Cartoon of the Day: Tom Tomorrow's "Healthcare Reformageddon" (March 31, 2010)
April Fool!

Nineteen Things Worth Reading, Mostly Economics for March 31, 2010

  1. Roth: "The University of Washington tried to organize a debate on whether the health-care reform bill is constitutional. But it couldn't find a law professor to argue that it isn't, reports the Seattle Times. '"I will say that we tried very hard to get a professor who could come and who thinks this is flat-out unconstitutional," said the moderator. "But there are relatively few of them, and they are in great demand."' Washington's attorney general, Rob McKenna, has joined 12 other state AGs on the lawsuit, filed last week, that argues the bill is unconstitutional. We took a look at the suit's slim chances of success here."
  2. Serwer: [You] write... about how... Obama can't win... constrained by the traditional roles of black people.... After he wins... harried op-eds about how he only won because white people felt really guilty... praise then-candidate for RNC Chair Michael Steele as someone with "integrity" who "really stands for something."... Then, when the political winds seem to be blowing misfortune Obama's way, you.... write about how Obama is ineffectua;... because he never had the chops... only elected because he's black. Then... Obama pushes historic health-care... puts him on the same playing field as the most prominent Democratic presidents in American history.... Being... wrong... over and over ... [is] maddening. Steele keeps reassuring his conservative audience that this fop Obama is a pushover.... And those who believe him do so because they want to be reassured that Obama isn't exceptional.... Then they lose, and they scratch their heads and start muttering angrily about teleprompters..."
  3. Grim: "Obama:'It's time to move beyond disputes between big biz and enviros.' What other disputes should we 'move beyond'? Can u pls make sense?"
  4. Sevugan: "We are told that the RNC press shop sent out a list of expenses we have incurred at the DNC to the press corps... you will notice there are no expenses on here related to sex clubs. The DNC, unlike the RNC, does not conduct business at sex clubs with lesbian bondage themes. We understand that RNC is desperate to change the subject, but... [this] just comes off as desperate. Unlike RNC expenses for redecorating the Chairman's office or table service at a sex club, these expenses were for normal party business.... Respecting and leveraging donor contributions rather than wasting them may be unusual for the RNC, but it's not for us.... perhaps the RNC should spend their time scrutinizing their own books to weed out their Chairman's profligate spending habits. But, if Republicans want to compare our spending to their spending and allow us to say "Michael Steele approved spending money at a Hollywood sex club" a few more times – that’s fine with us."
  5. Barr: "In hopes of redirecting incoming fire about its spending habits, the Republican National Committee on Wednesday tried to turn scrutiny to the spending habits of the Democratic National Committee but came up with nothing nearly as risque.... It tallied up, instead, two years worth of catering, luxury hotels and limousine bills. RNC Chairman Michael Steele has been widely criticized for... private jets and car services. An e-mail from RNC Communications Director Doug Heye pulled together DNC expenses dating back to October 2008... not outside the norm.... One RNC staffer — former Young Eagles Director Allison Meyers — has been fired over nearly $2,000 spent at Voyeur West Hollywood, though it remained unclear Wednesday whether she was the one who approved the expense or not. Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the DNC, quickly responded, saying "the DNC, unlike the RNC, does not conduct business while watching women engaged in lesbian bondage scenes.""
  6. Binks: "A Tea Party leader acknowledged she supports abolishing Social Security in an appearance this week on "Larry King Live." St. Louis Tea Party co-founder Dana Loesch said she would "absolutely" eliminate the program, which has existed since 1935. Talk show host and Libertarian leader, Wayne Allyn Root agreed: "At best I'd do away with it, because I can find a better way to spend and save my own $15,000.""
  7. Emptywheel: "Judge Walker just issued the following ruling in the al-Haramain case: 'The court now determines that plaintiffs have submitted, consistent with FRCP 56(d), sufficient non-classified evidence to establish standing on their FISA claim and to establish the absence of any genuine issue of material fact regarding their allegation of unlawful electronic surveillance; plaintiffs are therefore entitled to summary judgment in their favor on those matters. Defendants’ various legal arguments for dismissal and in opposition to plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion lack merit.... In the absence of a genuine issue of material fact whether plaintiffs were subjected to unlawful electronic surveillance within the purview of FISA and for the reasons fully set forth in the decision that follows, plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of defendants’ liability under FISA is GRANTED..."
  8. Wolf: "Yet the asset bubbles and private sector credit expansions in the periphery were also the mirror image of the absence of growth in real demand in the core... This was how the ECB’s monetary policy produced a more or less adequate rate of expansion of overall eurozone demand. So, as soon as we ask what was the underlying cause of the fiscal catastrophes of today, we must realise that they were ultimately the result of reliance on an accommodative monetary policy, employed to offset the feeble growth of demand in the eurozone’s core and, above all, in Germany. Such a discussion of internal eurozone demand and imbalances is not one German policymakers wish to have.... The project of monetary union confronts a huge challenge.... But the bigger issue is that the eurozone will not work as Germany wishes..."
  9. Jilani: "Yesterday, the University of Washington held a debate about the constitutionality of the recently passed health care reform bill. The Seattle Times reports that none of the panelists at the debate argued that the bill was unconstitutional because the organizers of the event couldn’t find any law professors who held that view..."
  10. TNC: "Brooks is pulling a clever bait and switch. Sandra Bullock was married to a dude who, evidently, repeatedly cheated on her. Perhaps that's what Brooks considers a "happy marriage." I think a lot of people would beg to differ. But that aside, the notion that women who disagree are "crazy" is rather presumptuous.... I haven't seen Brooks' stats, but I strongly suspect that they don't tell us much about some people, they tell us something about most people. But if you're the kind of person who would single-mindedly devote yourself to pursuing an academy award, isn't it possible that you aren't like most people, and that stats like this are less indicative of your life? In which case, are you really crazy? Or is that your life, with all its nuances, and all its specifics, simply can't be folded into the square mind of the average pundit? Sociology is porn for public intellectuals--or rather we seem intent on making it so..."
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  12. Plumer: "[I]t seems bizarre to fork over this bargaining chip before the bill is even released. What kind of negotiating tactic is that?... Back in January, the White House proposed a massive expansion of the nuclear loan guarantee program without getting anything tangible in return from pro-nuke Republicans. John McCain still wanders around complaining that the administration's not "serious" about nukes. Now, maybe that's the point—offer an olive branch and watch Republicans swat it down and look unreasonable. Right on cue, John Boehner's already whining about Obama's drilling plan. Not sure that strategy makes sense, though. Another possibility... is that this move isn't focused on the climate-bill debate and is geared more toward public opinion... gas prices are expected to go up quite a bit this summer... So this could be more about the midterms than rounding up votes in the Senate. Though, granted, this drilling announcement won't affect summer gas prices in the slightest..."
  13. Klein: "When George W. Bush and the Republican Congress passed Medicare Part D in 2003, they... [gave] companies that provide retiree drug benefits get a subsidy of about $1,300 per retiree per year in order to keep companies from ending their retiree drug plans at once and dumping everyone into Medicare. This subsidy is not just tax free but also tax deductible. Let me make sure that's clear: Not only did companies get a subsidy, but they could also deduct that subsidy from their taxes. Sweet deal. This looked a bit nuts in retrospect, so Democrats ended the subsidy's deductibility.... They didn't end the subsidy. And they didn't make it taxable. They just said that it couldn't be used as a tax deduction.... So the Wall Street Journal is terrified that ObamaCare will...end the deductibility of certain federal subsidies that helps perpetuate retiree drug benefits in the employer-based health-care system... free-market conservatism is no match for pro-business lobbying..."
  14. Klein: "Steele, it is not even worth considering the possibility that Obama pursued health-care reform -- like a half-dozen or so presidents before him -- because it was important, or even because there was not that much more he could do on jobs. In fact, that is such an absurd suggestion that he does not even feel the need to reject it in his op-ed. He just ignores its possible existence. That makes for a model that has a lot of trouble accounting for Nancy Pelosi and Drew Altman and Atul Gawande and Jonathan Cohn and everyone else who fought for this reform but wasn't named "Barack Obama."..."
  15. Bernstein: "The problem for the GOP right now... is that it's not clear that the electoral incentive applies. Important portions of the Republican network appear to have an incentive to be in the minority, because it's good for book sales, TV and radio ratings, and page views. Others may find that its just as lucrative, if not more so, to organize Tea Party protesters than it is to organize winning electoral campaigns... "unity" might well be best seen in the abstract not as a potentially good strategy, but as an effect of a party that is shrinking, especially a party that is shrinking because it has become dangerously divorced from normal electoral incentives. Is that what's actually happening to the Republicans right now? I don't know! I do think, however, that it's rapidly becoming probably the biggest current question worth exploring..."
  16. Buetler: "After making huge preemptive concessions on coal, nuclear, I'd guessed Obama'd have, what, like 75 votes for cap and trade by now? Silly me."
  17. Johnson: " Speaking today at the Peterson Institute in Washington DC, Mr. Volcker made two broad points (Marketwatch coverage) – both of which we also emphasize in 13 Bankers. 1. The financial sector does not add anywhere near as much social value as its proponents claim.... 2. Too big to fail banks are alive and well – and this poses a major problem to our future prosperity.... The message yesterday and from other statements made by Mr. Volcker is clear. Our biggest banks are out of control and will not be reined in by the measures currently on the table."