Saturday, March 25, 2017

Why repeal-and-replace failed

The other day, I posted that the incentives were set up for Paul Ryan to pass something.  He had to stop the vote to avoid losing.  What happened?

With respect to Thursday's post on strategic incentives, there are two possibilities:  strategic mistakes, or I missed something.  I'm going with some of both.

First, my mistake.  What I didn't factor into the incentive structure was as follows.  It was pretty clear as of Thursday that nothing would be signed into law, and that was part of my reasoning.  Passing something in the House, then, just would have dragged out a doomed process.  Better to end it fast.  I didn't factor that in, and I should have, so that was where I went wrong in assessing everyone's strategic incentives.

As for strategic mistakes, um... [cough, cough] Freedom Caucus.  These are the people who drove John Boehner from office, and can't take yes for an answer.  As I wrote repeatedly earlier in the process, if the Republicans were a normal party, once Susan Collins introduced her bill with Bill Cassidy, that would have been it.  They would have run the show, the way Max Baucus did on the ACA in 2010.  But, the Freedom Caucus has an all-or-nothing mentality that prevents them from accepting... damn near anything.  They are not, in any reasonable sense, strategic actors because they don't actually select actions based on the consequences of those actions.  They select actions based on how they perceive the purity of those actions.  They would rather save Obamacare through inaction than vote for anything that isn't their absolute perfect ideal policy.  They are even dumber than Donald J Fucking Trump.  Yes, let this sink in.  Donald Trump understood the basic strategic point that you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  The Freedom Caucus can't grasp that point.  Compared to the Freedom Caucus, Donald Trump is the voice of reason.

Remember, though, that this was always going to be a hard slog.  Prior to Trump's surprise victory, here is what I had been telling everyone.  Once the Supreme Court ruled and Obama won in 2012, I thought Obamacare was here to stay.  It is not politically feasible to take financial benefits away from millions of people, and that's what a repeal would have been.  Ted Cruz understood this when he pushed for the 2013 shutdown.  The subsidies and Medicaid expansion kicked in the following year, so he knew that the last chance, which wasn't really a chance, was to block them before they kicked in.  That's why he pushed the shutdown.  It was a scam because the shutdown was a doomed scheme to make establishment Republicans look bad when they caved, but Cruz understood the politics.  He knew that you couldn't take benefits away once they kicked in.

I started to question things when Trump won.  Perhaps Republicans might interpret Trump's victory as a sign that they could brazen anything out.  After all, the guy brags about sexual assault, lusts after his own daughter, makes fun of a disabled reporter, etc., and he still won by just never giving an inch on anything.  Not that he has so much as an inch, but, ya' know.  The point is that Trump won even though he broke all of the rules.  Perhaps, I commented here, that would convince Republicans they could rescind benefits and get away with it.  Just look at what Trump got away with doing...

As it turned out, no.  Social Security.  Medicare.  Medicaid.  Obamacare.  (Cash assistance to the poor in the form of AFDC/TANF or unemployment benefits were never large or consistent).  There have been four major programs created to provide financial benefits to large segments of the population.  Despite regular dreams and attempts to scale them back by conservatives, none have ever been repealed or significantly curtailed.  That record remains unbroken.  Why?  Because it is too dangerous to take away financial benefits.  There are plenty of House and Senate Republicans who would repeal Obamacare, but there are enough who wouldn't to stop the party.  Somehow, that's always true.  George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security in 2005.  Whatever happened to that plan?  Oh, right.  You see my point.


  1. The Freedom Caucus (AND Cruz his ilk) are strategic, but you're mistaking what their goal is.
    Mayhew. Maybe some Fenno, too.
    They're trying to get reelected. They're also trying to get cushy lobbying jobs later, or nice Fox gigs, or whatever. The point is: they think that their "brand" is to be "true conservatives."
    Because it's all a scam being played out for the rubes.
    FC: "I'm more conservative than you."
    GOP"Oh yeah, well I oppose abortion in all cases."
    FC"Yeah, well I think we need a policy that says we will declare preemptive war against the aliens from Planet Kreblon if they don't outlaw abortion."
    GOP "Wait, WTF? You're attaching that rider to this perfectly normal bill naming a post office for a blind veteran who saved his entire platoon with apple pie? Sorry, I'm a realistic conservative who wants to actually reduce the number of abortions of humans, so no."
    FC"You're a cuck, and we need a new Speaker!"

    The POINT is to make outrageous, insane demands that can't be met. Because, IF your demands are met, then how are you the TRUE conservative?

    The modern definition of "conservative" is "guy who moves the goalposts for what conservative means."

    1. You're going to love my MPSA paper this year.

    2. Tease.

      (Or does that mean I now call you a cuck? I'm so confused)

    3. Trying to keep up with terminology gets so confusing these days.