A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Revisiting the history of the health insurance mandate.

It seems that the popular conservative apologetic today is to claim that conservatives never introduced or supported mandatory health insurance. Even a casual browse through the public record reveals that claim to be false, but the claim continues to get repeated apparently in hopes of replicating the Big Lie. So for the record (mostly for my own benefit) here's what's on the public record with regard to the GOP's health insurance mandate.

First there's the 1993 GOP counter-proposal to "Hillarycare" taken from the proposal written by the Heritage Foundation. The idea was to force people to join the insurance pool to lower the overall risk just like they do with mandatory auto insurance.

Then there's Romneycare, the Massachusetts health care reform law that the Heritage Foundation claimed credit for helping build based off their original health insurance mandate. Romney and other conservatives continued to hail the Massachusetts law as a model for national health care reform up until the point that Obama used Romneycare experts to help build Obamacare.

That's the point when suddenly conservatives started talking about how the mandate was "unconstitutional," a claim they continue to make long after the mandate was upheld in the Supreme Court. To add insult to injury, Newt Gingrich admitted that the whole reform proposal was a red herring intended to block the Clinton reform proposal back in 1993 and that he never had any intention of allowing it to pass. That's what vindicates Alan Grayson's depiction of the GOP reform plan as "don't get sick. If you do, die quickly."

Thankfully, Forbes includes many of the highlights of the Republican Party's history of the individual mandate.

Monday, December 30, 2013

On poverty, work ethic and bootstraps

A comment on reddit prompted me to write the following. I think it stands well enough without context, but I can provide it if you're really interested.

I think there are a lot of better alternatives to "start your own business and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." One of them is to recognize that no one operates in a vacuum, and providing support for our least fortunate ought to be our top priority rather than indulging in some fantasy about "tough love."

Another would be abandoning our fetish for Puritan work ethics in a society where scarcity is a matter of public policy rather than necessity. If we started supporting people for following their passions even when those passions aren't lucrative, we might see some surprising results. One of the reasons it's easier to start your own business in most European countries than it is in the US is because the consequences for failure aren't as dire. They don't have to worry about losing their homes or going hungry because they tried and failed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Debt and Deficit Spending

It's not the mushroom cloud that deficit hawks are claiming it to be. We were promised an economic collapse if we passed the stimulus.

It didn't happen.

We were told that the bond market would punish us for our profligate spending.

It never happened.

We were told that all sorts of horrible things would happen if we didn't reign in our spending now! Now! Now! But none of them happened.

On the flip side, we were told that our recovery would be stalled if we started cutting our spending during a market contraction.

That happened.

We were warned of a "lost decade" similar to what Japan experienced if we followed Japan's economic policy during their market contraction.

That's happening now.

We were warned that high unemployment was going to become the new normal, and that wages would be driven down with the effect of further decreasing demand and cooling the economy.

That's also happening now. Unemployment is falling slower than expected, and with the impact of the government shutdown the markets are starting to treat the US economy as a bad bet.

This isn't rocket science. We've understood this basic macroeconomic principle for decades: you pay down the debt when your economy is in good shape and you spend on credit when the economy is in bad shape. When the economy seemed to be doing well economists like Krugman urged leaders to pay down the debt, but they were told by people like Cheney that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Only now that the economy crashed and a Democrat is in the White House are we hearing that the debt is going to kill us in our sleep. I heard predictions of complete economic collapse six months from now as far back as 2008.

It still hasn't happened yet.

So let's stop listening to the people who are consistently wrong about these matters are start listening to the people who demonstrate they actually understand the problem.