As bad as this Tuesday's election results were, and as many problems as the results perpetuate (and how few will be solved), there does some to be a resurgence, in some quarters, of saying some sensible things that make common sense. And though I spent some moments this morning (I wake up early, and screaming) being annoyed iwth some of the pointless bloilerplate of lefty apologists (Please stop me before I read Steve Benen or Mori Dinauer ever again!), I also was blown away by some sharp assessments of things that might actually matter. So for this morning, a few morsels of ideas that might get us to talk about the things that really need fixing:
1. Suzy Khimm, the healthcare crisis reporter at Mother Jones, has been guest posting at Ezra Klein's Washington Post blog, and she offers the most clear-eyed assessment of the painful debate about Medicaid that's coming, discussing the decision in Texas to consider dropping out of the program altogether:
To be sure, there's no question that Medicaid has been costly for state governments, and it's understandable that the lingering recession would make state officials feel panicky about the future expansion. There are deeper programs still: the cash-strapped program only pays providers 66 percent of Medicare reimbursement rates, making it hard for Medicaid patients to find doctors who accept their coverage. Such dilemmas strengthen the argument for simply federalizing the entire Medicaid program, protecting it from the ideological and fiscal battles on the state level.
But until the day comes that a better Medicaid overhaul is possible, states must also realize that simply trying to wash their hands of the problem by stripping Medicaid coverage from the poor — without providing a reasonable alternative — won't be the answer either. The uninsured poor will continue to get sick. They will continue to seek out health care. And many institutions — including state governments — will still end up paying for it.
2: Ezra's also been featuring his pal Dana Goldstein, whose focus on education issues leads to a great point about where "progressives" and conservatives find common ground on the wrong aspects of education reform:
This morning I heard a lecture by British education expert Geoff Whitty on the emerging similarities between school reform efforts in the Obama-era United States and the Cameron-era U.K., particularly around the concepts of school choice and accountability. Whitty was critical of policy makers and the media for selectively citing research findings in support of charter schools and — more interestingly and counter-intuitively — for being obsessed with finding “what works” in education and other social policy areas.
The “what works” framework, Whitty argued, tends to privilege attempts to create alternative administrative structures (like charter schools), when in fact, other types of interventions may be equally — if not more — effective.
Today’s Republicans, by contrast, know what they’re against (the health care bill, tax increases, cap and trade) but have a world of trouble saying what they might actually be for.
Instead, they tend to fall back on the reassuring story they’ve been spinning for the last two years, in which they lost to the Democrats only because they failed to hold the line on spending. It’s a narrative that flatters conservative self-regard, while absolving Republicans of the obligation to think too deeply about policy. All they need to do is say “no” to bigger government, and the rest will take care of itself.
This strategy has worked for them in opposition, thanks to the Democratic Party’s haste and hubris. But it isn’t a blueprint for governance, and it ducks the real reasons that the Republicans lost their majority. While the Bush administration overspent, it wasn’t spending and deficits that turned the country against conservative domestic policy between 2004 and 2008. It was the fact that the Republican majority seemed to have no answers to Middle America’s economic struggles, and no appetite for the structural reforms required to keep the United States competitive.
This is even more true today. The United States is facing three overlapping crises — the short-term challenge of a jobless recovery, the long-term crisis of entitlement spending and, in the medium term, an economy that wasn’t delivering for the middle class even before the financial crisis struck. The Democratic Party may have the wrong answers to these problems. But the Republican Party as an institution often seems to have no answers whatsoever.
4. Over at Open Left, Mike Lux offers some of the best breakdown of why middle/working class voters shifted to voting for Republicans. I don't share his hopeful assessment of how Democrats can fix their problems, but this seems dead on:
I wrote early in 2009 that voters were going to be in a very bad mood in November of 2010, and that this would be a blame election, where economically stressed swing voters would be wanting to take their misery out on someone. I was certainly right about that, but here's the ironic thing: I suggested that since I thought it was unlikely we could get them to blame the economy on Bush since we were in charge now, that our best hope was to get them to blame it on Wall Street. They did, that 35% who laid the blame on Wall Street's door were primarily the middle class swing voter bloc in this election, but they associated us Democrats and Obama with Wall Street more than Republicans. The TARP bailout and Obama and Geithner's vigorous defense of it, the kid glove treatment of the big banks at the hands of Geithner, the AIG and big bank bonuses that closely followed, the failure to prosecute or break up the Too Big To Fail banks: it all came together in those angry middle class voters' minds as Obama being associated with the same Wall Street actors people were blaming for their economic problems. The fact that once the financial reform bill that had some important wins for the middle class was passed, Democrats barely ever talked about it again didn't help.
5. And finally, David Sirota(!) over at Open Left takes apart the Olbermann mess and highlights the "Hollywood Minute" problem with our celebrity happy culture:
Most Americans struggling in this economic crisis probably don't even know and/or don't even care who Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow or their counterparts on the Right are. That's no knock on Olbermann or Maddow at all - I have great respect for them and for the work they do. It's just a statement of reality that only seems shocking to uber-political junkies who, ensconced in the political media bubble, tend to overstate the cultural penetration of the political media class. And if members of the Silent Majority - ie. those outside that bubble - caught wind of the media back-and-forth over the Olbermann suspension (granted, a big if), it probably served as proof that the political media class really is narcissistic enough to believe the Broadcast News adage that they're the story - even during a Great Recession when media controversies shouldn't be the story.
Again, I'm happy that MSNBC only ended up suspending Olbermann for two days, and it's probably a good thing in the long run that the whole situation highlighted questions of ideology and partisanship in professional journalism. But it also highlights some really disturbing truths about the celebrity-prioritizing nature of our political activist culture - truths that, if left unaddressed, will likely continue to make it difficult to organize around the most important non-celebrity causes like, ya know, fixing the economy.