Top men have made a plan. Top. Men.

Wonkblog says that the administration ‘has a plan’ to ‘avoid’ the Obamacare Risk Corridors becoming a ‘bailout’ (i.e. not really necessarily a bailout per se but costing taxpayers a lot of money nevertheless).

What is this ‘plan’? Let me boil it down for you:

1. Save any money it takes in, just in case it costs money later, and hope the saved money will be enough to cover any later liability (fingers crossed!)
2. Don’t pay early-year claimers all that’s owed to them under the corridor, promise it to them in yearly installments and hope that future years they’ll turn green anyway & we can net things out then.

This is a ‘plan’ to ‘avoid’ any possibility of a large taxpayer hit, you wonder? And the answer is a resounding no, according to the actual article:

So what happens if at the end of the three-year program, HHS hasn’t collected enough payments or it’s collected too much? Well, HHS doesn’t know yet what happens then

Um, what happens then is that (assuming that ‘hasn’t collected enough’ is the likely situation) taxpayers will either have to make good on the tranched insurance protection their wise Congressmen sold to insurance companies, or renege somehow. Or in colloquial terms, taxpayers will have to ‘bail out’ insurance companies to the tune of $X billion, for some unknown but possibly large and not even apparently bounded X.

And that’s the ‘plan’!

I’d hate to think what ‘no plan’ looks like.

I Don’t Understand Why Kathleen Sebelius Had To Resign

What did she do wrong? Can someone explain?

I look at Kathleen Sebelius and see a well-coiffed woman in a pants-suit. She seemed to wear that pants-suit successfully. She looks serious and businesslike and even has shortis whitish hair, so as not to be too threateningly feminine. She’s even also skinny for pete’s sake. You could picture her getting invited to a fancy DC-area cocktail party.

Therefore, what’s the problem?

Or we can just look at her background. Wiki says she has a master’s degree in ‘Public Administration’. You could therefore put some letters after her name. That’s a credential. What more do you need? She should just be kept in whatever position she holds (as long as she wants to hold it) thereafter. (Credential).

Then for the subsequent 30 years it looks like she’s been doing ‘jobs’ involving getting elected to stuff. So what more qualification do you need? How can we not have her in roles involving power and authority now?

I bet she even ‘leaned in’. Now granted this is just a conjecture on my part, but an educated one. I’m just saying that if you were a fly on a wall at one of the numerous meetings we presume she was always having about this and that at HHS, her ‘leaning’ posture was probably in rather than out. Maybe she even wore reading glasses (just a guess) and asked pointed questions like, ‘How are we doing on those timelines?’ and then nodded her head thoughtfully at the responses while checking her Blackberry.

All I’m saying is that when I think about whether she satisfies all the criteria for success and qualification and doing a good job that we actually impose when selecting who will be our leaders (in particular female ones), as far as I can tell she passes with flying colors. I can literally think of no single criterion that we currently impose on leaders and authority figures that she doesn’t fully satisfy just fine. With respect to those criteria, she passes with flying colors as far as I can tell.

I mentioned the pants-suit right?

Klein: We Won We Won Neener Neener

Der Wunderkinder: Kathleen Sebelius is resigning because Obamacare has won

It’s a lovely mentality, isn’t it, that conceives of a policy as ‘winning’. Back in grownup-land, policies might succeed or fail, they might be costly or efficient, they are helpful or unhelpful, while all along they have distributional effects, they have subtle unintended consequences, and so on and so on.

But in Wunderkindia, it’s all about whether they ‘win’. It’s only about whether they ‘win’.

Maybe I’m being unfair though. Let’s dig into the 5th-grade-level prose that is apparently in conformance with Vox’s style guide to see what he means by ‘win’:

In other words, the law has won its survival. [...] And Sebelius can leave with her head held high. She can leave with the law she helped build looking, shockingly, like a success.

It’s ‘won’ its…survival. And therefore it’s a ‘success’ because…it will survive. The law existing means the law is successful means the law won.

But why did we want the law to exist? Why do we care that it ‘survives’? Do we even remember? (Something about ‘getting people insured’ qua insured regardless of cost no doubt)

When Obamacare supporters like Ezra Klein strike postures of foisting these policies because they care so much and want to improve lives, just remember that when the rubber meets the road all they really care about is their policy ‘winning’. They win and the bad guys lose.

If Obamacare has ‘won’, who has ‘lost’? The American middle class, obviously. Congratulations on your big ‘victory’ in raping the American middle class, I guess.

It’s us vs. them. It’s Smart People vs. the rabble dummies. It’s high school all over again.

Except for CLOs, of course

It’s morally and economically imperative for regulators to ban banks from doing trades regulators inconsistently and arbitrarily label as ‘prop trades’ unless banks complain that taking off those trades will lose them a lot of money and (gasp) widen spreads in the space in which case regulators should go ahead and unilaterally give them an arbitrary, extralegal ‘extension’ during which banks can just go ahead and disobey the morally and economically imperative law that was passed banning the activity and which is supposedly in effect.

What’s really going on here, you may wonder. Well CLOs are the one product from the Scary Three-Letter Acronym Family that ‘still work’ and so, nobody wants to rock the boat. Oh yes, the Volcker Rule surely was an intelligent rule based on informed judgment and sound, highly consistent principles.

Why do we want all people to be insured?

Why do we want so much for all people to ‘be insured’?

It’s not as if this is a recent development but it’s been getting under my craw lately just how much debate on Obamacare and health-care financing/distribution centers on the single, monolithic issue of how many people ‘are insured’. How exactly did this get to be the all-encompassing metric of everything towards which all of society’s rules ought to point?

I mean, what’s so great about ‘being insured’? For one thing this way of speaking ignores all the economically-meaningful details of whatever insurance one may have. $1/year premium and no deductible? $2000/month premium and $25k deductible? In both cases, the person ‘is insured’ and we’re supposed to rejoice (equally?).

Similarly, elevating ‘being insured’ to some kind of holy, sanctified, sought-after-at-any-cost status ignores ways of dealing with things that, nevertheless, don’t qualify as ‘insurance’ on technical grounds. We are constantly told that people who ‘weren’t insured’ would use the ER and Medicaid and whatnot. But now they will ‘have insurance’, so that’s better. But wait: why is that better? For whom? By what standard? No explanation is proffered. Who needs one? ‘Being insured’ is good and ‘not being insured’ bad, period, say all the Smart People. And nevermind the fact that (in a sense) all those people were ‘insured’, it just wasn’t by an insurance company, it was by taxpayers-and-whoever.

But I went too far with that ‘at-any-cost’ part, didn’t I? Cost is not even mentioned in the first place. As far as I can tell, I’m supposed to think that increasing the percentage of people who ‘are insured’ (whatever that means) by one basis point is worth spending X dollars – for any value of X whatsoever. The ledger of this retarded debate, as conducted by (retarded) Smart People, has only one side to it.

So I’ll ask again: why do we want to much for all people to ‘be insured’? It’s not obvious if you really think about it. Which few seem to.

Please oh please let Jonathan Pollard out of jail for some reason

There are a lot of people who totally care that this guy Jonathan Pollard is in jail & want him to be let out. These people don’t appear to dispute that Pollard committed the crimes for which he was convicted and imprisoned, they just want him to be let out. Such that from time to time (i.e., now appears to be another instance) Letting Jonathan Pollard Out Of Jail comes up in some sort of negotiation as a concession that party 1 could make to party 2 in order to coax party 2 to do whatever. Implicitly meaning that party 2 is among those people who totally care that this guy Jonathan Pollard is in jail & want him to be let out.

Could someone please explain why? There’s lotsa guys in jail you know. If and when Pollard finally is let out of jail as a (weird) concession to (weird) people, are we all gonna shift our focus to random jailed guy #2 for the next 30 years till he too is let out of jail as a (weird) concession? Who’s in line for #2, #3, etc.? Can we speed up these conversations a little and cut to the chase: why exactly should we let guilty and duly-convicted people serving lawful sentences out of jail?

I just don’t get it. Please explain. I’m not even really being facetious or sarcastic here. I literally don’t understand why anyone not directly related to this guy Jonathan Pollard would care that Jonathan Pollard is in jail for crimes he actually did commit, & would want him to be let out of jail despite having committed those crimes for some weird reason. I mean when I put it that way is there any rational way to explain? I don’t even think so. So why did I bother writing this post? Not the first time I’ve asked myself that.

UPDATE: Since I can see this question however seemingly straightforward is hard to answer on its own terms by the people I’m directing it at, here’s another angle you could try. Explain how freeing Jonathan Pollard is a ‘concession’ to the people it’s supposedly a concession to. Concession implies they get something out of it. So: what do the people who Want Pollard Freed For Some Reason get out of freeing Pollard? Are they planning to give him a big bear hug? And then what? Did he promise to come work on their farm or marry their daughter? Explain the ‘concession’ logic if you can. And sure, one way to explain it could be, ‘because we care about principle and freeing him accords with principle while keeping him in prison doesn’t’. But then you’ll have to explain what principle that would be exactly. Good luck,

Smart Religion



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