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

Medicaid Expansion 2018

Four states had the Medicaid Expansion on the ballot this last election and another is still fumbling around with expanding it..

The Good

Idaho: Idahoans approved Idaho Proposition 2, an initiative requiring the state to submit an amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in order to implement the Medicaid expansion no later than 90 days after the approval of the act. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is required and authorized to take all actions necessary to implement the provisions of this section as soon as practicable and outgoing Governor Butch Otter endorsed the ballot initiative less than a week before the election and Republican Governor-elect Brad Little has said he will implement the initiative.

Nebraska: Nebraskans voted in favor of Initiative 427 requiring the state to submit an amendment/documents seeking waiver approval from CMS on or before April 1, 2019 to expand Medicaid. As directed by the initiative, the state Department of Human Services to “take all actions necessary to maximize federal financial participation in funding medical assistance pursuant to this section”. Although newly reelected Governor Pete Ricketts has been a vocal opponent of expansion, he has stated he would let the voters decide if it made it onto the ballot.

Utah: Voters approved Utah Proposition 3 calling for the state to expand Medicaid coverage beginning April 1, 2019. The initiative also prohibits future changes to Medicaid and CHIP that would reduce coverage, benefits, and payment rates below policies in place on January 1, 2017. The proposition calls for a 0.15% increase to 4.85% from 4.7% the state sales tax (except for groceries) to finance the expansion or Medicaid and CHIP more broadly.

The Bad

Montana: Montanans voted down Montana I-185 after spending on campaigns for and against the initiative made it the most expensive ballot measure race in Montana history. The measure proposed raising taxes on all tobacco products and e-cigarettes and vaping products to dedicate a percentage of increased tax revenues for Montana’s current Medicaid program and veteran’s services; smoking prevention and cessation programs; and long-term care services for seniors and people with disabilities. The initiative also would have eliminated the sunset date for the Medicaid expansion of June 30, 2019. Republican controlled Montana State Legislature could still take action to continue the expansion program beyond June 2019. Tobacco companies had spent more than $17 million on advertising and other efforts to oppose the ballot measure, most of which came from cigarette maker Altria (Philip Morris).

The Ugly

Maine: Maine. Medicaid expansion was adopted in Maine through a ballot initiative in November 2017. Governor Paul LePage resisted the implementation of it and then complied with it after the Maine SC ordered him to submit an expansion state plan amendment (SPA) to CMS. He did submit the plan along with a asking CMS to reject the SPA. The newly elected Democratic governor, Janet Mills, has supported Medicaid expansion and is likely to move quickly to implement. Democrats also control the Maine legislature.

The ACA has shown up more in this last election even though it is pretty much a done deal and near impossible to repeal. Still Republicans repeat the same old “lies” even though they have been shot down repeatedly. One often repeated lie is the Democrats and the ACA stole $800 billion from Medicare to fund it. This lie was used by Mike Bishop in Michigan and our President also. Quite the opposite occurred with the Medicare TF being extended for a few more years and excess payments to Advantage plans reduced to match what Medicare pays out.

More to be read here: What Does the Outcome of the Midterm Elections Mean for Medicaid Expansion?

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Recounts and Runoffs – 2018

Senate:

Arizona:In Arizona’s race for the Senate, two candidates are separated by about 16,000 votes with approximately 75 percent of results in. Republican Rep. Martha McSally was leading her Democratic opponent Rep. Kyrsten Sinema by less than 1 percent in the race to fill outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat.”

The last I read somewhere, Sinema had over taken McSally and the race was too close to call. This will not throw the Senate into a majority Democrat; but it will narrow the gap just in case a Republican suddenly wants to take the high ground.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson is preparing for a recount in a race too close to call against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Scott held a 0.21 percentage lead over Nelson on Thursday afternoon. Since the results are less than .25 of 1% a recount is mandated under Florida law.

Challenger Rick Scott has filed in court alleging Broward County Supervisors of Election Brenda Snipes on Thursday, asking the court to order Snipes to turn over several records detailing the counting and collection of ballots. Scott’s thin lead over Nelson has narrowed in the vote-counting in the days since he declared victory on Tuesday. Quelle Surprise!

Florida’s phony status as a perennial swing state is reassured again in this election year as it consistently decides important National and State elections with the thinnest of margins and a ton of excuses as to why it happened this way. Since Gore, it still has not brought the voting process under control. As long as it worked for Scott and other Republicans, they were happy. When it starts to slip away from them and their popularity dissipates, they look to the courts to contest alleged violations which were perfectly alright when it favored them.

The irony of Scott and Republican’s anger at Democrats for trying to all the votes counted as Repubs have been suppressing voter turnout in both Florida and Georgia.

Mississippi: Senate candidates in a special election to replace retired Sen. Thad Cochran will go to a runoff at the end of the month because no one candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. Republican incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith received 41.5 percent of votes and her opponent Democrat Michael Epsy received 40.6 percent. The runoff will take place on Nov. 27.

For Mississippi??? and the race is that close? Unbelievable! Stennis was the last Democrat elected to the Senate for Mississippi. I am not sure I would call him a Democrat. He served from 1949 to 1989.

House

Nearly 20 races for the House remained too close to call, with the outcomes uncertain in states such as California, New York, Georgia, New Jersey and Washington state. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., the chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said House Democrats were still counting ballots and assessing races too close to call.

California: Some races (6) in California are still up for grabs, including four in the one-time Republican stronghold of Orange County.
Georgia: Republican Reps. Karen Handel and Rob Woodall races remain too close to call as absentee ballots are still being counted. Democrat Lucy McBath, the Democrat challenging Handel, said “this race is far from over.”

Utah: Republican Rep. Mia Love trailed Democratic challenger Ben McAdams. McAdams had a strong showing in his home county of Salt Lake County. Love hoped to flip the deficit by winning a large portion of the votes left to be counted in her stronghold of Utah County. Apparently long polling lines led to slow vote tallies.

Maine: Computer-assisted tabulations under the state’s new voting system will be used to determine the winner of the congressional race between Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden. A test of ranked voting methodology, since neither candidate collected a majority of first-place votes under Maine’s ranked-choice voting system (used for the first time Tuesday); the results triggered an additional round of voting. As I understood this from reading the article, other finishers in the four-way race are eliminated and the votes are reallocated.

The allocation process will take place next week. Voter’s second choice will be applied to the candidates and so on till a candidate secures 50+% of the vote.

This should be an interesting test (Fair Vote Org. has been advocating for this).

Governors:

Florida: In the governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Gillum’s campaign said Thursday it is preparing for a recount. Gillum conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night. The counting has continued and the race has tightened with DeSantis leading Gillum by .47 of 1% percent.

Georgia: Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams’s campaign argued in a press conference today, a recount or runoff is still possible if all the votes in the state are counted. As he did on Wednesday, Republican candidate Brian Kemp can not declare a victory as thousands of votes remain uncounted and unaccepted ballots have been reconciled.

Abrams through her litigation team demanded from Kemp’s office as the office of the secretary of state to release the data on uncounted provisional ballots and military and overseas votes. Kemp’s spokeswoman Candice Broce claimed those votes amount to around 22,000 to 24,000. There also appears to be some discrepancy on early votes being tallied. The belief is and contrary to what Kemp has stated; if all of the remaining votes are counted, there could be enough additional votes for Abrams to trigger an official recount or even a runoff election.

Kemp should have been more careful on eliminating voters. All of the effort, it was not enough, and if he loses; you can bet on a more thorough investigation on voter fraud and civil rights violations by elected officials.

I am sure there are more to be added to this list. Please do so.

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US Policy On Iran After The Midterm Elections

A curious coincidence is that the US midterm elections happened one day after the US reimposed its second round of illegal economic sanctions on Iran, with the focus on oil, shipping, and banking, along with some other sectors. Despite all but a handful of governments around the world supporting Iran in this matter (despite apparently two attempted assassinations of opponents of Iran’s government in European nations recently) against the US out of a hope to keep Iran following the JCPOA nuclear agreement as it has by all reports been doing, the impact of the midterm elections is probably to reinforce support for Trump’s policy, even as mostly he lost support in the election. The reason is that the most important location for serious critics of a president’s foreign policy usually come out of the Senate, not the House of Representatives or governors. So, even though the Dems have taken the House and gained governorships, the GOP gained in the Senate, and some of the GOPs leaving included the few Trump critics, notably departing Foreign Relations committee Chair, Robert Corker of TN. This is the case, even as those GOP gains may only amount to a net two (Dem Sinema now ahead in AZ) or even only one (Nelson in FL may yet pull it out too).

Yet another reason the gains by Dems will probably not lead to much more pressure on Trump on this is that many Dems at least somewhat support his policy, especially those strongly influenced by the Israeli government. Thus in today’s Washington Post, a lead editorial (presumably by neoconnish Fred Hiatt) said there may be reasons for imposing some sanctions because of “malignant” policies by Iran, notably supposedly supplying missiles to the Houthis in Yemen, plus the Syrian government, and Hezbollah in Lebanon (there are doubts on the extent of all this), even as WaPo opposes the US withdrawing from the JCPOA and is highly critical of Saudi Arabia due to the murder of their journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, probably on orders of KSA Crown Prince MbS, a main enemy of Iran. Indeed, members of both parties in the Senate have become unhappy with the Saudi war in Yemen and may move to cut US military support of the Saudi war effort there. But this will probably have little to no effect on the reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.

As it is, the ultimate impact of the new sanctions is quite complicated with various cross-cutting effects that are already damaging the Iranian economy, but may end up having less impact than Trump would like. The most important part of the sanctions involves Iran’s oil exports, which US officials claim they would like to see go to zero. Early forecasts had those falling to about a third of the about 2.8 million bpd of a few months ago, which anticipation helped push oil prices up substantially, with Brent crude topping $80 per barrel while West Texas intermediate crude topped $70 per barrel. But the Trump administration has granted temporary waivers to 8 countries allowing them to continue importing Iranian oil for a while, supposedly to avoid excessive disruption of global markers (while not officially announced, the Japan Times claims the 8 waivered nations are China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy [only EU nation on list]. and UAE [yes, that big anti-Iran oil exporter imports oil from Iran]). As it is, with surging oil inventories in the US, prices have fallen sharply in the last two weeks, with Brent down to nearly $70 and WTI to nearly $60 , with some commenters today claiming that oil is turning into a “bear market.” While this clearly allows Iran to export more oil than previously thought for now, the price decline will hurt Iran.

A fundamental clash in this is between governments and the businesses based in their nations. Only a handful of national governments officially support Trump in this policy, basically the odd group of Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE, Bahrain, and apparently Egypt, with a few others sort of semi-supportive, such as Jordan, if with little enthusiasm. Russia, China, Turkey, and the major EU nations all oppose Trump’s policy. While businesses in Russia in particular go along with their government’s view, nearly all of those that are reasonably large in the EU nations are obeying the demands of the US government to cut back business relations with Iran, with poster boys for this being Total and Peugeot from France out of fear of losing markets in the US or facing sanctions from the US government. All of this has led to efforts in both China and the EU to set up alternative payment systems to avoid using US dollars and going through US-controlled financial intermediaries, a big conflict over this involving the SWIFT payment system, which the US would like to prevent Iran from using while the major European nations oppose this move by the US. As it is, given the ongoing efforts by they EU nations to help Iran out, it seems especially unwise of Iranian intel agencies to be attempting to assassinate people in France and Denmark as they have reportedly done, albeit unsuccessfully so far.

A final point is that it is extremely unlikely that this policy by Trump will lead to Iranian leaders kowtowing to him and entering into any negotiations. If anything, they might get pushed into pulling out of the JCPOA or create trouble for their enemies in various ways. OTOH, it may be that the sanctions will not lead to as harsh impacts on the Iranian economy as forecast, whether this is due to the Europeans and Chinese setting up alternative payments systems, or due to Iran wriggling out of the sanctions whether due to waivers or through such maneuvers as barter transactions involving oil or the use of “ghost ships” that do not use any radio communications, something reportedly already going on. We shall see how this all turns out, but for now Trump probably has gotten a modest boost of support for his policies within the US as a result of the midterm elections, much as I am not pleased to see this.

Barkley Rosser
Econospeak “US Policy On Iran After The Midterm Elections”

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Why Congressman Mike Bishop Lost in Michigan’s 8th District

Tom MacArthur a multimillionaire former insurance broker who negotiated the House legislation to repeal the ACA taken to the wood shed by a constituent. Tom MacArthur met with his constituents in a Town Hall meeting and he listened to them and took the abuse he rightfully deserved. Mike Bishop consistently refused to meet with his constituents face to face in a high density, Gerrymandered Republican District. People were angry and we needed the right candidate to emerge and lead. Elissa Slotkin won!

It did not have to be this way. It could have been different. MacArthur like Mike Bishop chose his political party over country and constituents. Tom MacArthur and Mike Bishop lost.

The eleven minutes to hear this rebuttal are worth hearing.

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White House press secretary uses fake Infowars video

Via VOX comes this noteworthy WH official attempt to propogandize:

 

Press secretary Sarah Sanders shared an altered video (italics mine) on Wednesday evening that appears to have originated with far-right conspiracy site Infowars to justify banning CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the White House after a tense exchange with President Donald Trump.

When Trump insulted Acosta at the press conference, a White House intern approached him and tried to physically remove a microphone from his hands. Their arms touched as the woman reached across Acosta’s body to grab the microphone he was holding in his hand.

Looking back at the video, it does not in fact show Acosta “placing his hands” on the woman. But about 90 minutes after she posted her string of tweets, Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson tweeted out a video of the incident that was doctored to make it look like Acosta chopped the woman’s arm with his hand.

 

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Final thoughts on the 2018 midterms

Final thoughts on the 2018 midterms

Here are six takeaways from last night’s results:

1. It *was* a wave election in the popular vote, but it was blunted by gerrymandering:

Here’s a tweet by Sam Wang:

Even though Democrats won the popular vote by 9.2%, they only eked out 12 seats over a majority, and came about 4 seats short of Nate Silver’s median projection:

By contrast, in 2010, a smaller vote advantage led to a 63 seat gain for the GOP.

2. The Senate races were effectively nationalized

Here’s a current map of the state of the Senate (except we know Feinstein won re-election in California):

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Trump’s final pre-midterm job approval

Trump’s final pre-midterm job approval

As promised, following up on yesterday’s post, here is Gallup’s final Trump job approval rating, as of the last weekend before Election Day:

At very least, it sure looks like his fear-mongering about immigrants hasn’t helped, and it may have backfired.

I will blog on the election results tomorrow night. Regular economist blogging should resume Wednesday.

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Before The Midterms And WaPo Is At It Again

(Dan here…better a bit late than ….)

by Barkley Rosser

Monday Before The Midterms And WaPo Is At It Again

It is Robert J. Samuelson doing his usual schtick, albeit with some recognition of other issues, such as global warming and immigration.  But these are not what has his prime attention on the day before midterm elections in the US.  Moaning that “Everyone” will lose this election, his main focus is on the budget deficit, without a single mention of the Trump tax cuts.

We get, “Start with budget deficits. In fiscal 2018, the gap between federal spending and revenue was $782 billion, nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). That’s up $116 billion from 2017. Based on current spending and taxes, the Congressional Budget Office expects large deficits forever.
With a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, no one can attribute these deficits to a weak economy.  Put simply, Americans want more government benefits and services than they’re willing to pay for in taxes…..

Our leaders are making proposals that would worsen deficits. Trump backs more tax cuts [ah ha, that he passed some is implicitly recognized]; Democrats advance expensive new health benefits and guaranteed jobs for all [well, at least he did not call for cutting Social Security, as he usually does].”

OK, this could be worse.  He could have actually called for cuts in “entitlements” as he so often does.  But clearly after not mentioning that the deficit has swelled due overwhelmingly because of Trump’s tax cuts, he implicitly puts forward cutting “government benefits” as at least equal to raising taxes in terms of dealing with budget deficits.  There is no end to it.

Barkley Rosser

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Greenspan promoting “Entitlement” cuts as the necessary solution to the economy. 25% worth!

From an interview on NPR’s Here and Now comes:

“The official actuaries of the Social Security system say in order to get our Social Security and retirement funds in balance, they’d have to cut benefits by 25 percent indefinitely into the future,” he says. “Do I think it’s going to happen? Well I don’t know, but this is one of the reasons why inflation is the major problem out there. So long as you don’t do it, you’re going to cause the debt overall — the total government debt — to rise indefinitely, and that is an unstable situation.”

He adds: “In the book … discussing what the long-term outlook is all about, we say that the issue of the aging of the population and its consequences on entitlements is having a significant negative deterioration over the long run. The reason for that is what the data unequivocally show is that entitlements — which are mandated by law — are gradually and inexorably driving our gross domestic savings, and the economy, dollar for dollar. And so long as that happens, we have to borrow from abroad, which is our current account deficit.”

He also said:

“When you deal with fear, it is very difficult to classify,” he tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. “But you can look at the consequences of it, and the consequence is basically a suppressed level of innovation and therefore of capital investment and a disinclination to take risks.”

I agree with this, but not just as it relates to “ a suppressed level of innovation…” but instead as it relates to the 2005 World Bank report on what produces wealth in a developed economy like ours. It comes down to trust.  Trust in your judicial system and trust in your education system.   I discuss this in the following 3 posts: 2007, 2009, 2011

Human capital is where it’s at!

This election at it’s core is about trust.  Destroy that, and we have no democracy, we have no economy.  It’s that simple.   That McConnell et al has decided he will not abide by the rules agreed to in conducting the business of the Senate means we have no currently functioning democracy.  That is how fragile democracy in the US is.  Our democracy comes down to two people, the leaders of each party in the Senate agreeing to the rules.  When one decides not to, there is nothing that can be done other than vote.

You can hear the full interview here:

 

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