June 18, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


UNPOPULAR MANDATE: Why do politicians reverse their positions? (Ezra Klein, JUNE 25, 2012, The New Yorker)

On March 23, 2010, the day that President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, fourteen state attorneys general filed suit against the law's requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance, on the ground that it was unconstitutional. It was hard to find a law professor in the country who took them seriously. "The argument about constitutionality is, if not frivolous, close to it," Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law-school professor, told the McClatchy newspapers. Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine, told the Times, "There is no case law, post 1937, that would support an individual's right not to buy health care if the government wants to mandate it." Orin Kerr, a George Washington University professor who had clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, said, "There is a less than one-per-cent chance that the courts will invalidate the individual mandate." Today, as the Supreme Court prepares to hand down its decision on the law, Kerr puts the chance that it will overturn the mandate--almost certainly on a party-line vote--at closer to "fifty-fifty." The Republicans have made the individual mandate the element most likely to undo the President's health-care law. The irony is that the Democrats adopted it in the first place because they thought that it would help them secure conservative support. It had, after all, been at the heart of Republican health-care reforms for two decades.

The mandate made its political d├ębut in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans," as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles. In the brief, Stuart Butler, the foundation's health-care expert, argued, "Many states now require passengers in automobiles to wear seat-belts for their own protection. Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance. But neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement." The mandate made its first legislative appearance in 1993, in the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act--the Republicans' alternative to President Clinton's health-reform bill--which was sponsored by John Chafee, of Rhode Island, and co-sponsored by eighteen Republicans, including Bob Dole, who was then the Senate Minority Leader.

After the Clinton bill, which called for an employer mandate, failed, Democrats came to recognize the opportunity that the Chafee bill had presented. In "The System," David Broder and Haynes Johnson's history of the health-care wars of the nineties, Bill Clinton concedes that it was the best chance he had of reaching a bipartisan compromise. "It should have been right then, or the day after they presented their bill, where I should have tried to have a direct understanding with Dole," he said.

Ten years later, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, began picking his way back through the history--he read "The System" four times--and he, too, came to focus on the Chafee bill. He began building a proposal around the individual mandate, and tested it out on both Democrats and Republicans. "Between 2004 and 2008, I saw over eighty members of the Senate, and there were very few who objected," Wyden says. In December, 2006, he unveiled the Healthy Americans Act. In May, 2007, Bob Bennett, a Utah Republican, who had been a sponsor of the Chafee bill, joined him. Wyden-Bennett was eventually co-sponsored by eleven Republicans and nine Democrats, receiving more bipartisan support than any universal health-care proposal in the history of the Senate. It even caught the eye of the Republican Presidential aspirants. In a June, 2009, interview on "Meet the Press," Mitt Romney, who, as governor of Massachusetts, had signed a universal health-care bill with an individual mandate, said that Wyden-Bennett was a plan "that a number of Republicans think is a very good health-care plan--one that we support."

Wyden's bill was part of a broader trend of Democrats endorsing the individual mandate in their own proposals. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton both built a mandate into their campaign health-care proposals. In 2008, Senator Ted Kennedy brought John McDonough, a liberal advocate of the Massachusetts plan, to Washington to help with health-care reform. That same year, Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, included an individual mandate in the first draft of his health-care bill. The main Democratic holdout was Senator Barack Obama. But by July, 2009, President Obama had changed his mind. "I was opposed to this idea because my general attitude was the reason people don't have health insurance is not because they don't want it. It's because they can't afford it," he told CBS News. "I am now in favor of some sort of individual mandate."

This process led, eventually, to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--better known as Obamacare--which also included an individual mandate. But, as that bill came closer to passing, Republicans began coalescing around the mandate, which polling showed to be one of the legislation's least popular elements. In December, 2009, in a vote on the bill, every Senate Republican voted to call the individual mandate "unconstitutional."

This shift--Democrats lining up behind the Republican-crafted mandate, and Republicans declaring it not just inappropriate policy but contrary to the wishes of the Founders--shocked Wyden. "I would characterize the Washington, D.C., relationship with the individual mandate as truly schizophrenic," he said.

...doesn't mean you can't get four, or even five, justices to take it seriously.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


US-India: Alignment & autonomy (Seema Sirohi, Jun 18, 2012, Times of India)

India and the United States, partners in prime, concluded the third round of their strategic dialogue last week. It was a talk session so vast and varied, it took 13 pages to summarise the discussions. The comfort level is obvious as is the keenness to help each other without pushing the wrong buttons.

The discussion has expanded from geostrategic issues to cover a dizzying array of fields - from agriculture to education, from science and technology to women's empowerment, from cyber security to counter-terrorism, from police training to creating virtual institutes on mathematics - a very large palette is coming alive.

To be sure it is an experiment in building a new kind of relationship, one never attempted by either country. Because it is an experiment, finding the right ingredients and a catalyst is a search. But the fundamental logic of strategic convergence holds. Of that, there is little doubt. 

...but the reality of India's geostrategic, economic and demographic challenges mean it will depend on America in a way that is not in any way reciprocated.   But that's okay, we have broad shoulders.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 AM


Is Wisconsin ripe for a Romney win? (Leigh Ann Caldwell, 6/18/12, CBS News)

"I would still put Wisconsin in the lean Democratic category but I don't think it's far from moving into the tossup category," Professor Franklin said.

Wisconsin has backed the Democrat in the past six presidential elections. However, in 2000, George W. Bush gave Al Gore a run for his money, only losing by just under 6,000 votes, and in 2004 he lost to John Kerry there by about 11,500 votes.

President Obama widened Wisconsin's Democratic margin in 2008, handily beating challenger John McCain, who stopped contesting Wisconsin after the polls showed Mr. Obama with a comfortable lead.

Despite the Democratic-leaning preferences of Wisconsin voters, a sea change occured in 2010.

Wisconsin voters elected a Republican governor and a Republican state legislature. Liberal Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., lost his bid for a fourth term to Tea Party-backed Ron Johnson. Also, outspoken liberal and 21-term Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc, retired in large part because of a tough re-election bid and was replaced by Republican Sean Duffy. Republicans picked up another congressional seat as well.

After the results of 2010 and Walker's successful recall this past June, the Republican tailwinds appear to be behind Romney.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 AM


MILLENNIALS' HOME OWNERSHIP DREAMS DELAYED, NOT ABANDONED (Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais 06/18/2012, New Geography)

Eighty percent of Americans buy their first house between the ages of 18-34. While the Millennial Generation's (born 1982-2003) delayed entry into all aspects of young adulthood has sometimes been characterized as a "failure to launch," the generation's  preference for single tract, suburban housing should become the fuel to ignite the nation's next housing boom as Millennials  fully occupy this crucial age bracket over the next few years.

According to a study by Frank N. Magid Associates, 43 percent of Millennials describe suburbs as their "ideal place to live," compared to just 31 percent of older generations. Even though big cities are often thought of as the place where young people prefer to live and work, only 17 percent of Millennials say they want to settle  in one. This was the same percentage of members of this generation that  expressed a preference for living in either rural or small town America. Nor are Millennials particularly anxious to spend their lives as renters. A full 64 percent of Millennials surveyed, said it was "very important" to have an opportunity to own their own home.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 AM


Mitt Romney's strategy against President Obama is to say nothing at all (Mike Lupica, 6/17/12, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

There was Mitt Romney on Sunday with Bob Schieffer, in the middle of his bus tour through Pennsylvania, Romney presenting himself as honestly as he could, which means as the rich, affable, last stiff standing on the Republican side.

And, by the way? It might be more than enough to make him the next President. Romney doesn't have to stand for anything.

Once the GOP nominated a plausible candidate, all that matters is what the economy was like in the Spring.