The Democratic Candidates: Em’s Perspective

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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84 Responses

  1. Doctor Jay says:

    I didn’t watch the debates, but I’ve been reading a lot about these candidates, and I’m sort of aligned with you on them. Particularly on Bernie and Biden. They are both too old. Warren may be too old, too, but she comes off as a lot more vibrant and alive than they do.

    I’m fond of her, but I worry that she will be too wonky. For all the complaints about Hillary being “too shrill” she won the popular vote. But combine that with Obama’s “professorial” air? I’m not sure about that. The thing she can do that Hillary struggled with is to show her feelings and come off as real, in spite of all the braininess.

    Mayor Pete is kind of too green, he just hasn’t had enough exposure. Harris just hasn’t won me over, she seems to be constantly posturing, and I just don’t know that I actually know where she is. I think not being around a lot of prosecutors like you have is probably a big difference here. Harris promises to attack Trump relentlessly, and I think she’ll keep that promise, but I don’t know that I think that’s good electoral strategy.

    The others don’t seem to matter much, and I haven’t paid much attention to them.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    Williamson isn’t from Mars, she’s from Venus!

    PS I’m voting for HarrisReport

  3. Burt Likko says:

    Joe and Bernie: I’m sorry, but I’m utterly sick of you both.

    This! This this this this this. This? This, this this this. This this this; this, this, and this.

    I think Kamala is the most mainstream likeable candidate among regular, less encamped members of the public. … I think she is close enough to the center to draw in some undecideds and NeverTrumpers and, at this point, may be the Democrats most viable hope.

    Which is what I’d thought would be the resting point once all the swaying and jockeying around of the pre-race declarations period got done, which is I think the phase we’re moving into right now. By all rights she ought to be the front runner. Of course, the same thing could have been said and was briefly true of past Republican nominees Rudy! Giuliani and Rick Perry, and past Democratic nominees John Edwards and Howard Dean.

    As I’ve opined on teh Twitterz, my criticism of Harris at the moment is that she seems to lack spontaneity, the zinging quick wit of a British Parliamentarian — or, more ominously, of a Donald Trump. She shines when she’s in the zone of her preparation. I have sympathy for her in this respect because i see something of myself in that criticism. Nevertheless, her improv skills are not good and if she is the nominee, she’s going to have to go toe to toe with Donald Trump on live TV at least twice and probably thrice.

    That said, I’ll take any combination of Warren, Buttigieg, and Harris at this point, with enthusiasm. The most smarts, appeal, gravitas, ability, credibility, and general center-left policy direction that conforms with my own constellation of preferred policies (not necessarily an exact fit but that’s OK) is found amongst those three.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Having watched Harris try to grill various people in the Senate, she’s not at all good at it. My housemate, former assistant DA for Louisville, agrees. She has lots of zeal but no courtroom skill. She usually just badgers a person with leading accusations and then doesn’t let them answer her question before she tells them to shut up because she’s talking. Rinse. Repeat.

      She acts like an inquisitor, not a prosecutor. I think the public will have trouble supporting a Joe McCarthy who uses the same smear tactics to pursue the same paranoia about Russian agents.

      That kind of behavior might explain some of EM’s uneasy feelings. “Unleash the hounds!” is great, but if you don’t know who the rabid attack dogs will bite next, more than a bit worrisome.Report

      • She usually just badgers a person with leading accusations and then doesn’t let them answer her question before she tells them to shut up because she’s talking. Rinse. Repeat.

        This is a relatively obscure technique called “cross-examination.” I have used this technique myself in my own litigation practice, often to a surprisingly powerful effect.

        When correctly deployed, the examiner approaches a hostile witness with NOTHING but leading questions, ALL of which are structured to have a simple “yes” or “no” as the only possible responses. Thus a response of anything other than a “yes” or a “no” is subject to a motion to strike and an instruction from the court as the remainder of the answer beyond “yes” or “no” is non-responsive.

        Sometimes the examiner will use her tone of voice, inflection, and body language to convey disbelief or moral outrage, as appropriate.

        And yes, it does look like an inquisition, in which the focus of the attention and the narrative is tightly and exclusively focused on the examiner rather than the witness, until the climax when the witness is left with no alternatives but to admit some damning fact or say something that makes them look utterly foolish and untruthful.

        You might want to ask your housemate, the former prosecutor, about this technique. I am informed is still taught in a handful of law schools scattered about the country so perhaps your housemate has heard of it.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Burt Likko says:

          The difference between what you and George are describing is whether there actually is a climax.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Burt Likko says:

          She often never lets them get to the part where they answer the question. She just moves onto the next question while saying “I’ll take that as a …” , as if nobody actually cares whether the question was answered or not. She might think she’s scoring rhetorical points, but the witness isn’t saying anything. And quite often she still does this after asking a question requiring a detailed answer, just interrupting the witness as she continues her narrative by saying “I’m not done asking questions.”

          And often she’s just badgering the witness, restating testimony, leading the witness, etc.

          My housemate is an extremely skilled trial lawyer who was a PD for several decades and loves taking cases in front of a jury. When he was our state EPA lawyer, he gave some advice to one of the fresher hires whose approach might go astray, “You can do one of two things. You can convince the jury how smart you are, or you can win this case. You’re not going to do both.”

          She’s stuck on trying to look smart and aggressive, but so far she’s scored zero in all her histrionic displays in the Senate hearings.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:


          Is there something about the process you’ve described there that you think makes people want to vote for such a person no for DA but for president?

          Note: I didn’t think that Harris’ treatment of Biden was anything like that description of a self-focused cross-examiner (though it is spot-on as relates her cross-examination of Barr in the Senate). Perhaps very vaguely prosecutorial, but I saw an accomplished woman of color telling a man who didn’t understand his own words that they had been hurtful.

          But I don’t think she earns votes with the comportment you describe here. Rather, she earns Whoops from stans on Twitter.Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to Michael Drew says:

            I didn’t think that Harris’ treatment of Biden was anything like that description of a self-focused cross-examiner (though it is spot-on as relates her cross-examination of Barr in the Senate). Perhaps very vaguely prosecutorial, but I saw an accomplished woman of color telling a man who didn’t understand his own words that they had been hurtful.

            The hurtful words were these:

            (Biden named two Southern segregationist senators as examples of people with whom he had major disagreements but still “got things done” within the Senate.)

            “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said, briefly imitating the senator’s Southern drawl, according to pool reports. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”

            He called Talmadge “one of the meanest guys” he ever knew but said: “At least there was some civility. We got things done.”

            “We didn’t agree on much of anything,” Biden continued. “But today, you look at the other side, and you’re the enemy … we don’t talk to each other anymore.”

            He said he knew many people in his party thought that attitude made him too “old-fashioned” to be the Democratic nominee to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

            “Well, guess what. If we can’t reach a consensus in our system, what happens?” he said. “It encourages and demands the abuse of power by a president.”

            So, He’s claiming he got the gov to work even when he had to work with evil men, she’s saying… what… that this is unacceptable? I want to the gov to work even when everyone can’t have their feelings respected.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

        ” …if you don’t know who the rabid attack dogs will bite next…”

        Oh, not to worry.
        We Dems are a bit like Arya.

        We have a list we recite each night.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to George Turner says:

        “She usually just badgers a person with leading accusations and then doesn’t let them answer her question before she tells them to shut up because she’s talking.”

        Which means she’ll do great because most Americans don’t know anything about a courtroom beyond Judge Judy, and that’s exactly what you see there…Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Which of our politicians has the quick wit of British parliamentarian?

      Donald Trump was playing a kind of public performance for decades before he ran for President. He was always a publicity hound but I think it is a kind of dark charisma. He speaks in an incredibly casual and informal kind of way. This makes him sound like an ignorant blowhard at a bar in my opinion but it also draws in millions of people.

      Harris is an upper-middle class professional and acts like one. This is what I think comes off as a lack of spontaneity.

      I just don’t understand the whole a “President you can get a beer with” meme. I don’t need to get a beer with the President. I probably won’t. I need them to be cool-headed, calm, rational, and well informed people. There doesn’t seem to be anything bad in Harris’ persona even if it is not corner bar affable.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I just don’t understand the whole a “President you can get a beer with” meme.

        The idea is you want the President to be in your camp, to understand you, to reflexively “get” you, i.e. to not be some alien creature playing with the power of god who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

        Trump is an EXTREMELY weird choice by that metric since he’s impossibly rich and can’t be trusted… but he makes it work anyway through charisma.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I just don’t understand the whole a “President you can get a beer with” meme.

        Do you see this as a failing on the part of the people who do understand it or a failing on your part?Report

    • George Turner in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Harris may have another problem. She’s attacking Biden quite successfully by playing off her own past encounters with racism, but her family owned not one but two slaves named Sambo, two named Apollo, along with Caesar and Hannibal, Prince, Duke, and Oxford. I know they had a truly enormous number of slaves to name, well over a hundred on just one of their plantations, but what were they doing, trying to collect them in sets?

      Joe Biden might want to ask her about it.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    The problem with a lot of the also rans and Klobuchar is that they are running for a Democratic Party of 15-25 years ago. They mainly spent their formative years in the 1980s when Democratic candidates lost readily and/or they saw the 1994 Republican sweep and overlearned the lessons. While Medicare for All vs. Medicare for all Who Want It might be a hot debate in the Democratic Party, the fiscal conservatism of Klobuchar is a thing of the past.

    I am still on Team Warren and Team Harris. I find them both likable but I am a city guy. I think both can take on Trump. Warren did well when she went to West Virginia. And a Harvard professor would be a breath of fresh air after the ignoramus currently in the White House.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Harris / (Inslee/Mayor Pete/Other White Guy) as the ticket, Warren as Majority Leader. Sound like a plan?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse says:

        That could work.Report

      • Zac Black in reply to Jesse says:

        Maybe it’s just me, but I want Warren as head of the SEC, or Treasury Secretary, or some other position where she can gut Wall Street like a fish. I love me some Elizabeth Warren and that sort of position seems far more suited to her particular metier than the Presidency.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Zac Black says:

          Honestly, it’s weird…I actively say I’m for Warren, but, like you, I really think anywhere besides the Presidency is a better fit. Basically, I want her to force everyone else into tacking left and adopting her positions, and then she loses and goes back to the Senate.

          As for where she’d be better: I sorta love her in the Senate, and being a Democrat from Massachusetts, she’ll functionally be there until she doesn’t want to be.

          I mean, I don’t know how long she wants to be in politics anymore, she is seventy. If she wants out in ~8 years, like it’s either the presidency or finish out her Senate term (She’s only two years into it.), then, yes, maybe she should jump ship and be a regulator…or finish this term and swap in as a regulator on the reelection of whoever. (It’s not like Massachusetts is going to pick a non-Democrat to replace her.)

          OTOH, if she wants to hang around in politics until she’s 90 years old, then if she doesn’t get the presidency she should stay a Senator. The last thing we need is her ending up _nowhere_ because the Republicans somehow won an election.Report

    • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Ummm… Medicare for all polls utterly horrifically as soon as any talk about how to pay for it comes up and especially when you talk about taking away people’s private health insurance. I sure hope both Warren and Harris can back away from those commitments really fast or it’ll be a massive albatross around their necks if they get to the general.
      Klobuchar and Biden are on pretty rock solid ground when they talk about buffing the dents and vandalism out of the ACA and improving on it from there. The ACA polls positively now that the GOP/Trump have demonstrated they have utterly no plans for health care reform and that they were on the verge of yanking health insurance away from millions without any plan for a replacement. Medicare for all, in contrast, would require 60 hard core liberal senators and unitary control of the government along with an enormous tax increase and taking away people’s private fishing insurance. I am baffled as to what Harris and Warren were thinking.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to North says:

        I’ll concede that MFA is a political loser, and also that it would be financial disaster for hospitals without serious revision of reimbursement rates. But I’m not really moved by the “enormous tax increase” bit. Last year my health insurance bill on a company plan, including the employer contributions, for the wife and I came to about $24k. You do realize getting rid of private health insurance would include getting rid of the insurance premiums as well, right? You would have to raise my taxes by about 10X before I would actually be worse off.Report

        • I want a moderator to ask this: “33% of Medicare clients nationally, and *much* higher percentages in major metropolitan areas, get their care through Medicare Advantage plans provided by private insurers. Is that what you mean by Medicare for All? Or will those plans be cancelled too?”

          If you want to scare people away, describe traditional Medicare to them: 20/80 split from the first dollar, and it’s up to you to figure out which doctors will take you and which won’t, and the list changes every year. Here in Colorado, we have large stretches of ruralia where there are no providers other than the hospitals that will accept new Medicare patients.

          Look, the major new thing about M4A will turn out to be that all providers will have to accept it.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain says:

            What was the winning healthcare answer from the guy who won the last general election?

            Just repeat that, and you will be golden.Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

            I’m not defending any particular version of M4A, particularly not the idea of forcefully putting the insurance companies out of business. I’m just pushing back against the OMG Taxes! argument. Is a dollar spent on taxes somehow more money than a dollar spent on insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays?Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Look, the major new thing about M4A will turn out to be that all providers will have to accept it.

            The devil is in the details. There’s not a lot of definition on this, up to and including whether or not the insurance industry will be allowed to survive.

            It’s remarkable easy to picture M4A being available for everyone but at such low reimbursement that most doctors won’t take it.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Doctors can be choosy about Medicare because not everyone is on it.

            Doctors will get a lot less choosy when everyone is on Medicare.Report

        • North in reply to Road Scholar says:

          Dude, -I- know that once you get from here to a socialized medical system the rest of the world has had pretty good results from it. I’m on board with that and respect it. But we cannot ignore that the masses of people do NOT like the idea of anyone telling them they can’t have insurance policies they like and they do NOT trust anyone when they say “We’ll replace it with something better, trust us.”

          The policies have good arguments in favor of them but the politics are black and white poison.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Road Scholar says:

          You do realize getting rid of private health insurance would include getting rid of the insurance premiums as well, right?

          Only if you think our politicians can muster the political courage to throw out of work millions of well paid people to the tune of multiple percentage points of the economy.

          If you think that’s unrealistic, then MFA is another layer of bureaucracy on top of what we already have. The money needed to pay for it would be additional money. Politically this would be the least painful way to do it.Report

      • InMD in reply to North says:

        I’ve always assumed ‘Medicare for all’ really means something more like part C for all. That’d be pretty easy to fit in the Obamacare structure. Base level subsidized administered by private payors plus extra packages for those who want to buy them.Report

        • George Turner in reply to InMD says:

          Well, the idea is also wildly incompatible with Medicare for Anyone Who Slips Across the Border. That policy skews the draw from those who are young and want to work to those who are sick and need help.

          Just drawing in the really sick people from south of the border (5% of patients are 50% of costs) would require doubling total US health spending, and we already spend more per capita than any country on Earth. If we also start drawing really sick people from sub Saharan Africa, health care and taxes would consume almost all of the US average gross income. The numbers coming in don’t have to be all that large for this to happen, either, because we’d be getting the most expensive patients.

          We would of course collapse long before that because most of us would be homeless. But the absolute numbers of really sick arrivals doesn’t have to be staggeringly large for the effects to be huge.

          Send us your tired, your poor, those yearning to be free, but keep those on death’s door because we can’t afford them all.Report

        • North in reply to InMD says:

          The question was “would you abolish private health insurance” and Warren and Harris both said they would.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

              I.e. she’s showcasing just how politically impossible it is to eliminate millions of well paying jobs.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

                This is one place where eliminating those jobs could be seen as a selling point.

                “We’re gonna put a loooooot of insurance companies and insurance agents whose job it is to deny your claims OUT OF WORK!”

                How does that not get a standing ovation in every state except Delaware?Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

                A surprising number of insurance companies are in either Omaha or Connecticut. Democrats Ben Nelson from Nebraska and Joe Lieberman from Connecticut were why the Senate couldn’t pass a public option for Obamacare.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I have all 310 episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (1963-1984) on disk, but I don’t know if the show caused or is the result of Omaha dominating insurance.

                What I do know is that the collection is in alphabetical order by episode name.

                Baboons of Tanzania
                Bayou Backwater
                Bears of the High Country
                Before the Storms of Winter
                Beneath Kilamanjaro
                Birds of Bharatpur
                Bobcat Kingdom
                Bobcats of Zion Canyon

                There’s nothing indicating the original air date, and I can’t find any episode list anywhere on the Internet, so I have no way to get them into sequential order from ’63 to ’84. Unless I find twenty years worth of back issues of TV Guide at a yard sale, I’m screwed. I never know if an episode will have poor 1960’s video quality, young Marlin vs. Old Marlin, pre-Anaconda Jim, etc. It’s quite frustrating.

                *Double checks the Internet just to make sure nobody has posted an episode list in the two years since I checked*


                Okay, now I have 310 episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that I have to rename, one by one, to match the episode numbers and air dates based on the exhaustive episode listing on Wikipedia that someone started working on in 2018.

                Oh joy. Oh frabjous fishing joy.Report

              • DVDs? Or data files? Season and episode, or at least real episode name, may be buried in the metadata somewhere. I used to get stuck with this kind of dumb task at work from time to time. My experience was that finding and extracting the metadata for the first file was a pain. The next 309 might take days, but it was all CPU cycles and swapping disks when I walked by the machine and the previous one had been ejected.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                They are MKV files with apparently blank metadata. I suspect they were all taken from Youtube at some point, which seems to have every episode up, but likewise only has the episode titles, with no air date or other information.

                I began renaming some of them and realized that the Wiki list is incomplete and contradictory. Some of the episode titles that I have are missing from the list. Wiki also has some 1971 episodes listed as season 3 (wrong) with an episode number sequenced from the first show that aired in ’63, but others that year are listed as season 8 with a low episode number. Some entries have an air date but no episode number at all, and some the opposite.

                It looks like they’re trying to piece it all together from several different types of incomplete source material.

                Amazon has several DVD compilations, but they are grouped according to subject matter, such as birds or Africa.

                It may be that there’s not one definitive source that has yet been published.

                So I might just abandon the whole idea till they get is straightened out, years hence. 🙂Report

              • Ah, the joys of Wikipedia. I’ve done stuff that involved getting Wiki data and then finding and fixing the data errors. I sympathize with your situation.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

                How does that not get a standing ovation in every state except Delaware?

                Delaware has less than a million people. The number of jobs involved is multiples of that. My back of the envelope suggests we need to burn down multiple percentage points of the GDP in shifting from one system to another.

                Whatever the long term benefits, the short term effects would be extremely painful, presumably in every state.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                My back of the envelope calculations say that if we are only keeping the existing insurance system so as to keep these people working at jobs which, by your own estimation, are unnecessary, then shouldn’t we put them to work at tractor factories so as to fulfill the 5 Year Plan?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                …if we are only keeping the existing insurance system so as to keep these people working at jobs which… are unnecessary, then shouldn’t we put them to work at tractor factories so as to fulfill the 5 Year Plan?

                The solution on the table is to fire the current batch of central planners, hire a new group, and come up with a new central plan.

                Markets have a history of squeezing industrial inefficiency, sometimes to the point of destroying entire industries.

                When I think of historical examples of politicians doing anything similar I can only come up with freeing the slaves (which took an ugly war) and drawing down the army after WW2 (ditto).

                It’s so politically painful that even suggesting that needs to be walked back.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                So those millions of insurance workers wouldn’t be unemployed at all, they would just be hired by the federal government?

                So where are we burning down the GDP?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                So where are we burning down the GDP?

                We’re redirecting inefficient parts of the economy to efficient parts of the economy. When the private sector does this sort of thing it’s called “creative destruction”, and it will have all the normal aspects of that.

                So those millions of insurance workers wouldn’t be unemployed at all, they would just be hired by the federal government?

                This is like telling coal miners “learn to code”. Very few of those insurance workers will be doctors.

                We’re talking about eliminating up to 12 million jobs. Granted, they’re jobs that shouldn’t exist in the first place… but that doesn’t matter, they exist now.

                On one level, my friend has 30+ years of software development, he should be fine.

                On another level, my friend has 30+ years of exposure to hospital systems which won’t exist any more. All of his skills are, at a pen stroke, useless. His job won’t exist any more. He will probably need to move to one of the coasts or take a haircut if he has to stay local.

                So much drama and a potential lifetime trainwreck.

                As I’ve said in previous conversations, the reality of this will be less of a big deal than the theory… but if you cherry pick people, you’ll be able to find lots of those 12 million people who lose great jobs and never recover.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Wait wait wait.

                Are you telling us that the government can provide healthcare to everyone, while requiring 12 million FEWER people to do the job??Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                See? “We’re gonna put a loooooot of insurance companies and insurance agents whose job it is to deny your claims OUT OF WORK!” has a constituency.

                I imagine that, like everything else, the idea is that “we get more or less what we get now, only much less expensive for me personally”.

                The Gods of the Copybook Headings are there waiting to explain it to us…

                But, in the short term, I think that destroying insurance companies will have a lot more people supporting it than not.

                And isn’t that all it takes to win an election?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                You didn’t find it remarkable, the claim that the Leviathan government can somehow do what private enterprise does, but a thousand times more efficiently?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                If we wanted to have a discussion about what would work, we’d have to hammer out what our goals are first.

                If I assume that the goals are solely to win an election in the short term, arguing that, after we pass our preferred policy, the people in charge of telling you that your insulin was too expensive will be unemployed is one hell of a great way to sell it.

                I honestly think that the democrats could win an election running on that imagery.

                Show a guy in a suit saying “CLAIM! DENIED! CLAIM! DENIED!” and stamping pieces of paper without even reading them. Have a disembodied voice explain that insurance companies have a policy of denying every claim on the first time they’re submitted.

                And then show this guy in the same suit, tattered, begging for change at the side of the road.

                “Under my policy, the guy who denies claims without even reading them will be out of a job.”

                The opposition won’t know what hit them. They’ll be stammering about Reality and Math and shit like that while all the democrats have to do is pull some light Lazarus and the Rich Man storytelling.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                I find sophistry confusing.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                You didn’t find it remarkable, the claim that the Leviathan government can somehow do what private enterprise does, but a thousand times more efficiently?

                Careful there, you’re getting very close to asking “can this possibly work” territory which might result in ugly answers.

                We got here by assuming that all the wasted resources are redirected, i.e. that MFA means “no increase in taxes”. Examining these assumptions (handwaves) and seeing what they entail seems like a good idea.

                The good news is there really is enough waste in the system that redirecting it would result in enough savings to cover “more” people… maybe even everyone for some definition of “everyone” and some definition of “cover”.

                The bad news is this isn’t like finding free money on the ground, this is people’s jobs we’re talking about eliminating… and there’s so many of them this is politically really hard.

                12 million people in one category means they can hire lawyers, creation action committees, buy politicians and favorable media coverage… and already have done all of those things. They’re seriously entrenched.

                Ignoring their existence when we talk about HC reform is like trying to create peace in the middle east but refusing to acknowledge the existence of one of the major groups.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

                Probably 90% of the benefit we’re discussing could be obtained with one simple law/regulation: all insurance plans cover this extensive list of codes at published rates, period. See, for example, Switzerland. In Switzerland, neither the patient nor the doctor’s business office have to call the the insurance company to see if the patient’s plan covers that particular test. Everyone knows in advance whether it’s covered or not.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

                That goes back to what the goals are.

                I want to reiterate: I am *ONLY* talking about winning elections in the short term.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Are you telling us that the government can provide healthcare to everyone, while requiring 12 million FEWER people to do the job??

                Ignoring the “everyone will subsidize everyone” aspect to this, sure. Absolutely. That’s the theory behind the ideal MFA.

                However we should expect the political and human realities will make that unworkable no matter how great it looks on paper.

                Also that “12 million fewer” just means “those 12 million lose their jobs”, in theory we’re also creating a lot of jobs (hopefully less than 12 million) but whatever.Report

              • Not only are there the people at the insurance companies, there are the people in the providers’ business offices. Which of the procedures performed or ordered by your provider are covered by your insurance plan? Well, first the business office staff tries to check it online. If that’s inconclusive, or the business office is paranoid, they make a phone call. And all too frequently mistakes are still made. A person in a business office told me — years ago, so things may have improved — “We have to check against 750 different plans in a typical month.”

                A Kaiser IT worker told me once that one of the reasons Kaiser typically has the least expensive policies in states where they operate is that they don’t have to support that kind of business office. The computers in the exam or treatment rooms know what’s covered by the particular patient’s plan, and wave flags or demand additional information when a provider ticks off something that isn’t normally covered.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                One of the smartest, hardest charging people I grew up with has, for his entire career, been a guy who creates database code to increase hospital bills. If they have one procedure which is the equiv of three others (or vise versa), his systems will charge the greater of the two. I would guess that’s just the tip of the iceberg, I can think of multiple other ways to change procedures to increase billing/profit and that’s not even my profession.

                He’s paid well. The people in his company are paid well.

                Big picture he’s part of the vast army of people every actor in the system employs to fight with every other actor.

                Healthcare is 18% of the GDP.

                If 3 percent is wasted and the average job costs 100k, then we’re looking at something like 5.7 million jobs. From a different direction, there are 129 million jobs total. 3% of that is 3.9 million. So 4 to 6 million.

                If the amount of waste in the system is more like 6% of GDP (i.e. 1 dollar of 3), then we can double those numbers and it’s 8 to 12 million jobs.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Well, the inefficiency that I see as that the whole system is hung up on details.

                For simplicity, assume you’re a European and happen to be in a different European country when you need treatment. You might be German with private insurance, or you might be a Brit with the NHS, etc. So a ton of information has to flow back and forth so that the Swedish hospital can figure out who is paying for your treatment, and how much they’ll pay, and what all the weird exceptions and rules are.

                The same happens if you have policy A from Aetna in Connecticut but you’re at a Humana Hospital in Idaho that also takes Blue Cross which can tie to Aenta via….

                It’s like trying to run a modern economy with the barter system instead of a real currency.

                Somebody needs to come up with a universal “Health Ducat” so everybody can convert a Humana policy into a Health Ducat that’s spendable in a Swedish hospital. Humana’s conversion table might be $2.00 Humana dollars is 1.3 HDucats for a liver transplant, 1.8 for an appendix, etc, but at least the Swedish hospital wouldn’t have to figure out a chain of transactions and approvals with 18,000 different policies.Report

              • J_A in reply to George Turner says:

                For simplicity, assume you’re a European and happen to be in a different European country when you need treatment.

                If only someone created something to address this kind of problem, perhaps something like a European Health Insurance Card?

                Oh, fish, they did. Dreams may indeed come true.

                @jaybird asks above what the objective is? Is it to win the next election, or is it to provide health care to Americans? I think it is clear that the objective is always to win the next election. And you cannot win elections by solving problems. A problem solved is an issue forgotten. Voters will move to the next problem. That’s why, for instance, the GOP did not ban abortion federally when it controlled all branches. Because they want abortion to be a live problem. Likewise with healthcare. Who knew that people who voted 32 times to overturn the ACA didn’t have a plan when the time for the 33rd vote came.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to J_A says:

                You know, it’s almost surreal how on one hand, giant parts of our economy are literally make-work that we can’t remove because too much of the economy is involved and rich and powerful people use them to suck money out…

                …and at the same time we can’t actually create any sort of guaranteed minimum income or even official government-operated make-work.

                ‘Look, we can only have a make-work system that operates by getting in the way of medical care in this country! Not a make-work system of the government paying people to sweep the sidewalks!’Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

                By laundering it through the private sector they make it seem like it’s not a UBI scheme. Sort of like raising the minimum wage (and, consequently, getting higher payroll-tax receipts) is different from just extending welfare payments.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                …and at the same time we can’t actually create any sort of guaranteed minimum income…

                If we go bankrupt in the next few decades it will because of our spending on various social programs (Social Security, etc).

                If we eliminate all existing gov support systems then that would easily free up enough resources for a UBI.

                ‘Look, we can only have a make-work system that operates by getting in the way of medical care in this country! Not a make-work system of the government paying people to sweep the sidewalks!’

                Export this system to sweeping sidewalks and we’ll break the budget and the sidewalks will be covered in filth.

                The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                “The State is the great fiction …”

                Except, in your very own post, you claim it is the 12 million insurance company employees who are living “at the expense of everyone else”.

                You tell us that they provide no real benefit to anyone but themselves, but their salaries must be maintained or else cats and dogs will start living together.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                You tell us that …their salaries must be maintained or else cats and dogs will start living together.

                Hardly. I’m simply describing the problem.

                The magic handwave of “we redirect 3-6% of the economy” has people’s faces on it. I’m certainly comfortable saying they should all be fired. That we’d be better off if these vast bureaucracies which only exist to fight each other didn’t exist.

                But this is like when I argue for death panels. I’m pretty much the only one around willing to admit and describe the problem, much less face it coldly and say it needs to happen.

                If you’re not willing to say “yes, we need to fire 12 million people” then you have no business thinking that MFA can be created without massive new taxes. And what you really should be arguing is “our brave and selfless politicians will fire 12 million people, create a massive but short lived depression, but it will be worth it!”

                The unlikelihood of that last statement is why my preferred way of squeezing the system is via market reforms… which would also have flaws which I’m readily able to admit and face.Report

            • North in reply to Jaybird says:

              Good. Better she hadn’t said it in the first place but at least she’s walking it back.Report

          • InMD in reply to North says:

            Gotcha, I wouldn’t agree with that either.Report

  5. InMD says:

    There’s no chance in hell Gabbard gets the nomination but I really don’t get why people act like this Assad thing is some kind of sick burn. At absolute worst it’s support for a nasty tyrant other than one of the officially approved nasty tyrants any president is going to support.

    Every time I see it I ask what the person who says it is getting at. Is it American troops in Syria overthrowing the Baathist government in the belief that there’s some magical ‘moderate’ regime that could replace it? Do they believe the Gulf State backed Islamist militias we’ve in practice supported would make a better government? Is Assad such a problem we should risk war with Russia? Do Iraq II Electric Bugaloo? Something else? Inquiring minds want to know.

    My guess is that as usual I won’t get an answer.Report

    • Jesse in reply to InMD says:

      I mean, there’s also her support for various nationalist Hindu cults, her flip flop on gay marriage (as opposed to most even moderate Democrat’s who opposed gay marriage, Tulsi went hardcore against it), and so on, and so forth.

      There’s a difference between being against intervening in Syria and being actually pro-Assad like Tulsi has been consistently.Report

      • InMD in reply to Jesse says:

        I’m not talking about anything in your first paragraph. Never even said there weren’t reasons to oppose her nomination.

        But is anything other than a belief that Assad should be overthrown now pro-Assad?Report

        • Jesse in reply to InMD says:

          Democrats were silent on Thursday as Tulsi Gabbard, one of the party’s sitting lawmakers in Congress, announced that she had met with Bashar al-Assad during a trip to war-torn Syria and dismissed his entire opposition as “terrorists”.

          Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, disclosed her meeting with the Syrian president on Wednesday, during what her office called a “fact-finding” mission in the region.

          “Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about.”

          I mean, Bernie’s against the War in Syria – he didn’t go meet with Assad.Report

          • George Turner in reply to Jesse says:

            John Kerry, when he was a senator, had an elegant dinner with Assad.

            Telegraph story with pics.

            Then the relationship turned a bit sour, and Kerry wanted to blow him up with cruise missiles. Then, in a gesture of inexplicable diplomatic stupidity, said we wouldn’t bomb if Syria got rid of all its chemical weapons, and Putin said “Hold my beer. I got this!” and proceeded to do donuts on Obama’s front lawn.

            The question is, if you put virtually anybody in Assad’s place, would they do anything really any differently, given who his enemy’s are and what they’ve always wanted, the slaughter of Shia and Alawite heretics, and probably the Druze, too, the re-subjugation of Christians.

            It’s a serious Game of Thrones type question, where you rule a country whose majority is Sunni, many of them radical and violent Sunnis, and who will purge the place of minorities almost as thoroughly as white walkers if they get the chance. You can put good characters on the throne or evil characters on the throne, but do they all end up acting almost the same way because of the fundamental circumstances?

            We might wish with all our hearts that the situation in Syria’s seven kingdoms wasn’t set up like that, but it was.

            Once we’d identified ISIS main enemy, we didn’t ally with him, we decided to fight a three or four way conflict because we’d already demonized him as a brutal dictator who was crushing student protesters. Many of the arms we supplied, and units we’d trained, almost immediately ended up with ISIS.

            Some of our Gulf allies were likewise arming them, viewing anyone who would fight the Assad regime as a friend, which is something we had to track down and try to stop.Report

          • InMD in reply to Jesse says:

            Is meeting with Assad worse than meeting with Pervez Musharraf? Anyone in the house of Saud? Hosni Mubarak? Xi Jinping? Hell Netanyahu at this point?

            And while I don’t like the word ‘terrorist’ how would you describe al-Nusra? Or Isis? That’s the opposition.

            I really want to understand the line your drawing and the rationale.Report

    • George Turner in reply to InMD says:

      There’s was a good, pro-secular, pro-Western, pro-Christian, pro-Druze, pro-Kurdish case to be made for supporting Assad against the rebels, who are either eaten up with genocidal crazy (Al Nusra, Al Qaeda, and ISIS) or are easily co-opted or dominated by such radicals.

      It’s a bit like a game of Survivor, where our preferred winners don’t have a chance of making it all the way to the end, but we shouldn’t knock out their bitter opponent, Assad, because that just opens it up for the last people we want winning.

      It’s quite complicated and would take many pages to delve into, but I think this did effect Trump’s end game in Syria, where he saw a problem that his generals were missing. We’re not really on the right side, it’s just that all the sides were really bad, and we were there to make sure the absolute worst sides didn’t win.

      I would even argue that an open democracy is not a goal we should pursue there because, assuming earlier demographics that don’t count up all the refugees who fled, Sunnis outnumber everyone and their leadership, if not already genocidal theocratic maniacs, would soon be pushed aside by such radicals.

      Splitting the country into a Kurdish strip, a secular coastal strip of largely religious minorities (Christians, Druze, Shias, Alawites, secular Sunnis, etc) and an eastern region full of Sunnis (who should possibly vote in Iraq to balance its parliament) would be preferable, but possibly something that can only be done as a ground truth instead of an official position.

      Her views of the whole region might come from up-close and personal observations of Islamic life, thought, and culture, reacting in the way an outside observer would assume a progressive Western feminist Democrat would react. As a soldier, she might have realized that neither military force nor foreign aide can fix a long term problem that’s embedded in their heads.

      It might be cynical, but it also might be much closer to reality than the hopes, dreams, plans, and positions of either party.Report

      • InMD in reply to George Turner says:

        My opinion is that the best thing is staying out entirely. But if I had to pick among actual plausible governments Assad is probably least bad. Maybe there is a principle here but I have yet to find it.Report

        • George Turner in reply to InMD says:

          Well, if the fundamental geography and demographics were altered so that radical Sunnis wouldn’t dominate the vote, then there wouldn’t be an existential threat hanging over everybody’s heads, and then they wouldn’t feel compelled to support a wobbling dictatorial regime as their best survival option. They might even pull off an open secular democracy, or have something like modern Lebanon.

          If there was a way to just make the formerly ISIS ruled areas of Syria a separate country, it would free the rest to start being somewhat normal. That would require the regime and its supporters to realize that letting that go is better than holding on to it, but people get so attached to familiar maps. The option they’re pursuing seems to be “Flush all the rebels into France and Germany and just depopulate the area.”

          But then many intractable world problems could be fixed if we just swapped the existing population with a different set of people. Give me enough Amish and I’ll bring about world peace.Report

  6. Jacob says:

    Gotta love how “non-interventionist” has become synonymous with “Russian operative”. The neolibs really have brainwashed everyone, haven’t they?Report

  7. Pinky says:

    Can a party that treats “cop” as an insult win Ohio?Report