Free Markets, Free People

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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


The ‘Catch and Release” mandate

Here we are.

Quick hits on the last day you have, had, might have had, to sign up for your ObamaCare insurance.  Curiously a rush of people appeared to sign up that I predict the Administration will report will carry them over the 7 million lost policies, log ons , applications, enrollments payed policy holder goal line.  If anyone can recall 7 million was the original goal when this benevolent plan to help the uninsured portion of the population of the United States started.  We should overlook the percentages of likely to use older and less healthy participants versus the younger will pay and never use participants and the predicted cost curves and such.  If you have a plan and don’t like what they’re offering they promise you can keep your plan.  Ha!  Fooled you!  It’s okay though, your old plan sucked whatever it was and whether you thought it did nor not.

There’s a rumble of war in the east, the Russians will, they won’t, they can’t because we stood up to them, occupy Ukraine, or eastern Ukraine, and will maybe go so far as to establish casino dominance in the Crimea.  Take that Winstar Casino!  But Putin is now in a box owing to the stringent actions of the EU and the US to contain his aggressive ADHD driven tendencies.  And owing to the President’s our ever watchful eye we have Putin’s army where we want it now.

At the pump gas prices are consistently higher over time under the current administration than the previous administration.  But not the highest single spike and that’s what’s important.  We can assume the personal finances of the President are secure as it was a well documented fact during the Bush administration that upticks in gas prices are the result of the President’s holdings in oil companies and his desire to make sure his retirement fund is well padded.  Harry Reid said that when they rose under Bush, or someone said they heard Harry Reid say someone said that.    Meanwhile in another energy independent decisive policy act the President is going to render a decision on the job creating, oil providing,  Keystone pipeline at any moment.  If you click on those links, you might want to jot down the dates on the articles for reference and hilarity.  Continued samples of the brilliant ultra decisive actions we’ve come to expect from this President.

Environmentally the administration is rolling out a new plan to deal with global warming.    It’s likely this plan will establish policies to deal with dangers such as earth quakes, meteor strikes, comets and other ill portents all suspected to be linked to man made catastrophic global warming by the consensus science community.  Officially known as the American Economy Wrecking plan Climate Action Plan, they should consider calling it Obamafarts as a sort of short catchy handle that will appeal to the millenials almost as much as Pajama Boy did.

Speaking of American youth, they continued this last weekend to demonstrate their anger over being spied on, lied to and future taxed into oblivion by focusing on what’s important the same way the President uses his laser like focus to solve the country’s problems.   Such a trend could, in as little as 300 years, lead to as broad a nationwide protest to the current government policies as was seen in the 60′s and 70′s during America’s involvement in Vietnam,  though the former Soviet Union would need to rise up again and send us more campus agitators.

Finally the President’s 4 point approach to deal with America’s immigration problem is showing very positive signs in at least 2 of the 4 parts.    Coupled with his crack down on companies that hire illegals, it was shown over the weekend by an independent study of ICE’s activities that the President can safely add the title “Deporter in Chief” to his list of accomplishments.    We’re calling this latest ‘by Presidential order’  approach the “Catch and Release” mandate.   It’s thought highly likely that once the mid-term elections are over the Administration (and the Republicans) will step up their efforts on part 3, “Streamlining Immigration” by declaring any individuals, living or deceased, in the continental US, it’s states, or territories on Jan 1st 2015 be recognized officially as American citizens. The President may extend the deadline to January 15th 2015 for those who thought about coming to the US, but couldn’t make it before the cutoff date.

Have a great day America.

UPDATE – April 1st

As my two Great Danes could have predicted – “With daily volumes continuing to surge, analysts believe the final tally could approach or even exceed an original goal of 7 million”

Now, don’t let the fact that the system was down for a good portion of the day deceive you.   This “surprising” come back was destined, written, fated, according to prophecy, etc.

I wish the numbers in my checking account were as flexible as the numbers used by the Obama Administration.


The White House resource link

I thought I’d, you know, take a tour of QandO.   A real tour, of things I might use more than once every year, because prior to this my ramblings seldom needed any kind of links or documentation.   That being the case I can report I’ve poked around in the wardrobes, steamer trunks and closets here back stage, and God help them they’ve given me access to all kinds of things. :mrgreen:

While I was puttering around in the right hand column, I noticed ‘resources’ (“which”, says the narrator in my head “he’s seen and even used before but didn’t bother to make note of….”).

Bottom of that list….”White House”.   Yep.  The White House.   I stopped trying to learn about QandO and clicked it.  Attention span of a gnat I swear.

The White House.

I was greeted by the count-down clock for the destruction of the world, err, I mean the amount of time people have left to enroll in the mandatory health care system before the deadline is arbitrarily extend  by the President on the afternoon of March 30th because not enough people will have enrolled.   We may only need another 15% of the country to sign up anyway.  What’s that you say?

Keep reading.

Slightly down the page there’s a tab – Engage and Connect – Opening the doors to the White House.   Where it says “President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history.”  That brought forth a friendly chuckle, and I had to know more.    Ah, that zany transparency thing again, such kidders.   Now I would learn how I could participate.  Clicking on the link, I saw two more links under ‘participate’ – “We are a nation of immigrants” and “Speak out in support of Health Care Reform”.   Apparently we are not asked to participate if we want to speak out against Health Care Reform, that isn’t particularly surprising, but I thought showhow it might be helpful to mention it here.

I clicked We are a nation of immigrants.  They generously offered to let me give them my own immigrant story, which they can probably get from the NSA or FBI or my sister’s ancestry.com account, so I declined to give it to them again to avoid duplication.  A link says the President is committed to common-sense reform that fixes our broken immigration system.  Have you ever noticed it’s always going to be a common-sense reform?  Phew, I thought he was for some crazy radical scheme like handing out citizenship to 11 million or so people who snuck into the country illegally!

Now we were getting somewhere!   Four points, four simple points.    Border Security, Strengthening enforcement, Earned Citizenship and Streamlining Immigration.

1st point, Border Security – Beef up the borders.  We now have more agents, specifically on the Canadian border. Probably to keep undocumented Canadian rodeo riders, country western singers and actors from sneaking in, though it doesn’t really say.  I can’t tell how many agents…both numbers 3800 and 2200 are mentioned so maybe it’s 6000, agents now, but yeah!   The site goes on to say we’ve doubled the number of agents nationwide since 2004, up to 21,000.  By default, we may then assume we have more on the southern border too.  No, we must assume because the numbers were a little vague.   By ‘a little vague’, I mean nonexistent.

They didn’t say anything specifically about the increase of coverage on the southern border.  Just that we had more boots on the ground.  I presume we have people wearing the boots and didn’t just sort of scatter empty ones from Port Isabel to San Diego.   Then again, it did say we’re using technologies to secure the land and maritime border.  Maybe we have special sensors in empty boots that detect doctors, engineers and web programmers as they attempt to sneak in across our southern land border.   They don’t mention if we have floating boot buoys at sea to keep zodiac boats full of undocumented physicists from sneaking in along the Gulf coast.   Well, that was a good start anyway.  I assume these are the professions of people who have already breached the border, because the Chamber of Commerce and the High Tech companies  seem very keen to grant them all amnesty for their undocumented transgression, NOW.

2nd Point, Strengthening Enforcement – ah, big heading here says “Cracking down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers”.  This deserves the copied quote:

– “It means cracking down more forcefully on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers…most businesses want to do the right thing… So we need to implement a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone’s employment status. And if they still knowingly hire undocumented workers, then we need to ramp up the penalties.”

President Barack Obama, January 29, 2013

Apparently we need a national system to check you out Ivan Ivanovitch, when you apply for a job, to make sure you’re here legally.  It needs to be a national database.  Fraud resistant tamper proof identification, which of course won’t be used for you to vote in elections, that would be wrong to disenfranchise you and only a racist would suggest such a thing.  It will be required when you get a job at, 7-eleven, or McDonalds or Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton.  A nagging voice in my mind keeps mumbling about some national data collection thingy or other that was an overwhelming success in October of last year.

Anyway…

Penalties for hiring illegals will be significantly increased!   Hurrah!  Take that Koch brothers!  Take that Mitt Romney!  I don’t know that any of them hire illegals, unless Harry Reid says he heard someone say they did.  All this made me wonder what weak worthless penalties we currently have in place for companies that hire illegal, I mean, undocumented, workers.

So I did a web search “penalties for illegal hiring” and the very first hit on Google says – Obama eases penalties for businesses hiring illegal immigrants.

Well, that took the wind out of my sails.  Well, that and seeing them being called illegal instead of undocumented even on the White House web site.

There were 4 items listed on how we’re going to fix immigration, and when I checked just one with sources other than the White House, it proved to be, uh, like saying I could keep my insurance plan if I liked it.  25% of the plan the White House is talking about is already crap and I haven’t even finished looking at half of it yet (which means 50% of the plan I do know about is crap).

So I stopped.   That was sooooo disappointing.

There’s obviously a rogue intern at work here, or a low level functionary from Cincinnati.  I considered sending a note to the President so he didn’t have to find out on the 6:00 PM news on Friday that someone in his administration wasn’t on the same page he was and was making him look silly on the White House web page.  He’d be very angry, no one would be angrier.

Maybe I’d have better luck with “Speak out in support of Health Care reform”

I clicked the link.   Ah there’s a nice picture of the President, sitting at a kitchen table…with a bunch of people who look like Tea Partiers…and a skin-head!!!  Maybe it’s just the camera angle, maybe that guy has some hair on the back of his head, maybe it’s the edge of a NAZI tattoo!  Lord! Nary a Secret Service agent in sight!

And the bold caption says “85% of Americans have already benefitted from the Affordable Care Act”.  85% of YOU, because  so far as I know aside from an increased tax burden and higher premiums on a slightly less generous insurance plan, that number does NOT include me.

At this point I couldn’t go further, because I was sort of afraid if I clicked any other White House site links I’d find myself in an odd room with a bottle with a little tag that said  “drink me” and a cake with a note that said “eat me”.

That’s my way of telling you stay away from the White House resource link…..


The Crimea (and beyond)

When the Russians more or less militarily annexed the Crimea a couple of days ago , it was pretty obvious the West wasn’t going to go to war over it, any previously mumbled promises to Ukraine that implied we might aside.  It’s still obvious, not that avoiding a war is a bad thing and all.

Who can blame Europe for not wanting another war? They’ve hosted so many, and I’m reliably told if you wander about you can still find nostalgic bits of wreckage to prove it.   There are parts left over from wars everywhere. Castles, forts, the Kaiser Wilhelm church (what’s left of it) in Berlin.  Graves….lots and lots of graves.  Graves of local men, and graves of men who came from across the world, and graves of civilians.

In January of this year, in Euskirchen Germany, a bulldozer operator was killed by a bomb from WWII, and it’s not uncommon for unexploded ordnance to be found, some dating back to the big fandango they held 100 years ago this year.   The Europeans have done a super job of cleaning up the place, and I’m 100% certain they aren’t interested in having to do it again anytime soon.

This is why, no one, not even the allegedly crazy Russians, really wants to die for real-estate to get it back into Russia.  Maybe some Ukrainians are willing to die out of pride for Ukraine, but the Russians prefer it be done with the bare minimum of shooting, explosions and death.   Even ‘crazy’ ‘evil’ people understand that upsets folks, and the shooting, explosions and death get out of control, and pretty soon it’s happening everywhere in sight.   The Russians don’t want a war either, but they’re not averse to picking up (re-acquiring) some real-estate on the cheap.

For my entire life we, Americans, helped keep the Russians from taking over the joint by being in places they wanted to be before they could be there. Kudos to NATO and all for asking us to stay.  But everybody knew when we parked Americans in their path all across Europe and the Russians did drive tanks through Fulda Gap…if they did it over American bodies; America was likely to take a war-like exception to it.  Geo-politics and military science is brutally practical about things like that, and the Russians understood.  America was across the ocean and much harder for Soviet tank division to blitzkrieg than a quick push to the east bank of the Rhine.  We made it difficult for them by being where they wanted to be in ways that only war, or government over throw, could clear us out of.  We stood in Western Europe and they stood in Eastern Europe and we glared at each other.  The Europeans understood where the fight was going to happen if it happened.  If some were nicer to the Soviets (now the Russians) than we liked, it was probably out of practicality.   At times they glared at both us and the Russians.

The ‘other’ people further east, in the Russian zone, just had to live with the Russians because clearing them out would wreck the joint, and everybody knew that too.  They didn’t glare at anybody because they didn’t dare.  Then the Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc collapsed, they became Russians again and Ukrainians and Latvians and Estonians and Lithuanians and Moldovans and Serbs and you get the idea.

The Europeans don’t want a war, the Russians don’t want a war, we don’t want a war.  Having so much experience in wars, and cleaning up after wars, one can understand the reluctance to do the centennial anniversary reenactment of 1914 this year with live rounds.

Still, Russian occupation of the Crimea should never have happened if the West was sincere about helping the Ukrainians keep their lands (especially after the Russians vs Georgia take-down in 2008).   I have mixed emotions about our policing the world, and our commitments to far flung places. But our word has to mean something too, and if we bother to give it, we ought to keep it.  Not keeping it leads to where we are, drawing red lines and erasing them just as quickly, making threats on an international basis and then barring a couple people from Disney World to show how much we mean it.   There’s a whole set of posts that could be written on why we let down our guard in Europe.  A quick hit list, military use fatigue, the cost, the simple hope that the not Soviet Russians weren’t going to start up the ‘let’s take over a country’ club again, resurgent Russian pride, feckless American policy, and a new world order.

The biggest one we hear about is this inane belief in some new order that has taken hold.  A magic set of rules for countries came into being when we hit the millennium.  Who knew?   It’s not clear, to me anyway, why that is, must be a side effect of climate change or something because I don’t recall any burning bushes or Jewish prophets with stone tablets making the news recently.   I do know our Secretary of State thinks they exist ( I mentioned feckless American policy); Angela Merkel seems to think they exist.  But maybe no one forwarded the memos to Vladimir Putin, because all in all he seems pretty proud of using the old rules, and so are his constituents.

No, there is no magic set of new rules.  I can’t even say it would be nice, because not only is it not real, it’s not even clearly laid out what it means internationally.  Furthermore the old rules still work and still apply.  Power and vacuums of power.  In fact these new rules already seem remarkably ineffective against people who still use the old rules. As a result there aren’t any new magic formulas or methods for getting the Russians to give Crimea back now either.    They certainly aren’t going to do it because we in the West tell each other that Russia is naked in the eyes of the world.  They aren’t going to do it no matter how many times some idiot calls them ‘evil’.   They aren’t going to do it because they suddenly understand they’re violating the 21st century rules.

Just because the West doesn’t want to apply power doesn’t mean the Russians can’t and won’t.   When a country can take over a chunk of another country in a week, there really isn’t much threats that will take months to show effect are going to do to stop them.   Done deals.  Because people don’t want to wait that long for results (especially the Ukrainians in this case), and life, and business, and in Europe’s case, the need to heat their houses, goes on.

If the West is serious, and worried about the Russians moving into Kiev, park ‘non-threatening’ NATO forces in Kiev.  Not just visiting, full time. Park a ‘non-threatening’ contingent of ground troops in Estonia (note the date of that article, last year…). See if the other Baltic countries would like to have permanent physical NATO contingents with troops who are not local. Go beyond ‘air policing’. Put the equivalent of a guard contingent on the equivalent of the Rhine bridges before the Russians do the equivalent of occupying the Rhineland.

And hit our own damn power reset button. Drill like hell for natural gas and oil here in the US and export it to Europe to cut their dependence on Russia.  The Russians will understand, they’ll bitch, but they’ll stop because they really don’t want the same war we don’t want.  There can’t be a whole lot in Estonia the Russians want to die for.

Project POWER back into the vacuum we’ve created before Putin again proves the old rules, the same ones Hitler used so well, still work just fine.   Do it before Chamberlain calls to say he wants his ‘new’ rules back.

Not gonna happen, I realize.  We have ‘smart’ diplomacy now, we lead from behind.  We’re going to jaw about the new international rules the millennium brought us, and threaten the Russians with our economic power even while we struggle to keep that power turned on for ourselves.


Elizabeth Warren: Poster woman for progressivism

If ever there was a poster woman for progressivism, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren fills the bill.  Known as “Fauxahontas” for using fake indian credentials to cash in on minority preferences, she has taken the Ted Kennedy Senate seat from the hapless Scott Brown and is now on target to out-liberal the liberal Lion.

One of the more interesting things to do with her is to disect her thinking via reading what she has to say about certain subjects.  It gives  one a good peek behind the curtain and into the “progressive” mind.  For instance, here she is talking about the school loan program the government unilaterally took over:

Right now, in order to finance the United States government, we take in billions of dollars of profits for student loans, but permit billionaires to have enough loopholes that they pay at tax rates that can be lower than those of their secretaries.

This is a straightforward choice: We can take $75 billion and either way we’ll use it to protect tax loopholes for billionaires or $75 billion can be used to help students to refinance their outstanding student loan debt. It’s billionaires or students.

This particular quote is instructive in so many ways.  First, note how she makes the point that government “permits” billionairs to keep their money via loopholes.  Obviously she believes that’s something that shouldn’t be permitted, but more importantly in infers a belief that everything you earn belongs to government.  The student loan program is simply an excuse for taking it if she has her way.  If it weren’t that, it would be something else.  But bottom line she believes government has a right to that money in the name of  … well you call it – fairness?  Equality?  Whatever.

Secondly, what is the problem right now in terms of the cost of schooling?  The price is to high.  How does one get the price down?  Competiton.  That and you don’t subsidize the cost and lay off the cost of that subsizidation on students.  If there is limited competition and vast subsidization, what is the incentive for colleges and universities to cut costs to compete for students?

That’s right, none.  So what the government program that she wants to tax billionaires for is doing is helping to sustain, maintain and grow the higher education bubble.

Heritage’s Brittany Corona, a research assistant in education policy, has criticized the federal government’s involvement in the student-loan business, citing, in particular, the unknown long-term costs to taxpayers.

“Continuing to expand higher education subsidies through subsidized federal student loans and grants does nothing to put pressure on colleges to lower costs,” Corona warned. “In fact, access to easy money does the opposite, enabling universities to raise prices, knowing students can return to the federal trough for more financing.”

Sound familiar at all?  Have we had previous experience with this sort of nonsense in the last 5 or 6 years?

When this bubble pops and collapses, I’m sure the Warren’s of the world will find some “private” boogyman to blame it on.  But in reality, it will again be a government program that fueled the expansion of the bubble and the eventual collapse.

And the students?  Well, they’ll still be on the hook to pay for their overpriced education for the rest of their lives, regardless of the interest rate.

~McQ


How to destroy property rights in one easy lesson

Give government bureaucracy the power to nullify your ownership rights in the name of a “higher good”.

You’re all familiar with the poly.  The WSJ describes it:

In partnership with green activists, the Department of Interior may attempt one of the largest federal land grabs in modern times, using a familiar vehicle—the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A record 757 new species could be added to the protected list by 2018. The two species with the greatest impact on private development are range birds—the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken, both about the size of a barnyard chicken. The economic stakes are high because of the birds’ vast habitat.

Interior is expected to decide sometime this month whether to list the lesser prairie chicken, which inhabits five western prairie states, as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Meantime, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are considering land-use amendments to protect the greater sage grouse, which would lay the groundwork for an ESA listing next year.

One of the birds resides mostly on federal land (remember, the federal government owns most of the west of the US).  It is on these lands and the little private land there that the sage grouse is found:

The sage grouse is found in 11 western states—California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Most of the areas affected are federal lands routinely used for farming, ranching, mining, road building, water projects and oil and gas drilling.

Ah, gas drilling.  Well here we go:

Interior’s proposed “land use” amendments are draconian. They require a four-mile “buffer zone” whenever a sage-grouse mating ground is discovered on federal land. The American Petroleum Institute calls the proposed rules a “de facto ban on drilling.” It fears that compliance could cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees and cause years of drilling delays.

Well of course it would.  That’s the whole point.  To make it economically unfeasible to fight this.  Never mind that the technology exists to make the foot print tiny (horizontal drilling), you still have to get permission to do it – time and mucho money.

But that’s on federal land.  How about private land.  Well it just so happens that’s where the prairie chicken comes in (along with the sage grouse).  Any idea of where they’re found?

The prairie chicken sits atop Texas’s Permian Basin oil bonanza, and the sage grouse is near the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

So a bird that is found in 11 western states is apparently “endangered” and also sits conveniently on one of the most productive finds in modern history (Bakken) and the other bird just happens to be in Texas’ big petroleum find?  How ironic, no?

Politics in the service of activism.  And if the activists don’t get their way?

Environmental groups have won victories by using a strategy called “sue and settle” under which groups propose species for protected status and then sue the federal government, which settles the lawsuit on terms favorable to the greens rather than fight. These settlements typically bypass a thorough review of the scientific evidence and exclude affected parties, such as industry and local communities.

According to Kent Holsinger, a natural resources attorney in Denver heavily involved in these cases, “Wildlife Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity have been party to more than 1,000 lawsuits between 1990 and the present.” The Center for Biological Diversity has made no secret of wanting to end fossil-fuel production in the U.S.

In the case of the Obama administration, it is more likely that this won’t be an antagonistic process, at least where the econuts are concerned.  Instead it will be a cooperative process while they bleed the destroy the concept of private property once and for all.

~McQ


President’s FY2015 budget more proof that he lives in a fantasy world

If I’m not mistaken, not a single Obama budget (those few he’s submitted) over the years has gotten even one vote when it hit Congress.  And that includes votes from Democrats.

This year is likely to be no exception.

Veronique De Rugy at George Mason Univerity’s Mercatus Center says:

Much of the president’s proposed budget’s rosy projections will require considerable tax financing and political restraint to come to fruition. If revenues are lower than anticipated or spending is not restricted as planned, the ten-year debt picture will look quite different. I have noted before that President Obama’s later mid-session review budget differed considerably from his early budget projections. Early revenue and outlay projections were higher than actual amounts, while deficit spending surged much higher than anticipated from 2010 to 2012. This budget will likely mis-project critical variables as well. The rosiest projections all too often turn out to be the most disappointing.

Talk about an understatement.  And the rosy projection?  Well here it is compared to the CBO projection:

You have to chuckle at a miss that bad. In the outlying years, look at the percent of GDP the CBO projects vs. Obama.  Any guess as to which projection is most likely of the two?

Go back to a key line ins De Rugy’s analysis:

If revenues are lower than anticipated or spending is not restricted as planned, the ten-year debt picture will look quite different.

Point to a moment in recent history where our profligate politicians have actually followed a restrictive spending plan that would have the effect Obama says it will?

Yeah, I can’t point to it either.

Regardless, however, we’re supposed to believe that if the plan is followed as layed out in the Obama budget, we’ll see long term debt reduction.

Unfortunatly the next chart doesn’t at all support that claim:

In every year projected, spendin is greater than revenue.  So what they’re assuming is massive growth in the eoncomy to make the debt they pile up in the later years a smaller percentage of the GDP.

Really?  Taxes are going to go up, government spending will also go up and yet somehow the private economy is going to surge (10 more “recovery summers”, eh?)?  Obama plans spending and taxation as a percentage of GDP that are at or near historic highs, but we’ll see huge economic growth to support that?

Wow, if you’re not flying the red BS flag, you need to take an Econ 101 class.

Yet this is what the President of the United States is presenting as a functional budget for this country 10 years into the future.

Fantasyland.

~McQ


It is official: Welcome to the Obama economy

We’ve been told over the last few years that our economy is in a slump but not to worry.  It’s temporary.  The administration is on it.  It’s going to be fixed.

What, we’ve had 5 recovery summers and are heading into our 6th?

Well, the CBO, that office the administration loves to cite when it suits them, has decided that this economy, the Obama economy, isn’t an outlier and we should get used to it:

The part of the past that you deem most relevant can be critical in determining your outlook for the future. And nowhere is that clearer than in the changing economic forecasts that come out of the Congressional Budget Office.

This year’s short-term and long-term economic forecasts are substantially worse than last year’s, even though the economy performed better than expected in 2013. What changed was that the C.B.O. economists essentially decided that they would no longer treat the recent years of poor economic performance as a sort of outlier. They have seen enough of a slow economy to begin to think that we should get used to sluggishness.

They think that Americans will earn less than they previously expected, that fewer of them will want jobs and that fewer will get them. They think companies will invest less and earn less. The economy, as measured by growth in real gross domestic product, will settle into a prolonged period in which it grows at an average rate of just 2.1 percent. From 2019 through 2024, job growth will average less than 70,000 a month.

So, how does it feel?  You’ve lived through the “Golden age” and are now relegated to … this.  Slow to non-existent job growth.  Regulation out the wazoo. Rising health care costs.  Taxes eating into earnings and no end in sight.

This is the economy this administration has helped fashion with an insensitivity to the economy and a policy cluelessness that is second to none.  The fact that they’re still pushing a raise in the minimum wage in the face of half a million job losses (conservative estimate) says it all.

You reap what you sow, or don’t sow, in this case.  What they didn’t sow was economic policies that would get the economy moving, create jobs and keep us in that Golden age.  Instead we got ideology first, regardless of the economic consequences.

And this is the result.

As CBO says, get used to it.

~McQ

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