Covering the Effects of the ARRA: Self-Denying Columnist Department
Ten Things Worth Reading, Mostly Economics: March 8, 2010

Covering the Government: Corrupt Press Corps Department (Mike Allen Edition): High Shrillness (Jonathan Chait Edition)

For the past seventeen years, I have spent a good deal of time staggering around saying: "Why don't more people realize how corrupt and unprofessional the press corps has been?"

Today, I am proud to say, my work here is almost done: Jonathan Chait ascends to the proud rank of President-for-Life of the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill:

Jesus Christ, Mike Allen, Reconciliation Is NOT THAT COMPLICATED!!: There are a lot of thorny issues in American politics that require a great deal of concentrated attention to grasp. The controversy over budget reconciliation and health care is not one of them. It's pretty simple, and can be explained in thirty seconds or so.... Democrats pursued health care reform through the regular process, passing slightly different bills through the House and Senate. Since a bill can't become a law until the exact same bill passes through each chamber of Congress, and Democrats now lack the ability to break a Republican filibuster, they have a different plan. They'll pass the Senate bill through the House. Then, to appease House members who disapprove of certain Senate features, they'll pass a second bill through reconciliation... [that] will only address budgetary issues.... Conrad... explain[ed] this process....

[R]econciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won't work. It won't work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction. So let's be clear.... [M]ajor Medicare or health care reform legislation... can't move through reconciliation. The role for reconciliation would be very limited... for certain side-car issues like how much does the federal government put up to pay for the Medicaid expansion...

When I read [Conrad's most recent] op-ed, I figured it had to be totally redundant. What sentient being who's following this closely could not understand it by now? I give you Politico's Mike Allen, writing Saturday:

When Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) made this confusing argument last week on “Face the Nation,” we weren’t sure he was being deliberately disingenuous. It was, in fact, spin. Now, he’s made the same case in a similarly obtuse WashPost op-ed, “Reconciliation is not an option for health-care reform.” Don’t misread it: It’s an Alice-in-Wonderland argument FOR the use of reconciliation as part of the recipe for getting comprehensive health reform to the president’s desk

Confusing? Obtuse? Does Conrad need to stop by Politico's offices with a picture book and some finger puppets? I understand perfectly well how intelligent people who don't follow this debate closely might not catch on to the distinction. But this is what Mike Allen does all day -- and, as I understand it, much of the night and the wee hours of the morning as well. How can anybody still not understand this? I'm at a loss here. Look, there's an endless list of topics I don't understand at all. I went through an entire semester of pre-Calculus in high school and was never able to understand what a function is. I still don't. It's a complicated subject and I was a lazy student. But this reconciliation distinction is easy, and Mike Allen is (legendarily) not lazy. So, what the hell is going on here?