Tuesday, March 14, 2017

CBO and GOPcare, Russia Hysteria, and More


So the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring on Trumpcare / GOPcare / call it what you will is out now.  And lordy.

For those obsessed with balancing our budget - a group that most certainly does not include yours truly - the good news is that the CBO estimates that eliminating Obamacare would save about $337 billion from the federal budget annually.  That's a hefty chunk of change!

However, the CBO also estimates that 24 million people will lose their insurance in less than a decade under the plan.  17 million of those would come from Medicaid alone.

Naturally the Trump administration - not just another standard GOP administration, no seriously, it's a brand new thing that defies conventional politics we swear - wasted no time in attacking the CBO for its estimate.  This is funny stuff, given that Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, was a big fan of the appointment of Keith Hall to the head the CBO just recently.  In fact a hefty stink was made about getting a sufficiently conservative voice to head the CBO.  Well, here he is, and he has spoken!

CBO numbers aren't perfect, but they're as good as anything else we've got in the way of economic predictions.  Attacking inconvenient numbers is standard politicking.  Wasn't the point of Donald Trump that he was so rich he could afford to stand above standing politicking?

(Here's a fun article on CBO head Keith Hall, not exactly a tree-hugging Marxist, if you've got the time.)

Aside from 24 million or so people losing their health insurance - let's assume for the sake or argument that we don't care if these folks live or die - what impact will Obamacare repeal have on our economy?

I'm frustrated by my ability to find concrete numbers on how this large pool of newly-uninsured would impact GDP.  It's such a consequential issue, you'd think a good estimate would be out there.  Who knows - maybe nothing bad will happen (beyond tens of millions losing their ability to pay for medical care).  That said, rising bĂȘte noire of the good-times-are-here-again crowd Janet Yellen implies, in her Fed-ish way, that GOPcare could be bad news indeed (emphases added mine):

[Yellen] continued, "Healthcare, as you mentioned, does account for a very significant share of spending and a loss of access to health insurance could have a significant impact on spending of households for other goods and services. Beyond healthcare itself, it could have impacts on the economy."

Over the past two years, healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP increased at a level usually seen during recessions according to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, and out of pocket costs for Americans have been climbing at a rapid pace.

While this shift may already be restricting discretionary spending, as Yellen notes, a sudden loss of insurance could cause households to shift even more household spending away from discretionary goods and services and towards healthcare.

Yellen went on to say that the increase in health coverage and access to insurance under the ACA has helped improve the labor market.

"In addition, access to healthcare for some individuals has likely increased their mobility and diminished the phenomenon called job lock where people are afraid to leave jobs because of losing health insurance and that could have implications for the labor market as well that we would try to evaluate," said Yellen.

Could Obamacare repeal push us into recession?  It wouldn't be that crazy.  With the current stock market perhaps resembling dot-com mania, it might not take much to provoke a crash.  Certainly throwing 24 million consumers off their health insurance might well just do the trick.


I finally got around to reading the New Yorker piece on Russia and the 2016 election, and lord almighty, people, what are you upset about.  I have a very strong feeling that very few people actually read this article.  They probably just saw the fabulous, and scary, art associated with it and jumped to one of two conclusions: (1) Russia is the mastermind behind the Trump victory and the Trump administration are mere puppets in Putin's hands; or (2) Russia hysteria is an artifact of the CIA era and everything about it is 100% without merit.

It's actually not that inflammatory an article.  It contains no information you shouldn't already know if you follow Russia or cyber-warfare with even a passing interest.  Vladimir Putin has a hard-on for restoring the boundaries of the USSR and feels no compunction about screwing around in our election. He did screw around in our election; Russian tampering was not the decisive factor in Trump's victory, nor even a very substantial factor.

Glenn Greenwald has a response to the whole thing that I basically agree with, and yet which manages to be utterly breathless nonetheless.  He takes the New Yorker to task for hyping a Russian threat in a way that distracts from more substantive, at-home issues, yet the New Yorker article itself raises this very point, as Greenwald concedes. 

The whole genre is extremely obnoxious.  Russia is a scuzzy dictatorship that messed around in our election to no avail.  We are chummy with scummy dictators ourselves and have ourselves screwed around in Russia's elections.  Neither Russia's electoral screwing around nor our electoral screwing around had much of an impact either way.  Save your breath for real controversies.  That's my verdict.


Democrats are a bunch of feckless cowards.  We should reward these people with our ongoing political loyalty... why?

Here's a really excellent piece of war journalism if that floats your boat.

At some point soon, we need to talk about THAAD, the missile system that very few people seem to want.

See you soon!

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