Who Benefited Most from Obamacare?

New York Times: “The health care law was one of the most bitterly contested pieces of legislation in the country’s history. It remains controversial because of its costs to both taxpayers and insurance customers. The high premiums and high deductibles of many plans still make coverage a crushing financial burden for some families.”

“And the law is not close to achieving the goal of universal coverage, in part because 19 states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs for the poor, an option the Supreme Court granted them in a landmark 2012 case. Nevertheless, the Times’s analysis shows that by the end of that first full year, 2014, so many low-income people gained coverage that it halted the decades-long expansion of the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the American health insurance system, a striking change at a time when disparities between rich and poor are growing in many areas.”

How the Wealthy Hide Their Money from the Government

Washington Post: “The documents known as the ‘Panama Papers’ have created a global scandal around the ways the world’s rich conceal their wealth from the authorities. The prime minister of Iceland offered his resignation after the papers reportedly revealed that he and his wife had a fortune on paper hidden away in the British Virgin Islands. British Prime Minister David Cameron is taking criticism as well, and he acknowledged that he profited from a secret family trust.”

“In the United States, the Treasury would collect about $124 billion a year in additional taxes — $36 billion from individual taxpayers and $88 billion from multinational corporations — if it weren’t for such schemes, according to estimates by Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley.”

How the Media Distorts College Admissions

FiveThirtyEight: “Here’s how the national media usually depicts the admissions process: High school seniors spend months visiting colleges; writing essays; wrangling letters of recommendation; and practicing, taking and retaking an alphabet soup of ACTs, SATs and AP exams. Then the really hard part: months of nervously waiting to find out if they are among the lucky few (fewer every year, we’re told!) with the right blend of academic achievement, extracurricular involvement and an odds-defying personal story to gain admission to their favored university.”

“Here’s the reality: Most students never have to write a college entrance essay, pad a résumé or sweet-talk a potential letter-writer. Nor are most, as The Atlantic put it Monday, ‘obsessively checking their mailboxes’ awaiting acceptance decisions. (Never mind that for most schools, those decisions now arrive online.) According to data from the Department of Education,1 more than three-quarters of U.S. undergraduates2 attend colleges that accept at least half their applicants; just 4 percent attend schools that accept 25 percent or less, and hardly any — well under 1 percent — attend schools like Harvard and Yale that accept less than 10 percent.”

Reversing Trade Deficit Could Make America Less Great

New York Times: “Donald Trump believes that a half-trillion-dollar trade deficit with the rest of the world makes the United States a loser and countries with trade surpluses like China and Mexico winners.”

“The reality is different. Trade deficits are not inherently good or bad; they can be either, depending on circumstances. The trade deficit is not a scorecard.”

“What’s more, eliminating the trade deficit would not, on its own, make America great again, as Mr. Trump promises. And in isolation, the fact that the United States has a trade deficit does not prove that trade agreements are bad for Americans, a staple of Bernie Sanders’s campaign in the Democratic presidential primary. In fact, trying to eliminate the trade deficit could mean giving up some of the key levers of power that allow the United States to get its way in international politics.”

“Getting rid of the trade deficit could very well make America less great. The reasons have to do with the global reserve currency, economic diplomacy and something called the Triffin dilemma.”

Car Dealers Get Pushed Out by Political Ads

“When political campaigns begin to flood local TV markets with commercials, car dealers get squeezed for airtime more than any other advertisers,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Local automotive dealers predominantly buy ads during the local news—the same programming where political campaigns and outside groups concentrate much of their spending, according to research from analytics firm Kantar Media. In fact, Kantar Media’s analysis of eight markets in 2014 showed that car dealers ran slightly more than half of all their ads during local news shows, while more than 60% of political ads appeared on those same programs.”

Wall Street Pushes Back on Trading Tax

“Wall Street is mobilizing against proposals to tax financial transactions as the idea gains attention on the campaign trail and in Congress,” The Hill reports.

“The idea already has one high-profile supporter, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed legislation in the Senate for a tax on the trade of stocks and other securities.”

“Supporters say a financial transaction tax (FTT) would deter market speculation. But the industry and other critics are expanding efforts to stop the proposal, saying it would weaken markets and hurt small investors, especially Americans trying to save for retirement. Retirement money is often invested in mutual funds that trade frequently to maximize returns.”

A Nation Free of Lead? Clinton Says She’ll Do It

Philip Bump examines the viability of Hillary Clinton’s pledge that should she be elected president she will “within five years to remove lead from everywhere.”

“That’s almost certainly impossible.”

“Lead isn’t only transmitted in water through lead pipes. It exists, as Clinton pointed out, in paint in homes. For decades it was added to gasoline — an initiative of the auto industry that once made Flint prosperous. Once in gasoline, it spread throughout the environment, contaminating the dirt around roads and the houses adjacent to those roads … Getting rid of those pipes alone within five years would be hugely difficult and massively expensive.”

“The Centers for Disease Control notes that most housing built prior to 1978 uses some lead paint. According to the Census Bureau, there are nearly 70 million houses in the United States that meet that standard. Seventy million.”

“The problem of lead in the United States is a problem for which there is no easy solution. At best, we’ve reached a stalemate with lead, doing our best to reduce our children’s exposure to the metal, an effort that extends back to the late 1970s.”

It’s About the Economy, Stupid

Gallup: “More than six in 10 Republicans and independents who lean Republican say Donald Trump would be best at dealing with the economy/jobs and the federal budget deficit as president, compared with less than 20% who pick either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.”

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“Republicans choose Donald Trump, who promises to “make America great again” — as the best GOP candidate for handling the economy and federal budget deficit as president. These strengths appear to be at the core of his support, tying in with the persistent economic anxiety Republicans express on a host of Gallup measures, such as confidence in the economy and their own economic progress.”

“At the same time, Republicans — including many who favor his nomination — seem to be well aware that Trump has weaknesses. They implicitly acknowledge Trump’s unusual brashness, giving Rubio the most credit for having the right temperament to be president. Republicans also acknowledge that Trump is not the most conservative candidate, giving Cruz credit for the conservatism that has become his signature message. Given that Republicans in this poll favor Trump to win their party’s nomination, they appear to be willing to overlook the front-runner’s deficiencies.”

What is the Outlook for Obamacare Enrollment?

The latest Kaiser Family Foundation report finds that “sign-ups in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans could continue to grow modestly over the next few years to 16.3 million (up 28%), based on the experience of the top-performing states.”

“The analysis estimates that if all states performed at least as well as the top 10 states, the number of people signing up during annual open enrollment periods could reach 16.3 million (14.7 million after attrition when some enrollees fail to pay premiums, called effectuated enrollment), up from 12.7 million this year. This would still be less than enrollment of over 20 million projected by the Congressional Budget Office.”
Figure 2: Marketplace Plan Selections (Millions)
“The analysis also charts coverage gains from 2013 to 2014 for uninsured people eligible for ACA marketplace plans. It shows that the biggest coverage gain came for people with incomes between 150 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level, who qualify for substantial premium subsidies under the health law. The number of marketplace-eligible people without insurance in that group declined by 33 percent during that period. The two groups experiencing the smallest gains in coverage were those with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (18% reduction in marketplace-eligible uninsured) and those with incomes between three and four times the poverty level (14% reduction).”

Trump Reflects the Transformation of the GOP

John Cassidy comments on the “larger reality” that Trump’s style of campaigning reflects.

“With Trump in a strong position to win the primary, Republicans are engaged in a bitter battle not just about who will represent them in November, but about the broader nature of their party. For the past forty years, the G.O.P. has been an uneasy alliance of social conservatives, free-market conservatives, and corporate interest groups, with the latter largely dictating economic policy. Trump has been drawing on a base of alienated white working-class and middle-class voters, seeking to remake the G.O.P. into a more populist, nativist, avowedly protectionist, and semi-isolationist party that is skeptical of immigration, free trade, and military interventionism.”

“To transform a political party, you need a clear message, a broad electoral base, and allies within the existing power structure. Trump now has all three of these things. As I’ve pointed out before, his claim that Washington is broken and can only be fixed by an outsider resonates with many Americans, and not just arch-conservatives. So does his demagoguery about illegal immigrants and the supposed threat that Muslims present. What is perhaps more surprising, at least to Washington-based conservatives, is how many Republicans are also embracing Trump’s populist lines on ending free trade, protecting Social Security, and providing basic health care.”

What Were the Top Topics in Last Night’s Debate?

Philip Bump: “The 11th Republican debate was pretty insane, even measured against the high bar for craziness that the preceding 10 had set. Google makes neat little charts showing what topics people were Googling, but they don’t include topics like ‘Trump’s steak brand’ or ‘Trump’s meat.'”

“We track the topics people were most interested in minute-by-minute. And the biggest spike came as Ted Cruz was talking about his postcard-sized tax form (which was actually supposed to be an answer about who does the work of the IRS if you get rid of the IRS).”

Rising searches for Trump:

  • trump debate
  • trump steaks
  • donald trump age
  • how old is donald trump

We’ll note that the Cruz lip incident coincided with the tax discussion. So the rising searches for Cruz:

  • ted cruz booger
  • ted cruz mouth
  • ted cruz tax postcard

We are an elegant species.