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

Sanders beat Trump in NY by over 200,000 votes

New York primary results: track the votes live

Raw numbers are funny. But Trump’s admittedly massive victory tonight over his rivals doesn’t even mean he could deliver his own State in November.

This works both ways. I am feeling the Bern but understand that his relative massive wins in the Mountain West don’t mean much in the final analysis. Neither Bernie or Hillary is going to carry Wyoming or Idaho.

My point? It is on the top of my head. And a reason I have a hard time finding hats that fit right. Or left. Or center.

PPACA: United Health Care vs the Public Option

A story that is getting some traction, though mostly lost against the New York primary, is that for profit health insurance company United Health Care is looking to drop its Exchange Plans under PPACA. For example this from Fox: UnitedHealth pulls back on ObamaCare exchanges amid huge losses This is of course presented as some additional proof of the failure of ObamaCare. And given the current structure that has the Exchange 100% reliant on private insurance providers and so vulnerable to insurance provider drop-outs this may be. But from the perspective of supporters of the original version of PPACA, the one that came out of Senate HELP and the House Tri-Committee this was more a feature than a bug.

In 2009 it was abundantly clear that Single Payer/Medicare for All was not a viable option. It wasn’t going to happen. (Please argue the point in comments.) But there was a narrow window open for a backdoor path to Single Payer. And that was the Public Option in both its Strong and Weak forms. The idea was a properly designed Public Option would out-compete any private insurance provider on price. That is with or without some form of the mandated limits on the Medical Loss Ratios that in turn restricted Big Insurance profits, private insurers would find some markets unprofitable and so abandon them. In particular this was projected to happen in rural markets and second and third tier metro areas. Which markets would then be available for scoop up by the (so-called) non-crofts and the Public Option. My own vision was that over time a version of Single Payer would evolve from the outside in as Big Insurance retreated to serving high margin/richer urban markets.

Now of course we don’t have the Public Option. But even so I am not going to shed a tear that for profit insurers like United Health just are not having the success in extracting huge rents from PPACA. Because those rents/profits were not adding value anyway. And while there is theoretically some downside in reduced competition the structure of PPACA doesn’t really allow surviving health care insurers to extract monopoly rents. And to the extent that certain markets begin to be underserved there will be that much pressure to allow entrance to some version of the original Public Option, perhaps by leveraging the presence of existing Public Health, Veterans Administration and even Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics. And Community Health Centers. And Free Clinics. Any of which would benefit by a new pool of actual paying customers with insurance funded by Exchange subsidies.

Now clearly there are some dangers to trying to transition to Single Payer via crowding out for profit insurers. Especially since there is not an existing Public Option in the way the original plans envisioned. Still there is no reason to cry that Wall Street is not extracting what it considers to be its due pound of flesh by providing health care to rural and poor areas. United Health Care had a business plan. Its success required large rent extraction. That the PPACA as designed didn’t end up making it as easy to extract excess rents as the FirePups assumed is a good thing.

The road to Single Payer is certainly rocky. And maybe we will never get there in total. But if we do seeing the corpses of United Health Care and Aetna as squished road kill should not be triggers for pity and sorrow. Unless you are a Free Market fetishist.

Social Security: Solvency, (Unfunded) Liability, Debt & Crisis (Part One)

By law the Annual Social Security Report is due by April 1. But as in every year for the last decade this deadline was missed and of course without explanation or excuse, leaving Social Security hobbyists like me whimpering. Luckily there are not a lot of SocSec fanboys and fangirls. It might be a club of half a dozen. Anyway—–.

So while I wait for my annual fix of Tables and Figures I want to return again to the very odd and counterintuitive relations between Social Security and Public Debt. Because it turns out that little is what it seems to be, at least if you use ordinary language. For example what does it mean to say that Social Security is ‘solvent’? Well one definition would be ‘healthy and able to pay out all scheduled benefits for the conceivable future’ and that is true enough. But what does that look like in relation to the rest of Federal finance and debt?

‘Solvency’ in Social Security terms has a number of metrics: ‘sustainable solvency’, ‘short term actuarial balance’, ‘long term actuarial balance’, ‘actuarial balance over the infinite future horizon’ but all draw on the same basic concept. Social Security is ‘solvent’ in any given year if it has cash convertible assets in its Trust Fund equal to one year of projected next year cost. This is called the Trust Fund Ratio and is expressed simply enough as 100% = TF Ratio of 100. If the TF Ratio dips below 100 Social Security can be called ‘insolvent’ and indeed according the the various metrics referenced above if it is projected to go below 100 in any year of a set of future years it could also be deemed ‘insolvent’. And this true even if the reserve was such that full benefits could be paid out for years after that point of ‘insolvency’. Which explains why Social Security can have $2.8 trillion in the ‘bank’ and be projected to be able to pay full benefits until 2034 and still be considered a ‘crisis’ that needs immediate attention. But putting that last aside for now lets get back to the nuts, bolts and accounting. Under the fold.

Republicans Have Two Choices: Fall in Line or Sign Up as Hillary’s Oppo Research Attackers against Trump

Not a single R vote has been cast as I type this but all the smart money is on Trump running the win table tomorrow with the exception of maybe Texas. This may not translate into the hugest (or Yuuuugest) pot of delegates compared to the other but will firmly establish the R race as Trump vs the Others.

And the Others have a choice between now and the Conventions. Do Hillary’s dirty work for her while she sits back and triangulates between left, center and center right, saving her own attacks dogs like David Brock for the General. Or just pivot and sign up like Christie and Brewer and Sessions as officer/supporters of the Army of El Douche.

For example Trump’s weaseling around the KKK issue elicited a response from Clinton that was about as hard hitting as “My that wasn’t a nice thing to say”. Because for this weekend at least she doesn’t have to make the case that Trump is the White Supremacist candidate: his new supporters are making that clear as day and his erstwhile R opponents are forced to make hay by trying to shame Trump’s base with accusations of racism. Which given the history of the R’s Southern Strategy since 1968 might as well be the illustration of ‘cognitive dissonance’ in Webster’s Dictionary.

Will the Republican Establishment allow Rubio to wage all out war on Trump between now and June? When that looks to drive up Trumps negatives beyond their already high levels for November? That is de facto acting as Hilary’s Oppo Research Deployment Team? I wish I had answers as good as the question. Over to you all. For live commenting the day time developments or just frankly speculating on tomorrow evenings results. And the week after. And the three months after that.

R’s Supreme Court Boycott & Trump: How is That Going to Work Out for Them?

What if it is Trump? Or Trump vs. Clinton? Or Trump vs. Clinton vs. Bloomberg? What’s the end game for the McConnell-Grassley Triple No Strategy on the Court?

Can they really rely on a President Trump or a President Bloomberg actually going with a Scalia Federalist Society Originalist type? Are the really willing to go All IN on President Rubio?

Got more questions than answers. In fact no firm answers so far. But Ted has one week to put this election into Cruz Control, because if he is in second or third place trying to get around the fat ass of the Trumpmobile come next Wednesday at this time he is in the slow lane to nowhere. And Rubio is trying to make a play as being the most warlike warlock of the Neo-Cons even while being No Exception on Abortion while claiming the ‘moderate’ ‘sensible’ ‘main street’ lane to nativist populist Trump.

Yet the Federalist Society types are going all in with the bet they get better Court results with appointees in 2017 than with Obama in 2016. Seems to me they should have waited to get beyond Super Tuesday before they bet the future of the Court for the next couple of decades.

Open Thread on Nevada, Trump, the Supreme Court

South Carolina: Bush and Carson Territory

You heard it here first. And before you laugh see that I pretty much nailed New Hampshire in the post and comments Christie is Done. But Wow! What a Parting Shot! where I only made two real mistakes. I overestimated Carson’s numbers and slightly underestimated Bush’s. So this is a corrective of sorts.

Carson never had a chance in New Hampshire. And so didn’t try. His hope was always to hit South Carolina with the God Botherer lane cleared out. And he has got that, Huckabee and Santorum are gone and of the main contenders only Cruz is competing for Evangelicals as such. I mean a lot of Fundies might like Trump but nobody with a lick of sense believes he is really Saved. Or even thinking he needs to be Saved. Whereas Carson is a full fledged member of the tribe. I may think him a Whack-a-Doodle but don’t underestimate his appeal to the Born Again. Sleeping Gentle Ben has a clear track into a top four result that propels him right into the South dominated March contests.

Which brings us to Bush. If it hadn’t of been for the Christie-Rubio murder-suicide I would have put paid to his candidacy. And even I thought Rubio would limp into fourth in New Hampshire. But Bush did pull down fourth and all he needs to do to get at least a fourth in South Carolina is to finish ahead of Rubio and Kasich. And Kasich has a lot of ground game to make up.

So here is my order of finish in South Carolina: Trump, Bush, Cruz, Carson. With Rubio and Kasich battling for fifth but both clinging on until March 15th when both Florida and Ohio vote.

Obviously I may have this wrong. A perfectly plausible order is Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, Carson, Bush. I just see structural advantages for Carson and Bush that are not reflected in their surface campaigning. Which frankly has sucked. Your Views not only MAY Vary but almost cetainly WILL Vary. So treat this as an Open Elections Thread

Christie is Done. But Wow! What a Parting Shot!

I don’t think Chris Christie makes it out of New Hampshire. But he may have put ‘paid’ to Rubio and indirectly punched tickets for his rivals Bush and Kasich. Because Lord knows that Trump didn’t do himself any favors on eminent domain in the Live Free or Die State nor did Cruz for laying back and even apologizing to Carson.

48 hours ago I was confident that New Hampshire would be a major winnowing event. But now the only person I still see an unlikely to make the cut is the guy that THREW the upper-cut. Those of us of a certain age have fond memories of the toy Rockem Sockem Robots and its catch phrase “Knock his Block Off”. For those that click through that is Rubio in blue to the right.

Other first and second impressions of the Republican Debate? Or the Hillary/Bernie grudge match? “Let’s Get it On!”

Mahatma Sanders: “First they Ignore You”

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

I have been firmly in the conventional wisdom camp that Bernie would never be the ultimate candidate and so as much as I always wanted to “Feel the Bern” and more or less identify with Sanders as a Social Democrat over against his Democratic Socialism you got to keep it real.

Until the tide starts flowing against the sensible conventional wisdom. Because while the smart money is still not on “then you win” anybody who went heavy on “then they laugh at you” futures is looking a little foolish right now. Because on the Democratic side the race between Sanders and Clinton is right in Stage 3: “then they fight you”

Open Season Primary Thread: Paulite Bros for Bernie, Sleepy Ben Wakes Up on Open Evangelical Highway

Pick a topic relating to New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada. The floor is open. Except for that whole Impractical Bernie vs. Electable HIllary thing, that’s been done to death. Some topic teasers for you.

The shakeout from Iowa more intense than I predicted, first O’Malley and Huckabee and now Paul and rumors have it Santorum. And this morning Kasich saying “Do or Die” in New Hampshire. All of which shuffled the lanes particularly on the Republican side.

For example Paul’s dropout slams the Libertarian lane shut. Leaving College Libertarian Bros adrift. Where do they wash up? Where does some Ayn Randian atheistic personal liberty gold bug anti-Fed pot smoking small government guy go? Evangelical Ted? Authoritarian Donnie? Big Government Bernie? It sure ain’t Hillary or Marco. I think there is a good case for Bernie. After all who really wants to throw your Grannie off Social Security, and Aqua Buddha knows your chances of meeting good looking college girls are better at the Sanders rally. And you can bring your blunt, or number, or joint (whatever kids call it these days).

So topic one: Liber-Bros for Bernie

Another lane, another topic. Nobody I know expected Ben Carson to actually get on track. But four things happened. First it looks like both Huckabee and Santorum have dropped. Meanwhile Trump revealed that he literally couldn’t navigate around the New Testament even with a native guide (Ralph Reed). Two Corinthians forsooth? And mistaking the Communion Plate for the Offertory? Meanwhile Dr. Carson is mightily chapped that Cruz workers played dirty by saying he had dropped out. How do evangelicals in South Carolina take this diss? AFter all Carson still finished in fourth in Iowa with all kinds of competition for evangelicals. Now he has the opportunity to take on board the Huckabee and Santorum contingent while siphoning away actual church goers from Trump and Christians who woke up to what a nasty piece of work Cruz is.

So topic two: Carson Wakes up on Highway Evangelical racing with whom?

Topics: three, four and five? Open buffet, diner’s choice. But make it a little original please, no equivalent of green jello with carrot salad.