Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: July 2009

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Dialing It Down On Health Care

Charles Krauthammer nails it today in an editorial in the Washington Post (and not just because he and I agree that something called “health care reform” is going to pass):

Yes, Obama’s aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year’s end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they’ll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.

That’s party politics (which we’ve come to learn from both parties, usually means putting the party first and the country second). They are not going to be responsible for killing the presidency of a Democrat. But they’re also not going to pass anything like what they started out to pass.

So what will it be?

But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama’s curious reference — made five times — to “health-insurance reform” during his July 22 news conference.

Thus the beginning of the campaign to demonize the insurance companies as “the villains”. And it is going to be a long and loud campaign until the “something” is passed.

Result?

Reforming the health-care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered not by Republicans, not even by Blue Dog Democrats, but by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.

Krauthammer have a slight disagreement on this. Not that the CBO is the primary entity that put a lance through the heart of “health-care system” reform – and that is what Obama referenced repeatedly and, when you talk about type of care and changing the behavior of doctors, is obviously more than “insurance reform”.

Our disagreement stems from my belief that health-care system reformation isn’t at all dead, it’s just delayed. One things the Democrats are adept at is incrementalism. They’ve worked diligently for decades to expand relatively modest programs into huge, wasteful bureaucratic monstrosities that hand out money – at least that which finally works its way through the bureaucracy – like a political party handing out “walking around money”.

This, unfortunately will be no different. And even more unfortunately something on which the Democrats can begin their incremental construction will be law by this fall.

~McQ

Demonization Time – Dems Target Insurance Companies

Why?  To take the heat off of them and to counter the Republican message about “government run health care”.

The message in the memo, though, won’t fit on a bumper sticker:

“Remove the insurance companies from between you and your doctor— capping what they can force you to pay in out of pocket expenses, co-pays and deductibles, and giving you the peace of mind you will be covered for the care you need, if get sick, or if you change or lose your job.”

Or, “replace the insurance companies with the government which is sure to do a much better job”.

Ye gods.

And the brains behind this message?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought out the new message in an exchange with reporters in the Capitol, when she said, “They are the villains in this.”

Ah demonization – one of Pelosi’s favorite tactics. Apparently she didn’t learn much when she did it to the CIA.

~McQ

Racism and Crying Wolf

As we discussed on the last podcast, as well as in various posts here at QandO, the biggest missed opportunity in the whole Gates kerfuffle was to draw attention to the civil liberties issues. By immediately crying racial profiling, Prof. Gates clouded an otherwise sympathetic view of his standing as a homeowner. Of course, if he hadn’t behaved the way that he did (calling Sgt. Crowley a racist cop), then he likely would never had been arrested in the first place. Nevertheless, what we should have taken from the l’affair Gates was that scenes such as the following are all too familiar:

Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington’s hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. “We’d been talking about it all day,” said Tuma. “It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they’re being pushed around,” Tuma recalled saying.

Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.

“That’s why I hate the police,” Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, “I hate the police, I hate the police.”

One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song. “Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.

Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn’t talk to police like that.

“I didn’t curse,” Tuma said. “I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?”

It should come as no surprise that, in fact, Tuma was arrested on a charge of ‘disorderly conduct”:

D.C.’s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others” or by shouting or making noise “either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons.”

[...]

Tuma spent a few hours in a holding cell and was released early Sunday morning after forfeiting $35 in collateral to the police, he said. A “post and forfeit” is not an admission of guilt, and Tuma doesn’t have a court date — but the arrest will pop up if an employer does a background check.

So, adding insult to injury, Tuma gets arrested for expressing his opinion on a public street, spends the night in jail, and then is “legally” pickpocketed by the police. This is a problem, just as it was with the Gates mess, and is the real issue that should be discussed.

Forget racial profiling and other obscurants for a moment and contemplate just how much power has been granted to the police here. Is that a wise decision? Surely we want the police to be able to use their judgment in a given situation, but when a law is drafted so broadly as to provide cover when a cop feels insulted then such law flies in the face of constitutional protections.

Furthermore, situations like this really undermine the concept of police being “professionals”. Having the power to arrest someone because they get a little mouthy is not a power any real professional should want or need. Being a professional means being able to negotiate the situation through one’s abilities, not through one’s grant of extraordinary power. I mean, could you imagine if lawyers had the ability to throw people in clink for insulting them? Who would be safe?

The fact of the matter is that there are just too many laws to begin with. Cut down on number if infractions cops are expected to enforce, and you will cut down on the number of incidences where the police overstep their authority. When the only thing in danger is a cop’s feelings, then I think it’s safe to say that incarcerating anyone is a monumental waste of time and resources that could be better spent going after real criminals.

Welfare Statism Update

I showed you the chart yesterday – here are the numbers and trends behind it:

The top 1 percent, those earning over $410,000, consists of 1.4 million taxpayers, while the bottom 95 percent contains 134 million.

In 2000, before the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that some claim disproportionately benefited the rich, the top 1 percent paid less than 38 percent of income taxes while the bottom 95 paid almost 44 percent. Since the tax cuts, the top 1 percent’s share increased over 2 percentage points while the bottom 95 percent’s share decreased 5 percentage points. Those that argue the tax cuts solely benefited the rich are mistaken.

President Obama plans to raise the top 2 marginal tax rates on those making over $250,000 a year, and Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) wants to slap a 6 percent surtax on top of that to partially pay for a government take over the health care system. These tax hikes, in addition to damaging the already badly weakened economy, will further shift the burden of the income tax to the highest earners.

In contrast, the bottom 40% of taxpayers pays no income taxes on average. In fact, they get money from the tax code well above anything they paid in because of refundable credits. And President Obama’s Make Work Pay credit, passed as part of the stimulus, will increase the money redistribute to these non-taxpayers.

So you have 1.4 million paying more in income taxes than the bottom 134 million. And 40 million of those 134 pay nothing and, in fact “get money from the tax code well above anything they paid in”, which, of course, would be any withholding.

Fair? Of course not. Additionally Democrats are interested in increasing the marginal rate by 2% on those making $250,000 a year (can you even begin to imagine how many small businesses that will impact?) with Rangel all for piling another 6% on top of that.

And yet the economic picture is looking up?

I’m emphasizing this story because of the impact it has on this obvious movement from less freedom and more welfare statism. This is directly out of that playbook. Like the old saying goes, the problem with, in this case welfare statism, is at some point you run out of other people’s money.

~McQ

Dan Rather Petitions The Government

From my favorite drama queen:

Rather called on President Barack Obama to form a White House commission to help save the press Tuesday night in an impassioned speech at the Aspen Institute.

“I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media,” the legendary newsman said.

Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive.

At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said in an interview yesterday afternoon. “This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.”

Here’s a novel idea Dan – why doesn’t the “public media” commission its own commission on saving itself without dragging the government into it?

For such an advocate of a “truly free and [an] independent press” why are you courting the government as your savior? No strings in that approach are there?

In effect, this is Dan Rather implicitly trying to lay the groundwork for a government bailout of the press – and then he’d demand afterword that we all consider the product a “truly free and independent press”. Yeah – like GM is a truly free and independent car company, huh Dan?

~McQ

“Cash For Clunkers” Is A Clunker To This Point

What got us into the financial mess we’re in today? Well all the experts and economists tell us it was overspending and debt.

So what’s the solution? Why encouraging more consumer overspending and debt incentivized with your tax dollars of course.

I’m speaking of the “Cash for Clunkers” program – a $1 billion dollar government program that gives a $3,500 to $4,500 cut in price, obviously subsidized by your taxes, to owners of old “gas guzzlers” that meet a certain criteria as an incentive to go into debt for a new more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly car.

You say a billion bucks in the big scheme of things isn’t much. Of course that’s not the point. The government has no business giving your tax dollars away to subsidize someone else’s car purchase. None.

And here’s another point to consider:

But dealers reported problems with the government’s online system to get the transactions approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is running the program.

Scott Lambert, vice president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, said he was “astounded” to learn at a meeting Tuesday representing about 150 Minnesota dealers that not one has had a deal approved.

“We had dealers representing 1,500 to 2,000 transactions,” he said. “We asked how many had a deal approved yet, and not one hand went up.”

Lambert said the government has created a program that’s “so big and cumbersome that it can’t find a way to accept anything. We’re sending in good, reliable deals.”

It’s nerve-racking for the dealers, he said, because they have given the customer $4,500 and now the dealers need to be reimbursed.

This is a crummy little billion dollar program that began July 1st and the government (why is the NHTSA in the car business?) has yet to figure out how it is supposed to work and how to reimburse dealers who’ve apparently followed their guidelines and laid out hundreds of thousands of their own dollars in anticipation of being reimbursed by the government.

In the meantime, what government has managed to create is a giant and apparently unresponsive bureaucratic mess.

And this is the crew you want running your health care?

All I can say to the dealers is you should have known better.

~McQ

Of “Greed” and “Fairness”

One of the reasons we’ve reached a tipping point between freedom and welfare statism is because much of the country pays no taxes and increasingly the burden of taxes is being shifted to a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. Now I’m not a tax advocate by any stretch. But it is obvious we’re not going to be able to avoid them, especially with this new crowd in town who wants to tax just about everything.

But back to the point – if you’re not paying taxes, but the government is taxing others to your benefit, why wouldn’t you want more stuff? Oh I know the moral argument and I agree with it. What I’m describing is a dynamic which plays on human greed. It’s funny, we hear politicians talk about the “greed” of Wall Street, or the “greed” of big oil or the “greed” of big pharma.

But what is never discussed is the “greed” of those who don’t pay taxes but demand more benefits paid for by others. Or how politicians have “incentivized” that greed.

How ridiculous has it gotten?

Check this chart out:

tax-burden

Yes, that’s right – the top 1% pay more taxes than the bottom 95%. And the plan is to have them pay even more as this health care boondoggle comes on line.

So the next time you hear your favorite “progressive” begin their “greed” or “fairness” nonsense, show them this chart. If that doesn’t shut them up, nothing will.

~McQ

A Friend’s Loss

I‘ve gotten to know Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit through a couple of trips he and I have been on together – one at a Milbloggers Conference in DC and the other at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Jim’s a great guy and a formidable blogger. Jim lost his mother this week. I want to send my sympathies to him and his family. Go by and give your condolences as well. May she rest in peace, Jim.

~McQ

The Shape Of Things To Come

A short little blurb in the WSJ:

The medical costs of treating obesity-related diseases may have soared as high as $147 billion in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, as its new director set a fresh tone in favor of more aggressively attacking obesity.

Fresh my rear end. The only thing “fresh” about it is another bureaucrat discovering a “fresh” new area in which to intrude.  A little reading between the lines is required.

Note the name of the agency. Is it a stretch, given what we’ve seen lately, to imagine this agency recommending that obesity be classified as a “disease”?

Why else would the director of the CDC even address the issue?

Of course once it has been declared a disease, all sorts of “prevention” can be legislated – for your own good, of course. And to “cut medical costs”.

The cost of treating obesity doubled over a decade, signaling the rising prevalence of excess weight and the toll it is taking on the health-care system. The medical costs of obesity were estimated to be $74 billion in 1998, according to a study by federal government researchers and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Hmmm can taxes on food – sugary drinks, high calorie foods, etc – be far behind? Right now that may be a little more difficult and problematic because the government doesn’t have control of health care in this country. But, with that in the offiing, I think the new director of the CDC is just anticipating this “fresh” direction once said legislation is expelled from the bowels of Congress.

Just keeping you up to date.

~McQ

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