In a blog post entitled “’Double-Counting’ Canard Quacks Again,” Paul Van de Water, a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote the following, arguing against the criticism that there is double-counting in the dual claims that Obamacare both reduces the federal budget and helps the medicare trust fund:
[Obamacare critic Charles] Blahous claims the Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimate for the health reform law “double-counts” a considerable portion of the law’s Medicare savings. By subtracting these savings, Blahous asserts that — contrary to CBO — health reform increases the deficit.
But there’s no double-counting involved in recognizing that Medicare savings improve the status of both the federal budget and the Medicare trust funds. The outlooks for the budget and for the Medicare trust funds are two different things; some changes in law may affect one and not the other, but other changes affect both.
CBO estimates that health reform will modestly reduce the federal budget deficit. The Medicare actuary says that health reform will extend the solvency of the Hospital Insurance trust fund by eight years.
That’s no different than when a baseball player hits a home run: it adds to his team’s score and also improves his batting average. Neither situation involves double-counting.
[then Van de Water gets into how the CBO scoring of the Obamacare -- which is what led to accusations of double-counting -- is consistent with historical CBO scoring. This is an issue that is totally irrelevant to whether there is double-counting, and a hint that Van de Water is trying to deflect attention from his core argument.]
Bad analogy. The batting average improvement and the team’s score increase are distinct benefits, and the total utility from the sum of the 2 benefits is greater than the utility from either one individually. The suggestion that the 2 claims about Obamacare should be regarded as describing separate benefits, and by implication that the total utility is greater than the utility of either one individually, does not seem true at all.
It’s as if I tried to trumpet my decision to start taking the subway rather than a taxi to work every day (except Fridays, when I’ll keep taking taxis) by saying “My decision benefits me in 2 ways! My taxi slush fund will have an extended solvency, and in addition, my personal spending will be reduced!” This is clearly double-counting. Switching a Medicare trust fund for a taxi slush fund, and switching the U.S. government’s budget for mine does not make it any less so.
h/t Ezra Klein
On the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case:
“There’s a huge chance that this is not Zimmerman’s voice,” said Primeau, a longtime audio engineer who is listed as an expert in recorded evidence by the American College of Forensic Examiners International. “As a matter of fact, after 28 years of doing this, I would put my reputation on the line and say this is not George Zimmerman screaming.”
Owen, a forensic audio analyst who is also chairman emeritus of the American Board of Recorded Evidence, also said that he does not believe the screams come from Zimmerman.
Software frequently used to analyze voices in legal cases shows a 48% likelihood that the voice is Zimmerman’s. At least 60% is necessary to feel confident that two samples are from the same source, he said Monday on CNN. That means it’s unlikely the screams came from Zimmerman, Owen said.
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From the NYT:
Mr. Obama said that the compromise would take the Catholic institutions out of the equation by relieving them from either paying for coverage for contraceptives or providing any referral to their employees for the coverage. Instead, insurance companies would be required to pay for the contraceptives, and to arrange it. The insurers will agree, the White House said, because it is more expensive for them to pay for pregnancies than to pay for contraceptives.
If “the insurers will agree,” what is the point of the law? Wouldn’t they already be giving out free contraceptives if doing so reduced their costs? The Obama administration is saying: we are forcing insurers to take action X. They will happily oblige, because it is in their best interest anyway. This is paternalism, but it is an especially weird form of paternalism where the party being condescended to is actually said to fully understand the benefit of acting in accordance with the will of the paternalistic party. So the implication is that the party being condescended to (the insurance companies) are being completely irrational, since they refuse to act in (what they correctly understand to be) their own best interest unless forced to. Or am I missing something?
Defend this idiotic article from (your favorite writer) Lee Siegel:
But in backing up its claim that the Pentagon research budget has “a remarkable record of success,” the Times provides evidence such as this: “The Navy, which started budgeting for research in 1946, counts 59 eventual Nobel laureates among the recipients of its financing.”
Nobel laureates were getting cranked out at exactly the same rate before 1946 as after. So weren’t we taxpayers getting a better deal before 1946, when they did their Nobel-worthy work without our help?
Wimbledon champions have been generated at a constant rate too. Does that mean that Roger Federer’s father’s paying for his son’s tennis lessons has contributed nothing to professional tennis?
I bet Rick Santorum will win (posted before the caucuses start).
It has been a long time since I’ve enjoyed being proven wrong as much as I did in the comments section of this blog post about genetics (& Kobe Bryant) by Razib Khan. And since a belief I held so firmly (although briefly) was proven wrong (in my opinion):
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MetroChange is a proposal for a kiosk that will allow MTA riders to donate the pesky leftover funds on their Metrocards to charity. NYU students Stephan Boltalin, Genevieve Hoffman, and Paul May have imagined a friendly, easy-to-use machine that invites New Yorkers to swipe their Metrocards, press a button, donate their chump change MTA credits, and feel the love of their own big hearts. A thin metal slot will even take used Metrocards off your hands for recycling, so you won’t have to Frisbee them into the tracks later. … One major hurdle is the fact that the credits on Metrocards are already part of the MTA economy, though their value belongs to MTA riders. The proposal hopes that the MTA can either match the value of rogue funds and donate the amount to charity, or that another institution can take on the same endeavor.
(from here, as quoted by Andrew Sullivan)
“One major hurdle”??? More accurately, this is the factor that shows how this idea, which may seem at first to be a way of diverting money which otherwise would be “wasted” to a good use, is actually just a plan to take money from subway riders and taxpayers (or to convince some rich person that it is a good idea to base his charity donation amounts on the totally random fact of how much people happened to overpay for metrocards in a given month).
Subway riders prepay for their subway cards, and often end up with unusable credit. The proposal is basically to allow a customer the ability to fine the MTA by the amount equal to is prepayment, and then divert the fine to a charity.
This is no more legitimate or ingenious than trying to convince Time Warner Cable to donate a bunch of money to charity since I didn’t watch nearly enough TV last month to justify the $100 bill I got for it (one difference is that the MTA has a $900m annual deficit).
Here is an AP article published on NYTimes.com which makes no sense. How could the ruling out of one possible error in a science experiment which seemed to indicate that Einstein was wrong “shr[i]nk” the odds that Einstein was wrong?:
CERN Excludes 1 Error in Faster-Than-Light Finding
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GENEVA (AP) — The odds have shrunk that Einstein was wrong about a fundamental law of the Universe.
Scientists at the world’s biggest physics lab said Friday they have ruled out one possible error that could have distorted startling measurements appearing to show particles traveling faster than light.
Many physicists reacted with skepticism in September when measurements by French and Italian researchers seemed to show subatomic neutrino particles breaking what Einstein considered the ultimate speed barrier.