Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cruising the Web

John Podhoretz explains why liberals' victory lap over Obamacare is quite premature. And any politicians who pretend to be excited about the CBO's projections of lower federal deficits this year are also quite premature in their celebration.
But CBO also expects things to get worse in a hurry. In just the next two years, with no more federal budget sequester to limit spending, annual outlays will grow by almost $500 billion, driving federal spending above $4 trillion for the first time. In that fiscal year of 2016, federal deficits will resume their upward march. By 2023 we will be back to the annual trillion-dollar deficits that characterized the Obama first term. The debt subject to limit, now $17.5 trillion, would need to rise to more than $27 trillion by 2024 to cover all the expected spending. Of course a growing economy would be a great help in financing the looming spending increases, but the current White House is more concerned with reallocating wealth than with allowing people to create it.

While we're getting depressed, we should also note that the $17.5 trillion that many people think of as the federal debt only scratches the surface of the future obligations promised by politicians. Last year legendary investor Stanley Druckenmiller calculated the net present value of Beltway commitments and concluded that "the future liabilities are $205 trillion, not 17."

How long the world's investors will continue to finance U.S. debt is a question. But whether a reckoning occurs sooner or later, eventually all of this spending and debt must be paid for with higher tax collections.

So as bad as you feel reviewing this year's tax return, remember that things could be much worse. And they soon will be, unless the next President is committed to reform in Washington and revival in the rest of the country.

Well, isn't this just typical? The Census Bureau is changing how they measure how many people are uninsured just in time so that it won't be possible to measure how many people have gotten health insurance under Obamacare.
The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.
Coincidence? And what are the chances that Obama supporters will cite the lower numbers as proof that Obamacare is working regardless of what the small print says? As the WSJ writes today,
The FDA would never approve a new drug whose maker completely changed the clinical trial protocol in the middle of the experiment, yet that is what the White House has done. How many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? What about employer-sponsored insurance? It will be much harder and in some cases impossible to know.

Robert Pear of the New York Times NYT +4.69% obtained internal Census documents that note that the new CPS system produces lower estimates of the uninsured as an artifact of how the questionnaire is structured. One memo refers to the "coincidental and unfortunate timing" and that, "Ideally, the redesign would have had at least a few years to gather base line and trend data."

Ideally, the White House would have provided those years. For changes this substantial, standard procedure would be to ask the new and old questions concurrently. With an overlap, researchers could study changes over time using the long-term historical information without introducing bias, as well as interpret emerging developments with new tools.

The Census says the new CPS is more accurate, and demographers and statisticians of all persuasions have argued for years that the old version overreports the number of uninsured relative to other surveys. But the inflated figures served the politicians who were plugging national health care, and Democrats in 2009 and 2010 used them to exaggerate the problem amid the push to put more of American health care under government direction.

As with the IRS targeting of conservative political groups, this sudden change will undermine public trust in the supposedly nonpartisan institutions of government. Muddying a useful source of information about ObamaCare's results is definitely unfortunate, but our guess is that it wasn't coincidental.

And, of course, Jay Carney says that there are no plans for the administration to release any further information about the people who have signed up for Obamacare on the federal exchanges. They wouldn't want to release any information to indicate how many of those people have actually paid for their insurance or how many were previously uninsured or are now on Medicaid. They'll want to keep those sorts of details as secret as possible.

Wow, look at these poll results from Democratic pollster PPP: Greg Abbot is leading Wendy Davis in the race for Texas governor among women voters. I guess basing your whole campaign on your support for late-term abortions is not the appeal to women voters that Democrats thought it was.

Jeff Jacoby asks a good question: Why aren't feminists angry at Brandeis for rescinding their invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak and receive an honorary degree? After all, she has devoted her life, despite death threats, to the rights of women in the Islamic world.
But it happens routinely. People prepared to label opposition to employer-paid contraceptives a “war on women” are generally much less willing to channel their outrage at the savagery of honor killings or child marriages in non-Western societies. “They fear treading on cultural toes,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, one of the film’s featured advocates. “We’re constantly having to remind them that cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.”

For Sanghera, who fled a forced marriage as a young teen, this is no abstract theory. She is haunted by the memory of her sister, Ravina, who committed suicide rather than “dishonor” her family by leaving the husband she was forced to marry. Also highlighted in the film is Raquel Saraswati, who embraces Islam as a source of strength and peace in her life, yet feels “afraid all the time” of the backlash against those who challenge “honor-based” violence against women.

Efforts by CAIR and its ilk to squelch honest discussion of such grave human-rights issues — and to demonize as “haters” and “Islamophobes” those who do — encapsulate the very perversity “Honor Diaries” seeks to expose: valuing the honor of a community more than a woman’s life or voice. But does CAIR’s shrill protest reflect what average citizens in Muslim countries think of such a documentary? Or does the “Honor Diaries” Arabic Facebook page, with 95,000 “likes” — and climbing?

Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?

I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.

“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”

And this is also quite typical. President Obama wishes Jews a happy Passover by sending out a picture of...himself and his family.

The contrast between Illinois and its neighbors among the Great Lakes states is quite marked.
Start with Illinois's 8.7% jobless rate, which is the country's second highest after Rhode Island's 9% and has fallen by a mere 0.7 percentage points since Mr. Quinn began his second term in January 2011. That's when Illinois increased its flat income tax to 5% from 3% and the corporate rate to 9.5% from 7.3%.

The nearby chart shows the jobless-rate trend in five Great Lakes states since 2010. Note the sharp decline in Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder and a GOP legislature cut corporate taxes. In the last three years, the rate has fallen to 7.7% from 11% in the Wolverine State, to 6.5% from 9.1% in Ohio, to 6.1% from 9% in Indiana, and to 6.1% from 7.7% in Wisconsin. Only Illinois has raised taxes, while Ohio cut taxes, Michigan and Indiana have passed right-to-work laws and Wisconsin famously reformed collective bargaining.

Illinois has also recorded the slowest personal income growth in the Great Lakes. Between 2012 and 2013, personal income rose by 2.1% in Illinois versus 2.7% in Wisconsin, 2.5% in Michigan, and 2.3% in Ohio and Indiana.

But get this—about a third of Illinois's personal-income growth last year was driven by "transfer receipts" (i.e., food stamps, workers' compensation, disability, welfare, Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, earned income tax credits, unemployment benefits). According to BEA, these payments increased 5.2% in Illinois in 2013, the third most in the U.S., while wages and salaries ticked up only 1%.

Some 31,000 Illinois workers left the state's labor force in 2013, while Michigan's workforce expanded by 2,000 and Indiana's grew by 11,000. Illinois also lost about 9,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year while Michigan gained 17,000 and Ohio and Indiana each added 12,000.
You think that a state's economic policies don't matter? Well, the ongoing laboratory in democracy taking place in those Midwest states says otherwise.
But in the end, Landrieu's much bigger problem is authenticity. Can she succeed by campaigning against a president she has supported so much? Landrieu has many assets in the race -- she has been able to shower Louisiana with federal money and will undoubtedly bring even more pork dollars to the state in coming months. In the final count, that could well mean victory for her. But Landrieu has an authenticity problem she just can't shake -- it's been building for the last six years -- and if she loses, it will be because she couldn't oppose Barack Obama and support him at the same time, and still win the support of Louisiana voters.

Mary Landrieu is including fakery in her campaign ad, but her real problem is how she's trying to separate herself from President Obama and the Democratic Party despite her support for them on every important vote.

Pro-union supporters on the Los Angeles School Board are now aiming to close down two very successful charters that have been achieving great success in educating minority students. It is so shameful.


mark said...

Agreed. There is no "victory lap" to be taken. Many problems still ahead and many fixes to be made if Obamacare is to work.
That Obama claimed victory is a lie. The media used the term "victory lap", not the Obama administration. Obama celebrated a milestone being reached after a disastrous, incompetent roll-out.
Conservatives are still defensive about the "Mission Accomplished" banner fiasco, and now the fear that Obamacare may actually work.

Rick Caird said...

Oh come off it Mark. The administration never claimed it was spiking the ball either or taking a victory lap, but that is what they are doing. And, you, along with Politico and Ezra Klein, are there to cheer them on. However, it is clearly noticeable that this incompetence and dishonest administration is in no way justifying the 7.1 million and, in fact, is hiding the ball with the change in measuring uninsured and stating they will not give out any further numbers, like how many actually pay. Rest assured, if Obama and his thugs like the numbers the would be trumpeting them to the heavens and trotting out all kinds of charts and graphs. The fact they are not tells you just how much they are lying.

In all honesty, Mark, I cannot believe you are just so gullible you take whatever this administration claims as gospel.

mark said...

Gee, an administration pumping good numbers and downplaying bad. That's never happened before. I haven't heard any conservatives boasting about the $2trillion price tag for the Iraq war after buying Bush's lie that the war would pay for itself.

Face it: You were wrong about the website being fixed, and your failure to acknowledge it are absolutley no surprise given your past comments. Dishonest and incompetent are certainly two good adjectives to employ.

Rick Caird said...

No Mark, I am not wrong about the web site. Here is a quote from a story today:

"Even though the insurance company cashed your check, it doesn't mean it (the policy) has been implemented," said Grimm at a Wednesday press conference with Figueroa. "That's the problem – that the back end of Obamacare hasn't been fully built. You can go on the front end of an application and look at a list of plans, but what they don't tell you is that many of those plans don't have doctors yet."

The point is, Mark, people are being forced to buy a pig in a poke and then the administration is lying about the numbers. To hide it, they are changing the census question after having moved the census into the White House.

How can you argue a web site is working when people do even know what they are buying and some people are in an endless loop letting sent to Medicare and back to the Exchange and back to Medicare .... (If you don't know what a loop is, I'll give you some programming lessons). The web site does not work, it is only partially implemented, and you will continue to see stories of omissions and failures.

Finally, if the web site were truly fixed, you would have stories touted by the administration and in the technical pubs telling us how it was done and how great it is now. Go do some Google search: nothing

Here is a 3/26 story about the backend (the one the administration claimed was 80% fixed. The clearly do not understand the 80-20 rule).

mark said...

"Go do some Google search: nothing"

It took all of five seconds to expose that lie, Rick. C'mon, surely you can do better.

Rick Caird said...

Mark, since I doubt you subscribe to Time, I do not think you read the article you reference. Hence, we don't know what it said after those first paragraphs. And, btw, the would not show up in a Google search for "ObamaCare web site fixes" looking for problems or fixes since Google could only see the first paragraphs too. So, it is pretty clear you are lying with your "5 seconds" remark.

I also suggest you read this story from 3/26/2014. As of then, the backend was not fixed and the insurance companies are worried.

But, of course, if you have little technical experience, you could be easily fooled by a couple of paragraphs from a Time magazine story.

mark said...

Good God, Rick, don't you have an ounce of dignity?
You were wrong about the site being unfixable, but a lot of people were wrong (and I certainly didn't know). But you embarrassed yourself with your claim about news articles (the Time article was prominent on liberal websites and old news. I didn't need to do a google search to know you were wrong/lying).
And now your defense is that it must have taken me more than five seconds to type "Obamacare website fixed" and scroll down to the summary of the Time article.
Perhaps you should just cut your losses and move on. I heard shoe- and babygate are the up and coming scandals.
Thanks for the laugh.

Rick Caird said...

So, now your claim is that the liberal web site violated the Time copyright. Lovely, but what you referenced was unreadable because it was copyrighted by Time. How does that work again?

Every Google reference I looked at that was in answer to "Obamas-trauma-team" pointed directly to the Time article. And, in every case, it was protected. Mark, you never read that article, so you have no idea what it actually said. So, now you have two lies to your credit, but I doubt you are even the slightest bit embarrassed. Lying and misdirection is second nature to you.

You still have not responded to the back end problems (probably because you don't know what a back end is) but, as one of those articles noted:

"However, there’s still no payment option on the website, meaning people can sign up for Obamacare – they’re just not technically enrolled."

So, an enrollment web site that doesn't actually enroll anyone is now, by your definition, "fixed". Great, go order something from Amazon and don't fill out the payment data and see how long it takes to get it shipped.

The average gecko here in South Florida has more business and technical ability than you do. But, gecko's don't lie so well, so you do have that going for you.

It is interesting to see that the bulk of what you write is name calling, misleading, misdirection, and show a massive lack of understanding of the topic. What a guy: long on claims and short on facts.

Until you can show me the back end works and the system will take payment information, the web site doesn't work. Just not crashing is not the same as working.

mark said...

So, Rick, the answer to my question is - no, you don't have an ounce of dignity.

You claimed a google search would lead to nothing regarding the website being fixed.

I easily linked one, among a number of similar stories, referencing and excerpting the Times story.

Now you claim that, since you couldn't read the whole article, you weren't sure what it is about: Here's a paragraph you were able to read:

This is the story of a team of unknown—except in elite technology circles—coders and troubleshooters who dropped what they were doing in various enterprises across the country and came together in mid-October to save the website. In about a tenth of the time that a crew of usual-suspect, Washington contractors had spent over $300 million building a site that didn’t work, this ad hoc team rescued it and, arguably, Obama’s chance at a health-reform legacy.

Still unsure?

No worries; after communicating with you, I have a very good idea what a "back end" is.

Rick Caird said...

Mark, so you are still with the bluster and failed attempts at bullying, but with no actual facts.

Test the searches for yourself. Try Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo using "ObamaCare web site fixed". Notice the Time article does not come up. Two articles do come up, though, relating to the back end and now a request that web site users change passwords due to Heartbleed". All your huffing and puffing is of no use, you cannot address the issue and you still have not read the Time article, but you are sure you know what it says.

The quote you include says nothing. "Rescue" is not the same as "fixing". Workarounds are temporary. They are not fixes. My original claim that the web site will need to be redesigned and recoded still stands.

Mark, you seem to confuse bluster a bullying with debate. Come back when you can address an actual issue. Give us the Google search string you used to find the Time article. Explain how a web site that garbles back end data going to the insurance companies, requiring substantial hand processing by the insurance companies, and cannot actually take payments is "fixed".

I look forward to your answer. However, I will ignore any further responses that do not address any actual debatable issues. Bluster and name calling are worthless. Let's see what ya' got.

mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark said...

So now you're down to parsing "rescue" the website with "fixing" it.

You're a silly, silly man.

Rick Caird said...

LOL, I am intrigued that you are unwilling to reproduce the search string you claim you used to find the Time web site in 5 seconds.

Second, you used the term "fixed" in your second post when you said:

"You were wrong about the website being fixed....". Now the term is "rescued" Wow, I should have searched on "rescue", then. LOL.

Finally, you seem to be unable to post without bluster and name calling. Even a child realizes, that is symptomatic of a lost argument.