The Republican Waterloo

Conservatives once warned that Obamacare would produce the Democratic Waterloo. Their inability to accept the principle of universal coverage has, instead, led to their own defeat.

.. At precisely the moment we were urging the GOP to march in one direction, the great mass of conservatives and Republicans had turned on the double in the other, toward an ever more wild and even paranoid extremism. Those were the days of Glenn Beck’s 5 o’clock Fox News conspiracy rants, of Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” of Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers, of Tea Party rallies at which men openly brandished assault rifles.

.. AEI would provide a home for the emerging “reform conservative” tendency. Its president, Arthur Brooks, would speak eloquently of the need for conservatives to show concern for the poor and the hard-pressed working class.

.. The mood then was that supporters and opponents of the Obama administration were engaged in a furious battle over whether the United States would remain a capitalist economy at all.

.. it was precisely because I appreciated its unwelcomeness where I worked that I had launched an independent blog in the first place.
.. I fruitlessly argued through 2009 and 2010 that Republicans should do business with President Obama on health-care reform.
.. It seemed to me that Obama’s adoption of ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s—and then enacted into state law in Massachusetts by Governor Mitt Romney—offered the best near-term hope to control the federal health-care spending that would otherwise devour the defense budget and force taxes upward.
.. I suggested that universal coverage was a worthy goal, and one that would hugely relieve the anxieties of working-class and middle-class Americans who had suffered so much in the Great Recession.
.. They had the votes this time to pass something. They surely would do so—and so the practical question facing Republicans was whether it would not be better to negotiate to shape that “something” in ways that would be less expensive, less regulatory, and less redistributive.
.. Increasingly isolated and frustrated, I watched with dismay as people I’d known for years and decades incited each other to jump together over the same cliff.

.. There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or—more exactly—with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters—but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say—but what is equally true—is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed—if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office—Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

.. Over the next seven years, Republicans would vote again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Total and permanent opposition to the law would become the absolute touchstone of Republican loyalty. Even Donald Trump, who dissented from so much of the old orthodoxy, retained this piece of the doxology.

.. Some of the conservatives who voted “no” to the House leadership’s version of repeal may yet imagine that they will have some other opportunity to void the law. They are again deluding themselves.

.. Too many people benefit from the law—and the Republican alternatives thus far offer too little to compensate for the loss of those benefits.

.. America committed itself for the first time to the principle of universal (or near universal) health-care coverage. That principle has had seven years to work its way into American life and into the public sense of right and wrong. It’s not yet unanimously accepted. But it’s accepted by enough voters—and especially by enough Republican voters—to render impossible the seven-year Republican vision of removing that coverage from those who have gained it under the Affordable Care Act.

.. Paul Ryan still upholds the right of Americans to “choose” to go uninsured if they cannot afford to pay the cost of their insurance on their own. His country no longer agrees.

.. Health care may not be a human right, but the lack of universal health coverage in a wealthy democracy is a severe, unjustifiable, and unnecessary human wrong.

.. As Americans lift this worry from their fellow citizens, they’ll discover that they have addressed some other important problems too. They’ll find that they have removed one of the most important barriers to entrepreneurship, because people with bright ideas will fear less to quit the jobs through which they get their health care.

.. They’ll find they have improved the troubled lives of the white working class succumbing at earlier ages from preventable deaths of despair.

.. What I would urge is that those conservatives and Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong: Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes

  • intransigence,
  • radicalism, and
  • anger over
  • prudence,
  • moderation, and
  • compassion.

What’s the Matter With Republicans?

Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” In answering his title’s question, Frank argued that hardworking heartland Americans were being duped by a Republican Party that whipped up culture-war frenzy to disguise its plutocratic aims.

.. Middle-class and working-class Republican voters, he insisted, were voting against their own economic self-interest and getting worse than nothing in return.

.. You don’t have to be a dupe to be a “values voter”

.. believe that some moral questions are more important than where to set the top tax rate.

.. embracing theories about how the working class was actually undertaxed, rallying around tax plans that seemed to threaten middle-class tax increases and promoting an Ayn Randian vision in which heroic entrepreneurs were the only economic actor worth defending.

.. Trump has essentially become the Frankian caricature in full

.. a mistake for liberals to suggest that Trump is just returning to the Bush playbook

.. conservatism doesn’t have to be a mix of Randianism and racial resentment

..  a depressing percentage of American conservatives seem perfectly happy with the bargain that Frank claimed defined their party, with a president who ignores their economic interests and public policy more generally and offers instead the perpetual distraction of Twitter feuds and pseudo-patriotic grandstanding.

.. a segment of religious conservatives, like those gathered at last week’s Values Voters Summit, who cheered rapturously for an empty, strutting nationalism and a president who makes a mockery of the remoralized culture that they claim to seek.

.. Far better to have a president who really sticks it to those overpaid babies in the N.F.L. and makes the liberals howl with outrage — that’s what a real and fighting conservatism should be all about!

.. they’ve decided to become part of the caricature themselves, become exactly what their enemies and critics said they were, become a movement of plutocrats and grievance-mongers with an ever-weaker understanding of the common good.


they claim patriotism as their own, try to spiritualize secular laws, and demonize immigrants.

Maybe Trump can supporters can live well on spite, resentment, and the veneer of religion (“Merry Christmas!), but I can’t.

.. Jesse The Conservative

The biggest fear of Democrats, is that Conservative Republicans will gain the upper hand–and actually enact some of their ideas–lower taxes, less regulation, free market health care, school choice, tightened welfare guidelines, and control of our borders and enforcement of immigration laws.

Democrats are scared to death that American will become accustomed to lower taxes, more disposable income, a smaller, less intrusive government, a vibrant economy, better schools, better health care, and the enforcement of the rule of law. Liberals know full well, that as soon as Americans return to their free-market, capitalist roots, Conservative messaging will be powerful and direct. Americans will have no problem understanding where their newly-found prosperity comes from.

.. I’m a Republican. I don’t like big government. I am against almost everything they do in DC night and day, aka, The Swamp. I vote on moral issues first and all the rest second. AND, I want the government to do something to return moral values to the center of American life.


What’s wrong with this picture? I don’t like government and I want government to do something about it!

.. Does anyone remember that Obama was staging war games in Texas a couple of years ago as part of a master plan to take over the country and stay in office? Never mind.

  • The old south still hates “the north” from the Civil War.
  • The far west hates Washington because it owns and controls so much public land.
  • The Republicans generally hate federal taxes because of the vast power amassed by Washington to tax for the common good. They aren’t really interested in that all that much. They want to whack away at “common” and shift to “good for me”, which is, after all, a basic human instinct.

.. Nothing is going to satisfy the dissatisfied 1/4 to 1/3. NOTHING. They are wedded to their grievances.

.. Victor James

.. So forget Reagan and think Brownback, the Kansas version of Trump who led that state into financial ruin. Brownback only denied financial reality, but Trump has that beat by a mile.

.. Francis W

.. The most depressing thing about the rise of Trump is that a sizable percentage of the population really wants a bullying, inexperienced narcissist to be president and and another substantial percentage didn’t see it as a major problem when they cast their vote last fall.

.. WallyWorld

.. There has been one balanced, pragmatic, Republican President since Dwight Eisenhower, and that’s George H.W. Bush, and the party cast him out for trying to be responsible about the budget deficit. Trump did not create the current Republican party, he merely fully unmasked it. The Republican party of today is full of a lot of very dark and dangerous thinking, governing out of animus and resentment, all from a base of ignorance. It’s bad out there.

The secret to Germany’s happiness and success: Its values are the opposite of Silicon Valley’s

a magnetic 38-year-old named Christian Lindner, has openly expressed a desire to shake things up. In an August interview with the Economist, in which he called Germany’s economy “a prosperity hallucination,” Lindner also explained that in his country, “entrepreneurship has long been undervalued … and societies that are prepared to be more daring and have efficient capital markets have overtaken us on this.”

.. The vast majority of Germans don’t want it. For progressive and even centrist Germans, the startup-style definition of Erfolg (or “success”) is utterly incompatible with their values—which do not center on individual wealth, recognition, or even careers.

.. Germany’s cultural mores—which include a vehement defense of the country’s robust social safety net, largely credited for the relatively quick recovery from last decade’s recession—mean it is largely inoculated from the bootstrap fever that has long gripped the US.

.. In an off-script response to a heckler during a speech about startup culture’s positive attitude toward failure, Lindner memorably decried the fact that “people would rather go into public service than start something themselves.” He explained that, “when you’re successful, you end up in the sights of the social-democratic redistribution apparatus, and when you fail you’re sure to be the subject of mockery and derision.”

Lindner was correct on one point: Many Germans would rather go into public service than start a business themselves. But his theory about their motivation is all wrong. Lindner’s country-people simply don’t have the same enchantment with self-made financial success that he does.

.. Thanks in part to a general leftward tilt on economic issues after the student revolutions of 1968, most of them view the collective good, and the comparatively high taxation that accompanies it not as a sacrifice, but as a fundamental component of civilized society.

.. They are largely content with their take-home salaries, but not out of altruism. Rather, they view the role of wealth acquisition and consumerism in a fundamentally different way.

.. To Germans, caution and frugality are signifiers of great moral character. Sure, they favor high-quality consumer goods—but they deliberate on what to buy for years, and expect their possessions to last for decades

.. Moreover, for Germans, a good work-life balance does not involve unlimited massages and free meals on the corporate campus to encourage 90-hour weeks. Germans not only work 35 hours a week on average—they’re the kind of people who might decide to commute by swimming, simply because it brings them joy.

.. And a German wouldn’t be caught tot pounding down a bar or a glass of Soylent to replace a meal

.. just as Christian Lindner is obsessed with making money and driving sports cars, so have Germans been obsessed with making fun of Christian Lindner because they find his thirst for financial success so gauche.

How to Revive Central America

To succeed, it will have to break with the State Department’s conventional wisdom that underdevelopment is caused by a paucity of taxes and regulation. It will also have to climb down from its view that trade is a zero-sum game.

.. Failure to create jobs and grow, and the heavy concentration of businesses in the consumer sector, reflects the difficulty Guatemalan entrepreneurs have in getting credit. That’s not unusual in an economy in which more than 72% of businesses operate underground and therefore cannot access the formal banking system.

.. Guatemala ranks 88th out of 190 countries world-wide for ease of running an enterprise, but in key categories that make up the index it performs much worse.

.. The survey finds that it takes 256 hours to comply with the tax code. The total tax take is 35.2% of profits. It takes almost 20 days to start a legal enterprise and costs 24% of per capita income. To enforce a contract it takes more than 1,400 days and costs more than 26% of the claim.

.. at home the state is hostile to business and disrespectful of property rights. As a result, most new ventures see the cost of formality as outweighing the benefits.

 ..  A lower tax rate and a simpler code would give companies an incentive to operate legally, thereby broadening the base and improving access to credit.
.. Nor is Trump protectionism going to help Mr. Tillerson turn Central America around. Companies won’t want to manufacture in the region if they don’t have access to the U.S. market.

Uber vs AirBnB: do you have to be an asshole to found a brilliant start-up?

Airbnb feels benign and optimistic, the way we all used to feel about Silicon Valley. Uber is the dark twin, a symbol of rapacious capitalism and dehumanising technology. On reading Brad Stone’s book, it becomes clear that much of this divergence can be attributed to the personality of each company’s chief executive – Brian Chesky at Airbnb and Travis Kalanick at Uber.

.. watching Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first James Bond movie. In one scene, Bond is driving in the Bahamas and glances down at his phone to check a graphical icon of his car moving on a map. Entranced, Camp became obsessed by the idea of an upmarket limousine service with vehicles that customers could track on a phone.

.. He is irresistibly drawn to unnecessary arguments.

.. Kalanick, to use an expression one would never hear in an elegant restaurant, is an asshole. Yet it is impossible to read The Upstarts and not conclude that he is a brilliant asshole.

.. dizzying swerves of direction that seem reckless at the time but turn out to have been visionary, such as giving up on being an upmarket limo company to become a mass-market ride-hailing service. It is he who sees, almost from the beginning, that Uber is not only a more convenient way of ordering a cab, but a way of reconfiguring the relationship between time, space and money in the city.

.. Time and again, Kalanick makes the risky but right decision after rejecting the advice of clever and reasonable colleagues. It takes a certain kind of character to behave like this.

.. He argued that although a lack of social skills will hold you back in most areas of life, it can be an advantage to the entrepreneur in possession of an innovative idea. Those with a normal desire to fit in with people around them are easily persuaded to abandon original, strange-sounding notions; those who don’t care about being liked pursue them regardless. To be unbending, it helps to be insensitive.

.. An industrial designer by trade, he takes great care over how it feels to use his service. Good designers are usually good listeners, naturally curious about human psychology and behaviour.

.. “Brian was always worried about how do we scale our culture – how does every Airbnb office feel?”

.. He is interested in people in the way a physicist is interested in atoms. What fascinates him about his business is the mathematical complexity of getting enough drivers to enough riders at the right time, and at the right price. Indeed, it is a point of pride to him that Uber minimises human interaction. “We don’t own cars and we don’t hire drivers . . . It’s very straightforward. I want to push a button and get a ride.”

.. “Travis’s Law”. In summary, this states that if a product is so good that the public decides it must have it, all political opposition will eventually cede to pressure and become support. The business imperative is therefore to move fast and be uncompromising: build it, and they will fold.

Have Americans Given Up?

A new book by Tyler Cowen argues that when it comes to innovation and dynamism, the country is all talk.

.. Caught in the hypnotic undertow of TV and video games, they are less likely to go outside.

.. the federal government itself has transformed from an investment vehicle, which once spent a large share of its money on infrastructure and research, to an insurance conglomerate, which spends more than half its money on health care and Social Security. A nation of risk-takers has become a nation of risk-mitigation experts.

.. Cowen’s thought-provoking book emphasizes several causes, including

  • geographic immobility,
  • housing prices, and
  • monopolization.
.. Americans used to move toward productivity and jobs ..
.. today, the most popular destinations for movers aren’t productive cities, but rather cheap sunny suburbs.
.. High housing costs in the most productive metro areas have turned places like Silicon Valley and Manhattan into playgrounds for plutocrats. Tighter land-use regulations in rich metros pushed up housing values
.. lower-income families, who would benefit from living near these bustling job centers, can’t afford to move there. As a result, rich young college graduates have clustered in a handful of cities while the rest of American movers are going to sunbelt suburbs with cheap housing.
.. the decline in entrepreneurship has coincided with the rise of new monopolies—across retail, healthcare, and tech—that make it harder to start a new successful firm in these industries. Starting in the late 1970s, antitrust regulators stopped cracking down on large companies as long as they provided cheap products for consumers. Since 1978, the share of U.S. firms that are startups has fallen by 50 percent.
.. I asked Cowen whether he regarded Trump as the outcome of American complacency or as a kind of vaccine that would cure Americans of their indolence. He sided with the former, explaining that he had long thought that a constitutional crisis or a figure like Trump becoming president might happen in the distant future. He also said that in many ways, Trump is the perfect manifestation of a country that has lost interest in new ideas. “Make America Great Again” is an appeal to nostalgia, a promise to bring back the economics and culture of the 1950s, not to do anything new.
.. Today’s algorithmic media, like Facebook, Pandora, and dating apps, specializes in offering users content that is “optimally new”—familiar, yet surprising. Cowen argues that these technologies wall off anything that is too novel, which feeds complacency
.. Cowen is right that American elites have clearly sorted themselves into like-minded, high-income communities that pass rules against new housing construction, which isolates them from the rest of the country. But they are also restless strivers. Americans work longer hours than almost any similarly rich country in the world, and rich Americans work more than they did 30 years ago. As their leisure time has declined, affluent couples spend significantly more money on their children than they used to, providing for an expensive portfolio of tutoring, music lessons, and summer camps.
.. You might say that this obsession with status—not only obtaining it in one generation, but also devoting one’s life to protect it for the next generation—is the perfect example of Cowen’s thesis that American parents are obsessed with mitigating risk and avoiding change. But children of the elite are more likely to move multiple times between cities, live in multicultural metros, start companies, and experiment with different jobs. How complacent can a class be if it’s producing tens of thousands of anxious, restless maximizers?
.. In other words, America didn’t completely lose the dream. Rather, the only dreamers left are immigrants.
.. several studies have shown that many U.S. workers don’t start new companies because they’re afraid of losing their employer-sponsored health insurance. A single-payer system might increase overall entrepreneurial activity.

For Students With a Mission, a Little Capital Goes a Long Way

Soon they realized that things would go better if their food bore the minimum possible resemblance to an insect, so they dried and milled their crickets into flour. In November 2013, they entered and won the pitch competition at Harvard’s Igniting Innovation Summit on Social Entrepreneurship, serving “chocolate chirp” cookies

.. Why do so many students from elite schools end up in corporate jobs, even when they don’t want to? It’s because there’s a structure for that. The big tech, accounting and banking firms recruit students early, offering them the certainty of a safe job and comfortable career path. Turning that down means taking a leap into the void.

Having a fellowship made the leap easier. “That structure needed to be there for me to feel more comfortable about taking that risk,” said Wang. “I remember that my mind-set before was: I’m going to go work in consulting to gain a skill set or network and then I’ll feel comfortable taking a risk.