CNN Tests "Fixed" Obamacare Website And… It Crashes

 'If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.'

       -  P.J. O'Rourke

If CNN was doing its best this morning to prove that the second coming of healthcare.gov is fixed, it... failed.

Transcript:

GEORGE HOWELL, HOST: We know the first thing you have to do when you go to this website you have to select your state. Is that working?

 

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And what's funny is I was talking with Matt, and, yeah, that seemed to work, right, when you logged on. But then came the road blocks. So tell me about what happened, because we're getting another error message here, and it's supposed to be running smoothly. We’re just not seeing that.

 

MATT SLOANE, CNN MEDICAL PRODUCER: Yeah, so, you know, we've been trying to get into the site since October 1 on and off again. I have to say it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through. I picked my state. I put in all of my information and I got through the whole process in eight minutes. And then it said my status was in progress. So I went to refresh it and I got the error message.

But fear not. According to David Plouffe, 2008 campaign manager for Barack Obama, Obamacare "will work reall well"... by 2017. To wit:

This program was designed to be implemented by the states. And in most of the states it is going quite well. You talked about Medicaid expansion. I think it's just a fact, and it may take until 2017 when this president leaves office, you're going to see almost every state in this country running their own exchanges eventually and expanding Medicaid. And I think it'll work really well, then.


    






Why It’s Going To Be A Whole Lot Worse Than In The 1930s

As Mike Maloney forecast in the mid-2000s, the roller-coaster ride continues in world markets and economies. His - so far - spot on projection that "first the threat of deflation (1), followed by a helicopter drop (2), followed by big reflation (3), followed by a real deflation (4), and then followed by hyperinflation (5)," appears to be rotating from stage 3 to stage 4 (as we noted here). However, as Maloney explains in this brief clip, while we have seen great deflations before, in the '30s one-third of the monetary base was backed by gold, now we virtually nothing as "people do not understand the scale of the emergency that's going on right now."

 

Five brief minutes on a Sunday... watch!

 


    






Two-Thirds Of Americans Can’t Be Trusted

Only one-third of Americans say their fellow countrymen can be trusted according to a recent AP-GfK poll, down from over half 40 years ago. Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters and who can blame them with the government appearing to bless any and all surveillance and intervention in the interests of the status quo. "I'm leery of everybody," warns one respondent, and as AP reports, this is a potential problem for economic growth as "social trust" brings good things. A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal; where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good, appears to promote economic growth. Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption and there's no easy fix.

 

Via AP,

You can take our word for it. Americans don't trust each other anymore.

 

We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy - trust in the other fellow - has been quietly draining away.

 

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

 

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" in dealing with people.

 

...

 

Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.

 

What's known as "social trust" brings good things.

 

A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

 

Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption.

 

Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry

 

...

 

"It's like the rules of the game," Clark said. "When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil."

 

There's no easy fix.

 

...

 

Trust has declined as the gap between the nation's rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They've lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

 

"People who believe the world is a good place and it's going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting," Uslaner said. "If you believe it's dark and driven by outside forces you can't control, you will be a mistruster."

 

African-Americans consistently have expressed far less faith in "most people" than the white majority does. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust.

 

Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans, in the 2012 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation, felt that "you can't be too careful."

 

...

 

Can anything bring trust back?

 

Uslaner and Clark don't see much hope anytime soon.

 


    






Bitcoin Plunges Into Bear Market

UPDATE: BTC has rallied 26% off its lows in the last 55 minutes - with extreme volumes

 

From it's gold-matching highs at $1242 on Thursday night, the price of Bitcoin has collapsed over $400 (32%) to $840 on heavy volume. Of course, this is only a one-week low for the exuberant digital currency but still a significant plunge (as its smaller brethren Litecoin has collapsed 51% from its highs). Interestingly, this drops the price of Bitcoin in USD below the 'arb'-based price of Bitcoin in China ($965). It seems, all coincidence aside, that the BIS infamous plunge-protection-team has been re-trained...

 

 

and as BTC collapsed, Gold rallied...

 

 

Chart: Bitcoinwisdom


    






Ron "Austrian" Paul Vs. Paul "Keynesian" Krugman – You Decide

The concept of the business cycle and its un-natural intervention-inspired boom-bust process is at the core of the following three minutes of dueling quotes from two of the most infamous public proponents of change (Ron Paul) and the status quo (Paul Krugman).

  • "Cut interest rates a couple of percentage points, provide plenty of liquidity, and call me in the morning." - Krugman
  • "Printing money is not an answer... Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom... cannot last forever." - Paul

You decide who "was" right, and who "will be" right again...

 

(h/t Jim Quinn's Burning Platform)

 

Of course, we've seen them head-to-head before...


    






Macro Considerations

The macro picture remains largely unchanged. Janet Yellen is expected to lead the Federal Reserve into a new phase by beginning to taper its long-term asset purchases early next year. The ECB is expect to move in the other direction, leaning against the tightening of financial conditions and the disinflationary forces.  Although deflation appears to be being beaten back by the aggressive monetary policy by the Bank of Japan, in the face of capital gains and retail sales tax hikes, many expect the BOJ to have to do even more to achieve its 2% core (excludes fresh food but includes energy) inflation target.  

 

Growth in the world's second large economy, China, appears to have downshifted, but at 7.5% (Q3) or 7.8% (consensus for Q4), it is still among the fastest growing economies.  To round out the five largest economic regions, the recent data shows that the German economy has recovered from the slowdown earlier this year, though at a little more than 1%, its growth is unimpressive.  Even this overstates German demand contribution, as its exports about 40% of what it produces.   

 

Within this general macro view, the fundamental picture has become more nuanced.  The week ahead may be the last of the jam packed weeks of the year, assuming that our view that the FOMC (Dec 17-18) does not announce any new initiatives at what we suspect may be Bernanke's last meeting as chair (even though his term extends until the end of January).  

 

Five central banks from high income countries meet next weeks:  Australia, Canada, Norway, Britain and the euro area.   On balance, none are expected to announce a change in policy.    That said, if there is a surprise, it would most likely come from the ECB.  Since Draghi has taken the helm, he has surprised the market more than once by his aggressiveness in easing policy (recall the rate cuts at the first two meeting he chaired, OMT, and even the latest rate cut).   However, the early estimate showing an uptick in inflation, we suspect the ECB wants to consider more its next step, which could include bringing the repo rate to zero, which might also have the benefit of slowing the LTRO borrowings, where the rate is tied to the repo rate.  

 

Although many observers write as if forward guidance was recently discovered, we would argue this tool has been around for some time and has many forms.  One such form will be the ECB staff forecasts.  That these are staff forecasts are important.  They are not owned by the policy makers, as they are at the Federal Reserve, but by the staff.  However, we expect that the updated forecasts will be one of the key highlights of this week's ECB meeting.  The ECB staff will provide 2015 forecasts for the first time and will like cut the 2014 inflation forecast, which currently stands at 1.3%.  The larger the cut, the greater the expectation for a stronger policy response.  

 

While the Reserve Bank of Australia is not expected to change the cash rate which stands at a record low 2.50%, it may still keep the door open to further easing in 2014.  The roughly 4% decline of the Australian dollar on a trade-weighted basis since late October, is still insufficient to bring it down to fair value.  

 

The news stream may be dominated by two other events in Australia. First, the Australian government is expected to sell a A$1.5 bln 5-year bond in the nation's largest sale in two decades. Second, investors are still digesting the implications of the government's rejection of the ADM bid for GrainCorp.  That said, as we noted in our technical outlook, the downside momentum on the Australian dollar looks to be easing and market positioning (illustrated by six consecutive losing weeks) vulnerable to a short squeeze.   

 

The Bank of England meeting itself is not very noteworthy.  Barring Carney's first meeting in July, when the MPC doesn't do anything, the BOE doesn't say anything, unlike other central banks. However, there are two the developments in the UK that are noteworthy.  First, Carney announced a change in the funding-for-lending scheme (FLS) that is important.  Going forward it will be redirected away from mortgages and toward small and medium businesses.  It is significant because it appears to be the clearest statement to date that the central bank (and any major central bank, that matter) is concerned about over-exuberance developing in the housing market.  Recall that house prices rose 10% in the month of October.   

 

Yet, to call the redirection of FLS an example of macro-prudential policies, as some observers have done, appears to be risking stretching the definition of macro-prudential.  To include anything a central bank does outside of interest rate policy seems to dilute its significance.  Moreover, it is not clear that this is really an alternative to a rate hike as some have suggested.  The implied yield on the Dec 14 and Dec 15 short-sterling futures contracts rose 2.5 and 4 bp since the announcement was made.  It is probably better understood as a shot across the bow.  Investors and home owners have been put on notice.  

 

Second, Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne will deliver the Autumn Statement before the House of Commons on Dec 5, the same day the MPC 2-day meeting concludes.  He is likely to celebrate the smallest deficit in five years and announce a sharp decline in borrowing requirements for the new fiscal year.  In addition to the magnitudes projected, it will be important to see if part of the lower funding needs is offset with some increased spending. 

 

The US employment report at the end of the week is the last data highlight.  Its thunder appears to have been stolen to some extent by the ADP release.  While some indicators, like the weekly initial jobless claims, show continued improvement in the labor market, broader measures of the labor market have not convinced the FOMC, where despite the dissent that the media plays up, the decision not to taper in Sept or Oct proved nearly unanimous with the one dissenter and a serial one at that. 

 

The trend in private sector payrolls improved recently.  The three-month average through October stood at 190k, which was above the six-month average (175k), though lower than the 12-month average (196k).  The longer-term average will begin falling when the Q4 12 job growth drops out (private sector non-farm payrolls averaged 232k in Q4 12).  The consensus looks for a  net 175k private sector job growth in November.  Anything below 207k will see the three-month average fall off and below 187k and the six-month average will also fall. 

 

Since the US economy began recovering, it has experienced one quarter every year with growth exceeding 3%.  The revisions to Q3 GDP due out the day before the employment data may lift the initial 2.8% estimate to something with a 3-handle on it.  The more the upward revision is a function of inventory accumulation, the more economists will expect it to weigh on growth in Q4 and/or possibly Q1 14.   

 

The news stream from the periphery of Europe has been generally favorable.  Last week S&P upgraded its outlook for Spain to stable from negative.  Over the weekend, Moody's upgraded is Caa3 rating for Greece by two notches to C, citing the optimism regarding it achieving a primary budget balance this year and a surplus next year.  Note that differences between Greece and its official creditors appears to be risking stalling the Troika's next visit and tranche payment.  

 

Separately, we'll provide more analysis of it later, but suffice it is to say here in the context of a discussion of the investment climate that actions by the central bank of Italy and Spain recently took measures that will free up funding for at least some banks in their respective countries.  The central bank of Italy has proposed (and the ECB looks disposed to approve) that it permit trading of equity in the central bank and pay a dividend to shareholders (out of reserves).  Italy's two largest banks own a little more than 50% of the shares.  The dividend will increase its value of the shares, which can be used as regulatory capital.  The move can be worth as much as 4 bln euros to Italian banks according to some estimates.   

 

Meanwhile, Spain's government has taken a bold preemptive move.  It will allow Spanish banks to reclassify the deferred tax assets (DTAs), which can be used to reduce a future tax liability, to tax credits.  The modest booking keeping move has far reaching implications.  DTAs will no longer be able to count toward regulatory capital under the Basel III, but tax credits can,  It will reduce the amount of capital Spanish banks would have to raise in lieu of the DTAs.  It is worth an estimated 50 bln euros.  

 

Turning to Japan, there two areas in which Japanese businesses are not cooperating with the Prime Minister's economic agenda.  First, businesses have been reluctant to pass along strong corporate profits to employees in the form of higher regular wages.  Second, they have been reluctant to boost investment.  The capital spending report due early Monday is likely to show an improving trend (3.2% in Q3 from flat in Q2 and -3.9% in Q1) .  A Nikkei survey of over 1400 companies found plans to boost spending 13% in the next fiscal year, which would be the most since 2005.  

 

China reported its official PMI was unchanged at 51.4 in November over the weekend.  Many had expected weakness because the HSBC preliminary measure slipped to 50.4 from 50.9.  The export orders sub-index rose to 50.6 from 50.4, but overall new orders slipped to 52.3 from 52.5.  Production also fell. The hoarding of raw materials that seen in the past appears to have ended as stocks of new purchases fell to the lowest level since July (47.8), which many have knock on implications for some commodities, like iron ore and/or copper, for example.  

 

Meanwhile, the scramble to respond to China's claim of an air defense identification zone around the disputed islands continues.  The US, South Korea and Japan are not officially recognizing the legitimacy of China's claims, though the US has advised commercial flights to notify Chinese officials as requested to minimize the risks of a terrible accident and they have reportedly complied. It is not clear that these heightened tensions will have economic spillover and it is worth monitoring trade flows as this was the channel China used last time to punish Japan over the disputed islands.  

 

From a larger point of view, this is is an attempt by China to assert itself even more in the region.  Its challenge is not just over South Korea and Japan's territorial claim, but to the US as the regional hegemon.  Yet on the world stage, China is still clumsy.  Its course will negate the good will achieved by the new government in its diplomatic offensive while US President Obama was stuck at home with a closed government.  

 

UK Prime Minister Cameron begins the week in China.  Given London's desire to be an offshore center for renminbi trading and the new investment agreement that will bring Chinese money into the UK's nuclear power, he will pretend he does not have a dog in that fight.  US Vice President Biden will visit Japan, South Korea and China next week to diffuse tensions.  However, it is not clear that the new Chinese government can afford to acquiesce, especially given that this dispute is only one of several it has in the region.  Instead, it seems more likely that it will claim another airs defense identification zone.  Moreover, for a number of reasons, Chinese officials likely will conclude that it can dominate any rung in the escalation ladder that the US is presently likely to take.    

 

This is not a Bay of Pigs scenario.  The air defense identification zone is not territory that is defended and they are not legally binding.   Japan and South Korea already had announced their own air defense identification zones, which now overlap China's claim.    It seems likely a well-timed probe China.  If it brings out Japanese nationalist roots of the Abe government, it will undermine Japan's ability to form regional coalitions.  The US seems war weary and President Obama's support is near record lows.  The domestic issues, like health care and fiscal policy dominate the agenda. 


    






Black Friday Sales Tumble 13% On Thanksgiving Thursday Opening Scramble

Update: more data trickling in from the NRF, and since it is not pretty,  so expect much more blame to fall on the weather.

  • U.S. consumers spent $57.4b over Black Friday weekend, down from last year’s $59.1b, National Retail Federation says
  • Consumers spent avg. $407.02 (planned), down from $423.55 in 2012

* * *

If somehow the scramble to open stores earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving day, until such time as the very Thanksgiving dinner had to be interrupted early for the annual rush out to the (un)friendly neighborhood Thug-Mart (Toys'R'Us opened at a ridiculous 5pm on Thanksgiving day) and punching people in the face just to get that 42 inch, 2010-model Plasma TV for $99, was supposed to boost overall sales instead of merely pulling them forward (see cash for clunkers), it didn't work. According to ShopperTrak, total Black Friday traffic plunged 11% and total sales fell 13.2%, the second consecutive year of declines following last year's 1.8%. The reason, as largely expected, is that a substantial portion of Friday shopping was pulled back to Thursday: as ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said, "if retailers continue to promote Thanksgiving as the start of the holiday buying season, he thinks the holiday will eventually surpass Black Friday in sales. "We're just taking Black Friday sales and spreading them across a larger number of days," Martin said."

Combining Thursday and Friday retail sales represented a 2.8% increase in traffic and a 2.3% increase in actual sales compared to the same period last year, which however took place against the backdrop of the most aggressively promotional environment ever, leading to even greater drops in retailer margins.

The bigger problem for retailers, and the economy, is that the National Retail Foundation expects sales to be up 3.9% to $602 billion for the season, which encompasses the last two months of the year. That's higher than last year's 3.5% growth, but below the % pace seen before the recession. Unfortunately, starting off the holiday shopping season at a selling pace that is 40% below the run-rated growth projection is hardly encouraging for the hoped for increase in sales, as well as  US GDP, not to mention the disposable income state of the US consumer.

Sure enough, since reality once again intruded on economist "models" it was time to blame the weather. From the WSJ:

The ShopperTrak report showed strong traffic in the Western and Southern U.S. while visits in the Northeast slipped as a cold snap may have deterred some customers. Apparel and accessories stores saw more visits on both days, while gadget sellers suffered weaker traffic throughout the period, the firm said.

 

About 140 million people are expected to shop over this holiday weekend, a decline from the 147 million who planned to do so last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The trade group said that nearly a quarter of the people it surveyed planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

There is hope the weak start to the retail season will be salvaged by online sales, which have been progressively climbing as a percentage of total, accounting for 40% of the $59 billion in sales racked up over the four-day Black Friday weekend last year, up from 23% in 2006, according to the National Retail Federation. Store traffic this year has been sluggish amid slow growth in consumer spending. That transition is expected to persist according to the WSJ:

During the first 17 days of November this year, store traffic declined 4.8% from the same period the year before, according to Retail Next, which analyzes more than nine million shopping trips nationwide within 450 stores.

 

Meanwhile, online shopping is set to rise, with 51% of shoppers surveyed by Nielsen planning to buy something over the Internet on Friday, up from 38% last year. That compared with 48% of consumers who said they planned to visit a big-box store like Target or Wal-Mart.

Curiously, some shoppers were turned off by the Goliath in the online selling space, Amazon.

Andrea Bailey is one of those online shoppers, but she wasn’t on Amazon. Around 2 a.m. Thursday morning, she was sitting at a laptop in her living room in Lexington, Ky., refreshing Best Buy’s website. When she finally got through, she bought a $99 Kindle Fire, made by Amazon, for her 8-year-old son.

 

After a couple of hours of sleep, Ms. Bailey continued her shopping spree, buying sweaters and Christmas pajamas for her 5-year-old daughter and dress shirts for her husband from Macys.com, some Disney Infinity characters for her son from Toysrus.com and a new printer from the Sam’s Club website.

 

Altogether, Ms. Bailey spent nearly $400 before noon. She finds it easier to browse websites run by brick-and-mortar stores than to deal with Amazon’s overwhelming number of options, she said: “If I go on Amazon and look at videogames, holy moly, my brain hurts.”

 

Such big retailers as Wal-Mart and Target continue to struggle to keep up with Amazon on the Web. Despite years of effort, online sales still typically account for only around 2% of sales for the two chains.

And while online sales are a far easier way of getting shopper "feet in the door", the margin erosion to vendors once the competition is unleashed, is far greater than even from brick and mortar venues which have at least some discipline in preserving margins.

To be sure, the full impact of the early start to selling season will not be known for a few more days, as Cyber Monday's impact is becoming increasingly greater and will have to be taken into consideration to determine just how strong, or weak, the US consumer is.

Finally, speaking of US consumers, recall that "strong" Thanksgiving sales were trumpeted every year between 2009 and 2012 only for the final holiday sales tally to disappoint without fail every single year. It remains to be seen if this time will finally be the opposite, as Bernanke's "wealth effect" finally trickles down to the 99%. Or not.


    






THe VoMiT…

THE VOMIT

 

 

 

.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF FEDERAL RESERVE SWINDLING (Commemorative Print)

Commemorative Prints Now Available: banzai7institute@gmail.com

 

 

 

.
INFLATABLE YELLEN


    






Shiller Worried About "Boom In US Stocks… Bubbles Look Like This"

On the heels of his recent appearance pouring cold water on Jim Cramer's housing recovery exuberance, recent Nobel Prize winner Bob Shiller unloads another round of uncomfortable truthiness (presumably on the basis of his future-proofing tenure guaranteed by the Nobel). "Bubbles look like this," Shiller tells Der Spiegel, adding that he is, "most worried about the boom in US stock prices." As Reuters reports, Shiller is concerned since "the world is still very vulnerable to a bubble," and with stock exchanges around the world at record highs despite an economy that is "still weak," the Nobel winner proclaimed, "this could end badly."

 

Via Reuters,

[Bob Shiller] believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

 

...

 

"I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets," Shiller told Sunday's Der Spiegel magazine. "That could end badly," he said.

 

"I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable," he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

 

...

 

"Bubbles look like this. And the world is still very vulnerable to a bubble," he said.

 

Bubbles are created when investors do not recognize when rising asset prices get detached from underlying fundamentals.

We tend to agree - bubbles do look like this...

...we observe a variety of other features typically associated with dangerous extremes:

  • unusually rich valuations on a wide variety of metrics that actually have a reliable correlation with subsequent market returns; margin debt at the highest level in history and representing 2.2% of GDP (eclipsed only briefly at the 2000 and 2007 market extremes);
  • a blistering pace of initial public offerings - back to volumes last seen at the 2000 peak - featuring “shooters” that double on the first day of issue;
  • confidence in the narrative that “this time is different” (in this case, the presumption of a fail-safe speculative backstop or “put option” from the Federal Reserve); lopsided bullish sentiment as the number of bearish advisors has plunged to just 15% and bulls rush to one side of the boat;
  • record issuance of covenant-lite debt in the leveraged loan market (which is now spreading to Europe);
  • and a well-defined syndrome of “overvalued, overbought, overbullish, rising-yield” conditions that has appeared exclusively at speculative market peaks – including (exhaustively) 1929, 1972, 1987, 2000, 2007, 2011 (before a market loss of nearly 20% that was truncated by investor faith in a new round of monetary easing), and at three points in 2013: February, May, and today (see A Textbook Pre-Crash Bubble).

Many of us in the financial world know these to be classic features of speculative peaks, but there is career risk in responding to them, so even those who view the situation with revulsion can't seem to tear themselves away.

 

 

While I have no belief that markets follow any mathematical trajectory, the log-periodic pattern is interesting because it coincides with a kind of “signature” of increasing speculative urgency, seen in other market bubbles across history. The chart above spans the period from 2010 to the present. What’s equally unsettling is that this speculative behavior is beginning to appear “fractal” – that is, self-similar at diminishing time-scales. The chart below spans from April 2013 to the present. On this shorter time-scale, Sornette’s “finite time singularity” pulls a bit closer – to December 2013 rather than January 2014, but the fidelity to this pattern is almost creepy. The point of this exercise is emphatically not to lay out an explicit time path for prices, but rather to demonstrate the pattern of increasingly urgent speculation – the willingness to aggressively buy every dip in prices – that the Federal Reserve has provoked.


    






Obama Administration Admits "There Is More Work To Be Done" As Healthcare.gov Relaunches

While even the most naive private sector cyber-experts knew well in advance that an effective rewrite of Obamacare's 500 million lines of code would take a "little longer" than the month promised by the government in advance of the November 30 fix deadline, the Obama administration went ahead with its much touted healthcare.gov relaunch anyway. The results have been mixed.

The WSJ quotes Obama administration officials who said Sunday there has been "dramatic progress" in fixing HealthCare.gov but acknowledged "there is more work to be done" in improving the site and its underlying technology and that technicians for the site said they will not be able to fix all the glitches by the deadline.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials released an eight-page report Sunday morning offering a few details of progress in fixing the site, which crashed shortly after its launch Oct. 1.

The site now allows 50,000 people to use it at the same time, according to the report, and wait times for Internet pages to load have dropped from 8 seconds to less than a second. More than 400 fixes have been made to the site.

 

"The bottom line, HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1," said Jeffrey Zients, the Obama aide tasked with fixing the technical mess, in a call with reporters.

Ironically, if Obamacare ends up being the success Obama has portrayed it as since day one, and traffic to the website surges (as is needed for Obamacare to become financially viable as opposed to just stop showing 404 screens), it is likely that it will crash once again. CMS representative Julie Bataille cautioned, “If there are extraordinary high spikes in traffic, which exceed the site’s capacity, consumers will be put in a new advance queuing system that will give them an expected wait time, or allow them to be notified via email when they can return to the site." Aka: F5.

That said, assuming the website is indeed finally fixed, it is clear who should be thanked: Google and Oracle. "Contractors and outside engineers from Google Inc. and Oracle Corp. brought in by Obama administration officials have been working overtime over the past five weeks to try to fix the site and its underlying technology, including systems that send information and payments to insurers. Administration officials say they installed fixes this weekend to address erroneous customer data that have been sent to insurers. They won't know if that issue has been fixed until more consumers get through the enrollment process and more customer data is sent to insurers, said Julie Bataille, a CMS spokeswoman."

In other words, you have to sign up for Obamacare, to find out not only what's in it and what your premiums will be, but if it has even been fixed.

Finally, those still confused about the enrollment process, will get some much needed clarity from the flowchart below.