The Opt-Out Public Option; and, also, tax breaks for hiring

What do folks think of the latest suggested compromise for the public option?

This idea — which has a lot of liberals excited — would create a Federal public option. But it would also allow any individual state government to decline making the public option available to their citizens.

The hope is that conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson, who oppose a public option, would be willing to vote for this, since it essentially punts the public option decision to state legislatures. (Both Nelson and Lieberman have said this idea is “worth looking at,” which isn’t a commitment, but it is the most positive comment they’ve said about any public option proposal so far). At the same time, more liberal senators would (one hopes) be able to get a reasonably strong public option for their own constituents.

What’s nice about this policy, I think, is that it’s easily adjustable. If the public option turns out to be a disaster, this would make it relatively easy for states to drop it. But if it is in fact successful, then it would be easy for states without it to change their mind.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and this proposal is so new that there aren’t any details to look at yet. And the conservative Democrats may yet decide to oppose it, or water it down to the point of uselessness.

Another idea being floated that’s gaining a lot of interest — and could possibly get some Republican votes — is a two-year tax break to companies that either hire new workers or bump up their part-time workers to full-time. There seems to be a fair amount of economic evidence that this policy could jump-start hiring, so I’m for it.

This entry posted in Economics and the like, Health Care and Related Issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

196 Responses to The Opt-Out Public Option; and, also, tax breaks for hiring

  1. I think younger voters (those who aren’t junior wonks like I was) tend to forget or overlook that the presidency is only one part, however important, and think they one in 2008 and needn’t do anything else until 2012.

  2. 102
    Phil Howe says:

    @98 & 100:

    The evidence regarding the effects of macroeconomic performance on U.S. midterm elections is actually fairly mixed. (A colleague of mine has suggested one reason why that effect is less obvious than one might assume – it is not clear that voters blame their local representative for the performance of the economy as a whole, although they often do blame the president. Note also that stimulus spending can be used to give vulnerable Democrats public works projects to point at while saying “look what I did for our state!”)

    Let me suggest several factors that could mitigate the effect of the economy on Democrats this time around: 1) the current downturn didn’t occur on the Democrats watch (which limits the blame to not having fixed the problem fast enough, not to having caused it); 2) public perception seems to be that things are not going to turn around quickly (that is, people are already used to the idea); 3) Republicans aren’t offering a viable alternative (for the reasons enumerated above).

    Of course, it will hurt the Democrats a bunch if the economy actually takes another nose-dive between now and fall ’10.

    @99&100:

    “I think the Democrats are going to get creamed in 2010; the question is how badly. Even if unemployment is dropping by then — which I doubt — the demographics of mid-term elections is that older voters are much, much more likely to vote. And older voters tend to be conservative and dislike Obama.”

    1. The implication of your argument is that Democrats always “get creamed” in midterm elections. This is clearly false. Unless you wish to argue that older voters don’t always lean conservative.

    That being said, you do raise the important point about older voters. On the one hand, there’s not much Obama can do to prevent them from turning out, ‘cause that’s what old people do. On the other, a lot of what I wrote (95) was about what the Democrats can do to counter this. In part that involves Obama’s potential for mobilizing younger and more left-leaning voters (those who usually don’t turn out for midterms), as I discussed. However, your response does underscore the importance of not pissing off old people too much. Part of that could involve showing that health care reform hasn’t taken away anyone’s Medicare. The AARP tends to support Obama on health care reform, which doesn’t hurt.

    Note that some of the “front-loading” discussed in the Politico piece you cite (99) seems aimed specifically to please the elderly. Note also that the elderly are less directly affected by unemployment.

    2. As far as making “the Public Option available to anyone who wants it,” I’m with you. Hopefully the process of compromise between the House and the Senate will offer some room to broaden coverage. I suspect, however, that that is largely a fight for the future, which in turn depends on people’s willingness to modify rather than discard disappointing legislation, as discussed earlier.

    In short: I tend to view the forthcoming legislation as merely a foot in the door. On the bright side, a lot of people seem to actually have an attention span for politics these days.

  3. 103
    PG says:

    The “macroeconomy” may be doing decently by the midterm elections; I’m talking about one very specific indicator: unemployment rates. This is starting to look like a “jobless recovery,” which means that the macroeconomic indicators such as the stock market or even housing values may stabilize and improve.

    Obama is clearly trying to appease elderly voters. There is no other rationale for sending senior citizens — regardless of their incomes — a $250 check to make up for the fact that they didn’t get a cost-of-living-adjustment because the cost of living (as measured by inflation) actually decreased. George Will is becoming ever more of a fool, but he’s right about that.

  4. 104
    Manju says:

    Because they’re paying for a program for which they never can be eligible so long as they reside in that state?

    then of course they’ll get the benefits. what states going to pay into the system but not take the benefits? it’ll be like the stimulus. conservatives maybe opposed to the idea of mandated unemployment insurance but you can bet your ass they’ll take it once they’re canned. after all, its their money.

    opt-out sounds like a ruse.

  5. 105
    Phil Howe says:

    @103:

    Unemployment is a macroeconomic indicator. And I repeat, “The evidence regarding the effects of macroeconomic performance on U.S. midterm elections is actually fairly mixed.”

  6. 106
    Myca says:

    then of course they’ll get the benefits. what states going to pay into the system but not take the benefits? it’ll be like the stimulus. conservatives maybe opposed to the idea of mandated unemployment insurance but you can bet your ass they’ll take it once they’re canned. after all, its their money.

    opt-out sounds like a ruse.

    Nope. The objection is actually a ruse.

    From Media Matters for America:

    However, while Reid has yet to release details of the compromise Senate legislation, every other proposed bill with a public option so far has required the costs of the public plan to be covered by the premiums of those who enroll in it, and the taxes proposed in each of the bills are used to cover the expansion of coverage through Medicaid and subsidies to help certain families purchase insurance, both of which are provided to residents of every state regardless of any public option.

    —Myca

  7. 107
    PG says:

    @105,

    Yes, that would be why I said, “I’m talking about one very specific indicator: unemployment rates.” However, while I’m talking about unemployment rates — a single indicator — you want to talk about the macroeconomy as a whole, which has multiple indicators to measure how it’s doing. So unless you talk specifically about unemployment rates, you’re ignoring what my comment @ 98 was saying. Which is fine, I just want you to be clear that it’s what you’re doing.

    Myca,

    every other proposed bill with a public option so far has required the costs of the public plan to be covered by the premiums of those who enroll in it

    Who’s putting up the money to start the public plan before it has people enrolled and paying premiums? I’ve never heard of an insurer that could start up without millions in capital to get started (getting licensed by the state in which it’s operating; hiring lawyers to write the contracts with providers; marketing so people know you exist and can enroll)…

  8. 108
    Myca says:

    Who’s putting up the money to start the public plan before it has people enrolled and paying premiums?

    Sure, that may be drawn from general funds … neither of us know. My point is just that the program is set up to be both self-supporting and deficit neutral in its operation.

    —Myca

  9. 109
    Ampersand says:

    The start-up money comes from general funds — although my impression is that it’s fairly small beans, relative to the size of health care reform as a whole, and even smaller relative to the size of the federal budget.

    Also, once the public option is set up and running it’s expected to save the Federal government money. Those savings accrue to the entire Federal government, benefiting all taxpayers, not just those in states with the Public Option.

    That said, the Public Option is really not a very big thing. I’m glad we’re (probably) getting a compromised, weak Public Option versus none at all, and I hope (as Phil says) we can build it into something more significant; but I really wish progressives had picked some other hill to make a stand on.

  10. 110
    PG says:

    Myca,

    Yes, I noted all that in my comment @ 90 answering Jake’s question “How do you see opt-out as hurting citizens of the states that opt out?” As I said there, “Even if the proponents are right, in the short run the entire country through the federal government is loaning money to a program that not the entire country will benefit from.” It’s not entirely unreasonable for people in states without the public option to resent the expenditure of general federal funds for a program they can’t access.

  11. 111
    Manju says:

    That said, the Public Option is really not a very big thing

    I think it could be a big deal. i heard that “ed show” guy on msnbc, the leftist network, describe it last night in trojan horse terms: the first step toward single payer. first you establish a public option, then you expand it so the public fund has pricing power, next thing you know everyone wants in because its cheaper and boom, single payer. that’s part of the ruse.

    that might explain why obama appears to be waffling. he doesn’t want to appear eager here, he’s a poker player after all (no women invited to his poker games either, but i digress). furthermore, its a political winner. the increasingly purist republicans will demand an opt-out candidate during the primaries leaving their nominee holding a bad card for the general, especially as voters struggling with health insurance premiums see people in other states with cheap coverage.

    i think he really wants this and that’s why he’s being coy.

  12. 112
    PG says:

    Manju,

    The only way the public option could get “everyone” in would be if both
    (a) all people’s decisions were driven solely by wanting the cheapest option — an assumption of Econ 101, but not borne out empirically, because many people make market decisions on “irrational” factors like attractiveness of advertising, ideology, etc.; and
    (b) no private insurers were capable of competing with the government.

    Also, if you look at both U.S. government-provided health care and the experience of other countries with single payer, you’d know that private insurers continue to exist and prosper. Most states now mandate that Medicaid enrollees join a private HMO to which the state pays the premiums, and Medicare enrollees are increasingly being pressed to do the same. As I’ve mentioned, I used to work for the government health program division of a large national insurer, and our division (originally an independent company) made lots of money off the government’s payment of premiums to us. At the company Christmas party, the employees would be hobnobbing with the CEO’s buddies at the top of business and government (it’s where I met Clarence Thomas).

    BTW, where’s your source for the claim that Obama has poker games in which he has the job of inviting people and he never invites women?

  13. 113
    Manju says:

    PG: i don’t mean everyone everyone anymore than i mean single payer means one payer. all i mean is once the public fund achieves pricing power it can dominate the market and you’ll have a de facto monopoly, though not a literal one… and presumably then inefficiencies that inevitably come with the aforementioned monopoly will present themselves.

    BTW, where’s your source for the claim that Obama has poker games in which he has the job of inviting people and he never invites women?

    i got that from amy siskind, a pro-clinton democrat feminist turned palin supporter, but upon a second reading, she doesn’t say the poker games were male only (though she doesn’t say women were invitted, either), but rather served the purpose of furthering obama’s political craeer, therefore making male only basketball and golf games problematically exclusionary.

  14. 114
    Robert says:

    On the one hand, there’s not much Obama can do to prevent them from turning out

    That’s what the Death Panels were for.

  15. 115
    Ampersand says:

    And don’t forget the secret internment camps he’s building!

  16. 116
    PG says:

    Manju, I’d cautious you to be careful not only in reading rather than skimming Amy Siskind, but even in assuming that she’s gotten her facts straight. I had some interaction with her when The New Agenda was getting started and she was misrepresenting (perhaps unintentionally) the number of women appointed to Cabinet positions in the Bush Administration’s first term, in order to make it look like Obama was doing worse than Bush in this respect.

  17. 117
    Myca says:

    It’s not entirely unreasonable for people in states without the public option to resent the expenditure of general federal funds for a program they can’t access.

    Bah, this happens all the time with any variety of projects, so I can’t take the complaint very seriously. I mean, this is how the system works, right?

    Oddly, I think that pretty much every state that might be opting out, has historically seen more benefit from taxes than the states athat are certain to be opting in. That is, for each dollar that these states pay, they get more than a dollar back in federal money.

    So I guess the complaint here is that it might make things slightly more equal for the other states … and that’s somehow … unfair?

    Pardon me while I refrain from sobbing in sympathy.

    —Myca

  18. 118
    Jake Squid says:

    That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking since PG first answered me, Myca. I just couldn’t get myself to write it in a coherent fashion. Thanks for that.

  19. 119
    PG says:

    The more recent analysis is here, though still going on 2005 numbers.

    The problem with making assumptions based on that data, however, is that “population within that state that pays taxes to federal government” is not necessarily the same as “populations within that state that benefits from federal dollars.” States with military bases, defense contractors, or large Native American and poor populations relative to the total size of the state’s population, will be receiving more money from the federal government than they pay in, but those benefits may not go to all the people who are actually paying various federal taxes (income, corporate, payroll, etc.). The opt-out public option is creating a new government program that is accessible to people based on their state of residence.

  20. 120
    Ampersand says:

    To repeat myself, a bit: If, as predicted, the Public Option saves money, that savings to the government benefits all Americans (or at least all taxpayers), not just taxpayers in states with the Public Option.

  21. 121
    Jake Squid says:

    The opt-out public option is creating a new government program that is accessible to people based on their state of residence.

    Isn’t the same thing true for Food Stamps and other state administrated federal social safety net programs? The benefits & eligibility vary from state to state, don’t they?

  22. 122
    PG says:

    Jake,

    (a) I think all states have accepted those programs and take the federal dollars for them, although the states may limit benefits and eligibility in order to minimize the state’s own contribution.

    (b) The public option is not being discussed as a “welfare” type of program in which those who need temporary assistance will get something that middle class people would never want for themselves. It’s supposed to be able to compete with the kind of insurance being offered by the private sector, offering similar levels of quality. If you tell people that public option’s access to health care is like food stamps’ access to food, you’re going to scare off a large part of the potential market — which is why no one in Washington talks about it that way.

    If, as predicted, the Public Option saves money, that savings to the government benefits all Americans (or at least all taxpayers), not just taxpayers in states with the Public Option.

    How is the public option supposed to save the federal government money?

  23. 123
    Ampersand says:

    PG, see this Congress Daily article. The CBO predicts savings of between $25 billion and $110 billion a year over ten years, depending on how strong a Public Option is used.

    The public plan saves money because it pushes down premium prices. Lower premium prices across the country would mean the government would have to pay less in subsidies to low-income people who buy insurance through the exchange, according to CBO.

  24. 124
    Robert says:

    How is that “saving money”, though? “We’ll spend less on this brand-new massive source of expenditures than we originally thought” may be a better plan than the original plan, but it’s still an augmentation of expense over status quo ante.

    If my wife decides that we simply MUST go into debt to buy a new car this year, and starts out looking at $80K BMWs but eventually settles on a $60K Audi, she has not saved us $20K. She’s chosen to increase our debt by $60K instead of by $80K. Quite possibly a good thing, but not a “savings” in the commonsense usage of the word.

  25. 125
    Phil Howe says:

    @106, 110, 117, 118, 119, 121, 122:

    As mentioned several times before in this thread, the possible effects of the opt out depend a lot on how many states (if any) opt out. This seems like a good time to repeat the question I raised previously (93): “which states do y’all think are most likely to opt out?”

    @107:

    I’m saying that macroeconomic indicators, including unemployment, are not strong predictors of partisan voting in U.S. Congressional midterm elections.

    @Everyone:

    Fucking Lieberman.

    I’m assuming you all know what I’m talking about. My initial reaction was that he is simply playing hard to get – he knows his vote matters, he just wants to drive a hard bargain. However, Nate Silver makes a compelling case that Lieberman simply doesn’t share the motives of a normal congressperson. Check it out if you haven’t already.

    Personally I’m not overwhelmingly worried about this development, but the timing is really annoying.

  26. 126
    Robert says:

    He’s probably decided that it’s a bad bill in general and he wants to kill it. Coming out this way gives some cover to other centrist Democrats. It probably damages Lieberman’s chances in 2012 but I suspect that he doesn’t intend to run again.

  27. 127
    PG says:

    @125,

    I’m saying that macroeconomic indicators, including unemployment, are not strong predictors of partisan voting in U.S. Congressional midterm elections.

    And what is your basis for saying that unemployment is not a strong predictor for partisan voting against the incumbent party in U.S. Congressional midterm elections?

  28. 128
    Myca says:

    If my wife decides that we simply MUST go into debt to buy a new car this year

    This plan is deficit neutral.

    Which, after the Bush Administation, goes a long way to explaining why Republicans dislike it.

    —Myca

  29. 129
    PG says:

    The public plan saves money because it pushes down premium prices. Lower premium prices across the country would mean the government would have to pay less in subsidies to low-income people who buy insurance through the exchange, according to CBO.

    Myca, so far as I know, the federal government does not currently pay subsidies to low-income people who buy insurance through exchanges, so the rationale Amp gave for how the public option would save the government money (by pushing down premium prices), does not show how the public option saves the government money based on what the government pays now, only based on what the government will pay in a future with subsidies for insurance exchanges.

  30. 130
    Myca says:

    Myca, so far as I know,

    That was Ampersand, actually.

    —Myca

  31. 131
    PG says:

    Yes, which is why I said, “the rationale Amp gave,” but I was trying to respond to your comment @128. Sorry for confusing that.

  32. 132
    Myca says:

    Ahh, okay, that makes sense.

    Well, the CBO says it’s deficit neutral … or actually deficit negative, since it will reduce the deficit by some 81 Billion over the next decade, thanks (in part) to

    Net Medicare and Medicaid savings of $465 billion

    http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/10/07/cbo-new-baucus/

    —Myca

  33. 133
    Myca says:

    Net Medicare and Medicaid savings of $465 billion

    I highlight these, obviously because they are existing programs.

    —Myca

  34. 134
    Robert says:

    So we’ll pay for “health care for everyone” by cutting a half-trillion dollars out of the health care programs that we’ve already got in place for the poor and the elderly?

    Sounds like a great plan.

  35. 135
    PG says:

    Robert,

    Medicare fraud costs an estimated $60 billion a year. I don’t feel the need to treat that as sacred. There’s also a serious problem in certain counties with over-treatment, which can be not just a nuisance but downright detrimental to patient health (more time in hospitals = more likelihood of antibiotic-resistant infections; more X-rays and scans = more radiation exposure; more medications = more side effects and complications; etc.).

    It’s not wisdom to believe that more money always means better work.

  36. 136
    Robert says:

    If fraud and over-treatment can be fixed (I doubt they can), then they can be fixed without putting it as part of a health care reform package, and should be.

    In fact, if the administration knows how to fix fraud and over-treatment, then they are being negligent in their fiduciary responsibility by not taking care of that right away, rather than holding these alleged savings hostage to their partisan bill.

    But in fact, they have no idea how to fix these problems, and are lying – using the same fictional promised savings from “waste and abuse” that every administration since Adams’ has tried to claim they would fix – in order to hide the true costs of their programs.

  37. 137
    PG says:

    Robert,

    So you acknowledge that perhaps not every penny of the half-trillion is going to better care? Well, that’s a start.

    If you actually read the proposed legislation, you’d see it has a great deal in it about decreasing over-treatment, which folks like you have interpreted as decreasing care. Try searching anti-Obama websites for references to HR 3200′s Sec. 1151, which is part of Subtitle C (Provisions Related to Medicare Parts A and B) and deals with “Reducing potentially preventable hospital readmissions.” You’ll find a whole bunch of people freaking out about how Obama wants to kill old people by making doctors more accountable for patients’ care.

  38. 138
    Robert says:

    I am not in a position to determine whether a particular course of care is “over-treatment” or not.

    However, I can tell the difference between a $1T budget and a $1.5T budget. Since the same people will be administering the budget regardless of its total figure, I work on the assumption that a larger budget is delivering more services.

    I also work on the assumption that cutting treatment is a lot easier than finding fraud and discerning whether or not particular courses of treatment are maximally efficient uses of resources. And I work on the assumption that people told to cut their budget by 33% (or whatever the figure will be) will do so by cutting the things which are easiest and most obvious, not the things which, perhaps, the people who wrote the budget intend to be cut.

    To put it another way, if Republicans said that they could cut Medicaid and Medicare by $500 billion without impacting on total healthcare delivered, you’d laugh in their faces and call them liars.

    Democratic intentions towards the program may well be more beneficent, but their ability to make water run uphill is no better documented.

  39. 139
    PG says:

    If you’re not interested in reading the relevant legislation and critiquing that, rather than an abstract concept of whether it’s possible for government to reduce costs without reducing necessary care, then there’s probably little to be gained from our discussing health care reform. Have a good night.

  40. 140
    Robert says:

    PG, I am not a lawyer, nor a legislative expert, and my opinions of the text of HR3200 would be of limited utility; nor do I have the days of free time it would take to make any meaningful reading and analysis of the bill. I must rely on people whose life’s work it is to handle such materials, and on their summaries.

    Parsing “‘(2) At the option of a State, individuals described in this subsection may include individuals who, had individuals applied on or before January 1, 2007, would have been made eligible pursuant to the standards and processes imposed by that State for benefits described in clause (XV) of the matter following subparagraph (G) of section subsection (a)(10) pursuant to a waiver granted under section 1115.” is not going to get us any closer to understanding.

    That particular bolus of lawyerjism isn’t at all atypical of the bill, and constitutes perhaps 1/20,000th of its content.

    If you do not wish to discuss the underlying concepts and the economic questions, where I do have meaningful opinions, that’s fine. I’m pretty sure you don’t work for me. :)

  41. 141
    Ampersand says:

    About $100 billion of the savings comes from restructuring Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage was a program created by market worshipers, who believed, based on their religion, that private insurance industry could deliver Medicare levels of care cheaper than Medicare.

    Of course, it failed — the program is far less efficient and has much higher administrative costs than regular Medicare, and costs more than regular Medicare. Things got worse in the 90s, when Republicans raised the subsidies to Medicare Advantage, so we’re now spending billions extra to subsidize Medicare Advantage.

    About 14% of that extra spending, above what regular Medicare costs, goes to actual value for the users of Medicare Advantage — free gym memberships, for example. Most of that extra spending doesn’t translate into extra value; it’s just a straight subsidy from taxpayers to the insurance industry.

    The current bills don’t eliminate Medicare Advantage; they do, however, more-or-less force Medicare Advantage to spend only what Medicare spends, instead of being more expensive than Medicare. If private insurance companies can match or beat Medicare’s services at the same cost as Medicare, then great. If not, then I imagine a lot of current MA users will switch to regular Medicare.

    So, Robert, this is one example of major savings that we know how to do. It will indeed reduce the level of services to a minority of seniors — but the level of service will still be at or above the level of ordinary medicare coverage, which surveys show that most users are very satisfied with. And a lot of pure waste — money given to the insurance industry in return for very little — will be cut too.

    The reason Republicans (and, to be fair, some Democrats) didn’t do it isn’t that it was too difficult, or they didn’t know how, or because it can’t work — it was because Republicans (and, alas, some Dems) who get elected to Congress are ideologically inclined to give large gifts of taxpayer money to wealthy corporations.

    More here, and here, and here.

  42. 142
    PG says:

    Robert,

    But you were apparently under the impression that the health care reform bill did nothing to reduce waste in Medicare (“they have no idea how to fix these problems, and are lying – using the same fictional promised savings from ‘waste and abuse’”), so your chosen summarizers (who?) evidently aren’t doing a great job of informing you. Yet you seem very much convinced that you know enough to judge the bill a failure.

    It’s one thing to say “This isn’t an area where I have the skills to evaluate, so I don’t know” (as I would say about, e.g., the viability of Droopal as backend for the White House website — despite having run a few blogs on Blogger and Movable Type, I’m not a code writer and therefore have little to no informed opinion about this stuff). It’s another to say, “This isn’t an area where I have the skills to evaluate, but based on my preexisting prejudices and some blatantly incomplete information from second- and third-hand sources, I condemn this.”

  43. 143
    Ampersand says:

    Myca, so far as I know, the federal government does not currently pay subsidies to low-income people who buy insurance through exchanges, so the rationale Amp gave for how the public option would save the government money (by pushing down premium prices), does not show how the public option saves the government money based on what the government pays now, only based on what the government will pay in a future with subsidies for insurance exchanges.

    PG, the question was how people in states that don’t have the Public Option available, benefit from the Public Option existing.

    Let me try again to answer (slightly contradicting my previous answer).

    Let’s say that we can spend $100 on peanuts, to be split between five friends. So each of us gets $20 worth of peanuts.

    Now, instead, we can spend $50 on peanuts and $50 on pretzels. Two of the five don’t like pretzels. But pretzels are more efficient at satisfying snack cravings for the other three. So the three pretzel-eaters have all their health care needs — pardon me, I meant, snack needs — satisfied for just $50 worth of pretzels, rather than $60 of peanuts. This leaves $10 left in the pool after everyone has gotten their fair share, for the same cost as the $100 in peanuts we used to spend.

    Now, what happens to our new $10 surplus is unknown. We can spend it on better subsidies for everyone; we can spend it on making our peanut-and-pretzel program more sustainable in the long term; there are options. But virtually all of these options will benefit all five friends — not just the three pretzel eaters.

  44. 144
    Ampersand says:

    By the way, the plain English version of the Senate Finance Committee bill is available here, in pdf form. It’s slightly outdated, but then again, nothing else we can look at, at this point in time, is the final legislation. The final legislation hasn’t even been written yet.

    The legalese version isn’t intended to be read by anyone but lawyers and experts, and you don’t have to read it to have an informed opinion of the bill.

  45. 145
    PG says:

    Amp,

    One doesn’t have to read the legislative version of the bill, but you have to read some version or have very trustworthy summarizers in order to be accurately informed as to what the bill says. Otherwise you end up believing that the bill provides for “death panels.”

    I’ll even concede that in the mind of a layman who isn’t diligent about connecting the references in the bill to existing laws and regulations, a quick reading of the legislative version can create some huge false impressions. For example, I’ve encountered people online who believe that HR 3200′s Sec. 163 gives the government direct electronic access to your bank account, from which the government can make withdrawals at will without your approval.

    This appears to be the result of a prejudiced and untrained reading of a section that actually requires the insurance companies to be capable of making electronic payments to health care providers — something that could be really helpful to providers. It’s been several years since I helped out at my dad’s office, but so far as I know, my mom still has to match up a bunch of checks every day to the relevant patients in order to confirm that the insurer has made the payment, then go to the bank to deposit them.

    But without reading the bill itself — either the legislative or the “plain English” version — how are you to know that my summary is correct? And if you’re as paranoid about the government as a lot of folks are, how can you trust even the plain English version to be what the bill really says?

  46. 146
    PG says:

    @125,

    I’m saying that macroeconomic indicators, including unemployment, are not strong predictors of partisan voting in U.S. Congressional midterm elections.

    And I’m wondering what your basis for this claim is. I’m particularly skeptical of people using the “macroeconomy” as a basis for arguing that unemployment figures are irrelevant. According to the “macroeconomy,” the recession is almost over, because the traditional definition of a recession is “two or more successive quarters of declining GDP.” Q3 2009 had an annual growth rate of 3.5%, so if the stimulus money + holiday season keeps things rolling, Obama could plausibly go to his State of the Union declaring the recession over. He hopefully won’t do that because he’s not stupid, and it would be stupid to tell a nation with 1 in 10 unemployment that bad times are over, no matter what the traditional definition of a recession says.

  47. 147
    Robert says:

    PG, you mentioned fraud and overuse, not Medicare Advantage. (Thanks for the specifics, Amp, btw.) Getting rid of Medicare Advantage could indeed save some money, it sounds like. Getting rid of any government program can save money. ;)

    My original critique would apply to getting rid of MA, however. If it’s bad and you can remove it with legislation, then why not just put that legislation through NOW?

  48. 148
    Ampersand says:

    Phil, is there a citation or a review of the literature you could recommend, showing the mixed evidence on unemployment and elections? I’d be curious to read it if you know of something.

    If there isn’t a connection between the direction of unemployment and election outcomes, then that might be good news for the Dems in 2010 (although it’s also possible that unemployment, while still high, will be dropping by then). However, I’d also find it disappointing; I’d prefer it if politicians felt a great deal of pressure to be responsive to unemployment figures.

    I don’t think that old people are always conservative. I do think that our current crop of old people are demonstratively conservative, as a lot of polls have shown.

  49. 149
    PG says:

    Robert,

    I wasn’t referring to Amp’s comment @ 141 (which hadn’t published at the time I was reading this page and writing @ 142), and if you think someone who cites a particular provision of the bill to reduce overuse of Medicare is not providing specifics, there’s really no way to transmit information to you that you’ll accept.

    Getting rid of any government program can save money. ;)

    Of course, Amp didn’t say we’re getting rid of a government program (“The current bills don’t eliminate Medicare Advantage“); he said we’re getting rid of a layer of payment to the private sector and instead paying only for the bonus services themselves. You are not reading these comments very closely.

  50. 150
    Ampersand says:

    PG,

    I agree with you (#145).

    Rob,

    If it’s bad and you can remove it with legislation, then why not just put that legislation through NOW?

    Because our legislative system is broken. The priority of the legislators is, first of all, getting re-elected (with all the fund-raising that requires); and second of all, getting or keeping their own party in power. Good policy outcomes come in third, at best.

    So doing a fix that is a good idea, that saves money, but which can be demogauged by the opposing party as “Death panels” or “attacking medicare” or anything like that, is not something that can happen in our system, on its own. It can only happen if it’s attached to other stuff, or is a necessary condition of other stuff.

    That’s how it works. Should it be fixed? Yes. But I’m not willing to say that the Dems should put off needed and valuable reforms until a hypothetical future day when the system isn’t so broken, and the sort of pure policy you’re calling for can be viable.

  51. 151
    PG says:

    My original critique would apply to getting rid of MA, however. If it’s bad and you can remove it with legislation, then why not just put that legislation through NOW?

    Public choice theory.

    The reason Republicans (and, to be fair, some Democrats) didn’t do it isn’t that it was too difficult, or they didn’t know how, or because it can’t work — it was because Republicans (and, alas, some Dems) who get elected to Congress are ideologically inclined to give large gifts of taxpayer money to wealthy corporations.

    If you have a measure that spreads a small benefit over a very large population (the cutting out of the waste of Medicare Advantage in its current form), but will impose a significant loss on a small minority (insurance companies), the insurance companies will put much more pressure against the measure than the general public will put in favor of it. However, if the measure is part of a larger bill that many more people can find direct benefits to themselves in (e.g. prohibition on insurers’ refusing to cover people based on pre-existing conditions), then those people will put their pressure in favor of the larger bill, which includes the waste-cutting measure, and the whole thing is much more likely to pass.

  52. 152
    Robert says:

    PG – I’m familiar with public choice theory. That argument doesn’t hold water here because there’s a direct and perceivable benefit to fixing these problems: everybody’s taxes go down. Note that one party has done pretty well for itself over the years by making “keep taxes low” its main talking point; it’s not like there’s no market for that product.

    And if cutting waste and fraud wasn’t resonant with the electorate, it wouldn’t be used as a talking point so often by politicians. All I’m saying is that if it would be possible to do it, rather than just promise it, you’d think somebody would have done it.

    You are correct that I did not closely read the comments. My bad.

    Amp – The “the system is broken” argument is interesting, but if it’s impossible to get a simple fix through the system, how is it possible for them to do all these complex legislative scenarios? Does the system become less broken when it’s faced with a more challenging job?

    And true, some things could be demagogued easily. How do you propose that anybody would demagogue cutting $60B a year in fraud? There no pro-fraud lobby.

    It’s true, by the way, that not all old people become conservative – “just” this current crop. What seems to be the phenomenon, however, is that people TEND to become more conservative over time. Liberalism as a set of memes requires hope and optimism in the host mind, and the longer a mind exists in this world, the more hope and optimism go out the window. And as conservatism relies on a somewhat jaundiced view of human nature, and that view of human nature is more likely to be confirmed than disproved over the course of decades, there is an additional conservatizing trend.

    Liberalism is thus ever renewed, by the continual production of new generations of minds that still have hope, optimism, and ignorance of the black heart o’ humanity, and conservatism is ever renewed by the constant cycling of former liberals away from their youthful beliefs.

    Obviously that’s a gross oversimplification, and equally obviously, there are many individual exceptions; lots of Young Republicans and feisty liberal grannies out there. But the trend seems clear. Conservatives are liberals who get mugged, and the longer you live the more muggings you endure.

  53. 153
    PG says:

    That argument doesn’t hold water here because there’s a direct and perceivable benefit to fixing these problems: everybody’s taxes go down.

    That assumes that people believe a reduction in the cost of a program will be returned to them as an appreciable dollar amount in their taxes. $100 billion saved over a decade, spread over 300 million Americans, is annually $33 apiece; most folks aren’t going to get involved for that little.

    Moreover, government doesn’t rejigger taxes every year to account for how much is being spent. If the government worked like that, taxes would have had to go up during the Bush Administration in order to account for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and new entitlements like the Medicare prescription coverage. (I’m sure you’re sophisticated enough to realize this, so I’m just informing you that other people know it too and act accordingly.)

    In contrast, Republican promises to reduce federal taxes — particularly those that affect the wealthy, i.e. the top marginal income tax rate, estate tax, corporate tax, taxes on dividends and capital gains — create a direct benefit. If my effective tax rate drops two percentage points, that’s a shitload of money (regardless of whether I am wealthy or middle class, because my level of income affects my perception of what constitutes “a shitload of money”).

    Promising to cut waste and fraud is a good way to get elected, but it doesn’t motivate people to push for particular measures once the politician is in office.

    Although operating differently, it has some resemblance to voluntary term limits: how many Republicans in the class of ’94 who had promised to limit their time in Congress, yet ran again past that time, were punished even in the Republican primary, much less the general election?

    At the intersection of cutting waste and going beyond term limits, we have Mike Bloomberg, who is so certain to win reelection as mayor next week that if he does not, I’ll assume the Democratic machine has committed fraud. Bloomberg gets endorsements from the Times et al., and will be reelected despite grumpiness over his rather dictatorial moves to obliterate term limits that had been created by voter referendum, in part because he has been a good financial steward for the city.

    He’s often had to fight with various entities, including City Council, in order to accomplish this. I’ve never gotten a call or email urging me to contact my Councilmember and tell him to support Bloomberg’s efforts. I just can’t get that excited about generalized “waste and fraud.” I get upset by problems that have a significant per capita effect, like the difficulties with firing teachers that leave so many students with crappy, indifferent educators. I have worked with the kids who had these teachers and it makes a huge difference in each of their lives.

    But $16 million saved in the MTA budget? that’s the cost of a single subway ride for each New Yorker. Who’s going to march on City Hall for that?

  54. 154
    Jake Squid says:

    Liberalism as a set of memes requires hope and optimism in the host mind, and the longer a mind exists in this world, the more hope and optimism go out the window.

    … conservatism relies on a somewhat jaundiced view of human nature…

    Wow. Just wow. A jaundiced view of human nature thinks deregulation is a good idea? Wow.

    Tell me another just so story.

  55. 155
    hf says:

    Robert, I don’t know what country you’re talking about, but in America Republican and conservative politicians would fight to keep government subsidies for private insurance companies. They would probably talk about the free market while doing so.

  56. 156
    hf says:

    Yeah, this jaundiced conservatism seems more like traditionalist or “Right Wing” Authoritarian attitudes. Having children does increase these fearful attitudes, unless some contrary effect such as higher education or knowing lots of gay people outside the academy takes precedence. Long life has no effect as far as I know.

  57. 157
    Robert says:

    A jaundiced view of human nature thinks deregulation is a good idea? Wow.

    What would the alternative be? Having evil humans wield power over one another?

    Liberals think that there are good people and bad people, and that if the good people can just get the reins of power, they can make society better by preventing the bad people from working their evil mojo. It’s GOOD that Obama can wield tremendous authority; it’s BAD if Cheney does it. Conservatives think that there is goodness, but that nobody has enough of it to be consistently good, and so we should try to make sure that the reins of power connect to nothing terribly awesome.

    Liberals think that Obama is good and Aetna is evil and so we need to give Obama power to protect us from Aetna. Conservatives think both of them are probably evil, but we can move away from Aetna a lot easier than we can move away from Obama, and we can fight Aetna a lot easier than we can fight Obama, so if power-over-others HAS to exist in order to get things done, better it should be held by Aetna.

    I’m using liberal and conservative pretty loosely, here – there are libertarian-leaning lefties like Hentoff and traditionalist conservatives who just loove them some state authority like Buchanan – but I think the general trend is true. I’ve been both, and that’s what I’ve seen.

  58. 158
    PG says:

    Robert,

    Could you identify specifically who these “liberals” are who think what you’re stating about it being good for Obama to have lots of unchecked power, but bad for Cheney to, and also who are the conservatives who were clamoring against Cheney’s power? If you’re using the word “conservative” as a stand-in for “libertarian,” please clarify as necessary.

  59. 159
    Jake Squid says:

    Liberals think that there are good people and bad people…

    Another just so story.

    From my POV, conservatives think that there are good people and bad people (for example, the rich deserve their wealth because they worked hard for it but poor people are lazy and trying to steal from good people via social welfare programs) whereas liberals believe that there is good and bad spread through everybody and so we should have a structure to both reward good behavior (as much as is realistically possible) and to help those who economically fail (even if some really bad people cheat the system).

    Conservatives think both of them are probably evil, but we can move away from Aetna a lot easier than we can move away from Obama

    What a weird belief. Worst case scenario, Obama will be gone in 8 years while Aetna will control the health care market for centuries. Conservatives sure have some odd fears.

    That’s my just so story. I’m sure that we can enchant each other with stuff we pull out of our asses all week long.

    I think the general trend is true. I’ve been both, and that’s what I’ve seen.

    I’ll just add the hardly necessary comment about anecdotes not equalling data here.

  60. 160
    Robert says:

    I’m sure that we can enchant each other with stuff we pull out of our asses all week long.

    That’s a very sweet proposition, Jake, and sure I’m flattered, maybe even a little curious, but the answer is no!

  61. 161
    Doug S. says:

    Conservatives are liberals who get mugged, and the longer you live the more muggings you endure.

    And a liberal is a conservative who has been mugged by the police. ;)

  62. 162
    Robert says:

    PG – no, I don’t have any examples pre-researched for you. Read some liberal commentators who love Obama, and then go back and read what they wrote over the eight years of Bush. Or don’t; I’m expressing what I believe, not trying to convert you.

    Doug – in my experience the conservative->liberal transformation usually happens when a relatively young traditionally-raised person finds out that many of the lies-to-children s/he was raised with are BS, and they go to the opposite side; I guess that’d be getting mugged by reality. (Reality has a liberal bias, but the universe runs on conservative principles.)

  63. 163
    Phil Howe says:

    @127:

    “I’m saying that macroeconomic indicators, including unemployment, are not strong predictors of partisan voting in U.S. Congressional midterm elections.”

    “And what is your basis for saying that unemployment is not a strong predictor for partisan voting against the incumbent party in U.S. Congressional midterm elections?”

    For the sake of precision (if at the cost of concision), I am making the following specific factual claims:

    • After World War II, the incumbent President’s party has consistently lost Congressional seats in midterm elections. (I admit this weakens my earlier hopeful claim that the majority has been known to gain in midterm elections. It has, just not recently.)

    • The incumbent party’s success in presidential races is strongly affected by changes in GNP.

    • Unemployment and inflation are less important than GNP in presidential races.

    • Congressional vote shares are much less affected by all of these economic factors.

    • As an interesting aside, average economic growth in the first half of a Presidential term is higher under Democratic administrations, presumably because Democrats try to promote growth before midterms while Republicans try to curb inflation.

    If am basing this on Alesina, Londregan & Rosenthal, “A Model of the Political Economy of the United States,” American Political Science Review 87.1 (March 1993), in particular the literature review on page 12. If you want more details, follow through on the footnotes. Of these, Erikson’s “Economic Conditions and the Congressional Vote: A Review of the Macrolevel Evidence,” American Journal of Political Science 34.2 (May 1990) gives the most detailed account of the actual empirical relationships.

    As I interpret this, voters care a lot about the economy, and Congressional candidates are probably advised to look concerned about economic issues affecting their constituents, but that doesn’t mean voters believe that their Congressperson has much control over national economic performance. I’m suggesting that voters assess their representatives based on how those representatives react to economic change more than they do so based on the change itself.

    This further suggests, incidentally, that voters are actually pretty sophisticated. Nuanced, one might say.

  64. 164
    PG says:

    PG – no, I don’t have any examples pre-researched for you. Read some liberal commentators who love Obama, and then go back and read what they wrote over the eight years of Bush. Or don’t; I’m expressing what I believe, not trying to convert you.

    Oh, I thought you were trying to engage in a discussion here, not in community sharing hour about our factually unsupported beliefs. Though on second thought, I guess I should have figured out over the course of your comments @134-162 that while you engage in certain appearances of debate (such as challenging other people’s statements), it’s not what’s really going on.

    But if we’re doing community sharing hour, I now express my belief that conservatives have taken up pretending they’re libertarians in order to expound on how much they believe in limited government and freedom, but will revert to being the same people we saw them being during the Bush Administration as soon as they retake the White House. Liberals like the ACLU and even the NYT editorial page will criticize Obama and other Democrats when they continue doing what Bush and the GOP Congress did. (Whoops, there I go linking examples that support a factual claim I’m making!)

  65. 165
    PG says:

    the incumbent President’s party has consistently lost Congressional seats in midterm elections. (I admit this weakens my earlier hopeful claim that the majority has been known to gain in midterm elections. It has, just not recently.)

    See 1998 (Democratic president, Democrats gained seats in the House and netted neutral in the Senate) and 2002 (Republican president, Republicans gained seats in both House and Senate). Admittedly, these elections post-date the sources you cite, but I don’t think that should detract from their being accounted for in empirical claims.

  66. 166
    Myca says:

    But if we’re doing community sharing hour, I now express my belief that conservatives have taken up pretending they’re libertarians in order to expound on how much they believe in limited government and freedom, but will revert to being the same people we saw them being during the Bush Administration as soon as they retake the White House. Liberals like the ACLU and even the NYT editorial page will criticize Obama and other Democrats when they continue doing what Bush and the GOP Congress did. (Whoops, there I go linking examples that support a factual claim I’m making!)

    I guffawed, PG. You earn +10 Scathing Points.

    —Myca

  67. 167
    Phil Howe says:

    @165:

    You are correct, my argument is stronger than I admitted.

  68. 168
    Robert says:

    I think you’re right about the trend, Phil, but the serious reversals seem to happen when the opposing party has a strong program and leadership. The ’94 realignment, the most devastating reversal in recent memory, happened when the Republicans had a very coherent program (Contract with America) and a very strong leadership.

    As much as I’d like to see a polarity swap in Congress, I just don’t see either the program or the personalities. We don’t have a Newt anymore and the ideological incoherence on the right has never been more pronounced in my politically-aware lifetime. Nobody other than the unelectable hard-libertarian wing has a program; few have a clue.

    So whatever shift there would normally be, it’s going to be blunted by our failure to provide a compelling alternative. “Hell no, screw this noise, I ain’t gonna do it!” works fine as an individual mantra – it’s mine! – but as a program it isn’t all that attractive to more than an angry fringe. The trouble is that while nearly everybody is angry at some point or about something, not nearly everybody is angry at the same time and about the same things. The mass of the people want solutions, or promises of solutions.

    The Democrats, for all that I dislike them, are making promises of solutions. That will be hard to overcome unless this health care debacle REALLY goes south. I give that about a 10% chance of happening; 90%, they put something together and while it will turn to complete shit, it won’t do so fast enough to hurt the Democrats in 2010. (They will be hurt somewhat by their ramming it through without bipartisanship as we’ve already discussed, but they won’t take an additional hit for the program’s failure until that actually happens.)

    PG will probably need me to provide cites and examples of people who would rather hear bogus solutions than simple negative rhetoric. I’m hoping you’ll be willing to take their existence on faith. ;)

  69. 169
    Phil Howe says:

    @168:

    You provide a compelling explanation of 1994, I’m curious whether it can be extended to non-incumbent party midterm success in general. I suspect it can. As I understand it, one of the factors determining the degree of midterm swing is the popularity of the incumbent president. However, the opposition does need to be mobilized in order to react to the incumbent, and American legislative parties tend to be relatively atomized.

    In short: all politics is local.

    On that last note, I’ve been thinking further about my advice that the Democratic party move to the left once healthcare reform is (hopefully) over (96). I still maintain that they should do so – ya gotta keep the base happy, they’re the ones who man the phones, canvass, and write a lot of the checks, after all. Nevertheless we should keep in mind that the midterms will be about 435 individual House races and 30-odd individual Senate races, and therefore the Democrats, including the President, will also need to focus on intervening in districts where it is most necessary and helpful. This will have a lot less to do with left-right stance than with specific personalities and issues in specific districts.

    We both appear to agree that the Republicans are unlikely to rally by next fall in such a way as to draw in a lot of independent and moderate voters. My take on this is that doing so involves finding a central leader, that the current quest for leadership is basically a search for the next presidential contender, and that it’s too early to choose a presidential candidate. (I’m also not entirely convinced that Republicans will have a viable presidential contender by 2012, but that depends a lot on what happens in the next three years.)

    But who knows? Perhaps another Gingrich will come along in 2010, thereby providing direction for Republicans in the next presidential race. But I doubt it (see 96 & 97).

    @148:

    “I don’t think that old people are always conservative. I do think that our current crop of old people are demonstratively conservative, as a lot of polls have shown.”

    I can think of a number of reasons why old people might dislike Obama more than they would your average Democrat. If possible, could you post a link to some good polling numbers on this matter?

  70. 170
    PG says:

    The Obama Administration’s success in cutting waste — no more useless F-22s. Probably possible only because the cut was supported by John “POW” McCain and Bush’s carried-over Sec.Def.

    Cutting items from a budget is difficult, which is why it can’t be done at the drop of a hat, but it is possible if you build a coalition to get it done. Next stop: getting the House to stop pushing for a new presidential helicopter.

  71. 171
    Phil Howe says:

    @170:

    “Next stop: getting the House to stop pushing for a new presidential helicopter.”

    One of my favorite Obama quotes came at the very beginning of the current term. If memory serves, he was being non-committal about whether a new presidential helicopter was necessary, adding the off-the-cuff remark “I’ve never had a helicopter before.”

  72. 172
    Manju says:
    Liberalism as a set of memes requires hope and optimism in the host mind, and the longer a mind exists in this world, the more hope and optimism go out the window.

    … conservatism relies on a somewhat jaundiced view of human nature…

    Wow. Just wow. A jaundiced view of human nature thinks deregulation is a good idea? Wow.

    Ther world’s leading left wing economist has his own riff on this, explaining why “Communism failed” and why “it now seems obvious to everyone except North Korea and Cuba that a market economy is vastly more productive than one controlled from the center.”

    He ponits out that although “every time a Communist regime collapses, it turns out that the actual state of the economy it governed was far worse than anyone had imagined,” he points out “that Stalin did transform Russia into a massive industrial power.” The “question is why a system that functioned well enough to compete with capitalism in the 1940s and 50s fell apart in the 1980s. What went wrong?”

    “Communism failed as an economic system because people stopped believing in it…while a A market system, of course, works whether people believe in it or not.”

    “In the end, then, capitalism triumphed because it is a system that is robust to cynicism, that assumes that each man is out for himself. For much of the past century and a half men have dreamed of something better, of an economy that drew on man’s better nature. But dreams, it turns out, can’t keep a system going over the long term; selfishness can.”

  73. 173
    Ampersand says:

    Manju, although I agree with that Krugman quote, I don’t understand its relevance here. Do you think that Krugman was talking about deregulation?

  74. 174
    Manju says:

    Manju, although I agree with that Krugman quote, I don’t understand its relevance here. Do you think that Krugman was talking about deregulation?

    To the extent that regulation takes us away from a market-based economy, I think he’d say the theory’s applicable. Thats why he’s blamed european unemployment on wage regulations and supports free trade while Identifying anti-globalization activists as enemies of the world’s poor.

    Of course I say this knowing Krugman is the most visible proponent of “big government,” but his is keynesianism profoundly aware of its limits…of the inevitability of the selfish side of man winning over the selfless. capitalism as a necessary evil appears to be his position.

    that’s not really my position. i see selfishness more in randian terms, but i thought krugman’s essay simultaneously bolsters Robert’s point while adding inconvenient twists.

  75. 175
    Manju says:

    i would hasten to add that krugman’s belief in the superiority of the market is probably not applicable to heathcare economics, which he believes is an exception to the rule along the lines of Kenneth arrow’s seminal piece on the issue…of which i have no opinion on, other than to suspect its true….with the possible exception of drug development, which the US dominates and the rest of the world benefits from.

  76. 176
    PG says:

    Manju, you seem to be framing economics as an all-or-nothing matter of ideology, when in fact an economy that achieves multiple goals of production (availability, diversity, informed choice, safety) will be a mixed economy: it will need dispersed, competing producers of goods and services in order to meet the goals of availability and diversity; it will need regulation in order to meet the goals of informed choice and safety.

    Contrary to what you seem to believe, “regulation” isn’t part of economic Communism. Instead, regulation is a super-structure imposed upon or layered over a market system. If, as under economic Communism, the government is in charge of production, it doesn’t need to have regulations because it would just be regulating itself.

    Regulations can become excessive and weigh down the market system’s dynamism, but it also can be at a level that allows workers and consumers to flourish, which is why Krugman may criticize Europe’s wage regulation while still supporting the minimum wage laws in the U.S.

    Discussing economics as though economies are either Communist or Unregulated is absurdly unrealistic. Moreover, as I’m sure Krugman realizes, a substantial reason for the loss of faith in Communism from its inception to its collapse was that people could see that the folks in charge of it didn’t really believe in it either, and that the party officials were corrupt and incompetent. Not to mention the destructive effect of living in a police state, in which any suggestion of how to improve life could be interpreted as a criticism of the ruling party and thus a justification for exile or execution. It is the same problem you have in non-Communist countries with the administration of justice; if the judges can be bought, why should the regular people care about the law?

    Even institutions on the right measure economic freedom by much more than the level of regulation; they also assess corruption, bureaucratic delay, ease of bankruptcy proceedings, etc.

  77. 177
    Manju says:

    PG:

    I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about in regards to me “framing economics as an all-or-nothing matter of ideology” or “Discussing economics as though economies are either Communist or Unregulated” when I just referred to Paul Krugman, Kenneth Arrow, and Healthcare being an exception to market based economics.

  78. 178
    Jake Squid says:

    All I have to add to this is that regulation is not communism and free market is not capitalism.

  79. 179
    PG says:

    Manju, I don’t know how your browser works, but mine doesn’t update a window that’s open every time someone writes a new comment. Your comment @ 175 — the “I would hasten to add,” which indicates that you realize your prior comment left you open to just the criticism you think your later comment would allow you to avoid — was not showing when I opened this page, and so I did not write my comment with it in mind.

    Moreover, nowhere in my comment @176 did I limit my criticism of your comment @ 174 to the realm of health care. It would have been rather silly to do so, since your comment @ 174 doesn’t mention health care and was made to support your earlier claim that Robert’s overall indictment of liberalism as a theory of naive optimism regarding human nature, while conservatism embodies hard-nosed cynicism — which also was not constrained to the realm of health care.

    @ 172, you responded to the statement “Wow. Just wow. A jaundiced view of human nature thinks deregulation is a good idea? Wow.” with a series of quotes about Communism, under the apparent belief that Communism has something to do with regulation. Where in that were you exhibiting an awareness that Communism and a regulated market economy are not the same thing, and the critique that applies to one does not necessarily apply to the other?

  80. 180
    Manju says:

    your comment @ 174 doesn’t mention health care and was made to support your earlier claim that Robert’s overall indictment of liberalism as a theory of naive optimism regarding human nature, while conservatism embodies hard-nosed cynicism

    I said it “simultaneously bolsters Robert’s point while adding inconvenient twists.”

    Where in that were you exhibiting an awareness that Communism and a regulated market economy are not the same thing, and the critique that applies to one does not necessarily apply to the other?

    What you’re doing is responding to your strawman implications of other people’s arguments (” economics as an all-or-nothing matter of ideology”, “Contrary to what you seem to believe, “regulation” isn’t part of economic Communism,” “Discussing economics as though economies are either Communist or Unregulated is absurdly unrealistic”) then demanding to know why the other failed to exhibit an awareness of your strawman constructions.

    Nonetheless, I said I’m aware that “Krugman is the most visible proponent of “big government,”” so obviously i don’t think his criticisms of communism “necessarily apply to” the regulated market, since obviously, he supports a more regulated market….which is not to say there are no simialrites or applicable lessons.

  81. 181
    PG says:

    which is not to say there are no simialrites or applicable lessons.

    Which similarities are these? What’s the lesson to take from Krugman’s critique of Communism as practiced in North Korea, Cuba and the Soviet Union that applies to regulations of the type promoted by liberals in the U.S.? You’re saying that I’ve straw-manned your argument by pointing out that it lacks awareness of the fact that regulation isn’t part of economic Communism, so what is the point you’re trying to make by invoking a critique of Communism in response to a discussion about de/regulation?

    You have an odd habit of making random statements in the guise of arguments, and then declaring that people have “straw-manned” your argument because they have attempted to connect your random statement to the discussion to which it purported to make a contribution. So lay it out: what’s your point?

  82. 182
    Manju says:

    So lay it out: what’s your point?

    My point was to bring Krugman’s view of human nature as it applies to left-right economics into the discussion, which bolsters Robert’s point by demonstrating that leftist views of human nature are unsustainable while simultaneously problematizing his paradigm because the person making the argument is now the most famous leftist economist in the world.

    But if you read Krugman carefully you’ll see that while he has a hardnosed grasp of Communist reality (one that many of his colleagues, like say lester thurow, did not..and were therefore spectacularly wrong about comminist productivity) , he still writes rather wistfully about communist idealism: “an economy that drew on man’s better nature” as opposed to capitalism, “a system that is robust to cynicism.”

    so this desire to appeal to what they think is man’s better nature isn’t restricted to communists. it certainly finds its way into socialism as well as mainstream democrats like Michal Moore or rep Dianne Watson, who recently praised Castro, as well as krugman himself…only unlike Watson he’s aware of the failure. He’s reconstructed and that informs his statism.

    so roberts dichotomy probably has roots in old left-right battles and probably reflects a good chunk of the democratic base who remain somewhat glib about the dangers of statism, but it also fails to consider that the conservative revolution was rather successful in marginalizing this group, as the politics of one paul krugman demonstrate.

  83. 183
    Phil Howe says:

    @All:

    So, what do you think of the opt out provision on the public option?

  84. 184
    Manju says:

    So, what do you think of the opt out provision on the public option?

    I’m still going with a brilliant Machiavellian move by Obama, who doesn’t want us to know its actually by him, to get the repubs to fall into their own trap…by running candidates who’ll say they’ll opt-out (in order to win the primary) and thus nosedive in the general.

    Opt-in may even be better.

  85. 185
    PG says:

    Manju,

    But you were supposedly responding to Jake’s point @ 154, where he says blanket deregulation, favored by Robert and others on the right, is hardly typical of a cynical view of human nature. This was repeatedly on exhibit in the Bush Administration’s opting to recommend that companies voluntarily do this-or-that instead of promulgating regulations with binding legal effect: oddly enough, companies were less likely to do these things voluntarily. If you think liberals are assuming only the best of people, you’re ignoring every liberal who’s telling you the exact opposite.

    Though really the basic problems with simple-minded deregulation have less to do with either its cynicism or optimism, and more to do with gross indifference to individuals’ welfare (oh, 100,000 people died before it was clear that the drug that never got FDA approval was dangerous? eh, that’s the cost of a free market!); failure to grasp transaction costs and information asymmetry (people should be able to research for themselves whether the drug met their personal safety standards!); and ideological adherence to an economic idea regardless of its utilitarian value (it doesn’t matter if deregulation is harmful and people are democratically showing their preference for some level of regulation, because regulation is morally wrong as a form of tyranny!).

  86. 186
    Phil Howe says:

    @184:

    What “primary” are you talking about here exactly?

  87. 187
    Robert says:

    Opt-out isn’t going to end up buying any support, unfortunately, because it’s only an opt-out on the benefits, not an opt-out on the costs. It would be political suicide for anybody to argue for an opt-out in their state.

  88. 188
    Manju says:

    What “primary” are you talking about here exactly?

    all primaries, except for the presidential.

  89. 189
    Manju says:

    But you were supposedly responding to Jake�s point @ 154, where he says blanket deregulation, favored by Robert and others on the right, is hardly typical of a cynical view of human nature.

    that argument for deregualtion struck me as similar ot krugman’s jaundiced defense of capitalism ; Its able to “flourish, in a society of selfish cynics.”

    Though really the basic problems with simple-minded deregulation have less to do with either its cynicism or optimism, and more to do with gross indifference to individuals� welfare (oh, 100,000 people died before it was clear that the drug that never got FDA approval was dangerous? eh, that�s the cost of a free market!); failure to grasp transaction costs and information asymmetry (people should be able to research for themselves whether the drug met their personal safety standards!); and ideological adherence to an economic idea regardless of its utilitarian value (it doesn�t matter if deregulation is harmful and people are democratically showing their preference for some level of regulation, because regulation is morally wrong as a form of tyranny!).

    i wouldn’t worry about it. getting rid of the fda isn’t on the practical agneda anymore than voluntary taxes. you’re proccupied with libertarian purists.

  90. 190
    Jake Squid says:

    getting rid of the fda isn’t on the practical agneda anymore than voluntary taxes.

    The efficacy of the FDA wrt drug testing was gotten rid of well over a decade ago, so a practical agenda no longer needs to get rid of the actual FDA in order to achieve its goal of getting rid of the FDA.

  91. 191
    Manju says:

    The efficacy of the FDA wrt drug testing was gotten rid of well over a decade ago, so a practical agenda no longer needs to get rid of the actual FDA in order to achieve its goal of getting rid of the FDA.

    if what ur saying is true then the simple minded libertarians may very well have a workable system, since they( in your view) are apparently responsable for the gretest drug deveolpment system known to humanity.

  92. 192
    Jake Squid says:

    … responsable for the gretest drug deveolpment system known to humanity.

    Sure, as long as you don’t mind the general population being the unknowing test subjects for new drugs. It isn’t libertarians who accomplished this, it’s the drug companies. It’s now much easier and cheaper to get a drug to market since you don’t actually have to do any real testing.

    Seldane
    Vioxx

    It’s also great if you don’t care about food safety.
    Peanut Corporation of America

  93. 193
    Manju says:

    It’s now much easier and cheaper to get a drug to market since you don’t actually have to do any real testing.

    but its neither easy nor cheap to get a drug to market. for instance, dendreon (publically traded dndn, so yo can look it up)has had their drug in clinical trials since 1994, blowing thru around 100 million. it simply a hugely expensive and high risk proposition accorss the board. i don’t think you appreciate what you have.

    most of these drug compainies end up failing.

  94. 194
    Phil Howe says:

    @188:

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but I had thought that the decision to opt out was made at the state level. In fact, I have trouble imagining how it could work otherwise.

    In other words, you are arguing that Obama secretly pushed for the opt out clause on the public option in order to swing state legislative and executive races. Presumably he would be doing this based on the assumption that state-level Republican candidates would take the opt out clause as an opportunity to run against the wishes of their own constituencies.

    It just doesn’t ring true somehow.

    Perhaps what you are really arguing is that Obama secretly pushed for the opt out clause on the public option in order to encourage Republican Congressional candidates to run on an opt out platform, under the assumption that they wouldn’t notice that they had no say in the matter.

    Clever fellow.

  95. 195
    Robert says:

    It’s the Kenyan birth, Phil. It provides a supernatural level of trickery and cunning to our first African Muslim Communist President.

  96. 196
    Manju says:

    Presumably he would be doing this based on the assumption that state-level Republican candidates would take the opt out clause as an opportunity to run against the wishes of their own constituencies.

    well, what your seeing, like with the charlie crist challenger for example, is the base is becoming more purist, falling back on ideology and platitudes because they have no program. their attempt to vote against the bailout in oct ’08 was the prominent example of this behaviour.

    so, if you get enough state and gubernational candidates doing this it can affect congressional ones, since people tend to vote in a line. obama’s trying to drive the republicans to the fringes in order to scare away moderates and hopefully run against palin, a gimmie. look how he’s made rush the head of the party, whose unhinged rhetoric has been a low hanging fruit for or a long time now except dems like clinton have been afraid to take him on too strong, because they need some southern states and have been psyched into believing heir out of touch with the working class. obama rewrote the electoral map.

    other than giving some cover to bluedogs i don’t see any purpose to the opt-out but that, but if the repubs get too wise to it, they’ll demand it come out, so the prez acts like he don’t care.

    It’s the Kenyan birth, Phil. It provides a supernatural level of trickery and cunning to our first African Muslim Communist President.

    well, he’s an inexperienced black man with a name that reminds everyone of osama bin laden and saddam hussein who defeated the most lethal politcal couple in politics and the most formidable republican out there, driviong them both a litlle nuts in the process (dodging bullets in bosnia? put palin in the VP slot?).

    so forgive me for thinking the guys always playing chess.