Friday, June 29, 2012

Is There a Bee in Sumner's Bonnett Lately?

     I'm just wondering. Lately he seems to be getting pretty cagey. Listen to what he wrote in his last post:

    "I get depressed reading many of the comments in my blog. People ranting about the Rothchilds. Complaining that I’m getting my hands dirty trying to make central bank policy a bit less bad, trying to help the millions of unemployed. They stand on the sidelines without a spot on mud on their clothing, insisting we need to destroy the central banks. Bring on mass liquiditation. Destroy everything and a new and more pure and more beautiful economy will rise from the ashes. Some are the very same people who suggest 9/11 was a CIA plot. It smells of the 1930s. God I hate ideologues."

     What really suggests that he's somehow dragging ass lately is that he hasn't written in a three days which is not at all like him. Don't get me wrong-he did say that he'd take a little time off for some projects. But he often says this and usually he ends up taking off no time.

    You wonder which commentators he was talking about? There was a commentator, Gabe, the other day who claimed that you had to watch out when you read the Economist becasue "the Rothschilds own it."

    That was a moment of serendipity. More generally everyone who reads Money Illusion knows that the most annoying commentator around is Major Freedom who just can't grasp that he's not quite as brilliant as he thinks he is. He seems to think that lack of civiliy and conision is a proof of his alleged brilliance rather than a major strike against it. Really the worst part is his lack of concision. You'll never meet a more long-winded blowhard.

    He fails with presentation which he doesn't get. So I can't blame Sumner for being tired of Major's endlessly longwinded often very insulting posts were he declares his own brilliance and everyone else's mediocrity. His poor presentation means that even if his extreme Rothabardian Austrian Business Cycle Theory of the economy were right, he's not going to be the one to convince anyone.

    However, it does seem to me that Sumner is often unfair with much more reasonable posters. He gets points as he always has for answering each and every comment-lately he sometimes misses  Major which is totally undersandable. But he often doesn't really answer questions too well especially if they have any kind of critical edge to them. I think he's getting worse which again underscores the idea that maybe he's getting burntout.

    It's always been true that when you ask him a question it's best to ask only the one you really want answered because if you put in more he'll always answer the most tagnenital, unimportant quibble-if he doesn't like where you're questions are going.

   Here's an example. A commentator named Mathieu left this coment which clearly was challenging but with a point:

     "You should just take the time to aknowledge the argument properly, I just can’t figure out how you can think those pikes in debt levels in the 30s and now are coincidences. Do you think debt to GDP ratio can increase forever? If not, the change in debt needs necessarily to decelerate, which will trigger a crisis. From that point, it’s a positive feedback loop on the way down, we’re in a dynamic system and the causality is circular. The solution can’t be asking the banks please lend more. It’s just like your saying the drop in nGDP is coming out of nowhere, it’s not an explanation, it’s a description and it’s not predictive at all."

     "I know your well intentionned but if you willingly blind yourself in order to avoid challeging a theory you believed all your life, your part of the problem, not the solution."

     "You’re complaining about ideology but you doesn’t seem to realize the whole idea of equilibrium came out of an ideology in the first place. It has been useful to some extent since it has promoted liberty which is a good thing, but you can’t base science on an ideology. Equilibrium is nowhere to be found in the real world since time never stops, it’s a fundamental property of complex dynamic systems. When such a system breaks down, it will come from uncontrolled positive feedback loops, you don’t need any exogenous factors to find an “explanation”.

     "The bottom line is that Keen comes up with a model which can explain the crisis and it’s consistent with the datas without having to arbitrarily adjust the parameters and rely on shocks coming from the heavens. Moreover, it did predicted the crisis and can prevent it from happening again in the future. I just hope Max Planck could be proven to be wrong : ” Science evolves one funeral at a time”

      Mathieu's comments were on the long side. However he did ask some interesting questions. Scott comes back with:

      Mathieu, You said;

     “if you willingly blind yourself”

      "I find that people who start off with personal insults tend to leave the most ill-informed comments, and yours is no exception. Anyone who has studied EC101 knows that correlation tells us nothing about causation. There are a huge number of variables that are highly correlated with business cycles. NGDP is one, and debt is another. I happen to think there are lots of good models explaining.why NGDP shocks affect output, whereas that’s not the case for debt."

      I don't know that it was a personal insult. It really wasn't personal it was a theoretical argument It was simply a question of why he doesn't consider points of view outside the NeoClassical box-no doubt those are never welcome. It does seem to me that Sumner's tolerance for comments he doesn't agree with is on the wane lately. He tends to give anyone Keynesian short thrift. Anyway I thought Mathieu did a decent job responding to that:

     "I didn’t meant to be insulting, I think you ignore the “if” at the begining of the sentence. A lot of economists are willingly blinding themselves about heterodox theories, with no valid arguments. Here’s for example Bernanke about Minsky in his essay on the Great Depression :

    “Hyman Minsky (1977) and Carles Kindleberger (1978) have … argued for the inherent instability of the financial system but in doing so have had to depart from the assumption of rational economic behaviour.” A footnote adds – “I do not deny the possible importance of irrationality in economic life; however it seems that the best research strategy is to push the rationality postulate as far as it will go.”

    Anyway it's been weird without him posting for three days. He could be burnt out-or maybe he's about to hit the big time-who knows?

    I do think Sumner is too quick to play the "you're ignorant" card if questioned on certain theoretical ideas he takes for granted like rational expectations, and EMH or for that matter that the fiscal multiplier is considerably larger than zero.

   Between his time off and Morgan Warstler's strange scarcity this week, well, as Seinfeld once said: "The system is breaking down!"

No Romney Won't Be Able to Repeal ACA

     Look no mattter how bad things go in November-and I'm not expecting them to go at all bad actually-no one claims that Romney is going to win and get a super majority in the Senate. So there's no ability on his part to do it first thing as he's promising or at all even until such time that the country is so totally lost that they give the GOP super majorities across the board.

     Yes, there is reconciliation, however that only gives them the power to nibble around at the edges of ACA:

     "Congress can’t repeal the full law through reconciliation. Without the necessary 60 votes in the Senate for full repeal, Republicans are pledging to use a budget reconciliation bill to undo the ACA. But this process would only apply to the budget-related elements of the law and would thus leave many portions — including the mandate — intact. As health care expert Robert Laszewski put it, “Romney could end up creating a chaotic environment driven by enormous uncertainty over just which parts of the new health care law would be implemented–for consumers, health care providers, and insurers.”

     The best case scenario for the GOP would be to remorselessly increase chaos in the deliverence of health care until they get a super majoirty in 2014. However by then the real benefits will start to be felt and it will be impossible politically.

      The real point I'm driving at though is that I think that the success of the Obama Administration is going to pay dividends for the ACA quicker than people think. Now that people can see the President was effective they are going to start feeling better about ACA.

     I stand by my claim that your median American voter is a bandwagon jumper. When they see success they start to follow it. I-like others of us-am a politiical junkie. I'm a die hard partisan Democrat. I never turn on my President or my party, ever.

    But a lot of people are not so focused and much easier to discourage. They aren't bad people and I'm no better or worse than them just different. I see the victories in the SB 1070 case and ACA as huge. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The media wants to discount it because half of them represent elite Alec interests that hate the idea of health care for all and then the other half just wants to keep suspense going for November. So no matter what happens all they tell us is that it's real close and will go down to the wire.

    It's no different than the Super Bowl. They never want to admit that one team is 42 points better than the other even when everyone knows it's true.

    I do see the President as in good shape. People know he's a good man, no matter how much Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh attempt to smear him on a daily basis. They know he's a decent man who genuinely wants to do what's good for the country.

   They always claiim his likablity doesn't matter. That's always the way it is with any of his strenghts-it doesn't matter then they'll even tell you it hurts him. Well that's what they're tyring to do with this ruling. On the one hand it hurts him as most voters don't like it and the Repugs will clobber him over it. On the other hand he shouldn't discuss it as no one cares either way anyway and think he doesn't uncerstand about jobs.

   There is a lot of Mo' going on right now. The strides he's taken us on immigration. And the American people are following him on this. Three years ago the country had a jingoistic attitude towards immigration-52% of Americans saw it as a net negative thing-no doubt as bringing in lawless, criminal brown people in the country to do drugs, commit crimes and dilute the culture-and the white majoirty.

    Now three years later almost 50% now support immigration and only 41% see it as a net negative. For a more quick example of a change in public opinion see how African Americans now support gay marriage rather than as many claimed turning against the President and clinging to their bigotry.

    Obama has many paths to victory, Romney has about one and hes trailing in so many must win states-Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Florida. He has to win all of these states. And forget the Hispanic vote-he'll never get it now.

    The reason I make this point is because the whole objective of all ths naysaying is for libs to be discouraged and stay home.

Markets Rally Big on Latest Euro Deal

     Of course, the question begs-how long will this one last? As usual I don't want to be pessimistic and hope this one is real and not another false start... But, of course, the track record speaks for itself.

     Today saw a huge rally in markets with the Dow up way over 200 points and with the US indexes now in line for their best June in a long time-usually June is supposed to be the second worst month of the year. And this is not being driven by the Fed or any American phenomenon:

     "It's all Europe. The steps that are being taken now seem to be a little more dramatic and important, and they've acted a little more rapidly than in the past," said Mike Gibbs, co-head of the equity advisory group at Raymond James Financial, RJF +2.69% which oversees $370 billion in client assets."

     "European leaders at a two-day summit in Brussels said they would speed plans to create a single supervisor for the euro zone's banks. They agreed that the euro zone's bailout funds should be able to directly boost the capital of struggling banks, without adding to government debt."

    That last part is the key-the funds can go right to build up the capital of struggling banks rather than through the governments and so the aid will not add to government debt. This is a very big deal, still what's going to happen when Angela Merkel goes back to Germany?


    “It’s going to be very interesting when [Merkel] tries to sell this to the German people because this is a very unpopular decision on her part to compromise, but this is a breakthrough that we’ve been waiting for and it bodes very well for the markets,” said Michael Yoshikami, CEO and founder of Destination Wealth Management. “You buy based on probability and this is definitely a move forward towards Europe stabilizing.”

     Euro stocks soared as well and most importantly Spanish and Italian bond yields fell. This tells you that they hit the sweet spot for once. Often you see equities soar until the bond investors give it a thumbs down. Still, surely one doesn't want to lose all perspective here.

   "It's a reminder of how little people expect coming out of any of these summits," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. MorganJPM -0.61% Funds.

  "This begins the road map to creating a pan-European banking union by year end," Mr. Garcia-Amaya said. "It gets you closer to that integration that you want to see within Europe, so that's big, but it's just words for now. We need to see the details."

    Yeah, details are always nice... What's certainly worrisome is just how much euro-unity there really is. It seemed too good to be true this morning and now that different European leaders are home they seem to understand the agreement rather differently:

     "European leaders' new measures Friday to tackle the euro zone's debt crisis—promising to use their sizeable rescue funds more flexibly and pave the way for the European Central Bank to assume an expanded role as supervisor for the euro zone's banking sector—were welcomed as a rare bold step in the right direction."

     "But the unexpected statement of unity issued in the small hours of Friday morning gave way almost immediately to a wave of ifs and buts, as briefings by national leaders once again highlighted the residual divisions between them."

        Some understand the agreement one way:

        "In stark contrast to his German and Dutch counterparts, French President François Hollande said a key clause of the ESM had been changed to allow decisions to be made without unanimity.
Unlike the EFSF, Mr. Hollande said, the "ESM has an advantage, namely that it doesn't have unanimity." Once the EFSF had been replaced by the ESM, the need for full unanimity would be removed, he said."

       Others understand it another way:

       "The comment surprised EU officials, who said Mr. Hollande's view wasn't in line with the current ESM treaty, which will be ratified by France and other countries in the coming weeks.
"If Hollande said this, we might as well all go home and scrap the ESM, because this was not what was agreed in the ESM treaty," a diplomat from one euro-zone country said."

        Yes, 'might as well go home and scrap the ESM.' Then others have a different view:

        "By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at pains to stress that she had given nothing away in a night that saw a big shift away from previous negotiating positions, told her press corps that the German parliament would still retain effective veto rights over anything it didn't like in the new ESM. Not only would it have the right to vote on every single use of ESM funds, but it would also retain the right to vote down these or any other proposed changes to the way the ESM works."

        There's the problem that what Germans want to hear is more or less the opposite of what markets want to hear. In case you want to temper yourself with even more pessimism listen to El-Erian:

        "Mohamed El-Erian, CEO at bond giant Pimco, was even more direct about his skepticism, cautioning investors not to get too excited about a deal in which "the road map to fiscal union, political union and banking union lacks details and lacks precommitment."

       "It's an important step but there's risk that it's not enough, and we worry that investors are going to use this to exit rather than crowd in more capital," El-Erian told CNBC."

        So we'll keep our fingers crossed. Still it's clearly the biggest move yet. Next week we'll figure out if it's enough. It's tough to imagine Merkel, Draghii, and Hollande hittimg the level achieved by Keynes and White in the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement but let's not be overly pessimistic. After all look at Chief Justice John Roberts if you don't believe miracles happen.



Fiscal vs. Monetary Policy: Scott Fullwiler vs. Lars Christensen

      Wer'e familiar with the famous Sumner Critique where provided the Fed is on the job there's no place for fiscal policy in terms of demand stabilization. Again and again Sumner argues "The fiscal multiplier is roughly zero."

      Who can forget the time when Lars Christensen went one better and argued that fiscal policy doesn't even exist? That was fun as it lead to me writing a post about it which lead to him writing a post about my post all of which I explained here.

       After all he had called his post about my post
        Nevertheless his original argument is worth looking at again as it's one for the books in the fiscal-monetary divide-sort of reminds me of the divide in philosophy, which is the Analytic-Continental divide the former is Anglo philosphy the latter being of course the European contitnent. Anyway here is Lars from "There is no such thing as fiscal policy'

       "In an earlier post – “How I would like to teach Econ 101” – I have explained that there seems to be a disconnect between how economists think about microeconomics and macroeconomics. I think this disconnect basically also creates the misunderstanding among Keynesians about what fiscal policy is and what it can do."

      "The way we normally think of microeconomics is an Arrow-Debreu world with no money. Hence, we have a barter economy. As there is no money we can not talk about sticky prices and wages. In a barter economy you have to produce to consume. Hence, there is no such thing as recessions in a barter economy and hence no excess capacity and no unemployment. Therefore there is no need for Keynesian style fiscal policy to “boost” demand. Furthermore, it is not possible, as public expenditures in barter economy basically have to be funded by “forced labour”. “Taxes” will be goods that somebody is asked to “pay” to government and government “spend” these “revenues” by giving away these goods to other people. Hence, in a barter economy fiscal policy is a purely redistributional exercise, but it will have no impact on “aggregate demand”."

       "Therefore for fiscal policy to influence aggregate demand we need to introduce money and sticky prices and wages in our model. This in my view demonstrates the first problem with the Keynesian thinking about fiscal policy. Keynesians do often not realise that money is completely key to how they make fiscal policy have an impact on aggregate demand."

       This is why I referred to it as a "postmodernist mind fuck"-in other words a variation of "there is no Truth." Lars said that's a unkind cut on my part as he has no use for postmodernism. Sumner on the other hand is a self described Richard Rorty man so maybe he would take it differently?

       While Lars may not like postmodernism, isn't this what Monetarism always does in a way? There are no real problems all troubles are nominal. I guess what they really mean is that all real problems are problems of supply but demand side problems are always nominal. In this sense it's a variation of what Phil Gramm said back in 2008 that this is only a "mental recession."

       Of course he said that before Obama was President. So that might be the real Monetarist gambit-that all real problems are supply side, demand side problems are by definition nominal-"mental" all in our heads. That is only further buttressed by the fact that Market Monetarists put so much store by simple market expectations-Nick Rowe's famous Chuck Norris Effect.

       "One can of course play around with these things as much as one wants, but to me the key lesson is that fiscal policy only have an impact on aggregate demand if the central bank plays along. Hence, fiscal policy does not really exist in the sense Keynesians (normally tend to) claim. “Fiscal policy” needs to be monetary policy to be able to impact aggregate demand."

      "That said, fiscal policy of course can have an impact of the supply side of the economy and that is ultimately much more important – especially as the ill (lack of aggregate demand) the Keynesians would like to cure cease to exist if the central bank targets the NGDP level."

       Let's compare this with what Scott Fullwiler says about fiscal vs. monetary policy. Whereas for Lars fiscal policy really doesn't exist-it's little more than an inefficient brand of monetary policy, Fullwiler's view is 180 degrees away from this. He argues that the proverbial "Hellicopter Drops" of Ben Bernanke are actually fiscal operations:

       "UNLIKE EVERY OTHER monetary policy operation, BUT LIKE EVERY OTHER fiscal policy operation (with or without bond sales), helicopter drops of "money" as shown in Figures 1 and 2 raise the net worth of the non-government sector. My colleagues and I therefore argue that it is more appropriate to label helicopter drops as FISCAL operations, NOT monetary operations."

      Obviously you can't see the figures here. For them see below

      This is a clear definition of fiscal operations-they raise  the net worth of the non-government sector. Note too his proviso about "with or without bonds." This also differentiates him and the MMTers from Hickseans like Krugman. For Krugman fiscal policy is where the Treasury buys goods and sells bonds and monetary policy is where it buys bonds and "sells" money.

      The difference is that MMT doesn't think there is any need for the government to sell bonds before buying goods.

       In any case following Fullwiler here we get a working distinction between fiscal and monetary policy that's easy to follow. Fiscal increases the net worth of the non-government sector monetary policy increases liquidty through asset swaps. In the liquidity trap this breaks down as you have perfect substitutes being swapped-money and bonds.



Ezra Klein Gets it Wrong on ACA SJC Win

      He was on Rachel Maddow last night and is basically arguing that "nothing has changed." Saying this makes no sense. Is he claiming that it's no different now than it would have been had the Mandate been struck down?

     Unless this implausible scenario is what he means he is obviously wrong. He seems to be very impressed-as many pundits are-that the GOP is now going to get to run against it. Indeed many pundits are saying the same exact thing Sarah Palin wrote yesterday that this is a great thing for the Right because "now people see it."

     Sure, I really buy into this silly causistry that Obama would be in a stronger position had the Mandate been struck down. Sure. It's like the doctor telling me my cancer is in remission is also bad news. After all I'm going to die anyway.

    Yet this is how Klein seems to be arguing. If Romeny wins, Klein reasons, he can dispose of it. In fact it won't be as easy as Romney makes it-'first thing I do is repeal and replace.' This is in contradiction with his promise to abolish Planned Parenthood-an organization he and his wife Ann Romney belonged to in the 90s-first thing. What Ezra seems not to get is that Romney even with a GOP Senate can't kill the whole ACA by reconciliation.

    What's interesting is that the media is trying minimize the strength of the President's victory. So we have pundits-"even" liberals like Ezra-claiming that "nothing has changed" because if Romney wins he'll repeal it, though he can't actually totally do that right away as we saw above. Then we hear other pundits saying 'well the American people aren't focused on this anyway. They care about jobs. Independents don't care either way.'

    If this is true than how have the GOP gained the great gift we keep hearing about? Where Ezra really goes wrong is his claim that the ACA is unpopular so it will be tough for the President's campaign with the GOP attacking him on it. He fails to appreciate the Bandwagon Effect.

    What I mean by this is that the dirty little secret is that while some of us are political junkies and we eat and sleep this stuff and we're partisan Democrats and liberals and of course you have similar people among the Republicdans and conservatives, the average media person is nt a political junkie. Even less so the median independent.

    Most Americans agree with the President and the Democratic party on most important issues. However, the tpical, or median voter may agree with the President and like the President but they are also easily discouraged. They see him attacked and not fight back-this was true in the first two years. Since the debt ceiling farce he's been much better-he's learned his lesson.

    But in the first two years Americans saw the President under fire and keep offering more olive branches after the Repugs kicked  him in the teeth again and again. And he acted shamefaced about ACA. It was a catch 22 to be sure-the more the polls seemed to show it's unpopular the more his adivsors urged him to distance himself from it, but the more he distance himself from it the worse the polls were.

    However things have changed now and this Klein is not factoring. His problem is that he's not factoring in any rise in poll numbers for the ACA based simply on it's success. The point is now Obama looks effective. Now the fruits of what he's fought for are becoming more tangible. So I'm guessing you may start to see the poll numbers increase for the ACA.

    Ezra thinks they won't improve until more people start to benefit from it and that this won't be in time for the election. My argument is that the simple fact of it's success will improve public morale for it in general.

    In some ways so far the polling of ACA has bee frustratingly similar to the question of abortion. Most people do think abortion should be safe and legal-though they have conditions on it. However they like to think of themselves as being "pro-life." So those who call themselves "pro life" are somewhat greater than those who call themselves "pro choice."  Yet in fact most people think it should be safe and legal and certainly don't agree with the radical anti abortion laws a la Bob McDonnel in Virginia-inciidentally Eric Cantor is now  showing some struggling poll numbers due to a backlash against extreme anti abortion laws in Virginia.

     Similarly most people think they don't like the ACA but actually like all of its provisions. My guess though is more people will start to like ACA as a whole. Seismic shifts in public opinion do happen. In 2009 52% of Americans thought that immigration is mostly a negative thing; now only 41% do while almost 50% think it's a net positive.

    To be sure that took three years Ezra might argue but how about gay marriage? Everyone thought that Obama was risking losing Black votes by supporting gay marrigage but what happened instead is that Black people started supporting gay marriage. It's astonishing how much public opinion among African Americans have shifted in such a short time.

    So don't let them tell you this is not a real positive for the President. They're just trying to hoodwink you yet again. Their only hope is to discourage the Dem base.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FDL Not Happy With Scotus Ruling

      They wanted repeal of course. They can never give the President a break. It amazes me how they end up calling for the same things as the tea baggers and they don't see it. Here is typical Firedoglake logic:

      "Fortunately, I was at work today and missed much of the bruhaha about the Supreme Court’s decision to entirely uphold the Health Insurance Corporation Enrichment Act(aka Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare aka Romneycare), and to strike down one of the few incrementally progressive things about it, which was mandatory Medicaid expansion. I heard enough on the way home on NPR, once I got home on the CBS Evening News, and read enough right here on FDL in the last few minutes."

     "The debate over “health care reform” is not even about health care itself. It’s over health care insurance. That’s a completely different thing. The key question is this: Is health care a fundamental human right in the biggest and wealthiest country that humanity has ever produced or not? For me, the answer is a simple YES. Period."

      Ok so health insurance is worthless? We don't want health insurance as this is the vehicle to health care? I just don't see what the point is in qubbling. Yes I agree that health care is a human right. But why is it that we have this "creationist" logic where health care must come in whole cloth or not at all?

     "There are plenty who disagree with me and say so. But if you think health care is a right, as I do, then you must recognize that this whole debate over Obamacare completely avoids my question. Obamacare’s not about providing truly affordable and quality health care to all Americans, it’s about requiring all Americans to either be poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, which is woefully underfunded, purchase private for-profit health insurance(which still has no cost controls), or pay a fine(or a tax, as SCOTUS put it), to the federal government. So, as others have pointed out(hat-tip to Obey), if you’re too “rich” for Medicaid but too poor to buy private health insurance you get fined by the IRS."

      No. I answered your question. Still while it's not yet for all Americans it starts us in that direction. This is why the GOP is so upset-it's about precedent. Social Security actually was a lot more limited when it was passed than the ACA already is. It can be improved on and expanded. This is why I say teabaggers and firebaggers are two sides of the same coin. Both of them insist-we must go back to the beginning.

     "How is any of that health care? It’s not. And how did we get to this screwed up situation in the first place? Well, there’s a simple answer: Capitalism."

     "Capitalism is all about making a profit. That’s it. Health care is all about treating sick and/or injured people and maintaining people’s health. That’s it. You can’t have both, not for everyone. Not even for most people, and as far as I am concerned even if the system worked for most people that’s still not good enough because quality health care is a right. America has tried to do so and has failed miserably."

     "You want health care for everyone? Then HAVE health care for everyone. There are several different ways to do it, but not one is capitalist. Not one. You have to ditch the profit motive to have truly universal health care. And you won’t hear that in our corporate media or from our corporate politicians."

     So we must have health care for everyone now or never. In 2008 we had 53 million Americans without health insurance. Now the ACA will chop that by 60%. But that's unacceptable because there are still some that don't have it. What I don't get is why Ohio Barbarian-as he calls himself-has this hierarchy of preferences.

    1). Universal health care for all

    2). the previous status quo with 53 million uninsured

     3). lowering that 53 million by any number less than the full 53 million

     This is why I say it's a creationist understanding of the bill. It can't be improved on. It can't be expanded.

     In a way he shows his hand. Just like the GOP has no plan to do anything, he would prefer that too unless we have-socialism. In his mind the profit motive is evil and its not enough to give someone health care if you do it for the wrong motive.

     Another thing they're doing at Firedoglake is bemoaning the ruling against states being forced to do the Medicaid expansion. Predictably the firebaggers are claiming that this was the only good part of ACA. Right-because it's the part that failed so you can blame the President. Only things that he can be blamed for are good ideas. He didn't want the ruling but they of course think he wanted to lose on that point.

     Nevertheless it seems that the Obama haters on the left are shrinking. Markos over at Daily KOS recently said of Obama: "He's ok. He's our guy."

     More and more Americans are realizing that. The firebaggers can get together with the teabaggers and cry in their beer.


ACA: No "Massive Tax Cut on the Middle Class"

     Don't get me wrong. That's what they're trying to spin it as. This is the GOP's next line. They will seize the words of Chief Justice Roberts to claim this is the biggest tax cut in world history.

     It's nothing new. This is how it always goes. Clinton's tax hike on the rich in 1993 was the largest tax hike in history and then rescinding the Bush tax cuts is the largest tax hike in history so it makes sense that now the ACA is.  The GOP never opposes any tax increase that isn't not just an increase but all of human history's largest.

    In reality this is just the usual alarmist exaggerations:

    "The mandate can indeed be characterized as a tax, as the Court found. But it is not a massive tax hike on the middle class, much less the biggest tax hike in American history. The tax imposed by the individual mandate amounts to either $695 or 2.5 percent of household income for those who don’t have insurance and are not exempt based on income levels. By comparison, the payroll tax cut extension Republicans repeatedly blocked earlier this year would have added 3.1 percentage points to the tax and cost the average family $1,500 a year."

    "The mandate, meanwhile, would hit a small amount of Americans — somewhere between 2 and 5 percent — according to a study from the Urban Institute. The number could be even lower depending on the law’s success: in Massachusetts, the only state with an insurance mandate, less than 1 percent of the state’s residents paid the penalty in 2009."

     "The majority of the Affordable Care Act’s other taxes, such as a payroll tax increase and a tax on high-cost health plans, are aimed at upper-income Americans. In exchange, millions of jobs will be created as new people enter the health care system and millions of people will gain access to affordable, quality insurance that they otherwise would not have. And, as we detailed earlier today, the Court’s decision to uphold the entirety of the law will have significant benefits for the nation’s economy."

      We will be hearing this argument a lot, however, so get used it it. Forewarned is forearmed.

Lonely Conservative: Congress Must "Rein in" Scotus

      I can't say I'm surprised, though I must say that it's amazing how fast it's started. The Right wing has fallen out of love with the Supreme Court with a vengeance.

     Karen the Lonely Conservative, at her blog had her usual guest post from Dr. Robert Owens-what he's a doctor of is tough to say. He's some sort of quack professor of history. He makes the point that "the present is the history of the future."

     Last week he was demanding that Congress impeach the President. This week you had Senator Jon Kyle of Arizona call for just that as did a another Republican congressional candidate. It sure didn't take long for history to become the future!

    Now the doctor is at it again calling on Congress, this time to "rein in" Congress. Congress has a long laundry list. It needs to repeal ObamaCare as the court let them down, it needs to hold Holder in contempt-we'll get to this but they actually did this today when no one is paying attention-it must impeach the President and now rein in the highest court in the land-how exactly should they go about doing that?

    He dusts off all the old conservative anti judiicary arguments:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Libertyand the pursuit of Happiness.” Please notice that this, the foundational sentence of the American way of life does not say “endowed by the Supreme Court.”

     It doesn't it's true. However it does say something about checks and balances and three co-equal spheres. Now Mr. Owens seems to think that the Legislature ought to be a little more equal.

     "Ever since the Supreme Court took unto itself the power to void laws passed by the representatives of the people in Marbury V. Madison the black-robed Justices have acted, and Americans have accepted them as if they are the source and the summit of what is and what isn’t allowed in America. In most cases since the middle of the 20th century, the high court has sided with whatever the central government wanted to do in the way of extending its power and curtailing rights which any person who can read plainly sees protected in the document they are sworn to defend."

     "However, in Article Three of the Constitution, the one that outlines the judicial branch, after specifically enumerating which types of cases the Supreme Court shall try it says, “In all the other Cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

    Hoo boy. We got to go all the way back to a debate over Marbury V Madison just because the SJC ruled in favor of ObamaCare. I mean it's almost comical it's so transparent. We would not be having this conversation if it weren't for today's ruling. We'd then be hearing that the President has run afoul of the Constitution by attacking the Court in an attempt to usurp their authority. These guys are nothing if not predictable.

     "Sophistry is defined as “Reasoning that appears sound but is misleading or fallacious. In Metaphysics, Aristotle defines sophistry as ‘wisdom in appearance only.’” When we look at that definition from now on it will be hard not to see the face of Chief Justice Roberts who today showed his true colors as the midwife of totalitarianism. While declaring unconstitutional the very arguments used to pass the law the majority declared the law constitutional based upon the very arguments its opponents used to try and defeat the bill. Up is down, right is wrong, and the government can do whatever it wants."

     No, if someone wants to learn what sophistry means just read Mr. Owen's post in toto. A completely politically motivated and specious argument just because they don't like today's ruling.

      Meanwhile, this is the most conservative SJC in living memory. Roberts is George W. bush's man. Of course that may be the problem-the former President had an attitude to things like immigration that seem positively enlightened compared to the current GOP House.

     But it's still pretty consrvative. It gave us "Corporations are people my friend" and anti labor verdicts anti women's rights-the Wallmart case. Roberts himself wrote the opposition in the case of whether juvenilles can receive mandatory life sentences-he thinks yes, the majority says no.

     If this court is still not conservative enough then let's face it-their's is a lost cause.

Large Majorities Support President Obama's Immigration Policies

     This is just not the GOP's day. Indeed, it hasn't been their week. They have basically now lost two big SJC rulings. Now watch them turn on the SJC-who has been their best friend in rulings like Citizen's United and the ruling against the women in the Wallmart discrimination case.

    Now a poll shows that no matter how the Rush Limbaughs and the Seany Hannitys of the world try to spin things Americans support the President's immigration policies by a large margin.

    "Americans by a wide margin favor President Barack Obama's new policy of halting deportations of many young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a new poll shows."

     "In all, nearly seven in 10 Americans said they favor the administration's new immigration policy, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Hispanic support approached 90%."

       Obviously it has payed off with Hispanic voters:

       "The move could pay big political dividends for the president if it boosts Hispanic support for him in pivotal battleground states in November. Over the past month, the share of Hispanics nationwide saying they now have "very positive" views of Mr. Obama jumped by 10 percentage points to 41%.
In addition to the general sampling of Americans in the WSJ/NBC News poll, a sample of 300 Hispanics, done along with the Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and broken out as a separate poll, found Mr. Obama widening his lead among Latinos over GOP rival Mitt Romney to 66% to 26%, up six percentage points over last month."

      It also helps him specifically with Hispanic voters in Florida-where most Hispanics are Cuban and Florida is an important swing state with whom is numbers are now up. Indeed, it helps him-and his party-with pretty much every demographic group across the country:

      "In the WSJ/NBC News poll, nearly every segment of the population—whites, male voters, suburbanites, rural voters, even union members—supported the move to stop the deportations. But those identifying themselves as Republicans narrowly opposed the move, 48% to 47%."

      That last one up to be an eye raiser! Even self identified Republicans only oppose the move by 1 whole point! 

      There is also some more encouraging data which suggests that social and cultural evolution does happen and the country is evolving-a word that Obama got killed for using- on immigration:

        "Nearly half of all Americans now think immigration helps the U.S. more than it hurts, while 39% said its hurts more than helps, down from 52% who held the negative view in 2007."

         "The Romney campaign has pushed aggressively over the last month to boost its support among Hispanics. It announced a large team of prominent Hispanics who are advising his campaign. In ads, it has highlighted Mr. Obama's economic record and the markedly higher unemployment rate among Hispanics, which now sits at 11%, compared to the 8.2% national jobless rate."

        "But the Hispanic poll finds Latinos to be more optimistic than the whole of the population about the direction of the country and the state of the economy."

        "The poll also found far stronger support among Hispanics for Obama initiatives, particularly the 2010 health-care overhaul. With the Supreme Court set to rule on the law Thursday, nearly half the Hispanics polled said they believed the law was a good idea, compared to 35% among Americans over all."

        Hey Right wing spinmeisters: go ahead and spin that.

Sarah Palin Trying to Spin ACA Ruling

     I've focused a lot on GOP reaction today just to prepare us for what the tactics will be. One thing that's clear is that they're going to make a big deal out of the fact that Roberts argued for the Individual Mandate in the terms of it being a tax increase.

     So now we'll be hearing a lot about an interview in 2009 when Obama was  questioned by George Stephanopolous on whether it was a tax. Obama has insisted that it's not a tax.

     So now we're going to keep hearing that he's been caught in a lie, etc. In reality it's a matter of legal interpretation. It's not necessarily set in stone as a settled fact like 2+2=4. Obama may not have coneptualized it as a tax. The liberal judges on the Court voted for ACA as well but argue that it is covered under the Commerce Clause. So the fact that Roberts says it's a tax doesn't necessarily make Obama a liar.  Maybe he's wrong and the other four Justices are right. It's a subjective question.

     Sean Hannity just was making a big deal that Obama was against the individual mandate before he was for it-hello? Romnney passed the individual mandate before he vowed to repeal and replace it. What a sorry partisan hack. He never compares what Romeny said today with what he even said this morning.

     So now Ms. Conservative America is out razzing the President. In Hannity's vein she got whooped by the President before she was against ACA. She thinks the ruling is a good thing actually:

     "Thank you, SCOTUS. This Obamacare ruling fires up the troops as America’s eyes are opened! Thank God."

      Admire the brave face on it but this doesn't ring true.

      "This proves to be such an unsettling time in America as we undergo the fundamental transformation that Barack Obama promised he would do to us if elected. Obamacare was dealt in deception and confusion by flooding the public with an overwhelming amount of conflicting “rationale” via thousands of pages of unread legislative detail, which is the radical left’s M.O. Obama promised the American people this wasn’t a tax and that he’d never raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. We now see that this is the largest tax increase in history. It will slam every business owner and every one of the 50% of Americans who currently pay their taxes. The other 50% are being deceived if they think they’re going to get a free ride – because Medicaid is broke. Recipients of Obama’s “free health care” will have fewer choices and less accessibility. Trust me – this much more expensive health care WILL be rationed; to claim otherwise defies all economic and common sense."

     Why is it-and I ask this question sincerely-that conservatives are always making some huge talking point about the literal size of legislation? Is it that the length of legislation has some bearing on its quality? I guess the President should have written a healthcare bill that was real short right? Only Democrats write bills that are long I guess. Every GOP bill is short enough to fit on a bumper sticker. I mean Hank Paulson wrote the TARP bailout for the banks and it was half a page which should put to lie the notion that the justice of a bill is in necessary proportion to its shortness.

     I guess if the ACA was short, so short, that it fit on an index card then Ms. Palin would approve of it. You know an index card like the ones she used to use in debates that would remind her of tough to recall facts that she'struggled with-like which part of Korea is our ally, North or South, or who were the combatants in WWII.




GOP Big Lie Machine after ACA Ruling

      As noted in our previous post the GOP had plans "for every contingency" coming in today's ruling. They have been in furious spin mode since ACA was found constitutional.

     By the way, the most hilarious spin is coming from Rush Libmaugh who's starting a rumour that Cheif Justice Roberts ruled for ACA because he was politically intimidated by President Obama and the Senate Democrats.

     He started by saying he's just repeating speculation he read on some blogs but the next think you know he keeps discussing it and saying how terrible thing it would be-if it were true and he doesn't know that it is. Fanning the flames while saying that's not what he means to do.

    For more of Rush's attempt at spin see

    It's of interest to me in the sense of Karen the Lonely Conservative's buddy Dr. Robert Owens who explains "the present is the history of the future." So what you hear on Rush today may be what you start to hear other Republicans that speak to the mainstream press say tomorrow which will then be repeated as either fact or a reasonable theory by the mainstream press itself the day after tomorrow.

     In any case here is Republican spin coming to life immediately after the ruling:

     "The imposing Republican message machine was in full lock step an hour after the decision, with a torrent of emails blasting Obama as a tax-and-spend Democrat."

     "The decision] was a shocker,” said veteran GOP consultant Alex Castellanos, who has close ties to the Romney campaign. “I think it helps Republicans and hurts the country. Now the only way to repeal Obamacare and to repeal Obama’s health care tax as defined by the Supreme Court is to elect Republicans in November. He’s the president, the candidate, who said he wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class has just raised taxes on everybody. … And you’re going to see ads about this tax, and the only way to reverse it is in November.”

     "But the court’s ruling also presents a messaging hurdle for Romney. He has argued the difference between his law in Massachusetts and “Obamacare” is that his was “constitutional,” a distinction that
would seem to disappear now that the justices say the president’s was, too."

    “I think it does bring Romneycare back into play a little bit,” Castellanos acknowledged

    Read more:

     Again-yes I'm still listening to Rush. I subject myeself to him now and again-the beauty of it is that you can now get him for free though he always charged money for listening to his show it's now available for free.

    This is the best day to listen as he tries to help his poor despondent dittoheads. He continues to flag the "rumor" that Roberts was somehow politically pressured. He keeps on saying that he's not claiming that it's true but then he goes on to explain why it's reaonable for people to wonder as Roberts has done such an "unconstitutional" thing.



ACA is the Law of the Land What Does GOP Do Now?

     Today has been a very good day for the country as was Monday with the striking down of most of Arizona's draconian SB 1070. The GOP of course will attempt some sort of counter strategy.

     They've done well with counter offensives before so don't underestimate them. They managed to with a small minority in 2009 largely hamstring the President's agenda-though he helped them with his unrealistic belief in bipartisanship. This however is a very big day as it goes to the question of judicial legtimacy and precedent. With precedent on their side it will be a much more uphill battle defeating ACA now.

      What the GOP is doing mostly is what it always does-when it wins it gloats, when it loses it whines. They actually had, count them, four different strategies depending on today's ruling.

       "In a series of talking points obtained by POLITICO, Republicans lay out four possible rulings and detail how their party should respond in each of those cases. Sensitive to Democratic criticisms that they lack a plan to call their own, they will make the case that they won’t enact a 2,700 page law and will instead replace it “step-by-step” piecemeal reforms."

     Read more:

     Yes that would have been a brilliant answer to the charge that they lack a plan of their own-what an answer 'we'll show you by not having a plan'.  That's what piecemeal reform would have amounted to.

     "By deciding against offering a detailed legislative proposal, Republicans can avoid making the difficult tradeoffs required in developing a major health care plan. Instead, they can rely on a series of well-worn talking points aimed at uniting their party and taking what they believe are their best arguments to voters this fall."

     This is just like Romney is running-it's not true we have no plan and we'll tell you all about it after you vote for us. In any case the GOP had a plan coming in today's ruling-actually four plans whatever the outcome-turns out the worst outcome is what they got.

    "The document sheds light on a secretive level of planning at the highest rungs of Senate Republican leadership and between the 47-member Senate GOP Conference, in an attempt to create an echo chamber aimed at shaping public opinion immediately after the court issues its ruling on Thursday. The talking points appear to mirror the arguments that will be made by House Speaker John Boehner and Mitt Romney, officials say. And they rehash long-standing ideas and rhetoric that has regularly been espoused by the GOP on health care."

      "According to the internal documents, Republicans are prepared for four possible scenarios.
If the law that the GOP calls “Obamacare” is upheld, Republicans will step up their calls to repeal the entire law and make the claim that the law is “making things worse” and hurting small businesses.
If the entire law is struck down, they will argue that the ruling will underscore the need for new leadership in the White House since it “clears the way” to enact “step- by-step” reforms to “protect Americans’ access to the care they need, form the doctor they choose, at a lower cost.”

      "If the individual mandate is struck down, Republicans will point to comments made by Democratic Sens. Max Baucus, Jeff Bingaman and Al Franken and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer questioning whether the law would work without it. And they will make the same point if the court rejects the mandate along with a series of health insurance reforms, including ones that are popular, such as the prohibition against those with pre-existing conditions."

     "Republicans will then try to highlight a series of health care ideas that have long been popular with their party as their preferred alternative, including by allowing small businesses “to pool resources to purchase health insurance” for employees, opening the door for health insurance to be purchased across state lines, targeting malpractice lawsuits against doctors, expanding health savings accounts and giving state governments unspecified “incentives” to lower costs."

     Oh well, so much for the road not travelled. They of course will argue that the ACA must be repealed, Romney is already calling for that. The political momentum for this will be weak though, this is going to be a an uphill fight.

     Now that the ACA has won something there'll be a bandwagon effect with voters. This along with the Arizona ruling and Obama's immigration executive order all contribute to a positive sense of narrative and momentum. The real problem for conservatives is precedent. Once precedent is set it's not unset. It's the logic of  Starve the Beast. You can't allow the people to ever have any positive experience of government because once they have, anti-government arguments don't work anymore.




Rush Limbaugh's Sour Grapes Over ACA Ruling

     I had to listen to his opening today to hear the spinmeister in chief explain how this is great news for the GOP. His favored posture is gloating but today he has nothing to gloat about.

    So how does he open? He starts by talking about bad job numbers this morning. The economy is awful he tells us. Actually there is some improvement as there was a report this morning that the housing market is now defintely improving so even the tired GOP tank the economy gambit is weak.

    However then he belabored Chief Justice John Roberts' ruling that the ACA is legimtimate as a tax. Limbaugh played Obama telling George Stephenapolous that is isn't a tax.

    'Aha!' Limabugh crows. 'He lied to us, he told us it isn't a tax and it's the biggest tax in world history.'

    Whatever. The magnitude of the Right wing defeat is underscored by the weakness of Rush' pitch. That it's a tax was the Chief Justice's ruling. Rush ascribed some nefarious desire on Roberts' part to declare it constitutional no matter what but that's just noise. He seems to forget that this is Bush's man.

    It's his legal opinion, though the four liberals also upheld the law on the basis of the Commerce Clause. So they are legal opinions. That Obama had a different legal interpretation than Roberts is no scandal.

    Then he went on to claim that this takes an issue from Obama and gives on to the GOP. Ok, great. Your welcome we don't want it.

     He also mentions that the Republican Governor's Association has vowed to do nothing about ACA until the election. Way to wield a big stick-that was already a given anyway and the law doesn't come into effect until 2014.

     Rush finally latched on to the fact that states can opt out of the Medicaid requirement and not lose all their money. Some states may opt out first, it's true. However, precedent has been set. Social Security at first had a much narrower scope than the ACA already has. In time it becamse universal.

     Compared to what could have happened this is a grand slam. That this is the best Rush can do shows you the magnitude of their defeat.

     He's trying though. He thinks this is a gift for the campaign. Again, you're welcome. I'd rather have this than flagging the SJC in the campaign. So let him think that this gives him a campaign advantage. Like it or not-Obamacare is now the recognized law of the land. Learn it, live it, love it.

     It is true though that the GOP is going to try to spin this as the glass half full. They do have some strategies. More on this in the next post.

Yeah Buddy! ObamaCare is Constitutional

      I did say this yesterday-that I didn't think the Robert's Court would strike down the individual mandate.

    "My take is that the SJC is conservative-small c not only ideologically but temperamentally-and would rather not make laws from the bench. Yes they did do Bush-Gore but in that context arguably that was the more conservative choice-otherwise we could have faced a long drawn out legitimacy crisis."

    "They know that Americans have never really forgiven that-I know I haven't-and that they are suspected as often being more ideological than judicial. If they strike down the mandate that would throw insurance companies into chaos-they probably would want to avoid that. But to overturn the whole law could start a real backlash against them."

     "While they really struck down SB 1070 they left just enough so that supporters have a little something to hang their hats on. They did the thing that was least divisive. In this case letting the ACA stand is least divisive. After all the GOP will at least have it as an issue to flag in the campaign. If it's struck down this could be worse for the GOP. And many states even some Republican ones have already started setting up the exchanges. So if I'm right that they go conservative, ACA should stand."

      What's interesting is that after writing the post I read Bush's Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez who totally nailed it. He argued that he knew Roberts-after all it's he who vetted him for Bush and as he understood his style he doubted Roberts would want to create a constitutional crisis. This was also shown in his votes against Arizona's SB 1070 on Monday.
     What's more, Gonzales was right that Roberts would argue that the Mandate is a tax-which the government has the power to do.

     "I spent a great deal of time vetting Justice Roberts in making my recommendation to President [George W.] Bush that he appoint Chief Justice Roberts to the court," Gonzales said on CNN. "One of the traits I most admired about him, and this is very consistent in his judicial decision making, is to decide decisions on the most narrow grounds possible, to not get to constitutional issues you don't have to in order to dispose of a dispute....So in that respect, I expect Justice Roberts to follow that approach in deciding this case."

      "During oral arguments in March, the justices appointed a lawyer independent from the case to argue that a law known as the Anti-Injunction Act bars the court from blocking collection of a tax, like the penalty mechanism the law would use to encourage Americans to get insurance. The Anti-Injunction Act says a tax must be collected before it can be challenged in court."

      "At oral argument, none of the justices seemed to think much of that idea, but Gonzales suggested it would be the most consistent with Roberts's judicial philosophy favoring something lawyers call "the doctrine of constitutional avoidance."

     "That may mean, that he's going to be pushing the court to perhaps not make a decision on this case, wait until 2015, when the penalties on individual mandate come into play....Perhaps the chief justice is not going to go that way, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did," the former attorney general and one-time Texas Supreme Court justice told CNN.

    Gonzalez's prediction was almost perfect. Chief Justice Roberts was the deciding vote-Kennedy went with the conservative opposition in the 5-4 vote-and while he didn't stay it till 2015 he did use the tax argument. While the four liberal Justices argue that it does not violate the Commerce Clause, Roberts says it does, however it's legitimate as a tax that Congress has the power to impose.

    "The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.”

      "But “it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but (who) choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

       "The law, Roberts wrote, “makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.”
He said “The question is not whether that is the most natural interpretation of the mandate, but only whether it is a ‘fairly possible’ one.”

       Here we see that Gonzalez's take on Roberts' philosophy is right-that he avoids a constitutional crisis wherever possible:

        "He said the Supreme Court precedent is that “every reasonable construction” of a law passed by Congress “must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.”
NBC's Pete Williams reported that Roberts reasoned that “there’s no real compulsion here” since those who do not pay the penalty for not having insurance can’t be sent to jail. “This is one of the scenarios that administration officials had considered that if the court did this they would consider it a big victory,” Williams said.

       The states did get somethign of a victory in Medicaid payments:

       "But in a major victory for the states who challenged the law, the court said that the Obama administration cannot coerce states to go along with the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people."

      "The financial pressure which the federal government puts on the states in the expansion of Medicaid “is a gun to the head,” Roberts wrote.

     “A State that opts out of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion in health care coverage thus stands to lose not merely ‘a relatively small percentage’ of its existing Medicaid funding, but all of it,” Roberts said.

      Congress cannot “penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding,” Roberts said

      Still in the context of what could have happened this is a big victory and I'm going to celebrate. Anthony Kennedy who is often the swing vote, went with the conservative minority:

      "Justice Anthony Kennedy, usually the court's swing vote, dissented, reading from the bench that he and three conservative justices believe "the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety." In a 65-page dissent, he and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dismissed Roberts' arguments, writing that there is a "mountain of evidence" that the mandate is not a tax. "To say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it," they write.

       Yeah well I can see why he's not impressed compared to that brilliant broccoli argument. Ladies don't go out alone after dark-or the boogie man will make you eat broccoli against your will

      P.S. I'm celebrating-should I go out to eat again? I try not to do it every day but there's always a reason. Today the reason is I got to celebrate the crowning and coronation of ObamaCare as supreme law of the land.

      P.S.S. I am vexed however by my spell check-it suddenly isn't working. I hate checking for spelling but now I got an extra job each post till I can figure out the problem. Anyone got any suggestions?

     P.S.S. Can't wait to listen to Rush in 20 minutes.

     HT: Morgan Warstler

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No Doubt About it: Arizona Lost SB 1071 Supreme Fight

      Linda Greenhouse says it well:

      "The most useful way to read a Supreme Court decision, I figured out years ago, is to start with the dissents. That way, you can proceed to the majority opinion as a better informed reader, with the full range of possibilities in view: What arguments did the majority reject? Which did it respond to, and which did it not even bother to acknowledge? Most important, what was the disagreement really about?"

     "Taking that approach to the Arizona immigration decision the court issued on Monday, it is pellucidly clear from the dissenting opinions of Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. that Arizona lost big and that the decision amounted not to the split decision of early news reports but a major reaffirmation of federal authority. There has been considerable attention to Justice Scalia’s political rant – which he delivered from the bench as well as on paper — against President Obama’s immigration policies. It was a cringe-making screed for sure, even if not altogether surprising given that Justice Scalia had actually stooped to invoking the broccoli threat during the health care argument."

      "But aside from his self-indulgent posturing, what was most revealing about Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion was what passed for actual legal analysis, his charge that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion was so dismissive of Arizona’s effort to “protect its sovereignty” through the invalidated provisions of S.B. 1070, the law that was at issue, that “we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state.”

     "Pretty strong stuff. I turned to the majority opinion with mounting anticipation. What on earth had the court done? The first thing that jumped out at me was the name of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Justice Kennedy’s opinion, along with the expected names of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. The chief justice was, apparently, in complete agreement with the majority as evidenced by his silence – the dog that didn’t bark, you might say. He felt no need to write separately to express even a shade of difference from the majority or a hint of sympathy with the dissenting views of his usual allies. Beyond Justice Scalia’s transparent dislike for the president, perhaps it was the chief justice’s apostasy that drove him around the bend."

      She then points out that Roberts has never been a nativist-'at least not yet.' Well he was George W. Bush's nominee. While I don't have many good things to say about President Bush he was not a nativist. Indeed he clearly was supportive of a more friendly immigration policy-he was also good on aid to Africa.

       She then argues that she thinks it quite likely that the Court will rule ACA constitutional based on the Court's ruling here. I, too, have that sense. Remember all we need is one out of 5 conservative justices. My guess is that while the SJC has rankled with their conservative  judgments notably Citizens United-which they again reaffirmed this week, and against the women in the big Walmart case-I suspect they won't want to push it on this one.

       My take is that the SJC is conservative-small c not-only- ideologically but temperamentally-and would rather not make laws from the bench. Yes they did do Bush-Gore but in that context arguably that was the more conservative choice-otherwise we could have faced a long drawn out legitimacy crisis.

      They know that Americans have never really forgiven that-I know I haven't-and that they are suspected as often being more ideological than judicial. If they strike down the mandate that would throw insurance companies into chaos-they probably would want to avoid that. But to overturn the whole law could start a real backlash against them.

      While they really struck down SB 1070 they left just enough so that supporters have a little something to hang their hats on. They did the thing that was least divisive. In this case letting the ACA stand is least divisive. After all the GOP will at least have it as an issue to flag in the campagin. If it's struck down this could be worse for the GOP. And many states even some Republican ones have already started setting up the exchanges. So if I'm right that they go conservative, ACA should stand.

EU Finally Prods Germany on Fiscal Plan, Debt Sharing

      Can it be that they finally get it? That's probably going way too far but they're beginning to get it a little. This was really pretty serious. Top EU officals wrote up some of the kinds of proposals Germany thinks are anathema. This has just never happened before:

     "Drawn up by the top European Union officials — the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy; the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso; the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi; and the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker — the plan has weight, and it seems to reflect a new willingness in Europe to isolate Berlin and compel it to accept changes it has steadfastly resisted."

      "The 10-year “road map” was drafted after months of discussions with the 27 member countries, especially with the 17 that use the euro. It calls for immediate steps “towards a genuine economic and monetary union,” and is meant to provide the agenda for the European Union summit meeting on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. It is also intended to give the financial markets confidence that the European Union will stand behind its members and its common currency — a harder task, given that much of the plan would take many months to negotiate and ratify."

      Ok, we can't quite break out the bubbly yet-we're still a looong way from that. Indeed Merkel still has some reservations you might say:

       "Although watered down from an earlier draft to try to appease Berlin, the proposals brought immediate criticism from Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel telling her partners in her governing coalition, the neo-liberal Free Democrats, that Europe would not have total sharing of debt “as long as I live."

         To actually start talking about her personal mortality, to say "over my dead body" that shows the Germans still have just a few reservations. Still it's significant that such things are actually being proposed. There's no longer any doubt that the rest of the EU is moving away from Germany.

         Indeed, this is why an editorial in today's NY Times suggested Germany leave the euro so as to save it!

         "A better, bolder and, until now, almost inconceivable solution is for Germany to reintroduce the mark, which would cause the euro to immediately decline in value. Such a devaluation would give troubled economies, especially those of Greece, Italy and Spain, the financial flexibility they need to stabilize themselves."

         "Although repeated currency devaluations are not the path to prosperity, a weaker euro would give a boost in competitiveness to all members of the monetary union, including France and the Netherlands, which is why they might very well choose to remain in it even if Germany were to gradually leave. A resurgence of manufacturing would also allow the vast unemployment rolls of Spain, Portugal, Greece and other countries to begin to decline. The tremendous loss of human capital and human dignity we are witnessing would ease."

         Give the writers credit at least for originality-usually the argument is that Greece should leave.

         "While most observers, including German policy makers, believe Germany will do what is necessary to save the euro, it is more important to save the European Union, which is older, larger and more significant than the euro zone. Continuing on the current trajectory will most likely entail more bailouts, more guarantees and ultimately dramatic sovereign defaults or enormous fiscal transfers. That would mean a continued loss of human capital and dignity for southern Europe and a nightmare of an open-ended commitment of trillions of euros on the part of Germany."

           What is out of the question is that Germany is losing control of the narrative in Europe:

           "Still, it ratchets up the pressure further on Ms. Merkel. On Friday, the three leaders of the next-largest economies in the euro zone — François Hollande of France, Mario Monti of Italy and Mariano Rajoy of Spain — pressed her hard to agree to collective debt and European-wide banking supervision and deposit insurance to ease market pressure on Spain and Italy. She was also pressed to change the rules to allow bailout funds to operate like banks and purchase the sovereign debt of Italy and Spain without conditions."      

           "Her answer then was blunt: that solidarity was possible only with serious controls and collective oversight, and that “we have existing treaties and they must be respected.” Pooling of debt could come only with pooling of sovereignty and responsibility, she said."

          "On Monday, Ms. Merkel was even sterner, dismissing “euro bonds, euro bills and European deposit insurance with joint liability and much more” as “economically wrong and counterproductive,” besides violating German law."
           “It’s not a bold prediction to say that in Brussels most eyes — all eyes — will be on Germany yet again,” said Ms. Merkel, who is known for saying what she thinks. “I say quite openly: When I think of the summit on Thursday, I’m concerned that once again the discussion will be far too much about all kinds of ideas for joint liability and far too little about improved oversight and structural measures.”

           "Germany may be fighting a losing battle, given how quickly the markets could turn on Italy and even France. Ms. Merkel, who seems so strong when seen from abroad, has been weakened in recent months, struggling to get her Parliament to vote by the necessary three-fifths majority to approve a permanent bailout fund, known as the European Stability Mechanism, even when it is packaged with a fiscal discipline treaty she has pushed. That vote is expected to come on Friday night, when she returns from Brussels, so she must be seen, especially by the Free Democrats, to put up a strong defense of Germany’s position."

           Just yesterday I was talking about how this would be the moment for Keynes-he would know what to do. Hopefully something like what happened in his negotiation with the US Treasury in the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement happens soon. Then the US and Britian had quite dismilar interests and yet were able to put together a international monetary system that even now on balance is probably the most successful in economic history yet.

         For why I say it's the most successful please click below

You Mean Obama's Bain Capital Attacks are Working?

      How can that be? How is it that nothing ever works out for the GOP? They thought their War on Religious Liberty canard would have legs-and it did for Obama and the Democrats. Check the gender gap.

      Then there was the war on Hispanic immigrants, but now that's turned against them as well as Romney has condemned himself to fewer Hispanic votes than McCain got in 2008-and he only got 31%. Turns out there can even be a backlash against bigotry.

      But they really thought they were sitting in the catbird seat on Bain. They seemed to be able to have their cake and eat it too here more than anywhere-on the one hand Romney was making his Bain experience the centerpiece of his campaign as giving him some almost oracular "understanding of the economy, yet Obama got criticized for talking too much about Bain. Obama got knocked by Cory Booker for making an issue about Bain, going so far as to declare Obama's knocking Romney on Bain as "nauseating."

      Then Clinton declared that the work Romney did at Bain was "good work" he had a "sterling business career" and that he "more than met the qualifications threshold to be President."

       Yet he didn't understand why after this Rush Limbaugh was running around declaring that he has endorsed Romney.

       With all the Dems turning on Obama clearly the President's campaign had goofed and needed to take a new tact-right? Yet the campaign ignored it all and doubled down in questioning Romney's Bain experience. And lo and behold it's not hurting Obama nearly as much as the Repugs and Dinos said it would. In fact it looks like it's actually helping:

       "While Mitt Romney is polling pretty close to President Obama nationally, the president has a wider lead in swing states, and the findings suggest TV ads are making a difference. Plus, Obama's new immigration policy doubles his lead among Florida Latino voters. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter."

       "NBC's Mark Murray breaks down a key part of the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing an essentially unchanged presidential race, with 47 percent of registered voters favoring President Obama and 44 percent favoring Mitt Romney:

       "Among swing-state respondents in the poll – those living in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin – Obama leads Romney, 50 to 42 percent."
      "Also in these swing states, Romney’s favorability numbers have dropped, possibly reflecting the toll the negative Obama TV advertisements are having on the former Massachusetts governor in these battlegrounds.

       "on a national basis Romney's business record is seen as a positive by 23 percent of registered voters and as a negative by 28 percent. But in the swing states, it's 18 percent positive to 33 percent negative. That may partly be a result of demographics and regional differences, but it's also reflects the fact that voters in swing states are getting exposed to more information about Romney's business record, both through local media coverage and television advertising."

      It's still mind boggling how Clinton didn't see why his comments were barking up the wrong tree if he really does want to help the President's re-election and not doing what the clueless are claiming-that he's trying to hurt Obama's re-election to give his wife a better chance in 2016.

      Again, as Romney evidently sees his Bain experience as the centerpiece of his campaign rather than his time as Governor of Massachusetts if one wants to make the case that he's not so qualified to be President-which is what an election is about, making the case that you're better qualifed than the other guy-then you have to be able to knock Bain at least questioning the idea that this makes him a born economic steward. Obama was right to ignore Clinton, Booker, et al, as noise.