Monday, December 23, 2013

Steven Brill represents everything wrong with economic reporting...

His big expose on the health care industry has gotten a lot of play, and yet it is based on two baseless premises. 1) That the list price matters. As in college prices, the list price really has little to do with the actual prices people pa y, and while there are some effects due to list price, they are 2nd order. 2) That hospitals have excess profits. A lot of the examples that he cites are non-profit hospitals. So to say a non-profit organization has excess profits is non-sensical. Profits are zero. What he calls profits, is basically spending on investment, and typically we think investment is a good thing. It is possible that the investment is wasted, but he provides no evidence for that.

His recent follow up is just as bad, accusing the Obama administration for being slow to implement the regulations from Obamacare. Claiming that they could have been issues the day after the law was signed. But regulations never happen that way. They always tend to take 3-7 years, because regulations are always challenged in court, and any regulation issued hastily will be more likely to be overturned. Much of the environmental regulations that Obama touts and takes credit for were based on laws that I worked on in 2007.

It's just wilful ignorance to not acknowledge that.

Elizabeth Rosenthal of the NY Times has written basically the same story and makes the same mistakes. She is on the radio right now ranting about all the tax breaks non-profits get. Although most taxes are only levied on a company's profits. And again, since non-profits don't have any profits, that too is moot.

It just pains me that this idea of hospital list price has captured so much of the national conversation and that pundits like Rosenthal and Brill speak nonsense with such confidence. There are real problems in the economics of the health care system, but the media has focused on one of the most irrelevant ones.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Avengers vs X-men

I've been watching the new Marvel Agents of Shield show which I so much want to like, and so much want to be the resurrection of Firefly that Whedon clearly intended it to be, but I'm still waiting for it to get into its groove, but worried it will be cancelled first. In the mean time, I was inspired to take advantage of the kindle's new comic book versions (a little cheaper than the trade paperback and comixology versions, and less shelf space) to catch up on some comics on the kindle app on my ipad during my train commutes.

I made my way to the Avengers vs Xmen cross over (inspired it part since its written by Bendis one of my favorite pop comic writers, like Ellis and Whedon, all a tier below thought the more middlebrow likes of Moore and Gaiman and Miller), and also inspired by the Avengers movie, since I never really read any Avengers growing up at all.

Some have called the story derivative and just an excuse to setup epic fan service fight scenes between avengers and x-men characters. Still, it may be derivative but it derives from the best. The Phoenix returns (the classic x-men storyline) giving the x-men ultimate power, and forces them to confront how to maintain humanity given infinite power (like Alan Moore's Dr Manhattan) and the nature of just government in either a life is a Hobbseian nasty brutish and short justifying autocratic rule sense, or a Kantian perfectibility of rational man in the image of God that Miller (and later Nolan) explored in Batman the Dark Knight Returns.

I read a recent interview with Picard and Gandalf, talking about their appearance in the X-men franchise, and both made some gesture about how the tremendous influence of X-men and how it deals with some of the big issues of our time in thoughtful ways. The Marvel Civil War Cross Over from a few years back had debates about privacy and homeland security that seem especially relevant today. Oh yea, and also lots of men and women in tights beating each other up.