Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Socialist" Obamacare a boon to insurance companies

But wait a minute, I thought we were told Obamacare was going to destroy free-market insurance companies? I mean isn't "rampant socialism" supposed to be bad for capitalism?

Of course the ACA is nothing close to the socialist program Republicans would have us believe -- just ask Mitt. But all you really need to do is check out the performance of the health care insurance stocks. If Obamacare was going to wreak havoc on the private insurance industry, one would surely see the proof in the pudding when it came to stock price returns.

The chart below shows stock price performance for the S&P 500 (red), the iShares US Health Care Provider ETF (IHF, blue) and then eight of the largest publicly-traded health care insurers. The start date is March 23, 2010, when President Obama signed the ACA into law.


In the time period, the health care provider ETF returned 74%, far surpassing the 52% gain for the S&P 500. Meanwhile seven of the eight insurance stocks easily trounced the S&P 500 with only Wellpoint underperforming the S&P 500, albeit ever so slightly.

Oh yeah, it's quite clear Obamacare has just devastated our capitalist system.... Gads, just more lies.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Some interesting numbers

In reading this week's The New Yorker magazine, I came across some interesting numbers.

I'll first give three numbers: 5 million, 10 million and 1.5 million.What do they refer to?
  • Obama was reelected by a net margin win of 5 million votes.
  • For the Senate in 2012, Democrats received 10 million more votes than Republicans.
  • For the House in 2012, Democrats received 1.5 million more votes than Republicans.
And yet because of redistricting, Republicans retained control of the House. It's for this reason we went through the government shutdown and faced default on our debt. It's why there's dysfunction in Washington. Democrats received many more votes last year, but due to gerrymandering and arcane redistricting laws, they do not wield the equivalence in power. Instead a minority of extreme far-right Republicans hold an inordinate amount of power and in many respects abuse it for purely selfish reasons.

More numbers:
In 1965, C.E.O.s at big companies earned, on average, about twenty times as much as their typical employee. These days, C.E.O.s earn about two hundred and seventy times as much.
Incredible. In less than 50 years, CEO pay has ballooned by more than 13 times the compensation of the typical employee. The ratio in 1965 would have a CEO today making $800K assuming a typical employee earned $40K. However, the actual ratio for today has that CEO earning close to $11 million, well above the already bloated $800K figure. Certainly this business model can't last. It's Rome all over again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's over, finally

Yippee. It's over. Finally. We won't default on our debt and the government should be open for business by tomorrow morning.

And what was it all for? What did the Tea Party zealots get in return? As far as I can tell, "Obamacare" emerges intact and spending remains as it would've been if none of this occurred. It's pretty much status quo, business as usual. On the surface, the Tea Party got nothing, but in actuality what they got was unprecedented media attention, the likes of which is worth many millions of dollars. Through Sen. Cruz, they held the country hostage, shutting down the government and risking national default, all so that they could garner some free publicity. Like cheap, two-bit shysters. These are U-S-A patriots? This is country first??

So things get pushed off till February, when we undoubtedly will have to go through this crap all over again. Will this become the norm for how government will operate in the future? Every six months, we'll go through this nonsense to see if the government (and national parks, etc.) will remain open and the country won't default on its debt? If so, then rating agencies should lower our credit rating! Talk about third world!

Assuming this unfortunately becomes the norm, I recommend ignoring the media and following the stock market when it comes to gleaning the most likely outcome. During this past ordeal, the market held up well through it all, indicating much of it was idiotic showboating and correctly looking past the inane shenanigans. In general, investors collectively are not stupid. 

As for Republicans, they have only themselves to blame. Carve up a bunch of districts through gerrymandering to successfully elect a bunch of what would normally be unelectable candidates, i.e. lunatics -- you get what you deserve. Inmates are definitely running the asylum. 

The much greater tragedy is we as a country get screwed in the process. At least Reagan was shrewd enough to just pretend to care, to throw the nutballs some symbolic morsels they could chew on yet never letting them gain enough voice to wield actual power. Somewhere the former president is shaking his head, saying "You idiots!" (and, "Enough with renaming so many post offices after me!!").

Friday, October 04, 2013

"I'M AS MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING...."

Where is it written that only the Republicans and Tea Party crackpots can be "justifiably" angry, with their so-called righteous outrage?? Like many non-Republican Americans, I'm currently mad as hell and as is most often the case, the reason I'm angry is because of Republicans and Tea Party crackpots.

Yesterday morning, in a moment when it appeared as if the stock market was about to break and likely fall off a cliff, I sent this to some friends:
THESE SOB, F-CKING REPUBLICANS!!!  WHAT PATRIOTS!!!   BUNCH OF INFANTILE, UNREASONABLE LUNATICS!!!   SO ANYTIME A PARTY DOESN'T LIKE OR AGREE WITH A PASSED LAW, ONE UPHELD BY THE SCOTUS, THE MINORITY PARTY CAN SIMPLY DO ALL IT CAN TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY??!!   THEY F*CKING TRIED 40+ TIMES ALREADY TO REPEAL OBAMACARE AND FAILED EACH TIME.... RATHER THAN STOP THE NONSENSE, THEY CHOOSE TO GO NUCLEAR..... WHAT A FRIGGIN EMBARRASSMENT.... 

I ASK, AT THIS POINT, GIVEN ALL THAT'S HAPPENED OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, BUT MORE SO OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS IF NOT WEEKS, WHO THE HELL CAN STILL STAY AND REMAIN A REPUBLICAN?? IF NOT LEAVE NOW, THEN WHEN??!
AND DON'T GIVE ME THAT FEW BAD APPLES B.S., THE BAD APPLES ARE MANY AND THEY'RE RUNNING THE WHOLE SHOW.... THAT'S WHY A VOTE FOR A MODERATE "R" (NEVERMIND THEY'RE NEAR NON-EXISTENT) IS A VOTE FOR THE PARTY OF LUNACY, BECAUSE THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM....
What is to blame for all of this? I say the crazy redistricting laws, which allows district lines to be drawn that makes it possible for the normally unelectable to get elected. A few kooks here and there get voted into office and the next thing they wield an inordinate amount of power, destroying anything that resembles a democracy. They say they care about the country and the Constitution -- bullcrap! They only care about what they themselves specifically care about and the hell with everyone and everything else -- including the Constitution! The country has been taken hostage by a bunch of nutballs, but make no mistake, in "normal" times such people still existed but had no chance of winning an election. All of that changed with redistricting. It's why Tea Party candidates will never win the White House -- the power of redistricting can't extend far enough nationally for that to happen -- and yet it doesn't stop the few from winning their pretzel-shaped districts, banding together and wreaking havoc.

What is the predominant fear? I agree with those who say that the big fear is Obamacare will succeed and become very popular. Years from now, when the program has been repeatedly refined and improved, as any such program has evolved, and the many benefits become increasingly apparent to the masses, the fear is Obama will receive tons of credit and goodwill, that he'll become the equivalent of FDR and the New Deal. Republicans know that they must snuff Obamacare out now before it has a chance to take hold and blossom. The demographics already disfavor Republicans in the future, the last thing they need is a Democrat-sponsored government program becoming wildly popular.

As for the government shut down, I continue to believe the adults in the room will eventually take control and Republicans will cave in to their true masters: the top 1%. Right now the stock market is hanging in there, much as it did in late 1995 during the last shut down, but it did look as if it was going to crack yesterday morning and may still do so in the near future if the shenanigans continue. Reminder: the top 1% hold most of the $$$ tied up in stocks. If the market takes a meaningful nose dive, you can bet the phones will be ringing in most GOP offices with angry voices saying, "Enough already! Cut the crap, or else!"

And presto, the government shut down would end. Well, that's what would occur in a normal world, but perhaps, as Obama said, it truly is different this time.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's not all bad

At a time when Obama's poll numbers are at all-time lows, it's good to be reminded of the many positive things he's been able to achieve that don't get the attention they deserve.
The larger point is that overall, as an independent review by Republican Senator John McCain’s finance chairman confirmed, the Energy Department’s $40 billion loan portfolio is performing well. It’s also transforming the energy landscape with America’s largest wind farm, a half-dozen of the world’s largest solar plants, cellulosic biofuel refineries and much more. Obama didn’t support one company or one technology; he supported all kinds of plausible alternatives to fossil fuels. He didn’t pick winners and losers; he picked the game of cleaner energy. And we’re winning. The U.S. has doubled its production of renewable power. Our carbon emissions are at their lowest levels since the early 1990s. And after decades when the U.S. invented products like solar panels and lithium–ion batteries only to see them manufactured and deployed abroad, we’re finally making green stuff at home. For example, not only are we generating twice as much wind power, we’re making twice as many of the components for U.S. wind turbines. -- Michael Grunwald, Time

Friday, August 09, 2013

Global warming anyone?

"Oil drillers in North Dakota's Bakken shale fields are allowing nearly a third of the natural gas they drill to burn off into the air, with a value of more than $100 million per month, according to a study to be released on Monday." -- Reuters

It's one thing to burn fossil fuels to produce energy, it's quite another to burn fossil fuels to produce nothing, simply because we have too much of it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paula Deen

What I want to know is how this racist chef-cracker ever got this many corporate sponsors...?

Friday, June 07, 2013

Our Biggest Blown Opportunity

I've written about this topic before, but with the collapse of the bridge near Seattle I felt it was worth writing about again.

Here's the checklist:
  • Our infrastructure is woefully in need of fixing. We get a report card grade of D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers with needed investment for repairs estimated at $3.6 trillion by 2020.
  • Our bridges, roads, buildings, etc. will not improve or fix themselves over time. The needed repairs will only grow in number and worsen, becoming ultimately more expensive to fix.
  • The longer we postpone infrastructure upkeep, it not only becomes fiscally more expensive but also more costly in terms of human lives at risk.
  • Importantly, real interest rates are negative and have been negative for months. This means we as a country are being paid to borrow! If there ever was a time to borrow, it's now. And yet thanks to the deficit scolds, the public has been convinced we should do the opposite, cut back and pay down existing debt. No doubt we will look back 10 or 20 years from now and deeply regret the fact we let this rare opportunity pass us by, as real interest rates by then could be north of 10%.
  • By borrowing and investing in our infrastructure now, we would be able to stimulate our sluggish economy and put people back to work. Every $1 spent on infrastructure helps boost the economy by $2, i.e. a massive 2-1 multiplier effect. Given interest rates are negative and unemployment has seemingly stalled at 7.5%-8%, I repeat, now is the time to borrow/invest!
I'm sure the list could be longer, but you get the point. It's a complete no-brainer. The pros far and away outnumber the cons. In fact, I can't think of any cons (at least not any good ones).

Oh wait, that's right, there is one con, the big con, that being the lie hoisted by Republicans onto the naive public, having them believe our deficit is out of control and that we need to tighten our belt as a nation and pay for the sins of our past. But even as the deficit shrinks faster than anyone expected, there are no belated calls to finally spend the money on our infrastructure. No, instead we get new distractions in the form of trumped-up "scandals" ala Benghazi and the IRS.

Sad to say, we as a country get what we deserve, enabling the crafty few to hoodwink the clueless many.