Monthly Archives: September 2009
It is decision time for our involvement in that country – i.e. whether we continue or whether we pull the bulk of our troops out.
As I said in another post, fish or cut bait. Or, in Texas Hold ‘em parlance, go all in or fold.
Some look at those two very stark options and point out that there are many other options in between. True. But, given how this war has gone, I think those are the only two viable ones. What we’re doing now, which falls squarely between them, isn’t working. And variations on that aren’t going to work any better.
It seems to me we have to either make a concerted and focused effort to again nation build (and all that entails with time, blood and treasure), or we have to decide to leave that up to the Afghan people and concentrate on al Qaeda hunting on a much smaller scale. That, of course, would be the “fold” option.
President Obama is rethinking the Afghanistan strategy he announced a mere 6 months ago in the wake of the recent Afghan election. The allegations of reported fraud have made the administration much less inclined to support the current Afghan government without dramatic changes. I have no problem with that reassessment if it is done with an eye on settling, soon, on one of the two options above. If you read what the Taliban are saying, the Karzai government is one of their best recruiting assets. The corruption and cronyism have isolated that government from the people. Of course, in counter-insurgency doctrine (COIN), the link between the people and their government is critical to success, and that link is only viable if the people support said government. That is increasingly not the case in Afghanistan.
That presents the type of problem that does indeed require reassessment of strategy. We can flood Afghanistan with troops, have them at a one-to-one ratio with the population and provide the security COIN requires. But if that population has no confidence in the viability of its own government, doesn’t support it and doesn’t consider those trying to topple it “the enemy”, the entire effort is doomed.
So essentially the choice facing the administration now is to nation build or withdraw. Withdrawal doesn’t necessarily mean we quit the fight against al Qaeda. But for the most part, it would mean quitting the fight against the Taliban. And I think we all know how that would end.
It is quite a moral dilemma and it is also not an easy decision. While going “all in” would be the politically unpopular decision here, it would most likely spare the world the spectacle of a Taliban takeover and the resulting barbaric vengeance they would inflict on the population. There is only one nation which will bear the blame in the eyes of the rest of the world even if most of the administration’s political base would support the decision. The US would again be charged with not finishing something it started. And that, as we’ve learned in the past, is something that other rogue leaders see as a weakness they can exploit. As usual it will be seen not as a weakness of our military, but, if they wait long enough, the eventual weakening of our political will.
Whatever decision the administration makes, it must avoid the status quo. That’s not working now and it won’t work in the future. Just as Iraq required a dramatic change in strategy to succeed, so does Afghanistan. If the decision is to continue with the current troop levels and a few cosmetic changes here and there, then the administration will be committing us to a strategy of failure. We owe it to our brave men and women there not to play political games with their lives. Whatever decision is made it must be made very soon, within the next month or so, and must be devoid of politics. Delays in making such a decision are not acceptable.
It is time for this administration to step up, make a decision and let the political chips fall where they may. Don’t put it on the back burner. The time is now to decide whether we’re going all in or we’re going to fold in Afghanistan. At a minimum, we owe our military that.
UPDATE: Well this is encouraging. The CINC hasn’t talked to his commander in Afghanistan in 70 days because, I guess, he’s been so busy. But, as it turns out, he has the time to fly off to Copenhagen and shill for the Chicago Olympics. And they still wonder why Democrats have such a great reputation when it comes to matters of national security.
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This story slipped quietly under the radar last week as we had the UN speech, the Iran revelation and the G20.
An examination of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation finds it contains 397 new regulations and 1,100 new mandates. And you’ll be pleased to know it will simplify your life, make child birth pleasant and cost you nothing.
But you can rest assured there is most likely something for everyone because this isn’t just about controlling CO2 emissions. This is about more control of your life via the radical green agenda.
Take homeowners for instance. If you thought selling your house was a pain in the kiester before, Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey can’t wait to make it even more fun for you:
One of them would affect almost everyone who buys or sells a home. If Waxman-Markey becomes law, homes for sale that qualify as “federally related transactions” — which is almost all of them — would be required to undergo an environmental inspection.
Inspections are not free. Nor is fixing the inevitable violations. Compliance with new energy-efficiency standards would make homes, especially older ones, more expensive. Selling one’s home would become even harder than it already is in this down market if Waxman-Markey-style cap and trade becomes law.
And that is just one of the unintended consequences.
Suppose you have a window that isn’t quite airtight or your appliances are a little too old. Maybe they’re not Energy Star certified. You’d have to replace them before you would be allowed to sell your home.
Suppose you wanted to sell your house “as is” and let the person who buys it fix it up, for a suitable discount of course.
That is no longer a choice you’ll have. The buyer and seller wouldn’t be allowed to make that decision anymore. The party that continuously claims that “choice” is important to them apparently believe that particular choice is one neither the buyer or seller should have. The transaction is subject to the regulations of Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey’s bill and you’ll not sell anything government inspectors haven’t deemed “green” enough to sell and certified as such.
Nothing, of course, could go wrong with that, could it? And of course, the article deals with just one of the unintended consequences. Let me again point out that it includes 397 new regulations – that means there’s at least one unintended consequence for each of them (and possibly more) and it will most likely be a nasty surprise.
In fact, take a good look at what could be more of the unintended consequences from just the regulation requiring home inspections:
To sum up: Inspecting homes for sale for their environmental friendliness would raise home prices. Buying or selling a home would become an even more onerous process than it already is. And there’s an easy way to dodge the bullet: Rent instead of own. If enough people did that, the inspection requirement would fail to achieve its goal of making homes more energy efficient.
And that in the face of and in conflict with policy which seeks to increase home ownership.
When regulation becomes too arduous, what do people normally do? Adjust, avoid and do what is easier and cheaper.
Is there any reason, depending on what the other 396 regulations contain, that the same won’t happen with them?
This is where we’re headed – regulators literally telling you what trees to plant and how to plant them (that’s actually contained in the Waxman-Markey bill as pointed out in a previous post). Is this the government you want? Is this the level of government with which you’re comfortable?
If they can require you to plant your trees and fix up your home their way, what else might they figure they should have the power to do?
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In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Obama Enigma, the current state of politics, and Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
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Call in number: (718) 664-9614
Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.
Subject(s): Obama the enigma? That’s something we’ll talk about tonight. Here’s a little read-ahead material. Recently we have his UN speech to talk about and we’ve had 9 months to observe how he works.
Afghanistan looks like it is headed to the back burner according to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward. Not making a decision is a decision. And this isn’t a good one for the troops presently engaged there or the effort in general.
And then there are the revelations about a formerly unknown uranium enrichment facility in Iran. What does that mean?
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Have you ever heard a speech, digested it and then thought, “am I hearing something that really isn’t there?” I’m talking about President Obama’s UN speech. I’ve listened to this guy for 3 years now and I’ve come to at least have a familiarity with his style of speaking. I’ve also caught on to the fact that the content of his speeches is much different when addressing an international audience than a domestic one. And, has been noted by many, his speeches to the international community have been based in series of apologies for America.
But never have I heard what I heard before the UN. So I had to think about it and wonder if, in fact, I was just reading way too much into it. That’s until I read Michael Gerson today in the Washington Post. He put into words exactly what I thought at the conclusion of the speech that day:
Obama’s rhetorical method in international contexts — given supreme expression at the United Nations this week — is a moral dialectic. The thesis: pre-Obama America is a nation of many flaws and failures. The antithesis: The world responds with understandable but misguided prejudice. The synthesis: Me. Me, at all costs; me, in spite of all terrors; me, however long and hard the road may be. How great a world we all should see, if only all were more like…me.
On several occasions, Obama attacked American conduct in simplistic caricatures a European diplomat might employ or applaud. He accused America of acing “unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others” — a slander against every American ally who has made sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued that, “America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy” — which is hardly a challenge for the Obama administration, which has yet to make a priority of promoting democracy or human rights anywhere in the world.
The world, of course, has its problems, too. It has accepted “misperceptions and misinformation.” It can be guilty of a “reflexive anti-Americanism.” “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Translation: I know you adore me because I am better than America’s flawed past. But don’t just stand there loving me, do something.
I realized that the simple word I was searching for to describe it all was “narcissism.” Some may prefer to use “malignant narcissism”, but I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so I’m unable to make that determination. But as Gerson demonstrates in his analysis of the speech (and my first impression and the impression I retained after reading the speech), it was indeed an indulgence in classic narcissism. Obama’s come to believe his own press clippings. I find his indulgence of this narcissism to be extremely dangerous, especially in a man with so little experience in foreign affairs. It is a weakness the jackals who inhabit the world of international politics will surely see as a weakness and attempt to exploit.
A lot of things are perking in the world right now. The reason this sort of narcissism is dangerous is because it assumes an ability, undemonstrated to this point, to handle any crisis. That sort of an assumption, especially without any context or framework of experience could lead an overconfident leader into a foreign policy disaster. As anyone paying attention knows, there are plenty of potential disasters on the horizon. If this speech is any indication of the President’s state of mind, his name may be all over at least one of them.
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Yes friends, after an apparent 8 year hiatus, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has again surfaced. Apparently it has been evident since January 20th of this year. We’re sure of that because we have the word of an expert:
Bill Clinton says a vast, right-wing conspiracy that once targeted him is now focusing on President Barack Obama.
The ex-president made the comment in a television interview when he was asked about one of the signature moments of the Monica Lewinsky affair over a decade ago. Back then, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton used the term “vast, right-wing conspiracy” to describe how her husband’s political enemies were out to destroy his presidency.
No word on how the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy operated these past 8 years or what it’s goals were.
Bill Clinton was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether the conspiracy is still there. He replied: “You bet. Sure it is. It’s not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically. But it’s as virulent as it was.”
Tired old politicians coming up with the same old tired excuses. However, as you may have noticed, there is a little bit of a twist this time according to our expert:
Clinton said that this time around, the focus is on Obama and “their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail.”
Ah, the implication that being focused on Obama is what? Say it with me – raaacism. And “their” agenda seems to be “wanting him to fail”? Here’s a clue for the left – that’s the agenda of every opposition party or movement known to man. One has to wonder if those who stood against Iraq and Bush would have the balls to even attempt to claim they wanted him to succeed. The left never even tried to pretend they wanted Bush or his agenda to succeed. They wanted and worked tirelessly toward an “epic fail” for both Bush and his agenda. It was personal for them.
Of course, previous to this president, dissent was the highest form of patriotism and the left celebrated every time Bush failed to achieve something he wanted. But that wasn’t at all wanting him to fail, was it? Nope, to hear the left spin it, they were trying to save the country (and if that meant Bush failed, so be it).
Now dissent is racism or some vast conspiracy of evil. This opposition couldn’t at all be motivated by anything other than hate (or race), right? It is like the last 8 years never happened. Is the left so ideologically addled that it doesn’t understand that they are facing honest and righteous dissent for the very same reasons they felt so patriotic about opposing Bush? The right genuinely believes that the left led by Obama, Pelosi and Reid have an agenda that will kill our economy and forever cripple our country. They are dissenting. The left needs to sack up, quit whining and casting aspersions and deal with it forthrightly and without all the drama.
This dissent isn’t some vast right wing conspiracy aimed at ego-maniacal politicians (who, like Clinton, can’t imagine it isn’t about them). It is movement just as patriotic as anything the left did for the past 8 years and yes, they want the left’s agenda to fail. In fact they want it to fail miserably. And if that means Obama, Pelosi and Reid don’t get what they want passed into law, then so freakin’ be it. That’s what “fail” means.
I’m tired of the whining and crying on the left. You dealt in this for 8 long years. Throwing crap’s a lot easier than having to actually govern isn’t it? Man up and deal with it now without sounding like a bunch of shrieking little girls. And quit sending tired old hacks like Clinton and Carter out there to excuse your failings and try to shift blame. It’s pathetic.
No amount of whining, blame shifting or crying about nonsense not in evidence is going to move your legislation for you. That requires persuasion and here’s a clue – calling those you have to persuade “un-American”, a “mob”, “brownshirts” and “astro-turf” isn’t a good way to go about it. You’re in the shape you’re in because of your own stupidity and inept actions. That’s not the fault of “dissent”. It’s not because of some VRWC. It’s because you on the left have been arrogant, condescending, and clueless. All the right can hope is you continue to do things precisely as you’ve managed them to this point. You’re your own worst enemy, your identity politics is coming home to roost and you are setting yourself up to fail.
And I wish you all the luck in the world in doing so.
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Here’s the story from CNN:
Lisa Snyder of Middleville, Mich., says she takes no money for watching the three children for 15-40 minutes each day so that the neighbors can get to work on time.
The Department of Human Services, acting on a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home, demanded she either get a license, stop watching the kids or face the consequences, WZZM says.
Snyder calls the whole thing “ridiculous” and tells the Grand Rapids TV station that “we are friends helping friends!”
A DHS spokesperson tells the station that it has no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.
She’s doing a neighborly thing – she accepts no money. She helps her neighbors by watching the kids while they wait for the bus thereby allowing the parents to get to work on time. She doesn’t feed them. She provides them a warm place to stay out of the weather until the bus shows up.
For that, the state claims she needs a license? And the state hides behind the law, or at least their interpretation of it to do so.
But if you think about it, couldn’t the same claim be made if mom drops off the kids with granny? Mom gets to work and granny keeps the kids until the bus shows up. Other than the fact that granny’s a relative, what’s the difference?
David Boaz makes what should be the obvious point:
This is what people mean when they warn that an ever-expanding government threatens the values of neighborliness and community. When the government provides services for free, or when it erects obstacles to individuals’ providing those services, it reduces private provision and simultaneously increases the demand for government services. If you make it illegal for neighbors to watch one another’s kids, you weaken ties of neighborhood and community.
But the need remains. So it leaves parents with fewer options and, as Boaz points out, it makes neighbors less likely to reach out and help.
Is that government’s role?
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I just watched a video in which House Republican Whip Eric Cantor appeared with one of his Democratic colleagues from Virginia to discuss healthcare. You can watch it here if you like.
Though I can tell you right now that there’s not much point to it. It consists virtually 100% of empty, meaningless politician-speak from both congressmen. Despite some decent attempts on the part of the interviewer to get them to answer some tough questions, they both just dodged them and mumbled platitudes about “educating voters” and “the status quo is unsustainable”.
Educating voters isn’t going to do a damn thing. Voters are sick to death of Washington telling them what to do. Democrats in Congress (and many Republicans) insist that there be a mandate to buy health insurance, and I think they have vastly underestimated the pushback they are getting right now and how much worse it would be if they actually passed it. Any bill with a ghost of chance of passing also has new taxes and new spending, and voters are (1) not fooled by any shell games claiming otherwise, and (2) profoundly sick of both taxes and spending.
Saying “the status quo is unsustainable” is pointless because it says absolutely nothing about whether any of the current proposals would make the system any more sustainable. Given the $47 trillion Medicare and Social Security already has in liabilities, creating another entitlement to increase that amount looks like the silliest possible response.
I expected such empty blathering from the Democrat. Any Democratic member of Congress is caught right now between a hard-left leadership who want government control over when people go to the bathroom and the Blue Dogs who know they’ll be looking for another job if any healthcare bill with a lot of government interference is passed. Not to mention a president who can’t seem to make up his mind on what he’s willing to settle for on healthcare, and whose only strategy is to flap his gums.
But have the Republicans learned nothing from 2006-2009? Has the Tea Party movement made no impact on them? Do they not sense the rising anti-government attitude in voters? Are they so incredibly clueless that they can’t learn the lesson from Reagan’s landslide and the 1994 takeover of Congress?
Look, you idiots: You can win big when you strongly advocate smaller government principles. When you don’t, at best you tread water, and at worst you get your butts kicked.
Watching Cantor pour out the same old politician’s blather was painful. Based on that one video, I never expect to support this guy for anything. And he’s part of the GOP leadership, supposedly the best they’ve got. Well, if he’s one of the best, they’re still as lost as they were in 2006.
I see many signs that 2010 could be a landmark year. Two months ago, I summarized Obama’s failings to that point, and since then he’s racked up scandals with his czars, seen his buddies at ACORN exposed as the criminals many of us thought they were, and had his make-nice efforts toward Iran shown to be naive and pointless.
But absent any Republican leadership on a real change in direction, none of that will make a big difference. Oh, I think the Democrats will lose a fair number of seats in the House in any case, because of depressed turnout among Democrats in marginal districts. The Republicans may well pick up three or four Senate seats too. But without a clear message concerning their desire to trim the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government, they will gain no loyalty or long-term support from those people who have finally reached their agony threshold on big government.
They’ll just drift for two years, using the same strategy that got the Democrats in the White House, which is to hope voters are so sick of the other side they will vote for a change, any change. And, of course, even if that works, they won’t do anything about reducing the size and scope of government, hoping the whole debt mess doesn’t finally reach critical mass on their watch.
With a clear message, I believe the GOP could do a rerun of 1994. But I don’t know a single person among them capable of carrying the banner for that message. It sure as heck is *not* Eric Cantor.
National Review Online does a little review of the run up to the announcement by President Obama at the G20 summit concerning Iran and wonders what is going on. For instance, NRO points to Joe Biden 8 days ago. This was in answer to why the US was pulling its missile defense shield from Poland and the Czech Republic:
“[Biden said] Iran — a key concern for the United States — was not a threat.
“I think we are fully capable and secure dealing with any present or future potential Iranian threat,” he told CNN’s Chris Lawrence in Baghdad, where he is on a brief trip.
“The whole purpose of this exercise we are undertaking is to diminish the prospect of the Iranians destabilizing that region in the world. I am less concerned — much less concerned — about the Iranian potential. They have no potential at this moment, they have no capacity to launch a missile at the United States of America,” he said.
So 8 days ago, Iran was a diminished threat that was much less of a concern than previously.
President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain blasted Iran’s construction of a previously unacknowledged uranium enrichment facility and demanded Friday that Tehran immediately fulfill its obligations under international law or risk the imposition of harsh new sanctions.
The new Iranian plant, the country’s second uranium enrichment facility, is believed by U.S. officials to be part of a broad effort by Iran’s leadership to pursue the ability to build nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly denied having any such goal, insisting that its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. U.S. officials said they believe the Qom plant is not yet operational but is intended to produce highly enriched uranium — suitable for nuclear weapons — and will be capable within months of producing enough material for at least one bomb per year.
Boy, the Obama administration must have just been profoundly misguided and dangerously misinformed about Iran’s capabilities and intentions. Right?
Right – because, as pointed out 8 days ago, the reason the missile defense shield was pulled, per the VP of the US, was because the US considered Iran a much diminished threat. So obviously this is “new” information which has profoundly changed the game and required the US to completely rethink its policy since it has emerged.
@markknoller US officials say Obama first told of Iran secret nuclear plant during the transition — as President-elect. 9/25 10:28 A.M.
WTF? Mark Knoller of CBS says this was something the administration has known for almost a year? So what was all this nonsense about a diminished Iranian threat as a reason to pull the promised missile shield that the administration had promised the Poles and Czechs a mere 6 months before?
Astonishingly incompetent, perilously naive, or deliberately dishonest? Which is it?
I’d suggest all three. And I think that will become alarmingly apparent as this crisis continues to unfold.
I’ll also toss this out there as well – it was saved for a forum in which the President would have the attention of the world focus on him (a much tighter focus than the UN) and staged to maximize that. All politics all the time. He wanted the non-binding non-proliferation resolution from the security council before he took on Iran. Meanwhile Joe Biden’s (and the DoD’s) credibility is left twisting in the wind.
So now the staging has been accomplished and the spotlight turned on the President. That’s the easy part. The usual talking the talk, something at which he’s quite good. Now comes the hard part – walking the walk – something he’s yet to demonstrate he’s capable of doing.
Oh – and where in the world is Hillary Clinton?
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It is a dream all central planners have – the ability to change the laws of economics to the extent that the planner can decide on what a “fair price” might be and market dynamics will adjust themselves to the price and all will be unicorns and rainbows.
Of course we know from our experience with that application in various areas that the market doesn’t adjust to price and it is never unicorns and rainbows when price controls are applied. In fact price controls consistently spawn pretty predictable market reactions and, depending on how vast the price controls are, have the ability to bring down whole economies, or at least put them into a shambles. The latest price control paradise is Zimbabwe where a wheelbarrow full of Zimbabwean currency may be enough to buy an egg in the morning but not in the afternoon.
I bring this up because there’s a growing call for lawmakers to consider price controls for health care insurance, as demonstrated yesterday in the LA Times.
In the drive to bring health coverage to almost every American, lawmakers have largely rejected restrictions on how much insurers can charge, sparking fears that consumers will continue to face the skyrocketing premium increases of recent years.
The legislators’ reluctance to control premium costs comes despite the fact that they intend to require virtually all Americans to get health insurance, an unprecedented mandate — long sought by insurance companies — that would mark the first time the federal government has compelled consumers to buy a single industry’s product, effectively creating a captive market.
Nancy Pelosi has articulated the price control “dream” for health insurance – “a cap on what you pay and no limit on what you get back” if I recall correctly. Of course what she doesn’t say is not even Medicare does that and it has about 43 trillion in unfunded liabilities at this point. But understand that at the bottom of Pelosi’s statement is the reality of imposing price controls – you can’t have a “cap” on what you pay without them.
Thomas Sowell touches on the real intent that sort of Pelosi-talk:
Liberals especially tend to think up all sorts of good things we want — a “living wage,” “affordable housing,” “universal health care,” and an ever-expanding wish-list of things that everyone should receive as “rights” — with little or no awareness of the economic repercussions of turning that wish list into laws.
He then provides a little primer about price control:
Prices are perhaps the most misunderstood thing in economics. Whenever prices are “too high” — whether these are prices of medicines or of gasoline or all sorts of other things — many people think the answer is for the government to force those prices down.
Prices are not just arbitrary numbers plucked out of the air or numbers dependent on whether sellers are “greedy” or not. In the competition of the marketplace, prices are signals that convey underlying realities about relative scarcities and relative costs of production.
Those underlying realities are not changed in the slightest by price controls. You might as well try to deal with someone’s fever by putting the thermometer in cold water to lower the reading.
What most who believe they can thwart the laws of economics and use price controls never seem to understand is that economic law requires the price mechanism in order to properly allocate goods. Without it, some other mechanism must take its place. Those are usually found in forms of evasion. One evasion is deterioration of quality. The old saw “you get what you pay for” is never more true than under price controls. The time allocated to a doctor visit might get shorter and shorter in order for the doctor to see enough patients to meet his and his practice’s financial needs. That could also mean he can’t afford the newest equipment or diagnostic tools. Consider what price controls would mean to a pharmaceutical company and its incentive to create new and better drugs. Or a medical implements company, etc.
Another evasion may be alternate markets – you pay a physician a yearly fee and don’t use the price controlled system in place – that has already begun in anticipation of this. Doctor’s networks are springing up all over the country. Of course with a mandatory insurance requirement, you’d still have to pay into the price controlled system. But that sort of evasion takes doctors out of the price controlled market and creates another shortage with which that market has to contend.
And, of course, there’s queuing. If the price imposed is low, the tendency for those paying is to use it more frequently. There’s no penalty for doing so. That leads to a shortage (in the case of medicine, doctors still only have 24 hours in a day and can still see only a finite number of patients during that time) of available appointments and thus it extends the time before you can see a physician.
Some would call these “unintended consequences” of price controls. But they’re certainly not unknown consequences. They’re consequences on display all over the world in systems which do, in fact, impose such price controls.
Costs don’t go away because you refuse to pay them, any more than gravity goes away if you refuse to acknowledge it. You usually pay more in different ways, through taxes as well as prices, and by deterioration in quality when political processes replace economic process.
But the lure of the free lunch goes on.
With the same disastrous results it has always had. Yet our would-be central planners seem obvious to the fact. That’s one reason government debt is at the horrendous level it is today and headed for even higher levels.
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