Comment of the day: Brown loses an independent’s vote

Bumped, for Dad. - promoted by Bob_Neer

From CentralMassDad, BMG’s resident barometer of all things moderate.  Wherein he explains (a) what was really at stake in the LTV Steel/Coal Act business, and (b) why Scott Brown lost his vote over it.

Bankruptcy is built to handle “old” claims. The asbestos case we already talked about “old” that aren’t known at the time: people who were exposed but have not yet become sick.

LTV was a little different. The Coal Act was a special fund to pay health benefits to retired mine workers, won by the workers through a series of difficult strikes. The problem was that there were a great many workers, and the healthcare got expensive. The original plan was that companies handle their own ex-employees, and the government would handle the former employees of defunct companies.

In the 80s, a lot of mining and steel companies crashed. A series of companies went bankrupt; some tried to reorganize, which meant that there would continue to be an operating steel company. LTV was one that tried to reorganize.

In 1992, the government tried to address the huge health benefit shortfall by making all operating companies liable for a share of the total bill, even though the total included former employees of other companies. LTV said, wait, we dealt with these old claims for health benefits in the bankruptcy, through which it made some payments, but less than it owed. This was the position taken, I would imagine, by EW in the cert petition.

The cert petition was an appeal from an order that said “nope, this isn’t an old claim, but a new one– that must be paid in full by the reorganized company.” The UMW supported this decision because they wanted as much as possible paid into the fund.

The imposition of old claims against the reorganized company was a factor in the failure of the reorganized company, which shut down all plants and folded completely in 2000.

In the end, the health benefit fund was not paid in full, will not ever be paid in full, and there are 10 to 20 thousand fewer people working in the steel industry.

In my view, that is not a very good outcome, which is why her position was the correct one, even though not successful.

The difficult policy question is how to deal with the pension and benefit obligations of a formerly profitable industry with hundreds of thousands of employees once that industry ceases to exist.

The manner in which Brown, personally, refers to this in today’s paper is grossly misleading. At this point he has driven me completely off the fence–from where I was leaning Brown less than a week ago– to the other side.

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14 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. How the f$#@ is this guy so well-informed about so many complex issues? And then he can turn around an sythesize it nicely so ignorants like me can clearly understand. Doesn’t he have a day job?

  2. Thank you CMD

    and welcome aboard. This is just the type of issue that someone like Brown relishes: it’s complicated, multilayered, and “legalistic.” It’s perfect for distortion to dupe voters into thinking it is underhanded and sneaky. And it doesn’t require that Brown understand it to make it a smear.
    Well stated.

    • cf.: "Obamacare"

      The big complicated issue that required much compromise and difficult choices in the face of difficult realities. It was the issue upon which practically everyone in the MA State House, including Sen. Brown, held hands and sang kum-ba-yah.

      And when the national GOP decided to demagogue the issue instead, Sen. Brown went along, and rode the wave to victory.

  3. Not surprising

    Brown should get unenrolleds 2:1, so he’s not going to get all of them.

    • Maybe he should,

      but he won’t.

    • Does winning unenrolleds 2:1 win him the election?

      Obviously, turnout of (R), (D), and (U) will be different, but…

      2012 data from Secretary Galvin’s .gov site:
      D: 35.56%
      R: 11.29%
      U: 52.60%

      If we assume equal turnout among all three parties (unlikely) and assume that folks who aren’t D or R or U vote for a third candidate (~.56%), and if unenrolled break 2:1 for Brown…

      D = 35.56% + (1/3)*52.60% = 53.09%
      R = 11.29% + (2/3)*52.60% = 46.36%

      Warren wins by 7 points. Now, we don’t expect that the turnout of unenrolled will match that of D or R, so that seems like an overestimate of Brown’s numbers. Sure, maybe the 11.29% GOP turn out at a vastly higher rate than the 35.56% D, but that won’t make up the gap.

      Now, what if Brown wins unenrolled by 3:1 (75% of unenrolled)?

      D = 35.56% + (1/4)*52.60% = 48.71%
      R = 11.29% + (3/4)*52.60% = 50.74%

      Can Brown get 75% of unenrolled voters, given that young people are (a) substantially more likely to be unenrolled than older voters, and (b) tend to skew liberal? It seems unlikely to me. In fact, if Brown is to win, he needs Democrats to stay home. Some will because the rolls exaggerate Democratic voters (young people who register in college but move out of state upon graduation, for example), but I just don’t see how it will be enough. What’s Brown’s plan to gobble up Us and some Ds while simultaneously keeping other Ds home?

      • And that doesn't calculate

        the Obama effect on the ticket. More folks will go for Brown than Romney, but with such a low R number, is it likely that U’s will go republican by 3:1?
        Doubt it.

      • Small kink in your analysis

        You’re assuming that Brown will get 100% of Rs and Warren will get 100% of Ds. Warren will likely get a negligible amount of Republican votes, but if we look at the 2010 exit polls, Deval Patrick ‘only’ got 86% of the Democratic vote. Can Warren do better than that given this is a presidential year and the Senate election may be nationalized?

        • PPP poll that showed Warren up 2

          had her with support of 81% of Democrats, 5% of Republicans and 35% of independents/others.

        • Lots of kinks in the analysis

          The point is merely that a simplistic “Brown should get unenrolleds 2:1, so he’s not going to get all of them” doesn’t seem to win him the election either.

          My sense is assuming the same rate of turnout for GOP, Dem, and Unenr is the biggest kink. I couldn’t find that data easily on the Sec’s website.

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