Ukraine, Russia, and the US

Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center, had some thoughts on this during a live interview on Fox News, and repeated in Fox’ online feed. These remarks were made in the context of a warning that Russia will use the Russian surrogates’/Ukrainian separatists’ situation as a pretext to invade Ukraine to resolve a cynically made-up “humanitarian crisis.”

We don’t want a war. We cannot win a war against Russia. You know, this is not Al Qaeda. This is not the government of Saddam Hussein. This is the Russian Federation, the inheritors of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal. We cannot get dragged into this war. But by the same token, the Ukrainians can’t win it by themselves.

Some More re Obamacare

The Wall Street Journal provided an interactive and a graph earlier this week in their online issue.

The Explorer, available here, allows you to quickly explore the highlights of what’s available in your county.  As I’ve mentioned before, what I can get in my little county in Texas would be vastly more expensive in terms of premiums required and deductibles to be paid by me before the health plan would begin to pay (only) some of my expenses, were I to have to replace what my wife’s employer provides due to the employer’s decision to cancel its program.

What Does Russia Do for Us?

Or, more to the point, what’s the value of Russia’s good opinion of us?  After all, it’s this perceived need that’s among the barriers to providing meaningful aid to Ukraine in the face of the present Russian invasion of that country.

Max Boot, at Commentary, suggests that one aspect of the pseudo-thinking going on inside President Barack Obama’s head and that of his State Department Secretary is this:

Russia…remains an important power that Washington hesitates to antagonize because of a general feeling that we need Russian help to deal with Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and other important issues….

Moral Hazard and Obamacare Welfare

The recent CBO report on the mid- and long-term effect on willingness to be employed of Obamacare hinted at the moral hazard of Obamacare and of welfare, generally [emphasis added].

In 2014, for example, a single person or a family whose income is 150 percent of the FPL [Federal Poverty Level] and is eligible for subsidies will pay 4 percent of their income for a certain “silver” health care plan purchased through an exchange; if their income is 200 percent of the FPL, they will pay 6.3 percent of their income for that plan.  An increase in income thus raises the enrollee premium (and reduces the subsidy) both because the percentage-of-income formula applies to a larger dollar amount and because that percentage itself increases.  People whose income exceeds 400 percent of the FPL are ineligible for premium subsidies, and for some people those subsidies will drop abruptly to zero when income crosses that threshold.

Failure of the Euro—a False Fear from Moral Hazard

“The euro is in trouble and only Germany can fix it.”  That’s the meme—and the fear—described in a recent Spiegel Online piece.

Much of the euro zone and EU “leadership” is pushing for a “bank union,” a “debt repayment fund,” a communalization of (southern Europe) debt across Europe in the form of euro bonds.  Without one or more of these, goes the plaint, there is no way to stop the debt crisis.

More than just Cheating

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last Sunday the results of its extensive investigation into standardized testing results across the country, and its discoveries were appalling.  The links under “Related” in the left margin tell the tale (read them all; the series is illuminating).  I’ll just offer a few highlights.  It’s important to note that the AJC makes no bones about their analysis: the statistical results do not prove cheating.  However, the results to demonstrate utterly anomalous test scores and score movements from year to year.

Extreme swings in test scores, the paper reported,


On a recent broadcast, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly asked whether the United States was becoming a nation whose population demanded entitlement—”Are we a welfare nation?” [and select the Talking Points Memos tab, then the Talking Points: 2/14|Are we a welfare nation? link.]

Then comes an article in The Weekly Standard by Heather Mac Donald titled “Affirmative Disaster.”  Here Ms Donald describes a rigorously executed bit of research conducted at Duke University that indicates that students granted admission to Duke according to racial preference criteria rather than academic performance don’t fare as well as classmates who didn’t get an affirmative action boost, but were admitted instead on the basis of academic performance.

Can We Afford This?

The International Monetary Fund, reports Belmont Club, is being lined up bail out Italy and Spain to the tune of an $800 billion aid package.  With the US as the IMF’s largest contributor, our “share” of this works out to more than $140 billion.  Can we afford this bailout (I won’t go into “after all the other bailouts” in which our government—we—have participated, both domestically and foreign)?  As an old econ professor of mine used to ask, “Suppose not?”  That is, what are the consequences of our not participating in this new bailout scheme?


From Spiegel Online International:

Not even a day after [German Chancellor Merkel] and French President Nicolas Sarkozy suspended aid payments to Greece pending the results of a bailout referendum called by the government in Athens, Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreou has backed away from his plan.

And this, from the Greeks’ own government:

On Thursday, Papandreou [yielded] to demands that he enter into negotiations with the opposition on the formation of a cross-party caretaker government. Shortly thereafter, plans were scrapped to hold the controversial referendum….  Papandreou’s own finance minister broke ranks.

A Back of the Envelope Bailout of the Bailout

Let us say that Greece survives the EU’s assault on democracy (Brüderle’s “It’s a strange thing to do [hold a plebiscite],” for instance), and the Greeks proceed with their referendum on whether they want the latest bailout.  Say, further, that the Greeks reject the bailout.  Now accept, arguendo, that all of the dire things EU leadership claims will happen, do happen: there is a 90% write down of Greek sovereign debt; the Greeks leave, or are dismissed from, the euro zone, and perhaps from the EU altogether; and the Greeks go back to using (a now severely devalued) drachmas.  Beyond these, some are even claiming, apocalyptically, that the future of the euro and of the EU are at stake.