Finishing up a series of four political postings, let me this time offer some thought-provoking snippets.
Number one on the list? Something so simple, yet no American journalist seems to be interested in mentioning it. Have any of you noticed - at all - the fact that Republicans have stopped mentioning “Obamacare”?
Oh, there’s an occasional arm-waved generality from the Tea Party, but almost nothing from the GOP politicians or media. Now why would that be?
Perhaps because - just like Supply Side “Economics,” not one doomcasting forecast about the Affordable Care Act has come true. The rate of rise of medical costs has gone way down instead of up. Millions are now insured, getting preventive care and staying out of Emergency Rooms, while very few others have been much inconvenienced and the general quality of average policies has improved.
"Expanding the number of young adults with health insurance appears to have improved their health and saved them money, according to a new study that is among the first to measure the effect of the healthcare law that President Obama signed four years ago," reports the LA Times.
Even a "flaw" of the ACA - the fact that millions of new insurance purchasers are choosing policies with high deductibles - is having an unexpected effect that believers in capitalism should like. It has meant that these newly insured citizens are very careful and choosy, when it comes to paying that first $2000 or so of medical bills. They are seeking price transparency, shopping for the cheapest MRI, for example. It's a bloody nuisance and far from ideal. But it has applied hard, downward pressure on prices for many medical services.
Of course all that may change! The ACA was far from my own first choice - in fact, I dislike its blatant kowtowing to insurance companies. Indeed, it was designed by the Heritage Foundation for Newt Gingrich, adopted for years as the GOP's top platform plank, and implemented in his state by Mitt Romney, before President Obama decided to co-opt and adopt the Republicans’ own plan…
... whereupon the GOP declared “Ew! Obama likes it! Our plan must have cooties!” And yes, that's what it boils down to.
But watch, if the good news keeps coming you will witness startling agility! You will start to hear crowing on the right, that “Of course it worked! It was our own plan, all along!”
== When is a person’s faith relevant in politics? ==
Religion generally should not be a topic in politics. But here is a simple test for you Americans, to check whether you might be on the wrong side in this civil war.
"Does my side include tens of millions of folks who pray daily for events that would kill most of their neighbors, consigning them to eternal torment? Events that would bring to an end all science and ambition and terminate both democracy and the United States of America?”
“If that pretty much describes my fellow partisans… could it be that I am on the wrong side, after all?"
I draw the line when a politician admits to praying daily for the Book of Revelation (BoR) scenario for Armageddon to come true as soon as possible, relishing a global holocaust-war that will result in the slaughtering of most of his/her fellow citizens, ending (forever) all traces of individual liberty and the nation the politician wants to lead.
Do recall that the BoR was barely voted into the Christian canon, over stiff objections by the best minds of the day. Martin Luther despised its bood-thirsty, vengeful spirit, which runs diametrically opposite to that of the Sermon on the Mount. The recent veer in emphasis, among American fundamentalists, away from the teachings of Jesus toward obsession with BoR ravings, is symptomatic of their bitter resentment of the future — their frantic wish that it - and their disturbing neighbors - would just go away, as soon and as painfully as possible.
And yes, such venomous yearnings are their privilege in a free country! One in which, ironically, no central authority can punish you for your beliefs.
Only there is this. To my mind, anyone who avows to openly — or implicitly — praying for such an event to take place has thereby made his/her religious views pertinent to voters in an election. Voters have a right to take into account the scenario -- and outcomes -- that a candidate relishes. And whether a person who actively seeks those outcomes should be trusted with America's sovereign power. Or our nuclear weapons.
See what these folks actively yearn for, with amazing art by Patrick Farley.
Clearly, we Americans have been passing through what Robert Heinlein forecast as "The Crazy Years."
== The real SkyNet ==
Has High Frequency Trading (HFT) started to fade? Because of Michael Lewis’s book FLASH BOYS: A Wall Street Revolt? Because of SEC investigations? Or something that came earlier — my warning that HFT might result in Terminator? Is there hope? As much as two-thirds of all stock trades in the U.S. from 2008 to 2011 were executed by high-frequency firms; today it’s about half. In 2009, high-frequency traders moved about 3.25 billion shares a day. In 2012, it was 1.6 billion a day. But excuse my cynicism. I will betcha the nerd algorithm wizards have simply moved on to something else that is terribly clever, secret and almost certain to be regrettable.
== Snippets ==
“The idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behaviour that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.” — John Maynard Keynes. "Some economic consequences of a declining population." 1937.
"The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.” — J. C. R. Licklider, Man-Computer Symbiosis
Femen, the World's Most Provocative Activist Group, can only happen when there are zones of real civilization from which shelter and support can be drawn. The tactics - provocative - are those of challenge… courageous and important, while reciprocally reliant on the parts of civilization that “get” and dig what they are doing, and can help protect them from the parts that want the heroes dead.
nd when they are equally effective, the open/individual/market solution is always to be preferred. Moreover, logically, the capitalist alternative that applies to many forms of government paternalism is... insurance.
(Indeed, that was the basis for the GOP's Gingrich-Romneycare health proposal, which president Obama embraced and the GOP then denounced, because he wanted it. Again... cooties!)
On a broader basis, look at where insurance companies are still pro-active and competitive (e.g. fire insurance). There you will find them behaving "paternalistically" in demanding clients take active care to mitigate risk. The lesson? Our pablum simplistic dogmas are not suited to problem-solving in the real world.
== More snippets ==
This graphic from The World Bank shows the world making great progress at reducing "extreme poverty" around the world. Though there are recalcitrant areas… and "extreme" is measured so generously -- at $1.25 income per day -- that your sense of satisfaction should be brief. That threshold, if earned by all of a family's adults, should, in most places, allow their children to attend school. But little more than that. I have my doubts. A real yin-yang graphic that should have a twin effect…
…to encourage us that solving poverty is possible and so is a better world… using both social and market methods… and that complacency is just as bad as despair.
See my article: Laughing at Laffer. Please. When an “economics” theory has not one successful prediction (ever) to point to, are you smart enough to say: “maybe Adam Smith was right about this… and I was wrong.”
No Way to Prevent This...Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens -- The Onion on Gun Violence.
And finally... I spoke many times about the Great Big War on Smartypants? Or war on expertise in any form? That is being waged by unlikely allies... the very far left and the entire-right? Dig this: "Why are conservatives so annoyed by Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Because, you know, science..."