2:00PM Water Cooler 8/4/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


List of traitors in House and Senate, with phone numbers. Hat tip, reader Vatch. Be sure to visit them when they return to the district this week. If a traitor is mentioned in Water Cooler, their name is in bold.

“In the U.S., current and former officials concede that it is now unlikely the TPP can be completed and voted on in Congress this year as the Obama administration hoped” [Wall Street Journal, “Election Cycles Cloud Future of Trade Talks”]. Of course, this is a war, so you can be sure the powers that be are gearing up for the next campaign. And that also shows why every delay was good in June and July.

“Today’s fourth ‘final’ TPP ministerial without a deal means the clock has run on possible U.S. congressional votes in 2015” [Eyes on Trade]. TPP is coming off the front burner.

TTiP: “‘We will do everything we can to try to finalize during 2016. That’s the optimistic scenario we’re working on, but it’s possible,’ [EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom] told reporters.” Europe takes the month of August off, however. And the United States will be thinking about other things in 2016.

TTiP: “[C]ritics argue that if TTIP involves, as the EU hopes, a commitment that would guarantee automatic licences for all future US crude oil and gas exports to Europe, that would result in a boom in US fracking to keep Europeans powered with shale gas, not to mention greater exploitation of oil from Canadian tar sands” [Guardian]. Yikes! Good read, though I think they over-egged with British humor, no doubt to make it accessible. (On the right, Breitbart seems to be paying attention, too.)

TTiP and ISDS: “When it dared to halt the production of a gold mine, the government of Romania found itself facing a massive lawsuit from a corporate mining giant in a secret ‘court’. There’s nothing about the case that makes any sense – the corporation has said it may seek up to $4 billion in ‘compensation’, which is half of Romania’s annual public healthcare budget. under a controversial trade deal between the UK and America known as TTIP, such cases could become common in Britain” [Independent].

Fast Track: “If the TPP fails to include a meaningful currency provision, the pact could be subject to a disapproval resolution stripping away its “fast track” protections, making it open for amendment and subject to filibuster in the Senate. Ohio Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, have been out front in calling for enforceable currency rules, as have Democratic lawmakers from Michigan such as Rep. Sander Levin and Sen. Debbie Stabenow” [Politico].


Readers, I need a really good campaign travel tracker. At the National Journal, nobody told the JavaScript dude to consider UX. Any suggestions?


“Super-PACs and 527s, outside groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money to help candidates as long they don’t coordinate, have been relatively quiet thus far, spending only about $23 million of the $261 million they raised in the first half of the year. That left plenty of powder in the keg” [Bloomberg].

“Last week, the main super-PAC backing Kasich’s candidacy announced it raised more than $11 million, tapping into a surprisingly deep well of influential Ohioans for a haul that puts him squarely in the middle of a well-funded pack of GOP candidates” [The Hill]. And he got a bump in the polls.

The Trail

Walker keeps getting p0wned, doens’t he? First, there’s the prank call from Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast, posing as squillionaire David Koch. Now there’s this:

More like this, and I’m going to have to worry about Walker’s staff, who should have prevented this, and put him in the Clown Car. (Trump also took a lot of Walker’s oxygen and voters; see FOX polling charts here.)

“Gov. Scott Walker has two credit-card debts of more than $10,000 apiece on separate cards and is paying an eye-popping 27.24 percent interest rate on one of them, new federal financial documents disclosed on Monday show” [National Journal]. Poor sap, just like the rest of us. You’d think he’d have more compassion.

Republican debates, round I: In: Kasich, Paul, Carson, Walker, Trump, Bush, Cruz, Huckabee, Rubio, Christie. Out: Perry, Jindal, Santorum, Fiorina, Pataki, Graham [WaPo].  Presidential timber, and the pick of the litter!

I think this is the best Biden quote ever [Bloomberg]:

“I give you my word as a Biden—a serious answer,” [Biden] said. “If the Lord Almighty came down and sat at that coffee table and said, ‘I guarantee you’re the nominee if you say yes now,’ I wouldn’t say yes now. Because I don’t know what the hell four years from now, three years from now, is gonna be like. But I know one thing: I have no intention, if I feel as good and have the same mind-set I have today, of my just saying, ‘Well, you know, I put my years in, and I am proud of what I did. And now, you know, I’m going to play a lot more golf.’”

So, he gave his word. But what did he say?

Sadly diminished New Yorker helps Biden milk his son’s death for votes [New Yorker]. Anybody But Clinton, I know, I know, but still… 

NBC News poll: “In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found” [Wall Street Journal]. I suppose that’s why she’s reintroducing herself, but how many times can you do that?

Sanders’ political biography in pictures [National Journal].

Clown Car

That long-form genre pioneered by the New Yorker where the writer heads into a swamp, lured by the call of a bird believed to be extinct. And, after many pages, doesn’t find the bird. Journalists have similar trouble getting quotes from Trump [National Journal]. Personally, I don’t think voters mind this a bit.

“Harvard Lampoon tricks Trump with fake endorsement” [The Hill]. That’s two pranks in a week… Maybe #BlackLivesMatter could try p0wning Clinton?

“Call Donald Trump’s Cell Phone and Ask Him About His Important Ideas” [Gawker].

Stats Watch

Gallup Economic Confidence Index, July 2015: “July’s Economic Confidence Index averaged minus 12 in July, down from minus 8 in June and the lowest monthly average since October 2014. The drop is attributable chiefly to Americans’ increasing view that the economy is getting worse rather than better” [Bloomberg]. (“When more and more people are thrown out of work, unemployment results.” –Calvin Coolidge.) “Although upper-income Americans remain more positive than lower- and middle-income earners about the economy, the gap between the two groups narrowed in July as economic confidence among upper-income Americans was negative for the first time in 10 months.”

Factory Orders, July 2015: “Factory orders rose nearly as expected in June, up 1.8 percent for only the second gain in the last 11 months” [Bloomberg]. “[S]hipments of core capital goods [are] up 0.3 percent, a key reading that excludes aircraft, isn’t spectacular but is still a solid gain for business investment.”

“In its most recent report, [the Office of Financial Research] provides the stunning news that private hedge funds in the U.S. now control one-third of all assets under management in the financial services industry – a stunning $4.1 trillion when leverage is included” [Wall Street on Parade].

“Without the big jump in reported personal dividend income personal income, [yesterdays Personal Income and Outlays figures] would have been lower” [Mosler]. Quoting the report: “Rental income of persons increased $7.4 billion in June, compared with an increase of $7.7 billion in May. Personal income receipts on assets (personal interest income plus personal dividend income) increased $20.2 billion, compared with an increase of $8.4 billion. Personal current transfer receipts increased $8.6 billion, compared with an increase of $8.9 billion.”

“[Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd] lowered its forecast for containers moving through ports in China and Hong Kong to grow by 4.9% this year, from 5.8% in an earlier outlook” [Wall Street Journal]. Simon Heaney of Drewry: “For shipping lines, any decrease isn’t particularly great at this moment, [but] in the grand scheme of things…it’s a risk but a small one.” (“I watch Baltic Dry.” “Only way to watch it!” [rimshot. laughter].

“Executives from two of the biggest names in corporate-bond trading [MorganStanley, Blackrock] said concern about liquidity is overdone” [Bloomberg].

Health care

“Celebrating 50 years of Medicare” [Medium].

“Health insurance carrier Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has announced it will eliminate its Blue Choice PPO plan next year — a move that will affect hundreds of thousands of consumers statewide. The change is being made because the carrier paid out $400 million more in claims than it collected in premiums for the product in 2014.  [San Antonio Express-News]. “Around 367,000 Texans have such PPO plans through the health insurance company right now, company officials said. The insurance carrier expects to offer another product once open enrollment in 2016 health insurance plans begins Nov. 1. Eliminating the Blue Choice PPO plans will not affect customers who have Blue Cross group health PPO plans through their employers. The change also will not affect those whose PPO plans were grandfathered in 2010.”

“I want to stress the need to shop around when looking for healthcare insurance on the exchanges by citing one example of how it can make a difference” [AngryBear]. First, shopping is a tax on time. Second, there should be no need to shop at all, since the health insurance industry, being wholly parasitical, should not exist. Third, shopping is a hedonic treadmill. Suppose you find a good deal this year, and suppose others do, too. Next year, the insurance companies will take it away anyhow, since they are in the business of profiting by denying people care; see the example above in San Antonio.

“Buoyed by new government business, Aetna once again raised its profit forecasts as the health insurer works through a proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana that will make the company an even larger player in expanding business under the Affordable Care Act” [Forbes].

“The leaders of the top five health insurers periodically get together to discuss policy issues, Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Mark T. Bertolini told investors in a private meeting earlier this month. The group had a nickname, he joked: the G5” [Wall Street Journal, “CEOs at Aetna, Anthem Help to Reshape Health-Insurance Industry”]. Didn’t Adam Smith have something to say about that?

“Deals among the nation’s largest health insurers in recent weeks have been almost head-spinning. But whatever the details, if the combinations are finalized, the result will be an industry dominated by three colossal insurers” [New York Times].

“Data released last Tuesday by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary suggest that health spending increases will average 5.8 percent annually through 2024 — well above the 4 percent average increase from 2007 to 2013.  Gross domestic product will average no better than 3.5 percent annual growth in the same period, and wage growth will lag similarly. So at the same time as insurers are consolidating, employers and consumers will be bearing the brunt of escalating health costs” [Hospitals and Health Networks].


“Malaysia’s anticorruption agency said Monday that 2.6 billion ringgit (about $700 million) was deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal account and that the money was from a ‘donor contribution,’ not from 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a state investment fund also known as 1MDB [Wall Street Journal]. “The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission didn’t say, however, who the donor was, nor the purpose of the contribution.” $700 million is a lot of money, even for a squillionaire. Or a state actor with interests in agreements that Malaysia might or might not sign?

“Federal prosecution of white-collar crime has hit a 20-year low, according to a new report on Department of Justice data. The analysis of thousands of records by Syracuse University shows a more than 36 percent decline in such prosecutions since the middle of the Clinton administration, when the decline first began.” [International Business Times]. Every paragraph has a horrible detail, and Sirota saved the best for last: Under sequestration, Holder shifted $150 million away from white collar enforcement to the Bureau of Prisons. So, it’s a two-fer: Bankers skate, but the carceral state gets a reach-around!

Class Warfare

“We’re Making Life Too Hard for Millennials” [Steven Rattner, New York Times]. He blames — hold onto your hats, folks — the Boomers. This would be the Steven Rattner of Quadrangle Group LLC, Lazard Frères & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Brothers. The locusts eat all the corn and then blame the field.

“The key point is that revenue from extractives is not income. It is simply the reshuffling of a country’s portfolio of assets: exchanging resources below ground for cash above it” [Paul Stevens, The Economist,  “Is mining as bad as asset-stripping?”].

“Kansas plans to keep a controversial $25 limit on ATM withdrawals by welfare recipients, despite the possibility that the restriction might violate federal law” [McClatchy]. Hilariously, these knuckle-draggers can’t even kick the poors properly: “There is one loophole, however: Kansas’ plan — released publicly for the first time this week — places no limits on cash-back money received while making a purchase at a store. Welfare recipients are allowed two free cash-back transactions per month.” Interesting, however, to see the payments system used as a(n overt) form of social control, isn’t it?

News of the Wired

“Efficient Web Type, c. 1556” [Kenneth Ormandy]. French protestants needed small Bibles under religous repression, which imposed typographic and design requirements.

“Lucky Lobsters Jam China Flights, Sending U.S. Prices to Record” [Bloomberg]. Well, not that lucky…. 

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (Alex):


Ithaca, again. Reminds me of the coast of Maine….

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. I need to keep my server up! And take a trip….


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. shinola

      Thanks for the link! A bit of (too-infrequent) good news is appreciated.
      (I live in one of the ag-gag states)

    2. nycTerrierist

      ““The remedy for misleading speech, or speech we don’t like, is more speech, not enforced silence.”

      Wonderful. Ag-gag is simply evil.

  1. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Even with TPP “moth-balled”, everyone in a district of one of those traitors should be calling/emailing/writing them weekly to remind them that we’re watching, we’re not forgetting, and we’re raising money to fund their primary challengers next year.

    Let the bastards stew with their filthy 30 pieces of silver.

    And thank you for continuing to keep their shameful names in the public consciousness.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You bet. TPP needs to be hung round their necks like the dead, stinking albatross it is. (Plus the traitors will be ticked off they put their necks on the line for nothing.)

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Strongly agree! Even if you are not in their districts let them know they will never get your vote for any higher office.

        1. TedWa

          Thanks for that link, it needs to be one of the main stories. There are no progressive news stations in America anymore.

  2. Vatch

    Oh my, the date on the giant check in the Scott Walker photo is the seventieth anniversary of the Trinity nuclear bomb test at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Coincidence?

    1. ambrit

      It’s a bit early in the election cycle for someone to “go nuclear.”
      I somehow expected to see the ghost of Ed McMahon hovering in the background.

    2. Brindle

      Some years ago while driving through Las Alamos I noticed there was an apt complex named “The Trinity Apartments”.

  3. diptherio

    Remember that Spanish guy who got a bunch of fraudulent loans and then fled with the money and started using it to fund Indignados-type projects? Well, here’s a report on his current undertaking, which seems to be going pretty well:

    Financial Hacking With Faircoin ~by Matthew Slater, GEO

    Having kept an eye on the altcoins for a good while I wasn’t initially impressed by the claims of Faircoin.

    There have been several coins issued attached to good causes but without a clear monetary function. The idea is usually to set up a cryptocurrency, premine some, market the brand and sell the premines for a good cause. In this, there is no consideration of what makes the coin a desirable purchase, and the coin is so useless i.e. unused and therefore unusable, that its purchase constitutes little more than a straight donation.

    It seemed to me that Faircoin was something similar, but making spurious claims about being more fair in its configuration. It was premined and distributed initially with an airdrop to everyone who had registered. Proof-of-stake is fairer and less energy intensive than proof of work. The undistributed premined coins were allocated for different areas of development. FairCoop activists were easily able to send the coins between themselves and convert them to Euros using Chip Chap.

    As I probed I learned that Enric Duran, the mastermind of FairCoop who is famous for borrowing EUR500K and giving it to charity and who is now in hiding, was behind the scenes manipulating the Faircoin price to make it more stable. Clever perhaps, but also a cause for concern. Did he know what he was doing? With activists selling Faircoin for Euros, how long could Duran keep the price up before he ran out of resources and the price crashed?

    When I visited activists in Barcelona a fuller picture emerged. It turns out that since wide publicity has lead to a strong demand for Faircoin, Duran containing the price for the sake of stability rather than inflating it. By constant buying and selling, he is cushioning users from the usual cryptocurrency volatility. Also he is not doing so only with his own resources but with a group of Faircoin holders. In a normal crypto this collective power would be extremely concerning but since Faircoin holders trust this group, it is extremely reassuring.

    That’s what makes the difference in any financial system. Trust….

  4. Brindle


    From the central Wisconsin town or small city of Wausau a story on Sanders supporters and how Hillary is not doing any grass roots organizing there so far—she’s just relying on the Dem party apparatus and prior connections.

    —- Lori Miller, the volunteer who organized the Rothschild rally, says this is just the first in a long string of events planning to get Sanders’ name out — the next scheduled for Labor Day.

    Miller volunteered to organize the Rothschild meet-up. She also volunteered for the Madison event and plans to host more Sanders events in the future.

    “I wasn’t involved in politics until I heard of Bernie,” she said. “We’re tired of candidates backed by big money, but he won’t accept money from the rich, only from working class people.”—-

    —-The Sanders campaign’s heavy reliance on grassroots organizers is in contrast to the Clinton campaign’s approach in Wisconsin so far. In this early stage in the contest, at least, Clinton doesn’t have a central Wisconsin office. However, Clinton has connections with labor unions and the Democratic Party in the area—


    1. different clue

      This sounds like such an eerie echo of what young McGovern volunteers and organizers were quoted as saying by Hunter S. Thompson in his book about the ’72 campaign after McGovern did way better than expected in Wisconsin.

      And Clinton seems to be eerily echoing Ed Muskie what with strict reliance on the “establishment Democratic machinery”.

      Once again, if any Sanders-connected people are reading this comment, I hope they (you?) will read Thompson’s book Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail ’72. And take the parts about McGovern kissing and making up with the Dem Establishment after winning the nomination as a warning. If Sanders wins the nomination and then reFUSes to compromise with the Dem establishment on anything other than terms of their unconditional surrender to his movement, then he and his supporters can perhaps orchestrate the final extermination and incineration of the Establishment Democratic Party when (WHEN!) it supports the Republican nominee just like it did in 1972. If Sanders went on to lose the election, but succeeded in extermination the Democratic Party establishment, he would still be losing like a winner, and would be leaving a powerful movement legacy to build on.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        If Bernie wins, he needs to make sure the Democrats understand he is the new establishment.

        1. different clue

          If he were to win in the teeth of mainstream opposition, he would probably know “how” to begin excluding the Clintobamacrats from influence within the party, and then how to purge them out of the party after that. The problem would be whether he would consider such a disinfection and decontamination to be necessary.

          McGovern won the nomination aGAINST the Democratic Party bosses, but then sought to appease the DemBosses to get their support in the General. If Sanders wins the nomination he will face McGovern’s choice. If he makes McGovern’s mistake, he will face a McGovern sized loss in the General. If he campaigns against the DemBosses who will be joining the Republicans to campaign against HIM, then he might still lose, but by much less than McGovern lost by. He might even win, if he treats OUR enemies as HIS enemies.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Of course, the Clinton/Ibogaine subtext is clear enough, too.

        If Sanders does in fact win (a) plead with the God(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any, that Sanders avoids another Eagleton fiasco, and (b) that Sanders understands it’s war to the knife with the regulars, including especially the Rubinites. It doesn’t matter if he tries to conciliate them, they’ll try to destroy him anyhow.

      3. sleepy

        One thing interesting about the 1972 dem primaries was that George Wallace won in Michigan and Maryland. Then he was shot.

    2. Oldeguy

      Quite possibly the greatest harm that the Obama Presidency has done ( among many possible examples ) has been inducing a ” can’t fool me again ” mentality in a large segment of the electorate who would otherwise be responding enthusiastically to Bernie even at this early stage. It is a very real barrier for Sen. Sander’s to overcome and one that, although it will require tact, he must sooner or later surmount.
      Never before in my lifetime ( and I’ve been around for a while ) has the gap between expectation and performance been as jaw droppingly wide as with Obama and Bernie is in the challenging position of selling a new car to those who got stuck with a lemon in 2008.

      1. different clue

        As I once said in a thread on Hullabaloo, ” Obama has destroyed all hope of hope.” I got a hostile reaction from some. Stuff like that is what got me banned over at Digbyville.

    3. Oldeguy

      An enduring legacy of the Obama Presidency is a ” you can’t ” fool me twice ” mentality among many who would otherwise be quite enthusiastic for Bernie. Never before in my lifetime ( and I’ve been around for a while ) has the gap between expectation and performance been as jaw droppingly wide as it has been these last 7 years.
      It’s a very real barrier that, though it will require some tact, Bernie must sooner or later surmount. He is in the challenging position of selling a new car to an electorate that bought a lemon in 2008.

    4. Left in Wisconsin

      If Hillary is relying on the labor unions and Democratic Party establishment to win Wisconsin for her, she is in trouble. Both are impotent. Perhaps she hasn’t been paying close attention to flyoverland the last 5 or 6 years?

  5. Jim Haygood

    It’s pick-on-Apple day at the MSM, which lacks for material during the dog days. An example from the usually solid Mark Hulbert, who’s joined the lynch mob:

    ‘Things are going to get worse for Apple before they get better.’


    Meanwhile, here is what CNBC journalist Michael Newberg was saying about Apple just over three months ago:

    ‘The world’s most valuable company could become a lot more valuable if history is any indication.’


    If history is any indication, taking investment advice from the MSM is a certain formula for losing all your money (and then some, if you’re on margin).

  6. flora

    Kansas and the $25 ATM withdrawal limit for those on welfare.

    1. No ATM machine dispensed in $25 dollar increments, so it’s really a $20 limit.
    2. “A fee of $1 will be collected for every transaction, not including additional bank ATM fees.” ka-ching! $1, or a 5% fee on ATM withdrawals, in addition to bank fees. KS is so desperate for money they’re essentially putting a 5% tax, er, fee on welfare recipients for each ATM withdrawal.

    1. Ed S.

      It’s actually worse (hard to believe). Per CRS, max benefit (rounded) for 1 adult + 2 children in KS (2012) was $520/month. It means that a recipient has to go to the ATM nearly every day to get $20 (24 or 25 times per month @ $20 per visit). The daily fee is (as you noted) 5% of the monthly benefit.

      And note that we have “bank fees”. I would guess that there are NOT a substantial number of banks with low cost ATMs in areas with concentrations of TANF recipients. So the “bank fee” may be an additional $3 + at the ATM at the convenience store. If it works.

      So what does that amount to? Call it $4 per withdraw. $84 per month in fees (roughly 16%).

      Net payment is just less than $15/day for a family of 3.
      $5 per meal.
      $1.67 per mouth.

    2. Jim Haygood

      In some developing economies, you can get any combination of bills from an ATM … sometimes in multiple currencies.

      But in the pokey backwater of the USA, only once have I encountered an ATM that could dispense tens as well as twenties. Why is this?

      Prolly because the Federal Reserve and the bank cartel (sorry for the redundancy) just can’t be arsed to dispatch anything besides stacks of sloppily-printed 20-dollar FRNs.

      1. Steven D.

        I’m glad the banks are able to skim off such a large percentage of the welfare payments because the noblest act in neoliberal, bipartisan America is to funnel massive amounts of public tax dollars to banks, hedge funds and other parasites for doing nothing. Yay! We can all join hands and sing kumbaya around that.

        Who are the real welfare cheats here?

  7. Brindle

    Putting the poor in a vice is not about any of the money they might extract, it’s simply about making the least powerful in our society feel pain.

      1. flora

        Yes, you are right. In Kansas it’s also about making the poor pay for the unaffordable business tax break. example:
        “The federal government is increasing its funding for the low-cost health insurance program, so Kansas is using that money to offset $17 million in state funding.”

        And more on the ATM $25 limit here:

    1. jrs

      I don’t know, I suspect it’s more about control than anything. Scaring people into obedience by making them terrified of becoming one of these least powerful people. It will not only make them work under the whip, but make them terrified of even protesting. The same purpose as having a punitive prison system for non-violent offenders.

    2. RUKidding

      Reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The first thing the PTB did was take away access to citizens’ own money. That’s how the PTB gained control over healthy, younger women’s bodies (to become baby incubators for the wealthy).

      Not good.

    3. different clue

      I suspect these little “phantom loads” add up to enough money to be worth counting for the ATMrs.
      But you are probably correct that Brownback and the Teapists were acting from sadism-based motivations.

  8. RUKidding

    Seems to me that the PTB are running the Republican Klown Kar as one giant distraction from how poorly everything is being run. And how they’re really not offering any solutions (as usual). It’s rather disgusting that Team USA is allegedly – according to the hype and spin – this “beacon of freedom” or whatever the heck we’re supposed to be. Yet we have a political race for the alleged “leader of the free world,” and THIS is what happens?

    It’s insulting and frankly, imo, pretty disgusting.

    I’m not thrilled with Clinton or with Sanders, but at least (and it’s not much), they are comporting themselves like adults. And at least in the case of Sanders, he appears to speak about real issues. Color me utterly cynical that he’d follow through should, by some miracle, he get elected. But that’s another story.

    While I might smirk at what an absolute bought off buffoon Scott Walker is, the sad thing is, real people think he’s great (albeit one may quibble that the Kochs ensured that Walker “won” his various elections). It’s just pathetic and not really even “interesting” to me to witness this kind of despicable waste of money (huge amount$ of it), time and oxygen on such pathetic losers who clearly hold the US populace in utter contempt.

    Bah humbug.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I’ll climb onboard with Oldeguy’s comment about Sanders. The comment is dead on. But I am not afraid to be fooled twice if i means I have a chance to be happily surprised.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Jeb is a candidate. He has the frat boy, Nazi pedigree the GOP blue bloods love. Part of the clown show (sans Trump. That whole show is weird) is meant to prevent an early Santorum 2012 type candidate or anti-Bush from emerging. I also think Jeb is weaker than the msm perceives and is not interested in working hard to be President

      This goes back to Nixon and the Southern Strategy. We have a black President and gay marriage. The GOP promises of fighting culture wars have failed, and so the GOP isn’t offering anything to their voters in exchange for the traditional wrecked everything GOP platform. Conversely, the Democrats are so right wing on numerous issues, many of the “responsible moderates” are just Democrats. Look at Chaffee. The clown show goes back to letting dixiecrats and rugged, westerners into the party. They control much of the ongoing party apparatus, not the blue bloods.

  9. Benedict@Large

    … insurance companies … are in the business of profiting by denying people care

    Sorry, but that’s a crock of crap, and one of the Big Lies that prevent us from ever making any progress on this. Insurers (group, others are similar) pay out 80% of premiums BY LAW. Any denial of proper payment would thus have to be offset by an overpayment elsewhere. While instances of improper payments can be found, they are fairly rare. They do however make wonderful horror stories, so they get tons of mileage.

    So how do insurance companies make money on health care. Cash flow on their reserves. They invest their (HUGE) reserves, and that’s where their profits come from.

    And by the way, I’ve actually sat in on health insurance claim calls. 95% of the calls were from people who thought they should have gotten more, but had been paid properly according to the contract they had purchased. People’s perception that they are being ripped off is almost entirely due to believing that they bought a better contract than they did. People can’t read their contracts.

    Now if you want to use that as a reason for single payer, I’ll agree. People should never be forced into contracts that their lives depend on when they can’t even read the contracts to begin with. (Which puts the killer to the right wing notion that consumers should be able to shop for what they need. I’ve met actuaries who said they couldn’t read their contracts.)

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Gee I wonder if the Fed making money free now and forever has anything to do with insurance cos needing to find more money somewhere. Their portfolios are typically fixed income. Someone said that’s why the Swiss National Bank did their Euro-vomit not too long ago…they had to choose between their retail economy and their insurers…and their insurers were sicker.

    2. Yves Smith

      No, they do NOT have to pay out 80% of premiums by law. There’s no audit right and no enforcement mechanism. What you wrote is pure and utter propaganda.

      And in the 1990s, the normal insurance margins (the % of premiums that went to care) was 90%, and it was roughly 85% before Obamacare was passed. So the law allows the insurers to fatter their margins way above historical levels and the media can’t even make noise that the insurers are behaving badly.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Your touching faith in the health insurance industry is misplaced. Why on earth would anybody believe the insurance companies wouldn’t game the 80% figure as much as Hollywood moguls game “a percent of the net”? [Revising this comment now that I have a free moment.]

      The 80% “BY LAW” [caps in original] is the so-called Medical Loss Ratio. Wendell Potter gives examples of how insurance companies game the MRL here; and there are in fact companies like Total Claims Capture TC3 that are in the business of helping them do that.

      Finallly, here’s how the ObamaCare website describes the rule:

      The 80/20 Rule generally requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of the money they take in on premiums on your health care and quality improvement activities instead of administrative, overhead, and marketing costs.

      I’m sure the line between “quality improvement activities” and “adminstrative, overhead” costs is, like, totally bright. Especially in the absence of any audit function.

      The bottom line is that there shouldn’t even be a Medical “Loss” — i.e., treatment — Ratio, because the private health insurance industry should not exist. On this, we are agreed.

  10. Benedict@Large

    …Aetna once again raised its profit forecasts as the health insurer works through a proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana that will make the company an even larger player in expanding business under the Affordable Care Act…

    This too is not particularly helpful either. Aetna may well be doing this, but how is Aetna’s profit picture when compared to other large businesses in the US? Aetna may well be rolling in money, but if their returns are simply average compared to others, then we don’t have a health insurance problem; we have a big business problem in general.

    This is much akin to the often cited (though not here) health insurer CEO compensation. The numbers are shocking, but they are not unusual for large businesses, so while we may have a CEO compensation problem, it is not a health insurance CEO compensation problem. Further highlighting the specific absurdity here, the amount of each person’s premium that is taken to pay a CEO’s salary is less than $1 per health plan per year. If you want to lower your premiums then, you’d be well advised not to waste your time chasing after what the CEO is being paid.

    1. Joeso

      I don’t buy this common argument that a CEO’s salary represents less than $1 per person and so is inconsequential. It ignores the inflated salaries of other executives, which increases the cost per person. Additionally, a small amount of misappropriated gain is still morally wrong. For instance, folks recognize the poor ethics involved in the Superman III/Office Space story of skimming a small amount of money from rounding errors in interest rate. Are CEO salaries any different?

  11. paulmeli

    “Data released last Tuesday by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary suggest that health spending increases will average 5.8 percent annually through 2024 — well above the 4 percent average increase from 2007 to 2013. Gross domestic product will average no better than 3.5 percent annual growth in the same period (if anyone it will be this high I have a bridge for sale), and wage growth will lag similarly. So at the same time as insurers are consolidating, employers and consumers will be bearing the brunt of escalating health costs”

    …at the expense of other sectors, which is the only outcome possible unless the government spends more and taxes workers less. Seems like I read the other day that Apple accounted for the bulk of profits for the entire Standard & Poor aggregate of companies.

    When only a handful of huge companies and monopolies are making a profit, what happens with the rest of the economy?

  12. Kim Kaufman

    ““Gov. Scott Walker has two credit-card debts of more than $10,000 apiece on separate cards and is paying an eye-popping 27.24 percent interest rate on one of them, new federal financial documents disclosed on Monday show” [National Journal]. Poor sap, just like the rest of us. You’d think he’d have more compassion.”

    You’d think he’d be able to skim a measley $20k off the top of something.

    1. hunkerdown

      There’s a clever way to lobby the banks with someone else’s money. At least it’s out of the hands of the smelly poor, he must be thinking.

  13. OIFVet

    “As a public servant, the governor gave back hundreds of thousands of his salary to the taxpayers, and he is a regular American with two kids in college and a small amount of credit card debt,” Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

    Hmm, what are these “hundreds of thousands”? Income taxes? ‘Cause I haven’t heard of him voluntarily reducing his salary. And what kind of a financial illiterate carries that kind of a high-interest balance and doesn’t transfer it to a lower interest card? Or better yet, doesn’t apply for a lower interest home equity line of credit and save some major interest charges? Probably the type of financial illiterate that hires a spokeswoman for whom a credit card debt equal to at least 10% of her boss’ income seems to be “a small amount of credit card debt”. This guy runs the finances of the state of Wisconsin and wants to run the federal finances? I swear the stupidity of our elected officials is truly breathtaking.

  14. allan

    Libor: Sacrifical lamb Tom Hayes is hung out to dry all by himself:

    The financial regulator has dropped an investigation into a former senior UBS banker caught up in the Libor scandal, after its own review panel found there was not a strong enough case to pursue him.

    The Financial Conduct Authority will not take enforcement action against Panagiotis Koutsogiannis, known as ‘Pete the Greek’ to his colleagues, after the independent experts on its regulatory decision committee found that dishonest conduct was not proven.

    Meaning perhaps that, if prosecuted, Pete the Greek could finger somebody higher up the food chain, contradicting the official narrative.

  15. serryl

    From the IB Times story:

    Holder’s recommendations to career prosecutors were rewritten in 2003 by the Bush Justice Department, which viewed Holder’s memo as too friendly towards corporate cultures of misconduct.

    It’s just incredible to me that, for all the consideration made for “collateral consequences,” apparently no weight was given to the need to deter future bad acts. I can’t tell if that’s naiveté, incompetence, or corruption at work. I actually hope he was corrupt and didn’t actually take that philosophy to heart.

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