Inventing a Failure

Paul Krugman

Last week, House Republicans released a deliberately misleading report on the status of health reform, crudely rigging the numbers to sustain the illusion of failure in the face of unexpected success. Are you shocked?

You aren’t, but you should be. Mainstream politicians didn’t always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and — in this case — bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America’s future.

About that report: The really big policy news of 2014, at least so far, is the spectacular recovery of the Affordable Care Act from its stumbling start, thanks to an extraordinary late surge that took enrollment beyond early projections. The age mix of enrollees has improved; insurance companies are broadly satisfied with the risk pool. Multiple independent surveys confirm that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has already declined substantially, and there’s every reason to believe that over the next two years the act will meet its overall goals, except in states that refuse to expand Medicaid.

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What’s amazing, in all this, is that “Obamacare,” AKA “Romneycare,” is the very same “good” insurance one always got through an employer.

How in the world can that be bad? Oh, right! President Obama signed the legislation that expanded its reach to millions of uninsured citizens.


To read the rest of my comment, click here.

Springtime for Bankers

By any normal standard, economic policy since the onset of the financial crisis has been a dismal failure. It’s true that we avoided a full replay of the Great Depression. But employment has taken more than six years to claw its way back to pre-crisis levels — years when we should have been adding millions of jobs just to keep up with a rising population. Long-term unemployment is still almost three times as high as it was in 2007; young people, often burdened by college debt, face a highly uncertain future.

Now Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury secretary for four of those six years, has published a book, “Stress Test,” about his experiences. And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.

He’s not unique in his self-approbation. Policy makers inEurope, where employment has barely recovered at all and a number of countries are in fact experiencing Depression-level distress, have even less to boast about. Yet they too are patting themselves on the back.

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“And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.”

The problem wasn’t so much what Geithner thinks, although that too is a problem, but what a majority of Democrats voters thought about how the Great Recession was handled up until the GOP took the House. That the Obama administration was advised by a bunch of corporate Democrats and there weren’t sufficient progressives in Congress to rein them in is the real problem. The stimulus and healthcare might have looked different.

To read the rest of my comment, click here.

What Did the Framers Really Mean?

Joe Nocera

Three days after the publication of Michael Waldman’s new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a killing spree, stabbing three people and then shooting another eight, killing four of them, including himself. This was only the latest mass shooting in recent memory, going back to Columbine.

In his rigorous, scholarly, but accessible book, Waldman notes such horrific events but doesn’t dwell on them. He is after something else. He wants to understand how it came to be that the Second Amendment, long assumed to mean one thing, has come to mean something else entirely. To put it another way: Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun?

My comment on the New York Times Site:

It really shouldn’t matter what the framers meant. We live in the here and now and unless one has clinically-significant rigidity issues, we need to live by today’s mores and needs.

Logically-speaking, what is the known side-effect of a population saturated with legal and illegal weapons? How stable can a nation that is armed to the teeth be?

To read the rest of my comment, click here.


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On The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty,by Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

From the Amazon description of this book:

“Borderline personality disorder, autism, narcissism, psychosis, Asperger’s: All of these syndromes have one thing in common–lack of empathy. In some cases, this absence can be dangerous, but in others it can simply mean a different way of seeing the world.

In The Science of Evil Simon Baron-Cohen, an award-winning British researcher who has investigated psychology and autism for decades, develops a new brain-based theory of human cruelty. A true psychologist, however, he examines social and environmental factors that can erode empathy, including neglect and abuse.

Based largely on Baron-Cohen’s own research, The Science of Evil will change the way we understand and treat human cruelty.”

The first few pages of this book can be read on Amazon.


About The #42 Blog

I’ve started and stopped a couple of blogs over the years. After a four-year break, here I am again, in the mood to write about the things that matter to me. This blog will be divided into a few sections:

– Education

– Health: primarily Diet, Epilepsy and the Ketogenic Diet, special diets (dairy, corn, gluten, and soy-free)

– Music: primarily Jazz

– Literature: primarily biographies and memoirs, but also pieces about the books that were influenced me in some way, over the years.

– My New York Times comments – and anything else that may catch my eye…

About me:

I suspended my career as a writer and technical editor of computer how-to books twelve years ago, to homeschool my daughter. She is now sixteen and about to begin her third year as a Fine Arts major at Cal State Fullerton. I have a strong interest in political science, philosophy (social ethics), and economics.  I am a huge fan of Jazz (Be-bop and Afro-Cuban).

I hope you enjoy my blog!

Cat on a Hot Stove

Maureen Dowd
Maureen Dowd

PRESIDENT OBAMA won big. So why did the moment feel so small?

At his victory scold in the State Dining Room on Thursday, the president who yearned to be transformational stood beneath an oil portrait of Abraham Lincoln and demanded . . . a farm bill. He also couldn’t resist taking a holier-than-thou tone toward his tail-between-their-legs Tea Party foes. He assumed his favorite role of the shining knight hectoring the benighted: Sir Lecturealot.

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Your hate has done nothing to help our country. Instead of focusing on those areas where President Obama could use some help answering tough questions and pushing for change, you have fallen in the same rut the far right is stuck in: blind hate for the black man and anything and everything he does do right.

President Obama was absolutely right to let Boehner hang by his own petard. He was absolutely right not to give in one inch on Cruz and De Mint’s extortion. He was absolutely right to let them go as far as they dared and allow them to earn the wrath of the general public. Then, when all was good again, he wasn’t professorial nor did he gloat. He was cool, calm, collected, and given how dire the situation was, quite matter of fact in pointing out the consequences of the GOP’s tactics.

To read the rest of my comment, click here.