Free Markets, Free People

We’re gonna ride this puppy down in flames

It’s no secret that my optimism well has about run dry. Signs like this don’t make the level rise any. Read the whole thing. Go on. I’ll wait.

You see here’s the thing: I’ve been writing about how close we are to and economic and currency meltdown, but not a lot about societal meltdown. But troubling signs are there, too. There’s a fundamental and growing lack of respect for the government. Not because we’re bad people, but because we recognize the growing divergence between what the government does and what common sense tells us.

So, as the linked article points out, we engage in an endless list of violations. It’s estimated that in perhaps in the course of a day, and almost certainly in the course of a week, all of us commit some act that, statutorily, makes us criminals. The range of government powers, and the scope of activities they cover, make it almost possible to obey the law in it’s entirety. We know this, and we know, just as surely, that there is something wrong about it at a very basic level. And we respond to that knowledge.

It’s not civil disobedience that I’m talking about. It’s the opposite: Civil disobedience is meant to be noticed. It is a price paid in the hope of creating social change. What I’m talking about is not based on hope; in fact, it has given up much hope on social change. It thinks the government is a colossal amoeba twitching mindlessly in response to tiny pinpricks of pain from an endless army of micro-brained interest groups. The point is not to teach the amoeba nor to guide it, but simply to stay away from the lethal stupidity of its pseudopods.

The amoeba does not get smarter but it does get hungrier and bigger. On the other hand, we get smarter. More and more of our life takes place outside of the amoeba’s reach: in the privacy of our own homes, or in capital accounts in other nations, or in the fastest growing amoeba avoidance zone ever created, cyberspace. We revolt decision by decision, transaction by transaction, because we believe deep down that most of what government tells us to do is at bottom illegitimate.

In other words, in a thousand small ways, an increasing number of us are learning the power of "no". We just haven’t started acting on it seriously yet. And, of course, it’s not all of us. There are still a fair number of people whose faith in the government to be everyone’s mommy and daddy would be touching, if it weren’t so frightening. But a lot of people are waking up to the fact that the government, in matter both large and small, is increasingly incompetent.

Now we might never act on the increasing size and scope of government, if we felt we were getting some value out of it. If it could keep the trains running on time, we might think we’d gotten a fair trade-off, or, at least, enough of us would that society would keep humming along in a fairly stable trajectory. Sadly, it’s increasingly obvious that ever-larger government not only can’t keep the trains running on time, it actively prevents them from doing so.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the economy, and the government’s response to an increasingly irrational monetary and fiscal policy.

After World War II, the debt:GDP ratio stood at 128%, approximately 24% higher than it is now.  How did we reduce that debt? First, the entirety of wartime regulation was eliminated practically overnight. Rationing, wage and price controls, industrial production controls, confiscatory business and personal taxes…all gone. And, in the three years after the war, government spending was cut by half.

That would be impossible today, of course. Social Security and Medicare alone make up more than half of government spending. Unless we gut entitlements—along with everything else—we will never have a balanced budget again. This is especially true when you consider that, though debt service is just under 6% of the Federal Budget today, that’s only true because we have artificially low interest rates. If interest rates return to the 1996 levels, then over 20% of the budget will have go to debt service payments alone…a percentage that will steadily increase as the amount of debt increases. That means 80%+ of the federal budget will be Social Security, Medicare, and interest payments on the debt.

Today, the Treasury announced that the June fiscal deficit was $904 Billion for the year so far. So, we’re going to have another $1 trillion deficit this year. Just like last year. Just like next year. And as far as the eye can see.

It doesn’t take any advanced math to see what’s going to happen. We’re going to default on our debt. Or, considering that, according to today’s announcement of the money supply, by next week, there’ll be $10 Trillion in M2 floating around out there, we’ll simply monetize it through inflation, which amounts to the same thing. But we’re clearly not going to restrain spending, which means we are years, if not months, from an economic and monetary collapse.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone when it comes. Anyone who can do simple math has the capability to see it coming. Anyone with common sense can see what we have to do to avoid it. Everyone knows that maintaining a reasonable fiscal policy and sound currency are two of the government’s primary domestic responsibilities, and everyone know that they simply aren’t doing it, and, worse, seem incapable of ever doing it again.

The excuses for not cutting government are innumerable. We can’t eliminate the Department of Education, or our children will become stumbling morons. We can’t cut Social Security, or seniors will be eating Alpo. We can’t cut the Department of the Environment, or we’ll die choking in the stinking gasses of industrial effluvia. We can’t cut Defense, or foreigners will walk openly on the streets of Washington. We can’t cut the DEA, or we’ll all be jumping out of windows from some sort of of acid-fueled illusion that we can fly over the pretty colors we smell. We can’t, in short, cut anything, because every penny of it is vital and necessary, and without it, we’ll be reduced to just a lucky few who flee from the zombie hordes inhabiting the stark, post-apocalyptic landscape brought on by smaller government. Assuming, of course, that anyone can "flee" with the acute diabetes they’ve acquired by lugging along an extra couple of hundred pounds they’ve gained from unrestricted access to 64-ounce Big Gulps.

So, not only are we gonna ride this puppy down in flames, anyone with any sense already knows that we’re gonna do it, if we stay on the current path.

The thing is: it’s no longer just some whacko fringe or criminal class who are turning into everyday scofflaws, it’s the middle class. The very people we depend upon for stability in society are the people who are now realizing that "society" is increasingly turning into a confidence game played to promote the interests of the politically powerful and their clients at the expense of the middle class. The people who aren’t rich enough to insulate themselves from the vagaries of fortune, but who are rich enough to have something to lose are supposed to be the stolid citizens, the defenders of the status quo. Increasingly, they aren’t.

So, the interesting question then becomes, what response will we see to the sort of entirely foreseeable and preventable collapse that is coming from a middle class that increasingly knows the government is a huge pile of fail? And how will they respond to the bleats of the not inconsiderable portion of their fellow citizens who will blame it not on government, but on "rootless cosmopolitans", "the 1%", "banksters", et al., and demand an even more powerful government to "fix" the problem?

Here’s another interesting question. Social Security and Medicare are about the only benefits the middle class has left. It’s almost the last thing they can expect to get back from all the money they’ve poured into the system their whole lives. How will they respond when you tell them that we can’t afford those entitlements anymore, and the only way to fix the fiscal disaster we’re facing is to take away the only skin they’ve got left in the game? What do they do when the advantages they receive from government are outweighed by the burden government puts on them?

Those are questions that really bear thinking on. Because if you lose the middle class, then their response to a crisis may not be to repair and reform the existing edifice in an attempt to return to status quo ante. Instead, it may be to simply burn the whole thing down, and start rebuilding something else from scratch. After all, when you’ve got nothing left to lose…what’ve you got to lose? What happens if the middle class are turned into revolutionaries?

Somebody may want to start figuring that out.

~
Dale Franks
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81 Responses to We’re gonna ride this puppy down in flames

  • “The thing is: it’s no longer just some whacko fringe or criminal class who are turning into everyday scofflaws, it’s the middle class. The very people we depend upon for stability in society are the people who are now realizing that “society” is increasingly turning into a confidence game played to promote the interests of the politically powerful and their clients at the expense of the middle class. The people who aren’t rich enough to insulate themselves from the vagaries of fortune, but who are rich enough to have something to lose are supposed to be the stolid citizens, the defenders of the status quo. Increasingly, they aren’t.”

    This is a real true thing, and I agree that it is well recognized across the board. Yet somehow, even though people across the political spectrum know this be true, any attempt to address it is quickly knocked down by the other side. What is the solution that can have appeal across the ideological spectrum?

    The left (and me) says changing the way our pols are allowed to accept money and use.

    The right says smaller government with less power.

    Frankly, I don’t see how what the government is empowered to do can be changed short of a Constitutional Amendment (or perhaps a whole new Constitution), and historically, the difference between small government conservatives and big government liberals, when it comes to actual actions, is that they increase the governments reach, size, and scope in different areas, but never reduce it in any meaningful way.

    Personally, I think our only real chance is publically funded elections. They would have to be set in such a way as make privately funded elections a waste of private money (because they can’t be prohibited). K Street runs our government, and K street has no interest at all in the wellbeing of America as a whole, so it stands to reason that our government no longer has the best interests of the nation as a whole in their decision making process.

    But if we agree that the government is for sale to the highest bidder, we still argue that somehow government can be fixed without taking the bidders out of the process???

    • Maybe it depends on who the bidders are. Despite all the different efforts at campaign finance reform, they’ve been a complete failure.
      I’d try a reform that prohibits any organization from funding anything, but allows any individual to do pretty much anything they’d like with their money. Then require candidates to publicly list all donors and the donation amounts ASAP.
      But the more reach and power the government has, the more it’s worth contributing large amounts to gain the favor of politicians. If there wasn’t anything special politicians could do for you, then there wouldn’t be much reason to give them exorbitant amounts of money.
      The problem isn’t fundamentally that the wrong people are giving too much money. The problem is that the government has such sweeping reach that it’s profitable to give money to the politicians.
      Your solution seems to me to be treatment for the symptoms, not the disease.

    • Bloomberg is a rights taker who isn’t meddling due to money Cap. Your solution doesn’t address him or those like him on both sides. This is why your solution is rejected. How do you fix?

    • “, I think our only real chance is publically funded elections”
       
      Again with the money thing? I bet that will  clear up my acne and shrink my hemorroids, too. Right?

    • Publicly funded elections. When we are running trillions in the deficit?  I suppose new taxes would be put in place.
      OK, I will agree to publicly funded elections if we remove withholding taxes and have election the day after taxes are due,
      But here’s the thing. We will be getting smaller government eventually, no matter how much you insist you can tweak this or that, or reform voting, etc. We do not have enough money, and the politicians apparently believe that you can milk or kill the cow of capitalism, rather than realizing its the horse that pulls the cart – the cart they have made very heavy, festooned with regulations, and packed with passengers who pay no freight.

  • “Your solution seems to me to be treatment for the symptoms, not the disease.”

    I agree that efforts at campaign finance reform have failed, which is why I believe that your idea of eliminating groups but having unlimited funding from individuals would fail. Off the top of my head, company A pays individual B $XXX and individual B contributes $XXX (minus taxes, of course) to Candidate C. Candidate C becomes Congressman D-bag, and inserts language benefitting company A.

    Having to beg for money to fund an election IS the problem, because no matter what you want to accomplish, ultimately, the people paying to get someone elected are going to want something, and when you get to really big dollars, what they want is a return on their investment.

    From citizenfundedelections.org “As long as we have privately funded elections, the day of small government will never arrive. As Lawrence Lessig points out, in 20 of the last 29 years our country has been led by presidents who have repeatedly called for “small government”, but the government has consistently grown.
    Interactions between Congress and individuals or industries wanting something from the government (a tax-cut, a de-regulation, a new regulation, or a contract) are seen by members of Congress as opportunities to raise money for their campaigns. Bigger government means more opportunities to raise campaign cash. As long as they have no alternative source of campaign money, incumbents will look for new opportunities to do favors while protecting their old patrons by maintaining the funding already in place, funding a new project, or expanding funding of an existing project. Year after year, the government will grow larger and larger in this self-perpetuating process.”

    I think that representative democracy should be just that, so when someone wants to run for Congress, they should be required a large number of small donations, perhaps a maximum of $100, it could be $5, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that every dollar should be from their district. The guys who meet a threshold for fundraising should have the entire rest of their campaign funded publically. Sure, we can’t stop a guy from spending millions of their own money, or even other people’s money, but it could matched for the guy who went the local route, and I believe that the local guy would win quite often, if for no other reason that he can show there are no strings attached.

    The disease isn’t big government, it’s bad government, and I believe that the campaign finance is virtually the entire reason why government is so very bad right now.

    • When you look around much of the Western world you’ll find a broad spectrum of electoral systems, some very publically funded, some very privately, and many in between. But in common they all have massive governments with massive accumulated powers and wealth. The implication seems to me to be that the electoral system itself is pretty much irrelevant, since the philosophy of Western governance for the last century has been bigger and more government run by a class of “professional” politicians and an entrenched public service. You can’t change that by tinkering with the way the politicians are elected… it is the political class itself and philosophy of the entire political system that is the fundamental problem.

    • I am very dubious that your approach would do anything to help. But even if it did, it is unlikely that the yahoos in power would ever acquiesce to any system that stopped their gravy train.
       
      As for constitutional amendments, yes we need some but even that is no guarantee of anything. After all we have several perfectly good parts of our Constitution right now that are just simply ignored.
       
      There is no way to force the political class to do anything but pander to special interest groups. Short of hanging a few of them from time to time.

      • I can’t deny that people who seek to elected officials will always be, virtually by definition, power seekers. It’s kind of a built in thing.
        Question: Who has a desire to put into the position of making the rules for the rest of us?
        Answer: People who want power.

      • Really? Vote a few out from tIme to time and you’ll see more responsiveness. Gerrymandering and a public that routinely reelects incumbents take a large portion of blame. Pols are the new aristocracy because we let them become so

        • Campaign finance reform has basically been veiled system of protecting incumbents in part.  They can get free press coverage that outdoes what their competitors can do with private funding.  If the media likes them.

    • “The disease isn’t big government, it’s bad government”
       
      Government of any size is run by people. Unless you have some way of changing human nature government is going to be prone to corruption. “Power corrupts…” is still true.

    • You are missing a huge point. Election are not won by money, but by votes.
      You can find many examples of big spending campaigns that lost to campaigns that spent less.
      So, getting votes is how you win elections. Spending money on ads is one way to get votes.
      Do you know another way?
      How about offering benefits to certain voting blocks?
      Why yes, that does attract voters too, perhaps more so than slick ads.
      How about setting up said benefits so that the next generation pays for last generation’s bennies?
      Even better from a politicians’ viewpoint, as the unborn cannot vote!
      Or maybe just offer payments in the future that don’t appear in today’s budget, aka pension blow out.
      None of these tools of the trade would be banned by public financing.
      Also, politicians could be bribed with GOTV assistance. This is already where unions help the Democrats more than just their money. Again, that would not be banned.

  • What happens if the middle class are turned into revolutionaries?

    Well, you only have to look back a century. They won’t be revolutionary as such, but they’ll be open to punishing the establishment by backing those who promise to punish everyone who got the country into this state. Which means they’ll support someone who’ll punish the socialists, the conservatives, weak-willed politicians, bankers (aka Joos), the 1% etc etc. In other words, extremists will rise to power. It is already happening in Europe (see the chart here for example http://soberlook.com/2012/07/eurozones-electorate-becoming.html) where the electoral systems let you see the extremes more clearly.
    It doesn’t matter who is funding the elections, the state is too big, too interested in its own continued existence and has for decades been accumulating power and wealth. In trying to hold on to it all, the political class and their coterie of dependents and supporters will probably accelerate their own demise when the middle class turns to someone who promises them something better by overturning the status quo but without the pain of a full-blown revolution. Naturally you’ll have those who brand advocates of reduced government power (e.g. the Tea Party movement in the USA) as extremists, but that is just out of their own badly hidden self-interest in perpetuating the establishment and being only to ready to do a deal with the devil when he appears.
    Watch and learn, in some countries in the not too distant future the good and necessary changes will be reminiscent of the bad old ideologically rigid days.

  • “the state is too big,”
     
    You can only scoff at laws if they exist.  You can only break laws that have been itemized, enumerated, laid down, written and ‘approved by the government on behalf of the people’ (course nowadays since Mother Nature can sue in court I gather a lot of our regulations and law are crafted on behalf of Gaia too).
     
    Less government equates directly to less law and regulation.   If it wasn’t illegal to let your kid test drive the Rambler around the parking lot….if it wasn’t illegal to smoke dope…pick your favorite(s), none of anybodies business regulation or law.  Why does the United States Senate care if Bob the Batter is pumped up on joy juice and hits 10 home runs every stinking game during a SPORTING EVENT?
     
    As for the buying and selling – A smaller government literally means SMALLER in every sense, less regulation, less ‘law’, and fewer employees available to burst through your door with war surplus armored vehicles and rocket launchers because you wrote bad words on the internet or were suspected of getting high with your buddies.
     
    Want to figure out how you get people to stop buying and selling government?  Shut down the government factory that manufactures more and more government every day.   You cannot buy what does not exist (well, you can, and you’ll get exactly what you paid for).  Literally limit government reach and by default the buying will stop and the money will go where it can do the buyer more good.
     
    Now, all we have to do is undo what de Tocqueville warned us about -“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
     

  • We really need to have an increased tax margin on the wealthy—that’s what made our economy strong and developed our infrastructure in the 50′s and 60′s.

    • Yes Tad, that’s the problem, not enough taxes, exactly.  You’re a genius.  Run along now.

    • Of course. And having the only intact industrial infrastructure among the major economic powers had absolutely nothing to do with it.

      And the stagflation of the 1970s? Oh, nothing to do with those ridiculously high tax rates, I’m sure. And when Reagan cut them, and got one of the longest sustained growth periods in American history, that was just a coincidence too.

      Tad, do you actually know any American history? Besides Howard Zinn, of course.

      • C’mon Billy, I know it is accepted as good rhetoric that Reagan saved the economy with Supply Side economics, but you know as well as I do that tax rates were irrelevant to the problem and the solution. Stagflation was a cyclical rut we got into, the solution was the appointment of Paul Volcker, who burned out the recession by raising rates sky high and once the inflationary fears were gone, he cut interest rates and flooed the economy with cash that fueled the expansion of the 80′s. Even if you did think that tax rates were a variable, to ignore Vlcker’s role and insult someone for not knowing history is ironic.

        • “Stagflation was a cyclical rut we got into”
           
          How many times has this cycle repeated itself? I don’t recall any other instances of stagflation. You got any?

        • “…but you know as well as I do that tax rates were irrelevant to the problem and the solution.”

          No, I certainly do not know that tax rates were irrelevant. I’m surprised you even say that.

          Sure there were lots of other factors, too. For example, the natural cycle of cartels, in this case OPEC, worked to Reagan’s advantage.

          But having worked my whole adult lifetime in the most dynamic industry of our era, computers and software, I can tell you from personal experience that the tax rates did indeed make a difference. Very few people would be willing to work away their life finding a way to earn several million dollars if the government was just going take away 3/4 of it. But when the government only takes 1/3, there’s a lot more incentive to do that work.

          Yeah, yeah, I know, loopholes and all that. But that misses the point. Those workaholic entrepreneurial types don’t want to spend their time figuring out loopholes. They want to spend that time building their business.

          If you say tax rates don’t matter, you’re basically saying that incentives don’t matter. I think that’s a rather indefensible position.

          • We had tax rates over 90% back in the 50′s and people still wanted to be successful, were they just better people than we have today?
            I would argue that the ridiculously high tax rate of the mid 20th century created some unintended positive consequences. For one, I believe that when you owned a successful company back then, cashing out was disincentivized (is that a word?) and as a result, people who owned companies made much better LONG TERM decisions for their companies, compared to today, when cashing out IS the incentive, and people running now make atrocious long term decisions in favor of short term gains.
            Lots of people amassed great fortunes when taxes were at their highest rates, and during those times we had some of the greatest economic growth the world had ever seen.
            Only now, when taxes are at historically low levels (for high earners) are we seeing some of the most anemic growth in our nation’s history.
            Of course macro-economics being what is, there are a trillion variables, so this argument cannot be won (or lost) empirically.
            Anecdotally, we can point to growth on the heels of tax cuts, and we can point to recessions on the heels of tax cuts, we can also point to growth on the heels of tax increases and we can also point to recessions on the heels of tax cuts. There is no empirically proveable relationship either way, which is why macro-economics these days seems more like politicals that scholarship.

          • We had tax rates over 90% back in the 50′s and people still wanted to be successful, were they just better people than we have today?

            We had high marginal tax rates. The effective rate was far lower, probably around 50%. Even at that, the income threshold for the top rate was far higher, relatively, than today, thus affected far fewer people. From 1950-1963, when the marginal rate spread was 20%-90%, revenues from individual taxes were about 7.5% of GDP. Compare with 1997-2002, with a 15%-39.6% spread, when tax revenues were 9.4% of GDP.

            Lots of people amassed great fortunes when taxes were at their highest rates, and during those times we had some of the greatest economic growth the world had ever seen.

            Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to remember that all of the other industrial powers had been bombed into rubble between 1939 and 1945, while the US hadn’t. I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t bifurcate that out of your analysis of how wonderful 1950s tax rates were.
            Macro-economics is affected by other things than tax rates, like the existence of a worldwide export market for American industrial production. Or like a marked lack of costly regulation compared to today. Or the preponderance of employment in large organizations with greater economies of scale than the small business-led employment market that exists today. There were many factors in the 1950s that mitigated even the relatively high real rates of taxation of that period. Almost none of those factors would be applicable in the modern world.
            But, as Billy said, if you’re arguing that tax rates don’t matter, then you’re arguing that people don’t respond to incentives, which any economist, no matter how right or left wing, would instantly dismiss as a galactically stupid idea.
            The generation who worked in the 1950′s had been raised in an economic depression in which as much as a quarter of the work-force was unemployed, then faced extortionately high rates of taxation during a war for what was generally believed to be national survival. The tax rates of the 1950s were a reduction in taxation from the WWII period. So, the blithe assumption that an entire generation who’ve known nothing but moderate tax rates their entire lives would respond positively to even a doubling of real tax rates simply beggars the imagination.

          • And you know what else is stupid about the tax-raising idea: It wouldn’t help. There is literally no amount of money you could take from rich people and corporations that would delay the collapse that’s coming by one iota. Do the math. You could confiscate the entirety of the wealth of the people making over $250,000, and confiscate all the assets of the Fortune 500, and it wouldn’t even pay for a year of federal spending.
            And, of course, there’d be nothing at all to confiscate the next year.
            Depending on how you account for it, we have somewhere between $55 trillion and $112 trillion in unfunded obligations to Social Security and Medicare. The entire capital stock of the country is between $40 trillion and $45 trillion. And you think taxing the rich is going to do anything to close that gap? That’s nonsense on stilts.

    • “that’s what made our economy strong and developed our infrastructure in the 50′s and 60′s.”
       
      Thanks, I can always use a good laugh. This one will keep me giggling most of the day.

  • Cap, you still don’t get it.
     
    “The disease isn’t big government, it’s bad government”  Big government results in bad government.  Every time.
     
    Your solution to the proliferation of bad law would be…more laws.
     
    Now why on Earth would ANYONE imagine that your brilliant solution won’t work?  Oh, perhaps they took a glance at the history of human civilization.

  • I am curious, how do y’all propose to limit the size and scope of the federal government?

    The only method of accomplishing this I have heard is by electing people who say that is what they will do. How has that worked out so far?

    I am not opposed to this strategy, but perhaps I am missing something, since it strikes me as empty rhetoric. Is there a way to actually accomplish this?

    • Yeah vote out those who don’t keep their word until. You vote in those that do. One termers don’t become mossbacks

    • Shark has the basics down.
       
      Your implication in the second path is well-taken – conservatives elect a lot of candidates that say one thing and end up doing another.  The best that can be said of the majority of them is that they back off the accelerator to hell slightly.  The solution is to vet them more thoroughly and eject them when they fail.
       
      The only other method I can see would involve violence.  This is not a threat, it’s simply an observation.  If those who allegedly represent us will not listen, and keep doing as they please, what other option is there?  I hope it will not come to that, but I fear it will.

    • So you don’t trust them do what they say if they say they’ll work to shrink government, but you WILL trust them if they say they’ll re-do the process for election cash taking.
       
      You don’t see a fundamental flaw in that?  Are you proposing they can’t be trusted but aren’t sharp enough to see where your election funding proposals will take them?

    • I don’t think you’re missing anything. I don’t think the “keep electing the right people” plan will work either.

      I think we’re going to have to through a meltdown of the current system, in which its inviability is obvious to even the most ignorant, non-political among us, before genuine change is possible.

      Which brings up the question of which direction the change will go towards. My main objective at this point is trying to set the stage so that the change goes towards limited government. That enough people realize that more laws, more rules, more regulation, more spending, more debt, and an ever-growing and ever-more-intrusive political class is not the right direction.

      • The Swiss voted for a automatic control over spending. This is the way to do it.

  • “Somebody may want to start figuring that out.”

    That is the interesting question. 

    In my not so humble opinion, we are either already past the point of no return, or close enough to it that we will pass it long before any realistic changes can be applied.  The debate between Sarcastro and Dale about whether the proper solution is limiting election funding or size and scope of gov’t is an angels on the head of a pin point.  Neither is going to happen in time.  Interesting philisophical discussion, but irrelevant to the reality that we are DOOMED.  We are either already past the event horizon, or if not, on a speed and trajectory that will not allow us to turn away from it in time. 

    More interesting that the philisophical question of what we ‘should’ have done a decade or more ago to avoid this situtaiton is how it plays out from where we actually are. Not what we philisophically should have done to avoid getting to where we are, but what we should be doing from where we are.  There are bad and worse outcomes to the crisis at hand, how should we try to control the type of bad outcome?  What steps can we take to have the coming ‘troubles’ pass with less total trouble?  Is a ‘rip the bandaid off’ very sharp and painful but shorter duration better?  Is ‘mitigating’ the pain for a long, long time better?  Which approach offers a better chance at restoring liberty on the other side as opposed to sinking into an Orwellian darkness that we do not escape from?  

    The first step is that the size and scope of government, nor the funding of elections, will happen before the crisis.  The ‘Fourth Turning’ is here, and it can end badly, very badly, or we could suffer a lot and come out of it OK.    

    • Well, heck.  I hope y’all don’t mind when we rope you all in and reform as the United States of Texas once some of the smoke has cleared.
       
      What a drag this is going to be for a lot of people when the NASCAR fan base runs the country.

      • Texas has a political culture where small government is considered a virtue..this is what we need in the Blue States.

      • If we are going to start breaking up the country into pieces, other than Texas, there will be a lot of starving in the Red States who have been propped by federal dollars taken from the blue states.
        In fact, if every federal tax dollar taken from the blue states were returned to those states, they would all have balanced budgets, including California, and if every dollar more than was received from red states was taken away from the federal spending in those states, they would all be running deficits.
        Ironic that the states that TAKE the most from the fed complain the most about fed spending.

        • “Ironic that the states that TAKE the most from the fed complain the most about fed spending.”
          Man, you have swallowed all the hooks haven’t you.
           
           

        • This is a good example of what I meant. 

          We are heading into a very big crisis.  El Captain is trying to have a ‘who contributes more/who gets more’ arguement.  The point of my comment is:  All of that is irrelevant.  Maybe a break up is in the cards, maybe it isn’t.  Maybe it is least bad of all options, maybe it isn’t.  Those are the discussions that are worthwhile at this point, not pissing contests over how to dice and slice data to try to make ‘your team’ look better.

          I sincerely doubt a break up to the state level is likely, but ironically if it happens, probably the two states are closest to being able to stand alone are one of the reddest and one of the bluest, TX and CA.  The east coast metropolis has a lot of ‘money’ but very little food, and very little energy, and only modest manufacturing.  Way too FIRE intense.  CA and TX have both energy and food, and broad economies.  That said, if someone upsteam decides to dam up the rivers, CA is going to have a helluva problem with water…maybe even a fight a war over it level problem.  TX ironically is similar.   

          But the interesting question is ‘are/should we head towards a break up?’ and ‘along what lines?’ or ‘what does it take to stay together?’

          • “We are heading into a very big crisis. El Captain is trying to have a ‘who contributes more/who gets more’ arguement. ”
            No, that is not the argument I am trying to have, if you look, you will see the argument I am trying to have. The red/blue post was in direct response to the Texas comment, one of a very small number of conservative states who are not taking big gulps from the federal teat, while California, the conservative poster child for liberal excesses, sends FAR more money to the fed than every comes in federal spending.

          • In 2009 and 2010 (the last two years of available data), California received $140 Billion more FROM the federal government than they sent in, so California would actually be running a much worse deficit if they only got every dollar back.
            Before 2009 the feds gave about the same amount to the states that they took in, but spent much more on them in 09 and 10. From 2005 to 2008 Texas and California both gave more than they got, and both received extra money back the last few years. The difference is that California got back almost all the money it put in since 2005, $1,735B out of $1,736B, while Texas has contributed $49B more to the federal government than it has gotten back ($1,241 of $1,290).

        • “Ironic that the states that TAKE the most from the fed complain the most about fed spending.” – ah, we’re supposed to be grateful to our betters for giving us back our money?  We’re supposed to be grateful to them for giving us other people’s money?
           
          You think that us complaining about government expansion and control and what not should be counterbalanced by the Federal government’s willingness to give us money?    That’s your answer?

        • California has 10% of the US population but 33% of the welfare recipients.
          That is not good.
          Meanwhile, the assumption in your world is that spending in Los Alamos only benefits New Mexico…LOL.

  • So, the interesting question then becomes, what response will we see to the sort of entirely foreseeable and preventable collapse that is coming from a middle class that increasingly knows the government is a huge pile of fail? And how will they respond to the bleats of the not inconsiderable portion of their fellow citizens who will blame it not on government, but on “rootless cosmopolitans”, “the 1%”, “banksters”, et al., and demand an even more powerful government to “fix” the problem?

     
    I think everyone knows what’s going to happen. Social unrest, rioting, martial law and travel restrictions in areas, armed revolt? The severity of violence and upheaval will be directly proportional to the velocity of the coming collapse. If it happens suddenly, then more upheaval will result. If it happens gradually, people will adapt and accept.

  • “You don’t see a fundamental flaw in that? Are you proposing they can’t be trusted but aren’t sharp enough to see where your election funding proposals will take them?”
    I don’t expect Congress to change the system on their own, or really do anything to fight it tooth and nail. Who would not fight against an attempt to shut off the spigot of flowing cash?
    This would have to be done by us, me and you, right and left, and it would take a large wave of popular support.
    The way I see it, our votes are completely irrelevant now. As far as I am concerned, we have two parties who make appeals to people different ideologies, and try to get the job, which, once gotten, they all do pretty much the same thing.
     
    Seriously, our political discourse, while we are a crisis that may ultimately mean the demise of our nation, includes serious discussions about gay marriage and abortion? And really, even the rhetoric that touches on the serious economic issue are empty words. No one is going to repeal Obamacare, no one is going to serously address SS or Medicare. Romney and Obama are irrelevant, so are R’s and D’s, any newbie with the right stuff will be quickly brought into the game, or shut out.
    That is why my position is non-partisan at the moment, because I don’t think there is a difference worth arguing about. Give me a government that does not require trucks full of private cash to get and keep their jobs, and I believe that a very conservative or a very liberal government would be more useful than we have today.
     
    The only candidate I gave money to this cycle was Buddy Roemer, because I believe he sees the problem more clearly than any other candidate. But even though he had a resonant message, and I believe the correct message, he was buried by mountains of cash he could not compete with. Don’t tell me money doesn’t win elections, if lack of money loses elections, than it is inescapable that money wins elections.

    • I blame Presidents Forbes and Perot.

      • He needs to see the long list of super rich California senate candidates who go down in flames to less rich Democrats to figure out that money does not equal electoral victory.

  • I’m just wondering, Why not tax political contributions? (Or are they already taxed?) Like maybe tax them the way the Democrats want to tax the rich, say at least 35-38%. I realize this is not a solution to anything, but maybe it’s a good idea anyway.

  • “our political discourse, while we are a crisis that may ultimately mean the demise of our nation, includes serious discussions about gay marriage and abortion?”Actually these two discussions tie to both the discussion about rights and the true reason for the crisis. If the primary purpose of goverment is to secure our unalienable rights, then the definition of the very first right stated in the foundational document of our country is as serious a political discussion as can exist. Conversely, there isn’t a single state where gay couples don’t live together or share property. In reality, proponents of gay marriage want the government to go out of it’s way to do something for them. Is our government’s purpose strictly to protect our rights or is the government there so people can get what they think they deserve from it? It’s clear that the current system, and most national politicians, lean toward the latter, thus the crisis.

  • What is it exactly that you think gay people want the government to go out if it’s way to do for gay people?

    As far as I understand it, gay people just want to remove the anachronistic prohibition against them being legally married. What is special about that? It would not be limited to gay people, just as gay people today have the right to marry the opposite sex (regardless of whether that is a right they would take advantage of) when these bans are removed, heterosexual people would have the right to marry the same sex (regardless of whether that is a right they would take advantage of)

    • “just as gay people today have the right to marry the opposite sex”- Key words -today and right. Thus
      the source of our nation’s crisis. The belief that the government can decide
      our rights and exists to provide whatever people think they deserve, rather than
      to protect rights that are inherent.As far as the lesser issue of recognition from the federal government, since gay people are free to take any actions together and recognition can come by using the term ‘civil union’, there is no reason to push for gays to be included in the federal definition of marriage than to take advantage of federal incentives that were designed for couples when one (the woman) typically didn’t have a job and/or to keep biological families together. Now, there may be valid questions as to whether these incentives still provide value to society or whether they should ever have existed; but in neither case would the reason for these incentives have applied to gay couples.  

  • “people today have the right to marry the opposite sex”

    Oh
    wait, marriage can’t be a right, it is something that can be given and taken
    away by government.

    • At it’s root, it’s nothing more than using government to enforce religious rules.
       
      “Marriage” is a religious institution incorporated into state law because no one conceived of the idea that marriage would be anything other than opposite sexes in union.  Every religious culture in the world has a ceremony to recognize the joining of a ‘couple’.  I’ll go out on a limb and admit I don’ t know if there’s a religion prior to 19xx that recognizes two men or two women in union, but the fact that I don’t know of it implies it’s not a huge religion.  MOST of the big ones prohibit same sex ‘marriage’.
       
      So in that sense ‘Marriage’ is NOT a right handed down by government because it’s religious.  No amount of voting by the public can FORCE the Catholic church to ‘marry’ a same sex couple.
       
      The point is the word ‘marriage’.  A religious thing that has morphed into the legal culture and the word ‘marriage’ is used because it’s convenient to use to note a civil union as well.   The fight may have been co-opted Cap, and there are some homosexual couples who are more interested in flouting the beliefs of more seriously religious people for whom marriage is ‘sacred’ than they are in merely being ‘married’ in the eyes of (a) God (whichever flavor you choose).
       
      I’m all for civil unions where same sex couples receive the privileges, benefits, and liabilities, afforded to heterosexual couples as a result of being recognized to be bonded to one another through law.  You can probably get that passed, the problem is people who want to use ‘marriage’ as their word which brings them in direct conflict with people who have a religious belief about the meaning of the word.
       
      “Marriage” – the recognition by religion (x) that their God approves of a joining is not something the government should be involved in, issuing licenses for, in the first place.
       
      It’s a clear historical crossing of religion into the government sphere but the cross over was like breathing because it was common beyond common and no one imagined there’d ever be a need to distinguish between the two concepts and separate the religious aspect from the civil.  But now the die is cast.
       
      As for me I refuse to be party to trouncing on the beliefs of millions to satisfy a whim when we’re fighting over the use of a word yet what we’re REALLY, ALLEGEDLY, after, is equal recognition under the law.

  • People, both gay and straight, have the right to live as they choose, and no current laws are infringing on that. What gay marriage supporters want are recognition and benefits, which are things that are given and taken by the government; but aren’t really a core purpose for government.

  • “What gay marriage supporters want are recognition and benefits, which are things that are given and taken by the government; but aren’t really a core purpose for government.”

    So this recognition and benefits you speak of, do heterosexual married couples enjoy these? Are these currently special benefits for heterosexual couples? You’ll start getting it as soon as you let go if the desire to WANT to discriminate.

    • If the reason for a benefit no longer exists, then it should be eliminated. As I mentioned already, those benefits came about as an incentive for biological families and because one spouses of one gender traditionally couldn’t or didn’t have a career bacause of the need to raise children. Again, as I mentioned already, gay couples don’t have either of these issues. It can be argued that these benefits are no longer needed or don’t provide anything to society, but there is no benefit in extending them just because one group has their feelings hurt because they want to falsely argue that they are identical to another group. If you’re really concerned about discrimination, start looking at government contracting practices, where a more-qualified company can lose out on business based on the race and gender of the owners.  Back on the original topic, politicians of both parties have chosen to take your attitude that government is there to give out stuff as people decide they deserve it. Republican politicians generally have to abandon the principles of the people that elect them to reach this conclusion, where Democrats usually just have to expand the principles of their voters to other areas.

  • Hey, does this sound familiar to anyone?
     

    Tim Carney reports on the latest project from the Mercatus Center.

    George Mason University’s Mercatus Center this week is kicking off a series of papers on cronyism and business-government collusion.

    You can think of the project as having two goals. One goal would be to clarify for conservatives the distinction between being pro-market and being pro-business. I think that some progress toward this goal is possible.
    The other goal would be to persuade liberals that deregulation can be a way to reduce the power of big business. On that goal, I am much less optimistic. You can talk all day about regulatory capture and how big government serves entrenched interests. And what the liberals will come back to you with is, “Yes, that is why we need campaign finance reform and to elect politicians who believe in stronger regulation.”
    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/07/the_moral_autho.html
     

  • George Mason University’s Mercatus Center this week is kicking off a series of papers on cronyism and business-government collusion.

    You can think of the project as having two goals. One goal would be to clarify for conservatives the distinction between being pro-market and being pro-business. I think that some progress toward this goal is possible.
    The other goal would be to persuade liberals that deregulation can be a way to reduce the power of big business. On that goal, I am much less optimistic. You can talk all day about regulatory capture and how big government serves entrenched interests. And what the liberals will come back to you with is, “Yes, that is why we need campaign finance reform and to elect politicians who believe in stronger regulation.”

    • You can talk all day about regulatory capture and how big government serves entrenched interests. And what the liberals will come back to you with is, “Yes, that is why we need campaign finance reform and to elect politicians who believe in stronger regulation.”

      Which is in the same logical category as the debate over economics: “We have an economic crisis caused by debt.” “Yes, which means the government needs to spend more money.”
      When a person has a quasi-religious faith in the power of government, as best as I can tell, no one can argue them out of it with facts, logic, or reason. The only thing that can possibly work is when the problem starts directly affecting them personally, and even then many (most?) of them fail to make the connection. It’s frustrating.

  • Right, no one here has a quasi-religious faith in the power of free markets, as if there ever were such a thing.

    • When you’ve got the evidence on your side, faith isn’t needed.

      Free markets have led to the most prosperous societies and longest lives with the most opportunities for people to live as they see fit in the history of mankind. There are no other systems that even come close.

      I don’t believe in evolution by faith either. I see the evidence all around me. I don’t believe in physics by faith. I’ve done lots of the experiments myself. It’s the same with the free market. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen big government, price controls, monolithic regulation, etc. etc. I’ve seen them fail, again and again.

      Now, free markets need a stable matrix in which to exist, and that’s where the need for a minimal government arises. One can reasonably discuss the optimal size of that matrix.

      But when we see large, intrusive government that imposes, monotonically increasing control over the free market fail everywhere it’s tried, with the only variable being how long it takes to fail, then it takes faith to believe it can be long term stable. When we see every large government program from Social Security to Medicare to NASA eventually degrade into a failure mode, and yet people want to keep on creating new such programs such as Obamacare, I can only describe that as faith. There’s zero evidence it can work, and lots and lots of evidence that it can’t.

    • Show me one prospering non-free market country.
      No, don’t offer any European examples, because they are largely free-market as well. In fact, the free market is paying for all of their socialistic practices – if they didn’t have that significant chunk of free market capitalism left, they’d be North Korea.
      “Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.”
      Meanwhile the Democrats keep wanting to make the wagon bigger, with ornate cast iron filigree, and giving free wagon rides to one and all, and telling the horse “without the wagon, you wouldn’t be a horse pulling a wagon so shut up and bear the greater load.”
       

      • My preferred 3rd Way compromise would be we set up a Swiss debt brake, and then if the Left wants to spend more or have some new program, they’d better hustle to get GDP growth up so we can then increase spending.
        It should be a great incentive and help focus their minds.

    • OK, let’s say we grant your wish for public funding of elections.
      If that fails, will you then agree that shrinking government is the better solution?
       
       

      • “OK, let’s say we grant your wish for public funding of elections.
        If that fails, will you then agree that shrinking government is the better solution?”
         
        Actually, I already agree that shrinking government is a better solution, I just think that publically funded elections are the better way to get there. We have been electing who promise smaller goverment for decades and some of the loudest small government advocates have grown the government the most.
         
        I think that if a candidate who is not on the take (legally) promises smaller government, that candidate would actually be able to keep their promise. And even liberal candidates, who might promise some spending, will be able deliver on their promise without making it a giveaway to benefactors.

        • And I think publicly funded elections would make things worse because some bureaucrat has to decide who gets the money to campaign. Do you believe in that impartial government bureaucrat who won’t favor candidates that like more government? It would seem so, because that looks like an essential assumption to make to reach your conclusion.

          Now, a public system might have some effect at the margins on crony capitalism, though not that much because there are plenty of ways of rewarding legistlators besides campaign money. But that would be more than balanced by the tendency of the election bureaucracy to be biased towards “serious” candidates, i.e., those who wisely see the need for large government. I think the election finance bureaucrats would tend to see anyone with radical ideas about reducing government as a whackjob, non-serious candidate, and look for reasons to deny them public money.

          Not to mention the philosophical problem that small government, libertarian types don’t want to take government money to run for office. So we would see fewer such candidates.

        • Do you think politicians make their money on the campaign side of it, or do they make money in other ways?
          So, now you’d be funding their election and they will still be working for that post-politician lobbying gig, or still making the bucks off their “investments”.
          And of course, you have also removed an incentive to not go totally crazy buying votes – that big bucks folks demand a modicum of financial restraint.
          I’m more than a little worried that if such a system got implemented, it could lead to MORE entrenched government not less. But I do see your logic.
          Are there any examples of countries with public funding of elections where overall Gov spending went down?

        • Read this piece about Arizona’s attempt in public financing.
          This law implemented after Arizona had too much corruption so they thought this was the answer.
          Another cautionary tale in how many problems could result from public finance.
           
           

        • “And even liberal candidates, who might promise some spending, will be able deliver on their promise without making it a giveaway to benefactors.”
          Liberal candidates might promise some spending to each little that wants something from the government. Unfortunately, each group wants a different little piece and they all add up. This is exactly the point I was bringing up earlier – If one purpose for government is to give a little bit to a group that thinks it deserves it, then the only limit on the size of government is the numbers of groups that candidates spend on.

  • Could the failure of the federal government (or a least a widespread lack of confidence) be an intentional result for those wanting to move to a stronger UN/ world government? As long as the EU doesn’t break up, I see the narrative developing to say the idea of having strict allegiance to country as ‘outmoded thinking’ and selfishishness which only leads to war and strife.

  • “Free markets have led to the most prosperous societies and longest lives with the most opportunities for people to live as they see fit in the history of mankind.”
     
    If you change your reference from free markets to capitalist, I would agree with you. But I think the term free markets is a fantasy, it doesn’t exist, or when it does, it’s an ugly, messy, violent thing. Mogadishu is a free market. The is not, and never has been.
    The infrastructure alone sets up winners and losers and after than, the systemic distortions put in place by the market winners just keep pushing advantages to the advantaged.
    I will agree that the closer we get to free markets, the better off we are, and I submit that the best way to get closer to a free market in America is lessen the strangehold that private money has on policy. Private interests are not concerned with buying freer markets with their campaign contributions, quite the opposite. They use to get policy that benefits them to detriment of others, and quite often, like in this story, they use their power to hurt their smaller competitors.
    Think of this way. If you are a successful business person, and it is perfectly legal for you lobby the government, with campaign cash and lavish entertainment, in order to get some specific legislation that helps you become more successful, and the return on investment is very good, how could you not do it? And while these little policy gifts may be inconsequential individually, when that system is the funfing syste for our entire representative system, these things add up to one thing, big, bad government. Government may be generally inefficient by it’s very nature, but when you throw uo that for sale sign, it becomes willfully inefficient.
    Believe it or not, as liberal as you may think I am, I am a small government guy. I would probably be happy to throw out 90% of the laws on the books, and of ANY new law, I would ask, does it improve market competition, or does it hinder it. If it hinders competition, don’t pass it.
    The only area where I diverge from this point of view is health care, but I do not believe this a ideological question any more, it is empirical based on what exists now and what is politically possible. If I were not restricted by the possible, I’d go back in time and prevent Medicare from being passed and changed the Constitution to take regulation of health insurance companies from the states so that any health insurance company could sell their services anywhere. I would also never have allowed health insurance benefits to be deductible for corporations, but I would have made them deductible for individuals.
    Health care as it exists is an area that in itself hinders competition and entrepreneurship. Up until the 90′s, some of our best entrepreneurial successes were started by people who had retired from companies like IBM with full health benefits for life. As health insurance costs increased, most companies eliminated this retirement benefit. A consequence of this were that people were less likely to retire and start new companies, discouraging growth that had previously benefitted our economy. There are no good answers on healthcare, just a lot of bad answers that are better than no answer.

    • Free markets do need a minimal state and peace to do best, and Mogadishu had a civil war instead.
      But, it should be pointed out:
      Somalia has some of the best telecommunications in Africa: a handful of companies are ready to wire home or office and provide crystal-clear service, including international long distance, for about $10 a month.”[1] This may seem rather unexpected in a country engaged in civil war; the public telecommunications system was destroyed or dismantled at the outset of the civil war by different factions. Abdullahi Mohammed Hussein of Telecom Somalia explained this by stating that “the government post and telecoms company used to have a monopoly but after the regime was toppled, we were free to set up our own business”,[2] The Economist cited the telephone industry in anarchic Somalia as “a vivid illustration of the way in which governments…can often be more of a hindrance than a help.”[3] The same article also noted that in Somalia protection money must be paid to both warlords and security agents, and that viewed closer up the quasi-country “….better resembles an armed oligarchy, capable of taking anything it wants at the point of a gun—even a Nokia handset.”[3]

      • Somalia has some of the best telecommunications in Africa: a handful of companies are ready to wire home or office and provide crystal-clear service, including international long distance, for about $10 a month.”[1] This may seem rather unexpected in a country engaged in civil war; the public telecommunications system was destroyed or dismantled at the outset of the civil war by different factions. Abdullahi Mohammed Hussein of Telecom Somalia explained this by stating that “the government post and telecoms company used to have a monopoly but after the regime was toppled, we were free to set up our own business”,[2] The Economist cited the telephone industry in anarchic Somalia as “a vivid illustration of the way in which governments…can often be more of a hindrance than a help.

    • According to the CIA and the Central Bank of Somalia, despite experiencing civil unrest, Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies and telecommunications.[1][2] Due to a dearth of formal government statistics and the recent civil war, it is difficult to gauge the size or growth of the economy. For 1994, the CIA estimated the GDP at $3.3 billion.[3] In 2001, it was estimated to be $4.1 billion.[4] By 2009, the CIA estimated that the GDP had grown to $5.731 billion, with a projected real growth rate of 2.6%.[1] According to a 2007 British Chambers of Commerce report, the private sector also grew, particularly in the service sector. Unlike the pre-civil war period when most services and the industrial sector were government-run, there has been substantial, albeit unmeasured, private investment in commercial activities; this has been largely financed by the Somali diaspora, and includes trade and marketing, money transfer services, transportation, communications, fishery equipment, airlines, telecommunications, education, health, construction and hotels.[5] Libertarian economist Peter T. Leeson attributes this increased economic activity to the Somali customary law (referred to as Xeer), which he suggests provides a stable environment to conduct business in.[6]
       
      Prior to the civil war, Somalia had only one national airline, Somali Airlines, that serviced the entire country. Due to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Somali people and a lack of strict regulatory frameworks, by 1997, up to 14 private airline firms operating 62 aircraft were offering commercial flights to international locations.[6][10] With competitively priced flight tickets, these companies have helped buttress Somalia’s bustling trade networks.[10]

      Although Somalia has had no central monetary authority for upwards of 15 years between the outbreak of the civil war in 1991 and the subsequent re-establishment of the Central Bank of Somalia in 2009, the nation’s payment system is actually fairly advanced due primarily to the widespread existence of private money transfer operators (MTO) that have acted as informal banking networks.[16

      The World Bank reports that electricity is now in large part supplied by local businesses, using generators purchased abroad. By dividing Somalia's cities into specific quarters, the private sector has found a manageable method of providing cities with electricity. A customer is given a menu of choices for electricity tailored to his or her needs, such as evenings only, daytime only, 24 hour-supply or charge per lightbulb.[5]
       
      this is all from wikipedia, but even if part of it is true, its surprising even to a libertarian leaning person like myself.

  • Actually, the ACA is worse than no answer. According to the WHO, the US health care system produced the highest quality of care and got that care to everyone, regardeless of income, better than any industrial nation – the concern over insurance is a distraction ploy that is not supported by evidence. The weak point is cost. The ACA increases the cost while reducing the competition. The only way to amend it to lower cost is by lowering the quality.  A reasonable approach would be to actually look at why the US spends far more per capita than

  • Actually, the ACA is worse than no answer. According to the WHO, the US health care system produced the highest quality of care and got that care to everyone, regardeless of income, better than any industrial nation – the concern over insurance is a distraction ploy that is not supported by evidence. The weak point is cost. The ACA increases the cost while reducing the competition. The only way to amend it to lower cost is by lowering the quality.  A reasonable approach would be to actually look at why the US spends far more per capita than other countries. There are three main factors – Quality, research and lawsuits.  Anything of high quality costs more than something of lower quality, not much can be saved there without lowering the outcome. Secondly, the US spends far more on research per person than every other country, we could lower public investment at the cost of future advances, but there hasn’t been any discussion on this topic (Of course, high private ivestment still would lowes the US overall ‘score’ from the WHO). That leaves lawsuits and the resulting insurance costs as the main factor that needs reformed, and the ACA does nothing to address this.