Monday, May 08, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, it's a relief that Marine Le Pen fell quite short in her efforts to win leadership of France. In fact, the last time a candidate lost by that much was her father in 2002. Emmanuel Macron didn't win on the strength of his own personality or policy positions. He was just lucky enough that François Fillon's candidacy sunk under the burden of stories of his funneling jobs and government money to his family. And then he became the hope of all the anti-National Front voters who voted for him because they couldn't stand the idea of a Le Pen winning. We'll have to see if his luck wins out as he tackles France's problems. But he shouldn't forget that he only won about a quarter of the votes in the first round and that there is still a third of voters who chose Le Pen even though everyone knew she would lose. That is a significant block of voters who are very unhappy with the status quo in France. He has a strong mandate not to be Marine Le Pen, but it's unclear how much of a mandate he has for anything else.
This means President Macron will have a fragile mandate and a narrow window to press his agenda. France needs radical reform of a government that in 2015 took 57% of national GDP and an economy with a jobless rate that is 10% eight years after the financial crisis.

Yet political failure is the recent French norm. Successive Presidents have failed to undo the 1999 35-hour-workweek law amid militant union protests. Mr. Mélenchon and his “Unbowed France” movement are promising chaos if Mr. Macron dares to advance what the socialist calls “neoliberalism.” Mr. Macron’s best bet is to go big and abolish the 35-hour workweek as Mr. Fillon promised, rather than seek marginal fixes and pay the political price anyway. The same goes for cutting the corporate tax rate to 25% from 33.3%, especially as the U.S. heads toward a 20% rate.

Mr. Macron’s ability to push reform will depend on the strength of the parliamentary coalition he can assemble. If En Marche! fails to win a majority in June’s parliamentary vote, he should hope the Republicans do. One way to set the tone for the June vote would be to invite Republican heavyweights to join the Macron cabinet.

The new President will also need help on national security, which was his weakest pitch to voters. While he committed to increasing capacity at the security agencies, Ms. Le Pen’s vows to fight radical Islam and toughen border controls appealed to voters who witnessed massacres across the country....

As for European Union elites, the temptation will be to view the Macron triumph as vindication of the status quo, given Ms. Le Pen’s vow to leave the EU and ditch the euro. It is at most a reprieve. Ms. Le Pen improved on her father’s performance 15 years ago, she and Mr. Mélenchon drew broad support among the young, and France’s mainstream parties were repudiated. The EU project is far from secure unless it can provide more economic opportunity and better security, and show more respect for voters who resent dictates from Brussels.

The French center held, barely. If Mr. Macron fails to deliver faster growth, France may not be so lucky the next time.

Tom Rogan explains
why Macron's victory will be good for the U.S.
Consider national security. Unlike Le Pen, Macron is avowedly pro-American. He supports NATO and cooperation on issues of shared concern. This includes countering Iranian influence in the Middle East and the rise of Islamist terrorist organizations in Africa. But Macron is also more questioning, let us say, towards Vladimir Putin. This is also a good thing. As I've explained, there is nothing wrong with President Trump wanting good relations with Russia. But there is a lot wrong with believing that Putin wants to have good relations with the U.S. Macron's arrival offers the prospect on renewed economic pressure — and western unity — in challenging Putin to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad, for example. Unless we see that pressure, Putin will keep pushing against U.S. interests around the world.

We should also expect good things on trade. Again, unlike Le Pen, Macron is pro-trade. He wants to make France more economically productive, competitive, and outward-looking. That matters in the context of U.S. trade with France.

Last year, U.S. exports to France stood at just under $31 billion, and imports at $46.8 billion. Yet as a key influencer on Angela Merkel, Macron has the ability to push for more liberal trading arrangements between the European Union and the U.S. This is a good thing for American workers. Because of France's comparative high-wealth economy, Americans stand to benefit from increasing consumer demand in France. If we can reduce French subsidies for their domestic industries, we'll make high-tech, high-value American goods more accessible to the French people. Had Le Pen won, she would have directed France's foreign intelligence service, the DGSE, to increase its already substantial espionage campaign against U.S. companies.

Ultimately, the American benefit of Macron's election is his general approach to things. He is the American friend that Le Pen will never be. She believes in nationalist sectarianism and economic statism. Both those agendas run counter to our interests. Correspondingly, while American conservatives might not find Macron ideal, his presidency is a good match to our interests and ideology.

Mother's Day Gift Shop

25% Off in Office and School Supplies

Deals in Office Products

Deals in Home and Kitchen

Though the Democrats and media would like to have the discussion about the GOP's efforts to reform Obamacare take place in a vacuum where their bill is going against some Platonic ideal of healthcare, the reality is that Obamacare is failing. And that is the discussion that should be taking place. Is the replacement any better than the reality that exists now. And the reality of Obamacare now is not good, not good at all.
Insurers are sending mounting signals of trouble next year for the marketplaces where consumers buy insurance, a looming issue not eased by House passage of the Republican health bill.

Regulatory filings in two states with early deadlines, Virginia and Maryland, showed several insurers seeking major premium increases for their 2018 Affordable Care Act exchange plans.

Some insurers indicated that they could seek even larger increases, or potentially pull back, without guarantees that they will keep getting federal payments that help with costs for low-income enrollees.
If the GOP bill doesn't give relief to the insurers, this death spiral will increase. The reason is because of the faulty way that Obamacare was designed, but the Obama administration anticipated federal bailouts of the insurance companies. With those bailouts not materializing, the insurance companies have to either jack up rates or leave the exchanges.
The rate disclosures came as other insurers were warning about exchange pullbacks. Medica, a nonprofit insurer, said Wednesday it was considering withdrawing from Iowa’s exchange next year, a move that would likely leave much of the state with no marketplace plans, after earlier-announced departures by other insurers....

Aetna Inc. said Wednesday it would pull out of Virginia’s exchange in 2018, after saying Tuesday it was going to substantially scale back its already-limited marketplace offerings. Aetna pointed to “financial risk, and growing uncertainty in the marketplace” in its Virginia decision.

The new developments added to the signs of strain in exchanges around the country, kicked off by Humana Inc.’s announcement in February that it will next year withdraw from all marketplaces, leaving an area of Tennessee at risk of having no exchange insurers. Other insurers, including Anthem and Molina Healthcare Inc., have said they are weighing pullbacks.

A serious discussion of the GOP plan is not helped by outright lies about what is in the GOP bill. The Washington Post debunks the accusation that the bill classifies rape or sexual assault as a preexisting condition, an accusation that had gone viral last week. The allegation went from social media to the MSM along with similar accusations that the plan denies coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
The AHCA does not specifically address or classify rape or sexual assault as a pre-existing condition. It also would not deny coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition....

AHCA specifically addresses states’ abilities to get a waiver so that “health status” is no longer protected from underwriting, according to a House Energy and Commerce aide. But other protections remain in place — including for mental conditions and conditions relating to acts of domestic violence — and are still protected from being incorporated into insurance underwriting, according to the aide.

States and the Secretary of Health and Human Services would decide how to interpret “health status.” State waivers must be approved by the federal government. Opponents of AHCA say that because “health status” is up for interpretation, there is no control in the bill to prevent rising costs for survivors of rape and sexual assault.

But there is another wrinkle which makes this scenario highly unlikely: Virtually every state already has a law prohibiting insurance discrimination based on sexual assault and/or domestic violence.

At least 45 states have laws prohibiting health insurance companies from using a woman’s status as a domestic violence survivor to deny coverage, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

“Domestic violence” is not always interchangeable with sexual assault, including rape. All but two states (Idaho and Vermont) enacted key provisions of a 1999 model legislation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to ban insurers from discriminating against sexual abuse survivors, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for 1,300 health insurance companies. The organization, which said AHCA “needs important improvements,” said: “Our perspective is that of course survivors of domestic abuse and rape should be covered.”

Bottom line: Almost all states (at least 45 to 48) have their own laws protecting survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Even if AHCA became law as currently written, state law still determines what can and cannot be used for rating, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The upshot is that the accusation receives Four Pinocchios. We'll see if the MSM sites that repeated this allegation will issue strong refutations and apologies. Don't hold your breath.

Mary Katharine Ham writes of her experiences
losing her health care plans three to four times under Obamacare in the individual market.
Most people who aren’t in the individual market, which is the one most affected by ACA, have no idea what the plans look like. It is a market where the costs of the bill’s mandates are more visible, even when subsidized. When I cite exorbitant deductibles, folks tell me to suck it up and pay $3,000. I laugh at a $3,000 deductible. What in the old system was considered a very high deductible is now among the lower available, and premiums for any kind of deductible are high, even with subsidies. Many families have to hit $12,700, and they’re paying a mortgage-sized premium. For many, the purchase becomes hard to justify or supplants an actual mortgage or similar outlays.

Arguing about this as if beneficiaries of ACA don’t exist isn’t right. Arguing about it as if people like me don’t is also not right. ACA was never the panacea it was sold as and it remains distinctly un-utopian in its results. Lazy characterizations of things you like as perfect—and of people you oppose as big fans of people dying—are not particularly helpful to actual people.

So if you’re weaving a utopian or dystopian scenario for Facebook, remember reality is almost always less extreme and more nuanced than you’re asserting, and you probably know a real human on both sides of every imperfect adjustment to our Frankenstein system.

One of them was a pregnant widow who had to spend her 32nd week of pregnancy and the first week after her husband’s funeral calling midwives, doctors, insurance companies, and help lines to make sure she’d still have the third plan she was promised she could keep.

One woman writes the story of how her husband would probably have been allowed to die when he had a heart attack back in 2008 if Obamacare had been in effect at that time.
It was a few months after my husband left the hospital from his heart attack that we ran into one of the nurses who cared for him — at a presidential campaign event, no less. One chat led to another and the subject of socialized health care was raised. And this is what the nurse said: Had my husband been on Medicare or Medicaid at the time of his heart attack, the doctors would have quit their life-saving efforts long before his 10 comatose days had ended. Why? Because the government health care plan wouldn’t have paid for the around-the-clock intensive care. The situation would’ve quickly evolved into a pull the plug, wait and see what happens type of deal.

As it was, BlueCross-BlueShield, the private insurance company, approved all the doctors’ service requests. And so my husband went on to live another day — another nine years, and counting.

That’s not how Barack Obama and his socialist Obamacare supporters would tell it. According to them, private insurers were — still are — evil money-making grubs, concerned only about the profit statements they can deliver their boards.

The truth?

Had Obamacare been the law of the land in early 2008, my husband probably would’ve died. And even if he didn’t, we probably would’ve had thousands and thousands of more dollars in medical expenses than we did. We do now, for crying out loud: post-Obamacare, the ongoing health needs of my husband cost thousands of dollars more in deductibles and copays than we ever paid in the freer market.

Thanks Obamacare.

Pretty much everything Obama and his ilk said was happening in the medical world to justify the passage of Obamacare — the high copays, the burdensome deductibles, the limited choice of doctors, the inability to visit the physicians and hospitals of preference — actually only occurred after Obamacare passed.
As Mary Katharine Ham wrote, there are people have been helped by Obamacare and those who have been hurt. It is deceptive to tell only one side of the story.

Echo and Alexa Devices

Amazon Fire TV

Hot New Releases in All Categories

The American Association for Public Opinion Research looked back on the 2016 election polls and concludes that they actually didn't do that badly. They point out that the national polls were pretty close. They predicted that Clinton would have a narrow lead and she did win the popular vote with a narrow lead. The state polls were more of the problem. They showed a narrow Electoral College victory for Clinton. The problem was in the blue states that Trump won: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
There are a number of reasons as to why polls under-estimated support for Trump. The explanations for which we found the most evidence are:

Real change in vote preference during the final week or so of the campaign. About 13 percent of voters in Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania decided on their presidential vote choice in the final week, according to the best available data. These voters broke for Trump by near 30 points in Wisconsin and by 17 points in Florida and Pennsylvania.

Adjusting for over-representation of college graduates was critical, but many polls did not do it. In 2016 there was a strong correlation between education and presidential vote in key states. Voters with higher education levels were more likely to support Clinton. Furthermore, recent studies are clear that people with more formal education are significantly more likely to participate in surveys than those with less education. Many polls – especially at the state level – did not adjust their weights to correct for the over-representation of college graduates in their surveys, and the result was over-estimation of support for Clinton.

Some Trump voters who participated in pre-election polls did not reveal themselves as Trump voters until after the election, and they outnumbered late-revealing Clinton voters.
This finding could be attributable to either late deciding or misreporting (the so-called Shy Trump effect) in the pre-election polls. A number of other tests for the Shy Trump theory yielded no evidence to support it.
The rest of their findings are interested and some of them contradict some of the conclusions that some analysts put forth right after the election.

Salena Zito visits Macomb County, Michigan and how the Clinton campaign failed to talk to those voters about their very real economic concerns.
Of Clinton having a campaign office here — only to skip visiting the struggling working-class manufacturing town and send in Hollywood surrogates Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen, who scolded voters about climate change — she is sardonic:

Your message and your optics are everything when you are trying to persuade people to buy something from you or vote for you. Does this look like somewhere that needs to be schooled on climate change? she asks. "That is why she did not win Michigan. No matter who she chooses to blame, it is time for her to really look inward."

Roseville is in Macomb County, the heart of Reagan Democrat country, socially conservative white Democrats who are anxious about their economic future. It's like so many places where Trump exceeded expectations — an economically anxious, culturally conservative, tight-knit community that doesn't understand how elite-driven change will benefit them.

For the Clinton campaign to send Hollywood liberals here in the closing days of the race to preach about climate change was tone deaf on a Guinness record-level....

In a year defined by a backlash against elites, the Clinton campaign closed the race in Michigan with elite cultural figures talking about elite social issues. It couldn't have gotten it more wrong.

Last October, Danson and Steenburgen addressed 35 people in this strip mall, many of them Clinton campaign volunteers and local elected officials.

At the same time, Trump was planning his sixth and seventh trips to manufacturing towns in Michigan, and the local Trump headquarters had lines outside its doors, wanting yard signs, despite the Republican nominee being 6 points down in most polls just days before the election.

Words delivered with honesty, despite being loose with facts, sometimes are more appealing to people than a perfectly crafted message that is dishonest at its core.
Now those voters are waiting to see if Trump can deliver on his promises. That is much more doubtful than whether or not an elitist message was going to win over voters.

The NYT reports that Trump is set to make 10 nominations to the lower federal courts. There are more than 120 openings on the appellate and district court level so he has a lot of nominations to make. Many of these nominees today will come from the list that he issued during the campaign as he proposes to move judges from state courts onto the federal courts. The usual suspects are complaining about his nominees, before they even know who they are because, well, Trump. Once again, Republicans will have great reasons to thank Harry Reid for removing the filibuster for judicial nominations. Without that action, Republicans would either have to consider doing so themselves or Trump could kiss his nominations good-bye.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

The WSJ reviews a recent study looking at the relationship between high tax rates and professional sports teams's success.
Erik Hembre, an economist at the University of Illinois-Chicago, looked at the question: Do tax rates affect a team’s performance? He analyzed data in professional football, basketball, baseball and hockey between 1977 and 2014. Since the mid-1990s, he writes, “a ten percentage point increase in income tax rates is associated with between a 1.9-3.0 percentage point decrease in winning percentage.”

Here’s why: Professional athletes are taxed at the highest marginal rate. The average NBA player earned more than $4.8 million in 2013 and the average was $2.3 in the NFL, so athletes who play for the Minnesota Vikings earn less after taxes than do Dallas Cowboys.

The NBA and NFL impose caps on team salaries, but teams do compete for free agents, and high tax rates make some franchises less attractive to some players. Mr. Hembre found that states with hefty taxes also tend to rely more on players who are drafted, and politicians like Mr. Malloy must envy a league’s power to force people to remain in a state.

The effect appears strongest in the NBA, “where moving from a high-tax state to a low-tax state has a similar effect on winning as upgrading a bench player to an All-Star.” An NBA team that fled Minnesota (top rate: 9.85%) for Florida (0%) could expect to win an additional 4.5 games a season, Mr. Hembre found. The connection is smaller in baseball, as the MLB doesn’t impose salary caps on free agents (though teams pay a “competitive balance tax” to the league on salaries above a certain level). This allows, say, the Orioles to compensate players for the misfortune of paying taxes in Baltimore and Maryland.
Of course, we can think of all sorts of individual exceptions to disprove these rules. The Golden State Warriors and Chicago Cubs are succeeding in high-tax states and don't seem to have trouble attracting free agents. LeBron James chose to leave Florida, a low-tax state, for Ohio. I remember people making the point about how much he'd save in income tax when he left Cleveland the first time. Kevin Durant left Oklahoma for California. At some point, free agents make decisions based on what the teams offer them as places to play in the so-called "jock tax." And athletes who play around the country need to pay taxes in almost all the states in which they play away games so, about half their games are at some other rate than their home state's. By the way, that "jock tax" applies not only to highly-paid professional athletes, but all the other people who travel with the team. So some trainers or assistant coaches might have to file income taxes in 15 to 20 states even though they're earning so much less than the athletes.

Best in Video Games

Virtual Reality

Video Game Accessories