Sunday, October 18, 2009

Points of View - October 18

Fall has obviously arrived with that distinct chill in the air, but the debates on several noteworthy subjects are just heating up. The Senate Finance Committee passed the Baucus heath care bill this week with help from Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to make it a "bipartisan" bill - even though she said her vote may change in the future. As only Jon Stewart can do, he said on his show (The Daily Show), "So her vote made it 14-9 instead of 13-10? They didn't even need her vote? Well, good thing they gutted the whole ... bill." With that, on to the topics for this weekend.

Health Care

What a Waste - The Economist - "Last year, when he was still the head of the independent Congressional Budget Office, Peter Orszag used to warn bleakly that the rising costs of health care would, if not subjected to radical reform, one day bankrupt the government. Over the past few decades, these costs have risen at a consistent 2.5 percentage points above the growth rate of the economy."

The Public Plan, Continued - The New York Times - "In the debate over health care reform, no issue has produced more fury and sound bites than the question of whether to include a government-run insurance plan. It is not indispensable, and its role would be limited. Even so, we strongly support inclusion of a public option — the bigger and stronger the better. That is the best way to give consumers more choices, inject more competition into insurance markets, hold down the cost of insurance policies, and save money for the federal budget."

The ABC Dilemma of Health Reform - By Vernon L. Smith - The Wall Street Journal - "Health-care systems everywhere encounter cost overruns and rationing devices, like queues, in their diverse attempts to deliver products for which demand has long grown faster than other economic sectors. Why is it so difficult to find the private and public means, the combination of markets and government assistance, that enables a preferred outcome to emerge?"

Why Health Care Is So Expensive in New York - By Stephen T. Parante and Tarren Bragdon - The Wall Street Journal - "Back in the early 1990s, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo pushed reforms aimed at fixing the state's health-care system. Those reforms were supposed to reduce the ranks of the uninsured as well as prevent insurance companies from unfairly charging people with health problems more than others or dropping sick people from the insurance rolls. They were also supposed to spark greater insurance competition."

Climate Change

A Bit of Bipartisanship - The New York Times - "Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has long resisted climate change legislation, has joined the ranks of those pushing for a bipartisan agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. We welcome his change of heart. Mr. Graham has sensibly decided that it helps neither the planet, the country nor his party to block efforts to solve the problem of global warming."

Bad Policy Will Boil the Planet - The Economist - "As the December Copenhagen conference on climate change approaches, the world’s attention is focused on international negotiations. But they are not, ultimately, what will determine whether the planet boils or not. International agreements are helpful only in so far as they encourage individual countries to control their own emissions. What matters most is the domestic policies which those countries put in place, and their governments’ success in implementing them."

Cash for Clubbers - The Wall Street Journal - "The golf-cart boom has followed an IRS ruling that golf carts qualify for the electric-car credit as long as they are also road worthy. These qualifying golf carts are essentially the same as normal golf carts save for adding some safety features, such as side and rearview mirrors and three-point seat belts. They typically can go 15 to 25 miles per hour."

Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation) - By John Kerry & Lindsey Graham - The New York Times - "Conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. The divisions in our country on how to deal with climate change are deep. Many Democrats insist on tough new standards for curtailing the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Many Republicans remain concerned about the cost to Americans relative to the environmental benefit and are adamant about breaking our addiction to foreign sources of oil."

Goldman Sachs

Blankfein Puts Mouth Where Goldman’s Profit Is - By David Reilly - Bloomberg - "Every quarter, the same question bedevils Wall Street: What’s in the secret sauce that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. uses to make so much money?"

To Avoid Crises, We Need More Transparency - By Lloyd Blankfein - Financial Times - "One lesson from the crisis is the need for more effective systemic regulation. There has been a focus on who should exercise this responsibility. But the most critical question is what the systemic regulator should do, and what responsibilities will make it effective – not who, so much as how?"

Goldman Can Spare You a Dime - By Frank Rich - The New York Times - "At the dawn of the progressive era early in the last century, muckrakers attacked the first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, for creating capitalism’s most ruthless monster. 'The Octopus' was their nickname for Standard Oil, the trust that controlled nearly 90 percent of American oil. But even in that primordial phase of the industrial era, Rockefeller was mindful of his public image and eager to counter it. “His great brainstorm,” writes his biographer, Ron Chernow, 'was undoubtedly his decision to dispense shiny souvenir dimes to adults and nickels to children as he moved about.' Who could hate an octopus tossing glittering coins?"

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