How Much Did the Stimulus Package Stimulate?

This is probably a question that will be debated for generations. John B. Taylor draws attention to a study that compares Taylor’s model, a model from Christiano, Eichenbaum and Rebelo, the Bank Canada’s model, two Federal Reserve models, and the IMF’s model to evaluate the results of the ARRA. The CEE model, which found a high Keynesian multiplier, seems to be an outlier.

124 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    I don’t know about anyone else, but that CEE model with its long low/negative growth tail scares the bejezus out of me. I hope that’s not what happened.

  • michael reynolds

    I think there’s a gender gap on this issue.

    Men consistently overstate the size of the stimulus package. Women have a much more realistic appraisal of the size and effect of stimulus packages, despite their claims that it really doesn’t matter.

    Sorry. I tried to stop myself.

  • Drew

    Let’s take this in two pieces.

    First, let’s not quibble about the accuracy of the short term impacts. I would argue against, but just look at the longer term and ask “what hath god wrought?”. Nothing. And anyone care to look at cost vs benefit? Heh. I’m not expecting an outpouring……

    Now look at the “outlier” and reflect upon PDs reaction. Yes, it scares the bejesus out of you. No free lunch, anyone?

    I find this issue is the point of departure with many commenters. michael, now perhaps Bernard…

    We spend like drunken sailors. We never bother to look at efficacy. There is no focus. We “feel good” for having spent the money; we slap each other on the back for “caring.” we never ask if we have really changed the trajectory of the poor as a class. We never ask how the family unit is going, how the schooling is going etc. it’s just write a check (uh, actually, have somebody else write a check) and our duty is done. We “care.”

    Balls. The government is simply the most ineffective distributor of funds conceivable. Too many sharper wolves around to feed on the meat.

    Heres some news, folks. Since I’ve become relatively well off I’ve become an “angel” investor. Each year I pick someone to fund their education. No interest loan. Pay me back when you can. That’s how my dad went to med school. That’s where I first learned of the concept.

    There is not a chance in hell I’ll give any more real details. In today’s world, you get sued for discrimination if you are involved in such activities. No country for old men. What a pitiful state of affairs, you liberals.

    But the idea first took hold with me, as I said, with my father, but later with my carousing buddy (thats code for drinking buddy) from the steel mill days. My hero, who was a tester at a metalworking firm but put himself through engineering school with two kids after his wife died of brain cancer. I met him when i was 22. He was 42. Oh, and he was black as the ace of spades. Arthur – “don’t call me Art”- Grey. A great person.

    And every single person I have helped, has been a minority.

    But you know us Republican nihilists and racists, just don’t want to be taxed or the government to spend any money……

    Let’s just let the Democrats piss away the national treasure…

  • Drew

    I have to admit, Michael, that was good. We both have very sick minds. Don’t try to stop yourself, there is another crazed individual out here who appreciates free form thought.

  • michael reynolds

    This, I agree with:

    We spend like drunken sailors. We never bother to look at efficacy. There is no focus. We “feel good” for having spent the money; we slap each other on the back for “caring.” we never ask if we have really changed the trajectory of the poor as a class. We never ask how the family unit is going, how the schooling is going etc. it’s just write a check (uh, actually, have somebody else write a check) and our duty is done. We “care.”

    This, is an unproven assumption:

    Balls. The government is simply the most ineffective distributor of funds conceivable. Too many sharper wolves around to feed on the meat.

    Sorry, but I’ve spent the last year watching, and participating in, private industry waste. Let me tell you about the economics of book tour some time.

    This, I admire:

    Since I’ve become relatively well off I’ve become an “angel” investor. Each year I pick someone to fund their education.

    I . . . okay, my wife . . . has been doing a small-bore charity thing for 15 years, give or take, paying for care and companion animals for poor people, mostly people with disabilities. (Being the financial geniuses we are we’ve never gotten around to making it official and getting a deduction.) But we don’t make the mistake of believing that is in any way even close to being sufficient. We spend 6 or 8 grand a year on that. Our tax bite is in the hundreds of thousands. The difference between 8 grand and say 400 grand is not measured in waste, fraud and abuse.

  • michael reynolds

    I have to admit, Michael, that was good.

    Hah. Thanks.

  • michael reynolds

    Actually, here’s where I think Drew and I could find some common ground. I don’t think government is necessarily less efficient at spending money, I think it’s that there’s no corrective mechanism. Time Warner bought AOL for a bazillion dollars and roughly ten minutes later AOL was worth a game token and a stick of gum. It would be a challenge to waste more money, more stupidly than that. Then, there’s the John Carter movie. Plenty of examples.

    But if we said that stupidity is an equal opportunity vice but can run unchecked in government, while the market eventually comes along to say, “Seriously, Netflix? WTF?” then we might have something.

  • I have to admit, Michael, that was good.

    Well done….well done.

    Sorry, but I’ve spent the last year watching, and participating in, private industry waste. Let me tell you about the economics of book tour some time.

    It isn’t just waste, fraud and abuse, but also the dead weight loss…that last one only comes with government though….or monopolies.

  • But if we said that stupidity is an equal opportunity vice but can run unchecked in government, while the market eventually comes along to say, “Seriously, Netflix? WTF?” then we might have something.

    There is bad investments. I’m sure Drew has made some investments that didn’t work out so well.

    The problem is government has no mechanism to stop bad investments. When was the last time you saw government say, “Oh…well that wasn’t a good idea, lets stop it and consider an alternative approach”?

    Typically the response is, “Well we just need to spend more.” A classic case of throwing good money after bad. A business can say, “Oops, wrong move…stop. Try something else, etc.” Sure some of the larger corporations with larger bureaucracies will be slower to respond, but even if they don’t eventually they’ll go bankrupt (or get a bail out…talk about good money after bad).

    And there is the manner of funding. Government is funded via taxes. Taxes incur a dead weight loss. That is a loss of economic activity that is simply lost. Now the idea is that what ever government is doing entails a welfare improvement over and above the lost welfare due to taxes and the dead weight loss. For some things this is probably true (e.g. public roads, public health expenditures, etc.). For others, probably not so much (note on that link, I don’t find it offensive or anything, I just don’t find that government expenditure to be welfare enhancing for me personally).

    The idea that government and business are both equivalent in terms of waste and lost economic output is questionable.

    Think of it this way. Business provides us with new goods and services. We can’t get the same thing from government even if government had a budget as big as all businesses combined.

  • Drew

    Micheal

    You know, I can be dense at times. But I’m thinking one of the issues that (artificially) separates us is the notion that business is “good” and government is “bad.”

    That’s not my view.

    Rather, I have had two large corporate experiences. The Inland Steel Company – now Arcilor Mittal, the largest steel company on the world – and Continental Bank, now a unit of Bank of America. They are what they are: large corporate. You, and many others, cite the problems with large corporate behavior and conclude that government is a solution. Me? No. Government is large corporate on steroids. No profit motive/investor mandate to act as a constraint.

    Hence, our differences. I care about the poor, the disabled; those for whom the shit has hit the fan. Look at the national budget, Michael. Look at local budgets. Look at the number of people I just cited. Do the math. We could make them rich in a heartbeat. We don’t pay our taxes to the government to help the poor. We pay them to create ginormous beaurocracies as job creating entities and reliable voting blocks. Get real. Have you ever been to Chicago? Look at our government. As they say in bars I used to hang out in…..Shit, nigger, what you talkin about?

    My pocketbook is an open book to help some poor soul who can’t afford air conditioning on July 27th. I have a problem with Cabrini Green residents shopping at Treasure Island with stamps for liquor.

    Dave will get the reference.

  • Andy

    Could be wrong, but I doubt there’s anything in the private sector that can compete with the black hole that is the F-35 program.

  • sam

    @Verdon

    When was the last time you saw government say, “Oh…well that wasn’t a good idea, lets stop it and consider an alternative approach”?

    DOD has cancelled a lot of weapons systems over the last 10 years. See, $46 Billion Worth of Cancelled Programs (Drops in the overall bucket, to be sure. But it was done):

    Future Combat Systems (FCS) $18.1B

    Comanche helicopter $7.9B

    nPOESS satellite $5.8B

    VH-71 Presidential Helicopter $3.7B

    Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) $3.3B

    Transformational SATCOM (TSAT) $3.2B

    Crusader $2.2B

    Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) $0.6 B

    Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter $0.5 B

    Aerial Common Sensor $0.4 B

    CG(X) next Generation Cruiser $0.2B

    CSAR-X $0.2B

  • We pay them to create ginormous beaurocracies as job creating entities and reliable voting blocks.

    I think we pay them to transfer wealth from one group of the top 10% of income earners to a different group of the top 10% of income earners and convince those who aren’t in the top 10% of income earners that they’re better off for it.

  • michael reynolds

    Steve and Drew:

    Think of it this way. Business provides us with new goods and services. We can’t get the same thing from government even if government had a budget as big as all businesses combined.

    Yes, but the flip side is also true: government does things business can’t. Such as, providing an army, regulating food safety. It’s fine to focus on dead weight loss, but the flip side of that is that without the structure and stability provided by government — by police, courts, necessary regulation — the value of business would be drastically less. What’s the value of the trucking business without the interstate system? What’s the value of airlines without the FAA? How much is big pharma worth in an environment where anyone can market untested drugs? What’s the value of all of Los Angeles if we let some business poison the Colorado river?

    Government also provides stability in other ways, for example, by providing welfare for the neediest. At risk of repeating myself from earlier threads, the 99% have 99% of the votes, and we are a democracy (of sorts.) If we allow society to become riven between rich and poor, successful and unsuccessful, we offer an opening to demagogues who can use that 99% to become genuinely confiscatory.

    So it’s too simplistic to present a picture of productive industry on one side and wasteful, even unnecessary government on the other. We have a symbiosis, neither able to thrive without the other.

    What we should be focusing on is the proper and necessary role of government. Define what that is, run the numbers, figure out what it costs, and split the check among those with sufficient means to contribute.

    Instead what we do is argue abstract percentages — should government be 15% or 25%, should taxes be this percent or that, and we demonize on the one side government and on the other side business.

    I am not anti-business. I am a business. I haven’t been on a payroll in 23 years. But I understand that just as I have to pay for my laptop and the electricity to run it on, I have to pay for government to perform its necessary functions. I need to know that the food I buy is safe, and that airplanes won’t fall out of the sky, and that the vaccines I get for my kids are effective. And when I sit in a restaurant eating a steak and drinking expensive whisky I don’t want to see starving people pawing at the windows or mobs attacking me on my way to my car.

    So, why don’t we all, as Americans, have that conversation, rather than reducing things to an argument of 30% tax rate vs. 34% tax rate?

  • Icepick

    If we allow society to become riven between rich and poor, successful and unsuccessful, we offer an opening to demagogues who can use that 99% to become genuinely confiscatory.

    Society is already riven along such lines. But the rich people own the media and they own the politicians, so confiscatory polices designed to screw the rich aren’t going to happen.

    Who were the last populists to run for the Presidency? Santorum and Huckabee? How’d they do? And neither one was exactly a communist in spirit. I can’t remember the last true populist to win a Presidential nomination. We’re now in a long string of Ivy Leaguers (and near Ivy Leaguers) passing the Presidency around amongst themselves. The only hope of breaking that stranglehold is if some President dies in office and we get stuck with a President Biden or President Palin.

    The turnover in Congress is negligible.

    The poor people aren’t going to get anywhere by the ballot box.

  • Ben Wolf

    How about we cut taxes by 50% for every household making less than $100,000 per year? Dem middle class gets mo’ money and dem libertarians gets em’ less “deadweight”. Won’t that make everyone happy?

  • Icepick

    Won’t that make everyone happy?

    It’s not about making people happy. It’s about satisfying some people that other people are being made more miserable.

  • Drew

    Dave

    I know this is your current fixation. Rotation amongst the top 10%. I have an inherent sympathy for it, but my brain tells me the quantitative answer is more transfer to the lessers. Evidence later.

    Michael.

    Have to go. The daughter is in “dance-o-rama” competition tonight and although “dance moms” is currently a popular TV show, absent dance dads gets one divorced…….later, dudes.

  • What we should be focusing on is the proper and necessary role of government. Define what that is, run the numbers, figure out what it costs, and split the check among those with sufficient means to contribute.

    If only it were that easy! It’s not straightforward to simply “run the numbers” and figure out what government functions cost. What, for example, should national defense cost? Assuming there is agreement on what current and future threats are, as well as risks, the people with the expertise to run the numbers are also the people who have vested institutional and other interests.

    Related to that is organizational structure. That is very hard to change, even for the private sector (just look at GM). Structure reflects priorities and budgetary power. It’s not enough to change budgets, ideally you want better government structures. But that’s hard to do because of Congress.

    Here’s an example. Take the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). This is the “intelligence” agency that designs, buys and operates our fleet of spy satellites. It was extremely innovative in its early years and its semi-independent status enabled it to focus on the then-new area of space-based reconnaissance. They’ve grown into the agency with sole control over most aspects of intelligence satellites. The thing is, the satellites they buy and operate service other agencies in the intelligence community. Although NRO calls itself one of America’s 16 intelligence agencies, it’s really a procurement organization similar to the Army Corps of Engineers. For example, the National Geospatial-intelligence Agency (NGA) is the agency that’s the focal-point for imagery intelligence. There’s no reason the NGA, at this point in time, can’t decide what satellite capabilities it needs and do a cost-benefit calculus vs other methods of gathering imagery intelligence, and decide which systems to fund and procure. They don’t have that option because anything satellite is the territory of the NRO. So what started out as an innovative, collaborative organization has turned into a budgetary black hole that isn’t interested in inexpensive methods to collect intelligence – its interest is to build as many satellites as possible and to try to service as many intelligence needs as possible with satellite technology.

    I don’t know how something like that gets changed. I don’t see how we can avoid massive government waste without restructuring the federal government itself, which is something Congress has zero interest in doing. Heck, Congress can’t even do something that everyone thinks would be a good idea – namely merge the SEC and CFTC, but it’s politically impossible because of Congress. If we can’t do that, how can we tackle something like the NRO or all the other bureaucratic fiefdoms that cost taxpayers much more than necessary while delivering worse service? I just don’t see how this ends.

  • jan

    It’s a fine line attempting to divide up what is the responsibility of government versus what people should be taking care of themselves. In a society governed by more free will than restrictions, it also can be reasoned that people should be allowed to fail as well. After all, life is simply not a lollypop of sweetness, where all you have to do is lick the pop and everything becomes ‘fair.’ Or, is it?

    IMO, people make their own personal choices which then helps to create their direction in life. Government’s role is that of an umbrella, shielding a populace by structuring a general set of rules, regulations, and protective arms of the military. It also creates a connecting infrastructure framework, between all the states, which it maintains for the national well being of all. However, the finer points of governance, dealing with social values, how to meet the needs of the poor, healthcare, that should be left up to the states. Each state has it’s own microcosm of population mixes, and they should be the ones to determine what is best for their own state, given it’s demographics, geographic strengths, weaknesses and so on.

    Where we are headed now, though, is having a bugeoning centralized power in DC making the decisions, spending the money creating an open season for mismanagement, corruption, overlapping of departments, redundancy, and manipulation by whomever is in political favor at a given time — either R’s and Ds. After all, people tend to be much more cautious when spending and/or budgeting their own money rather than someone’s else’s. That’s how it is with the government too. Just look at some of the current scandals dealing with the GSA, which is really only the tip of the iceberg, when one looks into the waste and fraud of disability claims, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, military, ad infinitum –the programs meant to be of service and help, which are misused, abused because it’s always someone else’s money that is being misappropriated for inappropriate ventures and government expenditures.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    You’re describing — harshly but basically accurately — what is. But things change. A bit more pain and a talented leader are all it would take. Huckabee and Santorum are not populists, they are Christianists. They’re the Jesus wing of the GOP.

    In any event, who said anything about presidents? Martin Luther King was not a president, but he altered American politics and American life at a time when he had very few friends in the media or the political establishment. He represented a small subset of the population and was nevertheless quite effective. Carrie Nation, Stonewall, the suffragettes — why would we expect real change from the top down?

  • michael reynolds

    Drew:

    Daughters first. Absolutely.

  • michael reynolds

    Andy:

    No one said it would be easy in practice. Easier in theory, like so many things.

    Jan:

    Waste and fraud is pocket change. And there is no central “burgeoning” authority. Government is roughly the same size it’s been for quite some time. As for state government, I know Dave agrees with you, basically, but I find states a ridiculous anachronism. And if you think California is a fertile hotbed of government innovation and responsiveness you must be living in a very different part of the state from me.

  • steve

    “That is a loss of economic activity that is simply lost. Now the idea is that what ever government is doing entails a welfare improvement over and above the lost welfare due to taxes and the dead weight loss. For some things this is probably true (e.g. public roads, public health expenditures, etc.). ”

    Both you and Dave emphasize dead weight loss. Yet, some of our best returns on investment have come from government funded, or run entities. Vaccines, water and sewer facilities, antibiotics, etc. If Verdon or Drew had their way, would we have those vaccines or safe water? While we know what paid off after the fact, how do we know ahead of time? Is is just coincidence that an expansion of government funded activities is associated with a decrease in poverty and and increases in life expectancy?

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17184390

    Steve

  • jan

    Michael

    I agree that CA is certainly not a state to hoist up a flag denoting “good decisions.” But, I won’t get into that this evening….

  • Michael,

    Difficult, sure. Anything worth doing is often difficult. The problem is that I don’t so how, in the present circumstances, we can get from here to there. Something fundamental has to change.

    Also, waste and fraud isn’t pocket change. Again, I give you the F-35 program, or FCS, or any number of boondoggles. I give you the simple fact that if you’re in government (speaking about the federal-level here) you absolutely must spend all of your budget. That’s the #1 unwritten rule. There is no incentive to be efficient. Every September there is was always a mad dash to spend every last dime because it’s the last month of the fiscal year. If you didn’t spend that money it would not only disappear, but your budget next year would be reduced and you’d get a lot of WTF emails from your superiors. As long as there is no incentive for government organizations to be efficient, then they will continue to spend all their money and then advocate that they need more.

  • As an aside, found this interesting quiz. I got a 46 and would be interested to see what the regulars here score.

  • Icepick

    Harsh but accurate? Only the accuracy matters because I’m not selling anything.

    Change doesn’t have to come from the top down, but at some point if you want to change the direction of the national government in a major way you have to gain significant control over the national government. How are you going to do that?

    The last two attempts at popular movements have been the Tea Parties and the Occupiers. The Tea Parties have already been co-opted into regular Republican politics – the idea that Marco Rubio, for example, is some kind of rebellious figure is ludicrous. He had the good fortune to be running against a most incompetent Republican in Charlie Crist.

    The Occupiers are now being taken over by Van Jones to help secure Obama’s re-election, so they no longer count for shit either.

    Where is this new populist movement going to come from? How is it going to avoid being co-opted? How is it going to gain any traction? Where is this miracle leader going to come from? (I love your assumption that Republicans and Christians can’t be populist. So typical of you, just oh-so-typical.)

  • steve

    Andy-72.

    Steve

  • Icepick

    Andy, I scored a 44. Some of the questions were screwy, however. I think of both Richard Branson and Branson Missouri when I hear the name ‘Branson’, absent any other context. I know of Jimmy Johnson and Jimmie Johnson. I knew a bunch of people that only got Cs in high school, but the ones who struggled weren’t my friends (by choice) and the ones that drifted by could have done better if they had chosen to.

    The question about the factory floor was problematic. There aren’t very many factory floors in Orlando, so how would I have ever walked on one? If I lived in some town on the Piscola River (Piscola is a branding opportunity for someone!) I probably wouldn’t have either. Not everyplace is freakin’ Allentown. In other words, even in Middle America there are significant variations across time and space.

  • Icepick

    Nevermind, that Piscola is already a popular drink. Who knew?!

  • michael reynolds

    I scored a 51. I lost points for not actually having “close friends” who . . .

    Like so many things in life: prejudiced against maladjusted loners.

  • 47. Maybe us maladjusted loners should start a support group. I’m guessing the attendance wouldn’t be very high.

    What I found interesting is that my class profile doesn’t support my score. I’m guessing that’s at least in part because my dad’s background (upper-middle class) and my mom’s background (lower or classless) were, on paper, so different. That I attended a quite egalitarian high school may have something to do with it, too. Or that I spent my first 10 years in a very poor neighborhood.

  • On a side note the drunkest I’ve ever been was on pisco. I may tell the story some time. Pretty high proof. It sneaks up on you. That was nearly 40 years ago.

  • sam

    “As an aside, found this interesting quiz. I got a 46 and would be interested to see what the regulars here score”

    65 and that makes me a “A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits. Typical: 66.”

    Which seems about right.

  • PD Shaw

    I got a 40 on the quiz. Most insular so far.

  • Ben Wolf

    “There is no incentive to be efficient. Every September there is was always a mad dash to spend every last dime because it’s the last month of the fiscal year.”

    The quality of spending is low because quality is never, ever a part of the discussion. All we ever get are the same tired opinions about whether we can “afford” to spend money when money is the one thing government cannot run out of. Efficiency will never be a factor so long as people willingly choose ignorance and focus on quantities.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    Christianist, not Christian. Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are all Christians. Santorum is a religious nut, a Christianist.

  • michael reynolds

    Incidentally, I could never dismiss Christians as a source of revolutionary change: Jesus, Paul, Martin Luther, Savonarola, Mandela, MLK . . . Pretty long list.

  • Ice,

    I had the same problems with the test as you. I tried to answer based on the spirit of the test, so I picked the Cowboys coach because even though I hate Dallas, I like football and don’t care for NASCAR. I picked Richard Branson because Virgin is a great airline and his space travel efforts are pretty kick-ass.

    Had the same problem with the factory floor bit – not too many of those in suburban Denver. Also not sure if my Dad is blue collar or not since he both swung a hammer and owned a construction company and, later, a lumber yard.

    I answered almost none of the TV/Movie questions since I don’t watch much TV at all.

    Anyway, thanks for posting answers everyone. These tests, flawed as they are, are strangely entertaining for me.

  • All we ever get are the same tired opinions about whether we can “afford” to spend money when money is the one thing government cannot run out of.

    Well, I guess the answer is clear then, just reduce all taxes to zero and give every government agency an unlimited budget.

  • Sam,

    Are those DARPA projects? DARPA is really outside the box kind of stuff, so I’m not surprised. I’m thinking more mundane policy though.

    Michael,

    Yes, but the flip side is also true: government does things business can’t….

    Yes, I know, I mentioned several examples where the benefit of such government programs likely exceeds the costs. But if we looked at just those programs we’d have a vastly smaller government than we do now, IMO. That is if we left government just to public goods and taking care of instances of externalities For example, do we need farm subsidies still today? I’d argue no. With a well developed futures market and the global nature of trade we don’t.

    So it’s too simplistic to present a picture of productive industry on one side and wasteful, even unnecessary government on the other. We have a symbiosis, neither able to thrive without the other.

    I’ve never suggested anything of the sort. I am pointing out that government is not like business in that it also entails a deadweight loss which businesses do not.

    Andy,

    If only it were that easy!…

    Indeed. And your example is exactly what I was thinking of in regards to the lack of incentives, or even worse, the wrong incentives that are often at play in government vs. business. And it is absolutely going to be true that the NRO is going to have those members of the Senate and the House who will fight to the death to keep its budget intact.

    If you look at the alphabet soup of government agencies the amount of duplication and over-lap is probably pretty shocking, and a source of lots of waste. Do we really need to spend 2x to do something? And to raise 2x the money necessary you’ll likely have a deadweight loss significantly higher than it needs to be (the deadweight loss, aka excess burden, increase with the square of the tax rate).

    In fact, lets consider the parenthetical a bit more:

    The deadweight loss associated with taxes increases with the square of the tax rate.

    This is a well known result (to most economists, especially ones with an interest in public finance). So if the tax rate is double what it needs to be, that means the deadweight loss four times what it needs to be. So if government has lots of duplication of services or what ever and takes in 2x the amount of taxes it really needs a substantial efficiency gain can be made by cutting taxes and still obtaining the same level of services.

    And government has not incentive mechanism to ensure this outcome.

    That is why government trying to draw false equivalencies between government and business is not helpful.

    As for the notion of eating a steak and drinking good whisky and not seeing poor people pawing at the windows or hungry mobs begging for food or money as you walk to your car…what you think that people who disagree with you want that? Fuck you very much for that implication.

    Why is it the liberal/progressives always have to include those kind of implications? Is it something pathological that you just can’t help? To imply that your opponent is some kind of monster who enjoys seeing others suffer?

    Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people?

  • Are those DARPA projects? DARPA is really outside the box kind of stuff, so I’m not surprised. I’m thinking more mundane policy though.

    No, most were regular projects. The reasons for cancellation are various, but fundamentally the problem is that estimates for how much a program will cost are inevitably low. When your procurement programs inevitably cost twice as much as originally planned something’s got to give. The F-35 program is almost double the original cost projections and it was already the biggest, most expensive military procurement program in history. That one program alone is about 40% of the entire procurement budget (look at this chart and weep). So some programs get cancelled to preserve other programs. Others were unrealistic from the get-go and still others were for capabilities that aren’t really needed anymore.

  • jan

    One of the rare politicians who makes a good case about the waste, fraud and overlap in government is Senator Tom Coburn from Ok. He always seems to cut to the chase, equally blaming both parties, laying extra criticism on those career politicians who excuse themselves from making the tough decisions in order to secure their own reelection.

    I’ve heard interviews with Coburn, dealing with his new publication “The Debt Bomb,’ in which he gets into the catacombs of government waste and duplicity, saying deficits could readily be reduced (by trillions) if only the right places were addressed, consolidation of government departments (which Romney wants to do), as well as the third rails of entitlement, tax reform.

    Republicans, though, piously talk the talk, but do nothing. And, the dems do what they do best, by rolling out the poor, grand-standing their tremendous reservoir of empathy for them, and then go on outrageous spending sprees, which are never offended or tempered by creating a budgetary matter out of where the money will come from.

    It’s another vicious cycle, in which most laymen are unable to follow. The only education the basic voter usually indulges themselves in is the main street media news and talking points from each party, which oftentimes have little to do with real facts and the nitty gritty of political realities.

    For someone like Michael, I would suggest reading the book ‘National Suicide,’ by Martin Gross, detailing how flabby, inefficient, and dysfunctional government has become. This is in stark contrast to an earlier comment made by him that government has really not burgeoned that much.

    Also, since I’m talking about Coburn, I might as well bring in a sidebar of his, concerning the viability of medicare. He as a working physician, has joined other congressional physicians in warning that the insolvency of medicare might be closer than you might think.

    “As a physician, I have seen time and time again that access to a government program does not equal access to health care. We are already seeing providers refuse to accept Medicare patients because the reimbursement process is broken. We can expect more providers to drop coverage if Congress and the administration do not take steps to shore up the program,” said Dr. Coburn, who has authored a Medicare reform plan, the Seniors’ Choice Act, with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). “Congress and the administration’s refusal to reform Medicare are putting our patients, providers and economy at grave risk.”

  • steve

    @Andy- I grew up a poor evangelical, so I knew a lot of that stuff on the quiz. My son was hooked on The Simpsons and got me to watch with him. They had a whole show on Branson. If you watch them at all, or South Park, you get exposed to all of these kinds of things Murray seems to hold important.

    Steve

  • steve,

    I watched the Simpsons when it first came out, but haven’t in years. Same with South Park. I realize I miss a lot of cultural memes thanks to my limited TV viewing.

  • steve

    Andy- My son is off at college now. I will soon be out of touch also since we dont watch if he is not here.

    Steve

  • Ben Wolf

    “Well, I guess the answer is clear then, just reduce all taxes to zero and give every government agency an unlimited budget.”

    Thank you Andy, for making my point. So long as the dominant model of thinking has the accuracy of a game of pickup-sticks, we’ll continue wasting our time.

  • steve

    @Jan- I am a working physician. Coburn is not. He is a politician he used to practice medicine. If he is anything like the type I am used to working with, he was probably a political animal as a doctor. But, you chose him as your rep, so think about the following.

    Medicare spending is increasing faster than inflation. That is fact, not opinion. We need to cut the rate of spending, or it will consume our budget. Coburn complains that the ACA will hurt Medicare patients as it will cut spending. Docs wont see patients since they will be paid less. How then does Coburn propose to cut medicare spending without cutting payments to physicians or cutting services? As a real practicing physician I know that medical spending needs to decrease, and it probably will one way or another. Coburn does not like one approach, but his approach also needs to cut spending or it wont work. If you want to believe Coburn, go ahead, but if we are going to cut Medicare spending w/o cutting fees or services, I want a magic pony from Coburn too since they guy can clearly do anything.

    Steve

  • Icepick

    Christianist, not Christian. Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are all Christians. Santorum is a religious nut, a Christianist.

    A meaningless distinction. It is especially meaningless coming from you for many reasons. Amongst them:

    (1) You believe all religion is false and all believers delusional and dangerous. (I could go looking for quotes but why bother?) So why is Santorum so bad if they’re all nuts? And I don’t think his Catholocism is any less noxious than Obama’s spiritual mentor’s brand of liberation theology. Which segues nicely into

    (2) I thought Obama was a nice athiest like you. He’s either that or a believer in radical black liberationist theology. You don’t get to average them out.

    (3) You thought Bush was like Mussolini and that he would suspend the constitution and declare himself dictator for life. Now you are claiming he’s one of the ‘good’ Christians? Does not compute.

    You are moving the goal-posts.

    Furthermore, populist rhetoric doesn’t get proscribed solely to the Communist Party just because you say so. Populism is about anti-elitism, at its core, and that is NOT something that comes from a bunch of Ivy Leaguers just because they decided to be Democrats. Arugula eating rich snobs bitching about the bitter clingers doesn’t exactly make for good rabble-rousing….

  • PD Shaw

    dave, I think the protypes on the quiz need to be adjusted for age, because I think some of the variations here are simply generational. Compared with your age cohorts like Mike Reynolds, you should probably fall into the prototype of someone with a higher class background with uncommonly broad experience. (or however that category was described at the end of the quiz)

    andy (46), icepick (44) and myself (40) are all the same age, the score range probably means something, such as unlike andy I have no military background and I put my dad as having a management position, but I’m not really sure I should have (he had a job title with the word “supervisor” in it, but mainly I think he found a place on the organizational chart that meant he typically didn’t manage anybody but his secretary and didn’t need to answer to anybody much either)

    I don’t believe any twenty-somethings answered. I wonder if the presumptions here are fair to them. Certainly it was more likely in my day to work on the assembly line like I did for a single shift once, than it would be to be working a non-paying summer job. (WTF???)

  • and that is NOT something that comes from a bunch of Ivy Leaguers

    The vanguard of the proletariat.

    It’s amazing to me that this idea has managed to survive Leninism by so long. I can only speculate that the idea has tremendous appeal for some elites since it simultaneously enables them to claim populism and remain in charge.

  • Icepick

    what you think that people who disagree with you want that?

    You just noticed?

  • Icepick

    It’s amazing to me that this idea has managed to survive Leninism by so long. I can only speculate that the idea has tremendous appeal for some elites since it simultaneously enables them to claim populism and remain in charge.

    Everyone wants validation.

  • Good points PD. What generation are your parents? I’m probably a little unusual in that my parents were born in the 1920’s and my siblings (all 10 years or more older than me) are boomers.

  • Icepick

    Andy, I have the same family situation that you describe: Father (b. 1924), mother (b. 1927), brother (b. 1950), sister (b. 1955) and me (b. 1968). All my grandparents were from the Nineteenth Century. Both my grandmothers were born into an era where automobiles were very rare and human flight meant hot air balloons, and died having seen men walk on the moon. In our lifetime the transportation options seem to be headed in reverse!

  • In our lifetime the transportation options seem to be headed in reverse!

    Do you have some grievance against hot air balloons?! 😉

    Both of my parents were third generation (or more) Americans although, oddly, despite the Swiss Schulers having emigrated from Switzerland during the American Civil War, we have maintained correspondence with our Swiss cousins since then. One of my grandfathers was born in 1884, the other in 1875.

  • Icepick,

    You just noticed?

    No, just getting sick and tired of it. This kind of thing always comes up somehow in a discussion like this as soon as I indicate a libertarian/limited government position. It always turns to intentions. Sometimes it is blatant, “You libertarian types just don’t care about those less fortunate than you, you just want yours and fuck everyone else.” Or it is more subtle.

  • Icepick

    Do you have some grievance against hot air balloons?!

    Never tried one, actually. They look like mildly dangerous fun. I’d love to travel by Zepplin, if they ever brought them back for commercial air travel. Sometimes slower is better! (Hell, I’d love to travel across the country by train, if they’d repair the damned bridges knocked down in 2004 and 2005.)

    Mostly I hate what has happened to space travel. I grew up in within eye-sight of the great American launches. Typically we would watch the countdown and ignition on the TV and then run out into the front yard to eye-ball it as rockets cleared the tree line a few hundred yards away – we’d just have time to do it.* The launch pads are directly to the east of us, so all we had to do was look down the street.

    One of the stories they always told me (you know – THEM) was how as a toddler I’d always want to run out into the yard when the TV was showing replays of the launches.

    I’ve been up close and personal for a considerable number of shuttle launches, including the very first launch and three night launches. (I’d recommend seeing the night launches from the jetty in Cocoa Beach, but it doesn’t matter any more.)

    Unfortunately, due to my Mom’s health and my daughter’s age, I couldn’t get myself and my daughter over to see the last launch, nor did I even get my daughter over there for any of the last few launches. I really wanted Cat over there for one, because who knows when we’ll do something like that again? Even if she was too young to remember it (as I was too young to really remember the Apollo launches), it was something I could tell her she saw, and she could tell her descendents. Sorry dear, we missed that chance.

    Now we’re hitching rides with the remenents of the Soviet space program! All the while hoping that some private corps can redevelop friggin’ capsule technology from the 1960s. What a massive failure of leadership across the entire political spectrum….

    * In the last year or so of the space program I’d often just miss them, because the oak trees have grown more massive over 40 years. Now I have to go into the street and down a couple of houses. Well, I did. The satellite launches just aren’t as noteworthy.

  • It always turns to intentions.

    You might recall that I complained about very much this same thing not too long ago. It’s not the complaining about intentions that bothers me. It’s that there’s nothing substantive to back up the ad hominem. Too many people seem to think that once you’ve attacked your opponent’s intentions the discussion is over.

  • Ben Wolf

    @Dave Schuler

    Which is worse: having intentions questioned, or having your argument mischaracterized or utterly ignored?

  • Mostly I hate what has happened to space travel.

    As an illustration of how far short of expectations we’ve fallen, one of my college classmates was a guy named Carl Konkel. Carl was the project engineer for one of the shuttles. In college (his co-op job was with NASA, easily the coolest co-op job ever) he said his ambition was to be the director of the first permanent research station on the moon. Obviously, he didn’t make it.

  • Which is worse: having intentions questioned, or having your argument mischaracterized or utterly ignored?

    Since they frequently come as a pair, I’d say both.

  • Drew

    I’m back. Looks like I missed a lot. Schuler with a thread this long? Salute!

    Being t he smart aleck I am, I can’t help but offer my services referenced in a r event comment. Some would say I could personally fill a hot air ballon. Accordingly, I offer my services free of charge….

    But seriously, folks….. Steve Verdon: Amen, brother. Don’t you get tired of the invective about how you want to starve children and eat the elderly just because you want some sensible limit on the scope of government? It gets old, and you realize you are debating with children.

  • Icepick

    I have some recent Scottish immigration into the family on my father’s side, but the vast majority of ancestors have immigration dates before 1750, and on my father’s side the rumor is that some have immigration dates back before 1650. (I say rumor because that is always the story told, but I haven’t bothered to check up on it very much. What little I have done confirms the mythology that we go back a ways.) Primarily Anglo-Saxon and German, especially Palatinate German.

    I think it was Dad’s maternal grandmother who was born of Scottish immigrants, but I’m not sure if she was born here or there. Also, it is possible that it was his mother that was born of Scottish immigrants – but I know she was born here. Dad didn’t talk about his family much – I didn’t find out the whys and wherefors of that until after he died. A lot of family secrets seem to come out after the elders start dying. Of course, these days I _AM_ one of the elders of the family.

  • Icepick

    easily the coolest co-op job ever

    !!!!

  • PD Shaw

    @andy, my parents were born in ’38 and ’44, and I’m the eldest, so I don’t have any boomers in my family. My mom is the 11th of 12 children though, and I have more cousins than I have ever been able to count, most of whom are/were boomers.

  • PD Shaw

    @Drew, Schuler has lost control of the thread.

  • Drew

    I am half pure. A proper Englishman on one side. And then there is the Scottish side. Effing skinflints. Campfire lore has it that there are ancient debts to be settled, icepick.

    If we ever meet, I may have to kill you…….

  • Drew

    Pd

    Look at my last post. Dave’s head may be spinning. He runs a quality shop. Look at this shixt!

  • jan

    steve (responding to your comment on the 1st page of comments)

    Wrong choice of tense about Coburn. He was a working physician. According to the bio on him he was in obstetrics for 10-11 years, having some 15,000 patients, delivering 4,000 babies, and countering 1 malpractice suit which he apparently won.

    Coburn takes issue with the PPACA because it took 500 billion dollars from medicare, in order for the fiscal numbers to appear workable when democrats argued for the passage of the HC bill in Congress. Last February, Senators Coburn and Burr introduced the Medical Reform Act, which reconfigured medicare to a more competitive bid model, giving seniors choices either to accept a flat government payment to be applied to their own private insurance, or stay with the government medicare plan. There were also some means testing and higher co-pays for routine medical bills, versus catastrophic ones, injected into their reform, which they predicted would amount to a total savings somewhere between 200 and 500 billion dollars over a decade. However, as you indicated you can’t just cut spending and expect services to remain constant. Reforming the perimeters of medicare benefits, though, can make the monies invested in medicare become more efficiently and pragmatically applied.

    Plans like Coburn/Burr and Ryans are being introduced because, even though the CBO projects medicare to be insolvant in 2022, the Chief Actuary of the Medicare Program says it could be as early as 2016. With the baby boomers now rapidly docking at the doors of receiving medicare benefits, the latter prediction could be the more realistic one.

  • PD Shaw

    Steve V, someone who doesn’t want their motivations questioned, obviously has something to hide.

    (For some reason I think that’s funny)

    I used to hold to the point of view that if someone holds a position on a matter of public policy, the view has added credibility if it would be the same p.o.v., if the other guy did it or didn’t do it. The apparent obligation for you and others to criticize something Republicans did or did not do ten-twenty years to talk about something happening in the papers today is just ridiculous and a waste of time and I may just start protesting it. For one thing, it almost always derails the comments thread, because people disagree about what happened ten or fifteen years ago.

  • steve

    “It always turns to intentions. Sometimes it is blatant, “You libertarian types just don’t care about those less fortunate than you, you just want yours and fuck everyone else.”

    Libertarian whining is just as bad as liberal whining. Who would have guessed? At any rate, intentions are not especially relevant. If you choose to advocate for policies or government that were prevalent 100 years ago (or 30 or 60), then I think it logical to assume that many of the same issues prevalent in the past will return. You should be prepared to defend those policies against those outcomes.

    Take the case of Medicare. Libertarians who want to do away with Medicare assume that some combination of charity and/or private care will take its place. That the elderly will then be ok. But, we know what conditions were like before Medicare (and SS). It was not good. I am sure you love granny, but when you advocate for an approach which, IMO, will leave granny in the same state she was before Medicare, then you need to have a very strong case for why it will be different this time.

    Steve

  • steve

    “Coburn takes issue with the PPACA because it took 500 billion dollars from medicare, in order for the fiscal numbers to appear workable when democrats argued for the passage of the HC bill in Congress.”

    This is why you need to read about health care reform. The ACA cut payments to Medicare Advantage (MA). MA is the privately run portion of Medicare. It costs about, on average, 15% more than standard fee for service (FFS) Medicare. It was supposed to show that privately run Medicare would be cheaper. It is not. Many on the left (references if you want them) have long advocated that MA be forced to compete, and hopefully drive down costs. Regardless, if Coburn’s plan were to work, it would result in lower fees to docs. Why would they accept older patients then? Why should I care if I am getting paid less because of a different mechanism that cut costs? (I hope you are starting to see the contradictions, even magical thinking, here.)

    Steve

  • jan

    Regardless, if Coburn’s plan were to work, it would result in lower fees to docs.

    You mean the part where there are means testing, the part where more money is kicked by the patient for routine medical visits, or the one where a choice was given to basically accept a government stipend, advancing that to your own insurance plan, or simply staying on the standard medicare plan?

    I haven’t microscopically gone over this alternative medicare reform plan. But, what I am gleaning, from what I have perused, is that it offers an alteration in the numbers of those qualifying for it’s benefits (by means), as well as choices, which usually results in more competitive pricing for insurance. How would this effect the doctor’s fee, unless the insurance companies penciled in their competitive pricing by reducing the amount of payment they would allot for visits or procedures?

    I am not applying ‘magical thinking’ here as much as logic and deduction.

  • michael reynolds

    As for the notion of eating a steak and drinking good whisky and not seeing poor people pawing at the windows or hungry mobs begging for food or money as you walk to your car…what you think that people who disagree with you want that? Fuck you very much for that implication.

    Not everything in a debate is directed at the other side in the form of an accusation. Sometimes it’s just a rhetorical flourish, and sometimes it’s directed beyond the immediate participants, sometimes it’s there to establish parameters.

    I’m confident that you don’t want poor people pawing at your restaurant windows. Now, Drew on the other hand. . .

  • michael reynolds

    Look, people, none of this matters. I think we can all come together around this transcendant truth: I hit the NYT kid series list for the 2d week in a row, which is a first for me. (Not my first time on the list, my first two week stay.)

    Really, in light of that, can’t we all just get along?

  • Ben Wolf

    Sorry Michael, but accolades would just make you soft. Any accomplishment deserves a stronger beating, to keep you motivated and seeking approval. I’m sure you understand.

  • Drew

    I’m confident that you don’t want poor people pawing at your restaurant windows. Now, Drew on the other hand. . .

    You bet. That way I can throw scraps from time to time…………and be loved. I just hope they like their filet mignon with bernaisse.

  • Which is worse: having intentions questioned, or having your argument mischaracterized or utterly ignored?

    Here is my problem Ben, explain to me if there is any effective limit on how much money the government can print? Because if the answer is no, then really what is the problem. Just print more money and problem solved. Or run really gigantic deficits, problem solved. Is there absolutely no connection between the real economy (the production of goods and services) and the nominal (the amount of dollars out there)?

    I’m thinking there is a connection and it puts a limit on deficits or the printing of money. Once you try to cross that limit you have problems, serious problems.

    steve,

    Take the case of Medicare. Libertarians who want to do away with Medicare assume that some combination of charity and/or private care will take its place. That the elderly will then be ok. But, we know what conditions were like before Medicare (and SS). It was not good. I am sure you love granny, but when you advocate for an approach which, IMO, will leave granny in the same state she was before Medicare, then you need to have a very strong case for why it will be different this time.

    Except I have never advocated such a position. I’ve been pretty clear all along when it comes to SS and Medicare that while they need serious reform that something is going to have to fill that role and not private markets or private charity. Now if you could find a quote by me to the contrary I might actually think you have a valid point.

    I’m not an idiot you know. I do appreciate that the market fails and that it often works best when there is a legal frame work as well. I’ve also been pretty consistent that my biggest issue is more with discretionary government policy than with simply government.

  • PD Shaw

    michael has been working on this “writing phase” of his for some time, and he still hasn’t won a Nobel prize, which I think they give out on the cheap these days. At some point, such writers need to be retired in a fair, humane fashion, or at least make room for some other writers, who can more direcly communicate to an audience which doesn’t know how to work a can-opener. The incentives here are obviously misaligned. (Though frankly Reynolds will just change his name and put out a book as Michael Dickens Tolkien — first lessons in regulatory avoidance is know the new rules)

    But what the hell, congrats michael.

  • Icepick

    Campfire lore has it that there are ancient debts to be settled, icepick.

    If we ever meet, I may have to kill you…….

    Good luck with that. I’m half-West Virginian. We’re meaner than Hell, hard to kill (as long as the still doesn’t blow up in our face) and mentally resilient.

    Examples: Great-to-the-fifth grandfather is famous for surviving numerous Indian attacks. He took a lot of lead balls and arrows, and still lived to a fairly advanced age, and has the notoriety of having killed the last Indian in that part of (then) Virginia. Great-to-the-fifth grandmother had to pull him into the cabin while under fire herself on at least one occasion, and helped repel various attacks as well.

    A distant cousin survived Picket’s Charge.

    Another cousin was the last living survivor of the Spanish-American War from West Virginia. It took the authorities several years after his death to establish his actual age at death (I think they settled on 102) as he kept lying about it, when he was younger to seem older, when he was older to seem younger.

    One of my great-grandfathers on that side of the family was a harness racer. He took a spill during a race once that broke his hip. He refused to let a doctor set it. Over the ensuing decades that leg got to the point where it was eight to ten inches shorter than the other. (He didn’t even stop walking on it when it was first broken.) Still, no one ever wanted to fuck with him. (His idea of dentistry was to go back to the shed, drink some white lightning and have his son pull out the offending tooth with some pliers. The shine was strictly because he liked to drink.) A couple of decades after he died my mother ran into another harness racer, and said that she knew someone who used to race too, and mentioned her grand-father. The other man asked, “How is that old son of a bitch?” with a lot of obvious malice. My mother replied that the son of a bitch in question was her grand-father, and he was dead. The man thought about it for a while and then said, “I almost apologized, but the man was a son of a bitch when he was alive, and I’m sure he’s a son of a bitch now that he’s dead and burning in Hell.” My mom just laughed and agreed with the other man on all accounts.

    The family motto for my sub-branch (meaning my mother and her descendents) is “We’re not crazy, we’re just mean.” (That’s not strictly true.) I’d tell you the story of how THAT came to be the family motto, but several of the people involved are still alive, and felonies (I believe they’re felonies, anyway) were committed and gotten away with. And I’m not crazy enough to open up THAT can of worms! That branch of the family is crazy AND mean.

    My brother did something stupid and ended up in a federal penitentiary on federal drug trafficking charges. (My brother was really only a minor hood, the charges were well above him.) By the luck of the draw he got stuck in a cell with a famous mobster’s son. (And the grandfather of my brother’s cellmate was one of the most famous gangsters in American history.) How fucking mean was my brother? The mobster’s son wanted to be HIS friend. (My brother was not imposing physically, either.)

    I’ve got a second cousin who was one of two people to NOT be broken by torture in the Hanoi Hilton, despite being stuck there for seven or eight years – he was too fucking mean to give his captors the satisfaction. (He also caused a stir in the media, mostly ignored here but you can find an old story in Time that alludes to it, by getting off the plane after his release and saying, in effect, what took you so long to get us out, and that we had no business in Vietnam anyway. My father was in Europe at the time and the European press ate it up. My cousin was also the very first of the released prisoners to get back in the cock-pit. From this information you can figure out who he is, if you care to.)

    In the prosperity that followed the end of WWII all the family members scattered all over the country to get away from each other.

    My Mom’s brother liked to drive around the ‘bad’ neighborhoods in Washington DC in his MG B, with the top down, shouting “Get out of the way, you Gawd-damned n*****s!” just looking for a fight. That was in the 1960s and 1970s.

    I’ve already survived trauma that would have killed the vast majority of people. (I see many stories of people dying from much less.)

    My sister tried to murder me when I was an infant by drowning me in the family pool. Despite the fact that she was almost 13 years my elder, I survived.

    I grew up in and currently live in an area where Third World secret policemen come to hide, and where at least one Third World dictator came to find the head of his top murder/torture squad. To even get to me will be kind of like a video game.

    My family is so mean we shit in the coffins of dead relatives, just to make a point.

    Of the above points, one is an outright fabrication, and another is possibly only partly true. (The event happened, but the motivation of one of the participants might not be completely correct.) Choose the two to discount in whichever manner makes you most comfortable.

    Now that’s all on my mother’s side of the family which, as far as I know, has no Scottish blood. On my father’s side we find the REAL sons of bitches….

    As I said, good luck with that!

    😀

  • You bet. That way I can throw scraps from time to time…………and be loved. I just hope they like their filet mignon with bernaisse.

    It is also fun to sometimes make them fight for the food too.

    Not everything in a debate is directed at the other side in the form of an accusation. Sometimes it’s just a rhetorical flourish, and sometimes it’s directed beyond the immediate participants, sometimes it’s there to establish parameters.

    I’m confident that you don’t want poor people pawing at your restaurant windows. Now, Drew on the other hand. . .

    Alright, I can accept that. Sorry Michael, and I’ll try to stop clicking on links that take me to Balloon Juice.

  • Ice,

    Wow, we have similar families then. Mom at Pop were born in ’28 and ’25. Siblings, ’58, ’52 and ’49. Grandparents all around 1900.

    PD,

    Ah, your parents are from what is, I think, called the Silent generation.

    steve,

    As I recall (not an expert on this topic), MA is more expensive because it covers more things than standard Medicare. That’s what makes it so popular.

    As for doctors dropping Medicare patients, that’s easily solved. If we can require individuals to purchase medical insurance, we can certainly mandate that doctors must take medicare patients.

  • Icepick

    As for doctors dropping Medicare patients, that’s easily solved. If we can require individuals to purchase medical insurance, we can certainly mandate that doctors must take medicare patients.

    Hmm. If we also mandate price controls I believe that means doctors would start dropping out of the profession. Is that correct, economically speaking?

  • steve

    Steve V- My apologies if I implied that was your thinking. I was making a general argument about libertarians and slipped into a “you”. My bad. I know that you have not advocated for their elimination. Besides, if I want to call you an idiot, I will be more explicit. :-)

    Jan- Logic dictates that if Medicare spending is decreased, someone makes less money. Logic dictates doctors salaries will be cut. Magical thinking suggests that the method by which one’s fees are cut matters more than the fee cut. Coburn cannot get away with telling patients docs will not see them due to fee cuts from the ACA, while suggesting the same docs will see them when he cuts fees by the same amount, but with some other method.

    Steve

  • steve

    Ice- You should write that into a screenplay. We do share the bit about a family member attempting to kill us, but in my case it was my mother and I was a teen. She was more crazy than mean. I hope this doesnt mean I have to be nice to ya.

    Andy- The extra services MA provides have been, when studied, valued by participants at about 14 cents on the dollar.

    Steve

  • Ben Wolf

    “Hmm. If we also mandate price controls I believe that means doctors would start dropping out of the profession. Is that correct, economically speaking?”

    It depends on how much incomes are reduced by the controls. In theory yes, you run the risk of driving some number out of a given profession/industry. However other nations use price controls on medical costs and have greater ratios of doctors to the population. So structure matters.

  • Ben Wolf

    “I’ve also been pretty consistent that my biggest issue is more with discretionary government policy than with simply government.”

    This is why I keep pushing a focus on quality of spending rather than obsessive merry-go-rounding with quantities. Rule-based systems are generally more efficient and effective because they are more resistant to abuse from politicians and the special interest that own them.

  • Icepick

    I hope this doesnt mean I have to be nice to ya.

    Fuck that noise!

    (I hope that puts you at ease.)

  • Icepick

    You should write that into a screenplay.

    Hell, this isn’t even all that unusual a family history in that part of the country.

  • Icepick

    However other nations use price controls on medical costs and have greater ratios of doctors to the population. So structure matters.

    I believe you will find lower barriers to entry into the profession in other countries as well, i.e. lower educational costs. That would make a huge difference, and I don’t see the AMA and the rest of the doctors giving up their relative scarcity.

  • jan

    Logic dictates that if Medicare spending is decreased, someone makes less money. Logic dictates doctors salaries will be cut.

    What Coburn is suggesting is reallocating reduced medicare funding so that some of the beneficiaries will carry more of their own medical costs by the means I’ve already explained twice now. It does not simplistically lead to your reasoning that any reduced spending is then shouldered by doctors automatically being short-changed in their fees. When a program is remodeled and run more efficiently you can get more out of less without necessarily punishing the providers of the services.

    So many government-run programs are static once they are put into place — hence the reason for reforming and bringing them up to date with current demographics and pressing problems. SS, for example, is totally behind the times, as it originated and set guidelines according to a life expectancy of 64. How far have we advanced since then?

  • Icepick

    Wait, what was the post about again?

  • Ben Wolf

    @Icepick

    Correct. I generally consider state subsidization of medical students as a form of price/cost control, as it lowers lifetime overhead and states such as Germany use it to justify paying doctors less than they might make in the U.S.

  • Icepick

    Oh, the STIMULUS Package. Ah, well, that settles that! The models have basically shown that all it could have done was pull future demand into the present, which was basically already known. So all we’re really debating is how much future demand was pulled into the (then) present, which model got closest to being correct, and what have we lost NOW because of what was done THEN. We will measure this directly … somehow … and then argue about it endlessly.

    We may as well get directly back to the mud-slinging, which AT WORST will be only slightly less pointless than a bunch of yobs with no influence over policy making discussing policy that has already been made, paid for, dead and buried.

    Ben, you ignorant slut!

    Also, at least 95 comments now.

  • steve

    “When a program is remodeled and run more efficiently you can get more out of less without necessarily punishing the providers of the services.”

    We have already run this experiment. Medicare costs more than standard FFS medicare. The extra services it provides (note that MA did not choose or was not able to compete on price, but rather offered more services) are not valued anywhere near their cost by patients. Private insurers pay, on average, about 20% more than does Medicare. Believing you can get a lot more for a lot less is magical thinking in my book, unless you have evidence of this working elsewhere in medicine. If you intend to cut Medicare costs, you need to cut fees or utilization.

    Steve

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    That’s a damn good story. It makes me obscurely proud to have you despise me.

  • Ben,

    How’s this for a rules-base system? More seriously, I get what you’re saying about quality but the unfortunate reality is that government spending is based on political criteria and not quality. I’m not sure how to fix that or if it’s even possible. And there’s an argument to be made for cutting quantity as that will supposedly force organizations to focus more on quality, but in my experience that’s the case only some of the time. Again, I’m not sure you to get from here to there as long as Congress isn’t interested in accountability or quality.

    steve,

    We’ll see if that’s true when MA cuts begin next year.

  • steve,

    Also, for the record, I think the debate between you and Jan is pointless as long as FFS is in effect.

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