Wednesday, June 29, 2011

6th Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Constitutionality of Obama's Health Care Law

This is great news for the American people: The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued a decision today upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It's the first of the three challenges currently before appeals courts to reach a decision point. The Fourth Circuit in Richmond, VA and the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta have also heard arguments on the law's constitutionality, and it's likely that we'll be hearing their opinions soon, as well.

Perhaps the most interesting--not to mention encouraging-- thing about the Sixth Circuit's opinion is that it did not break down along ideological lines, but instead was achieved with a bipartisan application of law:
The Sixth Circuit opinion is the first on the merits that has not broken down strictly along seemingly partisan lines. Two of the judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents and one was appointed by a Democrat. At the lower District Court level, five judges have divided on the question, with three Democratic appointees ruling in favor of the law and two Republican appointees rejecting it
And ThinkProgress  noted something even more encouraging, with respect to possible outcomes when one of these ACA challenges reaches the Supreme Court: the writer of the Sixth Circuit's opinion was Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a George W. Bush appointee who clerked for SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia. That might mean nothing, but it at least suggests the possibility that a near-term SCOTUS decision could also cross ideological lines to find in favor of the ACA.

Why the "14th Amendment" Solution to the debt ceiling won't work

There is a new post on Huffington Post suggesting that some Democrats are thinking about invoking what I like to call the "14th Amendment Solution" to the debt ceiling. It basically goes like this:

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution says, in part, the following:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
The argument then goes that, since the "public debt" cannot be questioned, then that makes the debt ceiling unconstitutional.

However, I think this is a misunderstanding in terminology. The 14th Amendment deals with the "public debt" - that is to say the ability for the federal government to pay back interest on T-bills that have been issued. Here is the problem: the likelihood that the federal government will default on the actual payment of interest on T-bills is pretty small. We have more than enough money to pay for that interest, and it will likely be the first thing "out the door" if we have a debt ceiling crisis, preventing a technical default at least.

What the United States government wouldn't be able to pay would be obligations that it has promised to be able to pay via the appropriations process. We generally pay for these obligations either through tax revenue or by generating public debt. Not paying these obligations may very well create a crisis in of itself (and there are strong indications that it will create a crisis), but it would not be a crisis of being unable to pay off interest on the public debt. We may not be able to send out Medicare payments, make payments to universities or students for student loans, or pay some military salaries and the like, but we'd still be paying interest on the national debt.

This is kind of along the lines of what some Republicans have been saying: that there is no reason why the US would technically default on it's debt, though they ignore the warnings that not paying other obligations might spook Wall Street just as much, which is why we still can't ignore the debt ceiling problem (to say nothing about all the programs that would be affected and the hit to the economy it would cause). However, I think in this instance they are right: there is no reason why the US would have a technical default on it's public debt, which is why I don't think the "14th Amendment Solution" is really valid in this instance.

The only real counter that I could see is the phrase "authorized by law" in the Amendment. Someone could try to argue that this means any appropriations made by Congress are kind of de facto paid for by the "public debt" and thus not paying those obligations are akin to defaulting on the "public debt." While I think applying the 14th Amendment to that interpretation is still a stretch, it is similar to an argument I made back in April where I suggested that whenever Congress approves deficit spending, it implicitly extends the debt ceiling as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Boehner's Dangerous Game With the Debt Ceiling Deadline

We've seen an increasing number of statements like this from various Republicans, but this is the first time I recall the #1 Republican in the debt ceiling negotiations saying something like this:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday rejected Aug. 2 as the final deadline for Congress to raise the government's credit limit before the U.S. defaults on its debt.

"Dealing with this deficit problem is far more important than meeting some artificial date created by the Treasury secretary," Boehner said in an interview taped for Fox News's "Hannity."

Essentially, Boehner is now joining the chorus of Republicans who are essentially saying that the threat of us going into default isn't real, or if we do go into default, it's not that big a deal. It's an increasing trend by the Republican leadership to justify doing nothing until after it's too late. And if they're wrong and the economy blows up, well then it's obviously Obama's fault, or Obama is intentionally using the crisis to wreck the economy to make the GOP look bad.

As we've already seen the past couple of days, Republicans are demanding compromise, but are unwilling to do the same, refusing to raise taxes on anyone for any reason to raise revenue. They are probably hoping that Democrats will be so desperate to avoid a default that they'll eventually succumb and agree to the GOP's demands. And the GOP's recent rhetoric indicates that the GOP is fully intending on following through on forcing a default if they don't get their way. After all, how can you say that the deadline is artificial or that defaulting isn't so bad, and then suddenly go into a mode where you have to pass something by August 2nd or else. They're planting the flag: we're making it so that it will be rhetorically impossible for us to compromise with you, so you better capitulate if you don't want the nation to go under.

They probably also figure that, come 16 months from now when people are voting for President, no one is going to remember this debt ceiling showdown. If the economy bombs into another recession or into a depression, all people will remember in November 2012 is that the situation hasn't gotten better since Obama took office, and will sweep Republicans into total control of government. Then they can tax cut and slice programs with near impunity and it will take literally decades for anyone to be able to fix the damage.

They're betting that Obama and the Democrats would rather face an irate Democratic base for having cut trillions from the budget with no new revenues than face the electorate in 2012 with the US economy in the tank. And they're betting, in the end, the GOP won't be blamed for any of it, just like how they weren't blamed for obstructing everything in the Senate after Obama was elected, and people's memories are fading about their culpability in causing the recession in the first place.

It puts Obama and the Democrats in an extremely difficult position when the GOP truly doesn't care if the nation goes to hell and feel like the debt ceiling situation is a win-win for them, no matter how it turns out. It's a very dangerous and damaging opponent to face, and leaves Obama and the Democrats with very few good options.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The "Truthfulness" Scale: Evaluating GOP Presidential Candidates

I thought I would start doing this now that campaign season is upon us. I won't promise to do these at any particular set interval, but I at least hope to do them now and then: That is calculating a "Truthfulness" Scale using PolitiFact's rating system.

Seeing how many True or False or Pants-on-Fire ratings someone has give someone a good indication about how truthful someone is, but how about condensing it down to one single number? That's what I'm trying to do here.

First, I take PolitiFact's ratings and assign them a score. I did that thus:
  • True = 2 points
  • Mostly True = 1 point
  • Half True = 1/2 point
  • Barely True = -1/2 point
  • False = -1 Point
  • Pants on Fire = -2 points
The rest is pretty much simple: add up and average the scores that each candidate has received. Effectively anyone between 0.5 and -0.5 is pretty much splitting the difference, of course with the more positive number doing better. Over 0.5 is doing pretty good. Over 1 would be doing great. Under -0.5 would be pretty badly, and under -1 would pretty much mean you wouldn't know the truth if it kicked and slapped you in the face and ground your nose against a Truth Wheel.

And also note: A higher score doesn't necessarily mean that candidate's positions are correct, it just means they are more truthful in presenting reality.

So here it goes: I looked up ratings for 9 declared GOP candidates: Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Huntsman, Johnson, Paul, Pawlenty, Romney, and Santroum, plus Obama and then plus Palin just for the hell of it.

Huntsman and Johnson I couldn't really use since they both only had 1 rating each, so I've left them out. I'm including Santorum, but he only has 5 ratings, so one should still see that as kind of a provisional score until he gets more.

Having said that, here are the results:

  1. Ron Paul: 0.75
  2. Barack Obama: 0.58
  3. Mitt Romney: 0.51
  4. Tim Pawlenty: 0.29
  5. Newt Gingrich: 0.17
  6. Sarah Palin: 0.04
  7. Herman Cain: -0.45
  8. Rick Santorum: -0.90*
  9. Michelle Bachmann: -0.96
I'm actually not that surprised Ron Paul is first. I don't agree with his policies, but he seems to be somewhat of a straight shooter when it comes to what the objective truth is. Next we have Obama - not exactly the place people who think he's the biggest liar in history would think he would place at. Third is Romney which is, for the moment, the frontrunner on the GOP side.

We then have a drop down to the next three candidates: Pawlenty, Gingrich, and Palin. Perhaps it's a sign of just how crazy this GOP field is when Palin would be in the middle of the pack when it comes to telling the truth.

Then we have another significant drop down to Cain, who is the only person with 10 or more ratings without a "True" rating.

Then we get down to the, so far, two insane candidates: Santorum, who has a Half True, three Falses, and a Pants on Fire, and Bachmann, who has 17 of her 24 rated statements coming in as "False" or worse. In fact, if she hadn't gotten her first "True" statement about two weeks ago, her rating would have been below -1. One has to wonder whether, whenever she happens to say something that is the truth, whether it's by sheer accident, much like how a broken clock is right twice a day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

President Obama Speaks to America on Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

In case you didn't get to watch, below is a video of President Obama's address to the nation on the schedule for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. A complete transcript follows.

8:01 P.M. EDT
     THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor.  This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives. 
In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Then, our focus shifted.  A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there.  By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year.  But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive.  Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.
For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan.  When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives:  to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country.  I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.
Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment.  Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.  As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.  After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. 
We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength.  Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11.  Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.  And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known.  This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11.  One soldier summed it up well.  “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget.  You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.” 
The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain.  Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -– thereby draining more widespread support.  Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks.  But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.
In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds.  Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country.  Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people.  In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.
Of course, huge challenges remain.  This is the beginning -- but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war.  We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government.  And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.
We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement.  So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.  Our position on these talks is clear:  They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution.  But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.
The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply:  No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies.  We won't try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.  We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.  That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.  What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.
Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.  No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region.  We'll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.  For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us.  They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve. 
My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country.  We've learned anew the profound cost of war -- a cost that's been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended.  Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.
Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way.  We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.  And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end.
As they do, we must learn their lessons.  Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.  Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face.  Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.
We must chart a more centered course.  Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.  But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.  When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas.  When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own.  Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.
In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded.  We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.  We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others.  We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.  That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world.  We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.
Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home.  Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.  For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.
America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.
In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.  To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve.  
I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell.  A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden.  Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost –- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten.  This officer -- like so many others I’ve met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -– spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril. 
That’s a lesson worth remembering -– that we are all a part of one American family.  Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.  Now, let us finish the work at hand.  Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.  With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next. 
May God bless our troops.  And may God bless the United States of America.
                             END           8:16 P.M. EDT

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Can Obama Really Adjourn Congress So Easily?

CitizenVox has a new post out today seemingly describing a way that President Obama can do recess appointments, even though the U. S. House can block the U. S. Senate from adjourning (and thus preventing recess appointments).

The relevant clause in the constitution (Article I, section 5, clause 4) says the following:

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Seems pretty straight forward: if the Senate wants to adjourn, they have to have the House's permission to do so, and vice versa.

However, CitizenFox has found an obscure clause in the Constitution that could undo this little trick by the House GOP. How obscure? So obscure that it appears that it has never been used by a President, ever. That is Article II, section 3, clause 3:

[The President] may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;
Eureka! Jackpot! Or so it may seem at first. However, there are two items I would point out: one, the clause that would suggest that it should only be done under "extraordinary Occasions" and the second that says that it can only be done in the "Case of Disagreement between [both Houses]." I'll take the first of those items first.

One could argue that the "extraordinary Occasions" clause only applies to the part about convening both houses, not to the part about adjourning both houses. I can see how someone could read it that way, but I find it illogical that they would find the power to convene to be "extraordinary" but not the power to adjourn.

However, there is another point that makes this item not much of a problem: the determination that it is an "extraordinary Occasion" by the President is probably very similar to the determination of what "high crimes and misdemeanors" are by the Congress, which is to say it's whatever they say it is. So if President Obama decided that not being able to do recess appointments because the House refuses to adjourn is an "extraordinary Occasion," then there is likely little Congress could do about it.

The next item: the fact that the power can only be used "in Case of Disagreement between them" is the more problematic one for using the power, and I'll demonstrate why with an example:

Let's say the the GOP House of Representatives decided they were going to impeach Obama. Obama, and Senate Democrats not wanting this, decide on a plan: The US Senate would decide to adjourn, and then Obama would declare that there is a "Case of Disagreement" on when to adjourn and forcibly adjourn both houses before the House could pass articles of impeachment, and he could conceivably keep them adjourned until the end of the session (as it says he has the power to adjourn them until "such Time as he shall think proper."

Other than being an obvious abuse of power, I think one can see the problem here: with the interpretation CitizenVox is using, if the President and one House of congress are of the same party, they could coordinate to force the adjournment of both Houses of congress, whether the other house actually intends to adjourn or not.

And that's where I think a careful reading of the actual power is important: "in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment" - this suggests that both Houses have passed resolutions to adjourn but can't agree on the specifics and, for whatever reason, can't work out their differences. Then, and only then, can the President use his power to adjourn both houses himself. Otherwise you may create a situation above where the President can adjourn one of the Houses of Congress, even if they have no intention of actually adjourning. That seems contrary to the spirit, and possibly the letter, of the Constitution.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Study That Claims Businesses Will Drop Insurance Coverage is Highly Suspect

This week, you may have heard or seen news reports on the results of a study just released Tuesday by the corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The findings of the study are dire, purporting that 30 to 50 percent of U.S. employers will discontinue offering health insurance to their employees when the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect in 2014, based on survey responses from 1,300 employers.

What you haven't seen is a copy of the actual survey, which would show us exactly what questions were asked and how they were worded, how many different industries were sampled and the size of the sampled companies, how much information or "spin" prefaced the questions, and so forth. The reason you haven't seen anyone reporting this information is because McKinsey only bothered to release their report on the study - not the study itself.

This makes their extraordinary claims about the findings highly suspicious. For one thing, they starkly contradict every projection to date made by reputable nonpartisan organizations about the effect of the ACA upon employer-offered health insurance. In fact, on Wednesday Nancy-Ann DeParle on the White House blog characterized the McKinsey findings as "an outlier," citing studies from the nonpartisan Rand Corporation and the Urban Institute and the consulting firm Mercer (emphasis is mine):
The Rand Corporation: "The percentage of employees offered insurance will not change substantially, but a small number of employees in small firms (defined as those with under 100 employees in 2016) will obtain employer-sponsored insurance through the state insurance exchanges."

The Urban Institute: "Some have argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would erode employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) by providing incentives for employers to stop offering coverage. Others have claimed that most businesses would face increased costs as a result of reform. A new study finds that overall ESI coverage under the ACA would not differ significantly from what coverage would be without reform."

Mercer: "In a survey released today by consulting firm Mercer, employers were asked how likely they are to get out of the business of providing health care once state-run insurance exchanges become operational in 2014 and make it easier for individuals to buy coverage. For the great majority, the answer was 'not likely.'"
 Additionally, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the effects of ACA implementation on employer-offered health coverage also seems at odds with the McKinsey findings. Their report states that a net 3 million fewer Americans would be covered by employer-offered insurance in 2019 as a result of several factors:
  • Between 6 million and 7 million people would be covered by an employment-based plan under the proposal who would not be covered by one under current law (largely because the mandate for individuals to be insured would increase workers’ demand for coverage through their employers).
  • Between 8 million and 9 million other people who would be covered by an employment-based plan under current law would not have an offer of such coverage under the proposal. Firms that would choose not to offer coverage as a result of the proposal would tend to be smaller employers and employers that predominantly employ lowerwage workers—people who would be eligible for subsidies through the exchanges—although some workers who would not have employment-based coverage because of the proposal would not be eligible for such subsidies. Whether those changes in coverage would represent the dropping of existing coverage or a lack of new offers of coverage is difficult to determine.
  • Between 1 million and 2 million people who would be covered by their employer’s plan (or a plan offered to a family member) under current law would instead obtain coverage in the exchanges. Under the legislation, workers with an offer of employment-based coverage would generally be ineligible for exchange subsidies, but that “firewall” would be enforced imperfectly and an explicit exception to it would be made for workers whose offer was deemed unaffordable.
The White House's DeParle also pointed out two factor that will combine to give large employers little to no incentive to drop insurance coverage: 1) there will be penalties for large employers who do not offer their employees health insurance, and 2) offering health care coverage is a key tool for employers to attract the top talent to work for them.

So, given that McKinsey's survey results are so far outside the results of studies by other reliable nonpartisan organizations - not to mention rather illogical - there is ample reason to question the methodology of the McKinsey study. In fact,  of Time's Swampland blog tried to get some answers on this topic by calling McKinsey & Co. directly. The only thing they would say that wasn't "no comment" was that no third party had paid for the study. All her questions about the methodology of the survey, they declined to answer. Here's a sampling of the kind of information Pickert was trying to find out:
  • What were the precise breakdowns of size, geographic location and industry for the businesses included in the survey? This would tell us if the sample was representative of American business as a whole. Small businesses, for instance, might be more likely to drop coverage due to the structure of the ACA.
  • How were the businesses chosen? An unbiased sampling method here is key. If the list of businesses was culled from Chamber of Commerce memebrship or McKinsey client lists, this is important to know. Ditto if the list was generated in a more randomized way.
  • What was the response rate? And how were businesses surveyed? If 13,000 businesses were contacted, but only 1,300 responded, such a 10% response rate could call into question the results. Also, there is, for example, a huge difference between surveys conducted in person, over the phone and over the Internet.
  • Lastly, this tidbit was included in the McKinsey Quarterly article about the survey:

    “…our survey educated respondents about [employer sponsored insurance] implications for their companies and employees before they were asked about post-2014 strategies.”

    In other words, those conducting the survey may have primed respondents to say they would keep or drop coverage.

So what we have here is a survey that McKinsey won't let anyone see, questions about methodology they refuse to answer, and a possible coaching of the respondents to answer in a certain direction. And this study - which radically contradicts every other reputable study - just happens to be released right about the time that a court case challenging the ACA's constitutionality arrives at the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hmm. Whatever are we to make of this coincidence?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gingrich's Entire Senior Campaign Staff Resign En Masse

I don't claim to be an expert on political campaigns, but I'm willing to bet that the mass resignation of Newt Gingrich's senior campaign staff today will have a negative impact on his bid for the White House in 2012. Just my layman's opinion, of course.

Apparently, the upper echelon of Gingrich campaign staffers were not convinced their candidate was fully committed to the endeavor, given that he took his wife to Greece recently for a two-week vacation, despite the fact that his campaign has lagged far behind the GOP frontrunners since he formally announced in early May.

More than likely, the deserters figured a guaranteed loss wasn't going to do much for their careers and decided to get out while they still had a chance to land decent jobs with more viable Republican candidates.

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