Video of the day

This John Green video explaining what’s wrong with health care in America is pretty terrific.  It’s almost like a condensed version of my 3 lectures  (numbers 13, 14, and 15, if you are curious) on the topic.

And this follow-up video is pretty good, too.

If you don’t know a lot about the subject, it’s a great, short primer.

Why Obama can’t negotiate the debt ceiling

Excellent post from Chait that really lays out why it would be utter folly for Obama to negotiate on the debt ceiling again.  Which is why he won’t.  So, what happens when the Republicans try and insist he does any way?   Longer excerpt, but worth it:

Republicans see the magnitude of a debt-ceiling breach as a reason to believe Obama will eventually negotiate. It’s actually a reason to believe he won’t.

The meta-conflict over whether the debt ceiling ought to be held hostage, or simply raised, has implications that extend well beyond the actual demands at hand. If Obama agrees to trade policy concessions for a debt-ceiling hike, he will permanently enshrine debt-ceiling hostage dramas in the practical functioning of American government. That means not only will unscrupulous opposition parties be able to wring concessions from himself and future presidents, but eventually a negotiating snag will trigger a real default.

This is what Obama meant when he said that enshrining the debt-ceiling hostage drama would alter “the constitutional structure of this government.” It would fundamentally change the country’s governing norms, permanently placing new and destructive power in the hands of Congress.

What’s more, Obama has placed his credibility on the line publicly by insisting he will not negotiate the debt ceiling. By doing so, he has essentially blocked off his own escape route. Folding would destroy his negotiating credibility in general and specifically make it impossible for him to stop a future debt-ceiling ransom. Not only are the Republicans’ absurdly grandiose debt-ceiling demands unacceptable — they’re currently calling for Obama to essentially accede to the entire Republican fiscal and regulatory agenda in addition to destroying his health-care law — but any demands are unacceptable.

The incentive structure for Obama is therefore such that a debt-ceiling breach, while terrible, is better than trading something to prevent one. But it’s not clear if Republicans actually don’t understand Obama’s incentive structure or are merely pretending not to understand it. Terrible though it may be, a default may actually be necessary to preserve the constitutional structure of American government and the rest of Obama’s presidency.

I’m not about to predict what happens, but any hope for a decent outcome depends upon the common sense and financial incentives of the Republican’s ultimate overlords.  Here’s hoping the Wall Street/big business types need to convince the Republicans not to cause serious and lasting damage to our economy.   Of course, the problem now is that for many individual Republican legislators their ultimate overlords are the Tea party fanatics who are primary voters in their home district.   And they don’t actually understand or care about the macro-economy at all.  So, here’s a rare appeal from me– go Big Business!

Photo of the day

Very cool gallery of images by a former fashion photographer who suffered a severe brain injury and now takes photos that reflect his often blurry, double, and otherwise impaired vision.  Interesting story and terrific images:


Brian Nice


Maps of the day

Given my long-standing fascination with baby names, I really loved these maps of the most popular baby name in each state:



Mason?!  Really?  Where did that come from.  I knew the others were popular.

The creepy immorality of the Koch brothers

Presumably most of you have seen the creepy, crazy, completely non-sense anti-Obamacare ads featuring the creepy Uncle Sam (kind of like the creepy Burger King from back in the day).   If not, take a moment and just watch now.

I showed my students yesterday and they were absolutely incredulous.  Safe to say, it would not have caused one of them to not enroll in Obamacare (of course, they’re all under 26 and in college anyway).  I think it mostly caused them to think something along the lines of “those anti Obamacare people are kind of crazy and more than a little offensive). I read a nice post by Jonathan Bernstein a few days ago that the whole point of these was not to actually convince young people to opt out, but simply to appeal to the base by playing into the most extreme, ludicrous fears of Obamacare.

Anyway, in the NYT Juliet Lapidos has a nice column on how profoundly immoral this truly is (and this column was also the first mention I saw that the Koch brothers were behind this):

A Koch-brothers funded conservative group, Generation Opportunity, is out with a wildly misleading, pernicious set of ads aimed at sabotaging the Affordable Care Act by discouraging young people from signing up for health insurance exchanges…

…whereas the Generation Opportunity ads perpetuate outright lies. Young people who sign up for exchanges won’t be getting access to government-run healthcare (if only they were!), but to privately run insurance. Nor does the A.C.A. force doctors to ask patients about their sex lives or perform unwanted exams—as Politifact explained recently. Under the A.C.A., government doesn’t “play doctor,” it merely enables access to doctors who then decide, using their professional judgment, the best course of action.

Signing up for an exchange isn’t an act of political (or sexual) submission. It’s just a way to get insurance if you don’t have a job or your employer doesn’t provide it. The Generation Opportunity crowd surely knows that and obviously doesn’t care because its priority now, as ever, is bringing down President Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment. The group also doesn’t care about the possibility that some number of young people, scared by its ads, will forgo access to affordable care, get sick, and go bankrupt paying their medical bills.

Yep.  Of course, those young people should simply be good libertarians, put some money aside, and get a Health Savings Account.  It’s their own damn fault if they don’t.

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