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It Can Always Get Worse

[ 174 ] March 10, 2012 |

You would have thought than Steven Landsburg’s argument couldn’t possibly get any worse. Alas, as his follow-up strawman burning indicates, he is unable to clear the extremely low bar set by his initial foray into the debate. He starts by repeating his most fundamental error:

Over the last week, we’ve heard a lot from the people who (with a hat tip to one Joker), I now call “contraceptive sponges” — people who want others to pay for their contraception because — well, just because they don’t want to pay for it themselves.

It’s just amazing that Landsburg continues to write about this subject without bothering to familiarize himself with the most basic facts about the subject so he could stop embarrassing himself. Anyway, Sandra Fluke is not asking anybody else to pay for anything. Students at Georgetown law are required to purchase medical insurance if they don’t have it already. She is not asking others to pay for their contraception “because they don’t want to pay for it themselves.” This fundamental error makes the points that follow from it a non-sequitur:

Th[argument that covering contraception is cheaper because insurance also has to cover childbirth, which is much more expensive] is might be true (though I haven’t seen any actual estimates of the number of childbirths prevented per dollar spent on contraceptive subsidies) but (and I am embarrassed to even have to point this out), so what? If we’re going to start making choices strictly on the basis of what’s cheapest, we should all stop eating.

[...]

First, it’s by no means clear that the externalities from childbirth are in fact on balance negative. Second, and more fundamentally, if you’re out to discourage childbirth, the best way to do it is to tax childbirth, not to subsidize contraception.

I…wow. First of all, the point of covering contraception is not to “discourage childbirth”; it’s to ensure that medical insurance covers basic medical expenses. More importantly, Landsburg’s entire attack on Fluke is premised on the idea that she’s asking “other people to buy her something.” This is not true directly because Fluke is, in fact, paying for insurance, and more broadly people who get insurance from employers are paying for it by getting medical insurance instead of wages as compensation. So the only argument available to Landsburg is that Fluke is indirectly “asking people to pay for contraception” because she’s getting a cross-subsidy from other insurance holders that don’t use contraception. This would still be a remarkably feeble argument, because it proves too much: it’s just an argument against the concept of insurance altogether. By Landsburg’s logic, people who expect their insurance to cover the medical care necessary to heal a broken leg are moochers asking other people to pay for it. People who use car insurance to repair the car are asking other people to pay for their repairs. People with fire insurance who file a claim to get compensation after their house burns down are just asking other people to pay them to get a new house, and so on. It’s a silly, self-refuting argument even granting Landsburg’s premise.

But it’s worse than this. As he remarkably fails to realize, if covering contraception is cheaper for the insurer, there’s no additional expense for anyone. There’s no subsidy, direct or indirect. Not only are Landsburg and Limbaugh not being asked to pay for anything, neither the insurance company nor other people getting the health care plan required by Georgetown Law. That he completely feels to grasp this obvious point and its implications and instead starts getting into irrelevant nonsense about how we can best discourage childbirth is incredible.

Both the original and follow-up arguments Landsburg makes are just jaw-dropping stuff. If it wasn’t for my previous familiarity with his punditry, I would have pegged them as a funny and vicious (if a little over-the-top) parody of libertarian economists, sort of a new Sokal hoax. Instead, we have someone making transparently dumb and ignorant — but sincere — arguments asserting that other people who are actually making rational arguments with some basic understanding of the issues involved are not fit to share the same public space and deserve some witless consideration of whether they are “sluts,” “prostitutes,” or “extortionists.” Without the attacks on Fluke Landsburg’s argument would be merely pathetic; with them, they’re utterly contemptible.

Comments (174)

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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    I hope his employer uses religion as grounds for terminating his “Stupid Insurance.”

    What a dolt!

    But, then, ‘doubling-down’ on the stupid, is what Conservatives do nowadays.

    • KevinM says:

      Its an issue of freedom of religion. The Government does not have the right to enforce the president’s personal moral belief on religious organizations. Thats a direct literal violation of the wording of the first amendment. Obamacare forces religious institutions (hospitals for example) to pay for employee’s contraceptives against their beliefs. Yes people justify it in lots of clever ways but other religious groups (Islam and the Amish for example) are specifically exempted from Obamacare but in this issue the President has chosen to enforce his personal beliefs on a religious group. Its interesting that if it was the other way around liberals would scream to the high heavens but they could care less as long as its the religious groups who’s rights are being infringed.

      • HD says:

        Funny how you fail to mention that these religious institutions are forcing their religious beliefs on others by denying their employees access to basic medical services. No one has the right to deny someone treatment that can regulate ovarian cysts, manage anemia and menorrhagia, prevent ectopic pregnancy, and increase future fertility for fear someone might be enjoying sex while they’re on it. They would be violating that someone’s first amendment rights based on their own moral beliefs, you see. The Amish don’t force people to live like themselves. And show me proof that Islamic institutions (schools and hospitals) have the right to deny employees access to birth control.

        • Acerbica says:

          Are you kidding? Religious groups that do not provide a certain “benefit” to their employees are not forcing their beliefs on them, unless those employees are actually slaves who can’t go out and work elsewhere. If you work for a religious group, you can expect that they are not going to want to pay for services that violate their beliefs, no matter how much you don’t share those beliefs. It’s their organization, their rules. Don’t like it, work elsewhere.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            We’re not talking about religious organizations qua religious organizations. We’re talking about organizations performing secular functions with taxpayer money. They can be required to respect the basic civil rights of their employees. And the policy you support would in fact result in a diminution of religious freedom unless you believe in Gilded Age horseshit about employers and employees having equal bargaining power.

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    You hit the nail on the head here, Scott:

    This would still be a remarkably feeble argument, because it proves too much: it’s just an argument against the concept of insurance altogether.

    Apparently Landsburg is outraged at the idea of insurance.

    Or perhaps his consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes controlling women’s sexuality generally presents many complexities

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yes, what an odd coinky-dink that he “discovered” that insurance was extortion as soon as women’s health care was involved.

    • Victor says:

      I was actually under the impression he is against the concept of insurance.

      • bill says:

        He may be – however he is attracting quite a few new readers who are not aware of that dumb opinion – assuming you are right – and it would be a benefit to them if he were a bit clearer.

        Its a bit like arguing that we shouldn’t feed the elderly – which strikes many as inhumane – and then pointing out that actually you don’t believe anybody should be fed. Best to start with the largest dumb idea first and then refine it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand why the left in the US advocates an inefficient mandate system instead of nationalized health care like in the UK. Ghana is a lot poorer than the US, but has a national health care system that is a lot better for people like me than anything I ever got in the US as an adult. If it is possible in Ghana, certainly the US could put together a workable and affordable nationalized health care system. But, American leftists still want all health care to be done through private insurance companies, why?

    • J. Otto Pohl says:

      Oops that last comment was me. I don’t know why it did not register my name.

      • David says:

        JOP wrote: Oops, etc……

        Just as well your name wasn’t associated with the ineffably uninformed opinion about “the left” in the United States, JOP.

    • befuggled says:

      They don’t, actually. Better insurance is what we can realistically get at this time. Down the road hopefully the country will come to its senses and form some kind of nationalized system.

      • I think I’ll have that on my tombstone. “He went down the road.” It’s where my pony lives too.

      • Avedon says:

        “The country” would probably accept an NHS immediately if it were offered that alternative.

        “The left” would certainly be happy with something of the quality of the NHS.

        But there is no left in either party’s leadership, and no one who isn’t actually from the parties is allowed to talk about it in public. The “Centrists”, who are in no way liberal, are controlling the “left” side of the debate, and sound mysteriously just like the right-wing. Who no one actually agrees with.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Who are these American leftists of whom you speak?

      As far as I know, the actual American left universally prefers to get private insurance companies out of the healthcare business, or, at the very least, give them the subordinate role they play in countries like Germany.

      The ACA’s “solution” is at best seen as a politically necessary compromise.

    • c u n d gulag says:

      We certainly don’t!

      We want single-payer, aka – ‘Medicare for all.’

      ACA was a half-measure, meant to placate the Conservatives, whose idea it basically was, so that it would have bipartisan support.

      But the minute Obama and the Democrats came out with it, Mitt, and the rest of the Conservative idiots who once supported the idea, decided to do a 180, and run away from it.

      Modern Americans Conservatism is based on one thing, and one thing only:
      “Do whatever it takes to pisses-off the Liberals. To be adjusted daily, or whenever needed.”
      And

      • Red*cted says:

        I think modern conservatism is based on the principle “Maximize my contingencies.” Pissing off liberals is just a subsidiary benefit.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      “American leftists still want all health care to be done through private insurance companies”

      Unless by “American leftists” you mean “Democratic politicians,” that’s just not true.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        And heck, it’s only a minority of Democratic politicians who prefer private insurance access to single-payer.

    • R. Porrofatto says:

      But, American leftists still want all health care to be done through private insurance companies, why?

      As others have pointed out, this is not true. Regardless, our government is pretty much owned by plutocrats who are diametrically opposed to anything they can’t make money from, i.e. investments in private insurance companies, and a large percentage of our benighted citizenry thinks that allowing other Americans to die of horrible diseases for want of health insurance is a sign of our rugged individualism (see applause lines, GOP debates). Does that explain it?

    • Hob says:

      J. Otto, how long have you been reading this blog? I don’t mind your constant references to Ghana, after all you do live there, but I don’t get how anyone who’s been hanging out in American political discussion forums for the last couple years could possibly believe what you just said.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      As everyone is saying, pretty much everyone here believes the US should adopt one of the vastly superior models used in other liberal democracies. Alas, this option is not on the table. See Steinmo, “It’s the institutions, stupid.”

      • Jesse Levine says:

        And yet we must stay with Obama at all costs even though he preemptively took single payer off the table in his first, most important policy campaign by cutting a back room deal with the insurance industry. I’m going to need a clothespin to hold my nose in the voting booth.

        • Anonymous says:

          On my list of complaints about Obama, “Not trying to do things that couldn’t succeed” don’t even register.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            Next time I’m in the market for a new car, I’m going to go down to the dealership and offer $1200 for a new Accord.

            Then he’ll have to meet me halfway, and I’ll end up getting it for, like, nine grand. Because that’s totally how it works, right?

            • djw says:

              I’m really kicking myself for not asking for full professor rank and tenure when I was offered my first tenure track job last year.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Yes, if only Obama had used the bully pulpit, I’m sure Evan Bayh would have embraced single payer….

          • Jesse Levine says:

            That’s just intellectually honest and silly at the same time. If the first, the very first, plan you put out consists of a pre-packaged closed door deal for individual mandates, either that’s what you believe in or you’re not even trying to get single payer. Hell, he didn’t even support the public option because he had cut his deal. Why don’t you folks just admit that you don’t give a crap what he does at this point, he must be supported for short term benefit. It will take a generation to recover from this triangulation.

            • Jesse Levine says:

              Correction. Intellectually dishonest

            • Malaclypse says:

              It will take a generation to recover from this triangulation.

              And there is no reason to believe that recovery from Bush should not have been complete by Jan 21, 2001.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              It will take a generation to recover from this triangulation.

              Remember when people like Jesse Levine used to feign interest in the uninsured?

              Now, getting them insurance is something we need to “recover from.”

              • Jesse Levine says:

                Don’t care what you think my agenda is, on a factual basis there are now more uninsured than last year, and even if the whole thing holds together between legal and legislative challenges, it doesn’t really help till 2014. Even then the insurers will hold the whip hand because they will still control the cost of private insurance. That’s what triangulation does. It takes the real solutions off the table.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  on a factual basis there are now more uninsured than last year, and even if the whole thing holds together between legal and legislative challenges, it doesn’t really help till 2014

                  Whereas Jesse’s imaginary single payer bill not only gets passed in 2009, but it even kicks in immediately. Gotta love those imaginary plans! They never have any shortcomings.

                  I live in Massachusetts, Jesse, the state with the lowest rate of uninsured people in the country. A state where over 99% of children are covered, one way or another – a situation that obtained not because Democrats held their breath until they turned blue and refused to pass anything other than single payer, as you would have had them do, but because they implemented an ACA-style bill.

                  You want real solutions? My way has real children really going to real doctors, and yours doesn’t. It is your purity crusade that takes real – that is, not imaginary – solutions off the table.

            • Hogan says:

              It will take a generation to recover from this triangulation.

              And if we’d done nothing, which was the only alternative to ACA that could have gotten a majority in the Senate, how many generations would it take to recover from that? Given that “nothing” is pretty much what the federal government has done since the mid-’60s, and here we are.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                No no no — don’t you understand that the vast majority of senators who were strongly opposed to single payer and didn’t care if any legislation passed at all secretly had no leverage? If only Obama had been willing to use the BULLY PULPIT this would all have been revealed, just like when President Michael Douglas got that federal ban on all handguns passed.

              • Tom Allen says:

                Isn’t a majority in the Senate 50 votes? (Plus Biden.) Yes, I think it is. If you seriously thought this was an important issue — as I did — then damn the filibuster. Damn waiting till 2014 to please some bean counters.

                But you all are in thrall to our new Hoover. Can’t upset the status quo. Have to play by the rules — even though those are not actually the real rules, but ones biased for the rich.

                And no doubt you’re still defending the housing settlements, the imminent Iranian and Syrian Wars, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping — all the shit that you used to protest when Republicans did it.

                It’s almost as though you have no principles. Oh, wait. You don’t.

                • Hogan says:

                  Isn’t a majority in the Senate 50 votes? (Plus Biden.) Yes, I think it is.

                  It is. What’s your point?

                  And no doubt you’re still defending the housing settlements, the imminent Iranian and Syrian Wars, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping — all the shit that you used to protest when Republicans did it.

                  No doubt you can find examples of me defending that stuff. No doubt. Because otherwise this would merely be you stroking yourself into a ragegasm over stuff you just pulled out of your ass.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  If you seriously thought this was an important issue — as I did — then damn the filibuster.

                  The Green Lantern Theory strikes again. Nicely summarized.

                • It’s Green Lanternism twice over, since not only is there no way that Obama could end the filibuster, you’d be lucky to get 10 votes for single-payer in the Senate so it’s irrelevant in this particular case.

    • Hogan says:

      Do you also have internet access to US newspapers and magazines in Ghana? Because a couple of minutes on Google would have shown you that that’s a crock. Hell, even reading this blog when it doesn’t bring up one of your two obsessions might have given you a clue.

    • Malaclypse says:

      It takes a special kind of woefully uninformed to imagine an “American left” that is both objectively pro-insurance company and objectively pro-Stalin. Glenn Beck can’t even pull that off.

      • Jesse Levine says:

        Last reply to Joe, no need to reply. Joe, he didn’t try.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Um, I’m not actually JFL. I fear that may impair your otherwise astute analysis.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Joe, he didn’t try.

          Nor did I try to buy a new Accord for $1200. Of course, there’s a difference: if I don’t manage to buy an Accord, I only tried and failed to get a car. If Obama doesn’t manage to pass health care reform, he actually makes it harder to do the next time, just like Clinton’s defeat actually set back the cause of a reform by a generation.

          • Ema Nymton says:

            Yes, this.

            The “left” had failed each time it attempted to get some sort of universal health care. Each time, the right offered some sort of alternative, and then nothing actually got done.

            Each time, the left started, basically, at what the right had suggested the previous time. And, of course, failed again.

            So, if we had failed this time…what would the left’s plan have looked like in, say, 2022 or so when it came up?

    • priscianusjr says:

      Why? Because politics is the art of the possible.
      If you really want to understand why health-care reform in the U.S. is taking the particular form that it’s taking, you should read this article:
      http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/01/26/090126fa_fact_gawande?printable=true

  4. joe from Lowell says:

    Hurry, ladies! You just know he’s got the offers rolling in after that last column.

  5. Dave says:

    The “they want us to pay for their stuff” argument is all people like Limbaugh and Landsburg have. Their conservatism isn’t grounded in political philosophy. It’s grounded in hostility towards people who aren’t exactly like themselves. And if they do stumble upon the limited gov’t argument it’s only because the gov’t is giving someone other than themselves something.

    Now that I say that, it isn’t just Limbaugh. I think this is the guiding principle of the modern Republican party. They really don’t care about limited gov’t. They just wanted it limited to the things they want, which is stuff mainly conducive to well off white men. How else do you explain the pro-choice Romney becoming the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nominee that he is now?

    • commie atheist says:

      the pro-choice Romney

      Hmmm, sure about that? Sure, he said he was pro-choice when he ran against Kennedy, and made pro-choice noises when he was running for governor, but I’m pretty sure he’s been anti-choice since at least 2003, when he started running for President as a Republican.

      Insert flip-flopper boilerplate here.

  6. howard says:

    a friend of mine got an mba at rochester, and there’s a close overlap between the economics department and the mba program, and i literally couldn’t believe the amazingly stupid stuff she told me that her professors (apparently sincerely) believed.

    i haven’t had the chance yet to check if landsburg was one of them, but there’s a whole culture there that reinforces these morons.

  7. Second, and more fundamentally, if you’re out to discourage childbirth, the best way to do it is to tax childbirth, not to subsidize contraception.

    Sure, because people just stop fucking if there are any negative consequence.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      And you know, having a kid doesn’t in any way increase your expenses, so what you really need to do is layer some taxes on top of that.

      Christ, what an asshole.

    • Bill Murray says:

      in dumb economists world, people are all rational utility maximizers

  8. DrDick says:

    I look forward to his tirade against having to support Rush Limbaugh’s recreational drug habit, since Viagra is routinely covered by insurance and has only one use.

    • Davis says:

      Doc, I’ve been making this point over and over. The Church is OK with Viagra for unmarried men, which negates their entire argument. Unmarried men do not need a boner! Ever. Even jacking off is a sin.

      • DrDick says:

        Hell most of the folks, especially Limpballs, are adamant about the need to cover Viagra and Cialis, so the whole argument is completely bogus cover for misogyny. I would much rather pay for some poor woman’s BC or abortion than for Rushbo’s boner.

        • commie atheist says:

          This explains why Rush thinks that birth control pills need to be taken by women every time they have sex. Rush needs to pop at least 3-4 viagra every time he wants to get it up, so he just assumes it works that way for the ladeez.

  9. Hogan says:

    It’s an outrage that women can get birth control just by paying for it. Shouldn’t there be waiting periods and spousal consent (and if she doesn’t have a spouse, she has to get one) and mandatory counseling (by which I mean non-consensual vaginal penetration)?

  10. laura says:

    “If we’re going to start making choices strictly on the basis of what’s cheapest, we should all stop eating.”

    I think this is the dumbest line of all, though I enjoyed the ECO 101 lecture on monopoly. Dude gives economists a *very* bad name.

    Anyway, I’m going to try to apply econ-think to this statement. The argument is that it’s cheaper overall for insurance companies to limit (unwanted) children by providing compesnation than to deal with the (unwanted) pregnancies and post-natal care. Of course, the planned children will not be affected by the availability of birth control. However, I highly doubt it would be cheaper for insurance companies to deal with… I don’t even know, clients’ life time expenses?… by enouraging people to fast to death, as it would result in a whole hell of a lot of avoidable hospitalizations offset by, probably, a few deaths at home. It takes a long time for people to die of hunger and most would end up hospitalized.

    Alternatively, you might think of it like “it is jointly cheaper for me and my insurer to receive subsidized birth control and not have an unwanted baby in the next X years than to have one or unplanned children during that time with the insurer covering the associated medical costs”. The analogy is then, “it is jointly cheaper for me and my insurer if I stop eating for the next X than if I continue eating”, which probably isn’t true since the utility costs to me of not eating are VERY HIGH and probably outweigh the monetary cost savings to the insurer. By contrast, the utility costs of birth control are negative for me and the net financial costs to the insurer are also negative, a win-win.

  11. JW Mason says:

    Some angel of perversity provoked me to click through to the column. Isn’t there some internet tradition about things that are even worse than you expect, even when you take into account that they will be worse tha you expect. Because, that column… wow. Just wow.

    On the other hand!

    If you’re saddled with an especially persistent angel of perversity, you might read all the way to the bottom. (Oh it’s painful.) And there you will find this:

    If it costs $1 to make a package of pills that, because of monopoly power, sells for $30, then anyone who’s willing to pay, say, $15, ought to get the pills … but won’t get them unless they’re subsidized. This is an argument which, if anyone had made it, I’d have applauded… It’s an argument for subsidizing patented drugs in general (or better yet, for reforming the patent system). … but birth control pills are special because they are used primarily by people who are not yet eligible for Medicare.

    I am, as a general rule, skeptical about using government power to (partially) counteract the harm done by other exercises of government power (in this case, imposing subsidies to counteract the harm done by the patent system). … But a perfectly reasonable person could well argue that when the first best solution is not available, the second best is better than none.

    Hey, that’s, um … completely reasonable? Yes, patent monopolies on drugs are very socially costly, yes they should be reformed, yes in the absence of patent reform the inflated prices of drugs are a good reason not to force individuals to pay for them out of pocket, and yes this argument applies particularly strongly to contraceptives because people who need them are unlikely to have other prescription drug coverage. So, yeah.

    The mystery is that given that Landsburg has an argument he finds convincing for why insurance *should* include contraceptive coverage, why did he have to spend so many hundreds of (stupid, so very stupid) words first attacking people who hold what he admits is the right position?

    (Spoiler: He’s a dick, plus misogyny.)

    • Hogan says:

      Brad DeLong usd to say that the Bush administration was worse than you could imagine, even when you allowed for the fact that it was worse than you cold imagine.

  12. g says:

    Second, and more fundamentally, if you’re out to discourage childbirth, the best way to do it is to tax childbirth, not to subsidize contraception.

    Jeez, how wrong is that? Who’s the “you” supposed to be?

    Contraception is so that women can decide when or if they have children. Who’s “out to discourage” childbirth? I can’t even fathom someone approaching contraception from this angle, unless they’re channeling Communist China.

    Logic like his is a recipe for lots and lots of abortion and infanticide.

    • commie atheist says:

      What, you haven’t heard about the Kenyan Socialist Muslim Obama’s “one-white-child” policy, to be instituted after his re-election? Wake up, sheeple!

  13. thebewilderness says:

    First, it’s by no means clear that the externalities from childbirth are in fact on balance negative.

    Yes it is. It is perfectly clear and obvious to the meanest intelligence.

  14. Echidne says:

    I wrote about Landburg’s earlier comments yesterday.

  15. Guesto says:

    Start this post with “Sandra Fluke WANTS to pay for her own contraception, by buying insurance!”

    Actually, why not make that the headline?

    Sandra Fluke wants to pay for her own x-rays, her own eye care, her own chest care, her own uterus care including contraception. And she wants to pay for this efficiently and more cheaply through an insurance program, WHICH SHE WILL PAY FOR.

    • JoyfulA says:

      I guess there’s no chance the professor will resign in a snit.

      • commie atheist says:

        I hope at least he leaves in a huff. If that’s too soon, he can leave in a minute and a huff.

        Thank you, you’ve been a great audience, don’t forget to tip your waitress.

      • mds says:

        Nope, not unless the University of Chicago or Mercatus are hiring. Despite the way they completely dominate the public debate on economic policy, there aren’t that many notable economics departments that an intellectually vacuous schmibertarian baboon like Landsburg can easily relocate to, and Rochester is one of the “freshwater” holdouts for anti-empirical zombie economics. It would be nice if his peers cut him dead over this particular case, though. “If she were in one of my classes, I’d give Fluke’s argument an F,” he told the Democrat and Chronicle. Presumably still without addressing, or apparently even comprehending, what that argument was.

  16. The Oracle says:

    Why is it that I keep thinking of an abusive relationship in regards to the Republican Party’s attitudes and policies toward all American women? Isn’t it time for all American women to end this abusive relationship and divorce themselves from the Republican Party?

    And it doesn’t matter if misogynist Republicans try to tease them back with flowers or a box of chocolates. Oh wait, Republicans aren’t doing this, they’re all doubling-down, ramping up their rhetorical attacks and passing even more women-hating vagina-invading legislation at all levels of our government. Yep, it’s time for all Americans to divorce the Republican Party.

    • thebewilderness says:

      It is an abusive relationship. Unfortunately the choice for women in politics is between abusers.
      Which explains why so many women declare a pox on both their houses.

    • commie atheist says:

      Yep, it’s time for all Americans to divorce the Republican Party.

      Republicans want to return to the mythical ’50s of their imaginations, when blacks knew their place, women were subservient, gays were in the closet, immigrants only came from Europe, and poor people were thankful for whatever scraps they got from charity.

      • Hogan says:

        Those are the social conservative Republicans. The economic conservative Republicans want to return to the 1880s, when we hunted union organizers for sport and there were immigrants in chains that we could ride like ponies.

  17. mch says:

    Women having sex with women don’t need pills, IUD’s, or the other prescribed forms of birth control. Nor do men having sex with men. Only women and men having sex with one another do.

    So, I think that, the next time Limbaugh or Landsburg has sex with a fertile partner of the opposite sex, unless he provides and uses a condom (and expects birth control to depend entirely on the use of that condom), he should have to pay for her birth control — well, at least half the cost. Dutch treat.

    • thebewilderness says:

      Some women who have no sexual relations at all with anyone need BC pills. Which was the subject of Ms Fluke’s testimony.

  18. Susan says:

    If Landsburg can’t get a simple concept like she pays for her own insurance and would like to get what she pays for right, why does anyone listen to him on any subject whatsoever?

  19. Darkrose says:

    I first met Steve Landsburg 18 years ago at a party I threw at my house. I was struck at the time by his need to go on at length about his moral objections to tossing his can of Pepsi into the recycling bin in my kitchen. Sadly, it took me a few more years to understand what a complete and utter douchebag he is, though I had the excuse of being a somewhat clueless twentysomething just out of college. I like to think that I got better. He’s just gotten worse.

    • commie atheist says:

      Every time I talk to my 20-year-old son about putting the recyclables in the correct receptacle, he rolls his eyes at me, and tells me about how Penn and Teller proved that recycling is “just bullshit.” Apparently Landsburg has never grown out of that phase.

  20. David M. Nieporent says:

    The problem is that Landsburg is an economist and you’re not, so you’re actually the one making the “fundamental error.”

    “Anyway, Sandra Fluke is not asking anybody else to pay for anything. Students at Georgetown law are required to purchase medical insurance if they don’t have it already. She is not asking other to pay for their contraception “because they don’t want to pay for it themselves.”

    Yeah, she is. Insurance is a way to get other people to pay your costs. That’s the whole point of her demand! Her (false) claim was that Georgetown students couldn’t afford birth control, so they wanted insurance to cover it so that other people would pay for it. If she and the people she was supposedly speaking for were paying for it themselves, then they wouldn’t have any need for insurance to cover it.

    So the only argument available to Landsburg is that Fluke is indirectly “asking people to pay for contraception” because she’s getting a cross-subsidy from other insurance holders that don’t use contraception.

    Not “indirectly.” Directly.

    This would still be a remarkably feeble argument, because it proves too much: it’s just an argument against the concept of insurance altogether. By Landsburg’s logic, people who expect their insurance to cover the medical care necessary to heal a broken leg are moochers asking other people to pay for it. People who use car insurance to repair the car are asking other people to pay for their repairs. People with fire insurance who file a claim to get compensation after their house burns down are just asking other people to pay them to get a new house, and so on. It’s a silly, self-refuting argument even granting Landsburg’s premise.

    But you don’t use car insurance to repair your car! You use car insurance to repair your car if you have an accident. If you decide your car isn’t running smoothly and take it in to get maintenance, insurance doesn’t cover that, and it wouldn’t make any sense for insurance to cover it, because that’s simply shifting costs, not pooling risk. That’s Landsburg’s premise. You and your ilk think insurance is supposed to be a welfare program. It’s not.

    But it’s worse than this. As he remarkably fails to realize, if covering contraception is cheaper for the insurer, there’s no additional expense for anyone.

    If tax cuts pay for themselves, then tax cuts actually shrink the deficit. If you just assume away all the costs of your preferred policies, then they’re very cheap.

    • Hogan says:

      If you decide your car isn’t running smoothly and take it in to get maintenance, insurance doesn’t cover that, and it wouldn’t make any sense for insurance to cover it, because that’s simply shifting costs, not pooling risk.

      Yes. That would be why we have mechanics, in the case of car insurance, and doctors, in the case of health insurance, to decide what’s neede and not just desired. Does that make you feel better? Or, perhaps, think better?

      • Tybalt says:

        And shockingly, that’s exactly the situation that Fluke was addressing before the House committee – someone for whom doctor-prescribed hormonal birth control was medically necessary.

        I’ve been watching David move goalposts faithfully for almost fifteen years, it’s a treat to see he’s still at it.

      • Eli Rabett says:

        Eli’s car is under manufacturers warranty, which works exactly the same way. The cost was included in the cost of the car. Somecars have no warranty repair costs others way exceed the cost of the warranty.

        David Nierponte needs a better brain warranty. His needs a bit of work. Tax cuts never pay for themselves.

    • josefina says:

      So you are arguing against the concept of insurance, as a form of “cost shifting”? Or am I misunderstanding you?

      • DrDick says:

        He has no idea what he is aruging against, other than paying for women’s birth control. Probably scream like a banshee and sue if they quit paying for his Viagra.

        • Malaclypse says:

          I think he’s against anything we’re for.

          • Hogan says:

            No matter what it is or who commenced it.

            • Malaclypse says:

              If you keep, in your mind’s eye, a mental image of Abe Simpson yelling at clouds, or eliminating three states, while reading any Neiporent post, it makes more sense.

              • DrDick says:

                I think that even that unduly flatters him.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Okay, picture Abe storming off his job at KrustyBurger, yelling “I shouldn’t be listening to complaints; I should be making them with you guys! The good Lord lets us grow old for a reason: to gain the wisdom to find fault with everything He’s made. Mr. Peterson, you can take this job and…fill it. And one more thing — I never once washed my hands. That’s your policy, not mine!”

                  Because that really is the essence of libertarianism.

              • Bill Murray says:

                i focus on his belt onion, which, as all good conservative attire, was 15 years our of date when he began wearing it

    • DrDick says:

      This is remarkably stupid and incoherent, even for you, Nieporent. Insurance premia are based on what the insurance company thinks that it will pay out on average over the course of the policy on average plus a substantial profit margin (and they employ large staffs of statisticians and demographers to make sure they know what they are doing). Other people are not paying your way, you are all simply pooling your money so that some of you can cover immediate costs now and others can do so at some other time. This really is not a complicated concept. It is true that some people will end up using less coverage than they paid for and others will use more (though the two balance out or the company would go broke), but normal healthy people do not fall into either category.

      Paying for birth control is not an extreme cost (though out of the reach of many individuals), about what my blood pressure or cholesterol medications cost. It is also part of the routine costs that the insurers include in calculating their rates. Childbirth is much more expensive and really could put you into the high user category, but I do not hear you bitching about covering that. I also do not hear you screaming about paying for Limbaugh’s Viagra, which, unlike birth control, is a purely recreational drug which is only administered to have sex.

    • mark f says:

      If you decide your car isn’t running smoothly and take it in to get maintenance, insurance doesn’t cover that, and it wouldn’t make any sense for insurance to cover it, because that’s simply shifting costs, not pooling risk.

      All of David’s prostate screenings are henceforth canceled. If he accidentally winds up with cancer all over his body, well, what is this, the welfare office?

    • Anonymous says:

      Jesus Christ. Landsburg is saying that Sandra Fluke is shifting costs even if covering contraception is cheaper. It’s not my assumption. Can you read at all?

      The rest of your post would be relevant in a world where people weren’t forced to purchase health insurance, but in the actually existing one it’s irrelevant to anything. If you have to buy insurance, it’s not picking someone’s pocket to argue that it should cover medical expenses.

    • Furious Jorge says:

      The problem, Dave, is that you’re not an economist and I am, and I’m here to say that you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

      • Furious Jorge says:

        For the record, I came to that conclusion during your inappropriate car insurance analogy. That was just embarrassing to read.

    • commie atheist says:

      I haven’t been reading this blog for a terribly long time, but I think I’ve gotten a feel for who the worthwhile commenters are, and who the idiots who bring absolutely nothing worthwhile to the discussion are. I have come to the conclusion that you are in the latter group, Mr. Nieporent, and this comment pretty much seals the deal.

    • ema says:

      Her (false) claim was that Georgetown students couldn’t afford birth control, so they wanted insurance to cover it so that other people would pay for it.

      Since you can’t be bothered to read her testimony, here, I made it easy for you:

      “One told us about how embarrassed and just powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter and learned for the first time that contraception was not covered on her insurance and she had to turn and walk away because she couldn’t afford that prescription.

      and

      “In 65% of the cases at our school, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they needed prescription and whether they were lying about their symptoms.
      “For my friend [with PCO] and 20% of the women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription. Despite verifications of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy. …
      “After months paying over $100 out-of-pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it.

      Student pays for her insurance, insurance doesn’t cover contraception, student can’t afford the extra cost, on top of her insurance cost.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        But you don’t understand; expecting to get something from medical insurance you are required to buy violates the Sacred Principles Of Insurance that oddly do not describe any medical insurance system in the known universe.

  21. jjcomet says:

    Keep in mind that Landsberg is the mental giant who, a few years back, argued that for every legal decision that is later overturned on appeal, the jurors on the case should suffer some sort of penalty, and that for every decision that isn’t overturned, they should receive a financial reward. Now this Solon didn’t explain how we would punish jurors when a decision is overturned on appeal decades after the verdict, when many of them might be dead. Nor did he bother to stipulate how long one should wait following a verdict to decide that the jury did their job well. A year? Five years? Ten years? And what if, a month after we compensate the jury for it’s wonderful work, the verdict is overturned? Do we demand they return their earlier reward? And could not a juror then argue that the earlier payment of the bonus was an admission by the state that the jury did a competent job? The fact that such a sloppy thinker could get tenure really makes me question the quality of education offered at the U. of Rochester.

  22. mark f says:

    Could be worse. Mark Steyn seems to think Sandra Fluke is wrong because she, aside from being a slutty-slut slutslut, which he mentions several times (Fluke’s whoring at the expense of taxpayers is solely responsible for America’s deficit, like “the deranged nymphomaniac queen of Madagascar at whose funeral the powder keg literally went up, killing dozens and burning down three royal palaces”), is thirty.

    the “young coed” turns out to be 30, which is what less evolved cultures refer to as early middle age. She’s a couple of years younger than Mozart was at the time he croaked [. . .] the plucky little Grade 24 schoolgirl [. . .] middle-aged schoolgirl [. . .] America has 30-year-old schoolkids [. . .] Sandra Fluke’s fellow geriatrics [. . .] Sandra Fluke, 30 going on 31

    Wow, that Sandra Fluke should be sure ashamed of herself for not being young enough for John Derbyshire.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      I think the subtext there is a Derbyshiresque “Fluke is just a worn out old slag, not a nubile young co-ed so you don’t have to pretend to listen to anything she says until closing time.”

  23. gocart mozart says:

    She’s a couple of years younger than Mozart was at the time he croaked
    I’m not dead yet.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Sandra Fluke is not asking anybody else to pay for anything….

    No of course not but that was the erroneous framing that billious gasbag Rush Limbaugh presented, and it entered the right wing echo chamber and got repeated by the bimbettes at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, the right wing columnists and everyone else. Rush’s central conceit was WRONG yet that’s what has entered the narrative and become the “fact” – that women want someone else to pay for their birth control.

    And this is why there is simply no equivalence to between Rush and someone like Bill Maher. Bill Maher doesn’t control the narrative that way. He doesn’t frame an argument and then watch as his framing is picked up by the talking heads and “news” outfits and columnists and pundits.

    And this is where Fluke has a strong defamation case, in my opinion. Because Rush did completely fabricate his central point, then used his erroneous caricature to slam her for three days solid.

    • PSP says:

      And this is where Fluke has a strong defamation case

      Seriously. One would think even Rush would know better than to defame/slander a third year law student, and get recorded doing so. I keep waiting for word of the pro se complaint against him, Clear Channel, and 600 radio station co-defendants. How many law students graduate with such an obvious oppurtunity to pay off their student loans?

      Can’t you just see them arguing she was a public figure because they made her famous? Even funnier. She could argue it was slander per se. I think it would be vastly entertaining, but I do have a slightly twisted sense of humor.

  25. Karen says:

    This guy proves every terrible stereotype about traditional Catholics I’ve ever read. I can’t actually encourage trolling, but explaining his errors to him would be a noble effort.

    • ema says:

      I tried to leave a comment but it didn’t show up. Here it is if you want to post it:

      “Since the term “sl@t” for women who pronounce they’re having sex and you have to pay for it is no longer acceptable, as has been shown by what will come to be known as the Limbaugh debacle….”

      What is the point of lying when transcripts for both Ms. Fluke’s testimony and Mr. Limbaugh’s show are available for all to read?

      Ms. Fluke made no mention whatsoever of her personal contraceptive needs. All the examples she used were of students *who pay for their own insurance* and who, because the insurance doesn’t cover contraception, cannot afford the extra cost, on top of what they already pay for their insurance policy. As a result, the students have to go without the meds at the expense of their health.

      You can mock and call all the men and women who pay for their insurance but don’t get proper coverage any derogatory names you want. But don’t perpetuate the lie that this debacle, as you call it, has anything to do with “women who pronounce they’re having sex and you have to pay for it”.

  26. guest says:

    I have read that overuse of parentheses is a sign of homosexuality (not that there is anything wrong with homosexuality, but lay off the parentheses, Mary).

    Plus, this guy is really dumb. But that doesn’t matter to his readers, because they are just as dumb or dumber.

  27. skeptonomist says:

    There should be no need to counter the stupid arguments of the anti-contraception people with even stupider ones. If you are a Catholic bishop or Rick Santorum, no contraception is used all by anyone and all expenses of birth and everything related are necessary and unavoidable – and recreational sex is evil. Under this set of rules, those who nevertheless ask for contraception to be covered are doing so at the expense of those who follow the rules. The claim that contraception is free or cost-effective is valid only under rules and assumptions which are not accepted by anti-contraceptionists.

    The anti-contraception arguments are wrong because essentially nobody but Catholic priests (easy for them) obeys the rules and really accepts the assumptions, not because they aren’t self-consistent.

  28. Prof.Pedant says:

    Even if I swallowed Landsburg’s assertion that folks who want insurance to cover contraception are – in some important and relevant way – asking other people to buy their contraception for them his point is still trivial. People buy things for each other all the time, it is a completely unremarkable phenomenon that my tax dollars, my donation, my purchase of a product or service, is – by Mr. Landsburg’s “logic” – an example of my buying something for someone. So what. I love it when I benefit from someone else having resources, why shouldn’t other people love it when my resources benefit them? Mr. Landsburg is just a spoilsport who want to only benefit from other people’s resources and not let them benefit from his resources.

  29. J. Alex says:

    why is it for the government to decide what are the “right” thing for insurers to cover. if the actuaries at blue cross blue shield find it in their best interest, which is in the interest of their customers as well, to cover contraception that is for them to decide. not some bs government mandate. khrushchev was right about this country and it’s a disgrace. stop feeding into all of it.

    • Malaclypse says:

      khrushchev was right about this country and it’s a disgrace.

      Best throwaway line from a drive-by troll ever. Even the East German judge is giving it a solid 9.8.

      • Bill Murray says:

        I think

        if the actuaries at blue cross blue shield find it in their best interest, which is in the interest of their customers as well, to cover contraception that is for them to decide. not some bs government mandate.

        is better for the bolded part.

        • MAJeff says:

          Yeah. Insurance companies care about the health of their customers and not in leeching as much money as possible out of them? Who knew?

        • Hogan says:

          Spoken like someone who’s never had health insurance.

          khrushchev was right about this country and it’s a disgrace.

          “Right about this country” as in “wanted the Soviet Union to be more like it”?

        • Malaclypse says:

          Oh, I’ll grant you that the whole thing is chock-full of blinding, burning stupidity, but the random invocation of Khrushchev is what distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill trollery.

          • Hogan says:

            And he even spelled Khrushchev right. That’s the kind of attention to detail that you just don’t get from most of these modern trolls.

            • Malaclypse says:

              I’m actually genuinely curious what he thinks Khrushchev was right about. Generally, the only thing Americans remember is Khrushchev saying “we will bury you, and you will sell us the shovels to do it.” How this applies to insurance companies is something that I, tied down by the bonds of sanity, am failing to grasp.

      • Holden Pattern says:

        Especially the East German judge, who no longer has a country to which he can return, and is afraid of Zombie Khrushchev.

  30. Kevin nyc says:

    but.. what other drugs are covered on the preventative list? any?

    why isn’t contraceptive offered just like other drugs? with a $5, 10 or 20 copay? why are they free? I don’t really understand that.

    my girlfriend has a condition that if she stops taking her drugs, she will die in a matter of months. she pays a copay.

    Obviously contraceptive drugs should be included in any plan, and at regular copays not jacked up.. and I guess people that can’t afford any drugs can get it the same way they do or don’t get their blood pressure drugs.

    seems odd to include just one drug on a list full of screenings and tests.

  31. Kevin nyc says:

    yes I looked at that list.. okay take off the immunizations, which are different. that is a one time preventative shot.

    give me a medication drug off the list.. I didn’t see it. maybe I missed it. and why is contraception preventative care? because it prevents conception? well then my blood pressue medicine “prevents” high blood presure. why isn’t that on the list?

  32. Kevin nyc says:

    wow. you think that’s it?

  33. Kevin nyc says:

    why is one medication on the list when hundreds aren’t? makes no sense to me.

    Contraception should be part of every plan but I don’t get why it was singled out for the preventative list.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      Because, you daft ass, it’s not “a drug”.

      It’s “an entire class of medication, comprising many different drugs, some of which are effective for some people, and some of which are effective for others, but all of which are used for the prevention of the risky and expensive medical condition we call ‘pregnancy’, which condition can occur as a result of people going about their normal life activities.”

      • Kevin nyc says:

        OK now you’re calling me names.

        you answer does not help explain why these medications were put on the list and others are not.

        I see that the flu shot is on the list. so there is a drug taken one a year to prevent the flu.

        so your argument is that “prevention of the risky and expensive medical condition we call ‘pregnancy’” is in the same class as the flu.

        seems a stretch but I guess if you define pregnancy as an illness you could argue that.

        • Malaclypse says:

          J. Alex is more interesting than you are. If you want to play in his league, you need to up your game. Try giving 110%. Or name-drop long-dead Marxists.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          My only mistake was not calling you a more vulgar name. I love the false-naive trolling you’re using to introduce the Bishops’ weak arguments for them.

          • Kevin nyc says:

            well that’s what you’re saying right?

            • Holden Pattern says:

              No, pregancy is not an illness. It is a sui generis, risky and expensive condition that affects half of the human race, and is sometimes desirable, sometimes not, DEPENDING ON WHETHER OR NOT THAT PERSON WISHES TO BE PREGNANT AND WISHES TO TAKE ON THOSE RISKS AND THOSE EXPENSES.

              So there is a set of medications that can both prevent that condition, and allow the person in question to continue with their ordinary life activities.

              Misogynists and shills for misogynists like you want to make it harder and more expensive for the half of the population to choose whether or not to take on those risks, even though it’s (a) economically less expensive to allow them to make those choices, and (b) safer to allow them to make those choices.

              Which pretty much leaves us with no rationale at all for the rehashing you’re doing of the most tired misogynist arguments against making birth control a mandatory part of insurance coverage except (a) you’re a misogynist asshole like the Bishops — and no, I don’t care if your god tells you to be a misogynist — sincere religious misogyny deserves no more respect than any other kind of bigotry, or (b) you’re not actually a misogynist, but you’re using using to to score Rushbo points in some kind of bullshit schmibertarian anti-librul bashing game, which means that you’re still a misogynist asshole, but you aren’t self-aware enough to know it.

              • Kevin nyc says:

                “against making birth control a mandatory part of insurance coverage”

                never said that. in fact said the opposite.

    • Katya says:

      You do know that all contraception is not medication, right? Oh, wait, you don’t. Hint: learn something about a topic before you ask dumb questions that you think are really smart.

      Also, I love that you just dismiss the fact that various supplements are included on the list for pregnant women and children. As are tobacco cessation treatments.

  34. Kevin nyc says:

    what do marxists have to do with for-profit health insurance?

    If we had socialist health care all drugs would be free of copays.. and indeed completely paid though taxes on earnings.

    were contraceptives required to be covered as regular drugs before the ACA put them on the preventative list? It seems very reasonable that they be required to be covered under all plans. Its just the fact they were put on this schedule seems odd.

    just look at the other services provided. counseling, screenings, referrals… and then boom! monthly birth control pills…

    I guess we can expand the preventative list one drug at a time until they are all covered!

    • Malaclypse says:

      what do marxists have to do with for-profit health insurance?

      If you were a quality troll, you would understand. Please do your homework and read the thread. This is just lazy trollery.

      Kudos on using the reply button correctly (once) upthread. Baby steps, baby steps…

    • DrDick says:

      I guess we can expand the preventative list one drug at a time until they are all covered!

      You say that like it was a bad thing. If we actually had a Marxist healthcare system, they all would be, as would all other medical procedures, without cost (other than taxes. You see, we Marxists actually believe that bit about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Access to quality healthcare is a human right, as is access to food and shelter. Wealth is not a right, it is a privilege.

      • Kevin nyc says:

        wait.. you’re a Marxist? a real “all means of production to the worker” marxist?

        a “the state will provide all that is required!” marxist?

        I didn’t know they existed anymore…

    • Hogan says:

      I guess we can expand the preventative list one drug at a time until they are all covered!

      As long as you’re at the front of the line, and not those women with their annoying reproductive systems.

      • Kevin nyc says:

        well clearly that’s not happening, as their’s in on there first…

        But if you are arguing that all drugs should be free of co-pays, and this is just the first, I could agree with that.

  35. Kevin nyc says:

    ehh some times I don’t what to use the reply button.

  36. Kevin nyc says:

    I always liked Marx’s alienation theory.

    Man is alienated from the means of production, then the fruits of production.. this leads to alienation from self, and finally to alienation from society.

    we can see this in all the damaged people we know or read about.

  37. [...] Limbaugh ought also to apologize to the legions of people who think he has offered views worthy of defense.  This is, after all, the worst crime.  He makes, by all accounts, millions of dollars and has legions of loyal fans, among them Steven Landsburg, a professor of economics at the University of Rochester.  He makes one realize what academic freedom and tenure is all about.  Read about his intervention in this discussion here.  And here.  [...]

  38. [...] Jason Hodge: a case study for involvement in local Democratic politics Publishers be damned! It Can Always Get Worse The Genius of Cecile Richards Rush Doesn’t Need Your Stinking Ads! Libertarians for Social [...]

  39. [...] who in his reply was reduced to deflecting attention from the misogyny of his original post. It gets worse. Panic buttonsTwitterFacebookRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. From: [...]

  40. [...] to have joined one of the strangest Republican ideas to have emerged from the Tea Party era, the War On the Concept of Insurance. Why do we allow people to get into car accidents “exploit” those who don’t? Why [...]

  41. [...] cannot regulate the health insurance market (or are a solder in the even more crackpot libertarian War on the Concept of Insurance) the mandate is a necessary and proper part of a regulatory framework that is concededly [...]

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  44. [...] may remember Steven Landsburg from such arguments as “expecting that health insurance you’re required to pay for cover basic health care [...]

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  46. [...] by acting in unspecified slutty ways. Like…Sanda Fluke. (How testifying before Congress that the health insurance you’re forced to pay for should cover stuff relevant to your health care makes Fluke immodest is…not obvious, but if you hate the idea of sexually autonomous women as [...]

  47. [...] discussed earlier today. Among its other problems, it’s the latest manifestation of the conservertarian war on the concept of insurance: Maybe the reason that Gottlieb’s Facebook friends are not sympathetic toward her is that [...]

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