The caricature of Ryan and people like him is that… they talk big about dignity while ignoring the difficulty of getting essentials like food and health care. Well, it’s not a caricature: Ryan says never mind having enough to eat, it’s about spirituality:
The left is making a big mistake…. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. People don’t just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity, they want a life of self determination…
Um, yes, but how dignified can you be on an empty stomach? How much self-determination do you have? And who is supposed to value dignity over having enough to eat? Children…. Affluent politicians have no business lecturing people having trouble buying food or having trouble paying for health care about dignity, is just stunning. READ THE WHOLE THING
January 2, 2008: Did Bob Reich Assassinate Tony Judt's Cat?: I was surprised to read:
'Supercapitalism': An Exchange: Tony Judt: I am surprised that Robert Reich resents my "use" of his book for the expression of some general thoughts on its topic. Taken for itself, after all, Supercapitalism would have merited at best a short notice. However, Reich's letter is welcome all the same. It helpfully reasserts the book's argument; and by its resort to invective—"jeremiad," "screeds," "emotionally gratifying," "capitalist hobgoblins," etc.—-his letter offers an instructive insight into Reich's own thought processes... his critics (me, on this occasion) are dismissed as "denigrators" of economic growth, enemies of capitalist globalization who pave the way for nativism: in short, prole-worshipping nostalgics.... If the Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley really thinks that we can improve upon the "cacophony" that passes for public debate with talk of "citizen values" and "leaders who inspire us" and that anything else is "brainless neo-Ludditism," then he is himself a depressing illustration of the problem he purports to address.
This visual evidence of derangement surprised me, because I remembered Tony Judt's Postwar as being rather good--and his books on the post-WWII French intellectuals, Sartre and his circle, as being excellent. And I, at least, quite liked Supercapitalism. Clearly I am going to have to go back and read Judt's review of Reich...
Kevin Drum: Map of the Day: America's Cities Are the Real America | Mother Jones: "You've seen all those Election Day maps that show gigantic swaths of red, suggesting that the vast majority of real America votes conservative.
Well, for your entertainment, here's the flip side. David Atkins passes along the map below, which shows economic activity in the United States. The 25 or so largest urban centers in America account for half of all economic activity.
Not bad for a bunch of pinko elitists, is it?
Thomas Frank: Paul Krugman won’t save us: “When President Obama declared in December that gross inequality is the ‘defining challenge of our time’, he was right, and resoundingly so…. However, he quickly backed away… at the urging of pollsters and various Democratic grandees. I can understand the Democrats’ fears… a throwback to an incomprehensible time…. Unfortunately, they really have no choice. Watching… the bankers steered us into disaster in 2008 and then… harvested the fruits of our labored recovery–these spectacles have forced the nation to rediscover social class…
My thought here is to ask the Tonto question: “Who is this ‘us’, kemosabe?” The nation–with the exception of the top 1%, who understand social class very well–has not rediscovered social class. If the nation had rediscovered social class, “inequality” would poll better and “upward mobility” would poll worse–would be seen as the mess of overdone pottage that it is. I think we would have a healthier politics if the 99% had rediscovered social class. But pretending it has does not make it so. There is a big task of education and analysis ahead. And trashing Paul Krugman is a rather odd exercise to engage in, given that Paul Krugman has been raising the hue-and-cry about the disastrous consequences of rising inequality for America since Thomas Frank was in diapers. READ MORE
The New York Times > Washington > Social Security, Growth and Stock Returns: In barnstorming the country over Social Security, administration officials predict that American economic growth will slow to an anemic rate of 1.9 percent as baby boomers reach retirement. Yet as they extol the rewards of letting people invest some of their payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts, President Bush and his allies assume that stock returns will be almost as high as ever, about 6.5 percent a year after inflation.
George Gordon, Lord Byron: Debate on the 1812 Frame Breaking Act: "My Lords...
The subject now submitted to your Lordships, for the first time, though new to the House, is, by no means, new to the country. I believe it had occupied the serious thoughts of all descriptions of persons long before its introduction to the notice of that Legislature whose interference alone could be of real service. As a person in some degree connected with the suffering county, though a stranger, not only to this House in general, but to almost every individual whose attention I presume to solicit, I must claim some portion of your Lordships' indulgence, whilst I offer a few observations on a question in which I confess myself deeply interested.
Jon Perr: Georgia Republicans are Killing Hospitals--and People: "By now, millions of Americans--most of them in red states-- are growing familiar with the 'coverage gap'.
Thanks to their rejection of the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid in states they control, GOP leaders are leaving at least five million people in an insurance "dead zone," earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to obtain federal subsidies to purchase coverage... with as many as 17,000 people forecast to needlessly die each year for lack of health insurance. But GOP obstruction won't just kill people in places like Texas, Mississippi and many more. As the case of Georgia shows--where over 600,000 residents will fall into the coverage gap and as many as 1,175 will die this year--Republican policy is killing hospitals, too.... A fourth rural hospital in Georgia is shutting its doors due to a lack of patients who can pay for their medical expenses:
Over at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth: Carter Price: When Measuring Mobility, Location Still Matters: "When the Equality of Opportunity Project released new data on mobility at the end of January the initial headlines focused on the authors’ overarching finding that mobility at the national level had basically stayed the same while inequality had risen over the past half century.
Most... coverage... missed the nuances.... So we decided to... pull those nuances out... [with] five maps that examine changes in local and regional mobility measured by income mobility, college mobility, and a composite mobility measure.... Intergenerational mobility over this period of time in the United States has changed substantially by region.... By several measures... the South and West experienced the highest gains... much of New England, the Rust Belt and upper Midwest saw declines in mobility. But... the South has remained among the lowest... while most of the West started with fairly high mobility and has generally gotten better. READ MORE
C. Northcote Parkinson was the first to identify the phenomenon of "injelitance"--the jealousy that the less-than-competent feel for the capable.
Here we have a classic case from the anthropologists at Savage Mind, who are both positively green with envy at Jared Diamond's ability to make interesting arguments in a striking and comprehensible way, and also remarkably incompetent at critique.
Over at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth: I Am Sorry. What Was Tim Geithner Looking at in January 2008?: Saturday Focus: February 22, 2014: "Steven Perlberg:
Tim Geithner January 2008 FOMC Minutes: “The World Is Still Looking Pretty Good”: “In January 2008–right as the U.S. economy entered a recession–the former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman (and later Treasury Secretary) was still very optimistic….
You know, we have the implausible kind of Goldilocks view of the world, which is it’s going to be a little slower, taking some of the edge off inflation risk, without being so slow that it’s going to amplify downside risks to growth in the United States. That may be too optimistic, but the world still is looking pretty good. Central banks in a lot of places are starting to soften their link to the dollar so that they can get more freedom to direct monetary policy to respond to inflation pressure. That’s a good thing. U.S. external imbalances are adjusting at a pace well ahead of expectations. That’s all good, I think. As many people pointed out, the fact that we don’t have a lot of imbalances outside of housing coming into this slowdown is helpful. There’s a little sign of incipient optimism on the productivity outlook or maybe a little less pessimism that we’re in a much slower structural productivity growth outlook than before. The market is building an expectation for housing prices that is very, very steep. That could be a source of darkness or strength, but some people are starting to call the bottom ahead, and that’s the first time. It has been a long time since we’ve seen any sense that maybe the turn is ahead. It seems unlikely, but maybe they’re right. In the financial markets, I think it is true that there is some sign that the process of repair is starting. Having said that, though, I think it is quite dark still out there…. Like everyone else, we have revised down our growth forecast. We expect very little growth, if any, in the first half of the year before policy starts to bring growth back up to potential....
What was he looking at in January 2008 to say that? READ MORE
This has always struck me as a very bad translation of what Marx is trying to say--that in the German it is infinitely more powerful and effective than what we have here.
Does anybody know of--has anybody made--a better translation?
This sphere that we are deserting, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of labour-power, are constrained only by their own free will. They contract as free agents, and the agreement they come to, is but the form in which they give legal expression to their common will. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings them together and puts them in relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interests of each. Each looks to himself only, and no one troubles himself about the rest, and just because they do so, do they all, in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an all-shrewd providence, work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal and in the interest of all.
On leaving this sphere of simple circulation or of exchange of commodities, which furnishes the “Free-trader Vulgaris” with his views and ideas, and with the standard by which he judges a society based on capital and wages, we think we can perceive a change in the physiognomy of our dramatis personae. He, who before was the money-owner, now strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour-power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but--a hiding.
Over at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth: How Key Was the Seventeenth-Eighteenth Century Commercial Revolution to the Eighteenth-Nineteenth Century Constitutional-Government Revolution?:
I have been thinking about Mauricio Drelichman and Hans-Joachim Voth’s Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt, Taxes, and Default in the Age of Philip II. And I just finished ranting about all this over breakfast at Rick and Ann’s to the patient, good-humored, and extremely intelligent Joachim Voth.
So it is only fair that I inflict on the rest of the world what I inflicted on him:
Alicublog: New Realities: "Remember when conservatives considered Costco as American as cheeseburgers and credit default swaps?...
The basic idea was [that] large stores selling large lots at large discounts... excited the Common Man and that was what conservatism was all about. (Rick Santorum tried to split the difference in his last Witchfinder General campaign by calling his chosen people "Sam's Club and Costco folks.")... NROniks like Jennifer Graham sneered at a feminist who didn't want to have kids and wind up shopping at Costco.... Larry Kudlow protested John Kerry's NAFTA stance as "trade protectionism" that "undermines the living standards of the near 135 million Americans who shop at Wal-Mart, Kmart, Costco, Target, Home Depot, and Best Buy." This schtick persisted into the early Obama era... added Costco to the honor roll of big companies "in Obama’s crosshairs" for high socialist taxation.... Mitt and Ann Romney went shopping at Costco and gushed about all the stuff they'd bought and would keep in a shed till the election was over and they could quietly get rid of it.
But this week, National Review's Alec Torres headlines,
Costco: The Arugula of Chain Stores
Arugula--the most dreaded of conservative curse-words!
Washington Center for Equitable Growth: Afternoon Must-Read: CBO: Frequently Asked Questions About CBO’s Estimates of the Labor Market Effects of the Affordable Care Act:
Q: Will 2.5 Million People Lose Their Jobs in 2024 Because of the ACA?
We would not describe our estimates in that way. We wrote in the report: “CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.”…
Because the longer-term reduction in work is expected to come almost entirely from a decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply in response to the changes in their incentives, we do not think it is accurate to say that the reduction stems from people “losing” their jobs.
Dugald Stewart: Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith:
Adam Smith, author of the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, was the son of Adam Smith, comptroller of the customs at Kirkaldy, and of Margaret Douglas, daughter of Mr Douglas of Strathenry. He was the only child of the marriage, and was born at Kirkaldy on the 5th of June 1723, a few months after the death of his father. His constitution during infancy was infirm and sickly... but it produced no unfavourable effects on his temper or his dispositions.... Among these companions of his earliest years, Mr Smith soon attracted notice, by his passion for books, and by the extraordinary powers of his memory. The weakness of his bodily constitution prevented him from partaking in their more active amusements; but he was much beloved by them on account of his temper, which, though warm, was to an uncommon degree friendly and generous. Even then he was remarkable for those habits which remained with him through life, of speaking to himself when alone, and of absence in company. From the grammar–school of Kirkaldy, he was sent, in 1737, to the university of Glasgow, where he remained till 1740, when he went to Baliol college, Oxford, as an exhibitioner on Snell’s foundation.
Dr Maclaine of the Hague, who was a fellow–student of Mr Smith’s at Glasgow, told me some years ago, that his favourite pursuits while at that university were mathematics and natural philosophy....
Chris Cilizza is one of the best reporters the Washington Post has now that the Wonkblog crew is heading off to Vox Media. Chris Cilizza also sees nothing odd or ironic in writing:
Chris Cilizza: Why the CBO report is (still) bad news for Democrats: My job is to assess not the rightness of each argument, but to deal in the real world of campaign politics in which perception often (if not always) trumps reality…
Note the assumptions here:
And at this point, all you can do is quote extensively from Plato’s Republic, the passage on the Allegory of the Cave, and urge Jeff Bezos to immediately change the culture of the Washington Post completely so that it can at least try to step up its game...
Political documentaries lionize candidates: It worked for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Barack Obama | Memo explains why the U.S. can kill its own citizens without trial | Koch seizes on “Obamacare Kills Jobs” message | The CBOghazi of Chris Cilizza and Many Others: Journalists have no idea "what will matter" in an election |
The University of Michigan's Chris House appears to suffer from the searching-for-false-balance disease.
It's not a big deal.
But it is a neat, clean, and comprehensible example of the damage done by the opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differ disease that Chris House and many others have: the net effect is to excuse the bad faith, ideological partisanship, and failure to do their homework on the part of those working to degrade the quality of our public sphere--and to aid in the drip-drip-drip eroding-away at the influence of those working hard to improve it. Not good. Not good...
Chris House: The Wisdom of Laureates: "Ed Prescott... [has the] most people talking...
is quoted as saying:
It is an established scientific fact that monetary policy has had virtually no effect on output and employment in the U.S. since the formation of the Fed....
Prescott is wrong. It is NOT an established fact the monetary policy has no effect on economic activity. The balance of the evidence suggests the opposite. Monetary policy seems to have clear measurable effects on the economy....
Should we grant Ed Prescott, or Paul Krugman, or Robert Lucas, or Peter Diamond much more credence than other smart observers?... Nobel Prize winners have typically devoted their entire careers to a rather narrow study of a particular area.... They are also often radical thinkers.... Academics are rewarded... for having path-breaking ideas.... An academic who has one or two... might well be viewed as... worthy of a Nobel, even if most of their ideas are crazy.... The price we pay for having unusual insights might be that we often have unorthodox approaches.... Prescott didn’t win the Nobel Prize for having a balanced assessment.... This isn’t limited to Prescott. Even Paul Krugman has been known to say some rather nutty things at times.
The biggest bit that is idiocy is the claim that Nobel Prize winners in general are prone to say "rather nutty things" because saying such is closely linked to what makes them Nobel Prize-caliber. Prescott says nutty things--very nutty things, hugely nutty things, completely nutty things--about what is supposed to be the core area of his expert knowledge on a regular basis. But Krugman? Diamond? Lucas might come within two orders of magnitude of Prescott, but not one (or, if every one, only very rarely). And I see whatever wrong things Krugman and Diamond says as at least three orders of magnitude less than Prescott on the nuttiness scale.
So I (and others) asked Chris House where his ideas were coming from: what evidence made him generalize from Prescott; to the quartet of Prescott, Lucas, Krugman, and Diamond; and then to the quartet of Nobel Prize winners in general?
The conversation did not go terribly well. Samples:
President Googly: Google Bus Protests:
In the past month, the situation with the tech buses has gone from mildly annoying to slightly worrisome to bone-chilling. I've heard every side of this argument six different ways by now and I'm really quite hopeless that the root causes can ever adequately be addressed. Furthermore, I've never seen the DFH contingent so thoroughly stink up an issue (i.e., the housing shortage not the damn bus stops) that genuinely calls for a vigorous progressive response.
The most interesting part to me is how unhinged the whole debate is becoming and the weird interaction between a genuine public policy dilemma and a semi-professional Left that's piling on with all kinds of non-answers. This is probably old hat for Bay Area natives, but I'm a neoliberal from back East and I'm not accustomed to finding myself on the "conservative" side of an issue. Also, if you click through to the details of the "protest" at a random Google employee's house in Berkeley, the details are really, really creepy and it is not at all unreasonable to fear for this guy's personal safety.
From my perspective, this bunch of protesters is important to have because they make it impossible to sustain with good faith the argument that neoconservatives have no point at all. They do have a point.
The LRB says:
You are invited to read this free book review from the London Review of Books. Register for free and enjoy 24 hours of access to the entire LRB archive of over 12,500 essays and reviews.
In the London Review of Books:
Ferdinand Mount: reviews ‘Memoirs of Walter Bagehot’ by Frank Prochaska · LRB 6 February 2014: "There used to be a room in the National Portrait Gallery devoted to portraits of late Victorian sages by G.F. Watts. Inspissated in that painter’s incurably muddy tones, they peered out from behind straggly beards and whiskers with sad, rheumy eyes – Matthew Arnold, Carlyle, Swinburne, William Morris, Leslie Stephen, Tennyson – giving off a steamy despair.
They had heard the melancholy long withdrawing roar of faith, and they did not like the sound of it. Today relegated to a wall in a side room, these literary men seem to take second billing to the wall where the giants of Victorian science are gathered – Darwin, Huxley and Lyall, each whiskered too but each with an unmistakable half-smile playing about his lips. There’s not much doubt which is the winning side.
So I was reading:
Jagadeesh Gokhale, Ph.D., and Angela C. Erickson: The Effect of Federal Health Care ‘Reform’ on Kansas General Fund Medicaid Expenditures
and I ran across this graph:
and the paper's accompanying conclusion:
By 2023, 21 percent of the Kansas population is projected to be on Medicaid under the PPACA—up from 13 percent currently. Kansas Medicaid expenditures are projected to grow by an additional $4.7 billion (29 percent) beyond the increase projected without PPACA.... With ongoing court and congressional challenges, the final chapter of the PPACA law and state Medicaid spending has yet to be written. However, since a federal court judgment has declared PPACA unconstitutional, Kansas lawmakers should vigorously oppose the implementation of PPACA’s health exchanges and other administrative and operational infrastructure...
And then there is, by Gokhale alone, a 2013 update on the Cato Institute's website:
and the paper's updated conclusion:
Kansas’ lawmakers face a crucial decision about whether to expand Medicaid according to the dictates of the ACA. That decision would expand the program and possibly improve health outcomes for low income households. However, that benefit must be weighted against the lost opportunities to spend on other budget programs that are also valuable.... The incremental 10-year cost to the Kansas general fund from expanding Medicaid of $625 million would arise “at the margin”.... It may be better to spend the $625 million on other Kansas budget items...
But there is one number that I cannot find on either graph or in either version of the policy brief:
That $8 billion is the amount of federal dollars the U.S. government will commit to match 100% of extra costs for the first three years and 90% for the next seven if Kansas expands the Medicaid program as ObamaCare envisions. And that is money that will not flow to Kansas if Medicaid is not expanded by Kansas.
The argument that Kansas has better things to spend its $625 million on over the next decade than on expanding Medicaid rings a little hollow when you reflect that cutting $625 million over the next decade from ACA-projected levels reduces what Kansas can buy by not $625 million but rather $8.625 billion. Kansas would have to get 14 times as much state welfare out of a dollar spent elsewhere than out of a dollar spent on its Medicaid program for that argument to apply.
But, I suppose the honchos of the Cato Institute and of the Kansas Policy Institute think, if you don't mention and certainly don't stress the $8 billion number, maybe Kansas's Republican state legislators won't understand what they are doing in rejecting Medicaid expansion.
Here's the context of all mentions of this $8 billion over the next decade--all mentions of the word "match" in the 2013 version of the policy brief:
That's it. No $8 billion number anywhere I can find.
I could go on. I could point out that Gokhale's claims that sustaining the high match rate that produces the $8 billion number is "infeasible" are grossly overstated--and that we will see whether they are true or not in two years, when we will see whether Gokhale's claim that the "100 percent match rates specified for the first three years of the ACA's implementation" are "simply not feasible". That applies to his (12), (10), (7), (6), (3), (2), and (1). I could point out that his claim that federal Medicaid spending would not boost the Kansas economy rests on a bizarre and empty assertion that in the health care sector and the health care sector alone supply curves do not slope upward. That applies to his (11), (10), and (4). I could point out that his claim that federal lawmakers recognize that "such generous matching of new state Medicaid spending on account of Medicaid expansion is, in reality, infeasible" is simply a lie--a misrepresentation of the meaning of proposals and counterproposals in failed 2011 Supercommittee negotiations. That takes care of his (12), (10), and (6).
Now the federal government does have the power to break its deals with states: no congress can fully bind any future congress. But only in Cato Institute-land does the fact that circumstances may change and the optimal level of Medicaid funding for a state may fall in the future carry the implication that the optimal level of state Medicaid funding for a state is low now.
But the thing that strikes me the most is how anxious both Cato and the KPI appear to be to direct attention away from the numbers: that by failing to commit $625 million, Kansas is losing $8.625 billion.
It's as if they fear that their verbal case would simply dry up and blow away if they were to even whisper the terms of the deal being offered...
David Lieb: Ex-Missouri GOP Senator Kit Bond Now Lobbying For Medicaid Expansion: "As a Republican senator, Kit Bond voted against... [Obamacare.] Now... Bond is pushing Republican legislators in his home state of Missouri to embrace a key provision of the law by expanding Medicaid eligibility.
Bond said Friday that... "I'm getting involved in Medicaid reform now because if our State sits on the sidelines, I'm concerned hospitals in rural and inner city Missouri won't survive."... The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry declined to say how much it is paying Bond's consulting firm.... Bond already has met with Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon about the potential to expand Medicaid eligibility. "He understands the issues very well, and we're trying to capitalize on his stature, his relationships that he has and his reputation as a one of the best statesmen that this state will ever have," Mehan said.
Fifty years from now which will play worse in historical memory: the conservative southern Democrats' massive resistance to try to civil rights in the 1950s and the 1960s or the conservative Republicans' massive resistance to their poorer fellow-citizens getting health insurance in the 2010s?
I cannot tell. I do, however, think that history will judge the second as stupider: practically everyone has somebody uninsured or at risk of rapidly becoming uninsured in their extended family, and throwing federal Medicaid and exchange subsidy dollars down the toilet does run a measurable risk--10%? 20%? 50%?--of send the red state economies as a group back into recession over the next two years.
But things aren't all going their way. Sy Mukherjee reports:
Dear campus community,
Please join us at Wheeler Auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7 pm, for a screening of "INEQUALITY FOR ALL," a film by Professor Robert Reich.
Following the screening, a discussion of the film - with Director Jacob Kornbluth and Robert Reich - will be moderated by Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy.
The event is free to the public, and tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The box office opens at 6 pm, and the event runs from 7 to 9 pm.
We're now at the point in "Obama's Katrina" when the number of uninsured people in West Virginia has been reduced by a third.— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) January 21, 2014
Are you a doctor? A specialist, perhaps? A surgeon? If you are, there's a seminar for you, taking place on January 31st in Kentucky. The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons is sponsoring a seminar in how you and your colleagues can 'Keep Obamacare out of your office'....
You can learn all about how the AAPS is fighting to stop maintenance requirements on specialty certifications, delivered by none other than Andrew Schlafly. The DC Update will be delivered by Charlie Sauer, a self-proclaimed economist and former staffer for Jeb Bush and Chuck Grassley... Tea Party challenger in KY-3, Dr. Michael MacFarlane, and Dr. Alieta Eck from NJ-12. More conference highlights will be delivered by Ayn Rand acolytes Josh Umbehr, MD, who runs Atlas MD Family Practice, and Mark Schiller, MD, who runs the Mind Therapy Clinic in the San Francisco area...
John E.: A View of Obamacare:
Way back in the '80´s, during a downturn in the Oil Patch, a Wall Street Journal reporter visited several highly-skilled Texans who suddenly found themselves without work. One, after describing the hardships of raising a family without income, confessed to finally having to accept unemployment insurance. Whereupon he burst into tears, protesting that he was no socialist, and, in so many words, vowing to make the liberals who had so humiliated him with such an indignity, pay, once he was on his feet again, and able to defend himself. That was what made me finally realize some of what we're up against.
John Brown, December 2, 1859:
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.
As I continue to try to figure out where the extraordinary animus against ObamaCare comes from not at the level of office-holder posturing but at the level of real ideology, last night pieces by the thoughtful and knowledgeable Uwe Reinhardt, the smart and hard-working Marty Lederman, and that brilliant man of unsound methods Richard Epstein collided on my computer screen, and then held an all-night insomniac hoedown.
This is the result: Washington Center for Equitable Growth | ObamaCare as Dire Infringement of Individual Liberty and in a “Death Spiral”, and LADYPARTS: (Trying to Be) the Honest Broker for the Week of January 19, 2014
Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 13:04:37 PM CST, via Twitter, from Governor Jay Nixon (D):
Tomorrow, billions of dollars will begin to flow to states to improve & reform health care, but Missouri won't be one of them. #momedicaid 12:50 PM - 31 Dec 13
Wait until Missourians realize they're paying for those other states to do so.
Last night pieces by the thoughtful and knowledgeable Uwe Reinhardt, the smart and hard-working Marty Lederman, and that brilliant man of unsound methods Richard Epstein collided on my computer screen, and then held an all-night insomniac hoedown.
This is the result:
Outsourced to: Doktor Zoom: Genius Missouri Bill Will Kill Obamacare By Putting Insurance Companies Out Of Business: "OK, so shutting down the government didn’t work, and the House repealing it umpty-eleven times didn’t work, and the website does work, but maybe it’s not too late for states to save their citizens from the horror of having health insurance. They could maybe try the genius plan introduced in the Missouri Senate by state Sen. John Lamping:
The bill would suspend insurance companies’ state licenses if they accepted subsidies offered by the federal government to help pay health insurance premiums for low- and middle-income Missourians....
Lamping figures that the subsidies are illegal and will totally be declared unconstitutional.... So if you preemptively act as if they are illegal, and punish insurance companies that accept them, somehow that will make the employer mandate go away, hooray!
John Howard Brown: Comment on "What Market Failures Underlie Our Fears of 'Secular Stagnation'?":
Although this is argued with your usual eloquence, there is one short-coming that I see. The problem is not a market failure per se. Instead, the problem is one of political economy. The experience of the last thirty years has been increasing financialization of the the United States economy. The removal of regulatory constraint has permitted the financial industry to extract increasing amounts of rent from the real economy. This is one potential source of secular stagnation and is covered above. However, I don't believe that it is the most important source.
Instead, the accumulating rents are deforming the political process. Both parties are largely dependent on the finance industries for their funding. This is manifest both in the ridiculously weak new regulation following the 2008 crisis and in secular stagnation. As Krugman pointed out on his blog last week, along stronger demand would be desirable, weak demand strips workers of bargaining power. Thus it is not in the interests of the plutocrats to see a stronger economy. Income redistribution is the central plank of any attempt to avoid secular stagnation and the demise of democratic self-government.
Angus Deaton: US inequality and the Pareto Criterion:
There is much to be said for equality of opportunity, and for not penalizing people for the success that comes from their own hard work. Yet, compared with other rich countries, and in spite of the popular belief in the American dream that anyone can succeed, the United States is in fact not particularly good at actually delivering equal opportunities.
As best as I can figure out, states that go all-in in their opposition to ObamaCare will lose 3% of their state-level GDP relative to baseline from Medicaid dollars not spent and exchange subsidies not claimed in the short run, and 6% in the long run as those who make the things medical professionals buy move to where the money is...
*Prairie Weather: * Republican efforts to destroy Obamacare may come back haunt them:
I'm beginning to wonder whether the future health of American politics may turn out to owe something to Obamacare. Texas is a ridiculously red state... that has been churning out an embarrassing group of knuckledraggers who find their way to... Congress.... The effort to destroy Obamacare is as alive in Texas these days as in Washington.... Rick Perry's idea of reggle-atin' includes making the navigators pay a hefty fee for their role assisting in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act... "40 hours of training... liability insurance... fees for fingerprints, tests and classes".... To become a navigator in Texas, you'll need to ante up $800.
Josh Marshall: Something to Behold: "It's become something of a cliche: disabled, aged or relatively impoverished whites who literally could not survive without federal government assistance in many case nonetheless raging against Washington, 'hand outs' and government dependency.
It's there with a vengeance in this article in National Journal by Beth Reinhard on GOP plans to double down on race-based class warfare as the ticket to success in the 2014 elections. Kudos to Mark Karlin of Buzzflash for bringing the piece to my attention and specifically the passage I'm about to quote in full. Meet Terry Rupe ...
"I don't have any use for the federal government," Rupe said, even though his household's $13,000 yearly income comes exclusively from Washington. "It's a bunch of liars, crooks, and thieves, and they've never done anything for me. I'm not ungrateful, but I don't have much faith in this health care law. Do I think it's going to work? No. Do I think it's going to bankrupt the country? Yes."
Michael Froomkin: Pricing Public Colleges: "Brad had a gloomy moment:
The old social democratic belief that America should have the best universal free public education system in the world was a principal source of America’s relative prosperity and economic leadership for a century. Now that the political coalition that supported that belief is gone, America will be a much less exceptional place.
I am quite frequently a pessimist, but this is one area where I don’t think we should give in so easily. The US had a strong comparative advantage for post-secondary education due to several factors:
Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus was trying to hold an empire together when he directed Publius Sulpicius Quirinius and his assistant Coponius to conduct a census of Judaea and Syria so that they could start raising taxes from them. What were those taxes used for? To maintain the pax Romana, of course--the first prerequisite of a civilized society.
What, after all, have the Romans ever done for us?
John Scalzi: Tax Frenzies and How to Hose Them Down:
I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes are theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools.
Brian Francisco: Getting an earful on Obamacare:
A health insurance consultant said his own insurance premiums are climbing because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But a meat market owner said the health care law will cut his insurance rates by more than half. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, had asked for input on the Affordable Care Act during an open house Monday at his office in the E. Ross Adair Federal Building, and he got it. Nearly 20 people showed up to speak individually with him, and most wanted to talk about the law that is requiring most Americans to obtain medical coverage from private insurers.
The experiences and opinions of Matt Hatfield, the insurance consultant and seller, and Lee Albright, owner of the south-side meat market carrying his last name, were drastically different. Hatfield, a past president of the Northeast Indiana Association of Health Underwriters, told Stutzman his insurance premiums are increasing 50 percent and his medical provider network is shrinking because of changes in his policy prompted by President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. He predicted even greater sticker shock for insurance consumers starting next summer, when policies come up for renewal. “The sooner people get the bad news, especially in an election year, the better” for voters to express their displeasure in the 2014 congressional elections, Hatfield said. “I think Priority One is getting the current (law) tossed out,” he said. “But you also have to come back with, what are you proposing?”
Stutzman replied: “What are you replacing it with? That’s what everybody is asking right now.”
Albright doesn’t want the Affordable Care Act repealed, which Stutzman and the Republican-controlled House have voted to do numerous times. Albright told his congressman that his monthly payment for family health coverage will drop from $3,800 to $1,700 by enrolling in a plan offered through the much-maligned law. Albright said most of his dozen employees also are enrolling in Affordable Care Act plans and will have coverage for the first time. “If the Republican Party thinks they’re going to kill Obamacare, you guys need to realize that those nine people that I add on, are they going to vote Republican ever again if you take their health care from them?”
Stutzman responded: “No, probably not.”...
James Hamilton, of Spencerville... had earlier said to Stutzman, “I’m really disappointed that the Republicans haven’t come forward with an alternative plan,” adding that he would “like to see something that is very different” from the Affordable Care Act.
Stutzman replied: “There’s several Republican plans that are competing with each other right now just internally. After the first of the year, we are going to try to sort through that.”
My healthcare saga began in 2002.... No longer did I have a group plan selected by an employer. I had to shop for my own coverage. At first it was easy.... But each year the dreaded renewal letter arrived, and the premiums increased by leaps and bounds.... But the big shock was yet to come... renewal letter... $756 instead of $463--a staggering 63% increase.... I applied for a very-high-deductible plan that would keep my monthly payment in the $400 range. Given that I was still insured, the insurance folks got a copy of the blood test, which they proceeded to search line by line.... Out of two pages of data, there was a single thyroid reading was outside of “normal” range (side note: there’s nothing wrong with my thyroid; it was simply their excuse to make me pay that outrageous premium). They’d found their so-called preexisting condition, and denied me access to the new plan with the lower premium. With the help of my doctor, who wrote a letter on my behalf, I appealed.... "It wasn’t a government bureaucrat that came between me and my doctor; it was an insurance-company bureaucrat...."
Paul Krugman reminds me of Noah Smith in July 2012:
Back in 2009 [John] Cochrane predicted inflation, it hasn't happened yet, and DeLong made fun of Cochrane for that fact. Cochrane... [responds] The inflation prediction was (and is) a statement about risks, not a time-specific forecast.... This is a very fair retort. Predictions are not necessarily forecasts...
Naughty, naughty Noah!
Matt Taibi: GrifTopia: from chapter 7:
My contribution to this was to launch a debate over whether or not it was appropriate for a reputable mainstream media organization to publicly call Lloyd Blankfein a motherf---er. This was really what most of the "vampire squid" uproar boiled down to. The substance of most of the freak-outs by mainstream financial reporters and the bank itself over the Rolling Stone piece was oddly nonspecific. Goldman spokesman Lucas van Praag called the piece "vaguely entertaining" and "an hysterical compilation of conspiracy theories." Van Praag even made an attempt at humor, saying, "Notable ones missing are Goldman Sachs as the third shooter [in John F. Kennedy's assassination] and faking the first lunar landing."
But at no time did the bank ever deny any of the information in the piece. Their only real factual quibble was with the assertion that they were a major player in the mortgage market-the bank somewhat gleefully noted that its "former competitors," like the since-vaporized Bear Stearns, were much bigger players.
Surely one element of Obama(snarl)care that's really upsetting Republicans is what health insurance could do to Mitch McConnell's political health. The problem for the minority leader is that "on the campaign trail, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was still blasting the new health-care law as unsalvageable," according to the Washington Post:
Obamacare is doing very well in McConnell's home state of Kentucky. The Post has been following Courtney Lively, one of the officials signing up new applicants.
In an institutional setup of tax collection via voluntary compliance, how does it make any sense at all to say that "the Feds don't want you to know" provisions of the tax code? The senators and representatives who constructed and maintain the large incentives for rich individuals to give appreciated property to charity and so devote such wealth to a common purpose rather than consuming it certainly want people to know about it, and act on it.
And every IRS publication I have ever seen that covers the charitable deduction sets it down in black and white.
So who does the von Mises institute thinks will buy its line that "the Feds don't want you to know this"?
Grifters gotta grift...
The hawk-eyed Cardiff Garcia writes:
Piketty previews Piketty: A hat tip to reader @zapatique for sending us to Thomas Picketty’s recent lecture, which previews the forthcoming English-language edition of his new book (click here to open pdf)...
And the esteemed and eminent Kevin Drum writes:
New French Book Will Become Important When It's In English: Tyler Cowen says today that "The forthcoming Thomas Piketty book will be very important." That "will be" is sort of interesting. You see, the name of the book is Le capital au xxie siècle, and it was published three months ago. But no one is talking about it. Presumably, it will become very important—and very talked about—only next March, when Capital in the 21st Century hits the shelves.
I don't have any grand point to make. It's just interesting that fluent French is now so rarely spoken among American academics that an important French book can't even get the time of day until its English translation comes out. It makes sense that widespread conversation would have to wait, since you can't very well have that until lots of people have read the book, but you'd think there would be at least a few reviews out there along with a bit of discussion. But if there has been, I've missed it.
Well, you would need somebody who is:
Why is everybody all of a sudden looking at me?
Brad DeLong: Bequests: An Historical Perspective:
So I've finally put to bed a sketch of how the relative economic importance of bequests has changed over the past five centuries. The more I think about it, the more I think that the central points--the stunning decline in the relative importance of inherited wealth with the coming of modern economic growth, and the way in which America initially defined itself as hostile to inheritance for equality of opportunity's sake--are very important. Thus I find myself frustrated: I think I have important things to say, but I don't think I've said them as well as they deserve.
Practically every major aspect of our system of inheritance today is less than two hundred and fifty years old. Two hundred and fifty years ago, inheritance proceeded through primogeniture--as if those leaving bequests cared not for the well-being of their descendants but only for the wealth and power of the lineage head. Before the industrial revolution, inheritance played an overwhelming and crucial role in wealth accumulation and wealth distribution that it does not play today.
Migration to the New World was accompanied by a rapid shift in the perception of the purpose of inheritance as the old patterns failed to flourish in a land-rich, rapidly-growing frontier-settler economy. By the start of the twentieth century inherited wealth was regarded with suspicion in America, with even some of the richest calling for estate taxes to keep the rich from diverting the public trust of their fortunes into the pockets of their descendants. Thus the coming of social democracy to America brought with it high statutory rates of tax on large estates, which nevertheless did not raise a great deal of revenue.
Now we may be seeing another turn of the wheel, for if history teaches anything it is that even those elements of inheritance that we think of as most deeply embedded in fundamental human desires and economic laws are remarkably mutable over the centuries.
Truly, truly, truly, I have a very hard time hanging out in the middle of the country without starting to weep uncontrollably...
Greg Sargent: Obamacare class warfare in Kentucky:
Republicans are rolling out an attack on Obamacare that sounds a lot like the Romney 2012 “free stuff” argument... to characterize beneficiaries... particularly... Medicaid expansion as “shiftless freeloaders” enjoying “free health care,” all ”on the backs of hardworking Americans.”...
The handling of Obamacare by McConnell’s Dem opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is worth considering in this context. It reflects the fact that red state Dems are approaching the health law in a more nuanced way than conventional wisdom suggests. Grimes is criticizing parts of the law, and is not embracing it--far from it. But she isn’t running from its general goals, either. Something more subtle is going on.... Here are a couple recent Grimes statements about Obamacare....
Instead of finger-pointing, instead of blaming, instead of attacking the presidential branch, let’s actually — or the executive branch — let’s actually attack the problem that exists here in the commonwealth and find a way for 640,000 [to get health insurance...]
There are 640,000 Kentuckians who previously did not have access to insurance... we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The 640,000 Grimes refers to are the total number of Kentucky residents who are eligible for the Medicaid expansion or are uninsured and must buy insurance, many of them eligible for subsidies.... The class warfare attacks on Obamacare will continue... stoking class warfare and resentment are central to other attacks on the law, too.... Here’s what I expect to see. Grimes will avoid talking about Obamacare where possible, and instead will focus on the minimum wage, pocketbook issues affecting women (equal pay), and McConnell’s decades in Washington. Where necessary, she will call for “fixes” to Obamacare problems....
Kentucky may prove to be an interesting testing ground for a Democratic balancing act... enrollment has been a success, and many beneficiaries are poor and rural.... Dem governor Steve Beshear is one of the most aggressive advocates for the law.... You can see the potential for a more direct argument later about the consequences of repeal. Thus far, nearly 72,000 Kentuckians have enrolled, over 56,000 through the Medicaid expansion, and tens of thousands are eligible for subsidies. Over the months you can picture enrollment piling up to a critical mass that would make it easier for Grimes to argue that repeal would kick all of these people off of insurance, and harder for McConnell to stick to his “free stuff” frame.
Behind the wave of "our red-state governors and legislatures are grinding the faces of our working poor in the dirt and bankrupting them by depriving them of their Medicaid" stories we are currently watching being written will be a wave of "our hospitals are falling apart and our doctors are falling behind blue-state ones because of our red-state governors and legislatures."
We will see whether that coming wave of stories will have any more effect than this one:
And we have yet another article wondering why Prime Minister Obama didn’t just eliminate the American health insurance industry.... The answer, of course, is that Obama didn’t take single payer “off the table.” It was never on the table. The idea that there were 60--hell, that there were 30--votes for single payer in the Senate is sheer fantasy. Diaz-Alvarez doesn’t even try to explain how “a president willing to nationalize health care” could have actually gotten the relevant legislation enacted. (Again, given that the answers tend to be self-refuting things like “threaten to primary legislators who aren’t running for anything” or “offer to campaign for candidates in states where you’re enormously unpopular” this is probably for the best.) Rather, this is a teleological argument. Single payer is more efficient, therefore policy outcomes should naturally gravitate in that direction and if they don’t the only explanation must be that the president--the sole meaningful inhabitant of the American political universe--must be obstructing it.
I’ve already said enough about this line of argument, but wow....
As a corrective, I strongly recommend Alex Pareene’s piece on Elizabeth Warren. The White House isn’t where transformations begin; it’s where if they’re successful, they end.