Archive

  • NOW COMES IN...

    NOW COMES IN CRUEL AND STUPID. As a follow-up to the earlier post on Medicare's donut holes , an e-mail from Jon Cohn reminds me of the recent New England Journal of Medicine study that found Medicare plans with caps on drug benefits actually cost the system more money , as seniors would bow to financial pressures and cease taking their medicines, leading to emergencies that cost the system much more than covering the preventive medications would. As the NEJM concluded, "The savings in drug costs from the cap were offset by increases in the costs of hospitalization and emergency department care." So not only is the donut hole cruel policy, it's a verifiably stupid policy, and will cost far more money over the long haul than simply offering stable and expansive drug coverage. And none of this even gets into the absurd giveaways to Big Pharma and the insurance companies that make the program far more expensive than it need be. -- Ezra Klein
  • THE RATIO.

    THE RATIO. The scuffle between former President Clinton and Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday was, in my rather biased opinion, at least a TKO if not a woodshed ass-whuppin� by Clinton. Like all conservatives, Wallace will now play the victim, because conservatives love to talk tough about social Darwinism and how gritty they are, but whine and moan like babies whenever somebody calls them on their crap. Now, of course, media conservatives will play the misdirection game, making a lot of fuss about Clinton�s demeanor, mood, finger-pointing, and other non-verbals, because they�d rather avoid responding to the, well, verbals: the assertions Clinton made about the withdrawal from Somalia emboldening Osama bin Laden ; the stark contrast in counter-terrorism efforts by his and the current administration, and so on. While they avoid discussing inconvenient facts -- like Clinton�s nicely articulated reminder to Wallace that the Bush team has dedicated only one-seventh the military manpower to...
  • MURDOCH'S CONSCIENCE MONEY.

    MURDOCH'S CONSCIENCE MONEY. Okay, Bill , you got in Chris Wallace 's stuff good and proper. (Wallace has been on my radar since he ran one of the most dishonest pieces of reportage I've ever seen over on ABC when he assaulted the Supplementary Security Income program based on fake data and spurious -- remember Crazy Checks? -- anecdotes. Of course, when Clinton signed the Welfare Reform and Re-Elect My Ass Act of 1996, SSI took a pretty big whack anyway, so there's karma all over the place here.) I wish you'd known that the phrase is "make your bones," and not "move your bones," but that was a "forget it, he's rolling" moment anyway. Here's what you can do now. You can call a public press conference today and announce (loudly) that you're sending back every nickel donated to your Clinton Global Initiative by Rupert Murdoch . It's what we used to call in the old Church "conscience money." The biggest crook in the parish always bought the most elaborate decoration for the church. If we...
  • ANOTHER RECRUIT. ...

    ANOTHER RECRUIT. It looks like Gary Hart has joined the legions of the shrill. If only the October Surprise scenario he lays out -- an attack on Iran � weren�t so plausible, or likely. -- Ezra Klein
  • WHEN DONUTS ATTACK....

    WHEN DONUTS ATTACK. Up till now, seniors have been mostly satisfied with the Medicare Drug Benefit. Bad bill though it is, it remains better than no bill at all, and since that was the comparison, approval ratings have remained high. Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations. Unfortunately for the Bush administration and the Republican Congress, that may be about to change. Millions of seniors are about to tumble into the donut hole, a coverage gap that extends (usually) from $2,250 to $3,600, at which point federal insurance kicks back in. Most seniors, as we already knew, were unaware of the gap. And this is what it looks like when they fall in it: Frances Acanfora, 65, had been paying $58 for a three-month supply of her five medications. But this month the retired school lunchroom aide learned that her next bill would be $1,294. She had entered the doughnut hole.[...] After talking to her doctor, Acanfora decided to temporarily stop taking a drug as part of her treatment for...
  • LIKE FRIST, ONLY COMPETENT.

    LIKE FRIST, ONLY COMPETENT. Another Sunday, another exceedingly unimpressive appearance by Bill Frist on a chat show. Meanwhile, Zachary Roth and Cliff Schecter have a good piece in The Washington Monthly about the man who will succeed Frist as Republican Senate leader (be it in the majority or the minority) when the latter retires this term -- Mitch McConnell . Looking back over his highly undistinguished tenure as majority leader, I'm tempted to say that Frist was something of a victim of his times -- being caught in the tension between the partisan and parliamentary turn under Bush on the one hand and the still-extraordinarily sticky, inefficient, non-majoritarian structure of the Senate on the other. That is to say, he was handpicked by the White House and then tasked with delivering legislative wins for the GOP that were impossible for anyone to pull off in the Senate. Be that as it may, Frist's basic ineptness at parliamentary tactics and vote counting only compounded the...
  • Why Is NPR so Opposed to Free Trade?

    NPR had a piece this morning on the possibiity that Medicare reimbursements for doctors will be cut. It told listeners that if this cut went into effect, then there may be a shortage of doctors who are willing to serve Medicare beneficiaries. In other contexts, such as supplies of farm workers, custodians, and restaurant workers, NPR has told listeners that shortages meant that the country needed immigrant workers. No one interviewed for this segment mentioned the possibility of more immigrant doctors, even though doctors receive much higher pay in the United States than they do in the developing world, or even Europe. Surely, if the United States worked to eliminate the barriers that make it difficult for foreigners to train to U.S. standards and practice in the United States, there would be large numbers of foreign physicians who would be willing to do the work that NPR tells us American workers do not want to do. The great thing about economic models is that you can use the same...
  • Sentiments on Iraq and the Economy: Missing Correlations

    The NYT has a column today reporting that people's assessment of the economy is heavily influenced by their view of the situtaion in Iraq. While I am open to this view, the chart (sorry not linkable) accompanying the column left me unconvinced. Eyeballing the numbers, we start in May '03 with more than 70 percent of the public thinking that the situation in Iraq is going well. At that time, just over 20 percent report believing that the economy is getting better. Over the next year, the share of the public who think that things in Iraq are going well falls below 40 percent, while the share who think the economy is getting better rises to 30 percent. In the subsequent two years the share of the public who think that things are going well in Iraq hovers near 40 percent, while the sahre who think that the economy is getting better falls below 20 percent. Maybe there's a problem with my eyesight, but I'm afraid that I don't see the correlation. --Dean Baker
  • Yet Another One From the NYT�s Europe Bashing Desk

    The NYT had an article today on Berlin�s mayor. At one point the article discusses Berlin�s economy, telling readers that it has a 17 percent unemployment rate. It would have been helpful to point out Berlin�s unemployment rate is 17 percent using the official German measure of unemployment. This measure counts anyone who is working less than 15 hours a week, who would like to be working full-time, as being unemployed. In the United States these people are counted as being employed. This difference adds approximately 2 percentage points to Germany�s unemployment. The Times reporters and editors are well aware of this difference in measurement. (I have repeatedly harassed them about it.) It is difficult for me to see why they would report the official German measure instead of attempting to convert it to the U.S. measure, or at least informing readers of the difference. This would be like telling readers that the temperature in Berlin in September averages 20 degrees, without noting...
  • From the NYT Europe Bashing Desk: Italy Faces Less Congestion and Pollution

    The NYT gives us yet another crisis story about declining congestion and pollution in Italy. You guessed it -- fewer children and falling population. According to the article, economists say that communities will struggle to find people for certain jobs like ambulance drivers or police officers. It sounds more like Italy has a shortage of well-trained economists. If they raise the pay for these occupations, I am sure that they will be able to find the necessary workers. There is no reason that a society and economy should not be able to thrive in a period of declining population. I look forward to my beachfront property in Italy, which will no doubt be very cheap because there will be no one in Italy who wants it. --Dean Baker

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