Friday, August 31, 2012

On Yglesias on Money agan

Yglesias has a post here.  He has a much more provocative tweet here

Michael Woodford knows how to create jobs. Does Ben Bernanke? 

Both refer to Woodford's Jackson Hole speech 

I have read only the concluding section of Woodford's paper.  In it he expresses no firm opinion about whether a nominal GDP target would have a significant (or even detectable) effect on GDP.  There is a lot about how QE without promises about future policy makes no sense, but he presents no evidence that statements about policy in the fairly distant future have any effect on anything.  The reason is simple, no central bank has attempted to cause an increase in expected inflation.

So far I am attempting to interpret Woodford.  I don't agree with everything which he implies.  He suggests that we have essentially no information about the effects of medium and long term policy guidance from central banks.  In fact we have a lot of information (see key weasel "an increase" in the paragraph above).  In the late 70s and early 80s monetary authorities tried very hard to convince people that they were absolutely determined to achieve low inflation.  If the expectations channel works even when other channels don't this would have caused low expected inflation even without direct effects through gigantic safe short term interest rates, severe recessions and record setting unemployment.  The evidence is overwhelming that monetary authority statements about their medium term targets and goals have never worked without policies which bypass the expectations channel.

As far as I know, neither you nor Woodford has explained why this historical evidence is not relevant and doesn't amount essentially to a refutation of our confident claims and his diffident claims that we don't have relevant data.

I see no justification for your tweet that "Woodford knows ..." I think this is a problem with epistemology.  What do you mean by "knows" ?  Doesn't it have something to do with proof (in mathematics) and evidence (in everything else).

Stupidocalypse watch

Risk level Yellow.

Fred Barnes pulls out the major stupid.

Off to check the Ks.

OK no stupidocalypse today.  Kaus's eagerness to argue that no one else is one tenth as brilliant as Kaus triumphs over his even the liberal Mickey hackitude

Kaus is such a self delighted jerk that he could convince me of almost anything by arguing the opposite.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pew Wow

I am shocked by the fact that the one word which comes to the mind of more US adults when they think of Romney is "honest"

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that the top one-word associations held by Americans about presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are "honest" (32 percent), "businessman" (31 percent), and "rich" (31 percent), followed by "good," "conservative," and "Republican." 

In dramatic contrast, main stream establishment journalists are noting that the Romney campaign is extraordinarily dishonest.  I am also shocked that the Washington Post Editorial board, which is clearly right of center, denounced Paul Ryan's dishonesty.  This is an extraordinary event.

Of course there is no way that Ryan could have given such a dishonest speech if Romney were honest, since Romney had to approve the speech.

There couldn't be a huger gap between the views of the general public and of everyone who checks Romney's claims of fact.

I guess this is reason for some hope.  It seems that journalists are informing the public about the fact that Romney lies extraordinarily often for an unscrupulous politician.  

It is true that the 32% is a plurality and close to the crazification factor (27%).  I'd guess that most of the 32% don't believe news sources other than Fox.  But I do think the huge gap between perception and reality amounts to a vulnerability.  Many voters will remain ignorant on election day, but others will start paying attention about now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

no no no no, but yes

Mr Smith from Washington has a lot of trouble with the concept of consent.  Maybe this is because when he says "no" he really means "yes"

“TOM SMITH (R-PA): Uh, having a baby out of wedlock. SCOLFORO: That’s similar to rape? SMITH: No, no, no, but… yes”

Mista Kurtz I read

Within moments, we can all drop the use of the word “presumptive” when describing Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee.

But not the words "presumptuous" or "preposterous" or "preppy"

Hacks and the English language

Dean Baquet told Politico that the situation amounts to “much ado about nothing,” though he didn’t go into specifics.
“The optics aren’t what they look like,”
In his defence, I'm sure his speech is not what it sounds like and his thought is not.
And what is Mr Baquet's job ?   Editor at the New York Times.  
Shakespeare wept.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Liars, Damn Liars and Sandovals

Edited down from TPM

Sandoval’s office claimed his request for flexibility was not actually a request for a waiver. 
“Nevada hasn’t requested a waiver and has no intention of requesting one,” his spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner told the Las Vegas Sun. “The letter was not a request for a waiver; it was a request to explore the possibilities.” 
In August 2011, Sandoval’s Health and Human Services director approached the Obama administration: “Nevada is very interested in working with your staff to explore program waivers that have the potential to encourage more cooperative relationships among the state agencies engaged in economic stimulus through job creation, employment skill attainment and gainful employment activities,” 

I honestly admire Knner's audacity.

Ambra sta scerzando

This has to be a joke.  Jake Bernstein at Propublica has an article about a scheme to make money when people die based on the fact that life insurance companies were about as sensible as mortgage lenders in the mid naughties.  The implausible name of the guy who thought up the scheme is
Caramadre that is Dear mother.

Propublica has an excellent reputation and a high quality photograph of Senior Dearmother but I'm not convinced.

Of course I have no problem with the idea that the name of the author of the article about making lots of money off of saps means amber in German.

Via @danieldavies

update:  Further reading removes all doubt although Jake Embar has resorted to an anagram to make the joke less obvious.  One of Dearmother's associates in the planto profit from the terminally ill who will not long be able to sign and get $2000 for nothing (except transfering money from an insurance company to Dearmother)  is allegedly named Maggiacomo which is an anagram for Maggio coma, that is , May coma.

Suuuuure this is a serious article about insurance regulation, well paid suckers and the Bush bubble.  Riiiight.

Another name in the article is "Hanrahan" but my gaelic is weaker even than my German (I thought Bernstein meant opal till Google corrected me causing me to remove my dumb joke about colorful but slightly bewildering reflections).

OK Google tells me that Han rahan means "very rahan" begorrah oi donna thenk ut wass rahan at aull tuh tak the munny fra reech foools that rooned the wurrld (and in particular tha Airish) ecunammy.  I'da nammed heem Hanrahight.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not enough Vowels or Numbers

Maureen Tcacik wrote

In the years since the Bankruptcy Reform Act passed in 1978, the nominal price of college tuition has risen more than 900 percent. Over the same period the median male income - again, nominally - has risen 165 percent. And since the percentage of the workforce boasting a bachelor’s degree has expanded from less than 20 percent to nearly a third, I don’t have to convince you that the median de facto return on investment on those diplomas has diminished greatly over the same years.

Via Kathleen Geier (too many vowels and too kind to Tcacik -- also I have just read Geier's excerpts).

hink I could maybe be convinced indeed I think that there are some serious calculations of the return on investment in which it has diminished.  But that claim isn't demonstrated by the numbers given in the article, because two key numbers are missing.  One is the effect of a college degree on salaries which has vastly vastly increased since 1978.  The other is the opportunity cost of lost labor income and labor market experience.  The increase in this cost is roughly along the lines of the increase in median wages (but is lower).  The issue is that if A increases proportionally less than B then A+B increases proportionally less than B.  The nominal cost of getting a college degree has *not* increased 9 fold -- in 1978 y far the larger part of the cost was the opportunity cost.  I think this is still more than half.  I think the total cost of tuition fees plus lost earnings plus lost labor market experience has roughly roughly doubled.

The implication of the reference to the fraction with diplomas is clearly that the college/just high school wage differential has declined due to increased supply of college graduates.  But that differential has vastly increased.  It was very low in 1978 (which happens to be the year I went to college).  I wasn't there (didn't take the course) but I know freshmen in introductory economics were told that they would have gotten a better return on the total cost (tuition fees plus lost wages) investing in treasuries  and labor market experience.

This ceased to be true in the 80s with a huge huge increase in the college wage premium.  Salary with a diploma minus salary with just a high school diploma divided by salary with just a high school diploma much much more than doubled.  It remains very high.

Note also that inflation wasn't helping students in 1978.  The high expected inflation lead to high nominal interest rates.  The people who made out like bandits at the banks' expense were people who had borrowed before inflation was high -- basically home owners who signed fixed interest rate 30 year mortgages in 1973 and before.

Who Wrote This ?

Who Wrote This ?


jump her and thump her

a) 2LiveCrew
b) Todd Akin
c) William Shakespeare
d) Eminem

Answer after the jump (sorry no thump)

Good Point

good point of the day
Religious faith is crucially important to so many lives, but it should not be a hall pass that allows you to sit out the class on how babies are made. 

Yglesias again

I think I will make a new rule for myself and not read Matthew Yglesias's posts on monetary policy.  I forced myself to read the latest and found the experience unpleasant.  Also it is clear that I'm not accomplishing anything (in general but also in particular in commenting on those posts).  So this might be the last of this series.

I think this edit is a fair summary of the post.

People sometimes characterize me as thinking that more inflation would help the American economy. I think it might, perhaps, within limits. But what I really think is that more tolerance of inflation would help the economy, not the inflation itself.
It's not that three or four percent inflation is such a wonderful goal. It's that extreme aversion to three or four percent inflation is causing the Federal Reserve to persistently "shoot too low" in terms of aggregate demand. 

my comment

I don't know about you, but I think that, so long as Congress blocks fiscal stimulus, the USA needs higher inflation or expected inflation.   I think it would be OK if people expected that inflation would be high in 2018 or so, then changed their minds in 2014 (so inflation was never far below the level expected when 3 year contracts were negotiated).  In that case (and the arithmetic is tight) I think high expected inflation without high actual inflation ever would be OK.

But seriously, I think we need either fiscal stimulus or higher inflation to avoid horrible unemployment and lost output .

I have long ago noticed that I very much disagree with you about monetary policy.  But only now do I realize how absolute and profound our utter disagreement is.   Basically, you think that at the current zero bound, the Fed can stimulate aggregate demand through some channel other than expected inflation or actual inflation.

My sense is that very very few economists agree with you.  Scott Sumner does.  Uh there may be others.

How exactly is it supposed to work ?  Your post assumes that the Fed can pull aggregate demand up  just as an archer can point the bow and arrow up.  But if you don't just assume that but rather attempt to explain it, then how does it work with a Federal Funds rate of zero and no increase in inflation or expected inflation ?

This comment is very late, because, after reading the first two paragraphs I feared my head would explode if I read the rest.  I'm glad to say that didn't happen.

I think that you are important enough on the blogosphere that say Paul Krugman would be willing to discuss the question with you.  Why don't you ask him to do that ?  I have a high opinion of your intellect and I find it quite painful to read your posts on monetary policy.  So what I don't have to read your blog and you owe me nothing.  But please.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Matt Yeglesias tweets

Safeway needs to introduce congestion pricing for supermarket lines.

Well yes.  Why don't they ?  Look part of the huge price of business class airfair is that business class travelers avoid the long lines (I don't know the rest cause I've never flown business class or first class but I envy them when waiting in line).

A store with "discount" cash registers with long lines could price discriminate.  I think it is obvious that all but one register would be "discount" so that people willing to pay a few percent more would have no wait.

Why don't they do this ?  For one think Yglesias can go out to Friendship Heights and look at the Neiman Marcus where they sell the same stuff for ten times the price.  I've been there.  I've never actually seen anyone buy there, but they don't have to sell much to be profitable given 905 % profit margins.

I think it doesn't work at safeways because rich twits shop in some gourmet place or send servants to shop for them or something.

But I think it is a mystery.

Akin's Diet

Republican Senate Caucus discovers amazing Akin's diet.  Red meat makes you thinner !

update:punctuation correcte'd

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Yglesias on Money Againnnn

I think I have written this post many times.  I am daring to side with Peter Diamond in his debate on economics with Matthew Yglesias.

Yglesias thinks it is absurd to argue that the Fed can't achieve 4% expected inflation soon after time t if it wants 4% expected inflation at time t.  I stress that "wants" is in the present tense.  I am quite sure that he doesn't implicitly add the qualifier "and will still want 4% inflation when the unemployment rate is 5%" or (and this is the relevant one) "and economic agents believe it will still want 4% inflation when the unemployment rate is 5%."

IIRC his argument is that the Fed has a monopoly on generation of dollars and so can clearly determine the relative price of dollars and other things, and  he has claimed that it can do so through expectations before changing anything.   In any case his argument was that it can achieve this through expectations even if the Fed couldn't change real interest rates, real GDP or employment without changing expected inflation.

I think this has been fair so far.  Now I will consider a special case.  t is January 20 2001.  The Fed sure wanted 4% inflation then.  It achieved 4% inflation but not soon after.  And before it got to 4% inflation it caused extremely high short term safe real interest rates, high medium term real interest rates and an unbroken post WWII unemployment rate.

I don't recall anything in the argument which implies that time t  inflation rate is less than 4% .  It seems to work equally well for shifts in either direction.

But those of us who remember 1981 and 1982 believe that it is very hard to cause a change in inflation or expected inflation.  That a declared goal is not enough.  That demonstrated extreme determination is not enough -- inflation above 4% and extremely high unemployment lasted long after Volker (and over on this side of the pond) Thatcher made their absolute determination and utter relentlessness clear.

I also think that people who followed monetary policy well before 2008 have a very clear sense of just how vastly more massive the Bernanke Fed's stimulus efforts have been than all previous efforts (put together really).

As always this doesn't mean I think the monetary authority shouldn't declare a higher target inflation rate (4% better than 2% and 6% better than 4%).  But I don't think it will make a big difference.

Pulled back from comments

Pulled Back from Comments

Quite a few California hospitals have no ERs; more every year- ERs lose money. The most recent figures that I could find are at and show 121 hospitals in LA County with 75 providing some ER services in 2009 (would be fewer today)- a few have only standby which means doc on call, not a place that you should go to. I'm a public sector MD; many hospitals in the area accept Medicaid and Medicare patients as inpatients but typically discharge them without any follow up, even though they may be on a complex and dangerous drug regimen, instructing them to go to the nearest county hospital ER and demand follow up- that clogs our ER and it's often difficult for us to get comprehensive medical records from the gold coast hospital, unless we have a family member go there and make a stink- otherwise we get 6 pages of lab tests, no information as to why doctors did what they did, etc. The doc fix or SGR is a separate issue (and a disgraceful one going back on ACA hospitals and doctors part MMMMMMCCCLXXXV

OK let's see.  I think that hospitals without ERs are still required to provide emergency care.  Clearly this is an important issue, since EMTs won't drive ambulances to hospitals without ERs.  The commenters point is important and news to me (I live in Italy).

It seems to me pretty clear that "follow up" is Medicare plan B.  It is important that hospitals generally do this and reduced follow up from ACA seems to me to be another potentially important issue.  But I don't know if the incentives to provide follow up will change due to the ACA.   I guess I should know.  To me it seems that the current clearly inadequate incentives might become more inadequate remain the same or improve (due to penalties for readmission and accountable care blah blah and in way over my head).

My point is just that I don't think that hospitals will drop out of Medicare/Medicaid as many doctors with office practices have.

It was a dark and stormy night

It was a dark and stormy night when I looked up this years Bulwer-Lytton awards.

ACA hospitals and doctors part MMMMMMCCCLXXXV

Here Matt Yglesias runs into my ACA squeezes hospitals nursing homes and home health are agencies obsession and I comment (againnnnnnn)

Oh I note the URL
doesn't correspond to the current title

Cutting Medicare Provider Payments Will Probably Hurt Some Patients

One will probably be embarrassed more often if one writes "Will Probably" instead of "May." and one may even regret it. "Might" makes right.  Be gay write "May." (in the sense of cheerful and worry free not that there's anything wrong with it).

OK my comment.

I kinda sorta semi disagree.  I mean I agree that "nothing to worry about" is implausible (never say "never" and most claims including "nothing" are worth approximately that).

But your discussion overlooks a key difference between the Medicaid stinginess which hurts the poor and the ACA stinginess.  the ACA squeezes hospitals nursing homes and home health care agencies not doctors with office practices.

I think this distinction is fundamental.  The argument that squeezing providers will hurt patients always includes the key word "doctor" which means office practices (which means Medicare plan B not Medicare plan A).  The ACA totally absurd forecast of labor productivity growth equal to that of the economy in general (which is really just a way to say we will squeeze you) applies only to plan A not plan B.

So the question I asked myself is are there any hospitals who refuse to see Medicaid patients (note this means they get no money for taking care of Medicare patients either -- the deal the CMS offers is take all of them or leave all of the cash with us).  I googled for about half an hour and found nothing (except a decade old claim about an un-named hospital somewhere in I would guess Rochester NY).
I will link only to my google self search because I have made this claim so many times

Basically even if silly accounting (which distributes sunk costs over procedures) says hospitals will lose money taking care of Medicare patients, they won't be able to turn them alll away without laying off half of their staff, selling half of their equipment and renting out half of their rooms as apartments.  In contrast the decision to sink costs (build new hospitals and wings of hospitals) depends on overall returns where the Medicare cuts are balanced by the reduction is losses from care of the uninsured.

Also hospitals have to provide emergency care.  If an elderly person shows up in  non-Medicare participating hospital's emergency room, he or she can't be released until he or she is stabilized.  Then he or she can't be billed.   If Mitt Romney shows up with an emergency in the emergency room of a hospital which doesn't participate in Medicare, that hospital would have to give him care for free (no matter how little he likes that).

And nursing homes come on, they get most of their income from the CMS.  They aren't refusing Medicaid patients.

I think the ACA was written with full consideration of the doctors not taking Medicaid patients problem and designed so that it would lead to almost no refusals to see Medicare/aid patients.  If there are any, they will be the very top hospitals without active emergency rooms who can fill their beds with patients with private insurance (as in the Mayo Clinic, Stanford U Medical center and *not* the MGH or Johns Hopkins).

How many parameters did he really estimate?

This is a post on mathematical statistics.  I am going to make things easy for myself and assume that our purpose in life is to forecast y, that y = xBeta+epsilon and that epsilon is iid normal.  Also there are N observations of y, N+1 of x and the aim is to forecast the y which will follow the N+first x. This will be xBetahat for some estimate Betahat.
 x is is a k dimensional vector.

Given all of these assumptions, if Betahat is estimated by OLS, there is a simple formula  for the expected value of  that N+1st  (y-xBethat) squared
it is equal to (N+k)/(N-k) times the average squared residual (the average of  within sample y-xBetahat squared).

The k in the denominator is based on the fact that the unbiased estimate of the variance of epsilon is the sum of squared residuals divided by N-k (while the average squared residual is, of course, the sum divided by N).  The k in the numerator is due to the variance of (xBeta - xBetahat).

Now this means that if (all the assumptions above) and we assume that someone is making a forecast by running OLS and giving the fitted value, we can estimate k by seeing how much worse the out of sample forecasts are than the within sample forecasts.  More generally, that comparison yields a k which isn't exactly the number of parameters estimated by OLS but has something to do with the number of parameters which were estimated.

I am writing this post, because I am thinking of efforts to forecast presidential elections using economic data. The number of reported parameters is typically quite low.  The within sample fit is always excellent.  The out of sample forecasts are practically worthless.  

This makes it very clear that the data have been dredged -- that there is ex post model specification -- that researchers have explored various regressions until they get one which fits extremely well.  A calculation of the k which fits the ratio of out of sample means squared forecast error to within sample mean squared residual might be fun.

I can't do it (I don't know N or anything) but my guess based on the Silver analysis is that they correspond to k on the order of 80% of N.  Pretesting k variables is not the same as OLSing with k variables.  But I mean  that's some very impressively bad statistical analysis.

My momma always told me

My Momma always told me that if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all*.  Notice the difference

“You definitely don’t want to draw attention to differences [in opinion] at all. You’re not helping the candidate,” said Alan Blinder, who was an economic adviser to Al Gore and John Kerry in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. “[The candidate] should know that you think he’s wrong on this or that, but you shouldn’t go blasting that to the media.”
“The candidate takes the policy position and you as an individual or economist might have some different ideas but you support the policies the candidate’s chosen,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Sen. John McCain’s economic adviser in the 2008 campaign. “Once the decision’s made, you’re done.”

Read more:

Blinder said that one should blast disagreement to the media, Holtz-Eakin said you "support the policy the candidate's chosen."  Blinder's position is consistent with keeping one's mouth shut unless specifically asked (and maybe refusing to answer if asked or even maybe maybe dodging the question if asked).

Holtz-Eakin clearly feels obliged to say things he doesn't believe.  I mean it isn't clear from the quoted passage, but it is clear from his general record.

* (and you can just imagine how frustrating it could be to try to tell that to me -- I don't recall her ever losing her temper over the issue -- my momma is a saint)

Fatal Pareto

If you can't trust wonkblog who can you trust.

 Brad Plumer writes "Lately, some states have realized that the gas tax has a fatal flaw. When people buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, revenues drop. "

I comment.

Typo alert.  You wrote "a fatal flaw" when you meant "a non-fatal flaw."  Replacing the gas tax would be fatal to those who live on low lying islands and drown not to mention for those who die fighting to protect our oil supplies.

But enough about mere lives, lets talk about dollars.  Replacing the gas tax would make us poorer, because with a milage tax we demand more gasoline which drives up the price of petroleum which transfers money from oil importing countries like the USA to oil exporters.  The USA is not a tiny player in the world petroleum market and it is uh total economic idiocy to act as price takers.

I'm sure you support the gasoline tax.  I don't really believe my  typo joke.  So why ?

He concludes

Meanwhile, the CBO notes, a mileage-based tax has at least one drawback — it decreases incentives for people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. So if policymakers are trying to reduce gasoline and oil use, then a direct gas tax is a more straightforward way to go. But if Congress or state governments are looking for a more efficient way to bankroll their roads and bridges, then a VMT tax could be an option worth considering.

My comment concludes

How does "more efficient" mean "so that we send more money over seas" ?   I thought the idea of efficiency had something to do with getting the same result while spending less money not more.

I guess that some assume that incentive effects of taxes must be bad (because they assume markets are Pareto efficient but then don't know what the "Pareto" means (it implies among other things that  it's not a Pareto improvement if it is costly to Khameini  (personally)).  I guess that you just want to write about the feasibility of the VMT and make a totally nonsensical claim about its desirability if feasible in a really feeble attempt to convince your readers that they should care (before concluding that it is nonsensical then flipping and saying that efficiency has nothing to do with saving money).

Of course the headline is "Sick of the gas tax? A mileage-based tax might be a better option." and "might" makes right.  Also "could" in the conclusion  makes a bad argument good.  

Still the post is not up to Wonkblog's usual standards.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Niall Ferguson asserts that Marx is inerrant.  Seriously in response to an argument about the origin of the US middle class he wrote

F: Fact checked and--oh no! I really did get that wrong. It was the government that created the middle class, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge! Remind me to tell Karl Marx about this. It will come as news to him that, contrary to his life's work, the superstructure in fact created the base. "

Uh professor Ferguson, it may be true as you assume that Karl Marx was absolutely right about everything, but uh those of us who care about data would like some evidence.  The fact that Marx said something doesn't mean it is correct. I don't know how to break this to you but he was human.

Also, I really hate to be the one to bring you the news, but he's dead so you can't tell him.

Over on that side of the Atlantic (actually over on this side of the Atlantic too) "Marx wrote p" is not considered proof that p is true.  Hows about you ask your colleagues in the Harvard history department if they agree that Marx is infallible (is prof Womack still around ?  If so, tell me his response which I'm pretty sure would be "no").

Drezner vs the Facts.

Dan Drezner comments on Ferguson and demonstrates that he has no intellectual standards whatsoever.  To him a lie is merely tendentious.  I can only conclude that he is not interested in objective truth.

I comment on Drezner

Fact are facts Mr Drezner.  You assert that Fergusson was "They can be tendentious in their use of facts" involved with " tendentious matters unrelated to his scholarly work" and went on to "compound his economic errors in a Bloomberg interview. "  No reader could guess from this dishonest post that he committed gross intellectual fraud by deleting words when quoting a CBO report in a way which amounted to a simple lie about the content of that report. I quote the proof of gross monstrous intellectual misconduct noted by Dylan Byers at Politico

"in order to get himself out of that predicament, Ferguson decides to edit the CBO report to satisfy his own conclusions:
'If you are wondering how on earth the CBO was able to conclude that the net effect of the ACA as a whole was to reduce the projected 10-year deficit, the answer has to do with a rather heroic assumption about the way the ACA may reduce the cost of Medicare. Here’s the CBO again:
“CBO’s cost estimate for the legislation noted that it will put into effect a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. The combination of those policies, prior law regarding payment rates for physicians’ services in Medicare, and other information has led CBO to project that the growth rate of Medicare spending (per beneficiary, adjusted for overall inflation) will drop from about 4 percent per year, which it has averaged for the past two decades, to about 2 percent per year on average for the next two decades. It is unclear whether such a reduction can be achieved ...”
Indeed, it is, which is why I wrote what I wrote.'

But Ferguson cut the CBO excerpt off mid-sentence and changed the meaning entirely. Here is how that last sentence in the excerpt actually reads:

'It is unclear whether such a reduction can be achieved through greater efficiencies in the delivery of healthcare or will instead reduce access to care or the quality of care (relative to the situation under prior law.)

So contrary to what Ferguson leads readers to believe, the CBO report does not state that the reduction is "unclear.""

If it is OK for a historian to do this, then what is the point of historiography ?  Or do you not think that accurately quoting primary sources has anything to do with historiography.

I know you don't like Krugman and guess you don't like DeLong, but this disgraceful essay shows that you have no respect for facts or honesty.   

Try to find someone unfamiliar with the case of Ferusson, have that person  read your post and then Dylan Byers post and ask that person if he or she thinks you are a serious and honest person.  I'm sure you can find someone too polite to say "no definitely not" but I wonder if you can find anyone who doesn't say nor or blush or stammer or both when asked.

You absolutely fail to distinguish Ferguson-s general approach, which is indeed tendentious and not scholarly or reflective from the specific case of removing an essential clause *not context text* to lie about his source material.  How is anyone to trust his historiography knowing that he is capable of such an act _  May people have expressed disappointment in what Ferguson has become, because he wrote at least one good book based on archival research.  But, since they haven't gone down into those archives to check whether he falsified his quotations of those primary sources, how can they know whether any of his books are historiography at all let alone good historiography.

If a biologist wrote a cover story for Newsweek and falsified experimental data when challenged, would you argue that it is extreme to discuss revocation of tenure ?  Why do you have no standards for historians at all ?  

What level of intellectual fraud would convince you that Ferguson should not have tenure ?  I am not talking about criminal acts but offences against historiography.  What could he possibly do which he hasn't done already.

I concede that

I concede that ... well actually usually I don't concede anything.  This is a vague wandering whine of a post.   Very often I am irritated by one paragraph of an essay, column or blog post with which I generally agree.  I often write a comment along the lines of "excellent post.  I generally agree but I don't agree with p ... clearly false ... how could someone as smart as you write something so stupid."  I'm quite sure that there is a norm practically a rule for the well made essay which I am ignoring and regularly violating.

IIRC the offensive paragraphs are typically the third or fourth.  They concede that those who disagree with the conclusion of the essay have a point.  Often the alleged point is uh rather obtuse dull unsharp uh not a point at all.  I imagine the writers whom I criticize being mildly irritated (but unsurprised) when they read my comment and note that I just don't get it.  That when they say the other side has a valid point, they are not at all responsible for that assertion.  That it is just something that one has to say to be a serious essayist.  that I must be an extremist partisan fazioso fanatic sure that the other side is wrong about everything.

Of course I feel that if someone asserts something  in their own name, they are responsible for that assertion. The fact that it is the obligatory statement that those who disagree with their conclusion are right about something does not change this.  I'd say, if they feel that they must say that those who disagree with their conclusion must have a point, but they can't think of anything, then they should just write that (honesty may not be the best policy but it is honesty).  It would be better and more polite to leave such a passage out (note the key word "if" in the preceding sentence).

OK examples.

Jon Cohn is a really excellent commentator on health care reform.  But, feeling the need to concede a point to Ryan, he quotes a fraudulent argument based on a deliberate equivocation here without noting the deliberate equivocation.

 They also warn that the more traditional approach to controlling cost, ratcheting down what Medicare pays providers, could cause doctors and hospitals to see fewer patients. Something along those lines has happened to Medicaid: The program pays physicians so little that many won't take new Medicaid patients. 

Part of the argument is ascribed to Republicans but Cohn doesn't note the trick.  It is here "providors ... doctors and hospitals ... doctors"  Those whose payments are ratcheted down are listed as doctors and hospitals.  Those who won't take new Medicaid patients are doctors.  The trick is to pretend that squeezing hospitals is just like squeezing doctors.  But it isn't.  

The ACA mandates ratcheting down payments to hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies (Medicare plan A).  It does not mandate ratcheting down payments to doctors with office practices (Medicare plan B).  The problems due to attempts to ratchet down payments are due to attempts to ratchet down payments to doctors with office practices.  IIn context) the passage suggests that Obama has signed a bill which includes another doomed attempt to squeeze doctors with office practices.  But the ACA is not such a bill.  There is no evidence that the providers who will be squeezed by the ACA will drop out of Medicare/Medicaid.  They have been squeezed and squeezed by earlier reforms and, as far as I could tell with extensive googling, it just hasn't happened.    The equivocation is between two cases of health care providors -- the ones whom Obama plans to squeeze and the ones who can't be squeezed without hurting patients.   I'm sure Cohn knows all of this, but I'm also sure he feels he shouldn't say that everything Republicans say is a lie (even though he can't come up with an example of honesty).

See much more on this issue here , here, here and oh hell the google

David Brooks sure is no Jon Cohn.  But he did just the same thing (again because he felt the need to say something good about Ryan.  Outsourced to Don Taylor

David Brooks notes that Paul Ryan’s biggest mistake was voting no against the final report of the deficit commission in December 2010. As Brooks puts it:
To put it another way, Ryan was giving up significant debt progress for a political fantasy.
I agree that Rep. Ryan’s bravery is greatly overrated, and in this case when his vote and leadership could have brought the fiscal commission to an up or down vote in Congress, he walked away. Brooks has it wrong on Ryan’s logic, however. He says
Ryan voted no for intellectually coherent reasons. He argued that the single biggest contributing factor to public debt is the unsustainable growth of Medicare. Yet the Simpson-Bowles plan did nothing to restructure Medicare, and it sidestepped health care issues generally.
The statement that the fiscal commission report had nothing to address Medicare is absurd. 
I've already noted that, in a parenthetical aside to a column denouncing drawbridge Republicans Matt Miller makes a completely unqualified assertion about taxes before Kemp-Roth without feeling the need to present any evidence.  

(In case you were wondering, Ronald Reagan wasn’t a Drawbridge because he entered office when marginal rates, at 70 percent , were truly damaging to the economy. But as GOP business leaders now tell me privately, the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent, let alone today’s 35 percent, are hardly a barrier to work or investment).

parentheses his.  The parentheses make it as clear a possible that he feels the need to put in a good word for some Republican sometime lest he be thought partisan.  It isn't relevant (hence the parentheses) and Miller feels no need to provide any evidence for his assertion, because he doesn't feel that it is his. I'm sure he feels he has no choice but to say something good about some tax cuts or else.

I have the same problem when talking.

I have been told (repeatedly) that it is very very rude to concede no margin to the person with whom one is debating.  My discussion of the possibility that it might not be possible to honestly note a valid point made by the other person is perceived as a rejection of politeness, good manners and diplomacy.  

My momma told me that if I don't have anything nice to say, I should say nothing at all. I am willing to stop debating when asked (sometimes I have to be asked more than once) but I absolutely reject any rules of good manners which require me to say something which I don't believe.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Matthew Yglesias is too kind to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and David Brooks

Matthew Yglesias is too kind to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and David Brooks in the post entitled "David Brooks is Wrong ..."

Brooks wrote

But to be fair Romney and Ryan do have an incredibly brave and sensible Medicare reform package on offer. It’s written down. It’s on paper. I don’t see anything comparably brave from the Democratic side.

Yglesias notes that Obama does have a very detailed plain.  It's in his proposed budget and the ACA.  To Brooks this massive reform doesn't count as a reform because -- shut up.

I comment.

Also Ryan and Romney don't have a plan. Romney insists that he hasn't adopted either of Ryan's plans as his. Ryan's newer plan says both that people get a voucher worth enough to buy the second cheapest Medicare plan (which will be the cheapest private plan since CMS Medicare will be the cheapest as the Medicare Advantage experiment has proven -- so thus far Ryan has found a way to increase Medicare spending) and that there will be a GDP growth rate + 0.5% per year growth ceiling.  
The plan doesn't say what happens when (not if when) the two promises turn out to be inconsistent. Will his plain cause higher Medicare spending growth of will it deprive people under 55 of current Medicare benefits at current premiums and copays ? It will do one or the other. Either choice would amount to a plan. Chosing both is not chosing at all. Ryan has a wish not a plan. 
In contrast Obama has a plan for Medicare which will lead to spending growth faster than GDP growth rate + 0.5% per year. His bs promised growth rate is clearly a forecast (and not a sincere one) not a hard ceiling. This means he hasn't brought spending growth under control, but at least he has a well defined plan.

Is Profit Theft ?

Profit is theft is the core methodogical basis of Levinism

That's not a typo.  I am not discussing the thought of Vladimir Lenin but the thought of Yuval Levin who claims that private insurance is more efficient than Medicare because private firms profit from Medicare Advantage.

Profit is not theft.  Therefore the lower estimated costs are not higher efficiency.  Rather the estimates are nonsense.  Private insurance companies must have equity -- this is required by law and the laws are clearly necessary (indeed not strict enough as is shown by the case of AIG).   Investors demand huge returns on equity.   That means that they require firms to earn profits -- otherwise the firms can't function (by law but also by logic -- an insurance company with no wealth to spare can't insure).

But the required return on stock is not counted as a cost.  Standard accounting aims to estimate profits and the standard is that revenues equal costs if profits are zero.  But you just can't have insurance without profits.  So the social cost of privately firm provided insurance is greater than the number described as "cost" by accountants.

The result of ignoring this is to think that private insurance is more efficient but that more than all of the efficiency gain is stolen as profits.  Basically the analysis of James Capretta and Yuval Levin absolutely relies on the core assumption that profit is theft.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I am an atheist and think there is no God. Also, I think the evidence suggests that if there is a God He isn't a very nice Guy. I don't hold with all this smiting Sodom and Gomorrah (let alone the un-named cities of the plain) or Noah's flood. But I have to admit that sometimes He has an Excuse. First God tells Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry ALL to run for president. Now hurricane heading to Tampa? It would be Wrong to Send a hurricane to Tampa, but don't tell me you wouldn't be tempted.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Swift Polling

It is clear that, whenever respected non-partisan media adopt rigid rules, Republicans abuse those rules. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are a very clear example. Since news organisations present both sides of a debate without fact checking in each article, it is possible for a mass of lies to balance all available documentary evidence. Something similar is happening this year. New polling organizations are appearing and making Rasmussen look like less of an outlier. A new mechanical approach to covering polls is to present an average of recent polls or a time weighted average of polls or to do what Nate Silver does which he explains very clearly (and which works). It is universally believed by politicians and their campaign staff that a poll which would be good news for a candidate if accurate is helpful to the candidate. This means that an effort to game the new poll averaging system will be based on polls which show higher support than in the population for the candidate the pollster wants to support. It is obvious that unscrupulous operators are doing this. I have long believed that Rasmussen doesn't do a terrible job just because they value quantity not quality. The basic problem (says Silver) is that they poll all in one day. This means that they don't call back day after day if no one answers the phone, which means that they oversample people who are home a lot. There is no doubt that Scott Rasmussen is a very partisan Republican. Rasmussen carefully removes noise without removing bias. They weight by self reported party affiliation. This keeps the numbers from their sloppy swift polls from bouncing around. But they weight using the average party affiliation from Rasmussen polls in the preceding month. This doesn't remove any oversampling of Republicans which is undoubtably there. They could weight using the proportions from polls by reputable pollsters. They chose not to. This is a deliberate effort to bias the results. they had an estimated bias of 3.8% in 2010. The cost to Rasmussen of their demonstrated bias has been less than zero. Liberals ignore them, but Fox News loves them. (In passing, Silver stresses that he is using "bias" as a statistical term and not arguing that the Rasmussen bias is due to partisanship. In contrast, I assert that it is. This is not just because the estimated statistical bias fits Scott Rasmussen's ideology and party affiliation. It is for the reason given above. There is no legitimate reason to use only old Rasmussen polls to get the proportions of Democrats, Republicans and independents to weight new Rasmussen polls. I am absolutely sure that Rasmussen does this to generate results pleasing to Scott Rasmussen. I think that the success of this deliberate fraud has earned him emulators. A problem for fraudsters like Scott Rasmussen is that they stand out making their bias obvious. This problem can be solved at modest cost by setting up say 3 other Republican biased pollsters. Poll aggregators are unwilling to exclude pollsters based on their subjective judgement. That means they can be lead wherever the unscrupulous want to lead them. Nate Silver explains this too
But once in a great while, a poll comes along with methodology that is so implausible that it deserves some further comment. The Foster McCollum White Baydoun poll of Florida is one such survey.
For instance, we have our house effects adjustment, which corrects for most of these tendencies. Based on this poll, and a prior survey the firm conducted in Michigan, we calculate the firm’s house effect as leaning Republican by roughly 11 percentage points relative to the overall consensus. We do not subtract out the entire 11-point house effect from the polling firm’s results — the model allows polling firms to retain some of their house effect — but the model does adjust the poll substantially, treating it as about a 7-point lead for Mr. Romney rather than a 15-point one. That’s still a very good number for Mr. Romney — enough to make him a slight favorite in our forecast for the state — but at least a little bit more reasonable relative to common sense. Is there argument for just throwing the poll out? In this case, perhaps. But as I said, I’d rather design a system where we have to make fewer of those judgment calls and err on the side of inclusivity. Our threshold for calling out a poll’s technique as being dubious, as we have here, is pretty high — but our threshold for actually throwing a poll out is higher.
Silver is by far the most sophisticated aggregator published by mass media. He notes that outrageous nonsense which is pro-Romney by 11 points compared to the average of other pollsters only counts as if it were pro-Romney by 7 points. I think the 11 point estimated house effect is a new record. I don't like to make predictions, but I am willing to predict that it will be surpassed. The other plainly biased pollsters are "We Ask America" (which belongs to a business lobby) and "Purple Strategies" whose CEO is the notorious Alex "hands" Castellanos one of the vilest partisan operatives in the business.

Congress's shame

It is a sad day for the House of Representatives when one of the conscript younger uncles of our country (and candidate conscript father) demonstrates same the level of ignorance and contempt for fact and logic as a Harvard professor.

In Defence of Akin

Rep Akin may be an insane (and heartless) lunatic who lives in a dream world and refuses to face reality. However, he is more logically consistent than most Christians. I am and always have been an atheist. So are my mother and father. So I very often just don't get it. But, perhaps for just this reason, I can understand the utter failure of comprehension of those who take religion literally and those who reconcile religion with the data. Ask yourself, if the world were governed by a benevolent and omnipotent deity, would rape lead to pregnancy. It seems to me that, if there were a God, then that God would have (at the very least) have created a mechanism such that raped women don't get pregnant. Consider the case of Teresa Shiavo. Many were amazed by the idea that others believed she had a functioning mind even though most of her brain had died and been reabsorbed. But if one believes in eternal life, one must believe that people with no brain at all have functioning minds. Frankly it seems to me that those who say abortion is murder and allow exceptions for rape and incest are no more guilty of self contradiction than those who claim that rape can cause pregnancy and that there is a God who is omniscient omnipotent and benevolent. How can any Christian face the fact that rape causes pregnancy and remain a Christian ? How can any Jew face the fact that rape causes pregnancy and remain a Jew ? Etc. It is very rude to ask these questions, because the answer is obvious and socially unacceptable.
What is Miesen china ? Matt Yglesias doesn't know Wow I know something that Matt Yglesias doesn't know (although he could look it up in the Wikipedia). An Elector of Saxony spent huge amounts of gold buying china from China (there is a Chinese pen and ink drawing entitled (in rough translation I'm sure) "All the World's China Goes to Saxony." A quack alchemist claimed to know how to make gold. The elector locked him up and said he would be released when he delivered. After some distress, the quack alchemist realized he could cut out the middle man and figure out how to make fine porcelain. He had something to do with "Meisen" (not I think his name but rather the place where he implemented his brilliant cut out the middle man and mess with clay because you can't mess with the elements strategy). Miesen China is not an absurdity like Paris Texas or Venice California. It's some clay formed into very nice shapes and fired.

Alternative Title

Jonathan Chait writes that social conservatives are absolutely totally 100% right about something -- they are losing because of Hollywood (meaning mostly TV now). The strikingly novel, daringly contrarian, being what Michael Kinsley once was and dreams he still is aspect of the article is that Chait makes it clear that he thinks this is a good thing. Well in any case, he convinces me that he correctly describes the phenomenon and it is a very good thing. The debate has been joined between those who denounce the evil influence of liberal Hollywood and those who argue that Hollywood is neither liberal nor influential, but what of the possibility that it is liberal and influential and this is a good thing ? Of course those who like me (and I think Chait) who are pleased by the gigantic power of modern media to shape thoughts and much more important feelings must note that the no longer new modern media have not always served the cause of toleration and progress. So I think the title of his excellent article should have been Triumph of the "Will and Grace"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chait Male

This is not just an Yglesias award all time winner. It is also, as far as I can tell, completely and importantly true Victory is not based on determination alone, but also on gifts we don't earn. The liberal triumph in the culture wars is due to Will and Grace. update: Following Schopenhauer homophobes thought "Surely I must know my own Will and Grace."

Tweet of the Day

Angie McAllister ‏@AngieMacMcA The female body also has ways of shutting down your whole election @RepToddAkin. #legitimaterape

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beat the Drum repeatedly

Drum discusses health insurance via competitive bidding. I comment.

I agree with the general thrust of this post but absolutely see no point purpose or relevance of the following paragraph

Critics like to point to Medicare Advantage to show that competitive bidding has been a failure. But that's a mistake: although MA has indeed been a failure, costing taxpayers more than traditional Medicare, that's partly because it's based on some rather convoluted formulas that prevent us from getting a good idea of what competitive bidding could accomplish if it were designed right. But there's another reason it's a mistake to focus on MA: you don't need to.

Medicare Advantage didn't fall out of the sky or spring with fully convoluted formulas from the head of Zeus. It was designed by Congress. You mock those who note the advantages a simple carbon tax would have compared to really existing cap and trade proposals. Similarly you should be mocked for discussing the fantasy of a law which implements policy wonk designed competitive bidding.

The devil is in the details, but he has little elbow room, because he has to share the space with thousands of well paid lobbyists. There is no point discussing the effects of a policy whose details are "designed right." The deadly boring obscure but important details will be designed to please concentrated interests. This is a bug in the same way the second law of thermodynamics is a bug. Noting that a purely theoretical policy might work well is like designing a purely theoretical perpetual motion machine. It might be fun, but it has nothing to do with the real world.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why Do European Economists Write Why do European Economists write Letters while US Economists Endorse Candidates?

Simon Wren-Lewis asks. I answer. In real authentic East of the English Channel Europe, economists don't endorse candidates, because elections don't matter.

Neither do they endorse gymnasts, because our Democracy is about as decorative as the Olympics.

Quick pop quiz explain the policy differences between the Berlusconi government and the Center left governments ? If your answer is that Berlusconi's governments try to eliminate the independence of the magistratura (judiciary plus prosecutors) I say "Bicamerale." If your answer is that Berlusconi will ignore any law and any court rather than take frequencies from Berlusconi I say "La Sette." If you argue that Seniore Bunga Bunga has no respect for fiscal restraint or rectitude, I say Tremonti.

The fact is that Italian public policy has been based on the twin principles that the very rich are above the law and that budgets must be (roughly) balanced, since I arrived here in 1989 (or at least since 1992). There was, in theory, a historic election (the second in a row) in 1996 when the new majority included the Communists (not just the ex Communists the proudly still Communists). It was so radical that the budget was communicated to the cabinet responsible to this majority a few days before they made it public. It was written by civil servants at the Treasury Ministry and included no significant changes.

Wren-Lewis knows how to identify the policy making establishment in Europe (also including the UK). He notes that the establishment is New Keynesian because central banks use New Keynesian models. Note that he doesn't claim that candidates for elective office use such models. Because they don't matter much.

OK over there (West of the Channel) the last election made a difference. Also maybe maybe it will matter that for the first time in human history French Socialists have a President and an absolute majority in both houses of Parliament (not that the Communists held Mitterand back much -- but that was long ago).

I think that over in the USA the very serious villager consensus is powerful. But over here it is just about everything. Sacrificing one's reputation in order to have a tiny possible effect on an election is absurd here. European economists don't do anything that disreputable, because policy influence is based on reputation and not anything done by vulgar voters.

This has its advantages. Europe doesn't dive into huge un necessary deficits because of an election. Policy doesn't depend on butterfly ballots and hanging chads.

But the second recession in 4 years hitting before 2008 real GDP is surpassed has no noticible effect on the policy debate either.

it was decided in the 1990s that reducing budget deficits was is and always will be the paramount aim of public policy.

Democracy is messy, but a sober, disciplined well order march over a cliff isn't ideal either.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

At least Move to Massachusetts Made Sense

Andrea Saul makes an absurd argument

When talking to Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP

who wrote

"By repealing [Obama's Medicare budget cuts], Romney would move the program's insolvency eight years closer, toward the end of what would be his first term in office."

She said

"The idea that restoring funding to Medicare could somehow hasten its bankruptcy is on its face absurd," said spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

OK now let me try to explain this slowly -- The Medicare Plan A trust funds, like many entities, has income and expenditures. The cuts in question are cuts of expenditures. "Funding" is income (you know money coming in not money coming out). The ACA increases the plan A trust fund's income by increasing Medicare plan A taxes paid by the rich. Repealing the ACA would hasten the exhaustion of the trust fund in two ways, by reducing funding (by eliminating the surtax) and by increasing expenditure.

Andrea Saul seems to think that spending is income. So I guess she thinks that we could eliminate the budget deficit with huge new spending programs.

The horrible thing is that she is doing the job which she was hired to do. When she noted that the uninsured would get health insurance in Massachusetts due to Romney care that was a huge gaffe, because it is true and relevant to the debate. Now when she says that expenditures are income she is confusing the confusable and causing all well informed jaws* to drop leaving anyone with any clue about anything babbling and blogging at excessive length.

* I understand that the general view is that our knowledge is stored in are brains not our jaws. I am well aware that the set of well informed jaws is empty and note that, in particular, it includes no well informed non dropping jaws at the moment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Miller Time

Matt Miller wrote

"So, Democrats, if you must demagogue (and I know you must), I say: Demagogue responsibly. Blast the GOP for trimming Medicare growth to cut taxes for the rich — but don’t damn the idea of slowing Medicare’s growth “the right way.”"

That is he wants the demagoguery to be based on a realistic assessment of the data and an open minded consideration of policy options. Nonetheless, because that proposal is a proposal directed at Democrats and concerning Medicare, it is a proposal for sober minded reality based demagoguery. By definition anything Democrats say about Medicare is demagoguery.

Note also that his doubt that Democrats will countenance cutting the Medicare budget "'the right way'" is completely unaffected by the fact that in 2010 Democrats cut the Medicare budget in a way of which he approves. And his ballancing concern that Ryans frauds will be joined by definitely Democratic not Republican Mediscare demagoguery is uninfluenced by the fact that Romney/Ryan campaign has ferociously denounced those cuts even though Ryan wrote them into the House Budget resolution and voted for them.

I admit that only a raging fanatic partisan party hack demagogue could object to Miller's column which calls Ryan a fraud by saying it is unfair to the Democrats. The fact that his unsupported criticisms of the Democrats are contradicted by massive evidence is no excuse.

Managed Competition

Vouchercare, Premium Support, Managed competition.

Ah yes Ryan is trying to link his flaky plan to the longstanding premium support proposal (via his less flaky no money saving House Budget Resolution proposal).

Wonkblog notes Joseph Rago noting the longish intellectual family tree of Ryan Care*

"Premium support was first proposed by Stanford economist Alain Enthoven in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1978. He observed that the pervasive methods of direct economic regulation of health care did not contain costs and suggested that “managed competition” would do a better job" Ah yes managed competition. Note the brief summary of a brief summary of the history doesn't mention that it has been tried since 1978. Managed competition in practice means Medicare Advantage too now post Gingrich revolution (remember that). It didn't do a better job. It didn't do as good a job as no reform. It cost a ton of money. That episode has had no effect on Ryan's thought (even though he counted the ACA savings from cutting Medicare Advantage extra payments in his budget resolution).

But managed competition made me think of a third reformer who was as enthusiastic about it as Ryan and Gingrich -- Ira Magaziner. The secret to how ClintonCare was supposed to increase access with lower spending was managed competition. It was quite the buzz word(s) in 1993 and 1994 as well as in the following years.

So my question is this: Ryan, Gingrich, and Magaziner are ducks lined up in a row. Why hasn't Brad DeLong blasted them ?

I think that the ACA has cured his unhealthy obsessive Magazinerphobia.

* While most journalists talk about the horse race when they claim to be talking about policy, Klein snuck a link to a discussion of a decades long bipartisan discussion of optimal policy into a post allegedly about polls "Wonkbook: Parsing the polls on Ryan" Ezra Klein is a wonks fantasy of what a wonk sounds like (most wonks couldn't write as he does to save their lives and don't even mention the Jezebel list of the 10 hottest guys whose jobs aren't about being hot).

But what I was thinking is that this puts

Ballance in a Cold Climate

It's getting hard to argue that, in the debate about size of planet, both sides have a point. Very serious balanced moderates are doing their best (so I'm sure are right wing ideologues and Republican hacks but I don't read them). The problem is that the Romney campaign seems to be searching for arguments that, in some ways, they are better than the Obama campaign just to falsify them.

This list is based on vague recollections and guesses. I am imagining what might have happened if I had tried to argue that both sides have valid points.

StrawRobert: Yes the Ryan proposals to deal with Medicare are extreme and their optimistic forecasts ideological, but something has to be done and at least they offer a chance to control the growth of spending while Democrats don't.
Robert: The latest Ryan proposal includes a forecast that it will lead to Medicare spending growth of GDP growth rate + 0.5% identical to the Democrat's forecast under current law.
StrawRobert: But but but one forecast is justified by detailed cost saving measures so the bottom line number is a forecast in one case and a hope in the other.
Robert: Yes indeed the Republican proposals are the over long soap opera series Ryan's Hope.

StrawRobert OK but Democrats argue that the proposals are very different. They are demagogically Mediscaring.
Robert: Do you remember the 2010 campaign ? Have you seen the latest Romney campaign ad on Medicare. All about the ACA Medicare budget cuts with never a mention that they include no benefit cuts and never ever a mention that they are all included in the 2012 House budget resolution.

StrawRobert: OK no monopoly on Mediscaring but the left is doing the usual politically correct reverse race bating suggesting that advertisements about welfare are dog whistles.
Robert: Obama and the Obama campaign haven't made that argument (Obama can't accuse people of racism because of reverse-reverse-racism). Also the Republicans are arguing that "chains" is a racial code word. Also
Appearing earlier today on CBS's morning show, Romney told anchors Gayle King and Anthony Mason that he believes "the president's campaign is all about division and attack and hatred" and is designed to "bring about enmity and anger." Romney said the president sought to divide Americans based on "income, age, and ethnicity."

Of course proposing different policy regimes for those over 55 and under 55 isn't dividing based on age.

StrawRobert: but the Obama campaign doesn't pull ads with claims which are called false by fact checkers.
Robert: nuf' said. See issue 3 above.

I mean really, if I were grasping at straws, I'd be out of straws to grasp.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Memo to self: Never get on Jon Chait's bad side

I remind myself again to never ever anger Jon Chait. In fact, I think it would be a good idea to make sure I never draw attention to myself by linking to Chait. Oh nooooooooo.

Also wish I had written

Don’t Make Paul Ryan Sad, Obama!
You wouldn't like him when he's sad.


Many observers are working overtime to figure out which party benefits from Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan. I don’t mean to sound holier than thou, but I’m more interested in a different question: will it benefit the country?

I’m sure he doesn’t mean to sound holier than thou. Also, I don’t mean to say thou’s mother is a prostitute, but she offered me sexual favors, in return for payment. And then when I expressed shock at the offer she said, “Well, I am a prostitute.”


Previous Galston columns have heavily emphasized his view that Obama is doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, maybe not quite as doomed at that particular moment as he had been saying but still probably doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed … I’ve stopped my incomplete Google trail at this point, which is fall 2011, but you can go back to 2008 for more vintage Galston doomsaying.

(with links).

Wish I'd Typed That

Wish I'd Typed this

Bill Nothstine · Top Commenter · Living Liberally
And, to be fair to Romney [brief interlude while Bill clutches frantically, Strangelove-like, at the hand that just typed those words], if he said it on TV that can be considered at least prima facie evidence that he doesn't believe a word of it.

Assuming the Quote is accurate

Daniel Denvir just hit the jackpot with a real live Atrios link. I assume that he quotes accurately. If so, I think he has chosen an excellent way to build a journalism career (just ask big media Matt, Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher). Also, again assuming accuracy, it would seem to me that Karen Testa, East Region Editor at the AP has chosen an extremely efficient way to destroy one.

“What possible purpose would there be for me to send you this story when you're trying to cause trouble for how it was written?” said an angry Karen Testa, East Region Editor at the AP. Before hanging up, she added: “That's a good way to build a journalism career.”

Yep that's journalism all right, based on the idea that no possible purpose is served by people who cause trouble for powerful organizations.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Unfair edit makes Tom Levenson appear unfair

"Who cares if a slug believes himself to be St. Francis? ... No amount of predestination can turn, say, Dick Cheney into a good man."

This is a totally dishonest elision. Tom Levenson has not in fact, libeled all slugkind.

Just When I Thought it was Safe to Get Back in the Betting Pool

Ever since November 2004 when I confidently predicted a Kerry victory, I have been very reluctant to make predictions, especially optimistic predictions. I am not a betting man. But Romney's choice of Ryan made me almost think of ... well I won't even mention the thouht in the past tense.

But really. I am not willing to bet that Bob Schrum will ever be right about anything.

Thanks Bob. You saved me from myself.

I soooo wish I'd written that Ezra

Mental giant Klein typed

I’ve got a modest proposal: You’re not allowed to demand a “serious conversation” over Medicare unless you can answer these three questions:

1) Mitt Romney says that “unlike the current president who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion. We will preserve and protect Medicare.” What happens to those cuts in the Ryan budget?

2) What is the growth rate of Medicare under the Ryan budget?

3) What is the growth rate of Medicare under the Obama budget?

The answers to these questions are, in order, “it keeps them,” “GDP+0.5%,” and “GDP+0.5%.”

An out of the park, slam dunk knockout.

But it gets better. The last line of the post is the best.