Linky Friday #96

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Damon says:

    M2: Gee what a surprise. Someone was actually paying attention and when he got bit by “The Great Insurance Cancellation” he went looking for answers…and found them….in plain sight.

    So where were all the so called “professional journalists”?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

      Yeah, reading the article, I was struck by this line:

      Weinstein, back at home, was stunned at the reaction. Why did he keep finding Gruber gaffes? Why didn’t the press glom onto this stuff first?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Maybe the press was to busy searching for the Death Panels to track down embarrassing gotcha quotes to embarrass Gruber.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Gotcha quotes” is an interesting framing. It seems to imply that the truth or falsity of the statements is irrelevant. Nice job, if that’s the intention.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Because the fact that the numbers guy had little understanding of the politics was unremarkable?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        There are perspectives from which the numbers guy’s understanding of the politics was on the ball.

        “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. Call it the stupidity of the America voter, or whatever.”

        As insights go, that’s pretty trenchant.

        Unless, of course, you were talking about whether his understanding of the politics includes such things as “should you give these insights in public” and, to be fair to him, it’s like he knew that the mainstream media wouldn’t report on his statements.

        If there were areas where we’d say he had little understanding, I’d not include “the politics” in those areas.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        You’re welcome, glad to help out. Loud mouth numbers guy says stupid things isn’t a killer critique of the ACA imho. In fact, as i think we all discussed, i don’t think Gruber means anywhere close to what the Gruberphiles think it does.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve heard plenty of people on this very site seriously question the intelligence of the US voting public so i’m not sure how much thats worth. Of course everything he discussed was widely and loudly discussed, even sometimes truthfully, for months.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        The wacky part, Greg, is the suspicion that these public statements from Gruber fall under the “truthfully” part of the argument.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Got me Jay and since Gruber was the complete and total architect of the ACA nobody elses statements or understandings matter and lordy knows the poostorm of lies against the ACA doesn’t discredit all the opponents of the ACA and what Gruber says is the complete and total end of all that needs to be known about the ACA and somehow also, in some ill defined way, relates to how the ACA actually works or is working……you got me.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Greg, he doesn’t need to have been “the complete and total architect of the ACA”.

        His thoughts, however, illuminate such things as the intentions of the law. If you’re stuck saying “what does this part mean? Does it mean that states that don’t build their own exchange don’t get tax subsidies but they still have to pay the taxes?” and you have someone deeply involved with the process on record as saying “What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill”, then you have some serious evidence on your side for how to interpret the part in question.

        When you get issues such as “man, if people knew that at the time, this law would never have gotten passed!” and you find that the guy said “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage”, then you have another piece of the puzzle that explains how it is that the PPACA is the way it is.

        The biggest problem is that Gruber’s statements from the pre-an-fay-it-shay is that it provides a coherent explanation for the current state of affairs… and that his statements from that time period weren’t covered by the media doesn’t detract from that explanations coherence, but bolsters it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        I can be generally cynical too. Was PPACA especially opaque, as bills of that importance go?(E.g. the Reagan tax cuts: I don’t have the impression that anyone besides David Stockman did any math, and he wasn’t pleased with the result. And we know for a fact that no planning was done for the Iraqi occupation, but I don’t recall that being mentioned before the AUMF was voted on.

        I have no way to measure whether PPACA was exceptional, and I suspect Gruber doesn’t either.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

        then you have another piece of the puzzle that explains how it is that the PPACA is the way it is.

        You have a very brief moment in time where a sufficient number of folks agreed that something needed to be done and a relatively small number of folks had the leverage to get a lot of mileage out of the fact that the folks who felt something needed to be done needed to cut a deal.

        Of course there were going to be triggers and unexploded ordinance lying around.

        I think such is self evident for any really large piece of legislation.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I am 100% down with putting Obama in the same category as Raygun and Dumbya.

        Is “Obomba” suitable?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        If you read Gruber’s comments in their entirety, it’s clear he’s saying that the federal government’s delay in setting up healthcare.gov, causing subsidies not to be available during that delay, is what is pressuring the states to set up exchanges, not that subsidies won’t be available in states that don’t set up their own exchange even after the federal backstop is stood up.

        Just read ’em! And don’t quote from them selectively afterward!Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve read them, Michael Drew, and I disagree. In his original comments there’s no such indication that there will be subsidies for federal exchanges, and no indication he’s talking about a delay in the federal government setting up those exchanges.

        In his later, post-hoc, comments is when he says that clearly. So is he 1) honestly and sincerely clarifying what he meant before, or 2) lying and covering his tracks now?

        We can’t know. If you’re inclined to distrust him, and/or you hate ACA you’ll be inclined to read him as doing 2. If you’re inclined to trust him and/or like ACA you’ll be inclined to read him as doing 1.

        But from just reading his original comments one cannot answer that question with any confidence.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d sorta like to hear from, you know, the people who actually voted for the bill explain how they didn’t mean for subsidies to go to states that didn’t set up their exchange.

        From what I understand, nobody said anything. In fact, quite a number have quite publicly said “No, we never meant that. It was never our intention. Federally established exchanges get the subsidy too”.

        Or CBO scoring? Did the CBO score the final bill without subsidies for states that didn’t set up their exchanges?

        Or amendments — were their any amendments to BAR states from subsidies if the Feds set up their exchanges? What was the vote on that?

        In short, is there anything BUT one quote from Gruber to indicate this? Because it seems to me that you’ve got one quote from Gruber (that he’s even recanted) and a couple hundred Congress-critters and the entire Executive branch who think otherwise. Preponderance of evidence, you know?

        That’s not even getting into the court case (if it can be read either way, precedent says you go with the intent — and you and I and Gruber can say all we want, but we ain’t the guys who voted the law or implemented the law, so it really doesn’t matter what we said).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Don’t forget the part of the quote that says “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO did not score the mandate as taxes”.

        This is a fairly interesting statement on his part. It’s like he came out and said that the bill was written in a way to game the CBO.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well at least Jay is, i’m just guessing here, willing to come down hard on all the lies told by ACA opponents and the deliberate dragging out of negations as a tactic to kill it. And of course whether you call them taxes, subsidies or orange marmalade is only about the name tag you put on the thing it doesn’t actually what the thing was ( the substance) which was known and discussed. And of course constantly focusing on what Gruber said, and he is at best an obnoxious jerk, ignores what all the many other people who were involved thought and said. But they did and said doesn’t support the narrtive the Gruberites want.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        “willing to come down hard on all the lies told by ACA opponents”

        I’m just quoting the guy, Greg. I’m not saying what Gruber said was the truth or that it was a lie. It was, however, something that he said that is consistent with what the opponents of the PPACA said that the architects were doing. How much of a jerk Gruber is seems to be immaterial to that.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d comment on the CBO thing, but I hit my head so hard on my fainting couch at the very notion that a bill might be written to get certain results during CBO scoring that I just can’t do it. The shock is too much for my system. I must rest.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        nobody said anything. In fact, quite a number have quite publicly said “No, we never meant that. It was never our intention. Federally established exchanges get the subsidy too”.

        The problem, Morat, is that nobody said the opposite, either. Each side wants to insist that in the absence of anyone saying anything at all, obviously they meant what our side wants them to have meant.

        This has been one of the most ridiculous political debates I’ve ever witnessed. “They didn’t say anything, so their silence means they agree with me” is a stupid argument, but both sides are insisting it’s true.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        So we agree that arguments that use the CBO as a defense against “it’ll cost more than proponents are saying” are pretty useless? “Hey, the CBO is *NON-PARTISAN*!” and so on?

        I’d just like that hammered out before the next time we argue about something budgetary.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        So far, Gruber has provided three different accounts of the “tortured” language of the bill:

        1. To hide the fact that that the bill requires money from healthy people to pay the healthcare expenses of the sick from “stupid American voters” .
        2. To hide that tax credits only kick in if a state sets up an exchange.
        3. To make sure the CBO didn’t scored the mandate as a penalty rather than as taxes.

        For folks with an axe to grind, you can take your pick. If you don’t like those options, wait a bit since there’s probably more coming!

        It seems to me Gruber has the axe to grind.

        The one issue that seems to matter, since it’s going to the SC, is whether tax subsidies apply to consumers in states where the fedrul gummint created the exchange. Seems like that issue will be decided by considerations that go way beyond accusations of writing an intentionally tortured bill to dupe the public. Either the Obama admin is wrong to provide tax credits under those conditions, or they aren’t.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Wow Jay people use the most favorable assumptions when scoring things….ohhhh….ahhhh…..i’m sure that if you ever have something you are pushing for scored you will use the least favorable assumptions.

        CBO scoring is pretty darn good, but it can only work within a set of estimates which are inherently hard to do. Will the ACA cost more or less then guessed…..well given all the BS at the time its almost like we have to implement it to see how it works.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Will the ACA cost more or less then guessed…..well given all the BS at the time its almost like we have to implement it to see how it works.

        That’s true, greg, but given how earnestly we were all assured that it wouldn’t be so very costly, it’s a bit rich now for supporters to get miffed at folks pointing back at what we were all told with such assurance back then.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley
        The problem, Morat, is that nobody said the opposite, either. Each side wants to insist that in the absence of anyone saying anything at all, obviously they meant what our side wants them to have meant.

        Except, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, the claim is that the bill was written to exclude subsidies to states that didn’t set up exchanges.

        Which means it is totally *inconceivable* that someone, who wanted state exchanges (Like the administration!) didn’t threaten states with that to make them set them up.

        It is complete nonsense to stand there and say ‘This bill was meant to pressure states into doing something’, and then have absolutely *no* evidence that the states were ever pressured in such a manner, by anyone at all. States (*many* more states than the government originally projected) failed to set up an exchange, and no one (except Gruber) bothered to mention this incentive to them?

        The absence of anyone stating an opinion one way or another is actually fairly good evidence that ultimatums were not intended to, and not understood to, have been made. Because ultimatums that *are not stated* are pure nonsense as a concept.

        We’re officially in Dr. Strangelove territory here.

        @morat20
        Or CBO scoring? Did the CBO score the final bill without subsidies for states that didn’t set up their exchanges?

        The CBO scored the bill under the assumption that everyone would get subsidies, even in states that used the Federal exchanges. (Admittedly, they assumed slightly more states would set up their own exchanges, but they did assume *some* wouldn’t.)

        Make of that fact (And the fact that despite that CBO scoring being hotly contested, no one bothered to point out how they had made a fundamental error about the law that would have massively changed the cost.) what you will.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        So, to sum up — it’s Gruber saying ONE thing and everyone else — Congress and the Executive branch simply doing the exact opposite. I mean sure, they didn’t go out in front of everyone and say “We mean this” they just…did it.

        I’m confused.

        I’ve got what Gruber — who isn’t a member of Congress or the President or a part of the executive branch and thus not actually responsible for anything saying one thing.

        And then everyone who actually WAS involved — who voted, implemented, or did the work — did entirely the opposite of what Gruber said.

        So you can see my confusion. I’ve got a basic set of possibilities here: Gruber said something wrong, but nobody really noticed and just implemented the bill as intended. Gruber was correct, but for some reason all the people who actually voted on and implemented in the law just went the opposite way without saying anything.

        So it still boils down to Gruber, who didn’t have a vote and didn’t implement the law, said “no subsidies”,. Everyone else in government entirely went with “subsidies”.

        Since no one — not a member of the Executive branch, not a Senator or Representative — started screaming “that’s not how it works” when the ACA was implemented, and in fact I’m not aware of ANY of them going on record (not Democrat or Republican) indicating that was their intent as they passed the legislation, I’m afraid I cannot understand why you’re determined to die on this particular hill.

        We’ve got Gruber who said one thing, and then…the entire government who voted on and implemented this saying the other. What’s a better judge of intent? Heck, what’s more likely? One guy said something wrong, or the entire government — Republicans included — passed a law and then said “Eh, no, let’s do the opposite of what we just made legally binding”?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Morat,

        Once again we see the post-hoc marginalization of Gruber. When he became inconvenient, suddenly he’s ret-conned as an insignificant player.

        And, again, you’re basing what they understood at the time they passed the law based solely on what they have said after the fact. They could be telling the truth, but they could also be saying what’s politically convenient. Absolutely the only contemporary voice is Gruber, who appears–appears, I say, and nothing stronger–to be saying something different.

        There is no knowing here, and barring any new evidence coming out, anyone who claims that we can really know, one way or the other, is fooling themselves.

        David TC,
        *inconceivable*

        Heh, calling Inigo Montoya.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Here’s my suspicion regarding the exchanges: This ultimatum works very well if there is only a handful of states that fail to make an exchange (and even better if only red states fail to make them for political reasons).

        Fine, Texas! You don’t want to make an exchange! It’ll cost you *MORE*. Then, next year, Texas will make an exchange because Texas’s citizenry will scream bloody murder about how everybody has subsidies but them.

        If thirty-something states don’t make an exchange, then this ceases to be a decent ultimatum and, suddenly, becomes something that could cause the law to fail.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s like after McCarthy called Owen Lattimore a Communist, and all the records were changed to make it look like he’d never been secretary of state.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        “They didn’t say anything, so their silence means they agree with me” is a stupid argument, but both sides are insisting it’s true.

        I agree that this is a dumb debate on a lot of levels, but I think that one side has a bit more of a point on the “silence is consent” thing. Opponents of the ACA are asking us to believe that lawmakers voted for a law with intent X and then said nothing for years while the law was implemented with ~X. Even weirder, now that the courts are threatening to turn ~X into X, they’ve all inexplicably changed their minds and now they want the opposite of what they voted for instead of being happy that the courts are going to fix it so they get what they thought they voted for.

        I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for that turnaround. If it was some sort of conspiracy to get the law through saying one thing an writing another and then letting the courts take the heat for it, it was truly a subtle masterstroke.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        So we agree that arguments that use the CBO as a defense against “it’ll cost more than proponents are saying” are pretty useless? “Hey, the CBO is *NON-PARTISAN*!” and so on?

        I’m pretty sure that the following things are not all the same:

        *) Lawmakers want to game the CBO to whatever extent hey can.
        *) Lawmakers wanted the ACA such that the CBO doesn’t call the mandate a tax.
        *) CBO numbers are easily gamed, their results are wrong, and the CBO shouldn’t be relied upon. Or at least, other sources will produce consistently better estimates and we should rely on those other sources.

        In fact, I’m pretty sure that one does not follow from the other.

        If somebody was actually interested in determining whether a particular office is doing a good job of projecting costs, it’s not that hard to look at their projections on past laws and compare them to reality. Unless something has changed fairly recently, the CBO is the top of the heap on that metric.

        Normally when you hear the CBO numbers, they’re being compared to one political party’s talking points what some yahoo on cable news is pounding the desk about. Are you *really* sure you’re ready to jump ship on the CBO and just go with your gut for the sake of truthiness?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley

        And, again, you’re basing what they understood at the time they passed the law based solely on what they have said after the fact.

        The *CBO* said everyone got subsidies before the law passed. Everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, let that math stand.

        This is despite Republicans taking large issues with the CBO’s scoring of the law. This is also despite the Republicans having a huge issue with the mandate, and without the subsidies the mandate is completely unworkable.

        So one hand, there’s some guy somewhat associated with the process wandering around saying one version of things, which Congress almost certainly never heard about, and on the other hand, you have the CBO, a government office, producing official government reports that operate on a different version of things, and lawmakers of both parties pouring over that looking for mistakes, and not saying anything.

        @troublesome-frog
        Opponents of the ACA are asking us to believe that lawmakers voted for a law with intent X and then said nothing for years while the law was implemented with ~X. Even weirder, now that the courts are threatening to turn ~X into X, they’ve all inexplicably changed their minds and now they want the opposite of what they voted for instead of being happy that the courts are going to fix it so they get what they thought they voted for.

        Even weirder than those things, the supposed intent of X is to pressure states into doing things, and absolutely no one tried doing that.

        Even if 99% of the lawmakers had suddenly changed their mind and wanted ~X for some reason, and decided to pretend that was what the law said the entire time…surely at least a few people wouldn’t have gotten the memo that everyone was going to pretend that. I mean, there were a *lot* of state-level Dem politicians that wanted their state to make their own exchange, but none of them bothered to say ‘Hey, without doing this, we don’t get subsidies’.

        No one can rationally argue ‘No subsidies for federal exchange’ is what was intended by lawmakers when passed(1). I’m sorry, you really can’t. There is no way to argue that lawmakers deliberately built a stick/carrot approach for states into a law, but the second the law passed, every single person in the country (Except Gruber) just *forgot* about it and never used it to try to influence state decisions.

        1) Now, you can argue that ‘That line was copied from some proposal, or inserted by someone, who did intend that, and *lawmakers didn’t noticed*’. That is a fine theory, but it’s something else entirely.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Troublesome Frog,

        I think the argument has been made repeatedly, including here by Jaybird. I think it’s quite plausible that there was an assumption that most states would make exchanges because it would provide a benefit for their citizens that was subsidized federally. It is quite common for states to do what the federal government wants when it subsidizes the programs (cough, No Child Left Behind, cough). It might–reasonably, I would argue–have seemed (ahem) inconceivable that a significant number of states would make an ideological choice to not set up exchanges. One or two would be outliers, and likely feel pressure from their citizens to go along. But a whole bunch makes it a mainstream position, and the pressure points back in the other direction, so the administration could quite reasonably have shifted tactics. And just as reasonably the administration and its supporters would want to publicly signal that they hadn’t shifted tactics, because to do so would be to admit they’d lost that round.

        In short, what plausibly explains the (alleged) turnaround is simply that the supporters of ACA are far more committed to the outcome–everyone in the country having access to exchanges–than they are to the means. It’s only implausible if you think the specific means matter more to them than the outcome. And in this case I think it’s pretty nearly indisputable that all along the particular outcome was the goal, and the search for means was primarily a search for whatever particular means–whether clearly understood or obscure enough to minimize points on which opposition might focus–could get a majority vote in Congress. With the choice of means being primarily a response to political necessity I can’t imagine why any of ACA’s supporters would object if the means changed later in response to new political necessities. Would you really expect them to stick to their original means if it looked like they were going to be ineffective in achieving their goals?

        Now, I don’t know that this is the case. I’m not arguing that it is with any certainty the case. I am saying that I don’t see how anyone who’s observed American politics for any number of years could find that explanation particularly implausible. Were it the plot of a fictional story about American politics, nobody would be objecting that it was unrealistic.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Once again we see the post-hoc marginalization of Gruber. When he became inconvenient, suddenly he’s ret-conned as an insignificant player.

        Well, insofar as people are flip-flopping on Gruber, it’s because he’s basically calling the architects of the law as well as the voting public either liars or stupid or both. He’s only made one substantive comment about the legality of ACA policy enactment (providing tax credits in federal-exchange states) and his claim is a real stretcher (it requires us to suppose that the entire writing, rollout and enforcement of the bill was a deliberate lie to pull one over on – who exactly?). Apart from that one claim, he hasn’t said anything substantive, in my view. Even his critique of the admin viewing mandate as a penalty rather than a tax makes no sense. Or is irrelevant even if it does. Roberts cleared that one up.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        The *CBO* said everyone got subsidies before the law passed. Everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, let that math stand.

        If the law had worked as anticipated, with each state setting up exchanges, then everyone would have subsidies. Therefore, federal subsidies are not necessary for the CBO to use that assumption. Further, the CBO analysis is completely silent on the issue of whether it is contemplating state exchanges, federal exchanges or a combination.

        What that means is that the CBO assumption tells us nothing about what Congress meant. It does not support an argument either for subsidies for federal exchanges or arguments against them. It simply can’t be used honestly by either side to support their case.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Unless something has changed fairly recently, the CBO is the top of the heap on that metric.

        Ditto that, and I meant to write something similar. As a general rule, one should place much more confidence in CBO estimates than OMB estimates. OMB works for the President and part of their job is to make him look good, and of course every president is a member of just one party. CBO works for Congress, which is always composed of at least two parties, and the only way it can retain support is to be relatively non-partisan. They may or may not be particularly competent (I think they generally are), and one can certainly quibble with particular assumptions they tend to use, but we can generally be sure they’re not consciously trying to game their reports to favor one side or the other.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        I have literally no idea why you two are so insistent on this. It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

        If Gruber is correct, then Congress intended the subsidies to force states to use their own exchanges. But neither Congress nor the Executive branch did so, nor did any Congressmen complain that it wasn’t so.

        How can Gruber be correct about the subsidies as leverage when no part of the Government attempted to use them as such?

        Again, there are two possibilities: Gruber is correct, but Congress and the Executive branch (Republican and Democrat alike) never publicized this, never spoke of it, and never tried to enforce it OR complain about it in some bizarre conspiracy of silence — or Gruber is wrong.

        You are literally endorsing a conspiracy theory here, in which both Democrats and Republicans — who hated the law and have taken every chance they can to fight it, gainsay it, or claim Executive overreach on it — have somehow remained silent for years.

        You have Gruber’s words on one hand — and the actions of both parties and Government on the other. Why is Gruber’s words worth more than the actual actions of Congress? Since when have words EVER meant more than actual deeds in determining intent?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        @stillwater

        I have no brief for Gruber. I think he’s been appalling dishonest in that he was taking money from the administration to consult on the ACA and then not reporting that when he wrote supposedly objective articles for various media outlets. And everytime he speaks now he seems to contradict something he said before–he’s dug himself a hole and each time he lifts the shovel he makes it deeper. I’d want to put him behind me, too, if he was on my side.

        But that doesn’t make it any less grimly amusing to the non-partisan observer to see liberals scurrying to fill in the hole and bury him.

        My non-partisanness might be questioned, but I find ACA interesting as a political and policy phenomenon. The law has, and will have, insignificant impact on my life, and I care little whether it survives or dies. Were I betting, though, I would bet that SCOTUS rejects the challenge to the federal exchange subsidies. While I think there is a reasonable legal argument against them, I don’t think it’s knock down, and the legal argument for them is also reasonable, so some combination of a majority of the Supremes wanting to uphold the law, exercising deference to Congress, and having already demonstrated a perhaps-unexpected willingness to accept a much less persuasive argument to uphold the law (Roberts) will rule the day.

        I certainly don’t buy the arguments of some critics that Obamacare is the great socialist destruction of America, the final nail in the coffin of the Constitution, etc. etc. About all I really think about it is that it’s a none-too-surprising giveaway to the insurance industry, and that it’s amusing to watch both its fervent supporters and fervent detractors dutifully playing out their oh-so-predictable roles.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        You are literally endorsing a conspiracy theory here

        Well, considering that I already explained how this would work, and explained how it would work as a function of normal politics, I hope you can understand why I’m not impressed with such a silly claim.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

        The *CBO* said everyone got subsidies before the law passed. Everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, let that math stand.

        Everyone in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, may have let that math stand. What we are seeing in this lawsuit — and, I think, all the other lawsuits to date — are the states as individual plaintiffs. The long term history, not just of the ACA, is interesting. When Medicaid was passed 50 years ago, the states were given a choice. The SCOTUS tossed the part of the ACA that said Medicaid expansion was mandatory, again allowing the states to have a choice. The ACA said that setting up an exchange was a state choice (although the feds would run one if a state declined). The current lawsuit asserts — in some fashion, not in the words I’m going to use — that the income tax benefits are part of the deal when a state elects to participate by running an exchange. States get to choose, not the feds.

        In hindsight, the Congressional Dems might have been better served by designing either a more centralized system or a more distributed one, rather than the mish-mash that they have now. Make it a federal program and give the states no choice, or make it a real federal/state program like the original Medicaid and give the states the choice to sign on for the entire package or not. The latter requires patience — it took almost 20 years before Arizona signed on to Medicaid.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley
        If the law had worked as anticipated, with each state setting up exchanges, then everyone would have subsidies. Therefore, federal subsidies are not necessary for the CBO to use that assumption.

        The CBO did not assume that every state would set up exchanges.

        To quote the CBO directly: ‘Even though early political opposition to the Affordable Care Act made it apparent that some governors might refuse to directly run their own marketplaces, thereby delegating such administration to the federal government, the CBO’s projections always correctly assumed that financial help would be available to qualifying individuals and families regardless.’

        The CBO knew that some states would not set up exchanges. The CBO did not care, because that didn’t do a damn thing WRT scoring the law, as far as they were concerned.

        Oh, and an interesting fact everyone is forgetting: Various places in the US *cannot have a state exchange*, for the obvious reason they are not states. DC, Puerto Rico, probably some others.

        The CBO, for some reason, assumed that *those people* would get subsidies.

        (This fact also sorta screws up the entire premise that the law intends to encourage states to set up exchanges. If they had intended that, they presumably would have *excluded things that are not states* from being punished for failing to do something they literally cannot do!)

        Further, the CBO analysis is completely silent on the issue of whether it is contemplating state exchanges, federal exchanges or a combination.

        I have no idea why you’re saying this, because it rather proves the point I’m making.

        The CBO assumed that everyone, in every US state, was eligible for subsidies, and hence it made no distinction at all between what exchange people were on.

        @stillwater
        it requires us to suppose that the entire writing, rollout and enforcement of the bill was a deliberate lie to pull one over on – who exactly?

        It was an attempt to keep the part of the law intended to persuade states to set up their own exchange a *secret* until after they failed to set up their own exchange. I think that’s the current logic?

        So, basically, government incentive to get states to invent time travel so they can send someone back in time to 2011 to tell them they need to make their own exchange or everything goes sideways in 2015.

        Get on it, states!

        Apart from that one claim, he hasn’t said anything substantive, in my view. Even his critique of the admin viewing mandate as a penalty rather than a tax makes no sense. Or is irrelevant even if it does. Roberts cleared that one up.

        Gruber is actually 100% right about how the attempt to frame the mandate as a penalty instead of a tax was pure political nonsense.

        I am, however, a little unsure why conservatives think that *Gruber* said this is still important years after *the Surpreme Court* said it was a tax. We have a fricking constitutional ruling that it’s a damn tax. It’s about as settled as humanely possible.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        He clearly suggests both of those things. From the vid that started it all:

        Questioner: You mentioned the health-information [sic] Exchanges for the states, and it is my understanding that if states don’t provide them, then the federal government will provide them for the states.

        Gruber: Yeah, so these health-insurance Exchanges, you can go on ma.healthconnector.org and see ours in Massachusetts, will be these new shopping places and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance. In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.

        The final “this” in bold refers to the fact that “The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop.” That’s how that word “this” works: absent good reason to believe otherwise, it refers to what someone has right in front of them, or what they have just been talking about.

        If it were clear that Gruber were saying what his critics say he was saying, then it would be fair to say he might be, let’s say it, lying about what he meant there because the politics of meaning it are so bad. But it’s actually fairly clear he didn’t mean what his critics are saying he meant. So it’s stretching and unfair to say he might be lying about what he meant with those comments when he says he didn’t mean what it’s claimed he meant, when the words fairly clear don’t mean that, or at least by any possible reading not at all clearly mean that, as there are clear indications he meant something else.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        James,

        I’m not partisan in my support of the ACA. It was – and remains – reluctant at best. So I’m neither defending the ACA from Gruber, nor attacking him. I’m just defending those who get defensive about taking Gruber’s claims too seriously. Eg, you wrote

        And everytime he speaks now he seems to contradict something he said before–he’s dug himself a hole and each time he lifts the shovel he makes it deeper.

        That seems like a purely objective reason to not pay too much attention to what he says. It also suggests an ulterior motive for some of his statements. So when you say

        I’d want to put him behind me, too, if he was on my side.

        I’m not sure that follows for the reasons you imply.

        But yeah, I agree with you: I want to put him behind me too, even tho he’s certainly not on my side. I tend to think he has a chip on his shoulder – for some reason or other – perhaps because the bill wasn’t written as he woulda liked (being the “expert in the field” and all, and Academics!).

        But that doesn’t make it any less grimly amusing to the non-partisan observer to see liberals scurrying to fill in the hole and bury him.

        But if he’s exposed himself as unreliably contradictory, then there are other reasons to scurry from him, yes?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        Actually, strike Puerto Rico there, I had thought that it was included under the same ‘their own exchange that is not really a state exchange’ thing DC was. Whereas it’s actually over with the other territories in ‘completely screwed up land’.

        DC, however, still stands. It’s running its own exchange, but it’s not actually an ‘exchange established by the State’, so they get screwed?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Stillwater–If I gave the impression I thought you were an ideologically committed supporter of ACA, I didn’t mean to. It’s been clear to me that you’re not.\

        David–apparently you don’t understand what “early” opposition means. The CBO was scoring the total, maximal, cost of the bill. That is, it includes what happens when the bill takes full effect, including “later,” after the “early” opposition.

        Again, this doesn’t prove CBO was assuming no subsidies for federal exchanges. But it means there’s no evidence the CBO was assuming them. And every statement that’s been dredged out about it, like yours, is non-specific about just what subsidies are being considered.

        Understand my position here. I’m not arguing that your interpretation is definitively wrong. I agree that it’s possible it’s right. What I am arguing is that is not definitively right, and cannot–based on any evidence anyone has brought to light to date–be proven to be definitively right.

        Ideologues on both sides will claim absolute certain about what silences and non-specific statements mean. The non-ideologue, the person who is not pre-committed to a specific story line, finds silences and non-specific statements don’t give grounds for any certainty.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley

        That explanation hangs together logically. It doesn’t require bizarre irrational behavior, just a much higher level of coordination and coincidence than I think is likely. We’re being asked to believe that all of the lawmakers (and an apparently very loose-lipped Gruber) stayed quiet while the CBO scored the wrong law and while we began implementing the wrong law, and even though the tide turned against the exchanges very slowly, they all noticed the tide turning before they were inclined to speak out about it being not what they planned. Then in relative unison, they all got the memo and managed to stay quiet and not give the game away, now everybody is well coordinated and staying on point.

        I think it would play well as a piece of political fiction, but that’s primarily because political fiction is competence porn that doesn’t reflect the chaos and unlikeliness of a bunch of legislators dodging that bullet and then staying on message with no leaks or slip ups. I won’t say it’s impossible, but I’ll definitely say it looks like very wishful thinking on the part of the people supporting that line of argument.

        On a related note, I’m not sure I understand why this lawsuit is such a big deal. It seems to me that if federal subsidies are struck down, the states that don’t want exchanges shoot themselves in the foot and the states that do want them but went with the federal exchange will likely just put together a quick state “wrapper” around the federal exchanges and call it a day. I’m not sure what I’m missing here.

        Having a lot of states reject the subsidies could be seen as a short term political defeat, but money talks. If those states really want to be part of a massive wealth transfer from themselves and into other states, then they can stick to their guns. But I think it’s more likely that they’d rather do what they usually do in these cases: bitch and moan on camera and then walk off stage and take the money (and even brag to their constituents about the money they’re bringing in if it’s convenient to do so).Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley
        The CBO was scoring the total, maximal, cost of the bill. That is, it includes what happens when the bill takes full effect, including “later,” after the “early” opposition.

        You’re acting like the only thing the CBO released is numbers, with no explanation of anything. But they released a lot of documents, including one that specifically talked about how they calculated some of the subsidies:

        http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/121xx/doc12188/05-12-subsidies_in_exchanges.pdf

        You will notice they talk about exactly who is qualified to get subsidies, under what conditions, and all sorts of things…and not once do they mention anything about ‘depending on whether your exchange is state or federal’.

        This was despite the fact it was 2011, and we already knew some states wouldn’t be setting up their own exchanges.

        And every statement that’s been dredged out about it, like yours, is non-specific about just what subsidies are being considered.

        http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/43472-07-24-2012-CoverageEstimates.pdf

        Footnote on page 7: ‘CBO and JCT expect that subsidies will be available to people in exchanges run entirely by states, exchanges run entirely by the federal government, and exchanges run together by states and the federal government.’

        Right there. Plain text. ‘Subsidies will be available to people in…exchanges run entirely by the federal government’, straight from the CBO’s own mouth.

        Granted, this statement was issued in 2012 (in response to the court deciding that Medicaid expansion was not mandatory), so perhaps, by that point, the CBO was already *part of the conspiracy*.

        Basically, there’s no way to make the claim ‘everyone changed their minds about punishing states’ without making two rather absurd claims about the CBO:

        a) the CBO failed to calculate the obvious fact that some states might not create their own exchange (Despite the fact that political objections to the ACA were fairly obvious, and it is, indeed, the CBO’s job to guess what states might do.) No one called them out on this, not the Democrats despite it making the bill look more costly than it was (Subsidies cost money!), and not the Republicans despite it making complete hash of the mandate and meaning a lot more people wouldn’t be covered.

        b) the CBO actively started participating in a historical retcon of their own behavior somewhere around 2011, where they started claiming the thing the possibility they didn’t score was not actually possible. (Good think they coincidentally forgot to score that!)

        Or we can, you know, skip that, and decide the thing they didn’t score wasn’t scored because *they did not think that was how the law worked*, which is a much more sensible conclusion.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        not once do they mention anything about ‘depending on whether your exchange is state or federal’.

        Exactly. Not. once.

        And in case you’re having trouble with temporal order, PPACA was passed in 2010, your first link is from 2011, and your second one is from 2012. The later in time we go after the law is passed, the more certain the retroactive claims become.

        Despite what you seem to think, there’s no time machine here, so you can’t prove what people thought in year 0 by what they say in years 1, 2, and so on.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        perhaps, by that point, the CBO was already *part of the conspiracy*

        Oh, I see you’ve been inspired by Morat. How droll.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        @troublesome-frog

        No, it doesn’t require much coordination at all. All it takes is for most people involved to not actually be very sure about the content of the law. They’re not going to necessarily talk much about subsidies for exchanges if they’re not really informed on the issue one way or the other. And if you think back, there was more than a little uncertainty about exactly what the law contained.

        This is why Morat and David’s attempts to paint this as conspiracy-theorizing is so amusing. It doesn’t require anybody to be looking ahead or really coordinating anything. Just confusion, recognition about how things are going, and adapting on the fly. Really, just everyday politics. Political Scientist William Riker has a book called That Art of Political Manipulation that talks about this kind of thing.

        Again, I want to emphasize that I’m not claiming this _is_ the case. I’m just amused by the insistence of certain folks that something none of them were talking about in 2010 is now, in 2014, the obvious and unquestionable truth and always has been.

        That “certain folks” isn’t liberals, and it isn’t even PPACA supporters. It’s just those who can probably be reasonably classified as the epistemic closure types.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        James,

        No, it doesn’t require much coordination at all. All it takes is for most people involved to not actually be very sure about the content of the law.

        Yeah, I agree with that, which brings us back to Gruber’s comments on the topic. Are they definitively express anything in particular?

        In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill.

        From my reading, his claim here is ambiguous between the two standard interpretations. But I’m inclined to think that the term of art he uses to describe the federal government’s role here (“backstop”) applies to the creation of exchanges sufficient for receiving tax credits, otherwise the ostensible reason for the delay in establishing that backstop makes very little sense since the federal government would have no leverage at all in the event that a state doesn’t set up it’s own exchange.

        On the other hand, he does say “if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange” that state doesn’t get the subsidies. Could he have been a bit loose in his language when making that claim? He coulda been. But stipulating that he was sorta begs the question, no?

        So I tend to think that Gruber’s comment is at worst neutral as far as evidence goes, and at best slightly in favor of supporting the government’s current claims.

        The court will have fun with this one, yeah?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Actually, the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to think Gruber’s comments tilt in favor of the gummint on this. For one, the use of the world “backstop” in this context suggests that the feds creation of a state exchange is a “tax credit of last resort” option. The second is that his claim of the fed’s delaying the implementation of that backstop only makes sense on the assumption that subsidies would still apply in that eventuality.

        Maybe I’m placing too much emphasis on that single claim or not considering the broader context of this and some of his other criticisms (which don’t strike me as at all compelling) but that comment seems to be what’s driving this subthread.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley
        And in case you’re having trouble with temporal order, PPACA was passed in 2010, your first link is from 2011, and your second one is from 2012. The later in time we go after the law is passed, the more certain the retroactive claims become.

        My first link was from 2011, but was describing how they calculated the subsidies *in all their original projections* they made in 2010, right before as the thing passed.

        And, recall, at this point it had become clear that some states would not create their own exchanges(1), so what you’re basically claiming is, in 2011, when the CBO was asked to explain how they calculated the subsidies in 2010, they *lied* by omission by not mentioning that their subsidy calculations in 2010 were now complete crap because states were not setting up their own exchanges.

        Like I said, for your theory to work, the CBO would have to be in on this…thing since mid-2011. (The thing you insist isn’t a conspiracy, despite the fact it requires a bunch of people not saying obviously damaging things about stuff they hate.)

        And to disprove this theory of yours, you’re basically asking for ‘proof’ that cannot logically exist. There is going to be no CBO report comparing costs of subsidies if states set up their own exchanges vs cost of subsidies on federal exchanges which would ‘prove’ the CBO thought subsidies applied to the Federal exchange. That report doesn’t exist because, as the CBO itself has said, they did not consider that to make the slightly bit of difference so there’s not logical reason to score it!

        Likewise, until ‘Do subsidies apply to Federal exchanges’ became a question, there’s no actual reason for the CBO to *say* that’s what they think.

        The second it *did* become a question, in 2012- No, wait, it wasn’t yet a real question in 2012. In 2012, people were just confused over Medicaid expansion and the CBO explained the subsidies were unrelated to that issue, and applied to everyone, even in states that didn’t do anything.

        So the *second* anyone asked the CBO vaguely that question (Even before it became a real question and was just asked due to confusion over Medicaid expansion), the CBO was quick to say what they thought, and has repeatedly said it’s what they thought the entire time.

        1) Actually, as the CBO itself has said, it was clear to the CBO *before the law passed* that some states would not set up their own exchange. And hence failing to mention that in their original report when talking about subsidies would have been deliberately misleading.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        @davidtc

        And to disprove this theory of yours, you’re basically asking for ‘proof’ that cannot logically exist.

        Well, now, that’s what I’ve been saying all along isn’t it? That you can’t provide definitive evidence against the claims of critics.

        I’ve also said that the critics can’t provide definitive evidence against your claims. Did you happen to notice that part, or in your typical ideological lather did you overlook that part, and just assume I was actually arguing that their position was right?Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley

        If the argument is that they mostly didn’t know what they were voting for, that’s a slightly different position to take and, I think, not an unreasonable one. Of course, that still requires that the people who actually wrote those words still remained inexplicably silent as their intentions were blatantly ignored, but that’s a much smaller subset of Congress and somewhat easier to handwave away.

        If we assume broad confusion and spot the plaintiffs the committee that actually wrote the law, “intent” goes out the window and you’re just stuck with the text, right? I mean, if they want to use the word “intent”, I’m not sure what that word means if the argument is that the voting members of Congress didn’t know what the law said. When you talk about intent, does that refer to the just people who wrote the words or everybody who voted for the law? If the former, it seems like their silence as their law was butchered is telling. If the latter, then intent is kind of a meaningless term, but that would hold true for just about every law.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Stillwater,

        Honestly, I’m not sure how to interpret Gruber, other than being confident that his failure to disclose himself as a paid consultant when he was writing op-eds was exceptionally unethical. I’m just amused by the pretense that he never mattered.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        “the people who actually wrote those words”

        I’m pretty sure that the people who actually wrote those words were lobbyists and “numbers guys”. The lobbyists handed the finished paper to the Congresscritters, the Congresscritters signed their name to it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Troublesome Frog,

        I think “intent” as a matter of legal interpretation is often a polite fiction. There are just too many examples of Congress passing legislation in which the overwhelming majority didn’t really know a good number of the significant details. (Hence the “read the bills” movement, although I think they’re misguided.)

        And I think this is one of those cases. There’s no need for conspiracy thinking here, just a simple application of rational choice theory. The primary goal was to get something, anything, passed. I think that’s pretty clear, given that we all understand that ACA is not really the bill liberals wanted, but seems to be the best they could get, so they took it.

        Most legislators weren’t deeply involved in the process, so most probably weren’t very aware of the details. This is such a regular practice that there is even a “Read the Bills” movement in response to it. But let’s say your a legislator who generally favors reform that extends health care to more people, but it’s not your area of expertise and your time is taken up dealing with other issues in, say, the Agriculture Committee. You take your voting cues from other members in your party whom you trust on the issue. It cuts down your cognitive load (there’s even a general term here, “cognitive miser” theory).

        Now let’s say you’re one of the leaders of the process. The bill is long and complex, and the odds are even you haven’t read it all and don’t really have a perfect grasp of the details. You’re a party leader, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an expert on health care reform. You try to make sure you know the general outline, enough to answer the questions the media’s going to ask you.

        So you have a complex bill that few people understand all the ins and outs of, and you’re more focused on getting agreement than on getting a perfect bill. You can work out the details later if something isn’t working right, but it’s more important at this time to get it done than to get it right.

        And so maybe almost nobody notices there seems to be a contradiction in the bill. Just what the contradiction is depends on how one reads it. But here it is in a nutshell. It seems clear that they wanted to create pressure on states to set up exchanges, but if there are subsidies for federal exchanges there’s no actual pressure on states to set up their own.

        The text isn’t crystal clear. I’ve read it, and I think anyone who tells me it’s crystal clear either in support of or against federal exchange subsidies is dishonest. So those who are thinking the bill creates subsidies only for state exchanges, to pressure them, think it’s probably saying that, and those who are thinking it will provide subsidies for federal exchanges think it’s probably saying that.

        And if you have doubts, now as you’re getting into the final stages, when it looks as though you’re finally getting enough votes to get it passed, do you actually open up that question and possibly monkeywrench the process? Or do you tell yourself, “well, if there’s a problem, we’ll fix it later, but right now we just need to get this done”?

        So what does that leave for the Court to interpret Congressional intent? It leaves them with little honest-to-god guidance, perhaps, but a very wide field for interpreting intent however they want to to support the outcome they want.

        [Truthfully, I’m bemused at the claims that this interpretation requires conspiracy-thinking. I’m pretty sure those saying that have not studied congressional legislating as much as I have, and I’ll stake my professional claim on this being very normal lawmaker behavior in high-stakes controversial legislation. It’s not conspiracy thinking because it doesn’t require anyone to coordinate these responses–it’s based solely on lawmakers’ individually rational responses. That doesn’t mean it’s a correct interpretation of what happened in this case. My rock bottom claim is that we can’t know that; at least not in the absence of the revealing of some contemporaneous evidence, lawmakers’ personal diaries or some such. At this point, in such a highly contentious issue, any and all after the fact claims have to be taken with a grain of salt.]Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Troublesome Frog,

        An addendum, to the point of those who wrote the words seeing their law butchered. I think Jaybird’s right to some extent, but also I would say we may be assuming too much if we think that it’s necessarily the case that those who wrote those words were fully sure of the precise meaning of what they were writing. The words could have been compromise,* or they could have been hastily inserted without full understanding as lawmakers were in something of a “fog of war.”
        ____________________
        *The beauty of compromise is that people often agree to it just because something they really oppose is no longer evidently there, not because they fully understand what it is their voting for.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Another theory, entirely consistent with the fact that Gruber is making unique claims and then contradicting them is that he’s making shit up to look more important than he actually was. This also can’t be proven or disproven but has the logical advantage of being completely consistent with human nature.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        @mike-schilling

        Entirely consistent with human nature. But just how many non-important folks are there who were invited to the Oval Office to discuss it, had a report they’d written cited by the White House in support of the law, and earned somewhere between who got paid between $100,000 and $400,000 to consult with HHS on it?

        I’d really like to be one of those unimportant people, and I promise not to say anything publicly that will embarrass the Democrats.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        And to disprove this theory of yours, you’re basically asking for ‘proof’ that cannot logically exist.

        @james-hanley
        That you can’t provide definitive evidence against the claims of critics.

        Uh, no, I have provided definitive statements from the CBO about how the CBO interpreted the bill, which was my entire premise. I have also provided statements from that CBO that says they knew some states would not create their exchanges *from the start*, which would have required them (by law) to score *that*, or at least include that as a possible outcome.

        The only possible conclusions are either that the CBO, from the start, believed the subsidies did not depend on who set up the exchanges, or that the CBO has *lied* at some point. Those are the two conclusions. Pick one.

        You are merely refusing to accept these statements from the CBO (While refusing to call the CBO a liar), and asking for some sort of statement that the CBO made in 2010 about how it thought the subsidies worked. It is logically absurd for the CBO to have clarified a point in 2010 *that it did not hypothetically think was a possible interpretation of the law*.

        The second it this interpretation did show up as a question(wrongly, in connection with Medicaid expansion), in 2012, the CBO has *consistently* and *repeatedly* stated their position on that point, as clearly as they can, whenever asked, and said it has *always* been their position.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        There’s important as in “did work that made a difference” and there’s important as in “made policy and hobnobbed with the movers and shakers'”. Many people in category 1 talk as if they’re in category 2, e.g. the large number of Microsoft employees I’ve met at classes and conferences who used to talk about Bill and Steve as if they carpooled to work together. (Not to pick on Microsoft: Oracle folks do the same thing with Larry, and CA minions did with Charles and Sanjay. Go back to when DEC was still alive, and I met people who claimed to know enough about Dave Cutler that they must have been his nephews. ) When they told me in detail about how a product was pushed out because Melinda talked Bill into overriding Steve, it was obviously at best fifth-hand gossip.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        @davidtc

        I’m heading out of town for a few days, so this will be my last reply.

        1. I’m not sure you’re grasping the distinction between me saying “you’re wrong” and me saying “you’re not dispositively inarguably right.” Unless you grasp that, you’re not hearing what I’m actually saying. The task for you, if you want to persuade me of something, is not to persuade me that you’re right–I think you very well might be–but to persuade me that those who think you’re wrong have no reasonable case at all.

        2. You can’t prove you’re dispositively inarguably right by repeating just the argument in support of your position; you have to demonstrate the inaccuracy of the argument against your position. This is something we all were taught in college.

        3. Here is the argument against your position.

        3.1: A plain-text reading of the bill does not make it clear that federal exchanges were to receive subsidies (although, in response to one of your earlier points, it is explicit that D.C. and territories were being treated as a state for the purpose of the law). That’s how the D.C. Circuit could reach its decision in Halbig v. Burwell.

        Nothing in section 1321 deems federally-established Exchanges to be“Exchange[s] established by the State.” This omission is particularly significant since Congress knew how to provide that a non-state entity should be treated as if it were a state when it sets up an Exchange. In a nearby section, the ACA provides that a U.S. territory that “elects . . . to establish an Exchange . . . shall be treated as a State.” (cite omitted.) The absence of similar language in section 1321 suggests that even though the federal government may establish an Exchange “within the State,” it does not in fact stand in the state’s shoes when doing so. See NFIB , 132 S. Ct. at 2583 (“Where Congress uses certain language in one part of a statute and different language in another, it is generally
        presumed that Congress acts intentionally.” (citing Russello v. United States, 464 U.S. 16, 23 (1983))

        Of course the D.C. Circuit could be wrong. But let’s note that they are citing an established principle of statutory interpretation, so there’s a prima facie case that their argument is at least reasonable; that is, that a reasonable person could believe their interpretation is correct.

        3.2 Jonathan Gruber said,

        In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.

        In this statement, clearly the federal backstop does not include subsidies, or the entire statement falls apart. There’s no “squeeze” on the states. And the structure of contemporary American federalism is that the federal government regularly “squeezes” states to get them to enact policies at the state level to implement policies set at the national level. So Gruber’s statement–standing by itself–is prima facie reasonable.

        Gruber has classified this as a “speak-o.” The problem is, it’s a claim he made multiple times, so it clearly was not just an off-the-cuff error, but seems more likely to have been a considered point. As Ann Althouse wrote,

        The inconsistency between what Gruber said in the friend-of-the-court briefs in the current litigation and what he said in 2012 doesn’t persuade me that he “made a mistake” back then. In 2012, the effort was to pressure and frighten the politicians in the various states so that they would set up the exchanges. Now, after so many states resisted that pressure, the effort is to preserve the federal exchanges that were set up. At both points in time, Gruber said what served the goals of the program.

        Althouse could be wrong. She could be overly cynical. She could be a right-wing anti-Obamacare shill (I honestly don’t know much about her). But her claim that each time he spoke Gruber’s comments served current program goals is hard to dispute.

        Does Gruber matter? We know that because of his speak-o and his (true, I say!) comment about voter stupidity and the political value of opacity, the Democrats are trying to disavow his influence. But he 1) was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to consult on health care reform for HHS; 2) his work was cited by the White House Office of Health Care Reform; 3) Obama himself claimed to have adopted ideas from Gruber (among others); 4) Gruber had numerous meetings with White House officials, including the Director of the OMB (which oversees all administration policy proposals), Obama’s National Economic Director (Lawrence Summers, Gruber’s graduate adviser), the deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform, and–with a few other economists, not individually–Obama himself; 5), the White House is reported to have “lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation,” and 5) the CBO reportedly (and I use “reportedly” advisedly) used Gruber’s model to do their scoring.

        It may not quite beggar the imagination to think that Gruber made the same substantive accidental mis-statement multiple times about a law he was so deeply involved in creating, and which he claimed to “know more about” “than any other economist.” But it’s not unreasonable to be skeptical that his statements were really “speak-os.”

        4. Does any of this prove that your position is wrong? No. None of it individually, nor all of it together, prove your position wrong. Is it all evidence against your position that suggests your position might be wrong? Yes. Is it evidence that you have not successfully demonstrated to have no probative value? No.

        So back to point 1. I’m not claiming you’re wrong; I’m saying your position could be right (and I think SCOTUS will accept it as right), but for a person who’s not ideologically committed to either supporting or attacking Obamacare, agnosticism about the subsidies issue is a reasonable position that can be held by a reasonable person.

        Now, a final caveat. I’ve taken advantage of my ability to approve comments to include far more links than the spam filter will accept. If you want to respond likewise, I will be happy to approve your comment (you may have to email me, because I may not be on the blog for a couple of days), or would encourage anyone else who can approve comments to do so in my stead. That’s only fair.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Again, it boils down to a simple binary choice:

        Either Gruber is right or Gruber is wrong.

        If Gruber is right, that means no-one — no Congressman, Democratic or Republican, not the CBO or the White House — either (1) understood what they’d voted for or (2) realized it was being implemented wrongly for two years.

        The CBO, as noted, scored it from the beginning as if Gruber was wrong. Once the ‘Gruber interpretation’ popped up two or three years later, pretty much everyone — from the CBO to Congress said ‘No, that’s wrong’.

        If Gruber is wrong then…one guy is wrong.

        What’s more likely? One guy is wrong? Or that Congress, the CBO, and the White House created, scored, and passed a law that contained a clause nobody understood properly (or deliberately ignored or didn’t notice or something) until the third-rate “the ACA is unconstitutional” level of lawsuit popped up? (Third rate because I think the first and second rate ‘the ACA is unconstitutional’ lawsuits have already popped up, been heard, and lost before this one).

        In the end, I’ve got what Gruber SAYS the law meant on one hand — and the way that Congress, the CBO, and the White House acted like the law meant.

        I can’t understand why I’d hold Gruber’s words over Congress, the White House, and the CBO’s deeds in any case! Is Gruber the ACA Pope? Does he have infallibility when he speaks about health care law or something?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        And that’s what blind ideological commitment looks like.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley

        James, you’re arguing against something I have not argued for. I have not *actually argued* the intent of the law. (Well, I pointed out the stupidity of DC, which did set up their own exchange, being ‘punished’ by lack of subsidies via the phrase ‘exchanges set up by the state’, but that was just an aside.)

        You said there was no one giving their opinion at the time the law was passed, I pointed out that the CBO did, and you, for some reason, decided to dispute that, claiming their position could have changed over time.

        That claim is the only thing I have disputed in this discussion. That claim is not possible to support, and is, indeed, sheer nonsense. The facts:

        a) The CBO is required to produce projections that reflect the actual future to the best of their abilities. Which means that if they knew some people wouldn’t be eligible for subsidies because of their state not setting up an exchange, they would be required to at least mention that in their original projections, and score *that* outcome instead of, or at least in addition to, everyone having state exchanges.
        b) The CBO has stated, when asked, that they knew when making their original projections that some states would not set up their own exchange.
        c) The CBO has stated, when asked, that their original projections included people in all states getting subsidies.

        Thus, the CBO specifically did not believe the type of exchanges mattered. There is no wiggle room there for the CBO to ‘change their mind’, to somehow absorb the changing consensus of how the law worked. They have made very specific statements about how, originally, they thought the law worked. Not statements about how they think it works *now*, but how did they *originally scored the law*.

        Additionally, they made those statements well before the actual legal question came up. Even before that, in 2011, they produced documentation, which, while it did not specifically answer the question no one had asked yet, talks all about the subsidies and who is eligible and doesn’t bother to mention that very important ‘fact’ about them.

        If you want to claim what the CBO thought doesn’t matter, feel free to argue that. Or if you want to argue the CBO is lying, argue that. (1)

        But don’t try to put the CBO under this ‘everyone knew subsidies didn’t apply to federal exchanges, but later just sorta decided to ignore that when it became clear many states were going to be on that’ theory you’re presenting. The CBO has said, very very clearly, that they did not ‘know’ that, way back when they originally scored the bill.

        1) Although, if they were lying, they basically have to have been lying this entire time, because a failure to notice, in 2009, that states wouldn’t set up their own exchanges is rather implausible. (The Republicans were currently yammering about death panels, and various states had already sworn to fight it tooth and nail). So basically their original report had to deliberately ignore that possibility in an attempt to mislead people. So even ‘the CBO is lying’ premise doesn’t fit under this ‘everyone just decided to read the law differently’ theory! The CBO had to be lying for *some other reason* that coincidentally managed to fit well under ‘everyone later decided to pretend the law said something else’.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        Heh. I have actually argued the intent of the law, way up there, sorry. I stand corrected, I had forgotten my original posts here.

        I guess I should have said we’re not *currently* arguing the intent of the law. You didn’t really respond to my comments about the intent of the law. (Fair enough, you don’t have to. I wasn’t even really talking to you, just using you as a launchpad to point out the oddity of threats that are not actually stated by anyone.)

        But *this* discussion started when you said the only contemporary voice was Gruber, and I mentioned what the CBO’s math (Which was contemporary) said, and you decided to say they must have decided all states would set up their own exchanges, and we went from there.

        The intent of the law is a political question. We can discuss it if you want. (I’ve made it clear what I think.) The CBO’s behavior and how and why they scored the bill they way they did, is not a political question, and is not really in dispute.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Jaybird says:

        @morat20

        Third rate because I think the first and second rate ‘the ACA is unconstitutional’ lawsuits have already popped up, been heard, and lost before this one

        Was the first rate argument the Commerce Clause argument for the individual mandate and the second rate argument requiring states to expand Medicaid? If I recall, both of those arguments went down in flames big time, especially the former (it was finished the moment Anthony Kennedy uttered his first question.

        I guess everyone forgot Chief Justice Roberts stroke of creativity.

        Meh. I got what I wanted from it. The decision gave certainty to the healthcare industry. The government’s most obnoxious constitutional arguments were rejected and the previously overconfident liberal legal academia got a lesson in how the real world works. Win-win-win for me.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley
        James, actually, let’s just forget this and start over. You’re confused what I’m arguing, I’m confused as to what I extent I argued something. Let’s all just agree this discussion forum sucks.

        I happen to disagree with you on the intent of the law for various reasons, and I agree with the people who are arguing against you. But I am not participating in that argument, I threw in some points at the start but they’re doing perfectly fine without me. (And it’s rather a moot point, as the Supreme Court will just make up whatever bullshit they want. I suspect, in this case, taking away *already promised* subsidies would be a bit much.)

        I am, instead, trying to clarify a point about the CBO that I do not know if you agree with or not: Namely, that the CBO did know in 2009 (as they said in 2014) that many states would not set up their own exchange, and because the CBO did know states wouldn’t do that they were required to score the law that way. The fact they did not make a distinction, combined with the fact that they have literally come out and said they calculated everyone being eligible for subsidies, means the CBO believed, *in 2009*, that all exchanges got subsidies.

        This is my assertion: That the CBO, from the very start, believed subsidies went to people in the Federal exchange. And they did not bother to explicitly say this because it was obvious to them.

        This claim is, perhaps, a point towards the interpretation of the law I think is true (Of course, it’s possible to assert they didn’t make that *clear* to lawmakers), but the claim is independently true or false.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        DavidTC,

        Fine, let me grant the CBO as a contemporary voice, at least for the length of this comment.

        But my bigger point was and is the interpretation of the law, and the claims by certain liberals–Morat, for example–that there’s only one way to interpret the exchange subsidies issue that makes any sense.

        And as to that, I forgot that there were actually two District court rulings against subsidies for federal exchange, the other being in Oklahoma. Who’da thunk that two different Federal District Courts would be so much more stupid about the law than Morat? That’s not actually impossible, given how Federal District court judges are selected, but given that Morat’s never demonstrated any particular expertise in law in general, it seems unlikely on the face of it.

        There’s also this joint report by the House Committees on Oversight and on Ways and Means, noting that the IRS and Treasury officials had doubts about whether the subsidies applied to exchanges.

        …the Committees have reviewed documents indicating that, as early as March 2011, IRS and Treasury personnel noticed the lack of statutory language authorizing tax credits in federal exchanges. IRS personnel conveyed their concerns to senior officials with the Department of Health and Human Services…

        Also, contrary to the claim that not even the opponents of the subsidies for federal exchanges claimed they violated the law, the report states,

        After IRS published the proposed rule, numerous commenters suggested that the rule exceeded the agencies’ statutory authority. At least 25 Members of Congress, including Ranking Member Orrin Hatch of the Senate Finance Committee, as well as members of the general public, commented that IRS’s proposed rule was incompatible with the language of the statute.

        Now, I don’t want to make any case based on the report’s interpretations of those findings, because it’s a GOP report, and I don’t trust their interpretation in a case as controversial as this. But from where I stand, I can accept your argument on the timing of CBO’s statement, and what it does is provide more evidence in support of the “here’s the correct interpretation” position–which I’ve never argued is wrong in and of itself–but not nearly enough to simply wash away this other evidence and make the case dispositively.

        If you’re not arguing that there’s one and only way reasonable way to interpret the law, then we’re only quibbling over one detail, not the bigger issue.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Oh, and in reference to @troublesome-frog’s question about the Court finding congressional intent, the report says this:

        … the agencies promulgated a final rule that appears to contradict the plain meaning of the statute.

        Now as I said above, I don’t put much stock in this report’s interpretations, because it was written after the GOP had gained a House majority, so we can be confident their interpretation of the law is as convenient as anyone else’s. But from a legal perspective, this is the same legislature that promulgated the law. So if SCOTUS members were of a mind to, they could certainly take this as evidence of congressional intent.

        If I were the attorney arguing against the exchanges for federal subsidies, I’d certainly use the report that way. It might at least make them less comfortable accepting an alternative claim as determinative of congressional intent.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Oh, and I forgot the important Congressional Research Service report examining whether the Courts would be likely to extend Chevron deference to the IRS rule applying subsidies to federal exchanges. The key ‘graf, as I read it:

        If a reviewing court proceeds to the first step of the Chevron analysis, it will ask whether “Congress has spoken to the precise question at issue.” Thus, a court will consider whether Congress has clearly articulated a position on the breadth of the IRS’s authority to provide premium tax credits for taxpayers enrolled in health insurance exchanges. The plain language of §36B suggests that premium tax credits are available only where a taxpayer is enrolled in an “Exchange established by the State.” As noted previously, a strictly textual analysis of the plain meaning of the provision would likely lead to the conclusion that the IRS’s authority to issue the premium tax credits is limited only to situations in which the taxpayer is enrolled in a state-established exchange. Therefore, an IRS interpretation that extended tax credits to those enrolled in federally facilitated exchanges would be contrary to clear congressional intent, receive no Chevron
        deference, and likely be deemed invalid. However, given the previously discussed
        alternative interpretive arguments that may suggest a more inclusive construction—including legislative history, legislative purpose, and context—a more searching analysis of Congress’s intent in enacting the provision may lead to a less clear result.

        So, according to Congress’s own research service, a plain-text reading produces no evidence of intent for subsidies for federal exchanges, while a more inclusive reading may allow for a conclusion of such intent.

        We could intrepret this as Gruber vs. absolutely everyone else, as Morat suggests, or we could interpret this as Gruber, the CBO, Obama, and at least one federal court vs. the CRS and at least two federal courts, with the IRS vs. IRS, Treasury vs. Treasury, and Congress vs. Congress (or if we prefer, Congressional Dems v. Congressional Repubs).

        One of those ways provides a simple clear storyline that happens to support a particular partisan position on ACA.

        The other way provides a complicated and uncertain storyline that doesn’t support any particular partisan position on ACA.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        Chevron.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james-hanley
        But my bigger point was and is the interpretation of the law, and the claims by certain liberals–Morat, for example–that there’s only one way to interpret the exchange subsidies issue that makes any sense.

        Okay, let’s actually talk about this for a second. Morat is right (in general, at least.), there *are* parts of the law that make very little sense if that interpretation is correct.

        What do you think about DC? They do have their own exchange, but don’t have an ‘exchange create by the state’ under the plain text of the law? If someone was specifically trying to create an incentive for states to setting up their own exchange, how does DC fit in?

        An, no, DC doesn’t appears be included under the definition of ‘state’ anywhere I can find in that part of the law. (Although oddly the territories can be considered a state if they set up an exchange, under 18043. But DC is *not* legally a ‘territory’.)

        Likewise, and a bigger problem than overlooking DC, is that people have entirely forgotten is that there can be *multi-state* exchanges. On purpose.

        42 U.S. Code § 18031 (f)
        (1) Regional or other interstate exchanges
        An Exchange may operate in more than one State if—
        (A) each State in which such Exchange operates permits such operation; and
        (B) the Secretary approves such regional or interstate Exchange.

        There are not any currently, but there can be. Despite this part of the law presumably being put in on purpose, and needing permission from the Federal government, it’s something that the Federal government, oddly, is trying to discourage states from joining by removing subsidies from, because they are not ‘an exchange established by the state’! Why? If the Federal government doesn’t want them, why *allow* them? Why even have laws allowing them?

        I am well aware that a lot of courts seem to be taking the exchange subsidy issue seriously…but you seem to think all arguments that the courts take seriously are serious-ish arguments.

        I, OTOH, and probably Morat, think courts take *completely idiotic* legal positions for political reasons.

        the Committees have reviewed documents indicating that, as early as March 2011, IRS and Treasury personnel noticed the lack of statutory language authorizing tax credits in federal exchanges. IRS personnel conveyed their concerns to senior officials with the Department of Health and Human Services…

        Heh. Now you’re talking about things discovered (And as I’m reading it, admitting to being discovered!) after the bill was passed.

        I guess that makes a good claim the government has known about this issue for a while, but doesn’t really say anything WRT to legislative intent.

        I am perfectly willing to go along with the idea that the Obama administration discovered this wording of the law in March 2011, and has been steadfastly ignoring it all along.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        David,

        How many times do I have to say that I don’t think Morat’s position is necessarily wrong?

        An infinity of times, I suspect, would not suffice.

        Adieu. It was almost the first good conversation we’d managed to have.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Let’s back it up, since if you’re accusing me of blind partisanship I’ve obviously not made my point the way I wished — or you’re simply dismissing it. Whichever, let me attempt another tack.

        The Courts, when a clause or passage in a law is ambiguous, generally attempt to unify the ambiguity with the rest of the law, and failing that with the intent of the law. Correct? You don’t have to consider it a perfect method, or your preferred method, but it is — as best I understand — the standard method of dealing with it. (And such a method must exist, as few if any laws can be so perfectly drafted that a skilled lawyer cannot find SOME ambiguity, however tenuous.)

        We shall skip over unifying the ambiguous clause with the rest of the bill, and we shall skip over the strength (or lack thereof) of the reasoning of that and simply assume that we have gone to the last refuge — that of trying to determine which of the two possible meanings Congress wished it to have. (We shall also skip simply tossing the law).

        Having gone to the last step — having to resolve the ambiguity via legislative intent –let me ask this:

        Do you think Congress considered the subsidy language to be so ambiguous as to hold contradictory meanings? (That is, some believed it would withhold subsidies and some believed it would not).

        If so, why did no one clarify it?

        If not, why would anyone clarify it?

        Lastly, when determining legislative intent — why should Gruber’s words be privileged over the statements from Congressmen (who, when asked after the ambiguity came to light, claimed the intent was to give subsidies to all exchanges), over the scoring of the CBO (which did assume non-state created exchanges that were eligible for the subsidy, and were not directed to make those assumptions but did so purely from their reading of the bill), and of the implementation of the law by the Executive — in which no Congressmen, at any point, objected to the use of the subsidies for non-State exchanges?

        What you’re calling ‘blind partisanship’ is merely Occam’s razor. Gruber being wrong means…one man said something untrue, by mistake or design. Something that happens many, many times daily.

        Gruber being right means that Congress intended to use the subsidies as a stick, but made no statements about that. That the CBO scored the bill in an obviously incorrect way, but no Congressman or aide or pundit brought up the obvious mistake. That the White House implemented the bill incorrectly, erroneously subsidized millions of people, and yet no Senator or Representative, of either party, saw fit to object. Layers on layers of people all making the exact same mistake, in the exact same direction. (A direction which, one must note, Gruber never said ‘boo’ about. Why did he remain silent?)

        This says nothing of the lawsuit, which turns on an ambiguity (how much of one is debatable, but unimportant). It indeed, does not matter whether the law is flawed or written so badly as to withhold said subsidies in this case — this is about legislative intent.

        Again: What is simpler? Gruber is mistaken? Or two branches of government misread the law (including the branch that wrote it) all in the same way? And in the end, which of the two should matter to a court determining legislative intent?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Note: I am not claiming the law is not ambiguous on this point. Personally, I am of the mind that the ambiguity is neatly disposed of by reading the rest of the law, and will not go into what I think of the legal reasoning.

        I am focused entirely on why Gruber is seen as such a critical point when determining the intent, and not the actions and words of Congress. Since it is “Congressional intent” and all.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        DavidTC,

        Re: DC and federal/state exchanges, I found this at Forbes. The context is revisions to the final bill.

        The HCERA also shows how Congress expanded the reach of “established by the State” when that was its aim. It was through the HCERA that Congress amended the PPACA to provide that “[a] territory that elects . . . to establish an Exchange . . . and establishes such an Exchange . . . shall be treated as a State.” HCERA § 1204(a), 42 U.S.C. § 18043. The HCERA contained no provision bringing the federal government within the definition of “State.”

        It strains credulity to argue that a Congress that intended the PPACA to authorize tax credits in federal Exchanges would notice and remedy the bill’s failure to authorize them in territorial Exchanges, but would not notice its failure to authorize them in federal Exchanges.

        I dunno ’bout you, but that seems like a pretty compelling argument, no?Report

      • Avatar Notme in reply to Jaybird says:

        It is amusing to see the lengths liberals will go to to discredit Gruber now that his inconvenient truths come out. He knows nothing bc he is just the “numbers guy.”Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @james
        How many times do I have to say that I don’t think Morat’s position is necessarily wrong?

        I’m sure there are plenty of Morat’s position that you might agree with, but the position I was talking about that you and Morat disagreed on was stated quite clearly by your quote in my post:

        But my bigger point was and is the interpretation of the law, and the claims by certain liberals–Morat, for example–that there’s only one way to interpret the exchange subsidies issue that makes any sense.

        You said Morat (and other liberals) are saying the law can only be interpreted one way, and you disagreed with that. That is you saying one of Morat’s position is wrong. In fact, you claiming that was wrong was the *entire premise* of your discussion.

        Or, perhaps a better quote of yours is this: Were I betting, though, I would bet that SCOTUS rejects the challenge to the federal exchange subsidies. While I think there is a reasonable legal argument against them, I don’t think it’s knock down, and the legal argument for them is also reasonable

        You think that. And Morat (and I) do *not* think that. We do not think the legal argument against them is reasonable. We, in fact, think the argument is rather unreasonable, both intent-wise, and actual letter of the law-wise, and would have been dismissed almost immediately if not for the political issue. (Or at least, that’s what I *think* Morat thinks. It is what I think.)

        You think we are incorrect. Which is fine, and it’s not like this actually matters. It’s basically a semantic discussion over the word ‘reasonable’. But, nevertheless, you and Morat are on opposite sides of that. I’m not sure why the second I mentioned that, you suddenly saying otherwise.

        And it’s especially silly to worry about, as I think *everyone* here agrees that the outcome has nothing to do with whether or not the courts will like the argument for getting rid of them, as I think we’ve all agreed the courts will uphold the subsidies for political reasons. (And I’d add ‘Not wanting to retroactively take away subsidies that have, at this point, already been spent for a year, and how would that even work?’ to your otherwise fine list of reasons for that.) Or, *possibly*, it will take them away, also for political reasons.

        The actual merits of the case are almost meaningless. (I look forward to them applying NFIB v. Sebelius and deciding that the law *does* intend to not give subsidies to people on the federal exchanges, but the federal government is not allowed to do that, because taking away DSH and making the states set up their own exchanges to get that money back is ‘coercion’, so subsidies for all!)Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        @stillwater
        I dunno ’bout you, but that seems like a pretty compelling argument, no?

        No. There are other reasons that a territory would want to be treated like a state under the ACA. For example, they get to use 18051, ‘State flexibility to establish basic health programs for low-income individuals not eligible for medicaid’. Or set up additional benefits. If a state sets up their own exchange, there’s stuff they get to decide themselves. (Which is why the conservative states refusing was fairly stupid.)

        And, in fact, there’s an interesting hypothetical question of whether or not ‘treated like a state’ would work there. The *actual* line that’s up for dispute is in 26 U.S. Code § 36B:

        the monthly premiums for such month for 1 or more qualified health plans offered in the individual market within a State which cover the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or any dependent (as defined in section 152) of the taxpayer and which were enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or

        Territories get their exchanges under a *different* section of the PPACA, regardless of whether of not they’re considered a ‘state’. They would have, assuming I got the number right, an ‘Exchange established by the State under section _1313_ of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’.

        So, ah, nope. It appears *territories* don’t fit under the exact letter of the law either. Oops. (This hypothetical is mostly moot, as no territory *did* establish an exchange, due to stupidity in other parts of the law.)

        Oh, and a fact I just figured out: Title 42, chapter 157 of the US Code, the section that most of the ACA is in, including setting up the exchanges, does define DC as a state. Sorta. Look at § 18111. (I was driving myself insane trying to figure out how DC had an exchange at all.)

        In fact, it defines the territories as states also, making that line about them being considered a state if they set up an exchange rather surreal. (And doesn’t really fix the problem about them being under the wrong section of the law…although if that part *wasn’t* there, they could just get their exchanges the way the states did!)

        But you know what part of the US code *doesn’t* define those things as states? Title 26…the place the *subsidies* are. Only actual states are states over there. (At least, I can’t find a redefinition, and I doubt it exists, as that is tax stuff, and territories and DC are subject to weird specific taxes anyway.)

        Even if we try to fudge ‘an Exchange established by the State’ to mean ‘an Exchange established by something that title 42 calls a state’, we still run into the problem that such people are not ‘within a state’ in the first place.

        And try to fudge stuff like that is a rather slippery slope for people arguing ‘the law means what it clearly says’, because the fact is that the people *arguing* with that interpretation are pointing out that Federal exchanges talk about if the state exchanges don’t exist, the the federal government should ‘such exchanges’, so it’s basically the argument that all exchanges *really* are state exchanges. (Which is what I’ve argued before, and agree with, but let’s not go into that now.)

        If you try to slip territory and DC exchanges under ‘exchanges established by the state’ despite that not being literally true, you’re sorta opening the path to slipping the federal one in there also.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        Wow, a sentence of that was gibberish. Let me try again:

        And _trying_ to fudge stuff like that is a rather slippery slope for people arguing ‘the law means what it clearly says’, because the fact is that the people *arguing* _against_ that interpretation are pointing out that Federal exchanges talk about _how,_ if the state exchanges don’t exist, the federal government should _create_ ‘such exchanges’, so _their position is_ basically the argument that all exchanges *really* are state exchanges.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        DavidTC,

        Sorry I wasn’t clearer in my earlier comment. I don’t think the linked argument is decisive, it is, however, suggestive. Compelling, as I said. And that’s why I linked it in the above context: your argument that DC is included (which is not a state but also set up its own exchange) is analogous to the territories (which were specifically included on revision). So that attention to detail is …. Oh well, maybe not that interesting after all.

        I do think the plaintiff’s have a legitimate case here, which I take it you’ve been denying. And that’s about all my comment was meant to affirm.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Also, I’ve been reading the gummint’s brief to the court, and the short version appears to be this: it’s so obvious that any exchange suffices to trigger subsidies we didn’t think we needed to say it.

        It’s actually better than that, but not much…Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Ah, finally some real arguments! That challenge the plaintiff’s central claim! Starting at page 20 or so.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Stillwater,

        Got a link to the government’s case? I’m curious as to what they put together.Report

  2. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    [E1] “Students of all ages usually share the same fleet of buses. High school students get the first shift, and the buses circle back to pick up their younger siblings later in the morning.”

    Really? Do US high school students ride those yellow school buses, or do the elementary students ride the city buses? Anywhere I’ve been in Canada, only elementary schools hired a school bus company – high school kids just got a discount on their city bus pass, and high schools figure into destinations the city plans to cover in its rush hour bus routes. And pity the adult transit rider who works across the street from a high school, because that must be one annoying commute.

    Maybe it’s different in the country – I’ve only lived in cities that had a municipal bus service…Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dragonfrog says:

      As you say, maybe it’s different in the big city, because I can tell you in US suburbia HS students still ride the yellow buses.Report

    • Our high schools used the Big Yellow. The start of the day was scattered in part for bus fleets.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

      My son, who’s in high school, rides a yellow bus to school.

      There are a lot of kids here who ride city buses, if they’re on a route that takes them to and from school, and it’s not just high school kids. I used to live on a route that passed an elementary school and a middle school near my home, and tons of kids rode it too and from school (making weekday afternoons on that bus awful! pre-teen boys trying to impress pre-teen girls on a packed bus may be my least favorite thing in the world). However, the school district provides buses for all grades.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dragonfrog says:

      df,
      my suburban high school had no buses at all.
      In pittsburgh, some kids get city bus passes (for a more than 2 mile one-way to school).Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:

      My suburb didn’t have a public transportation systems except for commuter train to and from NYC and some NYC bus lines that went into the suburbs. We took the yellow bus.

      Kids who live in cities might take public transportation from elementary school onwards.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

      I feel sorry for the drivers of the bus I took to high school. We were a rotten lot to deal with.

      At least on a school bus, they only pick up as many passengers as they have seats, and don’t have to try to herd strap-hangers toward the back, nor deal with doofuses like me who forgot bus fare half the time.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

        The city bus is miserable with kids on it, but apparently school buses are now very quiet, at least by the time kids are old enough to wear headphones. I talked to my son’s bus driver when he started taking it in the fall, and he said that his bus used to be rowdy, but for the last couple years you could hear a pin drop.

        After riding the bus for about a week, my son asked me for a pair of headphones to take to school with him every dayReport

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Chris,
        what you call miserable, I call “lively”. So much gossip…Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to dragonfrog says:

        @chris,

        So if we’re in an editorial board meeting do we spin that as “hooray, technology means fewer kids are getting picked on on the way to school” or “oh noes, kids are losing their social skills because of technology!”?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:

        The Kids on the public buses in SF don’t even use headphones….still here their music though.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        My wife lived and went to school in Texas for a year (not sure what grade, but it would have been fairly early in her school career). Her school bus was quiet, not because anyone had headphones, but because the kids were forbidden to talk. She and her friend used to trace out letters on one another’s hands to communicate.

        Bus drivers handed out the same disciplinary cautions teachers could, for infractions including speech, with a certain number of cautions in a week leading to corporal punishment.

        There was also a traffic light in the lunch room – when the light was green, talking was allowed, when it was yellow, only whispering was allowed, and when it was red, silence was mandatory, on pain of the same disciplinary cautions.

        Apparently the school she attended was featured in a Clinton presidential campaign ad, under the theme of “look how awful things get when you let a Bush set education policy”.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

        James, I imagine the story’d be about social skills, and they’d have a social psychologists on to talk about it, and it would drive me crazy, though I admit I find it kind of sad when I think about the fun I had on the school bus in middle school*. I also suspect that bullies a way to get their bullying in, if not on the bus, then elsewhere.

        My son’s little brother, who’s in 1st grade, rode the bus to his pre-K program and to kindergarten. His buses were apparently still rowdy (there are still some first kindergartners who don’t have smart phones, I guess), and he was picked on a bit by older kids, but not enough to make him dislike the bus.

        dragonfrog, we had the traffic light system in the lunch room in elementary school, too, though we just had red, yellow, and green circles of construction paper. And green never lasted more than a minute or two.

        *The drivers were horrible people**, though. The busing in my town was private***, run by a single family which was headed by the middle aged (I’d guess mid-50s) mother. Most buses were driven by her sons, who clearly had not pictured themselves taking over the family business, and took it out on the kids.
        **Except for one driver, who I believe was a nephew, not one of the matriarch’s sons. He usually drove in the morning, but when he drove in the afternoon, he was fun. My stop was one of the last stops, so by the time the bus got to my neighborhood it was almost empty. Just behind my street was an apartment complex with two large speed bumps in the driveway. After dropping the kids off there, he’d drive the front wheels over the speed bumps, then gun it, which would cause the back of the bus to bounce, sending those of us who’d run to the back in anticipation up into the air. That was awesome, even if we occasionally got a bump on our heads. Probably frowned upon by regulatory agencies, though.
        ***The town was also cheap, as this was before it became a wealthy town. So they only paid the family enough for one bus for 4 schools (two elementary, one middle, and one junior high). By the time the junior high kids were on board, the bus was about as stuffed with kids as it was physically possible to be (I’m quite certain it was well beyond what it was legally allowed to be), which I’m sure just made the drivers crankier.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to dragonfrog says:

      During the Bush administration federal transport funds could not be used by a school district if kids were taking public transportation (thanks to the school bus lobby) (really).

      I don’t know if this has changed since Obama took office.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kolohe says:

        I see that the general rule is that there can’t be competition against “private school bus operators.” I didn’t even know there were such things. Everywhere I’ve ever lived, the local school district operated its own buses.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

        As I understand it, many places that have developed substantial school systems during and after the 1980s – which is largely conterminous with the suburban South – always have had a private contract operators, vice government employees, for their school bus systems. Other legacy school systems in more urban area have also contracted out their school bus systems. (and then there’s the usual contracting out for special needs kids)Report

  3. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    E1: Of course the early start to the school day is for the convenience of parents who have to be at work by 9 or earlier. My school system started at 8 AM. The only way to change this is by making the work-day start later and this is probably next to impossible. Nate Silver had a piece a few months ago about when various places start work and the discovery is that NYC starts a bit later than most of the U.S. and in the Midwest it is not uncommon for places to start their workdays around 7 or 7:30 in the morning.

    E2: I’m more or less opposed to academic red-shirting and I think it is getting more common.

    E3: Good question. My problem with Thiel is that he is cherry-picking super-prodigies. I would like to see him try he is UnCollege experiment on people who are more normal academically and certainly on non-STEM people. MOOCs are not quite what their evangelists make them out to be. I think the issue is that you have two camps: People who look at the value of higher education in terms of strict numeracy and economic value and people who get intangible psychic benefits from their educations like being well-educated. I am not sorry for my MFA even though I am not a professional theatre director. I like being able to say I achieved formal academic mastery of a subject. This probably drives the numbers crowd bonkers. Intangibles are important to reform but they drive everyone crazy because they don’t graph easily. But you need to talk about why people find intangibles important and not in a dismissive way like saying it is a class marker or conspicuous consumption.

    E4: Ironically the students who can probably live at home and do well are the ones who can afford to live away from home. From what I understand, one of the big problems facing first generation college students is that they live at home but end up getting dragged back into family affairs and this makes it hard for them to concentrate on their studies even more. You can’t go to class because you have to take care of your younger sibling or something else.

    L3: I once worked for a small law firm that had a very good year before they hired me and they gave all their employees an extra two weeks of paid vacation during Christmas-New Years period. It was also apparently common from employee lore that there would be random half-days and people would get to leave early before three-day weekends. This never happened when I worked there. In fact, they told me that they really liked me but could not make me a full-time offer because they did not have enough attorney work. I sensed this would happen before I was let go and did feel depressed and demotivated. There are two case assistants/paralegals who passed the bar and are still at the firm and have not been given associate offers yet.

    The thing about the tech industry is that they can seemingly give a lot of benefits and perks to their employees because they are awash in money and/or venture capital. But these perks and benefits only extend to the more-elite workers. Tech and white-collar staff at facebook might be treated like Kings and Queens but the bus drivers are contracted out and make low pay. I wonder what is going to happen when money gets tight though and venture capitalists demand to see some returns and begin to put conditions on the cash. My guess is that all the perks which make tech workers really happy are going to start going out the window. The problem with perks is that once you give them, it is hard to take them away but they often have to be taken away during tight times.

    But I agree that employee happiness is important. I just think it is paradoxical and hard.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I am not sorry for my MFA even though I am not a professional theatre director. I like being able to say I achieved formal academic mastery of a subject. This probably drives the numbers crowd bonkers.

      Not really. What I don’t like is your insistence that people are entitled to receive this for free or at a subsidized rate, when you’re openly acknowledging that it’s a consumption good. Nobody is saying people can’t have hobbies, or even that they can’t spend large amounts of time and money on them. I just don’t think other people should be forced to pay for it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        We have different worldviews. Deal with it.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @saul-degraw

        Deal with it.

        Ahh, yes. Saul once again shows the steel-trap mind and unassailable logic that is taking the legal profession by storm.

        I like being able to say I achieved formal academic mastery of a subject.

        You are taking the M in your degree a bit too seriously.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        We have different worldviews. Deal with it.

        I’d have thought all your formal, advanced academic training in higher ed. would allow (maybe even require!) you to respond to BB with an actual argument.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @stillwater

        There are plenty of conservatives and libertarians on this site like Hanley, Dave, James K, Will Truman, Jaybird, and Roger that I am willing to and have argued with and often with great spirit.

        The difference between the group above and Brandon’s position is that they don’t start off with automatic Fox News-Talk Radio talking points about the liberal position. I’ve never seen Brandon move at all from any of his positions so concede that the other side has had a viewpoint that could be correct in numerous debates in this community. And I know you have expressed enough dislike of me over the past few months that you can only be coming to Brandon’s defense in terms of a way of scoring points against me.

        I’ve laid out my position on education before numerous times. I think it is a sign of an advanced and civilized society to see education including education for the sake of education as an important goal. I think mass education can only be done in the hand’s of the public funding and is an essential tool for the survival of democracy. NPR and PBS are two of the most popular government programs despite howls and screams from libertarians and conservatives about how this a wrong use of resources. Public education has given us people like Jonas Salk, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Flannery O’Connor, and many others (all graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop), Arthur Miller (The University of Michigan), Tennessee Williams (The University of Missouri and the University of Iowa), Michael Chabon (University of Pittsburgh). Many of America’s best, most popular, and esteemed writers attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. How can you say that this subsidy does not benefit America?

        I’ve laid this out many times and still just get the same snide response from Brandon. There is no concession. No “I see your point but disagree”. How often am I supposed to argue with those whose opinions do not change or make any concessions? At some point, don’t I get to declare it a waste of time and energy?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        How often am I supposed to argue with those whose opinions do not change or make any concessions? At some point, don’t I get to declare it a waste of time and energy?

        I don’t know, actually. Until you give Brandon a reason to accept your view, I guess. I mean, we’re actually talking to each other on this-here blog and not simply making advancing political views to rally people to our side, then I think Brandon – as a person engaged in a dialogue with you – deserves a response. Instead you basically just told him to fuck off.

        I’d also add that you seem very interested in multi-culturalism (at least as an idea to consider) yet your response to Brandon was an expression of exactly the same type of cultural (or ideological, whatever) intractability you seem to find problematic.

        I mean, it’s pretty simple here: Brandon is perfectly fine with you valuing your MFA for status or personal reasons, he just doesn’t think satisfying an individuals desires for status is something he (or other people) should have to pay for. That seems like a legitimate position that requires a response, no? Independently of what you think the social value of higher ed may (or may not) be.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Saul,
        I got Brandon to move off his “different races have different IQs” idea.
        (dumb, dumb idea when motivated selection is involved. why must people measure IQ in America, and then think they’ve got something universal?)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Saul, what if the electorate disagrees with you about education for the sake of education as being a sign of an advanced and civilized society? Would you force an educational policy that the public doesn’t want on them? The American people have traditionally valued education for practial reasons rather than intellectual ones since the country was founded. Prefering that education stress what can get a person a good job over artistic and intellectual self-discovery is the American preference in educational policy. Dewey might have existed but he had just as many detractors as advocates.Report

      • Well, since I don’t have to work today, I’ll go into the breach and give my two cents, which I’ve already given and had given back to me at a negative rate of interest.

        I’m torn on the issue. I’m very grateful that I was able to get my history degrees, and I would like others to have the opportunity to do so, even if it’s in a subject as relatively worthless as history or theatre are, with worth being defined as a combination of income and return to society. I like the idea of education being something like a buffet and students who choose to go to college can choose their passion.

        That said, I realize that in liberal arts education–and probably STEM and business education and probably most other arenas of higher education as well–the educated benefit much more than the system that subsidizes their education. For me, my degrees in history were mostly a consumer good. They probably helped me more than the state or the public got back from subsidizing the tuition and from granting me the scholarships and from granting me the TA-ships at my state universities.

        We can adopt a definition of what makes society “civilized” and then argue that being civilized is a good thing and then argue that widespread access to low-priced higher education is an attribute of being civilized, and then come up with the conclusion that society thereby benefits. But I have a hard time doing that. There seems to be a circularity there.

        I also have a hard time with the expectation that all (or most, or a large minority) of people ought to go to college. College works for some and not for others. For those for whom it doesn’t work, I think we’re exacting something like a “college tax” on them: spend x opportunity cost and you’ll be considered as elligible for y benefits. I don’t know how to end or slow down the growth of that expectation, or at least not in a way that would be overly coercive or unfair to those for whom college does work.

        So I’m left with being torn on the issue. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people are “entitled” to access to affordable higher education. And I don’t want people without higher education (or without any education) to be more marginalized than they already are because I really do believe that they are as much a part of our society and polity and have much to offer and the legitimacy of what they have to offer shouldn’t be contingent on having a degree. But I’d like people to have the same opportunities as I did, and I really wouldn’t penalize those who opt for liberal arts. (And for complementary reasons, I’m wary of the move to subsidize STEM subjects.)

        I probably can’t reconcile either of those two points, except that I’d come down on favoring greater public funding of tuition and fees–though perhaps not housing–at least for undergraduate education.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Gabriel Conroy, calling a liberal arts education a consumer good is incredibly problematic. In a representative democracy, a grounding in the humanities is probably essential for people to self-govern. Citizens should hopefully understand how the system of government is supposed to work in theory and about the history of their country if only to create a common discourse when talking to other citizens. In a globalized world, having some understanding of other cultures could even be more pratical than before. If you want to do business in Ethiopia than it might pay, literally, to know something about Ethiopia’s customs and history. I find that knowing something about other cultures combined with respect and politeness has been a great way to get people to open up.

        I won’t go as far as Saul does in the sense that I’m more willing to go along with the funding arguments made by the other side but a humanities education is not a consumer good.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        if only to create a common discourse when talking to other citizens.

        I’m not sure that suffices as an answer to BB, Lee. For one, BB would have to agree that a common discourse is necessary for a functioning democracy. Second, you’d still have to persuade him that anything above the bare minimum required to speak about and understand our political structure (and really, what’s so hard to understand about it? seems pretty transparent and simplistic to me) incurs an obligation on him.

        As to the first, it seems to me that the problems meta-analysts like to isolate as Destroying Our Country exist in an especially virulent form among precisely the most educated folks (that is, the ones who would presumably “share” a common language and acculturation). As to the second, I’ve been on the teaching side of liberal arts, and I can tell you that kids don’t find the views you advocate here the least bit compelling. Which is to say: I’m not sure that compulsory education at the k-12 level is achieving what you think it is, and I’m very much on the other side of the debate that subsidized post-high school education accomplishes it either.

        It just strikes me as an idealized picture of how society ought to function which reality repeatedly splatters with mud and grime.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Stillwater, I wasn’t answering Brandon Berg’s response to Saul. My response was to Gabriel’s comment on history degree being a consmer good. I was listing some reasons why some education in art and the humanities, not necessarily a college degree though, is not a consumer good.

        My response to Brandon Berg would be that citizenship usually requires paying for taxes for things you don’t approve of from time to time. I’d prefer if much more transportation money went to transit rather than roads but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to begrudge people who like to drive their roads. I’ll vote for candidates that promise to spend more on transit and try to promote transit politically but if the electorate wants roads over trains I’d still pay my taxes for roads. If the majority of people prefer Saul’s version of education over BB’s version than that is what the educational policy should support even if it has to be paid out of tax dollars. Government spending shouldn’t be determined solely by the desire of some for the lowest taxes possible.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @leeesq

        While the goals you have are noble, in an ideal world people “understand[ing] how the system of government is supposed to work in theory and about the history of their country if only to create a common discourse when talking to other citizens” is best accomplished during the K-12 years.

        Of course, when countless students enter college needing remediation because of their K-12 educations, this might be a pipe dream.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Stillwater, I’m also very aware that many students in k-12 education aren’t exactly chomping at the bits for a humanities education. They aren’t really that into STEM or more practical education either. Apathy runs through many subjects. We don’t know which students will be turned on to STEM, history, literature, music, or art unless we expose them to it. That means that the public educaiton system, up until high school, should aim to be as broad as possible so that student’s can learn what they are interested in. Autodictats aren’t common.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Lee,

        My response to Brandon Berg would be that citizenship usually requires paying for taxes for things you don’t approve of from time to time. … If the majority of people prefer Saul’s version of education over BB’s version than that is what the educational policy should support even if it has to be paid out of tax dollars. Government spending shouldn’t be determined solely by the desire of some for the lowest taxes possible.

        This response completely misses the issue in play, since – presumably! – the majority of folks desiring a certain state of affairs can justify why they in fact desire it, yes?

        So the fact that “the majority” wants something is irrelevant to this discussion, seems to me. We’re not talking about politics in a democratic republic, we’re talking about justifications for certain policies and beliefs.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @leeesq @gabriel-conroy

        I am currently reading a book on Jazz Age Manhattan and they are talking about the construction of various sky scrapers and other massive works projects. Many of the chief engineers did not attend university but were able to learn engineering on the job by working their way up from low positions, night courses, and the luck of being selected as people of promise. Keep in mind that it was not uncommon for people to drop out of school after roughly middle school back then.

        I also watched a BBC show about the World’s Greatest Foodmarkets where they take a fishmonger from Billingsgate and see if he can hack it in other environments. The first episode was about the Fulton Fish Market in New York and they spend sometime talking about how it used to be run by Italians and Jews but those guys wanted their kids to go to college and to get out of the fish industry. Now the businesses are being taken over by Asian immigrants.

        So we seem to have conflicting ideas about what it means to make it in the United States. For some it seems to be about aspiration and moving up and for others it seems to be about continuing on in a family business or starting work as young as possible.

        I think that it is possible to have a system that subsidizes education and also provides good jobs for people without college educations. Though I question whether we can go back to having engineers learn on the job, the science is probably too advanced. But maybe we can. If someone came up with a blueprint, I would be open to it.

        That being said, it seems like college education is another thing that is getting dragged into our never ending culture war where nothing can exist in consensus and you have to oppose whatever the other side or perceived enemy wants.

        I just don’t see the minimalist government that many on the right and many libertarians want as possible. The United States is big in terms of geographic size and population size and this requires a lot of money for up-keep. In the NYPD work-stoppage thread, we were discussing how police seem to be a revenue stream for many cities. This is because people don’t want to pay taxes but they do want nice services and the government just needs to perform other services so revenue generation via fines and tickets and filing fees it is.

        I think the number of people who would be willing to put up with a truly minimalist state in exchange for almost no taxes is exceedingly thin.

        That being said there are always going to be huge disagreements on what tax/government money should be spent on and these disagreements seem to be getting more and more extreme. I am not willing to do any conceding that education is a consumer good because it is not. Education provides people with the abilities to think, read, and write critically along with more specific skills in STEM. These are necessary for a viable democratic republic and necessary for the economy.Report

      • @leeesq

        First, I’ll have to ‘fess up and admit I’m not sure exactly how to define “consumer good” and perhaps I’m using that term inappropriately.

        Second, I think my comment above gave short shrift to the potential that widespread access to higher education gives to people to rise in society. (You weren’t critiquing me on that point, but I thought I’d take the time to admit it.)

        Third,

        In a globalized world, having some understanding of other cultures could even be more practical than before. If you want to do business in Ethiopia than it might pay, literally, to know something about Ethiopia’s customs and history. I find that knowing something about other cultures combined with respect and politeness has been a great way to get people to open up.

        That’s undoubtedly true, and if someone is going to do business in Ethiopia, one oughtta learn about its culture and history. I do hope, for that person’s sake, that he or she does more than just read the dry tomes of history or academic journals and reads other things (like local news publications) and ventures, say, to talk with people in or from Ethiopia, including those with a lot of formal education and those with less or no formal education.

        Fourth, and on what I take to be your main points and respond to each separately.

        In a representative democracy, a grounding in the humanities is probably essential for people to self-govern. Citizens should hopefully understand how the system of government is supposed to work in theory and about the history of their country if only to create a common discourse when talking to other citizens.

        I have mixed feelings about this. I do think knowing a country’s history makes one a better citizen than one would be without knowing it. If anything, such knowledge helps check against claims like “this is unprecedented” or “America has lost its innocence in the 1960s” or other such nonsense. And I do think it helps to know in general terms how Congress, the presidency, and the courts work. More knowledge is probably and usually better than less knowledge. (I’d also draw the analogy to theatre and literature and other forms of arts. While I have very different views from Saul’s on whether and how much and in what way we should fund them, the discussion probably works better the more people know what they’re arguing over.)

        But….that argument works most solidly for teaching history/civics/arts at the K-12 level or as part of a comprehensive university education (and I realize that the “humanities” requirements at a lot of universities are just a checklist of x number classes students have to take before going on to graduate). That argument doesn’t work as well when it comes to specialization. They type of knowledge that leads one really to have a firm grasp of historical patterns and historiographical debate may very well make one a better citizen (or in my case, an insufferably long winded commenter) but by nature of being a specialization, not everyone can do it.

        At that point, we (or at least I) can go down to claiming that specialization is a good thing. One person can be a historian, another a playwright, another a lawyer, another an electrician, another a service worker, etc., and they each bring their own perspectives to any common discussion. On this site, we often discuss things like lesser skilled jobs and the minimum wage and unions. Someone who is actually in a lesser skilled job can offer a perspective that I or you fail to offer: the first-order experience of working a lower waged job. (The fact that I, and for all I know you, used to work such jobs is less relevant. My memory of my own past speaks poorly to someone else’s present experience.) Is it good if that lesser skilled person knows about Lochner v. NY, Muller v. Oregon, the Wagner Act, or the FLSA? Probably. But it shouldn’t be a precondition for that person to enter the discussion.

        Which isn’t what you’re saying, I take it. I take you to mean it’s a good thing for people to have a grounding in the humanities. I don’t dispute that point, but I question “how good.” I also offer that someone who doesn’t study the humanities gets another education. In college, that education is STEM or business or whatever. Out of college, that education is some combination of hard knocks, life experience, or other factors. While I was learning my history, other people were learning other things. And since there are only 24 hours in a day and since few people are exceptional like Good Will Hunting, most of us make a tradeoff: those who work more at lower paid jobs than I did probably read less or took fewer classes while I who probably read a little more and took more classes failed to learn what those others did.

        The common discourse thing can be important. But it goes several ways. People with little or less formal education still have a discourse and participate in it. That discourse may not be high brow, and it may or may not be middle brow, but it is a discourse. And while I admit it’s probably not as “common” as what you’d prefer, it’s also not entirely isolated and solipsistic.

        I know that on this blog I have tended to favor “folk knowledge” over the knowledge that comes from more formal education. I don’t want to go full relativist, but I do believe each type of knowledge–and that which falls in between of which most (all?) of us, even the most highly formally educated, partake–has something to offer to the discussion.Report

      • @saul-degraw

        Well, if I had to hire an engineer, I’d probably at least want her to have graduated from railroad school 🙂

        More seriously, though: I think it’s a mistake to turn this into a discussion about how and why “many” conservatives and libertarians advocate for the minimalist state. Not that there aren’t some who so advocate, but it’s not clear to me where they are on this blog or at least on this thread.

        I have qualms about how federal (and state) funding of higher education works and might work if we changed (increased) it. That doesn’t mean I want to dismantle the federal and state governments or dismantle federal or state supports.

        As for whether education is a “consumer good.” I think you and I and others have been lobbing that word around without much regard for what it means. I’m too lazy to Google ™ it, but I suspect education is both a consumer good and whatever type of good isn’t a consumer good, perhaps in varying degrees, depending on what discipline we’re talking about, the motivations of the one pursuing it, its marketability, and other things I’m sure I’m leaving out.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @gabriel-conroy,

        Saul is doing most of the arguments on subsidized education. Most of my arguments are on the usefulness of a broadly liberal arts education at the K-12 level even if many students are going to be apathetic about it. Its probably better if people are given a good grounding in arts and the humanities before college. I suspect that people are projected Saul’s thoughts on to me because we are brothers.

        I’m more pro-subsidize higher education in all its forms than other people on this blog, I do understand that most people who go to college do so for career reasons rather than intellectual curiosity. Even among most upper-middle class or upper class people, a lot of people probably go to college because its’ what your supposed to do and they know that getting a good job without a degree would be rather hard. In this sense, no degree is a consumer good because just having some kind of degree from some college is a prerequisite for consideration for many jobs. This might be a bad thing but I can’t think of a way to change this since it will involve a radical departure in private business and corporations. Even if the government stops funding college education, it doesn’t mean that businesses are going to stop requiring degrees even if a job doesn’t really require one.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Saul, out of curiosity, would a community college degree in something humanityish meet your standards?Report

      • @leeesq

        I do try not to conflate your views with Saul’s, and vice versa, although I do admit that I sometimes make that mistake.

        I agree with most of this:

        Even among most upper-middle class or upper class people, a lot of people probably go to college because its’ what your supposed to do and they know that getting a good job without a degree would be rather hard. In this sense, no degree is a consumer good because just having some kind of degree from some college is a prerequisite for consideration for many jobs. This might be a bad thing but I can’t think of a way to change this since it will involve a radical departure in private business and corporations.

        The extent to which a college degree is “required” probably makes it less of a consumer good. (But again, I haven’t expended the valuable seconds necessary to look up what a “consumer good” actually is, so I may be off-base.) I’m also with you that it’s a hard thing to change (assuming, of course, one wants to change it).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Saul,

        I think that it is possible to have a system that subsidizes education and also provides good jobs for people without college educations.

        We already have that system, don’t we?Report

      • Avatar Sual Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @jaybird

        I am not sure I quite get your question. Do you mean satisfy me personally? Satisfy what?

        I support broader funding of community colleges as part of broader funding for education in general.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        If so, we’re no longer discussing whether any given student can get a college education for a fairly reasonable/cheap price, but whether they can get a prestigious college education for a fairly reasonable/cheap price.

        And that’s the problem with prestigious.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        If I had my druthers we, as a society, would be focused on dismantling the institution of prestige more than trying to expand it or expand access to it.Report

      • Avatar Sual Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @jaybird

        You still haven’t answered my question. What do you mean by satisfy? What do you mean by humanitariesish?

        I suspect my answer to your questions will be no, not personally. But I would like a clear answer to both questions.

        Would I be satisfied with just getting an Associates degree? Probably not. That doesn’t seem very ambitious and I am a fairly ambitious person despite the weird way that ambition gets lampooned on both the right and the left. This country has a very weird relationship with ambition.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        IIRC (and I welcome correction if I’m wrong), there is a positive correlation between income and a college degree pretty much regardless of choice of major.

        STEM programs may produce a particular set of job outcomes, but liberal arts majors do seem to get plenty of good jobs all over the place.

        So if “the point” of education is to produce a more productive labor force, it’s unclear that a history major or a theater arts major shouldn’t be given (some) level of deference from a social support standpoint.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I have never, not once even, in my entire career needed set theory or differential topology. Probably not even any calculus beyond what I learned in high school. So clearly my degree was a waste of time and money.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @patrick

        I do wonder about the direction the arrow of causality is pointing. Do people earn more/hold better jobs because of their degree? Or are the type of people who are likely to earn more/hold better jobs more likely to pursue a degree? Probably both/and. That, along with a number of other variables, make it really hard to do that type of calculus.Report

      • Saul, I think what he’s asking is if you would be satisfied if “college access” meant a degree from Downtown Night College or if people should have a right to go to the University of Connecticut or at least Central Connecticut State.

        Patrick, that depends on whether the wage premium is a product of value enhancement or zero-sum credentialing or self-selection.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @mike-schilling

        I probably use set theory at least once a day. You probably do, too, although you might do it subconsciously.

        Plus the whole “digest the framework argument” bit from basic logic.

        Granted, I don’t use number theory (except in an operational sense) or diffeq every day…Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Again, I graduated college from a school that those who care about stuff like “graduating from prestigious colleges” would have mocked.

        But, and here’s my point, I paid my college bills myself (though, granted, I was living at home and mom didn’t charge me rent. Thanks, Mom!).

        If we can hammer out that a mockable school would meet the requirements of provision of the resources necessary to achieve the ability to say that one has achieved formal mastery of a subject… hey. Awesome. We’re totes there.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @saul-degraw You mischaracterized the nature of the opposition to your position. I corrected you. No need to get pissy about it.

        And for the record, I don’t watch Fox News or read their web site, or for that matter consume any conservative media. If you could point to an article on Fox News that justifies your charcterization of my correction of your error as a “Fox News talking point,” I’d be interested in seeing it.Report

      • Avatar Sual Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @will-truman

        Of course people should have access to community college or Central Connecticut. I am not arguing that those institutions shouldn’t exist and it should all be four years. But I don’t believe in the 2 years of Community College or encouraging students to stay at home just because kind of idea either. That seems more like people misremebering how things were in the past than the actual past itself. I generally do think that there is a good to be gotten in living on campus for two years and then maybe sharing a place with some friends off-campus and it should be more than for upper-middle class and above students to do so.

        My views on why tuition at public universities have skyrocketed are pretty close to LWAs. I think we can easily make tuition more affordable at public universities but it became a fatality in the culture wars and a turn away from the New Deal liberalism to more conservative politics.

        When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson is a good history for this kind of stuff.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Sual (the NY accent is really getting ridiculous), I’m not talking about access. I’m talking about meeting spec.Report

      • @saul-degraw You’re still not quite getting it. So let me ask it another way…

        If someone could go to Downtown Night College, but not to Central Connecticut State or the University of Connecticut, would you consider that satisfactory?

        If someone can afford to go to CCSU, but not UConn, would that be satisfactory?

        It’s not about whether you would approve of (or subsidize) somebody going to a “lesser” institution. It’s about whether it would be okay with you if that’s all they could do. As in, what sort of institution do you believe somebody has a right to (affordably) attend?

        Feel free to swap out CCSU with Sacramento State and UConn for UC-Davis, if you prefer. Downtown Night College is simply a stand-in for any relatively open-enrollment undergraduate school with amenities and a faculty not much more notably than that of a community college (no dorms, etc.).Report

      • With regard to college funding as a product of the culture wars, that still doesn’t really make sense to me as something that has a lot of explanatory power. If it were so, then why isn’t college more affordable in parts of the country where social conservatism holds considerably less sway? If it’s so readily fixable but for priorities, why hasn’t any state done it?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        As Will alludes to, there are three factors that contribute to the college income premium. The technical terms are human capital, ability bias, and signalling.

        Human capital refers to the fact that college teaches students skills that make them more productive. Ability bias refers to the fact that college graduates are on average more intelligent and/or conscientious than high-school graduates, and thus would have been more productive even if they had never gone to college. Signalling refers to the fact that having a college degree causes employers to believe that you’re likely to be more productive than a candidate without a degree and thus gives you access to better career opportunities irrespective of your actual productivity.

        It’s pretty clear that all of these play some role. The question is how much of the premium is due to each of the factors. And even that almost certainly varies from field to field and even from individual to individual. For example, there’s obviously a strong human capital element at play in engineering or professional cirricula, where students go on to get jobs that they could not possibly have done without the skills they learned in school. It’s less clear that this is the case with many humanities degrees. For that matter, I’m kind of skeptical about the human-capital value of my own college education.

        The relative contributions of these factors to the college income premium have policy implications. Hypothetically, if it were 100% ability bias, this would mean that college education is a pure consumption good with no economic value. Obviously this isn’t the case, but we should recognize that ability bias does play some role, and revise downwards our estimates of college’s effect on productivity and income accordingly.

        Insofar as the premium is due to human capital improvements, college enhances productivity, which is a benefit to the student, of course, and also to society as a whole—maybe only because it benefits the student without hurting anyone else, but also because the student may not capture the full value of his education, providing positive externalities. But this still only makes college a good investment if the NPV of the benefits exceeds the upfront cost (tuition and opportunity cost of not working for four years). Nor does human capital enhancement necessarily justify a subsidy—positive externalities are necessary for that.

        Signalling is the most interesting factor, as it implies that getting a college education may benefit the student personally while producing negative externalities. If you get a college degree, then that makes you more attractive to employers, and then others have to do the same just to be on equal footing, so it has elements of a wasteful arms race. Again, ability bias and human capital definitely do play some role, but it’s important to understand that signaling plays a role as well, and that to the degree that it does, this reduces the social benefit of education.

        And, of course, the relative values may vary wildly for marginal vs. inframarginal students.

        God, I hope nobody finds out I cribbed this from Fox News.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @saul-degraw , I believe that a well rounded education, inclusive of the arts and humanities is important for individuals and society. I believe our society is made better off in countless ways when we commit to providing public funding for that well rounded educations, especially when we provide strong financial support for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

        And I still think you’re full of shit when you talk up your MFA, and I think Brandon’s right to call you on it.

        Look, for all that you think education for the sake of education is important, an MFA in directing is a practical, professional, specialized degree. It provides you with specific skills that help you succeed at a specific set of tasks.

        Having an MFA does not make you a better person through the magic of liberal arts education. If that were the case, frankly, you’d be a better person. In your writing here, you show an inability to understand any viewpoint besides your own. You give the impression of someone who has difficulty forming deep relationships with other people. You have serious trouble convincing others that you are a skilled and talented individual who should be taken seriously. And despite your many years of education in the arts, your opinions on culture are shallow and predictable.

        You, with your three college degrees, do not seem to have learned the lessons that I got with one BA in theater arts. More than anything else, you remind me of a certain subset of my STEM college friends, too busy with heat transfer equations and World of Warcraft to ever learn any of what college has to teach about life–Only with Brechtian alienation in place of thermodynamics and Finnegans Wake in place of WoW.

        An MFA is no different from a MBA or a JD or a MD or an ME. It is training, albeit training in an academic context. You spend three years of your life and a lot of tuition money to get that MFA. If that was your money, well, that’s why people are saying that college is a consumer good, and I’m glad you think your MFA was worth it. If that was government money… well, I think our nation has higher educational priorities than arts degrees that gather dust on a shelf. I may not agree 100% with Brandon on public funding of education, but I do think that the state shouldn’t be spending that kind of money supporting other people’s hobbies.Report

      • I think we can easily make tuition more affordable at public universities…

        Seriously, propose a specific scheme that’s politically feasible. Trot it down to the statehouse and push it. At least in my state, the vast majority of the members of the legislature have four-year degrees (many from in-state schools), they believe in the value of higher ed, and they are dismayed at the steady increases in tuition. If you’ve got something practical that has merely escaped their consideration, they’ll snap it up. They are not failing to fund higher ed because of some “cultural” thing.

        OTOH, tax rate caps in this state are explicit (in most states at this time, they’re political but just as real). The state constitution makes the internal organization of most of the university system off limits to the legislature (for sound historical reasons). At a high level, the state budget is a zero-sum game — to increase spending on higher ed, you’ve got to cut somewhere else. Overall, worse than zero sum — some large spending areas are protected and are growing faster than revenues, hence are crowding everything else out.

        If it’s a federal program, unless the money flows directly to the students there will be resistance. Because federal dollars to the states always come with strings attached, and those strings will eventually bite the legislature in the butt. I spent a lot of time during my three years on the legislative staff explaining specific strings to legislators in the sense of “You can’t spend the money that way because of this string…”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        A million years ago, I was going through my discretionary funds and trying to figure out if I could buy a computer with the money I had (this was a couple of years before Gateway finally came out with a $999 computer, for the record) and I was talking to a mentor…

        “I have $X to spend.”
        “Don’t look at it that way. You could spend $X on a toaster. Instead say ‘I would like a computer with the following capabilities and then list them.'”
        “I would like a computer with the following capabilities: (and then I listed them).”
        “Yeah, you can probably get a computer that can do that for $X.”

        When I looked at it like that, *EVERYTHING CHANGED*.

        What are the capabilities we want for our education?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        So we seem to have conflicting ideas about what it means to make it in the United States. For some it seems to be about aspiration and moving up and for others it seems to be about continuing on in a family business or starting work as young as possible.

        You mean different people have different measures of personal success!? Something should be done about this immediately.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Michael Caine has the right of it. Claims that it’s easy, and all we need is the “political will” are without substance. “Political will” is the argument that gets trotted out in the absence of a clear specific plan that can actually persuade people.

        And he’s absolutely right about rules keeping the state legislature’s fingers out of university governance. It seems to be imagined by some that state legislatures will fully fund public universities without politically interfering with them, but that is a pipe dream. Universities would love to get more funding without more political strings attached, and without more political accountability, but that would be quite antithetical to a democratic system of government. So the state legislatures ought to make decisions about how that money can be used; but they’re inevitably going to do so in some stupid ways–or at least in ways that a lot of supporters of more funding will see as stupid. Certainly in ways that are driven by parochial and ideological interests.

        But eliminating that involvement would create its own problems. Universities cannot be trusted to use public funds only in wise ways that support good educational goals, and the public has a right to have close supervision over how their tax dollars are used.

        When I’ve been part of a public university, I’ve been appalled at how cavalier some folks there are about their responsibilities to the public. The mindset often is “we’re important so they have a duty to support us and leave us alone to do our work.” The idea that the universities had an obligation to demonstrate to the public that their tax dollars were being well-used was viewed with skepticism and sometimes even scorn.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The political will story also makes no historical sense. Why would the desire to publicly fund education so drastically decrease just as the demand for higher education was drastically increasing? Blaming it on Reagan and Milton Friedman is not a satisfactory answer.
        More likely this is a simple supply and demand story. People are demanding more education and a more expensive bundle of education and peripheral goods and services. And public support to education is not decreasing; it’s just not keeping pace with the increases in prices. This is an important distinction.

        ps – can someone get rid of the misplaced dupe below?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @alan-scott,

        I don’t disagree with the more general points you make in your comment, but I do find this one problematic, on *procedural* grounds, so to speak:

        I may not agree 100% with Brandon on public funding of education.

        On my reading of this thread and BB’s comments both generating and contained within it, BB has not expressed a view about funding public education except for a very narrow one: he rejects the claim that public funding of higher ed degrees for status-based reasons is justified.

        @brandon-berg,

        Thanks for that lengthy comment at 1:29. I found it incredibly helpful since I struggle with not only the language involved and the nuance of the concepts in play, but also suffer from a lack of understanding of what those concepts actually are. Implicit in your comment are a bunch of ways to justify certain views regarding the utility, pursuit and funding of education up to and including advanced degrees. So thanks!Report

      • @stillwater

        Yes, I liked @brandon-berg ‘s 1:29 comment, too.Report

      • @sual-degraw

        I am not willing to do any conceding that education is a consumer good because it is not. Education provides people with the abilities to think, read, and write critically along with more specific skills in STEM. These are necessary for a viable democratic republic and necessary for the economy.

        There is some circularity (“because it is not”) and simple assertion in that statement. And no wonder, it’s the type of thing that can’t easily be defended or attacked inasmuch as it’s a statement of values and not purely one of fact. (In this comment, I’m focusing more on the “viable democratic republic” part of the statement here and not the “economic” part, with which I probably agree more than I let on in my original comment.)

        One reductio to which the assertion about such education and a “viable” democracy can be taken–and to which I’m positive you do not wish to take them–is to deny less-educated people access to the decision making (i.e., deny them the vote, or establish new literacy tests). Again, I do not believe you wish to go there, but that’s one way it could go if one carries the concern for a “viable” (a value laden term) democratic republic in a certain direction.

        You’re probably saying that the decision making would function better and we’d get better results if people had better education. That’s not very different, from what I said above (and at about the same time you wrote your comment, so you probably didn’t have a chance to read it before you wrote yours). The chief difference I see is that someone with less formal education has something, even much, of value to add to our democratic republic and to what Lee says should be the “common discourse.” Maybe in some ideal world (not my ideal world) everyone would go to college, but to my mind that would still operate more as a “college tax” on those with less aptitude or less desire to learn in a college setting.

        Finally, I’ll address your point about discussions of education becoming something like an all-or-nothing “culture war.” With others here, I’ll say it need not necessarily be that way. But if it is that way, I think there’s enough blame to go around. When you define education as one of the defining features of a “civilized” society, then someone who has reservations about some forms of college funding or about whether college is for everyone does not merely see things differently, but is against “civilization” itself. As for me, I’m guilty of something a bit different but no less damaging to the discussion. I probably too quickly assume that arguments like yours are meant as an attack on people who choose not or cannot go to college, even though I know deep down you probably sincerely believe your preferred policies would empower such people.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I think we’re exacting something like a “college tax” on them: spend x opportunity cost and you’ll be considered as elligible for y benefits. I don’t know how to end or slow down the growth of that expectation

        Where growth presumably refers to growth in x holding y constant (though y probably actually is also in the event growing so that observed growth in x is all the greater).

        The way to slow it down is to start to ratchet down societal prosperity. (I want to do neither of those.) Make it so that there is less surplus; so that the nice stuff (beef, tofu, coffee, chocolate, shoes, special wheat-chaffe anti-odor kitty litter) that even people who fancy themselves as aspiring to the Life of the Mind invariably fail at developing tastes for in our society of affluence, make that stuff scarcer, more expensive and harder to come by. Make sure people’s incomes grow more slowly – or fall. Then people in aggregate will begin to choose to spend less time pursuing education of varying kinds, defined as being engaged in activities whose conscious purpose is learning, rather than whose conscious purpose is production of something, whether good or service, where learing is likely to accur, but where it is incidental to the purpose of the activity, whether under consumption or human-capital development rationales). That’s because they usually have to pay, and at least have to forgo time spent in production, for education, whereas typically they are paid to engage in production. Give up pay or pay someone else, means less nice stuff’ to go get after spending time educatin’ yourself; get paid, means go get a beer after work. Or three.

        But if, even though the amount of time (and money) spent in aggregate on education climbs, at the same time the amount of available, affordable Nice Stuff, as well as income to buy it seems to rise and rise despite forgone earning time, well, then people can have their cake and get educated too. Which means that more and more people do, and many of them do so in a way that earns them proof that they did so (since it’s pretty easy to get that proof, and why not seize the human-capital value of your choice even if it is largely a consumption choice?). So that the background amount of credentials held by the job-seeking public rises and rises with time spent on education. Which in turn means that the degree(sic) of credential needed to stand on that particular metric out in any give filed of competitors.

        The question, then, is why does it, on average, make a difference to employers how much time you’ve spent educating yourself? Why do employers use that as one important proxy for answering either the question, “How great is this person going to be at doing what I need them to do?” or “How much does this person’s relatively great investment of time in and display of aptitude in education, made rather than working for money as a young (or older) person, reduce the level of risk he poses to me in hiring him from what the assumed amount of risk would be for just Undifferentiated Candidate X?” The answers to those questions – why do employers give a rip about relative levels of education(al credentials) are obviously complicated and hard to tease out. I don’t have much issue with @brandon-berg ‘s explication of the effects involved. But I would tend to view the fact that they keep on showing that they do give a rip on average as an indication that it’s a net productivity benefit to them. I think it’s fair to presume it makes sense from their perspective, at least until evidence emerges that they’re making the same mistake on average, year after year after year.

        I’ve kind of offered two explanations for why x rises: people have more and more of what they want before trading off for education (which many people do find worthwhile to trade off for in consumption terms), so they trade off for more x (or more of what satisfies x – the college tax), and end up with a balance that makes them more or less happy. This raises the average level of x (how much opportunity cost people trade off for x, since absolute material wellbeing is rising), so that to stand out on the x metric you have to trade off even MORE and more. And second, for whatever reason, business and employers, on average, seem continue to offer a hiring and wage premium for x, or for standing out on the x metric. The premium itself might not be growing, but we’ve seen why in order to receive the same premium x rises and rises with societal prosperity. This just seems to continue to be what employers on average deem in their HR interests. Perhaps that will change or perhaps it’s a mistake on their part, but regardless, like you, I’m not sure there’s much we can do about it.

        But why do we want to? Isn’t it evident to you the way that the expansion of horizons that education at least can and on average does give to people, lends more subjective enjoyment to a life? Even if that life ends up occupied largely in an occupation that doesn’t make use of much of that education?

        I’m not sure which of these functions we would like to see change: that prosperity leads to large numbers of people electing to pursue education with some (or a lot) of their time, rather than seeking to maximize every earning opportunity that come their way in the short term, causing the baseline level of educational credentials to rise? Or that employers begin to be more indifferent to time spent education not directly related to the job for which they are hiring? And I’m not sure for what reason we would want that. To lessen the incentive to pursue education (the inverse of “tax n not doing so”) among people who aren’t that into it? We already mandate they engage in it for nine months a year from ages 5 to 17. Clearly the value is one we esouse. I’m not sure I buy this stark dichotomy that everyone has to get a K-12 education, but college isn’t for everyone, so we should dismantle the systems that reward it past K-12, or wish to see them stop growing. I think we value education with good reason, so we incentivize it. We mandate it for 13 years; it’s not clear to me that the degree of incentives in place for it after that time are out of step with our rising prosperity.

        What’s wrong with a vision in which, due to rising prosperity, the amount of time devoted to self-development of various kinds rise over time, resulting in increasing average levels of educational credentials in society – among plumbers and electricians and landscapers as much as among middle managers and art professors? If anything, it seems to me that the only real issue is that there is a cap on the credential scale that may be out of date. We’re becoming more an more educated, with more and more doctors of this and tat about -medicine, dentistry, law etc, in addition to the variety of PhDs. There are indeed obviously signifiers above the PhD. (post-doc this or that, etc., etc.), so maybe the issue is just that they need to be publicized more – and at the other end, the image of the associate’s degree, for example, to signal a basic interest in learning even among those for whom college broadly isn’t an attractive option, rehabilitaed. Or perhaps some new credential needs to be developed to signify the way that our increased commitment of time to education has made many degrees less distinctive than they once were.

        Point being, I think there are ways to adjust to the reality that more prosperity means more options for what to do with one’s time means more baseline educational credentials, and to the fact that it seems as though employers are going to continue to give a premium for being relatively more well-educated all else being equal, resulting in a greater educational input x for the same education premium y, without wanting to halt that growth. On its face, it’s not clear to me that we should wish that employers not reward levels of education more as the opportunity to gain education becomes more relatively affordable. It’s not clear to me that the resulting more-educated population isn’t prima facie desirable.Report

      • @michael-drew

        Hmmm….I think I disagree with you, but I’m not sure. Could you give me the “tl;dr” version?

        Here’s the tl;dr version of the part of my comment you were responding to: “People are de facto required to go to college to do jobs that could probably be done well by someone without a college education. I think that situation is wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it.”

        I will add, non-tl;dr’ly, that I think understand why a lot of employers in certain fields might favor college degrees even if a non-collegiate could do the job. It works as a sorting mechanism so that the universe of those with a degree is more likely to have people with the necessary skills/work ethic than the universe of those without degrees. That’s one reason why rolling back the trend seems to intractable. I do think it might be possible to slow down the trend, or perhaps give employers incentives to look beyond degrees more than they seem to do. But I can’t think of any policy proposal right now.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        Yes. Though I’d like you to think of that screed more as asking you why you feel that way about the “college tax” – that we want to slow its growth – than as asserting a contrary view. I realize it does do that to an extent, but my spirit here is more to interrogate our basic motivations, not to prescribe a view of my own on the question.

        I guess that’s my tl;dr.

        One other pithy question though: what jobs do you think that folks for whom college truly doesn’t work and isn’t right [EDIT:] are imposing a college tax to a greater extent? Right now I’m a (seasonally out of work) landscaper. I’m not aware that I’d face a college tax in trying to get a job doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t gone to college.

        The thing is that the labor market isn’t static; it’s dynamic, and growth in recent decades has occurred in occupations where I think we’d agree you do need to have been a person for whom college worked to be qualified. So that’s another factor that it seems like should be leading to a growth of aggregate/average “x.” Legitimately college-necessary jobs are simply a growing share of all jobs in the U.S. That might be something that factors into our basic motivations here – that we’d like low-skilled jobs to be growing in line with high-skilled, college-necessary jobs, so that people for whom college doesn’t work continue to have abundant non-college options. But it’s a different, much more basic economic concern than a concern that credentialism is rising for all jobs holding the job profile constant, causing more credentials to be necessary to get the same jobs. If the jobs being created are different, the degree of credentials needed in the population probably should change with it (I think we might agree). If we just want the share of different kinds of jobs not to be changing as much, that;s a different basic desire.

        (I suppose then we could get into what we think if credentialism – or just greater education levels regardless of credentialism – is causing there to be a real shift in the kinds of jobs being created by the American economy. But, like, whoa, right? One step at a time.)Report

      • @michael-drew

        Thanks for the clarification. As to “what kinds of jobs,” one item I have in mind is low-level white collar to middle management in corporate America. Here’s an anecdote: An in-law of mine has a high school diploma and no college (and that diploma was through an alternative high school and by her own admission she would not have been able to complete a regular HS program). She started working for a national insurance company ca. 1990, and is now in what I’d call upper middle management. She has, if I understand correctly several teams from across the country that report to her, and she just got a promotion. All without even an associates.

        Is she exceptional? Probably, and I’ll admit that her drive and work ethic and intelligence puts mine to shame. But I suspect she’s less exceptional than it might seem at first glance. And I’ll admit that her drive and intelligence and work ethic Now, I suspect that today she’d have a harder time getting the same entry-level job (and to be honest, I don’t know exactly what entry-level position she started at) or advancing as quickly as she did, or at all.

        Again, that’s just an anecdote. Even in 1990, I suspect she had a harder time than she would have in 1970. (Or maybe an easier time in 1990: there was probably less sex discrimination in 1990 than in 1970. So that’s a confounding factor.)

        I can easily see a counter narrative to the one I just posed. My in-law is white and her father had held a good-paying union job in a part of the country (Denver) where it was fairly easy to earn a living and buy a house. I can easily imagine that someone with different (and fewer) privileges might have college as the only obvious path. In that sense, a preference for college degrees would be a boon to people who didn’t otherwise have the advantages my in-law did. And for what it’s worth, my in-law has mentioned that while she doesn’t think a college degree is necessary for the kind of work she does, she would advise an 18-something person to go to college because that’s what employers are looking for now.

        Still, I like the idea of people not needing a degree to get an entree into good-paying jobs.

        And this point you made (especially the portion I’ve bolded),

        That might be something that factors into our basic motivations here – that we’d like low-skilled jobs to be growing in line with high-skilled, college-necessary jobs, so that people for whom college doesn’t work continue to have abundant non-college options. But it’s a different, much more basic economic concern than a concern that credentialism is rising for all jobs holding the job profile constant, causing more credentials to be necessary to get the same jobs. If the jobs being created are different, the degree of credentials needed in the population probably should change with it (I think we might agree).

        is probably more true than I have given credit for in my comments thus far. And to the extent that it is true, then maybe slowing the trend for college preferences might indeed imply (as I think you are implying) slowing down the economy so as to limit opportunities.

        One more anecdote that may or may not be relevant but that I think influences the way I look at all this. A relative of mine who was born in the 1920s (and who passed away about 20 years ago) told a story of how she applied for a job as a cashier somewhere, probably in the early 1950s (I think it was at Montgomvery Wards, but I forget), and she was denied the job because she didn’t have a HS diploma, even though she could add, subtract, and make change as good as anyone.* To me, what we’re seeing today with the expansion of who has college degrees is an exacerbation of that trend. And I think that’s an unfortunate development.

        None of this negates the point you made, or the points that @saul-degraw made above, for that matter. But I do at least think we should hesitate before adopting programs and policies that would encourage this trend. That is, right or wrong, where I’m coming from.

        Again, thanks for clarifying your point.

        *I believe she had only an 8th grade education, but I don’t know for sure. The anecdote itself is something I heard second-hand so I or the relative who told it to may have modified some of the details. But the gist of it is as I’ve related it.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Thanks for the reply, @gabriel-conroy . I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on what we’ve discussed if they’d want to think about it and share them.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @michael-drew The answers to those questions – why do employers give a rip about relative levels of education(al credentials) are obviously complicated and hard to tease out. I don’t have much issue with Brandon Berg‘s explication of the effects involved. But I would tend to view the fact that they keep on showing that they do give a rip on average as an indication that it’s a net productivity benefit to them.

        While a strong signaling component in the college income premium does imply a market failure, remember that market failures do not involve individuals behaving irrationally. Rather, they’re situations where each individual behaving rationally leads to a suboptimal overall outcome.

        It’s rational for employers to care about educational credentials because they actually do signal higher expected productivity due to some mix of ability bias and human capital improvements, and because they cannot easily measure productivity directly. This is true even if the correlation between education and productivity is entirely due to ability bias. In this case, college would essentially be a four-year test to prove that you’re intelligent and conscientious, and therefore likely to be a good worker.

        Conversely, what kind of person doesn’t go to college when the conventional wisdom is that it confers huge economic benefits? Thiel Fellows aside, probably someone who’s either not smart or conscientious enough to cut it. Remember last week when I talked about how lifestyle choices that are believed to be healthful tend to become correlated with health regardless of whether they actually work, because they tend to be adopted by people who care about health? Same sort of thing here.

        And so we get a positive feedback effect. The more strongly employers prefer college graduates, the stronger an incentive there is for anyone capable of getting a college degree to do so. And the stronger the incentive to get a degree, the more suspicious employers become of those who choose not to (or fail to) get a degree.

        To break the cycle (which we would only want to do if college’s contribution to human capital is often less than the expense justifies), we would need an alternative way for candidates to demonstrate to employers that they have the desired qualities. In a way, we already have this in the form of “degree or equivalent experience” requirements, but there’s still the catch-22 where it’s hard to get a job that gives you the “equivalent experience” if you don’t have a degree.Report

      • @brandon-berg

        A lot of that seems like a pretty close question to me, or else hard to quantify and judge. It seems like it’s going to make a lot of difference what your incoming inclination is – whether you’re inclined to think that education is contributing to human capital at roughly its cost or not, and then also whether you’re inclined to see an overrun of education consumption past productivity contribution as wasteful, or as as potentially a boon to overall human experience. After all, just because those resources that are going into education past the point of productivity benefit could go into other productivity-enhancing investments doesn’t mean they would, and doesn’t mean they might not go toward expenditures that are less beneficial to overall human wellbeing – and potentially destructive of it – than education.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      E1 – parental convenience makes sense for elementary school start times, but I would have thought high school students could be trusted to leave the house after their parents and lock the door behind them.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to dragonfrog says:

        “I would have thought high school students could be trusted”…

        Dude…have you ever MET a high school student? 😉Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to dragonfrog says:

        We live exactly one block from the high school. My daughter was perfectly happy with that since she could leave the house about three minutes before class started and still make it on time.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to dragonfrog says:

        @road-scholar

        We live exactly one block from the high school

        They don’t have Megan’s Law in your state?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Oh Scarlet, your casual trolling of the “I’m not a jackass, I just say what everyone else is thinking but is afraid to say” sort is usually just annoying in the way that a fly buzzing near the ear but never landing is, but once in a while you cross a real line.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Casual trolling seems less fun than casual sex.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to dragonfrog says:

        @leeesq

        I don’t believe in casual sex. I always wear a tie.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        @glyph heh.

        I’m not sure if the folks who regularly skipped class actually left the house at a time consistent with going to school, if their parents left for work first and they just stayed in.

        When I cycled to school I was sometimes tempted on nice days to just keep riding right past the school, but I never did. Chronic anhedonism I guess.

        A lot of us were 5 minutes late for the first class – it was that or 25 minutes early on that bus route.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:

        My town uses the same fleet of busses to deliver kids to multiple schools. So it does so in waves, working oldest to youngest. High school starts around 7:10 and then wraps up around 2. I think the logic is that it is easier for high school students to physically get themselves up and moving in the AM and they can be trusted with more unsupervised after school time (plus many end up involved in extracurriculars such as clubs and sports). Still… the idea of starting school at 7:10 seems like torture to me?
        @dragonfrog

        I don’t think it is just the transportation issue (though some areas of country have decidedly more difficult logistical issues to address with regards to getting students to school sans parents than do others). It is also the whole ‘morning routine’. Sure, a highly responsible teenager can get him/herself up on time, fed, dressed, and out the door without an adult. But most teenagers aren’t highly responsible. It is kind of a mark of the age. So if we’re going to end up punishing the kids because they’re late to school or because they didn’t get a good breakfast or an otherwise solid start to their day, that seems really unfair.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      The political will story also makes no historical sense. Why would the desire to publicly fund education so drastically decrease just as the demand for higher education was drastically increasing? Blaming it on Reagan and Milton Friedman is not a satisfactory answer.

      More likely this is a simple supply and demand story. People are demanding more education and a more expensive bundle of education and peripheral goods and services. And public support to education is not decreasing; it’s just not keeping pace with the increases in prices. This is an important distinction.Report

  4. Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    E5
    All Gillen is saying is that college costs have outstripped inflation. In other words, its not JUST there has been a constant level of costs, with the students picking up an increasing share.
    But even if costs HAD stayed the same, tuition would have drastically increased, since state support has dramatically fallen.

    I honestly don’t know if there has been a satisfactory explanation for the rise in college costs. Gillen mentions that colleges are competing for students. I find that hard to believe, at least here in California; every campus of the UC system is overwhelmed by applicants, and can pretty much take their pick.

    Gillen’s paper seems to be part of a concerted effort to wave away the concept of a free university education as we had pre-1975, to make it seem impossible that such a thing could occur and make the status quo the only possible course of things.

    For example, college costs are rising dramatically at state universities. Doesn’t this suggest that the citizens have the power to look into this, and find ways to correct the problem? Maybe by streamlining the administration or curricula?

    The state spends more money on prisons than university. Doesn’t this suggest that the citizens have the ability to correct this problem, such as eliminating the drug laws and 3 Strikes laws?

    It just seems like part of the larger problem of political fatigue and learned helplessness, where every problem is seen as intractable, deeply mysterious and beyond human comprehension.

    Every problem that is, except the one of shoveling ever more money into the gaping jaws of already engorged special interests.Report

    • That is indeed what Gillen is saying. But given that people have been using the data he points to in order to explain the tuition hike, I think it’s an important argument. The state support issue is only responsible for part of it. And as I mentioned the last time we talked about it, states where funding has increased have not seen tuition stabilized. So something else is going on (too). As you say, that something else may be something that can be addressed, but there is more at work than state budgets.Report

    • Gillen’s paper seems to be part of a concerted effort to wave away the concept of a free university education as we had pre-1975, to make it seem impossible that such a thing could occur and make the status quo the only possible course of things.

      There is no such thing as a free anything. You can have publicly funded higher education, but that’s not free. There is nothing impossible about it, but it would require drastically curtailing access to higher education, in one form or another. If that is the trade off that you want, fine, but be aware that it is a trade off.

      For example, college costs are rising dramatically at state universities. Doesn’t this suggest that the citizens have the power to look into this, and find ways to correct the problem? Maybe by streamlining the administration or curricula?

      What it suggests to me is that people want it this way, so good luck streamlining administration or curricula.

      ps – this is a dupe of a comment in moderation below; the other one is misplaced.Report

      • Avatar The Far Left in reply to j r says:

        @j-r
        Agreed that nothing is free. The taxpayers can, should and HAVE in the past provided university education without tuition.

        This is the point I keep making- the idea that the State of California can provide world-class higher education to all entrants regardless of ability to pay tuition is not some dreamy left wing fantasy. It was the actual working model for decades, until it became politically undesirable.

        I grant the point that the rising costs are being driven by other factors.But given that the citizens of California control the entire university system from the Board of Regents on down, there isn’t anything about the university we can’t control.

        But as you say, the status quo is the status quo, for no other reason than we want it to be this way.

        Which is what I propose to change. And the first step in changing attitudes is to create the vision of an alternative reality. So I feel compelled to react to articles that have as their premise, the notion that such a thing is impossible.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @the-far-left

        I get that this narrative of yours conforms to your ideological priors and, therefore, makes sense to you. However, if you look at it objectively, it just does not fit.

        If anything, since the 1960s, people’s demand for higher education has only gone up. Why would the demand to publicly fund education go down? Even if you buy some sort of ideological argument, that would mean that people were so committed to the idea of smaller government that they chose to shift the burden from the public to the individual at exactly the same time that burden was increasing. Most people just don’t have that level of ideological commitment.

        Point being, the rising cost of a college education is more likely an economic and sociological story, not an ideological and political one.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @j-r
        I’m speaking here specifically about the California system- I don’t know enough about other states.
        But yes, the demand to fund public education HAS, as a matter of historical record, gone down.
        http://thebackbench.blogspot.com/2007/08/tuition-at-university-of-california.html
        Nut graph:
        “Ronald Reagan insisted on two things upon taking office as governor of California. One was the head of Clark Kerr, president of the University of California. The second was the imposition of tuition on UC students. Kerr was soon gone, replaced by Charles Hitch. The Regents of the University of California also agreed to impose education fees for the first time on the university’s students. Excuses were made that the new fees were not really the adoption of tuition, but Senator Rodda insisted that the fees were exactly that—a violation of the university’s long history of tuition-free public education. ”

        This wasn’t the result of some collision of cost and revenue- it was an explicitly political decision, to move the priority for higher education lower, and deliberately increase the load on students.

        I can grant that demand for education has risen, and that the costs has somehow mysteriously risen as well.
        But we also have to grasp the historical fact- that most of this is because of deliberate political and budgetary choices.
        Or as I keep saying-
        the status quo is the status quo because we choose it to be this way.

        Right now, access to the public university system is rationed by a combination of grades, SAT scores, and wealth. I’m proposing that we delete that last item, and revert back to the historical model.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        But we also have to grasp the historical fact- that most of this is because of deliberate political and budgetary choices.

        Assumes facts not in evidence. It’s not at all clear to me that restoring funding would do much more than make a dent in rising tuitions. And as I mentioned previously, states that increased state funding between 1987 and 2012 saw tuition hikes. Red and blue.

        What happened in California did not happen in isolation. All fifty states did what California did. Liberal, conservative, red, blue… every state. I haven’t done a full statistical analysis, but it looks like more in blue states than red. And that California, despite Ronald Reagan, is actually better than most blue states (or, at least, not particularly worse).Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        But we also have to grasp the historical fact- that most of this is because of deliberate political and budgetary choices.
        Or as I keep saying-
        the status quo is the status quo because we choose it to be this way.

        And as I keep saying, that argument makes no logical sense. More likely is that the cost of the UC system simply became too much for the State of California to keep wholly subsidizing. Here is an article from 1982, after Reagan had moved on, talking about the imposition of tuition: http://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/28/science/california-weighs-end-of-free-college-education.html. At that time, Jerry Brown was Governor, a hint that maybe this has more to do with economics than politics.

        Right now, access to the public university system is rationed by a combination of grades, SAT scores, and wealth. I’m proposing that we delete that last item, and revert back to the historical model.

        If you think that grades and SAT scores have nothing to do with wealth… well, I am going to avoid directly calling you naive and merely imply it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r says:

        This wasn’t the result of some collision of cost and revenue- it was an explicitly political decision, to move the priority for higher education lower, and deliberately increase the load on students.

        You’ve provided no evidence at all for that claim. It’s your interpretation of the reason, but you’ve given us no reason to believe your interpretation has any grounding in fact.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @j-r
        From that 1982 article:
        “David Saxon, president of the University of California, warned a legislative committee last week that a proposal to cut $60 million from the system’s $1 billion budget would cause grave hardships. Instead, he called for the imposition of new taxes. ”

        There was a budget shortfall- the citizens could have chosen two routes- raise taxes, and cut other items to preserve college funding, or cut college funding and raise tuition.
        They chose the latter.

        Yes, this was all of a piece- the same political movement across America that carried Reagan from the governor’s house to the White House, were reflected all across America, that as college costs rose, the political choice was made over and again, to shift the burden away from taxpayers to the students.

        You can argue that this was good or wise. But you can’t argue that it wasn’t a choice.

        Yet again- I grant that costs have risen. And to provide tuition-free college would be astronomically expensive. So something in addition to state funding would need to occur, either radical restructuring of curricula or pay scales or capital expenses. But it could occur, if the choice were made.

        But we make choices like that all the time- to spend 1 Trillion on a fighter jet, 4 Trillion on pointless wars, hundreds of billions on prisons, to shield trillions of dollars of wealth from taxation offshore.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        I don’t understand why a 6% cut would result in tuitions tripling.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        “We could have raised taxes to increase revenue instead of cutting funding” sounds like a collision of cost and revenue to me.

        Also, it’s odd that all fifty states made the same decision if they apparently could have simply made the other decision.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        LWA: You can argue that this was good or wise. But you can’t argue that it wasn’t a choice.

        I think the second part is of this is correct: it was a choice. (I mean, from one pov, that’s just trivially true, yeah?). Given that, I think we ought to move on to the first part, whether the choice was good or wise. That’s the interesting part. To me, anyway.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r says:

        you can’t argue that it wasn’t a choice.

        Let’s call this what it is, a strawman.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to j r says:

        There’s a bit of a false dilemma here that needs to be explained out a tad.

        Since Prop 13 passed in 1978, several structural changes have happened in the California budget, to wit:

        (a) It takes a 2/3rds majority to add revenue, it takes a 51% majority to do anything else
        (b) This means it takes a 51% majority to make any spending decision, but it also only takes a 51% majority to alter existing revenue streams, which means…
        (c) Over time, almost every revenue stream goes directly into the General Fund, rather than have it be entailed by legislative requirement to go to a certain destination, even if it was originally passed that way (see: the California Lottery)
        (d) Just about 55-60% of the General Fund is spend on education. Most of that is on K-12.
        (e) As more spending obligations have been incurred via legislation passed since 1978, those spending obligations have hit the general budget, meaning every spending bill passed since 1978 has taken over half of its spending obligation burden out of the part of the pot that otherwise would have gone to education.
        (f) As a result, California went from one of the highest spending per-pupil at K-12 to hovering just above the toilet. Currently, according to the Governor’s office, we are funding education to the tune of about 65% of optimal levels. I don’t know which assumptions Jerry Brown is using for that number, but it’s about right as far as K-12 goes.
        (g) There is no mechanism whatsoever to gain revenue through the K-12 system
        (h) Ergo, tuition gonna be going up, yo.

        This isn’t a matter of direct trade-offs. To say that this is the “status quo” because people want it that way isn’t entirely correct.

        There are structural reasons why this is the status quo, and those structural reasons are now almost forty years old.

        It takes far fewer folks to agree to spend money than it takes to get them to raise taxes.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        James,

        LWA’s point is that legislature’s could have increased taxes to maintain public funding of education. Consistent with that view is that legislature’s could have decided to fund the entirety of education costs including beer money for students and raises for staff. I mean, they could have chosen to do that.

        LWA’s more contentious claim is that the rollbacks enacted by state gummints were the result of some sorta attack on the very idea of public funding for ed. That makes no sense to me, which is why I think it’s important to focus on the reasons driving those decisions. The reasons for the choice, in other words.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @patrick
        A pretty good summary of California budgetary politics since 1978.
        @will-truman
        Its not odd at all that all 50 states have followed this same trend. Its not like the rise of the conservative movement happened only in California.

        The rising tide of anti-tax sentiment, anti-government sentiment, coupled with the aging of the Boomers past their college ears, and into their house-buying and child-rearing years is simple historical fact. The deliberate political choice to approve and enact Prop 13 wasn’t coincidental with the shifting of the tuition burden to students- the dominance of the conservative movement all across America wasn’t coincidental with it either.

        Since the mid-70’s there has been a profound shift in the political desires and choices of Americans- roughly speaking it has been to embrace the conservative’s logic that government should be reduced, taxes should be lessened, regulations lifted, and market mechanisms provide direction rather than government control. Again, just a historical fact.

        So once we accept that the current status quo is the result of our political choices, we can assess- is it better?
        Did we make the right choices?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to j r says:

        Also, it’s odd that all fifty states made the same decision if they apparently could have simply made the other decision.

        As a side note, at the onset of the Great Recession, three states decided to either increase state funding of higher ed, or at least not cut it: Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. What all three had in common is that they get a very large part of their tax revenues from other states using the mechanism of taxing the producers of various fossil fuels. Wyoming has set aside large sums over the years in a trust fund the income from which is dedicated to higher ed. I think ND has been doing the same thing. Not sure about Alaska. Alaska is going to be an interesting case if oil prices stay low — production is well off from its peak, they lowered the tax rate, and the tax applies to the price of produced oil, which has fallen very sharply this year. Last I knew, Alaska is looking at a $3.5 billion hole in their state budget. Other states’ experience suggests that there will be very large cuts in state support for higher ed.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @stillwater
        Yes, it would be trivially easy to find evidence of opposition to the very idea of public education within the conservative world.

        But that WOULD be a strawman. For the most part, the public never bought into that extreme idea- but they did buy the idea that a shift towards markets and away from government was a good idea.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        For the most part, the public never bought into that extreme idea- but they did buy the idea that a shift towards markets and away from government was a good idea.

        I don’t know about that. In my state, I think folks on the west slope were prolly in favor of reducing subsidies; folks on the Front Range opposed; folks on the plains in favor. My guess would be that the majority (by slim margins) opposed the policy change. And personally, I don’t recall “a shift towards markets” being mentioned as a justification for the change, either directly or even indirectly. The rationale was the state was broke, so cuts had to be made somewhere. (At the same time as the reductions in state subsidies the state also increased the percentage of outa-staters permitted at public schools. So there’s that too.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        Given that we have fifty states running a gamut from very conservative versus very liberal, if it were as simple as priorities you would think that there would be at least one holdout. Instead, you just have fewer than a handful of states that have kept up with education cost inflation, and even there college is getting more expensive.

        If it’s a matter of politics, there ought to be some relationship between a state’s actual politics and the affordability of college. And yet there is little relationship and if there is a relationship, it runs in the opposite direction.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to j r says:

        @lwa

        The rising tide of anti-tax sentiment, anti-government sentiment, coupled with the aging of the Boomers past their college ears, and into their house-buying and child-rearing years is simple historical fact.

        I think you have the causality reversed there. Granted, this is personal surmise, but:

        The Boomers went from spending money to earning money, and folks that earn money skew towards “lemme keep that money”.

        The “rise” of conservationism in the economic sense has little to do with rising distrust in the government leading to anti-tax movements. It has everything to do with anti-tax movements seeking rationalizations, and settling upon distrust of the government.

        That is, folks who used to be hippies got to the point where they started making money, they needed some reason to presuppose that they were better at keeping it than their parents were, and they settled on “the government spends it unwisely”… even when the “unwisely” part was amusingly stuff they themselves had benefited from back when they were in their “not making money” years.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        To add to my previous comment… if it’s a matter of politics, why is the University of Texas less expensive than the University of Minnesota? Why is Georgia Tech less expensive than New Jersey Tech? Why is tuition at the University of Vermont more than twice as expensive as the University of Idaho? The list goes on and on and on. There appears to be little, no, or an inverse relationship between how conservative a state is and how much college costs there. I see no argument that it’s a matter of conservative politics beyond a “just so” argument. Reduced state expenditures are definitely a part of the equation (yet even that doesn’t track as closely to conservatism as one might think), but there are other things happening that appear to swamp the Green Lantern Theory of College Funding.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to j r says:

        Almost every state has a constitutional mandate to provide a free K-12 education system. For most states east of the Mississippi, that means getting rid of it would be difficult; there are high hurdles for amending those constitutions. In the West most states have citizen initiated amendments so that if the idea of getting rid of the public schools were popular, it would have been done already. The strip of states in the middle is a mixed bag.

        TTBOMK, none of the western states, liberal or conservative, has seen any sort of serious effort to dump the public schools.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r says:

        Stillwater,

        He implied that someone is claiming it’s not an issue of choice. Nobody’s made that argument, ergo, it’s a strawman.

        Any anyone who phrases it as a simple choice between cutting funds or raising taxes is failing to think very deeply. First, there are other options as well–shifting money from other spending areas. That impinges on other priorities, though, and–even setting aside the complexities of California’s budgeting situation–requires persuading others that in crunch times it’s their favored spending items that should be cut instead of something else.

        That’s not just will, which implies we want do do something but just lack commitment–it’s a conflict of values and priorities. Reducing that to “lack of will” is a way of glossing over real differences. And, yes, LWA talks about people having different values, but I’m not talking about people who are anti-public education spending, which is all his simplistic us-against-them model allows for. I’m talking about people who may very well support public education funding, but they want any funding shifts that will keep that support up to come from your (or my) preferred programs, and not theirs.

        E.g., I have a friend who was a hard-core supporter for continued state funding of arts initiatives at a time of deep budget cuts. She didn’t want education funding cut, she didn’t want roads funding cut, she didn’t want emergency personnel funding cut; she wanted the cuts that would preserve arts funding to come from somewhere else (generally, as these things go, unspecified). If ultimately some of those things are cut, and arts funding preserved, she won’t say “good, I’m glad those things are cut,” but “I’m glad arts funding was preserved, but I wish they’d found some other place to get the money.”

        Second, simply raising taxes is never as simple in its effects as people think. California already has comparatively high taxes, and most economists will tell you it’s already a drag on growth. (Fortunately California has other factors that continue to promote growth, but that doesn’t mean its taxes aren’t a drag.) So there are at least three important questions to ask about the effect of taxes: 1) what effect will it have on overall economic growth; 2) who will actually feel the tax burden; and 3) will the tax actually raise as much money as intended?

        1) affects the state’s ability to fund education, and other public amenities, in the future. Tax increases can be–they’re not always, but they can be–very short-sighted.

        2) concerns whether the burden falls on those we actually want to pay it. It’s easy to impose a higher tax burden on the wealthy on paper, but much harder to actually make the wealthy actually bear that burden. If indirectly the burden ends up being born by those who aren’t as wealthy, then the tax could end up being de factor regressive.

        3) as France’s recent example of the 75% surcharge on high incomes shows, it’s hard to gain as much revenue from a tax increase as the casual observer thinks.

        Those who are critiquing LWA’s simplistic model are considering these things and more, but none of them are claiming there are no choices involved. That’s just LWA’s cheap rhetorical trick to avoid dealing with the tough issues involved and try to keep the focus on his simple-minded and false “political will” argument.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to j r says:

        “Which is what I propose to change. And the first step in changing attitudes is to create the vision of an alternative reality. So I feel compelled to react to articles that have as their premise, the notion that such a thing is impossible.”

        I like this comment from LWA.

        My guess is that education will be one of those things that doesn’t change much at all until — in a flash– it suddenly becomes completely different. Such is often the case with revolutions. I suspect the gathering storm is on the horizon.

        And just to clarify, I am a supporter of public funds going to universities with extremely robust strings attached (on expense control, and graduation and placement results). Subsidies without strings will just lead to increases in cost, and inefficiencies.

        I would be surprised if future generations aren’t able to have pretty much lifetime access to an unlimited range of extremely efficient (virtually zero marginal cost) education. This will come with huge creative destruction, as it almost always does.

        Institutions and organizations and values change much slower than technology. But they change sooner or later.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to j r says:

        @will-truman

        Speaking of NJIT (no one here calls it New Jersey Tech), I decided to look at their budget for this school year to see what percentage of their budget comes from the state, as opposed to the students…

        For this school year’s the operating budget
        55.8% from tuition and fees
        31.3% from the state of New Jersey
        23.0% from other sources

        As for Rutgers’ operating budget this school year…
        49.2% from tuition and fees
        32.7% from the state of New Jersey
        18.1% from other sources

        At Rutgers, the ratio of state funding to tuition and fees is 0.67. In 1990 it was 2.04. The 50/50 tipping point was passed in 2004.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @james-hanley

        I appreciate the complexities of state budgeting, revenue and various interest groups that all want a piece of the revenue pie.
        But when was it ever different?

        When the tuition-free university system was implemented, wasn’t it done in the middle of existing budget priorities, with vicious entrenched political interests, all of whom wanted that money?

        And weren’t there dissenting voices, powerful political opponents, some opposed to the very idea, others opposed to its implementation? And who ever wanted to pay more taxes?

        I keep coming back to political will, because thats the variable that has changed. Tp construct from scratch a statewide system of world class universities was always expensive, it always took precious tax revenue, and the taxes were always painful.

        As Patrick points out, the aging of the Boomers altered the political landscape- the Boomers have different priorities than their parents.

        I would never suggest that making the UC System tuition free would be easily done, or involve “one weird trick”, like some political silver bullet.

        But all the big accomplishments of the 20th Century- the winning of WWII, the New Deal, Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, the Interstate Highway System- all of these took, first and foremost, a tremendous amount of argument and debate to persuade the public that such a thing was possible, and that the necessary sacrifices were worthwhile.

        And with every single one of those accomplishments, there were people who confidently asserted that it wasn’t possible, and too complex of a problem to be achieved.

        It could be done- if the people of California were willing to make it happen. That’s my only point.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to j r says:

        When the tuition-free university system was implemented, wasn’t it done in the middle of existing budget priorities, with vicious entrenched political interests, all of whom wanted that money?

        I would argue that such was not the case at the state level. K-12 education was a local property-tax issue, not a state General Fund matter. Medicaid didn’t exist. There were huge numbers of veterans entering the system, bringing GI Bill money with them. California, one of the leaders in the field, had a booming economy. They set the target; everyone else was just trying to keep up.

        In my state, K-12 education and Medicaid account for ~65% of all state GF spending. We’re typical. Push K-12 back on the local school districts’ property taxes, and wipe out Medicaid responsibilities, and I’ll give you tuition-free higher ed immediately.Report

    • @lwa-liberal-with-attitude
      “Gillen mentions that colleges are competing for students. I find that hard to believe, at least here in California; every campus of the UC system is overwhelmed by applicants, and can pretty much take their pick.”

      not all applicants are equal. and the bulk of 4 year higher education institutions (all 2800 or so of them) are not UC – e.g. a system with name recognition and a huge in-state draw.

      the kids that everyone wants – the self starters with dedicated backgrounds, good high school scores, ability to pay all or most of the ride, a “good fit” etc – are few, and most schools really want that kind of student.

      if you know anyone with yunguns of nearly college age can tell you about the buckets of mail and flood of email they’re getting. at this point this stream starts when they take the psats, and enter everyone’s filters via the college board. this isn’t simply an exercise in making the college board powerful and wealthy, though it does that.Report

  5. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    I am disappointed that you posted this so late today. I was up last night because of the football game and I wanted to be the first to post about the death of Lorelai Gilmore’s father. Oh, well, I guess I have to settle for my post here.

    Anyway, I don’t know if this is national news, but former New York Governor Mario Cuomo died yesterday. He gave the keynote address at the 1984 DNC. The nomination in 1992 was his for the taking, but he declined to run, not wanting to be a sacrificial lamb for Bush 41. We all know what happened that November, and the Cuomo window permanently closed. Perhaps his son will re-open it someday.

    When Cuomo ran for mayor of NYC in 1977, his unofficial campaign slogan was “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo”, in reference to eventual winner Ed Koch. #FunFactReport

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      Bush41 could have one against Cuomo in the 1992 election. Many political scientists would have argumed that the fundamentals supported any Democratic candidate in 1992 but I’m not entirely sure about that. Cuomo would have had many of the same problems that Dukakis possessed like being anti-death penalty, from a state seen as crime ridden, in a country that still feared crime. His voice and innate New Yorkness might have turned off voters in the same way that Al Smith’s did in 1928.Report

  6. Avatar j r says:

    Gillen’s paper seems to be part of a concerted effort to wave away the concept of a free university education as we had pre-1975, to make it seem impossible that such a thing could occur and make the status quo the only possible course of things.

    There is no such thing as a free anything. You can have publicly funded higher education, but that’s not free. There is nothing impossible about it, but it would require drastically curtailing access to higher education, in one form or another. If that is the trade off that you want, fine, but be aware that it is a trade off.

    For example, college costs are rising dramatically at state universities. Doesn’t this suggest that the citizens have the power to look into this, and find ways to correct the problem? Maybe by streamlining the administration or curricula?

    What it suggests to me is that people want it this way, so good luck streamlining administration or curricula.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Yeah. Pittsburgh surprisingly enough has one of the top 3 film fests in the country. (not counting the ones that are invite only, or near enough. You might be able to swindle your way into one of those, but not me)Report

  7. A4: I’ve seen small things suggesting that some business folks in the northern tier of Mexican states think it would be in their interests to secede from the rest of Mexico and ask the US for territorial status. IIRC, their arguments in favor were to push the worst of the drug cartel violence out of their states to the south, and tax benefits from being a low-income territory in the US compared to being a high-income state in Mexico.Report

  8. Hmmm, the WordPress spam filter seems to hate me this morning. If everything’s going to go to moderation anyway, maybe it’s time to stick in six or seven links per comment… :^)Report

  9. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    L1 – I find such arguments about resume errors to be weak support for H1-B. I’ve done technical hiring and my experience is that resumes from ESL candidates are rife with the same basic errors, etc. that would immediately disqualify a local candidate, and that is after taking into consideration language/formatting errors.Report

    • It’s an argument against the existence of a dramatic shortage. If there is a dramatic shortage, you don’t easily eliminate resumes of candidates who split their infinitives.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

        The article mentions, at the end, the real reason an H1B candidate is preferable — they’re not mobile. They’re cheaper, they don’t jump jobs as easily, and in a very simple bottom line calculation — that’s preferable.

        If you view workers as entirely fungible, have very simple productivity metrics, then choosing an H1B worker is a no brainer.

        Like out-sourcing and off-shoring, those benefits tend to melt away if you do a more in-depth study of the issue. (programmers in India might be cheaper, but once you account for the extra time, language barriers, the hassles of working in the wrong time zone, and the relative skill levels — you’re lucky if it just costs as much as doing it with local workers).

        But there’s a lot of penny-wise, pound foolish decisions in business these days. As Boeing could tell you, in between the breakdowns of their latest airliner.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

        The H1-B program always seemed to me to be a crazy exercise in acquiring slave labor instead of a smart program for importing the best and the brightest. Handing the visas out by lottery and making you dependent on your employer to stay in the country is not what we’d do if we had a real shortage of high-value specialists.

        It seems like you could address a lot of the problems with the H1-B program by making the visas fungible by auctioning them off, allowing resale on an open exchange, and allowing workers to buy their own visas.

        Skip all of the nonsense about specialized skills and let money talk. If the worker is brilliant and you need him, you’ll pay market price for a visa for him and still be ahead plenty. If foreign workers have some built in exploitability that’s worth $20K per year, the market price of the visa will go up 20K per year and reduce the incentive for exploitation. If there’s a rock star making good money and he’s productive enough to buy his own visa and become a free agent, good for him. Let him do it. Anybody who can do that is somebody we want living here and paying taxes.

        But the idea of a wizard who would be worth big bucks not getting a visa in the lottery so that some lucky half-wit with just enough skills to fill a chair can work at sub-market wages out of fear that he’ll be deported? We should do away with that.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        @troublesome-frog But the idea of a wizard who would be worth big bucks not getting a visa in the lottery so that some lucky half-wit with just enough skills to fill a chair can work at sub-market wages out of fear that he’ll be deported?

        While I don’t disagree that the UCSIS should be prioritizing visas for the best and brightest, and that auctioning is a good way to do this, there are few enough H1-B visas available, and enough candidates who want one, that it seems implausible to me that employers are wasting visas on half-wits. In software, at least, it’s generally believed (read: I have no way to prove this) that a great programmer is worth much, much more than an average one, so why hire a mediocre candidate over a great one when the limiting factor is your H1-B quota?

        Also, H1-B regulations require that you pay H1-B workers the greater of the average salary for your domestic employees of similar qualifications and the prevailing wage in your area. I imagine this can be fudged a bit due to the subjective nature of “qualifications,” but…well, I have no actual experience or data in this area, so I don’t really have a good way to finish this sentence. But unless you do, my default assumption is that it will only get you so far.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

        In software, at least, it’s generally believed (read: I have no way to prove this) that a great programmer is worth much, much more than an average one, so why hire a mediocre candidate over a great one when the limiting factor is your H1-B quota?

        I believe that’s true, but the reality is that H1-B applicants “compete” with each other for visas even if their skill tier is different. Company A may be willing to pay a fortune for a great worker and company B may want a cheaper young worker, but if they’re both in a similar field and there’s only one visa left, they’re competing for it. Company A is visa limited and company B is cash limited. In a working market, there’d be no question–company A would just pay for the visa.

        The key here is that not everybody is looking for the best and the brightest. The data seems to point out to the industry generally just wanting younger less mobile workers who are good enough and who will work on the cheap, not necessarily wizards, so the wizards are being lost in the shuffle and the public debate focuses on the wrong things.

        “Half-wit” and “slave wages” were obviously a bit hyperbolic (the real data looks like several percentage points on salary), but the problem is real. I’m not an HR expert, but I have been involved in the H1-B hiring process a few times and I’ve seen how some of the games are played. The key issues I’ve seen:

        1) “Prevailing wage” is very, very easy to fudge. The job description is always carefully managed and prevailing wages are a broad range. There are also tiers within that range (entry level to very senior), and it’s fairly easy to shuffle people into lower tiers and create a systematic bias. Leave aside the idea that a shortage of highly skilled inexperienced labor is a weird concept given the rhetoric. Kind of like being desperate for workers and bouncing out resumes over typos.

        2) The least capable workers often end up in contracting firms. If you can’t get a job elsewhere, they’ll scoop you up and you’ll be grateful that you’re not leaving the country. Job descriptions are easily made into nonsense because it’s a contracting firm, so they can call you whatever and then bill you out as whatever else and then pocket the spread. If you’ve worked with (or at) a tech body shop, you’ve seen the shuffling around of low-productivity bodies.

        The fundamental problem is the definition of “prevailing wage” and defining what “tier” a worker belongs in. A market solution would eliminate that completely. Add in more mobility for the workers and we could stop worrying about this stuff. In fact, the market price of a visa would tell the Department of Labor a lot about current conditions, and the price vs maturity would be a great indicator of expected trends. Seems like a no brainer.Report

  10. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    [P6]

    George Doe is a good example of someone who is book smart but people stupid.

    BTW, it isn’t his real name, so at least he figured out he should use a pseudonym before he embarrasses his family.Report

  11. Avatar Pinky says:

    A6 – There are hundreds of people in this country whose first name is Unique. I don’t know how to respond to that fact.

    I remember reading an article about odd first names in Utah. I think the African American population suffers from the same problem as the Mormons: very few last names.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy says:

    E2:

    I can say that “academic redshirting” absolutely happens. But that title oversimplifies it (and perhaps misses the mark). Especially because the exact opposite also happens: parents wanting to move their kids up a grade to advance them sooner. Both practices are highly problematic for a number of reasons.

    “Academic redshirting” — both in my experience and based on what I’ve read — is often unrelated to academics: it is most commonly engaged in my parents (typically dads) who want to give their sons a leg up athletically.

    For a host of reasons, hard age cutoffs are problematic, especially on the younger end of the educational spectrum. The problem is, they are really the only viable way to do things when working on a large scale (and pretty much any public school system is going to be large enough to qualify). I can go on at greater length if anyone wants…Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

      My parents chose to wait until i was almost six to put me in Kindergarten, even though I was academically ready the previous year. My mom was concerned that I’d be socially isolated from my peers if I entered school early.

      In retrospect, it did a lot more harm than good. The material was so easy for me that I never really developed the ability to deal with academically challenging tasks, and being so much more academically advanced from my peers caused more social isolation than being young ever would have.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Thanks, @alan-scott . While I’m sorry to hear your mother’s choice caused problems for you, from what you’ve said here, it does seem as if her heart and mind were in the right place. I’ve talked with many a parent about this very decision. Some you can tell are genuinely concerned about their child’s well being and want to do what they can to situate them best. And some are obviously caught up in the ‘parenting wars’. (With some a genuine mix of the two as they watch the parenting wars swirl around them and wonder what they should be doing in response.) The fact that your mom was concerned about social isolation — even if her choices ultimately ran counter to that — indicates to me she was not simply trying to mold you into a trophy child she could show off to her friends.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Alan Scott says:

        It’s a sticky wicket for sure. I was actually on the other end, pretty much the youngest in my class and having some social issues/isolation due to that plus the fact that academically, the material wasn’t challenging enough for me.

        So they discussed jumping me ahead a grade to deal with the academic bit, but they felt that could worsen the social bit, since I would then be even younger/smaller than my classmates than I already was.

        Ultimately they left me where I was. Maybe the two factors cancelled each other out. I distinctly remember learning to stop raising my hand when the teacher asked a question, and sometimes I intentionally got the answer wrong (because teachers knew I knew the answers, they would often call on me even if my hand wasn’t raised, if no one else had already gotten the answer; but I had learned that what pleased the teachers did not necessarily please my peers). Wanting to fit in is a powerful force.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Alan Scott says:

        @glyph

        Two myths that won’t die are A) that development happens 1:1 with chronological aging and B) that development is synchronous across different domains. If we can eliminate these two myths from our educational system — especially on the lower end — we could start making some hay of things.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Alan Scott says:

        @kazzy I’m curious about something that you might be able to answer: When I was in high school, I tried to learn some things (mostly related to math and computer programming) that I just didn’t get. A couple years later, in college, I came back to them, with essentially no additional study of them in the interim, and everything just made sense. Do you think this was related to the continuing maturation of my brain, or something else?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Alan Scott says:

        @brandon-berg

        @chris is probably the better person to ask as he is the resident expert on the brain. I can speak to brain development in young children and the general process of how the brain acquires and processes new information. It is possible that learnjng you did in the intervening years — seemingly unrelated learning — reorganized (for lack of a better layman’s term) your brain in such a way to better situate it to learn the subject matter.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Do you think this was related to the continuing maturation of my brain, or something else?

        When did break your coke habit?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Alan Scott says:

        It’s possible development had something to do with it. Secondary math skills can develop pretty late (well into adolescence, say). However, it’s more likely that the first time you learned it, even though you didn’t get it and it didn’t “stick,” made learning it the second time much easier.Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I just wanna say that @brandon-berg ‘s comment at 1:29am (https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2015/01/02/linky-friday-96#comment-971233) is totally bang up awesome. And not just because I agree with him but because he deftly lays out a rather complicated topic and argument in an accessible, logical, and engaging way that opens up dialogue. I will say that if anyone smarter/with more time than I wants to ‘Comment Rescue’ it, I fully endorse the idea (HINT HINT Smart People with Time on Their Hands).Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Plus 2.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

        I’m already on record +ing that comment, but I want BB to expand on it, to write even more about that topic. More BB! More BB!Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        I don’t know how much sway I have, but I’d fully endorse a guest post on the matter by @brandon-berg .Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Roger says:

        @stillwater @kazzy I’m not sure I have all that much more to say, but if you have any specific questions, I’ll do my best to BS my way through an answer.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

        BB,

        No, no specific questions. I just wanted to hear you fill out some of the details more or less generally. The comment to MD below is sorta what I was getting at. And I’ll go over to Bryan Caplan’s blog and track down some of his stuff on this. I already read one thing over there which I found quite nice: he views acculturation as positively correlated with productivity. Which isn’t at all wrong. It just initially struck me as counterintuitive but I see why he views it that way. So thanks again.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

      A little late to the party, but, perhaps not too late. + however many pluses we’re at at this point.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

        Don’t thank me. Thank Bill O’Reilly.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

        Actually, I’m mostly summarizing stuff I learned from Bryan Caplan’s posts over on EconLog, possibly synthesized with my own thoughts on the topic, although by this point I can’t actually remember which is which. Caplan’s solidly in the “mostly signalling” camp, whereas my sense is that it varies from field to field, with some being more human capital and some being more ability bias, and that signalling interacts with both of these in complicated ways I don’t really understand. But then, he’s done actual research on the topic.Report

  14. A3: I’ve never entirely understood the fixation on getting population exactly balanced between states or administrative regions or whatever, if that comes at the cost of either splitting regions with shared interests or strapping two regions w/o much in common together. My own seven-region grouping of states based on migration patterns looks like this (assuming WordPress will let me embed an image):

    Or if WordPress tosses it, at this link. The five-state cluster in the upper midwest is only 11M people, the other six range from 33M to 68M (the 10-state west is the largest). The “closeness” measure used is the fraction of a state’s population that moves to a particular other state. You have to make it relative or you wind up with everything being close to one of California, Texas, Florida, or New York, in pretty arbitrary patterns. You can make reasonable arguments about why these groupings make reasonable sense. One of the oddballs is putting New Mexico in with Texas, even though it has little in common with the rest of the states in that cluster. The tie there is that there’s a large amount of movement between El Paso and the adjacent corner of New Mexico.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Interesting, @michael-cain . I don’t know enough about… well, much of anything… to offer much of a critique but I do need to say that New Jersey really should be grouped with New York no matter what. NJ is an interesting case insofar as it border two major cities without a real major city of its own and provides huge swaths of suburb/exurbs to both NYC and Philly. However, I think the relationship with NYC is more important. Perhaps this is the case elsewhere and I’m simply not aware of it, but there are many issues caused by NYC sharing much of its ‘border’ with another state which would be alleviated by bringing it all under one jurisdiction. NJ doesn’t have much in common with the rest of New England and is probably closer to the civilized portions of Maryland than any other state save for the greater metro area, but it really should be with NY regardless of other factors.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

        Cluster analysis is as much art as science — which algorithm for building clusters, distance function in situations where it’s not obvious, etc. In this case, if the distance function is adjusted slightly to put a little more emphasis on the total number of people moving, rather than just the number relative to the population of the state they’re leaving, NY shifts from the NE block to the one with NJ in it. (Hey, it’s snowing — might as well tinker with the code.)

        The city observation is insightful. There are other cases where it matters. For example, New Mexico gets linked to Texas rather than to states like Arizona and Colorado because of relatively large movement of people back and forth with El Paso. Kentucky and Ohio are tied closely because of movement between Cincinnati and three Kentucky counties right across the Ohio. If you force Missouri and Illinois into the same cluster because of St. Louis (instead of clustering it with Kansas because of Kansas City), it drags all of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin into that “upper midwest” block with Iowa.

        The next (and harder) step is to do things by county rather than by states. My suspicion is that there will be a lot of states that get split.Report

  15. Avatar Roger says:

    On L5

    The large company I worked for rarely hired people with experience. Our attitude was that we would rather not get someone who had already been ruined by another company. Thus we hired people young, often with general education backgrounds (the kind Saul supports) and trained them ourselves. In the larger ecosystem, we were the one supplying the experience that the other companies free ride on (our people were in high demand).

    My experience is that the best hires though were not fresh out of college. These folks were too idealistic with no concept of the drudgery and politics and imperfections of real business with real budgets. They almost never worked out. We were never as good as mom.

    What we learned to look for is someone who got out of college eighteen months ago or so and worked at some screwed up job with crappy managers, rampant bureaucracy, debilitating politics and terrible wages and benefits (this is basically everyone — see the comment above on naive idealism). We then offered them a job. Now, we were no longer compared to some adolescent ideal or omniscient parent figure, but to a real world alternative. This led to employees who could at least potentially appreciate us.

    By the way, their experience at the prior job was rarely relevant to the hire. It was almost always in unrelated fields (like retail– retail always sucks). The only point of waiting a year Or two was to give them a relevant point of comparison.Report

  16. Maybe this ACA-related question was asked above and I missed it. Is there any chance that the SCOTUS opinion could be “Citizens in states that chose to run their own exchange get one tax treatment; citizens in the 36 other states are just SOL until their states open their own exchanges”? There’s some precedent in the form of the federal/state unemployment insurance program: businesses with employees in states that operate a conforming UI program get a large federal tax credit. So large, in fact, compared to the states’ UI taxes, that no state has declined to run a program.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I think there is such a chance. Because it’s not the federal government imposing a differential tax treatment, as if they said, “Texans pay a top rate of 45% while others pay a top tax rate of 39.6%.” They’ve set up an equal-treatment mechanism by which states can gain the preferred tax treatment, so it’s the state’s choice to accept differential treatment.

      I’d put my money on them not saying that, but that’s based on my attempt to read the Court, not my attempt to read the law.Report

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