Ben Domenech reports that the CBO has been cooking the books on ♡bamaCare!!! cost projections:
Here’s a link to all of CBO’s long term outlook reports. The 2014 long-term outlook included a little-noticed section labeled “Changes in Assumptions Incorporated in the Extended Alternative Fiscal Scenario” on page 117-8 of Appendix B of its report. It reads (emphasis added):
“Under its extended alternative fiscal scenario last year, CBO assumed that lawmakers would not allow various restraints on the growth of Medicare costs and health insurance subsidies to exert their full effect after the first 10 years of the projection period. However, this year, after reassessing the uncertainties involved, CBO no longer projects whether or when those restraints might wane. Instead, for those elements of the alternative fiscal scenario, there are now no differences from the extended baseline. For both, CBO projects that growth rates for Medicare costs will move linearly over 15 years (from 2024 to 2039) to the underlying rate that the agency has projected and that the exchange subsidies will do the same. (One exception to that new approach, though, concerns Medicare’s payment rates for physicians’ services. This year, as in previous years, projected spending under the alternative fiscal scenario reflects the assumption that those payment rates would be held constant at current levels rather than being cut by about a quarter at the beginning of 2015, as scheduled under current law.)”
Beyond that brief mention of the change in its assumptions, there is no other discussion of the rationale behind the exchange subsidy provision. How significant was this unnoticed change in CBO’s assumptions? According to a health care aide on Capitol Hill who has closely followed the scorekeeping of the law, analysis of the CBO data suggests that over the 75-year period, this change in assumptions lowers projected spending by about $6.2 trillion.
This is a pretty big change, to say the least, particularly one for which the CBO hasn’t given any justification at all.
Since when do government agencies have to justify their work?
Rather than argue against such silliness, I’ll simply remind you that in order to squash dissent, the Soviets used to declare non-lefties insane, then throw them into abusive mental institutions.
The methods change, become more humane even, but the intention remains the same: Remove those who disagree from the public debate.
Why did Bill Whittle cross the road?
To prove something about the other side.
It might be time soon for the bears to come out and play:
John Hussman is going where few market watchers are willing to venture: He’s calling the current trading environment a full-fledged bubble, one that is inflating to extreme proportions.
“Make no mistake – this is an equity bubble, and a highly advanced one,” the bearish portfolio manager wrote in his weekly commentary. “On the most historically reliable measures, it is easily beyond 1972 and 1987, beyond 1929 and 2007, and is now within about 15% of the 2000 extreme.”
The main difference between now and 2000, he says, is that bubble was “strikingly obvious in technology.” This one, he contends, is spread across many sectors. “That makes valuations for most stocks actually worse than in 2000,” he says.
How much money can we print and borrow, anyway?
A New York man who was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison for murder had his conviction overturned because his mother was forced to wait outside a courtroom during jury selection.
Daniel Floyd, 23, was tried and convicted for fatally shooting a rival during a dice game. The conviction was tossed on April 25, 2013, because Floyd’s lawyer complained that his client’s mother couldn’t find a seat in a courtroom that was packed with potential jurors, the New York Post reported.
“Defense counsel observed, ‘Certainly, as a public spectator, she has an absolute right to be present,’ ” the decision said. “This violation … requires a new trial.”
The Opportunity Mars Rover has just broken the record for most miles driven by any other-planet vehicle. But there’s kind of a catch — after ten years of off-roading on the Red Planet, Opportunity has gone a total of just 25.01 miles.
But that’s not bad for a rover that was only meant to last for 90 days while traveling maybe two-thirds of a mile.
Welcome to Deadbeat Nation:
More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.
These consumers fall behind on credit cards or hospital bills. Their mortgages, auto loans or student debt pile up, unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects, said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.
“Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections,” Ratcliffe said. “It can tip employers’ hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment.”
Remember, this is the level of indebtedness of a third of the nation as we enter our sixth year of recovery.
Ed Driscoll interviews Andrew McCarthy, author of Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.
It’s an interesting concept, and not just because impeachment is so rare. More than that, it’s important to establish the political narrative of this Administration’s historical lawlessness. But as a political move of course it simply can’t happen, not without a supermajority in the Senate and a substantial drop from the apparent bottom of Obama’s domestic political support.
Otherwise, impeachment appears to be little more than hyperpartisan lunacy, no matter how substantial the case against the President.
What to do after apparent Ukrainian Army successes against the pro-Russian rebels and the threat of serious EU sanction? Alec Luhn reports:
“He was the first to distance himself from the rebels, and the fact he said he is ready to put pressure on them is really a gesture,” Pavlovsky says. “We don’t know whether it will be fulfilled, but he’s showing he wants a diplomatic solution to the conflict.” Now Ukraine and the West must make concessions of their own to show they want to negotiate and allow Putin to compromise without losing face, Pavlovsky argues.
But those close to the Kremlin, such as Sergei Markov, the deputy head of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, don’t see Putin as compromising right now or in the future. Putin will continue his current strategy of helping the rebels, and not only out of fear for his approval rating, Markov says.
“Putin is not afraid to make harsh decisions,” Markov said. “More important for him than his rating is that he really thinks that the U.S. goal [in the Ukraine crisis] is to make Ukraine anti-Russian and start a war between Ukraine and Russia, engineer a coup, and bring to power its puppets, who will destroy Russia.”
The problem with predicting Putin’s reactions is that he seems to view an EU-oritented Ukraine as an existential threat. What might seem trivial to us might loom large in his mind, or vice versa. A Newsweek story from last week showed that Putin lives and works in a bubble, which only adds to the potential for blunders. So while I would expect him to back down after MH17, then crank things up again after passions have cooled… really, who knows? He might decide to throw the dice and get right back up in our faces.
New sanctions — this time targeting entire industrial sectors instead of just individual businesses — are reportedly on the way, which is the step that was impossible before MH17. Putin’s trick for now is to cooperate enough to avoid the worst sanctions, without letting the rebels get completely snuffed out. Unless, that is, the new sanctions turn out to be as laughable as the old sanctions. Europe has something of a history of announcing bold new moves in public while continuing to conduct business as usual in private. France for example has threatened to halt the sale of perhaps one of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers it’s selling to Moscow, but hasn’t actually done anything about it. Here’s how far the EU is willing to go after MH17:
In Brussels, diplomats said ambassadors from the 28-member European bloc agreed to restrictions on trade of equipment for the oil and defense sectors, and “dual use” technology with both defense and civilian purposes. Russia’s state run banks would be barred from raising funds in European capital markets. The measures would be reviewed in three months.
Just three months? That sure doesn’t look like Europe has suddenly developed an overabundance of spine. What that looks like to me is if Putin and his rebels cooperate enough for appearances sake, the sanctions could be lifted before the real cold sets in and Europe and Ukraine start shivering for Russia’s energy exports.
Even without sanctions, we have the power to bring down his regime or at least deal it a series of body blows, simply by getting serious about fracking and fully legalizing oil exports. As Will Collier noted a few years ago on this site, George W. Bush collapsed oil prices simply by announcing an increase in offshore drilling during a price spike. President Obama has it in his power to do something similar, but undercutting Putin in that way (not to mention cheap gas for you and me) would alienate his party’s green base.
So if Putin is held hostage by domestic politics, so is Obama — and we know which one of them is the wilier player.
hese debt levels will be driven by the benefit programs that account for more than three-fifths of federal spending. The annual trustees’ reports on Social Security and Medicare, released Monday, shows spending on those two programs continuing to soar as Baby Boomers retire.
Public trustee Charles Blahous warned that the ongoing refusal to fix Social Security means the program’s troubles are already worse than when the program was last bailed out, in 1983. Blahous said fixing Social Security’s shortfall would require either a 21% increase in payroll taxes or a 16.5% benefits cut for all beneficiaries, including current retirees.
Sorry, young people — but old people vote, and the vote for people who will be more than happy to raise your taxes to buy those votes.
Keith Johnson reports for Foreign Policy:
The militants who have conquered broad swaths of Iraq and Syria are turning to good old-fashioned crime — oil smuggling, in this case — to underwrite its main line of work. The money it can earn from illicit oil sales further bolsters the group’s status as one of the richest self-funded terrorist outfits in the world, dependent not on foreign governments for financial support but on the money its reaped from kidnappings and bank robberies. The group has also managed to steal expensive weaponry that the United States had left for the Iraqi military, freeing it from the need to spend its own money to buy such armaments.
But even the millions of dollars a day that the Islamic State seems to be raking in by trucking stolen oil across porous borders is not enough to meet the hefty obligations created by the group’s own headlong expansion. Taking over big chunks of territory, as in eastern Syria and in northern Iraq, could also leave it forced to take on the sorts of expensive obligations — such as paying salaries, collecting the trash, and keeping the lights on — usually reserved for governments.
The IS/Caliphate certainly faces growing pains in the months and years ahead, assuming it doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own rapid expansion. That said, Iraqis might put up with reduced services, provided the trade-off is for a cleaner government with less corruption. Such as usually been the promise of radical Islamist leaders, and they’ve usually delivered — if only long enough to entrench themselves.
In the meantime, the IS/Caliphate seems to have enough cash coming in to support their current objectives, which are to take Baghdad and to conquer even more oil-rich lands.
Washington is going to save you $150,000,000,000 a year! That’s right, $150 billion dollars! Here’s how:
Failing to adequately reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change could cost the United States economy $150 billion a year, according to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released on Tuesday.
The report is part of the White House’s effort to increase public support for President Obama’s climate-change agenda, chiefly an Environmental Protection Agency proposal targeting coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of planet-warming pollution. The E.P.A. will hold public hearings, which are expected to be heated, on the proposal this week in Washington, Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh.
The rule could lead to the shutdown of hundreds of power plants, a decline in domestic coal production, an increase in electricity rates and a fundamental transformation of the nation’s power supply.
I don’t mean to be a spoilsport, but I have a question: What will the shutdown of hundreds of power plants, reducing coal production, increasing our electricity rates, and fundamentally transforming our power supply going to cost us?
Answer: If you have to ask…
David Ignatius says Secretary of State John Kerry has made a “significant mistake” in a “misconceived” and undermined our “traditional allies” in his “shortsighted” effort to pursue a “short-term deal” with Hamas. To which I ask, tell us how you really think:
Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.
Ignatius hasn’t written a Rah Rah Israel piece, either — he also has critiques of Israel’s military and PR campaigns.
What’s left unsaid however is why Kerry would bolster Hamas at the expense of more moderate regimes in Egypt, the West Bank, and Jordan. It would seem to me to come down to either ego, ignorance, or malice. Or knowing John Kerry, all three.
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Those, according to President Ronald Reagan, are the nine most terrifying words in the English language. Well, Barack Obama did once say he wanted to be a transformational President like Reagan was, so here he is proving Reagan right once more:
Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.
Automatic renewal was supposed to make the next open-enrollment under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul smooth for consumers.
Just remember that Obama means well.
The paper’s editorial board came out in favor of recreational pot, but one of their reasons might astound you:
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
Curious that the board doesn’t see many (any?) other problems where federalism might be the least bad solution.
Eliana Johnson has the juicy bits:
The documents reveal the campaign’s most sensitive calculations. Much of the strategizing in the Georgia contest as is typical in southern politics, revolves around race. But the Nunn memos are incredibly unguarded. One is from Diane Feldman, a Democratic pollster and strategist who counts among her clients Minnesota senator Al Franken, South Carolina representative James Clyburn, and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Feldman, who did not return calls seeking comment, is frank in her characterization of the demographic groups — Jews, Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and gays — that are essential to a Democratic victory. The Nunn campaign declined to comment about the document on the record.
The campaign’s finance plan draws attention to the “tremendous financial opportunity” in the Jewish community and identifies Jews as key fundraisers. It notes, however, that “Michelle’s position on Israel will largely determine the level of support here.” That’s a position she has yet to articulate, and Israel goes unmentioned on her campaign website.
Asians are also identified as key fundraisers. The community is described as “very tight,” one in which people work to “become citizens quickly.” Nunn’s strategists also say there is a “huge opportunity” to raise money from gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, who are described as having “substantial resources.”
Sigh, Democrats — it’s always about money with those people.
George Will introduces you to California Governor Jerry Brown’s GOP opponent:
He relishes “turning upside down” the parties’ stereotypes. The Democratic candidate, 76-year-old Gov. Jerry Brown, is “the old white guy.” Kashkari, the 40-year-old son of Indian immigrants, was born in 1973, the year before Brown was first elected governor. Brown is a child of the establishment — his father Pat, California’s 32nd governor, was defeated in 1966 by Ronald Reagan. Jerry Brown, California’s 34th and 39th governor, is a government lifer, having been secretary of state, attorney general and Oakland’s mayor when not unsuccessfully seeking a U.S. Senate seat and the presidency (three times).
Kashkari prospered in the private sector, a place as foreign to Brown as Mongolia. Born in Ohio, Kashkari studied mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois, came to California to work in the aerospace industry, then earned an MBA from Wharton, joined Goldman Sachs and landed a Washington job with a Goldman Sachs alumnus, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. As a treasury official during one of the most dangerous periods in America’s economic history, from July 2006 to May 2009, Kashkari says: “I saw the best in our political system.”
Will sees Kashkari as a state-level Goldwater, who in a losing race could make the GOP a future winner, like Goldwater did in ’64. To my tastes Kashkari might not be the ideal candidate, given his enthusiastic support of TARP. But the GOP desperately needs rebranding and new faces, and Kashkari could help provide both.
Details from TPM:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is reportedly throwing support behind Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), according to the group’s national political director, Rob Engstrom.
Engstrom told the audience at a Committee of 100 meeting that the group would support Landrieu in her fight to win re-election, according to The New York Times’ Joe Nocera.
Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes told TPM in an email on Monday “no decisions have been made in the LA Senate race.”
Landrieu’s major Republican challenger is Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce scorecard said Landrieu votes for pro-business legislation more often than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), according to The Wall Street Journal.
Note that the Chamber’s scorecard tracks “pro business” votes rather than “pro free market” votes.
Big difference — and it says a lot about the Chamber.
Jeff Bezos is testing the patience of investors after Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) missed analysts’ estimates for a second straight quarter, sending the shares tumbling almost 10 percent.
The world’s largest online retailer yesterday reported a second-quarter loss of $126 million, more than double what was predicted, even as sales climbed 23 percent to $19.3 billion. Expenses jumped 24 percent to $19.4 billion.
As a consumer, I love what Amazon does. It’s the first place I go to buy almost everything except for lunch. But investors have been absolutely insane to run up its stock price they way they up, with incredible and unjustifiable P/E ratios. A ten percent drop? That ought to be just the beginning for a company whose expected turn to profits, as John Gruber wrote last year, will probably turn out to be a will o’ the wisp.
The South Korean electronics giant had planned to debut its new smartphone running the company’s home-brewed Tizen operating system in Russia, but the debut has been postponed indefinitely:
It didn’t give any details about what precisely needed to be defined or how long the delay would be, but the reference to the ‘Tizen ecosystem’ hinted at fresh concerns over the availability of apps and related services that are needed to make the product sell.
Such concerns were, in part, behind the decisions of network operators NTT DoCoMo and France’s Orange SA to pull out of promotional campaigns launching the Tizen phone.
Samsung has already launched Tizen-driven smartwatches and cameras, but is desperate to extend it to smartphones in order to gain more control over the end-user experience in its most important products. Its license agreement with Google GOOG restricts its freedom to make more than cosmetic changes to the Android system.
Copying somebody else’s hardware to run somebody else’s software and buying up marketshare is easy. Creating your own ecosystem to protect yourself from even cheaper copycats and bossy software providers is hard.
Situation in eastern regions of Ukraine as of July 28th, 2014. pic.twitter.com/8rBa9xSfGd
— NSDC of Ukraine (@NSDC_ua) July 28, 2014
I’ll remind you of Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s July 18 statement:
I think it’s important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine. For months we’ve supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists, violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.
Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to de-escalate the situation.
This is wishful thinking bearing no relationship to reality. That statement is as unserious as a clown wearing a squirting flower, played by Rip Taylor breathing helium. Looking at the map above, why on Earth would Putin have any interest at all in “de-escalating the situation?” Furthermore, it is Putin himself who is escalating the situation — because it’s working for him.
It’s been ten days since that statement, and nothing — not one thing — Obama called for, wished for, or demanded has come to pass. “Petulant impotence,” indeed.
I don’t know who wrote the headline to Jamie Dettmer’s column in The Daily Beast, but they ignorant of history and/or didn’t bother read the dang column. It reads, “The ISIS Caliphate’s Coming Blitz of Baghdad,” even though Dettmer correctly states no further down that the second graf that IS/Caliphate won’t take Baghdad in a blitz. “Blitz” is lightning warfare designed to mass mobile forces at a point of decision away from cities, where fighting bogs down immediately.
Hitler’s Wehrmacht marched into Paris unopposed, after destroying the Allied position in the countryside. This is basic history.
Anyway — enough of the Beast’s ignorant headline writer and on to Dettmer and the 21st Century-style siege of Baghdad:
Until recently, Islamic militant action around Baghdad appeared sporadic, uncoordinated, and lacking a clear strategic purpose. But analysts at the US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who have been plotting the locations and types of attacks in the recent flurry of blasts buffeting the Iraqi capital, have noted a clear pattern developing. They say it suggests the Islamic State is building up to something big and is no longer just focused on consolidating its grip and developing governance in the lands it now controls.
The institute’s analysts predict the caliphate may be readying for an onslaught, possibly timed for the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday or during the Eid holiday celebrations this week. The aim would not be to seize Iraq’s capital, which has a very large Shia population with every incentive to fight to the death against an organization that slaughters Shia prisoner en masse. The purpose of the Islamic State offensive would be to sow mayhem and to keep Iraq’s state apparatus from recovering from its stunning defeats in June, when it lost control of Mosul, the second largest city in the country.
If IS/Caliphate takes Baghdad, it will be years or maybe decades before the city is governable again. Minus a very nasty religious cleansing, that is.
There’s a devastating piece today from WaPo’s Fred Hiatt on “the effects of disengagement” under Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom. A small selection:
For Obama the tumult in Egypt and elsewhere was a distraction, not a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The West responded timidly and inconsistently, and the moment was lost.
For Russia, Obama offered Putin a “reset” strategy of improved relations. But when it became clear that Putin wasn’t interested — that he wanted to re-create a Russian empire while blocking the achievement of a Europe whole and free — the West again had no strategic response. Obama could have bolstered a unified Europe with military, diplomatic and trade measures. Instead, as Putin wrecked democracy in Russia, annexed Crimea and fomented war in Ukraine, Obama and his European counterparts were reactive and divided.
In Iraq and Syria, Obama’s predictions proved wrong. Without the 15,000 or so troops that U.S. generals hoped to station in Iraq for training and counterterrorism, the United States had no leverage as Iraq’s armed forces devolved into sectarian militias. When challenged by al-Qaeda, the army and the state itself quickly shattered.
Without Western backing, the moderate rebels in Syria are in retreat.
Somebody with some sense in this White House needs to draw a red line behind Obama, beyond which he cannot disengage.
There is somebody left at 1600 with that much — er, that little — sense, right?
The key to our troubles might be in the word “disengaged.” It isn’t only that our policy has been one, as Hiatt says, “cautious, modulated retreat.” It’s also that Obama himself now seems disengaged from the job of presidenting. I can’t remember the last time he made a foreign policy statement having any discernible relationship with actual facts on the ground. He makes assertions, he blames others, he raises funds, he vacations.
Nice work if you can get it, but I dread to think of the mess his successor will inherit.
It’s the sci-fi disaster scenario that didn’t happen — but barely:
A fascinating NASA presentation suggests that in July 2012 Earth was one week away from being struck by a massive solar storm that would have had devastating effects.
NASA’s own Science News describes this event as being “perilous.” Indeed, as perilous as “an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century.”
There are plenty of people here on Earth who are already machinating to send us back to the 18th century. Clearly, there’s something alluring about olden times.
In this case, however, it’s the coronal mass ejection that’s captivating minds. This solar storm “tore through Earth orbit in 2012,” says Science News. “Fortunately Earth wasn’t there.”
I just got back from three days in the woods, with no gadgets, no electricity, no nothin’. It’s fun to get away from all the glowing screens we spend so much of our modern lives staring into, but it’s also a lot of work. I had myself, my two boys, and my young niece to take care of, which meant that by the time I’d finished cleaning up from breakfast, it was nearly time to start on lunch. The afternoons were wet, the nights were cold. At the end of the day I was too tired to even bother with the Kindle I’d brought along. Last night before bed I liberated one of Melissa’s prescription-strength Ibuprofens, just to make sure my woodland collection of aches and pains wouldn’t keep me up. There were extra batteries for a couple of LED lanterns and various flashlights — but if those wore out, then what? Well, civilization was about 45 minutes away by way of an occasionally questionable gravel road.
And if something turned off the lights in town, too?
“Getting away from it all” presumes having something to get away from — and something to get back to, too.
I’ll take modern life, thanks.
A street performer dressed as Spider-Man in New York City’s Times Square was arrested after punching a police officer who scolded him for demanding more money from a couple he had posed with for a picture, police said on Sunday.
The Saturday afternoon incident began when Junior Bishop, 25, was overheard by a police officer refusing a $1 bill from a woman with whom he’d taken a picture, insisting instead on a larger denomination, a police spokeswoman said.
After the police officer told Bishop he could only accept tips but not demand money, the Brooklyn resident began yelling at him, police say. When the officer told him he was under arrest, Bishop punched him in the face, police said.
You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?