Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: February 23, 2011


Quote of the day – tone-deaf in Tehran edition

Talk about chutzpah, check this out from our favorite little Holocaust denying, "wipe-Israel-from-the-map", "no gays in Iran", protest busting, protester murdering, election stealing, nuclear bomb building popinjay, er, "President" of Iran:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday urged Middle East leaders to listen to the voices of citizens who have taken to the streets in masses to demand a change in government — though such protests in his own country have been crushed with brute force.

Ahmadinejad "strongly recommended such leaders to let their peoples express their opinions," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"He further urged those leaders of regional countries who respond to the demands of their nations and their revolutionary uprisings with hot bullets to join their peoples’ movements instead of creating blood baths."

What’s next – a lecture from Fidel on individual rights?  Hugo Chavez waxing poetic on the virtues of capitalism?

 

~McQ


Commerce clause idiocy– deciding not to act same as acting, thus can be regulated and action mandated (ObamaCare ruling)

Another federal judge has found for the Constitutionality of the individual mandate. But if ever you’ve wondered what tortured logic looks like (made in an effort to justify something that just doesn’t fit) then you’ll be amazed to read the following from the ruling:

As previous Commerce Clause cases have all involved physical activity, as opposed to mental activity, i.e. decision-making, there is little judicial guidance on whether the latter falls within Congress’s power….However, this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance. It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not “acting,” especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality. [emphasis added]

William Jacobson boils it down for you:

Our thoughts are now actions. There literally is nothing the federal government cannot regulate provided there is even a hypothetical connection to the economy, even if the connection at most is in the future.

Excuse me while I sit down and ponder all of that for a moment. Anytime you make a choice not to act you are "acting".  Therefore, the court has now decided, any decision to not to act (related to commerce) is an act and you can be therefore required to do what the government says you must do.

Or, more succinctly, you have no real choice regardless of what you decide, so sayeth the court.

If I decide not to buy a car, I’m acting, and if the government wanted to require me to buy a car, under this ruling, it could.

Good lord.

That’s just absurd (but Government Motors will most likely be putting together a heck of a lobbying effort to carry this ruling out to its logical end).

Oh and borrowing again from Jacobson, a little reminder of where all this “legal thought” is supposedly grounded:

The Congress shall have power…. To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

~McQ


Judge Kessler: Mandate Constitutional Because of “Free Riders”

There is a new opinion from U.S. District (DC) Judge Kessler ruling that the individual mandate imposed by ObamaCare is constitutional. The primary importance of the ruling is that it is squarely at odds with the Judge Vinson opinion from the District of Florida on one key issue: that deciding not to purchase something is an “activity” that can be regulated under the Commerce Clause. I’m still going through it, and will have more to say, but a few things really leaped out at me.

(1) Kessler places a lot of emphasis on the “free riders” who consume medical services but don’t pay for them. According to the judge, these free rider problems are illuminated by the congressional findings found in the Affordable Care Act (at pp. 39-40):

The findings on this subject could not be clearer: the great majority of the millions of Americans who remain uninsured consume medical services they cannot pay for, often resulting in personal bankruptcy. In fact, the ACA’s findings state that “62% of all personal bankruptcies are caused in part by medical expenses.” ACA § 1501(a)(2)(G), as amended by § 10106. Of even greater significance to the national economy is the fact that these uninsured individuals are, in fact, shifting the uncompensated costs of those services–which totaled $43 billion in 2008–onto other health care market participants, as well as federal and state governments and American taxpayers. See ACA §§ 1501(a)(2)(F), (G),as amended by § 10106; Thomas More Law Ctr., 720 F.Supp.2d at 894.

Because of this cost-shifting effect, the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage. According to Congress, the uncompensated costs of caring for the uninsured are passed on by health care providers to private insurers, which in turn pass on the cost to purchasers of health insurance. “This cost shifting increases family premiums by on average over $1,000 a year.” ACA §1501(a)(2)(F), as amended by § 10106. Thus, the aggregate effect on interstate commerce of the decisions of individuals to forgo insurance is very substantial.

There are many problems with these “findings” chief among which is an innumeracy problem. According to the first two quoted sentences, we are supposed to infer that 62% of all personal bankruptcies are made up of those “who remain uninsured” and “consume medical services they cannot pay for.” Indeed, according to Kessler’s understanding of the findings, the foregoing population is the “great majority of Americans who remain uninsured.” The only problem is, even if we assume that the 62% statistic is correct (which is a stretch), the number of personal bankruptcies every year does not even reach 2 million. Indeed, 2009 saw personal bankruptcies soar by 32% … to 1.41 million. Sixty-two percent of that is just 874,200, which is far, far fewer people than the “great majority of the millions of Americans who remain uninsured.”

(2) Another glaring issue is that the “cost-shifting” complained of is entirely the fault of the federal government, not “free riders,” thanks to Congress passing EMTALA in 1986, pursuant to which practically every hospital in the nation was forced to accept any and every patient who requested “emergency services.” In short, Congress created the free riders with this legislation.

Now let’s follow the logic here: (a) hospitals refuse to treat patients who can’t afford their medical services, therefore Congress must force hospitals to treat regardless of ability to pay (i.e. costs shifted to hospitals); (b) Patients who can’t afford the medical services, but who hospitals must treat, raise costs of medical services, which are mostly paid by insurers who raise their rates and pass them on to paying patients (i.e costs shifted to service-providers, then insurers, then paying patients); (c) insurance costs are entirely too high because uninsured patients, who can’t afford insurance or medical services, but whom hospitals must treat anyway, which drives up the costs of services and therefore the costs of insurance, and therefore Congress must force everyone to buy insurance (i.e. costs shifted from paying patients to those who can’t afford services or insurance); (d) because some people can’t afford insurance, they must be subsidized in their mandated purchase of insurance by taxpayers (i.e. costs re-shifted back to paying patients).

Putting it all together, according to Kessler’s opinion, Congress must be able to force individuals to purchase insurance because individuals who can’t afford insurance, but still consume health services (thanks to Congress), are causing the health insurance market to become distorted. (Oh, and by the way, those who can afford insurance are going to have to subsidize those who can’t and are therefore responsible for this whole mess in the first place.) Does that make any sense?

(3) The one other thing that really struck me as worrisome is Kessler’s emphasis on the infamous Wickard v. Filburn case (at p. 40):

In this case, the link [between the activity and the market being regulated] is strikingly similar to that described in Wickard: individuals are actively choosing to remain outside of a market for a particular commodity, and, as a result, Congress’s efforts to stabilize prices for that commodity are thwarted. As Wickard demonstrates, the effects of such market-distorting behavior are sufficiently related to interstate commerce to justify Congress’s efforts to stabilize the price of a commodity through its Commerce Clause power.

This is the reasoning underpinning Kessler’s holding (at p. 38) that “[b]oth the decision to purchase health insurance and its flip side–the decision not to purchase health insurance–therefore relate to the consumption of a commodity: a health insurance policy.” In this view, any decision made about an arguably economic subject, even the decision not to participate in a market concerning that economic subject, is subject to regulation by Congress.

Accordingly, should Congress decide to regulate the market for U.S automobiles, your decision to not purchase a vehicle can be regulated and even penalized by federal law. In fact, if Kessler’s view of the Constitution is correct, then Congress could require that you purchase a GM or Chrysler vehicle in order to stabilize the price of that commodity. Or perhaps, because of free rider problems, you can be penalized for choosing not to have children who would grow up, enter the labor force and pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes necessary to support you in your older years. If Kessler is correct, then the only limit on Congressional power is the inability to conjure up a market to be regulated, since any decision (participate/not participate) will have a substantial effect on that market when considered in the aggregate.

I would submit that this cannot be the correct view. The Commerce Clause power has already been distended far beyond what was intended when it written. If the Supreme Court adopts this decision, or something similar, the Congress would effectively have carte blanche to regulate whatever it desires.

In any event, those three things stood out to me. I’ll try to have some more on the opinion itself by tonight.


Climate scientist concludes “hide the decline” done to dishonestly hide data that didn’t support AGW conclusion

You may not know who Judith Curry is, but in my estimation she’s someone to be listened too in the world of climate change.   She’s a professor and the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

She’s written a piece that’s been posted on the Climate Depot entitled “Hiding the Decline” which is a must read for anyone who has been following “Climate-gate” and especially for those ready to brush off the criticism that has been leveled at the warmists who were, in fact, engaged in hiding some data.

The question I am asking myself is what is my role as a scientist in challenging misuses of science (as per Beddington’s challenge)?  Why or why not should I personally get involved in this?   Is hiding the decline dishonest and/or bad science?

She concludes, after working through her questions, that it is both dishonest and bad science.

It is obvious that there has been deletion of adverse data in figures shown IPCC AR3 and AR4, and the 1999 WMO document.  Not only is this misleading, but it is dishonest (I agree with Muller on this one).  The authors defend themselves by stating that there has been no attempt to hide the divergence problem in the literature, and that the relevant paper was referenced.  I infer then that there is something in the IPCC process or the authors’ interpretation of the IPCC process  (i.e. don’t dilute the message) that corrupted the scientists into deleting the adverse data in these diagrams.

[Steve] McIntyre’s analysis is sufficiently well documented that it is difficult to imagine that his analysis is incorrect in any significant way.  If his analysis is incorrect, it should be refuted.  I would like to know what the heck Mann, Briffa, Jones et al. were thinking when they did this and why they did this, and how they can defend this, although the emails provide pretty strong clues.  Does the IPCC regard this as acceptable?  I sure don’t.

Can anyone defend “hide the decline”?  I would much prefer to be wrong in my interpretation, but I fear that I am not.

That’s a pretty definitive conclusion.  Take the time to read the whole thing … her reasoning and logic are solid and they support her conclusions.   They also point out what many of us concluded some time ago – at least that group of “climate scientists” appear to have fudged data, hidden data or simply left it out to better use what was left to support their preconceived conclusions.  In anyone’s book that should be a scandal.

Curry invites comment and rebuttal and while there’s plenty of commentary there’s very little in the way of reasonable or scientifically based rebuttal in the portion of the commentary I scanned.  

Her piece, at least for me, puts the final nail in the “hide the decline” bunch’s coffin.  The case she makes points to an obvious attempt to deceive.   And that is not what science is or should be about.  Make sure you read the whole thing.

~McQ


Dems start Super PAC. So much for the uproar over campaign finance reform and Citizen’s United

Remember all the hand wringing by Democrats about the overturning of campaign finance reform by the Supreme Court in the Citizen’s United case?   Remember the rebuke President Obama delivered during his State of the Union address which was met by a standing ovation from Congressional Democrats and a wince by Supreme Court justice Sam Alito?

Remember the harsh words thrown around like "fascism" and the attack on corporations which claimed they’d buy elections in the wake of that decision.  And, to complete our trip down memory lane, remember the DISCLOSE act Democrats came up with which they claimed would ensure corporations acted in a way Democrats approved and weren’t able to pump unlimited anonymous money into campaigns?

Well forget all that – Democrats didn’t really mean it and besides, they now have … Majority PAC.  POLITICO reports:

Top Democratic operatives are quietly building an aggressive campaign machine to battle huge Republican third-party spending and sway critical Senate races in 2012.

The strategists, including pros like longtime advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are putting the finishing touches on a group called the Majority PAC, a “super PAC” that can raise unlimited money to attack or support candidates. It is modeled on the third-party operation, Patriot Majority PAC, which ran bruising TV ads against tea party candidates like Reid’s opponent, Sharron Angle, last year and mocked one of his prospective challengers, Sue Lowden, for suggesting she would be open to bartering chickens for health care.

The Majority PAC’s emergence comes at a pivotal time for Senate Democrats. Not only do they need to defend 23 seats to Republicans’ 10 this cycle, they also must woo Democratic donors alongside President Barack Obama, who is preparing for his own reelection bid in 2012.

The all-star team, already mapping out prospective targets, could emerge as the key attacker of Republicans in Democrats’ battle to hang onto the Senate in 2012.

While the Majority PAC will be required to disclose its donors, it will be affiliated with an organization that isn’t. So at least some of the money could hail from anonymous donors, a tactic Democrats bitterly decried last year.

Principles are lovely things except when they get in the way of politics.  Corporations are evil things, unless you want their money to win in politics.  And anonymous donors and unlimited money – well let’s just say that maybe opposition to Citizen’s United was a little over wrought -  now that Dems have had time to rethink this.

Hypocrisy?  Perish the thought, and revisit the point about principles.

~McQ

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