Posts tagged ‘Alan Reynolds’

Why Obamacare 2.0 is Like Cap-and-Trade

This was the trick behind cap-and-trade: Politicians know that the only real way to reduce energy usage is to raise its price much higher.  They also know that doing so would lose them their jobs, so instead of passing a simple carbon tax, they created a cap-and-trade system that would force private companies to be the bad guys.  They then try to hide this basic fact with a lot of distracting arm-waving about green jobs and wind power.

The new Obama health proposal, which looks a heck of a lot like the old Obama health proposal (same basic features, same lack of detail) plays a similar game.  Do you remember all that Obama talk about mysterious brilliant ways to reduce health care costs?  Where did they all go?  It turns out that the only real idea they had for reducing health care costs was to deny people care.  They just try to hide this with a lot of distracting arm-waving about gold-plated insurance and electronic medical records.

This denial of service is unpopular.  In fact, it is a great (and sad) irony that Obama is trying to harness anger at insurance companies that is caused mainly by denial of coverage for certain procedures with a system that will deny coverage for even more procedures.  Just like carbon taxes, Obama has fixed on a scheme where once again he sets up private enterprises to be the bad guys to give himself some sort of quasi-plausible deniability.  Obama is proposing artificial price caps on insurance premiums.  The inevitable result:

For example, as I have written elsewhere, artificially limiting premium growth allows the government to curtail spending while leaving the dirty work of withholding medical care to private insurers: "Premium caps, which Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is currently threatening to impose, force private insurers to manage care more tightly "” i.e., to deny coverage for more services."  No doubt the Obama administration would lay the blame for coverage denials on private insurers and claim that such denials demonstrate the need for a so-called "public option."

Alan Reynolds has more.  And Peter Suderman.   And Phillip Klein points to an interesting anti-progressive angle:

Like the Senate bill, Obama's proposal doesn't include a strict employer mandate, but it does penalize businesses who do not offer insurance to workers who then get their insurance through the exchange. The Obama proposal provides more subsidies to small businesses, and helps mid-sized businesses by exempting the first 30 workers when calculating the tax, but large employers who do not offer coverage would face higher penalties under the Obama proposal. In the end, the tax will make it more expensive for large employers to hire lower income workers (who qualify for government subsidies), and thus exacerbate unemployment.

My read is that this all takes a hodge-podge mess and, uh, makes it even  hodgier-podgier.

By the way, my take is that there is only one health care cost reduction proposal worth talking about, and that is making individuals more responsible for their own health care costs, not less, thus creating incentives to do the thing we do for every other purchase we make:  shop around.

New Data in the Inequality Debate

I have long suspected that there are substantial problems in the income data that folks on the sky-is-falling side of the inequality and risk debate are using.  One point I have made several times is that rising entrepreneurship tends to void many of the conclusions made by these folks who are commenting from an "everyone is an office or factory worker" paradigm.  In particular:

  • Entrepreneurs have much riskier income profiles.  To a statistician mining tax returns, I look like I have fallen from a good upper middle-class job into, well, poverty for the first two years of my new company.  I haven't, but my data point is being used by Jacob Hacker and others to say that somehow there is a great risk-shift that is being foisted on the middle class against their will.  In fact, I and the growing number of people who run their own small businesses choose this life.
  • The introduction of the "S-corporation" means that an increasing amount of entrepeneurial income is showing up on 1040's.  With C corporations, the incentive was to delay taking any income from the company for as long as possible to avoid double taxation, preferably taking it at time of the company's sale.  With S-Corporations, there is no double taxation problem so corporate income flows through to the individual 1040.  Business owners are suddenly reporting more income not because they are making more, but because they are recognizing it in a different way in a different tax form.  Much of the rich getting richer is actually just the rich recognizing their corporate income in small businesses in a different way.

Much more here from Chris Edwards at Cato, reporting on an interesting report coming soon from Alan Reynolds.