Friday Afternoon Reads

Good Afternoon!

imageIt took me awhile today to get going so I’m a little later on this than usual.  Miles snuck outside for a big adventure late last night and I got rather clawed up trying to bring him back in.  He’s a total love bug and not usually like that but he drew blood and it was not fun. Today, he’s back to his genial self but sometimes when his blood sugar gets a little out of whack from the diabetes he can get mighty testy about things. My animals are not outdoor animals so I freak when any of them gets loose. My left hand is pretty shredded up and bruised so using a keyboard is not very comfortable for me and sleeping was difficult last night. So, any way blame this late, short post on feisty old Miles.  He’s got me sleepy and cranky today.

I really enjoyed Paul Krugman’s blog today on the Pastrami Principle.  I could tell from the comments that a lot of Bernie supporters were bristling at the comparison between Bernie’s continual discounting of Southern Democratic Primary voters to that kind of description that comes from also-ran right wing populist Sarah Palin and her choice for President for 2016, Donald Trump.image

As Krugman points out, Sanders is trying to make an argument for Super Delegates to discount the popular vote which shows Clinton way ahead.  He is doing this on the back of Southern Democrats.  This is the second time he’s done this which is why it’s the second time I’m blogging about it.

But how can the campaign make the case that the party should defy the apparent will of its voters? By insisting that many of those voters shouldn’t count. Over the past week, Mr. Sanders has declared that Mrs. Clinton leads only because she has won in the “Deep South,” which is a “pretty conservative part of the country.” The tally so far, he says, “distorts reality” because it contains so many Southern states.

As it happens, this isn’t true — the calendar, which front-loaded some states very favorable to Mr. Sanders, hasn’t been a big factor in the race. Also, swing-state Florida isn’t the Deep South. But never mind. The big problem with this argument should be obvious. Mrs. Clinton didn’t win big in the South on the strength of conservative voters; she won by getting an overwhelming majority of black voters. This puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it?

Is it possible that Mr. Sanders doesn’t know this, that he imagines that Mrs. Clinton is riding a wave of support from old-fashioned Confederate-flag-waving Dixiecrats, as opposed to, let’s be blunt, the descendants of slaves? Maybe. He is not, as you may have noticed, a details guy.

It’s more likely, however, that he’s being deliberately misleading — and that his effort to delegitimize a big part of the Democratic electorate is a cynical ploy.

You should read the entire Op Ed and notice the comments of folks that think Krugman is out of line by comparing the tactics of the left wing populist to his right wing equivalents.  The denial runs deep in the Bernie crowd, but as I’ve blogged before, this has incredible racist overtones since he doesn’t discount the white outbacks that he’s won–like Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, etc–as not being representative. He prefers to characterize Southern Democrats only.  It drives me nuts.

imageThose of us that watched the Brooklyn Democratic Debate last night saw the campaign conversation get nasty. I was glad to see Hillary hitting back and I have to say that despite pundits calling the debate a tie, I found her to be absolutely presidential. She was tough and called him out on his constant hypocritical charges and his lies.   This is Rebecca Traister writing for NYMAG.

Oh my god, make it stop.

But it isn’t stopping, because Thursday brought Democrats, including me, our fondest wish and dream: another debate!

And from the start it was clear that this whole civil, respectful race had just deteriorated into some kind of nerdy Punch & Judy show, in which everyone screamed at each other, and over each other (and over the moderators) about 501c4s and Dodd Frank.

No, it was not all bad. Even though the crowd was bellowing with the vigor of their Republican brethren, Sanders and Clinton remained high-minded about the content of their debate, and managed to have some meaningful, if nasty, exchanges. On foreign policy, usually a weak spot, Sanders found a revelatory new groove, offering groundbreaking words about the value of Palestinian lives, and our moral responsibility to question Israeli leadership. His remarkable, electorally risky rhetoric was undercut somewhat by the fact that hours before the debate, Sanders had suspended Simone Zimmerman, the Jewish Outreach coordinator whose hiring had been announced just two days earlier, after reports that she had used vulgar language in reference to Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a move, in response to pressure from conservative pro-Israeli groups, that did not allay fears that as president, Sanders’s stated resolve to implement idealistic policy measures might wither quickly in the face of Republican opposition. Still, Bernie was really great on Palestine.

Meanwhile, in a discussion about guns, Clinton pussy-footed around her silly “per capita” line about guns pouring out of Vermont into New York (yep, @ItTakesAVillage92, I know it is technically correct; it is also lame), but did effectively lay into Sanders on his actually crappy stance on guns. Pointing to the fact that her opponent often laments the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, Clinton asked compellingly, “What about the greed and recklessness of gun manufacturers in America?”

Clinton also managed, almost two hours into this interminable thing, to bring up the concentrated attack on reproductive rights across America, a topic that has not been raised in any of the season’s debates so far, earning her a lot of enthusiastic applause and energetic engagement from Sanders on the topic before Dana Bash cut them off to talk some more about meaningless general-election polling.

But all this interesting stuff was hidden in two hours of yelling. Of “YUUGE” jokes and overcooked lines about “before there was Obamacare there was Hillarycare” and excuses about how Jane does the taxes, which makes them very inaccessible when really, guys, it’s been weeks; you can get someone to dig up copies of the tax returns. All that was good was buried beneath a sheen of rancor, culminating perhaps with Sanders circling around his campaign’s current strategic argument that Hillary’s lead in pledged delegates (and votes, and number of states won) is illegitimate because her victories were so decisive in southern states. “Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South,” said Bernie. “We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country … But you know what, we’re out of the Deep South now. And we’re moving up.” Putting aside the fact that Clinton’s wins have also come in Massachusetts, Florida, and the Midwest, Bernie’s seeming scorn for voters in southern states, who broke for Clinton perhaps not out of conservatism, but because she has so far done a far better job of reaching black voters, was a low point.

 13010843_10209470821551670_4858681463226966450_nYes, he went there again about us Southern Democrats right there in Brooklyn on CNN in front of every one watching.  I belong to a discussion group on Facebook called American Minorities for Hillary. It’s a very diverse group of minorities to include just about every category possible.  I posted the same link to that board as I did down in the comments yesterday which is the second set of analysis from Maddow Blog and Steve Benen on Bernie’s comments. I can unequivocally state that all the Southern Democrats on the board of all shapes and sizes along with a lot of others recognized the tweet of a racist dog whistle.

Bernie Sanders told “Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore at a taping Wednesday evening that scheduling Southern states early in the Democratic primary “distorts reality.” […]
“Well, you know,” Sanders said, “people say, ‘Why does Iowa go first, why does New Hampshire go first,’ but I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well.”

Iowa and New Hampshire go first.  Then, Nevada.  Tell me how those states represent the diversity that is this country.  South Carolina goes 4th. Again, are voters in Kansas, Idaho and Utah and more representative? This is why I’m glad the extremely diverse state of New York goes next.  You notice he never mentions that he lost Massachusetts which is probably one of the top five most liberal states in the country and he doesn’t mention he lost Ohio which is a bit of a US microcosm.  I’m getting tired of being his whipping boy. He’s not attracting Black voters.  He needs to own that and figure out why.

Krugman felt the need to qualify why he hasn’t Felt The Bern on his blog after writing the Op Ed today.picasso-paintings-images-3-background-wallpaper

Today’s column offers an opportunity to say, for the record, why I haven’t been the Bernie booster a lot of people apparently expected me to be. For the business about discounting Clinton support as coming from “conservative states” in the “Deep South” actually exemplifies the problem I saw in the Sanders campaign from the beginning, and made me distrust both the movement and the man.

What you see, on this as on multiple issues, is the casual adoption, with no visible effort to check the premises, of a story line that sounds good. It’s all about the big banks; single-payer is there for the taking if only we want it; government spending will yield huge payoffs — not the more modest payoffs conventional Keynesian analysis suggests; Republican support will vanish if we take on corporate media.

In each case the story runs into big trouble if you do a bit of homework; if not completely wrong, it needs a lot of qualification. But the all-purpose response to anyone who raises questions is that she or he is a member of the establishment, personally corrupt, etc.. Ad hominem attacks aren’t a final line of defense, they’re argument #1.

I know some people think that I’m obsessing over trivial policy details, but they’re missing the point. It’s about an attitude, the sense that righteousness excuses you from the need for hard thinking and that any questioning of the righteous is treason to the cause. When you see Sanders supporters going over the top about “corporate whores” and such, you’re not seeing a mysterious intrusion of bad behavior into an idealistic movement; you’re seeing the intolerance that was always just under the surface of the movement, right from the start.

I feel Krugman’s pain.  It’s really hard to watch Bernie and his folks go completely off the deep end on what is and isn’t possible on all levels and to ignore the concerns of women, minorities, and the GLBT community by suggesting all of our problems would be solved by closing all the big banks, giving us medicare for all, free college and a $15 minimum wage. Bernie never has solid answers for any of his policies.  In that way, he is very much like Palin and Trump.  After the ideological rants, there is very little “there there”.

I’ve actually found two somewhat unenthusiastic voters for Bernie that actually sound reasonable about their votes. Their eyes are wide open and they’d reconsider their votes for him in Maryland if it actually looked as though he was going to win.  This is an interesting read at TPM.

I guess a symbolic vote for a symbolic agenda has as much merit as anything I’ve heard from the BernieBro Cult.


So, we have to see what happens on Tuesday.  I’m hoping this puts the Sanders campaign to bed for a long summer’s sleep.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Monday Reads in which I go there …

Good Afternoon!  Happy Martin Luther King Day!!

dr-martin-luther-king-jr-and-children-on-swingI’ve been spending the morning getting back up to speed on Health Care Economics which is something I never enjoy but never seem to be unable to avoid.  The facts on the ground never change much. What we know about single payer and third party payer systems remains pretty much the same.  The only thing that seems to change is the hostility in this country on the subject.  I keep having to dredge up the same information over and over with the new twists.

Well, here I go again …

There are three articles that BB sent me this morning that sum up the situation nicely.  I’m going to start with those and then finish up by reviewing the mini-case of the failed single payer case in the state of Vermont.  I’m not doing this because I don’t think single payer health insurance is a good deal ceteris paribus.  It obviously works in other countries.  As the Republicans remind us daily, we are not other countries.  Theoretically, it provides superior risk sharing and economies of scale on cost.  So, my theoretical economist side loves it.  My living in America with everything that’s already standing and Republicans who thwart everything at every turn except tax cuts for the wealthy and wars side has a different train of thought.

Yes, it’s time to heal those suffering badly from Berns. I’m going to be in good company because the public wonks are with me on both accounts.  We yearn for a simpler, cheaper, more efficient way of paying and getting health care.  But, we know the difference between brainstorming and an actionable policy.  I’m cursed with a heart longing for idealism but a brain that reins the damn thing in.  Bernie Sanders plan really isn’t a plan.  It’s a lofty goal.

Here’s Ezra Klein writing for VOX stating ‘Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all: Sanders’s long-awaited health care plan is, by 8871572turns, vague and unrealistic.‘  You should read these links fully if you can manage the time.

Sanders calls his plan Medicare-for-All. But it actually has nothing to do with Medicare. He’s not simply expanding Medicare coverage to the broader population — he makes that clear when he says his plan means “no more copays, no more deductibles”; Medicare includes copays and deductibles. The list of what Sanders’s plan would cover far exceeds what Medicare offers, suggesting, more or less, that pretty much everything will be covered, under all circumstances.

Bernie’s plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary care to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.

Sanders goes on to say that his plan means “no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.”

To be generous, it’s possible that Sanders is just being cynical in his wording, and what he means is that, under his plan, individuals have to fight with the government rather than private insurers when their claims are denied.

But the implication to most people, I think, is that claim denials will be a thing of the past — a statement that belies the fights patients have every day with public insurers like Medicare and Medicaid, to say nothing of the fights that go on in the Canadian, German, or British health-care systems.

What makes that so irresponsible is that it stands in flagrant contradiction to the way single-payer plans actually work — and the way Sanders’s plan will have to work if its numbers are going to add up.

Behind Sanders’s calculations, both for how much his plan will cost and how much Americans will benefit, lurk extremely optimistic promises about how much money single-payer will save. And those promises can only come true if the government starts saying no quite a lot — in ways that will make people very, very angry.

“They assumed $10 trillion in health-care savings over ten years,” says Larry Levitt, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That’s tremendously aggressive cost containment, even after you take the administrative savings into account.”

The real way single-payer systems save money isn’t through cutting administrative costs. It’s through cutting reimbursements to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and device companies. And Sanders’s gestures towards this truth in his plan, saying that “the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively.”

But to get those savings, the government needs to be willing to say no when doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and device companies refuse to meet their prices, and that means the government needs to be willing to say no to people who want those treatments. If the government can’t do that — if Sanders is going to stick to the spirit of “no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges” — then it won’t be able to control costs.

Krugman adds a bit more to this today.



Put it this way: for all the talk about being honest and upfront, even Sanders ended up delivering mostly smoke and mirrors — or as Ezra Klein says, puppies and rainbows. Despite imposing large middle-class taxes, his “gesture toward a future plan”, as Ezra puts it, relies on the assumption of huge cost savings. If you like, it involves a huge magic asterisk.

Now, it’s true that single-payer systems in other advanced countries are much cheaper than our health care system. And some of that could be replicated via lower administrative costs and the generally lower prices Medicare pays. But to get costs down to, say, Canadian levels, we’d need to do what they do: say no to patients, telling them that they can’t always have the treatment they want.

Saying no has two cost-saving effects: it saves money directly, and it also greatly enhances the government’s bargaining power, because it can say, for example, to drug producers that if they charge too much they won’t be in the formulary.

But it’s not something most Americans want to hear about; foreign single-payer systems are actually more like Medicaid than they are like Medicare.

And Sanders isn’t coming clean on that — he’s promising Medicaid-like costs while also promising no rationing. The reason, of course, is that being realistic either about the costs or about what the system would really be like would make it a political loser. But that’s the point: single-payer just isn’t a political possibility starting from here. It’s just a distraction from the real issues.

The deal is this.  We have entire systems, institutions, and agents that have been functioning under multiple plans for quite some time.  This includes Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP, the VA, and a myriad of private health insurance plans.  You just don’t wave a magic wand and expect that all to unwind costlessly and seamlessly.  You also don’t expect all those folks to be thrilled about it either or to seamlessly transfer their efforts and resources to a new system.  It takes big money and time to do that.   We’re not operating from scratch here.

That also doesn’t take into account politics.  Yes.  POLITICS.  Remember when we first got the ACA and how the majority of Dems and Republicans voted for a single payer plan when the Dems controlled Congress?  Remember how the ACA should work if SCOTUS hadn’t let so many states opt out of the system?  Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

480-martin-luther-king-children-are-not-born-to-burnDear Bernie Sanders-supporting Friends: Sanders is nice enough.  He’s got some good ideas.  But, no, I do not think he’s got what it takes to be President. He operates out there in gadfly paradise. Or, as Michel Cohen writes it: ‘Bernie Sanders doesn’t get how politics works’.

Now for my deeper impression of the debate: even with his rising poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, I find it increasingly difficult to take Sanders seriously as a presidential candidate.

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s 74, would be the oldest man to ever become president, and yet couldn’t be bothered to release his medical records until a Clinton surrogate attacked him for it.

Maybe it’s that Sanders finds a way to answer virtually every question by turning it back to another predictable and one-dimensional attack on Wall Street and big money.

Maybe it’s that he gets away with proposing unrealistic policy ideas that have little chance of being passed even by Democrats in Congress, let alone Republicans, and then gets praised for being authentic. Sunday night Sanders finally released his single-payer health care plan, which is all of eight pages and provides little detail on how he’ll implement a complete restructuring of the US health care system. That’s at least an improvement over his plan for breaking up the banks, which is four pages and just as short on detail.

Maybe it’s that every time he answers a question on foreign policy and national security, it’s blindingly apparent that not only does he not understand foreign policy and national security, he simply doesn’t care to know more. I mean, only Bernie Sanders could answer a question about instability Middle East by pivoting to an attack on wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia, which he repeatedly says has to play a greater role in the civil war in Syria, as if no one on his staff could bother to tell him that Saudi Arabia is already playing an important role in the civil war in Syria.

It’s all that and something else — Sanders really does have a singularly naive and simple-minded understanding of American politics. He genuinely seems to believe — and I know this because he repeatedly yelled it at me during the debate — that money is the root of all evil in politics and that if you get the big money out, great things will happen. Sanders said that “a handful of billionaires . . . control economic and political life of this country.” He argued that Republicans and Democrats don’t “hate each other.” He called that a “mythology.” Instead, he said, the “real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.”

I’m sorry, but that is a maddeningly simplistic — and wrong — explanation of how American politics works.

Take single-payer health care, which Sanders claims has been difficult to enact because of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows the “pharmaceutical industry” and private insurance companies to spend millions in “campaign contributions and lobbying.”

On the one hand, Sanders is right — those are powerful interests. But so are doctors and hospitals, who’d pay a huge price if single payer became law; so are Republicans, who fought tooth and nail to defeat Obamacare and would do the same for a single-payer plan; so are Democrats, who couldn’t even support a public option for Obamacare and are unlikely to support single payer; so are Americans, who may not be inclined to support another restructuring of the health care system — a few years after the last one. It’s not just about money; it’s also about a political system constructed and reinforced to block the kind of massive reform Sanders is advocating. Money is important, but it’s not even close to the whole story.

How someone who’s been in Washington as long as Sanders can believe that all that stands between doing “what the American people want [Congress] to do” is something as simple as reforming campaign finance is stunning. Sanders, who brags the NRA gives him a D- rating, is the same politician who supported legislation giving gun manufacturers immunity from civil lawsuits and voted against the Brady Bill. Why? Perhaps it is because Sanders comes from a state that has few gun control laws and lots of gun owners. Yes red-state senators who oppose gun control receive contributions from the NRA. They also have constituents who oppose gun control measures and vote on the issue — like Bernie Sanders. It’s as if in Sanders’ mind, parochialism, ideology, or politics plays no role . . . in politics.

010_Protest_Fernandez-ADJSo, yes, we have the ACA (Obamacare) which is a “kludge” to borrow a turn of phrase from Krugman.  If we could start from scratch then single payer health insurance would be infinitely cheaper and better.   But, that’s not the way it is.

Krugman admits that Obamacare is far from perfect, an awkward, imperfect solution that does not work for everyone. But he thinks it would be a mistake for Democrats to expend political capital refighting the battle that gave them their biggest victory in decades. Here’s how he lays out his case:

If we could start from scratch, many, perhaps most, health economists would recommend single-payer, a Medicare-type program covering everyone. But single-payer wasn’t a politically feasible goal in America, for three big reasons that aren’t going away.

First, like it or not, incumbent players have a lot of power. Private insurers played a major part in killing health reform in the early 1990s, so this time around reformers went for a system that preserved their role and gave them plenty of new business.

Second, single-payer would require a lot of additional tax revenue — and we would be talking about taxes on the middle class, not just the wealthy. It’s true that higher taxes would be offset by a sharp reduction or even elimination of private insurance premiums, but it would be difficult to make that case to the broad public, especially given the chorus of misinformation you know would dominate the airwaves.

Finally, and I suspect most important, switching to single-payer would impose a lot of disruption on tens of millions of families who currently have good coverage through their employers. You might say that they would end up just as well off, and it might well be true for most people — although not those with especially good policies. But getting voters to believe that would be a very steep climb.

Bottom line for Krugman is that single-payer ain’t gonna happen. Like it or not, the fact that Obamacare did not disrupt the millions of Americans who get health insurance through their employers gives it a leg up. Then there is the fact that taxes would have to be raised on the middle class to pay for it, as even Sanders acknowledges. And even though the middle class would not doubt save even more on their health insurance premiums, Krugman comes down on the side that higher taxes on them would not fly politically.

I’d like to add something to all of this. It’s frequently nice to have test cases for policy change.  Massachusetts was the test case for ChaffeeCare/DoleCare/RomneyCare/ObamaCare.  It wasn’t perfect but it worked.

March 1965: Children watching a black voting rights march in Alabama. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

March 1965: Children watching a black voting rights march in Alabama. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

According to a new analysis, health care reform in Massachusetts, popularly known as “Romneycare,” didn’t cause hospital use or costs to increase, even as it drove down the number of people without health insurance.

Implemented by the state in 2006, and signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, the reform is looked at as a model for the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” the sweeping and controversial health care law that Republican lawmakers in the House tried to repeal for the 37th time Thursday.

Amresh Hanchate, an economist with the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and lead author of the study, which he presented Thursday at an American Heart Association conference, says that the results of the study were surprising.

 “In light of the [Affordable Care Act], we wanted to validate concerns that insurance reform would lead to dramatic increases in health care use and costs,” he says. “We were surprised to find little impact on health care use. Changes we saw in Massachusetts are very similar to those we saw in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – states without reform.”

When it was implemented, about 8.4 percent of Massachusetts citizens were uninsured; by 2010, just 3 percent were uninsured. Uninsured rates fell most among minorities: In 2006, 15 percent of African-Americans were uninsured, in 2010, that rate was at 3.4 percent. Uninsured rates for Hispanics in the state fell from 20 percent to 9.2 percent during the same period.

Similarly encouraging news is found on the ACA even though it was seriously hampered by the SCOTUS ruling that allowed many states to opt out of the medicaid expansion and hosting local exchanges.  We have one state that tried to have single payer. It failed.  The state was Vermont.  Sanders was asked about it during the debate. He dodged the question by referring it to the state’s governor.  Well, there’s a lot of information out there on it.  I’ll start with NEJM. 

On December 17, 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin publicly ended his administration’s 4-year initiative to develop, enact, and implement a single-payer health care system in his state. The effort would have established a government-financed system, called Green Mountain Care, to provide universal coverage, replacing most private health insurance in Vermont. For Americans who prefer more ambitious health care reform than that offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Shumlin’s announcement was a major disappointment. Was his decision based on economic or political considerations? Will it damage the viability of a single-payer approach in other states or at the federal level?

Shumlin’s exploration of a single-payer health care system, which included three assessments by different expert groups, was among the most exhaustive ever conducted in the United States. A 2011 study led by Harvard health economist William Hsiao provided optimistic projections: immediate systemwide savings of 8 to 12% and an additional 12 to 14% over time, or more than $2 billion over 10 years, and requirements for new payroll taxes of 9.4% for employers and new income taxes of 3.1% for individuals to replace health insurance premiums (see tableFinancial Estimates from Three Projections for a Vermont Single-Payer Health Plan.).

Two years later, a study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Wakely Consulting projected savings of just 1.5% over 3 years.2 Finally, a 2014 study by Shumlin’s staff and consultants predicted 1.6% savings over 5 years and foresaw required new taxes of 11.5% for employers and up to 9.5% for individuals. The governor cited these last projections in withdrawing his plan: “I have learned that the limitations of state-based financing, the limitations of federal law, the limitations of our tax capacity, and the sensitivity of our economy make that unwise and untenable at this time . . . . The risk of economic shock is too high,” Shumlin concluded.

Two factors explain most of the decline in the plan’s financial prospects. First, the anticipated federal revenues from Medicaid and the ACA declined dramatically. Second, Shumlin’s policy choices significantly increased the total projected cost of Green Mountain Care: raising the actuarial value of coverage — the expected portion of medical costs covered by a plan rather than by out-of-pocket spending — from 87% to 94%, providing coverage to nonresidents working in Vermont, and eliminating current state taxes on medical providers. Still, even Shumlin’s projections indicated that the plan would reduce Vermont’s overall health spending and lower costs for the 90% of Vermont families with household incomes under $150,000. Despite differing projections, all three studies showed that single payer was economically feasible.

In reality, the Vermont plan was abandoned because of legitimate political considerations. Shumlin was first elected governor in 2010 promising a single-payer system. But in the 2014 election, his Republican opponent campaigned against single payer. Shumlin won the popular vote by a single-percentage-point margin, 46% to 45%, which sent the election to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives; though the House reelected him easily in January, a clear public mandate for his health care agenda was nowhere in evidence.

maxresdefault (1)Here’s some slightly less academic explanations. This one comes from the Boston Globe.

Vermont took Obamacare a step further. In 2011, Shumlin proudly signed a bill to establish a publicly financed, single-payer system. The law required Shumlin to submit a detailed financial plan by 2013.

Shumlin missed the deadline, raising fears among supporters and critics alike that single-payer health care would cost much more than anticipated. Those fears were realized on Dec. 17, when Shumlin, two years late and just a month from narrowly winning reelection, released the financial analysis.

The numbers were stunning. To implement single-payer, the analysis showed, it would cost $4.3 billion in 2017, with Vermont taxpayers picking up $2.6 billion and the federal government covering the rest. To put the figures into perspective, Vermont’s entire fiscal 2015 budget, including both state and federal funds, is about $4.9 billion.

Shumlin’s office estimated the state would need to impose new personal income taxes of up to 9.5 percent, on top of current rates that range from 3.55 to 8.95 percent. Businesses would be hit with an 11.5 percent payroll tax, on top of 7.65 percent payroll taxes employer pay for Social Security and Medicare.

And even those tax increases might not have been enough. The governor’s office estimated the Green Mountain Care program would run deficits of $82 million by 2020 and $146 million in 2021. Shumlin said he feared the tax increases would harm businesses and the economy.

Okay, this is VERMONT, folks.  Now, try doing that in Louisiana and Kansas or try getting their elected officials in the District to buy off on it.

So, a lot of children just really like believing in Santa Claus and it doesn’t take much to get them to continue their buy-in. Then there was Doctor Daughter who figured out it was her Dad and me at an extremely tender age after careful empirical study then asked me if that was the case.  Of course, I said yes rather than try to lead her on like my parents did me for the sake of my sister. I just told her to go along if other kids believed and their parents hadn’t told them the truth yet.  She did so like a little Nixonian co-conspirator.

I will not lie to you.  Ceteris paribus.  I prefer Single Payer Health Insurance.  Ceteris paribus.  Bernie Sanders has some really nice ideas.

I have never been one of those theoretical researchers.  All of my stuff is empirical. I live in the land of empirical evidence.  Yes, folks socialized medicine works just fine in the UK and is fairly cheap and folks get turned away for stuff that would probably piss the average American off.  Yes, single payer health or a government option works great in Switzerland and other places.  But, this is a country where it appears that our options will be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Spare me the Santa Claus mythos or the Senator Gadfly mythos.

Sorry this is so long, but as you can see, I had a lot to say and prove.  I vote we try to improve on the ACA and for Hillary.  Just sayin’.

Mea culpas go to any one whose work I over quoted.  I love fair use but I also loved what you wrote.  I quoted and cited you.  Just sayin’.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Lazy Saturday Reads: Republicans Must Speak Incoherent Nonsense to Win GOP Nomination


Good Morning!!

I’d love to be able to transport myself to a beautiful, peaceful place and isolate myself from current events. The reality of what is happening to our politics as our country devolves into a place where mass shootings are common, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny run rampant, income inequality is destroying the economy, and and the environment is rapidly deteriorating is just too much. I feel emotionally overwhelmed by it all.

At times, it’s easy to laugh at the insanity of today’s Republican Party and the complete incompetence of the mainstream media, but today the ugliness of what’s happening makes me feel like crying. Is there anything that can be done to turn this devolution of our country around?

I guess I reached the breaking point when I came home last night to the news that Republican presidential candidate(!) Donald Trump had attacked Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly by suggesting her questions to him during the debate on Thursday night were “mean” because she was menstruating. Can this really be happening?

Philip Rucker at The Washington Post: Trump says Fox’s Megyn Kelly had ‘blood coming out of her wherever.’


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Friday night that Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes” when she  aggressively questioned him during Thursday’s presidential debate.

“She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions,” Trump said in a CNN interview. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base.” ….

In Thursday’s debate, Kelly questioned Trump over his history of offensive statements about women.

Calling in to CNN for a 30-minute interview on Friday night with Don Lemon, Trump hurled insults at Kelly, calling her a “lightweight,” and bashed her co-moderators, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, as well as other Fox talent.

“I just don’t respect her as a journalist,” Trump said of Kelly. “I have no respect for her. I don’t think she’s very good. I think she’s highly overrated.”

Trump said he is considering skipping the next debate hosted by Fox News Channel, scheduled for January in Iowa, because he believes he was treated unfairly by the network’s moderators.

This pathetic excuse for a human being has been leading the national polls in the race for the GOP nomination for more than a month!


Oliver Willis writes: Trump: Megyn Kelly Asked Tough Questions Because She Was On Her Period.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front runner, suggested that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions because she was on her period.

Appearing on CNN, captured by Think Progress, Trump said that Kelly, who questioned Trump about past misogynistic statements where he called women pigs and cows was asking “ridiculous questions” because she had “blood coming out of her eyes” and “blood coming out of her whatever.”

Trump’s fellow Republican candidates did not issue statements or condemnations of him when he promoted a tweet earlier in the day that called Kelly a “bimbo.”

Those candidates did however, issue various policy statements insensitive to women’s issues during the debate, as Republican insiders feared that this presidential campaign would once again bring the Republican Party’s “War on Women” to the forefront.

It looks like Trump is doing just that.

Most Americans–even Republicans–probably understand that Trump is a clown who simply blurts out whatever comes into his sick mind without any concern for the consequences. But what about 16 other Republican candidates? Are most of them really any better?


Paul Krugman has a brilliant column today in which he points out that to be a Republican candidate today means that you must spout complete nonsense.

From Trump on Down, the Republicans Can’t Be Serious.

…while it’s true that Mr. Trump is, fundamentally, an absurd figure, so are his rivals. If you pay attention to what any one of them is actually saying, as opposed to how he says it, you discover incoherence and extremism every bit as bad as anything Mr. Trump has to offer. And that’s not an accident: Talking nonsense is what you have to do to get anywhere in today’s Republican Party.

For example, Mr. Trump’s economic views, a sort of mishmash of standard conservative talking points and protectionism, are definitely confused. But is that any worse than Jeb Bush’s deep voodoo, his claim that he could double the underlying growth rate of the American economy? And Mr. Bush’s credibility isn’t helped by his evidence for that claim: the relatively rapid growth Florida experienced during the immense housing bubble that coincided with his time as governor.

Mr. Trump, famously, is a “birther” — someone who has questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States. But is that any worse than Scott Walker’s declaration that he isn’t sure whether the president is a Christian?

Mr. Trump’s declared intention to deport all illegal immigrants is definitely extreme, and would require deep violations of civil liberties. But are there any defenders of civil liberties in the modern G.O.P.? Notice how eagerly Rand Paul, self-described libertarian, has joined in the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood.

And while Mr. Trump is definitely appealing to know-nothingism, Marco Rubio, climate change denier, has made “I’m not a scientist” his signature line. (Memo to Mr. Rubio: Presidents don’t have to be experts on everything, but they do need to listen to experts, and decide which ones to believe.)

The point is that while media puff pieces have portrayed Mr. Trump’s rivals as serious men — Jeb the moderate, Rand the original thinker, Marco the face of a new generation — their supposed seriousness is all surface. Judge them by positions as opposed to image, and what you have is a lineup of cranks. And as I said, this is no accident.

Please go read the whole thing.

North Dakota Post-glacial Landscape

And what about the views on reproductive health that were expressed during the debate? Here Iris Carmon at MSNBC, GOP candidates: Ban abortion, no exceptions

At the first debate among candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination, the question was not whether or not to ban abortion or to defund Planned Parenthood. It was about whether exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or a woman’s life endangerment are legitimate. Their answer: No.

Moderator Megyn Kelly asked Scott Walker how he could justify opposing an exception to an abortion ban in cases where a woman’s life was in danger, though he did sign a bill with such an exception. Then she turned around and asked Marco Rubio how he could support exceptions in the case of rape and incest if he believed abortion was murder….

Walker, who asked the Wisconsin legislature for a 20-week abortion ban that had no exceptions for rape and incest but ultimately decided not to heed the anti-abortion activists who begged for a no-exceptions bill, replied, “I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there, and I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That’s been consistently proven.” The claim that an abortion is never needed to save a woman’s life is a common one in anti-abortion circles. Medical experts disagree.

As for Rubio, he denied he had ever advocated for such exceptions. “What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection,” he said. “In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States.” In fact, Rubio was a cosponsor on a 20-week abortion ban that contained rape, incest and life endangerment exceptions.

Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee did him one better and actually named which amendments of the constitution he believes already ban abortion. Specifically, the fifth and fourteenth.


These kinds of attitudes toward women and their rights to control their own bodies are now in the mainstream of Republican ideology. The New York Times suggests that while some argue that Republican candidates will hurt themselves with women voters by expressing these misogynistic views, this may not be true, at least for now.

In the short term, however, the political peril for the Republican candidates may not be so grave. They are largely focused now on winning over likely Republican voters who will decide the party’s nomination — an electorate that tends to skew male and older in many key states.

Recent polls of Republican voters indicate that Mr. Trump is performing strongly among men and to a slightly lesser extent among women, though sizable numbers of women also say they would not support him. It remains an open question whether Mr. Trump offended his supporters, or many other likely primary voters, by refusing to renounce his past descriptions of women as “fat pigs” during the debate; indeed, pollsters say he may have struck a chord with some voters by saying he doesn’t “have time for political correctness” when he was asked about his remarks.

The 2012 election was a case in point: Even though Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, won white women with 56 percent of their votes, he lost over all with female voters. A Republican nominee would be hard-pressed to improve that if the 2016 Democratic nominee is a woman, many Republican pollsters believe.

So they’re going to try to win the presidency by appealing to white male woman haters? Okay. Read about what Republican women think and much more at the link.


Trump’s attack on Megyn Kelley was too much even for ultra right wing nut EReaderrick Erickson. From The Washington Post: Donald Trump disinvited to speak at RedState event; Megyn Kelly invited.

ATLANTA — Conservative commentator Erick Erickson on Friday night disinvited GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump from speaking at an activist conference he is hosting here this weekend, citing disparaging remarks Trump made hours earlier on CNN about Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Erickson said Trump had been scheduled to speak at his RedState gathering on Saturday at the College Football Hall of Fame, but he told Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, about an hour before midnight that Trump was no longer welcome.

Trump’s campaign said in a statement that Erickson’s decision was “another example of weakness through being politically correct. For all the people who were looking forward to Mr. Trump coming, we will miss you. Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader. We’ll now be doing another campaign stop at another location.”

Trump’s CNN interview Friday evening instantly drew controversy and criticism after he said Kelly, one of the moderators of Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, “had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted that he was referring to Kelly’s nose. His campaign also issued a statement, claiming Trump said “whatever” instead of “wherever,” again repeating that the reference was to her nose.

Erickson, a Fox News regular and face of the popular RedState blog, has long been a foe of congressional GOP leaders and an ally of conservative grass-roots organizers. He has also drawn criticism for saying impolitic things, once calling retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter an “[expletive] child molester” and First Lady Michelle Obama a “Marxist harpy.” He has since apologized for both comments.

Trump’s words about Kelly simply went too far, Erickson said Friday, making him, someone who enjoys and appreciates barbed political rhetoric, uncomfortable and queasy. And with his invited guest dominating the 2016 race, and few if any conservatives reining him in, Erickson thought he’d try.

We’ll have to wait and see if that has any effect on Trump. But Republicans will still be stuck with several other candidates whose attitudes toward women aren’t really any better than Trump’s and whose ideas, as Paul Krugman points out, are completely incoherent and nonsensical.

Now I’m going to a peaceful place in my mind and try to pretend none of this is happening for today.

Remember, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a nice weekend.

Lazy Saturday Reads: Economics Food Fight, Drive-By Mass Murder, and Other News

Thomas Picketty

Thomas Picketty

Have a Stupendous Saturday!

It’s too bad Dakinikat is so busy today, because there’s an economics food fight brewing. Perhaps she’ll still find time to comment on the controversy later the evening after she returns home with her newly adopted canine family member, Temple. Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to describe the dispute over Thomas Picketty’s conclusions about wealth inequality, published in his book Capital in the Twenty-first Century.

The Accusations:

At the Financial Times, Economics Editor Chris Giles has claims to have found problems with Picketty’s work: Piketty findings undercut by errors.

Thomas Piketty’s book, ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, has been the publishing sensation of the year. Its thesis of rising inequality tapped into the zeitgeist and electrified the post-financial crisis public policy debate.

But, according to a Financial Times investigation, the rock-star French economist appears to have got his sums wrong.

The data underpinning Professor Piketty’s 577-page tome, which has dominated best-seller lists in recent weeks, contain a series of errors that skew his findings. The FT found mistakes and unexplained entries in his spreadsheets, similar to those which last year undermined the work on public debt and growth of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

The central theme of Prof Piketty’s work is that wealth inequalities are heading back up to levels last seen before the first world war. The investigation undercuts this claim, indicating there is little evidence in Prof Piketty’s original sources to bear out the thesis that an increasing share of total wealth is held by the richest few.

Prof Piketty, 43, provides detailed sourcing for his estimates of wealth inequality in Europe and the US over the past 200 years. In his spreadsheets, however, there are transcription errors from the original sources and incorrect formulas. It also appears that some of the data are cherry-picked or constructed without an original source.

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

In one specific example, Giles says the corrected data do not show significant growth in Europe since 1970. In a second article, Giles goes into more detail. In addition, he argues that the U.S. data doesn’t support the conclusion that a greater proportion of the wealth is controlled by top 1% than in recent decades. He does admit to the top 10% controlling a greater share of wealth than previously.

An investigation by the Financial Times, however, has revealed many unexplained data entries and errors in the figures underlying some of the book’s key charts.

These are sufficiently serious to undermine Prof Piketty’s claim that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society has been rising and “the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.

After referring back to the original data sources, the investigation found numerous mistakes in Prof Piketty’s work: simple fat-finger errors of transcription; suboptimal averaging techniques; multiple unexplained adjustments to the numbers; data entries with no sourcing, unexplained use of different time periods and inconsistent uses of source data….

A second class of problems relates to unexplained alterations of the original source data. Prof Piketty adjusts his own French data on wealth inequality at death to obtain inequality among the living. However, he used a larger adjustment scale for 1910 than for all the other years, without explaining why.

In the UK data, instead of using his source for the wealth of the top 10 per cent population during the 19th century, Prof Piketty inexplicably adds 26 percentage points to the wealth share of the top 1 per cent for 1870 and 28 percentage points for 1810.

A third problem is that when averaging different countries to estimate wealth in Europe, Prof Piketty gives the same weight to Sweden as to France and the UK – even though it only has one-seventh of the population.

Get even more detail and charts here: Data problems with Capital in the 21st Century.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

The Pushback So Far:

Paul Krugman: Is Piketty All Wrong?

Great buzz in the blogosphere over Chris Giles’s attack on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. Giles finds a few clear errors, although they don’t seem to matter much; more important, he questions some of the assumptions and imputations Piketty uses to deal with gaps in the data and the way he switches sources. Neil Irwin and Justin Wolfers have good discussions of the complaints; Piketty will have to answer these questions in detail, and we’ll see how well he does it.

Krugman suggests that Giles may be doing something wrong.

I don’t know the European evidence too well, but the notion of stable wealth concentration in the United States is at odds with many sources of evidence. Take, for example, the landmark CBO study on the distribution of income; it shows the distribution of income by type, and capital income has become much more concentrated over time:

It’s just not plausible that this increase in the concentration of income from capital doesn’t reflect a more or less comparable increase in the concentration of capital itself….

And there’s also the economic story. In the United States, income inequality has soared since 1980 by any measure you use. Unless the affluent starting saving less than the working class, this rise in income disparity must have led to a rise in wealth disparity over time.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum notes that

Giles’ objections are mostly to the data regarding increases in wealth inequality over the past few decades, and the funny thing is that even Piketty never claims that this has changed dramatically. The end result of Giles’ re-analysis of Piketty’s data is [below] with Piketty in blue and Giles in red. As you can see, Piketty estimates a very small increase since 1970.



R.A. at The Economist: A Piketty problem?

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman

Mr Giles’s analysis is impressive, and one certainly hopes that further work by Mr Giles, Mr Piketty or others will clarify whether mistakes have been made, how they came to be introduced and what their effects are. Based on the information Mr Giles has provided so far, however, the analysis does not seem to support many of the allegations made by the FT, or the conclusion that the book’s argument is wrong.

There are four important questions raised by the FT‘s work. First, which data are wrong? Second, how did errors in the work, if they are errors, come to be introduced? Third, how do the errors affect the specific points made in the relevant chapters? And fourth, how do the errors affect the fundamental conclusions of the book?

Mr Giles focuses on wealth inequality, to which Mr Piketty turns in Chapter 10 of his book. Mr Piketty has not published nearly as much research on the question of wealth inequality, and it seems that much of the analysis in Chapter 10 was done specifically for the book, based on others’ research. Mr Piketty’s wealth-inequality analysis certainly matters as a component of the book’s argument, but it is not accurate to say, as Mr Giles does, that the results in Chapter 10 constitute the “central theme” of the book.

Are the data wrong? Mr Giles identifies discrepancies between source material cited by Mr Piketty and the figures that appear in the book. He identifies cases in which Mr Piketty appears to have chosen to use data from one source when another would have made more sense. Further, the calculations in Mr Piketty’s spreadsheets (which have been available online since the book’s publication) seem to include adjustments in the data that are not adequately explained, and some figures for which Mr Giles cannot find a documented source. Finally, Mr Piketty has made choices concerning weighting of data used in averages, and assigning of data from one year (1935, for example) to another (1930) when such assignments seem unnecessary or inadvisable.

Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan

The author concludes that, unfortunately, ideology will determine how many people respond to the Giles critique. Much more extensive analysis at the link.

Here is Picketty’s–presumably preliminary–response to Giles in a letter to the Financial Times:

Let me also say that I certainly agree that available data sources on wealth are much less systematic than for income. In fact, one of the main reasons why I am in favor of wealth taxation and automatic exchange of bank information is that this would be a way to develop more financial transparency and more reliable sources of information on wealth dynamics (even if the tax was charged at very low rates, which you might agree with).

For the time being, we have to do with what we have, that is, a very diverse and heterogeneous set of data sources on wealth: historical inheritance declarations and estate tax statistics, scarce property and wealth tax data, and household surveys with self-reported data on wealth (with typically a lot of under-reporting at the top). As I make clear in the book, in the on-line appendix, and in the many technical papers I have published on this topic, one needs to make a number of adjustments to the raw data sources so as to make them more homogenous over time and across countries. I have tried in the context of this book to make the most justified choices and arbitrages about data sources and adjustments. I have no doubt that my historical data series can be improved and will be improved in the future (this is why I put everything on line). In fact, the “World Top Incomes Database” (WTID) is set to become a “World Wealth and Income Database” in the coming years, and we will put on-line updated estimates covering more countries. But I would be very surprised if any of the substantive conclusion about the long run evolution of wealth distributions was much affected by these improvements.

I thought this was important:

my estimates on wealth concentration do not fully take into account offshore wealth, and are likely to err on the low side. I am certainly not trying to make the picture look darker than it it. As I make clear in chapter 12 of my book (see in particular table 12.1-12.2), top wealth holders have apparently been rising a lot faster average wealth in recent decades, at least according to the wealth rankings published in magazines such as Forbes. This is true not only in the US, but also in Britain and at the global level (see attached table). This is not well taken into account by wealth surveys and official statistics, including the recent statistics that were published for Britain. Of course, as I make clear in my book, wealth rankings published by magazines are far from being a perfectly reliable data source. But for the time being, this is what we have, and what we have suggests that the concentration of wealth at the top is rising pretty much everywhere.

Luckovich shooting

In Other News:

There has been a mass shooting in Southern California–this time perpetrated from behind the wheel of a car. From the LA Times, 7 dead in drive-by shooting near UC Santa Barbara.

The shootings began about 9:30 p.m., a sheriff’s spokeswoman told KEYT-TV. It wasn’t clear what the attacker’s motivation might have been.

An 18-year-old Newport Beach man who was visiting Santa Barbara described a confusing scene as the shots rang out.

Nikolaus Becker was eating outside The Habit, 888 Embarcadero Del Norte,  near the scene when the first set of shots was fired about 9:30 p.m. At first he thought it was firecrackers. A group of three to five police officers who were nearby started to casually walk toward the sounds, said Becker, but ran when a second round of shots broke out.

“That’s when they yelled at us to get inside and take cover,” Becker said.

The BMW took a sharp turn in front of The Habit, Becker said, and moments later a third round of shots was heard. Becker and his friends moved toward the restaurant’s kitchen but were told to wait in the seating area by employees.

He estimates there were at least 13 to 15 shots total at three locations. The locations were about 100 yards from one another.

The shooter, whose motivation is unknown, was found dead in his BMW. It’s not yet clear if he shot himself or was killed by sheriff’s deputies.

In another gun-related story, TPM reports that some gun nuts are reconsidering their campaign of carrying long guns into public places: Scaring The Crap Out of People Oddly Not Winning Fans.

Open Carry Texas and a group of other aggressive gun rights groups have issued a joint statement telling their members, Dudes, let’s stop taking our guns to restaurants. It’s freaking people out and making them hate us.

Read the full statement at TPM.


Soon-to-be former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling has signed over the team to his wife and wants her to negotiate the sale.

Shelly Sterling, who previously shared ownership of the beleaguered NBA franchise with her estranged husband, is now in talks with the NBA over selling the team, the source said.

The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life from all league events after an audio tape became public that caught him on tape uttering racist comments to his assistant V. Stiviano. He told her not to post photos of herself with black people on Instagram — such as Magic Johnson — or bring them to his basketball games.

But the NBA isn’t buying it. From ESPN: Why the NBA won’t allow Shelly Sterling to control the Clippers.

At first glance, Donald Sterling’s gesture may seem like serendipitous news for the NBA. Taking him at his word, Donald Sterling has agreed to leave the league without a fight and has signed off on the sale of his team. Digging deeper, however, reveals possible ulterior motives on Sterling’s part to delay and potentially block the sale of the team. Do not forget a crucial point: capital gain taxes. As first reported by, the Sterlings have significant incentives under capital gain tax law to avoid the sale of the team and keep it in the Sterling family. Doing so, would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, contrary to some reports, the Sterlings are unlikely to benefit from the “involuntary conversion” tax avoidance provision of the Internal Revenue Code. The bottom line is if the Sterlings have to sell the Clippers, they will probably pay hundreds of millions in state and federal taxes.

Along those lines, Donald Sterling’s proposed maneuver does not accomplish the NBA’s goal of ousting the entire Sterling family on June 3. As explained in a previous article, the NBA interprets its constitution to mean that ousting Donald Sterling on June 3 would also automatically oust Shelly Sterling as co-owner, with the Clippers then falling under the control of commissioner Adam Silver. Donald Sterling’s proposed maneuver risks the prospect of Shelly Sterling undertaking a slow-moving effort to sell the team. A sale process that takes months or years would clearly aggravate the NBA, which wants to erase the Sterling family name from the league as quickly as possible. A protracted sale of the Clippers by Shelly Sterling might also constitute a potential rationale for players to boycott NBA games.

Even of greater risk to the NBA, what is to stop Shelly Sterling from deciding to keep the Clippers? She could plausibly reason, on various grounds, that now is not the right time to sell the team. Also, her instruction from her husband to sell the team would not be legally binding; it would be a mere suggestion the moment she takes over the team.

Read much more at the link.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ll end with a long article that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I’m hearing it’s a must read: The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. Here’s the tagline:

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

Some reactions:

The Guardian: The ‘Case for Reparations’ is solid, and it’s long past time to make them.

Slate: An Ingenious and Powerful Case for Reparations.

The Wire: You Should Read “The Case for Reparations.”

NPR: How To Tell Who Hasn’t Read The New ‘Atlantic’ Cover Story.

WaPo: Culture change and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘The Case For Reparations’.

What else is happening? As always, please post your links in the comment thread.

Friday Reads: Summer Vacation Edition

sophia-loren-1961Good Morning!!

Still a little bit left of summer vacation left and I am sure some of you are hitting the road.  It’s still hot down here in New Orleans but this weekend is Satchmo Summer Fest.  Every little festival weekend is like a ready made holiday for me!  I will probably go listen to some music and taste some home cooking!

There’s the usual this and that sorta stuff out there.  Here is one helluva depressing take on a man that kidnapped and brutalized women for years.  “Most of the sex… was consensual.”  Yeah. RIGHT.  Three young women held captive for 11 years and of course, they asked for it.

Ariel Castro’s words at his sentencing hearing on Thursday are almost jaw-dropping. Given a chance to speak before he was sentenced to life in prison, plus a thousand years for aggravated murder and for holding three young women captive for 11 years, he repeatedly blamed his victims.

He denied he raped and beat Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, claiming instead that they asked him for sex and that his sexual addiction was to blame. He even said the abuse couldn’t have been that bad because DeJesus “looks normal.” While many onlookers were astonished, abuse experts said they hear that kind of language and justification every day.

NBC News asked them to weigh in on specific comments Castro made:

Most of the sex that went on in that house, probably all of it, was consensual,” Castro said. “These allegations about being forceful on them — that is totally wrong. Because there was times where they’d even ask me for sex –many times. And I learned that these girls were not virgins. From their testimony to me, they had multiple partners before me, all three of them.”

The denial and rationalization comes as no shock to experts on rape and abuse. In fact, they say, it’s typical that men who rape or batter women will deny they did anything wrong, and even that the victim was “asking for it”.

“I think it’s actually very typical of an abuser,” says Barbara Paradiso, who directs the center on domestic violence at the University of Colorado-Denver.

“There is a widely held belief that women enjoy rape or that it is ‘just sex at the wrong time, in the wrong place’,” Rape Crisis of England and Wales says on its website. “Often when a woman is raped she is afraid that she will be killed – rapists often use the threat of killing a woman or her children to ensure her ‘submission’ and her silence after the attack. Women do not enjoy sexual violence. Victims of murder, robbery and other crimes are never portrayed as enjoying the experience.”

“I am not a violent person. I simply kept them there without being able to leave.”

“It is not uncommon for offenders to have justified their own behavior, oftentimes to see themselves as a victim,” Paradiso said in a telephone interview. “They often have a sense of righteousness around their behavior, that they had a right to do what they did or it was acceptable to do what they did that they were forced to do what they did because of the victim.”

“I never had a record until I met my children’s mother.My son was on there the other day saying how abusive I was but I was never abusive until I met her. And he failed to say that at the end before she passed away that them two weren’t even talking.

Castro’s son Anthony has said Castro beat him and his mother, Grimilda “Nilda” Figueroa, who died in 2012.

“What he’s saying, that I was a wife beater – that is, that is wrong. This happened because I couldn’t get her to quiet down. I would continuous tell her the children are right there, would you please? She would respond, I don’t care if the children are there and she would just keep going…the situation would escalate until the point where she would put her hands on me and that’s how I reacted, by putting my hands on her.”

It’s familiar thinking to Paradiso. “‘I had to hit her because she did x, y or z’,” she says. “(They are saying) ‘I had to bring her back into line’ … It doesn’t really surprise me at all that he said what he said. That behavior is completely based on power and control and domination, which our society supports. So I am not surprised that he said that.”

While his is an extreme case, experts say the pattern is anything but rare.

“I was taken aback [by Castro’s statements] but at the same time not shocked by it,” says Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victim services for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “It’s somebody who was not willing to accept that what they did was wrong and who may have convinced themselves that what they are doing is not wrong or justified. It read like the way that a perpetrator thinks.”

According to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and only three out of every 100 rapists ever spends any time in jail.

So this is a real interesting story about a writer that basically googled two words and got a visit from the Counter Terrorism People.  Those two words are “backpack” and “pressure cooker”.

-1960s-Beach-Party-891B1G0A-x-large It was a confluence of magnificent proportions that led six agents from the joint terrorism task force to knock on my door Wednesday morning. Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.

Most of it was innocent enough. I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now. And in these times, when things like the Boston bombing happen, you spend a lot of time on the internet reading about it and, if you are my exceedingly curious news junkie of a twenty-year-old son, you click a lot of links when you read the myriad of stories. You might just read a CNN piece about how bomb making instructions are readily available on the internet and you will in all probability, if you are that kid, click the link provided.

Which might not raise any red flags. Because who wasn’t reading those stories? Who wasn’t clicking those links? But my son’s reading habits combined with my search for a pressure cooker and my husband’s search for a backpack set off an alarm of sorts at the joint terrorism task force headquarters.

That’s how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history.

This was weeks ago. I don’t know what took them so long to get here. Maybe they were waiting for some other devious Google search to show up but “what the hell do I do with quinoa” and “Is A-Rod suspended yet” didn’t fit into the equation so they just moved in based on those older searches.

I was at work when it happened. My husband called me as soon as it was over, almost laughing about it but I wasn’t joining in the laughter. His call left me shaken and anxious.

What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving.

Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door.

A million things went through my husband’s head. None of which were right. He walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands.

“Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said.

They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf (nope, no bomb making books, no Anarchist Cookbook), looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son’s bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be.

Meanwhile, they were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked.

They searched the backyard. They walked around the garage, as much as one could walk around a garage strewn with yardworking equipment and various junk. They went back in the house and asked more questions.

It seems even Kentucky folks are tired of Mitch McConnell. Can I get a witness?


New poll numbers released Thursday suggested that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is entering his reelection campaign next year facing two perilous obstacles: an electorate that wants him out of office and a viable Democratic challenger.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling — conducted on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy For America and provided in advance to TPM — found Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who launched her Senate campaign on Tuesday, drawing the support of 45 percent of Bluegrass State voters and narrowly edging McConnell by a single point. Eleven percent of voters said they are undecided. The two liberal groups to commission the poll are both opposed to McConnell.

A slight majority of Kentucky voters — 51 percent — disapprove of the job McConnell is doing, giving the GOP leader an approval rating of 40 percent. PPP has previously identified McConnell as the least popular senator in the country, but the latest poll marks a marginal improvement It marks for a marginal bump since April, when McConnell nursed a 36 percent approval rating. PPP polled 1,210 Kentucky voters on those two questions, and the margin of error is 2.8 percent.

Kentucky voters may also be experiencing McConnell fatigue, according to PPP’s latest. When the pollsters asked if McConnell deserved reelection “[a]fter 30 years in the U.S. Senate,” 54 percent said he does not, compared with just 38 percent who said he does deserve another term. The pollster asked 625 voters that question, and it has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

Nonstop cute at the Forth Worth Zoo where I might be spending a bit of time this month relearning the joys of teenagers.  Don’t ask yet … I’ll share in good time.  Just promise me you won’t faint when I do.  Long time relationship curmudgeon–me–is in one and I am trying  to relearn the joys of monogamy coupled with the agony of distance. There are pictures but I am trying not to jinx things quite yet. So, anyway, humor and pity me until I figure out wtf I am doing. Okay?

But now, time to OOOOOOOOOOOOO AND ahhhhh at Baby Elephant Belle!


The Fort Worth Zoo’s new baby elephant is already a big hit with children who visit the zoo.

Their youthful fascination was enhanced Tuesday when zoo officials added a child’s inflatable pool to the elephants’ enclosure for Belle’s enjoyment. Belle could be seen rolling in the pool.

Bell was born July 7 and is just the second Asian elephant to be born at the Fort Worth Zoo in its 104-year history.

Zoo spokeswoman Katie Giangreco says Belle weighed 330 pounds at birth is gaining two pounds per day. She says Belle “is curious and full of personality, learning new things every day, learning what her trunk is for, learning to use her legs.”

Belle’s mother, Rasha, is helping in that instruction.

Asian elephants have been listed as endangered since 1976.

I am gonna close with Krugman on an Op Ed by Brad Delong on Larry Summers.  I have no idea why any one thinks Larry Summers has the temperament for the job of Fed Chair despite his credentials, but oh well. Let’s let the shrill one say it better than me.

Brad DeLong asks why the left views Larry Summers as a right-wing hyena. I think that’s a straw man, or maybe a straw hyena. What is true is that a lot of people even on the moderate left don’t trust Summers, even though much of his commentary over the years has been very much center-left — and since leaving office he has become one of our most prominent fiscal doves.

Where does this mistrust come from? Well, let me give you an example: Jackson Hole, 2005, a conference dedicated to celebrating the record of, ahem, Alan Greenspan. Raghuram Rajan had presented a paper warning that the risks of financial instability were much higher than most people were acknowledging. (I think Rajan has been wrong on many issues since then, but that was certainly a prophetic paper). And the response, in general, took the form of ridicule.

The principal discussant was Don Kohn (pdf), who was (barely) polite but completely wrong-headed, celebrating financial innovations such as “the growing ease of housing equity extraction”:

Leading off on the rest of the discussion (pdf) was Larry Summers, who wasn’t polite, dismissing Rajan for being “slightly Luddite” in questioning the value of financial innovation, which he compared (in a really bad analogy) to technological progress in transportation.

Let’s face it.  Summers is an asshole. I don’t care about his degrees or whatever.  Assholes should not be in places where they have to influence people into doing the right thing on policy that effects the entire globe.  Even, if it is a well-educated asshole, it is still just an asshole.

That is all.

What is on your reading and blogging list today?

Glenn Greenwald’s Dishonest Attack on Paul Krugman


A few days ago Paul Krugman wrote a not-very-exciting post at his blog “The Conscience of a Liberal.” The point of the post was that right wingers have not been as successful in their efforts to hype fake scandals during the Obama administration as they were in the Clinton years. Krugman writes:

When Barack Obama was elected, I was sure that it would be the Clinton years all over — that he would be subjected to an endless series of claims of “scandal”, creating the sense of a tainted administration even though all the alleged scandals would turn out to be either trivial or nonexistent. Remember, after all those years of front-page headlines and $70 million in public funds, the Whitewater investigation came up dry.

In fact, however, none of that happened during Obama’s first term. But would the second term be different? For a little while it looked as if the old scandal machinery was finally springing back to life, with Benghazi, the IRS, and more. You could almost hear the sigh of contentment from a certain part of the press corps.

Krugman’s post had nothing to do with the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald; but he made the mistake of just barely mentioning the NSA story.

But now it has all evaporated. Benghazi never made sense; it turns out that the IRS was targeting conservative as well as liberal groups. And as Chait says in the linked article, the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants.

And today, Greenwald chose to sic his permanently outraged shock troops fans on Krugman based on a deliberately obtuse reading of Krugman’s referencing Chait’s characterization of the NSA issue as a “policy dispute.” Here’s Greenwald’s take on it.

Defending the Obama administration, Paul Krugman pronounced that “the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants.” Really? In what conceivable sense is this not a serious scandal? If you, as an American citizen, let alone a journalist, don’t find it deeply objectionable when top national security officials systematically mislead your representatives in Congress about how the government is spying on you, and repeatedly lie publicly about resulting political controversies over that spying, what is objectionable? If having the NSA engage in secret, indiscriminate domestic spying that warps if not outright violates legal limits isn’t a “scandal”, then what is?

Of course it was really Jonathan Chait who made the distinction between “scandals” and “policy disputes.” Here’s what Chait wrote about it:

Obama’s prosecution of leaks, or use of the National Security Agency — is not a scandal at all. It’s a policy controversy. One can argue that Obama’s policy stance is wrong, or dangerous, or a threat to democracy. But when the president is carrying out duly passed laws and acting at every stage with judicial approval, then the issue is the laws themselves, not misconduct.

And of course it’s really Chait with whom Greenwald is enraged; because Chait had the temerity to write a somewhat humorous column in which he noted the similarities between Greenwald and Ralph Nader–one of which is that each of these men was apparently born without a sense of humor.

But instead of attacking Chait, Greenwald picks a fight with Krugman, who really doesn’t need that right now since he’s grieving the lost of his father. It’s probably a low blow for me to bring that up, but I can’t believe Greenwald didn’t know it, since he apparently reads Greenwald’s blog.

Greenwald has been running around to any media outlet who will have him announcing that he’s got an upcoming “bombshell” scoop that “will shock the world.” I wish he’d just get busy and publish it instead of spending so much time hyping his stories and lecturing everyone about how to interpret Edward Snowden’s behavior.

I think today I’ve finally had enough of St. Glenn to last me the rest of my life.