Saturday, September 19, 2009

Points of View - September 19

We have two topics for today's post - the financial system and health care, and neither one has a shortage of critics or opinions.

Financial System

Transparency and the Fed - By Matthew Winkler - The Wall Street Journal - "Facing a banking collapse that was unlike anything it had seen since the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve created $2 trillion of assets and debts during the past year to rescue the nation's financial institutions. But it did not make clear to taxpayers just where all of this money went. Taxpayers—involuntary investors in this case—have a right to know who received loans, in what amounts, for which collateral, and why specific loans were made."

Tobin Taxes: The Wrong Tool for the Job - The Economist - "'It is usually agreed that casinos should, in the public interest, be inaccessible and expensive. And perhaps the same is true of stock exchanges.' John Maynard Keynes, writing in the 1930s, was in favour of making it costly to switch into and out of investments."

Banking Life Means Never Having to Say Sorry - By Margaret Carlson - Bloomberg - "An insincere apology is better than nothing since sincere regret in the over-stimulated, coarse world we live in is beyond reach. I’m thinking singers (excuse me, recording artists), sports stars, politicians and bankers who need bailouts."

Unnatural Selection - The Economist - "'We have a long track record of pulling together when times are tough…We’re on the right track.' Thus spoke the boss of Lehman Brothers on September 10th 2008. Within five days Lehman had gone bust and it quickly became clear that the world’s financial system had problems far beyond a single badly run investment bank and temporarily frozen credit markets."

Health Care

Baucus and the Threshold - By Paul Krugman - The New York Times - "So Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has released his 'mark' on proposed legislation — which would normally be the basis for the bill that eventually emerges from his committee. And serious supporters of health care reform will soon face their long-dreaded moment of truth."

The Innovation Tax - The Wall Street Journal - "Supposedly the Senate’s version of ObamaCare was written by Finance Chairman Max Baucus, but we’re beginning to wonder if the true authors were Abbott and Costello. The vaudeville logic of the plan is that Congress will tax health care to subsidize people to buy health care that new taxes and regulation make more expensive."

Health Reform’s Missing Ingredient - By Ron Wyden - The New York Times - "'My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition,' President Obama said last week in an address to Congress on health care reform. It’s a good principle, one that may determine the ultimate success or failure of reform, but unfortunately it’s not really guiding the Senate bill unveiled on Wednesday or any of the other health reform legislation now under consideration in Congress."

Congress Veers Left on Health Care - By Kimberley A. Strassel - The Wall Street Journal - "We were told it was a good thing that the only person in Washington who liked Max Baucus's bill was . . . Max Baucus. That everybody was unhappy meant we were getting somewhere. What matters is that the Senate now has a 'common sense' product to serve as a 'building block' for bipartisan legislation. Uh-huh."

Mandatory Insurance Is Unconstitutional - By David Rivkin & Lee Casey - The Wall Street Journal - "Federal legislation requiring that every American have health insurance is part of all the major health-care reform plans now being considered in Washington. Such a mandate, however, would expand the federal government’s authority over individual Americans to an unprecedented degree. It is also profoundly unconstitutional."

Touched by Mortality - By Garrison Keillor - The New York Times - "The doctor who saw me in the E.R. wrote in her report: 'nice 67 y.o. male, flat affect, awake, alert and appropriate.' I had appeared with slurred speech and a balloon in my head, had driven myself to United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, parked in No Parking, walked in and was triaged right in to a neurologist who trundled me into the M.R.I. Space-Time Cyclotron for 50 minutes of banging and whanging that produced a picture of the stroke in the front of my brain, so off to the Mayo Clinic I went and the St. Mary’s Hospital Neurology I.C.U. and was wired up to monitors. A large day in a nice 67 y.o. man’s life."

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