Daily Archives: 11/06/2010

Partially True: To Save Money, Save the Health Care Act – NYTimes.com

I would think to really reduce costs we could stretch out subsidies for insurance purchase, and maybe reduce them.  The mandate for required purchases could also be delayed.  I don’t think the bill does enough to reduce costs.

Making the system mostly focused on guaranteed catastrophic coverage might also make sense, though this would tend to drive people into the emergency room.

All this said, I think we owe Barak Obama a debt for getting a health insurance law passed, even if we have to amend it substantially.


To Save Money, Save the Health Care Act – NYTimes.com.


We can’t even agree on facts – Bob Herbert of the NY Times OP-ED Retracts a Whopper

Amen to this.  If we could at least have facts to agree on and then recognize and negotiate on goals, then pick policies that will meet those goals, would we all better.  These days we can’t even agree on facts to know what the problem if any is.  Global warming is an example.


From:  Environmental and Urban Economics

via Bob Herbert of the NY Times OP-ED Retracts a Whopper.

Bob Herbert needs a new fact checker– the rich aren’t as rich as he thought.  Quote:  “My column on Tuesday incorrectly described the situation of the small group of Americans earning $50 million or more annually. Their incomes declined by 7.7 percent between 2008 and 2009; they did not quintuple. The incorrect information came from a report based on flawed Social Security Administration data. An inspector general is investigating after two individuals filed false W-2 forms that led to the skewed data.”  source

Folks, you do not have to be Jim Heckman to be able to tell apart a 7.7% decline from a quintuple increase.  This is a pretty serious difference.    Suppose you weigh 200 pounds.  A 7.7% decline would mean that you now weigh roughly 185 pounds while a quintuple increase would say that you weigh 1000 pounds. Do you see the difference?

During this time period of left/right screaming, we need to agree on what the facts are.  There is an objective reality that can be measured and described how it is evolving over time.  But, we need more measurement and we need trusted institutions and researchers to spread the word about their findings.   When people turn for information from sources who they know share common political goals, they know that they will solely hear “facts” that they want to hear.  How do we expose everyone to “consensus” facts?

When I taught at the Fletcher School, one student suggested that everyone should be forced to listen to the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. I laughed at the time but I now think he might have been correct.

Would we make better public policy if we all agreed on what the facts are?  If we disagree about the facts (such as whether climate change is taking place), what collective action decisions are tabled?

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My Yellowbrick Road to Obesity: The Fudruckers One Pound Burger (via kluckit)

I returned from Vegas battered and broken at not being able to complete the 50 nugget challenge but was more determined than ever to redeem myself. Luckily I got my chance just a week or two later. One of the first burger places I went upon coming to California was a nice family establishment called Fudruckers. Besides the obviously funny name that I’ve now inputted into many a failed joke (ie. you mother fudrucker) the place has a surprisingly a … Read More

via kluckit

AC and Fareed Expose Why We’re “Toast”


via AC and Fareed Expose Why We’re “Toast”.

Fareed gives Paul Ryan credit for putting together a plan that makes some tough choices, even though he doesn’t think Americans or even other Republicans can support it:

The whole thing [the Ryan “Road Map” plan] may be too revolutionary to take place and it may also short-shrift seniors on health care, so I have some concerns about it. But basically it gets us thinking about how do you create a more rational, more simplified tax and entitlement structure that is sustainable in a world in which you have many, many more retirees then you had when this whole system was set up. But, the key is there are no Republicans who support it. Paul Ryan is pretty much out there on his own.

And he doesn’t sugar-coat the fact that Democrats don’t even have a plan:

CNN: What about on the Democratic side? Is there any likelihood that we will see some innovative proposals from the White House or Democratic leadership?

Zakaria: I doubt it, I think the Democrats, if the past is to be any guide, will tend to cling to the idea of preserving Social Security, preserving Medicare, and sort of try to paint the Republicans as the cruel heartless people who want to cut all this stuff. So if the Republicans are frankly, totally in a stubborn fantasy land on taxes where they simply cannot conceive of any possibility in which they would need to raise taxes to raise revenues, the Democrats are in a stubborn fantasy on cutting entitlement spending.

Watching the Anderson Cooper story (above) about the wild claims about the cost of the President’s upcoming trip to India (brought up, oddly, in response to a question about how the Republicans propose to bring Medicare spending under control), you might conclude we are “toast” when it comes to compromising for the sake of deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility in general.

Rally to Restore Sanity – Trip Report (via The BackChannel Blog)

I wish I could have attended this. I hope that some who aren’t arguably “liberals” attended to make it an actual bipartisan plea to “turn down the volume. Much or most of the right dismissed this as a plea for them to tone it down mostly.

Rally to Restore Sanity - Trip Report Written by TempeBev’s daughter, Tif, who attended the Rally to Restore Sanity. We flew out on Friday afternoon/evening in a plane totally packed to the gills.  Apparently, there was also a Marines marathon race goingon the same weekend, so there were some military on board.  At the end of the flight, the flight attendant asked us to applaud the military who were on board, and we did. Then suddenly, someone shouted, "And we've got Rally-ers on boa … Read More

via The BackChannel Blog

Randianism can beat a strawman – Is that a surprise?

Does everyone who doesn’t identify themselves as a “conservative” favor confiscatory taxes, and an enforced flat distribution of income and wealth. Are the only viable alternatives the the US minus its social safety net or the Soviet Union? I don’t think so.

I read an interesting post by a new convert to Conservatism, of I think the Ann Rand variety. She makes a number of interesting point, but felt it boils down to this:

…conservatism is founded on the reality that every individual has an unlimited inner reservoir of creativity and intelligence that is the source of their ability to succeed. However, this inner ability does require external conditions for its full expression and these are individual liberty and the right to keep the majority of the fruits of one’s labors because that right harnesses the power of human ambition and rewards it.

This means that fiscal conservatism has morality on its side because it creates the system for the largest number of individuals to flourish, while not abandoning the truly needy to their deaths and assisting the temporarily unlucky back to productivity and self-reliance.

I see two main issues. First, I don’t think this present anything other than a grotesque caricature of Progressives or those in the center (non-conservatives for short). It seems to presume only conservatives want a “…right to keep the majority of the fruits of one’s labors” for individuals. While some on the broadly speaking “left” may favor confiscatory taxation that this assumes, I don’t think it is a widespread belief among progressives or moderates. Favoring raising tax rates back to where they were under Bill Clinton is hardly favoring confiscatory taxes. In other words, in this post, the left are straw-men defending some crazy polar case that almost no non-conservative would defend or advocate.

The second issue is that most non-conservatives also favor: “not abandoning the truly needy to their deaths and assisting the temporarily unlucky back to productivity and self-reliance”. That many on the right favor this same thing is more debatable.

I may be presenting a straw-man in suggesting some on right are devoid of simple altruism, but the “left” in the post is also a straw-man. And is this just straw-man? Later in the comment this appears from a true Randian:

The real problem is that conservatives by and large agree with the left’s moral premise, which is altruism. Altruism is the morality that denies our right to exist for our own sake and demands self-sacrifice for the sake of others. According to altruism, working strictly or primarily for one’s own benefit is selfish and therefore evil.

I challenge you to find a conservative willing to denounce altruism and uphold it’s opposite — the individualist morality of egoism, which holds that all men are ends in themselves with the right to exist for their own sake, by means of their own honest effort, without being required to sacrifice for anyone one else.

With the clear implication that the “truly needy” at least may be on their own – and good luck to them!

Altruism is the normal human impulse I think. Altruism originating in compassion not guilt is healthy, and the case against Altruism generally has always left me unmoved, and in my opinion is totally impossible to reconcile with with Christian Gospel that I also believe in.

It seems to me that most of the left and the center, where I’d put myself favor a safety net to protect those in society who are the most vulnerable, the poor, sick and disadvantaged, consistent with allowing the productive to keep the bulk of the fruits of their labors. This post is nicely written but mostly stomps the guts out of a straw-man, not the views of most non-conservatives in the US in 2010.

Protecting the rights of the productive, and those in need through no fault of their own is not owned by the right, the widely made claims to the contrary not withstanding. I think the debate is just about what legitimately belong in the social safety net, and what share of goods produced (well below the majority) should go to that safety net. Is health care a part of such a social safety net for example?