Thursday, May 24, 2012

Catnip 5/24/12 : The United States of Bain


Golden Gate, from January. The big 75th anniversary celebration is this Sunday, and the city is gearing up for the party. The news has been full of stories on how the bridge was built - from the opposition and arguments, to the engineering, to what is happening today... pretty fascinating piece of history for this American icon, and I'm glad I'm here to witness it. More to follow.

But first, the news...

Ezra reads my bored-with-Bain mind, and asks the question, "why aren't we talking about what Romney would do as president?" Here's one chilling glimpse: "Because it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Romney is elected and Republicans don’t hold the House and win control of the Senate, Republicans wouldn’t be stymied by Democratic opposition. They would have the votes to pass their agenda. True, they won’t get a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the upper chamber, but Ryan’s budget is, well, a budget, which means it could be passed through the budget reconciliation process -- and couldn’t be filibustered. To enact a radical change of direction, Republicans need only a simple majority of votes." Like the radical Ryan budget? That's what we will get.

Does your current health insurance plan suck? The Affordable Care Act will make it better. "Even if the law is upheld, employer-provided insurance plans are likely to continue to be more generous, but the law would significantly improve the quality of coverage for individuals in several ways, the researchers concluded." Read to find out what it will do for private plans here. Meanwhile, the NYT reports that hospitals, doctors and insurers are moving towards getting health care costs down on their own, something unlikely to stop even if the ACA is overturned in court.

Romney, however, would quickly return millions to medical bankruptcy, or no care at all. "Up to 58 million more people could end up without health insurance, relative to what will happen if current law stays in place, according to one credible estimate drawn from the things he's said so far...'Never before in history has a candidate run for President with the idea that too many people have insurance coverage.' - David Cutler, economist at Harvard and 2008 campaign adviser to President Obama."

"Businessmen make lousy presidents." Coolidge. Hoover. Evidence. Read.

Harry Reid is standing strong on budget/sequester negotiations. So far. "'To now see the Republicans scrambling to do away with the cuts to defense, I will not accept that,' Reid said. 'My people — in the state of Nevada and I think the country — have had enough of whacking all the programs. We’ve cut them to a bare bone, and defense is going to have to bear their share of the burden.' This is a major escalation from just months ago, when Obama’s 2013 budget cheerfully assumed that the sequester would never happen. And it takes direct aim at pro-defense Republicans, who have been a mainstay for Boehner inside the GOP and one very big reason the speaker had to fast-forward to try to add the debt ceiling to the fight."

They are going to drill for oil in the Arctic. They are starting in July. And that is a shame.

But will cheap natural gas start to replace the oil in the trucking fleets? The WSJ has the story on how shippers and other fleet operators are looking to make the switch to NG powered trucks; one problem is the lack of refueling stations at this point. If trucks go, cars will surely follow. And new power plants are moving towards natural gas and away from coal, too: "Coal-burning facilities are expected to slip to 10% of total new capacity in the U.S. in 2013, down from 18% in 2009, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Gas, meanwhile, is expected to soar to 82% of new capacity in 2013 from 42% last year." Somewhere T-Boone is smiling.

The switch to natural gas by power plants has caused a huge drop in carbon emissions as well. "According to the International Energy Agency, US energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have fallen 450m tonnes over the past five years – the largest drop among all countries surveyed." That's good. But while we are cutting down, it's not happening fast enough overall around the globe. "(t)he IEA said 31.6 gigatonnes of CO2 were released into the atmosphere last year, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels – one gigatonne more than in 2010 and much higher than the average annual increase of 0.6 GT between 2006 and 2010. 'The impact of this increase is going to be catastrophic,' said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace." That's bad. Real bad.

A salute to Patrick Fitzgerald. Good work, sir, and all the best on your future endeavors.

Off to the day.