sheer nonsense

“I now put the chances of a substantial health care bill passing at 75%, and the chances of the Democrats losing the house in 2010 at about 66%.” ~ Megan McArdle

Megan’s second estimate is absurd.  The 75% chance of health care legislation passing seems about right.  (By what statistical analysis?  Why – my gut of course!)  But really, does Megan honestly think that the Democrats will lose the House in 2010?  She predicts this will happen at a staggering 66% – based on what exactly?

I think that ramming through the bill on a party line vote makes it very likely that the Democrats will lose the house in 2010; the American public doesn’t like uniparty votes, especially on something this controversial.  A lot of liberals have gotten angry at me for saying this, but it’s not a normative statement; it’s an observation.  IF the Republicans had been willing to push forward on a controversial bill with no Democratic cover, we’d have private social security accounts right now.  But they weren’t, for a reason.

Again, sheer nonsense.  I’m the first to say the current proposals are no good (without major changes), but A) those changes might still happen, and B) the effects of any reform won’t even take place by 2010, at least not in any meaningful way.  So the public backlash over any ill effects won’t occur until at least 2012, and the public is so overwhelmingly anti-GOP right now that I can’t imagine a sudden anti-Democratic backlash because they “rammed it through” without bipartisan consensus.

Beyond this, no, Republicans did not have the political capital to push forward their social security reform in the second Bush term.  They expended said capital on the wars, and no amount of push could change that.

Seriously, the reason it didn’t pass was not prudence, but cold hard political reality.  Since when do Republicans blanch at passing partisan measures?  Actually this is one Republican strength.  Even if they lose the next election, they win the long-term policy victory by pushing through their reforms, regardless of short-term political costs.  Democrats could learn a thing or two.

Either way, it doesn’t apply here.  Americans still by and large support some version of health care reform (however nebulous) and overwhelmingly disapprove of the Republican party.  That’s not going to change in a year simply because the Democrats grow a pair and push their legislation through – Republicans be damned.  Now in a few years the piper may come to collect his dues, but for now they would at least appear victorious.

Update.

Via the comments, we have this chart from Kevin Drum to help illustrate my point:

sheer nonsense

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32 thoughts on “sheer nonsense

  1. E.D.,
    It may be that the Know Nothings will stomp the Commie-Dems based on the loss of ‘independents’ as per some polls I’ve heard. Albeit, we’ll have to wait to see how the economy is in a year, whether Al Qaeda has struck, ect, ect.
    The Gifted One is not off to a good start….now how’s that hope and change thing workin’ out for ya?

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    • Bob, I have little use for “hope” or “change” to be honest. Much more use for fiscal solvency, which I hope health care reform can achieve though I’m skeptical. Nevertheless – one cannot forget that however lackluster Obama’s first months have been, the memory and bad taste in many mouths of the Bush years is still more poignant. 2010 is too early for a defeat. Much too early.

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  2. This is of course the same person who cries that there’ll be “350 million deaths because of lost innovation” (see blogging heads) if there’s government comparative effective research and cost controls away from the present ridiculous state of government subsidization of massive healthcare consumption (which she calls “market forces”)

    And somehow she’s considered a “serious” blogger.

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      • While I enjoy reading her posts and she’s very prolific, I think her tendency to make outlandish claims, then duck being called out on them (or worse bludgeon people with faulty logic afterwards until they stop trying) takes her out of being called a serious thinker in any meaningful context. She’s good at what she does, but she’s not really anymore wonkish than her colleagues at the Atlantic Blogroll, that is to say she isn’t at all.

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      • Could you explain what makes her good as a blogger or enjoyable to read? I’ve certainly spent time reading her posts, and find them generally poorly written, tendentiously argued, and full of ad hominem attacks on people she disagrees with. Could you clarify for me how you reached your assessment?

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      • She is a good blogger, she posts a lot and her posts are interesting. She’s also a pretty decent thinker. She’s got her positions and she can argue them pretty well. She’s also pretty moderate. As a person who falls prey to hyperbole myself I don’t see any point in criticising it in others.

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      • I quit reading her when she said Matt Taibbi was sarahpalin on economics, and then he won the award….or maybe it was when she blamed the pro-choicers for Dr. Tiller’s murder-by-terrorist….I dunno.
        She is a baddie….she shows up for raids in greens with no pots or chants and a bad spec, and expects the raid leader(Sully) to give her welfare epics and linkage so she can ninja-loot after she gets carried through content.
        I see no value-added there E.D.
        She is a profound waste of spacetime.

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  3. Even in the depths of August for the Dems, even Charlie Cook didn’t have the GOP taking back the house. The GOP not only has to make up 38 seats, but they have to fend off challenges in another 15-20 vulnerable seats and replace another 10 or retiring congressmen.

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  4. So, McArdle thinks the Republicans will win somewhere around 40 seats? Where are they going to come from? This chart seems to indicate that everywhere outside the South is hostile territory for the GOP, and there are only so many Democratic seats in white districts still left in the South. Polls still show the Democrats trusted more than the Republicans on every major issue, including immigration, taxes and (most startingly) defense, and while their overall numbers aren’t great, politics is a zero-sum game. As E.D. mentions, healthcare won’t even kick in till 2013 or so. And my guess is that all the families that will get Medicare and the ones that get subsidies will tend to be grateful. In fact, my guess is that UHC will completely revitalize the Democrats in the South, and that lots of grateful poor folks that are currently disengaged from the process because they feel nobody cares about them will vote if healthcare reform happens, and they’ll vote Democrat. This is how Roosevelt built his New Deal coalition, bit by bit, doing things that help people and earning political support. I suspect that that’s the real reason why the right has gone completely ballistic on healthcare reform, moreso than cap-and-trade, which doesn’t offer nearly as tangible benefits to so many people.

    To be honest, I’ve never been impressed with McArdle–she seems to embody the Mencken quote about how, for some people, thinking merely involves rearranging their prejudices. Her understanding of bipartisanship is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read on a blog. Seriously, about half the Democrats in the Senate and House voted for the Iraq War in 2002. Somehow, though, even though the war was “bipartisan” I doubt that Joe and Jane Q. Public frantically scour THOMAS after discussing the topic to see how they should vote on foreign policy. Ultimately, despite the Dems’ cowardice at the time, everyone knows it was Bush’s war and the GOP has been punished for it. The Democrats will similarly own healthcare reform, regardless of whether Olympia Snowe and Sue Collins vote for it. If it works, it will be a vote-winner. If not, it will be damaging. This is the usual Washington fallacy of assuming that everyone is as well-informed as you are.

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  5. If, and this is a big if, a number of previously Republican votes failed to show up to the polls and/or actively voted D in 2008, then I can see these people saying “whoa! I meant to throw the bums out! I didn’t mean to give a ‘mandate’!”

    Necessary conditions:
    Democrats (politicians) get arrogant and thus get sloppy.
    Democrats (voters) get complacent because they no longer have a dog in this fight (e.g., health care reform).
    Republicans (politicians) come to Jesus and actually admit that, maybe, they let Bush get away with stuff that, maybe, he shouldn’t have been allowed to get away with.
    Republicans (voters) say “The Democrats would be worse.”
    Independents (voters) say “remember 1994-1998? That was cool.”

    I put the odds of those things happening as “pretty freakin’ low”.

    But… non-zero.

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  6. I think that the Republicans in 1998 impeached a President on a nearly straight party-line vote with only the narrowest of a majority to defend in the House. I think that they still managed to retain that majority when the elections came around. I think that the chances of the Democrats losing 40 seats, which would likely require an incumbent re-election rate that hasn’t been seen since 1992, and well before the current gerrymandered districting and McCain-Feingold (though that may be unconstitutional by next November), is close to zero.

    I do, however, expect that the Democrats will lose some seats next year, in part due to health care reform, in part due to long-term historical trends on midterm elections, in part due to overall concerns about the deficit, and in part due to Republicans losing the Bush albatross. I can see this amounting to a net loss of 10-15 seats, 20-25 if they commit a bunch of additional unforeseen mistakes. But under no circumstances can I imagine they lose control of the House in 2010.

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  7. She’s a little high on both counts but not probably even a standard deviation in either case (well, maybe one for 2010, but certainly not two. I’d put them at, say, 60% and 40% respectively.

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    • not in this metaverse.
      Obama put healthcare 1st BOTH to move it out from 2010 and to keep Horrorshow Bush fresh on the electorates mind.
      Guess what we are doing next?
      Immigration reform!!….immigration reform in 2010.
      lol
      You think O is screwing up, but he is six moves out in 3D chess and the republicans are playing go fish.
      Something will pass, and then we will be on to immigration reform, where we will be treated to the epic spectacle of the GOP leadership trying to hispander the demographic timer while the Teabagger Demographic goes medieval on their wide asses.
      ;)

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  8. When numbers like these are thrown out, they have no more value than indicating what direction a person thinks things will go and prognosticators of all sorts are most often more wrong than they are are right. The Democrats could lose in 2010, but it won’t be based exclusively on health care reform. The crippled economy and the possibility that protectionist measures that backfire might cause it, but health care will likely be a background issue at that point because some decision will have been made and debate will have moved on to the next great battleground.

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  9. By late next year there is a good chance the economy will be well into a recovery of at least decent strength. This in itself will begin to bring down the deficits that are bloated now by weak economic activity and blunt that issue somewhat. Unemployment will probably still be realtively high, though.

    If those are the circumstances, and barring an international disaster, the Republicans might make modest gains in the House. Don’t forget Reagan had a terrible recession his first two years and he still did just fine.

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  10. I think it’s worth pointing out that while Megan’s claims are hyperbolic and likely unfounded, pointing to national/regional views of the Republican Party is pretty weak evidence of election trends.

    You could show a similarly grim looking graph charting Congressional favorability…but most incumbents are reelected anyway. Also, the geographic breakdown of the MJ cited, Research 2000 poll leaves much to be desired. Views on the Republicans in say Illinois is less useful than views in Ohio and Michigan. Likewise, is Delaware considered South or Northeast because as Joe Biden reminded us Delaware was a slave state.

    Polling of Congressional approval (using the RCP average) shows disapproval climbing steadily from a low of 53% to 63%. Which is only 7 points off where it was before the election.

    Despite overwhelming disapproval of the Republican Party in various regions, Chris Dodd is losing among likely voters by 4-5 points. McDonnell and Christie have been leading in their respective states for governor. Harry Reid is losing to no-name Republicans and once you fill in the blanks, he’s down by even more.

    When you get to the generic House ballots the RCP average has Democrats at +3.7. Add to that favorable ratings for Congressional Dems stands at 39% and the Democratic Party at 41%.

    Not to say that any one of these are reliable indicators of what will happen a year from now but I think you can pickup on several consistent things.

    *People are rather widely dissatisfied with Congress, including both parties.
    *The only thing keeping voters from sending Congressional Democrats back into the wilderness is the fact that they dislike the Republicans even more.
    *Despite national trends, reasonable sounding/looking Republicans are potent threats to Democrats in all every region. (except Massachusetts, apparently)

    Off that last bit, I have to wonder if the Democrats’ push to frame Rush as Republican-in-Chief, while useful and successful, won’t backfire by making Republicans who sound distinctly less crazy look like reasonable moderates.

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    • Well, Dodd has managed to get himself embroiled in the bigger financial scandal issue, so is something of a one-off, and may yet come back to win. Certainly his numbers are better than they were say three months ago. Reid has been a national punchline for a while now, and Democrats have come to see him as a failed leader, for a variety of reasons. Most of his troubles stem from a lack of Democratic enthusiasm, and that might change over the next year. I wouldn’t take them as evidence of a Republican comeback, more as voters rejecting two particular politicians, just as Cao won Jefferson’s old district and will lose it next time around without it indicating Republican decline. Deeds versus McDonnell comes down to a poor choice of candidate who managed to lose a key debate by waffling on taxes. Overall, yes, voters are annoyed at Congress, but then they seem to have been in a state of luxurious irritation for quite a while and nothing much is new there. Most of this annoyance comes down to the economy, with some help from the town-hall nonsense. Basically, if the economy improves, so will the generic approval of Democrats and Congress. It’s plausible that we shall see growth next year, plus the stimulus starting to kick in more strongly, and that this will limit Republican gains more than anyone currently believes. My bet would be a gain of 10-12 Republicans in Congress, maybe a couple of seats in the Senate, although I think the latter prediction less likely. On the point about GOP regional popularity – given how strong the figures are for Democrats outside the south, I would still hesitate to dismiss it tout court. It may not win individual races for the Democrats, but it won’t hurt them either. As for reasonable Republicans – we’d all like to see some. Unfortunately, given an utter lack of reasonable policies from them, and their Babylonian captivity to the base, I suggest that the GOP will be singing “By the waters of the Potomac we sat down and wept, for we remembered Reagan” for a good while longer.

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      • Congressional unfavorability ratings (using RCP) going back to January 04 haven’t dipped below 50% and for most of that time (including years at a time) hovered right around the 60-70% bar. Moreover, Congressional favorability has only cracked 40% a handful of times in the past 5.5 years, even when unfavorability dropped. I don’t see how you can say that most of that “annoyance” is because of the economy and townhalls. Disapproval of Congress as a whole is pretty consistent and has been for years, which, to me, says it’s not about their bungled handling of any particular issue.

        I think maybe you missed my point, which was primarily that broad “trends” are at best unreliable and nominally poor indicators for how individual races turn out. My examples were, by no stretch, indicators of a “Republican comeback,” merely counter-examples to illustrate that in various regions where – according to the shiny graph – Republicans are about as popular as New Coke they are, in fact, credibly competitive.

        I’m a betting man but I don’t like to bet on elections because there’s always the chance of a Reagan/Kennedy debate or macaca moment or any other late-term ‘game changer’ that dramatically influences the results. I think September 2009 is entirely to early to assert, as McArdle did, that consequential chances of Dems losing the house are 66%. It’s also too early to assert that aren’t.

        Final point, as for “reasonable Republican ideas.” Until the President’s speech, medical malpractice reform was on the list of unreasonable Republican ideas and now, suddenly, it’s a reasonable, if over sold, bipartisan solution. So you’ll have to excuse me if I think partisan barometers for reasonableness are unreliable. You’ll note that I said reasonable Republicans not reasonable ideas, I think the two are not the same.

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  11. E.D. Kain you assert that Megan is a very good blogger and is enjoyable to read. I use to think that too, until she started debating the merits of the current health care system. I have since found her to be overly reliant on generalities, strawman arguing and literally made-up figures and numbers based on her own thought experiments. Perhaps you have a different definition of enjoyable than others do, but I’m not sure reading a blogger that engages in the types of debating I outlined above, is actually “enjoyable.” You yourself have illustrated this tendency of hers to just make numbers up, with your criticism of her “66%” assertions. It is sheer nonsense, a type of nonsense she’s been trafficking in for some time, all through this past summer in fact, at least in regards to health care. She doesn’t write in “sheer nonsense” terms all the time, but it’s enough to render her unserious. Read other libertarians. Will Wilkinson and Julian Sanchez don’t just make stuff up like she does…Life is too short.

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  12. I’m late to this discussion but I will add that the Dems are definitely going to lose seats. The question is how many. Will they lose the House? It’s unlikely. Will they lose a nice chunk of their seats….it’s quite possible. McArdle isn’t the only one predicting big losses. There’s a lot of optimism on the Right for this election.

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    • Bah-loney
      After people decide that cheaper healthcare is not the sign of the apocalypse, and we are treated to the Epic Wipe of republicans trying to woo the hispanic vote while simultaneously preventing the Teabagger Demographic from rage-logging…..
      haha, the dems may gain seats.
      ;)

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  13. It would not surprise me to see investigations into the more Cheneyesh politics (lies to congress, torture, etc.,) reach full screech at just about the time the electioneering begins to take force. Just a reminder of what the last Republican administration did. . . at the same time there’s some hope on Main St. and Mapleleaf Street about economic growth.

    I think McArdle’s spinning nonsense dressed up in nice, precise numbers to make it look like sense.

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