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    • Japanification and the end of the American Dream
      Stirling Newberry and I have been writing about Japanafication for years—on blogs, at least since 2004. Those of us who are old enough remember when Japan was THE miracle economy.  Technologically advanced, vibrant and rich.  It was eating America’s lunch, and most other countries.  For peak alarmism at this fact in a fictional form, read [...]
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Nip and Tuck — No Biggie

If this is true it should be front page news. We have a right to know what is getting bargained away:

Ezra F*ckin Klein:

There will be a variety of nips and tucks to Medicare, including more cost-sharing and decreases in provider payments, and the headline Democratic concession is likely to be that the Medicare eligibility age rises from 65 to 67.

That’s not a policy I like much, but New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait accurately conveys the White House thinking here: They see it as having “weirdly disproportionate symbolic power,” as it’s not a huge (or smart) cut to Medicare benefits, and most of the pain will be blunted by the Affordable Care Act. But Republicans and self-styled deficit hawks see it as a big win. And Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who staunchlyopposes raising the retirement age, has stopped well short of ruling it out.

Takin’ a break today

It’s rainy and yucky today.

Anyway, this one goes out to all those chemists out there who have been freed from wage slavery:

*********************************

By the way, Ezra Klein wrote something intelligent after a four year self-induced psychogenic fugue.  It appears that he has woken up to discover that he is a Democrat after all and that some of the people that Obama hangs with in Washington are not:

Of course, those who say we should raise the Social Security retirement age — either the age of eligibility or the age for full benefits — don’t get laughed at. It’s considered a very thoughtful, courageous effort to deal with our entitlement programs. People who mention it often make a joke of how brave they’re being. For instance, here’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) at an American Enterprise Institute event:

You are going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security! Whoa! I just said it and I am still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting.

Big applause, of course.

This is one of Washington, D.C.’s more disagreeable conceits. The people wandering around calling for a higher retirement age will never feel the bite of the policy. Think tankers and politicians and columnists don’t retire at age 62, or even age 65. They love their work, which mostly requires sitting down in air-conditioned rooms. They stick around pretty much until they’re about to die.

Too bad this awakening comes too late to do anything about it but we must be grateful for small things.

But as Ezra says:

The courage it takes to call for a higher retirement age is the courage to say that other people who don’t have it as good as you do should be the ones to pay to shore up Social Security. It’s the same kind of courage as a poor person calling for higher taxes on the rich, or a sitting congressman calling for a war he’ll never have to fight in.

Or the courage of an A list blogger to defend future social security recipients after the blogger failed to pressure the Democratic nominee he helped get elected with threats of electoral suicide if he didn’t drop the Grand Bargain plans.

Just sayin’.

Calorie Labeling and your weekend dinner plans

I am constantly struggling with my weight.  If I don’t walk about 5 miles a day I gain weight — and if I eat out with any regularity at all I gain weight.  The switch that makes my brain relate what I’m eating to my weight and health just shuts off when I’m at a restaurant.  And without that switch — I’m out of control.

Ezra Klein is discussing that experience in his post, Calorie Labeling In Action, today

All quite delicious. When I got back to the office, though, I decided to see what it added up to. First, I looked up the cookie. A solid 450 calories, with 19 grams of fat. Yikes. But what might have actually changed my purchase was knowing the content of my sandwich: According to the nutrition calculator, 525 calories.

The calories in the cookie weren’t startling. But their calories relative to my sandwich proved a bit off-putting. I could pretty much have ordered a second sandwich for the caloric cost. Buying them without the information, it was easy enough to just consider them a side dish. As it happened, the cookie was more like a second lunch. I wouldn’t have ordered a second lunch. Good to know.

I had that EXACT experience with a Subway sandwich and a cookie a few years ago.  Their cookies are only in the 200 calorie range but, they’re puny.  I got two that day (440 calories) and NEVER did it again.

When it comes to calories knowledge isn’t just power — it’s control.  And it’s not just me:

The following table comes from a Health Impact Assessment prepared by the County of Los Angeles on calorie labeling laws. It shows how much of the whole county’s projected weight gain would be averted if calorie labeling got X percent of restaurant patrons to make average decisions that were Y calories smaller

Follow the links and take a look (Ezra has a link to a graph) — it’s pretty impressive!  And since it’s likely you won’t find the label on the menu at your favorite restaurant, spend a couple of minutes looking at the nutrition information on their website before you go.


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Could “reform” possibly look worse than what we’ve got?

I don’t know how anyone could consider this reform (h/t Alegra) -

EXCLUSIVE: The Finance Committee’s Health Reform Outline
A Senate source just passed me the latest outline of the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform proposal. This is the post-CBO revision. Apparently, after the committee staff received the scores, they dug deep and quickly developed this proposal to circulate among members and then send back to CBO. It was presented earlier today at a closed-door meeting.

(shaking my head) It’s actually unbelievable…. You’ve got to read it yourself: Health Care Reform Draft Proposal.  It’s a pdf of an image so I can’t copy and past the text.  But, one of Ezra’s readers posted this evaluation (this is just a bit from the middle.  He’s got more detail in a chart): Continue reading

Health care reform the dollars and sense of it

[ An extended update to Health care: Bipartisanship in itself is not a goal (period) ]

Health care for a country as large as ours is going to cost a lot of money — no matter who’s paying the bills.  Right now, the burden rests almost entirely on individuals to either pay extortion high insurance premiums & all the deductibles and copays required to actually benefit from those payments.  But, many of us are hoping that with true government reform, those payments could be restructured in such a way that everyone in the country gains access to health care . . .  and none of us go broke getting it.

Ezra’s  hair is on fire but, why can’t he point out that we’ll pay much more than these estimates in ten years without reform?

Health reform is, I think it fair to say, in danger right now. The news out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee was bad. The Congressional Budget Office had scored a partial bill and the result was a total fiasco. But the news out of the Finance Committee is much, much worse.

Put simply, the Finance Committee wanted its bill to cost $1 trillion over 10 years. The CBO returned an early estimate to the panel on Tuesday night: $1.6 trillion over 10 years. The specifics of the estimate have not been made public. But the final number changed everything. Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee, pushed markup back behind the July 4th recess. He has promised to get the bill below $1 trillion over 10 years.

That’s very dangerous.

“Very dangerous” — to say the least. Continue reading

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