Stray Links for 12 November 2010

by Reihan Salam

I am inches away from declaring blog bankruptcy. This is my penance:

* Rick Hess writes on a kooky attack on “unbundling schools.”

* Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin of the Center for American Progress offer their take on the 2010 midterm elections.

* Howard Gleckman is making sense, as is often the case.

* Matt Yglesias has a quirky but really good idea for how to tackle the long-term fiscal imbalance:

Say that instead of appointing a bipartisan commission you appoint twopartisan commissions. In January, Democratic leaders appoint the Democratic Fiscal Commission and Republican leaders appoint the Republican Fiscal Commission. Both commissions work, roughly in secret, for months. Then on Labor Day 2011, both commissions release their plans and on Election Day 2011 the American people vote in a binding referendum for either the Dem Plan or the Republican Plan.

Now you have a totally different set of tactical incentives. Yes, you want to hold fast to your core policy goals. But instead of it being the case that the best way to protect your core policies is through across-the-board extremism, now the best way to protect your core goals is to be very accommodating on everything else. Here instead of both sides taking their “real” preferences and then shifting their states position three clicks away from the center, they’ll take their “real” preferences and start shading them toward where they think the median is. The upshot won’t be a “bipartisan compromise,” it’ll be the victory of a partisan proposal at the polls. But both of the options will be partisan proposals crafted specifically as part of a serious effort to gain widespread support.

I really like this idea, partly because I think the good guys could win. 

* Ron Brownstein is missing the importance of the “replace” part of “repeal-and-replace.”

Whatever else can be said about the “replace” component of the GOP promise to “repeal and replace” Obama’s health care plan, it’s difficult to argue that it does anything meaningful to reverse the ongoing erosion of coverage. The plan that House Republicans offered last year and reaffirmed in their campaign “pledge” proposes controlling health care costs by limiting medical-malpractice lawsuits and allowing insurance policies sold in any state to be sold in every state (an idea even the insurance industry has traditionally opposed for its potential to undermine quality coverage). But it would do little directly to expand access. Analyzing the GOP plan last November, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that by 2019 it would reduce the number of uninsured by only about 3 million, leaving well over 50 million Americans uncovered. The health reform law is projected to cover about 33 million of the uninsured by then.

Brownstein does not consider the Patients Choice Act or the McCain campaign’s proposal, which is a peculiar oversight. Part of the problem is that the only expert quoted in the piece is Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, best known for serving as a domestic policy lieutenant to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She is described as having “served as counselor in the Health and Human Services Department during the health care fight,” which isn’t the most intuitive way of identifying her.

I also found this line odd:

Most Republican officeholders appear entirely comfortable accepting unprecedented numbers of uninsured Americans as the new normal. 

I imagine that Ron Brownstein knows more Republican officeholders than I do, but I certainly know some. And I don’t think this is a fair characterization of any of the officeholders I’ve met (quite possibly an unrepresentative sample). To be sure, many Republican officeholders, and many conservatives, are comfortable with the idea of some people choosing to forgo coverage. But I think the center-right aims to make insurance coverage more affordable and accessible by making it more consumer-driven, to trot out a useful cliche. Part of the issue is that many conservatives believe that catastrophic coverage is a form of insurance while at least some progressives do not.

I absolutely don’t think Brownstein is trying to mislead anyone, but I respectfully think he’d profit from talking to Jim Capretta.

* Jim Capretta offers a useful counterpoint to my enthusiasm about the proposal from the co-chairs of the deficit commission, and he links to a terrific critique he wrote in May on the IPAB.

* I’m waiting for more Third Way Democrats to move to the right. The key thing is for the right to welcome them.

* Pete Hoskin has written a smart, comprehensive take on the new welfare White Paper from IDS. 

* I’m proud of NR’s editorial on the latest from the deficit commission.

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.