Madeleine Peyroux’s Careless Love

Madeleine PeyrouxI’m out of town today, so I didn’t have time for the usual five posts yesterday or really even today So let’s just end the evening with a little Madeleine Peyroux. There isn’t a lot to say about her except that I love her stuff. When I first heard one of her songs, I thought it was a Billie Holiday song I hadn’t heard. She does sound like Holiday a lot of the time.

More recently, she seems to have tried to get a little away from that. But on her second album, Careless Love, she still sounded a lot like Holiday. This is the title track, “Careless Love”:

The Medicaid Expansion is Just Good Economics

Michael HiltzikMichael Hiltzik reads the Kaiser Family Foundation reports so we don’t have to, A New Sign That Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Will Cost States Money. And as the title indicates this one is a doozy. But it ain’t surprising. It turns out that those states who have not accepted the Medicaid expansion are seeing their total state expenditures go up much faster next year than this year. But in states that did expand Medicaid, the rate of increase will go down.

Let me unpack this. Medicaid exists in every state in the union. Just under normal circumstances, there are more people born and so total enrollment expands. What’s more, medical inflation is still higher than overall inflation. (Obamacare is helping to slow that.) So these two factors cause state Medicaid costs to increase each year. But there is also an increase in the number of eligible people who are participating in the program. This has caused the overall increase of state spending from year to year to go down from 6.6% in 2014 to 4.4% in 2015. So the state expenditures in the states that expanded Medicaid are still growing, but the rate is decreasing.

In the states that did not expand Medicaid, the situation is much worse. The state spending from year to year has gone up from 6.1% in 2014 to 6.8% in 2015. And this is despite the fact that these states are not, you know, expanding Medicaid to the working poor. They are putting increasing pressure on their state budgets and all they get for it is that warm feeling that that they are sticking it to Obama.

Here are Figures 2 and 3 from the report combined by me to make for clearer viewing:

Medicaid Expansion Comparison

In addition to this, states will be saving money on things like providing care in prisons and in programs to reimburse hospitals for unpaid care. Hiltzik lays it out:

These findings mock the claims of expansion obstructionists — all Republicans — that they’re being fiscally responsible by opting out of the Medicaid expansion. Since the federal government is picking up the tab, taxpayers in those states aren’t evading the costs — they’re just paying via their federal taxes for Medicaid in states other than their own.

One thing Hiltzik doesn’t go into is the pure economics of this (although he has in the past). This is just a question of the federal government giving the states free money. To a first approximation, the states are just getting back money that their people have already paid in taxes. So this whole Republican hissy fit makes no sense. In addition to reducing the costs of the government, it is also a stimulus program for the state economy. The extra money going into the state will create jobs.

The truth is, what the Republicans are doing is totally bizarre. It is something that goes against any idea of rational actors. These Republican state legislators and governors are directly hurting themselves, the people they represent, and their state. And it is all done for what? To send a message to the federal government? As Hiltzik noted, “The last holdouts look increasingly foolish.” And that’s saying something, given how foolish they already looked.

We Are Overreacting to Ebola

Sam WangThe amount of Ebola coverage is amazing: 1,869 stories from October 20 to 24 alone. That coverage came on the heels of the death of one patient in Dallas, Texas. The level of coverage is amazing considering the far greater impact of other infectious diseases in the United States: rotavirus, which kills dozens of small children every year; West Nile virus, a similar number of adults; and of course influenza, which kills thousands even in years when there is no epidemic.

Ebola appeals to our fears: the disease is grisly. It is a serious threat with tremendous public health implications — in western Africa. That is the reason for sending relief workers overseas — fighting it there so we don’t have to fight it over here. Unfortunately, popular intuitions about it are often wrong. Many people seem unaware that asymptomatic individuals are not contagious, and the disease is not transmitted by airborne means. It is unfortunate that more coverage does not focus on evidence-based information…

—Sam Wang
Overreacting to Ebola?

Germany Should Exit the Eurozone

Dean BakerDean Baker made a brilliant observation, Germany Leaves the Euro Zone, and the Problem Is? This goes along with my general theory that there really is something wrong with the German people. And I say this having once had a wonderful time in Germany. Hell of a place and hell of a people. But that’s if you are drinking with them. If you are on the outside, well, let’s just say that they are not the most empathic of people.

Throughout the crisis in the European Union over the past six years, Germany has behaved atrociously. The whole time, they have told themselves a narrative that is both self-congratulatory about their own success and dismissive of the pain of others. In this narrative, Germany is doing well because of their strong work ethic and fiscal rectitude. The countries of southern Europe are suffering because they are lazy and were fiscally profligate before. That’s just not true in either case. In fact, people in southern Europe generally work more than Germans. And other than Greece (Really: how long are conservatives going to continue to reduce everything to Greece?!) the other European governments did not misbehave.

Because Germany is the largest economy involved with the Euro, the strength of the Euro is pretty much dictated by Germany. In order for the other countries to recover from the current economic stagnation, Germany needs to allow itself a little inflation: let wages go up! But instead, Germany has kept wages artificially low both before the crisis and since. What this means is that German exports continue to be overly competitive compared to exports from, say, Spain. I could accept that better if Germany didn’t pretend that this situation was great and if everyone just acted more German everything would be fine.

Really, I don’t want to overstate this. But it seems to me that Germany is bullying Europe very much as they have in the past. It is just that now they are doing it economically instead of with tanks. There is even the same kind of ideology present: Deutschland über alles! That’s not in the sense of Germany destroying all others. But it is in the sense of Germany thinking it is better than everyone else. I’ve seen this same kind of repugnant attitude in myself, “Why isn’t everyone as smart as I am? Why isn’t everyone as thin as I am? Why isn’t everyone as whatever as I am?!” Generally, if it is even true (and it isn’t for Germany or me), it is due to things we have no control over and shouldn’t be something that we take pride in.

Right now, Germany takes pride in its fiscal rectitude, but its effect is to harm the rest of the Eurozone. Matt O’Brien was discussing how maybe the European Central Bank (ECB) could do some quantitative easing, even though it is outside its charter. He noted that this might cause Germany to leave the Euro. And Baker’s response was, “So what?” As it is, Germany gets a great advantage pegging the Deutsche Mark to the Euro. And the rest of the countries would be better off without that.

It’s really very simple. If Germany left the Eurozone, the Deutsche Mark would go up in value relative to the Euro. This would immediately cause all the other countries in Europe to be more competitive in exports. It would create jobs. It would be great. The down side is that people who had a bunch of money stored in the Euro would see it go down in value one time. But even this would be reversed to some extent by the rebounding economy.

I think this is a great idea. A bunch of little countries leaving the Euro could be disruptive. But a single, orderly exit of Germany? It sounds like a great, pragmatic solution to the problem in Europe. Of course, Germany won’t do it. It is getting too much benefit from staying in the Eurozone and pretending like it is doing everyone else a favor.

Afterword

Let’s be clear about a few terms here. First, the European Union is the group of states that are linked politically and economically to a degree. The Eurozone is the group of European Union nations whose national currency is the euro. So, for example, the United Kingdom is in the European Union, but not in the Eurozone.

Akim Tamiroff

Akim TamiroffThe internet started on this day 45 years ago. Well, sort of. That was the day that the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) established its first network link. Circuit switching is dead; long live packet switching! Exciting stuff. I’m sure the people working on the project were very pleased. I know what it is like to get technology like that working. It doesn’t matter that you know it is theoretically possible. When everything works it is an amazing feeling. Sadly, it is not a feeling that comes along very often.

On this day in 1899, the great character actor Akim Tamiroff was born. One of the great things about being a character actor is that you get to work a lot. Tamiroff was in more than 150 movies if we are to believe IMDb. And the variety of the films is remarkable. For example, he was in Preston Sturges’s silly The Great McGinty and Jean-Luc Godard’s genre defying Alphaville. I can’t find a clip from the latter film, but her he is in a very funny scene from the former:

Mostly, I know Tamiroff from his work with Orson Welles. He was in Touch of Evil, The Trial, and even the unfinished Don Quixote as Sancho. But I remember him as the old dope pusher Jakob Zouk in Mr Arkadin — the first character to be introduced and the last to be murdered by Gregory Arkadin. Unfortunately, I can’t find a clip of that either. (Well, one dubbed in Spanish.) So here he is in Topkapi. “Are you here officially?”!

I just learned that Boris Badenov on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was inspired by Tamiroff. I can think of no greater honor. But it makes me wonder about the awful feature film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Why did they cast Jason Alexander? Everyone knows the modern Akim Tamiroff is Jon Polito!

Happy birthday Akim Tamiroff!