Morning Report – 2013 worse than 1994 12/13/13

Vital Statistics

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1772.1 3.5 0.20%
Eurostoxx Index 2932.1 4.0 0.13%
Oil (WTI) 96.4 -1.1 -1.13%
LIBOR 0.244 0.001 0.41%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 80.17 -0.039 -0.05%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.86% -0.02%
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.7 0.1
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.4 0.2
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 200.7 -0.2
BankRate 30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.48
Markets are higher this morning after wholesale inflation came in lower than expected. Bonds and MBS are up.
Slow news day. Bonds are going to mark time until the FOMC meeting next week. Then that will probably be it for activity until the new year. The stronger economic data certainly gives the Fed enough reason to trim purchases slightly.
It is looking like 2013 will be a worse year for bond funds than 1994, when Askin Capital Management and Orange County blew up as mortgages tanked.
It looks like extended unemployment benefits are scheduled to lapse at the end of the year. Another provision that matters to us is the tax relief on short sales. When a person discharges their mortgage for less than the amount they owe, the IRS treats that as income. Starting Jan 1, people who have a short sale will also get a bill from the IRS. So far no word on whether that will continue.

66 Responses

  1. First!

    (From last post): so those few of us who are left better stick around for at least one more year.

    *rubbing hands gleefully together*

    Yes, it’s all coming together nicely for my liberal takeover of ATiM in 2014. MWAhahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

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  2. Thanks Scott for hosting

    Like

    • nova:

      Thanks Scott for hosting

      Not hosting, just doing what I can to keep this place around. Obviously what I write doesn’t keep this chugging along (seemingly the opposite, actually!) so I have to contribute in other ways.

      Like

  3. I just paid for another year of the WordPress upgrade, so those few of us who are left better stick around for at least one more year.

    “A fool and his money………”

    Just kidding. Keep up the good work everyone. My long term endeavor isn’t working out quite as well as I’d hoped so I may be around a little more after the Holidays. I’ll have a lot of reading to do first though to catch up.

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  4. It’s worth it just for Brent’s morning report. I do wish Mark was around more.

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    • Today’s example of illegitimate, unconstitutional governance…

      The WSJ reports today (behind firewall, sorry) that Phones Likely To Stay Silent on Planes:

      Airplanes are unlikely to be filled with passengers talking on cellphones anytime soon, after the Obama administration signaled it would keep a ban on calls in place.

      Two separate government bodies on Thursday grappled with whether passengers should be able to make voice calls from their seats. The Federal Communications Commission, which controls wireless airwaves, voted 3 to 2 to advance a proposal that would overturn a 22-year-old rule preventing cellphone use during flights, saying it didn’t see a technical reason to prohibit calls.

      But at the same time, the Department of Transportation, which oversees air travel, issued a surprise announcement saying it believes passengers and the airline industry are overwhelmingly against such cellphone use, and will consider banning in-flight voice calls. The Transportation Department’s decision would take precedence.

      Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his department has heard that airlines, fliers, flight attendants and lawmakers “are all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cellphones in flight—and I am concerned about this possibility as well.” He said it was the department’s job to decide if allowing in-flight voice calls is “fair to consumers.”

      So, to recap, a government agency that is not even mentioned in the constitution, much less granted legislative powers, and which is headed by an unelected bureaucrat who reports to the executive branch, not the legislative branch, will be determining whether or not airlines will be legally allowed to permit paying customers to use their cell phones on a plane. And it will be making that determination based on a “belief” that airlines, airline workers and passengers are all “overwhelmingly” opposed to the use of phones in the air, and under the assumption that it is the “job” of the DoT to determine what is and isn’t “fair” to plane passengers.

      How is it that I am the only person appalled by this state of affairs?

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    • Thanks, JNC. This has been a week where I had no time and I spent all evening catching up on non-work stuff – like reading here.

      NoVA, Scott wrote that “you can keep your insurance” was obviously untrue when first stated. Was it patently untrue or did it only become a broken promise when the regs were written? Could you as an industry lobbyist see from the statute that a significant number of existing policies were not up to the minimum standard for ACA? As an industry lobbyist, did you know whether or not any of the pols knew that millions of persons had policies that were not up to the minimum standard? I read the statute – the whole fucking statute – when it was passed and wrote 13 pages to several clients but I totally missed that individual policies that did not meet the standard were by necessary implication going to be scrapped [I may have thought they would be amended]. In fact, I think I recall a grandfather provision. But since none of that was essential for my small employer clients to know I did not dwell on it or try to internalize that aspect. I don’t recall anything about cancelling policies that cherry picked healthy young people in the statute.

      I admit that the intervening three plus years has neither left my recollection sharp nor reliable. But I suspect you did know this or else very few people did. Which is also to say, if anyone knew, the POTUS should have known.

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  5. I think that the fact that we’re all still speaking to each other is a victory of sorts. And we’ve proven that dogs and cats can live together (and a conservative Libertarian and a liberal pseudo-Libertarian can get together for dinner in DC and have a good time).

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  6. Why does Juicebox think high deductibles under The Abomination = HSA’s. He’s not *that* stupid is he?

    http://m.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/12/12/obamacare-exposes-republican-hypocrisy-on-health-care/

    Like

  7. “Carl”–

    I’ve been confused by that as well. For some reason, that’s what those policies are being called now. . . so it’s not Ezra’s fault he’s calling them that.

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  8. I think that the fact that we’re all still speaking to each other is a victory of sorts. And we’ve proven that dogs and cats can live together (and a conservative Libertarian and a liberal pseudo-Libertarian can get together for dinner in DC and have a good time).

    Couldn’t agree more. Thanks Scott

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  9. I beleive Juicer knows the difference and is conflating the two to make a partisan attack.

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  10. From the QE link

    “Where does the Fed get the money to pay for those bonds?

    The hard truth is that the Fed actually just creates it out of thin air. When it buys a bond from a bank, it just electronically credits the bank’s account at the Fed with the reserves.
    +
    How can that be?

    It’s just the way it is.
    +
    How can I go on?

    You’ll find a way.

    But bitcoins. that’s crazy.

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    • nova:

      But bitcoins. that’s crazy.

      I have to admit that, while I understand how the Fed creates money, I don’t understand bitcoins at all. Basically what underlies any kind of currency is confidence….confidence that it will be accepted by other people as a store of value. What I don’t get about bitcoins is how this necessary confidence has come to exist. What is its source?

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  11. Heh.

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  12. “Less bloody cleanup work of, now, still-alive resource-consumers”

    does that still count if you voluntarily clean it up? Or is that some sort of variable they can’t account for.

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  13. Scott,

    I agree. It’s also the height of Paternalism. But, you know, War on Women and shit.

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  14. I wonder what changed for David Brooks?

    He said this in February 2013,

    “We should never trust concentrated power. That is not what the country is based on. It’s based on checks and balances,” Brooks said.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june13/shieldsbrooks_02-08.html

    And said this today,

    But there is a way out: Make the executive branch more powerful.

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/opinion/brooks-strengthen-the-presidency.html?smid=tw-nytdavidbrooks&seid=auto

    That musta been a helluva pants crease.

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  15. Based on their idea of success, I wish they’d declare a war on me !

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4433207?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

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  16. What is its source?

    Fairy dust.

    What worries me about them (after spending some time reading and talking to shrink on PL) is that The Bernanke referred to them as “legitimate currency”, and Fidelity has said that it will allow people to use bitcoins to invest in IRAs.

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    • Mich:

      What worries me about them (after spending some time reading and talking to shrink on PL) is that The Bernanke referred to them as “legitimate currency”, and Fidelity has said that it will allow people to use bitcoins to invest in IRAs.

      That actually makes me less worried (ie gives me more confidence). In fact since the elimination of the gold standard even US currency is grounded in nothing more than fairy dust. It’s the implicit understanding that it will be accepted by others that makes today’s currency worth something. So if bitcoins become widely accepted, I get why people use them. What I don’t get is how the value of a bitcoin was first established. I also don’t get how bitcoins get created.

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  17. the source is miners.
    https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Mining

    or do you mean the source of the confidence? Not just Bernanke. Senate Banking committee held a hearing that was pretty positive on the idea.

    I like the idea behind it because it it’s a step in making the state somewhat more obsolete.

    http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/11/the-its-libertarian-so-its-bad-argument

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    • nova:

      …or do you mean the source of the confidence?

      Yes, that is what I originally meant, although where the actually come from is also of interest.

      Like

      • For example, I know that during WWII cigarettes came to be used as a kind of currency in Europe, and I totally understand how that happened. Cigarettes were both a relatively scarce commodity and had an intrinsic value as a product that could be consumed. So I get how they could be come to be used as a measure of value for other goods. But I have no idea what instrinsic value (if any) bitcoins have, and so I cannot conceive of how they would come to be seen as valuable in such a way as to be tradeable for other valuable products. Who was the first person to say “Yes, I will trade this thing of value for X bitcoins” and why in the world did he do it?

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  18. Who was the first person to say “Yes, I will trade this thing of value for X bitcoins” and why in the world did he do it?

    (Totally facetious answer)

    The same guy who first ate escargot. And I think he did it because of the garlic butter.

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    • I thought it was because of the copious amounts of red wine.

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      • If O-care does not get repealed, this will happen. It is almost a certainty.

        As radical as conscription seems, it is logically consistent with the Democrats’ approach to health-care “reform” going back to the Johnson administration, an approach that treats patients and doctors alike as villeins to be apportioned by the lords in Washington. The main obstacle to reducing Medicare and Medicaid spending is the fact that physicians have a choice about whether to participate in the programs. In the long run, the fact that physicians have a choice about whom they see and where they practice is the most significant challenge to the full implementation of Obamacare. The logical thing — politically and economically — is to eliminate that choice. You don’t have to formally nationalize the health-care industry; you just nationalize 40 percent of each physician’s practice and call it his “fair share.”

        Doctors, like all licensed professionals, are utterly at the mercy of the state. Obamacare effectively has put the federal government and the states in the insurance business (for the healthy, young, and middle class for the first time), which means that the powers that control physicians’ licensing now have economic interests that are adverse to those of the doctors themselves. It is easy to imagine yet another episode of “fair share” rhetoric being deployed to conscript doctors in trying to make this unworkable mess work. Senator Warren’s totalitarian analysis — that the government has a claim on your property in the present and future because it exerted a claim on the property of others in the past — is entirely applicable here: Ambulances move on public roads, the government supports medical research, etc. You didn’t build that. So here’s your federally mandated portion of money-losing Medicare and Medicaid patients. They won’t call it conscription; they’ll call it shared sacrifice.

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        • Either it will become a burden on the licensed professionals, as NR suggests, or some Admin sometime will realize that it is cheaper to train more health care professionals then to conscript the ever smaller pool.

          My original idea was that for a thousand times less than increased Medicaid will cost, taxpayers could pay for the med/nursing/pharm ed of many more persons. Increase supply.

          As to the expanded Cabinet as well as the fourth branch of government, there is no express prohibition in the Constitution on the Congress establishing bureaucracies that answer to the Executive and/or the Congress. So I think the attack on the Cabinet and/or the fourth branch has to come piecemeal, based on a rule or regulation exceeding statutory or constitutional authority. Congress has express power to “make rules for the government” and to “by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.” So the only issue is whether Transportation would exceed its statutory or constitutional authority wrt cell phone use, not whether it has a right to exist as a Cabinet Department.

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        • Mark:

          My original idea was that for a thousand times less than increased Medicaid will cost, taxpayers could pay for the med/nursing/pharm ed of many more persons. Increase supply.

          You need to have people want to become doctors/nurses/etc. Lowering their pay scale will have exactly the opposite effect. Paying for their school will help, but not, I don’t think, much. Paying for a few years of costs will not make up for a lifetime of decreased income.

          As to the expanded Cabinet as well as the fourth branch of government, there is no express prohibition in the Constitution on the Congress establishing bureaucracies that answer to the Executive and/or the Congress.

          As we have seen in the past, your understanding of the purpose of the Constitution seems to be pretty much the exact opposite of mine. The Constitution was not intended to set out what the federal government cannot do. It was intended to set out what the federal government can do. If the Constitution does not expressly allow the federal government to do something, then the federal government is disallowed from doing it. At no point in the Constitution is the legislative branch granted the authority to pass legislative authority to the executive branch or any regulatory bureaucracy.

          You are quite right to characterize the regulatory bureaucracy as a “fourth branch of government”, but of course the Constitution is quite clear in contemplating and authorizing only 3 branches of government with power. Given that fact, it seems obvious to me that any such fourth branch must therefore be unconstitutional.

          If Congress created a Department of Everything (which, of course, the Constitution does not expressly prohibit) and vested in it the power to make “rules” regulating, well, everything, thus eliminating the need for Congress to ever pass another law about anything and leaving it reliant on this DoE to decide what “regulations” the nation would live by, it is hard to believe anyone would consider such an unelected lawmaker to be constitutionally acceptable. So how such unelected lawmakers become constitutionally acceptable simply because their power is limited only to certain (albeit oftentimes extremely broad) areas of life is beyond me.

          Congress has express power to “make rules for the government”

          Yes. It can make rules for how the government as constituted by the Constitution will operate. That doesn’t mean it can make “rules” which actually change the makeup of the government by creating a fourth branch of government, or by granting the executive branch powers that have been constitutionally vested in the legislative branch.

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        • Scott, by your lights we could not have a Cabinet, and as soon as the Congress authorized War, Treasury, Justice, and State Departments, it had violated the same Constitution that it had ratified in the same session.

          Never mind having a separate Air Force, without amending the Constitution, during Truman’s Administration.

          Really, it is an expressed power that you are unwilling to read.

          …he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

          This speaks of executive offices authorized by law but whose appointments are “not herein provided for” and it refers to “Heads of Departments” and “ministers” and “Officers” and “Ambassadors” that are unnamed in the Constitution, but which the Constitution provides for Congress to establish by statute. It is right there, Scott.

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        • Mark:

          Scott, by your lights we could not have a Cabinet…

          Sure we could. We just couldn’t have them writing laws, or what they euphemistically call “rules”. I have no problem with the existence of the Department of Transportation. I have a problem with the DoT determining what is and is not legal behavior, because the constitution grants Congress, not Cabinet appointees, the power to make laws.

          Even you referred to the regulatory bureaucracy as the “fourth branch of government”. Yet no where in the constitution is a fourth branch mentioned or contemplated, much less authorized to write laws. Nor is there anywhere in the constitution where Congress is authorized to pass its legislating powers to the executive branch. So I am at a loss as to how anyone can sensibly think that laws issued by agencies run by unelected bureaucrats can possibly pass constitutional muster.

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        • Scott – Congress delegates the regulation function to the agency. Otherwise I would completely agree with you on unauthorized rule making. So the attack on a reg is often based on the breadth of the power Congress has granted, from one direction or another. Often the attack is successful. Some agencies [e.g., IRS, Wage and Hour] have a long history of having been given an inch but of having taken a mile.

          I am not alone in referring to the quasi-legislative agencies like SEC as “fourth branch”. It is hard to successfully fashion a legal argument against it though. Surely the fourth branch was an unintended consequence, but it sure was lurking right in the language.

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        • Mark:

          Congress delegates the regulation function to the agency.

          Under what constitutional authority does congress delegate its lawmaking powers to the agency/executive branch?

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        • Under what constitutional authority does congress delegate its lawmaking powers to the agency/executive branch?

          Great question. It is clear [express] that the Executive carries out the laws ordained by Congress. As a general principle, then, Congress can give the President the necessary tools to carry out the laws. If the Executive can legitimately be seen as Congress’ agent, then the delegation is legit, and that was true for the FFs. Thus Congress wrote an IRC that tells what taxes are to be collected and who is to collect them but did not write how the nuts and bolts of collection work would be done.

          While I am eating lunch, I can think of two outlier cases. While Marshall was CJ, the Supremes wrote procedural rules for the court and a case arose because a party complained that procedural rules were laws and Congress could not delegate their making to the Court. I think Marshall said that so long as the procedural rules were consistent with the broad outlines of the admin of justice Congress would not complain because the daily admin of the courts was too petty or de minimus for Congressional attention, so it was OK. I don’t recall the name of the case or I would find it. Dim memory from law school. Congress could write Rules of Procedure if it so desired, of course, and they would take precedence. But since it didn’t, and it wanted the court system to operate, the Supremes could do it. Or something like that.

          At the other extreme, Congress gave Clinton [I think] the power to line item veto. Supremes said that was unconstitutional, I think on two grounds.

          in between we have all kinds of stuff. Congress says we have to have clean air and creates EPA to enforce clean air standards. But Congress doesn’t set protocols for how air is to be cleaned or kept clean, it makes EPA its agent for that. I think the flexible but stated standards are: clear policy of the law, what agency enforces it, and clear boundaries of the agency’s power. It is that last that I think IRS and FLSA historically have attempted to avoid, thus there is much litigation.

          Cato Institute, IIRC, wants all regs periodically reviewed by Congress and either ratified or voided. Or at least it did at one time. That would require Congress to actually work, of course. What we have to do now when we think a reg is outside the clear boundaries of Congressional authorization is sue. And if a lazy Congress just rubber stamped the regs its “executive agents” promulgate that would cut the legs out from under the ability to attack the regs at all. That would be my fear as a practitioner.

          Like

        • JNC – I posted the Peter O’Toole quotation for you.

          Like

        • Mark:

          As a general principle, then, Congress can give the President the necessary tools to carry out the laws.

          Sure, but what is at issue is whether congress can give the President or his unelected proxies the authority to make law. That is what regulatory agencies regularly do. To take the example you provide:

          Congress says we have to have clean air and creates EPA to enforce clean air standards. But Congress doesn’t set protocols for how air is to be cleaned or kept clean, it makes EPA its agent for that.

          The problem here is that, not content to “enforce” clean air standards issued by Congress, EPA actually creates clean air standards. It has no constitutional authority to do so. Congress passing a vague law that air must be “clean” and then delegating to the EPA the authority/ability to determine what that actually means would be akin to congress passing a law saying simply that taxes to fund the government will be assessed, and then leaving it to the IRS to determine how much to assess each person. Yet this, of course, is pretty much how the regulatory bureaucracy routinely operates.

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        • We are not far part on EPA. If EPA actually creates a standard that is not in a statute I think it is subject to litigation.

          I am interested in what you think about the CATO position as I described it.

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        • Mark:

          I am interested in what you think about the CATO position as I described it.

          I can see your objection, but I still think it would be a good idea. It forces congressmen to put their names on the whacky things that the bureaucracy does, and leaves them subject to challenge during campaigns. And it would avoid the insanity of the EPA writing rules regulating, say, carbon in response to congress’ refusal to do so.

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        • I think the CATO position is theoretically sound, anyway, even as I doubt the practical effect.

          EPA’s new rules for Houston will be challenged by Texas and I think the State has a good shot at getting them set aside. TX is before the Supremes now on cross-state pollution. That was one of two cases TX won against EPA in the 5th Circuit last year. KY is suing over the coal regs. Each of these cases is a little different so they might not all get decided the same way. The attack is always essentially that the EPA exceeded the clear bounds of its authority.

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  19. I thought it was because of the copious amounts of red wine.

    That couldn’t have hurt!

    (Full disclosure: I had escargot as an appetizer last night. They were darn yummy)(But I think it’s at least 90% the garlic butter)

    Like

  20. A textbook example if Today’s elected progressives.

    “I was disappointed a little bit with just how — as one of my colleagues observed during the discussion — no matter how much sense you make, when people have their ideological stance, they aren’t going to be persuaded by any facts you present to them,” Moore also said.

    http://m.washingtonexaminer.com/after-40-hours-with-ted-cruz-house-dem-gwen-moore-can-see-why-someone-might-have-voted-for-him/article/2540710

    I wonder what it’s like to have no ideology.

    Like

  21. Scott, the AMA will agree to it as long as the reimbursement rates are high.

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  22. No way they’d go for that.

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  23. Ok, high reimb. rates *and* generous, automatic yearly rate increases.

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  24. Well, they overwhelmingly voted for this.

    But while those policies, by and large, had been canceled because they did not meet the law’s requirements for minimum coverage, many of the New York policies being canceled meet and often exceed the standards, brokers say. The rationale for disqualifying those policies, said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was to prevent associations from selling insurance to healthy members who are needed to keep the new health exchanges financially viable.

    Siphoning those people, Mr. Levitt said, would leave the pool of health exchange customers “smaller and disproportionately sicker,” and would drive up rates.

    Makes you wonder what the Time’s is trying to say with this story, you know?

    It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

    If only someone had warned them about this.

    Pity.

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/nyregion/with-affordable-care-act-canceled-policies-for-new-york-professionals.html?ref=nyregion

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  25. Narrative destroying.

    http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24721367/arapahoe-high-gunman-held-strong-political-beliefs-classmates#ixzz2nSUxIO00

    This won’t be about gun control. Instead, given his “acceptable” political beliefs, it will be about bullying.

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  26. “Carl”–that ruling is maybe more interesting than you know. In order to be accepted into the union in the first place Utah was required by the US government to write an anti-polygamy clause into their state constitution. So was it trampling on a state’s rights back then to require the clause, or is it trampling on that state’s rights now to declare it unconstitutional?

    Like

    • Mich:

      So was it trampling on a state’s rights back then to require the clause…

      Of course not, because it wasn’t yet a state when the requirement was made. A place that is not actually a state cannot possibly have “states rights”.

      …or is it trampling on that state’s rights now to declare it unconstitutional?

      It is definitely trampling on that state’s rights now to declare it unconstitutional. The federal government has no constitutional authority to compel a state to allow polygamy any more than it has constitutional authority to compel a state to allow same-sex marriage. It has the raw power to do so, but not the constitutional authority.

      Like

  27. Why do you believe the Federal government, or the state government for that matter should have *any* role in relationships between consenting adults?

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  28. Why do you think I do?

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  29. Nope.

    But as long as anybody is making rules, I think that the rules should be more lenient (e.g., marriage equality) rather than more restrictive (e.g., banning gay marriage).

    I’m all for getting government out of writing marriage rules. i’d like to see something like civil unions recognized for contractual and legal purposes (inheritance, etc.) and religious marriage for those who are so inclined (but it doesn’t carry legal or contractual obligations recognized by the State).

    Like

    • Kelley – I’m wit ya on gov recognizing civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc., and religions doing marriages. You lose me on the marriage not carrying legal obligations. I think religious marriages must carry the same legal and contractual and property burdens/rewards on the parties as civil unions, at a minimum. I think the divorces in any of these arrangements should define property and custody and support obligations.

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  30. Mark–I should’ve been a little more clear. A marriage would be in addition to the State-recognized civil union (i.e., everyone who couples up would be in a civil union; those who want religious recognition of their union would also get married in their religious establishment of choice).

    And I fully agree with you on divorce.

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  31. Scott:

    Your answer was pretty much what my gut feeling is. Although I disagree with you about same-sex marriage–that cat is out of the bag.

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  32. Oh FFS!

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  33. Hilarious Durbin quote about R’s not wanting to support the Sequester busting budget.

    or are being threatened by the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation if they vote against it.

    Who is Durbin directing this too?

    Like

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