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What We Read Today 13 March 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • As Daylight Saving Starts, Some Ask: Why Fall Back at All?

  • CBO:  GOP Bill Will Cause 14 Million to Lose Coverage Next Year, 24 Million in 10 Years

  • Trump Downplays CBO Report in Advance

  • Ryan Says CBO Report Confirms AHCA will Lower Premiums and Improve Access

  • Full Text of CBO Report

  • 5 Prescriptions for Fixing Health Care

  • The Demise of Vermont's Single-Payer Plan

  • Drugs are Cheap: Why Do We Let Governments Make Them Expensive?

  • Wisconsin Reports on Illegal Voting

  • At Least 60 17-Year-Olds Voted Illegally in Wisconsin Primaries

  • U.S. Board Tells Puerto Rico: Cut pension system, impose furloughs

  • Scotland seeks new independence referendum amid Brexit spat

  • U.K. House Prices Rebound, Rise Still Slows Year-over-Year

  • Turkey Sanctions Netherlands

  • Egypt Frees Former President Mubarak

  • Why our campuses are boiling over in left-wing rage instead of discourse

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Congress' analyst: 14M lose coverage under GOP health bill (Associated Press)  Nonpartisan analysts project that 14 million people would lose coverage next year under the House bill dismantling former President Barack Obama's health care law. The estimate is a blow to Republicans.  Monday's estimate by the Congressional Budget Office says the number of uninsured would grow to 24 million by 2026.  See also following four articles.

  • Team Trump, GOP downplay looming CBO report, question group’s competence, earlier findings (Fox News)  Trump administration officials and other key Washington Republicans on Sunday downplayed the impact of the upcoming Congressional Budget Office report on the GOP’s ObamaCare replacement plan, suggesting the nonpartisan group has miscalculated before on such complex legislation.

“In the past, the CBO score has really been meaningless. They have said that many more people will be insured than are actually insured,” White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn told “Fox News Sunday,” in an apparent reference to ObamaCare.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the CBO estimated that more than 20 million people would have coverage 10 years after the start of ObamaCare.

"It's about half of that right now," he said. "So the CBO has been very adept in not providing appropriate coverage statistics.”

(Most reports show a maximum of 16 million people enrolled in 2017.)

The teenagers were likely encouraged to go to the polls by messages flying around social media during the spring primary season saying 17-year-olds can vote in some states as long as they turn 18 before the November election, the report said.

Some political campaigns were also spreading false information about eligibility, the report said. The Sanders campaign specifically was sending out national messages on social media about 17-year-olds being able to vote in presidential primaries, Magney said, although Wisconsin election officials didn't see any misinformation from that campaign about Wiscosin.

  • 5 Prescriptions for Fixing Health Care (The Wall Street Journal)  From the way the FDA approves drugs to the way hospitals are rated and the way bills are paid, WSJ Health Experts have proposed many solutions to the problems endemic to the U.S. health-care system. Their ideas, recently published and rounded up here, can bring costs down, prevent physician burnout and improve patient outcomes.  The Experts is made up of a panel of physicians, health-care executives, academics and analysts who write about the big issues they see in the field.  (Econintersect:  See also How The U.S. Can Resolve The Healthcare System Debate.)  The five assertions discussed:

  1. It’s Time to Radically Change How the FDA Approves Drugs

  2. The Biggest Obstacle to the Health-Care Revolution is Fragmented Medical Records

  3. How Competition Can Bring Down Drug Prices

  4. Why Picking the Right Hospital Is Crucial--and Often Impossible

  5. It’s Time to Fix How Hospitals Are Rewarded

  • Board to Puerto Rico: Cut pension system, impose furloughs (Associated Press)  A federal control board on Monday ordered Puerto Rico to cut its public pension system by 10%, furlough tens of thousands of government workers and eliminate Christmas bonuses to generate immediate savings amid an economic recession.  The seven-member board created by Congress to oversee the U.S. territory's finances voted unanimously to add those measures to a 10-year fiscal plan presented by the island's governor. The measures will be implemented if the government cannot find other ways to cut spending and generate revenue.  Board members said the spending cuts are necessary so that the government will have enough funds to pay for essential services such as education, health and public safety.


  • Scotland seeks new independence referendum amid Brexit spat (Asociated Press)  Scotland's leader delivered a shock twist to Britain's EU exit drama on Monday, announcing that she will seek authority to hold a new independence referendum in the next two years because Britain is dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would move quickly to give voters a new chance to leave the United Kingdom because Scotland was being forced into a "hard Brexit" that it didn't support. Britons decided in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU, but Scots voted by 62% to 38% to remain.

  • U.K. house prices rise fastest in a year as London rebounds (The Edge Markets)  Econintersect:  The headline is misleading.  The article says:

U.K. house prices rose at their fastest pace in a year last month as high-value London property showed signs of a rebound.

The 0.6% increase in values lifted the average to 297,832 pounds (US$362,000), Acadata and LSL said in a report on Monday. Nevertheless, annual price growth softened for a 12th month, to 2.4%, the lowest since 2013.

According to regional data for January, London home prices gained 0.4% from December, snapping a two-month decline, and gains in the high-value areas of the capital contributed to the increase in February.


  • The Latest: Turkey imposes sanctions on the Netherlands (Associated Press)  Turkey says it is halting all high-level political discussions with the Netherlands in the wake of the Dutch government's decision to bar two cabinet ministers from campaigning in the country.  Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said during a news conference following a weekly cabinet meeting that Ankara also is closing its air space to Dutch diplomats until the Netherlands meets Turkish requests.  Kurtulmus also says the Dutch ambassador to Turkey, who was traveling when the diplomatic row started, won't be allowed to return.  He says Turkey's government plans to advise parliament to withdraw from a Dutch-Turkish friendship group.  Kurtulmus says the political sanctions will apply until the Netherlands takes steps to "redress" its actions.


  • Egypt's ex-President Mubarak to be freed (CNN)  Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be free soon, according to Egypt's official news agency al-Ahram.  Egypt's prosecution office has ordered his release, the news agency said.  On March 2, Mubarak was acquitted on charges of killing protesters during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Egypt's Court of Cassation upheld an earlier verdict, making the acquittal final. The Court of Cassation is the highest court for criminal litigation in Egypt.  Mubarak and his sons were convicted of corruption, however. On Monday, Ibrahim Saleh, the attorney general of the East Cairo prosecution, accepted Mubarak's request to include time spent in prison pending trial as part of his sentence in the corruption case, state media reported.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • As Daylight Saving Starts, Some Ask: Why Fall Back at All? (THe New York Times)  "Down East" people are tired of winter sunsets at or shortly after 4 in the afternoon (and even earlier around the winter soltice in easternmost Maine).  A rising sentiment in New England is in favor of that region remaining on Eastern Daylight Savings Time year round.  Alternatively, New England could join Labrador, the Canadian Maritime Provinces, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Atlantic Time Zone.

Click for large image.

  • The Demise of Vermont's Single-Payer Plan (The New England Journal of Medicine)  (See also How The U.S. Can Resolve The Healthcare System Debate.)  On December 17, 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin publicly ended his administration's 4-year initiative to develop, enact, and implement a single-payer health care system in his state. The effort would have established a government-financed system, called Green Mountain Care, to provide universal coverage, replacing most private health insurance in Vermont.  The plans economic prospects seemed a slam dunk when it was initiated.  Was wrong with the plan?  Here's what NEJM says:

Two factors explain most of the decline in the plan's financial prospects. First, the anticipated federal revenues from Medicaid and the ACA declined dramatically. Second, Shumlin's policy choices significantly increased the total projected cost of Green Mountain Care: raising the actuarial value of coverage — the expected portion of medical costs covered by a plan rather than by out-of-pocket spending — from 87% to 94%, providing coverage to nonresidents working in Vermont, and eliminating current state taxes on medical providers. Still, even Shumlin's projections indicated that the plan would reduce Vermont's overall health spending and lower costs for the 90% of Vermont families with household incomes under $150,000. Despite differing projections, all three studies showed that single payer was economically feasible.

In reality, the Vermont plan was abandoned because of legitimate political considerations. Shumlin was first elected governor in 2010 promising a single-payer system. But in the 2014 election, his Republican opponent campaigned against single payer. Shumlin won the popular vote by a single-percentage-point margin, 46% to 45%, which sent the election to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives; though the House reelected him easily in January, a clear public mandate for his health care agenda was nowhere in evidence.

Asking the legislature to approve a new 11.5% payroll tax on employers and income taxes on households as high as 9.5% to finance Green Mountain Care would have increased the size of Vermont's 2015 state budget, set at $5.6 billion, by 45%. Even though the taxes would have replaced private insurance premiums that employers and individuals currently pay, and even though the Internal Revenue Service had agreed that the taxes would be federally deductible, in political terms it would have been a mammoth increase that would have been glaringly evident on every Vermonter's tax bill, unlike employer-based health insurance premiums, which most workers fail to notice. According to research in behavioral economics, people pay more attention to hypothetical losses than to hypothetical gains. The political furor that would certainly have erupted over Shumlin's tax plan — as foreshadowed by the political uproar over the ACA — would have left most Vermonters believing they would be losers. Shumlin's decision to withdraw the plan represented a failure of political will — but sometimes making decisions because of likely political consequences is the necessary, albeit regrettable, thing to do.

The purpose of the right to free speech is to protect our right to think for ourselves and to communicate with others, which are two of the pillars of a modern, free society. True, people can and often do say absurd and horrible things. But it’s false to equate even hateful speech with use of force.

Force is qualitatively different from speech. No matter how harsh speech is, you are always free to ignore it and walk away. Not so with force. If you doubt this, ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Flemming Rose, or the many other individuals currently on jihadist hit lists whether they would prefer to live under the threat of death or the threat of hateful speech.

That’s not to say that speech can never be used in the commission of a crime. It is entirely proper to criminalize actual threats, incitement to violence, and the like. But that’s because what is being threatened is the use of force. 

If those who use offensive or hateful speech cross the line into actual threats or incitement, then it is proper to prosecute them. But short of that, they must be free to speak.

Ayn Rand once said that “a gun is not an argument.” The reverse is also true: an argument is not a gun. If we forget the difference, we will end up with guns settling our disputes, rather than arguments.

  • Drugs are Cheap: Why Do We Let Governments Make Them Expensive? (Dean Baker,Center for Economic and Policy Research)  DB has contributed to GEI.  Dean Baker argues that "patent-financed drug research" is inefficient.  It incentivizes research to make a profit rahter than research to cure (or prevent) diseases:

The system of relying on patent monopolies for financing prescription drug research has enormous costs. These costs take exactly the form economists predict from a government intervention in the market. The main difference with patent monopolies on drugs is that the intervention is far larger than most other forms of intervention that arise in policy debates like tariffs on trade or various excise taxes and subsidies. Furthermore, since drugs are often essential for people’s lives and health, the costs take a different form than paying higher prices for items like shoes or furniture. These costs are likely to rise in the years ahead as the gap between the patent-protected prices and free market prices grow ever larger.

For this reason, we should be considering alternative mechanisms for supporting prescription drug research. I have argued that a system of direct government funding, which relies on private companies working on long-term contracts, is likely to be far more efficient than the current system. By paying all research costs upfront, drugs could be sold at free market prices without monopoly protections, just like most other products. Also, since a condition of receiving public money is that all findings would be fully public as soon as is practical, doctors will be able to make more informed decisions in prescribing drugs. In addition, research is likely to advance more quickly in a context of openness than secrecy.


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