Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Confused in TrumpWorld


Saw this headline in the Washington Post, "In defiant jab at Russia, Senate approves Montenegro’s NATO bid." and the first paragraph of the story:

With the support of the Trump administration, the Senate took a swipe at Russia on Tuesday by voting to let one of Europe’s smallest countries into NATO.
But wait. Isn't Trump a puppet for the Russians. Didn't the Russians hack the election and install Trump as President? What kind of puppet supports a policy that takes a "swipe" and "defiant jab" at its master?

I saw this headline a week ago: "FBI’s Russian-influence probe includes a look at Breitbart, InfoWars news sites."   Again very confusing. So Trump's DoJ is investigating Breitbart to prove Trump was a pawn of the Russians? Wait, what?

Maybe Trump and the Russians are playing seven level chess.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bob Laszewski on GOPCare


I've found Bob Laszewski to be one of the more reliable commenters on health care. He isn't supportive of the GOP health care plan introduced. I always appreciate essays that have a strong opinion, started immediately and clearly. Laszewski starts out with:

It won't work.
And he doesn't get nicer.

The House Republicans are also proposing an individual health insurance market scheme that may even be worse than Obamacare itself.
As bad as the Obamacare individual mandate was for consumers––and as ineffective as it was for insurers––it did cause those not buying health insurance some pain. The Republicans now want to create a scheme that doesn't require anyone to sign up. But when they get sick enough that they need insurance, they will be able to quickly do so by paying a paltry 12-month 30% premium surcharge.

For example, a person paying $5,000 for health insurance would pay a one-time total $1,500 penalty! A family paying $10,000 in annual premium would pay only a $3,000 penalty for any late enrollment!

Obamacare is so poorly constructed it is literally an anti-selection machine. The Republican proposal is worse.

He gets to the nub of the problem with both Obamacare and GOPcare:

What the market needs to be viable are not subsidies but a market that works efficiently in the first place.

The Democrats, for reasons I don't understand, hate the market and want to remove the market from health care entirely. Despite thousands of years of evidence that markets work across geographies, cultures, industries, they have somehow come to the conclusion the markets and health care can not intermarry. Oh well. Nothing I say will convince them otherwise.

 Laszewski concludes:

The Republicans are trying to create something they can sell to enough Republicans to pass it.

What they need to create is a program that they can sell to enough consumers to make it financially viable and that will meet the needs of a consensus of voters to make it politically viable.
The amazing thing to me about Obamacare, (and pretty much every other government mandate), is the refusal to acknowledge there is a group called consumers that will, mostly, rationally evaluate their health care choices, and since they refuse to acknowledge this they create a Rube Goldberg contraption that ultimately collapses and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately the politicians fixing the collapsed machinery build on the ruined remains of the last bad plan.

What will probably happen is Medicare for all. Medicare, of course, is a financial disaster in the making. Extending a financially unsustainable plan to the entire population strikes me as irresponsible to the extreme, but who cares. My children and grandchildren will pay the bills, not me.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Democrats raise questions about Trump’s mental health


The Hill reports,

A growing number of Democrats are openly questioning President Trump’s mental health.
Better yet,

Thirty-five psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers also signed a letter to The New York Times saying that “the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

Because, of course, they examined Mr. Trump and arrived  at the "medical" opinion that Mr. Trump suffered from instability, and grave enough to make him "incapable" of serving as President. There it is. If a social worker looks at CNN and determines someone isn't capable of serving in office, that is certainly good enough for me.

I HATE defending Trump. I don't like him and I disagree with many of his positions. But this ongoing campaign is what word should I use? How about INSANE. 1) Trump lost the popular vote therefore... 2) we should convince the electoral college to vote against their commitments, 3) but since that didn't work let's accuse the Russians of hacking the election, 4) but since that didn't work let's accuse the Russians of hacking the electoral college (sigh) but since that is more insipid than the previous tries 5) lets say Trump is controlled by the Russians but since that is unproven let's throw more spaghetti against the wall and claim 6) Trump is emotionally instable and incapable of holding office. We know this because some random social worker said so.

Here's another way you can go. Do the hard work of convincing the American electorate you are capable of governing.  What you've done so far is convince me you are puerile sore losers.


Friday, February 10, 2017

DeVos Storms the Ramparts


The Hill reports:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she would “not be deterred” after protesters briefly blocked her from entering a Washington public school on Friday

 Twitter is great for snarky comments:

From Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey)

Unions last month: DeVos never set foot in a public school classroom!
Unions this month: How dare DeVos set foot in a pub-school classroom!

 Even better was the comment: (I'm too lazy to search for the author)
This wasn't the first time Democrats blocked access to schools.


Who'da thunk it. Liz Warren and I agree


The Wall St. Journal excerpts from  “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke” (2003) by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi.

Any policy that loosens the ironclad relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would eliminate the need for parents to pay an inflated price for a home just because it happens to lie within the boundaries of a desirable school district...

Short of buying a new home, parents currently have only one way to escape a failing public school: Send the kids to private school. But there is another alternative, one that would keep much-needed tax dollars inside the public school system while still reaping the advantages offered by a voucher program. Local governments could enact meaningful reform by enabling parents to choose from among all the public schools in a locale, with no presumptive assignment based on neighborhood. Under a public school voucher program, parents, not bureaucrats, would have the power to pick schools for their children—and to choose which schools would get their children’s vouchers.
I'm with her!

The right frames this issue as 1) parents/kids deserve a choice and 2) unions, and their water-bearers prevent that choice.

I think Liz brings up a the more important issue: funding. Right now, schools are mostly funded by property taxes. In affluent communities like mine, our town budget is $100 million annually. $80 million is for the schools. We gladly agree to property tax increases to fund more school (teachers, programs, facilities) because we know a 2% increase in taxes will protect the value of our home investment. I don't know what the average price of a home is in my town, but lets say, just for grins, that it's $100,000. If property taxes are 1% (about what they are in my town), that's $1,000 a year. If the town comes to me and says, we want to offer Spanish classes to 3rd graders and it will cost you an additional $50 (a 5% increase) I'll probably say yes because it will protect my $100,000 investment. Easy decision. Even worse. The federal government and the state government subsidizes me! Because my property taxes are tax deductible. Let's say the marginal rates my average townsperson faces is 25% federal and 6% state, it means the feds and states pickup a third of my tab.

In order to really blow up this system and in order to really get choice you need to remove the tax deductibility of property taxes AND remove local government control of schools. The teacher's unions are child's play compared to that. Imagine middle class homeowners across the nation suddenly facing a higher tax bill and uncertainty on home values when the link between location and schools is severed.

All of this might happen without Liz, or her acolyte Betsy DeVos. There are already vibrant markets in education delivered via the Internet: Khan Academy, Coursera, Wyzant, Chegg and others. And more are coming. Many colleges video classes and make them available to existing students, some to alum, and some share with other universities.

Of course, I'm trying to figure out how to make money on this since I'm a greedy capitalist pig.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Run, Liz, run


I enjoyed this piece by David Harsanyi at the Federalist, which includes this:

As The Washington Post points out, however, McConnell probably gave Warren’s 2020 presidential aspirations a huge “in-kind contribution” by forcing her to follow rules of decorum. It’s possible, I suppose, that the GOP is playing the same 3D chess mastered by Donald Trump. Maybe shutting down Warren was a surreptitious means of making her the de facto voice of the Democratic Party and #TheResistance (formerly known as “unprecedented obstructionism”). Maybe it was just good luck.

Warren as the voice of the Left might be the best-case scenario for Republicans. For one thing, Warren is no Barack Obama on the charisma front. For another, Warren saves conservatives the trouble of going after socialist strawmen. They’ll have a real one.

He attaches this youtube video, which is now my favorite video, trumping this one.