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Belmont Club

Three Charts Plus One

January 8th, 2014 - 2:17 pm

Jonathan Chait is waiting for the Republicans to manufacture another “fake” crisis to put Obamacare back in the news again. For bad as the rollout was the media has moved the narrative along and he expects that the outrage will soon fade to be replaced by the inevitable acceptance. The progressive machine notches up another “gain” and it is onto the next. Writing in New York Magazine Chait says:

Something is going to happen to put Obamacare back on the front page again. In the meantime, it’s become awfully quiet, humming along like other government programs. That’s good news — blunders and controversy tend to make news, while normality doesn’t. Sarah Kliff graphs the drop-off in news coverage. …

My theory is that Republicans won’t accept this turn of events, but rather will increasingly come to regard Obamacare less and less as an incipient catastrophe for Democrats, and increasingly as an infuriating coup

Here’s Kliff’s chart mapping news stories on Obamacare against time. As you can see, bad news about the website is fading from the public eye.

The Coup is Already Being Accepted

The Coup is Already Being Accepted

However Chait’s analysis ignores the fact that the Obamacare site failure will be driven from the news by other scandals, not in the least by shortcomings in the economics and business model of Obamacare itself.  It’s true the world moves on. Benghazi was overshawdowed by the IRS, which in turn gave way to the AP wiretaps, Snowden’s theft of NSA documents, the debacle Syria and most recently by Robert Gate’s revelations about Obama’s callous performance as a commander in chief — just to name the major ones. But one theme unites them. They are all screwups associated with the Obama administration.  Here’s a chart that Chait may like less than Kliff’s from Gallup, showing the inexorable decline of president Obama in the polls.

Losing the War

Losing the War

That’s the chart that matters. A losing general “forgets” about the last battle he lost because he’s losing another one today.  That doesn’t mean he’s winning the campaign. On the contrary, here’s Charles Minard’s  classic graph which illustrates the the progress of Napoleon’s Grand Army during the Russian Campaign.

Attaque à outrance

Attaque à outrance

The width of the line is the remaining size of Napoleon’s remaining troops. The Grand Armee “moved on” but that did it no good. It was still annihilated by the time it got back to where it began.

When President Obama started his term the Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency. He made soaring promises about ending the war on terror where it began; pledged to reach out to Muslims and make America loved. He was going to bring a new era of prosperity to the country.  And now he’s reduced to hoping that some scandal will displace Obamacare from the headlines. If this is victory, what does defeat look like?

One of the reasons for his lack of success has been the tendency by the liberal echo chamber (often compensated for by similar wishful thinking among conservatives) to misunderstand the real effects of wasting money, trust and strength. There is a strange assumption even among intelligent men like Paul Krugman that if more resources are required the Fed just prints it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Everywhere one looks, disaster impends. Worse, he’s frittering away his design margin. At each crisis he starts from a lower base of money, credibility and legitimacy.

Obama’s policies are destroying the human capital base of America with long term unemployment and a debased educational system. It is spending money on WPA-type makework schemes that produce nothing of value; that only redistributes a declining amount. It is giving up one valuable position after the other in the Middle East which may in the end have to be retaken from necessity. And it is doing this with the adolescent fecklessness of a someone who imagines he has all the time and all the stash in the world in which to succeed.

And what’s the answer past 2016? Hillary. WLSAM runs this headline “Ready for Hillary, Ready for Cash”. And why is this going to work? Because by then the voters will have “moved on past Obama” and onto Hillary. You can run Kliff’s chart again here.

By drawing up irrelevant charts they can imagine themselves to be winning even when they are losing. The end, when it comes, will be seen as another “fake” Republican scandal. And then the wave will overwhelm them. Though the mills of God grind slowly; yet they grind exceeding small.

But here’s a fourth chart, which suggests that game itself is changing. Opposition to the administration’s policies is no longer driving voters exclusively to the Other Party. It is driving them to rebellion against Washington. The world of the media news cycle no longer describes a stable environment.

The game itself is changing

The game itself is changing

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Top Rated Comments   
Chait is implying that drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat is a good thing if it allows the voters to "Move On." Chait will never blame Moe for drilling the hole. He is likely to respond to news that the boat is sinking by blaming the Republicans for hiding a drill in the boat's tool kit. He may even ready a plan to ban all unregistered drill bits. That'll fix it.

Given that we were only 26% of the way through January when chart #1 was produced it pushes a false interpretation. Any story will decline in space allotted but that does not mean that it is forgotten. Six months after Pearl Harbor how many stories were still focused on that event?

The Left habitually confuses Expenditures which become Consumption with Investments which produce future Assets. Napoleon burned through the Grand Army and got nothing for it. Obama has burned through Trillions of dollars and gotten a few stuffed ballot boxes.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
For years the Republicans have acted as the increasingly ineffectual Dr. Jekyll to the Democrat's Mr. Hyde. The job of the Republicans has been to function as the restraint of an increasingly unbridled pervert.

The GOP's role has been to drag the Democrats out of whorehouse after whorehouse, saloon after saloon, admonishing them when "that's too much, that's too much".

Yet each time Hyde returns and desiring stronger entertainments. At first it was just more taxes. Then it was "why I can't print money, what can't I just take the pensions?" The same with sex and a lust after foreign, exotic ideologies.

Restraint after restraint fell. As in the story the political Jekyll finds he is losing control over Mr. Hyde. The Democrats who once tolerated the Republicans as their morning after, sober self have finally grown impatient with their ineffectual, sobbing other half, with the guy who says "never again" but doesn't mean it. With the guy who quotes the Bible but never has the guts to actually fight for it.

At first they must have secretly valued the Republicans, who cleaned up between their binges, fixing things up and making ready essentially, for the next episode. But now they're just tired of them. They are just in the way.

The GOP was never something distinct from the Dems. It was the party of friction in Washington, only slowing the inevitable never charting another course. It met every expansion, every initiative, every new impulse for a new thrill with the phrase "not too much, not too much".

In the story Hyde loses the ability to change back into Jekyll. And that is where we are now. Obama is Mr. Hyde and this time he won't let go. Today Hyde has busted into the liquor store and roaring on the floor drunk. Now the onlookers realize that the choice is no longer between Jekyll/Hyde, but something else altogether.

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14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>>My theory is that Republicans won’t accept this turn of events, but rather will increasingly come to regard Obamacare less and less as an incipient catastrophe for Democrats, and increasingly as an infuriating coup<<<

Republicans, at least the Institutional kind, really do not care about Obamacare. At least not enough to either oppose it or use it effectively against Democrats. Conservatives and the TEA Party will, over the objections of the Institutionals.

That said, disaster does impend. From multiple directions; internally and externally. And the natural reaction of a tyrant to such difficulties, created or imposed, is to seek more direct control and power. On an emergency basis, and purely temporarily, of course. Something along the line of a "Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Nation" that would let him deal with the crisis cleanly and efficiently, without the interference of bureaucracy, politicians, or courts. Kind of like he tries to do now.

Of course, anyone who objects will be a "wrecker" and a "saboteur", and an "agent of our enemies". And have to be dealt with expeditiously and without interference.

Selbsverstandlich, ja!

or perhaps


Subotai Bahadur
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (44)
All Comments   (44)
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The plain fact is that the healthcare sector is based on a series of measures, called the Current Procedural Terminology or CPT manual. The manual is privately owned and carries a hefty royalty which is why it is exceedingly difficult to price shop for medical procedures. This is entirely Congress' fault because they mandate the CPT but do not pay for it, but tell the AMA (which owns rights to it) to collect their money in royalties instead of as a government contract to maintain the standard.

Were we to make the CPT a public document, you would very quickly have price comparison apps available because we would no longer have to pay $14.50 per viewer and people would assemble pricing much like they assemble gas station prices (which is actually a harder job).

Get those pricing guides out and people will flock to low price providers and quickly find out when it's cheaper to pay cash than to use your insurance. Fun fact, a few chain drugstores including Walmart and Target offer a number of common medications at cash prices cheaper than most insurance co-pays. But if you present your insurance to pay for them, you'll pay the higher co-pay.

This will not fix all that ails US medicine, but will fix a surprisingly large amount of it. The cost to do so is relatively minor and making the CPT a public document under Congress' power to set weights and measures has no ideological opposition. It does not happen because telling the truth about what costs how much gives the game away and so the frightened defenders of the status quo kill it softly so that it never publicly comes up as a serious topic for reform.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well well, the IT project I quit in disgust two weeks ago has just today been entirely shut down, declared a total loss after $20m development (sic).

The failure was baked in from day one, blind dog could see it from across the field, but so MANY such projects are such failures that most of the participants, not bad people in any conventional sense, just considered it all SOP.

And maybe they are right, and this IS the standard operating procedure for our times. This is the age of Sturgeon's Law: 80% of everything is crap.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
David theLast said:

"The Debt Service overhang will also hamper economic growth, because if growth really picks up (which it has for the last two quarters) then the natural impetus is to raise the prime rate to defend against inflation, making capital incrementally more expensive."

It's heads I win, tails you lose.

One of the Federal Government's major expenses is servicing its huge existing debt. If the economy picks up, then interests rates increase due to inflation and the cost of servicing that debt increases. Also there is the elephant in the room, i.e. the trillions printed by the Fed as Quantitative Easing (which the Fed is still doing at $75 billion/month). How do they make that debt go away? Are they going to monetize it? Say hello to hyperinflation if they monetize.

Finally I do not share the Pollyanna optimism about fracking tight oil. It's doing good things right now but I suspect it's a "flash in the pan". Download the following:

Look at "daily oil per well". The numbers peaked in June 2012 at 144 bbls.. Look at the huge increase in the number of wells producing, (currently at 6643 wells). The Bakken oil field had one well in February 1954 with a daily oil production per well of 274 bbls. Through fracking, they're sucking oil out of the ground as fast as the Laws of Physics will allow and the per well production rate is dropping as a consequence. That's the makings of a "flash in the pan".
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leftist minions of the MSM like Jonathan Chait, Kevin Drum, Paul Krugman, etc. are bad guys. The nation is afflicted with Obama because of these people.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I run a small business. Because the ACA roll out was so screwed up, our health insurance was given an extension through 2014.

The preliminary estimated cost for a comparable ACA option in 2015 will be 20 percent higher than our cost now.

What happens in the name this piece of crap legislation when the affordable part comes under scrutiny next year as businesses have to deal with higher "affordable" health care costs?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Old Salt: "Again, all that awaits is the proper catalyst, an event or events that pushes conservative leaders out of the GOP once and for all, and gives the conservative majority of Americans a reason to come to the polls."

Agreed. And then? During the glory days of the Contract with America, significant numbers of State Democrats switched to the Republican label, when it looked like Republicans were winning. A successful challenge to the Institutional Repubicans would soon be in great danger of being swamped by label-changing RINOs.

The need is for a committed group of citizens to win control of FedGov under the current rules -- and then change the rules permanently so that FedGov becomes much less dominant. They have to reach the Crack of Doom, and then refuse to put on the One Ring.

It happened once before in the late 18th Century on the fringes of a forbidding continent. Could it happen again? Does God still love America? The last time, it took years of war and a large proportion of the population of the colonies up & leaving before the good guys won. Tough love!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rep. Diane Black: Obamacare Is A 'Hacker's Dream':

"On December 1, the Obama Administration sought to reassure Americans
about the technological problems that plagued the Obamacare rollout,
announcing that would now be operating at “private sector
velocity and effectiveness.” While it’s somewhat admirable for this
administration to seek to emulate the private sector, the dangerous reality is
that when it comes to protecting Americans’ personal information from data
breaches and hacks, the federal exchange is not playing by the same rules
as private businesses."


14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only a narrative can trump a narrative.

William Buckley famously spoke of, "standing athwart history, yelling Stop".

There is too much of that sentiment in the current GOP. And it simply will not do. For one thing, yelling Stop isn't much of a narrative. For another, the image of "standing athwart history" sounds rather futile, like King Canute attempting to command the ocean tides. And it implicitly concedes to Statism the power of historical inevitability.

The narrative(s) to combat Statism is lying in plain sight.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — THAT TO SECURE THESE RIGHTS, GOVERNMENTS ARE INSTITUTED AMONG MEN"

A future of Liberty & Prosperity is better than our current course towards Statism and Misery

Decentralization (federalism) - 50 laboratories of democracy leading to a bright future instead of the crushing conformity and inevitable decline resulting from an all-powerful central government.

fracking/Keystone - school choice - healthcare compact (

W's Jekyll/Hyde analysis is on target. We need something radically different than Dr. Jekyll - a political movement that will pick up and wield the narratives that have the power to defeat Statism.

(And of course, the willingness to confront MSM, not grant it even one ounce of legitimacy.)
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
radag brown--
Admittedly just quibbling here, a bit, but Buckley's wording re. history was a reference to the Hegelian/Marxist belief in history as an impersonal, objective, inevitably progressive unfolding force. He was being obliquely specific that what needed stopping was the Reds. FWIW, I agree with you entirely re. MSM. I was listening to Rush this afternoon and he brought up that bullsh1t NYT whitewash of Benghazi, and I found myself pounding the steering wheel. Journalists who can't stick to the facts are as worthless a Marine who's afraid of his rifle.

I've been voting Republican for the last 22 years. I stopped giving them money last year; and threw away unopened, the 2014 membership card/re-up reminder that arrived this week. I'll still vote R, to deny the Leftists a vote, but I'm waiting for a Constitutionalist party. I think it's a simple question of competence. If you fail in business or war, you get fired. They failed big time in 2012, so...
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Old Salt - FWIW, your analysis of the GOP is striking a chord with me. My wife and I have been members of the party in SE Wisc. for a number of years. Not super activists, but attending meetings and events, writing modest checks to candidates, etc.

While still going thru the motions, my heart isn't in it anymore. If the GOP fractures, it will only take me about one NY minute to sign on with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul faction. I hope that my Congressman, Paul Ryan, and GOP Sen. Ron Johnson will do the same.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Iraq's ambassador Lukman Faily has some interesting things to say...

"The ambassador suggested that Washington’s indifference toward Iraq may date to the 2011 decision for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops. Some on Capitol Hill believe the move was fueled as much by U.S. politics as it was by Iraqi desires to claim a sense of sovereignty after nearly a decade of American military intervention.

“You have a reflection of, should we have left or should we have not left at the end of 2011,” Mr. Faily said. “To me, in our analysis of that, the abruptness of the U.S. forces leaving, versus our own Iraqi desire to have sovereignty, what we are seeing now is the immediate aftermath of those two things — in which there was no clarity to the day-after scenario.”

“It’s not a matter of blame. It’s a matter of short-termism arriving over the national strategic interests of the countries,” he said. “For example, the U.S. forces left, but by the time they left, we had no air force. And then we were blamed [by Washington], why the Syrian overflights took place. We had no air force, we can’t force a plane down. And now we’re asking for F-16s, and the U.S. says, why do you need F-16s?”

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14 weeks ago
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