Thoughts on Matt Yglesias
Lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts
I am going to put two comments on Matt Yglesias’s blog here. I am somewhat concerned. My previous view on Yglesias is that I agree with him except on monetary policy (and the effect on asset price of Abe/Kuroda and of FOMC hints of possible tapering on asset prices particularly convinces me that he was more nearly right about monetary policy than I thought).
Now he seems to have gone on a pessimist contrarian trip. I note that I began reading him partly based on enthusiastic praise which compared him to a young Michael Kinsley. I won’t go there (yet) but you can guess my fear.
Post 1 “Obamacare sign ups way behind schedule” is a discussion of the results of the following solid quantitative empirical reporting ” the Department of Health and Human Services was targeting 500,000 signups by the end of October which seems—shall we say—unlikely at this point.” Now I may be old fashioned but I expect a very definite and emphatic claim in the indicative in a title to be supported by evidence other than “seems”. Also note that not counting any www.healthcare.gov activity, there have been 185,000 applications for Obamacare just in the states with state set up exchanges. Also it’s not Halloween yet.
I don’t think it is ideal to report a hunch as a fact.
Earlier Yglesias reported on the continuing resolution/debt ceiiling increase bill without, you know, reading the damn bill.
He asserts that the bill includes the following provision
- Income verification under the Affordable Care Act will be beefed up.
This is absolutely 100% false. The new bill does describe income verification under the Affordable Care Act. It says that to find out what that means — read section 1411 of the Affordable Care act (AKA 42 U.S.C. 18081). The bill could not assert that the law on verification is unchanged more be more firmly, spficically or undeniably. The bill is at a more useful blog here. It is explained here at that blog. I excerpt the relevant bits of the bill and comment here.
The only changes relate to “certification” that the ACA is being faithfully executed, a Secretary’s report on how it is being faithfully executed and an inspector generals report on how it was faithfully executed. All these provisions add nothing to Congress’s oversight authority. The majority of Issa’s comittee could demand all that without any agreement form Democratic Senators or Obama.
There is nothing there.
Now Yglesias does not consider the totally mythical beefing up of income verification to be a very bad thing except that the precedent that the Democrats made a concession is very bad. He falsely claims “And the reality will be that the strategy of sticking with the majority-of-the-majority principle until the eleventh hour and then passing bills with mostly Democratic votes is securing policy concessions from Democrats.”
The reality is and will be no such thing But Yglesias correctly notes that the perception that Republicans secured a concession is bad for the country. Loopy bloggers who claim that a non concession is a concession share the blame for that. Harry Reid who included text which might appear to be a concession until you read it does not share the blame for that.
In politics perception is reality and journalists who don’t bother to do their jobs vitiate the triumph of a Senator who worked himself to complete exhaustion and won.
Yglesias is very hard working. The amount of effort he put into his blog is extreme. The problem is the ratio of effort to topics he tries to cover. Now breadth is part of his charm and part of what makes blogs interesting. But today he went too far. I have a rude guess as to what is going on. I can’t read his mind and inside baseball is dumb so here goes. The word is that Yglesias and Klein are both interested in who is the number one alpha extremely young brilliant serious honest blogger. I dismiss that on the grounds of who knows and who cares, except that it seems to me that Yglesias is trying to contribute as much as the whole wonkblog team all by himself.
He can’t. He’s not that smart. The smartest person in the world isn’t that smart. But I repeat myself.
It is also critically important to remember that there wasn’t supposed to be a huge Federal Exchange covering 36 states. And so a need for some huge nationwide IT solution. The plan was to have almost all States setting up their own Exchanges, presumedly in coordination with existing structures set up to handle Medicaid enrollment and the insurance plan regulation vested with State Insurance Commissioners and Commissions.
What we have instead is a situation where States with Governors and Legislatures hostile to Obama, the idea of Obamacare, or just creepiing Socialism generally not only refused to set up Exchanges but in many States actively set out to sabotage implementation to the extent they could. To that degree the Federal Exchange was set up for failure by only being put into place in hostile environments.
To use the apparent (because that is all it is to date) shortfall verging on failure of the IT solution the Feds stumbled upon and into on finding themselves forced to backfill in those States that just refused to play ball as a condemnation of Obamacare is typically perverse tactics by a Republican Party that made it clear from literally Day One that they intended to use all means to make the Obama Presidency a failure.
The proper metric for a fully functioning Obamacare as designed will be the success rates and participation rates of those States which both set up their own Exchanges to implement the subsidies and also accepted the money and responsibiity to expand Medicaid to those income ineligible for Exchange Subsidies. How is this working out in California and New York and Washington State where substantial starts towards expanded coverage were ongoing even before Obamacare through a ton of resources their way? As opposed to say Mississippi which has never shown any desire to assist its poverty level population in just about anything.
Plus I find it interesting that over the last ten days or so we are not even getting the anecdotal stories we were in the first days. Instead Time and Yglesias are getting all meta and ‘seems’ and ‘maybe’ and ‘our reporter had troubles logging on’ to not only declare this whole thing a fiasco but begin to generate horse race stories about how this will play out in the Mid-Terms.
So like Robert I am going to recognize that it is not quite two weeks to Halloween and two and a half months before the first enrollee would actually have Exchange facilitated/subsidized coverage even start. So maybe we should look for evidence the Obamacare patient is dying before making firm funeral arrangements.
Not that the screwups are not important. Me I would be using them as a club against the Neo-Liberal infatuation with contracting out everything to the ‘efficient’ private market rather than keep oversight in house. And the recipe of dividing the overall design into multiple pieces and contractors with the belief that everything would magicaly come together should be filed in the cook book under the category ‘Shit Stew’. But once again the right metric is to compare this kludged together Federal system against the ones set up by fully co-operating States. Are they having the same sort of signup problems? Calls for something that back in the day we called ‘reporting’.
Courtesy DK user Brainwrap. A Google Sheets showing signups by State and color coded by state exchange vs health.gov