PricewaterhouseCoopers lies

Not that it’s any surprise, but the PricewaterhouseCoopers “analysis” of the Baucus proposal, paid for by the health insurance lobby, is complete bullsh*t.

Not that it’s any surprise, but the PricewaterhouseCoopers “analysis” of the Baucus proposal, paid for by the health insurance lobby, is complete bullsh*t.  Ezra Klein has details, but also the on-one-foot summary:  “the report assumes no behavioral changes in response to new policies.”

Astonishing that the Washington Post gave front-page coverage to this bamboozlement. 

Or maybe not.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

11 thoughts on “PricewaterhouseCoopers lies”

  1. Astonishing that the key group of Stenographers to Power sit with bended knee, waiting for direction from their masters in the insurance mafia? Astonishing that you think so.

  2. Maybe it's an accident that the Post put Ceci Connolly on the healthcare beat; I don't know. But there's no reason for anyone to be surprised that she's consistently adopted the tropes & talking points of the GOP & its industry allies. She's one more reason I resolved not to encourage the Post by giving it any more of my money.

    On The NewsHour, Ignagni blandly acknowledges that there "may be" a behavioral response, but says the question as an ethical one. Whatever that means.

  3. From the CBO's website: "CBO and JCT’s analysis is preliminary in large part because the Chairman’s mark, as amended, has not yet been embodied in legislative language."

    In other words, this is roughly like analyzing a ballot proposal based on the advocates' proposed ballot language, rather than the actual text of the proposal.

  4. No, Brett, that's just another foolish GOP/Fox News talking point.

    Because of the highly technical nature of the tax code, the actual legislative language of Finance Committee bills is typically not much more comprehensible than a compiled computer program. The Finance Committee always debates and votes on the "source code": a statement of what the law is to do that Legislative Counsel then "compiles" into an actual bill. One of the Republicans on Finance tried to peddle this nonsense and one of the Democrats shut him up by reading out a sample of the actual "Subparagraph 6(b)(3)" language to demonstrate that no one could actually figure it out.

    By the way, when the Congress authorizes a NASA satellite program, it generally doesn't have the actual engineering drawings to vote on.

  5. "It's just another GOP/Fox News talking point" is itself nothing more than a talking point, albeit a Democratic party/liberal one. Ideally the 'compiled code' mirrors the 'source code', (Ideally 'ballot language' mirrors 'proposal text', too!) but that it does is scarcely something anybody sensible would rely on.

  6. Brett, this is the famous I Know You Are But What Am I defense. By all means, we should be wary that leg counsel will slip communism in women into the legislative language. Or not. If CBO scores the legislative language differently from the conceptual version, the practice is for the former to be brought into conformity w/ the latter. This has been the way the Finance Committee has worked since forever; it's not an innovation of the post-2006 Congress, & not something the Republicans complained about when they were in the majority, or have any good reason to complain about now. This is the sense in which your argument is a talking point, & Kleiman's entirely sensible observation isn't.

  7. Mark, your response to Brett is just wrong. The CBO is perfectly capable of scoring the actual legislative language. And when they do, they don't call it "preliminary."

  8. 1) Has the committee usually waited for the CBO to score legalese versions of other bills?

    2) Do vernacular and legalese versions' CBO scores often differ much?

    If both = "No" then why's Brett upset?

  9. No, Thomas, you misunderstand. Kleiman doesn't say & surely doesn't imagine that CBO literally is incapable of deciphering legislative language, no matter how long it tries. Do you really think he doesn't know that it eventually does score the legislative language, & does so having read it? The point is rather that that can take a lot of time & work, & that long experience has taught the committee that it's better – more efficient & perspicuous – to work directly w/ the conceptual language, & then conform the legislative language to that. (Likewise, when we say a compiled computer program is incomprehensible, we may not mean it's literally completely uninterpretable.)

    If there were any reason to think this way of working reduces rather than increases legislators' & the public's understanding of legislation, that would be a problem. But there isn't. There wasn't when Republicans held majorities & there isn't now. What there is is an obstructionist, intellectually bankrupt party that seeks to exploit its public's (sometimes willful) ignorance of the way the Congress works & has long worked. And the same pseudo-populists who pretend there's something fishy about traditional practices also regularly complain, w/ a straight face, that the Congress writes laws in – yes – legalese, which the good folk at home can't understand. This is giving demagogy a bad name.

  10. They are currently working on a bill which has huge ramifications for a sixth of the economy, and major portions of which are not anticipated to kick in until after the next Presidential election. There's no hurry, except for the perhaps justified fear that, if they let the public debate go on, it might arrive at a conclusion they don't like.

    So, it will take more time? Let the CBO score the final language anyway. This isn't National Kumquat Day we're talking about here, this one matters.

    Oh, and the reason I compared this to ballot language for a ballot proposal, is because while source code is reliably and objectively transformed into object code by a compiler, the process ahead for this bill is not nearly so deterministic. And committee language is as much a work of propaganda, as it is instructions to the staff. So committee language, especially when the bill has a high degree of public interest, is more PR fluff than 'source code'.

  11. I hope you're not one of those people who makes confident, dogmatic pronouncements about things he knows nothing about. How much Senate Finance conceptual language have you actually read in your happy life? How much time have you spent comparing it to its corresponding legislative language? Please tell us about all the cases you personally know of in which the conceptual language was "PR fluff" & "a work of propaganda," untethered to the legislative language. Be complete. (By the way, when did you first learn the Finance Committee works this way? I take it you weren't some kind of lonely protester against it during 1995-2001, 2002-7? Or did nothing that passed out of the committee in those years matter?)

    Now, remember, you've already been told that CBO will score the legislative language. And, again, what does the committee do if it scores differently than the conceptual-language version?

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