Cynicism confirmed

Balloon Juice in August:

Aetna was profitable in 2015 in the individual market in Pennsylvania. It is projecting to be profitable in 2017. The filing memo was drafted in late May and submitted to the Pennsylvania regulators in early June. Conditions have not changed enough to make Pennsylvania a money loser in under two months.

My wee bit of cynicism bears fruit. Aetna is trying to logroll an anti-competetive merger with on-Exchange political consequences. If it works for Aetna/Humana it burns a bridge to get the merger, and if it fails, it puts Aetna on the shitlist of any Democratic administration. That is a very interesting strategy when it is highly likely that there will be another Democratic administration…

So in all years Aetna’s individual market operations in Pennsylvania were either profitable or projected to be profitable. Something stinks worse than a wrestling team’s locker room after two-a-days.

USA Today on Sunday afternoon:

When Aetna announced in August that it was leaving the exchanges in 11 of the 15 states it sells in for 2017, it said it had a pretax loss of $200 million on its individual insurance plans in the second quarter of this year and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 on its individual insurance plans. Nearly all of these policies are sold on the ACA exchanges. At the time, CEO Mark Bertolini said the move would “limit our financial exposure moving forward.”

But Aetna made nearly $12 million on individual ACA plans in Texas and more than $8 million in Pennsylvania, according to financial filings with state regulators, and is exiting the Healthcare.gov exchange in both states anyway. Asked to comment on decisions to leave states where it was making money, Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford said, “We don’t discuss performance at the state level.”

Nice to know that I am occasionally cynical enough.



Late Night Open Thread: Trump’s Conned the Banksters, Too

No mark so doomed as the mark who thinks he’s in on the long con. From the Bloomberg article [warning: autoplay]:

Mnuchin, 53, the son of a Goldman Sachs partner, thrived at the institutions Trump mocked during the campaign. He was tapped into the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale, joined the bank and became a top executive, ran a hedge fund and invested in Hollywood blockbusters. When he saw TV news shots of customers lined up outside a branch of California bank IndyMac trying to pull their money in 2008, he spotted an opportunity.

“I’ve seen this game before,” he recalled saying in an interview earlier this year. “This bank is going to end up failing, and we need to figure out how to buy it.”

Mnuchin gathered billionaires including George Soros and John Paulson and assembled a $1.6 billion bid to buy IndyMac. They rebranded it OneWest and sold the bank in August 2015 for $3.4 billion. It carried out more than 36,000 foreclosures during Mnuchin’s reign, according to the nonprofit California Reinvestment Coalition, which accused OneWest of shoddy foreclosure practices and avoiding business in largely black or Latino neighborhoods, claims the bank has denied.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who leads the Financial Services Roundtable, a bank lobbying group, thinks any rage over Mnuchin’s pedigree will fade if he does his job well. “If those results are really good for everyday Americans, it will be ‘mission accomplished,” Pawlenty said. “The public’s focus will soon shift.”…

Another former Goldman Sachs banker, SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, is said by analysts to be under consideration for a job as a top Treasury deputy. He’s well known for once asking President Barack Obama when he’d stop bashing Wall Street. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked at Goldman Sachs, too…

Trump’s throwing open the gates to the worst of the predators, and the Wall Street herd is too busy making fun of ‘blue-collar workers’ to remember that those predators will chew up their tidy little portfolios, too.

At least the guy quoted in the top tweet has the excuse of being a Hillary voter:

… Tilson, who was relieved Trump picked an industry veteran instead of a wildcard, still has concerns, especially because Trump promised to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted after the financial crisis almost toppled the global economy.

“I’m a fan of Dodd-Frank, I think banking should be boring,” said Tilson, who voted for Hillary Clinton. “I worry about Wall Street returning to being a casino.”

Because, yeah, TRUMP IS A YUUUGE FAILURE WHEN IT COMES TO RUNNING CASINOS, banksters!

At least my senior Senator didn’t waste the last two years on a crusade to appeal to the Alt-Left purity ponies, so she’s got her place on the barricades prepped…

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is worried, too. “Mnuchin is the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis — he managed to participate in all the worst practices on Wall Street,” the Democrat said in a statement. “His selection as Treasury secretary should send shivers down the spine of every American who got hit hard by the financial crisis.”



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Rot All the Way Down

Professor Krugman, in the NYTimes, “Why Corruption Matters“:

…[W]e could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results…

… I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

But what’s truly scary is the potential impact of corruption on foreign policy. Again, foreign governments are already trying to buy influence by adding to Mr. Trump’s personal wealth, and he is welcoming their efforts…

Destruction of democratic norms aside, however, think about the tilt this de facto bribery will give to U.S. policy. What kind of regime can buy influence by enriching the president and his friends? The answer is, only a government that doesn’t adhere to the rule of law.

Think about it: Could Britain or Canada curry favor with the incoming administration by waiving regulations to promote Trump golf courses or directing business to Trump hotels? No — those nations have free presses, independent courts, and rules designed to prevent exactly that kind of improper behavior. On the other hand, someplace like Vladimir Putin’s Russia can easily funnel vast sums to the man at the top in return for, say, the withdrawal of security guarantees for the Baltic States…

As Charlie Pierce reminds us, last time the spoils-seeking got this blatant, then-President Harding was hustled off on a strenuous nationwide publicity tour from which he did not return. I can imagine Mike Pence looking in the mirror and imagining himself the next Calvin Coolidge… if only because the fewer words he can say, the less of an idiot he will look.
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Monday Morning Open Thread: Cold Comforts

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(Sylvia/Nicole Hollander via GoComics.com)
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At last, a little uplift for the Balloon Juice commentariat! (And, yes, this front-pager, who just turned 61.)

Speaking of long-range tactics, I think Dana Houle has a good point here:

Jared Kushner is a NYC businessman, heir to a convicted felon real estate developer. Reince Priebus is a leading product of the GOP political machine. Steve Bannon is a sociopath who sees the neo-Nazi, white-supremacist “alt right” as a tool for random social destruction, which he finds entertaining / useful for his private goals. (Bannon is acting as the third corner of the traditional GOP Golden Triangle, Business/Bureaucracy/’Church’, which is its own kind of weird American success story.) The three of them have converged, temporarily, to push an aging “celebrity” to the top of the American political pyramid. Their common interests started diverging immediately after Clinton’s concession speech… and the cracks are widening by the day.

Our strategy, as Democrats and citizens, must include encouraging the dissension between ‘good for the Trump/Kushner business conglomerate’‘Good for the GOP party’‘Good for the dank lulz’. Yes, it would be nice if the pivot weren’t Donald Smallgloves Trump, but then again, he’s not going to make life easier for the triumvirate, either.

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Apart from soldiering on, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?



Early Morning Open Thread: Queen of the Useful Idiots

Talent does what it can, genius does what it must, and when it comes to gumming up the wheels Dr. Jill Stein has shown a certain genius. The latest from Reuters:

Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to conduct a statewide recount of votes cast in the presidential race, as requested by a Green Party candidate seeking similar reviews in two other states where Donald Trump scored narrow wins.

The recount process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in Wisconsin, is expected to begin late next week after Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said.

The state faces a Dec. 13 federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission.

The recount fee has yet to be determined, the agency said in a statement on its website. Stein said in a Facebook message on Friday that the sum was expected to run to about $1.1 million.

She said she has raised at least $5 million from donors since launching her drive on Wednesday for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – three battleground states where Republican Trump edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by relatively thin margins…


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Jill Stein- Grifter, Idiot, or Attention Seeking Diva?

tina-fey-go-home

I’ll take all three:

Jill Stein, having spent the entire election telling us all that Hillary Clinton was a mass murderer who would be worse than Trump has apparently had a change of heart, or wants more attention, or just wants to raise a ton of money she won’t refund when the states won’t or don’t do the recount.

If you want to know why no one takes the green party seriously despite aligning with them on many issues (or more accurately, them aligning with us on many issues since they haven’t done jack shit), this is why.

In related news, I am also raising money for a recount. Just click on the paypal link above and I will make sure I send it right away to my fucking bloodsucking plumber and electrician the appropriate states.



Open Thread: New Category — Trump Crime Cartel

It’s gonna be in heavy rotation, if current reports are any guide. Paul Waldman, in the Washington Post, “Welcome to the Trump kleptocracy“:

It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Donald Trump said back in 2000 when he was contemplating a bid that he never followed through on. And while he didn’t actually turn a profit on his 2016 run, it’s looking more and more likely that being president is going to be very lucrative for Trump. By the time it’s over, he may even be worth as much as he has always claimed to be.

The words “conflict of interest” don’t begin to describe what the Trump administration is shaping up to look like — though there will be plenty of conflicts of interest with administration figures such as Rudy Giuliani, who made millions from foreign governments and corporations, some of which are hostile to the United States. But the real action is going to be in Trump’s own family.

Anti-nepotism laws prevent Trump from giving his family members jobs in the administration. But don’t think that’s going to stop them from being active participants in U.S. government decision-making, or using the fact that Trump is president to keep money flowing in. In fact, we could see the president enriching himself and his family on a scale that we normally associate with post-Soviet kleptocrats and Third World dictators.

For starters, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are on the executive committee of Trump’s transition team, helping decide who gets hired for key positions and what the administration’s initial focus will be. We learned that someone on the transition team inquired about obtaining security clearances for the three so that they could see classified information (though the Trump team protested that the request did not come from Trump himself). Then there’s the matter of Ivanka Trump’s husband

Kushner — whose knowledge of government is so minimal that he was apparently surprised to learn that the Obama staffers in the White House wouldn’t be staying on to serve President Trump — is shaping up as perhaps his father-in-law’s closest adviser. He won’t have an official position, yet he’ll be privy to some of the most sensitive intelligence secrets the government possesses…