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A Good One

with 24 comments

This is a busy day, but I had a minute, and I found this:



Written by janeh

November 7th, 2013 at 11:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

24 Responses to 'A Good One'

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  1. The article from real clear markets has a link to the Washington Post


    While reading the Washington Post article, I noticed that it mentions meetings with Obama, the Secretary of HHS, and various high level staffers. There is no mention of any of those meeting experienced IT professionals.

    Another point not mentioned is that a 2000 page law and 1000’s of pages of regulations were written in lawyer language. Some poor souls would be stuck with the job of translating that into something the computer people could read. And nothing could be done in the way of writing code until the translations were available.


    7 Nov 13 at 4:20 pm

  2. What can I say? The article is quite true, none of the political class seems capable of learning the lessons involved, and there is no prospect of replacing them with another political class short of systemic collapse. So we can expect more and worse. Welcome to the future.


    7 Nov 13 at 4:47 pm

  3. One has to wonder just how far above the law the US President is. See the doctrine of estoppel, eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel.

    Obama promised that people could keep their old health insurance if they wished; the promise
    was reasonably relied upon; there was
    resulting legal detriment to the promisee(s);
    ergo, surely justice requires enforcement of the promise.

    Clearly there must be something I don’t understand about the principle that is stopping droves of lawyers suing the government.


    7 Nov 13 at 9:30 pm

  4. Mique, a 2000 page law sounds like income insurance for lawyers!


    8 Nov 13 at 1:28 am

  5. I came across this today.


    The comments are interesting. A lot of them seem to think that rising insurance premiums are just greedy insurance companies safeguarding their profits. I suspect that having to insure against preexisting conditions has a lot to do with it.


    11 Nov 13 at 6:37 pm

  6. I am fascinated by (American meaning) liberals’ use of “greed” as an all-purpose explanation. Yes, of course corporations want to make money–which they can’t do if they charge more than their competitors for the same product. Explaining price hikes by “greed” is like explaining bridge collapses and plane crashes by saying “gravity.” One needs to be a little more specific about the mechanism.


    11 Nov 13 at 9:10 pm

  7. Here in Australia, the Downunder equivalent of your liberals in the media have a little melt-down whenever banks issue their annual reports. Screams of real and confected outrage abound and shock/horror reports of the banks’ (implicitly unjustified) profits are headlined relentlessly for days with all sorts of hysterical editorialising. The stories almost invariably state the profits in terms of a rise (rarely a fall) of x percent (or whatever) since the last annual report. Mostly not stated are the base from which the “rise” occurred, or where that fits in the context of historical performance over time and, almost invariably, without stating how the profit reflects the total capital investment. In reality, this latter figure will almost always fall well towards the lower end of the comparative business profitability scale and significantly below the reported profit increase.

    It seems that one thing our two nations have in common is a very low common denominator of journalism quality. No doubt this reflects the lowest common denominator of our journalism schools and media organisations. What does that say of our populations?


    11 Nov 13 at 9:47 pm

  8. Mique, if you think the journalists are bad, you should see the school teachers and ministers. Time and again, some firm which made $2 last year makes $3 this year to headlines of “Profits up 50%” which is true but usually misleading. But then our economically illiterate preachers and teachers decide that if profits are up 50%, more than half the price of whatever they buy goes straight into the pocket of some capitalist. For that matter, none of them has the slightest idea of the difference between gross and net profits.

    There is a level of knowledge and reasoning necessary for a functioning democracy, and I don’t think we have it any more.


    12 Nov 13 at 3:48 pm

  9. jd

    13 Nov 13 at 2:23 am

  10. Well, maybe jd. But remember the important thing with our current ruling class is not solving the problem but using the problem in such a way that the ruling class gains power and wealth. Hence, for example, 2,000+ pages of Gramm-Rudman instead of re-instating Glass-Stiegel, and 4,000+ pages of new environmental law instead of a 43-page carbon exchange or carbon tax.

    I’d say the best chance of a “solution” the administration might actually adopt is an “emergency” permission to sell temporarily certain “sub-standard” plans, with HHS to decide which plans and which insurers. Then if their contributions were sufficient, the favored insurers could get waivers to keep on selling the plans. Naturally, the insurers would be able to charge more from their new near-monopoly position, so the cost of keeping the administration sweet would be passed on to the insured.

    Nothing but special favors and the money keeps rolling in. From the Administration’s point of view, I don’t see a downside. But they’re never going to adopt a program which leaves them with nothing to sell under the table.


    13 Nov 13 at 10:26 am

  11. Something like this, perhaps, Robert?



    13 Nov 13 at 10:43 am

  12. It’s the right general idea. The government helps out the big banks, and the big banks kick back with campaign contributions, lobbying money, speaking fees and “private sector” jobs. (You might want to ask what sort of job our confessor here would have gotten without his connections at the Fed.) And the problem remains, so they can go on “solving” it forever.

    But in the ruling class’s perfect world, it doesn’t help entire industries, but gets to pick and choose individual firms–or unions, or whatever–to up the bidding. Sebelius explaining that firms which made trouble for Obama wouldn’t be permitted to sell health insurance under the new order is pretty much the wave of the future.

    Remember, to the governing class, any individual or institution who doesn’t need much from the government isn’t just money left on the table, but an actual threat. They’ll eliminate as many as possible.


    13 Nov 13 at 4:32 pm

  13. Some of you may enjoy this:


    I’m afraid one of the central observations is true: that the position of the administration is that the law is whatever administration appointees say it is. However, until the courts agree, and insurance company which agrees to Obama’s most recent “fix” can get sued six ways from Sunday, and I don’t think Eric Holder will pick up the tab.


    16 Nov 13 at 2:21 pm

  14. Robert, even I have noticed the Obama administration’s tendency to pick and choose what laws it enforces.

    I notice that the Bloomberg link has a link to a Washington Post article which claims health insurance is not particularly profitable. That sounds reasonable – insurance is very heavily regulated – which usually means the profit as % of sales is limited but I don’t know if the Washington Post is reliable. Any comments?


    16 Nov 13 at 5:59 pm

  15. Hijacking the blog some more. This from today’s NYT must surely be the surest sign that the Apocalypse is nigh.


    Or, maybe it’s only yet another sign that some people will believe anything.


    17 Nov 13 at 8:22 am

  16. Mique, poor countries asking rich countries for money isn’t new. Its just the reason given for asking that is new.

    For the benefit of the Northern Hemisphere readers, Australia defines summer as June, July and August. We had an unusually hot summer which was blamed on global warming. November should be warm to hot but is unusually cold! I haven’t seen anyone blaming that on global warming but someone probably will.


    17 Nov 13 at 5:13 pm

  17. jd

    17 Nov 13 at 5:39 pm

  18. jd

    19 Nov 13 at 5:38 pm

  19. jd, I think Samuelson misses a point. No, the government is not directly an agency for taking from the poor and delivering to the rich the way various historic empires are, but it’s very much a government of influence, favors and such. I DON’T think the people who pay government employees five-figure speaking fees or who hire former government officials at fancy salaries are wasting their money. They’re getting a good return on that investment in everything from which medical treatments must be covered by insurance to which aircraft the military must buy. A mere 40% of the Federal budget is an awesome amount of money, making lots of present and former government employees rich people, and their purchasers very rich indeed. And it’s corrupt clear through–bribery, extortion or an unholy combination of the two.

    When corporate headquarters start moving away from DC to get closer to their factories and customers, and when retiring politicians have to do what Harry Truman did and take out a loan to move back home, I’ll be prepared to listen to Mr. Samuelson’s argument that politics isn’t a dishonest way to make money. But I expect I’ll have a long wait.


    19 Nov 13 at 11:07 pm

  20. Ought to have elaborated more. Watch: Corporate Bigwig buys or rents a congressman or senior bureaucrat, and as a consequence gets a paragraph in a law or an interpretation of a regulation which takes his competitor out of the market. Bigwig jacks his price up about 50%, and doesn’t know where to put all the money. This is, obviously, at the expense of the competitor who didn’t pay off government officials–and at the expense of anyone who has to buy whatever Bigwig sells. BUT NONE OF THIS SHOWS UP IN SAMUELSON’S RECKONING BECAUSE IT ISN’T A BUDGET ITEM.

    The government may force me to buy from one firm or prevent me from buying from another, costing ordinary people a fortune with the money passing to the “one percent” and through them to the government officials who make the one percent rich without ever taking my tax money and giving it to their friends. If you have enough regulators, you don’t need tax men for that purpose.

    Lots of people drone on about the welfare state, but since the regulatory state took hold under LBJ and Nixon, all our gains in income have gone to the well-connected and influential. I don’t see that being reversed any time soon.


    20 Nov 13 at 11:55 am

  21. And a little example here of the process in action:


    Take a little money from everyone every week, give it to ADM and a few like it in return for “speaking fees” or lobbyist salaries for retired politicians, and you can effect a serious transfer of wealth, none of which shows on Mr. Samuelson’s charts and diagrams.

    But the money flows from the powerless to the connected all the same.


    20 Nov 13 at 6:17 pm

  22. Robert, you have good points. But I’m worried about a democracy where so many of the voters are being told “You have a right to receive money from the government and it won’t cost you anything because we will make 1% of the population pay for it.”


    20 Nov 13 at 8:41 pm

  23. I worry about a democracy where so many of the voters actually believe it’s not only desirable but actually possible to make the 1% of the population (far from a fixed demographic) pay for it.


    20 Nov 13 at 8:48 pm

  24. This brings me right back to Parkinson’s EVOLUTION OF POLITICAL THOUGHT, in which he argued that attempting to loot the rich was the inherent and inevitable downfall of democracies, with monarchies arriving in the ensuing chaos to start the cycle over again. (Julius Caesar, Stalin and Mao were mentioned, as I recall.)

    He may be right. Perhaps no form of human government is permanent, but we do what we can to prolong the phases we like. I think limiting the size and intrusiveness of government will keep it democratic longer, as will limiting the sort of micro-management which is so prone to corruption. But I’m very much afraid I’ve lost the argument for this cycle, and there’s nothing to do but hang on through the rough times ahead. On the positive side, the present system may yet outlast me.

    I THINK that’s positive. Maybe.


    20 Nov 13 at 11:18 pm

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