Losing at Its Own Game: the Right Retreats from Cost-Benefit Analysis

Amy Sinden —

Over the past four decades, the right wing has painstakingly built an intellectual scheme to try to justify the weakening of regulatory public health protections on the basis of neoliberal economic theory.  But a couple of decades ago, when the EPA began to figure out how—at least sometimes—to beat them at their own game, that edifice began to crumble.  At the 2018  APPEAL conference, I presented a brief sketch of this story. More recently, I developed it in an article that appears in this month’s edition of The American Prospect.

In brief, the story goes like this:

In the 1970s, industry lobbyists and their right-wing allies, disgruntled by the wave of environmental, health, and consumer protection legislation that had just swept through Congress, latched onto an idea that had begun to kick around among conservative economists at the University of Virginia, the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. Before government is allowed to intervene in the market with regulation, they argued, it should be made to show that the regulation can pass a cost-benefit test.  This idea began to show up in industry briefs challenging EPA’s first efforts at environmental regulation and in white papers from right-wing think tanks.  Its pedigree in neoliberal economic theory lent an air of academic legitimacy to the idea and was a perfect fit with the Right’s larger political strategy of selling the American public on laissez-faire economics.

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Medicare for All: How to Reduce Inequality in the Long-Term Care Market

Medicare for All: How to Reduce Inequality in the Long-Term Care Market

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Ruqaiijah Yearby – 

Medicare for All has the potential to address gaps in access to quality long-term care services for the elderly by mitigating some of the inequities in the market for long-term care. It could do this by increasing reimbursement rates for long-term care, fostering competition between long-term care providers, and improving federal enforcement of non-discrimination requirements.

In the long-term care services market, the issue is not private insurance versus single payer because the government already finances most long-term care services through Medicare and Medicaid (Medicaid is the primary payer for long-term services and supports ranging from institutional care to community-based services). Instead, the issue is who will provide the care: institutions or home- and community-based providers.

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A New Sex Positivity Dichotomy

A New Sex Positivity Dichotomy

This post is part of our symposium on the political economy of sex work. Read the rest of the symposium here.

 suprihmbé a.k.a. thotscholar – 

The constant assertion that sex work was “just like any other job,” that it was experientially rewarding, richly enumerating, or spiritually significant, or that sex workers “weren’t all homeless junkies working the streets” naturally alienated those who hated their work, struggled to make ends meet, used drugs, or were homeless. A dominating narrative of empowerment also contributes to a growing stigma against sex workers whose experience isn’t strictly empowering.

— From the Introduction to $PREAD: The Best of the Magazine That Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution

I was asked to address whether and how feminist and queer movements at times create a false distinction between the “agency/empowerment” of sex work and the “oppression/coercion” of sex trafficking. I am a poor Black proheaux womanist creative and erotic laborer. These locations and more are important in my analysis, so I’ll begin my answer with my own story.

I started stripping at eighteen. I knew I was going to strip long before I did it. I had become enamored with Black feminist “hoe is life” empowerment rhetoric just before college. I skipped a grade and landed at a college in southern Indiana at age 17, a vocal major at the time. “Hoe is life” is the Black woman’s answer to the slut-chic culture that swept mainstream hegemonic feminism during the second and/or third wave— our pro-hoe, full of wanna-be (or actual) sugar babies and newly minted financial dommes, and “marry up” (into wealth and usually out of blackness) feminists. As a bisexual woman who had been exploring her sexuality throughout childhood, with girls first and boys later, I was intrigued by this idea that I felt fit my omnisexual proclivities. I was eager to dabble in promiscuity and discover erotic pleasure, and my entrance into the idea of erotic labor was part of that.

The other part: money. The first time I dipped my toes into erotic labor, it was for pocket money. Young men asked and offered. They were in my age group, so I didn’t feel exploited, and I wasn’t. I was in college, and for many young Black women, college is where we find ourselves. The need seems urgent — many of us grew up in church or similarly constrained by our families. Black and brown women of certain cultures are considered naturally promiscuous in the wider dominant white culture. The way we dress, how quickly we develop, all of it is scrutinized. I was called everything from a dyke to a whore growing up as adults rushed to categorize my known experiences: too (physically) close to this or that girl, too flirtatious with such and such boy, the way I licked an ice cream. Everything I did seemed to drip with eroticism, even when I wasn’t aware. I thought, there must be power there.

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Sex, Markets, and Political Economy

Sex, Markets, and Political Economy

This post is part of our symposium on the political economy of sex work. Read the rest of the symposium here.

Aziza Ahmed and Jason Jackson

Movements to decriminalize sex work in the United States have gained momentum in recent years.  In New York, the Decrim NY movement has advanced a bill that would decriminalize the purchase and sale of sex.  The debate has been intense. Proponents of decriminalization, including sex workers and their allies, argue that criminal laws keep those who choose to sell sex poor, homeless, and struggling for survival.  Many opponents of decriminalization argue that sex work leads to the commodification of the human body and thus is immoral. Some feminists believe that men who purchase sex should be prosecuted for engaging in the exploitation of women and girls.

Among the various perspectives utilized to understand and advocate for or against sex work, a political economy approach directs attention to the fundamentally political and moralized nature of markets. Markets are not abstract spaces for economic transactions but rather politically contested terrains of societal struggle where competing actors wield technical legal tools and moralized beliefs in attempts to shape structures of societal governance. A political economy of sex work might thus ask questions such as: how are the moral categories that justify market regulations distribute resources and govern populations created? How do legal rules shift the distribution of power and control between actors engaged in sex market transactions? And crucially, which societal actors win and lose when sex work is delegitimized and criminalized?

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Sex Work and Immigration: When Criminalization Is Disguised as Protection

Sex Work and Immigration: When Criminalization Is Disguised as Protection

This post is part of our symposium on the political economy of sex work. Read the rest of the symposium here.

Gilda Merlot

I am an undocumented immigrant from Honduras. I crossed the Guatemalan, Mexican, and U.S. borders when I was 5 years old. I’m currently a sex worker and a 25-year-old DACA recipient. Like most sex workers, I want decriminalization, or the elimination of all criminal penalties for sex work. The criminal legal system – and the vice divisions of police that carry out prostitution stings – will not solve the issues of poverty, housing, medical care, educational accessibility, and drug use, which are the actual issues affecting sex workers. The reasoning behind any kind of criminalization is to eliminate, destroy, or “end demand” for something through the deterrence/threat of state violence, prison, and death.

Sex workers are criminalized under various models – even if the state criminalizes just the acts of buying sex or managing or employing sex workers, a framework which is often called “the Nordic Model.” The Nordic Model is criminalization of sex workers by another name. To see how this works, we can look to another law that criminalized hiring a certain group of people under the guise of “protection” against exploitation: the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The Nordic Model criminalizes sex workers in the same way that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) criminalized undocumented workers.

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Medicare for All: A Leap into the Known?

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Nathan Cortez – Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AM

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was the most significant health legislation since Congress created Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, breaking a half-century of health policy incrementalism. But thanks to the Senate, the final bill failed to include a “public option.” And thanks to the Supreme Court, many states rejected Medicaid expansion. Ultimately, the ACA preserved private insurance as the main source of coverage, rendering the act much more incremental than originally envisioned.

Almost a decade later, we are seeing more ambitious reform ideas like “Medicare for All” which until very recently was a political nonstarter. My contribution to this symposium argues not only that some version of Medicare for All is necessary, but also that it may not be as radical as critics claim.

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Medicare for All and Medicare for America: What Are We Fighting Over? Part II

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here. You can view Part I of this article here.

Christina S. Ho – 

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AM

In yesterday’s post, I evaluated Medicare for All and considered some of the implications of a single-payer system. Today’s post will assess the Medicare for America bill, which, by contrast, is a public option.  This label may not appear obvious, and is even disputed by some, since the bill sunsets the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges and individual private health insurance.  Instead, it enrolls the majority of Americans in a public Medicare plan with benefits close to what Medicare for All would offer.

While the Medicare for America bill is arranged with great promise and enormous care, its real significance lies not in this snapshot description but in the distributional and politico-historical dynamics that its opt-out structure unleashes over time.

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Medicare for All and Medicare for America: What Are We Fighting Over? Part I

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Christina S. Ho – 

The early contours of the health care debate have featured a loose divide between those favoring so-called “single-payer Medicare for All,” and those who propose some kind of “public option.”

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AMTo drill down to what’s really at stake, I looked at the leading and most detailed proposals representing these two basic outlooks.  To understand “single-payer Medicare for All,” I read the “Medicare for All Act of 2019,” H.R. 1384 introduced by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell, which largely tracks the Senate counterpart introduced by Bernie Sanders.  I also looked at the most ambitious and developed “public option” proposal, the “Medicare for America Act of 2019,” H.R. 2452, sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Jan Schakowsky and drawn in part from the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) Medicare Extra for All plan.

I argue that there may not be as much of a difference between the two plans as the Presidential primary camps will be motivated to portray, and I want to lay out why – with the caveat that at this stage of the debate, no one’s views should be immune from revision, least of all mine.

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Medicare for All as a Democratic Movement

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Allison K. Hoffman – 

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AM

Medicare for All (MFA) has become the symbol of a larger, brewing movement that is attempting to bring major change to how we pay for and regulate health care in the United States. Even if MFA never becomes law, the conversation around it is building popular support for significant reforms and is creating fissures in the decades-old market-based approach to health care financing and regulation—and in the justification that this approach promotes choice.

Many Americans are well aware that our current health care system is failing them, as nearly 27.4 million people (14 percent of adults) remain uninsured, even after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and even those with insurance are struggling to pay for the care they need. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita on health care than the average OECD nation and has worse outcomes on critical measures, like life expectancy and infant mortality.

Over the past three decades, the primary policy solution to the mismatch between high spending and poor outcomes has been to turn to consumerism and market competition for a fix. The underlying theory is that if people have options—options for health plans, hospitals, prescription drugs, providers, and so on—they will choose the higher-value options. In turn, competitors will in theory produce higher-value options to win more customers.

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Piercing the Monetary Veil

Piercing the Monetary Veil

NB: This post is part of the “Piercing the Monetary Veil” symposium. Other contributions can be found here.

Luke Herrine —

This blog has already hosted several examples of re-thinkings of the nature of money and its relationship to law and power, most recently in a symposium on LPE Contributor Mehrsa Baradaran’s book on money and Black capitalism. This may seem like a niche project that those without an interest in finance can afford to ignore or leave to others. But that would be to ignore a fundamental principle: cash rules everything around us. Especially in capitalist societies, power is channeled through money and vice versa.

And justifications of power rely on mystification about money. If anything can be called the core of the neoliberal project it is the proposition that cash should rule us. Hayek’s foundational argument, after all, is that allocation via the price mechanism is the essence self governance. Making all resources and activities interchangeable with money enables each person to pursue her own version of the good life in a way that interferes with others’ only as much as they consent to while simultaneously directing resources towards their most valuable use (see here for instance). Payment of money is how we each individually express how much we value different resources and how much of others’ interference we are willing to bear. Price is the aggregation of those individual valuations. Money thus serves as the common currency that enables us to commensurate our processes of valuation without deliberating and without forcing anything on anybody else.

But that’s not how money works. Treating money as a neutral arbiter of values that the legal system can simply take for granted is a classic example of “transcendental nonsense“. As with any form of such nonsense, explaining why requires a careful analysis of how law structures money, tracing who has the power to shape that law, and exploring the dialectic relationship between the law, money, and the markets they coordinate. A small but growing group of scholars has been undertaking this task. Many of these scholars have begun to converge in a new international network called the Law and Money Initiative. An overlapping group will also be launching a new site at just-money.org.

Over the next two weeks, we will host a symposium on how close attention to the role of money in law and political economy changes one’s analysis of a whole range of areas of society, with a particular focus on how the legal infrastructure of money shapes areas of non-financial law. The idea is to open up conversations about how power shapes law to conversations about how money and law shape each other, and vice versa.

Join us!

Luke Herrine is a PhD Student at Yale Law School.