Saturday, April 30, 2011

"The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries"

Dave Eggers and Nineve Clemets Calegari, writing in the New York Times:
WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.

We have a rare chance now, with many teachers near retirement, to prove we’re serious about education. The first step is to make the teaching profession more attractive to college graduates. This will take some doing.

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.

Inflation hysterics and gold standard-bearers

Ron Paul: "Gold is 6000 years old..."
David Andolfatto is an economist who has taught at Simon Fraser University and currently works primarily as a researcher for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Andolfatto has a good commentary at his "MacroMania" blog debunking the notion peddled by characters like Ron Paul and Glenn Beck that an element containing 79 protons should be the foundation of our money supply as opposed to what "serious" GOP Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has dismissively called "fiat money" - the currency system governed by the Federal Reserve and backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, rather than an arbitrary pile of gold.

In the course of his discussion, Andolfatto also gives a good explanation of why the Federal Reserve doesn't use a simple "basket of all consumer goods" as it's inflationary benchmark and why inflation hysterics in the current economy are simply bogus.

The piece hinges on Congressman Ron Paul's reaction to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's press conference (in an interview on CNBC you can view HERE.)  Here's David Andolfatto's reply to Paul's "money quote":
The interviewer begins by quoting a statement Paul made after Bernanke's news conference:
"Bernanke continues to ignore his culpability for the inflation all Americans suffer due to the Fed's relentless monetary expansion."
Let's take a look at U.S. inflation since 2008. Here it is.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The thirty-four trillion dollar solution

Economists at Center for Economic and Policy Research have crunched the numbers on the "Ryancare" plan to kill Medicare, using Congressional Budget Office estimates and projections, and it's not pretty:
"Thirty-four Trill-i-on Dollars!"
Based on the CBO data provided, the waste far exceeds the savings to the government. Under traditional Medicare, the government is expected to spend about $6,600 in 2022 on a typical 65-year-old, and the beneficiary is expected to spend $4,600 (all numbers in 2011 dollars). Under the Ryan proposal, a voucher for the same 65-year old would cost the government $6,600, saving the government nothing. However, the total cost of purchasing Medicare-equivalent insurance would be $16,900 – more than 50 percent higher than the $11,200 spent by the government and beneficiary combined under traditional Medicare. The difference of $5,700 represents a gift to the private sector...

"It's always the economy, stupid!"

Ezra Klein:
The most important story in the 2012 election and GDP growth. And yesterday, the news was bad. GDP growth was 1.8 percent in the first quarter: disappointing under normal circumstances and crushing during a recovery. Weekly jobless claims, meanwhile, hit a three-month high. And high gas prices tend to trick people into thinking inflation, which is actually worryingly low, is out of control, further adding to their concerns.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Inflation is not the danger in our current economic straits - thoughts on Fed Chairman Bernanke's press conference

I'm going to double-down on the inflation "issue" - it's a non-issue right now, except as a cover for a regressive economic agenda. Inflation is as low as it's been in years. And, despite global fluctuations in oil and food commodities prices, there are no signs that core inflation - which is the predictive norm for Federal Reserve monetary policies, as opposed to "events-driven" shifts in the markets most contingent on external factors and thus most subject to short-term spikes - will rise significantly.

Brad De Long, economics professor at UC Berkeley, offers a good explanation of the current and essentially timid Fed policy, as interpreted from Ben Bernanke's precedent-setting press conference. And De Long explains why he sees the Fed inflation target as overly restrictive and oblivious to the continuing high unemployment:
Chairman Ben
A few years ago former Federal Reserve governor Larry Meyer said: “If you have not noticed that the Federal Reserve is pursuing a 2 percent per year inflation target, you have not been paying attention.”
To me the most surprising thing about Chairman Bernanke’s press conference was his apparent abandonment of that 2 percent per year inflation target.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A view on the Paul Ryan and House GOP's "Kill Medicare" plan from a health care provider

From a commenter "Taylor 16" at Ta Nehisi Coates' (excellent) blog, venting on the Congressional GOP's vote to kill Medicare under the "Ryan Plan":
I do billing for an orthopaedic surgeon's office in a hot ski vacation region of the country.

I am getting so tired of arguing with insurance companies over whether it was "medically necessary" for patients who fall on the ski slopes and have unstable fractures/dislocations of their wrists/legs/shoulders/hips/whatever, or bleeding open wounds, to seek treatment in our office immediately after they are injured.

I spend weeks/months on each of these claims, sending appeal letters back and forth. The waste in time and money (in my salary, and frankly, the reams of paper sent back and forth) for what should be paid immediately under any reasonable health care system is ridiculous. I am, literally, sending back my third appeal letter today to argue that a guy who broke his hip on the slopes deserved to get it treated in the state where he was injured, rather than going home first. Can you imagine flying or driving home with a broken hip??? But this is what his insurance is insisting he should have done.

This only happens with private insurance, by the way. Never Medicare. They have a nationwide system of providers and clear rules that apply to everyone.

Our hero - Elizabeth Warren's complete 3-part interview by Jon Stewart

Elizabeth Warren dropped by the Daily Show to discuss the continuing attacks in Congress  - stealth and overt - on the Consumer Financial  Protection Agency by agents of elite interests aligned against consumers, and to reaffirm the importance of the agency she initiated.

Parts 2 & 3 below the fold.

The GOP hostage takers threaten nothing less than financial crisis in order to force their political agenda

"Gay marriage is the biggest issue that will impact our nation."

The current "debate" over raising the debt ceiling is bizarre and disingenuous on several counts. First of all, the "Ryan budget" passed by the House GOP - despite the smoke and mirrors and the slashing and burning -  encompasses multi-trillion dollar deficits over the next decade that require that the debt ceiling be raised. So on the fact of it, any GOP House member who voted for that budget yet threatens to vote against raising the debt ceiling has twisted themselves like a pretzel and can't be taken seriously.

Second, the debt ceiling vote has always been routine.  It's been raised 75 times in 50 years - 7 times under the Bush administration, with no protests from Paul Ryan & Co. as the national debt increased by over 70% in just those 8 years.

The reason for the debt ceiling itself is obscure (it's rooted in congressional budget prerogatives versus the executive actually administering most spending) and in large measure because raising it has become so routinized, but suffice to say that not raising the debt ceiling is not a substitute for real fiscal policy that grapples with the issues of revenue and spending and debt head on and in a serious political context.  This is a Kabuki power play that, I'm afraid, some of the players don't actually understand.  My guess is that - the cynicism and media manipulations of a John Boehner aside - many of the Tea Party faction among the congressional GOP don't have a clue regarding the insanity of failure to raise the debt ceiling.

To get some sense of what's at stake, there's this, via New York Times "Economix", from Matthew Zanes, a director at JP Morgan Chase who chairs the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee. (Why should we listen to a guy from JP Morgan?  Well that's always a good question, but in this case my assumption is that he's offering a pretty straightforward view from the perspective of market insiders regarding the impact of imposing Tea Party ideology over what has become standard practice for decades in managing federal debt):
Any delay in making an interest or principal payment by Treasury even for a very short period of time would put the U.S. Treasury and overall financial markets in uncharted territory, and could trigger another catastrophic financial crisis.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A "moderate Republican" in the White House?

In a different era, apparently the answer would have been yes. Ezra Klein explains:
If you put aside the emergency measures required by the financial crisis, three major policy ideas have dominated American politics in recent years: a plan that uses an individual mandate and tax subsidies to achieve near-universal health care; a cap-and-trade plan that attempts to raise the prices of environmental pollutants to better account for their costs; and bringing tax rates up from their Bush-era lows as part of a bid to reduce the deficit. In each case, the position that Obama and the Democrats have staked out is the very position that moderate Republicans have staked out before.

Are Financial Institutions Holding Our Country Hostage? - "The Breakdown" Podcast

Chris Hayes at The Nation's "The Breakdown" podcast is joined by Mike Konczal of "Rortybomb" -

"During the 2008 financial meltdown, we were told by politicians, economists, bankers and industry executives that further implosion of major financial institutions would wreak havoc on the larger economy... But since the financial gains of the past several years haven't trickled down, many are wondering why we continue to be held captive by the same financial system that caused the mess in the first place. Finance blogger Mike Konczal joins Nation DC Editor Chris Hayes to discuss what's behind this 'financialization' of the economy, how it happened and whether there's anything that can be done to change it."

It looks like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.

Further Reading:
Mike Konczal's finance and economics blog, Rortybomb.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The "deficit debate" isn't about deficits

(T)he only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget is the one that includes significant tax increases: the “People’s Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which — unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.

True, it increases revenue partly by imposing substantially higher taxes on the wealthy, which is popular everywhere except inside the Beltway. But it also calls for a rise in the Social Security cap, significantly raising taxes on around 6 percent of workers. And, by rescinding many of the Bush tax cuts, not just those affecting top incomes, it would modestly raise taxes even on middle-income families.

"Serious" concern about deficits...
All of this, combined with spending cuts mostly focused on defense, is projected to yield a balanced budget by 2021. And the proposal achieves this without dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which gave us Social Security, and the Great Society, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid.

But if the progressive proposal has all these virtues, why isn’t it getting anywhere near as much attention as the much less serious Ryan proposal? It’s true that it has no chance of becoming law anytime soon. But that’s equally true of the Ryan proposal.

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is the insincerity of many if not most self-proclaimed deficit hawks. To the extent that they care about the deficit at all, it takes second place to their desire to do precisely what the People’s Budget avoids doing, namely, tear up our current social contract, turning the clock back 80 years under the guise of necessity.
Paul Krugman's entire column today is a "must read" - HERE.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making money the old fashioned way...

1980s Smith Barney "icon", John Houseman
Since confidence games have no doubt been with us since history has been written, it seems that Smith Barney has indeed been making money "the old fashioned way."

Several high-end investors have just won $54.1 million in civil arbitration against the company (a division of Citigroup) - including over $17 million in punitive damages - for a municipal bonds leveraging scheme that made a lot of money for the company but was a disaster for people who apparently believed they were putting their wealth into a safe municpal bonds haven.

According to Gretchen Morgenson at The New York Times:
Requiring a minimum investment of $500,000, the deals employed the wonders of leverage, borrowing 8 to 10 times the value of the municipal bonds in an underlying portfolio to generate higher income. Calling the strategy conservative and ideal for investors’ safe money, Smith Barney sold the trusts to wealthy investors...

Smith Barney’s sales representatives kept 40 percent of the total fees paid by their investors, far exceeding what they would have earned selling ordinary municipal bonds. This arrangement encouraged Smith Barney to lever up the portfolios...lawyers argued, putting the interests of their clients and those of Smith Barney at odds...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

When economically illiterate partisan demagogues control Congress: "The cascading effects on the economy would be severe and long-lasting"

Huffington Post:.

"Reagan taught us deficits don't matter."
“If there is a vote on raising the debt ceiling and it fails, there will be a significant market reaction,” said Tony Fratto, a former Treasury and White House official in the Bush administration. “Investors already believe that Congress doesn’t understand the financial markets. A failure to raise the debt ceiling will confirm this to them."

If the markets get spooked, U.S. treasury bond yields will spike, driving up interest rates and increasing the price of borrowing money for everyone from the federal government to municipalities to consumers, Fratto warned. The cascading effects on the economy would be severe and long-lasting.

The negative market reaction would "come quickly,” Fratto said. “I think you can virtually guarantee that, and I hear it from everyone that I talk to in the markets, here and abroad.” He added, “I’m uncomfortable about the number of [Congress] members who don’t seem to understand that.”

The GOP's "Kill Medicare" budget plan is in a shambles, but they have a back-up strategy

From Friday's Washington Post:
Anxiety is rising among some Republicans over the party’s embrace of a plan to overhaul Medicare, with GOP lawmakers already starting to face tough questions on the issue at town hall meetings back in their districts.

House leaders have scheduled a Tuesday conference call in which members are expected in part to discuss strategies for defending the vote they took this month on a budget that would transform the popular entitlement program as part of a plan to cut trillions in federal spending...

A Washington Post/ABC News poll published this week found that two-thirds of Americans want Medicare to remain as is. That includes 62 percent of independents and nearly eight in 10 people 65 and older — making for an uphill climb for House Republicans trying to reassure constituents...

“Republicans don’t want to be talking about Medicare every day for the next year and a half,” said a Republican Party official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to address internal strategy deliberations...The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters”...
Who could have guessed they might try this approach?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The poor standards of Standard and Poors

There was a bit of brouhaha on Monday when the credit ratings agency Standard & Poors talked of a one-in-three chance that US Treasury securities could be downgraded by the company to "negative" in three years. The warnings were based on projections of federal deficits and were welcomed by many in the punditry, in politics and in the financial sector who want to make deficits the centerpiece of any immediate economic agenda.

But one wonders how much credence should be given to Standard and Poors?  How much of what they publish is tailored to what Wall Street wants to hear and carefully aligned in their immediate interests?

The Congressional Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has judged S&P and the other ratings agencies as key players in the big stakes deceptions and fundamentally fraudulent mortgage bundling that was at the center of the 2008 financial meltdown. For example, last fall, via the New York Times reporting of the Crisis Inquiry hearings, we learned this:
D. Keith Johnson, a former president of Clayton Holdings, a company that analyzed mortgage pools for the Wall Street firms that sold them, told the commission on Thursday that almost half the mortgages Clayton sampled from the beginning of 2006 through June 2007 failed to meet crucial quality benchmarks that banks had promised to investors.
Yet, Clayton found, Wall Street was placing many of the troubled loans into bundles known as mortgage securities.
Mr. Johnson said he took this data to officials at Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and to the executive team at Moody’s Investors Service.
“We went to the ratings agencies and said, ‘Wouldn’t this information be great for you to have as you assign tranche levels of risk?’ ” Mr. Johnson testified last week. But none of the agencies took him up on his offer, he said, indicating that it was against their business interests to be too critical of Wall Street.
So anything coming from Standard and Poors needs to be taken with some very large grains of salt. In this vein, emeritus Amherst economics professor Richard Wolff, in an article for the UK Guardian, called the S&P warning,"another scary instalment in the conservative campaign to justify cutting government social spending. S&P may be rampant in its interests, but it hardly seems conflicted about them." 

Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, also had some appropriately skeptical comments on S&P's pronouncements at the NYT's Economix blog:
It is commendable that S.&P. now wants to talk about the United States fiscal deficit –- one wonders where it was, for example last year, during the debate about extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The House GOP - just a few months into their "Winning-Duh!" triumphalism - has already reached the "I know they're lying because I saw them moving their lips" stage of epic political and policy failure

Two items on today's menu highlight the radical incoherence, profound dishonesty and - yes - "unseriousness" of the alleged conservatives in Congress who are using the country's economic and budgetary challenges as an excuse for ideological hyperventilation and rank hypocrisy, but little else.

Exhibit A - The New York Times reported that:
Mr. Obama wants to expand the power of the 15-member panel, which was created by the new health care law, to rein in Medicare costs.
But not only do Republicans and some Democrats oppose increasing the power of the board, they also want to eliminate it altogether. Opponents fear that the panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, would usurp Congressional spending power over one of the government’s most important and expensive social programs.
Matt Yglesias notes this opposition signifies that:
...the very same members of congress who voted this month to privatize Medicare in 2022 and enact draconian cuts throughout the 2020s and 2030s are here in town right now defending health care providers’ right to charge the government high prices for services that don’t work. Indeed, as recently as 2009 no less a figure than Paul Ryan himself was fuming at the idea of reducing government subsidies to for-profit insurance companies (via Medicare Advantage.) 
Of course, this is mostly on the GOP side about President Obama being damned if he does anything to rein in deficits and make Medicare more efficient and damned if he doesn't. 

Exhibit B, which is truly stunning in the annals even of congressional hypocrisy - Matt Miller's column at the Washington Post:
The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit...
I thought about making this week’s column that one sentence printed over and over 30 times. It would have been the opinion page equivalent of a Dada-esque protest against the inanity of the debate — and a cry for every news outlet to focus on this simple, clarifying fact...

For the life of me I don’t understand why the press doesn’t shove this fact in front of every Republican who says the debt limit cannot be raised unless serious new spending cuts are put in place. The supposedly “courageous,” “visionary” Paul Ryan plan — which already contains everything Republicans can think of in terms of these spending cuts — would add more debt than we’ve ever seen over a 10-year period in American history. Yet Ryan and other House GOP leaders continue to make outrageous statements to the contrary. 
The classic definition of chutzpah was a kid who kills his parents and then asks for the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. The new definition of chutzpah is Republicans who vote for the Ryan plan that adds trillions in debt and who then say the debt limit goes up only over their dead bodies!

If I were Barack Obama, my mantra on this week’s debt tour and in the months ahead would be that we should lift the debt limit only by as much debt as is needed to accommodate Paul Ryan’s budget. The president and his team should say this every time they’re asked about the debt limit until people can’t stand hearing it any more.
Matt Miller's piece via Economist's View and Stan Collender

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Executive PayWatch

The AFL-CIO has a great new website where you can get data on Fortune 500 CEO pay and information on CEO "pay abuse" which should be addressed by shareholders:
During the past decade, CEOs of the largest American companies received more in compensation than ever before in U.S. history. They supposedly deserved this money for increasing stock prices. Did they? On Dec. 31, 2010, the S&P 500 Index closed 19 percent below its high on March 24, 2000.

Over the past decade, shareholders—including workers—lost trillions of dollars in retirement savings through the collapse of the Internet stock bubble and the corporate accounting scandals at Enron and other companies. More recently, shareholders have suffered further declines from the bursting of the real estate bubble and the Wall Street financial crisis.

While CEO pay is still out of control on Wall Street and in the rest of Corporate America, shareholders now have new tools to fight back. CEOs must now give their shareholders a “say on pay,” thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that President Obama signed in July 2010.           
Via Steven Greenhouse at New York Times' "Economix."

Ryan's private savings

Alan S. Blinder, economics professor at Princeton and a former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, writes of the GOP budget czar's proposal in the Wall Street Journal:
The House Budget Committee's own rack-up of changes from the CBO baseline displays the much-ballyhooed $5.8 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. But it also displays $4.2 trillion less in tax revenue. How many Americans know that 72% of Mr. Ryan's claimed budget cuts would go to fund tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the rich?

Another Ryanfest - but I'll post a picture of a funny baby rather than the GOP's congressional budget czar because I'm getting sick of his mug

I feel like I'm in a mode of constant repetition, but the fundamental flaws and dishonesty of the GOP's "deficit reduction" proposal need to be driven home, at the risk of boring even myself. Jeff Madrick, economics contributor to the New York Review of Books and senior fellow at The Roosevelt Institute, brings a bit of history to take the GOP's budget strategy apart:
"A fine mess..."
Among the economic fallacies embraced in Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, two are particularly egregious: that getting rid of Medicare will reduce health care costs and that enacting yet further tax cuts for the rich will spur growth and investment...

(T)he Ryan plan won’t reduce health care costs...the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that overall health care spending will go up as Medicare recipients are forced to buy private insurance, since private insurance has far higher administrative expenses than Medicare. Health care expenditures...are not being reduced on the backs of seniors, they are being raised on the backs of seniors.

And herein lies a further misunderstanding. It is true that the main cause of long-term budget deficits today is the expected rapid rise in expenditures for health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid (not Social Security, though they are all too often lumped together in the press). But the main reason those programs will become so costly is the rapid expected increase in health care costs in general, not the purported over-generosity of Medicare and Medicaid.
All effort should go into reforming health care. Americans pay far more per person in health care for outcomes that are typically not as good as in many nations that spend far less. In my view, effective health care reform will require much more serious government involvement—certainly not less—in improving efficiency and reducing costs.

As for the tax-cut mantra that it will automatically raise rates of growth, it is hard to believe that this theory has any credibility after the poor performance of the economy since the Bush tax cuts. Yet the Ryan plan would not only retain the Bush cuts for those who earn more than $250,000 a year; it would increase the cut for those who make more.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The conscience of a conservative

I do not much like David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who penned one of the most idiotic and overwrought locutions I've heard a President deliver in a State of the Union address in my lifetime - "The Axis of Evil" - combining Saddam's Iraq, the Mullah's Iran (which had seen its conscripts subjected to chemical warfare at Saddam's hands in a nine-year conflict) and the isolated outlier of North Korea into some imagined alliance that defied even a wisp of rational analysis.

Frum became identified with the neoconservative movement at its worst. That is, until the GOP think tank, American Enterprise Institute, dismissed him soon after he began questioning aspects of the party line. (I have to say that today neo-conservatism seems like a fading echo within the spectrum of loud noise on the right.) But partly because I have long seen him as herald of a conservative mindset which in all honesty I despise, I also happen to find much of his current analysis of the ideological cul-de-sac of the Republican party's recent parade of political "stars" fascinating and telling.

"You'd have to be half mad to dream me up!"
In short, Frum - of all people - is freaked out by the descent into blindered unreality and unhinged  hsyterics of a Tea-Partyized GOP.  Here's a Frum commentary - reflecting on the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown and his own efforts at rethinking a "free market" outlook in it's wake - that captures some of the essence of just how disconnected from reality the current iteration of the GOP has become:
Especially after 2000, incomes did not much improve for middle-class Americans. The promise of macroeconomic stability proved a mirage: America and the world were hit in 2008 by the sharpest and widest financial crisis since the 1930s. Conservatives do not like to hear it, but the crisis originated in the malfunctioning of an under-regulated financial sector, not in government overspending or government over-generosity to less affluent homebuyers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"In politics, the side with a fixed notion of ends and an unscrupulous approach to means always has the advantage"

George Packer brings clarity to the essential nature of today's GOP - their goals and their means - as "The Budget War" is being waged in Washington:
Rep. Ryan: "This is not a budget. It's a cause."
The Republicans now hold just one house of Congress, yet they have controlled the terms of the debate, because they understand that budget battles are about far more than numbers, and they’ve made the ideology behind their various bargaining positions startlingly clear: government should be reduced to gasping for air. What’s more, they’re willing to deploy legislative terrorism—threatening to shut down the government and to allow the United States to default on its debt—to get their way. In politics, the side with a fixed notion of ends and an unscrupulous approach to means always has the advantage.

No joy in Medicareville: more on the funny numbers and dishonest packaging of "Ryancare"

GOP Congressional Budget Czar Paul Ryan in the Wall Street Journal:
“Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy.”
Princeton economics professor Uwe Reinhardt begs to differ with Ryan's (false) claim that he's giving Grandma the same health insurance that he and John Boehner "enjoy:"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mr. Ryan goes to Washington... to snatch Grandma's purse, enrich insurance companies and keep the cost of health care high.

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research comments on just how fundamentally irresponsible the GOP's "Ryancare" plan to kill medicare is, solely in terms of  dollars spent on coverage, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates:
The CBO projections show that under the Ryan plan, seniors would soon be spending more than half of their income to buy a Medicare equivalent plan. This is both due to the cost shifting from the government to individuals, but even more importantly CBO projects that Ryan's plan will lead to much higher health care expenses since it will be less effective in containing costs than the traditional Medicare program.
The CBO projections imply that Ryan's plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program's 75-year planning period. The additional cost under the Ryan plan is an amount that is approximately equal to $100,000 for every person in the country or 6 times the size of the projected Social Security shortfall. This sum is the pure waste, it does not count the costs shifted from the government to seniors.
This breakdown of CBO findings is so stunning it's worth repeating: Obtaining private insurance policies that are equivalent to Medicare coverage over the duration of "Ryancare's" 75 year projection - would cost $30 trillion more than current Medicare. This is the sum of difference between profit-driven private insurance premiums and the cost of low-overhead Medicare with fee containment structured in.

Via Center for Economic and Policy Research.

New York Times Budget Puzzle - "You Fix The Budget!"

Assuming some haven't seen this, the Times "Budget Puzzle" is a fascinating (and fun) interactive federal fiscal "game" in which you can make your own choices as to how best to generate federal revenues and align them with federal spending.  The puzzle gives you a menu of choices on both sides of the balance sheet.  It's been online since last fall, but its worth revisiting in the context of current debates and definitely worth checking out if you've missed it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Inflation is still low...(and "doing nothing" to reduce deficits)

According to Friday's Consumer Price Index, core inflation (which excludes food and energy prices because they are subject to sharp and often short-term spikes, driven by events external to the economy, that tend to obscure overall inflationary trends) rose slightly less than expected and remains low. (Via "NYTs Economix.)

This is important to underscore because anti-stimulative agendas that are fundamentally ideological or political often come cloaked in inflation alarmism.

Historical inflation comparison chart, including the past 12 months.  NYT's "Economix"
In the words of the New York Times' economics reporter, David Leonhardt, "The recent signs of economic weakness remain a much bigger risk than inflation."

The point is that economic policy must be about promoting jobs and growth rather than controlling a largely imagined threat of inflation - that is, if it's "serious."

Also of note, the NYTimes' Leonhardt had a column worth reading this past week that explains the "do nothing" approach to deficit reduction.  While it runs counter to "conventional wisdom" of the punditocracy, embracing the potential of "partisan gridlock" by simply "doing nothing" and letting the Bush tax cuts expire, as they will in 2013 within the framework of existing legislation, would solve 75% of the deficit problem over the next 5 years and 40% of deficits in the 20 year projections. This "do nothing" approach - especially given the extreme partisan obstructionism of the congressional GOP - should become the "baseline scenario" for any further discussion of deficit reduction, rather than the alarmism of far-right ideologues intent on using deficit fears as a club to kill Medicare and Social Security.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Thought for the Day"


From David Cay Johnston - "9 Things the Rich Don't Want You to Know About Taxes."

"People who actually understand budget numbers went to work..."

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman notes in his NYT's column today (see below), "Last week, (House Budget Committee Chair, Paul) Ryan unveiled his budget proposal...Then people who actually understand budget numbers went to work, and it became clear that the proposal wasn’t serious at all."  One of those people was Emmy-award-winning budget analyst Jon Stewart:

The credibility of the President vs. the GOP's Budget Czar: "Who's Serious Now?"

 From Paul Krugman's NYTimes column:
Last week Mr. Ryan ( the chairman of the House Budget Committee) unveiled his budget proposal...

"You know what else might work?"
Then people who actually understand budget numbers went to work, and it became clear that the proposal wasn’t serious at all. In fact, it was a sick joke. The only real things in it were savage cuts in aid to the needy and the uninsured, huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and Medicare privatization. All the alleged cost savings were pure fantasy.

On Wednesday... the president called Mr. Ryan’s bluff: after offering a spirited (and reassuring) defense of social insurance, he declared, “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.” Actually, the Ryan plan calls for $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but who’s counting?

And then Mr. Obama laid out a budget plan that really is serious.

The president’s proposal isn’t perfect, by a long shot. ... But the vision was right, and the numbers were far more credible than anything in the Ryan sales pitch...

More on the Brits' austerity strategy

 Landon Thomas in New York Times' "Global Business:"
In the United States, the debate over how to cut the long-term budget deficit is just getting under way.

But in Britain, one year into its own controversial austerity program to plug a gaping fiscal hole, the future is now. And for the moment, the early returns are less than promising.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"We do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in"

President Obama:
The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.
This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.
The New York Times editorial in response to the President's speech on fiscal policy is, in my view, one of the best appreciations of the stand President Obama took - as well as a realistic assessment of the  limitations and the political problem we face moving forward:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The President's Speech on long-term budget strategy

I'll have commentary on this tomorrow.

Update: For starters, check out Paul Krugman's reaction. Since Krugman tends to play Cassandra when it comes to President Obama's economic agenda and messaging, his relative optimism is heartening - HERE.

Economic growth estimates for the first quarter are down - "And the year started out so very hopeful"

Noting the "great expectations" for faster economic growth this year, Catherine Rampell at the New York Times' "Economix" has this disturbing report:
When 2011 began, Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting company, expected that America’s economic output would shape up to rise at a 4.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the highest pace in over a year.

But economic reports coming in over the last few months have been increasingly disappointing.
Today, after an especially weak report on February’s trade deficit, the group’s economists lowered their first quarter G.D.P. estimate to a sorry 1.5 percent annualized. If borne out, that rate would be slower than each of the last two quarters, at a time when the economy desperately needs to be rocketing forward so that companies will hasten their hiring.

The Commerce Department will release its preliminary number for first quarter G.D.P. on April 28.

Update: MarketWatch (via CalculatedRisk) reports that forecasters at Morgan Stanley and RBS Securities have also lowered their G.D.P. estimates for the first quarter.
This bad news comes as little other than the scale of proposed spending cuts is being debated as our "serious" path to getting the economy back on track - as a "path to prosperity" even.  One of the NYT's online commenters, Chris Guan, in responding to this "Economix" news, offered strong evidence that allowing our economic agenda to shift radically toward austerity or focusing on the scale of cuts rather than growth, jobs and effective stimulus  - with Democrats appearing to tail after Republicans who are framing the debate - is precisely the wrong direction to move if we're serious about recovery.

Aggressive austerity and spending cuts have been imposed by David Cameron's government in the UK and appear to be dragging the country even further down into recession. According to an article in Bloomberg that Guan links,  "UK retail sales plunged most on record in March."

In the real world the Conservative government's austerity program is making matters worse not better, as one might expect if you're not reliant on "faith-based" economic notions that somehow consumer confidence and greater demand will arise magically in the midst of a program of cutbacks by the government overlaying depressed demand by households:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Ryan's plan...a fairy tale utterly disconnected from the real world"

Economist and former consultant to Presidents Ronald Reagan and G.H.W. Bush, Bruce Bartlett - who I quote frequently and consider an authentic conservative, as opposed to the right-wing radicalism dominating the GOP - has issued a blistering critique of Paul Ryan, published in both The Fiscal Times and Capital Gains and Games blog:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan has been the talk of Washington this week. Most of the discussion has revolved around his proposal to privatize Medicare and slash many federal programs to the bone. Less attention has been paid to the tax side of Ryan’s plan, which is every much as radical as the spending side.
One would think that a comprehensive budget proposal designed primarily for the purpose of reducing budget deficits and the national debt would put at least some of the burden on the revenue side of the equation. First, it would reduce the need to cut spending so heavily and improve the chances of passage; unless Ryan is only interested in scoring points with the Tea Party crowd...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Three views on the budget deal and moving forward...

What was that definition of insanity?

All 3 POVs are up at Huffington Post and worth reading:  Robert Reich - "Why the Right-Wing Bullies Will Hold the Nation Hostage Again and Again," Robert Creamer - "Why Last Week's Deal Reduces Republican Leverage in the Budget Battle" and  R.J. Eskow - "Why Progressives Keep On Losing and the Right Keeps On Winning."

I hope Creamer is correct, but I'm concerned that the points made by Reich and Eskow appear to be realistic rather than alarmist.

A Common Sense Guide to the Great Deficit Debate - Part 7

The folks at Winning Progressive have the final installment of "Common Sense" Guide to the Great Deficit Debate - focusing on the need for us to take action - up today at the WP site, HERE.

Again, thanks to Winning Progressive for publishing this "deficit primer" over the last couple of weeks.  And thanks again for their ongoing insights and commentary.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You know you're in trouble when "MSM" reporters are better at articulating a coherent liberal agenda than high-profile Democrats

This morning on ABC's "This Week," with David Plouffe interviewed by Amanpour and DNC stalwart Donna Brazile at the Roundtable  - both suggesting some sort of "win" by Democrats in averting some of the more outlandish of the GOP's proposals while agreeing to larger spending cuts than those originally outlined by Speaker Boehner  - it was up to two journalists to make the central point about a an appropriate and coherent Democratic strategy in negotiating the budget deal that was just agreed to and what it means for a liberal agenda moving forward.

Chrystia Freeland of Reuters:*
I think the Planned Parenthood stuff was a gift to the Democrats and that was so easy for them to push on that. Thank goodness from the Democrats point of view that those riders came up because it allowed the Democrats to argue that actually the Republicans don't care about the economy but pushing their social agenda.  
What I think is Democrats actually arguing that the recovery is incredibly fragile, unemployment is high and it's not about .. if you make cuts in the right way, that's okay.  There is an argument to be made - and I think if anyone makes it, it should be the Democrats - that  says "Don't make cuts right now.  Yes, the budget is a problem but it's a medium term problem...Right now is a time when actually we should still be talking about government spending."
Ron Brownstein of National Journal:
They concede an important predicate for this debate. They have not drawn the line and said this is not the time to be retrenching, so when we begin this bigger debate - I mean this is the foothills of the Himalayan debate that's coming over the overall budget and the Paul Ryan plan. 

It's going to be harder for them to come back and say, Look we shouldn't be withdrawing federal spending when the economy's so weak, because they clearly didn't make that argument here.
And there's a strong argument to be made because they could say, so far it's working - and just look across the ocean, look across the Atlantic, the Brits have imposed budgetary austerity and their economy is shrinking even faster than they thought.   
This argument is crystal clear, with good evidence based on real-world experience of the European austerity agenda in the midst of continuing high unemployment and lagging economic growth.  Why it was up to two conventional journalists to have to make it, rather than the representatives of the Democratic agenda, is a question we have to ask ourselves going forward.  Something is very wrong with the picture.

*My transcript from This Week's video.

Happy days are here again...

The Drought is Over (at Least for CEOs) -
Rarely has the view from the corner office seemed so at odds with the view from the street corner. At a time when millions of Americans are trying to hang on to homes and millions more are trying to hang on to jobs, the chief executives of major corporations like 3M, General Electric and Cisco Systems are making as much today as they were before the recession hit. Indeed, some are making even more. 
The disparity is especially stark as companies are swimming in cash. In the fourth quarter, profits at American businesses were up an astounding 29.2 percent, the fastest growth in more than 60 years. Collectively, American corporations logged profits at an annual rate of $1.678 trillion.

So far, this recovery has not trickled down. After two relatively lean years, C.E.O.’s in finance, technology, energy and beyond are pulling down multimillion-dollar paychecks. What many of these executives aren’t doing, however, is hiring. Unemployment, although down from its peak, stood at 8.8 percent in March. And few economists predict the jobless rate will drop substantially anytime soon.
From Daniel Costello in New York Times' Business Day

View from Salt Lake City: "Ryan’s plan is anchored in an open contempt for anyone who isn’t wealthy"

 The Salt Lake Tribune takes on the "serious" Mr. Ryan:
The so-called federal deficit reduction plan announced recently by the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee is represented as a blueprint that makes the hard choices necessary to steer the United States away from fiscal disaster. But learned analysis exposes Rep. Paul Ryan’s prescription as a plan that differs little from President Obama’s vision in terms of total deficits, but apportions the pain in very different ways.

Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” runs through various fantasy lands, envisioning that large tax cuts, mostly for the rich, and huge spending cuts, mostly in programs that benefit the poor and middle class, will lead to unprecedented booms in hiring, homebuilding and other economic activities.

Ryan’s plan is mostly a means to shelter those who have already benefited from a half-century of fiscal irrationality and dump the burden on those who are to come later.

Quote of the Day

Conservative author and economist Bruce Bartlett*:
The truth is that Republicans don’t care anything about the deficit. They made that abundantly clear when they controlled Congress during the dismal George W. Bush years. What all of the current budget discussion is about is defunding programs that benefit Democratic constituencies and if possible destroying institutions, such as labor unions, that historically support the Democratic Party. In other words, it’s all about political power; any concern for the deficit is purely for show, window dressing to disguise the true Republican agenda.
* Bartlett has served on the staffs of Congressmen Ron Paul and Jack Kemp and Senator Roger Jepsen; as staff director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress; senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House; and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shutdown averted - but the GOP hostage-takers are still firmly in control of our "debate!"

I'm glad that a potentially disastrous, hurtful government shutdown was averted, but it was averted largely on terms the GOP set out early on - with Democrats agreeing to larger spending cuts than Boehner had initially proposed (before his "Tea Party" wing weighed in with their extremist agenda.) Paul Krugman, I think, makes a valid point for Democrats and the White House to consider on the deal's implications and aftermath:
The GOP "negotiates"
(I)t’s one thing for Obama to decide that it was better to give in to Republican hostage-taking than draw a line in the sand; it’s another for him to celebrate the result. Yet that’s just what he did. More than that, he has now completely accepted the Republican frame that spending cuts right now are what America needs.

It’s worth noting that this follows just a few months after another big concession, in which he gave in to Republican demands for tax cuts. The net effect of these two sets of concessions is, of course, a substantial increase in the deficit.
There has to be a better way to get this fundamental message across to the public - that the GOP, consumed for over thirty years with an ideology of tax cuts as the solution to every problem, is NOT even serious about the deficits they brandish like a club, so much as attacking government's role in helping seniors, the disadvantaged and increasingly a struggling middle-class which has seen their wages stagnant, their homes devalued and their jobs at risk.

Update: Steve Benen has a bit more "nuanced" view than Krugman's, HERE.
More:  The Winners? - "Tea Party Activists Give Boehner a Nod of Approval" - Wall Street Journal, HERE.

What can the Affordable Care Act do to contain out-of-control health care costs?

US vs. France-Switzerland-Germany-Belgium-Canada...

Ezra Klein, the Washington Post blogger who wrote extensively and cogently on the health insurance reform debate, had some excellent analysis yesterday at his "Wonkbook" of precisely how the Affordable Care Act to overhaul and extend health insurance can work to begin bringing down our country's exorbitant health care costs.

(You can see by the chart above right that this is a uniquely "American" problem, due primarily to  the system's reliance on profit-driven insurance/health care industries, in comparison to other countries with universal coverage and excellent health outcomes, but better-regulated insurance and delivery systems.)

Klein was looking at ACA in contrast to the Paul Ryan/GOP budget plan - which intends to strip seniors of Medicare in favor of a voucherized private insurance scheme - but his outline is useful as a general overview of just what direction the new health care reform will take in beginning to control costs.

Rapid rise in health care $$$ are the big "fiscal" issue.
Anyone who is truly serious about the future of budget deficits and rational allocation of our GDP understands that the only truly difficult "crisis" looming over the nation's finances is in health care costs - whether they come out of the public or private "pocket" - not the more general fiscal issues that are subject more to demagogy than serious discussion.

Here are the essentials on how ACA can help, from Klein:
The Affordable Care Act’s central hope is that Medicare can lead the health-care system to pay for value, cut down on over-treatment, and cut out treatments that simply don’t work. The law develops Accountable Care Organizations, in which Medicare pays one provider to coordinate all of your care successfully, rather than paying many doctors and providers to add to your care no matter the cost or outcome, as is the current practice. It also begins experimenting with bundled payments, in which Medicare pays one lump-sum for all care related to the successful treatment of a condition rather than paying for every piece of care separately. To help these reforms succeed, and to help all doctors make more cost-effective treatment decisions, the law accelerates research on which drugs and treatments are most effective, and creates and funds the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to disseminate the data.

The Federal Reserve - Some background and perspective

In their "Breakdown" podcast, American Prospect blogger Matt Yglesias and The Nation's Washington DC editor Chris Hayes explain much of what you need to know about the Federal Reserve, the most obscure and murky enormously powerful institution in the country - and one which isn't easy to understand in terms of its central role in the economy.  Listen HERE.

Current & former Fed Chairs, Bernanke & Greenspan
"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant" - former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

After listening to the Yglesias/Hayes podcast, if you want to dig deeper, follow up with Yglesias' useful article HERE in "Democracy" on why progressives should pay more attention to the Fed.

"Money quote" as to why we should care?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Government shutdown looms...Boehner & Company's strategy of "trickle-down" sacrifice

Now is the time for your tears...
In the likely event of a "shutdown of the government," John  Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, et. al. - who have refused to compromise even with their own opening offer of $33 billion in spending cuts to avert a crisis - will continue to get their paychecks.

While the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan may not.

Senate Democrats have passed a bill to impose  "shared sacrifice," denying Congress and the President pay if there is a shutdown,  but so far the GOP-majority House are deferring to their preferred notion of "trickle-down sacrifice" and will keep their own money coming.

(Troops link via commenter "Seth" at Ta-Nehisi Coates/Atlantic.)

"Starve the Beast" made taxpayers poorer (and killed conservatism in the bargain)

Self-proclaimed fiscal conservative and blogger extraordinaire, Andrew Sullivan, has been praising Paul Ryan and the budget proposal he's hatched for the GOP - and he's been taking a lot of well-deserved flak for embracing an agenda that Paul Krugman has correctly identified as "ludicrous and cruel" (HERE in an excellent fact-based column.)

E.D. Kain, writing at Forbes quotes one of Sullivan's readers in response:
[Ryan’s budget] is the culmination of about a thirty year Republican strategy called "starve the beast," by which Republicans have worked to reduce taxes and increase the national deficit as large as possible -  all to create the supposed "deficit crisis" that we now face and to use that crisis to eliminate programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and a slew of other programs (EPA, SEC, Planned Parenthood, collective bargaining, etc.) that the Republican class has never been able to eliminate through the democratic process.  This "starve the beast" Republican strategy has been openly acknowledged for years and I know you are well aware of it.  And the Ryan "budget plan" is transparently an attempt to cash in on this long-standing political agenda.
Interestingly, also at Forbes, last year the conservative commentator Conor Friedersdorf clearly offered an analysis that should be obvious to anyone like Sullivan who touts "fiscal conservatism" as a guiding principle. In short, "Starve the Beast" proponents - the kind of reckless "conservatives" like Paul Ryan, who voted for the Bush tax cuts and wants  even bigger breaks for high earners - are themselves responsible for the growth in debt and the ensuing obligations on average taxpayers to sustain fiscal balance over the long run, a prospect which no sane person believes can be done without increases in progressive taxation. Fiedersdorf "headlined" his piece forthrightly - "How 'Starve the Beast' Made the Taxpayer Poorer."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Phony inflation hysterics...and ice-skating in Hell today

Yes, apparently it's frozen over Down Under, as I'm agreeing with The National Review.

Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru has written something sensible on the false inflation fears that are being paraded in many circles as opposition to the "quantitative easing" policy of the Fed to get more money moving in a lagging economy:

Talking back to the Banksters - Keep the Cap on Debit Card Fees!

Spot from American Family Voices

Simon Johnson has the story in today's NYT on grassroots efforts to push back against the Banksters' lobbying operation to water down Dodd-Frank financial reform:
As a lobbying group, the largest American banks have been dominant throughout the latest boom-bust-bailout cycle – capturing the hearts and minds of the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the support of most elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

Their reign, however, is being seriously challenged – finally – by an alliance of retailers, big and small, on whose behalf a variety of ads are now running, including on television (such as this one, by Americans for Job Security), the Web (such as the one above, by American Family Voices) and a powerful radio spot directly attacking the too-big–to-fail banks.

The Common Sense Guide to the Great Deficit Debate - Part 6

The 6th segment of our "Common Sense" deficit primer is up today at Winning Progressive, HERE. This part focuses on solutions moving forward.  Thanks to the folks at Winning Progressive for their great work and for helping to make the "primer" more accessible and available.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One more Paul Ryan post...

Government is evil - selfishness is the only virtue.

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering five years ago honoring the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Quote via Digby.

The Congressional Budget Office rains cold water on poor, screwy Paul Ryan

"But if you turn it this way..."
Wisconsin Representative and GOP Budget Czar Paul Ryan is becoming something of an obsession here at  "Titanic."  But his plan to privatize Medicare and shrink the government is getting serious kudos in the press.  David Brooks, in a NY Times column, has attempted to sanctify Ryan's scheme as the "adult in the room" - an earnest voice that "serious" people ignore at their peril.  (In better than average form,  he's about half right.  Attention must be paid to the GOP's extremist foray into social nihilism.)

Brooks writes: 
The Ryan budget will not be enacted this year, but it will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.

His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee. Any candidate hoping to win that nomination will have to be able to talk about government programs with this degree of specificity, so it will improve the G.O.P. primary race...

Paul Ryan has grasped reality with both hands. He’s forcing everybody else to do the same.
This assessment - described by one wag as a "wet kiss" - is typical of the "serious" face being painted in the media and throughout the Beltway on the hustle that the zealous Congressman has hatched and that the GOP has chosen as it's fiscal cris de coeur.  And as further testament to Ryan's seriousness, serious Sarah Palin has Tweeted in with, "Serious and necessary leadership has rolled out serious and necessary reform proposal." It doesn't get more serious than that!

But sooner or later reality intrudes on most of these purely ideological enterprises and in Ryan's case it's come sooner - in the form of the staid, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office beginning to crunch his numbers. Here's the scoop from TPM Muckraker: