Daily Archive: 10/21/2013

Oct 21 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting thea Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Lousy Medicaid Arguments

[..]Last year’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act did strike down one provision, the one that would have forced all states to accept an expansion of Medicaid, the already-existing program of health insurance for the poor. States are now free to reject that expansion. Yet how can states justify turning down a federal offer to insure thousands of their citizens, one that would cost them nothing in the first year and only trivial amounts later? Sheer spite – the desire to sabotage anything with President Obama’s name on it – is the real reason, but doesn’t sound too good. So they need intellectual cover.

Enter the same experts, more or less, who warned about rate shock, to declare that Medicaid actually hurts its recipients. Their evidence? Medicaid patients tend to be sicker than the uninsured, and slower to recover from surgery.  [..]

And the reliance on such arguments is itself deeply revealing, because it illustrates the right’s intellectual decline. I mean, this is the best argument their so-called experts can come up with for their policy priorities?

Meanwhile, many states are still planning to reject the Medicaid expansion, denying essential health care to millions of needy Americans. And they have no good excuse for this act of cruelty.

Robert Kuttner: Billionaires Against Social Security

America’s very rich keep trying to start a movement among college students to blame senior citizens for the sorry state of the economy that kids will inherit. Specifically, the billionaires keep trying to scapegoat Social Security.

This is part of the public relations effort to create a “grand bargain” to cut America’s (fast-declining) budget deficit. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation has spent about a billion dollars of Peterson’s own money to create faux movements to get students to take up this unlikely cause.

The latest of the billionaires to try this gambit is Stanley Druckenmiller, net worth estimated at $2.9 billion, former head of the hedge fund Duquesne Capital. Druckenmiller’s personal campus crusade has been the subject of two fawning profiles, one by Tom Friedman in Wednesday’s Times, the other by James Freeman in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal.

Druckenmiller’s campus crusade is based on such preposterous economics that I hereby challenge him to a college debate or series of debates.

Dean Baker: Post Granny Bashers Are Whining for J.P. Morgan

You’ve got to love those Washington Post folks. They continuously use both their news and editorial sections to push for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and disability insurance, running roughshod over journalistic standards and data. But when it comes to the Wall Street boys, they just can’t help but to tear at our heart strings.

Last week the Post ran an editorial bemoaning the “political persecution” of J.P. Morgan. It complained that the government was pursuing a civil case against J.P. Morgan for misrepresenting mortgage backed securities it sold to investors during the housing bubble years:

Yet roughly 70 percent of the securities at issue were concocted not by JPMorgan but by two institutions, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, that it acquired in 2008.

There are two points worth making on this. First, if 70 percent of the securities came from Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, then 30 percent came from J.P. Morgan. This means that it could have been involved in misrepresenting tens of billions of dollars in mortgage backed securities sold to investors. We have young men sitting in jail for stealing cars worth a few thousand dollars, but the Post thinks that Wall Street bankers should get a pass on fraudulently passing off tens of billions in bad mortgage backed securities.

Jared Bernstein: What’s Wrong With America?

Reflecting on the recent shutdown/debt ceiling debacle, the resolution of which is only a few months’ respite until the same self-imposed deadlines reappear, you’ve got to wonder: what’s wrong with America? [..]

Imagine a platform based not on deficit reduction but on the realization that lots more people need jobs that pay living wages, which means higher minimum wages, work supports, manufacturing/trade policy, full employment fiscal and monetary policy, direct job creation, and work sharing. BTW, that’s not an expensive agenda (the only new cost would be direct job creation, and I’ve got a pretty cheap model in mind; good fiscal policy is a cyclical cost — not saying it pays for itself, but in terms of lost output, it’s expensive not to do it).

OK, enough blue-skying on a beautiful blue-sky, autumn day. All I’m saying is: I can easily see why the world is deeply nervous about where America is and where we’re headed. But I’m not convinced our electorate is so polarized that we can’t change course. We’ve just got to give people a better choice.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Hope that governance will return to Washington

“Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.”

It was the early 20th-century socialist Eugene V. Debs who pointed to the utility of this extra Beatitude. You don’t have to be a lefty to appreciate its relevance to our politics after the shutdown disaster.

Cynicism about the political future is a default position with a great deal of evidence behind it. We seem incapable of reaching compromises or even finding ways to differ productively. Even elections don’t seem to settle things.

Against this grain, I suggest that we allow ourselves a margin of hope in the wake of the decisive defeat of the extremists who closed down the government to accomplish absolutely nothing. It is a hope tempered by humility. Giant leaps ahead aren’t in the cards. But some important things changed for the better because of this battle.

Joe Conason: Peterson Study: Tea Party Extremism Cost Millions of Jobs, Risks Millions More

If Americans learn anything from this month’s shutdown-and-debt-ceiling debacle, they ought to realize that political extremism brings real costs-denominated in dollars and jobs, as well as national cohesion and prestige-and that those costs are not small. As long as the tea party faction continues to wield its malign influence over the Republican leadership in Congress, the threat of further and even worse damage will not subside. [..]

Only a dwindling fraction of voters is still mesmerized by such demagogic nonsense, but their anger intimidates enough Republicans to ensure that Cruz and company can seek to sabotage the economy again-and they will. So it is vital for everyone to understand what these vandals have inflicted on us already.

Oct 21 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Blue Clowns in Bondage

Theatre Bizarre - Scaredy Cat Club by Patricia Drury

It’s Intermission here under the Beltway Bigtop.  The house lights are back on, the Clowns are taking a brief break and the Audience is taking the opportunity to catch their breath after the remarkable performance that they’ve just been witness to as the red clowns and blue clowns faced off in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow.

For the past several days the blue clowns have been celebrating their big (temporary) win.  Audience polls have shown that the audience holds the red clowns responsible for the clown war that left the lights turned off at the Bigtop for 16 days. Despite the audience’s sentiments, the blue clowns’ big win may not be worth getting too worked up about:

Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.

Surrender? Any more “victories” like this and Democrats will end up paying tribute into the GOP’s coffers.

Speaking of surrender, the blue clowns’ “idea guys” in the Bigtop Office of Promotions are hot on a way for the blue clowns to “win” the next round, too…

Ezra Klein: Democrats Should Return To Being Wimps Quickly

No matter which deal ultimately resolves the U.S. government shutdown, it’s almost certain to include a new bicameral budget commission. This will be the eighth major budget commission since 2010. Until now, every single one of them has failed for the same reason: taxes. And if nothing changes, this one will fail too.

But something should change: Democrats should admit the obvious. For the time being, they’ve lost on taxes. And you know what? That’s OK. At least, it could be, if they were willing to admit it and smartly negotiate the terms of their surrender.

Then, the Ringmaster delivered a speech to celebrate the end of the shutdown and decided to blame bloggers for the trouble:

You cannot make this stuff up.

Obama gave his usual adult talking to the children, meaning American citizens, type of speech to mark the cease-fire in the budget battle so that the two sides can work out a peace accord. Of course, it goes without saying that both sides keenly want a pact that will inflict cuts on middle and low-income Americans while only imposing at most token costs on the wealthy, and in particular, secure the prize that the leadership of both parties keenly desire, namely, cuts in Medicare and Social Security, dressed up as “reforms”.

“And now that the government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.”

Oct 21 2013

On This Day In History October 21

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 21 is the 294th day of the year (295th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 71 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, On this day in 1959, on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, thousands of people line up outside a bizarrely shaped white concrete building that resembled a giant upside-down cupcake. It was opening day at the new Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the world’s top collections of contemporary art.

Guided by his art adviser, the German painter Hilla Rebay, Solomon Guggenheim began to collect works by nonobjective artists in 1929. (For Rebay, the word “nonobjective” signified the spiritual dimensions of pure abstraction.) Guggenheim first began to show his work from his apartment, and as the collection grew, he established The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1937. Guggenheim and Rebay opened the foundation for the “promotion and encouragement and education in art and the enlightenment of the public.” Chartered by the Board of Regents of New York State, the Foundation was endowed to operate one or more museums; Solomon Guggenheim was elected its first President and Rebay its Director.

In 1939, the Guggenheim Foundation’s first museum, “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting”, opened in rented quarters at 24 East Fifty-Fourth Street in New York and showcased art by early modernists such as Rudolf Bauer, Hilla Rebay, Wassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian. During the life of Guggenheim’s first museum, Guggenheim continued to add to his collection, acquiring paintings by Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Leger, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. The collection quickly outgrew its original space, so in 1943, Rebay and Guggenheim wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright pleading him to design a permanent structure for the collection. It took Wright 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings to create the museum. While Wright was designing the museum Rebay was searching for sites where the museum would reside. Where the museum now stands was its original chosen site by Rebay which is at the corners of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue (overlooking Central Park). On October 21, 1959, ten years after the death of Solomon Guggenheim and six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright the Museum opened its doors for the first time to the general public.

The distinctive building, Wright’s last major work, instantly polarized architecture critics upon completion, though today it is widely revered. From the street, the building looks approximately like a white ribbon curled into a cylindrical stack, slightly wider at the top than the bottom. Its appearance is in sharp contrast to the more typically boxy Manhattan buildings that surround it, a fact relished by Wright who claimed that his museum would make the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art “look like a Protestant barn.”

Internally, the viewing gallery forms a gentle helical spiral from the main level up to the top of the building. Paintings are displayed along the walls of the spiral and also in exhibition space found at annex levels along the way.

Most of the criticism of the building has focused on the idea that it overshadows the artworks displayed within, and that it is particularly difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow windowless exhibition niches that surround the central spiral. Although the rotunda is generously lit by a large skylight, the niches are heavily shadowed by the walkway itself, leaving the art to be lit largely by artificial light. The walls of the niches are neither vertical nor flat (most are gently concave), meaning that canvasses must be mounted proud of the wall’s surface. The limited space within the niches means that sculptures are generally relegated to plinths amid the main spiral walkway itself. Prior to its opening, twenty-one artists, including Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, signed a letter protesting the display of their work in such a space.

Oct 21 2013

Sunday Train: A Train Running A Profit is Charging Too Much

This is a repeat of a Sunday Train that originally ran on 24 January 2010

Note that the statement is abbreviated for the title. The full statement is, a common carrier like a train, bus, or plane that running a profit based on passenger revenue while paying its full operating and capital cost is charging too much for its tickets.

The radical abbreviation of the title is in part because of the radical abbreviation of the lie that is commonly used as a frame. The lie is that a common carrier like a train, bus or plane that is paying for its full operating and capital costs out of passenger revenue ought to run a profit, commonly expressed as a charge of, “SERVICE_XYZ is losing money, it needs to be reformed!“, which assumes that Service_XYZ is supposed to be making a profit.

And, of course, in the sense described above, if its a common carrier transport service, of course it shouldn’t be making a profit. And further, if under the above conditions, if its making a profit, you’re doing it wrong. In the sense given above, PROFIT=FAIL.

This is problematic under our economic system, because under our economic system, running a profit on the full cost of production normally means that you are free to continue without substantial outside interference, while not making a profit implies that you have to go cap in hand begging for money to operate. So if the main assertion is correct, we have a situation where you can be doing it wrong, and be free to continue, or be doing it right, and have to constantly beg for permission to continue doing it right.