The Political Economy of Mandated Health Benefits
Duncan Black on the Extraordinary Unpopularity of Arnold Schwarzenegger

16 More Items Worth Reading, Mostly Economics for March 28, 2010

  1. Sardine: "From Media Matters: 'Erickson tried to come off as contrite throughout the interview, and after Kurtz noted that Erickson had called Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy," Erickson had this to say: "Since that time I've really learned, headed into, frankly, the David Souter comment, that I don't have to get personal in blogging to make my point. I definitely evolved over time." I, for one, am glad that he cleared that up. It happens to the best of us. Just last week I tripped an elderly man who was crossing the street. But, I've evolved. I would never do that in public again. I'm a different person now.'
  2. Houghton: 'Re: "I myself always want to read smart conservatives, who in recent years have been few and far between. Aside from Frum, only a handful of names come to mind: Christopher Caldwell, Andrew Coyne, Scott McConnell, Gertrude Himmelfarb, John Lukacs, Andrew Bacevich, and Joseph Epstein." If that's [Jeet Heer's] list of smart conservatives, the movement really is running on fumes. Even if we ignore that Himmelfarb has been a parody of herself for years, the list includes only two people under the age of 50--Caldwell and, iirc, Coyne. Everyone else is at least Social Security-eligible. When the best you can come up with are Bob Novak's son-in-law and two Canadians, that age-old claim about the "ideas" that make American Conservatives strong starts to look, er, bedraggled.
  3. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.... Time to die.
  4. Will Wilkinson writes: "It is true that this planet revolves around a star at the edge of the Milky Way. It is true that we humans are descended from apes. It is true that we really do know that, and a whole lot more." I am more skeptical. It certainly looks like we are jumped-up apes living on a planet revolving around a star at the edge of the Milky Way. But I'm just a jumped-up monkey with a brain that looks like it evolved to decide whether it's safe to leap to the next branch, and not to plumb the secrets of the universe. So what do I know?
  5. Chait writes: "Just now on CNN, the hosts will reading... an e-mail attacking the new law. If health care reform is so good, the writer wanted to know, why are politicians exempting themselves from it? I've heard critics of the bill, from Republican senators to random internet writers, say this many times. And it's frustrating, because it's not true... members of Congress and their staffs must enroll in the new insurance exchanges. Those are the exact same exchanges through which millions of other individuals will be buying their coverage.... the members themselves and the people who work directly for them are all covered. And, far from pointing out the problems of reform, it demonstrates its virtues: The politicians believe in it enough to entrust their own lives, and those of their families, to the new system..."
  6. Chait writes: "I had an item yesterday about Republicans who once supported the individual mandate now declaring it unconstitutional. CNN asked Orrin Hatch how he could make this claim when he supported an individual mandate in 1993. His response: 'In 1993, we were trying to kill Hillarycare, and I didn't pay any attention to that, because that was part of the bill that I just hadn't centered on.' It's a hilarious response. He's being accused of taking a cynical partisan position that contradicts a previous stance, and Hatch's response is that his old stance was a cynical partisan position. Well, I guess we should believe him then."
  7. Only 17 words out of 890 words in the column have *any* reference at all to the substance of U.S. government policy. They are: Crook: "The reform he and his allies have enacted, though flawed, is a real advance for the country." That is all.
  8. Maher: "Berwick stands at the center of a healthcare movement that would reform the system from within. In 2005, Modern Healthcare, a leading industry publication, named him the third most powerful person in American health care.... Berwick is... “an extraordinary leader when it comes to inspiring people and creating the will to move forward,” Dartmouth’s Dr. Elliot Fisher told me.... IHI’s website ( offers an abundance of resources. a team of health care professionals can sign up online courses.... Alternatively, readers who visit the website and scroll down to “How Did They Do That?” and discover that Models of Low-Cost, High-Quality Health Care Do Exist in the U.S...."
  9. Chait: "David Mizner at Firedoglake says I'm "incoherent" for arguing that health care reform is both a great progressive achievement and a piece of legislation in the traditional moderate Republican mold. I suppose it could look that way at first blush, but not if you really think about the issue.... The outstanding fact of the American health care system is that it's uniquely awful -- among advanced countries it's both the most expensive by far and the least humane by far. Moving from that to a system that provides universal coverage and cost control through means congenial to moderate Republicans is extremely progressive. It is an enormous advance in American social policy. The status quo is so awful that it can be reformed in such a way as to constitute a major improvement from both the moderate Republican and progressive perspective."
  10. Frum has faithfully adhered to even the most esoteric of the 613 commandments of conservatism.... Because of his... ultra-orthodoxy, Frum’s firing from his cushy sinecure at the American Enterprise Institute has provoked a tremendous amont of chatter... a few thoughts.... AEI has embarrassed itself.... A conservative worth reading... Frum is... [who] John Stuart Mill was always on the look out for, a conservative... intellectually challenging enough... when there are 20 million Americans unemployed it doesn’t make much sense to worry about David Frum.... Frum is worth reading on domestic policy but not on foreign policy.... Charles Murray weighs in. When he was a high school senior, Charles Murray took part in a cross burning. He freely admits to the act but says he didn’t understand the racial implications of cross burning.... Now Murray is a “scholar” at the AEI, where he writes extensively on racial matters, often to argue for the inherent genetic inferiority of black people...
  11. Biggs: "I also watched the Crist-Rubio debate.... Rubio said that on Social Security reform we’re going to have to look at the tough choices like raising the retirement age for younger people, changing COLA payments, etc. If we don’t want to raise taxes, simple math says those are about the only things we can look at. Crist, by contrast, said he’d focus on eliminating “waste and fraud” in the program — a clear sign of non-seriousness. If there’s anything you can say for Social Security it’s that there’s not a ton of waste and fraud in it — we take money from working age people and give it to old people who qualify based on their earnings and years on the workforce. To think that waste and fraud will get you past first base on Social Security reform is absurd, but seems on par with the rest of Crist’s arguments."
  12. Matthew Yglesias: 'Possible Worlds Glenn Reynolds says: “Possibly Obama just hates Israel and hates Jews. That’s plausible — certainly nothing in his actions suggests otherwise, really.”... if you read the rest of Reynolds’ post it’s clear that he’s so far through the looking glass that he regards the fact that he doesn’t think this is the only plausible explanation for Obama’s policies as constituting a pro-Obama post. Which is to say that Reynolds is extremely out of touch with reality. I’ll say for my part that I think a great many of Obama’s actions throughout the years—most notably his many social and professional relationships with Jewish people—suggest that he is not motivated by hatred of Jews. What’s more, his ability to persuade the overwhelming majority of American Jews to vote him is likewise an indication that the people most likely to be concerned with detecting Jew-hatred do not find this charge to be plausible. ...'
  13. Advocation for congestion pricing instantly generates complaints about regressivity. I find this argument to be extremely short-sighted. No one would benefit more from congestion-priced streets and highways than bus riders.... With increased demand for bus services, you might even be able to reduce bus fares — perfectly justifiable given the reduction in congestion produced by a shift from driving to bus-riding. Some very small subset of poor commuters would find themselves in a situation in which they might not be able to find a transit option to their destination and would be forced to pay the congestion toll. Even then, they’d be getting something for their money — more time to spend with family or at work thanks to reduced congestion and less dough spent on gas burnt while idling in traffic. But it’s not inconceivable that some would wind up a little worse off. For this, we’d sink the whole enterprise?
  14. If Congressional Republicans want to maintain a politburo-like homogeneity in opposition... replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown... refusing to cooperate... that’s their right..... But they can’t emulate the 1995 G.O.P. by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok.... We know the end of that story. And they can’t pretend that we’re talking about “isolated incidents” or a “fringe” utterly divorced from the G.O.P. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents.... Yet no Republican... leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others.... Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric. Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers?
  15. If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same.... The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority.... It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from. They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill.... The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003.... Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded...