Morning Must-Read: Bob Forester: I signed up for health insurance, told my GOP Congressman about it...
Lunchtime Must-Read: Emily Oster: Why is the U.S. falling behind in life expectancy?

Things to Read on the Evening of December 26, 2013


  1. Angus Deaton: US inequality and the Pareto Criterion: "There is much to be said for equality of opportunity, and for not penalizing people for the success that comes from their own hard work. Yet... the United States is in fact not particularly good at actually delivering equal opportunities.... Look at the correlation between earnings of fathers and sons.... In the United States, the correlation is 0.5, which is the highest of the OECD countries and is exceeded only by those of China and a handful of countries where there appears to be the least equality of opportunity. Even if we believe that equality of opportunity is what we want, and don't care about inequality of outcomes, the two tend to go together, which suggests that inequality itself is a barrier to equal opportunity."

  2. Bob Forester: Daily Kos: I signed up for health insurance, told my GOP Congressman about it, and made the local news: "My healthcare saga began in 2002.... No longer did I have a group plan selected by an employer. I had to shop for my own coverage. At first it was easy.... But each year the dreaded renewal letter arrived, and the premiums increased by leaps and bounds.... But the big shock was yet to come... renewal letter... $756 instead of $463--a staggering 63% increase.... I applied for a very-high-deductible plan that would keep my monthly payment in the $400 range. Given that I was still insured, the insurance folks got a copy of the blood test, which they proceeded to search line by line.... Out of two pages of data, there was a single thyroid reading was outside of “normal” range (side note: there’s nothing wrong with my thyroid; it was simply their excuse to make me pay that outrageous premium). They’d found their so-called preexisting condition, and denied me access to the new plan with the lower premium. With the help of my doctor, who wrote a letter on my behalf, I appealed.... 'It wasn’t a government bureaucrat that came between me and my doctor; it was an insurance-company bureaucrat.'..."

  3. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee: The Second Machine Age: "Now comes the second machine age. Computers and one digital advances are doing for mental power... what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power... to blow past previous limitations.... Whether or not the new machine age bends the curve as dramatically as Watt's steam engine, it is a very big deal indeed..."

Should Reads:

  1. Dread Pirate Mistermix: Preview of Coming Attractions: "Vermont and Massachusetts are getting ready to sue CGI Federal, the contractor that bungled their healthcare sites as well as 'Massachusetts officials are reviewing legal options against CGI Group.... So far, the state has paid $11 million of its $69 million contract with CGI. It will not pay a penny more until a functioning website has been delivered, said Jason Lefferts, spokesman for the Commonwealth Health Connector, the state’s insurance marketplace. “CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,” Lefferts said. “We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.” Massachusetts has reverted to using an alternative software system and paper notifications for residents seeking new insurance.... In Vermont, state officials recently alerted CGI that the state is withholding payment of $5.1 million as compensation for the company’s failure to meet key deadlines. The state is also disputing more than $1 million in charges billed by CGI because of incomplete work that left its insurance website so far behind schedule that Vermonters could not buy coverage online, as promised under Obama’s health care law, until early December, two months after it opened."

  2. Buce: Underbelly: Reading: Me and the President: "Anyway, whatever the source, I'm startled at how little overlap between the two of us.  The main point of convergence would be Ezra Klein (inc.), who I, no mean snarker in my own right, think is a lot better than Salon's snarky dismissal.  The only other overlap is Josh Barro, whom Salon dismisses as the 'fantasy' of the 'Reasonable Republican'. I don't think that is why I read him; I would say rather that he is genuinely funny and often original--not st all like so many others on the Obama list whose main political identity appears to be 'soporific'.... I suppose if I had a current fave, it would be Bruce Bartlett, who uses his Facebook page as a convenient link to all his good stuff.  His taste in music leaves me cold.... But he is still the single most clear-headed analyst of tax policy anywhere--and since it all comes down to tax, what more do we need?..."


Should Be Aware of:

  1. Daron Acemoglu et al.: Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality: "In this paper we revisit the relationship between democracy, redistribution and inequality. We first explain the theoretical reasons why democracy is expected to increase redistribution and reduce inequality, and why this expectation may fail to be realized when democracy is captured by the richer segments of the population; when it caters to the preferences of the middle class; or when it opens up disequalizing opportunities to segments of the population previously excluded from such activities, thus exacerbating inequality among a large part of the population. We then survey the existing empirical literature, which is both voluminous and full of contradictory results. We provide new and systematic reduced-form evidence on the dynamic impact of democracy on various outcomes. Our findings indicate that there is a significant and robust effect of democracy on tax revenues as a fraction of GDP, but no robust impact on inequality. We also find that democracy is associated with an increase in secondary schooling and a more rapid structural transformation. Finally, we provide some evidence suggesting that inequality tends to increase after democratization when the economy has already undergone significant structural transformation, when land inequality is high, and when the gap between the middle class and the poor is small. All of these are broadly consistent with a view that is different from the traditional median voter model of democratic redistribution: democracy does not lead to a uniform decline in post-tax inequality, but can result in changes in fiscal redistribution and economic structure that have ambiguous effects on inequality."

  2. Jim Hinch: Where Are the People?: "The Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California, is one of America’s largest and most celebrated ecclesiastical buildings. At 60,000 square feet and designed by architect Philip Johnson, it was until recently the sanctuary of Robert H. Schuller, once one of the country’s most prominent and influential Christian ministers. In September 1980, when he dedicated the cathedral... Schuller was at the height of his influence, preaching to a congregation of thousands in Orange County and reaching millions more worldwide via the Hour of Power, a weekly televised ministry program.... But 2013 marked the end of an era. In June, Schuller’s evangelical Christian ministry, founded almost 60 years ago amid the suburbs of postwar Southern California, conducted its last worship service.... Hounded by creditors (including some of those Hollywood-grade costume and livestock suppliers), the ministry had declared bankruptcy three years earlier and last year sold the cathedral for $58 million to Orange County’s Catholic diocese.... Just 10 years ago, evangelical Christianity appeared to be America’s dominant religious movement.... Evangelicalism is not only in gradual decline but today stands poised at the edge of a demographic and cultural cliff.... Young people’s most common complaint... is that churches are too focused on sexual issues and preoccupied with their own institutional development—in other words... 'Christianity no longer looks like Jesus'.


Fafblog (2004): Richard Posner on the Moon | Gene Healy: Obama's 'I welcome the debate' on NSA spying is the real 'Lie of the Year' | Joe Weisenthal: People Shopped Online Like Crazy Over The Holidays | Sean Brodrick (2009): Gold, Guns and Spam | Jared Bernstein: Guideposts on the Road Back to Factville, 2013 Edition | Economic Policy Institute: The 13 Most Important Charts of 2013 |