Author Archives: Quincy

Paul Krugman’s Statistical Reality

I have a saying: “When everyone around you seems crazy, it’s probably you.” Useful advice, to be sure.

Well, everyone around Paul Krugman seems to be misinformed:

Well, here’s a little secret: most voters don’t sit around reading Clive Crook columns or debating the Bowles-Simpson plan. They have a gut sense — things are getting better or they’re getting worse — and mainly vote on that basis. They’re not paying attention at all to this stuff.

Well, alright, not everyone. Just the vast majority of voters. Unfortunately for Krugman, this statement reveals something about him rather than the voters. Krugman is the one who is out of touch with reality.

How can that be? Isn’t Krugman formulating his ideas based on massive amounts of economic data? Kind of. He has access to more economic statistics than do most of us, but in aggregate “most voters” by far have the upper hand. Every voter has a checkbook to balance and ends that need to meet. Every voter gets to experience the economy first hand. In contrast, all Krugman has is a position that shields him from economic hardship and a glut of statistics.

Krugman lives in a statistical reality. People around him could be losing their jobs left and right, but as long as unemployment remained flat, Krugman would insist that there is no employment crisis. He could suddenly find his dollars not stretching as far, but as long as core inflation remained flat, Krugman would insist that there is no inflation. He could see small businesses closing left and right, but as long as the calculated regulatory burden upon them remained the same, Krugman would claim that they’re not over-regulated.

Now, checking one’s personal reality against the statistics is not necessarily a bad thing. In the first case, one might see people losing their jobs left and right when a factory closes down. Doesn’t mean there is a broader employment crisis. In the second, there could be local factors raising prices. In the third, it could be any number of local or temporary things hurting small businesses.

The problem comes when the statistics are at odds with the reality experienced by the vast majority of people. A reasonable person in that case would begin to question the statistics. Krugman, an academic at heart and a political hack by trade, bitterly clings to the statistics in the face of reality. The statistics tell him a story that he wants to believe: interventionist government is good for the economy. That is Paul Krugman’s statistical reality.

The reality of the current economy is pretty clear. Things are bad and getting worse. The only people to whom the bad news is unexpected are academics, journalists, and politicians. Krugman, arguably all three at once these days, desperately wants to believe that his statistical reality is the true one — so desperately, in fact, that he will insist that the experiences of millions of Americans are invalid and that the conclusions they draw from them are mere “gut instinct”.

Sorry Paul, when everyone around you seems misinformed, it’s probably you.

A modest proposal

Following along the lines of Glenn Reynolds’ proposal of a 50% surtax on the earnings of former government officials, here’s my modest proposal for our elected officials:

For 10 years after leaving office, each elected official shall pay the highest income tax rate for which he cast a “yes” vote. Same goes for a president signing a tax rate into law.

If Nancy Pelosi cast a vote to raise the top income tax bracket to 75%, *she* would pay 75%. If Harry Reid voted for a top tax bracket of 55%, *he* would pay 55%.

Why should we allow our legislators to demand sacrifices of innocent citizens that they are not willing to make themselves?

Quote of the Day – Eyes wide shut?

In making the case for open and obvious centralized rationing, advocates claim that “we” must ration with “our” eyes open. From Beth Haynes at PJM:

That’s why Medicare needs the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Setting a cap on spending is the first step of rationing. The next is deciding who gets what medical care.

“Limited resources require decisions about who will have access to care and the extent of their coverage.” (Berwick, 1999)

As physician-blogger Dr. Richard Fogoros puts it: we can either ration overtly or covertly (“with our eyes open” or closed) — but ration we must.

The only problem with this is that a national central planner (or committee) can have their eyes wide open, yet will still be totally blind. No matter how hard you look, you can’t see a building that’s 3,000 miles away with the naked eye, can you? Centralized planners face the inevitable limitation of vision imposed by distance and the human being’s limited ability to comprehend information.

Technology increases the distance the planners can see, and allows them to comprehend more of what they see. But, contrary to the belief of the planners themselves, they’re still essentially blind. What the planners call careful, scientific decision-making I call groping blindly for solutions based on assumptions and personal preferences.

The fundamental truth forseeing the failure of Obamacare is that only individuals can ration well for themselves. Whatever centralized planners do, it’s with eyes wide shut.

The saving grace of federalism

Were it not for our federalist system, the debate over Real ID would have been over long ago. Fortunately, it’s still going:

The political problem for the GOP committee chairmen is that the 2005 Real ID Act has proven to be anything but popular: legislatures of two dozen states have voted to reject its requirements, and in the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures one chamber has done so.

That didn’t stop the House Republicans from saying in a letter this week to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that “any further extension of Real ID threatens the security of the United States.” Unless Homeland Security grants an extension, the law’s requirements take effect on May 11.

Hopefully this comes to a head, and hopefully the Republicans pushing this get an education in federalism. It’s going to come in mighty handy in resisting Obamacare.

Unjustified self-righteousness

Apparently, a member of the Denver teachers union thinks she knows what work is:

That’s your problem. You’re an entrepreneur, so you don’t work. You don’t know what work is until you get into an educational area.

Warren over at Coyote Blog replies:

Yep, some day I will have to stop loafing around and take on a brutal assistant principal job somewhere. All I have to worry about is that every dollar I own (and more) is invested in my business and could disappear at any time if I make a mistake

Now, as an IT professional, my viewpoint on hard work is a little more extreme than most. Fifty hours, the point at which every teacher at that protest would be complaining bitterly, is a moderate week for me. My worst work week topped out at just under 100 hours. To put that number in perspective, remember that a week is only 168 hours long. My worst continuous stretch was 42 hours straight of emergency work. Why work so hard? Because I’ve got customers who are impacted if things aren’t working. Because development delays can cost companies thousands of dollars a day.

Compare that to the life of a teacher, and that’s pretty damned rough. Compare that to truly high-stress, high-demand professions, and it’s not that bad. I wouldn’t trade places with a power company lineman who has to labor under potentially-lethal conditions and extreme pressure to get people’s power back on in an emergency. Nor would I trade places with an ER doctor or nurse who works long hours tending to sick and shattered people. Nor would I trade places with a harbor pilot or air traffic controller, who run the risk of causing massive damage with a moment of inattention.

Millions of people in this country do jobs that make teaching look like a cakewalk. Now, in a perfect world, that quote from a teacher wouldn’t cause someone like me the least bit of offense. But it’s an imperfect world where this teacher is using completely unjustified self-righteousness as a weapon to stifle debate on the issue of public sector compensation. I find that offensive.

Now this is a call to violence

Even with all the crowing from the authoritarian left about violent rhetoric, I have yet to see a call to violence as clear as this one from leftist Sociologist Frances Fox Piven:

So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs?

[…]

Second, before people can mobilize for collective action, they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant.

[…]

Third, protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones capable of making some kind of response to angry demands.

[…]

An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

Piven is calling for the types of protests where rocks are hurled and molotov cocktails are thrown. She wants protests where property is destroyed and people are killed. She hopes that such moves will intimidate government at all levels in this nation into further forced redistribution of wealth.

As commenter Florida pointed out over at Althouse:

They [the leftists] want violence … as long as it’s THEIR violence.

As long as they are the ones bringing the thugs to the town hall meetings.

As long as they are the ones telling US what we must buy and who we can watch and what they can say.

That’s all they want.

Yeah, that’s all they want. Remember, Piven and her ilk are the kind who claim moral superiority to the rest of us. They arrogate to themselves the moral authority to regulate any aspect of our lives they choose. If we don’t cooperate with them, they are willing to intimidate us, hurt us, and kill us. The thought of a free society of equals is simply beyond their comprehension.

To the left, words in opposition to their cause are more violent than assault and murder in support of it. Never forget that.

NYT: Myth-based editorializing

On Boxing Day, our self-styled intellectual overlords at the New York Times gave us a gift of epic proportions: a gob-stoppingly vapid and shallow editorial on the principal of federalism. Let the fun begin!

With public attention focused on taxes, the deficit, gays in the military and nuclear arms reduction, little attention has been paid, so far, to the Tea Party’s most far-reaching move to remake American governance.

[…]

The proposal is sweeping, expressing with bold simplicity the view of the Tea Party and others that the federal government’s influence is far too broad. It would give state legislatures the power to veto any federal law or regulation if two-thirds of the legislatures approved.

The chances of the proposal becoming the Constitution’s 28th Amendment are exceedingly low. But it helps explain further the anger-fueled, myth-based politics of the populist new right. It also highlights the absence of a strong counterforce in American politics.

Well, so far, they haven’t strayed too far from the truth. Sure, they use the term “remake” where I would probably use “restore”, but the rest of the statement still stands. And, shock of shocks, the Times even gets the basic description of the Amendment right. But, alas, the truth quickly fades as the truthiness takes over.

What about those “anger-fueled, myth-based politics”? Well, the politics of limiting the Federal government are anger-filled, but this charge is leveled at us by the NYT to render our cause illegitimate. That’s where it rings false. We are angry because Washington is out of control. The list of abuses committed against freedom in the last twenty years needs no recitation here, but it culminated with a health-care reform law forced upon an American population that clearly and vociferously opposed it. Even today, job growth is stagnant in the face of a capricious and vengeful regulatory monster sitting on the banks of the Potomac ready to strike.

What about myth-based? The only things myth-based here is the notions of history held by the Times’ editorial board:

These flaws make the proposed amendment self-defeating, but they are far less significant than the mistaken vision of federalism on which it rests. Its foundation is that the United States defined in the Constitution are a set of decentralized sovereignties where personal responsibility, private property and a laissez-faire economy should reign. In this vision, the federal government is an intrusive parent.

The statement above is so ridiculous that any further ridicule from me would only distract you from its ridiculousness. I will, instead, only point out that if the New York Times’ editorial board not collectively slept through its eighth-grade civics classes, it would know that it just described the United States from its founding until the end of the Civil War.

Here, the NYT gets uncomfortably close to the truth, and so has to go scurrying back to the mythical founding of the United States it holds so dear:

The error that matters most here is about the Constitution’s history. America’s fundamental law holds competing elements, some constraining the national government, others energizing it. But the government the Constitution shaped was founded to create a sum greater than the parts, to promote economic development that would lift the fortunes of the American people.

The NYT board is deliberately ignoring the fact that the Barnett amendment, albeit crude, is a manifestation of the Founders’ belief that the States themselves should have representation in the Federal government. Before the 17th Amendment, it was the intent of the Constitution that the Senate represent the States, not the people (who were represented in the House). In reaction to the national trauma of the Civil War, the next half century featured a shift of power from the States to the Federal government.

The merits of the shift from a balance between the States and the Federal government to a dominant Federal government are open to debate, especially as we are seeing the faults of the dominant Federal government ever more clearly. However, the New York Times does not approach the issue from this reasonable position. Instead, they try to rewrite history to claim that it has always been this way.

This begs the question of why a once-august journalistic institution has devolved into a pathetic imitation of the Ministry of Truth. For that, we shall let the Times speak for itself:

In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty. Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.

This nation has always yearned for more government. Soon enough, they will be saying we have always been at war with Eastasia. Remember, the editorial board of the New York Times are siding with the government against you, and are making the truth a sacrificial lamb in the process.

TSA Update: More Strip and Grope, Opponents are “Domestic Extremists”

Strip and grope to come to boats, trains, and more?

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.”

“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

Opponent’s of strip and grope are “domestic extremists”:

Following the publication of my article titled “Gate Rape of America,” I was contacted by a source within the DHS who is troubled by the terminology and content of an internal memo reportedly issued yesterday at the hand of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Indeed, both the terminology and content contained in the document are troubling. The dissemination of the document itself is restricted by virtue of its classification, which prohibits any manner of public release. While the document cannot be posted or published, the more salient points are revealed here.

[…]

The terminology contained within the reported memo is indeed troubling. It labels any person who “interferes” with TSA airport security screening procedure protocol and operations by actively objecting to the established screening process, “including but not limited to the anticipated national opt-out day” as a “domestic extremist.” The label is then broadened to include “any person, group or alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel disruptions at U.S. airports in response to the enhanced security procedures.

Fabulous, now I’m a domestic extremist. Well, as Barry Goldwater said: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” On second thought, when it comes to opposing an agency dedicated to controlling and intimidating American travelers, I will wear the extremist label with pride. Will you?

Strip and Grope: Offensively Ineffective

By now, readers of this blog are well aware of the new search regime being enacted by the TSA: digital strip searches coupled with “enhanced” pat downs that include fondling of the genitalia. This has prompted more public outcry about the TSA than I have ever witnessed, everything from “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested!” to children being groped to stories of amputees and rape survivors and cancer survivors being repeatedly and horribly embarrassed in public. These new TSA procedures are indisputably an affront to the dignity of every person who is subjected to them. Even Hillary Clinton agrees on that front.

If that weren’t bad enough, the new procedures are ineffective. Dierdre Walker cuts right to heart of the matter with this statement:

We have unintentionally created an agency that now seeks efficiency and compliance more than any weapon or explosive.

Her story goes on to detail her own experience as a traveler whom the TSA believed would be compliant, and their reactions when she was not. She brings her experience as a law enforcement officer to play to assault the effectiveness of the TSA, and her piece is well worth a read. While starting from the same point as Ms. Walker, my line of reasoning ends up in a more loaded charge: The TSA deliberately puts control and intimidation ahead of security.

» Read more

A Victory for the Democrats

Tonight’s Obamacare vote was a victory for the Democratic Party. That much cannot be questioned. Was it just a victory over heathen Republicans who have yet to see the light? No. It was so much more…

It was a victory over ethics:

“When the deal goes down… All this talk about rules… we make ‘em up as we go along.”

It was a victory over the economy:

When Congress inevitably fails to implement the Obama plan’s spending cuts, and expands its subsidies to more and more people, the cost of this legislation will grow beyond $3 trillion. The CBO did an admirable job of projecting the cost of this legislation as written. But the text of the legislation does not reflect the reality it would create.

Most Democrats know that even though the projected cost is $1.2 trillion, they are setting in motion political forces that will guarantee even more government spending. The question is, do enough Democrats know it?

It was a victory over the Constitution:

Can Congress really require that every person purchase health insurance from a private company or face a penalty? The answer lies in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” Historically, insurance contracts were not considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise. That’s why insurance has traditionally been regulated by states. But the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of “economic” activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce. The key is that those activities substantially affect interstate commerce, and that’s how the court would probably view the regulation of health insurance.

But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause’s power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying “cash for clunkers” is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.

It was a victory over the People of the United States:

My health insurance policy, which is an actual “insurance” policy that insures me against catastrophic medical costs but leaves me with responsibility for day to day expenses, just became illegal. Over the last couple of years, I have documented my learning curve as, for the first time, I actually had an incentive to shop around for medical care, or to push back on doctors when I thought they are calling for too many tests and procedures. I have learned a lot about saving money, but all of this education is now for naught, as I will now be required to buy a pre-paid medical policy that leaves very little of the decision-making to my family and provides zero incentives for me to be cost conscious. Apparently, the operators of the US Postal Service and US military procurement felt they were better qualified to manage these cost/value trade-offs than I am.

Barack Obama says tonight was a “victory for the people”. As one of the people, I know no victory was won for me. A victory was won over me. I will have less money, less privacy, and less freedom under Obamacare than I had before, and I know who to blame.

I hope Obama, Pelosi, and Reid celebrate heartily this night, because they have made clear that they are the enemies of the People of the United States. With this bill, they will make us pay in ways we don’t fully yet understand. We will make them pay by taking from them the power they worked a lifetime to assume. It is our duty as freedom-loving Americans.

Opening the floodgates…

From tonight’s State of the Union address:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

In the video, Justice Samuel Alito can be seen visibly disagreeing with this sentiment. First, I’m glad someone can stand up against a President who respects the independence of the judiciary so little that he calls them out in the State of the Union. Such moves reek of political hackery that should be far beneath the President. Second, Obama’s assertion is flatly wrong.

Obama contends that the floodgates have been suddenly opened for corporations to have undue influence over candidates and politicians simply because campaign spending limits have been lifted. How, in a country where a single mother can be ordered to pay $1.92 million for sharing music because of a law bought and paid for by the recording industry, can it be claimed that the influence of corporate interests is at all inhibited?

In the recent health care debates, WalMart was on the front lines of the cheering, hoping that they could dupe Democrats into using the law to skewer their smaller competitors. In the same debate, the SEIU managed to secure a sweetheart deal for unions where the “Cadillac” tax would not be borne if the gold-plated health care plan was a result of collective bargaining (read: union strong-arming).

The history of the last half-century in Washington is one where incumbents and party-anointed successors enter into perpetual quid pro quo relationships with special interests. Legislators get things from special interests in return for political and legislative favors. We all know that this is the way things work. We all hope that when we send “our guy” to Washington that he’ll be the one to change it.

In real life, there is no Mr. Smith. Even when someone like Jeff Flake comes to Washington and tries to fight for the people he is rebuffed. The self-styled ruling class in Washington depends on having a monopoly on the influence of big business and special interests.

It is not the thought of special interests influencing politics that scares the ruling class. It is the thought of special interests influencing politics without them that does.

Influence peddling and vote buying are expected in the halls of power. Interests are allowed nearly unlimited access as long as they come in as supplicants to the ruling class. Once the same interests attempt to take their message from K Street to Main Street, the law is brought down upon them as they are accused of trying to corrupt the political process.

With that in mind, let’s look at what the President really meant behind the doublespeak:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to speak directly to the people,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think that the course of American politics should be interfered with by the American people. It should be decided by the ruling class in cooperation with America’s most powerful interests, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

The Supreme Court had the temerity to undercut the system of influence carefully constructed by the Republicratic ruling class over the last century. Obama is leading the charge to restore the power that the Supreme Court, and the Constitution, has denied them.

May more Americans have the courage to challenge Obama and the ruling class on this.

A Referendum on Secrecy and Entitlement

Virgina Senator Jim Webb offers up one of the best perspectives on Scott Brown’s win tonight:

Calling the race “a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process” Webb said Democrats need to hold off on further action until Brown is formally sworn in to the chamber.

“It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated,” he said.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe health care has much to do with Scott Brown’s win. It may be the issue of the day, but Brown put out a message that resonates much more deeply in the American soul:

GERGEN: If this bill fails, it could well be another 15 years before we see another health care reform in Washington. Are you willing under those circumstances to say ‘I’m going to be the person. I’m I’m going to sit in Teddy Kennedy’s seat, and I’m going to be the person who’s going to block it for another fifteen years.

BROWN: Well, with all due respect it’s not the Kennedy seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat — it’s the people’s seat. And they have a chance to send someone down there who’s going to be an independent voter and an independent thinker and to look out for the best interests of the people of Massachusetts.

A month ago, this election was not even on the political radar. Martha Coakley was bound to win because the Democrats were entitled to Ted Kennedy’s seat. It was obvious that the seat would be passed from the Lion of the Senate to a political heir apparent, carrying forth his will for the next two years. How could it be any other way?

The Democrats made the mistake of making public their sense of entitlement. They pounded the idea that it was Ted Kennedy’s seat into the ground. They won in 2008 and they would keep winning. They believed they had the modern equivalent of the Chinese “Mandate of Heaven“.

The people of Massachusetts were ready to begrudgingly accept the inevitability of a Coakley win as little as two weeks ago. Then they heard a message that was as old as the American Republic: Heed no royalty. Scott Brown started campaigning for “the people’s seat” while the king-makers in the Democratic political machine were still crowing about their entitlement to “Ted Kennedy’s seat”.

But the message resonated even more deeply than that. The last decade has been one of secrecy and back-room deals designed to enrich and empower politicians at the expense of the ordinary citizen. Fourteen months ago, Barack Obama won an election on his promise to change that. So far, he has failed to live up to that promise. The people see a government united under a single political party that believes it is entitled to plow through an agenda without scrutiny from the average citizen.

Scott Brown, by running for “the people’s seat” and promising to be “the 41st vote against Obamacare”, provided the people of Massachusetts a chance to send Washington a message on secrecy and entitlement. The message was clear: enough is enough. What are the odds that the triumvirate at the top of the Federal government will heed it?

The real right to health care

Democrats are addicted to saying that there is a right to health care, and subsequently hammering anyone who opposes their disastrous reform bill as opposing that right. The truth is, there is a right to health care, and it is consistently opposed by the left, not the right.

Put simply, each person has the right to seek the health care he deems appropriate for him and his family within the limits of his budget or insurance. A corollary to this is that each person has the right to seek the health insurance that he deems appropriate. This same right applies when buying TVs, cars, dinner, books, etc., and is fundamental to a free existence.

First, an example from Britain of a grievous violation of this right:

If health care is a fundamental right, equality under the law would seem to require that everyone have the same level of care, regardless of their resources. That principle was illustrated by the case of Debbie Hirst, a British woman with metastasized breast cancer who in 2007 was denied access to a commonly used drug on the grounds that it was too expensive.

When Hirst decided to raise money to pay for the drug on her own, she was told that doing so would make her ineligible for further treatment by the National Health Service. According to The New York Times, “Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.” The right to health care is so important, it seems, that it can nullify itself.

Mrs. Hirst was forced into a system where the right to seek appropriate care was appropriated by the government. When the National Health Service exercised a right that did not belong to it, Mrs. Hirst tried to use the resources available to her to reassert her right to seek health care. She was told if she were to do so, she would be forced out of the program that provides the only affordable health care for the lower and middle classes in the UK.

Take that example and apply it to the Reid bill. Centralized authority regulating what health insurance can and can’t cover, can and can’t cost, how much doctors will get paid by the public option… From Richard Epstein in the Wall Street Journal:

Normally, insurers have the power to underwrite—to choose their line of business, to select and to price risks, and to decline unattractive risks. Not under the Reid bill. In its frantic effort to expand coverage to the uninsured, the bill will create state health-care exchanges supported by generous federal subsidies to unspecified millions of needy and low-income individuals. Any health insurance carrier that steers clear of these exchanges cannot keep its customers. Any insurance carrier that enters Mr. Reid’s inferno will lose its financial shirt.

Here are some reasons why. Initially, all insurers have to take all comers and to renew all policies except for nonpayment of premiums. Insurers are not allowed to take into account differential risks based on pre-existing conditions. And the premium differentials based on such matters as age and tobacco use are smaller than the market spreads. If too many customers demand coverage from a given insurer to insure efficiently, it’s the government that will decide how many they have to keep and who they are.

Next, it’s the government that requires extensive coverage including “ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative [sic!] services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, pediatric services, including oral and vision care.” The price squeeze gets even tighter because in every required area of care a collection of government standards will help set the minimum level of required services.

Ostensibly, the Reid bill does not impose any direct price controls on what health insurers can charge for this veritable cornucopia of services. But the bill’s complex, cooperative federalism scheme authorizes state regulators, after recommendations from the federal government, to exclude insurers from the exchanges if their prices are too high, which would again be a competitive death knell. Exile from the exchange does not, however, restore traditional underwriting controls, as the Reid bill and other federal and state regulation continue to apply to these firms.

The bill is designed to turn the health industry from servants of payers (primarily employers, insurers, and the government) into a servants of Congress and the President.

We are headed towards a day where our fundamental right to seek health care is non-existent, replaced by a state of submission where our betters in Washington decide what health care we should get. Anyone who equates a right to health care with taxpayer subsidized health care is mounting an assault on the real right to health care. Call them out, prove them wrong, and shout them down.

UPDATE 12/23: Added the section from Richard Epstein.

On promises made and broken

In the lead up to the vote on H.R. 3962, the “Affordable Health Care for America” Act (scare quotes intentional), Barack Obama offered this encouragement to legislators to vote for the bill:

“This is their moment, this is our moment, to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us,” Obama told reporters in the White House rose garden. “Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard, this is our moment to deliver.”

Two-hundred and fifteen did live up to the trust we placed in them, while two-hundred and twenty failed to do the same. How exactly is that trust defined? In the oath of office taken by each and every United States Representative:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Each and every Representative took a solemn oath to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution. Each and every Representative who affirmed the House health care bill, with its threats of fines and prison for not buying “government-approved” health insurance, has forsaken that oath. The mandates contained in the Pelosi bill are a kludge, a poor attempt to graft a clearly unconstitutional power such as this on to the enumerated powers of the commerce clause and taxation.

To attempt such a thing, one cannot bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. At best, those who attempted this hold the Constitution in the same regard that the 17-year-old script kiddie in his parents’ basement has for security measures–both are interesting challenges that require interesting solutions. At worst, they hold the Constitution in contempt and are actively working to debase the very core of the social contract between the government and the people.

In either case, it is now our turn as patriots to remind our Representatives that while they do not hold themselves to their oaths and promises, we do. In a little less than a year from now, voting booths across this great land will open again, and one of 435 representatives will be seeking your affirmation. If your representative has forsaken his or her oath to the Constitution, withhold it. It’s not about party affiliations or common views, it’s about holding legislators accountable for the promises they make to us.

Do your duty as a patriot. Refuse to support legislators who vote to abuse the Constitution or the People of the United States.

The House values Control over Health Care

So it is done: 220-215. Two-hundred and twenty United States Representatives put their support behind 20 pounds and 2,000 pages of abusive legislation in the form of innumerable mandates enforced by 110 new government agencies.

One of those mandates, though, cuts so violently to the core of our freedoms that it cannot go unanswered: Buy insurance or face the wrath of the IRS. From Representative Dave Camp:

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

Imagine being faced with the loss of a job. That is a rough event for anyone to go through. Now, under the Pelosi/Obama plan, you have the following choice: Buy insurance you likely can’t afford with far less income coming in, pay 2.5% of the income you do have coming in to the government for *nothing*, or go to jail.

That choice has no place in a bill about reforming our broken health care system. That choice is about criminalizing people for not behaving as the self-styled ruling class wishes them to. When it comes to undocumented immigrants, Democrats love to say that “no one is illegal”. When it comes to economic diversity, they tell us that those who will not be controlled are illegal.

The media says this is a bill about health care. So do the Democrats. They lie. This is a bill about control. The bill’s proponents want to control you. Whether or not you actually get health care is irrelevant.

Update: Coyote Blog links to a WSJ article detailing some of the high (low?) points of the legislation. Here’s what you must do under the Pelosi/Obama plan:

• Sec. 202 (p. 91-92) of the bill requires you to enroll in a “qualified plan.” If you get your insurance at work, your employer will have a “grace period” to switch you to a “qualified plan,” meaning a plan designed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If you buy your own insurance, there’s no grace period. You’ll have to enroll in a qualified plan as soon as any term in your contract changes, such as the co-pay, deductible or benefit.

• Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a “qualified plan” covers and how much you’ll be legally required to pay for it. That’s like a banker telling you to sign the loan agreement now, then filling in the interest rate and repayment terms 18 months later.

On Nov. 2, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the plans will likely cost. An individual earning $44,000 before taxes who purchases his own insurance will have to pay a $5,300 premium and an estimated $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $7,300 a year, which is 17% of his pre-tax income. A family earning $102,100 a year before taxes will have to pay a $15,000 premium plus an estimated $5,300 out-of-pocket, for a $20,300 total, or 20% of its pre-tax income. Individuals and families earning less than these amounts will be eligible for subsidies paid directly to their insurer.

• Sec. 303 (pp. 167-168) makes it clear that, although the “qualified plan” is not yet designed, it will be of the “one size fits all” variety. The bill claims to offer choice—basic, enhanced and premium levels—but the benefits are the same. Only the co-pays and deductibles differ. You will have to enroll in the same plan, whether the government is paying for it or you and your employer are footing the bill.

• Sec. 59b (pp. 297-299) says that when you file your taxes, you must include proof that you are in a qualified plan. If not, you will be fined thousands of dollars. Illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement.

• Sec. 412 (p. 272) says that employers must provide a “qualified plan” for their employees and pay 72.5% of the cost, and a smaller share of family coverage, or incur an 8% payroll tax. Small businesses, with payrolls from $500,000 to $750,000, are fined less.

Think that’s bad? Go read the rest of it.

Update: Here’s a link to the roll call vote so you can see if your Representative is one of the 220 who wants to control you.

H.R. 3311 is an oxymoron

Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer is seeking to inflict yet another tax on the American people. This one, though, is far more insidious than the average tax thought up by Congress:

The “Road User Fee Pilot Project” would be administered by the US Treasury Department. This agency in turn would issue millions in taxpayer-backed grants to well-connected commercial manufacturers of tolling equipment to help develop the required technology. Within eighteen months of the measure’s passage, the department would file an initial report outlining the best methods for adopting the new federal transportation tax.

So, why is it an oxymoron? Here’s the offending passage from Blumenauer’s legislation:

(3) EVALUATION OF METHODS AND TECH-
NOLOGIES.—Technologies and methods tested under
the Road User Fee Pilot Project shall be evaluated
on the basis of—

(A) protection of personal privacy,

- H.R. 3311

Blumenauer calls the Oregon experiment on this subject a success:

“Oregon has successfully tested a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee, and it is time to expand and test the VMT program across the country,” Blumenauer said in a statement on the bill’s introduction. “A VMT system can better assess fees based on use of our roads and bridges, as well as during times of peak congestion, than a fee based on fuel consumption. It is time to get creative and find smart ways to rebuild and renew America’s deteriorating infrastructure.”

In January, I posted here on the same Oregon experiment:

[T]he device must be receiving precise positional data as an input from its GPS unit. It must also have a clock set to the real time and date as an input. This means that the device is getting data on the exact position of the vehicle at any moment, and that the control software is only storing certain datapoints based on this. This is an adequate privacy safeguard, right? Probably not.

Imagine this scenario: You’re driving a car with one of these GPS devices at the leisurely clip of 60 MPH on the highway leading into Klamath Falls. Like all highways in Oregon, the limit is still 55 MPH. A cop catches you going over the limit and pulls you over. You go through the normal rigmarole with him, except this time he checks your GPS devices and finds out that you’ve exceeded 55 MPH in the state of Oregon 22 times since the device was last read. You leave this encounter with 22 speeding tickets instead of one.

That scenario is possible with the hardware described in the device and minimal changes in the software. Only the good will of the Oregon state government is keeping it from being so. Should Oregonians really rely on that alone to protect their privacy?

The same holds true of Blumenauer’s proposal. To accomplish its stated goals, the technology must be designed in such a way that it either keeps a complete and total record of one’s driving or can be modified to do so. If Blumenauer’s proposal becomes law, each and every vehicle in the US will have a device carrying data about the habits of its drivers.

Even if we operate under the foolish assumption that the devices will, through their lifetimes, only be readable by those authorized to read them, they still pose a massive threat to privacy. There will exist a massive data set on each vehicle, tied by name to the owner. Such data sets are prime targets for “creative use” by miscreants both within government and outside it.

When one takes into account the exposure to cracking the Oregon model presents with readers in every gas station across the country and devices in every car, the idea that the content of these will remain secret to all but the government becomes ludicrous. The model presents the same problem as cell phone encryption. Once a security measure is cracked and vulnerable, how does one go about updating millions of pieces of hardware scattered over thousands of miles? If the devices’ security can be updated remotely, then malware can be inserted. If the devices’ security cannot be updated, then the device must be replaced every time the system is sufficiently compromised.

So, how does this bill meet its own requirement of protecting privacy? To abide by the quoted section of H.R. 3311, the researchers commissioned for the study must recommend that the other goals of the bill not be pursued. Of course, considering the bill’s intent is to find a way to track our cars, the people studying this issue are highly unlikely to issue such a recommendation, instead saying that the good graces of Washington and the presumed integrity of the security measures will be enough to keep our privacy intact. Like so much of what emanates from Congress, that will be pure bull****.

Two More Perspectives on Obama’s Speech

In addition to my own take, there are two other takes on the speech I’d like to highlight as being dead on. The first is from Cato@Liberty, which offers us a look at Obama’s speech in plain English:

Translation: I, Barack Obama, ignoring thousands of years of failed price-control schemes, will impose price controls on health insurance. I will force insurers to sell a $50k policies for $10k. What could go wrong?

With a dose of lightweight sarcasm, this would make a good warm-up read before getting to the more incisive analysis by Shikha Dalmia in Forbes:

t gets worse. In exchange for these bitter tax pills, Obama promised Americans would get eternal health care “security and stability.” To deliver that, he would of course ban insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions–tantamount to forcing fire insurance companies to write coverage on a burning building. He would also prohibit insurers from putting any limits on the coverage they offer and cap what they can require patients to pay out-of-pocket.

In other words, Obama would encourage unlimited health care consumption by patients while eliminating the last vestige of price consciousness.

Insurance is dead. Long live insurance! Really, the more people actually parse and analyze this speech, the more I wonder just how stupid Barack Obama thinks we really are.

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