Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

The Magic Of Paying For Healthcare

I‘m so glad that the Democrats have settled on how to pay for their latest government boondoggle even if it is the same old formula:

House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.

The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.

It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.

Tax the rich and squeeze the health care industry with lower Medicare payments. Sounds like a very “healthy” and stable way of paying for “health care reform” doesn’t it?  A perfectly sure way to accomplish the stated Obama priorities of “expanding health insurance coverage to virtually all Americans and curtailing the steep rise in the cost of medical care while improving patient outcomes.”

Expand coverage, cut payments and improve outcomes.

Yup – “I believe!”

Questions and Observations #4

For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” stands for.

  • I thought one of the things the Obama administration was promising it wouldn’t do was use signing statements to ignore the law? Apparently not.
  • It would appear that a witch-hunt for “extremists” in the military is building. First we had the DHS warning claiming veterans might be recruited by right-wing extremist organizations. Then Alcee Hastings proposes law (a law already on the books, btw) to prohibit “extremists” from joining the military. Now the Southern Poverty Law Center is asking Congress to investigate the military based on a couple of postings it found on a suspect website.  The premise, of course, is because we now have a black Democratic president, there is more of a threat from such extremists who might be in the military.
  • Government’s attempt to regulate every aspect of your life takes another step in that direction, but in an unexpected area – licensing yoga teachers. Of course, government knows so much about yoga to begin with. In fact, all this will do is add cost and paperwork to something which is at the moment, self-regulated by the market.  What it will do for yoga is present an government imposed bar to entry.  And, of course, create another revenue stream where none previously existed.
  • Electric cars? The panacea? Not according to the Government Accounting Office which claims, at best, they’d reduce CO2 emissions by 4 – 5% but would see that negated by increased travel because users would drive more believing their use isn’t a threat to the environment. And then there’s the lithium problem.
  • David Brooks sat through an entire dinner with a Republican Senator’s hand on his inner thigh? Really? Why? And what does that say about David Brooks?
  • Corporations which have taken taxpayer money are on notice not to book meetings at fancy resorts. But government (which exists on nothing but taxpayer money)? No problem.
  • Mark Steyn wonders if the era of “soft despotism” has begun here? It’s a good description of what is going on I think.  For the record, Obama isn’t the initiator of it, he’s just an accelerant. The only problem with “soft despotism” is it usually turns to the garden-variety hard despotism after a while.
  • Timing is everything, isn’t it? In the midst of the recession, the federal minimum wage is scheduled to increase by 70 cents an hour to $7.25 on July 24th. That’ll certainly help the recovery and create jobs, won’t it?

I’ll add more as I find them – check back throughout the day.


Gird Thy Self – With Health Care “Reform”, The Tax Man Cometh

It should be abundantly clear by now, to even the slowest among us, that the promise that 95% of Americans wouldn’t see their taxes raised by one dime during an Obama administration was a flat out lie.

Of course, given the promise of health care and the cap-and-tax proposal pushed by candidate and now President Obama, the 95% should have been able to figure out the lie well before the election. But they didn’t.

The Heritage Foundation has laid out the proposed taxes Congress is looking at to fund this 1.5 Trillion “Health Care Reform” legislation being proposed (note: consider this 1.5 Trillion estimate in light of the Medicare estimate back in the ’60s. It was a low ball load of blarney then and I have little doubt that this estimate is a low ball one as well).

Proposed tax hikes in this category[tax the rich – ed.] include: 1) capping the value of itemized deductions including gifts to charities; 2) a 3% surtax on households earning more than $250,000; and 3) a millionaires tax.

But the left is beginning to figure out that you can only squeeze so much revenue from class warfare taxation. So Congress is also considering a slew of other taxes that will, again, force Obama to break his not tax hike promise. These include: 1) a tax on soda; 2) a tax on beer; 3) an increase in employer and employee payroll taxes; 4) a flat tax on health insurance companies; 5) broaden the Medicare tax on investment income; 6) an employer mandate; and 7) a value added tax on everything but food, housing, and Medicare. And we’re sure we missed some.

There’s no other way to “save money on health care” than to tax the hell out of those who will be stuck with the system they cobble together.

Then add cap-and-trade’s impact (and taxes) to the mix and explain how an economy already reeling with a loss of 15 Trillion in wealth is going to recover when more and more of the private sector’s money (and wealth) goes to government?


F-35: Last Manned Fighter?

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seems to think that may be the case.

So, what the aviation side of this is, I think, is very much focused on this change. And I think we’re at the beginning of this change. I mean, there are those that see JSF as the last manned fighter — or fighter-bomber, or jet. And I’m one of — you know, I’m one that’s inclined to believe that. I don’t know if that’s exactly right. But, this all speaks to the change that goes out, you know, many — obviously, decades, including how much unmanned we’re going to have and how it’s going to be resourced.

I’m not one inclined to believe that necessarily (at least not with the technology today). Although I did read that the Air Force will, this year for the first time, train more UAV pilots than fighter pilots, I think there will always be a role for fighter pilots in combat. Why? Because of the air superiority role. UAVs – drones if you prefer – can fulfill the close air support role, and even a tactical and strategic bombing role. But, at least with the technology we have today, I simply can’t see an unmanned “fighter” having the advantage over a manned fighter in the air superiority role.

And without air superiority, you don’t fly UAVs.

Here’s someone who agrees with Mullen:

I guess I’m with Mullen; there are currently jobs that manned warplanes can do that drones can’t perform (human pilots are more visually capable than even the best drones, for example), but a) drones are getting better, b) drones are so much cheaper, and c)taking the pilot out means that you can do a lot of funky, interesting things with an advanced airframe. This isn’t to say that the F-35 (or even the F-22) have no role; they’ll continue to be useful frames for the jobs they’re intended to do for a substantial period of time. But I don’t think there’s a next “next generation” of fighter aircraft.

Addressing b) above, things like this don’t help the manned fighter side.  But then “cheap” doesn’t always translate into “most effective” either.



Obama Administration Sees Acquittal As No Bar To Further Jail Time

A very interesting exchange. Below is a transcript from the recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the legal treatment of terrorism suspects. It is between Sen Mel Martinez and Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson. Don’t forget that Johnson’s remarks reflect the current administration’s policy concerning these suspects [emphasis added]:

Martinez: If we are doing Article III [civilian] trials…we then also are talking about closing Guantanamo by the end of the year. There’s no way for 220-some-odd people to be prosecuted through some proceeding, whether Article III or military commissions, in that time frame. So where will they then be? I guess they’ll be here. And what about those who are acquitted? Where do they go? What happens to them?

Johnson: You’re correct. You can’t prosecute some significant subset of 229 people before January. So those that we think are prosecutable and should be detained, we will continue to detain, whether it’s at Guantanamo or someplace else. The question of what happens if there’s an acquittal…I think that as a matter of legal authority, if you have the authority under the laws of war to detain someone…it is true irrespective of what happens on the prosecution side.

Martinez: So therefore the prosecution becomes a moot point?

Johnson: Oh no, I’m not saying that at all. You raised the issue of what happens if there’s an acquittal, and in my judgment, as a matter of legal authority…if a review panel has determined this person is a security threat…and should not be released, if for some reason he is not convicted for a lengthy prison sentence, then as a matter of legal authority I think it’s our view that we would have the ability to detain him.

I’m completely in the dark as to how this administration, after all its condemnation and demonization of the previous administration is one iota different when it comes to the question of these detainees.

Again, it seems more like form over substance. It is about “Gitmo”, not rights for detainees or “fair trials” or whatever, is it? It’s about closing down a place. The detainees, however – except for those vacationing in Bermuda – are essentially in the very same place that they were in when the previous administration was in power. In fact, it could be argued that they had a better chance with the previous administration. Although they were slow in getting the tribunals going, I don’t recall any mention of ignoring an acquittal and keeping the detainee in prison anyway.

Due process? We don’t need no stinkin’ due process.

I seem to remember the left was ready to impeach Bush and put him on trial as a war criminal for this sort of thinking.

Let freedom ring.


A “Climate Change” Reminder

The year? 1972.

The problem?

Global cooling:

In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972 record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada’s wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting and may well bring a disappointingly small harvest. Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs. A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West, while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone’s recollection.

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

The reason(s)?

Sunspot Cycle. The changing weather is apparently connected with differences in the amount of energy that the earth’s surface receives from the sun. Changes in the earth’s tilt and distance from the sun could, for instance, significantly increase or decrease the amount of solar radiation falling on either hemisphere—thereby altering the earth’s climate. Some observers have tried to connect the eleven-year sunspot cycle with climate patterns, but have so far been unable to provide a satisfactory explanation of how the cycle might be involved.

Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin’s Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth.

And the doomsday warning:

University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the continuing drought and the recent failure of the Russian harvest gave the world a grim premonition of what might happen. Warns Hare: “I don’t believe that the world’s present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row.”

Science and consensus all agreed. And man? Man was throwing up too much “dust and other particles”. And obviously, during this period there was hardly any industry and we had the most fuel efficient transportation possible.

But in ’72 they had at least a historical appreciation for what had happened in the earth’s past:

The earth’s current climate is something of an anomaly; in the past 700,000 years, there have been at least seven major episodes of glaciers spreading over much of the planet. Temperatures have been as high as they are now only about 5% of the time. But there is a peril more immediate than the prospect of another ice age.

It also appears, at least then, that they thought warmer was probably much better. In 1972, Chicken Little wore a parka.


All Quiet On The Western Front

In Iran, the “pro-democracy” element remains under threat of government violence:

Seeking to pre-empt a revival of street protests in Tehran after days of apparent quiescence, Iranian authorities told opponents that a planned demonstration Thursday would be met with a “crushing response” and was illegal.

Protesters had planned to rally on Thursday on the 10th anniversary of violent confrontations when protesting students were beaten and jailed. The protests could rekindle the demonstrations that followed the disputed June 12 elections, provoking a sweeping official crackdown.

Iranian officials said Wednesday that they had released 2,000 people who were arrested for participating in the demonstrations, but continued holding l 500 prisoners who would be put on trial, according to the state-run Press TV news service.

Meanwhile in Italy, the G8 managed this “crushing response” to the Iranian government’s violence, killings and arrests:

G8 foreign ministers have managed to find common ground on the situation in Iran. The joint statement says the G8 regrets the actions by Iranian authorities after the presidential election, which killed civilians.


Meanwhile our Secretary of State will be futzing around with some constitutionally deposed would-be dictator from Honduras.


The EPA Says Cap-And-Trade Will Have No Effect Without China

But Energy Secretary Chu, when asked if he agreed with an EPA chart which depicted that, said, without explanation, that he did not:

During a hearing today in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, EPA Administrator Jackson confirmed an EPA analysis showing that unilateral U.S. action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have no effect on climate. Moreover, when presented with an EPA chart depicting that outcome, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he disagreed with EPA’s analysis.

“I believe the central parts of the [EPA] chart are that U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels,” Administrator Jackson said.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) presented the chart to both Jackson and Secretary Chu, which shows that meaningful emissions reductions cannot occur without aggressive action by China, India, and other developing countries. “I am encouraged that Administrator Jackson agrees that unilateral action by the U.S. will be all cost for no climate gain,” Sen. Inhofe said. “With China and India recently issuing statements of defiant opposition to mandatory emissions controls, acting alone through the job-killing Waxman-Markey bill would impose severe economic burdens on American consumers, businesses, and families, all without any impact on climate.”

You can watch Jackson confirm it and Chu deny it here:

Click through at the first link to see the chart – it’s rather hard to read, but the EPA analysis depicted on it essentially says what Inhofe points out – that without China and India and other developing countries, cap-and-trade will have no beneficial effect on the overall reduction of CO2 emissions.

Of course what’s most interesting is to watch “Mr. Science”, Secretary Chu, reject the EPA’s analysis without offering a single justification for such rejection.

Science over ideology, or so it was promised. It sure isn’t evident in Chu’s one word answer to the question posed to him.


Was Colin Powell Wrong?

Colin Powell said that it appeared to him that Americans not only wanted more government services, but were willing to pay for them. Michale Barone, who is probably one of the better poll interpreters out there, looks at a gaggle of them and isn’t so sure Powell is right (Powell has since become concerned with Obama’s expansion of government and spending):

Last month’s Washington Post/ABC poll reported that Americans favor smaller government with fewer services to larger government with more services by a 54 to 41 percent margin — a slight uptick since 2004. The percentage of Independents favoring small government rose to 61 percent from 52 percent in 2008. The June NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that, even amid recession, 58 percent worry more about keeping the budget deficit down versus 35 percent worried more about boosting the economy. A similar question in the June CBS/New York Times poll showed a 52 to 41 percent split.

Other polls show a resistance to specific Democratic proposals. Pollster Whit Ayres reports that 58 percent of voters agree that reforming health care, while important, should be done without raising taxes or increasing the deficit. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 56 percent of Americans are unwilling to pay more in taxes or utility rates to generate cleaner energy and fight global warming.

Of course the fun of all this is to try and determine what all of that means. Analysis is then turned into political action – or so it is supposed to go. But the problem is determining what “Americans favor smaller government with fewer services” really means. Like “hope and change” everyone has their own idea of what “smaller government” is, and my guess is it isn’t much smaller than it is now if at all. Instead, poll respondents may be saying they don’t want it to get much bigger.

Probably the most interesting trend in these cited polls is the movement of Independents away from what can only be favoring a big government Democrat. Anyone who actually paid attention to the campaign of Barack Obama and didn’t realize he was a guy who was fully invested in big government and sweeping federal programs shouldn’t have voted.

Reality is here now. All the “hope and change” hoopla has finally boiled down to intrusive and very expensive government programs such as cap-and-trade and health care reform. The election bill is coming due. Yet, if these polls are to be believed, the majority of Americans – while still favoring Obama personally with high approval ratings – are not at all happy with the direction the Democrats are taking the country.

This apparent recoil against big government policies has not gone unnoticed by Americans. Gallup reported earlier this week that 39 percent of Americans say their views on political issues have grown more conservative, while only 18 say they have grown more liberal. Moderates agreed by a 33 to 18 percent margin.

What has driven much of this shift in opinion is the economic downturn and the problem the average American has understanding the huge deficit spending policies of this administration. He certainly understands that the same policies applied to his household would be an unmitigated disaster. So common sense opposes deficit spending, especially at the unheard of levels this administration has committed itself too. Thus far, too, the economy hasn’t responded, and job losses continue unabated. As with all politics, the proof of any policy is in its execution, and the execution of the stimulus has been awful, to be charitable.

That leads to a loss of confidence. But it also leads to a little soul searching on the part of those who’ve agreed, with their vote, to give the Democrats a chance. They’re now beginning to wonder if they made a mistake. The economy is tanking, unemployment is 2.5 points above where they said it would be unless they passed the stimulus, and they’re talking about tacking two monstrous tax and spend programs (cap-and-trade and health care) on top of it all.

No wonder the nation is growing more “conservative”. Of course, again, it is up to the political analysts to try to determine what “more conservative” really means and convert that to votes for their side. I have every confidence that the GOP won’t have a clue how to do either the analysis or the conversion, but these polls seem to indicate that there is a lot for the right to exploit politically. However, distracted by the Palin/Sanford/Ensign nonsense, and without a strong voice to make their case, I’m sure they’ll miss this opportunity completely.

That’s not to say the Democrats won’t self-destruct as they’ve always done in the past, however, Republicans need to rally and stop both cap-and-trade and health care “reform” in their tracks. It seems, if these polls are to be believed, that they have the support of the public. The question is, do they have the ability to form the necessary political coalitions to stop this huge expansion of government in Congress or not? If not, taking it apart later isn’t as easy as one thinks. Very few programs, once passed into law, are ever discontinued at a later date.

However, the unfortunate part is if the GOP does successfully stop this legislation, they’ll be roundly demonized by the left, something the left does very well and the GOP defends against very poorly. Their inclination, then, is compromise. And that means accepting the premise the Dems are floating but trying to make its impact smaller and less intrusive. That, most likely, will be what we’ll end up with – and if so, the GOP will deservedly be tagged as a “bi-partisan” part of the disaster that follows and will have killed their only possible electoral advantage.

If the GOP wants back in this thing, they’ve got to assume Colin Powell was wrong (and the polls seem to suggest that), reject the premises contained in both cap-and-trade and health care reform completely and unify as the “party of smaller and less intrusive government”. That’s how they regain power. To retain it, however, they’ll have to walk the smaller government walk instead of, as they did last time, becoming Democrat-lite. And that’s where they always fail.


Quote of the Day

Paul Krugman whining about how the views of those who are “pro-stimulus” are not covered by the media:

One of the mysteries of the way issues are covered in much of the news media is how certain views get ruled “out of the mainstream” and just don’t get covered — even when many well-informed people hold those views.

This, of course, after calling climate skeptics “traitors to the planet“. He has a point, he just doesn’t know how emphatically he’s made it himself in the past.