Virtually Speaking Counterpoints, offers four hosts, who, every Tuesday, will bring you reports you won't find in traditional media outlets, on line or off


First Tuesday of the Month:

Stuart Zechman — Movement liberal, entrepreneur, technologist and public commentary organizer at legacy media political blogs such as TIME Magazine's Swampland; He uses Twitter as a primary communications tool and posts on occasion at Avedon’s Other Weblog and Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism. • Follow @stuart_zechman

Second Tuesday: 

Cliff Schecter — nationally syndicated columnist and political commentator — writes for Al Jazeera English and appears weekly on Take Action News w/ David Shuster and The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder. The author of the 2008 Bestseller "The Real McCain,"  Cliff is co-founder and part owner of Washington DC's independent progressive radio station, We Act Radio, 1480AM. Find his firm at www.libertasllc.com and his site at cliffschecter.com Follow @cliffschecter

Third Tuesday:

Gaius Publius — Professional writer of stories, poems, and books on education & technology. Frequent writer and Contributing Editor at AMERICAblog.com. Occasional guest on Ring of Fire Radio, The Matt Filipowicz Show and other venues. Follow @Gaius_Publius.

Fourth Tuesday:

Nicole Belle – Senior Editor for Crooks and Liars. Mom, Media Critic/Political Analyst, Blogger, Freelance Editor, Austen Fanatic, Unapologetic Liberal.


Professor Stephanie Kelton and Gaius Publius

Stephanie Kelton, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the top-ranked blog New Economic Perspectives and a member of the TopWonks network of the nation’s best thinkers. Her book, The State, The Market and The Euro (2001) predicted the debt crisis in the Eurozone, and her subsequent work correctly predicted that: (1) Quantitative Easing (QE) wouldn’t lead to high inflation; (2) government deficits wouldn’t cause a spike in U.S. interest rates; (3) the S&P downgrade wouldn’t cause investors to flee Treasuries; (4) the U.S. would not experience a European-style debt crisis.

Professor Kelton discusses the fundamentals of Modern Monetary Theory, and the capitalism's sustainability. An excerpt:

GP:  I’ve heard you talk on your excellent shows with Jay Ackroyd and I’ve heard you talk about how money gets created by the government.   Would you retell that for our listeners? What does the state do to create money?

SK: Well it makes the most sense to do it by way of example. This is the age of modern money and you used the term fiat money earlier and you know most of the money that is created today is created electronically. We’re not talking about government using a printing press  and sending paper bills off to make payments for these things, for the things that are purchases. So let’s say I’ve retired and I’m drawing Social Security.  I’m sitting at home in front of my computer screen and I have my bank deposit screen in front of me and I see a thousand dollars in my account and I wait and I wait and  I say, “Well, I know  today’s the day they deposit my check  and then bloop, bloop, bloop there (are) keystrokes taking place somewhere and all of sudden the balance in my account goes up to 3200 dollars.

Well I just got my 2200 dollars social security payment.  How did that happen?  Well it happened because the federal government gave instructions to its bank, the Federal Reserve, to make a credit to my account in the amount of 2200 dollars. That’s what I get every month. The question is how did they create the money? Well, they  use a keyboard and it sounds kinda shocking to  a lotta people who don’t really understand how money is created, but the fed is actually  pretty candid when it goes about describing how it is creating money, on behalf of the US Government.  For example when Ben  Bernanke was sitting down with Scott Kelly in an interview on 60 Minutes, Scott Kelly said to him, “You know the Fed, there’s all this money being spent and created  and what is that? Taxpayer money? What’s going on here?”  And then Bernanke said, “It’s not taxpayer money.   Banks just have accounts with the Fed and when we spend we use the computer to markup the size of their account.”  And that’s exactly how  he described it.

So, it’s not much more difficult than that. The government spends by giving instructions to its bank to credit somebody’s account.

GP: So, that can happen through an entitlement payment or some kind of money is owed to a person .  You used the example of Social Security payments, the monthly payments.  It could also happen through procurement , right, if the government  says I need x amount of jeeps for the Army it will credit the account of the jeep manufacturer.

SK: Exactly right. It could be Lockheed Martin, it could be Halliburton, any of these contractors just say,. you know, it’s a 200 million dollar payment and the payment is  made via instructions from Congress. Instructions to spend and the credits show up in the bank accounts of the recipient. 

Professor Joseph White and Stuart Zechman

Stuart Zechman discusses the policy framework that underlies the US health care system with Joseph White, Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy at Case Western Reserve University. Professor White is the author of Competing Solutions: American Health Care Proposals and International Experience.  


SZ: Can you give us a summary of what managed competition is and how the PPACA is related to it?

JW: Managed competition and its similar term managed care are terms that came up really in the 80s and 90s and became prominent in the health policy world then. The idea was that large part of the problem in health care, particularly the cost problem, and to some extent quality problems was that care wasn’t coordinated, care wasn’t integrated enough. And that unnecessary care was being done because of the incentives for doctors and hospitals just to make money by just doing whatever the heck they could get away with charging you for or were charging the insurance companies for.

The idea that was developed by economists who wouldn’t have thought of themselves as conservatives.  The most prominent being Alain Enthoven out at Stanford was that you couldn’t  make a regular market work in health care because the customers at the time they’re sick and need medical care  cant really shop. They don’t know enough to shop, they may not be competent, little problems like that. And so the idea was to try to find some way to simultaneously integrate care , make it more efficient,  (and) get rid of the bad incentives for doctors and hospitals to just do anything they feel like to make money -and at the same time make something resembling a market work.

The idea was then that insurers or somebody like insurers like the existing health maintenance organizations which were a combination of an insurer and a medical network , particularly Kaiser Permanente.  The ideal world would be a world in which organizations like that competed to get contracts to insure people. So people would choose among these integrated medical plans that were both insurers and providers.   They would choose at a time when they were healthy and they had some time to think about it.  They would choose based on some sort of measures of the quality of care and performance, and in choosing among these plans they would maximize value  because the plans in order to be less expensive would not do unnecessary care, because they wouldn’t  be selling to sick people who didn’t know and didn’t care and just wanted to be treated they’d be selling to people while they were healthy to people’s employers.

So the basic idea was to get around some of the reasons for the health care market doesn’t work like a normal market and to get around some of the incentive structures and failures in the organization of health  care delivery by combining health care delivery systems into coherent systems that were managed, and then having them compete  with each other for contracts to take care of people.

So that was the basic idea, and they of course wouldn’t use any of these words in talking about the affordable care act. But the core cost control ideas in the affordable care act are very similar.