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

Oklahoma Expands Medicaid

Kind of a big deal because Oklahomans rejected Trunp’s Medicaid and Republican block grant-program which would be more vulnerable to cuts of Federal funding.  It is unfortunate Oklahoma did not get on board with the ACA Medicaid expansion as 100% of the costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 – 2016 and 90% there after. I could never understand the cold-hearted logic of states in not expanding Medicaid. Much of the costs of expanding Medicaid now would have been covered.

In spite of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to make the state a test case for the Trump administration Medicaid block grant program, Oklahoma voters narrowly approved its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s sit (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government.

Oklahoma is the the first state to expand Medicaid during the Covid pandemic. Oklahoma has the second-highest uninsured rate in the country following up Texas who is #1 in both uninsured and the numbers of new Covid cases. The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters. It was strongly supported in metropolitan areas such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City and widely opposed in rural counties. While Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah expanded Medicaid through ballot questions and amended state statutes, Oklahoma State Question 802 amended the Oklahoma Constitution which prevents  the Republican-controlled Legislature from altering  the Medicaid program or rolling back coverage.

At an “Americans for Prosperity” forum, Governor Stitt said “We will have a $billion shortfall next year. The state will have to consider raising taxes or cut to such services as education, first responders, or roads and bridges” in order to cover the additional costs of Medicaid.

Looking back, the expansion of Medicaid and also the ACA mandate would increase the numbers of people having healthcare insurance which would be a boon to healthcare insurance companies. The ACA tax on healthcare insurance companies (who would benefit greatly from the new business) was meant to provide additional funds to cover the costs of healthcare. Instead, the Oklahoma plan will increase the fees on hospitals from 2.5% to 4%.  There is more to this issue and I will tackle it another time.



Comments (12) | |

Coronavirus dashboard for June 29: renewed exponential growth in infections, decline in deaths has stalled

Coronavirus dashboard for June 29: renewed exponential growth in infections, decline in deaths has stalled

Total US infections: 2,549,069,  42,161 in last day

Total US deaths: 125,803,  273 in last day

Here is the regional breakdown of the 7 day average of new cases per capita:

There is renewed exponential growth in the South and West. The Midwest also is beginning to look bad.


Comments (22) | |

Ask me anything — vacation edition

(Dan here…David offers a different sort of presentation from the normal for AB. Interesting?…)

Ask me anything — vacation edition

I’m going on vacation for a few weeks, so I am interrupting my normal blogging for something different.

(I’m not sure if you — or anyone — is interested in my Marshall 2020 Project posts, but I’m doing it for myself — and its a good distraction from every day crazy 😉

Anyways… I’d love to answer your questions about coronavirus, elections, jobs, trade, the economy, climate chaos, woodworking, watches, Amsterdam, sex, drugs, and/or water utilities.

Seriously — Ask Me Anything. 

So submit your question (name and location optional), and I’ll figure out whether it’s better for me to answer them in writing here or in a special episode of my Jive Talking podcast.

Stay safe from the crazies, support your community, and (hopefully) take a little time off from all the crazy that 2020 has brought us!

Author: David Zetland

I’m a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam. 

Comments (1) | |

The US Presidential election as forecast by State polling: tending towards a Biden blowout?

The US Presidential election as forecast by State polling: tending towards a Biden blowout?

Last week I posted a projection of the Electoral College vote based solely on State rather than national polls (since after all that is how the College operates) that have been reported in the last 30 days. There has been extensive polling in the past week, so I have updated the map.

Here’s how it works:

– States where the race is closer than 3% are shown as toss-ups.
– States where the range is between 3% to 5% are light colors.
– States where the range is between 5% and 10% are medium colors.
– States where the candidate is leading by 10% plus are dark colors.

Here is the updated map:

The most important change since last week is that we got extensive polling for Pennsylvania, which moves that State from toss-up into likely Biden. Florida and Minnesota both moved one category more firmly into Biden territory.

Even though I certainly expect some of the Confederate States, like Texas and Arkansas, to return to the Trump fold, as of now, if Biden were to simply win the States in which he leads by 5% or more in the polling, he would win the Electoral College, without even winning a single “toss-up” or “lean Biden” State as shown on the map.

Last week I noted that Trump always polls his worst when he appears both cruel and clueless. Let me illustrate that using Nate Silver’s graph of Trump approval and disapproval

Trump polled his best during the impeachment and immediately after when he briefly seemed to take the coronavirus seriously; the “rally round the flag” effect. Conversely, his worst approvals have come at four times:

     (1) late 2017, when he tried – and failed – to repeal Obamacare. That was cruel, and he failed at it.
     (2) summer 2018, during the “kids in cages” publicity. It was intentionally and especially cruel, and again, it didn’t even “solve the problem” from the RW point of view.
     (3) the government shutdown of January 2019. Again, it was cruel, and he failed.
     (4) the coronavirus pandemic now. Trump basically wants old people to go ahead and die now so that the economy can recover in time for the election. Again, cruel – and it isn’t working anyway. And on top of that, he is advocating for police brutality and Confederate statues – two other issues on which the majority is firmly on the other side.

Trump has totally backed himself into a corner where the pandemic is concerned. He can’t suddenly start taking it seriously again. After all, that would be admitting that he was wrong before. And the pandemic will not be controlled in the next several months, which means the economy is not going to meaningfully improve. Indeed, in the recklessly reopened States, where businesses will likely have to close again, it is probably going to get worse. And some of these are swing States.

Finally, Biden is a well-known politician. He isn’t a newcomer like Dukakis who can be defined by a few devastating ads. While Trump’s standing may revert towards his mean, I just don’t see a big improvement from here. If anything, I think it is more likely that more of his fans abandon him as they sense that he will lose, and the US election moves towards a Biden blowout.

Comments (8) | |



by Ken Melvin

… He said I have no opinion about this

And I have no opinion about that

Asked an Honors History Class what they thought was the most important issue facing America. In an earlier period, Patrick, a kid from Africa, responded, “our differences.” In a later period, a black female, in a plaintive voice, responded, “we are different.”

Indeed. We are a world of people with many differences: different politics, different religions, … different cultures. Not just here; worldwide, humans are wrestling with this question: How to live with our differences? Can we humans, after all our centuries, change enough? Change enough to accept our differences?

The importance of these questions came to the fore with the recent onslaught of immigration into Europe and has since played out in referenda/elections throughout Europe and the United States. The pending further, and of greater scale, dislocations caused by global warming/climate change and globalization, makes their answering imperative. Plus: What will resulting cultures look like? At what point does an existing culture become more like that of the immigrant? What is the tipping point? Can the center hold?

Over the past 20 years, really quite late, much of our nation has come to believe that someone else’s sexuality is really none of our business. We, as a nation, now accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, LGBT, people as they are. Not ignore them, not tolerate them, not demand that they change; but accept them as they are. Yet, there are still regions of America, sectors of the population, where a majority of the people think that they know how people should act, should think, … that they have the right to demand that others change.


Comments (6) | |

Coronavirus dashboard for June 27: infections -> hospitalizations -> deaths

Coronavirus dashboard for June 27: infections -> hospitalizations -> deaths

Total US infections: 2,480,786,  44,373 new cases
Total US deaths: 125,120,  619 new deathsA quandary over the past month has been why deaths declined so much more than new cases, while cases were declining; and more recently why deaths have continued to decline in the face of soaring new infections.Is it because of better treatments? Changing demographics – e.g., fewer nursing home cases, more younger people? Or is something more even more fundamental with the nature of the virus itself going on? In short, should we expect deaths to continue to decline, or to turn up following the increase in new infections?I am expecting deaths to begin to rise again, imminently.Here’s why: the progression is:
– first, infections increase/decrease
-second, hospitalizations increase/decrease
-finally, deaths increase/decrease.

The problem in the US data has been that hospitalizations have been missing from almost all compilations. That’s because not all States – and most especially, Florida – track hospitalizations.

Conor Kelly, however, *does* track reported hospitalizations from all States which have reported for at least 30 days, which totals roughly 40 States. So if deaths are going to start to increase again, it should first appear in this data. Further, if this is because of the reckless reopening of some States, it should most plainly appear in those regions. With that in mind, here is the data.

Total US hospitalizations bottomed on June 14 at 26,441. In the 12 days since, they have risen by almost 14% to 30,065:

One benefit of Conor Kelly’s compilation is that it allows users to generate customized regions of States. So, for example, here is the data for the East Coast megalopolis from Maine through Virginia:


Comments (41) | |

Pandemic boundaries

Via the Boston Globe  comes the consideration of boundary problems this pandemic poses between US states. Worth a discussion. Also, on the world stage, the EU and other countries consider relaxing travel restrictions from ‘safe’ countries, the US not among them.

Visitor quarantines may seem like a smart intervention to keep the virus from crossing state lines. Symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear after someone is infected, and research suggests people can transmit the virus even when they’re showing no signs of illness, said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious diseases physician and medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston Medical Center.

But a quarantine strategy may not be a realistic approach to stopping further infections, she said, because it’s hard to monitor every car crossing the border, and the state can’t stop travelers flying in to airports, which are federal sites.

“After states have been going it on their own, we are now quickly realizing our state is tied to [other] states,” Bhadelia said. “What happens in Florida or Arizona is not independent. Our borders are so porous.”

Legal issues associated with attempting to block or impede travel may also prove an obstacle, said Wendy Parmet, a professor of law, public policy, and urban affairs at Northeastern University.

“Travel advisories are themselves deeply problematic,” she said. “The dilemma is showing up the disaster of what’s been happening: the fact that we don’t have a federal policy, and no consistency among the states.”

She allowed that the plight of Massachusetts this summer “may be an instance where there is some merit to [travel quarantines] because you have situations with people coming in from jurisdictions that are not doing social distancing, or widespread use of masks, and it’s a real problem.”

Comments (23) | |

All 4 coincident indicators of recession improved in May vs. April

All 4 coincident indicators of recession improved in May vs. April

With this morning’s release of personal income and spending, we now have all 4 coincident indicators for May that the NBER uses to determine whether the economy is in a recession or recovery/expansion. And all 4 improved from their “most horrible” readings in April.

A recession is a generalized downturn in production, employment, sales, and income. The “income” metric that the NBER uses is “real personal income excluding current transfer receipts,” (basically, government program payments to individuals) and as shown in the graph below, it improved from April:

Still a horrible decline from February, but “less horrible” compared to April.


Comments (13) | |

Weekly Indicators for June 22 – 26 at Seeking Alpha

by New Deal democrat

Weekly Indicators for June 22 – 26 at Seeking Alpha

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha. The coincident indicators, as well as the short leading indicators, have continued to improve gradually each week.

But this week may be the near term peak, as the reality of renewed exponential spread of the coronavirus in recklessly reopened States starts to hit home. You cannot force people to patronize businesses if they believe it is unsafe, and when complacency leads to new outbreaks, the pain threshold will be hit at which people pull back again. Most noteworthy is that restaurant reservations did not improve in the past week – people are shying away from danger.

As usual, clicking over and reading rewards me with a little jingle in my pocket as well as bringing you right up to date with what is happening in the economy.

P.S.: I plan on putting up an extra coronavirus update later today. Stay tuned.

Comments (0) | |