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12/11/13 04:19:00 pm, by Tony Quain Email , 614 words
Categories: Michael Lind

Link: http://www.salon.com/2013/12/11/voucher_mania_why_the_right_is_diseased_and_out_of_ideas/

I read this article and just saw so much that is incorrect. But I just wanted to highlight one bad paragraph.

The second to last paragraph says this:

In the case of imperfect markets, the good or service should be provided either by a regulated, privately owned utility or by a government agency. Water and sewage systems, for example, are natural local monopolies. The hospital sector is oligopolistic, if only a few are in driving distance, and in some parts of the country monopolistic. And comparison shopping is impractical in medicine, because even if prices were transparent and publicly available — and they are not in the U.S. — patients would lack the ability to evaluate particular physicians, hospitals and kinds of treatment. That’s why, in the field of medicine, the consumer can never substitute for a combination of public oversight and professional self-regulation.

This is so bad. Every sentence is wrong, like he pieced together the questions and wrong answers of a multiple choice Freshmen year econ exam. In the case of natural monopolies the good or service should be provided by a private regulated utility or government-run utility, not in the case of all imperfect markets (more commonly called “market failures"). Hospitals may be oligopolies for emergency inpatient stays, which account for some fraction of the 21% of health care costs that are inpatient, but for everything else related to health care you can and do get it done elsewhere. I guess that’s why he tries to conflate hospitals with health care generally by calling it the hospital sector (Really?) instead of just hospitals. He claims that even if prices were transparent and available, patients would lack the ability to evaluate particular physicians, hospitals, and kinds of treatment, but gives no evidence of this. In fact, physician and hospital cost and quality data are sold by data providers to insurance companies all the time. And if people were paying for health costs directly, these comparisons would be available to them (and already are, in places like Florida). He claims that prices are not publicly available and transparent, which is only half true (has this guy never gotten a statement of services from his insurance carrier?). But again, that is the result of people not needing to comparison shop. In the field of medicine, the consumer can absolutely do without “public” oversight. In fact, the most oversight that occurs is already the private oversight of hospitals and insurance companies. But insurance companies are a blunt tool in this regard, in that they are too removed: they can not substitue for the specific and varied preferences of the individual patient. With government this becomes even more removed, as the standardization of all insurance plans to Obamacare’s three attests.
There are two tests for something being a public good: (1) Is it rival? (2) Is it excludable? If both, it is a public good. If neither, it is a private good. If rival and non-excludable, it is a common pool resource. If non-rival and excludable, it is a club good. Leftists claim that health care is a public good because they are ignorant of what public goods are. But there is nothing public about it (with the exception of immunization). All of its goods and services ultimately accrue to discreet individuals. All are rival. All are excludable. It is not a public good.
With the use of health insurance and government health programs, this becomes distorted. But to the extent that we return to treating it as a private good, which is what it is no matter what we do, the market for health services will take on normal market characteristics, such as prices, quality appraisals, guarantees, and the like.



08/07/12 11:43:57 am, by Tony Quain Email , 334 words
Categories: Newspaper Editorials

Link: http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/numbers-on-health-act-debunk-gop-claims/1244046

This editorial gets it wrong that the ACA (Obamacare) will trim the deficit. Through accounting gimmicks, the Democrats were able to get CBO to say that ACA does not add to the deficit. CBO then showed last year that the adjusted ten year forecast put the net impact of ACA (taxes and expenditures together) in the red. Then, because the Medicaid provision was struck down by the Supreme Court, CBO now says that yes the ACA is back in black (through reduced expenditures and less coverage, but with the same taxes and fees). If we wait a year or two, the ballooning expenditures in the out years will come into the ten year window, and the ACA will be in the red again, this time with less to show for it and the same pain for taxpayers.
But what really surpsied me about the article is the claim that the ACA saves taxpayers money:

Republican leaders, such as House Republican Policy Committee chairman Tom Price of Georgia, say the law is unaffordable by noting that it requires public outlays of $1.7 trillion — a number from the CBO analysis. But he and others conveniently disregard the other side of the ledger where the law balances expenditures through cost controls, new taxes, penalties and fees. As the CBO has repeatedly found, overall there is a net savings to taxpayers. The Affordable Care Act is a deficit-reduction measure.

“The law balances expenditures through … new taxes …” so “overall there is a net savings to taxpayers". Did anybody read this before publishing it? Even if the ACA reduces the deficit (for now), that is not a net savings to the taxpayer. At best, it is a net savings to the government. To put it in the left’s terms, if the baker gives you half a loaf instead of a whole for the same price as before, so that she can balance her books and turn a profit, that is not “net savings to the consumer". Pull yourself together Tampa Bay.



10/10/11 02:18:58 pm, by Tony Quain Email , 298 words
Categories: Paul Krugman

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/opinion/panic-of-the-plutocrats.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

Left and Wrong author: Paul Krugman
Left and Wrong article: Panic of the Plutocrats

More drivel about the OWS goons.

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

If you read carefully you can see the implicit acknowledgement that the problem is not with Wall Street but with … government! The losses of Wall Street banks would have been losses suffered by Wall Street alone if the government hadn’t bailed them out and saddled the rest of us with the cost of their misjudgments. Who suppoerted the bailouts? Liberals. And they continue to cause problems because of “explicit and implicit” federal mortgage guarantees. Who continues to back FNMA and FHLMC? Liberals. And don’t get me started on “tax loopholes", something that every free-market economist and politician has had in their crosshairs well before Ronald Reagan and Steve Forbes brought tax reform to the national policy stage. (BTW, does Krugman get a pass for sneakily eliminating the word “effective” from the phrase “paying lower rates"? Despicable dishonesty.)



08/11/11 03:47:30 pm, by Tony Quain Email , 338 words
Categories: Michael Tomasky

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/10/barack-obama-needs-to-force-congress-into-recess-make-appointments.html

Left and Wrong author: Michael Tomasky
Left and Wrong article: Obama’s Congressional Test

Left wingers have it all wrong. They think the American people have record high disapproval of Obama’s presidency because he “doesn’t show any backbone.” How about because he’s a socialist ideologue?

I mean, back in the last Congress, when his Republican opposition was diminished, he bullied them every chance he got. On the stimulus and on Obamacare, he got the most left-wing legislation passed that could have passed, with razor-thin margins.

Now that his opposition is bigger and tougher, he simply can’t do that anymore. But he still tries to. In every initiative and every speech, he still sounds like he believes in the old welfare-state line, even if he can’t actually get that kind of stuff through.

But left-wingers like Tomasky think it’s because he doesn’t have backbone, that he doesn’t stand up for his beliefs. They are living in denial.

And so what is Tomasky’s solution? Run away! Run away! Like Sir Robin in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, he wants Obama to avoid confrontation now that the foe he once bullied is as big as he is. Tomasky’s solution is to force Congress into recess and try to sneak through appointments through a loophole. Yep, lot of backbone shown in that.

Recess appointments are a mechanism to make it so someone can be appointed to make the trains run on time (or get the ethanol subsidies paid) until Congress returns from break. It was not supposed to be used to get appointments through which would not have been confirmed by Congress. Both Democrat and Republican presidents have used this loophole in recent history, and it is a reprehensible practice.

The American public has turned on Obama because they see him as someone who will use smoke and mirrors to get his way. They see him as being the antithesis to “post-partisan". Using recess appointments, an outgrowth of extreme partisanship in the last few decades, does not show backbone. It shows spineless cowardice.



08/10/11 11:48:09 am, by Tony Quain Email , 361 words
Categories: Thomas Friedman

Left and Wrong author: Thomas Friedman
Left and Wrong article: The Day Our Leaders Got Unstuck

I’ve never really liked Thomas Friedman. The stuff he writes that people think is insightful is only insightful to people who never really understood the world in the first place. In other words, they are cute ways of explaining relatively complicated matters to people who are unsophisticated. Good as teaching materials to a junior high civics class.

In this latest article of his, it really seems like he’s spent too much time in a seventh grade classroom. Our political leaders just need to come together and say, “we’re all going to compromise", and that will be it! One minute later, “the Dow [is] up 1,223 points!” Why don’t we do that every day? By the end of the week I’m a millionaire.

It’s bad enough that the leaders and thinkers of today are excessively cynical. We don’t need people like Friedman who exhibit excessive naivete.
There doesn’t have to be a law that passes two houses and gets signed by the president. There doesn’t have to be a grand compromise. There doesn’t even have to be agreement. In his la-la land at NYT, Friedman thinks that a press conference announcing the start of a commission will make markets think that all our problems are solved. And not just any commission, but a revival of the Bowles-Simpson commission, the one that Obama completely disregarded! It’s bad enough that Friedman thinks our problems will be solved, but to believe that others will not have the least cynicism, especially after the last few weeks, he’s got to have all the corn missing from his silo.

And I like how his fictional John Boehner gives in not just on tax loopholes but on rates too, while Obama doesn’t give up anything–not high-speed rail, not his stupid health care law, not entitlement reform. Instead, Obama admits, “I’ve done a poor job integrating my nation-building ideas, including health care, into a single vision so people understood where I was going.” Which is no admission at all, but another accusation against the people, who lack understanding.

Tom Friedman, you’ve lost your marbles.


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