November 19, 2013

* The top story today from John Cassidy: Where the state-level Obamacare websites can be made to work, the program is increasingly popular. States like California, New York, and even Kentucky are seeing skyrocketing enrollments. What’s the secret?

What these states have in common are state-run Web sites that are working pretty well; they are also all controlled by Democrats who are pushing the new reform. This progress points to something that has been absent in much of the reporting about the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov and the cancellation of individual policies: in places where Americans know about the comprehensive and heavily subsidized health coverage available under the Affordable Care Act and can easily access it, they are doing so in substantial numbers.

I think what people tend to forget about the Obamacare rollout is that the American healthcare system is a disaster for many people, and a huge fraction of Obamacare is about directing benefits to those same people. With the bar that low, all it may take for reasonable success is getting the dang website to work.

* The CEO of WellPoint (a large insurer) agrees. Current signups are anemic, he says, but “the potential is there for a significant uptake,” once the program is working better. As Greg wrote today, once the website is up, insurers have a massive incentive to go out and bring in as many people on to the exchanges as possible.

* Relatedly, Dem campaign groups are attempting to turn Obamacare into a winning issue for Senator Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, by stressing the Medicaid expansion. With the unexpected recent victory of Vance McAllister, a Louisiana Republican who supported the expansion, this might work by November 2014.

* Clay Shirky has an interesting essay about why big IT projects tend to fail. That Obama had no idea his signature policy was going to flop spectacularly on release is telling — managers need to cultivate sources of intelligence outside the formal chain of command.

* In today’s edition of utterly unsurprising news, last night Senate Republicans filibustered yet another Obama nominee to the DC Circuit Court. Jonathan Chait zeros in on the radicalism on display:

Previous judicial fights have revolved around the question: How personally or ideologically unacceptable must a judge be to merit rejection? Republicans are now arguing that Obama’s nominating judges to vacancies on the court is illegitimate per se.

* In response, here’s what Harry Reid said today in threatening again to break the filibuster for good. This is, roughly speaking, the umpteen squintillionth time Republicans have broken their promise not to abuse the filibuster. It’s time for it to go.

* Long piece examining Paul Ryan and his alleged fight against poverty. Some good reporting in there, but Kevin Drum has Ryan’s number: “everything he’s ever done—everything—boils down to a single sentence: reduce taxes on the rich and reduce spending on the poor. That’s it. There’s literally nothing else he’s ever seriously proposed.”

* Here’s the real GOP poverty plan: cut $40 billion from food stamps. The contempt on display was really something:

Most people don’t choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

“If you’re a healthy adult and don’t have someone relying on you to care for them, you ought to earn the benefits you receive,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). “Look for work. Start job training to improve your skills or do community service.”

* In international news, Senate Republicans are either pushing for a harsher deal with Iran, or deliberately trying to scuttle any negotiated settlement. In response, the administration is asking for time to see what fruit the talks bear.

* Real talk from Sean Trende: Obamacare’s rollout troubles are not an existential threat to liberalism. All through history people have been hyperventilating about this or that; only rarely are the histrionics justified.

* Arne Duncan said something about suburban people, and suddenly the long-planned Common Core educational reforms are in jeopardy. Ed Kilgore has a measured take: at this point, after they’ve been in the works for so long, it’d be the height of folly to not at least see if they work or not.

* Sweet collection of space pictures.

* And today in weird politician news: a Florida GOP representative was charged with cocaine possession. And a Hawaii Democrat boasted of his prowess in destroying homeless people’s possessions.

What else?