Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shorter Megan McArdle: When The Poor Get Restless, Start Pouring Oil On Troubled Waters

A few shorters. Fortunately McArdle is a sparse poster.

Tax Cuts Can't Motivate the Republican Base Anymore: Ever since the New Deal was enacted America grew steadily poorer and by the 1970s things got desperate. Taxes had risen so much since then that cutting taxes was a popular position. But taxes are lower now so we will have to do... something else.

Don't Blame Americans for Blaming China: I was wrong about Iraq, the 2008 crises, and Trump, and I was wrong about the globalization of trade.  It has hurt many workers so we need to do... something.

This post has some goodies:

Sure I was wrong but you think you're a smartie, don't you?
Yes, yes, I know: You predicted China's enormous trade surpluses with the U.S. and the disruption they would cause. But if you want to assert some amazing economic foresight, it takes a bit more than one correct prediction (I, for example, called the housing bubble in 2002, which has not made every other prediction correct). I’ll want to see some evidence, like the fabulous stock portfolio you’ve managed to assemble through your superhuman facility for predicting just how economic events will unfold.  
For people have been predicting trade disasters for decades: OPEC, Japan, Germany, just to name the most iconic. (Remember Rising Sun, the Michael Crichton Japanophobic thriller published right about when Japan was embarking upon its 20-plus year “Lost Decade”?) The rise of those new manufacturing centers did end up badly hurting individual domestic industries (steel, cars, electronics), but not “industry” overall. China was different because it brought so many workers to market so very fast -- but that was hard to foresee without having perfect foreknowledge of the course of Chinese industrial policy.
Now that globalization has gutted the American working class, we no longer need to worry about the American working class being gutted on such a big scale again.
Moreover, it’s unlikely to be repeated, unless another 1.3-billion person country can move half its countryside into the industrial core over the course of a few decades. Future trade movements will be on much smaller scales, meaning that the U.S. economy will probably be better able to handle the shock.
Sucks to be you:
Politicians know that what people want most is work and community -- not tax cuts, not welfare, not more generous government benefits. The problem is, they have no idea how to actually deliver it. Whatever mistakes we made 20 years ago, we’re stuck with them now. The problem is, that’s not really a very satisfying answer, is it? I’m not stuck with them; I have a stable job, a lovely if somewhat decrepit row home in our nation’s capital, and a marvelously cheap smartphone manufactured in China. It’s someone else who got stuck with the decisions the elites made, and all the elites can seem to offer is pretty much exactly the same policy prescriptions they were in favor of 25 years ago. I can’t blame the elites, exactly. But I can’t blame the folks who have decided they’re sick of listening to them, either.

Hey, Trump Voters: He'll Offend You Next: Silly upper-class conservatives, Trump will never give you what you want.

Beware: Wal-Mart's Raises Are Not a Victory: Wal-Mart is trying to screw over its workers again. That's what happens when liberals try to interfere with Wal-Mart screwing over its workers. And upper-class conservatives shouldn't support them; those liberals could be taking your dividends.

Health Care's Continental Divide:
Leonid Bershidsky: National Health Care works. I know, I live in Germany and use it.
Megan McArdle: The world sponges off of American drug profits for innovation so we cannot have national health care.
Leonid Bershidsky: I will explain about German's system and drug innovation and you will understand you can have national health care.
Megan McArdle: But how will we have millionaire doctors and plush hospitals? Besides, corporate takeover of the politics is so complete that we'd never get it enacted anyway.

Twit Tweets Tripe

When your self-image is based on who you think you should be instead of who you are, life gets complicated.
McArdle took on enormous debt to buy entrance into the financial industry. She failed. She can hardly deny that and does not but she did not take on that debt to become a low-paid journalist.

Not that McArdle is a low-paid journalist; she is a very high-paid journalist in a field with an extreme degree of income inequality.  She did not work her way up the ladder. All her journalism jobs have been elite jobs, despite her description of herself as a self-sacrificing public servant, who gave up "highly paid professional work" to become a low-paid writer. Perhaps she is merely defending the tribe in abstract but it is more likely, given her past history, that while she admits her long-ago failure in public, in her mind she glosses right over it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Authoritarianism is all about power because it takes a demonstration of power to force people into subservience. But authoritarians are few and the masses are massive. The authority must convince people to voluntarily submit or they would be overwhelmed.

The authority can make reasonable arguments based on mutual benefit. Since the benefit is seldom mutual that can be a problem. It can bribe or simply hire but that can be expensive. It is cheaper, easier, and often more effective to lie.

Lies are a valuable commodity because lies are power.  If you can get away with lying to someone you have demonstrated that they have no power over you and you have demonstrated that you have power over them because you can force them to accept your lies, live by your reality, and be controlled for your personal profit.

Lies are emotionally satisfying for some people, for the same reason. When they get away with lying they are demonstrating their personal power, they feel superior to the lower orders, and they might benefit financially.

Some people don't like lies. Lies are the tools of hypocrites and bullies. Harmless little lies smooth over potential unnecessary conflict but harmful lies are used to make power grabs.Ted Cruz is a liar for personal and political gain. His voters are okay with that. They are authoritarian as well which means they trade submission to lies for a sense of security, purpose and meaning, embodied in Ted Cruz.

Trace the long arc of the Christian conservative movement in America, and you can detect an abiding optimism about the possibility that other people might be persuaded. That optimism is the blood of all evangelism, of the personal project of turning individuals toward God, but it also runs through the organization of religious politics and the creation of Christian cultural projects: change enough hearts, they say, and the world will change.

This analysis belongs to James Davison Hunter, a sociologist and social theorist at the University of Virginia who has often focussed on evangelicalism in America, and who popularized the term “Culture Wars” with his 1991 book of that name. I called Hunter this week to ask what sense he made of the Cruz phenomenon, and he said he believed it reflected a basic turn in the evangelical perspective. “As a rhetorical matter, they’ve given up on this notion that they represent a ‘moral majority,’ ” he said. “They’ve given up on the possibility of persuasion.”
They've turned to naked power grabs and that means lying, because that's all they have left. His followers say Cruz's lies are either not lies, are irrelevant, prove his power, or fit with his followers' preconceived ideas. Naturally there will be overlap among Trump and Cruz's followers and Trump's message has proven more popular than Cruz's. While Trump is saying that he is a winner and will make all Americans winners as well, Cruz is saying he is being victimized and so is everyone else.

Donald Trump lies to be envied and admired. His lies are grandiose boasts and promises. Cruz's lies are formulaic recitations of talking points.  His lies are only meant to sound more conservative than anyone else and make him more likely to win than anyone else.

Anything Goes

Ted Cruz lied about Obamacare because why the hell not? Trump lies all the time and everyone loves it. Surely the world would love Cruz's lies as well!  From the Politico article:
Ted Cruz revealed on Thursday that he is not currently covered by any health insurance, chalking up the lack of coverage to Obamacare. 
"I’ll tell you, you know who one of those millions of Americans is who’s lost their health care because of Obamacare? That would be me," Cruz told a Manchester, New Hampshire, audience. "I don’t have health care right now."
He lied. He was covered. It was a moronic lie; it would be and was discovered immediately. Cruz obviously believed that lying about Obamacare would help his career because it always had. Cruz decided to go for broke.
Cruz explained that he had purchased an individual policy and that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas had canceled all of its individual policies in Texas, effective Dec. 31. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, who is on temporary leave from her job with Goldman Sachs, purchased an individual plan last year after previously receiving coverage through the Wall Street firm. A spokeswoman for Cruz's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment to clarify his remarks.
I too have a BCBS of Texas individual policy through the marketplace. BCBS switched to all-HMO in the marketplace but still has individual policies, as my new monthly bill, health cards and benefits book prove.
"So our health care got canceled, we got a notice in the mail, Blue Cross Blue Shield was leaving the market. And so we’re in the process of finding another policy," Cruz said. "I hope by the end of the month we’ll have a policy for our family. But our premiums — we just got a quote, our premiums are going up 50 percent. That’s happening all over the country. That’s happening in New Hampshire."
His old policy was cancelled. He must have received several notices in the mail that informed him his plan was ending, told him to sign up for a new one when the enrollment period opened if he so desired, and told him he could also elect to do nothing and let BCBSTX automatically enroll him in a new plan . Those notices also told him BCBS is still in the individual market, of course. I received the same notices. Perhaps BCBSTX was just messing with Cruz and decided to take his money and do nothing in return, but it is more probable that he received the same information in the mail as everyone else.

I happen to have some of those letters right here. One is dated September 25, 2015. It says my plan will be discontinued but I can enroll in another during Open Enrollment in November. They end the letter with: "Nothing is more important than your health. And our goal is to help you and your family live health and stay healthy in 2016. Watch your mail for more details. The, make your choice during the Open Enrollment period to be sure there's no gap in your coverage. We'll be standing by, ready to help you. every step of the way."

The bastards! More lies:
It would appear that news of the cancellation did not go over well in the Cruz household.

"By the way, when you let your health insurance policy lapse, your wife gets really ticked at you," he remarked. "It's not a good-I've had, shall we say, some intense conversations with Heidi on that."
Lying is all in the details, evidently. But what else can he say--it's not good family values to let your little girls' health insurance lapse and no wife would stand for it, especially right after she gave up her own valuable insurance. Lies must be compounded upon lies. The Politico article went on to point out Cruz was lying. 

Sadly, that was not the end of lies from the Cruz camp. Liars need scapegoats so Cruz blamed his insurance broker. From The Wall Street Journal:
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said Friday that Mr. Cruz’s insurance broker had told him that he lost his health coverage when his Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas preferred provider organization, or PPO, policy terminated on Dec. 31.

But Mr. Cruz had in fact been automatically enrolled by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas in another, narrower-network “health maintenance organization” plan that kept him covered in January. As we reported earlier, when we explained the headache on Friday, that’s what the insurer said it did for all customers in his situation — even if Mr. Cruz didn’t know it.
We received a letter dated October 20, 2015, notifying us of the automatic enrollment as well. It said: "Your NEW health plan will begin on January 1, 2016. The new [...] plan that we have selected for you will be effective on January 1, 2016 to ensure that you do not have a gap in coverage. If you continue to pay your monthly premium on time, your coverage will continue.

Meanwhile back at the campaign, the lies continue. As the candidate goes, so goes the campaign.
In a reversal, the Cruz campaign now says that Ted Cruz's family actually had insurance all along. Although their initial PPO plan did lapse, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas automatically enrolled them in another plan -- known as a "health maintenance organization” plan -- to keep them covered. Cruz just didn't realize it. Even though the family does have some type of coverage, Cruz still plans on shopping around for a new plan that's closer to the old one his family had.
And some more.
Based on the information from his insurance broker, “Sen. Cruz believed the family was uninsured and asked the broker to pull quotes immediately for a new policy,” Ms. Frazier said. “The Cruz family is currently covered by a Blue Cross HMO.”

Not for long, though. Mr. Cruz recently arranged to get a new policy that is closer to the kind of coverage he had before, and will be a Humana enrollee effective March 1 in one of their wider-network PPO plans. That’s what will cost him around 50% more than he was paying in 2015, Ms. Frazier said.
That's a very incompetent broker. He told Cruz that he and his wife and daughters didn't have health insurance because their policies were cancelled-which would mean that he risked the Cruzes' financial well-being-but if the broker knew the policies were cancelled he was receiving information on their account and knew that their policy was being replaced automatically.

All the while the Cruzes did have health insurance. He told the Cruzes that their policy was cancelled for no reason and told them to sign up for a new policy for no reason. For no reason, he did not tell them their plan was rolling into a new one, that the new plan was an HMO, and that they needed to pick a new plan if they didn't want the automatic one.

That might be the most thorough example of chucking someone under a bus that I have ever seen.

No matter how it was done, going from a Goldman, Sachs gold-plated plan to being stuck in the same humble HMO as his constituents would never do. Yet Cruz also wants to make an anti-government point.
Cruz and his family were previously covered under a blue chip employer plan offered by Goldman Sachs, where his wife Heidi worked before going on unpaid leave in March to help with the campaign.

As a U.S. senator, Cruz also has the option to get coverage through the Washington, D.C.-exchange, where he would also be eligible for a subsidy up to 75 percent from his government employer, as [Michael A.] Hiltzik also noted.

"Cruz is still eligible for the government’s employer subsidy of up to 75% of his health insurance premium," Hiltzik wrote. "He has said he wouldn’t accept the employer share, which makes his complaint about his cost of insurance just a teeny bit more dishonest because he’s the one driving up his own premium."
I doubt Heidi turned down her employer subsidy. If they can hold on for a while she can go back to private work and all will be well.

Will anyone care that Cruz is a lying liar? More on that later.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Elite Vs The Elite

A quick McArdle, even though posting in haste usually means repenting in leisure.

"Academia" has a problem. It is hopelessly bigoted against fundamentalists. (Conflict of interest note: Megan McArdle is married to an "ex-fundamentalist" and one assumes her parents-in-law are/were fundamentalists.) 

How do we know this? An elite college turned up its noses at a PhD candidate from a fundamentalist college. Thus is all of "academia" condemned!
What happened on that committee is bigotry, plain and simple. And it's not just a problem for conservative Christians, and people seen as conservative Christians. It’s a problem for academia. 
But can a creationist really become an academic, you may want to ask. Note that the student was a candidate for the linguistics department, where your views on evolution probably have minimal effect on your work. I’ve seen some folks argue that biblical literalism is also inimical to linguistics if people take the Tower of Babel as an accurate description of language evolution. Fair enough. But the evaluators have no idea whether this candidate is a biblical literalist. It is possible to attend such schools without being a young earth creationist, and possible to change your mind during your time there, or after you graduate. Effectively, some on the committee argued that this girl had a strike against her not even because she is a conservative Christian, but because her parents (most likely) are. 
Are graduates of those schools more likely to be young earth creationists who think that secular academics which conflict with their reading of the Bible are bunk? Yes. But the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue. (Lee Jussim has done a lot of work showing that stereotypes are often quite accurate.) The problem with stereotypes is that people use them instead of other, better information. Women are, on average, less likely to be interested in science, technology, engineering and math. That wouldn’t make it a good policy for a STEM program to discard the applications of all women, on the grounds that most women don’t want to be engineers. 
To be sure, they did pass her application on to the second round -- but what are the odds that the attitudes of the first-round reviewers did not infect the decisions that were made later?
Your education background is just like your race and sex--they should never be a factor in admittance to elite graduate programs. And the fact that McArdle benefited from the practice of elite favoritism towards elite programs means nothing. Sure, she went from P.S. Whatever to an elite private school when her father became more wealthy. And that prep school, not her lackluster grades, got her into Penn, where Penn, not her lackluster college grades, got her into an MBA program.

But Penn should have taken her even if she was home schooled and had lackluster grades! And the University of Chicago's elite MBA program should take any Liberty  U or Our Lady of the Sorrows graduate! Those elite colleges are so elite it's just bigotry!
This is exactly the sort of bigotry against conservatives and the religious that I have been assured doesn’t happen, when in the past I have written about liberal bias in academia. Well, maybe it isn't spoken out loud every time, or it is communicated in a more subtle code. As with other forms of bigotry, what is most troubling is not the conversation, but the depressing certainty that so many similar conversations didn’t even happen, because everyone in the room understood what to do without needing to discuss it.
They're all thinking about you and talking about you behind your back! Paranoia isn't just for ranchers and the militiamen, you know. Everyone looks down on conservatives and laughs at them! It's true, as my anecdote proves!

McArdle warns liberals that because of liberal bigotry, liberals don't hear contrasting views and their arguments will be weak. Because of liberal bigotry, conservatives are becoming increasingly bitter, since liberals won't talk to them, and will refuse to pay taxes that support universities.
In the long run, no one is served by an academy that becomes the exclusive province of half the political spectrum. Unfortunately, the bigger the skew, the harder it is for people inside to even recognize the problem, much less agree to fix it.
And in the short run, McArdle's elite status is being damaged by her connection to the Koch brothers.
In fact, the conversation I'm alluding to concerned a young woman who was home-schooled before attending a small Christian college, which the reviewers of her application dismissed as a place of “right-wing religious fundamentalists” that was “supported by the Koch brothers.”  
 Full disclosure: My husband works for Reason magazine, which has received some funding from one of the Koch brothers, and before we were married, he had a one-year fellowship with the Charles Koch Foundation.
Everything is the liberals' fault because they are bigoted against conservatives. The conservatives who want to get paid to demean elite education while spending their youth striving for an elite education, or take advantage of elite status while decrying elite status, are their innocent victims.