Monday, October 7, 2013

Real Time With Bill Maher: Counterpoints (10/4/13)

Man, there were moments during this episode where I just wanted to turn it off. The panel wasn't that good. The mid-show interview guest was absolutely terrible. And the pre-panel interview guest was a mouthpiece for the Obama Administration. That being said, there are things that must be addressed.

Ezekiel Emanuel: We need to get buy in from younger people. And they will definitely consider a catastrophic insurance plan that's cheaper than their phone bill.

The figure that Dr. Emanuel kept trotting out, the $40-50/month plans, won't exist for the majority of young people. If they're living in higher cost areas like California, New York, New Jersey, there won't be any plan available for that amount of money. Because, as Dr. Emanuel admitted, younger people are going to be subsidizing older people under the new insurance plans.

I can't give out any figures right now, because the public healthcare exchanges website is an IT nightmare (other writers have already covered the rollout), but once they sort out the mess, I'll revisit this issue. As a healthy 25 year old in Georgia (a low cost state), I'm curious to see what the most basic health plan offered by the PPACA would cost me.

The best way to entice younger people to enroll for healthcare is to deregulate the insurance market and allow all out-of-pocket costs to be tax deductible. It would also be the most efficient way for insurers and providers to compete against each other, as more companies would simply elect to stop offering their own insurance plans and simply give employees raises.

Alan Grayson and Suzy Khimm: The shutdown is actually costing the government money. With the shutdown, the government can't collect revenues on fines and taxes.

This is an extremely misleading argument (that got big applause from the audience). The IRS is still out there collecting money on behalf of Uncle Sam. Income taxes, payroll taxes, excises and duties are still being collected. The only revenues that aren't being collected are fines and settlements made by the various alphabet agencies (EPA, FCC, SEC, FTC, etc) due to the furloughs of the regulatory inspectors. According to the White House budget, these revenues total to around 25 billion dollars per year, which is less than 1% of the amount that the government takes in via taxation and fines.

The suggestion that the shutdown is costing more money than the absence of a shutdown is ridiculous. Such rhetoric should have been called out by Matt Kibbe, the tea party conservative. But alas, it was not to be.

Bill Maher: Opinion polls are facts. Let's not argue about them.

Maher was making the point that Americans are against shutting down the government in order to delay the PPACA according to the results of a few polls. And he shut down Kibbe with the "we're dealing with facts".

Can we stop treating opinion polls as facts? Especially when it deals with (relatively) Byzantine inside-the-Beltway procedures? The American public likes the PPACA but dislikes Obamacare according to some recent polling. The fact is unless you're asking voters who they are voting for, opinion polling is the absolute worst thing to cite when it comes to what the American people want.

The American people don't know what they want. Individually, they want high paying jobs, a safe neighborhood to live in, emotionally fulfilling relationships, and the next iPhone. Their opinions on public policy are fickle, based on willful ignorance, and not worth considering.

What politicians already realize is that it's the hardcore that swings votes. The irate citizen who calls his/her representative to shout at them has 100x more effect than the results of public policy polling. The silent majority can be swung either way. But it's the fanatics and obsessives that push candidates over the top.

Bill Maher 2: Why can't we save money on Afghanistan? We still spend 100 billion dollars a year on it.

Short memories and bad rhetoric. Cutting off funding for our armed forces in the middle of an active combat zone is sheer stupidity and incredibly bad politics. We're already slated for complete withdrawal in 2014. It can't be done any faster than that.

Matt Kibbe: We should probably talk about why we're asking young people to subsidize the old with Obamacare.

This is the one huge issue that's being overlooked. According to Democratic/progressive politics, public policy should not have indigent constituencies subsidizing wealthier constituencies. Since young people are mostly indigent and older people are, almost without exception, wealthier, it should outrage Democrats that the PPACA is purposely designed to subsidize older people at the expense of younger people.

But wait, some might say, what about student loans? Those definitely subsidize younger people who couldn't otherwise afford to go to college. The problem with that is that the vast majority of that subsidy is actually being captured by the colleges themselves in the form of tuition hikes (and more generous financial aid packages, which vastly increases their ability to price discriminate).

The other person could then argue that there could be yet another government solution to the problem. But in the end, we get this regulatory morass where nobody can make heads or tales of the entire situation. It reminds me of an old interview with Clarence Thomas about the pernicious effects of government regulation, counter-regulation, and compensatory regulation:
Clarence Thomas leaps from his chair. He retrieves a wire coat hanger from his closet for a demonstration -- the same demonstration he gives his law clerks. He bends it and says: "How do you compensate? So, you say well, deal with it. Bend this over here. Oh, wait a minute, bend it a little bit there. And you're saying that it throws everything out of whack. What do you do?"
He holds up a twisted wire, useless now for its original purpose and the point is made. "If you notice sometimes I will write just to point out that I think that we've gone down a track that's going to cause some distortion, then it's quite precisely because of that. I don't do things that I think are illegitimate in other areas, just to bend it back to compensate for what's already happened."

1 comment:

  1. Agree with you, it was a dismal show.

    Ran into this article today and wondered what your take on it is: