Free Markets, Free People

Freedom and Liberty

CBO budget forecast? Debt, debt and more debt

CBO has extrapolated the budget for the government out to 2039 and using current law paint a picture of the same old crap with a continuing rise in public debt:

Note that the spending an revenue lines are essentially as close as they’re going to get this year, with spending outpacing revenue and widening the gap from now on.

Oh, and this little goodie:

  • Federal spending for Social Security and the government’s major health care programs—Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act—would rise sharply, to a total of 14 percent of GDP by 2039, twice the 7 percent average seen over the past 40 years. That boost in spending is expected to occur because of the aging of the population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and an expansion of federal health care programs.

So much for “and we’ll save every family $2,500 a year on their health care insurance”.   Costs aren’t going anywhere but up.  Of course, you can count on the propagandists to now claim they’ll be going up slower than had they let the market work.  As with most of the “facts” these yahoos throw around, it will be a baseless claim meant to excuse their failure.

And as the debt piles up even more, so does the amount of money it takes to pay the interest:

  • The government’s net interest payments would grow to 4½ percent of GDP by 2039, compared with an average of 2 percent over the past four decades. Net interest payments would be larger than that average mainly because federal debt would be much larger.

No kidding.  Which means:

  • In contrast, total spending on everything other than Social Security, the major health care programs, and net interest payments would decline to 7 percent of GDP by 2039—well below the 11 percent average of the past 40 years and a smaller share of the economy than at any time since the late 1930s.

Can anyone yet guess the solution to this problem?  That’s right, is some form or another, a tax increase.  One of the reasons a carbon tax is so popular among some politicians is it taxes thin air and creates a revenue stream out of it.

This is the continuing situation the incompetents who run this government (and yes that includes both parties) have managed to produce for this once proud nation.  A debtor nation which is slowly dying under the weight of its own debt, brought to us by spendthrift politicians who will all deny they’re the problem.

But that single picture tells a different story doesn’t it?

Here’s our future:

  • The large amount of federal borrowing would draw money away from private investment in productive capital in the long term, because the portion of people’s savings used to buy government securities would not be available to finance private investment. The result would be a smaller stock of capital and lower output and income than would otherwise be the case, all else being equal. (Despite those reductions, the continued growth of productivity would make output and income per person, adjusted for inflation, higher in the future than they are now.)
  • Federal spending on interest payments would rise, thus requiring higher taxes, lower spending for benefits and services, or both to achieve any chosen targets for budget deficits and debt.
  • The large amount of debt would restrict policymakers’ ability to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges, such as economic downturns or financial crises. As a result, those challenges would tend to have larger negative effects on the economy and on people’s well-being than they would otherwise. The large amount of debt could also compromise national security by constraining defense spending in times of international crisis or by limiting the country’s ability to prepare for such a crisis.

Brilliant!

~McQ

US government data shows no warming in US for last decade

So, when you hear Obama and the alarmist bleating incessantly about the crisis of “global warming” or “climate change” or whatever phrase they choose to characterize the hoax they’re trying to perpetrate on the people of the country, ensure you point out that not even their own data supports their claim:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least the past decade. The NOAA temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming.

Responding to widespread criticism that its temperature station readings were corrupted by poor siting issues and suspect adjustments, NOAA established a network of 114 pristinely sited temperature stations spread out fairly uniformly throughout the United States. Because the network, known as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN), is so uniformly and pristinely situated, the temperature data require no adjustments to provide an accurate nationwide temperature record. USCRN began compiling temperature data in January 2005. Now, nearly a decade later, NOAA has finally made the USCRN temperature readings available.

According to the USCRN temperature readings, U.S. temperatures are not rising at all – at least not since the network became operational 10 years ago. Instead, the United States has cooled by approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is more than half of the claimed global warming of the twentieth century.

But, but, that’s only the US … yup, and that supports the observation that globally there has been no warming for the past 17 years.  The models are wrong.  Just flat wrong and it’s time we started saying that.  There is no credence to be found in their predictions and certainly nothing to support the alarmist’s claims.

Carly Fiorino, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a senate candidate remarked this weekend on the cobbled up “war on women”.  On CNN, she pulled out a fortune she’d gotten from a fortune cookie and said:

“‘Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause,’” Fiorina read. “And that’s exactly right. The War On Women is shameless, baseless propaganda. There’s no fact to it. But it’s worked because it’s scared women to death. Enough.”

Substitute the alarmist’s “climate change” for “war on women” and it describes precisely what is going on with them.  They have no case, only propaganda, and their only “argument” is to call the other side names and call for violent action against them.

Meanwhile, the case against the alarmist cause just keeps on getting stronger and stronger, not that it will slow them down or cause them to decrease the volume of screaming.  It’s not about science, it’s abotu power and money … and they want both.  More power over the way you live and more money to use against you to enforce their edicts.

~McQ

How centralized bureaucracies work

In another indicator of how low a priority veterans have with this administration, a whistleblower in Atlanta has revealed that VA employees were switched from processing VA applications to those of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Scott Davis told the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“We don’t discuss veterans. We do not work for veterans. That is something that I learned after working there. Our customer is the VA central office, the White House and the Congress. The veterans are not our priority. So whatever the initiatives are or the big ticket items, that is what we focus on.”

He later appeared on the Neil Cavuto show and claimed that 17,000 applications for VA Healthcare were destroyed.  He also said  they’re “also looking into a backlog of over 600,000 pending applications for VA Healthcare.” Davis said the applications were purged as a way to deal with pressure from Washington D.C.

Davis: What I think happened, Neil, is that there was pressure by people in Washington for us to hit our numbers. You’ve heard a lot about the 14-day turn around time for the hospitals. But what most people don’t know is that there’s a five-day turn around time for health applications. And if we don’t hit that five-day turn around time, it affects performance goals for people in senior leadership positions.

Cavuto: So if you don’t have that, and you’re not paying that out, it looks like you’re meeting your numbers and then some, right?

Davis: Absolutely. But what also happens, Neil, is that we’re currently neglecting not only the right thing to do, which is to process applications, not delete them. We have a huge system integrity issue at VA. For example, the VA right now can’t even tell the investigators what happened to those applications, because they can’t verify where they are, what happened to them, if they were deleted, why were they deleted, and why there was no paperwork showing the justifications for those deletions.

Cavuto: We’ve asked for a statement out of the VA on this and we have yet to get one, Scott. I’m trying then to give them the benefit of the doubt here. It seems like a crazy situation. Did you or any of your co-workers ever get so overwhelmed — not you specifically — but they just say the heck with it, more files, more applications, just dump them in the trash, we’re overwhelmed. Do you think that has gone on?

Davis: I know that there was rumors that suspect those activities before I started work thing in 2011. What I can tell you is that there’s so much pressure on the employees to get stuff done so management can meet goals, it’s easy to make mistakes, it’s easy to have mishaps. What happens is, instead of the VA focusing on doing what’s right for our nation’s veterans — meaning taking time, processing each application diligently and appropriately — pressure is placed on front line employees to overwork themselves, rush through the application process, to hit goals for members of management.

Cavuto: When you say to hit goals, is the goal a dollar goal or is it get the applications complete? Sometimes keep on top of this so there are no delays, or is it keep on top of it and get rid of something that could hurt our numbers?

Davis: Well, for what I’ve witnessed, it’s based on a performance goal.

Cavuto: How is that performance measured?

Davis: That performance is measured based on our ability to turn around an application from beginning to end within a five-day turn around. There’s an acceptable percentage that we have to have, which is in excess of 80% for all applications that comes into that office. What you find is that there’s extensive pressure on the staff to process applications, to focus our attention to applications based on specific campaigns. For example, I shared with your producer that we actually put incoming applications aside so we could focus on the ACA related applications that came in over last summer. That’s wrong. We should treat each veteran equally and focus on applications, as they come in, not because of special campaigns coming out of D.C.

His statement is precisely how veteran’s applications should be treated.  But they weren’t because of partisan politics and the heavy hand of the administration.   Naturally the VA  bureaucracy cooperated.  When your “customer” is Washington DC and not the veteran then that’s unsurprising.

This is outrageous, but my guess is, as they dig deeper into the VA, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

This is the face of government run health care.  It is fair warning.  Just as Soviet bureaucracies fudged whatever numbers necessary to “meet” the government’s “5 year plans”, the government bureaucracies here are not above doing the same.  The bonus system along with identification of Washington as their “customer” was all the incentive the bureaucrats needed to let veterans down … again.

~McQ

The bureaucratic state

While the enemies of freedom certainly are made up of politicians who would limit or take away your freedom, probably the most insidious of those enemies is the bureaucrat. As we’ve seen for decades, politicians come and go, but bureaucracies run the day to day machine of government. And as we’re seeing right now with the IRS, they’re both unelected and unaccountable, despite the volume of the outrage.

But remember, on the political side of this, one of the goals of the current administration was to help us believe that “big government” was a good thing … much better for many things than the private markets out there. One of the goals of ObamaCare was to take a giant step toward fully government run, single payer health care. But we’ve been feeding you stories for years about how badly the UK’s NHS performs and we’ve also pointed out that theirs isn’t an “exception” to the rule. If there is a rule, it is the rule of bureaucracies which says they exist to expand and protect themselves and really don’t much care about the original mission, in terms of performance. However, they’ll do just about anything to protect themselves. As I pointed out yesterday, the IRS director has committed himself to one of the most improbable stories about the fate of Lois Lerner’s emails since Bill Clinton uttered his infamous “I didn’t have sex with that woman …”. Everyone in the room knew he had. Everyone. And everyone in the Congressional hearing, including the witness, knew that his excuse for the loss of those emails was bogus.

Back to the point about “big government” being the best way to go and the liberal wet dream of government run health care (single payer) becoming reality. If, in fact, we want the American version of the NHS, we simply need to look at the only government run health care system in the America – VA (yes, I realize the military also runs a “single payer” system, but it isn’t set up for long care, etc – it’s a necessity that goes with the job). And what do we find in VA? Well check this out and tell me it doesn’t remind you of some of the horror stories you’ve seen from NHS. As you’ll see, it could very well be the NHS. As you’ll also see, the fault lies where? With the uncaring bureaucracy that has grown up around this system and its abuses are now coming to light:

Two psychiatric patients at a veterans facility in Brockton received no regular evaluations of their condition for years, part of a “troubling pattern of deficient patient care” that federal investigators say they have confirmed at veterans health care facilities nationwide.

One of the neglected patients at the Brockton Community Living Center who had been admitted for “significant and chronic mental health issues” was living in the 106-bed facility for eight years before he received his first psychiatric evaluation, investigators reported.

The other unidentified patient, although he was classified as 100 percent mentally disabled due to his military service, had only a single “psychiatric note” placed in his medical file between 2005 and 2013.

Let me make a prediction – as they get more and more into this, they’ll find this is just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”. Of course, making such a prediction is certainly no high-risk venture.  Just look around you and take a gander at how well Leviathan is doing on almost any front.  Let’s just say “poorly” would be a compliment.  Justice?  Trashed.  Political influence of agencies?  See IRS.  See the misnamed Justice Department.  Bureaucratic overreach – see EPA and others.  Criminal incompetence?  See VA.   Etc.

Americans are going to have to make a choice and they’re going to have to make it quickly.  The bureaucratic state or the state of freedom.  Some would argue that we’re at the tipping point.  Some argue we’re beyond it.  That we’re looking at our future and the future is all down hill as the bureaucratic state transitions from servant to master.  Unelected, unaccountable and, frankly, uncaring – except to further its existence.

~McQ

Bald faced lies are okay if you’re from the government

The arrogant jerk that is the commissioner of the IRS typifies the type person who hasn’t and never will understand the term ‘public servant’.  He’s a bureaucrat, through and through, and he runs an agency which would never accept the asinine answer to the lost emails that he’s proffered to Congress. But he expects you to accept it without question because, well, because he said so.

Anyone with the IQ of a tea cup knows that emails don’t just reside on “hard drives”. They know that servers are involved. And competent companies and bureaucracies use systems that are redundant and back each other up (like RAID). No company OR agency of any size or worth would be without such a system.

But the arrogant prick that is the director of the IRS sits smugly before Congress and takes offense at being called a liar when he puts the excuse forward that he has. John Hideraker over at PowerLine points out something that you might not have known:

It has emerged over the last few days that at the time of Lois Lerner’s hard drive crash, the IRS had a contract with a company called Sonasoft (“Email archiving done right.”) Sonasoft promoted its relationship with the IRS in 2009: “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?”

So why doesn’t that solve the problem of the missing IRS emails? Because the IRS canceled its contract with Sonasoft in September 2011, a couple of months after Lerner’s hard drive crash. Everyone seems to assume that Sonasoft would have deleted whatever information it had gotten from the IRS at that time. That is certainly a logical assumption; in fact, it would make sense to require Sonasoft to get rid of any customer’s data once the business relationship ends. But it wouldn’t hurt for a House committee to lay a subpoena on Sonasoft to learn more about the IRS’s dealings with that company and make certain that it doesn’t still have any IRS records.

Two observations about the Sonasoft story: first, the IRS’s cancellation of the Sonasoft contract occurred in the context of a $1.8 billion annual budget for information services, plus $330 million annually for “business systems modernization.” All of that, and the IRS couldn’t afford an email archiving service? Not only that, it had to recycle its backup tapes to save money? Ridiculous.

Sure is convenient though, isn’t it?

An analogy as to how outrageous and unbelievable this all is comes from Kyle Smith:

To understand the latest outrage in the IRS scandal, mull over what might happen if regulators found significant evidence to implicate Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in an insider trading scheme.

Let’s say Blankfein asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions. Say Goldman was subpoenaed to provide all of Blankfein’s e-mails. Goldman replied that, instead of complying with the subpoena, it was itself reviewing the e-mails in question and was considering which ones to release.

Now imagine that, nearly a year later, Goldman admitted that it had not, in fact, reviewed the e-mails in question, because they had been lost in a computer crash two months before it claimed to be reviewing them. Imagine Goldman also said copies of the e-mails were lost, because while under subpoena it had destroyed the “backup tapes” (whatever those are) that held them and that it had also thrown away Blankfein’s actual hard drive.

The thing about dogs eating homework is, it could actually happen. This can’t. . . . Lerner wouldn’t have pleaded the Fifth unless she had reason to believe that there was potential illegality and it could be tied to her.

This is in-your-face corruption. This is a bureaucracy saying “screw you” and smugly looking on as you voice your outrage knowing full well nothing will happen to them. Unaccountable and unrepentant … the true face of big government.

~McQ

Cantor, cheese and other stuff

So Eric Cantor went down in flames in the Virginia Republican primary I see.  I can’t say I’m the least bit chagrined.  Cantor is the quintessential establishment Republican.  And like most of that ilk, he was more worried about what the press thought of him than doing what was right by his principles.  I notice the media spin doctors are immediately claiming that he really didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration (i.e. a hard lean toward “amnesty” for illegals although he tried to deny it).  After all if they admit that immigration reform was a reason for his defeat, then they have to admit that its dead for this year (as, given this lesson, no Republican running for reelection in the House  – that would be all of them – is going to touch it with a 10 foot pole).  The spin doctors also know that if it is dead for this year, it may be dead, at least in its present form, for good, if Republicans win the Senate.  One also assumes that Republicans are aware of the polls out there that place immigration reform as a low priority issue for voters right now (yeah, surprise, they’re much more interested in jobs and economic growth than illegal aliens).

I think another reason for Cantor’s loss is a deep dissatisfaction with Republican House leadership – such that it is.  Add his lack of popularity within his own district and an acceptable alternative candidate and you have the prefect electoral storm. Finally, Tea Party candidate Dave Brat’s win signaled, much to the annoyance of the left, that the Tea Party is hardly “dead”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the establishment Republicans react to this upset.

On another subject, yesterday we saw where the FDA had unilaterally decided that it might be necessary to ban the centuries old tradition of aging cheese on wooden shelves.  Because, you know, there’s been such an epidemic of sickness from such practices here lately and over the ages. What?  There hasn’t?  There hasn’t been any real problem at all?  However:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

Now that was yesterday.  Today, yeah, its cave in time.  There has been such an outcry from cheese makers, the public and just about anyone else that could find a forum that the FDA is hastily backing down.  Overlawyered brings us up to date:

Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.

In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).

McNeal:

This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…

Yes, true.  But … there’s always a ‘but’, Overlawyered points out something that is true and often overlooked.  You have to be willing to fight for it all, not just the popular stuff.  You have to be willing the challenge all the nonsense bureaucrats put out there:

There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry againstCPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youthmotorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.

Absolutely true.  I think of those who want to drink raw milk for instance.  Where does the government get off saying you can’t drink something you choose to drink if you’re willing to take the risk and suffer any consequences?  Something that, until pasteurization, everyone drank?  But since those who prefer raw milk don’t have a large lobby, they’re subjected to government bullying and laws prohibiting them from making that choice.

Choice is freedom.  Limiting of choice is limiting freedom and government is in the freedom limiting business.  The premise is you’re not able to make good choices yourself, so government must keep you from doing so.  Question?  If aging cheese on wood was dangerous to our health and it had been the reason from many deaths over the centuries, how do you suppose the market for such cheeses might have been effected by now?  Right.  It certainly wouldn’t have come down to some government bureaucrat making a unilateral decision in 2014, that’s for sure.

In Iraq, Mosul has fallen to terrorists.  Nightwatch brings us up to date:

ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city.

ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.

The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.

On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.

Mosul’s capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.

ISIL’s control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.

My position?  If Iraqi’s want a free Iraq, they’d better fight for it.  They’ve been given the time, the equipment and the training.  Now, it’s up to them.

Finally, yesterday I literally had to laugh out loud when I read something Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, had written on his Facebook page.  It simply demonstrates how effing silly – and dangerous to your freedoms – these people are:

President Obama announced steps yesterday he said will make student loans more affordable. It’s probably all he can manage with a grid-locked Congress, but it’s still tinkering with a system of college financing that’s spinning out of control. What’s really needed is to make college free of charge and require all graduates to pay 10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years of full-time work into a fund that pays the costs (additional years of graduate school means added years of payments). That way, nobody graduates with debts; young people from lower-income families can afford to attend; graduates who go into high-wage occupations in effect subsidize those who go into lower-wage work; and we move toward a system of genuinely equal opportunity. What do you think?

Right … free college for all.  Graduate with no debt!

Question: How in the world does this dolt think that making all graduates pay “10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years” to fund “free college” doesn’t equal being in debt?  Oh, and who would keep track of all this?  Why the IRS of course – another in a long line of ideas to further centralize control of all aspects of your life at the federal level and add to the federal bureaucracy’s reach and power.

Then add the scam value of this.  Ride the gravy train for 3 or 4 years of free college and then walk away as a non-graduate.  Nothing to pay, right?  I mean the stipulation is that “graduates” pay, so why not hang out in a college dorm, eat in the chow hall, do your own thing while also doing barely enough to stay in school.  That way you can let these other dopes subsidize those years for you.  Then, move, apply to a new school and repeat.  Trust me, there are enough “professional students” in this world that I can promise that would be done.

Oh … and read the comments to the Reich post.  They’ll make you weep.

~McQ

A few things to note

I don’t mind at all saying “I told you so” when it comes to the alarmists and “climate change”.  You’ll remember a few weeks ago when the alarmists began screeching about the collapse of an ice shelf in Antarctica and how that was going to raise sea levels by feet, not inches and that there was nothing we could do about it?  Oh, and it was because of man-made global warming?

We found out subsequently, that the “rise in sea levels” might occur with this melting of the ice shelf, but that it would likely take a 1,000 years.  And, at that time, I put forward an article I’d written for QandO in 2009 where I noted that volcanic activity (aka geothermal activity) was responsible for an ice melt then.  I further posited that it was entirely possible it was responsible for the most recent ice shelf melt (since it is very close to the shelf itself) and had nothing to do with man.

Vindication:

Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it’s being melted from below by geothermal heat, researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) report in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where accurate information has previously been unobtainable.

The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts.

Using radar techniques to map how water flows under ice sheets, UTIG researchers were able to estimate ice melting rates and thus identify significant sources of geothermal heat under Thwaites Glacier. They found these sources are distributed over a wider area and are much hotter than previously assumed.

The geothermal heat contributed significantly to melting of the underside of the glacier, and it might be a key factor in allowing the ice sheet to slide, affecting the ice sheet’s stability and its contribution to future sea level rise.

Oh my.  Who knew?  Uh, we did. Or at least we were able to apply facts and logic to the event and give a credible hypothesis as to why what was happening was happening.  Nice.

On another subject, the Bergdahl fiasco, it appears that Mr. Obama, who was perfectly fine about taking all the credit for his release when it appeared it would be to his political advantage (thus the Rose Garden announcement with the family), has now found someone he can throw under the bus since it has all gone wrong.  It’s Hagel’s fault:

FInal approval for the prisoner exchange that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was made by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, members of Congress learned on Monday from administration officials.

‘They indicated (it was) Secretary Hagel (who made the final call),’ Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) said after a classified briefing, ABC points out.

‘It was the president of the United States that came out (in the Rose Garden) with the Bergdahls and took all the credit and now that there’s been a little pushback he’s moving away from it and it’s Secretary Hagel?’

Yup … I’ve lost count of all those who’ve found themselves looking at the underside of the Obama bus.  And for those who don’t think that this was an attempt to divert attention from the VA scandal, check this little tidbit out:

The final agreement was brokered in a week by Qatar and dovetailed with Obama’s announcement of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2017. Engulfed in a scandal over hospital care for veterans, it also provided him an opportunity to demonstrate he was helping those who had served.

So it was Hagel’s final call?  Yeah, right. Again, the administration insults our intelligence.

Meanwhile we find more and more neglect and corruption in the VA, an agency that Mr. Obama criticized when his predecessor was in charge and vowed to clean up:

The agency said more than 57,000 new patients have waited at least 90 days for their first appointments and that about 13 percent of VA schedulers indicated they were told to falsify appointment-request dates to give the impression that wait times were shorter than they really were.

Remember, this is pure government run health care aimed at a very small population, relatively speaking.  And it is a disaster.

The agency also found evidence that in the past 10 years, nearly 64,000 veterans who sought VA care were simply never seen by a doctor.

“Simply”.  Not simply at all. This is mind numbing incompetence and corruption.  This was Ezra Klein’s ideal example for touting the benefits of government run (single payer) health care back when he was shilling so hard for the ACA.  Obama has done nothing to change the situation.  Congress, as usual has simply thrown money at it assuming that would fix it.  But its not just Obama’s problem.  This is a decades old institutional problem driven by a corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy that has given short shrift to the care of our veteran population.  This is the face of “government run healthcare”.

~McQ

Apparently we do negotiate with terrorists

I know Americans are torn by the Bergdahl story.  Face it, given how poorly things are going, they desperately want a “feel good” story.  The Bergdahl repatriation is one where you want to celebrate it, but as the facts come out, you can’t find it in yourself to do so.  The guy wasn’t a POW, he deserted and sought out the enemy with the apparent desire to join them.

The administration just as desperately wanted a distraction from all it’s ongoing failures and scandals.  But this story and its ending are anything but that.  In fact, it stinks to high heaven.

First there’s the way it was done by the administration, which strongly supports the hypothesis that this was done in haste to change the subject and redirect the focus of the news cycle.  The subject they were trying to change was their abject failure with the VA.  How better to distract from that than repatriating an American soldier and rescuing him from the clutches of the Taliban?  Paint him as a hero and take a bow.  Let a sympathetic media take it from there.

Except this guy isn’t a hero.  He wasn’t “captured”, he deliberately set out to find those who eventually grabbed him and kept him.  Since 2010 the Army has determined that this guy deserted his post in time of war.  But of course that didn’t stop the Baghdad Bob of this administration, Susan Rice, from heading out to the talk shows soon after the deal was made, and telling us how this deserter had served with “honor and distinction”.

What the administration hadn’t counted on was former soldiers from his unit coming forward and telling the real story. They apparently didn’t know about the 6 soldiers killed in attempts to find and rescue him.  The backlash from their attempt to whitewash who this guy was has been overwhelming. And, as usual, points to a clueless administration again bungling it’s attempt at distraction.

But that’s only one part of the story.  How about the trade itself?  What did it accomplish?

Well for the US, another in a long line of stupid failures.  Why “stupid”. Because, as usual, it was ill-conceived plan and a self-inflicted wound.  We got back a PFC that deserted (yeah, I know he was promoted while in captivity, but in reality he’s a PFC) and they got this:

  • A senior Taliban military commander
  • Their deputy minister of intelligence
  • Their army chief of staff
  • Their governor of the Herat province and former interior minister
  • and a senior Taliban figure and security official.

Not only that, the Taliban (aka “the enemy”) got a propaganda coup of unrivaled proportion as “NightWatch” lays it out for us:

The mainstream media have covered the increased risk of hostage-taking as the direct and foreseeable result of the hostage exchange. This was not a prisoner of war exchange.

Two points not mentioned in most mainstream commentary are noteworthy. This exchange invests Omar and his Islamic Emirate with stature that neither had when the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan. It negotiated as an equal with the US and got the better deal. That sets a precedent for potential deals with other NATO members. It is a powerful disincentive for Pakistan to rein in Omar and his cohorts.

The second point is the release of the five Taliban leaders will boost Taliban morale; help improve their organizational and fighting skills and enhance their operations. It might have a ripple effect on the now divided Pakistani Taliban.

The timing could hardly be worse for Allied forces. As NATO draws down its forces, the Taliban get an influx of experienced leaders, undermining years of effort to degrade the leadership. These were men Mullah Omar trusted in the early days of Taliban rule. He now has a seasoned core around which to build a reinvigorated administration and movement.

We, as a nation, have constantly stressed the Taliban is a terror organization.  Both Democrats and Republicans. And we’ve also made it a firm rule that we don’t negotiate with them because it does exactly what NightWatch notes this has done.  If the Taliban want to empty Guantanamo, they now know how to do it – capture American soldiers. The price and precedent have been set.  One can imagine all sorts of scenarios where enterprising Afghans will try to kidnap American soldiers for money from the Taliban. And the Taliban will then expect to trade them for more terrorists.  5 for 1 seems to be the going rate.  But with this crew, they’re likely to be able to get an even better deal.

Yes, Afghanistan, which is a deeply hostile place to our soldiers now, just got more dangerous for them.  Meanwhile, troop levels will be drawn down to all time lows.  Yup, nothing could go wrong with that.  Thanks Mr. “Commander-in-Chief”.

I’d like to say the American people are terribly ill served by this abomination of an administration, but that’s just not the case.  The majority of them have elected this boob twice.  What you see is what you get.  You wanted it, you got it – how do you like what you elected?

For the adults in the room who saw through this empty suit and the propaganda machine behind him from the beginning, you will also recognize the terrible damage this man and his administration have done to our national security and foreign relations.  It will take decades to recover from this debacle of a White House.

And then there’s the economy, and VA, and Benghazi, and the IRS scandal and the NSA, Fast and Furious, executive orders, EPA …

~McQ

3/4 of ObamaCare enrollees? Previously insured …

Or so says a new McKinsey survey of the numbers:

One of the principal flaws in the coverage of Obamacare’s exchange enrollment numbers to date has been that the press has not made distinctions between those who have “signed up” for Obamacare-based plans, and those who have actually paid for those plans and thereby achieved enrollment in health insurance. A new survey from McKinsey indicates that a large majority of people signing up are now paying for their coverage. This is progress for the health law. But the survey still indicates that three-fourths of enrollees were previously insured.

Of course we’ve seen the propaganda push from the White House that has claimed the numbers (8 million enrolled) mean that the law is working.  As usual, the devil is in the details.  If the law was designed to provide coverage to those who were uninsured, 25% of the total enrolled fitting that description is hardly indicative of that claim’s efficacy.  And when you break down that 25% number, it’s even less indicative:

At most around 930,000 people have gained coverage from Obamacare’s under-26 “slacker mandate” (not 3 million, as is commonly suggested); another 3 million or so have gained coverage from the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Approximately 2.6 million previously uninsured individuals have obtained coverage through the ACA exchanges and the related off-exchange individual markets; however, the off-exchange purchases are mostly unsubsidized, and therefore can’t necessarily be credited to Obamacare.

Here’s a graphic that breaks the McKinsey survey’s results down into a more understandable form:

McK-enroll-Apr-2

In reality, what the law has essentially done rearranged the burden of payment among those enrolled while really not doing much at all in terms of reaching those for whom it was supposedly designed to help:

What the exchanges appear to be doing is mainly helping people who were previously insured. If you’re 62 years old, say, and your income is $30,000, and you were paying for your own coverage before, you’re now eligible for plans that are much cheaper for you, thanks to taxpayer-funded subsidies and higher premiums for young people.

Of course that means that other people are paying more. “My old plan was canceled under Obamacare,” an exasperated Californian told me last week. “The new Obamacare plan costs twice as much, and the deductibles are higher. And yet Obama is counting me as one of his 8 million people!” But hey—at least he has maternity coverage.

And I’m sure our Californian is eternally grateful for big brother deciding for him that maternity care was an absolute necessity for which he must pay.  But the point is the 8 million number remains very shaky (and that’s being kind) and it really doesn’t at all reflect what the White House would have you believe it reflects – that the law is working.

~McQ

White House says only 28% of 18-34 demographic has signed up for ObamaCare

The demographic that was key to holding down health care costs apparently came in well below the level necessary to ensure that:

Just more than a quarter of the eight million people who signed up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act are in the prized demographic of 18 to 34 years old, falling short of the figure considered ideal to keep down policy prices.

The data, released Thursday by the Obama administration, painted a more complete picture of enrollment in the plans. They show that about 28% of people picking plans on the state and federal insurance exchanges by April 19—after most states’ enrollment deadlines passed—were 18 to 34 years old, a generally healthy group. The proportion is higher than previous counts. But it is significantly below the 40% level that some analysts consider important for holding down rates by balancing the greater medical spending generated by older enrollees.

Insurers right now are setting rates for 2015, and the age data will be a key factor in their decisions. Some insurers say that despite seeing a late surge in younger enrollees, their sign-ups still skewed older overall than they had expected.

Because the “healthy” demographic sign-up fell well below expectations, the rates for 2015 are expected to be at a higher rate.  And, of course, there’s the further problem that “enrollment” doesn’t necessarily mean that the enrollee has paid for coverage.  As noted in earlier:

Data provided to the committee by every insurance provider in the health care law’s Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) shows that, as of April 15, 2014, only 67 percent of individuals and families that had selected a health plan in the federally facilitated marketplace had paid their first month’s premium and therefore completed the enrollment process. Nationwide, only 25 percent of paid enrollees are ages 18 to 34

And finally, the assumption is that the 18 to 34 demographic will be a “healthy demographic” relatively speaking and will carry the cost for the more sickly among us.  That too may be an erroneous assumption:

While the 18-34-year-old cohort has been dubbed the “young and healthy,” a more accurate moniker might be “young and somewhat healthy.”  68 percent of 18-34-year-olds on the federal exchanges chose a silver plan.  As I’ve written previously:

Why does this matter for the death spiral?  Because so many enrollees choosing silver plans suggests that the risk pool may be sicker than is optimal. For enrollees at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, silver plans tend to offer the most coverage for the lowest price.  For persons under 250 percent FPL, ObamaCare offers help with copays and deductibles, but only if the consumer chooses a silver plan. The actuarial value for a silver plan is 70 percent (that is, a silver plan must, on average, cover 70 percent of a policyholder’s medical claims), but when the subsidies for cost-sharing are included, the actuarial value rises to between 73 and 94 percent. As one writer notes, “Why would someone opt for a silver-level plan over a cheaper bronze or catastrophic-level plan? The most plausible explanation is that the enrollee anticipates incurring significant medical expenses over the coming year, which is to say that he’s not healthy.”

Since income tends to be lower the younger one is, a lot of those 18-34-year-olds are probably in that <250 percent FPL range.  The inordinate number of 18-34-year-olds choosing silver plans suggests that the exchanges have attracted young and healthy people that are not that healthy.

Not only may they not be young and healthy, but they’ll most likely be receiving high subsidies which again sort of defeats the whole purpose of signing up that demographic, doesn’t it?  And it certainly calls into further question whether or not even the 28% that signed up will have any significant effect in helping to lower costs.

Bottom line? Well, to quote a well-known conservative talk show host, we’ve again been treated to a heaping helping of “bovine scatology”.   Not that anyone at all familiar with this president and his administration should at all be surprised.

~McQ