On Wednesday, the new head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a bombshell report finding that U.S. health care spending since 2010 has increased by just 1.3 percent — the smallest cost growth over a three-year period in American history — while prices in the health care sector rose by 50-year lows, thanks in part to structural changes made by the Affordable Care Act.
This is a big deal. Website problems are an embarrassment that will last a month and a half. But bending the cost curve is absolutely critical for the future of medicine in the country.
This is more a “Thanks, in part, Obamacare” than an unambiguous “Thanks Obamacare.” There are a lot of different pressures contributing to this result—and some may not be permanent. However, people were pretty pessimistic about the Affordable Care Act’s probability of lowering costs. It looks like it’s happening.
The other goal—expanding coverage—is also happening. The website problems have complicated that. (Although … they’ve also brought a lot of publicity—so I’m not totally persuaded that fewer people will sing up than otherwise would have.)
Agreement in Geneva: first step makes world safer. More work now. #IranTalks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (via statedept)
Uh … State Department? You know Tumblr doesn’t have a character limit. And that you can put your tag down in the tags box? It’s a lovely platform—and it could be used in a way that doesn’t make the Secretary of State sound like a caveman.
Edit: Yes, Anonymous, I’m aware that the source for the quote is Twitter. I like to pretend, however, that John Kerry probably said something more quotable in this whole negotiation than a Tweet.
I don’t particularly mind that a search engine tracks my search history. And I don’t particularly mind that an email provider scans emails for contextual advertising. And I certainly don’t mind that a social network keeps track of all the personal information I provide it. (After all, that’s the entire point of it.) I find it convenient when a web browser lets me save forms, passwords, and browsing history. Individually none of these things bother me.
Its a bit like how I don’t mind if somebody sees me leaving the house in the morning. I don’t mind if somebody sees me crossing the road on a walk to work. I don’t mind if somebody sees me go into the building or if somebody walking by my office sees that I’m there. I don’t mind if somebody knows what I ordered for lunch. Or that I brought a lunch from home on any particular day.
But … if you make all those people into the same person, it gets really uncomfortable really fast. It’s perfectly okay for any number of people to know any number of intimate things about you. But when you centralize all that disparate information into one central database, it becomes far more concerning. Google has been doing that aggressively the last few years.
It’s about time, right? If the Senate is an august and collegial body, allowing a de facto veto to substantial minority could encourage deliberation and consensus-building. If things are working, be very careful about making changes. Maybe the cost is that it takes a bit longer to fill some positions.
But things weren’t working. There was no consensus. There were just critical, unfilled positions. It was time to let the filibuster go.
I’m not a fan of Fareed Zakaria’s piece in the Washington Post about the percieved “mediocrity” of the federal government. Lifting up the federal government’s success in hiring disabled veterans as evidence that “merit and quality inevitably get downgraded in importance” is a mean business.
Are their long command chains from the top to the bottom? Of course. Is that true of any company with more than a few dozen employees? Of course. Does Zakaria think that the junior guy staffing the metal detector at a federal courthouse should have a direct line to the President? How about a Attorney General? Or the guy in charge of the Judicial Security Division across the country? Of course not. He reports to an immediate supervisor who knows the names of everybody under him. This is not bureaucracy run amok. It’s just plausible division of labor.
None of this is to say that there isn’t room to improve things. But it’s hardly fair to suggest that the federal government has a monopoly on imperfection. The private sector botches things all the time. (Why is Zakaria writing for the Washington Post? Wasn’t he a Newsweek guy?) Overall, the federal employees are extremely competent and good at what they do.
There’s a decent point buried in the article. It would help if Congresspeople paid more attention to getting things to work smoothly rather than digging about for politically advantageous garbage. But don’t trust Zakaria for a minute. He only seems to want to cut. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that many federal processes are slow and inefficient due to under-staffing.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that he was proposing a historic change to Senate rules that would get rid of the filibuster for most presidential nominations.
JP Morgan Chase has finalized a $13,000,000,000.00 settlement with the Department of Justice for essentially defrauding investors about mortgages. There may also be criminal charges.
Speaking as a hardened criminal, the proper way to pay a settlement of that magnitude requires a briefcase full of crisp hundreds. It’s also helpful to have a decoy briefcase of roughly the same weight so you can pull a fast one at the last second.
So suppose you’re the Justice Department and Jamie Dimon comes up with a briefcase in either hand. Your sources tell you that one briefcase is full of hundreds and the other contains, say, a fully-grown blue whale. You can’t tell them apart—but one seems a smidge heavier than the other.
Q: Which is heavier, $13 billion in hundreds or a blue whale?
A: It depends how much the whale has eaten that day.
In September, Rep. Trey Radel voted for Republican legislation that would allow states to make food stamp recipients pee in cups to prove they’re not on drugs. In October, police busted the Florida Republican on a charge of cocaine possession.
It seems reasonable that various economic conditions could cause this sort of crisis of homelessness. And it’s reasonable that other economic conditions could cause a glut of vacant homes. But when we see both at the same time, the train has gone off the tracks. Maybe it’s time to stop evicting people after foreclosure if they’re willing to pay some reasonable amount of rent.
When I tell this to the attorneys in charge of doing the evicting, they tell me to be reasonable. I’m afraid I no longer know how. When the world is stuck in a fun house mirror and the world is warped beyond recognition, it’s hard to draw a straight line.