The Bizarre Republican Definition of Racism

Jamelle Bouie:

The idea that Obama is a racist reads as baffling to most Americans, but it makes sense if you understand the particular racial beliefs of conservatives. If the liberal perspective on racism is that racial inequality is a genuine fact of contemporary American life—and requires race-specific remedies—then the conservative view can be expressed with a line from Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

In other words, only the “colorblind” are capable of stopping racism. What’s more, the inverse is also true: if you’re not colorblind, then you are incapable of stopping racism. Which leads to a final conclusion: anyone who treats race as a social reality is a racist. The corollary to this—seen here, for example—is that accusations of racism are more troubling than actual discrimination against minorities.

Pants on Fire

The deficit is shrinking. It is not growing. It is not “half true” to say that the deficit is growing. It is completely false.

Steve Benen:

Cantor said the deficit is growing; the deficit is shrinking; so even PolitiFact can’t ignore the straightforward arithmetic.

Or so I thought. My colleague Will Femia found this report last night.

Cantor said that the federal deficit is “growing.” Annual federal deficits are not growing right now, and they are not projected to grow through 2015, a point at which the deficit will have shrunk by three-quarters since 2009. By this standard, Cantor is wrong. However, unless policies are changed, deficits are projected to grow again in 2016 and beyond, according to the CBO. On balance, we rate his claim Half True.

Driving is Massively Subsidized

This fact is always worth repeating:

The amount we spend on roads every year far outstrips the money raised by user fees: “Nationwide in 2010, state and local governments raised $37 billion in motor fuel taxes and $12 billion in tolls and non-fuel taxes, but spent $155 billion on highways,” and the federal government spends about $40 billion more on roads than it takes in from the gas tax.

There’s a zombie idea out there that transit requires subsidies, while the auto infrastructure is fully funded by user fees. In reality, all of the transportation infrastructure is subsidized. One important reason that all transportation modes have to be subsidized is that we don’t capture back the windfall we create for nearby private landowners when we build and operate useful public infrastructure like train stations near their properties.

(via Gainesville Sun, h/t Shane Phillips)

Matt Cartwright Is the Most Valuable Democrat in PA

This is a pretty good article on liberal hero Matt Cartwright from Borys Krawczeniuk, but “Cartwright forges through first term as more liberal than Holden” is not the way I would have framed it.

About midway through his first year, Mr. Cartwright lived up to his campaign mantra.

Through Thursday, he had voted the Democratic party line 95 percent of the time. Only seven of the 201 House Democrats who have voted in the 113th Congress voted the Democratic way more often than he did, according to The Washington Post’s online database of congressional voting.

“I told everybody when I ran that I’m a Roosevelt Democrat and I think I’ve been true to that,” Mr. Cartwright said [...]

House members typically vote the party line, but Mr. Cartwright has exceeded even his Northeast Pennsylvania Republican colleagues, Reps. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, and Tom Marino, R-10, Lycoming Twp.

Through Wednesday, of the 436 House members who have cast votes since the present Congress took office in January, 305, or 70 percent, voted with their party 90 percent of the time or better. Mr. Barletta and Mr. Marino, who are conservative Republicans, voted the party’s position 92 percent of the time.

Compare Mr. Cartwright’s percentage to that of Mr. Holden, who voted 76 percent with Democrats during his final term.

Despite the fact that the old district and the new district are both called “the 17th District,” this really is a very different electorate.

The old 17th district had a partisan lean of R+6. The new 17th district has a partisan lean of D+4. It got 10.35 points more Democratic, and is now a pretty liberal district:

Screen shot 2013-07-29 at 2.21.31 PM

Just to tease the new Primary Colors scoring system a bit more, I can say that the analysis here is right on, and that Matt Cartwright has indeed been overperforming the district for progressives. Our algorithm shows Cartwright is the most valuable Democrat in the PA delegation, followed by Allyson Schwartz, Bob Brady, Mike Doyle, and Chaka Fattah.

We would expect a member of Congress in a D+4 district to vote with progressives (different from voting with the Democratic Party, as you’ll learn) about 80.409% of the time. Matt Cartwright has actually been voting with progressives 88.913% of the time as of this week’s update, which includes the NSA vote. He’s delivering excellent value to progressives, and is currently the only member of the PA delegation who doesn’t have a positive (bad) primary score

What Borys Krawczeniuk’s analysis misses though is that Tim Holden was also overperforming the district for progressives, but he never really got credit for that from activists because his voting record was objectively pretty conservative. Had our site been around in the Holden days, I would’ve been urging you all to hoist Tim up on your shoulders and carry him through the streets singing his praises during every August recess, because he was delivering very good value to progressives on very high difficulty setting. And then when the electorate changed in 2010, I would’ve been urging you to dump him off your shoulders, and hoist up Matt Cartwright, because the new district could accommodate someone much more unapologetically liberal.

One more comment: the fact that Allyson Schwartz is the second most valuable Democrat  in the PA delegation is more a function of how much Bob Brady, Mike Doyle and Chaka Fattah are underperforming, than how well Allyson Schwartz is performing. According to the algorithm, Schwartz actually votes less frequently with progressives (81.595%) than Matt Cartwright does (88.913%) despite the fact that she represents a D+13 district, and he represents a D+4 district. A Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and some dark blue Philly suburbs has no excuse for voting less progressive than someone in a D+4. Matt Cartwright is in no electoral danger for being a bold progressive, and Schwartz clearly wouldn’t be either if she voted like him.

Meet the 58 Democrats Too Conservative For Their Districts

(Today, I’m proud to announce a new project I’ve been working on with Ryan O’Donnell called Primary Colors. We released a teaser site today, and the full site will be out in a few weeks with 4 different scores for every member of the House and Senate and sweet interactive maps – Jon)

Every election season activists have the same debates: to primary or not to primary? Risk-averse campaign professionals wince at the thought of primaries to any sitting Democratic members of Congress, while ideological activists and party interest groups are more enthusiastic about challenging errant Blue Dogs and conservative Democrats.

These debates unfortunately remain one of the last redoubts of hazy gut-based analysis and decision-making in politics, but that’s all about to change. Primary Colors will bring a Moneyball approach to this guessing game, and help progressive activists target their resources on the lowest-value members in the lowest-risk districts.

How our Scoring System Works

Our new scoring system, launching in just a few weeks, will assign each Democratic member of Congress a primary score between 0 and 10. The higher the score, the more deserving of a primary challenge. Check out the worst-of-the-worst now at our just-launched teaser site, and sit tight for much more on our full site along with an interactive map and the three other scores that comprise the primary score dropping later this summer.

We arrive at these primary scores through a two-step process: First, by weighting and averaging various partisan scores like DW-Nominate, Progressive Punch, and National Journal, we get a very clear picture of each member’s voting habits. Then we compare that value to other members representing similar districts in the current Congress. This is crucial, since members aren’t being judged against some woolly progressive ideal. A Democrat representing a district with a D+4 partisan lean is compared to other Democrats in D+4 districts — and the more conservative they are than those colleagues, the higher their primary score. This, along with the rest of our methodology, creates an algorithm which allows activists to find out where they can replace Democrats too conservative for their state or district with real progressives — with little to no fear of losing to said seat to Republicans.

How Primary Colors Will Help Democratic Activists

These scores will be updated on a weekly basis in response to new votes in Congress, and PC’s daily blog will keep you up to date on movements in our numbers, and take a closer look at some of the targeted members and their districts. We’ll also be rolling out a suite of tools for activists to draft primary challengers in targeted districts, sign up to volunteer for campaigns, and donate money to challengers.

Check out our teaser site and sign up to see the 58 Democrats who are delivering the lowest value for progressives. And stay tuned for the full Primary Colors site, dropping at the end of the summer!

In the meantime, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have if you want to shoot us an email or hit us up on Twitter.

Larry, WHY?

“An Austrian cabal has taken secret control of the Democratic Party at the highest levels of the US government.”

More here. Strong opinions about monetary economics are probably not why the Senate Democrats prefer Janet Yellen, but whatever the reason, I sure am glad it looks like the Larry Summers for Fed Chair trial balloon has been popped.

US Health Care: Anything But a Market

US health care prices are not the result of market processes. They are the result of a raw political struggle between a cartel on the supply side, and an extremely fragmented payer base on the demand side. The only way to get lower prices – the only way any country has yet to dream up – is to consolidate the payer base. If the provider side is going to keep consolidating and getting larger, the only way to hold down health care prices is for insurance companies to continue getting larger and more consolidated as well. Ideally into a single insurer.

Haley Sweetland Edwards on how the AMA cartel sets the prices:

The meeting was convened, as always, by the American Medical Association. Since 1992, the AMA has summoned this same committee three times a year. It’s called the Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (or RUC, pronounced “ruck”), and it’s probably one of the most powerful committees in America that you’ve never heard of.

The purpose of each of these triannual RUC meetings is always the same: it’s the committee members’ job to decide what Medicare should pay them and their colleagues for the medical procedures they perform. How much should radiologists get for administering an MRI? How much should cardiologists be paid for inserting a heart stent?

While these doctors always discuss the “value” of each procedure in terms of the amount of time, work, and overhead required of them to perform it, the implication of that “value” is not lost on anyone in the room: they are, essentially, haggling over what their own salaries should be. “No one ever says the word ‘price,’ ” a doctor on the committee told me after the April meeting. “But yeah, everyone knows we’re talking about money.”