Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for June 11th, 2009

Exim mixEd

Posted by Charles II on June 11, 2009

Trade balance

As of April, exports falling, less rapidly than imports.

Posted in economy | Comments Off on Exim mixEd

The whole megillah

Posted by Charles II on June 11, 2009

The Joint Tax Committee scored the 10-year effect of the Obama proposals. They add nearly $3T to the net deficit. Nearly half a trillion comes from providing a long-term fix for the AMT. Two and a half a trillion of tax breaks and “incentives” for individuals, mostly from not repealing the least obnoxious Bush tax cuts. There’s a lot of what looks like corporate welfare (1.5 T for “new markets”), but also a fair amount of reform. For example, ca. $50B from making deferral of expenses match deferral of income and a similar amount from reform of the foreign tax credit.

It’s legislative sausage, and it will get chopped finer. But now we know what it looks like.

Posted in Obama Administration, taxes | Comments Off on The whole megillah

Deming the docs

Posted by Charles II on June 11, 2009

(see here for an explanation of the title of this post).

Avedon Carol had a link to a very important article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande. There’s a lot to digest in the article, but it comes down to some surprisingly simple things… with a surprising conclusion.

1. High cost healthcare is usually low quality healthcare.
2. The major cost driver in healthcare appears to be overutilization: unnecessary appointments, tests, and surgery.
3. High cost, low quality medicine exists where the profit motive is the most intense. This is associated with corruption, including kickbacks.
4. Low cost, high quality medicine exists in towns with a communitarian ethic. He cites Grand Junction where “doctors agreed … to a system that paid them a similar fee whether they saw Medicare, Medicaid, or private-insurance patients…to meet regularly on small peer-review committees to go over their patient charts together. They focussed on rooting out problems like poor prevention practices, unnecessary back operations, and unusual hospital-complication rates. … Then, in 2004, the doctors’ group and the local H.M.O. jointly created a regional information network…

His conclusion is that the public option (single payer) is not the answer. To extrapolate a bit from the article, in his analysis, the reason the European system works is that they have a communitarian ethic, not that the government runs it. Their communitarian ethic led them to have the government run it so that they could deliver quality medicine. This is what Gawande says:

Activists and policymakers spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about whether the solution to high medical costs is to have government or private insurance companies write the checks. Here’s how this whole debate goes. Advocates of a public option say government financing would save the most money by having leaner administrative costs and forcing doctors and hospitals to take lower payments than they get from private insurance. Opponents say doctors would skimp, quit, or game the system, and make us wait in line for our care; they maintain that private insurers are better at policing doctors. No, the skeptics say: all insurance companies do is reject applicants who need health care and stall on paying their bills. Then we have the economists who say that the people who should pay the doctors are the ones who use them. Have consumers pay with their own dollars, make sure that they have some “skin in the game,” and then they’ll get the care they deserve. These arguments miss the main issue. When it comes to making care better and cheaper, changing who pays the doctor will make no more difference than changing who pays the electrician. The lesson of the high-quality, low-cost communities is that someone has to be accountable for the totality of care. Otherwise, you get a system that has no brakes. …

[High cost, low quality areas] have to be weaned away from their untenably fragmented, quantity-driven systems of health care, step by step.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in health care, science and medicine | 3 Comments »

“The worst is yet to come” (in CRE and Prime)

Posted by Charles II on June 11, 2009

Sarah Mulholland, Bloomberg:

Investors in bonds that packaged $62 billion of debt for U.S. offices, hotels and shopping malls are bracing for more loan defaults through 2010 as Bank of America Merrill Lynch says landlords’ monthly payments may jump 20 percent or more.

Investors have already seen prices on top-rated senior debt drop below 70 cents on the dollar from 95 cents a year ago, according to Aaron Bryson, a commercial mortgage-backed securities analyst at Barclays Capital in New York.

Brian Lewis, Bloomberg:

About 1 million option ARMs are estimated to reset higher in the next four years, according to real estate data firm First American CoreLogic of Santa Ana, California. About three quarters of those loans will adjust next year and in 2011, with the peak coming in August 2011 when about 54,000 loans recast, the data show.

More than $750 billion of option ARMs were originated in the U.S. between 2004 and 2008, according to data from First American and Inside Mortgage Finance of Bethesda, Maryland. California accounted for 58 percent of option ARMs, according to a report by T2 Partners LLC, citing data from Amherst Securities and Loan Performance.

Calculated Risk has adapted a handy chart from Credit Suisse:

Coming due

Posted in mortgage crisis | 1 Comment »

A Little Secret About ‘Judicial Activism’

Posted by MEC on June 11, 2009

There’s no such thing.

Professor Brendan Beery of Cooley Law School provides a dose of reality to purge the rightwing talking point.

When a document has to last for a long time, it requires more general terms.

So, the Constitution doesn’t say we have a right to interracial marriage or marital privacy. It says we have a right to liberty. And there’s no definition of “liberty” in the Constitution.

So who’s supposed to interpret that word before applying it? Judges.

I’m thinking that Thomas Jefferson would be likelier to agree with Professor Beery than with the “Federalist” Society partisans who go on about “original intent” as if they were there when the Constitution was written.


Posted in activist judges, Constitution | 4 Comments »

The Sublime And The Ridiculous

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 11, 2009

The sublime:

Michigan gets a polysilicon plant, poised to supply silicon to solar cell makers

Minnesota farmers working with Juhl to supply wind power to rural areas

The ridiculous (if not obscene):

Conservatives like Glenn Beck refuse to admit that the Holocaust Museum murder was one of them

Posted in rightwing moral cripples, solar, technology, wind power | Comments Off on The Sublime And The Ridiculous

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