tapes and then retain the employees names that make it through. So the agencies will consist of like three guys named Al.

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      • I don’t think the 35-40 hour a week rule needs to be strict. I would like to see a society where workaholics dictate how much everyone else works though. It seems to me that there are many boss types who really do like working very long hours and that anyone who doesn’t follow suit is at risk of termination.

        Work smart is much better than work long.

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      • “2. Again I fret on this… the assumption is if we banish temp/freelancing then suddenly the old 50?s middle class job to punch rivets job comes galumphing back. Maybe I’m a pessimist but I’m afraid those jobs would simply go away. You know how we liberals dislike nepotism (and it’s marketing accepted twin networking)? Well a major way companies hire people that don’t have network connections is through low risk temp jobs. You do away with that and then what happens if the only way to get a job is to know the right person?”

        The problem is that I still think that nepotism and connections are how people get jobs and sometimes even those connections fail. I have survived the law school crisis very well so far because of some connections but am still in a kind of perma-temp status.

        Many people from law school seem to be working for their parents or go jobs via connections from their parents (mine are against this kind of nepotism as much as possible). The people who did not have these connections are either temps or not working as lawyers.

        So my worry is that contracting is just going to become the norm and people are just going to live fraught existences.

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      • Kolohe, are doctors and nurses in other country’s with universal healthcare known to work crushing schedules? For the most part, they seem to work as much as doctors and nurses in the United States do. What you wrote is a straw man.

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      • , the other option is that we train more doctors and nurses. The AMA artificially keeps the number of doctors too low in order to raise the salaries of doctors. Channelling my neo-liberal, we can bust the AMA cartel and allow for the creation of more doctors.

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      • I’m not sure I follow. Are you worried about physician quality? I wouldn’t, to be honest. Lots of great candidates are turned away at present. We do need more doctors. It’s just that the AMA is not the obstacle. (We need more nurses, too, and obviously that’s definitely not an AMA problem.)

        What’s actually likely to happen, though, is kind of what you fear. Physician roles will be increasingly taken on by mid-level providers, and nursing roles will be taken on by Medical Assistants.

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      • You can’t stop regression to the mean. I think that is like a law or something. More mid-level providers would certainly help in providing basic preventative care without sacrificing quality.

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      • Med Assistants are used by docs all over the place. Its a growing field and actually a great one to get into if you don’t have a college education. CMA’s can get trained in less then a year at many private trade school type places. They can make a good living without college. So good for CMA’s. I don’t see the downside

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      • Lots of medical tasks don’t need a nurse. Last year i had a personal medical experience. When i went to the brand new fancy pants medical building a CMA took my vitals, brief history and UA. An MA suited those tasks fine. I saw a PA many years ago which was all that was needed for that visit. I didn’t need to see the super duper knee surgeon who scoped my knee.

        Not biased either, although my ex-wife is a CMA. It has been a great fit for her.

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      • To be clear, I’m not against such things as MLP’s and MA’s (though, to be honest, my “experience” with MA’s is pretty much reduced to my wife’s experiences working with one).

        They’re very handy when it comes to certain situations. Especially large operations where you can be more vertical (assigning what level of training you need to any given problem). It wasn’t as helpful when it came to rural medicine, though, for sure. When Clancy was on call, if there was an MLP working the ER the likelihood of her having to wake up and come in was exponentially higher. In a larger operation, you have a doctor there anyway. Likewise, in an operation large enough where you have nurses and MA’s floating around, you can more easily triage who needs what level of care. Which wasn’t the case out there. My views are colored by that experience.

        It matters a lot less now that she is out of primary medicine and rural medicine. Or at least in her current gig it hasn’t really come up. She works at a hospital with a residency, though, and the residents may be taking some of that load? If that changes, I might be bitching and moaning again. :)

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      • Lots of medical tasks don’t need a nurse.

        Lots don’t need a physician, either, but seem to still get one. The last two times I had medical treatment for a laceration, it involved in one case a physician putting stitches in my finger, which anyone who can sew could do (hell, I could have cleaned the wound and stitched it it myself, it just wouldn’t have been very neat), and–unbelievably–a physician putting glue on my forehead.

        And that’s why I’m a huge fan of Wal-Mart clinic style medical facilities. Why waste our insurance dollars paying doctors to do things for which they’re ridiculously overqualified?

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      • “I don’t think the 35-40 hour a week rule needs to be strict.”

        it would have to be both strict and *extremely* specific.

        the interesting question is “whom would it penalize?” the employer? the worker? would the self-employed be exempt – it would seem they’d have to be, or else ain’t nobody starting much of anything. what about volunteers? does practice count, if you’re a performer?

        not that the idea of the feds busting down theatre doors doesn’t positively thrill me or anything – perhaps shouting “reach for the sky, but not too dramatic-like – you’re already over your weekly legal limit, workie!”.

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      • I like RFK’s criticisms of the GDP

        “or the joy of their play”

        We must run the government like a business, and that business is Monsters, Inc.

        But really, the GDP is not a measure of everything, it measures, well, the GDP. The Fed doesn’t use it directly for its policy (though some would like to); it uses inflation numbers and secondarily employment. Executive branch policy and requests for Congressional action on the economy are almost always employment statistic based, too.

        RFK’s speech was dumb in 2 ways. First, yeah, GNP/GDP includes stuff like pollution abatement and defense spending, but you know, that’s still part of the economy. People are being hired and putting food on their own tables completing those jobs. Plus it’s useful to have both the aggregate numbers and sector breakdowns just as one would want to know how much insurance is costing you as a portion of the overall household budget.

        2nd, you start basing program metrics on fuzzy outcomes vice measurable quantities, and your going to have fuzzy programs that don’t do anything – at best. A good chunk of the charlie foxtrot that was the Iraq occupation as well as the ongoing pointless wheel spinning that is the Afghanistan reconstruction are because of attempts to measure and take credit for ‘intangibles’ vice hard quantifiable data.

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      • ND,
        you worry that temp will become the norm?
        I think that “not working” will become the norm, and in fairly short order.
        Within a generation say.

        (I think this because we’re betatesting now).

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      • James et alia,
        You say that lots of tasks don’t need a nurse, don’t need a doctor.
        Say, something easy like a shot?
        Yeah, I can tell you exactly how wrong a shot can go, when the “nurse” uses the wrong vial… (and this was not a “once” thing, but a “repeated” thing)

        Lest people forget, if the goal is simply to hire “medical workers” for less, one will be getting crummier people with less incentive to be diligent.

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    • Pew Report is here. The sample is “617 Millennial adults,” a group they define as “ranging in age from 18 to 33.”

      But actually, you won’t get a very different margin of error if you limit that to 18-21 year olds. There are around 25 million in that age range in the U.S. To get a margin of error of +-4, you need 600 respondents. There’s no agreement on who counts as a millennial, but that’s not particularly relevant for our purposes, because if you quadruple that number, to 100 million people, to get a margin of error of +-4, you still only need a sample size of 600. Increase that number to 1 billion, and you still only need a sample size of 600.

      Drop that number down to 1 million, and you still need 600.

      Drop it down to 100,000, and you “only” need 597.

      Drop it down to 10,000, and you still need 566.

      Drop it to 1,000, and you only need 375.

      So what you can see is that you need to ramp up your sample size pretty quickly with small populations, but once you get to the size of a fairly small city, say Peoria IL or Evansville IN, you’ve reached a required sample size that won’t really vary if you shift your study to the whole population of China.

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      • As a 33 year old, no one seems to be able to decide whether I am the last year of Generation X or the first year of the Millennial Generation.

        I personally feel more kinship with someone born between 68-72 than someone born in 1988-1992.

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      • There’s one more thing I wanted to mention, because I don’t think it’s widely known (although I could be wrong about that). That +-4 percentage point margin of error is spread across a normal distribution. That is, imagine a bell-shaped curve, and whatever the reported value is (65% approval for Obama, perhaps) sits right at the middle of that curve. Out to the left end is -4 percentage points (61% approval) and on the right end is +4 percentage points (69% approval). The height of the curve at any given point represents how probable the value at that particular point is. So the values just to the left and right of the reported value–in our example, 64% and 66% are much more likely than the values further out.

        In brief, it’s a lot more likely that the reporting of millenials’ attitudes is off by just a little bit than that it’s off by a full 4 percentage points.

        I mention that because while the media has gotten a little bit more savvy about polling over the years–they nearly always report the margin of error now, where once upon a time they only reported the specific reported values–they’re not yet very sophisticated, as a group. They’re inclined to say “The polls show Smith leading Jones 52-48, but there’s a +-4 margin of error, so it’s a statistical dead heat.” Well, sort of, but not really. There is a remote chance the numbers are actually reversed, but it’s a whole lot more likely that Jones is leading 51-49. You do have to take into account that margin of error, and I’m glad the media does now; now we just need to get them to the next level of sophistication.

        But also, the confidence level is 95%, so statistically there’s a 5% chance of error. What that means, roughly speaking, is that if they repeated this survey 100 times, they could expect that 5 of those times their numbers would not be accurately representative of millennials within +-4 percentage points, simply because despite drawing their sample randomly they ended up with a sample that doesn’t actually represent the population of millennials.

        A deck of cards provides a good example. Imagine shuffling a deck of cards thoroughly, then randomly selecting 13 of them. You wouldn’t expect to draw all hearts. But imagine that you do this repeatedly, drawing an infinite number of samples. Inevitably you would eventually draw just such a sample. But you would also draw samples that had 10 or 12 hearts. Based on those you would overestimate how many hearts there are in the deck. So there’s a 5% chance that the Pew Survey’s sample of millennials is non-representative of the entire population of millennials.

        But anytime the odds are 95-5, there’s only one smart way to bet.

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      • I feel ya. I’m also 33. I write software for a living. I prefer email to telephones. The Republican Party has likely lost me for life. But I’m safely employed and not in debt, and I don’t really do text messages or Facebook. I can’t tell whether I should be offended by all of the shitting on millennials or joining in on it just for fun.

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      • We got rid of the military base in San Francisco and turned it into a public park/housing :)

        More seriously, I don’t disagree with this but I am sort of gobsmacked that there are still people who find it worthwhile to disagree with public education because it is “socialism”. I also think that it is a rapidly aging part of the population that quakes in fear with socialism being a dirty word.

        I know a lot of frustrated liberals who would love to hear a Democratic politician argue “sometimes socialism is what you need.”

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      • I think that people should stop using socialism and social democracy interchangeably.

        On a similar note, I don’t know if the Kochs are actually advocating for this, but veterans benefits are welfare benefits, assuming that we are using the word welfare for what it actually means and not just as a pejorative.

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      • So roads are socialism, cops, fire department, FAA, traffic lights, sewers, ports, etc etc. If anything done by the gov is socialism then the word is meaningless.

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      • For the education ‘product’ consumed by 90% of 5-18 year olds in the United States, the government owns the means of production. That is the literal definition of socialism

        Nobody gets into a semantic knot when one calls the British National Health Service or the Canadian health care system ‘socialized medicine’. Nobody should get into a semantic knot over the fact that primary education in America is run the same way. (and in most ways, more purely government controlled than those health care exemplars)

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      • Government doing something rather than the private sector is the textbook definition of socialism. Socializing a single industry doesn’t mean that the entire economy is socialist, but it certainly means that that one industry is socialist.

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      • jr,
        that’s not the meaning of the catchphrase, sorry if it wasn’t clear.
        The meaning was “lets turn our propaganda machine towards demonizing vet benefits, and we can sully them like welfare was sullied, then get them cut dramatically.”

        Take ’em five years, sure. But unless the vets organize now (or we give the Kochs more to do, in general), they won’t be ready (surely the unions weren’t ready).

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  4. Just as the Democratic party, “the left” or “liberals” aren’t homogenous monoliths, neither are “conservatives” or “Republicans”. It’s all too easy to get caught up in party or ideological partisanship and miss the inherent heterogeneity of either party’s coalition by only having the loudest or sharpest voices heard across the divide.

    Theoretically, there’s a lot of scope for engagement and debate on policy and broad-spectrum issues like inequality. For example, it’s far from unusual to find conservatives or libertarians willing to make peace with the concept of economic redistribution–if not to the extent liberals or progressives might support. Beyond that though, the devil is in the details, and unfortunately there’s very little interest on either side in developing a consensus on the administrative and technical developments necessary to pursue anyone’s goals effectively.

    When you (as a liberal, progressive, or generally a person on the left) attempt to discuss dignity and similarly intangible social concepts though, there’s an inherent roadblock in that both sides aren’t sharing the same definitions. It’s over value-driven concepts like this that ideological conflict is inevitable, and consensus isn’t going to be won with pluralities at the ballot box. Wonkish compromise won’t go away because that’s the only real common language between each side of the American political and ideological landscape.

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  5. Konczal explains that there’s “nothing particularly new” in Reed’s essay, tacitly admitting both that “President Obama is much more conservative” than many thought and that the “Clinton years were nothing to get nostalgic over,” while also granting that “Reed’s other point that liberals focus too much on elections and less on ideology is correct.”

    From an outsider’s prospective, it is always interesting to watch this sort of conversation unfold among those on the left. The whole idea of focusing on elections as something different from focusing on ideology is a conceit based in the mistaken belief that politics and ideology are somehow two entirely different things. As if getting the policy right is something that technocrats do in a lab, wholly separate from the act of proving the efficacy of those policies to voters.

    This conceit is what allows the left to remain convinced that the rightward shift that happened in the Democratic Party was wholly about image and had almost nothing to do with substance. Of course, to keep that conceit you pretty much have to pretend that the 1970s never happened, which would seem to be a difficult thing but you guys somehow manage to do it.

    The thing to remember is that this new Democratic Party identity was birthed during the ’80s, that decade that liberal Democrats spent in the wilderness and when the word liberal became a dirty word. The DLC was formed in the wake of the ’84 election. You remember the ’84 election? You remember the ’88 election? I find it funny that the only thing that the left seems to remember about the ’88 election is Willie Horton (and maybe Dukakis on that tank), as if it was bad PR and Republican race-baiting that won that election. Clinton won in ’92 because he was the Democrat who was finally able to realize the lessons of the preceding 12 years; not just the image lessons but the policy lessons. Obama did something very similar to Clinton in that he was able to offer an alternative that appeared fresher than what came before, but without differing all that much on policy.

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    • So Carter was a shift to the right?
      I don’t think that policy and politics are two different things…
      I expect Tester to represent millionaire farmers (who are making under poverty level incomes)… And I’m glad that he’s there to do it, as I wouldn’t know dick about how to do that.

      Democrats — even the base — are more focused on elections than the right’s base tends to be. But they do like their democrats to be Democrats, not Republican-lite. (What’s that mean? Basically, find what Democratic Things are popular in your district, and tell it like it is. Don’t just wander around being “less bad than the other guy” — actually be pro “something.” Tester’s quote on gay marriage is instructive: “I don’t think government ought to be in the marriage business.” Note this was said while running, so it’s more of a personal statement, and less of a “I’m actually making a policy statement”)

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