Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center reports that Sen. Baucus
is floating the following trial balloon: Congress would fund fund part of health reform with a cap on the tax exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance but only at a level "significantly above" the cost of the standard plan offered to federal employees. The measure would also exclude policies bargained under current union contracts. ... [E.A.]
Why exclude policies negotiated by unions but not policies negotiated by individuals? Politics, I assume. Unions wouldn't stand for anything else. Fine. But here's the thing--the provision appears to be more than a simple "grandfather" clause that protects current union contracts. A kf source says that the new tax will not take effect until 2013. Does this mean that labor contracts agreed on between now and that date would also be protected? If so, Baucus has just given a big tax incentive for workers--perhaps encouraged by labor signature collectors under a "card check" bill--to form unions and bargain for lavish health benefits that will then be exempted from his tax on lavish benefits. Join a union, get a tax break! (A break the rest of us would have to pay for). ... If Dems start lavishing IRS advantages on union members, maybe organized labor won't even need the "card check" bill to reverse its declining membership numbers. ... 9:53 P.M.
Mitosis in the Faster Electorate: Conor Friedersdorf notices that the fast twitter-driven news out of Iran has divided his fellow citizens and friends into two groups : 1) Those who keep up to the second with what is happening and how the U.S. should react; and 2) Those who take the weekend off and only know the vaguest details (i.e. " that Ahmadinejad won"). I'd say that Friedersdorf has stumbled upon Jerry Skurnik's "Theory of the Two Electorates"-- except it's a peculiarly accelerated version of the Skurnik theory , because Friedersdorf's two groups are both made up of people who would normally be part of the better informed of Skurnik's two electorates:
And those out of the know? They aren't any longer just grandmothers, the apolitical, and the middle manager in Scranton who gets all his news at 11 o'clock after the game. Now people who watch The Daily Show , subscribe to The New Yorker , and read the CNN subtitles as they run on the 24 Hour Fitness treadmill possess radically less information than a self-selecting group of their fellow citizens, granting that they mostly catch up on any given piece of information in a matter of days.
Will this make a difference, Friedersdorf asks?
Are we approaching a point where political information is processed so fast that an event happens, information elites weigh in to shape the discourse surrounding it, the conventional wisdom is communicated to Congress, and elected leaders formulate reactions based on public opinion... all before most of even the formerly plugged in members of the public ever learn what on earth is going on, or have a chance to form an opinion?
I could see Congress, spooked by twitter, overreacting in this fashion--if, say, a draft of Senator Baucus' health care plan comes out that displeases the left, which reacts by shutting down various switchboards before the David Broders of the world can even get to their
keyboards. ... It's hard to believe it will have an effect on official U.S. Iran policy.** (Friedersdorf agrees.)
Of course, to the extent it does empower Friedersdorf's first group, including the fastest bloggers, it would empower Andrew Sullivan-- which (as Obama has learned ) is always a dangerous thing. ...
**--That doesn't mean it hasn't had a big effect on the events in Iran itself--the events that the U.S. government must react to--or on the unofficial reaction of American activists to those events . ... 8:53 P.M.
Alert reader J: "Interesting that the WaPo could write an entire article on the decline of public housing in NYC without ever mentioning the words "ACLU," "liberalism," and "Lindsay." [Link added] ... True! The piece--on Sotomayor's childhood--makes it seem as if the projects were just suddenly swamped by waves of drugs ("Then heroin surged through the projects ... Then came crack ...") as opposed to, say, an increasingly concentrated culture of fatherless dependence in which drug users and dealers and gang members couldn't be evicted because of misguided due process concerns about deprivation of "new property" ! ... (I remember an excellent piece by WaPo 's Blaine Harden on the difficulty of evicting bad actors from housing projects, but haven't been able to find it.). ...
P.S.: The Post 's Robin Shulman does mention that in 1981 Congress "changed eligibility rules to give preference in public housing to the poorest households," which had the perverse effect of intensifying the culture of poverty by excluding middle class and working class tenants. But Shulman doesn't make that point--instead quoting an expert who simply says the change made public housing the "housing of last resort." And that was a problem because ...? ... 8:21 P.M.
Matt Cooper calls "the idea that that the Clintons were unwilling to take half-a-loaf" on health care "total revisionism." Hmm. It sure seemed that way at the time! ... P.S.: Unless Cooper's talking about a specific early-on period when the Clinton plan was first being produced--he uses the vague qualifier "back then" .... 7:32 P.M.
Obama vs. Slate: Obama cites "medical errors that lead to 100,000 lives lost unnecessarily in our hospitals every year." [E.A.] Walter Olson smells BS , and cites a Slate article to back him up. ... 7:25 P.M.