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Kinda Plausible, Kinda Not

I'm sure it's some sort of lese majeste for a lowly serf such as myself to take on a mighty Harvard professor. But what the hell.

William J. Stuntz, Harvard Law professor lays out what he believes are four inconvenient truths, two for each party:

Each party's base has two inconvenient truths it doesn't want to hear. For Republicans, those truths concern immigration and the culture war. Most of today's illegal immigrant population is here to stay (along with their descendants) and will pay no significant price for getting here outside the legal channels. No presidential candidate can change those facts. On the issue that matters most to conservative Christians--abortion--the political phase of the culture war is over. The right lost --a pro-life initiative failed in South Dakota in 2006: If it can't win there, it can't win anywhere. Well, maybe Utah.

For Democrats, the relevant subjects are Iraq and federal spending. Discussions of the Iraq war in Democratic primaries have a bizarre quality: Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama speak as though the war is a lost cause. It isn't--unless one of them wins the election and pulls the plug, a scenario that Iran's proxies no doubt await eagerly. As for spending, the federal budget (and federal tax revenues) will leave no room for large, expensive, New Deal-style health and education programs. For the foreseeable future, domestic policymaking will have more to do with arranging incentives than with dispensing largesse: Think welfare reform, not Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
Sounds plausible, doesn't it? Actually, no. Let's take them one by one:

1) We can mostly close the border, on that I agree with il professore. (Sorry, I'm working on my Italian.) And he's right that we can't arrest or expel 12 million people. But we can make life so difficult that a large number choose to self-deport. I'm not happy about that, particularly, but let's not pretend that tamper-proof ID and meaningful employer sanctions won't have the effect of making Mexicans and Central Americans reconsider whether the reward justifies the risk.

2) True, the pro-lifers cannot impose their will on the entire United States. But overturning Roe v. Wade would kick it back to the states and allow a number of states to impose a patchwork of regulations and restrictions, up to and including the imprisonment of doctors and pregnant women. States could pull a latter day Dred Scott and prosecute their own citizens who seek abortions in states where the procedure is legal. Could Utah, lets say, attempt to compel Colorado residents to produce evidence of abortions? Sorry, but this fight isn't quite over. Wish it was, but it's not.

3) Professor Stuntz on the Democrats and the war:

They're missing the point. The war can and should be won even if it shouldn't have been fought in the first place--because we're not in the first place; choices must be made from where one stands today, not some imaginary place of the speaker's choosing. And the promise of speedy withdrawal tells those who fight American soldiers: Hold on a little longer; those you fight will soon leave the field. A more destructive message can scarcely be imagined.

There's some truth in that. But there's a countervailing truth Stuntz ignores: messages fly in many directions. The Democratic position might well seem encouraging to Iran and Al Qaeda. But it might also be a useful signal to the government of Iraq, which remains incompetent to manage its own affairs. A believable tick-tock might convince the Maliki government to finally, finally, finally get its act together. Nothing else seems to have worked with them. Soon after inauguration day 2009 we will hit our 6th anniversary in Iraq. 6 years is not a one night stand. 6 years and hundreds of billions of dollars is not some half-assed effort. If after all that the Iraqi government still will not do what is necessary to save themselves and their country, then maybe the time will at last have come to wave bye-bye.

4) Funny how we can find the money to fight a war in Iraq, but not for anything else. But setting that aside, the question for health care is not whether the money is "government" money or "private" money. As conservatives regularly point out, there's no such thing as government money. All money is the people's money. If a universal health plan is revenue neutral to the average consumer of health care, then why would it be impossible to do? I spend approximately $1000 a month on health insurance. If it is the case (big if) that it will in either case cost me $1000, why does it matter to me whether I send the money directly to Blue Cross or to the IRS? How is the one possible and the other not?

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“Kinda Plausible, Kinda Not”

  1. Blogger Randy (Internet Ronin) Says:

    The Medicare part A premium for those over 65 who did not pay into it is $423.00 per month. (It's free to everyone else.) I imagine that is priced at cost. Did you know that Part B is means-tested? (I never noticed.) It ranges from $96.40 to $238.40 per month. $238.40 probably reflects actual costs. So, the cost to the government of paying for the heaviest users of medical care in America is about $650/month/person. (No drugs included.) Of course, the government doesn't pay full-freight on hospitalizations, etc. They underpay while the privately insured under 65 overpay. (I recently saw a $40,000 hospital bill that Aetna said was fair at $28,000 but Medicare paid $10,000 and that was the end of the subject. Medicare, unlike private insurance is supposedly an 80/20 plan with no maximum out-of-pocket, but some providers accept their payment as payment-in-full. Something to think about.

    (BTW, I posted a reply to your question at what remains of my weblog.)