Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Faith Based Economics

From Dani Rodrik:

Kevin Hassett, economics advisor to John McCain, is quoted today as saying:

What really happens is that the economy grows more vigorously when you lower tax rates... It is beyond the reach of economic science to explain precisely why that happens, but it does.

Now you can be excused for thinking that the first of these statements is true, if you have an economically sound reason for it. But if you don't, you shouldn't.

Let's call it no longer supply-side economics. It is faith-based economics.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Health Care Humor

The Committee for Economic Development (CED) held a briefing on the Hill yesterday to promote its healthcare plan. As I have written on the plan previously I will not rehash the details but rather share with you the comic stylings of Dr. Alain Enthoven.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Enthoven, (I certainly was before I started tracking healthcare issues) he is a professor emeritus at Stanford and a very respected figure in health policy. He was integral in formulating CED's health plan and his support is equally integral to promoting it to a wide audience.

Dr. Enthoven got his start in public policy as the leader of Robert McNamara's "Whiz Kids," doing quantitative heavy lifting on nuclear proliferation and the war in
Vietnam. He spent a year pushing his conclusion, based on body counts, that the U.S.
could not win the war through attrition.

Despite his incredible stature (but reputation and physically too, he must be 6'3") he is incredible down to earth. Following the talk yesterday, he stuck around for a serious and engaged conversation with the youthful members of the CED, this blogger and the 23 year old American Prospect superstar Ezra Klein. Given this context, I would like to share a couple of his jokes dryly inserted into a very serious policy discussion. The humor of course, is bitter-sweet, given these problems have some very tragic consequences for the people dealing with them.

A Bad Pun:

Because people switch doctors so frequently because switching jobs means switching health plans and because medical information technology is nowhere where it should be, doctors often aren't aware of their patients' full medical history. This, Dr. Enthoven says with a straight face as his colleagues cringe, is "connectile disfunction." He uses this joke at every presentation and from what I hear, even in meetings with U.S. Senators.

Another Bad Pun:

Economists have a term "job lock" that refers to the case where people are prevented from leaving a position because of some sort of market failure. In the case of healthcare, because their plan isn't portable they are unable to be entrepreneurial
or take another job if the new employer doesn't offer the same plan. As many people get their health plan through their spouse's employer, there is another case to be considered. Dr. Enthoven spoke of a woman who was unable to leave her husband because she needed his healthcare insurance. "It brings new meaning to the term wedlock," he deadpanned.