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700,000,000

That is today’s number. It represents the hidden tax that every working New Jerseyan pays for the healthcare of uninsured residents of our state.

$700,000,000.00

It’s 3/4 of a Billion dollars that the state comps hospitals around the state when an uninsured 10 year old needs oxygen during a severe asthma attack, or an uninsured man needs to be treated for a heart attack or an uninsured free-lancing woman needs chemotherapy for breast cancer.

1.8 Million New Jerseyans out of 8 million are uninsured. That’s a lot of potentially sick people. Wouldn’t it be better for them to pay into a universal health insurance policy while they’re well so that the risk is dispersed and hospitals don’t have to pass the cost onto the insured like they do now?

One of our candidates believes in univesal coverage, The other would let the young and healthy opt out until they need it. In the meantime, the tax becomes less well hidden…

What have you done for me lately?

Hillary recites her CV:

Yeah, she f%^&’ed up on the IWR. Badly. Monumentally badly.

*sigh*

If her good points didn’t outweigh her one major screw up, I could never support her. I think she is the ONLY candidate who is capable of getting us out as carefully as possible. Obama is great. If this were four years in the future, I could reevaluate his candidacy with more crititcal thought. But he is too much of a tabula rasa to me (but with RonK’s enlightening post below, considerably less so).

If it were just the war, Obama might have the upper hand. But it is NOT just the war. It’s the economy, stupid. That’s why Hillary comes our on top. This year, experience *does* matter.

The Audiology of Hope: Dogwhistle Economics

Something about Obama attracts New D’s, GOP’s, Broderites, Indies, Perotistas, Reagan D’s and Libertarians alike. Is it his big table? His promise to turn the page? His post-racial posture? Is it his cologne?

Or is it Austan Goolsbee?

Who??? Goolsbee. Economic wunderkind, forensics champ, MIT PhD, Yale Bonesman out of Waco via Milton Academy, Obama’s chief / top / senior economic spokesman and senior policy advisor.

Oh, and DLC senior economist.

Huh? Whuzzat? Yes, that DLC.

June 19, 2006
Austan Goolsbee Joins DLC and PPI as Senior Economist
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) are pleased to announce that Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, has agreed to become Senior Economist to both organizations.

You hadn’t heard that, had you? That’s what a dog whistle is for. In distant corners of the political grid, they hear the pied piper’s dog code loud and clear … and they do come a-runnin’.

Read on as we crack the code.

And yes, it’s that U. of Chicago — bastion of neoliberal (free market) political economics, skunkworks behind the Old Right’s counterrevolution against the intellectual decadence of FDR’s New Deal, and Obama’s primary academic stomping ground.

As one conservative Yale alum testifies:

… voters who usually lean Republican should take a second look at Obama … Although some of his centrist economic prescriptions may disenchant liberals who distrust the benefits of globalization, Goolsbee said economic data indicate that free trade leads to higher wages.

George Will digs Goolsbee. What’s not to like … if you’re George F. Will?

The liberal’s liberal economist Paul Krugman? Not so much. Goolsbee is the unnamed advisor Krugman refers to when he tabs Obama’s stimulus plan “disreputable”. [There’s the Rosetta Pebble, BTW, to a code we’ll break later.]

Enough about who Goolsbee is. What does Goolsbee think?

Goolsbee thinks single payer is a bad idea. He thinks Warren Buffett is just lucky. He thinks globalization is no biggie. He thinks subprime lending gimmicks made the market more perfect. And he gives Dubya high marks on trade, taxes, job creation … but an “Incomplete” on Social Security.

Onward to the Big Picture framework questions of progressive policy and politics.

How do we remedy lopsided distribution of wealth and income? To Goolsbee, the main answers are education, education, and educational opportunity.

Obama’s vision, as focused by Goolsbee’s lenses, includes “democratizing capitalism”. I guess that means we’ll all be rich, a few decades after the rich pull everybody else on board into the investor class. (Heard this somewhere before, have you?)

Much as I sympathize with Goolsbee on some points of theory and stylistic emphasis, this is just wrong. No doubt an educated workforce grows the economy pie in toto. No doubt certain members of an educated class find the biggest slices on their plates. But in a positionally-competitive casino economy keyed to disproportionate reward for a limited number of key men (in franchises, networks and lineages), the system won’t divvy up rewards in natural open market-theoretic shares just because everybody moves up the skills ladder.

This doesn’t level the playing field – it just ratchets the game up to a higher level of difficulty. Same social order of advantage and disadvantage, with fatter sheep for the same ravening wolves.

How do we fix public education? With incentive systems, of course. Merit pay for schoolteachers.

On the plus side, Goolsbee does favor public investments in education and infrastructure. (These are the highest-return investments we know how to make, public or private.) Push the money out there, let private actors rearrange it optimally.

How do we regulate global corporate enterprise? Much as we regulate US corporations, i.e., not much. Strained through the academic economist’s revealed preference for market outcomes, regulations are just a rats-nests of departures from the optimality of market outcomes. Outcome-directive levers of policy — mandates, prohibitions and other regulations — are bad. Incentives and public investments are good, as mitigations to market insecurities.

How do we reform health care? With a mandate-free version of Romney – Edwards – Clinton – Schwarzenegger insurance mandates.

Can we tax the rich? [In a global mobile economy, that’s really the question of the age.] Here’s a plus. Goolsbee argues that marginal tax rates on top-share incomes may not be as all-out destructive as Chicago School orthodoxy assumes. Still, the Obama camp is reluctant to venture into progressive taxation much beyond ending the Bush cuts.

Energy policy?

We should use a market-based strategy that gradually reduces harmful emissions in the most economical way. John McCain and Joe Lieberman are continuing to build support for legislation based on this approach,

Long on incentives, short on mandates.

How do we treat Social Security? Well, here’s a puzzle. Barack Obama’s position (as outlined by Goolsbee) is a dead ringer for Hillary Clinton’s position (as scathingly criticized by Barack Obama).

Whence this worldview? A Financial Times profile finds Goolsbee “almost wholly lacking in political experience”. This may account for his adherence to the textbook economist’s faith in smooth curves and theoretical equilibria, and disdain for the disruptive hand of government.

He’d rather have the invisible giants tilt the landscape so that desirable outcomes flow naturally downhill and accumulate in convenient catch-basins.

Contact with real politics — real constituents coming to you with real problems — would have tended to take the gloss off whatever smooth shiny vision he brought to the party … or to steer him toward a comfort zone in the other party, serving the Haves and sighing “can’t be helped” to the plight of the Have-Nots.

Breaking the code: What does all this tell us about Barack Obama’s vision of a low-conflict New Politics, and its strange attraction across the political spectrum? Here, it gets interesting.

Obama sincerely believes he’s on to something. He hasn’t told us what it is yet, or how it would work, or how he knows it would work, but he believes it’s possible in principle to satisfy all sides of today’s major divisions of interest.

Apparently he is convinced that much of the conflict evident in today’s politics is inessential … derivative … superfluous. Where does he get that idea? Perhaps he’s informed by the siren’s call of naive economics and market idealism. If regulations were largely unnecessary, if imbalances were largely self-correcting, if economic growth itself were the path to economic justice … then we could enrich the deserving Have-Nots without all those disagreeable takings from the powerful Haves.

There’s a parallel here to presidential epochs past. Running for office, Reagan really thought he could give everyone a thirty percent tax cut, increase tax revenues, build a 600-ship Navy and a missile shield in space, and fund it by eliminating “ two words: fraud and waste“.

A closer parallel: Running for office, George W. Bush really thought he could give American conservatives their desired freedom from taxes and regulation, but also free them from the pangs of stricken conscience at the misfortune of others.

[Don’t kid yourself. Few conservatives are indifferent to hungry kids or grannies freezing in the streets, even if it’s not their kids or their grannies. They just don’t know how to solve this problem without morphing into the despised — and economically inconvenient — liberals.]

Thus was born “compassionate conservatism“. The advantaged could sleep soundly knowing that their very selfishness paved the road to riches for the disadvantages.

Yeah, it was a crock — but so many wanted to believe, and so few asked the hard questions.

Now, with America beset by the legacies of these shared daydreams, who will ask the hard questions?

And who will respond to the beguiling whistle, and fall in line with the doggie parade?

Proposed Experiment for Tonight’s Debate

listening-ks6232.jpgFor those of you with DVR’s, I am going to propose a little experiment.  If you’re like me, you’re an analytical type.  What people say ususally can’t be spun past you. You pay attention to the content, syntax, synonyms, connotations, phrasing and logic to make sense of what each person says.  What did John Edwards mean when he said he didn’t accept money from “federal” lobbyists?  Why does Obama ramble so much, using prepositional phrase after subclause, an never getting to the point?  Why can’t Hillary put a little more lilt into her punch lines?   That’s all well and good and it’s very important.

But what about the rest of it?  Who approaches who for the handshake, whose eyes dart to the left while speaking, who can’t stand still?  Those of you who have children can probably tell when they’re fibbing or nervous or having fun.  It’s all over their faces.  Adults are much better at hiding that but it never completely goes away.  Oliver Sacks, author of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” tells the story of patients with aphasia watching Ronald Reagan give a speech and laughing their asses off.  They couldn’t process the language but they knew from his expressions that he was being disingenuous.

So, here’s my idea, turn off the volume.  Watch the debate without any auditory input.   Then ask yourself, which person impressed you just by watching what they did and not what they said.  Then, back the DVR up and listen to what they said.  Do you have a different impression?  Now, ask yourself, if you were not the analytical type, would you be more persuaded by what you see or what you hear?  What if you are just an average Joe with an average vocabulary?  Would visual input be more or less important?

More unsolicited advice for Hillary for tonight’s debate

  • Counter the Change! argument with what you would *not* change. Piece of cake.
  • Emphasize that the next president will be nominating 1 and possibly more supreme court justices. Do we really want to take a chance on an unknown? Shouldn’t the unknown be a lot more forthcoming?
  • Women can’t count on others to have the same passion on certain issues as men.
  • “What Walmart did to unions was wrong. Despite my work on behalf of women and the environment, I should have spoken up and said something. It’s no different than voting present on an issue your constituents care passionately about. If it is a core value, you should have the courage to say so. But courage comes with time and experience. I am a lot more courageous these days.”

Observations and Dope Slaps

dope slapI hope all the Barack fluffing and Hillary bashing leads to a premature Obamagasm, though the timing seems to be right for a nasty media newscycle going into SuperDuperTuesday. But I think we have to seriously talk about what might be going on here before it’s too late:

  • The Republicans have a track record of picking off the strongest candidates among their opponents. They do this with relentless negativity towards one candidate and obsequious positivity towards the weaker one. It leaves the viewer with the impression that the weaker candidate is safe because nothing is dug up, picked apart, analyzed for all its worth and droned on by all of the villagers.
  • The Republicans want to run against a candidate who is weak on national security issues. It is the conventional wisdom that Democrats are weak in this area. It isn’t true, of course, but political narratives are very hard to change. If a Republican tried to run on balancing the budget by raising taxes on the wealthy, no one would believe him. Same on national security. Voters are skeptical about it when they think of Democrats. Remember Kerry and Gore? To this day, my nutty winger family still believes that they would have been a passive, cowardly, blubbering idiots on 9/11. The truth does not faze them. Oh, yeah, they’re 30%’ers but so was most of the country in 2004. Fear mongering works. There have been studies on it. And the GOP are masters of manipulating the fear switch.
  • The media is complicit because ratings are really, really good when the horserace is really tight. They have a threefor this year in the two party primaries and the big kahuna in November. It really doesn’t matter to them who wins the Democratic primary (OK, they HATE Clinton for some unknown reason). But you can bet your sweet bippy that Obama will undergo some major teardown if he is nominated. Maureen Dowd is already sharpening up her feminizing routine against Obama. David Brooks on Charlie Rose laid out the strategy against Obama a couple weeks ago. They are going to pound him on national security. It will be brutal.
  • When they start to pound Obama on national security issues, when his whole life is turned upside down to make him look like a dandified shmoozer and a lightweight, when they start to comment on his pimp walk and his urban idioms, when they highlight his lack of military service, his youth, his inexperience, you are going to wonder why the f^&* you jumped on this bandwagon of Change! and Hope!, this empty stump speech full of sunchine and Care Bears and didn’t go with the candidate who wisely built up her national security bona fides.
  • When 2009 rolls around and the Bushies leave the broken lamps and empty vaults behind, you may seriously regret not having a steady hand at the wheel, someone who has the knowledge base to understand what’s going on. Because, McCain is going to need money from the people who are complicit in the pillaging in order to win. And when they fork it over, it’s going to come with strings.  PLUS, McCain freely admits that he’s a ditz when it comes to the economy.
  • Don’t be a dope.

Last Debate before SuperDuper Tuesday

Does anyone have any advice for the candidates?

Ok, I’ll go first.  This is for Hillary:

  • Whoever was your makeup person for the tweed jacket debate, get her/him back.  Your eyes and your smile are your best features.  Your eyes are intelligent.  Make sure they look alert.  When you smile, your whole face lights up.  Look for a natural shade with a blue undertone to make your teeth look whiter.  Skip the liner.  It makes everyone’s lips look smaller, unless the shade matches your lipstick really closely.
  • Stay away from dark blue and browns.  I’d try a blue grey to look presidential.
  • Try to channel some inspirational speaker.   If Eleanor Roosevelt does it for you, great!  My grandmother LOVED Eleanor Roosevelt.  If you liked RFK, go with it!  Make sure it’s your own words and feelings but carry them on a frequency that everyone can identify with.
  • Eat some read meat.  cook it no more than medium rare.
  • I don’t think I have to tell you how to treat Obama.  He is who he is and you are who you are.  Show him.