The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The CBO and the Ides of March

The Daily Escape:

(Provence – Photo by Veronika K. Ko.)

The Ides of March are today. The Netherlands holds its parliamentary election, the US debt ceiling agreement expires, and Trump is gonna get a ton of postcards.

Congressional Budget Office estimates for Trumpcare (AHCA) came out on Monday, and they’re worse than expected.  Sarah Kliff, Vox’s healthcare reporter, has this:

  • CBO estimates 14 million would lose coverage in 2018. The report projects that much of the early coverage loss would stem from repealing Obamacare’s mandate that all Americans purchase coverage or pay a fine.
  • After that, increases in the uninsured would be from Medicaid cuts. After 2018, CBO thinks that most of the increase in the number of uninsured would stem from changes the AHCA would make to Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, an expansion that allowed many more low-income adults to enroll in the program.
  • The bill would “freeze” enrollment in that program on January 1, 2020. Medicaid enrollees would trickle off the rolls as their incomes changed. And this would lead to another big decline in coverage.
  • The number of uninsured, CBO projects, would rise by 21 million in 2020 and hit 24 million in 2026.
  • The CBO projects that as the individual market shrinks, premiums would rise between 10% and 15% as some healthy people flee in 2018. But over the next few years, the agency expects premiums to go down to 10% lower than under Obamacare.
  • CBO thinks more young people will come into the market, as the GOP plan offers incentives to make the market more appealing to younger, (healthier) enrollees.
  • AHCA would be a huge cut to Medicaid. CBO estimates it would reduce spending on the health program for low-income Americans by $880 billion over the next decade. This helps explain why AHCA would reduce the deficit: The bill spends a lot less money on entitlement programs.

When Paul Ryan’s talking points are that their plan will reduce the deficit, and that premiums will go down by 10% OVER THE LONG TERM, you know that he doesn’t care that 24 million people will lose healthcare insurance.

That the GOP is choosing deficit reduction over covering American citizens is what the public will remember. When you kick out the poor and older folks, of course premiums will go down. But premiums will remain high for those in the 50-64 age bracket, and their premiums will be higher than currently.

The CBO report also finds that this legislation will provide massive tax relief, and make the most fundamental entitlement reform in more than a generation, if throwing people off Medicaid truly is “reform”.

Even before the CBO report was released, the Trump administration began laying the groundwork to discredit the agency and their report. White House press secretary Sean Spicer:

If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place…they were way, way off last time in terms of how they scored and projected Obamacare.

Since this is the Ides of March, you should have expected some stabbing.

Their criticism is centered on the fact that CBO previously overestimated the number of people who would enroll in the marketplaces. That’s true: Earlier CBO reports estimated that the Obamacare marketplaces would have 26 million enrollees this year. Last year, CBO revised that estimate to 15 million.

Critics don’t mention that the CBO also underestimated how many people Medicaid expansion would cover. The overestimate and the underestimate essentially cancel each other out: Obamacare is covering just about as many people as CBO expected back in 2013.

Curiously, Trump said his health care plan would cover EVERYONE, and it would be much cheaper and much better. Except it won’t.

When you think about bad data, remember that Trump said we shouldn’t trust the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers on monthly employment last year, he said they were fake. Now, Trump says the numbers in this month’s data release are real. You be the judge:

Obama in February 2016 — 237,000 new jobs
Trump in February 2017 — 235,000 new jobs

Trump: Making America a Slightly Less Great Again.

Your daily musical interlude appropriately is from the group the Ides of March. Here is “Vehicle”, their only hit, originally published in 1970, and performed live at the Chicago House of Blues in 2014:

That 70 year-old guy can still sing.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample Lyrics:

Well, I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan

Won’t you hop inside my car?

I got pictures, candy, I’m a lovable man

And I can take you to the nearest star


Kinda like the GOP promises on healthcare.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 5, 2017

Wrongo and family have moved temporarily to the Southern Mansion of Wrong for a few days to escape the New England winter. We rent the same oceanfront house each year. While it is low rent compared to Mar-a-Lago, here is the Sunday AM view:

Another great week for cartoons! Trump tweets that Obama bugged the phones at Trump Tower, but Obama denies it:

Two things are funny here: that Trump thinks the election process is “sacred”, after all that happened last November, and that he can’t spell “tap”.

GOP loved, loved Trump’s first address to the Congress:

Paul Ryan’s got a secret plan for health care:


Ryan’s plan will offer more choices to Americans. Our choices will be open casket, closed casket, and cremation. When Obama pushed the TPP, and Congress people could only see it in a secret room, the GOP howled. Apparently we the peasants should simply shut up, and eat our tiny bowls of gruel.

The Donald’s view of his defense budget in context:

Guns and tanks, tanks and guns, shoot ’em up, let’s have some fun

Jeff Sessions channels Bill Clinton:

How can a leader get away with saying nothing is his fault?






Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 27, 2016

Are you sick of all the winning yet?

You have probably heard that Fidel Castro died yesterday. Wrongo was in college in October 1962, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. We were glued to TV waiting for a nuclear attack that never came.

That Castro survived JFK by 53 years is remarkable, particularly since at least two American Presidents tried to kill him. At the time, Kennedy offered two things in exchange for Soviet removal of the Cuban missiles: (1) the US would pledge never to invade Cuba and (2) the US would secretly withdraw missiles from Turkey. The removal of the nukes from Turkey was delayed several months, so that the US would not appear weak in the face of the Cuban missile threat. The Soviet Union accepted this offer the next day.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, their archives of the Missile crisis showed that Castro wanted the USSR to fire the missiles at the US. Khrushchev came to regard Castro as a lunatic, bent on war. We came very close to invading Cuba, and the Soviets never fully trusted Castro again.

In most ways, Castro’s death is anticlimactic. He retired, and appointed his brother Raul to head the government years ago, and recently, the Obama administration has been effective in improving relations with Cuba. Had Fidel died during a period of greater tension, it might have signaled the possibility of a positive change in relations between our two countries. Sadly, it is probable that the next great change in Cuban/American relations will move us backward under a Trump Administration.

Onward to cartoons. Thanksgiving and Trump’s staffing plans dominated the week.

Many avoided politics at the family repast:


Democrats weigh their strategy with Trump:


Trump meets with the New York Times, tells them how to cover the news:


Our Orange Decider has yet to decide a few things:


Paul Ryan is locked and loaded for 2017:


Many who voted for Trump have little or no retirement savings, or regular savings for that matter. Ironically, a majority of them will be reliant on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in later life. Sadly, they can’t seem to connect the dots between Ryan’s Ayn Randian dreams of privatization, and how it will affect their lives. It may be too late for many of them.

Deficits are part of the Art of the Deal:


Those “responsible Republican deficit hawkswanted to restore earmarks the week after the election, but Ryan is making them wait until the new Congress is seated. That way, they won’t destroy the PRETENSE of budget deficits mattering.

The GOP really can’t wait to take off the debt girdle:





Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 16, 2016

(this is a re-post of Sunday’s column after the site’s database crashed)

“Important issues in the presidential campaign are like the Oakland A’s. You aren’t going to see much of them in October” Rocky Mountain Mike

The best things that happened last week were the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan and Michelle Obama’s speech. Perhaps the worst thing last week was the US’s deeper involvement in Yemen: The Saudis bombed a funeral. An American naval vessel was attacked at sea by the Houthis. We launched cruise missiles at Yemen. The Iranian navy started patrolling off of Yemen in the same space as the US navy. Escalation, and what does the US get out of this? The Obama administration must be held to account for this.

Dylan wins the Nobel:


Trump’s decline in the polls means his call “Hillary for jail” has a new meaning:


The GOP establishment walks away from Trump just a little:


Trump admitting sexual assault has given some Christian supporters a moral dilemma:



Trump gets a new campaign logo:





Congress Returns to Do (Not) Much

From Roll Call:

After the longest summer break in modern times, lawmakers are required to accomplish a single legislative task before leaving again. But it’s a job far more politically fraught than it is procedurally simple: Assuring normal government operations continue through the end of this budgetary year and into the new one.

That’s right, once again, it’s time to fight about funding the government. And as Booman says,

This ridiculous election season would not be complete without the threat of another government shutdown, and how much money would you be willing to risk betting on Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to find a way to pass a continuing resolution that either the majority of their own caucus would support or that relies (again) on mostly Democratic votes?

The potential stalemate over spending is a headache for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) who would like to avoid a shutdown threat just weeks before the election.

The Tea Party and GOP conservatives want to kick the can ahead for six months with a temporary resolution. But Democrats and some Republicans want to finish the annual budget work in the lame duck session after the election.

Both sides are digging in for a fight.

This could become an object lesson on why Republicans shouldn’t be in the majority. The party with the majority in the House is supposed to produce the bills and along with the Senate, supply the votes to pass appropriations. But, John Boehner couldn’t do it, because the Freedom Caucus and the other conservative R’s wouldn’t work as a coalition with other Republicans and/or Democrats to actually pass spending bills.

Ryan was able to do it last time, but it isn’t looking like those Republican factions will roll over again.

If Ryan and McConnell want to buck their own members on the length of the continuing resolution, the Dems are free to refuse to provide any votes. And the Democrats do not have to protect the sitting president, so they can watch as the GOP twists in the wind.

Fun times on Capitol Hill!

Here are a few links to news you may have missed over the holiday:

Experimental new opioid blocks pain without being addictive or deadly in primates. In monkeys, the drug is a highly effective pain reliever without downsides. It needs more trials, including in humans. Meanwhile, the DEA is attempting to ban a natural, safe herb which has been used for thousands of years to do the same thing.

Holy Labor Day: On Friday, an estimated 150 million workers refused to show up for work in India and instead took to the streets to demonstrate against labor conditions. The unions involved issued 12 demands to Prime Minister Modi, including raising the minimum wage, introduction of universal social security, and a minimum pension.

Is an end to the Asian sweatshop in sight? A recent report from the International Labor Organization found that more than two-thirds of Southeast Asia’s 9.2 million textile and footwear jobs are threatened by automation. Here are the numbers: 88% of those jobs in Cambodia, 86% in Vietnam, and 64% in Indonesia. Will this be good for the workers? Doubtful.

13 Tips for reading election polls like a pro. After Labor Day, the polling deluge will begin. A guide to making sense of it all.

Boeing gets $2B in bonuses for flawed missile-defense system. From 2002 through early last year, the Pentagon conducted 11 flight tests of the nation’s homeland missile-defense system. The interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six of the 11 tests — a record that has prompted independent experts to conclude the system can’t be relied on to foil a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet the Pentagon paid Boeing, the prime contractor, $1,959,072,946 in performance bonuses for a Job? Well? Done?

Maybe we shouldn’t complain: The US government is spending money. Money = jobs. Of course, money also = corruption. And isn’t it a good deal if Boeing’s shit doesn’t work?


The Pant Load Party

Happy Friday! You are busy, and don’t need a long-form note from Wrongo. But, here are a few items you may have missed that accurately describe the Republican Party today:

First, The GOP didn’t follow its own rules during a vote on Thursday. The subject was a measure to ensure protections for the LGBT community in federal contracts, and it failed to pass after “initially passing” during the time allotted for members to vote. Then, the Republican leadership urged their members to change their votes. The leadership kept the vote open as they pressured members to change sides, allowing lawmakers switch their votes without following the “Regular Order”  process of walking to the well at the front of the chamber.

By changing their votes, the House GOP inserted a poison pill that overrides Obama’s executive order banning LGBTQ discrimination in federal defense contracts. From The Hill:

Initially, it appeared Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-NY) amendment had passed, as 217 “yes” votes piled up over 206 “no” votes when the clock ran out. The measure needed 213 votes to pass. But it eventually failed, 212-213, after a number of Republican lawmakers changed their votes from “yes” to “no” after the clock had expired.

More from The Hill:

According to the office of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD.), at least seven Republicans changed their votes, including Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Bruce Poliquin (Maine), David Valadao (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Mimi Walters (Calif.) and David Young (Iowa). Denham, Valadao, Poliquin and Young are among the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection this year. Walden, meanwhile, chairs the House GOP campaign arm.

Twenty-nine Republicans voted for Maloney’s amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects, along with all Democrats in the final roll call.

But the awesome kicker was House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “see and hear no evil”: When asked about the vote-switching, Ryan denied knowing whether his leadership team pressured Republicans:

I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know…

He then defended the provision in the defense bill: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

This is federalism, the states should do this. The federal government shouldn’t stick its nose in [the states’] its business

Simpler Paul Ryan: The federal government has no business regulating federal defense contracts. That should be left to the states. You know that even Paul Ryan is smarter than that.

Second, The Donald at a Chris Christie funds-raiser in NJ:

Look, a lot of you don’t know the world of economics and you shouldn’t even bother. Just do me a favor, leave it to me.

If you are in the audience, you are insulted, but still cheering. Or this: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

My trade deal is very simple, I am going to make great deals for our country…It [the trade deals?] might be free, it might not be free.

Yes, he said those two things in the same speech. Do either of those statements cause you to trust that you will be better off after a Trump administration?

Finally, this perspective from Matt Taibbi in the Rolling Stone on May 18th after Cruz conceded:

If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word “American” by insisting they were the only real ones…their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut – the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.

A Cruz supporter lamented: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

People don’t care about civility anymore…Why are we [Republicans] so mean?’

But the real question is, “Why vote for the GOP?”

You know, why vote for a Pant Load Republican who tells you not to worry about economics.

Or a Pant Load Republican who tells you he didn’t know what happened with a House vote that passed after it didn’t pass, a vote, that in effect, vitiated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for federal contracts.

That very same Pant Load who says we should leave regulating federal contractors to the states.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 15, 2016

The week’s news was dominated by the summit meeting between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. Going in to the big meeting, Ryan’s staff had an office pool:

COW Office Pool

The GOP feels that the boys will paper over their differences:

COW Paper Over














After the meeting, the Very Reverend Elephant abandoned his scruples:

COW GOP Marriage


Trump now says that the GOP is behind him:

COW GOP Behind Me

Donald’s General Election strategy is to promise only what fits on a ball cap:

COW Promises


The Pant Suit vs. The Pant Load©

Over the next few months, Wrongo will be writing an extended series of columns about the 2016 presidential election, called “The Pant Suit vs. The Pant Load”

The starting premise is that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, and whoever gets the Republican nomination will be the designated Pant Load.

Pant Load #1 is of course, The Donald. Pant Load #2 is Ted “Canada” Cruz.

That leaves Pant Load #3, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who today’s NYT tells us, is running very fast, all the while saying he is not interested. It says a lot about the leadership of the GOP when their leading candidates for the Presidency make Paul Ryan look like a good idea.

Some Republicans who are hoping for a more “moderate” answer to Pant Loads #1 and #2, think that Ryan, possibly with Rubio as his VP candidate, will turn 2016 into a GOP presidential win. However, anyone who thinks that Paul Ryan is a moderate, needs to take the time to read what his plans are for programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax reform. He would rip up the social contract and shred the safety net, leaving us in a societal Hobbesian nightmare.

Anyway, the GOP is very nervous, and possibly for good reason. Pollster Stan Greenberg has evidence that groups that were core to the Obama wins are now becoming much more engaged than they were in 2015. A few of Greenberg’s findings:

  • The GOP civil war is producing an eye-opening number of Republicans ready to punish down-ballot candidates for not making the right choice with respect to how to run in relation to the front-runner. Moderate Republicans are already peeling off
  • The focus groups with white unmarried women, millennials and African Americans showed a new consciousness about the stakes in November. In this poll, the percentage of Democrats giving the highest level of engagement has increased 10 points
  • The result is that the country might be heading for an earthquake election in November.

An “earthquake election.” Take all that with a grain of salt, since his firm (which includes James Carvelle) is very partisan. The survey took place March 17-24, 2016. Margin of error is +/-3.27 percentage points at 95% confidence. 65% of respondents were reached by cell phone.

So, the desperation is rising. Nancy Letourneau writes today about Grover Norquist’s plan to turn this around for the GOP:

Into this breach comes Grover Norquist with…what can I say…a “creative” solution. He has identified six new voting blocs that have developed over the last 30 years that won’t want Hillary Clinton in the White House. Between the lines, his contention is that she is just so out of touch with what is happening in the world that she’s missed them.

Here are Norquist’s six voting blocks that will challenge the Rising American Electorate:

  1. Home schoolers
  2. Charter school supporters
  3. Concealed-carry permit holders
  4. Fracking workers
  5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products
  6. Uber drivers

Norquist thinks the Republicans can tap these groups in order to stop Clinton in November. Wrongo isn’t sure, but Norquist’s ideas seemed to make more sense when we were at Burning Man on peyote. But now that our clothes are back on, it all seems dubious. This is micro targeting for no apparent gain.

For example, would a vaping Uber driver (with a concealed carry permit) who home-schools his/her children be Grover’s (and the GOP’s) ideal target? The size of that demographic approximates the number of American unicorns.

And who out there thinks that the home schooling bloc are not already voting Republican? Something like 95% of school-age kids are in traditional public schools, despite all the press that charter schools and homeschooling get, so we are not speaking of a huge demographic.

And how many fracking workers can there be? Aren’t most of them in Texas, and Oklahoma, not exactly swing states?

Those who have a concealed carry permit are most likely also already voting for the GOP.

Ya gotta love the smell of conservative desperation in the springtime.



There Is No Hope For The GOP

While we are busy obsessing about the Donald and Hillary, the Congress is supposed to be governing in the background. They aren’t.

After Paul Ryan (R-WI) replaced John Boehner as House Speaker, the idea was that Republicans would have more of a united front. And specifically, when it came to Ryan’s specialty, the federal budget, the idea was that Republicans would have an “ah-ha” moment, craft a budget, and then put pressure on Obama to go along.

But the change in leadership changed nothing for those divided House Republicans. Despite months of budget negotiations, the House Freedom Caucus, the 40 Republicans that ousted Boehner as Speaker, have now rejected Paul Ryan’s budget, probably leaving the Republicans with no budget to pass this year. More from HuffPo: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The budget, a non-binding resolution laying out spending priorities for the next 10 years, is little more than a press release, except in one key area: It sets the spending limits for the next fiscal year. And without those individual allocations, there’s little point in Republicans trying to go through appropriations process.

If there is no budget, there won’t be appropriations bills. A return to the regular legislative process for appropriations was a key tenet of Ryan’s program for the Speakership. Republicans overwhelmingly support the process of sending up individual spending bills so that they can add policy riders to legislation, putting the squeeze on Mr. Obama to choose between funding parts of the government, or keeping the Democrat’s social policies intact.

Dave Dayden said in the Fiscal Times:

The Freedom Caucus essentially wants to control government from a base of 40 members of the House, with only a few allies in the Senate and no president willing to agree to their demands. They want to…balance the budget through massive spending cuts, dismantle government healthcare programs, and overturn every executive order of the past eight years…

For months, Ryan has attempted to broker a deal on a budget resolution, which sets topline numbers for the appropriations committees to use to fund government operations. A bipartisan deal with the White House had set those numbers in stone, at $1.07 trillion for the next fiscal year. But the Freedom Caucus wants to cut that by $30 billion, back to the level mandated by Sequestration, the automatic spending cuts implemented in 2011.

Nevertheless, the Freedom Caucus formally opposed the deal, unable to stomach the nominal $30 billion spending increase (all of which was offset by cuts elsewhere). While Ryan had offered them votes on individual elements on the budget, members dismissed the additional votes as meaningless, because the Senate was unlikely to take them up.

Because Democrats don’t usually agree to budget resolutions from the other side, losing a 40-member bloc is enough to ensure that Ryan’s budget won’t have enough votes. That means it’s likely the government will be funded with a Continuing Resolution (CR) at current levels for the near future. And Democrats will have to supply most of the votes for the CR to pass.

And the lack of a budget is just a sidelight to the continuing irreconcilable differences between GOP factions. The GOP cannot fix this. Only a purge of one side of the Party, or the other, will do it.

If Paul Ryan cannot mediate this intra-party dispute, who can? Is Trump believable as a mediator?

If they can’t agree on something as simple as a topline budget number, what can they agree on?

The Trump phenomenon may succeed, or it may not. But the Freedom Caucus phenomenon seems far more consequential to the GOP and the country than Trump. And it’s hard to figure out how Republicans will get to where they are trying to go with the Tea Party or with Trump.

So, here’s a Wake Up Call for the GOP: Your “Big Tent” strategy with the Tea Party has failed. You gotta split up with the Teahadists and return to your roots, the roots that allowed you to govern back in the day. Then you can begin working to take back the seats you have lost to the Freedom Caucus.

To help the GOP wake up, here is a song by Girlyman, a group that broke up in 2013 at the height of their powers. Girlyman called their musical style “harmony-driven gender pop.” They had a strong following in the gay community. Here is “Joyful Sign” recorded in NYC at City Winery on April 16, 2011. And, its a break up song:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 1, 2015

A Republican debate, a new Speaker of the House, boots on the ground in Syria, the World Series, not to mention Halloween. Quite the week. Did you set your clocks back?

This tweet pretty much sums up the Republican debate poutrage:

COW GOP Debate Tweet

Rubio had a good debate. Suddenly, people see him as taller:

COW Tall Rubio


GOP Halloween:

COW GOP Halloween

Now that Paul Ryan is Speaker, it will be a wild ride:

COW Mastadon



Ryan will try to be first with the leash:

COW Ryan Speaker

Uncle Sam whistles past America’s foreign policy graveyard:

COW FP Graveyard

NY Mets World Series tix are pricey:

COW Citi Field