Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

1 2 3 ... 363


Painting over the rot

I’ve been watching the media circus surrounding the resignation of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.   If a more inept bureaucrat ever lived, the best they could do is hope to tie with her for last place.  Yet we have so-called “jounalists”, or at least those who would like to be thought of as journalists, so engaged in spin it is almost unseemly.  Well it is unseemly.  In fact, it’s nauseating.

And who would I designate as “head clown?”  None other than Ezra Klein.  As James Taranto points out, Klein is shameless in his attempt to paint over the rot that is ObamaCare:

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein hails the success of the Five Year Plan: “Obamacare has won. And that’s why Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius can resign.” If Sebelius had quit during what Klein calls the “catastrophic launch”–see what we mean?–it would have been a sign of White House “panic” and “made it harder to save the law,” Klein argues.

It’s surely true that the immediate political risk of Sebelius’s resignation is considerably less now than it would have been then. In October it might have emboldened vulnerable Senate Democrats to abandon ObamaCare or at least press for serious legislative fixes. It’s late for that now. By maintaining party unity this long, Obama probably bought enough time to assure that Congress won’t threaten what is invariably called his “signature legislative achievement” this year.

“In other words,” Klein writes, “the law has won its survival.”

Has it?  Has it really?  There’s nothing to this point that assures the “law has won its survival”, and, as we’ve been warned constantly, the worst is yet to come – that is when the President quits arbitrarily delaying the “worst”.

I mean, Klein’s nonsense is reminiscent of Baghdad Bob’s assurances that the Iraqis were winning, for heaven sake.

We discussed it on the podcast this week and we’ve mentioned it over and over again … we are terribly ill served by our “journalists” and the “news” media in general.  Where once upon a time they actually inspected what government did and helped ensure that it didn’t get outside the lines, it now aids and abets it straying beyond those boundries. We now, literally it seems, have a class of “journalists” who think it is their job to hide the truth in order to advance their political agenda.

Ezra Klein is one of those.  Anyone who ever takes anything the man says seriously again, is a fool.

~McQ


A doctor’s lament will become a patient’s nightmare

Thought you’d like to see this letter to a Congressman from a doctor in Decatur, AL.  He outlines the problems that ObamaCare has put on that profession and correctly identifies what is going on as a “war on doctors”.  The obvious losers in all of this will eventually be the patients, both current and future as the government further pushes itself between doctors and their patients.  It will also provide a disincentive to those who might possibly be entertaining entering the health care field as doctors in the future.

This has nothing to do with markets and voluntary exchange.  This is about government intrusiveness, regulatory overkill and rampant bureaucracy in action:

Dear Congressman Brooks,

As a practicing family physician, I plead for help against what I can best characterize as Washington’s war against doctors.

The medical profession has never before remotely approached today’s stress, work hours, wasted costs, decreased efficiency, and declining ability to focus on patient care.

In our community alone, at least 6 doctors have left patient care for administrative positions, to start a concierge practice, or retire altogether.

Doctors are smothered by destructive regulations that add costs, raise our overhead and ‘gum up the works,’ making patient treatment slower and less efficient, thus forcing doctors to focus on things other than patient care and reduce the number of patients we can help each day.

I spend more time at work than at any time in my 27 years of practice and more of that time is spent on administrative tasks and entering useless data into a computer rather than helping sick patients.

Doctors have been forced by ill-informed bureaucrats to implement electronic medical records (“EMR”) that, in our four doctor practice, costs well over $100,000 plus continuing yearly operational costs . . . all of which does not help take care of one patient while driving up the cost of every patient’s health care.

Washington’s electronic medical records requirement makes our medical practice much slower and less efficient, forcing our doctors to treat fewer patients per day than we did before the EMR mandate.

To make matters worse, Washington forces doctors to demonstrate ‘meaningful use’ of EMR or risk not being fully paid for the help we give.

In addition to the electronic medical records burden, we face a mandate to use the ICD-10 coding system, a new set of reimbursement diagnosis codes.

The current ICD-9 coding system uses roughly 13,000 codes. The new ICD-10 coding system uses a staggering 70,000 new and completely different codes, thus dramatically slowing doctors down due to the unnecessary complexity and sheer numbers of codes that must be learned.

The cost of this new ICD-10 coding system for our small practice is roughly $80,000, again driving up health care costs without one iota of improvement in health care quality.

Finally, doctors face nonpayment by patients with ObamaCare. These patients may or may not be paying their premiums and we have no way of verifying this. No business can operate with that much uncertainty.

On behalf of the medical profession, I ask that Washington stop the implementation of the ICD-10 coding system, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with a better law written with the input of real doctors who will actually treat patients covered by it.

America has enjoyed the best health care the world has ever known. That health care is in jeopardy because physicians cannot survive Washington’s ‘war on doctors’ without relief.

Eventually the problems for doctors will become problems for patients, and we are all patients at some point.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Marlin Gill of Decatur, Alabama

This is the face of government run healthcare.

~McQ


Imperial White House cancels Medicare Advantage cuts to help Dems in mid-terms

The White House has once again bowed to screaming Democrats worried about the mid-term elections and this time cancelled cuts to Medicare Advantage. As you recall, these cuts were made to pay for ObamaCare:

The Obama administration announced Monday that planned cuts to Medicare Advantage would not go through as anticipated amid election-year opposition from congressional Democrats.

The cuts would have reduced benefits that seniors receive from health plans in the program, which is intended as an alternative to Medicare.

Under cuts planned by the administration, insurers offering the plans were to see their federal payments reduced by 1.9 percent, which likely would have necessitated cuts for customers.
Instead, the administration said the federal payments to insurers will increase next year by .40 percent.

The healthcare law included $200 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years, in part to pay for ObamaCare.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said that the cuts weren’t necessary because of an “an increase in healthy beneficiaries under Medicare.” That, of course, makes little sense. Medicare is a mandatory insurance program for people 65 and older. How that demographic suddenly got “healthier” remains a mystery, but there you have the “reason” for the decision. Well, that and mid-term elections.

As for cost, someone needs to explain how ObamaCare is to be funded if the mechanisms set in place to pay for it keep getting delayed or cancelled.

When CBO analysts most recently looked at the gross cost of expanding Medicaid and giving subsidies to individuals to purchase insurance through the new exchanges — the bulk of the law’s spending — they came up with slightly more than $2 trillion for 2015 through 2024.

After deducting some offsets from the law — such as penalty payments from employers and individuals due to insurance mandates — CBO estimated the net cost at nearly $1.5 trillion.

The CBO hasn’t done a standalone deficit analysis on Obamacare since 2012, but at that time, its analysts estimated the law would reduce deficits by $109 billion, once all tax increases, cuts to Medicare and other savings are taken into account.

When referring to the “cost” of Obamacare, the fair thing to do is cite the $2 trillion figure — and no, that isn’t just because it’s a higher number. The gross figure represents how much the federal government will have to spend on expanding coverage through Obamacare, at least according to the CBO. If the government weren’t spending $2 trillion on insurance coverage, that’s money that could be going to reducing the deficit, spending more on infrastructure or a host of other theoretical policies.

As mentioned above, that $2 trillion cost had about $500 billion in offsets. But the penalty payments from employers and individuals has been delayed and now the $200 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts/offsets is cancelled, or so says the imperial presidency. That, of course, doesn’t change the cost, it only increases it.

Short term political pandering aimed at winning elections as usual from this administration. Ironically, it has been more effective than the Republicans in dismantling portions of the atrocity known as ObamaCare. So, thanks to the mid-terms, Republicans get one of the cuts they wanted reversed cancelled. Of course they won’t get credit for it – but then that’s the plan isn’t it?

And, this is all likely temporary anyway, even though the White House and Dems won’t spin it as so:

“The changes CMS included in the final rate notice will help mitigate the impact on seniors, but the Medicare Advantage program is still facing a reduction in payment rates next year on top of the 6 percent cut to payments in 2014,” said [AHIP] president Karen Ignagni.

But it will get them through the election cycle, won’t it?

~McQ


Defining the alarmist problem

While doing a  review of Rupert Darwall’s book “The Age of Global Warming”, Charles Moore does an excellent job of succinctly identifying the alarmist movement’s core origins and core identity:

The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government. It involves a fondness for predicting that energy supplies won’t last much longer (as early as 1909, the US National Conservation Commission reported to Congress that America’s natural gas would be gone in 25 years and its oil by the middle of the century), protest movements which involve dressing up and disappearing into woods (the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Mosleyite Blackshirts who believed in reafforestation) and a dislike of the human race (The Club of Rome’s work Mankind at the Turning-Point said: “The world has cancer and the cancer is man.”).

These beliefs began to take organised, international, political form in the 1970s. One of the greatest problems, however, was that the ecologists’ attacks on economic growth were unwelcome to the nations they most idolised – the poor ones. The eternal Green paradox is that the concept of the simple, natural life appeals only to countries with tons of money. By a brilliant stroke, the founding fathers developed the concept of “sustainable development”. This meant that poor countries would not have to restrain their own growth, but could force restraint upon the rich ones. This formula was propagated at the first global environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972.

Indeed, the resulting grouping was a natural one.  Eco radicals out to ‘save the world’ from evil capitalism (and man) and poor countries looking for a way to extort billions from rich countries without having to do anything of note to help themselves.

The G7 Summit in Toronto in 1988 endorsed the theory of global warming. In the same year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up. The capture of the world’s elites was under way. Its high point was the Kyoto Summit in 1998, which enabled the entire world to yell at the United States for not signing up, while also exempting developing nations, such as China and India, from its rigours.

The final push, brilliantly described here by Darwall, was the Copenhagen Summit of 2009. Before it, a desperate Gordon Brown warned of “50 days to avoid catastrophe”, but the “catastrophe” came all the same. The warmists’ idea was that the global fight against carbon emissions would work only if the whole world signed up to it. Despite being ordered to by President Obama, who had just collected his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the developing countries refused. The Left-wing dream that what used to be called the Third World would finally be emancipated from Western power had come true. The developing countries were perfectly happy for the West to have “the green crap”, but not to have it themselves. The Western goody-goodies were hoist by their own petard.

The UN was the natural forum for this push and the IPCC, headed by an railway engineer, the natural “scientific” instrument.  We know how that story has turned out to this point.  No global warming registered for 17 years and 6 months despite all the dire, but apparently scientifically groundless, predictions.  The irony, of course, is it is those who have been skeptical of all of this are the one’s called “deniers”.  And the alarmists have become so bankrupt and shrill that some of them are calling for the arrest of “deniers.” One supposes since the alarmist cause most closely resembles a religious cult, the call for arrest is on the grounds of heresy … or something.

Meanwhile, “green energy” – the eco radical solution to all – continues to not be ready for prime time, while fossil fuel becomes cheaper and more plentiful.

Yet somehow, the so-called “elites” have decided – based on what, one isn’t sure – that the threat to the globe is real.  More irony.  On the one hand, the eco radicals don’t care at all if it costs lives since they’ve been convinced for decades that it is man that’s the problem.  Less of us is a “good thing” in their world.   On the other hand you have the elites, aka, politicians, who see an opportunity to both expand government power and create revenue literally out of thin air.  The fight is over who will get the money.

Meanwhile the reputation of science – real science – will suffer because of this very political cause and the actions of some scientists to serve it.

Scientists, Rupert Darwall complains, have been too ready to embrace the “subjectivity” of the future, and too often have a “cultural aversion to learning from the past”.

And that is a complete disservice to science.  Given all of that, who are the real deniers here?

~McQ


There is absolutely no problem with voter fraud, say the Democrats … repeatedly

However, as with most such utterances by that crew, they’re simply wrong:

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has found thousands of instances of voter fraud in the state, thanks to a 28-state crosscheck of voter rolls. Initial findings suggest widespread election fraud.

765 voters with an exact match of first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in N.C. and the other state in the 2012 general election.
35,750 voters with the same first and last name and DOB were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in both states in the 2012 general election.

155,692 voters with the same first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state – and the latest date of registration or voter activity did not take place within N.C.

The second point is key, as double voting is election fraud under state and federal statutes. Punishment for double voting in federal elections can include jail time.

No one said the fraudulent voters were smart (seriously, same DOB, SSAN and name if you’re going to commit fraud? Brilliant!), but what they did was certainly election fraud. And this is one state.

The findings, while large, leave open the question of just how widespread double voting might be since 22 states did not participate in the Interstate Crosscheck.

But remember – voter fraud is just not a problem. The integrity of our voting system, per the Dems, is air tight. And no, the dead don’t vote:

In addition to the above, the crosscheck found that more than 13,000 deceased voters remain on North Carolina’s rolls, and that 81 of them showed voter activity in their records after death.

Well, not many of them.

~McQ


Another reason you should never believe a thing this administration says

Because, as we’ve learned over the years, it’s likely either spin, just not true or both.

For instance, we have the President claiming victory for ObamaCare because it has 7.1 million enrollments.  Note the word – “enrollments”:

‘The goal we’ve set for ourselves – that no American should go without the health care they need … is achievable,’ Obama declared.

The president took no questions from reporters, but celebrated the end of a rocky six-month open-enrollment period by taking pot shots at Republicans who have opposed the law from the beginning as a government-run seizure of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.

‘The debate over repealing this law is over,’ he insisted. ‘The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’

And, as is usual with this man, he simply declared he’d won and simply threw out “facts” that haven’t at all proven true. Essentially lies in a bigger lie:

‘“The bottom line is this,’ said Obama: ‘The share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth in the cost of insurance is down. There’s no good reason to go back.’

Of course the “share of Americans” with insurance isn’t up (over 7 million lost their insurance when their plans didn’t qualify under ObamaCare) and costs are certainly not “down”.

Jay “Baghdad Bob” Carney took it from there (Carney is a perfect name for the position, he’s like a carnival barker):

‘At midnight last night we surpassed everyone’s expectations,’ he boasted, ‘at least everyone in this room.’

While he took great pains to emphasize that the total would grow – saying ‘we’re still waiting on data from state exchanges’ – he dodged tough questions about other statistics that reporters thought he should have had at the ready.

Those numbers included how many Americans have paid for their insurance policies, and are actually insured. Also, he had no answer to the thorny question of how few signups represented people who had no insurance before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

But as usual, when ever they drop something like this in a news cycle, the devil is in the details.  For instance, an unpublished RAND study that suggests that relatively speaking, very few of the enrollees were previously uninsured:

The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.

And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month’s premiums.

If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.

So effectively, assuming the numbers are correct, less than a million are newly insured.  And, as we’ve read in the past, most of them are Medicaid subscribers.

In other words, we’ve gone through all this hell, all this disruption, the higher costs, the lesser insurance plans, the IRS enforcement, etc. just to enroll 858,298 people – most of whom have ended up on a program that existed prior to this atrocity.

Perhaps the biggest laugh line of all, however, comes from David Axelrod, who declared that ObamaCare was totally going to change “the attitude that government can’t do anything“.  Of course he only felt comfortable saying that on MSNBC.  One can certainly understand why.

Meanwhile, for the most part, the RAND study goes unpublished and, for the most part, unexamined.  The King has declared victory – the big lie has been established – debate over.

~McQ


Answering the IPCC

In the past couple of weeks we’ve all been “treated” to climate change alarmist screeds calling for the arrest of “deniers.”   Hey, just because you have a bi-line in a publication doesn’t mean you’re particularly smart.  In fact, I’ve always found that “true believers” who voice no skepticism about much of anything to be, well, not the brightest bulb in the room.

However, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there “denying” climate change.  The climate of the world is in constant flux and few if any deny that.  The denial is of the claims – the assertions – that trace gas CO2 is the major culprit and that man is the major reason for all the CO2.    That man’s activities are driving climate change, not natural forces.

Of course all this recent alarmist activity has been designed to coincide with the UN’s IPCC report on climate change.  As you might imagine, they’ve become a little gun shy at the IPCC after so many of their previous claims have been found to be either groundless or wrong.  So this report is couched in a mountain of qualifiers like “could”, “may”, “might” etc.  They still claim they’re right, but they aren’t quite as specific about it as previously.  Instead they use the qualifiers to help put fear in people without really having to take responsibility for their claim.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book for those who perceive themselves to be on very shaky ground but still have an agenda to fulfill.

Thankfully there are a few “denier” organizations (skeptical is the word most normal folks would use) who are monitoring the IPCC and the screechy alarmists and answering even their caveated claims.  For instance:

IPCC: “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”

NIPCC: “Flood frequency and severity in many areas of the world were higher historically during the Little Ice Age and other cool eras than during the twentieth century. Climate change ranks well below other contributors, such as dikes and levee construction, to increased flooding.”

IPCC: “Risk of food insecurity linked to warming, drought, and precipitation variability, particularly for poorer populations.”

NIPCC: “There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity throughout the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits.

IPCC: “Risk of severe harm for large urban populations due to inland flooding.”

NIPCC: “No changes in precipitation patterns, snow, monsoons, or river flows that might be considered harmful to human well-being or plants or wildlife have been observed that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels. What changes have been observed tend to be beneficial.”

IPCC: “Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.”

NIPCC: “Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations benefit plant growth-promoting microorganisms that help land plants overcome drought conditions, a potentially negative aspect of future climate change. Continued atmospheric CO2enrichment should prove to be a huge benefit to plants by directly enhancing their growth rates and water use efficiencies.”

Etc, etc., etc.  What it seems you get from the IPCC is pseudo-scientific and blatantly political claims.  The UN has decided that “climate change” is a huge and threatening problem (and a grand method of redistributing national wealth from the 1st world to the 3rd world).  Consequently it has decided to make “science” bend to the political agenda they’ve put forward.  And compliant “scientists” are apparently willing to do their bidding.

Meanwhile, as Anthony Watts has pointed out, no one among that group of IPCC “scientists” can answer the most basic and troubling question.  Why hasn’t it warmed, as predicted, in 17 years and 6 months in the face of higher CO2 levels, and, in fact, is trending toward being cooler? One chart points the the alarmist problem in a nutshell:

So tell us again, oh ye Chicken Littles of the alarmist creed, why we should believe a single thing you claim about climate change when you and your predictions (and models) have been so awfully wrong for almost 2 decades?

~McQ


Roosting chickens and Obama

Michael Goodwin at the NY Post writes up a pretty damning summary of Barack Obama’s time in office as President of the United States.  One of the primary criticisms of candidate Obama was that he’d never really done anything of note.  He’d never run a company or tried to meet a payroll, deal with government regulations, etc.  He was, critics cautioned, a politically driven empty suit.  Even his experience in politics was minimal.  Every political office he held he used as a platform to run for the next highest office, accomplishing little or nothing at each stop.

Those are his “chickens” and they’re certainly coming home to roost:

Obama’s sixth year in the White House is shaping up as his worst, and that’s saying something. He’s been in the Oval Office so long that it is obscene to blame his problems on George W. Bush, the weather or racism. Obama owns the world he made, or more accurately, the world he tried to remake.

Nothing important has worked as promised, and there is every reason to believe the worst is yet to come. The president’s casual remark the other day that he worries about “a nuclear weapon ­going off in Manhattan” inadvertently reflected the fear millions of Americans have about his leadership. Not necessarily about a bomb, but about where he is taking the country.

Anyone who looks objectively at these past 6 years has difficulty in saying anything good about the time this administration has been in power.  The lack of real governing experience has left us adrift in a hostile world:

The view from his faculty lounge has no space for reality. Anything that doesn’t fit the grand plan is dismissed as illegitimate. So while global hot spots multiply and the world grows dangerously unstable, the president still plans to slash the military.

Government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and EITC lose hundreds of billions to waste, fraud and abuse, but this administration chooses to balance the budget on the backs of the only institution that is Constitutionally mandated for the defense of the country during a time of extreme danger.  Cognitive dissonance of the highest order.

And his “legacy” piece of legislation, forced through the Democratically controlled congress in the face of popular protest, has been a dismal failure to this point:

ObamaCare is the domestic expression of the president’s ineptitude. The law that was supposed to fix health care has become a problem for millions, and now enjoys mere 26 percent approval, a poll finds. It is proving so unworkable that the White House has given up defending it as written and instead simply changes key provisions when they prove impossible to implement or politically inconvenient.

Change No. 38 came when officials extended the March 31 deadline for signing up. Never mind that those same officials said recently there would be no extension, and that the law wouldn’t allow it.

Presto — the limits on his power are moot because the president says so. Meanwhile, aides claim they don’t know how many of the 6 million who enrolled actually paid for insurance..

Perhaps the most damning quote from Goodwin’s piece is this one which succinctly sums up the Obama experience thus far:

A Caesar at home and a Chamberlain abroad, Obama manages to simultaneously provoke fury and ridicule. He bullies critics here while shrinking from adversaries there.

He divides the country and unites the world against us, ­diminishing the nation in both ways. His reign of error can’t end soon enough, nor can it end well.

The country must weather a little over 2 more years of this awful presidency and hope it survives it somehow.  If it survives it, one has to hope that upon reflection, the voters will realize that electing a president isn’t a beauty contest nor is it a venue within which to make a social statement.  “The first” this or that are not as important as the ability of the candidate to govern competently.  And, it is is certainly not a position in which the incumbent should be engaged in “on the job training”.

Hopefully these lessons have been learned and, in 2016, we’ll see a resurgence of common sense among the voting public.

Yeah, and pigs will fly.

~McQ


Russia, Afghanistan and the US: A changing of the guard

Earlier in the week, former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld had some rather harsh words to say about the current administration’s relationship with Afghanistan.

“Our relationship with Karzai and with Afghanistan was absolutely first-rate in the Bush administration,” Rumsfeld told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren on Monday. “It has gone down hill like a toboggan ever since the Obama administration came in.”

Rumsfeld pointed to the fact that the Obama administration has failed to get Karzai to sign an agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when combat ends.

The U.S. has status of forces agreements with more than a hundred countries, Rumsfeld noted. “A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement,” he said. “It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

Now I’m not going to go for the troll about that being a “racist statement”.  Neither of our SecStates or SecDefs were/are black and that’s who would be charged with getting a SOFA agreement.  Rumsfeld’s right.  The relationship has dramatically and drastically changed.  And he’s also right about why:

“And what happened is, the United States government — and I realize these are tough jobs, being president or secretary of state. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over — (Richard) Holbrooke, the special envoy did, Vice President Biden did, Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him.

“And it seems to me they pushed him in a political box where he really has very little choice. I think there is probably not a politician in the world who dealing with the United States, instead of having the United States deal with him privately through private diplomacy, came out repeatedly, publicly, in an abusive, unpleasant, manner. And I personally sympathize with him to some extent.”

Again, he’s precisely right.  This administration did all it could … in public … to poison the relations.  And yes, Afghanistan is likely corrupt and Karzai as well, but that’s nothing new there.  Karzai was installed by the Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga (assembly).  He’s their president.  It’s a tribal culture.  Figure it out for heaven sake … oh, and keep in mind the big picture instead of playing small ball.

Anyway, these sorts of actions cause reactions and have consequences.  The latest?

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” Karzai’s office said, “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.” To date, only Syria and Venezuela have taken a similar position.

Does it embarrass the US publicly?  You bet.  And that’s precisely why Karzai did it (or it is at least one of the reasons he did it).  And, there’s more:

“In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided. . . . Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.

“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.

Yes, there’s likely corruption. Yes the “Afghan government” is likely getting its hands on some of that money. But when in Rome, and looking for particular results, maybe knowing what to expect in such a culture and a willingness to play the game might turn out better results (and be cheaper) in the long run that trying to go around the incumbent government and forcing yourself on the population. You know, just a thought … which, apparently is more than our State Department commits to Afghanistan anymore.

Funny, in an ironic sense, isn’t it? “We welcome our former overlords”.

Outplayed by Russia … again.

~McQ


The newest oxymoron? “Government efficiency”

I’m always surprised by people that think government can run something better and more efficiently than a private entity.  Oh sure, there are things that are best left to government – like national defense – because it simply makes more sense when it comes to that.  But the fact that we charge them with that duty doesn’t mean they run it efficiently.

Governments have no incentive to be efficient.  We’ve talked about how, in private concerns, the profit motive provides incentive to be efficient.  In government there is no such motive.  So waste, fraud and abuse are rampant.

How rampant?  Take a look at this chart:

We’ve all been told by the Democrats that the government can help lower costs in health care.  But when you look at the 4 health care items on the chart (Medicare fee for svc, Medicaid, Medicare part C and D), you are looking at $63.5 billion … that’s with a “b” … dollars a year in “improper payment rates”.  Also look at the percentage of error.  In the EITC program, 22.7% or 12.6 billion of what they pay out is in error. (Don’t forget, the chart looks only at programs of $750 million or more a year – and we all know there are literally thousands of government programs below that threshold doing the same thing.)

Add all these up and government is making about $100 billion dollars a year in improper payments.  So if anyone wonders why I snort derisively when I hear Congress talk about a $10 billion savings over 10 years (not to mention that usually means not spending as much as they now spend) you can understand why. We’re not bleeding money at a federal level, we’re hemorrhaging it. What in the world is a 10 year $10 billion dollar “savings” worth when government is blowing a trillion dollars in 10 years via waste, fraud and abuse?

But do they actually address the problem?  No.  We’ve known about this level of waste, fraud and abuse for years … decades even.  And absolutely nothing of worth has been done to correct it.  In fact, given the amount of expansion the federal government has seen in the last decades, it’s gotten worse.  As the Mercatus Center says:

While people of good conscience on both sides of the political aisle can debate the merits of whether or not government should be involved in certain activities, none should tolerate the high levels of improper payments currently associated with government spending on social welfare programs. Federal spending has grown too massive to be adequately overseen. Waste, fraud, and abuse squanders public resources and undermines trust in government.

Indeed.  But there is one sure fire way to at least reduce this waste, given the apparent fact that government hasn’t a clue about how to reduce it.  Get government out of areas it has no business and cut spending.  Simplistic?  Not really.  That is a solution, or at least a partial solution.  I certainly understand there will be argument about the areas where government should be involved or not, but hey, crazy me, I’ve always found the Constitution provides some pretty good guidelines.  And, of course, then you have to elect legislators with both balls and a charter to do that (and who won’t succumb to “Potomac fever” when they arrive on the scene) and stay on them until they do what is necessary to accomplish the task.

Yeah, I know, not going to happen anytime soon.  People like their government cheese too much and most don’t mind at all that someone else is paying the freight.

Meanwhile this atrocious and unacceptable waste of your tax dollars will continue unabated (and likely get worse) – a victim of “government efficiency”.

~McQ

1 2 3 ... 363