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Archive for October, 2009

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on October 19, 2009

What do people around the world think of President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? According to a Wall Street Journal article on the fallout from Obama’s win, this might be a sign of the times:

When David Beckham was named “man of the match” in England’s World Cup qualifying soccer game this week despite playing for just 30 minutes, his coach, Fabio Capello, mocked the honor as being “like Obama getting the Nobel Prize.”

Megan McArdle adds:

Call me crazy, but I think that maybe to earn the Nobel prize, a million dollars, and all the associated prestige, you ought to have made efforts somewhat more heroic than chairing a meeting in which you said that you thought we ought to have fewer nuclear arms–even one in which you said that the US also thought we ought to have fewer nuclear arms.  You should, I don’t know, deliver a deal or something.

For a more measured consideration of this particular issue, here are some arguments against and for Obama deserving the prize, courtesy of The Economist‘s Democracy In America blog.

Well, at least John McCain has no problem with Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize…

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The Baucus health care bill

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on October 7, 2009

A few weeks ago, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,  introduced a wide-ranging proposal to reform the US health care system. Today, the independent Congressional Budget Office released their score of the Baucus bill, as Marc Ambinder reports. The upshot is that the bill will cost $829 billion. That is less than expected, and if implemented, the Baucus plan would actually reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion.

Sounds like a great deal then? Not so fast, says leading macroeconomist Greg Mankiw. Mankiw and Jim Capretta note that the Baucus plan structures subsidies to purchase insurance in such a way as to impose an effective tax on middle-income families. Under the Baucus plan, all individuals without health insurance would be required to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. The subsidies are designed to alleviate the financial strain of this requirement on the poor, but the subsidies phase out as family income increases. This creates a marginal tax on income, which Capretta calculates could reach 30% for families with incomes equal to twice the poverty line. Add that to existing income taxes, and the result is a strong disincentive towards higher income-earning for middle-class workers.

Do the benefits of covering millions of uninsured Americans at a reasonable price outweigh the costs of imposing a large tax burden on middle-income families? Decide for yourself, but let’s hope that the members of the Senate are being so measured in their deliberations.

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