Political Animal


August 29, 2014 6:11 PM Day’s End and Holiday Watch

I’m being amused by signs that a tweet I did comparing Sarah Palin unfavorably to Ben Carson is stimulating some Palinite shots at Carson. Who’d a thunk it?

Here are some remains of the day:

* Mississippi judge tosses Chris McDaniel legal challenge to Republican Senate primary on grounds it missed deadline.

* At The Atlantic Peter Beinart argues Obama does have Middle East strategy: “fierce minimalism” focused on avoiding U.S. casualties at home or abroad.

* At the New Yorker Connie Bruck has a profile of today’s AIPAC and its possibly weakening influence, and TNR’s John Judis offers some additional observations.

* At Ten Miles Square Ramesh Ponnuru suggests Mitt Romney may not exactly be the fresh face Republicans need in 2016.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer reports on research suggesting that for-profit college degree holders are no more attracting to employers than those who don’t attend college at all.

And in non-political news:

* Stephon Marbury acting in musical play loosely based on his career in Chinese basketball. Didn’t see that coming.

That’s it for Friday. Martin Longman will be in for tomorrow and Sunday, and I’ll be back for Ultra-Lite Major Federal Holiday Blogging on Monday. To extend the nautical theme a bit, and celebrate the weekend, here’s Eddie and the Hot Rods with “Fish ‘n’ Chips.”


August 29, 2014 5:35 PM When the Happy Talk Stops

I read the The Iowa Republican website pretty often since you just can’t get too much Iowa political news, and I’m familiar enough with the site and its writers to skip the agitprop and the puerile smears of Commie Tommy Harkin and Liberal Trial Lawyer (Trial Lawyer! Trial Lawyer!) Bruce Braley.

Today TIR features a piece from site proprietor Craig Robinson that should throw some cold water on that big happy parade the Joni Ernst for Senate campaign has become. If you’ve been following the race, you undoubtedly know Ernst has deployed a couple of highly effective ad themes—one positive theme involving her fine hog castratin’ skills, and one negative theme involving Braley’s alleged disdain for farmers (both Chuck Grassley and a neighbor raising chickens). Meanwhile, Team Braley has begun focusing on something Ernst’s ads never mention: her positions on various controversial issues. Robinson looks at a new poll and see signs Ernst better get serious:

To date, the Ernst campaign has gotten a lot of mileage out of running a personality based campaign against Braley, but if these latest polls are accurate, that strategy has already run out of gas. Even if the race remains close until Election Day, Republicans have to worry that the Democrats early voting advantage might be big enough to deliver the victory for Braley.
While it is still early, absentee request by Democrats and no party voters are far exceeding Republican requests. This is once again a sign that Democrats are working their absentee program that has often times made the difference in close legislative races. If the U.S. Senate race remains a close contest, their ability to get no party voters to vote early for their candidates could make a big difference.

When a guy like Robinson feels the need to go public in criticizing a Republican campaign, you have to figure (a) he’s not alone in his criticisms, and (b) private complaints are having no effect. At some point, even partisan warriors get sick of the happy talk when they see a campaign in trouble. We’ll see if the Ernst campaign pays attention, or instead keeps using its money for dumb and superficial ads.

August 29, 2014 4:51 PM The Less Than Gripping Case For Mitt ‘16

Well, it’s a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. Perhaps that’s why Reihan Salam wrote, and Slate published, a “Why Not Romney ‘16?” piece. Though the subtitle proclaims “I’m not kidding!” Salam can if he wishes write this off later on as an end-of-summer fancy.

Having said all that, I’d give Salam’s argument a good solid “C” for “Chutzpah.” His first big talking point is that all the disastrous stuff Mitt did in 2012 was the result of “his defensiveness and his fear of alienating Tea Party conservatives he didn’t truly understand.” In other words, he was a clumsy panderer. A presumably reformed (Salam is a member in good standing of the Reformicon tribe) GOP could find in the “authentic” Romney—you know, the one who’s not lying and pandering—the “populist the party needs.” No, I’m not buying it, either.

A second argument is that Romney’s sorta like Reagan, in that he’s run two losing races already and he’ll be 69 next time around. Moreover, Reagan also took a lot of positions as a governor that conservatives didn’t like. To be sure, admits Salam, there are some minor differences:

Reagan was famously charismatic, and he had been a conservative folk hero for years by the time he finally won the Republican nomination. The same can’t be said of Romney.

Other than that, two peas in a pod!

Salam’s third, and most compelling, argument is that the 2016 GOP presidential field may turn out to be as unsuitable as the field Romney struggled to subdue in 2012. Now that really is a problem for Republicans to ponder, but things are even worse than you might think if the only solution that comes to mind is Mitt Romney.

August 29, 2014 4:13 PM Stop Dividing Us, Nazis!

When I read in a couple of places that Dr. Ben Carson is adamant about comparing the contemporary United States to Nazi Germany, I figured he was following the familiar meme of the “Abortion Holocaust,” according to which today’s antichoicers are the equivalent to the “Confessing Church” Christians who resisted Hitler. But after checking a few scattered quotes from Carson, I saw no reference to abortion at all. Instead, the Doctor seemed to be saying again and again that “political correctness” and government persecution had cowed Americans into terrified submission as effectively as the Gestapo did in Germany.

Now there’s something inherently weird about a man running around the country making fiery speeches to wildly cheering audiences claiming it’s impossible for anyone to speak out. And it’s not like he’s exactly alone. But if you actually take the time to catch his act, it’s just one of a number of strange and paradoxical things about his message.

I just sat through a long video of a long Carson speech on behalf of Monica Wehby in Oregon back in January, and on one level he sounds like Barack Obama circa 2004: we’re letting ideologues divide Americans who actually agree on most of the basic issues; we need to talk openly with each other and try to solve our problems based on what works; we need to see each other as fellow-citizens, not enemies.

But it becomes obvious very quickly that in the world of Carson and the people cheering him the “dividers” are all liberals, the “common sense” real Americans all agree on is constitutional conservatism, and “free discussion” means the right of constitutional conservatives to say things that offend other people without anyone “intimidating” them via complaints or criticism. In Carson’s world, it’s axiomatic that every conservative is being tracked if not targeted by the IRS and every liberal is consciously following Rules For Radicals.

The enemies of this country realized that our military was too strong to overcome (although it’s getting weaker every day). [I]t would much easier to destroy from inside—by fundamentally changing who we are.

“Fundamentally changing who we are” is Carson’s constant indictment of the evil intent of progressivism—his way of postulating that “unity” around “common sense” means crushing progressives—“some” if not “all” of whom are “members of a conspiracy”—once and for all.

Maybe I’m over-simplifying this, but I’d say Dr. Carson looks like the ultimate candidate of the Brietbartian Right—the people who send and really do believe all those crazy emails they circulate about religion being outlawed by regulation; who don’t personally know anyone who’s voted for Obama; who have zero doubt that Jesus would be a Republican; who think America would be the greatest place on the planet if about half its population was not allowed to vote.

But what do I know? I’m one of those “Gestapo” people who is “suppressing” Carson’s ideology—and that’s what it is, if I may be allowed a “politically incorrect” observation—by disagreeing that it’s the only authentically American way to look at things!

August 29, 2014 2:09 PM Lunch Buffet

After staying up late watching college football last night (Ole Miss/Boise State and Rutgers/Wazzu, not the astounding dumpster fire in Columbia that was on the SEC Network), I kinda hoped for one of those rich news days where the post topics would just fall into my lap like overripe fruit. No such luck. I will not descend to a post on Chelsea Clinton’s departure from NBC, but there could be some awkward pauses this afternoon.

Here are some midday barrel-scrapings:

* TN Gov. Bill Haslam allows as how he’ll send HHS some sort of Medicaid expansion proposal some time “this fall.” That’s probably about the only “momentum” we’ll see from Pennsylvania’s deal earlier this week.

* Chuck Todd’s departure from Today marred by weird segments involving delayed Skype images and awkward pauses where banter was supposed to occur.

* Elizabeth Warren comments on Gaza disappointing a lot of her lefty fans.

* Greg Sargent notes Dems going back to 2012 Medicare message focusing on Ryan budget.

* At Salon Brittney Cooper blasts Al Sharpton as out of touch with rising generation of black activists.

And in non-political news:

* Car brand now ranked at bottom in customer satisfaction is: Acura. Woulda never guessed that.

As we pause for lunch, let’s continue the nautical theme with a famous song from one of my favorite bands: Procol Harum’s “A Salty Dog,” performed in 1971.

August 29, 2014 1:33 PM Vote For An Influence!

In a sort of catch-up piece on possible lefty challengers to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Jonathan Chait captures the peculiar nature of the implicit message any such challenger would have to offer. It’s what I’ve called the “keep Hillary honest” rationale for candidacy:

The 2016 Democratic presidential campaign is beginning to take shape. It’s a highly unusual campaign. Hillary Clinton commands the massive party loyalty of an incumbent, except she’s not an incumbent, so it is possible for another Democrat to challenge her without the campaign necessarily signalling the all-out, you-have-failed opposition of a Gene McCarthy in 1968, Ted Kennedy in 1980, Pat Buchanan in 1992, and so on. The campaign, instead, is likely to center on organized liberals using a candidacy to pressure Clinton not to move too far toward the center.

Now think about how that affects a candidate and his or her campaign. Your goal isn’t power, but influence. You expect activists to give up their time and money not to elect the next president of the United States, but to exceed low expectations. Your success is ultimately measured by how someone else runs her campaign. It’s just not a prescription for excitement.

The precedent I keep thinking about, though it’s not precisely analogous (obviously), is congressman John Ashbrook’s 1972 primary challenge to Richard Nixon. Ashbrook was supported by some very high-profile conservatives (most notably William F. Buckley) who basically didn’t trust Richard Nixon as far as they could throw him, and were particularly worried about his detente policies towards the Soviet Union and China. The Ohioan’s campaign slogan was “No Left Turns,” and his candidacy was transparently not about beating Nixon but about, well, “keeping him honest” (laughable as that phrase may seem in reference to The Tricky One) ideologically.

In the primaries Ashbrook peaked at a booming ten percent of the vote in California, and dropped out, endorsing Nixon. If he had any effect on Nixon’s general election strategy, it was certainly hard to detect.

Now it’s true Ashbrook was no Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. But he was a respected figure in Congress and in the conservative movement. An awful lot of conservatives who voted for Nixon against him may well have sympathized with his cause. But it’s just hard to convince people to vote for one person in order to influence another. That reality needs to be factored into the talk about a challenge to HRC.

August 29, 2014 11:49 AM Wall Street Has Mastered the Elite Student Recruitment Process

In the September/October 2014 issue of the Washington Monthly Amy Binder explores the reasons that so many graduates from our most elite colleges and universities are pursuing careers on Wall Street. At first, it seems perplexing. Very few of the freshmen kids arrive on campus thinking that a job working with credit default swaps or hostile takeovers is in their future. The professors are, if anything, unhappy with the high percentage of their students who go into finance. And, yet, the numbers do not lie.

In 2007, just before the global financial meltdown, almost 50 percent of Harvard seniors (58 percent of the men, 43 percent of the women) took jobs on Wall Street. That number contracted sharply during the Great Recession, but after 2009 it began rising again. Among this year’s graduating class at Harvard, 31 percent took jobs that will channel their energies into derivatives, mergers, and often destructive outsourcing. And many more tried out for such positions. According to a study by the sociologist Lauren Rivera, a full 70 percent of Harvard’s senior class submits résumés to Wall Street and consulting firms.

Meanwhile, among Harvard seniors who had secured employment last spring, a mere 3.5 percent were headed to government and politics, 5 percent to health-related fields, and 8.8 percent to any form of public service. Only high-tech fields captured the interest of graduating seniors at anywhere near the level of finance and consulting…

So, what happens to these students between the time they move away from home and into their dorms, and when they begin earnestly seeking post-graduation employment in their senior year?

To gain insight into this question I, along with two graduate students, Nick Bloom and Daniel Davis, interviewed sixty students and recent alums at Harvard and Stanford. Although not based on a random sample, our study included students from a variety of backgrounds, majors (called “concentrations” at Harvard), and career plans— or actual first jobs, in the case of alumni. Our research shows that students don’t just gravitate automatically to jobs in finance and consulting. Rather, this is in large part a story of universities helping to organizationally manufacture students’ aspirations for these positions.

It began with a decision made by Wall Street firms in the 1980’s to recruit heavily from the universities with the best reputations (brand equity) as a way of impressing potential clients. To accomplish this, they built relationships with the career services organizations at our top schools, which gave them more prominence at jobs fairs and more access to students’ mail (and then email). They secured the best banquet halls and reserved rooms for conducting extensive interviews. In the process, students learned about jobs they previously knew nothing about and had never aspired to, and these were very good paying jobs.

Most freshmen remain reasonably insulated from recruiters, but once students come back to school as sophomores they find it impossible not to notice their older peers’ “stampede to start applying” for jobs on Wall Street, as Nathan, a Harvard alum, put it. Whether observing seniors going through recruitment for the two-year analyst jobs post-graduation, or juniors going through recruitment for coveted summer internships (which with luck and hard work can be converted to an offer for an analyst position the following year), younger students take notice.

The result is that a fierce competition begins between students to land these financial services jobs. Even classwork takes second place, as students spend more and more time in the career services department doing endless interviews.

Noelle’s description of her own successful navigation of this stage of the process at Harvard mirrors the experience of many:
You do maybe one interview onsite, two interviews onsite, maybe one phone interview, and then they fly you out to New York, and that takes up a lot of time. I mean it’s great. You get airplane miles, you get paid for your hotel, they’re treating you like royalty. You get great meals, you get reimbursed, everything like that. But the thing is that you miss so much class. There are kids who are literally flying down to New York three times a week for three different interviews. It’s nuts. And it’s really stressful. It’s really competitive. I’ve heard stories of roommates who don’t talk to each other because they’re competing against each other for the same jobs.

Whatever you think of Wall Street or our Ivy League schools, there’s a social cost when so many of our most promising young adults eschew jobs in the public sector or in more productive sectors of the private economy. But these kids are going to Wall Street less because it fulfills some kind of private calling than because Wall Street and these institutions of higher learning have basically colluded to move them in that direction. For other sectors to compete for top talent, they’ll need to study what Wall Street has done and emulate it.

August 29, 2014 11:27 AM Public Higher Education: Another Casualty of the Great Recession

Over last weekend we published a Ten Miles Square piece by Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and Secretary of Homeland Security who is now president of the University of California system. I wanted to draw attention to it for two reasons: first, Napolitano restates the basic case for public higher education as a wise investment (noting the high performance of UC branches in various WaMo College Rankings, as well she should). But second, she also reminds us that the deep cuts in higher ed funding by state legislatures that occurred nearly everywhere during the Great Recession haven’t been fully restored much of anywhere, despite radically improved state fiscal climates.

[I]t is troubling to consider that at some point in the last six years, 41 state legislatures in the United States slashed funding for their public universities and colleges.
Sadly, funding remains constrained for public higher education, despite an economy that slowly grows more robust. Only 14 states have re-invested in higher education at levels equal to or above their pre-recession levels. Last year, 20 states actually cut more funding from their public universities and colleges.

The skyrocketing public college and university tuitions we’ve all become accustomed to seeing are the direct result of this reduced state support. And it’s worth remembering that no matter how much progress we make in controlling college costs (and student debt levels) through various reforms won’t much matter if state legislatures perpetually pocket the savings and disinvest in higher ed.

August 29, 2014 11:08 AM Fears About Gear

No matter what happens with respect to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the Officer Friendly image of police officers there and everywhere has taken a bit of a beating, and without question, the lighting rod for discontent is going to be the use of military equipment and weaponry. It’s interesting that the “police lobby” isn’t quite smelling the coffee yet, per this report from The Hill’s Megan Wilson:

Police associations are beginning a major lobbying push to protect their access to the military equipment that was used against demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo.
Law enforcement groups argue a Pentagon program that provides surplus military gear helps protect the public, and they are gearing up for a fight with lawmakers and the Obama administration over whether it should be continued.
“We are the most vigorous law enforcement advocacy group, and we intend to be at our most vigorous on this issue,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police organization in the country.
The Fraternal Order and other groups told The Hill that they are already meeting with lawmakers’ offices in an attempt to get a jump on the issue before Congress returns from the August recess.
Congress is facing a time crunch in September, with only a handful of legislative days on the calendar before members head back to their states and districts to campaign for reelection.
Police groups fear a stopgap bill to fund the government, which Congress must pass in September to avoid a government shutdown, could be used to stop the transfer of military gear.

Perhaps I am overestimating the extent to which Tea Party paranoia about concentration camps for conservatives and identification of overarmed police forces with Big Government has infected the GOP; maybe the FOP has the votes to stop the loss of war gear. But it might want to consider the alternative strategy of promoting better policing strategies in which the gear is used less often and more appropriately. This is actually something on which cops could partner with the Department of Justice, and maybe redirect attention from imagery to substance.

August 29, 2014 10:07 AM Delaying the New DACA

The big buzzy political story this morning, from the L.A. Times and from Greg Sargent, is that there’s a big rethink going on in the White House about the timing of executive action on immigration. The unnamed actors favoring a delay until after the elections are apparently carrying the water for red-state Democratic senators who believe a big program of temporary legalization would produce 110% turnout amongst the conservative GOP “base,” while distracting attention from the economic themes that have been working pretty well for the Donkey Party.

Now I’m sure the folks making these arguments are privy to better and more specific polling than the rest of us. While it’s obvious there’s been a recent lurch towards hostility to any form of “amnesty,” especially among Republican voters, I don’t know if it’s an especially intense trend in places like Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina, or if it extends beyond core GOP voters. But sure, if you’ve been planning a tough and close Senate race for many months now and find yourself in competitive but still perilous condition despite the president’s unpopularity in your state, you probably don’t want said president blotting out the sky just as early voting begins with an action that will at best be controversial. I keep thinking of the Republican Senate runoff in Georgia, where best we can tell the whole race turned around the minute David Perdue linked Jack Kingston (via the U.S. Chamber) to “amnesty.”

The trouble with the “delay” strategy is that it may only prolong the agony. Let’s say the White House lets it be known nothing’s going to happen until the beginning of 2015. Republicans will still contrive some sort of congressional proposal to prevent, restrict or cancel past or future presidential actions on immigration, and demand Democratic senators take a position. It’s the perfect background accompaniment to the argument that America needs a Republican Senate to rein in the scofflaw in the White House. Moreover, if the White House does indeed rationalize a delay as a matter of improving enforcement before easing deportations—an echo of the standard “enforcement first” Republican message—-it will undermine its own argument that DACA and an expansion of DACA are the key to better enforcement via a clarification of priorities.

Assuming the president’s not going to do something wildly extravagant, there’s a case to be made for getting this over with asap and letting Americans see the sky isn’t falling. Democratic candidates will still be free to distance themselves from Obama, but it should become plain pretty quickly that a Republican Senate isn’t going to be able to do anything about DACA, either. Perhaps the most important political argument against a delay is that the advantage among Latino voters which is the long-range strategic prize in this debate could be jeopardized by too calculated an approach after so many expectations have been raised. Sure, an immigration “bombshell” before an already difficult midterm is very risky, but so, too, is another three or four months of vacillation.

August 29, 2014 8:48 AM Daylight Video

Woke up smelling the sea today, and thinking about sea shanties. Here’s Paddy & The Rats performing “Drunken Sailor” before what looks like a very happily drunken crowd.

August 28, 2014 6:34 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Well, did it again with the late afternoon plunges beyond politics. Hope you appreciate it as much as news-cycle reporting.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Jon Ralston kicks around speculation on whether Harry Reid will retire or run again in 2016.

* Fox’s Chris Stirewalt introduces meme we’ll hear again & again: Obama trying to bait Republicans into government shutdown to save Dem Senate. Not their fault if they can’t resist, right?

* TNR’s Jonathan Cohn touts California sick-leave legislation as possible national model that will both help workers and improve public health.

* At Ten Miles Square, Don Taylor discusses new research indicating Medicare recipients want more control over end-of-life benefits, possibly saving money.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer reports disturbing facts about world as experienced by college freshmen. “What the hell is Netscape?”

And in non-political news:

* Texas A&M takes early lead over South Carolina. Upset brewing?

That’s it for Thursday. We’ll close with one more Iggy tune, from the fine album Brick by Brick, performed live: “Neon Forest.”


August 28, 2014 5:30 PM Denying White Privilege

Charles Blow of the New York Times does us all a service by pointing out the peculiar ability of some people (well, Bill O’Reilly, but he’s hardly atypical) to acknowledge nonwhite folk in this country suffer from discrimination while denying while folks are “privileged.”

[O]nce one acknowledges the presence of bias as an impediment, one must by extension concede that being allowed to navigate the world without such biases is a form of privilege.
That privilege can be gendered, sexual identity based, religious and, yes, racial.
When one has the luxury of not being forced to compensate for societal oppression based on basic identity, one is in fact privileged in that society.

Seems obvious enough to me. But it’s not surprising that some white people—and more particularly white men—have trouble accepting that they have been personally “privileged,” because they view it as devaluing their own hard work and talent (“talent,” of course, is typically a “privilege,” too, more than an accomplishment, but we can deal with that issue some other time!). That’s a product of the peculiarly American identification of success with moral worth, and of markets with the assessment of souls.

Most of us can acknowledge “luck” as an important factor in our lives, and usually on reflection we dimly understand that “luck” and “privilege” are often the same thing. Moreover, when very large groups of people—say “African-Americans” or “women” or “poor people”—seem to rise and fall as groups, it’s pretty apparent “privilege” and the lack thereof, not the sum of millions upon millions of individual moral credentials, is at play. As I always like to point out, when the Great Depression hit, did the one-fourth of the American working-age population that was thrown out of work suddenly lose its “character?” Or did “privilege”—and again, the lack thereof—separate the wheat from the chaff, and the “winners” from the “losers?”

Perhaps the only good thing about openly discriminatory regimes is that their defenders rarely deny their basic nature. My maternal grandfather was a classic southern white yeoman of the Jim Crow era—a steelworker, textile worker, and weekend farmer. He had an eight-grade education and no social graces, and never put on airs. But he liked to say: “I’m better than any [African-American] who ever lived.” He understood white privilege very well, and gloried in it. Those who don’t glory in it can at least admit it exists.

August 28, 2014 4:20 PM Keystone to Medicaid Expansion Momentum? Probably Not.

So one of the larger holdout states for Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania, has reached agreement with HHS to expand eligibility for 300,000 low-income citizens (potentially double that number eventually), in exchange for cost-sharing and work-search requirements.

This has been in the works for a good while. I don’t know if Gov. Tom Corbett thought the action might lift his moribund re-election campaign, but it’s probably too late for that. I also don’t know if I would share the belief that this could reignite momentum for the expansion among the 23 remaining refusenik states, beyond the three that are already in negotiation with the feds. Yes, it’s becoming the CW that Republicans have shifted their attention away from a monomanical focus on Obamacare lately because it’s no longer a big political winner. But that doesn’t mean they won’t savagely fight efforts—especially from within their own party—to promote Obamacare implementation and expand a Medicaid program many of them would like to gut. We may soon discover when the next batch of bad-sounding news about Obamacare comes out—whether it’s really bad or not—Republicans were just self-distracted from the Cause, which they will re-embrace like an old love.

August 28, 2014 3:50 PM When a Little Outrage Becomes a Big Deal

Probably most people who have been driving for a while have a DMV or parking enforcement horror story they can tell. I have several from DC, one of them revolving around an irrational requirement that you had to prove (via notarized documentation, no less) ownership of a car to pay to have a boot removed (“So I’m a car thief,” I said to an annoyed clerk. “I’m going to pick a car with a boot on it and come pay you $300 to have it removed so I can steal it, instead of stealing a car without a boot?”).

But as David Scheff reminded us in a gripping column at TIME earlier this week, there are plenty of people for whom a mishap that interrupts the use of one’s car isn’t a nuisance, or even a mere outrage, but a personal disaster that leads to other personal disasters. He watched some of them at an impound lot, and observed as he left after paying his fine:

When I reached the front of the line, I handed the clerk my credit card, on which she charged $472. I retrieved my car and drove home. I left behind the roomful of my fellow citizens, a disparate group bound together by the fact that they didn’t have the cash or credit required to free their impounded cars, a fact that threatened livelihoods, stressed families and broke budgets, forcing some people to choose between essentials and paying fees that would continue to accumulate and leave them without another essential, transportation, which in turn could lead to other calamities. If they didn’t find a way to pay the fees, they would ultimately lose their cars (the city auctions them), a loss that for some would be a devastating setback. For me, a towed car was an inconvenience. For them, it was a catastrophe.
Some cases of injustice in America are reported far and wide, such as the horrific shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed man in Ferguson, Missouri, targeted by police in what many view as an egregious case of racial profiling. However, we don’t often hear about the countless quieter injustices suffered by tens of millions of Americans on a daily basis. They experience inequities of access to opportunities, quality medical and dental care, quality education, healthful food, affordable and safe housing, childcare, credit, psychological counseling, legal representation, insurance and more. For them, events that others weather unhappily but routinely—a towed car, for example—can lead to a crippling spiral of stress, debt, joblessness, illness and, in many cases, incarceration.

Aaron Carroll notes this is a politically relevant point to understand:

Think about that the next time someone tells you that a $100 copay shouldn’t be a “big deal”. Or how a $25 premium is “insignificant”. Or how over-the-counter birth control is “cheap”.
It may be to you. But not to everyone. Not to far more people in this country than you likely realize.

Now some—not all, but some—of our conservative friends have a nasty habit of looking at fellow human beings with difficult lives or disorganized finances or snowballing, interconnected problems that get out of hand as “losers” or “people who aren’t taking responsibility for themselves.” They may well never have experienced being hounded by creditors or having to choose which bill will have to be paid late each month or what medical problem can be ignored with the least peril or which child’s needs have to be served and sacrified in taking a second job. It’s also true that some of these unsympathetic folk call themselves Christians and even occasionally ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” without it for a moment occurring to them that despising people whose lives are a mess is by New Testament standards a much bigger moral failing than bouncing a check or smoking reefer or not paying a parking ticket on time.

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