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Sign “O” the Times

September 23rd, 2014 - 6:11 am

POOR HOUSE

Robert Samuelson warns that the next economic surprise is a longterm one:

[Economist Robert] Gordon, a respected Northwestern University scholar, contends that mainstream economic growth predictions are wildly optimistic. His own calculations are more restrained. By 2024, he reckons, the economy’s annual output (gross domestic product) will be nearly $2 trillion lower — almost 10 percent — than projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Government debt will be 87 percent of GDP in 2024 instead of the CBO’s estimate of 78 percent. Disappointing output will also pressure the Federal Reserve to move earlier against inflation by tightening credit, he says.

The gist of Gordon’s argument is that the nation’s productive capacity — what economists call “the supply side” — will expand only slowly. It won’t keep up with the stronger consumer demand embodied in other forecasts. As a result, inflationary pressures will be higher and GDP lower. The “economy is on a collision course between demand-side optimism and supply-side pessimism,” he writes in a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Combine that projection of low growth with yesterday’s Scary-Ass Chart showing who has been benefitting from our economic growth, and together they detail the end of the American middle class.

At last, the Progressive dream made real.

Scary-Ass Chart of the Day

September 22nd, 2014 - 7:37 am

SCARY

That’s a NY Times chart, annotated for you by Tyler Durden. You’ll notice that the lines diverge not long after the Fed began its permanent policy of cheap money.

I realize correlation is not causation, but at some point we really ought to try something else.

Twenty-Two Trillion and Nothing On

September 16th, 2014 - 12:09 pm

rectorchart

Sigh:

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

That’s Heritage’s Robert Rector in The Daily Signal, detailing how much we’ve spent since LBJ launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago, and how little we have to show for it. For some of the explanation, let’s go back to Rector:

Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

The media frequently associate the idea of poverty with being homeless. But less than two percent of the poor are homeless. Only one in ten live in mobile homes. The typical house or apartment of the poor is in good repair and uncrowded; it is actually larger than the average dwelling of non-poor French, Germans or English.

The other part of the explanation lies in Rector’s chart, reprinted above.

You’ll notice that before 1964, the US economy was waging its own War on Poverty — and winning. Once the anti-market insanity of the New Deal ended with Roosevelt’s last breath, and the wartime economy had the chance to recover to peacetime conditions, poverty was rapidly decreasing.

Then Washington took over, and the decline turned into a flatline.

It’s almost as though LBJ’s War on Poverty was just a $22,000,000,000,000 vote-buying scheme and permanent paycheck racket for otherwise unemployable do-gooders.

Far from the “colossal flop” Rector calls it, the War has resulted in a stunning and ongoing victory.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 12th, 2014 - 7:23 am

IT'S COOL

At his health care reform blog, Robert Laszewski notes that it’s been a “pretty quiet lately on the Obamcare front.” True enough — we muddled our way through the Healthcare.gov fiasco (the site still doesn’t have a functioning backend, which is like using your computer to run an abacus), and the American people are adapting themselves to the New Suckitude. All that’s about to change:

While the open-enrollment is now scheduled to begin until 11 days after the November election there will be plenty of renewal and cancellation letters going out in October––not the least will be more pre-Obamacare policies being cancelled this year now that their one-year extension is up––carriers aren’t necessarily allowing policies to be extended further.

Does this all sound confusing? Just wait until we approach the next open-enrollment with millions of people hearing about all of this complexity and having just four weeks to get their enrollment validated for January 1. The Obamacare anxiety index is going to be off the charts well before November 15th.

Add to all of this bigger deductibles for 2015 (those go up with cost trend as well as the rates) and more narrow networks as well as generally larger rate increases for the plans that got the most enrollment and there will be lots to talk about.

You’re gonna need a bigger drink.

Friday Night Videos

August 29th, 2014 - 10:13 pm

I have a Brilliant Playlist for every possible occasion, activity, or mix of party guests. If putting all of them together and lovingly maintaining them is an obsession, at least it’s an obsession everybody gets to tap their feet to.

Even for housecleaning, you ask? Even for housecleaning.

It’s a special mix of nothing but R&B, funk, disco, and New Wave from the ’70s and ’80s. Nothing from before when Melissa was born, nothing after graduating from high school. Nothing downtempo. Nothing sappy. High energy all the way, baby — that kitchen floor isn’t going to clean itself.

And it seems like every time we go through this, this nearly-forgotten song from a nearly-forgotten band comes on.

The band is Roman Holliday — the early ’80s British act, not the current Seattle alt-rock group with the proper spelling. The song is “Stand By,” and it couldn’t be any bouncier if the band had recorded it high on cocaine and jumping up and down on pogo sticks. Which for all I know, they did. Anyway, it’s a fun little pop number which probably deserved to chart somewhere, but never did.

Just don’t blame me if it keeps you up late, tidying the closets.

Sailing the Good Ship QE4

August 15th, 2014 - 12:04 pm

L.A. Little says that despite the taper, there might still be more quantitative easing to come:

Looking back at the SPDR Gold Trust and iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF chart, there was one period during this ongoing experiment that is noteworthy and that is when both bonds and gold exploded higher during the first six months of 2011. Looking back, we know that QE1 underwent a tapering phase throughout late 2009 – 2010. But, the Fed reversed course in late 2010 and introduced another round of QE — this time focusing specifically on Treasury debt to push interest rates lower. By 2011, bonds and gold were leaping higher driving bond yields to historic lows.

If we fast forward to today, once more we are tapering again and QE3 should be finished up this year but if we look over to the gold and bond markets, both seem to be suggesting that our three experiments with QE may not be the end of it.

We’re addicted to stimulus.

Is that a Spy in Your Pocket?

August 13th, 2014 - 8:37 am

finspy

A leaked Gamma Group study indicates which smartphones are the easiest to hack with FinSpy spyware:

Among the major mobile platforms cited in a chart in the document, all of them were susceptible to FinSpy. The spyware was able to bully its way into Android (all versions from 2.x.x to 4.4.x), BlackBerry (versions 5.x, 6.x., and 7.x), Symbian, and Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 (Windows Phone 8 is not yet supported by the software).

And what of iOS? Apple’s mobile OS did make the list but only in jailbroken mode.

And what can FinSpy do? Read:

FinSpy is “designed to help Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies to remotely monitor mobile phones and tablet devices.”

FinSpy can gain full access to phone calls, text messages, the address book, and even the microphone via silent phone calls. It can also trace a device to determine its location. Used by law enforcement and government agencies, FinSpy has earned a reputation for itself as a powerful but controversial tool for sneaking into mobile devices.

Scary stuff.

If you need Android’s openness, there’s probably no better alternative. But the vast majority of Android buyers don’t need open — they aren’t even really smartphone users. They buy Android because it’s inexpensive and it’s good enough and it works on their carrier. But what those buyers really are is feature phone users. They’d probably be better off, and they’d certainly be more secure, sticking with simpler Symbian devices.

Required Reading

August 6th, 2014 - 10:29 am

Noemie Emery on the Smartest Man in Any Room:

That he is brilliant is something we already knew. “This is a guy whose IQ is off the charts,” Michael Beschloss said of Obama, who was the “smartest guy” to be president. Christopher Buckley said he was first class in temperament and intellectual prowess, boosting him two slots above Franklin D. Roosevelt in the gray matter arena. “You could see him as a New Republic writer,” said David Brooks, closing the argument.

But fact that this genius has become a disaster became clear in mid-June when the Middle East imploded, matching his health care debacle with its foreign equivalent. The non-connection of political wisdom to what intellectuals think makes for intelligence was never more painfully clear.

“Intelligence” is “proven” amongst the progressives by saying cleverly what everyone already agrees on, or at least saying it without looking at one’s notes too frequently.

If that’s too high a hurdle, a well-creased pant will do.

Beware the Debt Bomb

August 5th, 2014 - 6:37 am

Chart of Doom

Brett Arends reports:

For the past five years, U.S. corporations have been living in a financial paradise. Interest rates have been on the floor. Wages have been flat. Companies have been able to lay off workers and slash costs. Profits have skyrocketed to record levels. And they’ve spent almost nothing on new capital equipment, either.

And what effect has this had?

In 2007, at the peak of the last credit mania, U.S. nonfinancial corporations owed $7.2 trillion according to data compiled by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Today? After years of this bonanza, those debts have tumbled all the way down to… er… $9.6 trillion.

All that talk you hear about how corporate balance sheets are in great shape is a bunch of hooey.

By the time that aging capital equipment absolutely must be replaced, interest rates will probably be significantly higher.

That could lead to… issues.

Here We Go Again

July 30th, 2014 - 10:31 am

Chart of Doom

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?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

July 15th, 2014 - 8:41 am

CBOUIprojectionsJuly20141

The chart above comes from Chris Conover, who gathered in one place all the various estimates of the reduction in the uninsured. That includes those who purchased insurance privately (and can be assumed to be contributing to keeping insurance profitable and self-sustaining), those who bought on the exchanges (and will be receiving tax dollars for subsidies), and those covered by Medicaid expansion (and represent endless claims on the public purse). It’s safe to assume the second two groups vastly outnumber the first one.

A couple things are telling. First is that the numbers are all over the place, from a high of 50% to a low of just under 7%. Presumably the Wiggleroom Administration has (or could produce) solid numbers, but chooses not to. If the real figure were anywhere near 50%, I assume the White House wouldn’t shut up about it. The second is that even after mandating private insurance purchases, subsidizing the bejeebus out of it, and radically expanding Medicaid, nobody can produce even a made-up, imaginary reduction of the uninsured better than 50%.

That’s like giving people money and beer to attend your concert, and still filling only half the seats. Message: Your band sucks.

And so does ♡bamaCare!!!.

Sign “O” the Times

July 14th, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Corporate profits_0

Corporate profits are being sold as a sign of economic strength — but Zero Hedge says not so fast. They quote a Bank of America report which says, “The decline in corporate profits is indicative of weaker aggregate demand and a drop in productivity.”

Hang on tight.

Chart of Doom

Survey says: YES!

Mobile Malware Menace!

June 26th, 2014 - 12:17 pm

MALWARE

Details here, courtesy of Glenn.

That big green zero on the bottom-left chart represents the total number of threats to iOS users.

Tell Me About the Sustainability, George

June 11th, 2014 - 9:42 am

us-revolving-consumer-debt-mostly-credit-cards-soared-in-april-monthly-increase-in-us-revolving-consumer-debt-mostly-credit-cards-in-billions_chartbuilder-1

Uh-oh:

America’s addiction to credit cards is flaring up again. This is either really good news or really bad news.

Well, if you’re simply rooting for GDP growth, without regard for how it occurs, you can argue that this is a great sign. Roughly 70% of US economic activity is driven by consumption. And a rise in credit card use suggests that consumers are ramping up their buying. (Other data, such as the worsening US trade balance on higher imports of consumer goods (paywall), would seem consistent with that view.)
+
But if you care about the long-term sustainability of US economic growth and the financial health of American households, it’s not particularly heartening to see signs of backsliding into a widespread reliance on credit cards.

I’m going to go — surprise! — with “really bad news.”

Look, putting stuff on the Visa isn’t such a bad idea when your income is rising and you’re making some large, one-time purchases. But I’ll remind you that total US consumer spending actually shrank slightly in April (-0.1%), which means that Americans bought tons more stuff on credit at a time when they were spending less overall.

So what does that say about the real state of our earnings?

Probably nothing good.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 11th, 2014 - 5:21 am

One million poor Americans will pay the ♡bamaCare!!! mandate “tax” out of a total of four million:

The CBO estimated that four million people would pay the individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance by 2016 as a result of the president’s health care law, according to a report released last week.

“All told, CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] JCT estimate that about four million people will pay a penalty because they are uninsured in 2016 (a figure that includes uninsured dependents who have the penalty paid on their behalf),” the report said. “An estimated $4 billion will be collected from those who are uninsured in 2016, and, on average, an estimated $5 billion will be collected per year over the 2017–2024 period.”

A chart accompanying the report revealed that 200,000 of those paying the penalty earn less than 100 percent of the poverty line. An additional 800,000 are considered low-income, earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level.

Obviously what is required is a subsidy for paying the tax.

Less Than Zero

June 5th, 2014 - 2:34 pm

ZERO

Banking isn’t exactly rocket science. You deposit money, the bank lends it out for a profit, then shares some of the profits with you in the form of interest on the money you loaned them via your deposit. But what happens when conditions are so anemic that nobody wants to borrow anything? Eventually, this:

Mr. Dragi said the governing council’s 24 members—which include the head of Germany’s Bundesbank—were “unanimous and determined” to take any actions within their mandate, if needed.

In addition to a reduction in its main lending rate to 0.15%, a new low, from the 0.25% rate held since November, the ECB also dropped the rate on bank deposits parked overnight with the central bank to minus 0.1%, thereby charging commercial banks for keeping their money at the ECB, an unprecedented move for a central bank of its size.

That’s right, the ECB is now charging other banks for their deposits instead of paying them interest. That’s an attempt to get the commercial banks to withdraw their deposits and loan them to somebody, anybody, to get the velocity of money back up to sustainable levels.

What the ECB and the commercial banks can’t do however, is drum up demand. They’re trying to sell ice cubes in Alaska, or charcoal in Hell.

oil2-600x387

You might have caught the story at Glenn’s over the weekend, but you might have missed this gem from the comments:

HOCKEY STICK!!!!

We finally have a REAL hockey stick.

Boom.

Wargaming the Senate

May 14th, 2014 - 10:25 am

capture_ripple3

That’s the latest chart from political handicapper Larry Sabato, and it looks like as good a summation of the probabilities as you’re likely to find in a single chart — although it does contain one serious flaw, which we’ll get to in a moment. The best news for the GOP is that voters this cycle don’t seem to be settling on candidates from the Kamikaze Wing of the party. Sabato writes:

The two Republican primary candidates the establishment fears most in the open GOP seat in Georgia – Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, who have inspired headlines with the words “Todd Akin 2.0” – are lagging behind other, more electable candidates in polling ahead of the May 20 primary and a likely runoff. A solid GOP candidate there should be able to beat Democrat Michelle Nunn in a Republican state in a Republican year. The same goes for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky: Polls there are close, but this is a Republican running on very Republican turf. These races are competitive, but they are not tossups, either.

Meanwhile, there are 14 Democratic seats that are at least marginally practical targets for Republicans. The bigger the wave, the greater the number that could sink come Election Day.

The problem I see is Sabato’s use of a strict sliding scale to measure probabilities, although that’s probably due to the chart format, rather than anything limited or incorrect in Sabato’s thinking. You can very closely measure House changes in this way, thanks to the limited number of competitive seats, and the comparatively small size of House districts. Look at the party favorability polls, compare to the individual district Cook ratings, and you can safely assume that a Republican X advantage in national polls will equal about Y seats changing hands.

But as I’ve written here many times before, each Senate contest is in effect a national race with national scrutiny. This is the big leagues, and only serious candidates are good for anything but cringing laughs. So it’s a lot more difficult to line up the contested seats from left to right (from blue to red?) and say for sure that X in the national polls means the Dems keep everything to the left of that level and the GOP wins everything to the right. In other words, if the GOP picks up the expected four-to-nine seats, don’t be surprised if there are a couple of ringers in there, along with a couple of “d’oh!” losses.

We’ll know more once the primaries are finished and we’ve had a few weeks to see the candidates in action. Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying the occasional meal of chewed fingernails and bourbon straight from the bottle.

Sign “O” the Times

May 7th, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Chart of Doom

“Time to Worry About Stock Market Bubbles,” says David Leonhardt:

With relatively little fanfare, the stock market has become expensive again.

While the rest of economy has been growing frustratingly slowly for almost five years, stocks have been rising at a boomlike clip. An investment in the Standard & Poor 500-stock index would have doubled from early 2009 through early 2013 and then gained an additional 18 percent over the last year.

Relative to long-term corporate earnings – and more in a minute on why that measure is important – stocks have been more expensive only three times over the past century than they are today, according to data from Robert Shiller, a Nobel laureate in economics. Those other three periods are not exactly reassuring, either: the 1920s, the late 1990s and in the prelude to the 2007 financial crisis.

The time to get worried about a stock market bubble was when the Fed got in the business of propping up equities prices, just like the time to worry about a housing bubbles was when the Fed got in the business of propping up home prices. I mean, the first time the Fed got in the business of propping up home prices, although you should also certainly worry about this second time.

Remember how bad it was when the bottom fell out of the housing and financial markets a few years ago? It will be much better this time, they swear.

When in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

May 3rd, 2014 - 11:09 am

PRE ZONE

Ever wonder how they calculated the time in different parts of the world before time zones were established? Wonder no more.

Follow the link for a fully clickable version.

By the Numbers

April 23rd, 2014 - 11:12 am

campaign_cash_play_uss_042114

Who’s winning the money race for the US Senate? The Democrats. Tom Dougherty explains:

Looking at the charts below, with a focus on the Democrat vs. Republican numbers, a notable item that jumps to the forefront is the faux outrage by Democrats over the recent McCutcheon decision; and their hollow support for campaign finance reform. When viewed through the prism of the considerable advantage Democrats hold, the recent outpouring by Dems can only be considered phony politicking and an opaque attempt to maintain their advantage.

There are certain factors that contribute to a portion of the Democrat advantage. A combination of first quarter reports that have favored some Republicans, and after some upcoming primaries the purging of many GOP candidates that currently are included as active candidates, could have some impact on the numbers. Though it is unlikely the changes will reverse the Democratic advantage and certainly will not support the aforementioned phony politicking by Dems.

I’m reminded of blithe Rovian promises in 2006 that their money advantage would overcome whatever weakness they showed in the polls. Nancy Pelosi made similar claims about her party’s money advantage in 2010.

I’ll leave you with one more bit:

Without wandering into the soft-money realm too far, suffice it to say that Harry Reid can rail against the Koch brothers all he wants but without acknowledging the infusion of vast sums of money from the likes of George Soros and Tom Steyer, his argument is baseless and lunatic

“Baseless and lunatic” pretty much sums up Reid in general, yes?

Scary-Ass Chart of the Day

April 9th, 2014 - 3:09 pm

Slide1

Those are prices in the individual market for health insurance.

Say — didn’t something happen, some law or something go into effect, in the last quarter or 2013? Something with “Affordable” in the name?

For those with employer-based coverage happy to dodge the individual market premium spike, just remember that none other than ♡bamaCare!!! architect Ezekiel Emanuel says that the law will eventually mean “the end of employer-sponsored insurance.”

MOVEMENT

This chart from Real Clear Politics pretty much says it all — in the last few weeks, virtually all the movement has been to the right. The one exception is in Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell’s race has moved one step to the left, from Leans GOP to Tossup. Barring an unexpectedly tight primary, I’d expect Kentucky to move back into the red column by August.

RCP poll-averaging gives the Donks 46 seats and the GOP 47, meaning each side needs to win four of the seven Tossup races to secure control of the Senate. (Joe Biden casts the tie-breaking Senate vote, so the Democrats only need 50 seats to keep their majority, while the Republicans need 51 to take it away.)

The tossup races ar AK, AR, CO, KY, LA, MI, and NC. If I had to pick right now, I’d give CO and MI to the Democrats and the rest to the GOP for a gain of seven and 52 seats. RCP’s No Tossup map gives KY and NC to the Dems and MI to the GOP for a GOP gain of six. I’m tempted to give CO to the Republicans, but we haven’t seen much yet of Cory Gardner in action yet, and same-day voter registration raises the margin of cheating the GOP has to overcome. Of the rest of my picks, I’m least confident about the GOP pickup in NC, and about the Democrats holding on to MI.

There is still room for surprises however in IA, NH, and even OR. All three seats are currently in Democratic hands, and all three could still end up in play.

Chart of Doom

Public support for ♡bamaCare!!! is in free fall:

The AP noted that support for the law has dropped 13 points since 2010, when 39 percent favored the law. Opposition also has dipped 7 percentage points from 2010, when it stood at 43 percent. The number of people on the fence, the AP reported, has tripled from 10 percent to 30 percent.

That Means It’s Working™.

Wargaming Senate Control

March 25th, 2014 - 5:11 am

SENATE MAP

You’re getting a threefer today, courtesy of Tom Dougherty, Erick Erickson, and David Freddoso, and also courtesy of my recent inability to sleep much past 4AM. Since Tom has the big headline number, let’s go to him first:

The latest ratings from the Practical Politicking Report have seen the odds of the GOP regaining the senate majority jump to 66.3%, an increase of more than 8% since the beginning of March.

The map [ABOVE] shows the 18 seats we consider to be in play, though realistically there are 13 states we are focused on with Hawaii, Massachusetts and Virginia most likely remaining blue; and Georgia and Kentucky (both just miss being rated Likely R) staying in Republican hands.

All 13 states of interest are currently held by Democrats; and we consider South Dakota and West Virginia virtual locks for the Republicans, with Montana also highly likely to go red even with the recent Walsh shenanigans.

Tom has four Democrat seats rated Likely R or Leans R and eight in the Toss Up category. The tossups include AK, AR, CO, LA, MI, MN, NC, OR. If a rising wave smashes all boats, I’d be tempted to put AK, AR, and LA in the Leans R column soon — giving the GOP a net pickup of eight. That’s right in line with various math models I’ve seen, which all seem to hover around a six-to-eight seat GOP pickup, with “eight or more” being more likely than “six or less.” Quite a change from just five weeks ago.

But wait, there’s more.

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How’s Obama Doin’?

March 21st, 2014 - 1:38 pm

MERLINE

That’s the question IBD’s John Merline is asking:

Perhaps the best metric is Obama’s own promises about what his economic plan would produce. Those are contained in his first budget, which was issued in early 2009.

Above are charts comparing that budget’s forecasts for key economic indicators with what actually happened.

The results are startling. The economy did far worse than Obama thought it would on every important measure.

The problem here is that federal spending from 2010 to 2013 was almost exactly where Obama pegged it in his first budget, and it’s much higher as a share of GDP. Deficits were also far higher than Obama expected.

From a standard Keynesian perspective, these should have provided additional stimulus to the economy — above what Obama initially forecast.

Merline concludes the problem lies with the Democrats’ 2009-2011 legislative agenda, and I’m inclined to agree 100%.

The Administration finally found a deadline it won’t assert the authority to alter or delay at will:

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that March 31 is the firm deadline to sign up for Obamacare. “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period,” HHS official Julie Bataille said. “In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”

It seems almost unfair to point out that the closure of the open enrollment period is the last stick remaining to get people to sign up this year.

They’d as soon let go of that as I’d let go of a half-full martini glass. That might be doubly true given the latest revelation from Megan McArdle about exchange signups:

In February, 27 percent of the customers were ages 18 to 34. That’s slightly better than previous months, but not nearly enough to improve the overall demographics of the insurance pool. Before enrollment began, the administration said it needed about 40 percent of customers to be young adults. Even after February’s improvement, the total percentage of young adults in the pool is still just 25 percent.

The administration says it’s hopeful that the pace of enrollment will accelerate in March, based on the experience of Romneycare in Massachusetts. But as you can see in this chart posted by my colleague Ezra Klein in January, by this stage in the enrollment process, signups by young healthy people had already ramped up much more significantly than we’ve seen in the national exchanges. In fact, to go by the Massachusetts experience, we should have seen Young Invincible enrollment peak in February. If 27 percent is the peak, the exchanges are in big trouble.

That Means It’s Working™.

The New Old Grand Old Party

March 11th, 2014 - 9:28 am

REPUBS-2-articleLarge

Jonathan Martin reports from CPAC:

It was difficult to miss Ian Jacobson at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Known as Rooster, he was 33, with an ample beard, earrings and a towering orange-and-aqua spiked Mohawk haircut. But he also sported a pinstriped suit, French cuffs and a natty contrast collar.

Mr. Jacobson’s sartorial contradictions matched those of his politics: He is among the young Republicans who are pro-free market on fiscal issues and libertarian on social ones. While his views represent a potential growth wing for a party that is losing among other demographic groups, they also show an emerging tension with the older social conservatives at the core of the party’s base.

“I want us to return to our roots,” Mr. Jacobson said while attending the conference over the weekend. A self-described “libertarian-leaning Republican” from San Antonio, he sketched out his ideal political party as one that freed individuals to chart their own course in their personal and professional lives.

The story notes that even GOP presidential hopefuls at the convention “largely avoided divisive social issues or mentioned them only to praise their party’s big-tent tolerance.”

Even the old guard might be starting to learn.

Megan McArdle looked at the people who are actually buying insurance on the new exchanges and concludes:

The positive way to look at this is to note that the number of uninsured people who had purchased insurance increased dramatically by February:

CHART

The negative way to look at this is to note that, even so, the majority of activity in the market comes from the previously insured, who are mostly replacing prior coverage.

Or we could conclude that ♡bamaCare!!! causes people to lose their coverage, then takes credit for selling them new, and often worse coverage. Megan adds:

Worse, the number of previously insured people who had not enrolled in a qualified health plan by the end of February was almost twice the number of previously uninsured people who had. That’s the opposite of the effect this law was supposed to have.

And that’s still looking at the law in isolation, without taking into account it’s external unintended consequences on the labor market and economic growth.

That Means It’s Working™.