Baum on Money: Don't Repeal, Retool

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Good morning, all, and welcome to a new week. The data deluge starts with existing home sales today and moves on to the always important jobs report tomorrow, both for the month of September. But first, your daily reads.

Retooling Obamacare

Tyler Cowen has some advice for those who want to repeal or defund Obamacare: start thinking "retool" instead. For example, he recommends "narrowing the scope of required insurance to focus on catastrophic expenses." After all, that's really what insurance is, not what we have, which is a system of third-party payers. And for the Republicans still pushing repeal, Cowen says they should drop the obsession because that would leave the nation "with a dysfunctional yet still highly government-oriented health care system, not some lost conservative paradise."

Logging in isn't the same as signing up

Until last weekend, the Obama administration was silent on just how many individuals had managed to sign up for health care via the malfunctioning website, On Saturday, the administration told the Associated Press that 476,000 applications had been "started." How about completed? Between start and finish come finding out what program you are eligible for and selecting an insurance plan. The Washington Post's Wonkblog says it's the insurance companies that know what payments were actually made, rather than the White House. In the meantime, Wonkblog tracks the number of accounts created and applications processed by state-run exchanges. Washington state is the winner with 54,117 applications processed. The president plans to address the technical problems with at a Rose Garden event today.

It's still not a science

Economics, that is. A belated entry into Nobel society, the prize in economics was first awarded in 1969, an after-thought to those in physics, chemistry, medicine and peace. (Peace doesn't qualify as a science either; nor do some the recipients qualify as promoters of peace.) "Economics is a study of human behavior -- above all, the allocation of scarce resources between competing ends, writes the U.K. Daily Telegraph's Liam Halligan. "It requires the analysis of economic, commercial and financial life in all its institutional richness, or it is nothing. A solid grounding in theory and numeracy is essential but so, too, are broad dashes of politics, history, sociology and common sense. Recent 'Nobel' recipients have been rewarded, instead, for work that claims to have established 'certainties', made 'findings' and discovered 'relationships' -- all of which, when it comes to economics, is bunkum." Any economist who says as much can pretty well kiss his chances of winning a Nobel good-bye.

Rise of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped the Bank of Israel's interim chief to be its next governor. Karnit Flug, the first woman nominated to head the central bank, will have big shoes to fill when she succeeds Stanley Fischer. (They said the same thing about Ben Bernanke, whose predecessor has been walking barefoot ever since.) According to Israeli media, Larry Summers turned down a late request to take the job. His take-no-prisoners style might have been better suited to Israeli society.

And speaking of Larry Summers

Summers was talking to Charlie Rose about how to fix the U.S. economy: "If we can pick up growth by only several tenths of a percent, the budget fundamentally is balanced in the sense that debt will not be rising relative to GDP," he said. Summers doesn't understand the obsession with entitlements. That puts him at odds with some of the foremost budget experts, including those at the Congressional Budget Office.

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