Battlepanda: February 2008


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, February 29, 2008

TN Senate bill wants ALL copyrighted works off University networks

In a shameless display of pandering to the RIAA and MPAA, the Tennessee State Senate is scheduled to vote March 5 on SB3974, which is quite possibly the stupidest piece of state legislation since the Indiana Pi Bill. The bill requires that universities receiving state funding
Thoroughly analyze its computer network, including its local area and internal networks, to determine whether it is being used to transmit copyrighted works
Certify to the Tennessee higher education commission that an analysis under this subdivision indicates that the institution's network, including its local area and internal networks, is not being used to transmit copyrighted works
If taken literally, this bill would require universities to pretty much shut down their networks.

Students and staff couldn't apply Microsoft Windows Updates to their computers. Those patches are copyrighted works.

Students and staff couldn't use legitimate music services like iTunes, because those songs you download are all copyrighted works.

And the only web sites you could visit from the university network would be government web sites, since almost all other content on the web is copyrighted.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Meta thoughts on political pandering

As an unreformed free-trader, I cringe whenever the presidential campaigns focus on Ohio, because of the inevitable NAFTA-bashing that arises. I'm in 100-percent agreement with Matthew Yglesias when he writes
I should also say that as someone who thinks NAFTA was a smart policy and an important-though-oversold policy achievement of Bill Clinton's administration, I find it kind of painful to watch. Hillary Clinton's husband's administration had a perfectly defensible record on trade policy and that is why she defended it in the past -- she ought to keep defending it now. Instead, we get these weird contortions from her and Obama pressing a very dubious line of attack that Clinton won't challenge on the merits.
But, of course, this is politics, and just as Iowa's importance in the primary race guarantees we'll never see the end of ethanol subsidies, Ohio's position as a swing state guarantees that we'll be treated to a good show of protectionist rhetoric every four years. Andrew Leonard at Salon sums up the situation well.
How the World Works is sympathetic to economists who argue in favor of bulking up the social safety net and making investments in infrastructure and education, rather than attempting to micromanage corporate behavior, as a way of addressing the inequities catalyzed by trade. But if Willem Buiter ran for political office in Ohio with a stump speech that included a lecture on how the winners from trade outnumber the losers and how "Bill Clinton’s greatest achievement as President was his remarkable and unstinting support for a liberal international economic order" and therefore Ohioans need to stop moaning about NAFTA, he would lose. He would be pummeled. Economists pride themselves on understanding how the world is. But doesn't that imply that their calculus include political reality? The political reality is that voters in Ohio do not feel as if they have benefited from a liberal international economic order. And the political reality is that the voters of Ohio may well determine who the next president of the United States is.
And, of course, if Tennessee became an important state in a presidential election, we'd see no end of pandering to the cotton farmers.

This makes me wonder: If I were in charge of arranging the primaries, and could somehow designate a handful of states as swing states in the general, what would be the least harmful states to designate as the states that get pandered to?

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Monday, February 25, 2008

How Pakistan shut down YouTube

Ars Technica has a good explanation of how Pakistan managed to render YouTube unreachable for several hours on Sunday.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oh, that's just what America needs

Ralph Nader announces he is running for President again.

Didn't you do enough damage in 2000, Ralph?


Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Canadian Taliban

Just in case you thought that all the wingnuttiness was south of the 49th parallel, Pamela Pizarro at RH Reality Check reports that some doctors in New Brunswick are refusing to perform pap smears "because it goes against the doctor’s religious beliefs."

I contacted Peggy [Cooke] to learn more about what was going on with the doctors refusing to perform pap smears and she responded by saying that in one case it is actually the doctor's receptionist who won't allow her young unmarried friend to make an appointment for a pap smear saying that she is too young and doesn't need one (she was 19 at the time of the incident). The second instance deals with a couple who are doctors, whom run a practice together. Known for their religious and anti-choice beliefs, these doctors will not prescribe contraception. The doctor whom refused to perform the pap smear works in the same practice.

What's next? Refusal to prescribe antibiotics to a woman with chlamydia, because the slut is just getting what she deserves?

(Via Scott Lemieux at LGM.)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Nationalizing Northern Rock

Martin Wolf:
Nationalising Northern Rock was the right decision. It should have happened months ago. As soon as it became evident that the stricken bank could only survive with generous public sector guarantees, any so-called “private sector solution” was a mirage. This has finally become evident to the government itself, albeit far too late.

Fortunately, many of the lessons of this debacle have already been learned. These are three: first, regulation of banks needs to pay far fuller attention to the management of liquidity; second, the deposit insurance system of the UK needs to be more generous; and, finally, the UK must have a special insolvency regime for troubled banks that guarantees insured depositors immediate access to their money.
My bold. That sentence strikes me as containing a lot of applicable wisdom, even though I have not properly followed all the in and outs of the Northern Rock disaster.

When businesses are bailed out by the government, big time, a moral hazard is created. The profits remain private while the downsides are assumed by the public. No wonder people take big risks.

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My anecdotal two-cents on medium density housing

My friend Chris lives in Philadelphia in one of the medium-density neighborhoods Atrios refers to. He is happily carless, walks to work and takes the train when visiting friends in other cities. When I went to visit him, we ate at a Cuban restaurant just across the street and then went sightseeing on foot the next day. He likes Philly because it's small enough to be manageable and not too alienating but large enough to have interesting restaurants and businesses. And rent is not nearly as hellish as some of the bigger cities.

Any other smaller cities in the US where this kind of lifestyle is possible?


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chris Bertram, Castro apologist

From time to time, I'm reminded that there are some people on my side of the political fence who really are the utter and complete assholes that those on the other side of the fence like to caricature us as.

Today, I was reminded by Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, who wants us to know that Castro wasn't so bad.
So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid. Let’s hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada. Let’s hear it for Elian Gonzalez. Let’s hear it for 49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!
Brad DeLong, whom Bertram takes a side-swipe at in his post, says that Bertram is making "an impressive play for the stupidest man alive crown".

I won't be so gentlemanly in my assessment of Bertram.

Prof. Bertram, you're a pathetic douchebag apologist for a murderous dictator, no better than the pathetic right-wing douchebag apologists for Pinochet that cropped up on the occasion of his death. When Castro joins Pinochet in hell, you can get together with the Pinochet apologists for a "My Favorite Dead Dictator" party. In the meantime, just shut the fuck up.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Your implicit association testing have no effects on me

I don't have to explain implicit association testing to y'all, right? It's when those clever-clog psychologists use a web-based test to see how quickly you associate various pictures with either pleasant or unpleasant words to see how you really feel about the subject of the pictures.

As it's election season, said clever-clog psychologists from Harvard rigged up a election'08 edition of the implicit association test. Go take it, won't take more than 10 minutes.

Both Amanda and Jeff took the test and found their revealed preferences to square with their actual stated preferences. Good for them. Mine was rather hilariously off. Hillary came first, ahead of Barack Obama, my actual preferred candidate. But what's really funny is Mike Huckabee, the guy I would least likely to see in the White House, did just as well as Obama. McCain came in dead last.

Possible interpretations:

(1) I am secretly an manchurian-candidate type plant sent by the Evangelicals to infiltrate the liberal blogisphere.

(2) Huckabee, more than any of the other candidates, concentrates on propagating a homey, folksy image. Sure, he is a utter religious nutter and I would consider a Huckabee administration a disaster of epic magnitude, but that doesn't mean I don't think he's a nice person.

Sure would be interesting to see some aggregate results of different demographics from this test. A pollster tool for the future?

Or perhaps, with some modifications, the most awesome push-polling tool evar.

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Unsent letters: Dear Jonathan Rauch

Dear Jonathan Rauch:

The whole point of recognizing political tactics like the use of the "stab in the back" narrative is to discredit their use, to take away their power. Not to acknowledge how clever they are at fooling people and concluding that we must give the other side what they want now.


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Keeping the Homeland Secure

Some high-level heads better roll over this fuck up. Michael Chertoff, you should resign in disgrace.
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa - American Samoa's delegate to the U.S. Congress is calling for an investigation into the death of a baby at Honolulu International Airport.

Delegate Eni Faleomavaega has asked the Department of Homeland Security to begin an investigation into death of 14-day-old Michael Tony Futi last Friday.

The baby had been flown to Honolulu for emergency heart surgery. He died while detained inside a customs' room at the Honolulu airport with his mother and a nurse.

Via Boing Boing.

Update: More details from the Honolulu Advertiser.
Luaipou Futi and a nurse banged on a locked door at Honolulu International Airport Friday morning and begged for medical help for Futi's 14-day-old son, who had flown here from American Samoa for heart surgery and was becoming distressed in the warm room.

According to Futi's attorney, from the other side of the door, the women heard voices telling them to remain calm.

After 30 minutes in the room, Futi, her son, Michael Tony Futi, and the traveling nurse, Arizona Veavea, were released, attorney Rick Fried said.

City paramedics took Michael to Kaiser Permanente's Moana-lua Medical Center, but he died later that morning. Emergency Services Department officials said they received a call at 6:10 a.m. and the child was taken to Kaiser Moanalua in critical condition.

Autopsy results are pending.

It should have only taken 10 to 15 minutes to get Michael from the airport to Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children, where he was scheduled to be hospitalized on Friday and examined for a probable heart operation, Fried said.

But immigration officials detained Michael, his mother and Veavea, apparently believing there was "some problem with the visa waiver form for the mother," Fried said. In fact, Fried said, all the travel documents were in order.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Robert Reich: This recession different from others

Is he right?

WE’RE sliding into recession, or worse, and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going.

The only lasting remedy, other than for Americans to accept a lower standard of living and for businesses to adjust to a smaller economy, is to give middle- and lower-income Americans more buying power — and not just temporarily.

On an intuitive level, I agree with Reich to the extent that Americans are going to be hurt by the housing bubble more than they are by the dot com bubble. This one is hitting us where we live, literally. However, I have no idea if he is correct in his assertion that this recession is different in kind as well as magnitude from previous recessions.

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War on bacon-wrapped goodness

It's enough to make me contemplate libertarianism.

What, you wonder? Senate surveillance bill? Some latest craziness in the drug war? What? What?

Bacon-wrapped hotdogs banned on the streets of L.A.

For no good reason!

Read more at AOTP.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

"There was no housing bubble"

...So claims Alex Tabarrok.

His claim seems to based on two points:

(1) House prices have not dropped down to anywhere near the historical average.

(2) Alex does not think the house price will drop down to anywhere near the historical average.

I agree with the first, and the second is kinda hard to refute since it's just what he thinks. I think he's a mighty brave man for making such a bold prediction in the age of the internets and searchable archives.

Is there an easy way for me to remind myself to review his predictions in 2010?

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Introducing the Art of the Possible

OK guys, the site have not had it's official ta-da launch yet, but I'm going to give y'all a scoop. I am going to be blogging at a new venture called the Art of the Possible. The site is the brainchild of frequent Battlepanda commenter and ex-blogger Lawrence Krubner and it's conceptualized as a site where the liberals, libertarians and even disaffected Republicans can come together on neutral territory and have productive conversations.

The site is focused on the issues where all three groups tend to find common ground. Civil liberties, the war on drugs, increasingly unchecked executive power and the disastrous war on Iraq

My other co-blogger there right now, Mona, whom you might know from Chez Jim Henley, is a libertarian who voted for Bush in 04 and have been kicking herself for it ever since.

Check out my inaugural post.

Since the site is a paid gig, there will be no cross-posting. But rest assured that Battlepanda will continue to be filled with contentious goodness.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Marginal taxation and incentives

When we hear about marginal taxation, it is almost always in the context of the wealthy. There has been a lot of arguments over whether or not very high marginal taxes on the wealthy discourages them to work to a degree significant enough that it is adverse to society. That is an interesting, complex question in itself that people often simplify in such a way as favor their own foregone conclusions.

Now, what we hear less about is the effective marginal taxes on the poor. It's true that those earning very little pays little or no income tax. However, they do lose benefits as their income increase, meaning that some end up in the ridiculous situation of ending up losing more in benefits then they gain in a pay raise. A marginal tax rate of more than 100 percent. Now I think we can all agree -- that's a strong incentive to distort behavior. Via the Unpronounceable One:
“Despite the EITC and child credit, the poverty trap is still very much a reality in the U.S. A woman called me out of the blue last week and told me her self-sufficiency counselor had suggested she get in touch with me. She had moved from a $25,000 a year job to a $35,000 a year job, and suddenly she couldn’t make ends meet any more. I told her I didn’t know what I could do for her, but agreed to meet with her. She showed me all her pay stubs etc. She really did come out behind by several hundred dollars a month. She lost free health insurance and instead had to pay $230 a month for her employer-provided health insurance. Her rent associated with her section 8 voucher went up by 30% of the income gain (which is the rule). She lost the ($280 a month) subsidized child care voucher she had for after-school care for her child. She lost around $1600 a year of the EITC. She paid payroll tax on the additional income. Finally, the new job was in Boston, and she lived in a suburb. So now she has $300 a month of additional gas and parking charges. She asked me if she should go back to earning $25,000. I told her that she should first try to find a $35k job closer to home. Also, she apparently can’t fully reverse her decision to take the higher paying job because she can’t get the child care voucher back (the waiting list is several years long she thinks). She is really stuck. She tried taking an additional weekend job, but the combination of losing 30 percent in increased rent and paying for someone to take care of her child meant it didn’t help much either.
I think everybody, right and left, agrees that this case is a damned shame and something should be done. Of course, we'll probably disagree on what should be done.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Let them buy TeeVees

Oh, just a beautiful takedown by Barry Ritholtz of the recent piece of disingenuousness from Cox and Alm arguing that we should be looking at something called the "consumption gap" instead of the income gap when assessing inequality. The consumption gap is smaller, argues Cox and Alm, thus showing that inequality is not as great in this country. But their point is an unbelievably mundane one -- poor people spent more and save less than the rich as a percentage of their income.

The rest, including a secondary point about how po' folks get TeeVees nowdays, is just hoary. I'll let Barry take over from here.
This is, of course, classic economic misdirection.

What the authors are revealing here are not rising incomes or societal similarities of wealth. Rather, their data and cost discussion are about Technology adoption lifecycle (Joe M. Bohlen and George M. Beal, 1957), later refined in Everett M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations. New technologies and products come down in price over time, regardless of the state of economic equality in the broader society.

This is the oldest dodge in economics. That two Fed economists either fail to understand technology adoption cycles -- or worse, have chosen to willfully ignore it -- simply boggles the mind. If this is the best that Federal reserve researchers can produce, it does go a long way in explaining why our financial system is near crisis.
By the way, I love "economic misdirection" so much I'm starting a whole new label catagory for it.

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Hitting close to home

For the Toll Brothers, purveyors of fine McMansions, that is.
"Luxury builder Toll Brothers Inc (TOL), hurt as many buyers to try to get out of contracts for new homes amid falling prices, says a member of its founding family is trying to walk away from an agreement to buy a new condominium.

The daughter of Vice Chairman and co-founder Bruce Toll informed the company last month that she and her husband "did not intend to make settlement" on a $2.47 million home they had previously agreed to purchase, the company said in a regulatory filing.

Toll Brothers went on to say that it intends to pursue its rights under the agreement of sale with Toll's daughter, Wendy Topkis . . . The contract with Topkis was reached prior to fiscal 2007, it said. The location of the condo was not disclosed."
As commenter Marcus Aurelius astutely pointed out in the comments at the Barry Ritholz post I got this from, it seems the Tolls and their kin drank their own kool-aid and is as surprised by this as other dumb schmucks caught in the subprime malestrom.

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Yes we can...bomb Iran

We've all heard a lot about the transformative and inspirational nature of the Obama campaign. Well, if it inspired the man who was responsible for the awful "My hump" song to come up with the heart-swelling "Yes we can", that's surely a sign that there's something to it.

This is not as musical, but funnier.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Anti-Semitism in Tennessee

I'm not fond of the knee-jerk cries of anti-Semitism every time someone is critical of Israel's policy toward the Palestinians, but this is the real thing.
The Anti-Defamation League on Monday condemned a flier circulating in Memphis that says U.S. Rep. "Steve Cohen and the Jews Hate Jesus," saying it "attempts to incite tension" between African-Americans and Jews.

The flier, which provides the name and telephone number of Rev. George Brooks of Murfreesboro, Tenn., has been in circulation since at least last Thursday. On Monday, Brooks took responsibility for the broadside, saying, "I sent that out."

The flier, which Cohen said he received at his law office in Memphis last week, reads in part: "Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen and the JEWS HATE Jesus. So Memphis Christians must unite and support ONE Black Christian to represent Memphis in the United States Congress in 2008. Simply because this Congressional district is predominantly black…

"It is the responsibility of the black leaders of Memphis to see to it that one and ONLY one black Christian faces this opponent of Christ and Christianity in the 2008 election."

Brooks said he sent the flier because the 9th Congressional District is "about 90-something percent black. That's the reason." According to the latest U.S. Census, in 2000, the district was 59.7 percent black.

Wow. Just wow.

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Electability, with and without hindsight

Rob Farley hammers Daniel Drezner hard for the following comment:
This process meant that the Democrats ran Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry in November. There's no way that any politico can justify a process that delivers that set of outcomes.

OK, perhaps Drezner should not have said 'outcomes' since, as Rob correctly points out, Hart could have been the one getting clobbered by Reagan instead of Mondale, who knows? And even as a strong Edwards supporter in 04, you'll never catch me say something that Edwards would have won if we chose him to be our candidate. "If only..."s are cheap.

However, there's no getting around the fact that the slate of candidates Drezner named are all rather unappealing and they are all the choice of the Democratic party establishment. And they all lost. In Kerry's case at least, the line being used to sell the establishment candidate have been "he is the most electable one" and the party passed up more charismatic, more visionary, more exciting candidates to line up behind the guy deemed most electable guy.

As Rob points out, there are myriad factors affecting the outcome, a lot of it having nothing to do with Kerry. But the thing is, Kerry has revealed himself to be an awful candidate long before the big day. He failed to strike back at smear tactics effectively, he allowed himself to be caught out in long, woolly explanations of his actions that made for terrible soundbites and he radiated deadly waves of anti-charisma. If he had eked out the election, that would not change the fact that he was not a great candidate.

I think the problem with 'electability' is that it reduces people's ability to think about candidates to a kind of checklist format. White? Check? Tall? Check. War veterans? Bonus! Candidates like Kerry are the most likely to emerge victorious if we look for the most electable candidates rather than asking who is our strongest candidate even though at first glance "strong" and "electable" seem to be synonyms.

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Huckabee robbed in Washington?

This is just such a weird story. What was Esser thinking calling such a close election with any votes uncounted at all? Josh Marshall sez "I'm really not sure I've ever heard anything that ridiculous" and I'm inclined to agree with him.
RICHMOND, VA. -- All day, Mike Huckabee's campaign has been trying to learn about how the final 13 percent of the votes in the Washington state Republican caucuses would be counted. As of this afternoon, only 87 percent of the votes have been counted and CBS News has deemed the state too close to call.

Finally, Luke Esser, the chair of the state GOP party, returned the Huckabee campaign's call, saying the final results would be determined sometime within the week.

The only hitch? The state chairman had already declared John McCain the winner last night, with only a 242 vote lead. In a written statement last night, Esser said, “Congratulations to Sen. McCain for a hard-fought win, his second caucus victory in the 2008 presidential nomination process. And congratulations to Gov. Huckabee for his strong second-place finish.”

Huckabee campaign lawyer Lauren Huckabee (daughter-in-law of the candidate), who is skeptical of the fairness, asked for a lawyer to monitor the resluts.

The state GOP denied the request and hung up on Lauren Huckabee, according to the campaign. Campaign adviser Ed Rollins will be sending lawyers to Olympia, scheduled to land this evening, to investigate the matter.
My italics. Sometime within the week? To count the remaining 13 percent of the vote from a state caucus? Hanging up on the campaign lawyer? What kind of a zoo is this?

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Places never to travel to

The United Arab Emirates.
Travellers to the United Arab Emirates are being warned about its severe drug laws which have seen dozens detained for apparently minor offences.

Possession of painkillers like codeine and some cold and flu medication could result in a mandatory four-year prison sentence, Fair Trials International said.

In one of the most extreme cases, it reported a man being held after poppy seeds from a bread roll were found on his clothes.
(Via Boing Boing.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

When all you have is a hammer

I'm never completely sure when Alex Tabarrok is being serious, and when he's just trying to be provocative (or as my co-blogger puts it, "an ass"). So maybe the joke is on me for even responding to his recent post, in which he proposes that the best fiscal stimulus available would be - you guessed it - temporary marginal income tax cuts.

Now this completely flies in the face of the conventional view of the causes of recessions, as explained by Paul Krugman in Baby-Sitting the Economy. Recessions are a demand-side problem, which supply-side schemes like Prof. Tabarrok's can't fix.

Jim Henley puts it well in his response to Tabarrok.
First, here’s the thing about recessions: They don’t happen because people don’t feel like workin’. In fact, they create legions of people who would love to be working at all but can’t. For most of those who are still employed, their incomes are at best partially under their control: employer policy on raises, bonuses and overtime hours bulks larger than their immediate intention to earn more. In a recession, employers tighten up on all those things - that’s what makes it a recession.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that everything I've learned about macroeconomics I've learned by reading blogs, so I'd love to see a response from one of the professional macro bloggers out there. How do I activate the knzn signal?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mandate versus Penalties

[First up, before we get going, I just want to say that even though I prefer Clinton to Obama on the issue of healthcare, Obama still has the coveted Battlepanda endorsement (but not my vote since I can't be arsed to vote in the primary from abroad) because of other non-healthcare issues.]

The most persuasive defense of Barack Obama's healthcare policy is summed up by Mark Kleiman:
[T]wo plans, both with guaranteed availability of insurance regardless of health status, both with subsidies. One has a mandate with (as yet undefined) enforcement mechanisms. The other has no mandate but (as yet undefined) financial disincentives for free-riding. Until the two plans are better specified, there is no basis on which to estimate how many people will wind up not buying insurance under either plan, and therefore no basis for any firm estimate of costs to the taxpayer.
Mark (and Dean Baker) acknowledges that the adverse-selection problem have to be dealt with. Clinton does it with a mandate, Obama does it with penalties. Potayto, potahto? Hardly. We all know that young people are disgustingly healthy for the most part. Under a penalties based system, it might be decades until a healthcare catastrophe serious enough to make the now-not-so-young grasshopper wish to come back to the fold. Do you really see Obamacare setting the penalties high enough to recoup the lost premiums of all these years? The longer a person who opts out (and presumably rack up more penalties), the less incentive they have to get back in the system, unless they are really, really sick. Way to collect the sickest of the sick in the system while giving those who remain outside of the system and reasonably healthy growing incentive to stay out with every passing year.

As for pointing out that Hillary have not detailed how the mandate will be enforced, that's true as far as it goes but the problems with enforcing a mandate is hardly insurmountable. We have no problems enforcing that other mandate, social security. In contrast, I find it hard to think of penalty structure that will allow people in and out of the system without some seriously skewed incentives.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Primary care providers

Dammit. I'm not a Hillary fan. But this Paul Krugman op-ed clearly underlines the unpalatable fact that when it comes to the issue of healthcare, Clinton has got Obama's wrongheaded plan whomped.
But while it’s easy to see how the Clinton plan could end up being eviscerated, it’s hard to see how the hole in the Obama plan can be repaired. Why? Because Mr. Obama’s campaigning on the health care issue has sabotaged his own prospects.

You see, the Obama campaign has demonized the idea of mandates — most recently in a scare-tactics mailer sent to voters that bears a striking resemblance to the “Harry and Louise” ads run by the insurance lobby in 1993, ads that helped undermine our last chance at getting universal health care.

If Mr. Obama gets to the White House and tries to achieve universal coverage, he’ll find that it can’t be done without mandates — but if he tries to institute mandates, the enemies of reform will use his own words against him.

If you combine the economic analysis with these political realities, here’s what I think it says: If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance — nobody knows how big — that we’ll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won’t happen.

Sigh. If there are any pro-Obama people reading this, please defend his healthcare plan for me. I really want to support the guy, and I really don't want to support Clinton. But getting it wrong on healthcare...that's a biggie.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

With Dems like these...who needs Republicans?

I just cannot believe the Obama campaign went there. What's next? Are they going to start handing out Hillary nutcrackers?"Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it," goes the tagline.

If they can't afford the insurance, how are they supposed to afford the doctor's bills when it comes?

Healthcare is not fancy dinners out at Per Se. It's not getting a third car for the household so the teen of the house can toot themselves around without waiting to borrow the family car. Healthcare is a reality for every single family in America, and I guess for every single person too, although most of us young-uns can get away with ignoring that reality for a while most of the time. It's not an optional extra.

The decision is not whether or not you want a healthcare bill but whether you want to get stuck a huge, unpredictable one every once in a while or a manageable one that spreads the risks. People buy insurance for all sorts of things (such as life insurance) purely for the risk-spreading factor even though they have to pay a significant premium to do so (every dollar that goes into running and promoting insurance companies is a dollar that does not go towards payouts, and then there are profits...)

But the dividends are even greater for healthcare, as collective bargaining brings down prices from medical service providers.

This ad campaign, to quote Paul Krugman's blog, is just "poisoning the well for health care reform".

After Edwards dropped out, I find myself in the Obama camp by default. And I still am, despicable mailer or no despicable mailer. But still. Blech!

My only hope is that this piece of crap is somehow not actually an official sanctioned product of the Obama campaign but the work of some "sympathetic" group not actually affiliated with. Anybody have word?

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