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

ACA Enrollment for 2019 Followup

To add to Robert Waldman’s post on ACA enrollment, here is the chart as taken from Andrew Sprung’s Blog (Expostfactoid) on the ACA. This is data Charles Gaba had gathered and Andrew rearranged. Note non-expansion Medicaid states did better than expansion states in enrollment.

Why is that true? The states marked in yellow on the left are expansion states.

Without getting into the data and explaining Andrew’s findings, it is interesting the difference in each state experienced from application of carrots (generously subsidized health plans) and sticks (the individual mandate) on ACA marketplace enrollment.

1. The relative enrollment resilience in non-expansion states points toward the power of really affordable comprehensive insurance.
2. The steep enrollment drop in expansion states perhaps shows the impact of mandate repeal.
3. The superior performance of SBEs (State Based Exchanges) indicates that active insurance market oversight, investment in outreach and enrollment assistance, and a governmental will to make the marketplace work has a significant impact.


Twelve states running their own exchanges have all expanded Medicaid. Enrollment in those states is likely to remain flat this year and will outperform the states the same as in 2017 and 2018. Impressive given the lack of the 100-138% FPL income strata. Idaho just expanded its plan and has underperformed to date. The enrollment gap between State and Federal Exchanges (SBE vs. FFE) points to the importance of enrollment assistance and outreach. CMS decreased time and funding FFE states. State Based Exchanges have advertising, outreach budgets, and mostly continued the effort. They were not blindsided by Trump and the CMS,

As I read some more, I will expand this farther. Just back from Christmas holiday and catching up.

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Twelve Dimensional Chess

Barack Obama just won Gallup’s man most admired by US adults poll for the 11th straight time.

Also, in spite of the Republicans’ determined efforts including elimination of the mandate, signups are only 4% fewer than last year’s.

Finally, I am thinking about “eleven dimensional chess”. This was a joke about Obama and Obamaniacs who ascribed his amazing luck to brilliantly subtle strategy. To be honest I was thinking of Hillary Clinton (second to Michelle Obama after 16 first place finishes) as someone who managed eleven dimensional fools mate.

And I recall that the original 11 dimensional chessplaying was cleverly promising health care reform could work without an individual mandate. A merely sly politician would promise this, because he knew that reform was popular, mandates are not popular, and it is better to break a promise after being elected than never to be elected at all. But, it was argued, Obama campaigned in the obvious way on an obvious lie exactly, because he knew that reform without a mandate would be a catastrophe and especially catastrophic for the insurance companies. By making a promise which shouldn’t be kept, he scared them and their tame senator Max Baucus into supported reform if and only if there were a mandate. He also 11 dimensionally managed to cede control to the Senate as is necessary to flatter senators (and avoid the blame for the necessary tradeoffs). The Clinton’s sacrificed their king (and hurt the electoral chances of their queen) by setting up a committee and keeping Senators waiting for months.

But wait. Didn’t I just mention that health care reform is actually functioning without a mandate ? Is it possible that it can work with subsidies which prevent an adverse selection death spiral ? As Obama claimed in t008.

Now that, that is 12 dimensional chess. He was so brilliant that he managed to promise something which was possible (and hasn’t hurt the insurance companies) yet terrified them into supporting health care reform. In this way he 12 dimensionally convinced Republicans that they could destroy healthcare reform by eliminating the mandate, so they did, and we ended up with the policy he most slyly proposed.

Either he is a true genius of 12 dimensional chess or he is very very lucky.

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Taxes Up 30%!

Taxes Up 30%!

A couple of months ago yours truly complained a bit about some fiscal dishonesty coming from Team Trump:

He was basically lying to us hoping the public would be too stupid to realize that when the price level rose by 2.5% during the same period, we are talking about a 2% real decrease in tax revenues.

But if we look at customs duties we do see an increase in a category that represents a very modest part of Federal tax collections. Back in the 3rd quarter of 2017, these collections were a mere $38,428 million but by the 3rd quarter of 2018, they had risen to $51,383 million. A 33.7% nominal increase in a year represents a 31% real increase. Team Trump take a bow! Of course this is not only an inefficient means of collecting taxes but also one likely to hit the average Joe the most. It is also a drop in the bucket and pales to the reduction in real tax revenues from that income tax giveaway to the well to do.

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Could an Oil Patch decline turn a 2019 slowdown into an outright recession?

Could an Oil Patch decline turn a 2019 slowdown into an outright recession?

One of the items I mentioned in my piece yesterday at Seeking Alpha was the recent big decline in oil prices. Please go read the piece, it puts a couple of pennies in my pocket! But in that article I referenced the decline in industrial production that was caused by the 2014-15 decline in gas prices. I wanted to follow up a little here.

In 2014 into early 2015, Oil prices declined by almost 75%, from a little under $110/barrel to a little under $30/barrel. Gas prices declined from close to $4/gallon to about $1.75/gallon:

The recent decline in oil and gas prices, while significant, is less than half of that.

Energy extraction is counted in the “mining” component of industrial production, but even the “manufacturing” component declined between the end of 2014 and mid-2016:


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Merry Christmas

Back down from the mountains where it was snowing yesterday, a silent beauty. Sitting in my daughter’s kitchen drinking a cup of Keurig manufactured coffee. The household is quiet as I think about the events of the last months and attempt to pen a few words.

Washington is still shut down and one man pouts. Thousands of people suffer the impact of a hurricane in Puerto Rico, floods in the South, and wild fires in California due to our impact upon the environment. Legislatures in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Michigan are still trying to steal an election from the voters. There is no peace amongst the peoples of this world and many live in poverty.

If this message finds you more fortunate than those around you or others in the world today, it is Christmas today and a time to give of yourselves in celebration of this day. Peace to you and family and I hope this note finds you good in health and prosperous.

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On the Front Lines of Climate Change: Old White Homeowners, Many of them Upper Class

On the Front Lines of Climate Change: Old White Homeowners, Many of them Upper Class

The other night I was sitting at home, locked in a conversation about climate change and race.  How is this a racial issue, I asked?  I realize that the society I live in has pervasive racism, and one should always keep this in mind, but how specifically is climate change worse for nonwhites?

Well, it’s all about first and worst impacts, I was told.  People of color are on the front lines.  They are the one experiencing the most severe consequences, and therefore failure to act against climate change is environmental racism.  The key example is Hurricane Katrina.  That was an early impact of global warming, and what was it if it wasn’t a racist horror show?  Whose houses were flooded?  Who was forced to flee the city?  Who were gunned down by police and blocked by white vigilantes along the way?  Whaddyamean climate change isn’t about racism?

OK, I replied.  I understand the racial geography of New Orleans, and the aftermath of Katrina was every bit the nightmare you say it was.  But what about the recent Camp Fire in California?  That was an early impact of climate change too, and lots of people were killed.  Even more lost everything they had.  But from what I could see in the coverage of it, most of the folks out there were white working people or retirees who were priced out of the Bay Area.  I guess that makes the vanguard of the movement against climate change a bunch of older white dudes.

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Paul Ryan wouldn’t recognize a free market if one bit him

(Dan here…lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

Paul Ryan wouldn’t recognize a free market if one bit him

Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis wrote an excellent retrospective on the career of Paul Ryan‘He was the future of the party’: Ryan’s farewell triggers debate about his legacy

They are quite harsh, but not, I think, quite harsh enough.

My comment:

This is an excellent article. Tough but fair with no sugar coating but also no discourtesy. However, there is one clear error. Costa and DeBonis wrote ” to apply free-market principles to create opportunities in impoverished communities. The tax bill included a provision creating low-tax “opportunity zones,””

Establishing opportunity zones might be good policy, but such zones are completely inconsistent with free market principles. The idea is to tilt the playinf field in order to favor the poor. The free market principle utterly rejected by advocates of opportunity zones is that the government shouldn’t play favorites and should leave market incentives unaffected except as absolutely necessary to raise funds for necessary purposes.

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The Fed scrapes Scylla after careening into Charybdis

by New Deal democrat

The Fed scrapes Scylla after careening into Charybdis

In the past several years, I have described the Fed as trying to steer in between the Scylla of a yield curve inversion and the Charybdis of higher rates wounding the housing market.Recently several trends have reversed. This offers some relief to housing, but more risks to the economy as a whole. This post is Up at Seeking Alpha.

By the way, several times yesterday and today, the yield curve inversion has spread to the one year vs. five year yield.

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November housing permits boosted by multifamily dwellings

November housing permits boosted by multifamily dwellings

November was a *relatively* good month for housing permits, as in, improved *relative* to most of this year, although not at the heights of last winter.

Most importantly, the least volatile number, single family permits, was flat compared with last month, and down -2% from a year ago:

There’s no change of trend here.


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