Incoherency is not an Asset

Something in human as taken Paul Krugman from us, I'm afraid.

Something inhuman has taken Paul Krugman from us, I'm afraid.

I’m not sure what happened to Dr. Paul Krugman that fateful night of dinner at the White House, but I’d like the shrill one back now. Was it something in the food? Was it something in the conversation? Who knows? But in as much a Buddhist can offer a Jewish guy a come to Jesus moment, I’d like to take the opportunity to ask him to step forward and confess lest the devil grab his soul (or in my case–no soul to lose–but more confused subtle conscious and an accumulation of some really bad karma). What exactly is this Dr. Milquetoast?

You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?

Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.

So, the Baucus bill is “unworkable and unacceptable” but even a bad bill could be much better than nothing? What? You want to try that again? So, first he tells any of us that support single payer, that we’re being unreasonable by sticking by our convictions during the first real phase of negotiations. I know Krugman knows game theory, so I ask you, where is the sense in negotiating your potential end game position from the start of the first node?

Krugman does mention these three problems with the bill, so again he realizes it’s basically a very bad piece of policy. You gut these out of the bill, however, and you don’t have the Baucus bill at all. It’s a blank sheet of paper. So why not say, dump the thing and let’s start over?

First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.

That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.

Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?

Yes, you do need to say more other than watch and see what happens as it evolves and becomes more complex. Krugman is hoping that it eventually passes some ‘threshhold of acceptability’. Since you’ve given up so much so soon, what the heck do you now consider the minimum threshold of acceptability? As far as I can see, Dr. Krugman, the entire thing would have to be gutted to come close to anything that looks like a subgame perfect, let alone a Nash Equilibrium from my standpoint. But then I really want universal and affordable health care. There are a lot of ways to go about that, but the Baucus bill does not even appear to contain ONE of them. That’s probably because it was written by a Well Point Lobbyist.

Read the rest of this entry »