Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why won't the press cover this?

In this election season, we've seen expose after expose on Obama's church, Reverend White's teachings, Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy, John Edwards's affair, and so on. But virtually nothing about policy. Ezra Klein has an interesting piece about how John McCain's health care plan will massively raise taxes on everyone, result in 20 million Americans losing their health insurance, and basically end employer-based health insurance.

The individual insurance market is not the same as the employer-based insurance market. It sacrifices the bargaining powers of numbers for the cost-effectiveness of comparison shopping. It is fractured. It has higher administrative costs. Insurers can discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions, geography, age, gender, and even simple whim. The risk pools are smaller. The deductibles are higher, as are the co-pays, and the spending caps are lower. And the individual insurance market is much more expensive: Buchmueller, Glied, Royalty, and Swartz estimate that "for a typical family that moves from group to individual coverage...the move to nongroup insurance will raise premiums for an identical policy by more than $2,000 per year." That increase alone chews up 40% of the family tax credit, and that's simply so the family does not lose ground. In addition, the tax credit is not indexed to health spending, and will sharply decline in value with each passing year. In sum, individuals will be in a costlier market, where insurers have more power to set prices and conditions, and McCain's tax credit will do less to help them with every passing year.

Yet, mark my words, the media narrative for this election will be that Obama is in favor of higher taxes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Putting things in perspective, the graphical version

I put together this little chart because I think it shows the impact of this bailout better than yesterday's post.

Crap, that's a lot of money.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just putting things in perspective

I feel like I should write a blog post about the financial bailout that was announced this week. I find it difficult, however, because I barely understand enough economics to balance my checkbook at the end of the month. I sort of get the impression that it's a Big Deal and, therefore, I should care about it, but I'm not entirely clear on what's going on, how we got here, and what's been proposed to do about it.

So I'm not going to talk about that. I just wanted to try to get an idea of the scale of the $700 billion bailout. Seven hundred billion dollars is a LOT of money. It's a bit enough number that I have difficulty wrapping my brain around it.

  • This bailout is the size of the cumulative cost of the Iraq war to date, plus 50%. David has a neat little widget that displays the cost of the Iraq War at any given instant, presumabely to show how fast the number is growing. This bailout is even bigger.
  • The bailout is four times larger than the cumulative cost of the War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, source). That's the war that we went into after, you know, a little thing called 9/11.
  • This is roughly fifty times larger than the airline bailout after 9/11. That's 5000%, mind you.
  • Remember the savings and loan crisis of the late 80s? (I don't, really. I was in high school and wasn't really paying attention.) That was about $125 billion. This is roughly six times larger than that.
  • The bailout alone will add an additional 7% to our national debt.

So the cost of this thing is staggering. And it's not limited to American banks, either. It turns out we will be bailing out lots of foreign-owned banks as well, as long as they have "significant operations" in the US. Excuse me, but when was the financial well-being of Swiss banks an American problem? Why isn't the Swiss government doing their part of the bailout?

All the decisions about who will be bailed out and for how much is left up to one, unelected guy. As Glenn Greenwald points out:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.

So who thinks we should privatize Social Security next?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Something's wrong with these numbers

OK, So I'm kinda confused about something. The hurricane warning I saw for Ike insisted that Galveston residents faced "CERTAIN DEATH."* Somewhere between 20-50% of Galveston residents did not evacuate, or between 10,000 and 30,000 people. Rescuers have searched about 90% of Galveston and evacuated about another 1,500 people. The official death toll varies a bit, but is on the order of a dozen people.

So what happened to the other 8,500 - 28,500 people? Either I'm missing something, or these numbers just don't match up.

[*] Actually, the warning I saw said that residents "MAY FACE CERTAIN DEATH," which leaves open the possibility that they may not, making me wonder about what definition of "certain" was being used. Imminent natural disaster is no excuse for bad grammar.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Things I never thought I'd hear a Senator say

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at the hearings on the politicization of the Justice Department:

When it comes to politics, this is an administration that has no gag reflex.

(Oops, wrote this a while back but forgot to publish it.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Congratulations to people I've never met!

It appears that moon-grrl and Jonathan have gotten married. I'm assuming to each other. Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Remember, shiny side out

IlliniPundit really has descended into tinfoil hat territory. He's now complaining about what is, apparently, a media conspiracy to win Obama the election.

I doubt Palin, or the overblown and transparent media bloviation surrounding her, will seriously impact the dynamics of the race ... But I wonder, as I have for a while, if at some point the public tide will turn on this obvious and over-the-top media worship of Obama ... But I wonder, as I have for a while, if at some point the public tide will turn on this obvious and over-the-top media worship of Obama.

We've had to deal with non-stop allegations that ohmygod Barack Obama is a Muslim, he's not a US citizen, he's a Marxist, he's a socialist, he wasn't born in the United States, his wife hates whitey, his wife hates America, he doesn't say the Pledge, etc. This is apparently "media worship." For Odin's sake, major news outlets are having debates about whether Obama is actually the fucking Anti-christ.

Seriously, what did you expect would happen when McCain nominated, lets face it, a basically-unheard-of state governor for the second most powerful political position in the world, especially considering she's the first woman that Republicans have nominated to this level and that McCain passed over his own preferred candidate for her sake? That everyone would just ignore her?

I'm sorry, but the fact that her unmarried, minor daughter is pregnant is indeed news, particularly in light of her anti-sex-education and anti-teenage-mother policies. The fact that her husband hates America and wants to secede from the United Stats is news. The fact that she abused the power of her office to settle a family vendetta is news. The fact that she has been part of an anti-Semitic church for most of her adult life is news. Does Gordy really expect us to ignore all of these things?

Yeah, I'll grant that she's not a member of Alaska Independence Party and that early reports were mistaken. But her husband was.

That's the great thing about the myth of the "liberal media." It insulates Republicans from any criticism. It allows the faithful, when they are confronted by anything they find unpleasant, to simply avert their eyes and chant "media bias." And the media is so paralyzed with fear of accusations of being "liberal" from the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity that they bend over backwards to accommodate them.