• Repealing the Individual Mandate Would Hurt the Poor, Help the Rich

    Speaking of the individual mandate, it turns out that CBO has analyzed how federal spending would change if the mandate were repealed. This is not about Obamacare subsidies, which will obviously decrease if fewer people buy insurance. This is about reductions in direct spending on Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Here it is:

    It’s pretty easy to see why Republicans love the idea of repealing the mandate. It means less federal spending on the poor and working class, and more spending on the rich. And that’s not even counting the premium increases that would mostly hit the working and middle classes. From a conservative point of view, you have to admit that this is a real winner.

  • Mulvaney OK With Keeping Individual Mandate, Provides No Guidance on How to Pay For It

    The latest:

    Mulvaney: White House ‘OK’ pulling individual mandate repeal from tax bill

    White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the administration wants to repeal part of Obamacare in Congress’ tax bill but is “OK with taking it out” if “it becomes an impediment.”

    ….“If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill, and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that’s great,” Mulvaney continued. “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we’re OK with taking it out. So, I think it’s up to the Senate and the House to sort of hammer out those details.

    Fine, but repealing the individual mandate saves a lot of money, according to the CBO score. In 2027, it reduces the deficit due to tax cuts from $91 billion to $37 billion. Since this deficit needs to be zero in 2028, Republicans have a lot more hammering out to do if they keep the mandate. I wonder if Mulvaney or Trump have any opinion on how to deal with these pesky little details?

  • Six Months Ago Donald Trump Fired the Director of the FBI

    This is your periodic reminder that six months ago the president of the United States fired the director of the FBI. Then he went on national TV and admitted that he had done it because he was exasperated with Comey’s investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign (“this Russia thing”). And then nothing happened.

  • The Republican Tax Bill Might Help the Economy (By a Smidgen)

    Tyler Cowen has been pushing back for a while against liberal disgust with the Republican tax bill. On Friday he linked to a couple of studies suggesting that low corporate tax rates are linked to both stronger growth and higher wages. “I’ve been reading in this area on and off since the 1980s,” he says, “and I really don’t think these are phony results.”

    That may well be true. But as always, the question is “compared to what?” Liberal criticism of the tax bill has been largely motivated by obviously bogus claims for enormous wage gains and huge economic growth. These claims are little short of flat-out lies. But is it possible that a corporate rate cut will eventually produce small wage gains? Sure. And most conventional analyses also predict some economic growth. It’s just very, very small.

    There’s also the question of the starting point. If tax rates are very high, cuts can have noticeable effects. If they’re already very low, cuts are unlikely to do much. And corporate taxes in America are already very low:

    Cutting corporate taxes from 2 percent of GDP to 1.5 percent of GDP might have some effect that trickles down to the broader economy, but it’s not likely to be more than crumbs. On the other hand, a lot of rich individuals will get considerably richer. I think it’s safe to say that this is the real motivation here.

  • When Women Fail, They Pay a Much Bigger Price Than Men

    Heather Sarsons

    Via Harold Pollack, here’s a new study that will probably not surprise you—but should incense you. Heather Sarsons, a graduate student at Harvard, examined Medicare data to determine how doctors referred patients to specialists for surgery. In particular, did they treat male and female surgeons differently?

    The answer is pretty simple: oh my, yes. Sarsons used matched panels of surgeons who were equally qualified and had similar records of surgical outcomes. But primary care doctors didn’t treat them the same. If a patient unexpectedly died after surgery, most doctors continued referring patients to male surgeons at about the same rate. But referrals to female surgeons plummeted:

    In the case of male surgeons, an unexpected death is apparently treated as just something that happens sometimes. In the case of female surgeons, it’s taken as a sign of poor surgical skill. And it’s not just the surgeon herself who suffers. So do all her colleagues:

    Again, referrals to male surgeons stay about the same. But if a female surgeon suffers an unexpected death, referrals to all female surgeons plummet. And just to make an obvious point clear, this has real-world implications for how much money they make:

    What’s happening here is hardly uncommon. Minorities of all kinds are often treated as representatives of their entire group. If one fails, it reflects on all of them. But the same isn’t true of members of majority groups. There, a failure is usually taken as a chance occurrence. Not only doesn’t it reflect on their entire group, it often doesn’t even reflect on them personally.

    If you’re white or male, you’d never see this. Even if you’re not, it might not be noticeable. If you experience a failure and subsequently get fewer referrals from a doctor, you might shrug and consider that a normal response, never knowing that your male colleagues aren’t treated the same way. Literally everyone might be totally unaware this is happening. It’s only when you dig deeply into the dusty, boring data that you discover this kind of rampant systemic privilege.

  • Republicans Suddenly Discover That Private Jets Don’t Deserve a Tax Break

    Katerina Sulova/CTK/ZUMA

    A couple of days ago I saw a tweet about a provision of the Republican tax bill that gave owners of private airplanes a tax break. That seemed well worth a snarky blog post, but then I foolishly checked up on what the provision actually did. It…wasn’t really that bad. So I never wrote about it.

    This morning, however, the folks at National Review discovered that this tax provision had been cosponsored by a Democrat, and suddenly it became “disgraceful…rightly mocked.” That’s politics, I guess. But in case you’re curious, here’s the story, as explained by the Joint Committee on Taxation (p. 50-52):

    When you fly on a commercial jet, you pay an excise tax on the ticket price. But what if you fly your own plane? Until 2012 there was no excise tax on private flights. After all, there’s no ticket price if you own the plane. This makes it critical to determine who has “possession, command, and control” of the aircraft, and in 2012 the IRS ruled that if you hire a management company to take care of your plane, you have effectively given up control. Therefore, the management company is providing transportation to the owner and is required to collect the appropriate federal excise tax.

    A year later the IRS suspended audit assessments for taxes on aircraft management services, and in 2017, after losing a court case, more or less gave up on it. So this provision of the bill clears things up by specifying exactly which activities from a management company count as taxable and which don’t:

    • Exempt payments are those amounts paid by an aircraft owner for management services related to maintenance and support of the owner’s aircraft or flights on the owner’s aircraft.
    • Applicable services include support activities related to the aircraft itself, such as its storage, maintenance, and fueling, and those related to its operation, such as the hiring and training of pilots and crew, as well as administrative services such as scheduling, flight planning, weather forecasting, obtaining insurance, and establishing and complying with safety standards.

    I don’t truly understand the distinctions here, but there doesn’t really appear to be anything corrupt going on. As for why the amendment was sponsored by the bipartisan team of Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, it’s because they’re the senators from Ohio, and Ohio is where NetJets is headquartered. They’re the ones who sued the IRS earlier this year and won, so their home state senators were the obvious ones to take an interest and make the tax code clear on what’s taxable and what isn’t.

  • Friday Cat Blogging – 17 November 2017

    Check out the tongue action! It’s a good thing cats don’t see the pictures we post of them. If they did, we’d all be toast.

    Also note Hopper photobombing Hilbert in the background. She’s a slick one, that Hopper.

  • Raw Data: US Military Actions Abroad Since 1798

    Via a tweet from Dan Drezner, here’s a chart showing every US military action abroad since 1798:

    There are reasons to take this with a grain of salt. The CRS report it’s based on includes purely humanitarian missions (“2014: Southern Philippines Humanitarian Assistance for Typhoon Bopha”) and it also seems to count separate actions in a single conflict as distinct uses of force (1994 includes five separate entries for Bosnia).

    That said, we sure do send our military abroad a lot, don’t we? If I’ve counted correctly the longest span without a military action overseas was 1934-40, when I guess we were too busy with the Depression to flex our muscles.

  • Republicans Confirm Yet Again That Their Promises Are Worthless

    Jeff Malet/Newscom via ZUMA

    Another lesson learned today: never give Republicans the benefit of the doubt. It’s not as if I make a habit of this, but every once in a while I go soft. And it always comes back to haunt me.

    Here’s the story. For the six years he was in charge of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy—a Democrat—maintained the blue slip tradition. That is, if home-state Republicans objected to a judge nominated by President Obama, the nomination got pulled. That was very fair-minded of him! When Chuck Grassley took over after the Republican wave of 2014, he naturally maintained the same rule since he too liked the idea of Republicans being able to block Obama’s nominees. The question was: would Grassley stick to this rule when it meant giving Democrats the ability to block Trump’s nominees?

    I predicted he wouldn’t, because Republicans have always played games with the blue slip rule to favor their own cause. But then I hedged a bit last month. And so did Leahy, who noted that Grassley had promised to respect the blue slip tradition. “I trust him to keep his word,” Leahy said. That sure was stupid:

    Grassley rips up ‘blue slip’ for a pair of Trump court picks

    The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that he is going ahead with a confirmation hearing for a nominee to the powerful appellate courts despite the objections of a Democrat who had been blocking the nomination for months….Grassley says he has scheduled hearings for David Stras, a nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Stras’ home-state senator, said earlier this year that he would not return the so-called blue slip for Stras because of his conservative ideology.

    “The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would,” Grassley said in his floor speech. “But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.”

    For more than two decades Republicans have flipped the blue-slip rule whenever it favored their own party. If a Democrat was president, they supported it. If a Republican was president, they ditched it. Now they’ve flipped yet again. Big surprise.

    No response yet from Leahy. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

  • Beware Your Leggings If You Sit Down With Anna Wintour

    New Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones in a 2008 photo.Beowulf Sheehan/ZUMA

    Radhika Jones is the editorial director of the books department at the New York Times. She was recently named editor of Vanity Fair and headed over to get acquainted with her new staff and the rest of the Condé Nast team:

    Jones’ choice of hosiery proved most offensive, according to the editor. For the occasion, Jones had chosen a pair of tights — not in a neutral black or gray as is common in the halls of Vogue — but rather a pair covered with illustrated, cartoon foxes.

    The animal caricatures may have also been too much for Vogue editor in chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, who is said to have fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ hosiery throughout the duration of the staff meeting.

    Unnerved by Jones’ choice of legwear — and Wintour’s reaction — the fashion editor proclaimed to her friends: “I’m not sure if I should include a new pair of tights in her welcome basket.” Jones is said to begin her new role on Dec. 11.

    OK, I surrender. Civilization probably was a big mistake after all.

    UPDATE: Ruth Graham tracks down the offending tights.