Friday, January 6, 2017

Jazz Shaw, the Frank Burns of Policy Analysis, Once Again Demonstrates His Ineptitude

     I grew up on MASH.  During one episode, someone asks Hawkeye what Frank Burns knows on a topic.  Hawkeye responded, "there's so little Frank knows, it's difficult to keep up with what he doesn't know." 

     That statement encapsulates Jazz Shaw of Hot Air in a nutshell.  For several years now, he has sided with those who oppose a minimum wage hike, arguing that an increase in the minimum wage causes unemployment.  This argument was neutered by Alan Kreuger in the early 1990s -- as anyone who pays attention to silly things like facts and data will tell you.  The recent experience of Seattle and it's minimum wage increase confirmed Kreuger's analysis and rebutted Mr Shaw's position.  However, Kreuger's literature and economic data have the added feature of being complex and nuanced, immediately placing it outside Mr. Shaw's intellectual capabilities.  Rather than reevaluate his position, Mr. Shaw has done what most conservative bloggers do: stop writing about the topic on which reality has shown him to be wrong and move onto another topic.  

     Yesterday we had this beauty from Mr. Shaw:

We had a functional, if highly problematic health care system in this country before the Affordable Care Act was passed and we will still have one when it’s gone. Far more to the point, Obamacare did not “fix” the healthcare system in this country. It blew it up in several significant ways, not least of which was the exponential increases in premium costs and the large number of healthcare providers who wound up kicking out their satisfied patients because they wouldn’t accept Obamacare coverage.

     As with all of Mr. Shaw's policy writing, data, facts and references are completely absent.  Instead, he offers his position and, because it jibes with that of his readers, it goes unchallenged until now.  

     Let's first note that insurance premiums were a huge problem before the ACA.  The following is from the Economic Policy Institute and Kaiser Family Health:

Insurance premiums increased at alarming rates before the ACA resulting in health care premiums taking an increasing percentage of median family income.  As a matter of fact, premium increases were far lower after the ACA:

As for Mr. Shaw's contention that the pre-ACA health system was functional, we have this:

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released a widely publicized report last month that said new enrollees under ObamaCare had 22 percent higher medical costs than people who received coverage from employers.


The Aetna CEO noted concerns about the “risk pool,” which refers to the balance of healthy and sick enrollees in a plan. The makeup of the ObamaCare risk pools has been sicker and costlier than insurers hoped. 

One of the ACA's biggest problems is that far more sick people signed up than anticipated by insurers.  This indicates that before the ACA, there was a very serious problem: people weren't going to the doctor.  And the reason is simple: they lacked insurance.  

For a long amount of time (~35 years) a significant percentage of Americans didn't have insurance.  Therefore, they didn't get routine problems taken care of.  When they finally got insurance, they had a lot of problems that had morphed into huge issues because they hadn't gotten them taken care of.  This problem could have been avoided with broadened insurance coverage.

     And if the U.S.' system was "the best: why did it cost so much more than other countries' health care?


     I could go, but you get the point.  As usual, Mr. Shaw cites no data nor evidence to back-up his primary assertion.  This is standard for Mr. Shaw, because he lacks any formal training in policy analysis, economics or even basic logic.  He does, however, excel at stupidity, which he routinely displays.  He also clearly lacks a sense of shame, because someone who has been as consistently incorrect as Mr. Shaw usually has the good sense to shut up.  He does not.   So, we can expect to see more articles from him as he defends his new master, Mr. Trump.