Wednesday Edition


1. Do Illegals Actually Boost “Dem Voting Power”?

Bubba’s Two Cents: The collapse in trust in traditional news outlets (as well as the growing hostility between the two sides) has led to a tit-for-tat environment where it feels like nobody is the adult in the room. Unfortunately, in the situation we’re in, being loud is often more important than being factual.

X owner Elon Musk made headlines last week for pushing a Republican narrative that illegal immigration “boosts Dem voting power,” since the Census population count includes undocumented immigrants. (Fox Business)

Musk is right that the congressional apportionment process determines the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives based on total population, but it’s not clear Democrats are the ones benefitting from including illegal immigrants in the count.

According to an analysis of Current Population Survey data by the Cato Institute, it’s actually the GOP who’s coming out on top. That’s because 62% of the three-million increase in total immigrant population from March 2019 to March 2023 happened in red states.

Chart: Cato Institute

David Bier, associate director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute: “What about noncitizens who might be excluded by a US citizen‐​only census? For them, an overwhelming 95 percent of the increase in the noncitizen population has been in GOP states from March 2019 to March 2023. Eliminating the growth in the noncitizen population from 2019 to 2023 would have cost Republican states 1.2 million people, or about two seats in Congress (the average congressional district has 760,367 people).”

2. Trump Outrage Is Played Out

Bubba’s Two Cents: Even if Donald Trump is all the things Democrats and critics say he is, it sure looks like the rest of the country is tired of hearing about it. Since 2016, the news has basically been wall-to-wall Trump coverage, and most of it has been negative (a 2016 study found 91% of nightly newscasts about Trump were negative). It’s not surprising people have gone numb.

On a recent Commentary Magazine podcast, columnist Matt Continetti discussed the implications of the uproar over Trump’s “bloodbath” remarks. (Commentary)

Continetti: "I think they have no other option, the Democrats, but to go to 'democracy, extremist, extremist.' By the way, it has worked in the past. And for me, the real story of the 2024 cycle is it doesn't seem to be working this time. It doesn't seem to be working this time. And why is that?”

The fact that Trump’s been consistently leading President Biden in the polls implies Democrats’ strategy to paint him as a threat to democracy isn’t resonating beyond his most loyal supporters.

But there are other signs, too:

  • A Reuters-Ipsos poll found many black Biden supporters and Americans without college degrees are less convinced that Trump poses a threat to democracy.

  • A recent Quinnipiac University poll found younger people (an important part of Biden’s coalition) are less concerned about American democracy.

  • Americans are generally unhappy with how democracy is working, which suggests they may be more indifferent to arguments about it being under threat.

3. The Medicare Advantage Grift

Bubba’s Two Cents: There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, but you’re not going to find much of it in our sprawling government system. The problem with complex rules and endless red tape isn’t just that they makes things inefficient, they can also make it harder to find out when people are gaming the system. And that seems to be happening quite often these days.

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are gouging taxpayers with hefty overcharges. (Kevin Drum)

There are two types of Medicare plans: Traditional fee-for-service (FFS) plans, and MA plans, where doctors get paid a fixed annual amount for each patient. MA plans are supposed to be cheaper.

New data from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reveals the government is shelling out an extra $83 billion this year for identical treatment under MA plans versus traditional FFS plans. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, a single-payer health insurance advocacy organization, the problem is even worse than that. A report from the group last year found MA plans overcharge taxpayers by as much as $140 billion a year.

Political blogger Kevin Drum explains how it’s happening: “Well, the annual payment for each patient is risk-adjusted: the sicker the patient, the bigger the payment. So MA plans benefit by making their patients look sicker than they really are. They do this by coding lots of ailments, even those that don't require treatment. More codes means the appearance of more sickness, which in turn means a higher risk-adjusted payment.”

More cause for concern: Federal spending on health care programs is already growing faster than U.S. GDP. Meanwhile, Medicare Advantage spending is projected to double over 20 years.

4. The Plastic Recycling Myth

Bubba’s Two Cents: Environmentalism is falling prey to trendy movements and fads that lack real impact, but merely serve as bandwagons for people to join.

A recent report from the Center for Climate Integrity claims the plastic industry has long harbored doubts about the effectiveness of recycling, despite publicly promoting it as a solution. (PBS NewsHour)

The U.S. churns out tens of millions of tons of plastic waste annually, but only 5-6% of it gets recycled on average.

Center for Climate Change Integrity researchers: “Despite their long-standing knowledge that recycling plastic is neither technically nor economically viable, petrochemical companies—independently and through their industry trade associations and front groups—have engaged in fraudulent marketing and public education campaigns designed to mislead the public about the viability of plastic recycling as a solution to plastic waste. These efforts have effectively protected and expanded plastic markets, while stalling legislative or regulatory action that would meaningfully address plastic waste and pollution. Fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies have used the false promise of plastic recycling to exponentially increase virgin plastic production over the last six decades, creating and perpetuating the global plastic waste crisis and imposing significant costs on communities that are left to pay for the consequences.”

A Greenpeace report from 2022 came to similar conclusions about the effectiveness of plastic recycling.

5. Two Headlines From NYT Just For Fun

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