No, Big Data Did Not Break American Politics

In which I take a few whacks at a particularly misguided NBC News piece by Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann:

First, let’s note how little sense it makes to attribute polarization to the tools that reveal the poles. While campaign activity pursued at the margins might exacerbate existing divisions, it’s certainly not a driver of systemic paralysis. It’s a bit like blaming the rise of gaming for the abysmal workforce participation rate. There’s surely an interesting correlation, but it’s hard to parse cause and effect in a societal Möbius strip.

More importantly, the Todd/Dann argument suffers from a facile view of the voting public. Their case hinges on this idea of a robust if latent political center that has been spurned by data-driven campaigns playing to the fringe. Except that this linear idea of the ideological spectrum completely misunderstands the dynamic that brought us to this point. As I wrote in National Review back in February of 2016:

Ultimately the problem with ascribing ideological labels to your average American (much less asking them to self-identify), is that they are not ideologically consistent enough for it to mean anything. Most people simply don’t live or consume politics in that way. Yet we are limited both by language and by our conventional understanding of what these terms imply. As Will Jordan put it, “The reason Trump wins moderates is not because he wins people with moderate views, it’s because that’s not necessarily what a moderate is.”

Full post here.

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About that CBO Score

I try to offer a bit of perspective on the ugly CBO coverage number that Capitol Hill is buzzing about.

The Congressional Budget Office’s model loves the individual mandate.

Loves it. It’s part of the reason the ACA ended up with one in the first place, despite Candidate Obama going so far as to run attack ads excoriating Secretary Clinton for it during the 2008 primary.

It helped that Clinton’s position on the mandate was shared by most Democrats; but, as Ryan Lizza noted in a 2012 New Yorker piece on Obama’s evolution, the CBO consideration was a major and explicit part of the calculus.

So if we know that the model gave generous treatment to the individual mandate in the first place — overly so, based on actual enrollment figures — it should come as no surprise that it judges repeal of the mandate quite harshly. It can’t help that the replacement mechanism inserted by Republicans, a 3o percent lapse surcharge ostensibly meant to incentivize continued coverage, logically has the opposite effect. (If I’m a young, healthy individual, the relative savings of foregoing insurance promises to far outstrip a nominal 12 month penalty in the event of its necessity.)

Full post here.

For a more in-depth look, check out Avik Roy’s analysis over at Forbes.

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NRO: The GOP, Obamacare, and the Pottery Barn Rule

As Congressional Republicans wrestle with a health care repeal plan that reach the President’s desk given the myriad procedural and political constraints, I use my latest column at National Review to offer perspective — and a bit of caution:

If Republicans truly believe Obamacare is in a death spiral and will collapse under its own weight, they had better be confident that nibbling around the edges of the law will be enough to stabilize the system. Otherwise this will be at best a pyrrhic victory, absolving Democrats and leaving Republicans exposed to whatever fallout is yet to come. And regardless of the macro effects, Democrats will be armed with countless heartbreaking anecdotes buttressed by ugly CBO coverage projections. If you’re going to be blamed for disrupting a massive economic sector, you’d better make sure it’s your best shot.

Click here to read the full piece.

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