“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.
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New York Times Editorial Board: The Risks of Hospital Mergers
In retrospect, it looks as if Massachusetts made a serious mistake in 1994 when it let its two most prestigious (and costly) hospitals – Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both affiliated with Harvard – merge into a single system known as Partners HealthCare. Investigations by the state attorney general’s office have documented that the merger gave the hospitals enormous market leverage to drive up health care costs in the Boston area by demanding high reimbursements from insurers that were unrelated to the quality or complexity of care delivered.
Now, belatedly, Attorney General Martha Coakley is trying to rein in the hospitals with a negotiated agreement that would at least slow the increases in Partners’ prices and limit the number of physician practices it can gobble up, albeit only temporarily.
The experience in Massachusetts offers a cautionary tale to other states about the risks of big hospital mergers and the limits of antitrust law as a tool to break up a powerful market-dominating system once it is entrenched.
Paul Krugman: Beliefs, Facts and Money
Conservative Delusions About Inflation
On Sunday The Times published an article by the political scientist Brendan Nyhan about a troubling aspect of the current American scene – the stark partisan divide over issues that should be simply factual, like whether the planet is warming or evolution happened. It’s common to attribute such divisions to ignorance, but as Mr. Nyhan points out, the divide is actually worse among those who are seemingly better informed about the issues.
The problem, in other words, isn’t ignorance; it’s wishful thinking. Confronted with a conflict between evidence and what they want to believe for political and/or religious reasons, many people reject the evidence. And knowing more about the issues widens the divide, because the well informed have a clearer view of which evidence they need to reject to sustain their belief system.
As you might guess, after reading Mr. Nyhan I found myself thinking about the similar state of affairs when it comes to economics, monetary economics in particular.
When you consider what has been happening to the average working person since the era of Ronald Reagan, it’s amazing that the Republicans have fought the Democrats about to a draw.
The recipe of Reagan and both Bushes has been to weaken government, undermine the regulation of market excesses, attack core social insurance programs, tilt the tax system away from the wealthy and towards the middle class, gut the safeguards that protect workers on the job, make college ever more unaffordable, and appoint judges who undermine democracy itself. ]..]
Between the Reagan presidency and 2008, average economic performance was only so-so and the rich got nearly all the gains, the exception being the middle and late 1990s under Bill Clinton. The economy, you’ll recall, crashed on the watch of George W. Bush, as the result of conservative policies that liberated Wall Street to have its way with the rest of the economy.
So, why is there not a groundswell of support for Democrats? Why don’t people grasp their own economic interests?
Dozens of big U.S. corporations are considering leaving the United States in order to reduce their tax bills.
But they’ll be leaving the country only on paper. They’ll still do as much business in the U.S. as they were doing before.
The only difference is they’ll no longer be “American,” and won’t have to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they make.
Okay. But if they’re no longer American citizens, they should no longer be able to spend a penny influencing American politics.
Some background: We’ve been hearing for years from CEOs that American corporations are suffering under a larger tax burden than their foreign competitors. This is mostly rubbish.
It’s true that the official corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent, including state and local taxes, is the highest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
But the effective rate — what corporations actually pay after all deductions, tax credits, and other maneuvers — is far lower.