Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Julie Boonstra, Americans for Prosperity, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Trial

The Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity has now released its factual documentation for its misleading ad featuring Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman stricken with Leukemia who suggests Obamacare forced her to take on a new plan that is now “unaffordable.” The ad has been widely pilloried ever since Glenn Kessler discovered that her premiums had come down, likely making her overall costs a wash or even cheaper. Gary Peters, the Dem candidate for Senate in Michigan, had written to TV stations insisting on documentation.

The documentation provided by AFP, which was passed along from TV stations by the Peters campaign, doesn’t actually back up the ad’s key claim. But it tells us something interesting about how the AFP campaign — and by extension, the broader GOP strategy against Obamacare — really work.

To buttress the ad’s charge that Boonstra’s “out of pocket charges are so high, it’s unaffordable,” AFP cites a single Politico article reporting that “consumers may have to dig a little deeper into their wallets to pay for health care in the Obamacare insurance exchanges,” because the law could mean additional out of pocket expenses. Needless to say, that doesn’t shed light on Boonstra’s individual situation. And on that front, AFP’s documentation offers this (emphasis mine):

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Not even Americans For Prosperity can defeat Glenn Kessler’s love of "both sides"

by Robert Waldmann

Not even Americans For Prosperity can defeat Glenn Kessler’s love of “both sides”

I mean that he loves the phrase “both sides”. This fact check is pretty much “Opinions on shape of planet differ. Both sides overstate their case.” He is discussing a grotesquely dishonest ad by Americans for Prosperity about an Obamacare victim who ” told the Detroit News that her monthly premiums were cut in half, from $1,100 a month to $571. That’s a savings of $529 a month”

I am mainly objecting to this “Too many anecdotal stories, on both sides, have fallen apart under close scrutiny.” Before the cut and paste comment, I’d like to make a really rude question here. You do facts right ? OK how many pro ACA anectdotal stories have fallen apart.

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What is the Opposite of a Weasel Word ?

by Robert Waldmann

What is the Opposite of a Weasel Word ?

I need a metaphor and no one is answering at metaphor customer service.

I need a nuancing partner for weasel word. A weasel word is a qualifier which makes a statement so weak it is unfalsifiable without making it sound like “I don’t know either.” I think there is an equally seriously problem with words used only to set up straw men. There are words which can be used to make a perfectly reasonable claim false.

I am tempted to call them “berserker words” as only the sort of person who would go into battle unarmored would actually use them. On the other hand, berserkers were people and not at all like weasels. I also thought of “rabid lion words” but, come on, syllables. I think “wolverine words” might be good, since wolverines are closely related to weasels (who are ferocious and fearless so whose weaseling whom here ?).

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I like this Ed Kilgore post

by Robert Waldmann

I like this Ed Kilgore post

Ed Kilgore wrote (among other things) “accept the validity of other religions”, ” Erick Erickson’s denials that I’m a Christian at all”, “the confusion of belief with fundamentally secular efforts to advance laissez-faire capitalism, American nationalism (and sometimes militarism), partriarchal family structures, and what God-hater Ayn Rand called “the virtue of selfishness.” ” and “the very old but much-forgotten historical fact that secularism has been very good for religion in America.” I meant to write an approving comment to make up for yesterday but the interested reader (if any) can read what I actually wrote. There is something about Kilgore that sets me off. In other words, I find him extremely intellectually stimulating. I don’t know what it is. My comment

I think this is a brilliant essay. It is very beautiful. I also think you are fundamentally right.

Some thoughts

1)Your belief that Christianity implies social solidarity and help for the least among us is different from their belief that Ayn Rand was a Christian.

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Political Journalists Should Follow the Lead of Insurance Industry CEOs and Read Angry Bear Regularly. Seriously.

Meanwhile, health insurers warned that Rubio’s legislation [to kill the insurance risk-corridors provision in the ACA] would lead to the government-run health-care system that most alarms conservatives. And there was the awkward fact that the risk corridors were the same mechanism Republicans used in the 2006 prescription-drug legislation.

From Obamacare to the IRS scandal, Republicans are ignoring the facts, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, today

Hmmm.  It’s interesting that the insurance companies finally are catching on.  Their CEOs must read AB.  But, given the importance of this insurance-industry awakening, I wonder why this has not (at least to my knowledge) been reported elsewhere in the mainstream media.

My suggestion to mainstream political journalists: Follow the lead of insurance industry CEOs and read Angry Bear regularly!

 

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Republicans and Dana Milbank Solve the Unemployment Problem in Germany, Canada, Taiwan and Australia: Those countries just need to repeal their universal-healthcare laws and tie healthcare insurance to full-time employment at large corporations!

It’s worth appreciating the perverse nature of the [Republicans’] lie on display [in a new web ad against North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan here. Because Republicans are absolutely wedded to their “Obamacare is a job killer” talking point, the CBO report’s findings are being distorted into proof that the law will inflict job losses on millions of workers who, in this telling, become Obamacare’s helpless victims — a labor demand argument. In reality, the report actually found it would impact the choices workers receiving the law’s benefits make — a labor supply argument.

Some conservatives have dealt with the report’s actual findings directly by arguing they prove the case against the law — that government subsidies reduce the incentive to work. Many of the good wonky writers — Jonathan Cohn, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Jared Bernstein — have already engaged this argument effectively. But that is at least a legitimate debate to have within the context of the CBO’s findings.

Morning Plum: Republicans double down on another Big Lie about Obamacare, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

Okay, look, folks.  As Sargent recognizes, there are two distinct issues concerning the Republicans’ and the news media’s treatment of the CBO report’s statement that approximately 2.3 million people will voluntarily retire or reduce their weekly hours from full-time to part-time because they no longer need to work or to work full-time in order to have access to healthcare insurance insurance.

One of those issues is the bald misrepresentation, deliberately or unwittingly, that the report said that an estimated 2.3 million workers will be involuntarily laid off because of Obamacare, and its punditry-proffered corollary that although that’s not at all what the report actually said, what the report actually said is just too complicated for the Democrats to explain to the public between now and November.

Unfortunately for the Washington Post, two of its preeminent political-analyst pundits, Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza, have become the poster journalists, respectively, for the former and the latter.

The other issue is the question of whether we should return to a healthcare insurance system tied almost entirely to full-time employment, so as to effectively preclude voluntary early retirement (raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67!) or voluntary reduction from full-time to part-time work–or the decision to leave a corporate job and start a business–for millions of Americans, lest we encourage sloth among working-age Americans.  In a transparent attempt at a sleight of hand to quietly backtrack on his jaw-dropping initial misconstruction of the CBO report, Milbank today makes himself the poster mainstream-journalist for support of repeal of Obamacare on this  ground. He says that, with a single exception, the report is “otherwise unhelpful to the health-care law.”  Suffice it to say that the exception is not the uncoupling of access to healthcare insurance from full-time employment at a large corporation; that, he maintains without explanation, is part of the unhelpful stuff.

It is, or course, Milbank rather than the report that is unhelpful, and the absent explanation is that he does not want to admit that he either misread the report on Tuesday or didn’t read it all before posting a full-length column about it.  But why does Sargent–who interpreted the report correctly from the outset–treat this as a legitimate policy dispute?  Yes, it certainly is a policy dispute.  But is it really a legitimate argument that it’s better for the economy to continue to tie access to healthcare insurance to full-time employment at a large corporation?  What evidence is there that this is so?

The United States is the only modern economy in the world that has that system.  But it is not the most successful economy in the world.  Germany, Canada, Australia and Taiwan all (I believe) have more vibrant economies these days than the United States.

As for Cillizza’s claim, reiterated yesterday after criticism of it the day before, I’ve been at an utter loss to understand why journalists and pundits think that the public won’t know by November that the people at issue in that part of the CBO report are those who have wanted to retire or work just part time but haven’t been able to because they need the healthcare insurance benefit–and that their choice to retire or reduce their weekly work hours means openings for others.  

This isn’t rocket science. This option is a fact of life in every advanced economy other than ours, and it’s a concept that almost everyone is very familiar with right here in this country.  Is the unemployment rate higher in Germany, Canada, Australia and Taiwan because their healthcare insurance systems aren’t based on full-time employment by a company that provides it to its full-time but not to its part-time employees?  Really?

This isn’t hard to explain and it’s not hard to understand.  As Sargent says today:

Indeed, even CBO director Douglas Elmendorf directly contested the characterization of jobs being “lost” during yesterday’s House hearing, noting that when people decide to ease up on work for good reasons, “we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.” Elmendorf even added that those impacted this way could include older people who decide to retire earlier than they otherwise might have, or spouses who choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby.

But instead of simply refuting the anti-Hagan ad with one showing a clip of that part of Elmendorf’s testimony, or of someone in his or her early 60s who is ecstatic to now be able to retire, or a young mother who can now choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby–as they obviously should, and presumably will–the Democrats should do this as well: point out in ads that the Republicans apparently have trouble understanding basic English-language declaratory sentences, such as the ones in the CBO report.

Rather than attacking the Republicans for dishonestly, the Democrats should take them at their word.  Their word being that they are too stupid to understand a clearly written CBO report.

Then again, I suppose the Republicans could invoke Dana Milbank and a few other mainstream journalists to show that they are not alone in that.

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Dana Milbank and the "Fact Free Zone"

by Robert Waldmann

Dana Milbank and the “Fact Free Zone”

I expected to enjoy Dana Milbank’s article entitled “From Obamacare to the IRS scandal, Republicans are ignoring the facts” But Milbank decided that he should Ballance his observation that Republicans are indifferent to facts with the following paragraph.

Rubio’s fact-free approach to Obamacare is puzzling because plenty of damning things can be said about the health-care law that are perfectly accurate: It does little to curb entitlements, it disrupts insurance plans for millions, it leaves 31 million Americans without coverage and, as the CBO forecast, it would take the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers out of the workforce.

Yep that’s showing em Dana. 1. “little” is a nice weasel word, but the ACA eliminated the huge Medicare advantage extra payments and massively cut the rate of growth of regular Medicare payments. It also made hospitals responsible for the costs of treating the infections people pick up there. I don’t claim that the sudden complete utter change in US entitlement spending is mostly due to the ACA but the assertion “little” is based on completely ignoring those data which are inconvenient to the quest for Ballance, that is all of the relevant data.

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Obamacare Killing Jobs . . . again

Cost of Obamacare

picture hat tip TPM DC

 

After shown to be wrong by Factcheck.org in its analysis, the Fox News group and Republicans are at it again  with a worn out commentary on how Obamacare kills jobs. This time they are using the CBO’s new analysis on the impact of Obamacare. Sometimes, I wish the CBO’s Douglas Elmendorf would simply shut up and keep his calculations and thoughts to himself. From Healthcare taking over the economy which Louise Sheiner and Glen LaFollette debunked and Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism portrayed; to Fair Market Valuation of Student Loans for risk even when Student loans can not be discharged in bankruptcy and make a greater return in default; and now the nebulous wording in a recent CBO report;

“The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of  full time-time equivalent workers (page 117) of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.”

What this really means is Labor can work fewer hours as a result of Obamacare causing healthcare insurance to be less costly. The number of hours needed to work would decrease 1.5 to 2%. People may want to work less and it sounds like they will opt to work less. The Republicans and Tea-baggers (their right of right brothers) just made their own version of the CBO’s report. The entire blog-o-sphere is laughing at Fox News and the Republicans with their obvious effort to distort the report.

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50 Best Investing Blogs

Daily Reckoning’s Jason Farrell lists Angry Bear in his top fifty…

The new year is off to an interesting start. With inflation dove Janet Yellen helming the Fed, another recession possibly imminent and Wall Street still making a killing, it’s as good a time as any to review some of the best sources of independent financial and economic thought out there.

Besides, of course, our own numerous free publications and some of the bigger blogs like Zero Hedge and Seeking Alpha, there is a broad selection of outstanding investing blogs that cover everything from ETFs to metals to disaster prepping. We decided to put together a list of some of our favorites.

….

Angry Bear: This popular blog has made several lists, including The Wall Street Journal’s and Minyanville’s list of most influential blogs. They cover global economics, taxes, regulation, healthcare and a variety of other topics.

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What the Associated Press Should Have Added to Press Releases About Scalia’s and Alito’s Current Warm-Weather Junkets

Here are the press releases dutifully passed along by the Associated Press:

HONOLULU (AP) – U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia will be teaching a class at the University of Hawaii law school.

The university says Scalia’s guest lecture Monday at the William S. Richardson School of Law will be followed by brief remarks on constitutional interpretations. He’s also expected to take questions from students.

Scalia was appointed to the nation’s highest court in 1986, which makes him the longest-serving justice currently on the court.

The 77-year-old New Jersey native isn’t expected to do any interviews or answer questions from the media.

Justice Scalia to lecture at Univ. of Hawaii, today

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is giving a lunchtime speech to a South Florida audience.

Alito is scheduled to speak Monday in West Palm Beach to a joint meeting of the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches and the Palm Beach County Bar Association. The topic of the speech wasn’t immediately available.

Alito generally votes with the nine-member court’s conservative wing. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and has served on the high court since January 2006.

Before that he was a federal appeals judge and was U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

Supreme Court Justice Alito speaking in Fla., Associated Press, today

Here’s what they should have added–and what the AP and other news organizations that report on such activities should include in every report of this sort, going forward:

The Supreme Court annually receives about 9,000 petitions, known as certiorari petitions, requesting the Court’s review of lower federal and state appellate court rulings, it hears oral argument in about 70 of those cases, usually two arguments a day, five days a month during* the first seven months of its nine-month annual term, and issues short opinions in an additional four or five cases, usually in order to reverse a lower federal appellate court’s ruling favoring a state-court criminal defendant.  In addition to its three-month summer break, the Court effectively adjourns for nearly a month for the winter holiday season, for another several weeks beginning in late January, and for two weeks in the remaining months in which it hears ten arguments.  Although the filing fee is $300, the actual cost of filing a petition totals roughly $5,000-$7,000 in order to meet the Court’s peculiar requirement that petitions be in special-publishing-house heat-press- or saddlestitch-bound, small-perimeter book form and that 40 copies be submitted.  While any litigation party who has lost a lower-court appeal and who can afford to do so is entitled to file a petition, the Court in recent decades effectively limits its annual 75 opinions mainly to cases in which the petitioner is a government or a government official or employee, or whose petition counsel is one of the approximately 30 Washington, D.C.-based Supreme Court specialists whose specialty is prompting a justice or two to open the cover of the petition on which the attorney’s name appears as counsel, for a fee of roughly $1,000 per hour. There are a few exceptions each year.

Seriously. Seriously.

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*Typo-corrected word originally said “ruling” rather than “during”.  Now, the sentence makes sense.

 

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