More on Moderate Republicans

Brother Dennis has a great post up about moderate Republicans and I thought it was probably a good idea to weight in on the subject. Longtime readers know that once upon a time I used a great deal of digital ink on the topic of a more forward-thinking ideology that I called ‘progressive conservatism’. I wish I could say that I coined the term but it was being used long before I began my blogging career. Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and even Richard Nixon all used ‘progressive conservative’ to describe themselves at one time or another. While some of my friends on the Left might laugh at that characterization given the typical resistance to change that Republicans are so often accused of, it’s important to keep in mind that pretty much every president moves the country forward a bit during their time in the office. The only variable is the scope of that change and whether or not it resulted in a net good.

Dennis and I have been friends for quite a few years now and we have been involved in a few projects outside of Ordinary Times that we hoped would raise more awareness for our strain of conservatism. The labels we use are different but our message is pretty much the same. Dennis calls himself a moderate Republican, I call myself a progressive conservative. In both cases though we want to promote a different vision of conservatism from the majority in our country. The important thing to note though is that neither of us could accurately be described as Centrist. The long-standing problem with centrists is that they usually arrive at their positions by triangulating between the mainline conservative and liberal policies, the idea being that the right answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Because moderates are by definition closer to the center, they too often get lumped in with centrists, which is why I have always avoided the moderate label.

The truth is that there is nothing ‘moderate’ about the policies I would like to see implemented. They are bold and they are sweeping. For that reason I am equally hopeful that the so-called ‘Reformacon’ agenda might get some traction. Traditionally, conservatism functions as a counter-weight to liberal exuberance. Our friends on the Left have big hearts but the most common complaint you will hear from the Right is that liberals want to move too fast, often far ahead of public opinion, and they don’t think their policies through to their natural outcome. Of course there is a lot more nuance to the Left-Right dynamic, but I will plead with readers to remember that we bloggers often speak in generalities for the sake of conversation.

What I will say though is that I believe very strongly in the Yin-Yang nature of American politics. To put it simply: we need each other. The Left needs the Right to slow their rush towards change and the Right needs the Left to drag us kicking and screaming into the future. In the margins of the Left-Right struggle, I believe there is room for a progressive conservatism and in my humble opinion, it’s just what the country really needs. Afterall, when it comes to our personal lives, most of us are progressive conservatives anyway. We want our lives to move forward, but we want to be thoughtful and measured in that approach. In other words, we want to be conservative in the moves we make, rather than rushing headlong into too many foolish decisions that weren’t given careful consideration.

In the realm of public policy there is plenty of room for a progressive conservative approach. For example, our schools. Anyone who has been involved in public education or an interested observer can tell you there is a tremendous amount of waste within most public school systems. Despite the complaints you will hear about teacher’s salaries or not enough money for art programs, there is often plenty of actual money there. The problem is that school systems are not run like businesses. One of my favorite examples is the way school systems hold meetings. When there is a district-level staff meeting employees will often be called in from across the district, usually being paid for their drive time, and then they have long-winded meetings to make decisions via committee. The company I work for, which is an enormous corporation with nearly half a million employees worldwide, would never dream of operating that way. We use cheap teleconferencing and decision makers don’t take a vote before they act. There are a hundred more examples like this.

During the George W. Bush years Republicans were criticized for trying to apply too many metrics to education. Liberals (correctly) pointed out that education is complex and it’s hard to gauge progress using standardized tests, but the truth is that metrics are really the only way of evaluating the success of an organization. The trick is applying the right ones. If conservative business principles were applied to school systems in a more thoughtful way, I think there is real room for improvement. I’d like to see someone take a school system through the Six Sigma process, which is designed to eliminate waste, and then consider the results. Six Sigma was designed for manufacturing but it has been successfully applied to many other industries with great results. The budgetary savings in most school districts could easily fund a host of new programs for kids and probably even increase teacher salaries. That is what progressive conservatism looks like.

The biggest challenge Republicans face is branding and also the characterization that they resist change. The truth is that conservatives are really good at change, but we need to demonstrate what our approach looks like. As Dennis points out, that means talking a lot more about what we are for instead of what we are against. From our friends on the Left, what I would like to see is an openness to our ideas. There also has to be some willingness to let things happen a little slower. With that understanding, I think there is a real opportunity for both sides to come together on a great many issues.

Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky

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209 thoughts on “More on Moderate Republicans

  1. I completely agree there need to a conservative side restraining the progressive side. I don’t think liberals think through the consequences of their policies any worse then anybody else, but it is good to have a force that moderates head long change. The problem in many situations the conservative force isn’t trying to prudently slow inevitable change, but its trying to stop it completely. Two examples are same sex marriage and HC. In what way were R’s moving forward in any way. Maybe you can point to some very slow movement on SS marriage, but frankly that has been kicking and screaming.

    The other issue with slowing things down is there isn’t , in my experience, any discussion of how slow change affects the people at issue. I know I’ve asked and never received an answer about who gets boned when a certain change is slowed or stopped. That doesn’t actually mean the change shouldn’t be slowed, but there needs to be a direct answer to the people who are pleading for the change about why they should still wait for whatever.

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    • It’s MLK’s “The fierce urgency of now.”

      I only get this one life, this one brief time in the world, and all the hate before me diminishes that one life. And it is stupid and senseless and horrible.

      When people tell me to wait, I say no.

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      • I don’t disagree. I think there are some areas, especially the various civil rights issues, where going slow is a major problem. To often the R’s have not been saying lets “go slow”, which is obviously problematic on its own, by they say No. If they want to say “go slow” then that needs to be followed with answers to When? and How are the people who are suffering being affected and why should they wait? I’d say it is the same equation for health care reform. If they say no universal HC now we need to go slow, then when and who is getting sporked by delaying are questions that demand answers if they wish to be taken in good faith.

        However there are all sorts of issues, not everythign is as urgent as civil rights or HC, so prudently slow can make sense.

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      • Think of purpose of conservatism as away to not through away the baby with the bathwater when it comes to policy decisions or prevent bad decisions from being made. It doesn’t work well with civil rights issues but a sense of caution might have prevented all the problems caused by “urban renewal” in the mid-20th century.

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      • I am much more inclined to say yes, SSM or other civil rights are an area where it’s okay to move pretty fast. Giving people a right to marry or not be discriminated against doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking things through IMO. We’ve also had about 60 years of civil rights struggles to test the idea and it has passed. (I will say though that it seemed like there was a nice stretch when SSM was moving through state legislatures and conservatives were having a much easier time accepting those outcomes. Now it seems like we’re back to using the courts again which is what ends up making the older conservatives angry.)

        I disagree on HC though. My opinion is that either it should be either 100% private or 100% universal and paid for by the government. This middle ground we have arrived at is a disaster and the economic impact is far-reaching. That requires some careful thought.

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      • Mike,
        I thought Obamacare was working in Kentucky?
        I would rather have universal, single-payer health care, sure…
        But can you cite some sources showing how this isn’t working?
        NB: tanking the GDP in the first quarter is merely transitory. doesn’t count.

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      • Mike,
        That’s only if you’re looking at dollars and cents. Since all the folks (10% of the country, I think it was?) on the exchanges are getting private insurance, the number of people insured privately is in fact increasing.

        … that’s why the Insurance Companies let Obamacare pass. They get more customers (bigger risk pool), they have to accept people with preexisting conditions.

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      • Kim,

        I’m talking about the reductions in coverage and new rules on private insurance imposed by Obamacare OR made necessary by Obamacare. It has cost us about an extra $3,000 since implementation.

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      • — I don’t think something as large and various as conservatism can have a purpose, as (to my view) purpose requires a motivated agent or agents. Conservatism is far too large a thing to be the product of a single mind.

        Furthermore, I would insist that modern conservatism, insofar as it has a purpose, is more for something like this: to harness the fear felt by large numbers of white people (mostly older) to stop social change that mitigates the oppression of minorities and women.

        I realize this is not what thoughtful conservatives want it to be, but that is what it has become.

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      • I disagree on HC though. My opinion is that either it should be either 100% private or 100% universal and paid for by the government. This middle ground we have arrived at is a disaster and the economic impact is far-reaching. That requires some careful thought.

        So your ‘conservativism’ is basically that we should either throw out all of Medicaid and Medicare and try a completely private system, or we should throw out all individual and group private insurance and try a completely government system.

        That’s a real ‘thoughtful and measured’ approach you’ve got there.

        I see it more from the private side. With Obamacare there have been major reductions in private coverage.

        Uh, no, there hasn’t. In fact, I can’t imagine why you think *anyone* has transitioned off private coverage to anything else. Maybe there were a scant few people who are poor enough to get Medicaid now, after the expansion, but previously were somehow able to buy their own private insurance, but it can’t be that many! (And half the states haven’t even expanded Medicaid!) And that tiny number is more than counteracted by amount of people who have now been able to sign up for private insu….

        Wait a second. Didn’t you just say you wouldn’t mind an entirely government-run system? Why do you care how many people are in private insurance? Why on earth would that be a metric of success?


        Furthermore, I would insist that modern conservatism, insofar as it has a purpose, is more for something like this: to harness the fear felt by large numbers of white people (mostly older) to stop social change that mitigates the oppression of minorities and women.

        Now now, that’s a bit unfair. It also uses the fear felt by large numbers of white people (mostly older) to stop any sort of income equality.

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      • DavidTC,

        FSA’s were modified after Obamacare to eliminate many of the things people liked about them.

        Additionally, because of the increased insurance costs many employers will no longer cover spouses.

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      • Re Mike Dwyers comment on spouse health insurance. I understand that what is happening there is if a spouse can get health insurance thru their employment, the other spouses employer no longer has to pay for it. If you look at it the system was unfair to the other spouses employer, and gave the spouse who used to use the other spouses coverage employer an unfair advantage. As I understand it if the spouse was stay at home it did not affect them. All in all a very good move, all be it that in some cases physicians may no longer see the entire family due to networks. I suspect this would have happened without the ACA also.

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      • FSA’s were modified after Obamacare to eliminate many of the things people liked about them.

        If you were talking about FSA, why did you refer to a ‘private coverage’? FSAs are not insurance at all.

        And what happened is that they can only be offered if the company also provides insurance. You can have a FSA that is tied to insurance, but not one standalone.

        Of course, standalone FSAs were the worst of two worlds: Employee-linked health care that wasn’t insurance. So you couldn’t change jobs and keep having health care, but if something bad did actually happen, you were completely screwed.

        Yes, I’m sure FSA use has gone down. Because those people now have actual insurance, purchased on the exchange.

        Additionally, because of the increased insurance costs many employers will no longer cover spouses.

        *cough*bullshit*cough*

        You’re going to have to document this ‘increased insurance costs’ nonsense. The rate of increase in insurance premiums has *slowed*, for the first time in a very long time.

        If you assert things are happening because of ‘increased insurance costs’, those things would have happened, *more*, without the ACA.

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      • If you assert things are happening because of ‘increased insurance costs’, those things would have happened, *more*, without the ACA.

        Seeing as I am in the process of renewing my health plan at work, what I can say is that in order to keep costs at a reasonable level AND have plans that are compliant under the ACA, there are a number of areas where the new benefits plans offer significantly less than what we had last year under our PPOs. People that incur out of network costs that would have had their payments covered after deductibles were met are now only getting a portion of that back instead of all of it. On a net basis, to certain people, they’re getting less than what they got last year. Since ACA compliance drove the changes to the plan, I think it’s safe to say what caused this.

        A couple of other observations:

        1. Being the parent of a special needs child, I sat in a support group meeting and met with a health insurance advocate that works with families to get as much from the insurance companies as they can (I’m not in a position to need that like parents with children with physical disabilities). After implementation of the ACA, the two things he noticed most was

        a) the “startling and astronomical” (his words) increase in the number of denials for first time claims within his client base. These are denials for items that are very much covered under insurance plans (wheelchairs for example). When a guy who makes his living helping people that need to fight tooth and nail with the insurance companies so they can provide they best they can for their kids starts to see a problem, I pay attention.

        b) in NJ, prior to the implementation of the ACA, the three major insurance companies offered an individual PPO. At the time I met with him, he mentioned that only one of them now did. I can’t find that anything about an individual PPO online (maybe I need to look harder). Still, that’s not a lot of choices for very high users of medical services. Yes, we can blame the insurance companies in part, but I think it’s reasonable to point to another cause for insurers to exit the market.

        2. The weaker hospital and health systems that derive the majority of their revenues from government insurance sources (i.e. a high Medicare/Medicaid payor mix) are screwed.

        Even the stronger systems with this payor mix are struggling to clean up their income statements in the face of declining reimbursements. The not-for-profit systems are especially motivated to do this because the ratings agencies are all over them about this, and if there’s anything that the not-for-profit systems will try to protect with every resource available, it’s their credit rating.

        We have a client now that we’re advising on a real estate transaction and everyone has become increasingly sensitive to income statement impacts, even moreso than any perceived benefit to the balance sheet or future operations.

        I work in the real estate capital markets and spend most of my time in healthcare real estate. We know what the investors are thinking. We know what the hospitals are thinking. We know what the ratings agencies are thinking. Seeing as we’re compensated to provide expert advice, I prefer to look past the pom-poms and the *cough* *bullshit* *cough* crap from the pro-ACA crowd and drill down on the things that are actually happening and not try to sell bullshit about premium increases slowing down and then waving the pom poms.

        Mike is not bullshitting anyone.

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      • The slowdown in health care spending has been global, and seems now to have been a trend for the past decade and a half. We also had a recession from which we’re still recovering.

        Pegging reductions on health care spending on a not yet fully implemented ACA seems to ignore these other factors.

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      • Dave,
        You know how much I hate /voluntary/ SOX compliance?
        Yeah, nonprofit providers are in pretty good shape around here.
        the nonprofit insurance is running like someone lit its ass on fire, though, trying to change its spots and turn into a provider instead.

        Economies of scale get consolidation of hospital chains, and that hasn’t changed because of Obamacare.

        Premiums are increasing less because there’s more of an emphasis on people paying a percentage of care. This is intentional, and part of insurance companies’ scheme to make things work better.

        In terms of denying coverage… NJ’s been pretty good about not letting outright thieves operate in its borders. The idiots (and yes, PR disaster means you’re idiiots) who decided to deny a woman’s miscarriage (in the ER) and call it a voluntary abortion… (they had a policy to deny everything…), yup things were pretty bad before.

        Now, I don’t have a horrible problem with more hoops. Because a single claim being denied, and meaning you need to appeal — that’s just a hoop. What I got a problem with, because it’s happened to my family, is medicine being denied, after the hoops, after the doctor confirmed it was medically necessary to avoid hospitalization — because the damn shit was “overprescribed.”

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      • Seeing as I am in the process of renewing my health plan at work, what I can say is that in order to keep costs at a reasonable level AND have plans that are compliant under the ACA, there are a number of areas where the new benefits plans offer significantly less than what we had last year under our PPOs.

        And because they’re compliant under the ACA, they also offer *more* benefits.

        The ACA changed the shape of some plans. Yes, if you took the original plan as a minimum, and tried to find a new plan that covered at least the same thing, you’d be paying more. A lot more.

        OTOH, if you took the *new* minimum benefits under the ACA as the minimum, and tried to find a plan with all that in 2010, you would have paid *astronomical* amounts too. How much did no lifetime cap cost? How much did covering all pre-existing conditions cost?

        Insurance is a bundle of things. You cannot compare costs in two different universes by taking what you currently have in one universe, and going higher and higher in the other universe until it meets every single aspect of that other plan and saying ‘Wow, prices in this universe are really high.’.

        I mean, it’s like comparing two cars, and saying ‘This $25,000 car comes with sun roof, and this other $25,000 car would cost another five thousand dollars to get one put in, so the first car is cheaper.’ Uh, no it’s not. You could just buy a car without a sun roof, especially since it has airbags and backup cameras (all now required by law), which the other car doesn’t.

        I can see why, *individually*, someone might dislike the changes, because they liked the other bundle, but don’t pretend it’s a price *increase*. The government has set new minimums, minimums that are *incredibly important* to people, like no annual or yearly caps and free preventive care. In exchange, for prices to be the same-ish, obviously other things will get reduced.

        People that incur out of network costs that would have had their payments covered after deductibles were met are now only getting a portion of that back instead of all of it. On a net basis, to certain people, they’re getting less than what they got last year. Since ACA compliance drove the changes to the plan, I think it’s safe to say what caused this.

        On a net basis, to certain people, of course they’re getting less than what they got last year. Meanwhile, other people are getting more.

        That’s basically how insurance works. The payouts vary. (If they didn’t vary, either no one would buy insurance, or no one would sell them insurance.)

        the “startling and astronomical” (his words) increase in the number of denials for first time claims within his client base.

        So, the claim is that insurance costs have gone up, and as evidence of this you present…anecdotal evidence that insurers are now denying more claims. Huh?

        in NJ, prior to the implementation of the ACA, the three major insurance companies offered an individual PPO. At the time I met with him, he mentioned that only one of them now did.

        …uh, that’s even *less* relevant.

        The assertion was the insurance costs in the *group* market was causing some employers to no longer offer insurance for spouses. Asserting that insurers have exited the individual PPO market does not actually seem to support that claim in any logical manner, whether or not it’s true.

        The weaker hospital and health systems that derive the majority of their revenues from government insurance sources (i.e. a high Medicare/Medicaid payor mix) are screwed.

        Yes, because of the declining amount of people in Medicaid and Medicare. Wait, no, that’s not happening at all. In fact, the opposite is happening.

        The reason that weaker hospitals and health systems are doing poorly is that the Federal government is reducing DSH funding because hospitals that needed it are *supposed* to now have those people on Medicaid. However, states have failed to expand that.

        I know this. It’s why rural hospitals are failing my state of Georgia.

        That is the *opposite* of the fault of the ACA. It’s the fault of people trying to destroy the ACA.

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      • The slowdown in health care spending has been global, and seems now to have been a trend for the past decade and a half. We also had a recession from which we’re still recovering.

        Health care costs has been dropping, thanks to the free market finally reacting and providing more supply. (1)

        Health insurance costs in America have not been dropping. They have been steadily rising, until very recently, where they slowed their rise, but are still rising.

        1) Sometimes I wonder why I think the free market is useful. It took *decades* for it to fix the problem. It’s like we’re in a damn Monty Python sketch: I would like to buy some health care…(long drawn out sketch)…Have you in fact got any health care here at all?

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      • Assuming you’re correct about the market causing health care costs to drop (I’d love a cite; I have no idea if you’re way off target or hitting a bullseye), two comments.

        1. Nobody who’s not an idiot argues markets solve every problem quickly. Markets are reactive, but they don’t react with the same speed for all problems, due to the varying characteristics of different problems.

        2. It’s a bit much to have continual and growing government involvement in an issue then express frustration that the market didn’t solve it more quickly. That’s not an argument against government involvement in X (whatever X we happen to talk about at any given moment), just an argument that the more government involvement there is the more difficult in general it is for the market to respond quickly and effectively.

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      • Assuming you’re correct about the market causing health care costs to drop (I’d love a cite; I have no idea if you’re way off target or hitting a bullseye), two comments.

        By ‘the market’, I just meant that ‘There was a shortage of medical care, so medical costs went up, so more people went into the medical care business, raising the supply so costs went back down’. You know, how markets generally works.

        Why, what do you think fixed the imbalance? Seriously, I’m open to other possibilities, I wasn’t trying to make some point there. My complaint was just how long the market took…if you think something else besides the market fixed the imbalance, well, that just makes my point stronger. ;)

        1. Nobody who’s not an idiot argues markets solve every problem quickly. Markets are reactive, but they don’t react with the same speed for all problems, due to the varying characteristics of different problems.

        Yeah, but this example was particularly disastrous. Like I said, I generally think the free market solves problems well most of the time, but, wow. This was a pathetically slow response. And, yes, it would be slow anyway (Doctors take a long time to produce), but it should have taken less than a decade, not two or three…and the problem still isn’t completely solved.

        2. It’s a bit much to have continual and growing government involvement in an issue then express frustration that the market didn’t solve it more quickly. That’s not an argument against government involvement in X (whatever X we happen to talk about at any given moment), just an argument that the more government involvement there is the more difficult in general it is for the market to respond quickly and effectively.

        There is an argument to be made that the medical industry is, at this point, actively conspiring to keep supply down, via both regulation and trust-like practices. There’s not any particular reason that medical schools need to be anywhere near that hard to get through, or have such few open positions available, or why potential doctors are required to jump through all sorts of hoops. (Why, particularly, are they required to be able to operate on almost no sleep?)

        The actual cause is open for debate, but it’s not as much ‘government involvement’ as it would seem, unless we want to stop requiring doctors to be licensed at all. Which we probably do not. The ‘government involvement’ beyond that is *what doctors demand of it*…if medical professionals wanted laxer requirements, they could certainly get them.

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      • OK, I think you’re just winging it. I’m sure it “looks” right to you, but it’s a bit too vague for me. And I don’t want to get involved in that kind of debate because it’s guaranteed to go nowhere.

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      • OK, I think you’re just winging it. I’m sure it “looks” right to you, but it’s a bit too vague for me. And I don’t want to get involved in that kind of debate because it’s guaranteed to go nowhere.

        This is why I try to make my comments in the form of a “take it or leave it” proposition. Most of the time, if I’m making a point based on what I see in my professional life every day and someone attempts to disagree based on abstract grounds, I ignore them on what I like to call the “real world fallacy”. It’s not like I lose sleep if someone disagrees with me or thinks they’ve refuted my position. I don’t hold it against anyone.

        That said, he did make a few responses worth addressing in detail:

        And because they’re compliant under the ACA, they also offer *more* benefits…The ACA changed the shape of some plans. Yes, if you took the original plan as a minimum, and tried to find a new plan that covered at least the same thing, you’d be paying more. A lot more.

        You just proved that Mike’s comment about employers having to drop spousal coverage is not bullshit. Whether or not it will be endemic remains to be seen, but it’s not an unreasonable outcome for businesses that provided low-cost health plans that weren’t ACA compliant and now have to pay “a lot more” to provide employees with ACA-compliant coverage.

        It’s just as plausible as employers holding down the number of employees or cutting back hours. Businesses are profit-driven and if ACA compliance cuts into profits, they’ll make cuts to maintain profitability. I don’t understand the debate here. This is Business 101.

        OTOH, if you took the *new* minimum benefits under the ACA as the minimum, and tried to find a plan with all that in 2010, you would have paid *astronomical* amounts too. How much did no lifetime cap cost? How much did covering all pre-existing conditions cost?

        From your social justice perspective I’m sure that justifies everything in your mind. However, if you are trying to run a business that feeds and provides shelter, comfort and necessities for your family and you are now faced with significantly increased health care costs, why the hell would you care about this? This is nothing more than an academic circle jerk as far as I’m concerned. Maybe you live in this universe. I don’t.

        This is why I’ll listen to Mike Dwyer before I listen to people like you. People that are faced with the difficulties that have arisen as a result of the implementation of the ACA get it. People that ignore it and try to sell the benefits on some sort of bullshit utilitarian “net good” for society can go pound sand as far as I’m concerned. I don’t have patience for people that refuse to look below the 30,000 foot level and address what’s going on. Political hacks do this and they can all rot.

        You cannot compare costs in two different universes by taking what you currently have in one universe, and going higher and higher in the other universe until it meets every single aspect of that other plan and saying ‘Wow, prices in this universe are really high.’.

        Funny. My CFO just did the very things you said he “cannot” do. Of course, we don’t engage in the sort of “universe” bullshit you do. A “before” and “after” analysis is painfully easy to do except for people that believe that it’s apples and oranges and doesn’t apply because it undermines their arguments.

        I mean, it’s like comparing two cars, and saying ‘This $25,000 car comes with sun roof, and this other $25,000 car would cost another five thousand dollars to get one put in, so the first car is cheaper.’.

        Inappropriate analogy.

        I can see why, *individually*, someone might dislike the changes, because they liked the other bundle, but don’t pretend it’s a price *increase*.

        The one pretending here is you so it fits your narrative.

        The government has set new minimums, minimums that are *incredibly important* to people, like no annual or yearly caps and free preventive care. In exchange, for prices to be the same-ish, obviously other things will get reduced.

        In other words, prices don’t increase, services decrease and you’re getting less for the same amount of money. In the real estate business, we call your explanation “putting lipstick on a pig”. Maybe political hacks can sleep comfortably at night blowing smoke up their asses this way, but people in business see either “getting less for the same” or having to pay “a lot more” because their plans now have to be ACA compliant as a negative – call it a price increase or not – I don’t care.

        On a net basis, to certain people, of course they’re getting less than what they got last year. Meanwhile, other people are getting more.

        Whatever makes you sleep comfortably at night.

        So, the claim is that insurance costs have gone up, and as evidence of this you present…anecdotal evidence that insurers are now denying more claims. Huh?

        I simply pointed out a consequence of the implementation of the ACA from a source that has probably forgotten more about health care than you know. Call it anecdotal. I don’t care. I’ll take the word of a paid professional that helps people navigate the mess known as the insurance bureaucracy. If you don’t want to, I don’t care.

        …uh, that’s even *less* relevant.

        That fewer plans are being offered post-ACA? It’s very relevant to certain groups of people but not relevant to your narrative.

        The assertion was the insurance costs in the *group* market was causing some employers to no longer offer insurance for spouses.

        Not unreasonable.

        Asserting that insurers have exited the individual PPO market does not actually seem to support that claim in any logical manner, whether or not it’s true.

        You’re failing to see the big picture. I made a comment of the pre-ACA vs. post-ACA world since you seem to think the post-ACA world is all unicorns and roses.

        I’ll cover the Medicare/Medicaid issue later. That’s going to require me to do a lot more writing.

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      • People that ignore it and try to sell the benefits on some sort of bullshit utilitarian “net good” for society can go pound sand as far as I’m concerned. I don’t have patience for people that refuse to look below the 30,000 foot level and address what’s going on.

        If you want to start trying to use specific examples at that level, I will simply explain that health insurance literally has gotten infinitely cheaper for me, as in, they would not sell me health insurance before, but will now.

        Oh, boo-fucking-hoo that some people who had shitty insurance had to get better plans. I would have *killed* for the ability to buy goddamn shitty insurance.

        People who think the system worked before can go ‘pound sand’ as far as I’m concerned.

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      • If you want to start trying to use specific examples at that level, I will simply explain that health insurance literally has gotten infinitely cheaper for me, as in, they would not sell me health insurance before, but will now.

        In other words, FYIGM. Fine by me. If the federal government hacked income taxes in half, I’d probably say the same thing. :)

        On a personal level, I’m genuinely pleased by your ability to access insurance post ACA but let’s not pretend that there aren’t consequences to others. It’s going to take time to see how all of this unfolds. Some of this I will try to explain later if I get time.

        Feel free to tell those people to go pound sand, but I never made any broad claims about the system “working” prior to the implementation of the ACA so I assume you aren’t directing that at me.

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      • In other words, FYIGM. Fine by me.

        If FYIGM means ‘Fuck people who complain about small increases in the cost of something I was kept from purchasing at any cost for a decade, and yet was required to subside their purchase of(1) during that time’, yes, FYIGM.

        I’m not sure that’s what it stands for, though.

        1) Subsidized directly, via them not paying income tax on it, and subsidized indirectly, via me paying my *insane* medical bills while insurance companies ‘negotiated prices down’. Aka, while insurance companies ‘negotiated my prices up‘, because hospitals still make the same profit.

        Seriously, people bitching and moaning about a thousand dollars a year can just bite me. I’ve spend more money solely because of the jacked-up medical rates they charge uninsured people(2) than you have spent on all the health insurance you’ve ever purchased, and certainly more than any increase in premiums.

        2) To be clear, I am not talking about actual medical bills. I mean I end up paying $14000 for a procedure an insurance company ends up paying $3000 for. (And something the hospital should *probably* be charging everyone $3500 for.)

        People wonder why I get pissed at all this, it’s because insurance companies have been fucking me over for a decade, even while I wasn’t even allowed to buy their product. Now that I have insurance, the fact they’re paying my medical bills is just a happy side effect…I would have been happy to just be able to buy medical services at their price.

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    • I tend to agree. I’m all in favour of stopping for a moment to collect information (it’s basically what I do), but if you lack sufficient information it is incumbent upon you to A) indicate what information you need, B) make a good-faith effort to get that information and C) be aware that time has a cost and you’ll never be in possession of all the information you might want.

      The people who annoy be beyond reason are those who say that can’t support something until there’s “more evidence” and then turn around and oppose any effort to actually collect that information.

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      • The people who annoy be beyond reason are those who say that can’t support something until there’s “more evidence” and then turn around and oppose any effort to actually collect that information.

        This +1000. It really makes the true motivation crystal clear.

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  2. Overall, some nice thoughts here. There are two with which I take some issue.

    The first is the notion that the current political dynamic, and by current I mean over the last two decades or so, is one of people on the left proposing innovative ideas to make things better, and people on the right hesitating and counseling caution, until such time as people generally have needed in order to think the ideas through.

    On the right side of the equation, Republican political leaders, whether elected or in the media, have not generally been foci of thoughtful, Burkean incrementalism. Rather, every time Democrats, Liberals, progressives, or the left, however you want to define these general terms, has offered an idea, their response has been “OMG HELLZ NO NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER YOUR ALL TRAITORS” and this moves a lot of books and gets a lot of people tune into talk radio shows.

    Same-sex marriage is the archetypical example of this. When the idea that people in same-sex relationships might want to get married first came about from the test case in Hawaii, the response was reflexive, nationwide, and took the form of mostly successful efforts to amend state constitutions, and even the federal Constitution, to permanently ban same-sex marriages.

    Second, you suggest the application of six Sigma principles to public education. While I like the idea of borrowing these sorts of ideas, I’m not sure that in this particular case it’s going to work. Not so much because we can’t devise good metrics for student performance, although it’s not clear to me that that has been done, either. It’s because one of the things that six Sigma, lean management, TQM, the W. Edwards Demingists, and other sorts of quality and efficiency reform initiatives all assume is at things like worker morale, uniform improvements in quality, increased productiveness, and the other results of successful implementation of their ideas all work towards an ultimate goal: in the case of an industry, profit.

    But what is the purpose of a public school? Is it to educate children? Is it to teach them to be good citizens, good consumers, good workers? Is it to provide free daycare so that parents are able to become part of the workforce? Is it to provide jobs, not just teachers, but two administrators and support staff and physical plant constructors and maintainers? Is it to provide a cultural focus for a community, through athletic, artistic, and academic showcases? It is all of these things. And probably more. Because we assign so many missions to these institutions, it becomes difficult to focus the myriad of activities in which they engage towards mission fulfillment.

    A six Sigma Black belt will tell you that you need implement changes, preferably many small incremental changes over time, that move the organization closer to the organization’s goal. I’m not so sure that the six Sigma Black belt is going to be able to orchestrate a plan that is intended to reach a constellation of goals as opposed to a single target.

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    • Burt,

      My company does a lot of different things too. We apply Six Sigma to all of them. It’s an amazingly adaptable system. And if Six Sigma can’t work in schools (I believe it can) then find another way to eliminate waste and increase performance. That’s where (again) I believe that conservative business principles can be successfully applied.

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      • I spent some time as a quality control engineer at AT&T, so it’s fairly obvious to me that three sigma is the new buzz-word version of that. I’ll Google it later if the conversation warrants it. I’m certainly not opposed to applying principles of SPC to governmental operations like education, but I would caution that it seems more appropriate in some areas than others. The primary issue is going to be metrics. While I would never be so foolish as to assert that running a profitable business is simple, the bottom-line metrics are at least fairly straightforward since ultimately it’s all about dollars and cents on both ends. Even a more nebulous outcome like worker safety can ultimately, albeit with some work and questionable precision, translate into profit.

        The very reason that a governmental function is a governmental function in the first place is going to involve the judgment that profit isn’t an appropriate motivator for either pragmatic or moral reasons. That’s my main concern wrt to the “run it like a business” meme.

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      • Whenever I hear a candidate for public office who is a successful business person saying, “I’ll run the government like a business,” I laugh. No, they won’t. The budget doesn’t work the same way. The hiring and firing rules are entirely different. At the same time that revenues dry up, demand for the services you provide increases (eg, recessions reduce sales and income tax revenues but are also the time that many unemployed decide to go back to community colleges). If you’re a “senior manager”, there’s a very activist “board of directors” of some sort looking over your shoulder, giving you multiple conflicting instructions, and all of them claiming to represent the true interests of the “customers”.

        All of the basic features of the system that drive business people nuts are there for a reason. Separation of powers. Budgets made in public. Complex civil service (or similar) employment policies. Arcane purchasing rules. Every one of them intended to make things go slowly, make decisions public, ensure compromises (even when they’re stupid), prevent abuses. My experience is in budgets. No business would set up a system where there are umpty-eleven categories of money, each that can be used for certain purposes and not for others, with reporting requirements to multiple sources of the dollars so complicated that you need an entire staff just to do it. But to get rid of that in government in the US, you have to redo the whole system at federal, state, and local levels.

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      • FWIW, I would gladly replace as much of the government funding baloney with block grants and public reporting requirements for certain types of things.

        The guidelines for NSF grant funds are completely crazy. K-RaZy. For every PI you’re looking at a minimum of 1 FTE just to ensure reporting is done properly and allowable expenses are put into the right container.

        That’s just nuts, it’s a colossal waste of money.

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      • The private equivalent is when each employee’s time has to be allocated to a specific charge code; I’ve experienced this with blocks as small as 15 minutes. Which inevitably leads to instructions to charge time to X, even though you’re really working on Y, because X has budget left.

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      • Patrick,
        I’ve worked in tons of labs, and none of them have had someone just to report up. Darpa/NIH/NSF(I think nsf…)…

        Maybe the entire department has one, or a PI shares one with a few other PIs.

        But, christ and crimminy, I’ve been on a staff of 3 people. You couldn’t afford a FTE for that.

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      • The other problem with running government “like a business” is that there isn’t any powerful elected office that I’m aware of that maps to “CEO” in private industry. The President is not the CEO of all of the government. He can’t just tell everybody what to do and have them do it. If Congress doesn’t want to help him with his agenda, his agenda doesn’t get done no matter how much of a Badass Alpha Male he looks like when he pounds on a redwood desk in a lavishly decorated office.

        Most government offices work that way. Unless you’re running for the position of Dictator for Life, you’re going to have to think a little differently than a CEO would.

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      • “Waste” in the context of public schools appears to be someone drawing a salary or building out a capital project that Mike Dwyer disapproves of.

        Back when I was doing public law, I always had a chuckle when newly-elected public officials first sat down with the budget. They always seemed surprised that there was no line item for ‘waste, fraud and abuse’.

        Public school budgets are public. All you need to do is to start identifying the cash flows that are ‘waste’. Is the janitor making too much money? Tenured faculty? Administrators?

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      • Francis,
        Our city had line items for fraud and abuse. Slush funds, you name it.
        Then the FBI got called in, and we got a new mayor.
        (Parking Authority’s another “fraud and abuse” place).

        Please note: When your whole city is collapsing, “fraud and abuse” becomes “saving my constituents jobs.”

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      • What commenters above say is right, and I agree 100%, but I’d like to point out one way in which governments can be run on a more businesslike fashion, which is to have competitive bidding for service contractors. Done right, this actually allows public agencies to compete in the bidding against private firms, and enables more efficient delivery of services.

        That’s not appropriate for all public services (policing, for example, and privatizing prisons looks like something that’s proved itself to be a very bad idea), but there are many things that we want/need government to ensure that they get done that the government doesn’t actually have to do itself.


        I always had a chuckle when newly-elected public officials first sat down with the budget. They always seemed surprised that there was no line item for ‘waste, fraud and abuse’.

        Heh, this is something I always try to explain to students (mostly the conservative ones). I always make them do an on-line budget simulation, trying to reduce the federal budget, then ask them to consider how it would affect their re-election chances if they represented their hometown in Congress–i.e., think about who would be negatively affected by your budget balancing choices (whether spending cuts or tax increases). Only the most ideologically rigid walk away from the exercise still thinking most of the federal budget is waste.

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      • Which inevitably leads to instructions to charge time to X, even though you’re really working on Y, because X has budget left.

        In government, there’s a tendency to get caught when you try this, because there’s whole organizations with their own guaranteed budget whose job is to find you when you do. And then impose penalties on you for having mis-spent. Rather nasty penalties in many cases; legislative critters are savage beasts indeed if you spend the money they have set aside for a particular purpose on something else. Working on the Colorado state budget for three years was eye-opening.

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      • I always make them do an on-line budget simulation, trying to reduce the federal budget, then ask them to consider how it would affect their re-election chances…

        +10, or more. At the day of the Colorado legislature’s new-member orientation dedicated to the budget, some new members — of all sorts of political stripes — came close to tears when they discovered that 95% of the General Fund spending was on auto-pilot. Or at the least, that it would be years before they were senior enough to run the committees that could make changes to that 95%.

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      • It’s easy to think money’s being wasted when you don’t actually have any idea where it’s being spent, or consider the perspective of those it’s being spent on.

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      • I should add, it’s easy to think money’s being wasted when you don’t know where it’s from. My town’s so broke they closed their parks and rec department and turned all the programs and the city pool over to the YMCA to run. But they’d recently repaved a downtown parking lot and put up some nice looking shedroofs for the farmer’s market there, so there were a lot of complaints about waste. But of course there were specific budget sources for those–a paving fund that downtown merchants have to pay into and a matching grant from, iirc, the state–that could not be used for general fund items like parks and rec.

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      • James, I can top that.

        You know how when you vote on a bond, that bond is a very specific thing — X dollars for Y purpose? Well, couple a bond for a wide-scale refurbishment of the local school district’s athletics department (coupled with, as part of repairing a 40+ year old stadium, picking a video scoreboard) with the Great Recession.

        Add in the massive drop in tax receipts (Texas is all property and sales taxes, and local education money is all property taxes) and the Texas Leg massively slashing school funding due to said Recession, and you get a city in the middle of a multi-million dollar upgrade for sports having to ask for a local increase in property taxes to pay teachers.

        And everywhere, people saying “Why did you waste money on a scoreboard when you couldn’t pay teachers” and simply not believing that the district couldn’t just retask the bond funds.

        (Tax increased passed, if barely. I know school board members — they weren’t sure what they would have done if it failed — they’d already cut staff to the bone. They were looking at canceling extracurriculars entirely, from fine arts to sports to clubs, at a bare minimum)

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      • I don’t believe the part about people thinking that paying teachers might be important than a scoreboard. Around here, it’s a common dodge for school districts to threaten to cut after-school athletics to get school bonds passed, because people pay attention to that in a way that ending music classes or closing the school library doesn’t.

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      • Nah, I got relatives who work in that district and friends on the board.

        They weren’t kidding — they were getting outraged calls over daring to claim they’re broke right after ‘blowing all that money on a video scoreboard’ and yes, indeed, their Plan B if the tax hike hadn’t gone through was to cut everything that wasn’t core to graduation.

        Mostly it was just angry people upset that the school would spend on ‘frivolous stuff’ like the scoreboard (it needed to be replaced, but it didn’t have to be a nice video one) when asking for tax increases. The fact that the bond had passed prior to the recession, and the money couldn’t be retasked — well, that would require the people complaining to have to decide between ‘slightly higher taxes’ and ‘sports, fine arts, and extracurriculars their children enjoy’ which isn’t a pleasant choice.

        Whereas “stupid school, wasting money” is much easier. Obviously there’s not a real money crunch, there’s not a problem that requires a choice, it’s just waste, fraud and abuse.

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    • The first is the notion that the current political dynamic, and by current I mean over the last two decades or so, is one of people on the left proposing innovative ideas to make things better, and people on the right hesitating and counseling caution, until such time as people generally have needed in order to think the ideas through.

      I don’t think this dynamic has ever existed at all. It’s a story the right has told us, about how their purpose in trying to stop people is noble.

      But it’s a lie. I don’t mean it’s not noble (Which it isn’t.), I mean that’s not actually ever been the purpose of anyone until now.

      What used to happen is that the left and the right used to have different focuses, and different ways to get there, yes, but they both tried to solve what they saw as problems.

      MSNBC likes to occasionally talk about how a lot of the ‘progressive’ things in this country were done by past Republicans (Nixon proposing and signing into law the EPA, for example), apparently under the mistaken concept that this was an example of ‘bipartisanship’. No. It’s not ‘bipartisanship’. Before a certain point in time, there’s not really any such thing as ‘bipartisanship’ for normal legislation…that’s just what *happened*. The left and right wanted something, and they came up with a law to do it. It’s like talking about how Nixon was air-breathing.

      Nixon (for all his flaws) saw his job as solving problems. As did all Republicans before him. As did Reagan and Bush I, despite Reagan’s rhetoric.

      The reason the right opposed civil rights was that they saw that fast a change as a problem, not because they thought their job was to slow everything down. It’s not the same thing at all. It’s like the police will pull over cars driving crazy out of control and swerving, but that doesn’t make it job of the police to randomly block people walking down the sidewalk from passing. (This doesn’t mean they were *right*, I’m just saying that they saw what was happening as a problem to fix, they didn’t see a problem being fixed and decide to blockade it, because ‘stopping problems from being fixed’ would be completely foreign to them.)

      And, yes, I’m away that the conservative movement claims a completely different history. Well, yes, ‘going slowly’ was always a *part* of conservatism, but, uh, ask yourself why none of the supposed ‘conservative’ presidents have actually been conservative, and the only one they can hold up is a mythologized Ronald Reagan that does not exist. Why? Because that’s not actually conservativism.

      So what changed? Why *now* is that ‘conservativism’ that way?

      What has happened since then is that interest groups have managed to completely unbalance society in various ways, and only since that happened, has it turned out that the job of conservatives was (all along!) to fight tooth and nail from making any changes at all.

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      • E.g., Medicare Part D in 2004? Bush II was all-in on a massive expansion of this welfare benefit. No opinion on whether it was needed or good policy, point is that consensus on doing that benefit formed seemingly instantly and crossed ideological lines.

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      • Oh, and conservatives don’t actually *believe this now*, either.

        Witness how many of them want to repeal the election of Senators, or get rid of the income tax, both *massive* changes to how our government works. Or remove entire departments of government. Or how they think it’s a good idea to tear down decades of campaign finance laws.

        Compared to any of those changes, Obamacare is a trivial tweak of a dial.

        Conservative are notstanding athwart history, yelling stop. It is a complete lie. They’ve simply defined whatever direction they want to go in as ‘at rest’.

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      • Bush II also belongs on that list of people that saw their job as solving problems. (He wasn’t incredibly *good* at it, and he managed to ‘solve’ problems that didn’t exist, like Iraq…but whatever.)

        I just left him off because the obstructionism sorta started while Clinton was president. And also because Republicans used their ‘We object to changing anything’ excuse to stop Bush II from immigration reform. So, really, if anything, he’s a victim of the policy. And certainly moreso than Reagan, who rhetorically helped create the framework for embedding that excuse into Republicans…while not actually using it that much.

        And it is just an excuse, able to be ignored whenever it’s not needed. I don’t know exactly when it *started* getting used, all I know is that it ramped up when conservatives needed an excuse to not change policies leading to obvious income inequality, and also wanted a way to object to gay marriage that didn’t sound blatantly religious. So, tada, it’s suddenly noble to stand in the way of solving problems (No. No it’s not.), and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia, I mean, that’s always what the right has been doing.

        Actually, I *might* know when the excuse first started getting used. It was used as a way to make some of their objection to the civil right’s movement sound less racist. ‘Of course we want civil rights for everyone, we just think people were moving too fast.’. (1) But it sorta disappeared for a while after that.

        1) And I need to emphasis that, again, conservatives saw the civil rights *movement* as a threat to national security. A lot of the laws seem to be, basically, ‘If we pass this will people stop marching in the streets?’. So, in a way, when they use that specific excuse for opposing the civil right’s movement, they are not, really, lying…they really did think things were moving too fast and were a little out of control. (Of course, in their head, only problems for white people existed and needed solving, so I’m not saying they weren’t racist…just that they weren’t ‘anti-black people’ as much as ‘only white people problems mattered’.)

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  3. I am going to sign on with Greginak and Veronica D.

    Perhaps all of how we identify in politics comes down to the psychology of self-regard. Maybe we all pick certain describers because they feel good to use and we liked to be described using these words. We know that political “independents” are largely a myth and Vox just published some stuff on how political “moderates” are a myth. This is probably true. What does it mean to be a moderate? I was facebook arguing with a friend from college on Israel-Palestine today. I said that Hamas made some reasonable and morally right demands in their ceasefire like the need for a UN controlled airport and port in Gaza. They also made some unreasonable demands that Israel was right to reject. I’d like to think of myself as being a Zionist but to the left of Likuid but in the end by making that statement, I was siding with Israel and not Hamas. I was not being a moderate because I thought Hamas made some reasonable demands.

    You wrote a post like this before or a comment like this to me on a post I wrote. I think that you are unconsciously or semi-consciously casting conservatives as the “adults” in the room and liberals as the “children” who just want to zoom ahead without thinking of the consequences. But is this really true? William F. Buckley famously said that the role of conservatives was to stand athwart of history yelling stop. Perhaps many conservatives are just trying to slow down reasonable change. Change has to come at a speed that is going to make people uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe even often.

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    • Saul,

      “I think that you are unconsciously or semi-consciously casting conservatives as the “adults” in the room and liberals as the “children” who just want to zoom ahead without thinking of the consequences. But is this really true?”

      Actually, the analogy I prefer is that liberals are like reckless teenagers driving their cars at 90mph and thinking they are indestructible. Conservatives are like the grumpy old men who drive their car at 10-under the speed limit and complain about the all the young kids with their boomboxes and their twerking.

      Progressive conservatives are like your dad. We keep the car at a reasonable speed, drive safe and get everyone where we are going at a reasonable time and in one piece.

      Change has to come at a speed that is going to make people uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe even often.

      I’ll give you sometimes. ‘Often’ is where the Left goes off the rails.

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      • If some of the Republicans would stop demonizing change so much, we’d have less of an issue with folks being uncomfortable with change.
        /Dems do it too with Social Security, but then again, there’s no problem with Social Security. (the problem is with Medicare, and Obama’s working hard to fix it).

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      • Of course the questions are who gets to decide on the speed of change and why do conservatives have special insights on what a good speed limit for social change is?

        The reckless teenager analogy is still pretty insulting to people on the left and it doesn’t acknowledge the differences between liberals and leftists.

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      • Saul,

        Public opinion usually decides on the pace of change itself. The problem is that the two parties often want to ignore that in favor of their own agenda. I notice though that while you are bothered by referring to liberals as reckless teenagers you aren’t complaining about referring to conservatives as grumpy old men. Interesting…

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      • Sorry, Mike, you are provoking my snark reflex-
        So starting massively expensive wars you have no intention of paying for- is that a grump old man thing, or a reckless teenager thing?

        Giving away a free prescription drug benefit, cutting taxes without cutting spending- are these the actions of sober cautious daddies driving ten miles under the limit?

        More seriously, where are these careful Burkean conservatives I keep hearing about? Writing blog posts? They certainly aren’t anywhere in government.

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      • Progressive conservatives are like your dad. We keep the car at a reasonable speed, drive safe and get everyone where we are going at a reasonable time and in one piece.

        Put another way: Everyone else is wacky. I’m the mature adult.

        I see that humility is a big part of your political movement. Planning on getting a lot of votes this way? How many liberals do you think want to hear the message that they are being immature and need to join onto your movement to grow up?

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      • Yes, I totally get that.
        Except the policies that would actually result in such sober Burkean governance would advocate tax increases, to pay for the stuff previous conservatives racked up;
        they would advocate massive defense drawdown to avoid piling up more debt in future.

        I don’t see any moderate conservatives coming within a mile of such ideas.

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      • Can we all just stipulate that the American “conservative movement” is not conservative, but radical and right-wing.

        A “conservative” party would not blow off the dangers of global warning. A “conservative” party would not engage in fiscal games of chicken to try to overcome their lack of a congressional majority. A “conservative” party would not funnel borrowed money to the wealthiest every time they achieve a political majority. A “conservative” party would not valorize a market fundamentalism that we never, ever had. A “conservative” party would not promote going to war in every world trouble zone.

        I could go on…

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      • — Sure fine, but that’s a big bucket of semantics and “no true Scotsman” stuff. Which, if you want to reclaim the word “conservative” from these jackasses, good luck with the fight. From where I sit what we call them doesn’t matter.

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      • Yeah, yeah. But I think this cuts to the dilemma of the “progressive conservative” or centrist, or whatever. Since Goldwater, the activist base of the Republican party is not “conservative” in any way that Burke would recognize: their platform and agenda are radical, in the dictionary meaning of that term.

        In this way, I think we’re all a victim of a two-party system, and our binary conceptions of political culture. “Conservative” is not just a philosophy (or set of philosophies) but a human disposition that people have in greater or lesser degrees. And those with that disposition gravitate to the Republican party, because, really, that’s all that is there for them. (Similarly, those that might have been part of the Simian People’s Liberation Front in the 60s are stuck with the Democrats today).

        So I feel for Mike and Dennis, but there will be no room for them as long as they are being out-shouted by those other guys. And those other guys are the very opposite of “conservative”–they want branch and root change to everything that constitutes civil society and our relationships to one another. Nevertheless, they feel filial bounds to the Republican party, and those others that call themselves conservatives.

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      • A “conservative” party would not funnel borrowed money to the wealthiest every time they achieve a political majority.

        Seriously, can you guys cut this bullshit out, please? I think you understand how government funding works, but I’ll explain it just to be sure: The government does not create money out of thin air and then mail us all our salaries based on how much it likes each of us. Rather, people exchange money in private, voluntary transactions, and then government takes a cut of those transactions.

        Unless we’re talking about refundable tax credits, cutting taxes does not involve “funneling money” to people whose taxes are lowered, but rather reducing the amount of money funneled from those people. The total reduction in said funneling is generally greater for people with higher incomes, because they pay the most in taxes. However, as a percentage of taxes paid, the Bush tax cuts were greater for people with lower incomes, with the rate at the lowest bracket being reduced by a full third.

        If you can’t express your objections to Republican tax policy in accurate and honest terms, maybe you should ask yourself why that is.

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      • Sorry, Brandon, but I am completely unabased, and feel completely justified in my characterization of “Republican tax policy.”

        The facts are, that the two Bush tax cuts succeeded in turning a slight revenue surplus into a huge deficit, and that 70% of the borrowed money went to the top income quintile.

        The fact is that we borrowed trillions of dollars, with the vast majority of that money benefiting the most comfortable among us. So, no–I don’t consider my one-sentence characterization particularly unfair.

        And my larger point, that this wasn’t a “conservative” policy (in the dictionary sense of that word: cautious, prudent, traditional) still stands, I think.

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  4. How is Six Sigma going to encourage a love of learning, an appreciation for the arts, a curiosity for the world?

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    • Saul,

      I’ll answer your question with a question: How do you measure a love of learning, an appreciation for the arts, a curiosity for the world?

      I’m skeptical of any profession that says their work product cannot be measured. Here’s a real-world example: The high school I attended, which I have written about here before, has a mandate that they accept all kids, regardless of academic ability. There is also a requirement that every student take the ACT. For a long time those two requirements worked against each other. The ACT scores were driven down by the lower-performing students which made the school look like it was under-performing as a whole. The school knew what the problem was but because they believe in metrics, they didn’t add an asterisk when they reported their scores to the parents of perspective students. They didn’t make excuses or claim that their performance couldn’t accurately be measured. This problem has been resolved though. In what way? They didn’t lower the bar. They developed better teaching techniques for students with learning disabilities. Now the composite scores for the entire school have gone up. That is the solution, not pretending that metrics don’t matter.

      If you do a good job of reforming any organization, it usually improves morale. People like their jobs more. Kids like school more. That means they like learning more and it accomplishes all of those other worthy goals you are talking about.

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      • I can measure my work product.

        It’s largely an arbitrary but not capricious metric, though, if I do it easily.

        The problem with this, of course, is that once you decide to measure my work product with an arbitrary but not capricious metric, my behavior is going to change and become more capricious in order to maximize the arbitrary metric.

        Compound metrics perform better in this space, with a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures and comprehensive scoring. But then we’re going to spend an awful lot of time trying to measure my work, which cuts away from the actual doing of the work.

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    • Actually from what I know of this wave of management thought, things like love of learning, pride in work, and innate motivation are the very engines that make this process work. They do not need to be “taught” any more than do hunger or libido. They are part of human nature. When you are assigned a job to do, don’t you want to do a good job? Don’t you get frustrated when something gets in the way of your ability to do a good job? When that happens, don’t you think of solutions and workarounds? Do you think that’s unique to you?

      What needs to be taught is getting out of the way of the process, so that it can be turned to the advantage of the subject.

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      • When you are assigned a job to do, don’t you want to do a good job? Don’t you get frustrated when something gets in the way of your ability to do a good job? When that happens, don’t you think of solutions and workarounds?

        Heck, when I felt blocked from doing a good job, I moved to a different company that does a good job.

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    • I lie somewhere between Saul and Mike, here. On the one hand, when someone says something like this:

      I’m skeptical of any profession that says their work product cannot be measured.

      I cringe, because if we limit ourselves to the quantifiable, we’re going to miss a whole hell of a lot of life (I tend to think the bulk of it).

      On the other, I think I get what Mike’s getting at, which is that making education more efficient is a good thing. I have a bunch of friends and acquaintances who are Six Sigma black belts, and they tend to want to apply Six Sigma to everything, but in reality it only works where variation is bad. Presumably variation in art appreciation is precisely what we’re going for, so you don’t apply it to that sort of outcome. However, you can apply efficiency metrics to ensure that you’re getting the most kids exposed to the most art and things like that.

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      • It isn’t that I think effective teaching can’t be measured but I think the quantification needs to be handled in such a way that doesn’t reduce teaching to rote memorization. How does one quantify the teaching of Shakespeare’s Sonnets? By seeing how many kids doze off in English class?

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      • Yeah, I don’t think you quantify the teaching, you quantify how many get taught how much using the best known methods with the best available materials and so on. That is, the sorts of things that standardized testing don’t get at.

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    • As a former theater professional who is now a Lean Six Sigma professional, I think I can offer a unique perspective here.

      First, just about everything, even subjective things, can be measured. But, as others have noted, what is being measured is critical/challenging and the metrics alone will not always lead you to the optimal outcome. In the theater for example, ticket sales are a decent measure of how well you have connected to an audience, but they don’t necessarily tell you much about whether the work you’ve created is artistically meaningful and resonant. (What is better TV? Two and a Half Men or Firefly?) Artistic merit is something better measured through audience focus groups and surveys or professional criticism. Yet, audience engagement and artistic vitality are both critically important to a theater’s success – you can’t challenge an audience you can’t get into the theater – and theaters across the world over centuries have struggled to balance these (not always mutually achievable) objectives.

      Second, Lean principles (for waste) and Six Sigma methodology (for reducing variability) are powerful tools and I believe they could be applied to education improvement. But the rub here is that both Lean and Six Sigma are, at their core, methods that are based on avoiding the jump to a solution in deference to deliberate data gathering of the actual conditions of the current state of operations and an analytical assessment of where operations are not meeting the critical requirements of said operations. Real time data collection and detailed analysis take time and cost money and those are just the sort of things that get characterized as wasteful expenditures whenever people start talking about improving our schools. Now, there is a LOT of data available in education academia, but that data is far too often discounted or ignored. People “just know” what’s wrong with the schools, right? I’ll believe people who say we could better run schools if we ran them like businesses, when I hear those same people acquiesce to the technocrats who’ve spent their lives studying these things and let them implement exactly what they say. That’s how LSS works in business. It’s the only way it works for schools.

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      • Am I right, , that an important step in the process is identification of goals? That an entity with a myriad of conflicting goals is difficult to lean up? (I asked above, what if one of the reasons we have schools is to keep people employed?)

        It’s certainly the case that the sorts of things that quality-improvement management analyses do are going to look like “more studies” and “more administration,” which are frequent political whipping boys when complaints of governmental bloat and inefficiency arise — although ultimately we’re talking about things that produce greater efficiencies and often avail themselves of existing data.

        As I understand the techniques, “avoiding the jump to a solution” seems an infelicitous phrase — isn’t the emphasis on continual, gradual, incremental improvement of processes? So we don’t find a silver bullet and shoot the monster of waste in the head with it, instead we stab it to death with ten thousand needle pierces, each one of which on its own is of only small measurable benefit. A fine thing for administrators to do, not something that politicians like because this produces neither a dramatic shift in outcomes nor is it subject to credit-taking by a single heroic figure.

        So such an approach doesn’t seem well-calculated to dovetail with existing political dynamics at all.

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      • , Lean is premised on understanding what the customer values from a process and then removing whatever you possibly can that doesn’t add value to the outputs of that process. As you’ve noted, the education system has a lot of different people who could plausibly be considered customers, they don’t all want the same things and some of the things many customers want are in conflict with each other. Lean won’t be much help there.

        As to your other point, the rallying cry of LSS is continuous improvement, but that doesn’t necessarily mandate gradual, incremental improvement. The method was designed to take high level performance to an even higher place – that’s where the six sigma comes in – and that requires clearly defining the problems and accurately measuring the process. The typical approach for so many organizations is to rush to remediation the apparent, proximate cause of a problem (jumping to a solution). This leads to a perpetual cycle of Whack-a-Mole, because the time and effort wasn’t taken to bottom out on the root cause of the problem – which I’d say is an apt description of our efforts to reform education in this country over my lifetime.

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    • “How is Six Sigma going to encourage a love of learning, an appreciation for the arts, a curiosity for the world?”

      Are those things the goal of primary schooling? Or are they the icing on the cake whose layers are arithmetic, geometry, grammar, a basic review of history and literature, and introductory courses in biology and inorganic chemistry?

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  5. Thanks for this post, Mike. Your brand of conservatism sounds like what I used to assume conservatives were about but have subsequently given up on. In my younger, more naive youth, I assumed that conservatives and liberals (or in any case, Republicans and Democrats) were essentially working toward the same goals but from different ideas of how to best achieve those objectives. I abandoned that notion around 1994 with the Republican’s Contract with on America.

    I welcome enthusiastically a diversity of ideas on how to approach a given problem. Saying that of course assumes that all parties acknowledge that the problem, in fact, actually exists, that said problem is of an urgency as to demand action of some sort, and that all parties agree on the broad outlines of the likely cause of said problem. Therein lies the rub, eh? It’s sort of difficult to have a productive dialogue on a topic such as, for example, global warming, when one side spends a decade denying it exists, another decade denying that human activity is the cause, a third complaining the solutions are too expensive, and then finally settling on it being too late to do anything about anyway. Can you understand our frustration at calls for cautious prudence?

    Also, to add on to Burt’s comment, I’m skeptical of calls to run [governmental function X] more like a business. If it were really appropriate to run said function like a business then the appropriate course of action would be to simply get government out of that business and privatize it. I mean… have you ever heard anyone, at any time, point to a business and say it should be run more like a government? Actually, having just typed that I realize you likely have heard calls from the left to nationalize some industry or another at some point, but that really gets to my point. As a general rule, we categorize societal functions as either private, public, or occasionally some combination or mix of the two. There are good reasons for these distinctions which generally boil down to issues of universality, bearing on fundamental rights, and whether the profit motive is the appropriate driver.

    That last bit is crucial. A business, motivated by profit, has two basic avenues to approach that end — increase revenue and reduce costs. We only have to look at the private prison industry to see how horribly inappropriate the drive to maximise revenues can be when applied to a governmental function. Similarly, many complaints that people lodge with respect to their dealings with government agencies can often be directly traced back to short-sighted efforts to reduce costs by trimming slashing staff levels in ways that should be familiar to anyone in corporate America. Skeptical? Two words: Help Line.

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    • I’m reminded of this quote from Jacob Bacharach:

      “The central proposition of so-called education reform is that it endeavors to make schooling more entrepreneurial. Now this is bogus on its face. The most salient fact about entrepreneurialism is that most ventures fail. Is that the proper model for the delivery of a universal service? Consider the question irrespective of your thoughts about the larger questions surrounding the provision of universal education. Ostensible reformers say they want to mimic the dynamism and innovation of the private sector. The first question is: to what end, exactly? The second is: do you know how dynamism and innovation work?

      Like most pro-market types, these people are ignorant of the actual workings of capitalism. They see Apple’s glittering headquarters, Google’s quarterly revenue numbers, and they think, Damn! I wish schools could be more like that! Strewn across the historic landscape behind all this success are hundreds of thousands of failed attempts, many of which don’t make it out of their first year. And you want school to look like this?”

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      • I would point out that government-run operations aren’t immune to failure. The differences is that business failures die and get out of the way for something new while government failures hang around and stink up the joint.

        I agree that it can be facile to simply say a government agency should be run like a business and governments shouldn’t take as much risk as the private sector. But its impossible to take no risks and government programmes absolutely should be set up to experiment (not mindlessly tinker, but run proper experiments) and learn from their successes and failures. Of course, this would require a voting public who preferred curiosity and a willing to admit you’re wrong over confidence and decisiveness.

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      • Another way to look at entrepreneurialism is that it’s exploratory, adventurous and chance taking. That’s not a particularly bad way to look at education.

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      • James,
        Education could take a few pages from Social Work, which has been using Minnesota (and a few other places) as labs to work out better ways of providing services.

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      • Burt,
        aw, hell, you don’t need to gamble during school hours. Summertime learnin’ — some classes and some practical learnin, will work just fine

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      • James, from what I’ve read about charter schools is that they aren’t particularly exploratory or adventurous but they do strive for good scores on standarized tests. The most exploratory or adventurous schools seems to be traditional public schools in upper-middle class disticts, public magnet schools and really expensive private schools like the one Kazzy teaches at.

        Slate had an article about Sweden’s voucher experiment with education this week. The Swedish schools are a very good reason why you really shouldn’t treat eduation as a commercial good. Commerical businesses generally want to please their consumers. When it comes to education bellow the college level, this means parents and to a lesser extent students. Parents generally want their kids to do well in school and this apparently led to a lot of grade inflation in Sweden’s private schools. Education is a service where the customer or consumer isn’t necessarily right. Parent and student satisfaction is important but it can’t be of supreme importance because of the potential negative results.

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      • Lee,
        we’ve got an environmental charter school around here that’s basically the bees knees. But it probably acts a lot like an upper-middle class kind of public school.

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      • from what I’ve read about charter schools is that they aren’t particularly exploratory or adventurous but they do strive for good scores on standarized tests.

        They don’t really have a choice, do they? That’s got nothing really to do with the charter school concept, and everything to do with funding being based on standardized test scores. If you try a new model, then impose a constraint on it that prevents it from actually trying to do something different, then you haven’t really tested the model.

        And most public schools are in the same bind. My poor kids are getting less exercise/lunch time and more and more practice standardized tests, not because our superintendent or teachers really believe in it, but because that’s the only standard by which they’re judged by the state department of education now.

        The most exploratory or adventurous schools seems to be traditional public schools in upper-middle class disticts, public magnet schools and really expensive private schools like the one Kazzy teaches at.

        Yeah, the well-off kids are generally going to do well enough academically that you don’t need to focus on teaching to the test. You can do just about whatever you want and they’ll pass the tests. Don’t get me wrong, I support their experimentation. I just a) don’t know that we can tell how much their methods affect student success vis a vis their home environments, and b) we have created rules that make it far too risky for schools of the non-elite to get creative.

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      • I’m OK with experimentation being done through a government system, but in practice is is very difficult to get political decision-makers to sign off on a real experiment – one in which the result may indicate the intervention was a failure. It takes massive courage to admit you’re wrong in politics and the ability to admit you were wrong is vitally important in experimentation.

        Dealing with grade inflation is actually pretty simple – you have the government directly set and run the final assessments for students. That’s how it’s done in much of the developed world anyway.

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      • in practice is is very difficult to get political decision-makers to sign off on a real experiment – one in which the result may indicate the intervention was a failure.

        American case in point: Head Start.

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    • Road Scholar,

      A couple of points:

      1) When I say ‘run a school like a business’ that means thinking more about the bottom line. Every school district should run budget-neutral and most of them are, however this is usually accomplished because some schools have excessive waste and other schools are run tightly and it all washes out. We’ve all heard stories about the district ordering a bunch of unnecessary equipment at the end of the year so they don’t lose their money for the next year. School administrators just don’t do a good job in that sense.

      2) I would personally never advocate eliminating teaching jobs in a school reform. Support staff? Maybe. More than likely though your savings would come from just running more lean and being smarter about financial decisions.

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      • I agree with a lot of the concept of progressive conservatism. Heck, if there were a party calling itself conservative that didn’t want to regulate people’s private lives while deregulating business to the point of letting it run roughshod over anyone it could, I’d be inclined to return to calling myself a conservative.

        However, ‘running schools like a business’ made me cringe. Not because I don’t believe in metrics or for any of the reasons I saw in comments so far, but because I have worked in both public and private sector. When I left a public job I was under the illusion, still prevalent, that profit motive would mean that private sector businesses would run more efficiently. Ha! I saw all the ills I’d seen in a govt workplace plus some.

        “ordering a bunch of unnecessary equipment at the end of the year so they don’t lose their money for the next year”? Check and check. Why? Because industry uses metrics and those say the cost of running dept X this year is big factor in computing how much to allocate for next year.

        As for all the incarnations of QC and quality process programs, I’m sure there’s use for them, but I’ve lived through waves of them and my now-cynical take is that they exist primarily to extract training and cert fees from businesses eager to adopt the next buzzword. From the perspective of an engineer, they more often than not mean hours spent in training to learn the lingo for the current fad instead of spent doing what I am supposedly paid to do (but don’t worry! I’m expected to make up the difference in unpaid overtime).

        I’ll also submit that the Peter Principle and Dilbert Principle were both formulated from experience in for-profit businesses.

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      • I am also going to agree with Bookdragon. I find it very hard to come up with metrics for education. It is easy to come up with metrics for salespeople. Not so much for teachers. What is a good metric for a teacher? Getting everyone to pass a test or turning a student unto self-study and learning on their own because they are curious.

        Metrics and Six Sigma sound like the robotification of humanity to me. People are not optimization problems.

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      • Saul,

        Corporations engage in education all the time. Training departments run on metrics and use them to gauge the effectiveness of their materials and processes. Why are schools different?

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      • My objection has nothing to do with metrics. I live in PA where we have PSSA tests every year to assess student and school proficiency. Are they perfect metrics? No. Do they provide the school with information on which areas they do well vs. which they to need to work on more? Yes.

        If anything, my district’s schools use that much more effectively than any business I’ve ever been seen when it comes to assessing training. Corporations may engage in education, but very few of them do it well. Ask anyone who has been subjected to training in the various incarnations of TQMS or *shudder* ‘team-building’. Even training in using software is frequently abysmal.

        The real issue for me is the idea that somehow ‘run like a business’ is an unqualified good. For instance, there are plenty of examples of businesses that treat everyone below a certain management level like dirt, but are nevertheless quite successful. The school system where my parents live now decided to run things like a business and unfortunately chose that as their model. Result: the message that you aren’t really valuable unless you are writing ‘processes’ and planning at the district level came across loud and clear. Teachers who actually work directly with children are viewed pretty much the way the pointy-haired manager in Dilbert views anyone in a cubicle.

        Strangely, transplanting this prevalent corporate culture into the schools has not improved education.

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      • I find it very hard to come up with metrics for education.

        That’s because you’re not an expert in measuring things. Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, came up with a good measure that looks at improvements in test scores over a year, adjusted for student demographics. It correlates positively with future life success (not just income but IIRC metrics like teen pregnancy) but it doesn’t correlate with the incomes, race etc. of the students’ families. Anything that has an observable effect on the universe can be measured if you’re prepared to put the work in (not always as precisely as you might like, but that’s life).

        Metrics and Six Sigma sound like the robotification of humanity to me. People are not optimization problems.

        People aren’t optimisation problems but government policies are – the question of how to use limited resources to do as much social good as possible (however you define social good) is an optimisation problem – and if you think education is important then its a problem that needs to be solved as well as possible. There is no intellectually-defensible position where eduction matters but measuring education’s performance does not.

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  6. I know it’s the traditional definition, but IMHO attitudes toward change aren’t really a useful way to describe conservatism or liberalism. After all, the decline in union membership since the late ’70s is a major change in society, one that conservatives have actively cheered on. Same goes for the increased concentration of wealth in the upmost 1%–a major shift that conservatives certainly haven’t tried to halt. That doesn’t mean that conservatives are behaving liberally (let alone radically) in these areas; it just means that attitudes to change qua change have little to do with what it means to be a conservative.

    A better definition is one that focuses on Haidt-style moral values mixed with traditional interest group politicking. Liberals are more motivated by care and harm, and less so by loyalty and authority; conservatives the opposite. And of course each side picks up interest groups that attach to them for idiosyncratic or historical reasons and then becomes part of the coalition and is able to influence its actions. It’s complicated and messy and contingent, but it works a lot better as an explanatory thesis than saying that it’s motivated by people’s attitudes towards an ill-defined “change”.

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    • I know it’s the traditional definition, but IMHO attitudes toward change aren’t really a useful way to describe conservatism or liberalism.

      You’re entirely correct, but you’re attributing to ‘tradition’ what should probably be attributed to deliberate action.

      The right, unwilling to solve specific seriously problems, has deliberately painted itself as the noble, cautious ones, stopping left exuberance. That their purpose in policies to stop the left from doing dumb things.

      This is a lie, and a fairly new one, historically. It’s a way to ‘noble-fy’ their actions to stop the solving of specific problems. Specific problem that the vast majority of Americans want solved, but interest groups of theirs do not.

      So they’ve attempted to rewrite their purpose to ‘stopping change’. Despite, as you point out, them being in favor of large changes that are happening, and, as you didn’t mention, proposing absurdly large governmental changes like removing income tax or dismantling entire departments.

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      • Certainly there are points in history where it’s not an argument between conservatives saying “do this” and liberals saying “not so fast,” but instead a conversation where radicals are saying “do this,” Liberals are saying “not so fast,” and conservatives are simply saying “no.”

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  7. Another thought on moderate R’s vs. the rest of R’s. This comes from reading all the recent statements by R pol’s on the “crisis” on the border. R’s pols and most of the Right seems to feel the sky is not only falling but actively been thrust down on us by giant rockets; our military is so weak we can’t defend the country, we are the bankrupt country ever, we are being overrun by hoards of immigrants and new to the recent immigration debate they are bringing in all sorts of terrible diseases that will kill us all. It isn’t hyperbole since a lot of people on the right seem absolutely certain we are on the brink of destruction in a dozen different ways. Moderate R’s, however, seem to be in the actual real world where we are by far the strongest country militarily, are rich, powerful, globally dominant in most ways but certainly with some problems that should be sorted out.

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  8. “The biggest challenge Republicans face is branding and also the characterization that they resist change.”

    Yes, but the issue is that we get conversations like this:

    “Here’s my solution that will fix all the problems!”
    “I don’t think it will work.”
    “Well WHY do you KEEP SAYING NO to POSITIVE CHANGE?”

    “I want to do (thing), so it should be allowed.”
    “I think it would be problematic if everyone started doing (thing).”
    “And HERE YOU ARE, standing astride history yelling ‘STOP’.”

    “I think rich people have too much money! We should take money away from them and give it to poor people!”
    “So you think that poor people don’t have enough money?”
    “Why do you HATE poor single mothers and their CHILDREN?”

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    • Right. Saying that Republicans resist change because they oppose the changes Democrats want is about as accurate as saying Democrats resist change because they oppose private provision of education, Social Security privatization, free trade, welfare reform, replacing the income tax with a consumption tax, and other kinds of change Republicans and/or Libertarians want.

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    • Mostly wrong. D’s say lets do X to solve problem Y. R’s say No and offer no solution or a solution that won’t solve problem Y. If that the situation, which it often is, R’s complain about people knocking them for not trying to solve problem Y, which they haven’t offered a solution to.

      And really all you posited could just as easily be turned at R’. “Oh you don’t proposed closing the border. Why are you for allowing our country to be invaded with diseases ridden gang bangers and rapists.” (note not hyperbole about what R’s have been saying recently) etc.

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  9. I can’t help but compare the responses here to the responses to my “The Left Kills” post. There we had a rush to emphasize that I should distinguish between the left in general and specific threads within it. Here we see a rush to conflate conservatism with specific elements. And once again it appears that there are two cardinal sins on this blog: criticizing the left side of the political median and defending the right side of the political median.

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      • A distinction I’d make here is the following:

        If someone defends X, it doesn’t demonstrate that people responding to that defense think that doing that is somehow out of bounds (which seems like a necessary condition for them to think it’s a “cardinal sin” to me) if their response essentially says, “I disagree, I think X is crap.” That’s a substantive disagreement on the point, it’s not a criticism of someone for voicing the view that is disagreed with as if that is bad behavior. If there’s a problem with that, then what are we doing having a comments section?

        If the issue is just that there’s more “I disagree” when the right is being defended than the left, what does that show? That the active commentariat is somewhat more left than right? Okay. And?

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      • Drew,
        I could answer, but I know from experience that it will only lead to demands for more answers, and those will only lead to demands for yet more answers, and so on ad infinitum, ad nauseum, as you, the irritating little expletive, always do. So feel free to just bugger off now, because you’ll get nothing more out of me.

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      • What if I promise to say nothing else in this thread?

        I’ll note that if you decline to cite, you’ll be on a multi-weekend streak of making this kind of general characterization of comments here without bothering to cite, and then declining to cite even when asked to. It makes assessing your claims difficult.

        As I said last week, I suspect you’d be disinclined to cite even if it wasn’t me asking; it’s convenient that it is me. But now it’s a pattern: you say the commenting culture is the way you think it is and avoid discussion of the specifics of how it really is right now, when possibly you are committed to an impression of it that was formed in the past that you’re uninterested in updating, but we’ll never know because you decline to engage with the record. You just throw the characterizations out there.

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      • …As to demands for answers ad nauseum: maybe that’s how you experience multiple questions from those you regard as inferior to yourself? I don’t recall ever demanding answers from you; I recall asking questions. What else is this place supposed to be about?

        If we were to have a fulsome discussion of commenting culture here parsing your claims (or of anything else for that matter), it would involve multiple rounds of questions back and forth. It would involve examining each other’s claims in detail. If we’re not up for that, that’s fine. But it’s hardly the kind of thing that would be out of place on a political-blog comment section.

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      • …Btw, [expletive] doesn’t make one damn bit of difference. You have to stop that shit. What I’m doing is engaging your decisions to raise these meta-level inter-group squabbles over and over so that you don’t receive no feedback when you do it, and so that the blog sees where they lead, unless you’re just going to be allowed to score your cheap points. I’m doing so civilly, and ont-topic, to the extent that your meta-points are on-topic. What you continue to do is call people names and insult them.

        As said last week, it might be the best thing for you to do to avoid me if that is what you are going to do. But I have no ethical obligation to avoid you as long as I am engaging your points on their substance and with civility, which I continue to do. Dave can as a blanket matter ask us both to avoid each other from now on as a prudential step which I suspect he is about to do, but we all three know he has cause to ask you to avoid me and far less to ask me to avoid you, except, again, as a general step to promote tranquility on the blog.

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      • So feel free to just bugger off now, because you’ll get nothing more out of me.

        This is completely out of bounds and unnecessary. Given the conversation we had offline, this does not please me one bit. If you can’t carry on a conversation, don’t engage. I don’t want a repeat of the pissing contests with BlaiseP.

        Dave can as a blanket matter ask us both to avoid each other from now on as a prudential step which I suspect he is about to do, but we all three know he has cause to ask you to avoid me and far less to ask me to avoid you, except, again, as a general step to promote tranquility on the blog.

        I’ll leave it at this, I have enough cause to ask both of you to avoid each other as a general step to promote tranquility and keep me from pulling out my beautifully flowing locks of hair.

        Again, y’all know how to reach me so at this point, we can take this offline.

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      • I’ll be leaving James alone so long as when he makes these kinds of characterizations about comments here he cites what he’s talking about so we can have a reference point to understand what it is he’s seeing. Of course, it’s hardly necessary for someone to ask him to do that in order for him to do it, but of late it seems as though it’s necessary. If he doesn’t, then perhaps someone else can ask him to cite when he does this. If they don’t, then you might see me engage on these types of assertions.

        Hint, hint.

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      • “I’ll be leaving James alone so long as when he makes these kinds of characterizations about comments here”

        bro

        “do not engage with James Hanley” means do not engage with James Hanley, not “play shit-and-run”.

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      • Eh. If I were going to ask you if one of our African-American writers wrote a post on politics and if the “n-word” would show up in the comments, would you guess that the writer had written a post about
        A) being conservative
        B) being liberal

        Which would you guess? Would you guess that it could go either way?

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      • Believe it or not, the last time we got into the huge argument over the “black conservative” thing, I asked Dennis if the comments made him want to write more or if they made him want to write less.

        He said that they made him want to write less.

        Question:
        Do you consider this a victory that you’d have been unable to accomplish without use of the n-word?

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      • — What is being questioned here? I fully admit that I criticize conservatives more than liberals. I mean, duh, what do you think I’ll do? If you are saying I am being unfair to conservatives, or playing “no true Scotsmen” games with crappy liberals? I dunno. In your other thread I did concede that the anti-gen-mod folks were a problem for the left in much the same way that the anti-abortion crowd is a problem for the right. Sure. But on the other hand, is this that one odd case or central to what the modern left is? (The term “left” being used broadly here.)

        But there is a real fight we keep having: How common are these horrible people? How central to their movement? How powerful within their institutions?

        I think it is fair to say that the left-wing fringe is to a real degree a fringe, not always all the time in every way, but yeah mostly. I think it is equally true to say that the right-wing “fringe” is no fringe at all, but has become central to modern conservatism (by any other name), that today to choose the D’s is to choose sensible, middle-of-the-road folks, even if you do not like their particular politics. To vote for the R’s is to choose something outlandish and toxic.

        These are not absolutes without exception. But yeah, this is basically true.

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  10. A lot of the comments here are pretty meta, pondering why conservatives get a bad rap, or why the moderates get tarred with the same brush as the rabid fringe.

    Politics is the art of persuasion- bitching about why you aren’t winning the argument is even less persuasive than making a lame argument.

    Its also the art of defining yourself- as long as mdoerate conservatism sounds like a polite version of red meat Tea Party rhetoric, its pretty understandable why no one can tell the difference.

    Look at the central issue in this thread- Real Conservatives have demonstrated absolute antipathy to public schools, and are actively working to replace them with private versions- charters, vouchers, etc.

    Mike, your battle isn’t to put together a valid proposal for how conservatives can improve public schooling- first, you have to convince people that conservatives think public schools should even exist, and why we should care about them.

    Can anyone here even imagine a Republican making a public statement boldly embracing the idea of universal, publicly run education, for the purpose of creating better citizens?
    In 1956 you could; Even as recently as 1976 you could.
    Today? Not a chance.

    You have lost the battle for your name- right down to the root, the word “conservative” has become indelibly equated with hostility to all things public.

    You can’t gain it back with small subtle wonky proposals- the opposing vision is too powerful, and too popular.

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    • For a variety of reasons, modern conservatives feel that the general culture is hostile towards them. And that being the case, it seems natural to me that they would not want the ideological inculcation of their children (which is one of the primary missions of an educational system) to be done by the mainstream.

      I would imagine that once the culture wars are more-or-less over (i.e. once the generation that suffered through the cultural changes of the 60s and 70s dies), that conservatives will once again support public education.

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      • Maybe- but I am thinking of Corey Robin’s thesis about how conservatism highly prioritizes the supremacy of the private power, particularly patriarchal power.

        I am less and less convinced that conservatism is even fixed by generation.
        The authoritarian impulse stems from perfectly valid premises, which is why it is found on all sides of the political spectrum.

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    • Mike, your battle isn’t to put together a valid proposal for how conservatives can improve public schooling- first, you have to convince people that conservatives think public schools should even exist, and why we should care about them.

      Is the “convincing” directed at the same audience as the “proposing”? This could be read as saying he first needs to convince non-conservatives (“people”) that conservatives care about public ed, then he could turn to putting together a proposal for conservatives. Which would strike me as precisely backward.

      I’m not claiming that is what you nean, or how you meant your statement to read. If it’s off base, feel free to set me straight.

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    • This is a lot like what I was saying in the previous thread re: Republicans and minorities. Republicans have a history, and the words and actions of a politician identifying with the Republican party are inevitably going to be interpreted in light of this history.

      Jim Heffman was complaining about it, as though this was the result of liberal distortion of the media. But it’s not. It’s a hole that the Republicans have been digging for themselves over the past half-century. And the only way they’re ever going to get anywhere is if they figure how to get out of that hole.

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      • ” It’s a hole that the Republicans have been digging for themselves over the past half-century. ”

        But are the same people still digging? Or are there new people down in the hole, being told “well the hole exists and you’re standing in it so it must have been you that did the digging”?

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      • But are the same people still digging? Or are there new people down in the hole, being told “well the hole exists and you’re standing in it so it must have been you that did the digging”?

        I think we need more laws to go along with: ‘If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging’.

        Perhaps ‘If you find other people have dug a hole, don’t climb in.’

        Although I guess the real arphorism for ‘We’re-the-good-thoughtful-Republicans-not-the-asshats-cheering-that-Texas-has-executed-the-most-people-Republicans'(1) Republicans would be something like ‘ Don’t stand a foot away from the hole with a bunch of other people, hoping that none of them jump in and pull you down.’.

        No one’s making you put on the Republican hat and stand next to all the other Republicans in the Republican-filled yard with all those holes, with the slippery mud and people shoving and trying to climb out of holes and whatnot. (In my mind,the Republican party inexplicably looks like Woodstock, apparently.)

        I mean, I know why libertarians are annoyed when random-not-very-libertarian Republicans wander over and stake out a claim in their yard, but, seriously, I can see why they’re doing it. The Republican yard has giant mawing deathtraps that some percentage of people there are *actively making deeper*.

        1) Or whatever horrible behavior of Republicans that other Republicans are distancing themselves from today.

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      • About four seconds after I posted that, I thought “dammit, what I ought to have said was ‘did they dig the hole, or did they get pushed into the hole and told they’d dug it?’ Because now people are going to be all ‘hurr durr, if you don’t want to be in the hole then why’d you climb in (drop drumsticks, walk away)’.”

        But we can’t edit comments here so whatevs.

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      • Frankly, all political parties have people that dig holes, and I have sympathy for people who are just standing there and suddenly someone else has dug a hole under their feet. That happens everywhere.

        With the GOP, I think the actual problem is that various ‘leaders’ in the Republican party are wink-wink-nudge-nudge here’s-your-shovel, you group of people should go out and dig a racist hole, or a sexist hole, or whatever.

        You guys can’t even come up with a new name, because the second you do, the idiots arrive en-mass and start digging new holes. Does anyone remember when the Tea Party was *only* about economic issues? Does anyone remember compassionate conservativism?

        At some point, the American people mostly stopped buying it. The Republicans are out of reinventions.

        As LWA said, I have actual problems *imagining* ‘Republicans’, or ‘conservatives’, or whatever, participating in the political process in any useful way. If ‘moderate’ means ‘only 25% as crazy as the far right’, that still doesn’t result in *actual policies*.

        Seriously, can we have a post dedicated just to that? In a hypothetical universe where moderate Republicans and (Let’s say) moderate Democrats share power, what, *exactly*, would the moderate Republicans be asking for?

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    • LWA,

      “Can anyone here even imagine a Republican making a public statement boldly embracing the idea of universal, publicly run education, for the purpose of creating better citizens?”

      I kind of feel like No Child Left Behind was supportive of public education, just not in the way that liberals like.

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      • LWA said it was imaginable in 1956 & 1976 but not today; maybe he should have included even 2006 in that former group of years. 2006-2014 seems like the potentially relevant span of evolution in widespread if not totally mainstream conservative thought to me. (I’m not here endorsing LWA’s claim that conservatives generally need to be convinced of the need/value of pub. ed. even today, but I do detect the change he’s talking about, and I think it’s of more recent vintage, at least as a not-uber-fringy part of the Right, than even LWA suggested.)

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      • I’m having a hard time imagining any Republican embracing public anything.

        Accepting, maybe grudgingly conceding, yeah. But embracing? No way.

        Most of the “imaginative” proposals for public entities amount to “Run it like a Business”;
        The idea that there exist entities that are public, that function differently than private entities, and that civil service bureaucracy has a value in and of itself, is nowhere to be seen.

        Look at the mythos on the right, about leadership- Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry; These guys are swaggering buccaneers, scorning consensus and caution. Real “damn the torpedos” kinda guys.
        And the Right eats this stuff up.

        Translate this to running FEMA, the schools, the water department, or the bus system or the health department.

        The idea that a swaggering titan would sweep away the pettifogging concerns of the civil servants and push for action is the sort of heroic narrative that excites the conservative base.

        Couple this with the siege mentality I mentioned elsewhere, where the schools and bureaucracies are seen as the leading wedge of the Cultural Revolution, and there just isn’t any way that the conservative base can get excited about the public sphere.

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      • LWA,

        Most of the “imaginative” proposals for public entities amount to “Run it like a Business”

        The idea that there exist entities that are public, that function differently than private entities, and that civil service bureaucracy has a value in and of itself, is nowhere to be seen.

        I can’t speak for others but my idea of ‘running them like a business’ does not involve privatizing them, trying to make a profit or anything like that. I simply think there are a lot of efficiencies that could be implemented that currently are not. And it’s not every branch of the government. If Phillip H chimes into this thread he will tell you all about how certain branches run as tight as they can within their mandate. Others? I think there is a lot of fat. The Defense Department would be a good start if liberals can’t bear to scrutinize education.

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      • : …if liberals can’t bear to scrutinize education.

        It’s not that we consider education any kind of sacred cow or anything, but it would be nice if it wasn’t continuously being held up as the right’s favorite whipping boy. It’s hard to imagine a governmental function that endures more scrutiny from the public, by thousands of local school boards overseeing thousands of local districts, all having to answer to both parents on the one hand and local taxpayers whining about their property taxes on the other.

        Meanwhile, the problems in education have been studied to a fair-thee-well and we really do know what the major factors are. Poverty, poverty, and poverty. But since that problem is too intractable (politically, of course) we insist on our quixotic quest to figure out what’s wrong with the schools.

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      • The fact that we define the problem with public education as “inefficiency” is what I am talking about.

        Has there ever been a conservative who won an election promising to make the Pentagon more efficient?

        It seems that conservatives have no problem grasping that the purpose of Defense is one which is so important, as to be shielded from cost accounting concerns.
        The idea of public education, on the other hand…

        I heard an interview with a former radical from the 50’s, who mentioned that she could get nearly any social engineering idea passed, so long as it was given the cover of “national defense”- universal inoculations? Check. Nutrition? Check. And so on.

        Of course it was hyperbolic anecdata, but I wonder how much objection there would be within the conservative world to a modest proposal to have the Department of Defense take over our “failed and failing” school systems, and run them like military units.

        That is, centrally planned, heavily bureaucratized, with uniforms, rigid pay scales and astonishing lack of any swaggering solo operators.

        Oh, and guns. Lots and lots of guns. Which were tightly regulated and nearly impossible to carry around loaded.

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      • LWA,

        “The fact that we define the problem with public education as “inefficiency” is what I am talking about.”

        I wouldn’t define that as ‘the problem’. It’s one problem and it actually has less to do with education per se than how school systems are run. That’s where I think conservative business principles could be successfully applied. This was just an example of one issue from the OP of where progressive conservatism has a place. It isn’t a cure-all, but I do believe it would free up more money for things that are directly related to education itself.

        With regards to education itself, there are certainly some conservative ideals which would be beneficial, but I agree with Road Scholar that the biggest obstacle is poverty, which is a whole other conversation.

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  11. My own understanding is that the central motivating force beneath the conservative disposition is a comfort with, and craving for, hierarchy (tied in very closely with a non-inclusive tribal identification).

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      • I used to think this as well, but the current breed of conservative (both the movement conservative, and the libertarian-inflected conservative that has arisen in the last 20 years or so) doesn’t seem to value “order” in the same way as the Nixon-era Republicans I was familiar with in my youth.

        These two factions (which I would call the ideologically-dominant factions in the Republican coalition right now) promote some profoundly destabilizing and order-reducing policies: market fundamentalism, hostility to government as a base principle; as well as having let go of more traditional “law and order” priorities, like pornography, drug crackdowns, “anti-American” purges, and the like.

        But the unifying characteristic seems to be a comfort with great disparities in power and influence among people in society. There seems to be a fundamental faith not only that there should be powerless and powerful people, but that these differences in social status closely reflect actual differences in moral worthiness and character. That the poor are poor because they are morally deficient, and the rich are rich because they are somehow more worthy, hard-working, and disciplined. And that any attempt to mitigate the differences in material circumstances between rich and poor is inherently immoral, and destructive of society.

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      • I think you are right, that its the desire for order that animates small “c” conservatives, in the same way that the desire for liberty motivates small “l” liberals.

        Which is what I meant by the authoritarian impulse stemming from a valid premise- desire for order, abstractly, is a perfectly valid thing, one that few people every argue with. And likewise he desire for individual liberty is perfectly fine, and inarguable.

        Its the priority between these things that is arguable. When is order given priority, versus liberty?

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      • Which is why people like me, who were conservatives in the 90’s, slowly slid to the “liberal” side.
        The contemporary socially conservative movement is beseiged, a shrinking minority that sees the new order as illegitimate- so shutting down the government. destroying public schools, privatising Social Security,, as radical and disruptive as they are, is cumulatively the first step towards restoration of the Rightful Order.

        My conservative impulses preference the stabilization and strengthening of those things, all of which IMO contribute to a strong and peaceful civic order.

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      • ,

        Mark this day on your calendar in red letters–we agree.

        The contemporary socially conservative movement is beseiged, a shrinking minority that sees the new order as illegitimate- so shutting down the government. destroying public schools, privatising Social Security,, as radical and disruptive as they are, is cumulatively the first step towards restoration of the Rightful Order.

        I think that’s accurate. Rightly or wrongly, and no matter how it looks to us outdiders, they believe they’re trying to restore traditional order.

        Which is what I meant by the authoritarian impulse stemming from a valid premise- desire for order, abstractly, is a perfectly valid thing, one that few people every argue with

        Agreed. Although Snarky is right that their actions may have the opposite effect, at least these days.

        ,
        the unifying characteristic seems to be a comfort with great disparities in power and influence among people in society

        That’s been a theme of conservatism since before there was such a thing as modern liberalism. Originally it was the idea that God had ordered society with everyone in their proper place–the duty of both the poor and the rich was to maintain their place, because that was the proper ordering of society and promoted stability. The worst of the worst were the levelers.

        The specific notes and variations on the theme may have changed, but not the main theme itself.

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  12. I don’t disagree with what you wrote but I think we need to first determine what the purpose of education is. My bet is that I would strongly disagree with Michelle Rhee and other education reformers about the point and purpose of education. I think it is futile to make supply-demand guesses in education and crafting policy around it. Everyone talks about a lack of STEM people but that is really misleading especially because Microsoft just announced an 18,000 person layoff. When I applied to law school, it was still considered a highly rational choice. The law market collapsed during my first semester.

    This is a sincere and serious question but do you see why liberals would be turned off at being compared to a bunch of reckless teenagers? You are talking about adults with jobs, mortgages, families, bills, and various sundry responsibilities. Not a bunch of 18-22 year old idealists (though they can be liberal as well). Contrary to popular belief, liberals are not all young and childless. I pay my rent, my insurance, my bills, and I do so on time and in full. Calling me a reckless teenager for believing in employee rights and universal healthcare and a safety net is a bit much, no?

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    • I don’t disagree with what you wrote but I think we need to first determine what the purpose of education is.

      And I agree with that, the first step in developing a monitoring and evaluation programme is to concretely define the policy’s goals.

      I think it is futile to make supply-demand guesses in education and crafting policy around it.

      I agree with this too – it’s an attitude that derives from the soft corporatism that has become the default economic ideology in both our countries. One of the base tenets of my ideological belief (as it has been informed by my study of economics) is that you just can’t predict what the market is going to want. Education should be about developing a strong intellectual infrastructure, that should include some STEM of course because I consider understanding some STEM essential for a well-rounded education; but trying to plan out how many people should be educated for X jobs is an utterly backwards way of educating the population.

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      • When I go on my anti-STEM rants, I am not talking about completely removing math and science from the K-12 education path. Far from it. What I am skeptical of is the notion that teaching 14 year olds Python or other computer programming languages will turn them into a middle or upper-middle class. The STEM mantra people seem to believe in a constant bubble and using today’s demand problems to influence what schools should teach.

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      • , You don’t talk about getting rid of Math and Science classes. You just reject the idea that they have a non-technical educational value.

        You talk constantly about the ability of Arts and Humanities education to empower and motivate children. To make them not merely better worker drones, but more thoughtful, well-rounded people. And yet, every post I read from you seems to reject the idea that STEM education can do the same thing. You seem to suggest that a math class is of necessity soul-deadening, and if it weren’t for the fact that the modern world requires specific math and science skills, that students would be better off with a pottery class.

        One of my good friends is a science teacher, and for years, he taught a science class in which 8th graders built and programmed robots. These kids were mostly latinos from working class families. Maybe a handful of his students went on to have STEM jobs. But damned near every one of them learned to combine creativity with purpose, learned how to think and communicate logically, became better readers and writers, developed teamwork skills, and gained the self-esteem that comes to people alongside meaningful and productive accomplishment. Oh, and they learned 8th grade science.

        That list isn’t that different than the list I would come up with if we were to describe the academic benefits of having a class play. And I think arts education is incredibly important, as do plenty of other STEM champions here and elsewhere. But when you talk about love of learning and curiosity for the world and then talk about STEM education as if it were an antithesis to that, it makes me cringe. And I’m a guy with a theater degree. Imagine how you sound to all of the engineers and technical people who read this blog.

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      • Saul – art classes do get cut and it’s something I don’t like. I took art for three years in high school and loved it BUT it’s not why I became a well-rounded thinker and lifelong learner. That’s what college was for. I think you’re putting way too much emphasis on art and music and I agree with Alan that you sound like you are implying that other subjects create mindless drones.

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      • C.P. Snow describing the world of the scientist:

        “It doesn’t contain much art, with the exception, an important exception, of music.”

        I suspect that this explains much of the divide or at least it does to me. I care about aesthetics and beauty too much and would not want to live in a world without them. Aesthetics are relative of course but it is absolutely something I look for when buying clothing or furniture and the like.

        My friends from undergrad who are science-minded tend to go for the functional over the aesthetic and as far as I can tell (and sometimes to their admission) don’t consider what a sofa or chair looks like in the purchasing decision. Or whether a shirt or suit fits well.

        Now perhaps I care about aesthetics too much but I would be rather depressed in a world without art or aesthetics. And I admit that my aesthetics are not necessarily the most common (but are still probably common enough). I find Mattise and Chagal or Serra to be more attractive and interesting than the pre-Raphaelites and most people would probably put the pre-Raphaelites at the height of prettiness. I find them atrociously boring. I also tend more towards an Eames chair over say Louis XIV furniture or country chic.

        When I imagine a STEM STEM STEM education, I imagine one that takes out art and design and aesthetics and where everything is a t-shirt with some math joke and that depresses me even if not very accurate.

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      • Another way to put it is that I would not purchase the most comfortable sofa in the world if I found it to be aesthetically displeasing or even just aesthetically mediocre.

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      • I wouldn’t get something uncomfortable either but aesthetics are just as important as comfort and size (obviously you don’t want to get something too big for the space) when it comes to furniture.

        An Eames Lounge chair is comfortable and much more aesthetic than say a Laz-E-Boy. At least to me.

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      • I just don’t understand that mentality at all. I mean, I appreciate the appreciation of aesthetics. I may pay more for something that looks nice, for example, if I can afford to do so (and even then I might feel guilty about it).

        But sofas are for sitting. If Sofa A is more comfortable than the more aesthetic Sofa B, holding all else equal, I have a hard time not getting Sofa A. It would likely require outside pressure like a spouse or social pressure (which isn’t holding all else equal).

        LZB’s are comfortable, though not the end-all-be-all of comfort. What I like about them is that they have the removable backs. Makes moving them a lot easier.

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      • I just don’t understand the mentality that would not consider aesthetics and I think aesthetics are entirely relative. There is a lot of stuff out there that is simply not my aesthetic but is the aesthetic of a lot of other people and can fetch top dollar.

        Also comfort is relative and I am at a bit of a head scratch when people say that anything above jeans or cargo shorts. I can understand why ties can be uncomfortable (especially when tied too tight which might be the problem) but not necessarily a suit. When people talk about suits being uncomfortable or scratchy, I generally think they get something with poorly made wool. Wool can be scratchy (like some Pendleton shirts) but it doesn’t need to be (I have a really nice wool shirt-jacket that isn’t scratchy at all.) Now polyester is damn uncomfortable.

        Speaking of two cultures, I just don’t get the suburban dad look which seems to want to exist in nothing but baggy cargo shorts, a baggy and old t-shirt (usually with a sport team logo), new balance sneakers, and white socks pulled all the way up. Clothing doesn’t need to be super-tight and form fitting but it shouldn’t go for blob either.

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      • @alan-scott

        I would also say I’ve run into way too many engineers and scientists who are dismissive of the intelligence of anyone who studied the arts and humanities.

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      • Oh, I do consider aesthetics. It’s just a bonus or a premium. Something to use to make a decision being similarly acceptable options, or to pay more for. Not something to sacrifice core functionality for, though.

        On dress… that’s an area we’ve talked about and have actually found some common ground on. Still not a fan of the casual office. (Though what I would consider appropriate attire varies from job description to job description.) Around the house… eh. I have historically dressed “nicer*” than I need to, though that’s fallen by the wayside since Lain was born. I think the trend (which may have passed) of wearing pajama pants in public is a travesty.

        * – Nicer being both relative and subjective, of course. But I still prefer(red) shirts with bottons on them to shirts without. I’ve always worn baggy pants, but that’s mostly a matter of having huge legs (even when skinny) and “relax fit” being all that fits me comfortably.

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      • Clothing is all about knowing your body type. I am short and stocky. This means I tend to do better in clothing that is more classic (not necessarily preppy) over something really avant-garde. I can’t wear anything labelled narrow or skinny but I can do quite well with a straight leg or slouchy straight cut.

        There are of course all sorts of class and psychological issues that come when it comes to aesthetics. People generally like to think that not caring about clothing makes them more serious and potentially “real.” Certain professions seem more likely to use clothing and other material purchases as signs of success over others and this might vary by location.

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      • C.P. Snow describing the world of the scientist:

        “It doesn’t contain much art, with the exception, an important exception, of music.”

        That’s ridiculous. Mathematicians and software engineers are, in my experience, voracious and omnivorous readers, and, from their experience with the importance of expressing themselves clearly and precisely, have a keen ear for the subtleties of language.

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      • Saul,

        Beginning two paragraphs down from your quote:

        But what about the other side? They are impoverished too—perhaps more seriously, because they are vainer about it. They still like to pretend that the
        traditional culture is the whole of ‘culture’, as though the natural order didn’t exist. … As though the scientific edifice of the physical world was not, in its intellectual depth, complexity and articulation, the most beautiful and wonderful collective work of the mind of man… It is rather as though, over an immense range of intellectual experience, a whole group was tone-deaf… As with the tone-deaf, they don’t know what they miss. They give a pitying chuckle at the news of scientists who have never read a major work of English literature. They dismiss them as ignorant specialists. Yet their own ignorance and their own specialisation is just as startling.

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      • I should add that I’m not arguing against aesthetics or art in any way. I’m an avid reader of literature, was in the high school band and still love music, married a graphic artist, love taking the kids to the arts museums, have performed in theater both in college and in several plays in the last 5 years, and have taught an art and politics class a couple of times.

        But I also am interested in science. My dissertation research led to me spending a startling amount of time sitting in the science library reading such publications as the Journal of Theoretical Biology, I have taught a science policy course and wish I could fit it into my schedule again, I co-teach a course on Nuclear Weapons and Power with a chemist, with a colleague in Geology I’m planning a co-taught course on the GeoPolitics of Belize, and the core of my collegial Friday drinking group consists of the chemist, two geologists, a physicist, myself, and my wife the artist.

        Maybe I’m just an outlier. I guess I don’t really see other scientists and humanities/soc-sci folks gathering together a lot. But I find the cross-mixing quite congenial, and I find that the scientists are not at all opposed to or totally ignorant of the arts. The geologist, for example, has a collection of Hopi art objects, the biologist has introduced me to a few novels I otherwise wouldn’t have read, and so on.

        Whatever separation exists is not necessary, but is–as I read C. P. Snow to suggest–a product of the two sides not making an effort to engage each other.

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      • But , I’m one of the more mathy-techy folks on this forum. Do I seem to you to lack appreciation for aesthetics?

        Going to a picnic today, already trying to decide on colors. (And honestly, I’m getting eager for autumn to arrive, the cool air, the somber tones. Such things please me.)

        And I don’t think it is fair to denigrate STEM or teaching kids Python. Software engineering is a big deal and the demand will go up, not down. And yes, being too votech focussed is an error, but teaching the foundations is not. Nor is giving kids the excitement of creation. And indeed, writing software is creation, with its own aesthetics as well. If you do not see that, that is your loss.

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      • I do agree that both sides need to talk to teach other and bridges built. The problem seems to be that both sides feel rather burnt by the other. It is only anecdote but I’ve had plenty of engineer types who’ve looked down on all my degrees like they are the degrees of unintelligent people. I wonder how they view engineers who go to law school to become patent lawyers. Are those engineers sell-outs?

        And Science types have their own legitimate gripes about being poorly treated by arts and humanities people.

        So yeah…someone has to make the first move but no one seems to want to. There are also probably politics because I’ve read about plenty of English departments feeling that they need to fight for their budgets more than engineering while English majors end up subsidizing the engineering majors via tuition.

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      • there are no sides. it’s a false dichotomy fueled by your obsession with respect and your life choices. why do you care so much if people look down upon you and your degrees or hobbies or clothing choices, etc? what does it do for you?

        is it simply those rare moments where you can wordlessly contemplate the finery of your inner empire in comparison to the tattered rags of theirs, and find ecstasy in the exultation of your inner curation?

        is it worth it?

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      • there are no sides. it’s a false dichotomy fueled by your obsession with respect and your life choices. why do you care so much if people look down upon you and your degrees or hobbies or clothing choices, etc? what does it do for you?

        Exactly.

        And education doesn’t exist to teach students what to be excited about, anyway. It exist, or at least everything outside the fundamentals, exists to *expose* students to things they might be excited about. With some students, that might be the class play, with some students, that might be programming, with some students, both. (I say this as a computer programmer who is about to head out the door to work as a techie for a community theatre production of Spamalot.)

        If anything, I suspect we focus a little too much. I mean, what if my great passion in life had been repairing things? Or cooking? I guess the assumption is that we learn such things in our home life…but a lot of people don’t.

        And, while I never really thought about it like that, but it ties nicely in my ‘We need more life skill classes in high school’ concept. Make students cook some basic meals, make them replace a car headlight, etc. (Incidentally, I’ve discovered this varies a lot by state, so I’m sure there are people thinking ‘But we did that in school!’. Not me.)

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    • Saul,

      I don’t think liberals should be anymore ‘turned off’ than conservatives get when we are called obstructionist or grumpy old men or whatever. You know the little guy in my avatar? I chose that years ago because so many liberals on chat boards were accusing the conservatives of being evil, mustache-twirling white guys determined to funnel as much money as possible to the 1%. Having gotten a lot more mellow about things in the last 10 years or so, it just doesn’t bother me anymore. I know why we are stereotyped that way and it’s why I mentioned in the OP that conservatives need to improve their image.

      You seem pretty hung up on the analogy though. It’s a generalization, but I do think liberals are guilty of a bit too much idealism when it comes to public policy. They also tend to want things NOW and don’t quite appreciate the value of building public support for their ideas. That’s a big part of the reason why they don’t get certain policies pushed through, but the blame instead always gets heaped on the Right. A good example? HC reform. Obama did a terrible job of handling it because a lot of liberals don’t know how to talk to regular people. Populism is an important tool. My side of the aisle frankly, uses it much better, I just wish they would use for more important things than fighting gay marriage and immigration reform.

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      • I would say that the better comparison is the What’s the Matter with Kansas argument. I dislike that argument because who gets to determine what is in a persons self-interest or not. Of course everyone can be wrong about their self-interest at times but in the end it should be individuals who get to decided what is in their self-interest or not.

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      • Who are you defining as regular people and what makes them regular?

        Why is someone from rural Kentucky more regular than someone from Brooklyn or San Francisco or China? Why is a plumber more of a regular person than a graphic designer or an interior decorator?

        You are falling into a lot of traps and tropes dude. Conservatives do not have a monopoly on defining who is and who is not regular and who is and who is not part of “real America”.

        Liberals are so bad at talking to regular people that future historians will talk about Obama’s shocking defeat in the 2012 Presidential reelection. How could he make that 47 percent remark they will ask…..

        You can’t define people like you as being regular and people not like you as being odd. Regular is a relative term. What is regular in New York is not regular in Kentucky and so on.

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      • :…a lot of liberals don’t know how to talk to regular people.

        You sort of stepped in it there, dude. I’m a liberal. Would you care to explain precisely how I’m not a “regular people”? Born and raised on a farm outside a tiny town in western Kansas. Churched in a conservative Dutch Reformed congregation (where the display Bible on the pulpit was in Dutch). Went to college at State U. for a “practical” degree. Nine years in the Navy, honorable discharge. Married thirty years with two kids. And now I drive a truck for a living.

        Doesn’t it all just scream “conservative” at your stereotype recognition system?

        Look, there’s certainly a rural/urban correlation to the conservative/liberal split in America. But this meme, propaganda, whatever… that the conservative half and/or rural folks are somehow more “real”, or “regular”, or “American” is a) stupid as hell, and b) corrosive rhetoric that serves only to divide us by othering the political opposition. It’s something I would hope a reformed conservatism would jettison post-haste.

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      • Mike,

        You’ve been piled on enough already, so I won’t be harsh. But I think it’s worthwhile to have a non-liberal voice agree that the liberals v. normal people line was infelicitous. I think among the most problematic tropes of the last several decades has been that one ideological set are not real Americans. Your phrasing of them not being “regular people,” is different, but no less inaccurate, and, I would say (thinking about if such a phrase was directed at me), rather insulting (not that I think you meant to insult).

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      • Saul / Road Scholar,

        Let me clarify: A lot of liberal politicians don’t know how to talk to regular people.

        You guys really seem to want to take this personally and make sure that I know that you don’t fit the generalization. Message received. But there are (roughly) 69 million liberals in the U.S. That means for the purposes of conversation you have to paint with a broad brush. If you want to get meta about yourselves, I don’t know if this is the right place to do so.

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      • Maybe liberal politicians don’t know how to talk to regular people.
        But they are pretty good at communicating with strapping young bucks on their way to buy T-bone steaks, or young immigrant men with calves the size of cantaloupes.

        So maybe all they need to do is bring the conversation down to a woman’s level, and avoid all the technical jargon, and speak in terms that women can understand. You know, like speaking about how women just want to leave work early to go home and make a sammich for their husband.
        After all, look how well liberals have done with Beyonce voters, those loose young sluts who just want food stamps, Obama phones, and birth control pills.

        Because you know, if there is one thing we can learn from the conservative pols, its how to speak directly to regular people without being condescending or insulting.

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      • Look, there’s certainly a rural/urban correlation to the conservative/liberal split in America. But this meme… is a) stupid as hell, and b) corrosive rhetoric that serves only to divide us by othering the political opposition. It’s something I would hope a reformed conservatism would jettison post-haste.

        My perception here in Colorado is that the heated rhetoric is pretty much all on the rural side. It was the rural interests who said that the Front Range dominated legislature had “declared war on rural Colorado.” It was the rural interests who put the 51st state secession proposal on county ballots. It was the rural interests who began collecting signatures to amend the Colorado constitution so that the Colorado House would be one representative per county.

        Personally, I think they’re crazy. At the least, they haven’t thought through what a “war on rural Colorado” would look like if the Front Range counties decided collectively to really flex their muscles. If the state constitution were changed to do away with the urban-to-rural subsidies for education, roads, and medical care. If the “first in time, first in right” water laws were tossed and “highest bidder gets what they want” were installed instead.

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  13. I wonder if I’m a “regular person”?

    Most certainly not. You intelligently participate in a culture site that touches on politics daily. You’re already way past the people I am talking about. Populism probably isn’t going to work much on you (though maybe LGBT movements could be considered a form of populism – not sure). If there is one thing I learned in the past year it is that there are an amazing number of people who get up, go to work, build widgets all day, go home, eat dinner and watch reality TV until they go to bed. There are also a lot of people who, even when they try to stay engaged in current events, prefer to let Sean Hannity tell them what they should be concerned about. Those ‘regular people’ are the ones that populism works really well on. Clinton knew that. Compare the way he approached policy with Obama. That’s why he had more success.

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  14. You know how much I hate /voluntary/ SOX compliance?

    Nope.

    Yeah, nonprofit providers are in pretty good shape around here. the nonprofit insurance is running like someone lit its ass on fire, though, trying to change its spots and turn into a provider instead.

    Wasn’t there a big consolidation in your area between an insurance company and a hospital system? I remember seeing something about a deal in PA but I can’t remember the entities.

    Economies of scale get consolidation of hospital chains, and that hasn’t changed because of Obamacare.

    Define change. Has the overall dynamic changed? No, not really. Has the implementation of the ACA potentially set in motion an acceleration of hospital M&A deals, consolidation among physician practices and more hospitals directly employing physicians? Absolutely.

    While I’m still drafting a response to on a few points regarding Medicare and Medicaid, the one thing I’ll say here is what I see within the political discussions of the ACA (here and elsewhere) is a greater focus on the access to health insurance and less focus on the delivery of healthcare services. That the former may be a positive does not mean the latter will be.

    I try to read the articles that S&P, Moody’s and Fitch produce about the not-for-profit hospitals, and it’s no secret that the hospitals have their feet to the fire. When Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements start getting cut, private pay insurance will certainly follow suit. It is going to put downward pressure on hospital revenues, and absent any reduction in expenses, it is going to negatively impact operating income, the balance, the ability to generate cash and many of the key operating metrics the ratings agencies look at when they evaluate municipal bonds backed by hospital credit.

    This is an issue that’s been discussed for years, and it’s potentially worse for states that haven’t expanded Medicaid (although that’s a whole other discussion). What makes this even more complex is that all of this is going on as the demand for health services continues to increase due to the nation’s demographic profile. On one hand, hospitals have to deal with the Affordable Care Act, a potential negative to hospital financials (at least short-term) while there’s a substantial increase in demand for services as well as the need to deploy capital to provide those services.

    Premiums are increasing less because there’s more of an emphasis on people paying a percentage of care. This is intentional, and part of insurance companies’ scheme to make things work better.

    In five years, this will matter more to me than it does now. As I mentioned to davidtc, if companies have to pay substantially more to bring their plans into ACA compliance or have to trim their plans at the same cost, looking at some abstract measure of premium increases is less relevant than the fact that there are business and individuals facing significant increases in their costs. Apparently, there are people that either refuse to acknowledge this or think that the people complaining about this are a bunch of “boo hoo” babies that need to stop whining.

    As a numbers guy, I think the attempt to use your statistic is akin to putting perfume and lipstick on a pig. Five years from now, you may end up being right but for now, the number is useless.

    (and yes, PR disaster means you’re idiiots)

    Would people that misspell the word idiot fall into the same category?

    yup things were pretty bad before.

    I’m going to nod my head and just go along with it.

    Now, I don’t have a horrible problem with more hoops.

    I know a lot of people that do, and they’re the people that have far more on their plate than dealing with assholes at insurance companies.

    Because a single claim being denied, and meaning you need to appeal — that’s just a hoop.

    I’m sure the parents of special needs kids that I know that spend months on end fighting with insurance companies will be comforted by your assertion that it’s just a “hoop”. I’m sorry I have a soft spot for parents with special needs kids. I’ll admit it clouds my judgment a bit.

    What I got a problem with, because it’s happened to my family, is medicine being denied, after the hoops, after the doctor confirmed it was medically necessary to avoid hospitalization — because the damn shit was “overprescribed.”

    I have something you and I can agree on – one thing that hasn’t changed post ACA is the penchant for insurance companies to screw people over. The law has prevented them from targeting one group so now they’ve cast a wider net, laughing all the way to the bank.

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