Sunday, January 31, 2010
The TARP Inspector General sez:
To the extent that institutions were previously incentivized to take reckless risks through a “heads, I win; tails, the Government will bail me out” mentality, the market is more convinced than ever that the Government will step in as necessary to save systemically significant institutions. This perception was reinforced when TARP was extended until October 3, 2010, thus permitting Treasury to maintain a war chest of potential rescue funding at the same time that banks that have shown questionable ability to return to profitability (and in some cases are posting multi-billion-dollar losses) are exiting TARP programs.
Can you say "moral hazard"?
That's in the actual report, and not a summary by Calculated Risk (which is what the link points to).
The broader point of the report, and one that CR agrees with, is that the Feds have been engaging in moves to elevate house prices. And it's worked so far. But, as CR notes:
... there is a good chance that house prices will fall further as the government support is withdrawn since house prices appear too high based on price-to-income and price-to-rent ratios.
Atrios has said that much of the financial support is based on the idea that if house prices can be kept from plummeting, it might bridge the "bad times" until the economy picks up again. But is there solid growth (jobs, wages, consuming) anytime in the near future? If there is, then this crisis will have been straddled. If there isn't, then we might see a double-dip recession.
A what roundtable?
Viewers of ABC's This Week have previously been treated to:
- A "Classic Roundtable" which means Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.
- A "Power Roundtable" which is usually the term when Newt Gingrich or another legislator shows up.
But this Sunday
, well, here's the text: (emp add)
Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes makes his first appearance on "This Week," part of a spectacular roundtable, joining George Will, Nobel-Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post.
There you haved it.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Suspended in air?
Brad DeLong looks at the current fiscial situation and writes
: (amp add)
There is about a 30% chance that the U.S. economy is about to start growing rapidly, with unemployment declining by a percentage point or two each year. There is about a 40% chance that we are about to start a recovery like or a little bit better than the "jobless recoveries" that have followed the last two (much shallower) recessions, with unemployment staying where it is or trending down slowly. And there is about a 30% chance that the unemployment rate is going to pause--and then start rising again in a double-dip recession.
The tools to fight a further rise in unemployment are threefold:
- Banking policy--have the Treasury buy or guarantee risky financial assets in enormous amounts in order to boost asset prices and get businesses back into a position where they can profitably obtain financing for expansion.
- Monetary policy--have the Federal Reserve goose asset prices by taking steps that lower real interest rates somewhere along the yield curve.
- Fiscal policy--have the government spend money, either by hiring people directly or by buying things from private companies that then hire people directly.
Boosting/goosing asset prices. Are they undervalued or would this be an attempt to bring them back to prices of the borrow-bubble days?
BTW, DeLong says that of those 3 options, the first two aren't going to happen - although I wonldn't be so sure. But it's an interesting commentary on the state of the nation's economic virility when the way out is by raising asset prices. (POPULIST NOTE: We all know who that benefits.)
They are not what they appear to be:
Things happen because a small fraction of centrist Democrats side with the vast majority of Republicans, but then the overall legislative vehicle ends up being moved on a party-line vote. This leads to people criticizing “the Democrats” for doing things that only a tiny minority of Democrats actually did, and Republicans run around acting like they have nothing to do with outcomes even though they’ve actually been decisive in shaping them.
That's because those "centrist Democrats" (aka Blue Dogs) are functionally the equivalent of Republicans
, only with more power.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Health care legislation blame game:
TPM has a round-up
of key figures and events that have contributed to the delay (and possible failure) of health care legislation.
Of those listed, Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman rank high as offenders in my book. It wasn't just those two (many others have a hand in what's transpired) but they get the ribbons.
File system bleg:
Yglesias has an interesting post
on how, more and more, people that use computers are being shielded from having to know about file systems.
I pretty much only work with file systems. If it's a camera, I take out the memory card and copy the j-pegs onto the hard disk with a USB adapter. I don't use Kodak's EasyShare software or whatever it is on Samsung's CD. If it's music, I download the MP3s to whichever folder is appropriate. I don't use the iTunes app. I sync bookmarks/favorites over various browsers/PCs. I save webpages and web images in a rigorously hierarchical system. I even manage Outlook Express .dbx files to a limited extent. As much as possible, I try to put documents/spreadsheets in appropriate folders and not lump them in My Documents or on the Desktop.
I can take whatever files I want put them on a flash memory and (a) keep them there as a backup, or (b) copy them onto a newer machine.
Over a span of 10 years, the number of files is enormous. Something like 10,000. It would seem that file system awareness is critical to good management.
Here's my question. For people who use those applications that sidestep "file system awareness", how do they get their files transferred to a new computer?
Related: The trend seems to be moving away from "file system awareness". The way to get stuff, at least with Vista/Windows7, is to search
and then you get emails, pictures, and documents all related to "Aunt Sally". The presumption is that people search on the web, so why not search your own PC? I'm not sure that's better than having the user work the file systems.
UPDATE: Somewhat related is a post
where the main theme is "The iPad is a computer for people who do not like computers, not a computer for people who like computers."
Thursday, January 28, 2010
This has got to stop:
In the news
: (emp add)
Senate permits gov't to borrow an additional $1.9T
WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats needed all the 60 votes at their disposal Thursday to muscle through legislation allowing the government to go $1.9 trillion deeper in debt.
Democratic leaders were able to prevail on the politically volatile 60-39 vote only because Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts has yet to be seated. Republicans had insisted on a 60-vote, super-majority threshhold to pass the measure. An earlier test vote succeeded on a 60-40 vote. (...)
Earlier Thursday, Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate rejected a plan attempting to adopt a modified version of the president's proposal to freeze spending on domestic spending passed by Congress in annual spending bills.
A 56-strong majority of senators supported the plan, but it failed because 60 votes were required. It serves as a marker for later this year when Congress passes its budget.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I watched the speech and tried to imagine how it would be received by (a) someone out of work, and (b) someone who owned a home.
For the out of work person, there wasn't much to get excited about.
For the homeowner, there was the sense that Obama (and the Fed) helped to keep house prices from cratering. They are down, but not nearly as much as the stress test - and especially the "adverse condition" scenario - trajectories. See this chart at Calculated Risk
Overall, it sounded like a technocratic speech. Wasn't a "game changer", to use the contemporary lexicon.
You can pretty much give up now:
Fox is the most trusted television news network in the country, according to a new poll out Tuesday.
A Public Policy Polling nationwide survey of 1,151 registered voters Jan. 18-19 found that 49 percent of Americans trusted Fox News, 10 percentage points more than any other network.
Thirty-seven percent said they didn’t trust Fox, also the lowest level of distrust that any of the networks recorded.
Forget the opinion segments that dominate (Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly). Their standard reporting is full of errors and distortions.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The right have teased Obama for using a teleprompter in many situations. That has - in most cases - been a silly charge. But Obama does
use it excessively, like in a sixth-grade classroom
. It feeds into the aloof/out-of-touch meme. Can't the guy read from cue cards once in a while?
This just in:Democrats place new roadblock to health care bill
Nothing particularly new:
Two centrist senators Tuesday threw up a roadblock to salvaging President Barack Obama's health care overhaul ...
Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. ... said they would oppose the strategy Democratic leaders are considering to reconcile the House and Senate bills and put comprehensive legislation on Obama's desk.
That approach involves using a special budget-related procedure to go around Republican opponents in the Senate, a calculated risk sure to inflame critics on the political right.
A question for the audience:
Why are Blue Dog politicians Democrats? Why aren't they Republicans?
If they are not Republicans, is it because of certain policy differences, and if so, which ones?
Pining for Nixon:
This evening on a PBS channel they had a rebroadcast of the David Frost / Richard Nixon interview. Nixon, a Republican who proposed a negative income tax and a national health care plan.
My, how times have changed.
Mark Thoma reacts to Obama's spending freeze proposal:
"... we get cheap political tricks that are likely to backfire. How will this look, for example, if there's a double dip recession, or if unemployment follows the dismal path that the administration itself has forecast?
This seems to be a case of the former Clinton people in the administration (or wannabees) trying to relive their glory days instead of realizing that those days are gone, the world is different now and it calls for different solutions.
I wasn't in favor of having so many Clinton administration people in this administration, and nothing so far has caused me to change that assessment. They're nothing but trouble."
Monday, January 25, 2010
If you like Michael Lind's essays, his latest in Salon
is a real treat. It's about Obama and populism.
One line that caught my eye was this one which, while not directly addressing the Senate bill's excise tax, is applicable to it:
... a purely budgetary solution of cutting spending without delivery-system reform will merely provide Americans with smaller amounts of excessively costly care ...
Cutting spending is the goal of the Senate bill's excise tax.
There hasn't been any serious attention to delivery-system reform with the health care legislation. Yes, there is reform about who gets in, and who pays, but the actual system of doctors, hospitals, and drugs is pretty much left alone to operate as it always has.
Dean Baker is not amused:
But his take-down
of a Washington Post
editorial endorsing Bernanke is amusing.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
From a Washington Post article
on the White House approach to legislation: (emp add)
But some Democrats would eventually complain that Obama was too hands-off, too absent, especially after tough votes.
When House Democrats passed energy legislation in June that included a controversial plan to curb carbon emissions, many returned home during a recess to angry constituents and found little support from the president. (...)
White House advisers say Democrats need to understand that Obama is not all-powerful. ... [a senior White House adviser who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly [said] "If there is a lesson out of the Massachusetts race, it is the people on Capitol Hill have to realize nobody can go win this for you. If you're going to cast the vote, then you have to be prepared to argue why it was the best vote."
The White House can (a) take some of the heat resulting from controversial legislation, (b) emphasize - again - why it's good policy, and (c) assist legislators who are under siege by scheduling a photo-op or some other event for the local pol. That's not a cure-all, but it's something
and every little bit helps.
Reuters uses discredited photo of "aged" Bin Laden:Here
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Steve Benen muses
... for all I know, congressional leaders may have specifically asked Obama to let them work this [health care bill] out themselves ...
If, and it's a big if
, the White House is out of the picture, for their own reasons or because they've been asked, that's a sad state of affairs.
Josh Marshall writes
In this post, Matt Yglesias gets at what's so wrong about pulling the plug now on reform and why a lot of people on the Hill aren't able to quite see this. Needing to make that complicated machine work people up there think about all the different bills, different iterations of bills, how there was never one "Obamacare", all the back and forth between House and Senate. But it's hard when you're living in that world to fully grasp that hardly anyone outside of DC has any idea what you're even talking about when you get into all that stuff. Or cares. It's just there was Obamacare. They worked on it all year. It got really messy. It was basically done. And then they just stopped. Read Matt's piece.
: (emp add)
There are ... separate pieces of legislation. A House bill, a Senate bill, a Senate Finance Committee draft. And to professionals, there are important differences between these bills. House members voted for the House bill, but the Senate bill is something else entirely. Senate members voted for the Senate bill, but some amendments to make the tax provisions less-unfavorable to union members would be a whole separate bill. I understand all that. I write blog posts about it all the time.
But no normal people care about that even a little.
That's a remarkable dismissal of, well, basically everything. Why not pass an incredibly compromised bill that even Republicans will vote for? Because according to Yglesias, nobody cares about the detail.
To see Josh Marshall sharing that view is quite a surprise.
All together now:
This week has seen a unified call for action from several prominent progressive bloggers.Steve Benen
Know what would really make things easier for Dems? If the House passes the Senate health care bill, and Democrats prove they're capable of delivering on their agenda.Ezra Klein
A lot of the onus for health care's sudden derailing has been placed on the House, which is bafflingly opposed to passing the Senate bill.Matthew Yglesias
... while losing the MA Senate seat puts certain objective constraints on what Democrats can do the most important constraints come from within. ... There’s no rule preventing the House from passing the Senate health care bill.Kevin Drum
There's really no alternative to passing the [Senate] bill as is ...Jonathan Chait
There are only two options on health care: Something that involves passing the Senate bill through the House, and nothing.
That's just a sample of what's out there. Of interest is the fact that none of those bloggers had any serious problems with the Senate bill's excise tax. The one that Jonathan Gruber tells people will
- Be "progressive"
- Lower the "costs" of health care
- Result in those affected by the tax getting more money in their pay packets
All of those assertions are dubious, but for mysterious reasons those progressive bloggers bought the pitch. So it's no surprise that they are gung-ho for having the Senate bill be passed by the House, even if that ignores powerful political forces that won't go away.
Friday, January 22, 2010
This should be good:Jay Leno will headline the White House Correspondents Dinner
That brash young lad will wow the crowd.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I'm sure glad that we don't have an activist Supreme Court:
Because otherwise it'd be overturning decades of legislation and prior court rulings.
George Will castigates "liberalism"
In his op-ed
today, he writes:
With one piece of legislation [health care reform], President Obama and his congressional allies have done in one year what it took President Lyndon Johnson and his allies two years to do in 1965 and 1966 -- revive conservatism. Today, conservatism is rising on the steppingstones of liberal excesses.
What happened in 1965 and 1966? The following legislation
was signed into law:
Will continues: (emp add)
Between ... the 1938 midterm congressional elections ... and ... 1964 ... there was no liberal legislating majority in Congress: Republicans and conservative Democrats combined to temper liberalism's itch to overreach. In 1965 and 1966, however, liberalism was rampant.
Rampant liberalism brought you Medicare, aid to education, voting rights, and more. But nowhere in Will's op-ed does he tell you that.
He merely cites the years 1965 and 1966 as years that started a conservative resurgence*, and in some mysterious way is supposed to be parallel to today's health care legislative efforts.
* - which tells you how history should view conservatives of that era.
In a New York Times editorial
commenting on the Massachusetts senate race, there is:
Mr. Obama has not said or done the right thing often enough when it comes to job creation and housing. He appointed an economics team that was entwined with the people and policies that nearly destroyed the economy.
It's never been explained how Obama ended up choosing Geithner, Summers, and (later, with reappointment) Bernanke. Were those people his personal choices, or was he advised to select them, and by who?
UPDATE: The answer may be in what Michael Lind wrote
The key to understanding Barack Obama is one simple fact: He received more Wall Street money than his Republican rival John McCain and his rivals for the Democratic primary nomination.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Total messaging failure:REPORT
: (emp add)
... n a poll conducted after the election ... Massachusetts voters [were asked] why they opposed [the Senate health care bill]. Among those Brown voters, 23 percent thought it went "too far" -- but 36 percent thought it didn't go far enough and 41 percent said they weren't sure why they opposed it.
Among voters who stayed home and opposed health care, a full 53 percent said they opposed the Senate bill because it didn't go far enough; 39 percent weren't sure and only eight percent thought it went too far.
Such large percentages of people who oppose a bill, yet aren't sure why, is a clear case of messaging failure. Being unsure, and opposed to something, is the default position for just about everyone. No wonder Brown won.
Isn't it about time ...
for a "malaise speech"?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Thought for the day:
Obama and the Democrats in Congress should get moving on Cap and Trade legislation.
Barry Ritholtz is shrill:
on Michael J. Boskin: (orig emp)
For those of you who may be unaware, Boskin is the economist/weasel/fraud who helped to officially distort the CPI, making it more or less worthless as a measure of inflation. The Boskin Commission was an act of fraud, a backdoor method to suppress Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs). To be blunt, it was an act of cowardice. Rather than man up and say “fix this, its broken, we can’t afford it” the commission took a different route — they fabricated a series of nonsense adjustments that artificially lowered CPI by 1.1%.
The Boskin Commission’s massive government falsehood allowed former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan to take rates to absurdly low levels, as the official CPI data showed no inflation, despite double digit price increases.
As such, he is one of the contributors to the financial collapse.
The specific fraudulent methods of the Boskin Commission are laughable. That the Economics profession failed to kick him out of its membership is as much an indictment of the profession as it is about Boskin.
My two favorite pieces of Boskin intellectual fraud are substitution and hedonic adjustments.
Hedonic adjustments are addressing the improvement in quality as a form of deflation. For example, the price of a new car in the U.S. had risen from $6,847 in 1979 to $27,940 in 2004. Using hedonic adjustments, the government calculated the price of a new car had risen from $6,847 in 1979 to $11,708 in 2004.
These adjustments wildly distort not only CPI data but GDP as well. Bill Fleckenstein calculated that the hedonic adjustments of faster computer chips and dropping costs massively jacked up the productivity data and GDP data from 1995-2002.
Substitution is a nonsensical approach that adjusts inflation for consumer behavior. When steak prices rise, consumers “substitute” cheaper proteins such as hamburger or chicken. Thus, Boskin states, the consumer is spending no more than they previously were, and is not suffering inflation.
The reality is that consumers have been priced out of steak due to price increases. Oh, and somehow, the decrease in quality does not get hedonically adjusted when it raises inflation.
Don't forget, the Boskin Commission produced its report for the Senate Finance Committee
in December 1996. Clinton was president and didn't object, as far as I can tell.
There's a bit more at the link, including a link to another takedown
A bit on that China/Google attack:STORY
Hackers linked to China used a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser to compromise corporate systems at more than 30 U.S. companies, including Google, Adobe and Juniper Networks.
According to Microsoft, the vulnerability is still unpatched and can lead to remote code execution attacks if a target is lured to a booby-trapped Web site or views a malicious online advertisement.
Microsoft’s confirmation, in the form of a security advisory, follows public statements from Google and Adobe that their corporate networks were breached by coordinated, sophisticated attackers based in China. (...)
According to Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher who was briefed on the IE vulnerability used in one of the attacks, the exploit was targeted at a Windows XP machine running Internet Explorer 6. (...)
The flaw affects Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, and Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8 on supported editions of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2 are affected.
Basically, the "attack" was done by luring people
running IE6 to a website that would then get the browser to run code on the visitor's PC. But it could also happen to visitors using IE7 and IE8 on Vista or Windows7 - which is all recent versions.
It's hard to see how Microsoft can leave this unfixed for so long. Google's Chrome and Firefox may have their problems, but I'm guessing that the basic design of those browsers is more robust, which could lead to enterprise-wide shunning of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
There's more detail at the link for those interested.
Beg to differ:
Michael Lind has a good essay
in Salon about how cable television has ruined political debate. But he goes on to write:
The obsessive news junkies would rather watch Terry McAuliffe debate Dick Morris the 10,000th time than watch a progressive philosopher debate a conservative theorist about the purpose of markets or the meaning of democracy. Who in the world would want to watch either McAuliffe or Morris?
Those guys are "change-the-channel-now!" personalities. I cannot imagine that even an "obsessive news junkie" would watch those knuckleheads.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Obama blew it:
At least that's one reading of Paul Krugman's column
It’s instructive to compare Mr. Obama’s rhetorical stance on the economy with that of Ronald Reagan. It’s often forgotten now, but unemployment actually soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Reagan, however, had a ready answer for critics: everything going wrong was the result of the failed policies of the past. In effect, Reagan spent his first few years in office continuing to run against Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Obama could have done the same — with, I’d argue, considerably more justice. He could have pointed out, repeatedly, that the continuing troubles of America’s economy are the result of a financial crisis that developed under the Bush administration, and was at least in part the result of the Bush administration’s refusal to regulate the banks.
But he didn’t. (...)
Whatever the reason, Mr. Obama has allowed the public to forget, with remarkable speed, that the economy’s troubles didn’t start on his watch.
Obama avoided placing a lot of blame on Bush and the Republicans because he was doing that ridiculous "bipartisan-outreach" stunt. Not only was it not going to work, but valuable political points were lost when a blame-the-Republicans narrative faded from memory. And it's too late to deploy it now.
(Some would argue that in addition to trying the failed bipartisan gambit, Obama was compromised by having a financial brain trust that wasn't much different from the Bush crew: Geithner, Summers, et al.)
Relax, you have plenty of time to enjoy yourself:STORY
ANKARA, Turkey – The Turk who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 was released from prison on Monday after more than 29 years behind bars and proclaimed that he was a messenger of God and that the world will end in this century.
Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, waved to journalists as he left the prison in a convoy of several vehicles. Turkish authorities plan to monitor him closely because of long-standing questions about his mental health.
In the statement distributed by Abosoglu outside the prison in Sincan on the outskirts of Ankara, the Turkish capital, Agca declared: "I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed in this century. Every human being will die in this century."
Upon his arrival at his hotel, he addressed reporters in English. He had traded his sweatshirt for a dark-blue suit and tie, apparently at the hospital.
"I will meet you in the next three days," Agca said. "In the name of God, almighty, I proclaim the end of the world in this century. All the world will be destroyed, every human being will die. I am not God, I am not son of God, I am Christ eternal."
He also said the Gospel was full of mistakes and he would write the perfect one.
"this century" is a pretty big time window, unlike other predictions of doom that are supposed to occur within a year or two. So this guy's proclamation, if true, is no cause for alarm - at least for people alive today.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
New campaign approach in the Massachusetts Senate race:Lying about the Republican candidate
UPDATE: Taylor Marsh
thinks the mailer is batshit insane.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Weird:Spanish lawmaker's photo used for bin Laden poster
(photo of lawmaker in story):
MADRID – A Spanish lawmaker says he was stunned to find that the FBI used his photograph as part of a digitally enhanced image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today.
Gaspar Llamazares says he would no longer feel safe in the U.S. after his hair and other features appeared on a wanted poster showing an older bin Laden on a U.S. government Web site rewardsforjustice.net. A reward of up to $25 million is offered.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo quotes FBI spokesman Ken Hoffman as acknowledging that the agency used a picture of Llamazares taken from Google Images for the digitally altered image of Bin Laden.
See the "aged" photo at Rewards for Justice
The New York Times supports the Senate's excise tax on health care:
From their editorial
: (which I strongly suspect was written with the input from Paul Krugman)
[As a result of the tax] Most likely, insurers will drop their premiums just below the threshold. They could do that by setting higher deductibles and co-payments, managing access to care more tightly, or reducing benefits.
Yup, that's probably what will happen. A rationing of health care.
WHY IT’S GOOD A vast majority of economists agree that the tax would be a valuable cost-control feature. In our largely fee-for-service system, doctors have an economic incentive to provide more services. With insurance covering most of the bill, neither patients nor doctors worry much about costs. Requiring workers to pay more out of pocket would force them and their doctors to think a lot more carefully about whether an expensive test or treatment is really necessary.
Talk about a simplistic view of the situation. There will be people who have chronic and serious problems that don't hinge on deciding whether or not to undergo a fancy treatment. Existing treatment regimes (not new or exotic remedies) can be pretty expensive. Even so, the change in coverage caused by the Senate bill will cause these people to not get treated, or pay out of their own pocket. Also, what's with patients making the call as to what treatment should be followed? Are they now supposed to be as informed as doctors? Patients telling doctors not to run test A, but go ahead with test B? The Times thinks so.
POTENTIAL HARM There is some risk — nobody knows how large — that higher deductibles and co-payments would discourage some people, especially the chronically ill, from seeking medical care that they need. Congress can avoid this tragic outcome by setting up a monitoring system to detect any emergence of harm and making a midcourse correction to protect the health of any groups that suffer adverse consequences.
Pathetic. Truly pathetic. "nobody knows" - but let's do it anyway. How many people will die, be permanently crippled, or go bankrupt before a "monitoring system" raises the alarm? This shows how totally experimental the excise tax is. Where are the studies of it being tried anywhere else? The excise tax is being pushed because real price reductions have been ignored while the legislation was being crafted. And talk about a potential political disaster! If it turns out that we see the "tragic outcome" the Times fears, you can bet the Democrats will be hung out to dry.
And what about the "chronically ill" that the Times now admits exist? Earlier in the editorial, these people were supposed to be feeling the hurt from less coverage, higher co-pays, or higher deductibles. And they are supposed to figure out what services not
to get as a result. But they are "chronically ill", so what do you think will happen?
The New York Times also admits that workers that are older, are sicker, or those in high-risk occupations, are going to lose big with the excise tax. But the Times is still gung-ho for implementing it. An unproven, likely-to-fail approach to lowering the price of health care.
Friday, January 15, 2010
THIS MAN WAS ON THE TAKE:
This week it was revealed
that Jonathan Gruber of MIT had a $400,000 contract with HHS to model the administration's health care plan's costs and effects. In the meantime, he's been a supporter of the legislation, specifically the Senate version
with its tax on (some) health care plans that are provided to employees. All last year he never disclosed that he was getting money from the feds. Ezra Klein has cited him favorably. So has Paul Krugman. And the White House.
This blog wrote up a skeptical post
that reviewed Gruber's Op-Ed in the Washington Post when it came out. Now it's clear why it raised suspicions.
Comment of the day:
A great comment in a Kevin Drum post
. Great because it says what I've been arguing for a while now, regarding the piss-poor Senate bill. Here it is: (emp add)
Did I miss something, or was this excise tax the centerpiece of John McCain's and the Republican's health care plans in 2008? I seem to recall many Democrats and a Senator from Illinois criticizing that approach, and rightfully so. Now, virtually every Democrat, and every "liberal" pundit is suddenly in favor of it.
Now, I get the theory, but I'm not at all convinced that it will work the way it's proponents think it will in practice. Isn't it the Republicans who think the main problem with health care is that people just get too damn much of it. As I understand it, that is the argument that people are making in favor of the excise tax now. That with more out of pocket payments, people will be more discriminating on the health care that people purchase.
Wasn't the criticism with the Republican approach the notion that medical care isn't like buying a TV. Most consumers are not knowledgeable or objective enough to discern what treatment is actually in their best interest or not. If my doctor recommends an MRI, for example, who am I to question him/her? The main reason I wouldn't get the MRI is that, with my less generous employer based health care plan, I wouldn't be able to afford the MRI. Is that really the recipe for bending the curve?
So, I can see that the excise tax could (note, *could*) reduce what we, as nation, spend on health care, because with the inability to come up with the out of pocket payments, people will simply *use* less health care. I don't really see how this will actually reduce the cost of that health care, however. Drugs will cost what they used to, people will just not have the money to buy as many. MRIs will still cost what they used to, but people will not be able to afford to get as many. Etc.
So, why is the Democratic party now in favor of the centerpiece of the Republican plan circa 2008? And why is the Republican party against it? What am I missing?
What it is, dudes:
I don't like the White House push for the Senate health care bill's funding mechanism: taxing those "rich" folks with "Cadillac" plans.
It is absolutely clear that Obama is working according to the following premise:
a) Thou shall not disturb the top 2% of this nation*.
b) If you want to implement a plan, like health care, then you look to get money from within the other 98%.
Some (e.g. Booman, Ezra) argue that within the 98%, the Senate plan is progressive. And it is!
But that's only because the top 2% are out of consideration. So Obama looks to fund health care from the “wealthy” mid-to-upper middle-class.
Republicans are no better, but I'm very unhappy to see Obama accept this two-tiered socioeconomic system.
* - an approximation for households making a million or more per year.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Ritholtz is pissed:
In a post
that outlines the SEC facilitating the hiding of AIG's pass-through bailouts (i.e. payment at par to counterparties like Goldman Sachs), he wrotes: (emp add)
The SEC, working hand in glove with AIG, agreed to keep bailout terms sealed, including information on the pass thru to counter parties such as Goldman Sachs at 100 cents on the dollar. This SEC granted “confidential treatment” was agreed to last May, and a “secrecy order” (WTF is that?) will stay in place until November 2018.
Quite bluntly, it is astonishing that the SEC agreed to this.
... this was a case of an insolvent insurer receiving 100s of billions of dollars in taxpayer monies, who then used the government’s regulatory agency to hide where the proceeds of the public went — from the same public who wrote the checks. This is the latest outrage in a series of outrages.
I’m no expert in constitutional law, but I would imagine that a President — especially one that campaigned on transparency in government – could override this shameful exercise in douchebaggery.
I continue to wonder if anyone in DC has the slightest clue WTF the they are doing. I was sick to death of the sheer willful anti-science, anti-logic ignorance of the Bush administration. I hoped that the new guys will be less overt hostile to the public, less secretive, more respectful that this is — or at least used to be — a Democracy. The stupiditiy of the Bush administration has been replaced by a new flavor of ignorance — the cluelessness of the Obama team. We might as well have given W a 3rd term, given the outrageous and embarrassing decision making we have witnessed so far.
Finally, the truth!
I've said repeatedly that supporters of the Senate health care bill - which include Ezra Klein - are misleading you when they say that the tax on good health insurance plans (aka "Cadillac") will reduce "costs". The impression one gets is that putting the burden on workers - which is what a reduction in coverage does - will somehow reduce the "costs" for drugs and services. It won't.
So, it's nice to see the following in an AP story
about the House-Senate negotiation: (emp add)
The White House reached a tentative agreement with union leaders early Thursday to tax high-cost insurance plans, officials said, removing one of the major stumbling blocks in the way of a final compromise on comprehensive health care legislation sought by President Barack Obama.
The breakthrough on the insurance tax marked a victory for the White House, which has long sought a tax on high-cost plans as a way of curbing the rise in health care expenditures. Organized labor — backed by its allies in the House — had opposed it, arguing the impact would fall heavily on workers whose bargaining contracts gave them more robust health care coverage
Yes! A tax on high-cost insurance plans will result in those plans being scaled back and that means that less will be spent on health care. "Expenditures" will go down.
The health care that workers get will go down. "Costs"? Not at all.
A way to reduce "costs" (as we normally think of that word) would be to allow drug importation from Canada, Medicare negotiating for drugs, or other approaches that target the price. Obama would prefer not to do that, and instead, pretend that by providing less coverage, he's reducing its price. (And it also means the House plan to tax millionaires is dropped.)
Sarah Palin channels Homer Simpson:
In the season-3 episode, "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk
(1991), the nuclear power plant is sold to German investors. At one point, the new owners have the following exchange with Homer:
Man 1: You have been safety inspector for two years. What initiatives have you spearheaded in that time?
HOMER: Uh... All of them?
Remind you of anything?
: [On newspapers she's read.]
COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?January 2010
PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —
COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.
PALIN: Um, all of them ...
: [On founding fathers of the United States]
BECK: Who'se your favorite founder?
PALIN: Um, well all of them.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Remind you of someone?
Over at Hot Air, there is a post
about Palin signing with Fox News Channel. In that post, there was an excerpt from an observation by Roger Stone: (emp add)
Palin has the most valuable commodity a Presidential candidate can have – a base. Between roughly 23% of Americans and 68% of Republicans have a favorable view of Palin. She alone has the kind of intense following. She alone can fill a large hall or small stadium anywhere in Republican Country.
Add a little son et lumière
and she could develop a tremendous following.
The world’s greatest deliberative body ...
or perhaps: (in the words
of an anonymous senior House Democrat)
“The Senate is just a pain in the ass to everybody in the world as far as I can tell. I’m so angry that I just wish from now on that we’d just find out what it is that Lieberman and Nelson will let us have,” the senior lawmaker said. “But we’re not giving up on anything in the House.”
I vote for the latter.
Harold Ford Jr. tells a good joke:
From the NYTimes: (Greenwald essay
Mr. Ford declined to discuss what he is paid by the bank [Merrill Lynch, of which he is Vice Chairman], but publicly available data suggests that he earns at least $1 million a year. Asked what role outsize pay packages played in fueling the financial crisis, Mr. Ford said he objected to capping executive compensation on Wall Street. "I am a capitalist," he said. "I believe that people take risk, and there are rewards if they do well; they should lose if they don't."
Merrill Lynch was rescued by being absorbed by Bank of America. Since then, BofA has benefited from extraordinary financial support from the Fed (e.g. carry trade). Whatever "risk" that Ford thinks was taken, it was eliminated when Merrill Lynch got into trouble in 2008 and the government acted to keep it afloat.
Ford is no different from the Goldman Sachs apologists we've heard so much from in recent months.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Investment bank profits:
Over at Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith is outraged
at what's going on with bank profits and bonuses (and the Obama team's handling of the issue). It's a good read. Of special interest the description of how the investment banks made their money (taken from the BBC
First, what proportion of investment banking profits can be seen as an exceptional windfall, stemming from the unprecedented financial and economic support provided by governments and central banks to lessen a recession that was caused in large part by the recklessness of banks?
This question can be broken down into two parts.
(1) How much has been earned by what investment bankers style as a “carry trade” with central banks? This is the business of buying assets that yield 5, 6, 7 or 8 percentage points over the official lending rate, and then refinancing those assets with the central bank at that official lending rate. Borrowing at close to zero from the central bank and lending almost risk-free at 6 or 7% is not the most stressful or challenging way to generate bumper profits. Investment bankers tell me this carry trade has been happening on a system-wide scale, in spite of central banks’ precautions to prevent it.
(2) How much of the investment banks’ profits is the result of a generalised rise in asset prices, caused by the easiest monetary conditions for a century, which has led to a recovery in the price of securities that in the previous year generated spectacular losses for the banks? This gain from marking investments to the market price should not be seen to be the consequence of management genius, since the main reason the banks didn’t sell the securities in the previous year is that they were unsellable.
Bankers tell me that a vast proportion of all investment banks’ profits stem from these factors. It is visible in the sharp increases in revenues from so-called trading and principal investments – a doubling in some cases – which in turn is the main driver of banks’ overall profits growth.
There is an acknowledgement by some bankers that these gains are in effect an unrepeatable jackpot, the consequence of the authorities’ bail-out of the economy, and not the result of their great prowess.
Or to put it another way, only the generation of losses in these benign market conditions would require a very special talent. Making profits? A suited monkey could do it.
At RBS, for example, I am told that executives in its Global Banking and Markets division who have previously never earned more than £1m at the bank have this year been told they’ll be pocketing over £5m. And that a small number will be making over £20m.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Something I've never understood:
Sullivan, with a longish post
on the McCain campaign writes:
... when Lieberman was nixed at the last minute by state party chairmen and their allies, we had the specter of Rick Davis actually scrambling through Google to find a woman - any woman - who could complement McCain. The sexism was due to Davis' and Schmidt's and McCain's bizarre notion that alienated Clinton primary voters would flock to a cranky old pro-lifer as long as someone with estrogen was his Number Two. The sheer distance from reality this implies and the identity politics it represents found its natural apotheosis in Palin ...
Palin had very little governing experience and was basically unknown, which is always a risk. But why Palin?
Why not Kay Baley Hitchinson
You've got someone in Hutchinson who has been in politics since 1972.
- 4 years Texas House of Representatives
- 3 years Texas State Treasurer (not a full terms since she ran and won the Senate open seat, below)
- 15 years Senator from Texas
Fifteen years as a Senator! This is someone who knows what the Federal Reserve does (which Palin apparently didn't). And she holds positions that fit well within the conservative Republican framework. As far as I can tell, Hutchinson was never on McCain's vice-presidential-pick radar. I wonder why?
The Power Of Charts:Over at Sullivan
, a video that goes into the political power of data visualization. Fun stuff, though not particularly deep. (Also, the counter-John Boehner graphic, which is sweet, can be found here
The Liz Cheney approach:
Check out the following excerpts from her appearance
on ABC's This Week on Sunday: (emp add)
- ... I think that the uncertainty in the economy ... is because people are watching things like the debate over the health care bill here ...
- I don't think that the events, the briefings that were provided this week have begun to give Americans any comfort that there is a real understanding of the threat the nation faces ...
- ... I think one of the things that makes the American people frustrated is when they see time and time again liberals excusing racism from other liberals. And I think that, you know, clearly, Senator Reid's comments were outrageous.
See? Cheney is asserting that "the American people"
- are uncertain about the economy because of the health care bill,
- are uncomfortable with Obama's understanding of the terror threat, and
- are frustrated with liberals when it comes to racism.
But is it true? It might me, or it might not
Instead of making an argument on the merits, or to express a personal viewpoint, Cheney asserts that "the American people" agree with her on specific issues. That is, absent poll data or election results, a thin claim.
Attributing to other groups, friend or foe, certain outlooks is a common propaganda technique. One person who does that repeatedly is right-wing radio host Dennis Prager. In his case, he's constantly telling you what liberals "really" think. Or government officials, or academia, or foreigners. Some of his claims are remarkable, often centered on the notion that liberals have contempt for you, the listener to Prager's show. Or that they are deep down, immoral, or worse.
Saying what others believe is a cheap debating point. When you watch, listen, or read arguments from any part of the political spectrum, be alert to this propaganda technique.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Shorter Maureen Dowd:
I desperately need to listen to a fireside chat.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Wondering about the Senate's funding for health care? Read the Medicare actuary's report:
Over at Balloon Juice, John Cole is lashing out
at those who are complaining about the Senate's funding mechanism for health care. (Senate: tax a portion of employees' health insurance over a certain amount; House: tax millionaires.)
The post elicited over 300 responses. One of the more interesting was this
: (emp in original comment)
This is based on the Medicare actuary’s report on the plan. The takeaway here is in this paragraph at the bottom of page 11:
Another provision that would tend to moderate health care cost growth rates is the excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health insurance coverage in section 9001 of the bill. In reaction to the tax, many employers would reduce the scope of their health benefits. The resulting reductions in covered services and/or increases in employee cost-sharing requirements would induce workers to use fewer services. Because plan benefit values would generally increase faster than the threshold amounts for defining high-cost plans (which are indexed by the CPI plus 1 percent), over time additional plans would become subject to the excise tax, prompting those employers to scale back coverage. [or prompting Congressional patches, which would themselves become political footballs] This continuing cycle would have a moderate impact on the overall growth of expenditures for employer-sponsored plans. [Italics mine.]Jon Walker covered this at FDL; he’s a lot more readable than the medicare actuary.
The Senate bill appears to take the view that if you reduce spending on healthcare (partly by putting the onus on the individual), that costs will drop. Without going into a ton of economic theory - with demand curves and all - that presumption is hard to accept. And even if costs did go down, would it be proportional to the reduction in spending? That's not clear either.
But beyond that, the Senate's funding mechanism is terrible politics. It taxes the mid-to-upper middle class (but not the rich) to help those worse off. That has been shown, repeatedly, to generate resentment.
SPEAKING OF THE POLITICS: Another commenter wrote this
... my take is more on the ... optics of the thing ...
Obviously cost control is needed, as well as funding for the new subsidies, and there are several measures for it in the Senate bill, but which one is the most visible? The so-called “Cadillac tax”.
Now, sell a bill with tepid cost control measures to the voting middle class. Tell them that some subset of them have to be moved to slightly poorer health plans. Fine, a small sacrifice for the good of the country.
Now tell them about the other high-profile cost control measures in the Senate bill.
This will be demagogued as a welfare plan for the poor paid for by a tax on the middle class, with the “fat cats” giving up little.
- Single payer, public option, or national exchange that will entail a sacrifice from the insurance industry? BZZZZZZZZZZT.
- Medicare expansion/buy-in that will entail a sacrifice from providers? BZZZZZZZZZZT.
- Drug re-importation that will entail a sacrifice from drug companies? BZZZZZZZZZZT.
- Surtax on million dollar incomes that will entail a sacrifice from the rich? BZZZZZZZZZZT.
No matter what John Cole, his readers, you or I think about this, there will be a big problem getting the Senate's excise tax accepted by the House. Recent reports indicate over 100 House members are opposed to the Senate approach. Pelosi cannot sway that many legislators. This will be a huge problem in the coming weeks. It will also be a chance to watch how effective the White House is in these circumstances.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
David Broder is brilliant!
Proof is here
This esteemed columnist must not
be allowed to stop writing for the Washington Post.
A decade of no job growth:
Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas
The loss of work to other countries, while painful in the short term, will enrich the economy eventually, his report to Congress says.
February 10, 2004
WASHINGTON — The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation, the Bush administration said Monday.
The embrace of foreign outsourcing, an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections, is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the health of the economy.
"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."
The report, which predicts that the nation will reverse a three-year employment slide by creating 2.6 million jobs in 2004, is part of a weeklong effort by the administration to highlight signs that the recovery is picking up speed. Bush's economic stewardship has become a central issue in the presidential campaign, and the White House is eager to demonstrate that his policies are producing results.
In terms of raw numbers, a growing population will result in more jobs. But the last decade had that growth offset with job losses from outsourcing/importing (referenced in the Bush report above), for a net of zero
. An unprecedented result.
But the U.S. economy has been "enriched" anyway. Right?
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
You cannot trust Jim Manzi:
Manzi recently penned a conservative/libertarian economic manifesto* which, in my reading, was unpersuasive. But it turns out that Manzi is also dishonest! Check out Jonathan Chait's takedown
* - In the new journal, National Affairs
, which David Broder likes
UPDATE: Jim Manzi (apparently, can't be 100% sure) replies in comments that he has a rejoinder to Chait here
It's 25% larger than California
Always looks kinda small when shown on the map, probably because it's dwarfed by Saudi Arabia. And it's near the equator (at about 15º) which in a Mercator projection, reduces its apparent size.
How about using your senses?
Rod Dreher has a post
at his new blog on the novel ""36 Arguments for the Existence of God", which is more complicated and interesting than the title might suggest. Rod expands upon the book, the author, and his own views. Of interest is this that he wrote:
The title made me reflect on how I've never been able to take arguments for God's existence seriously. As an undergraduate philosophy minor, I ought to have mastered at least the basic arguments enough to know why I didn't believe in them. What happened to me was that I read Kierkegaard, who convinced me that trying to demonstrate God's existence logically was pointless. Even if you could construct an airtight logical proof of His existence, if someone was determined not to believe, he could always find a way out of it.
But why are so many people interested in "logically" demonstrating God's existence? Perhaps it allows for the following argument:
- It'd be nice to logically demonstrate God's existence.
- But it can't be done (either due to our mental limitations or logic's dependence on language, which is inadequate to the task).
- So leave me alone with my belief.
in these waters:
Kant argues that the concept of God is in any case not the concept of one particular object of sense among others but rather an "object of pure thought", of something that by definition exists outside the field of experience and of nature. With regard to unicorns, we can specify how we could determine that unicorns exist, i.e., what spatio-temporal experience of them would look like. With regard to the concept of God, there is no way for us to know it as existing in the only legitimate and meaningful way we know other objects as existing. We cannot even determine "the possibility of any existence beyond that known in and through experience"
Wait a minute. For unicorns, we know what spatio-temporal experience of them would look like.
Similarly, for God, we know what a spatio-temporal experience would look like. It's even present in the Hebrew Bible, where Elijah sets up an empirical test on Mt. Carmel
(1 Kings 18).
Why not walk away from the sterile notions of logical proof and say that proof of God's existence could be established by, say, having someone pray over a glass of water and if it freezes, then you've got a data point in your favor? The failure of those who believe to accept the protocols of science to establish a significant fact about the universe is puzzling.
A good read:
The New York Times has a short essay
about dinoflagellates. Strange organisms, in some cases with DNA that's different in composition and organization from all other life forms.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Oliphant does Giles:
Current cartoon (dated 4 Jan 2010
), featuring a member of the family
Oddly, no acknowledgment (e.g. "Apologies to ...).
Monday, January 04, 2010
Over at TPM, this report:
GOP House Candidate: Fight Against Democrats Bigger Than Fight Against Terrorism
Allen Quist, a Republican candidate seeking the nomination to go up against Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), has made a serious pronouncement: That the political battle against the Democrats is the defining fight of this generation, even greater than the fight against terrorism. (...)
"... I, like you, have seen that our country is being destroyed. I mean, this is -- every generation has had to fight the fight for freedom. This is our fight. And this is our time. This is it. Terrorism, yes -- but that's not the big battle. The big battle is in D.C., with the radicals. They aren't liberals, they're radicals. Obama, Pelosi, Walz -- they're not liberals, they're radicals. They are destroying our country. And people all over are figuring that out."
What's interesting are two remarks in the comments thread:
"THE NEW SHERIFF IS A"
I would really like to believe that's not at the root of this movement, but I can't bring myself to. If anyone has evidence to the contrary ... I would really like to hear it.
I'm sad to say I agree with you Kenga. I've tried to be open minded about Obama's opposition, and I've tried to make sense of their points of view.
I just don't see any legitimate reason for their intense hatred of him. He has barely even DONE anything, and certainly nothing worthy of hatred. On the national level, things are same to better regarding the economy, national defense, the environment, etc. I'm sure locally some people are much worse off, and some are much better off, but on average things appear to be slowly improving - despite intense opposition from the GOP.
I guess you could point to the attempted bombing on Christmas to say things are worse, but we all know that terrorists will continue to target the US regardless of policies or which party is in the White House. Besides, they were screaming about their freedoms being taken away in February for crying out loud.
So, given a lack of tangible, factual evidence upon which to base their claims of lost freedoms, what other explanation is there?
A mostly black guy with a terrorist's name who spent part of his childhood in a Muslim country and comes from Hawaii (which, frankly, is barely a state anyway) was elected President. In THEIR America. They refuse to believe it...that so many Americans can think so differently than they do. We all must be blind to the clear fact that he's a Mujahid hell-bent on destroying our democracy. Just as soon as he gets off the golf course that is.
Maybe if he was a white guy named Obama, or a black guy named Bob Smith, it wouldn't be so bad. But you have racial and xenophobic fears wrapped into one guy, and they're scared.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
"attempted Christmas Day massacre"
That's how Chris Wallace, on Fox News Sunday, characterized the underpants bomber attempt.
"massacre" is generally thought to be the killing of many people in a close quarters
fighting scenario. It's not appropriate for a bomb plot. But Wallace likes the word "massacre" because it sounds scary.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Is that really the reason?
In an op-ed about science and the public arena
, there is this:
The scientific response to creationists has long been to cite the extensive evidence for evolution. In book after book, scientists have explained how DNA, fossil, anatomical and other evidence indisputably shows the interrelatedness of all species. Further, they have refuted creationist claims that evolution cannot explain the complexity of the eye or the intricacy of the bacterial flagellum. Yet such down-in-the-weeds messages probably miss most of the public -- polls repeatedly show that a large portion of Americans have doubts about evolution.
For all these efforts, why haven't scientists made any inroads? It's because at its core, the objection to evolution isn't about science at all, but about perceived threats to faith and moral values. The only way to defuse the conflict is to assuage these fundamental fears. Yet this drags many scientists out of their comfort zone: They're not priests or theologians and don't know how to sound like them. Many refuse to try; others go to the opposite extreme of advocating vociferous and confrontational atheism.
Ironically, to increase support for the teaching of evolution, scientists must join forces with -- and show more understanding of -- religion. Scientists who are believers also need to be more vocal about how they reconcile science and faith.
"Many Christians, including fundamentalists, can accept evolution as long as it is not attached to the view that life has no purpose," Karl Giberson, a Christian physicist and the author of "Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution," told me recently. "Human life has value, and any scientific theory that even appears to deny this central religious affirmation will alienate people of faith and create opportunity for those who would rally believers against evolution."
While the "life has no purpose" aspect of evolution may bother some, there could be another reason for rejecting evolution.
His epistles, especially Romans, make theological claims about Jesus based on the fall of Adam
. Without Adam, huge portions of Pauline theology become meaningless.
The challenge of science is to reconcile evolution with the notion that Adam existed as a real person. That, of course, cannot be done.
Friday, January 01, 2010
This just in:
Nothing wrong with Rush Limbaugh's heart.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
A New Year’s resolution: Don’t accept US decline
The common conclusion is that the American sun has set, much like the end of the British, Ottoman, and Roman empires.
That’s, well, nonsense. (...)
Corporate spending on R&D may have slowed, but peek inside engineering schools and home offices. Innovation is humming. The Wall Street Journal reported recently a surge in “tinkering” as plummeting prices on materials and equipment allow individuals to turn their ideas into inventions. Engineering schools are reporting more students wanting to do hands-on work. “Hackerspaces,” where tinkerers can share ideas and tools, are blossoming across the country.
Financial upheaval in the late 19th century sparked a golden age of independent inventors in the US. Will that happen again?
It could be that individuals – as opposed to institutions – lead the way into the next decade. That wouldn’t be surprising. Americans are renowned for their can-do attitude and resourcefulness, and the Internet gives them more voice and opportunity. (...)
Many jobless Americans are doing their utmost to take responsibility for their lives. A December New York Times/CBS poll of unemployed adults found that over 40 percent had moved or were considering moving to find work. Meanwhile, 44 percent have pursued job retraining or other education. Online learning is growing, making it easier for Americans to improve their skills.
So, Americans will use "online learning" to "tinker" with cheap gadgets, and this will make the country predominant over the rest of the world?