Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Obama’s War Against Americans is Relentless. His Primary Attack Force is the EPA. « Conservatives on Fire

Obama’s War Against Americans is Relentless. His Primary Attack Force is the EPA. « Conservatives on Fire:

I'm taking an epidemiology/population health this semester, and we were reviewing the topic of environmental and occupational health. I Googled for the war on the EPA, and found the article linked to here, concerning how liberals and other tree huggers were were trying to ruin the economy and take us into a Communist police state through use of the EPA. Of course, this is not new.

But I was stunned by the absolute ignorance of several of the paragraphs, this one in particular:

Dear readers I would appreciate it very much if you would let me know if in fact you do live longer or if you have fewer non-fatal heart attacks or if you experience fewer sick days after this new rule takes effect. I mean we really should keep these records so we can verify if the EPA’s projections were correct or not. So, again, please let me know how it turns out and I will be happy to compile the record and I’ll report back once I have a statistically significant amount of data.
I don't have to explain to anyone with even the slightest amount of education in math or science how profoundly ignorant this is, and if it were just this one blogger, I'd laugh it off. But scroll through some of the comments if you have a strong stomach. Or Google for yourself and see more. Or look here to see Think Progress analysis of Fox News war on the EPA.

I refuse to believe that these people are as stupid as their statements make them sound. But it is deeply saddening to see how profoundly an ideology - Market Fundamentalism - can shut down critical thinking.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wallison: Still Wrong About Genesis of Housing Crisis | The Big Picture

Wallison: Still Wrong About Genesis of Housing Crisis | The Big Picture:

If you’ve been closely following the housing finance reform debate, you may have come across a pair of shrill blog posts penned by Peter Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Republican appointee to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. He responded to my February 2011 article, “Faulty Conclusions Based on Shoddy Foundations,” which criticized the research underlying Wallison’s dissent from the majority of the members of that commission, and his contention that U.S. affordable housing policies caused the global financial crisis.

In these blog posts on The American Spectator’s blog on May 24 and on AEI’s blog on May 26, Wallison criticizes ”Faulty Conclusions” as “fallacious,” “fraudulent,” and “deceptive”; claims that it contains a “fake” chart; and describes the article as a “political screed.”

As I describe below, these accusations are baseless and distract from the fact that Wallison does not actually address the main arguments of “Faulty Conclusions.” Wallison does not contradict the claim that his FCIC dissent depends critically on the categorization of millions of home mortgage loans as “high risk” that are not actually high risk. Wallison also fails to answer other serious issues with his arguments that were pointed out in “Faulty Conclusions.”
I was watching Bill Maher the other night and John Fund was again blaming Freddie and Fannie (and low income people via the Community Reinvestment Act - the bastards!) for the great recession, and I was disappointed that Thom Hartmann didn't protest more vigorously. I found this article via Brad Delong's economics blog.

Basically, from the viewpoint of a non-economist, the guy flogging these claims was a minority of one, even with other Republicans on the Financial Crisis Commission, and one would think responsible conservatives would recognize the lack of credibility, yet this is the favorite meme among Fund and others who want to minimize the role of deregulation and crony capitalism for this mess.

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How Medicare Fails the Elderly - NYTimes.com

How Medicare Fails the Elderly - NYTimes.com:

"HERE is the dirty little secret of health care in America for the elderly, the one group we all assume has universal coverage thanks to the 1965 Medicare law: what Medicare paid for then is no longer what recipients need or want today. "

Goes on to delineate some of the problems with the Medicare payment system, that are not news if you've been paying attention, but always good to get it out there for further discussion.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is the Fed responsible for health care premium increases? | The Incidental Economist

Is the Fed responsible for health care premium increases? | The Incidental Economist:

Health spending is obviously relevant to premiums, but many other factors affect premium growth too. What everyone wants to know is why employer-sponsored health insurance premiums jumped up so much this year. Since health care spending growth has been low — at near 1990s levels — we can rule that out as an explanation.

Moving on, let’s consider some other things. For what follows, I’ve been aided by Charles Roehrig and colleagues of the Altarum Institute, with whom I exchanged email on this topic. The title of this post is explained in the final entry of the following list (“The underwriting cycle”).

Besides total health spending, what else affects premiums?

Profits. Insurers have been reporting a big profits lately, which implies premiums growing faster than costs.
If you are interested in understanding why premiums have risen far out of proportion to actual health care costs, please go to the link. There are no certain reasons, but this post offers lots of interesting (and plausible) possibilities, including the one in the title: Insurers are so heavily invested in bonds, that the low returns have "forced" them to turn to out-sized premium increases to keep profits up where they like them.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Daily Kos: An indecent proposal

Daily Kos: An indecent proposal:

That cut-up Grover Norquist suggest wealthy Americans like Warren Buffet contribute to the Federal government on an optional basis, and Hunter at DailyKos offers to accept the offer...

My proposal is that we make taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations entirely optional. That's it. If a corporation wants to pay zero percent in taxes, they should be allowed to, and if they want to pay the full tax rate, that is also allowed. The same for wealthy Americans.

The only caveat is that non-contributing corporations and individuals will be barred from taking advantage of any government services. It is the perfect free-market-based opt-out: If you do not want to support the American infrastructure and population to the same extent that your fellow citizens do, you can simply decline to, and live your life as the libertarian god you have always longed to be. You will be free! You will be allowed to go Galt, or not go Galt, to whatever degree you wish; as a special bonus, we shall prevent you from becoming that most dreaded of figures, the parasite, since if you are not contributing to the benefit of society it only stands to reason you should not gain profit from it either.

For starters, companies that do not pay the going tax rate will be barred from shipping their products on American roads. They will be prevented from connecting to the American electric grid, or from using municipal water or sewer systems. Instead, they will have to provide these services on-site. The good news: They can feel free to pollute as much as they like, as long as no pollution crosses the boundaries of their property (above, below or horizontally) into the rest of America. That would be considered an act of war.

Wealthy Americans that opted out of paying the going tax rate would also, of course, be prohibited from using American roads. This would not be a problem for them, as they generally can afford airplanes or helicopters, which would be similarly fine so long as they did not use American airspace (sorry, but the FAA costs money too, you know). But they could certainly fly around the property, which might be a pleasant experience.

Then we must consider the issue of security. Fire and police protection would be right out, so there would be no particular incentive for poorer Americans not to loot their properties (wealthy Americans tend to have nicer things than the rest of us). The American elite might consider the approach taken by wealthy Mexican families, which is to install a high perimeter fence around the property with a heavily armed private guard service. This would be expensive and unsightly, but it would be up to each individual to decide, for themselves, what the appropriate free-market level of protection for their own property might be. My one tip would be to spend a good deal of time on that decision.

It goes without saying that non-contributing Americans, corporate or otherwise, would not have access to the courts. This should be fine with them, since we know that meddlesome lawsuits are the biggest non-tax-related threat to America today. There is the minor issue of no recourse, if armed mercenaries do manage to overpower your guards and make off with your antique commodes or whatever it is you rich people hoard these days: Again, though, think of the tax savings.
This is a nice echo of Elizabeth Warren's comments on the arrogance of the John Galt wannabees.

UPDATE: I posted this to the comments section:

Don't forget the socialism of WWII 

Let me add another item to your great piece, Hunter, and to Elizabeth Warren's recent speech: Did the fathers of any of these captains of industry go to college on the GI Bill?
See here:
Within the following 7 years, approximately 8 million veterans received educational benefits. Of that number, approximately 2,300,000 attended colleges and universities, 3,500,000 received school training, and 3,400,000 received on-the-job training. By 1951, this act had cost the government a total cost of approximately $14 billion.
The effects of increased enrollment to higher education were significant. Higher educational opportunities opened enrollment to a varied socioeconomic group than in the years past. Engineers and technicians needed for the technological economy were prepared from the ranks of returning veterans. Also, education served as a social safety valve that eased the traumas and tensions of adjustment from wartime to peace. For the American colleges and universities, the effects were transforming. In almost all institutions, classes were overcrowded. Institutions required more classrooms, laboratories, greater numbers of faculties, and more resources. House facilities became inadequate and new building programs were established. New vocational courses were also added. This new student population called for differential courses in advanced training in education, commerce, agriculture, mining, fisheries, and other vocational fields that were previously taught informally. Teaching staffs enlarged and summer and extension courses thrived. Further, the student population was no longer limited to those between 18-23. The veterans were eager to learn and had a greater sense of maturity, in comparison to the usual student stereotype. Finally, the idea that higher education was the privilege of a well-born elite was finally shattered.

And of course, it was continued after WW II: Continuation of the Bill
The original G.I. Bill of 1944 expired in 1956, but the concept of veteran compensation continued, with all subsequent legislation still referred to as G.I. bills. In 1952 Congress passed the Veterans’ Adjustment Act to compensate veterans of the Korean War (1950-1953). There were some minor differences between the World War II and Korean G.I. Bills, but the outcome was broadly similar. More than two million Korean War veterans used the G.I. Bill to go to college, and 1.5 million financed new homes. The G.I. Bill underwent a significant change in 1966, when Congress passed the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act (VRBA) as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society slate of social programs. The VRBA removed the requirement of serving in combat to receive government benefits, and instead made G.I. Bill benefits available to anyone who served in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime. Since 1966 the G.I. Bill has undergone a series of modifications and adjustments, but the fundamental benefits subsidizing education and home ownership remain the same. The Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB), enacted by Congress in 1985, provides educational stipends to former members of the military who contribute a small portion of their pay during their time in the service. The Post 9/11 Veterans Assistance Act of 2008 (effective date August, 2009) substantially increased the amount of tuition and housing assistance, allows veterans to transfer benefits to their spouses and children, and provides tuition benefits for National Guard and Reserve members.

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