Free Markets, Free People

Nanny State

To My Friends In Maryland

Q: Why doesn’t Delaware fall into the ocean?
A: Because Maryland sucks.
Q: Why doesn’t California fall into the ocean?
A: Because Maryland really sucks.

Dear Marylanders:

I see that your financial picture is looking rather dicey again. Sorry to hear that. Who could have guessed that high taxes, profligate spending and a general hostility to business would lead to such things? No worries, though. I’m sure political leaders will continue to work hard at righting the ship and get Maryland sailing along smoothly again (how is that plan to repeal the laws of economics coming anyway?).

On a related note, I understand that the Maryland legislature, in collaboration with Gov. O’Malley, has passed a new tax on all six-figure income earners in Maryland. Well, bully for you! That’ll teach those nasty capitalists to stop being so productive. And Gaia knows that they really need to pay their fair share (I mean, how is it that the top 20% of earners only pays about 68% of the income taxes? How’s that “fair”?). So, here’s hoping that works out for you (fingers crossed!).

Of course, I seem to recall that the last time you all did something like this (with that “Millionaires Tax” thingy), we here in Virginia experienced a bit of an influx of former Marylanders. Not too many that we couldn’t handle it, mind you, and probably fewer than some thought. But it does raise an issue, especially since the latest tax scheme stands to affect a much larger portion of Maryland’s population. While we’re always happy to welcome you all into the Commonwealth, we’d really appreciate it if you’d leave things here the way you found them.

You see, all too often when Virginia takes in refugees of high tax and high regulation states, they tend to bring a lot of those policies with them. They seem to really like our neighborhoods, schools and business environment, but for some reason they get all worked up about the fact that our government doesn’t spend as much money as they’re used to (in fact, we’ve actually had a budget surplus the past couple of years, and look to do so again this year!). They also tend to push for more state intrusion into our lives. Thing is, we really don’t like that. (In fact, it’s a fairly common complaint in the South.)

You see, before they came, we were doing just fine. Sure, some of us moved to places like New York and California so that we could enjoy that wonderful embrace of the Nanny State, but for the most part it’s been the other way around: people moving from high-tax/high-regulation states to places like Northern Virginia. We completely understand why you would want to leave a place whose policies increase your costs of living, impair your livelihoods, and generally intrude on your lives in unwanted ways. That’s why we try not to do that sort of thing here (albeit, with some annoying exceptions). Problem is, when you all move in, you start enacting all the same policies that made the place you left so bad. We’d all really appreciate it if you wouldn’t do that.

So, like I said, I really hope that whole tax-the-hell-outta-the-rich thing works for you. If it doesn’t, and your looking for change of scenery, you’ll always be welcomed with open arms on this side of the Potomac. Come on over, make yourselves comfortable and set a spell. Just don’t go touching anything.

Yours Truly,

Michael J. Wade

Obama administration tries to kill the family farm

In 1960, the Democratic Party platform included the following in reference to agriculture in the US:

"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living."

We shall take positive action to raise farm income to full parity levels and to preserve family farming as a way of life.

We shall put behind us once and for all the timidity with which our Government has viewed our abundance of food and fiber.

We will set new high levels of food consumption both at home and abroad.

As long as many Americans and hundreds of millions of people in other countries remain underfed, we shall regard these agricultural riches, and the family farmers who produce them, not as a liability but as a national asset.

Of course, in 1960, as today, children of farm families were an integral part of the success of family farms of that era.  And, in 1960, that was apparently just fine with Democrats.  Their labor many times made the difference in the farm surviving and flourishing.  And the children learned the business and the work ethic necessary for the family farm to thrive and survive.

But apparently the party’s position has evolved over the years to one that is now anti-family farm.  How else do you explain this?

The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.

Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”

The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.

More government intrusion.  Private organizations such as the FFA and 4-H club that have, for decades, successfully done safety training and certification are now to be stripped of that ability in favor of a 90 hour course taught by the same government that gave us the TSA.  And, of course, with any government training, you have to wonder how much it will cost and how much of it will be worthwhile training and how much indoctrination.

Farm children have, for literal centuries in this country, worked side by side with their fathers and mothers to make a very difficult and labor intensive family businesses succeed.   But the nanny state would now prohibit them from doing most of what they’ve traditionally involved themselves in because, well, nanny knows best, doesn’t she?

Of course farm families have a vested interest in insuring their children remain safe and able to work.  It is of no advantage at all for a farm family to have their children do things in which there’s a high likelihood of them being killed or maimed.  And, again, for centuries, they’ve been able to manage and determine what is or isn’t within the abilities of their children to do safely.

Additionally, over those centuries, private and independent groups like the FFA and 4-H have been developed and supported by farm families to ensure their children are properly trained in the safety, husbandry and farming skills so necessary to make the family farm a success and to make the US the breadbasket of the world.

Now we have government unilaterally intruding in an area that it really has no business.  And it is a Democratic administration doing so … one I’m sure that would tell you, out of the other side of their mouth, that they are the party of the family farmer.

Nanny, with the supposed best of intentions, is about to take down another industry with its unwanted meddling.

And yet, there are those who will attempt to support this intrusion as something necessary to safeguard the children. 

It is a travesty, it is unwanted by those it is being imposed upon and it will, in the end, kill the family farm for good.

But you knew that.

And so do they.

Big Agribusiness says “thanks”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Obesity in poor communities not linked to “food deserts”

I’m sure you remember a few years ago the LA City Council banned fast food joints from low income neighborhoods for a year.  The New York Times explains the reason they thought that was a function of government:

It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama, that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The purpose of the ban was to prevent more fast food from being made available in these poor neighborhoods that were considered “food deserts”.  The belief, and that’s all it is, was that the availability of fast food and the unavailability of “fresh fruits and vegetables” was a contributor to the obesity found in poor communities.

And the myth had its own narrative too:

Speaking in October on the South Side of Chicago, she said that in too many neighborhoods “if people want to buy a head of lettuce or salad or some fruit for their kid’s lunch, they have to take two or three buses, maybe pay for a taxicab, in order to do it.”

Except for the fact that two new studies say that’s just not true.

Both, using different methodology, came to the same conclusion:

Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.

Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,” he said.

Indeed, it is, instead, choice at work.  And, as usual, government feels they should be involved in deciding which choices are made.  Now, it’s easy to say, “yeah, but it’s obesity and obesity isn’t good for you”.

Given.  But does that mean it is government’s job to intrude and attempt to remedy the situation with other people’s money?

Taking into consideration what the two studies have revealed, it seems, as is often the case, that government is barking up the wrong tree.   The myth, or if you prefer “article of faith”, seems to be wrong. Actual facts destroy the myth.  More than adequate supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available in poor neighborhoods.  The problem is the poor choose not to avail themselves of them.

So obesity among the poor isn’t the fault of “food deserts” (or a lack of food it seems) in poor communities and banning fast food joints and encouraging more grocery stores to locate there isn’t going to help ameliorate the problem.  Nor, apparently, is healthier food in schools.

Now what?

In fact, the only way to really impact obesity is to control choice isn’t it?  Dropping weight requires portion control, control of the type of food eaten and a certain level of exercise.

So what’s an intrusive and activist government to do now that their myth has been shattered?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Why the Ryan budget is doomed

Over at Zero Hedge there’s a long discussion of the Welfare State. 

We have long argued that at its core, modern society, at least on a mathematical basis – the one which ultimately trumps hopium every single time - is fatally flawed due to the existence, and implementation, of the concept of modern "welfare"…

Love the term “hopium”.  It describes well the addictive drug that underpins the Welfare State.  And we have “long argued” exactly the same thing Zero Hedge has and we’ve even produced the math – many times.

But has that changed anything?  Even those who embrace and tout the Welfare State admit that mathematically it leads to huge deficits and eventual insolvency yet they resist any attempt to change it to prevent those outcomes.  See their reaction yesterday and today to the Ryan budget (which, by the way, at least takes a meaningful swipe at “entitlements”). 

Zero Hedge then quotes “The Privateer”, a subscription letter that bills itself as “the private market letter for the individual capitalist”.  To anyone on the left, the words “individual” and “capitalist” make what I’m about to quote immediately suspect.

For those who’ve spent years studying this problem, nothing that I quote from The Privateer is going to be a surprise.  But I did like the way it was done.  A little different twist on the discussion than you’ll usually see:

The Great Delusion – “Welfare”

For the best part of the last two decades, it has been accepted as an indisputable fact even by the mainstream media that the two great pillars of the welfare state – medicare and social security – will break the government which offers them. Today, every nation in the world makes at least some pretense of providing “welfare” to its citizens. Since the “developed” (or “rich”) nations are those where these systems are most “developed”, these are the nations most at risk of crumbling under their burdens.

Welfare has many antonyms, but “hardship” is particularly apt in this context. Wikipedia’s entry on “welfare” ends like this: “… this term replaces “charity” as it was known for thousands of years, being the act of providing for those who temporarily or permanently could not provide for themselves.” As usual, the defining characteristic is missed. Charity is voluntary. “Welfare” as practised by government is compulsory. This makes the two terms opposites. It also brings about the opposite results. Charity is a voluntary act made by those who have a surplus to assist those who do not. “Welfare” is a system guaranteed to end up in hardship for everyone but particularly for those who are forced to be “charitable”.

The insoluble dilemma of a “welfare state” is twofold. First, it results in a situation in which the majority of people who vote are partially or wholly dependent on the state for their sustenance. In every “advanced” nation today, those who vote for a living outnumber those who work for one. It is true that not everybody, or even a majority of those eligible in many cases, bothers to vote at all. It is equally true that the “wards of the state” have much more incentive to vote than do those who are to provide for them.

The second dilemma is the issue of the unfunded liabilities. The US government divides its budget into discretionary and NON discretionary items. The bulwarks of the welfare state, social security and medicare, fall into the second category. They are considered untouchable. There are only two problems here. First, the unfunded liabilities of these two programs are somewhere in the order of $US 80 – 120 TRILLION. Second, any talk of sharply lower annual deficits (let alone talk of a return to a budget balance) are puerile without MAJOR surgery being performed on medicare and social security. They are gigantic millstones around the neck of the US economy as they are on the economies of all other nations.

In the hands of government – “welfare” becomes its antithesis – “hardship”. Today, this is being illustrated in real time in Greece. But no nation can afford a welfare state in the long run.

I noticed yesterday that one of the first complaints about the Ryan budget is that it leaves defense alone for the most part, but goes after both Social Security and Medicare with plans to reform them in such a way that they are no longer the unfunded liabilities they now are.

Defense spending isn’t our problem.  It is a budget item.  It has to be funded every year.  Don’t have the money?  Cut the budget (and they’ve done that to the tune of $487 billion over the next 10 years – and that’s before sequestration).

But that’s not the case with “non discretionary” spending is it?  That isn’t a budget item in the sense defense is.  It can’t be cut under current law, can it?  Those are important points often left out of the discussion about “what to do”, especially when the distraction of defense spending is introduced into such a conversation.

That, however, is not why I wanted to discuss this today.  I could emphasize almost every line from the quoted piece.  It has that much substance.  The are a number of points I want to amplify.

One … welfare, as The Privateer notes, is not charity.   In fact, welfare is the opposite of charity as piece says.  And when the state becomes a welfare state, it usually pushes much of charity out of the way.  The major point, of course, is charity is a voluntary act by people who have a “surplus” they’re willing to part with in order to help those who need help.  There is nothing voluntary about welfare.   And the involvement of the state leads to outcomes like this:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s food police have struck again!

Outlawed are food donations to homeless shelters because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Glenn Richter arrived at a West Side synagogue on Monday to collect surplus bagels — fresh nutritious bagels — to donate to the poor. However, under a new edict from Bloomberg’s food police he can no longer donate the food to city homeless shelters.

It’s the “no bagels for you” edict.

“I can’t give you something that’s a supplement to the food you already have? Sorry that’s wrong,” Richter said.

Of course it is wrong.  That’s just the latest example.  There are, as everyone knows, untold numbers of similar nanny-state rules that have been enacted over the years simply because of the Welfare State mentality that pervades much of government.  In NYC, in this example, a kind of years long charity has essentially been outlawed by the Mayor because he has decided that the state should be the decision maker as to what citizens of the city’s welfare regime put in their mouths, not charitable givers.  Result – you get to pay more for “welfare”.

But you need to move back a couple of clicks and take a broader look at what the Privateer calls the “insoluble dilemma” of the welfare state – any Western welfare state.  By design:

[I]t results in a situation in which the majority of people who vote are partially or wholly dependent on the state for their sustenance.

And that then leads to insoluble dilemma one:

In every “advanced” nation today, those who vote for a living outnumber those who work for one. It is true that not everybody, or even a majority of those eligible in many cases, bothers to vote at all. It is equally true that the “wards of the state” have much more incentive to vote than do those who are to provide for them.

That, in a nutshell, is the dynamic that both feeds and dooms the welfare state.  The creation of a class of people incentivized to perpetuate the Welfare State because the Welfare State has made them dependent.

It naturally leads to insoluble dilemma two, which, of course, is the creation of untouchable but also huge and unfunded future liabilities that no politician – who panders for votes for a living — is willing to address for fear of losing those “who vote for a living”.

That describes precisely what we’re seeing today in this country as well as the countries of Europe.  The end is inevitable.  The will to do anything about it doesn’t exist.

If you don’t believe me, watch the critiques of the Ryan budget over the next few days.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Georgetown law students prefer YOU pay for their contraception so they can use their money for their priorities

Unbelievable.  This is so indicative of the mindset of many today.  It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so telling and serious.

A Georgetown co-ed told Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s hearing that the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they’re going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control.

Speaking at a hearing held by Pelosi to tout Pres. Obama’s mandate that virtually every health insurance plan cover the full cost of contraception and abortion-inducing products, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke said that it’s too expensive to have sex in law school without mandated insurance coverage.

Seriously, when you listen to Sandra Fluke talk, that’s precisely her argument:

Apparently, four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it’s hard to make ends meet if they have to payartificial contraception for their own contraception, Fluke’s research shows.

"Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy (Georgetown student insurance not covering contraception), Fluke reported.

It costs a female student $3,000 to have protected sex over the course of her three-year stint in law school, according to her calculations.

"Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," Fluke told the hearing.

Oh, my … $3,000?  No wonder you should pay for it, that’s a lot of money for a law student, isn’t it?

Of course, reality, using her numbers, points to something I’m sure she didn’t intend:

At a dollar a condom if she shops at CVS pharmacy’s website, that $3,000 would buy her 3,000 condoms – or, 1,000 a year. (By the way, why does CVS.com list the weight of its condom products in terms of pounds?)

Assuming it’s not a leap year, that’s 1,000 divided by 365 – or having sex 2.74 times a day, every day, for three straight years.

And they want YOU to pay for it for heaven sake because they’re going broke.

A Georgetown law student arguing it is the responsibility of others to pay for her birth control because she and the 40% would prefer to spend their money on other things (can’t wait for that generation of lawyers to hit the courts, can you?).

Craig Bannister comes to one serious and one tongue-in-cheek conclusion:

  1. If these women want to have sex, we shouldn’t be forced to pay for it, and
  2. If these co-eds really are this guy crazy, I should’ve gone to law school

More important is the point to be made by watching this testimony and realizing that this supposedly intelligent woman has been so conditioned in her life to accept that others should pay for her indulgences.

THAT is the real lesson and problem (watch the video at the link).

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

So how do you talk about contraception without going all “SoCon?”

Or, as I recommend in my previous post, how do you make issues such as contraception relevant to the economy and point out its real cost?

Well, don’t forget, at base it is another government mandate.  It is government deciding what private employers and insurers will cover and how they’ll cover it.  It is obviously not “free” as they claim, but another in a long line of redistribution schemes cloaked in “good intentions” and the “common good”.

It is, in fact, just another straw on the back of the private insurance camel, the addition of which this administration hopes will eventually break its back and allow government to take over that role.

Having directed all insurance companies to provide it at “no cost” to their insured and falsely claiming to the public that they’re getting something for nothing, the administration takes a step toward that goal.

How?

One major feature of the ACA [ObamaCare] is to put so many mandates on private insurance plans (abortion pills and contraception being just a couple of them) that it becomes increasingly difficult for employers to afford private health benefits for their employees.

As more and more employers have to dump private insurance, the idea is that people will demand a government replacement plan. Lurking in the back of the ACA is the public option, which will spring to life once enough people have lost their private insurance. (This can very well happen even if the Supreme Court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional.) Once it is activated, the public option will enroll more and more Americans until it effectively wipes private options off the table.

Socialized health care through the back door.

Precisely.  There is more than one way to skin a cat.  And that’s what is evident here.  This is an alternative cat-skinning method.

The White House argues the new plan will save money for the health system.

"Covering contraception is cost neutral since it saves money by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services," the White House said in a fact sheet.

"For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii. One study found that covering contraception saved employees $97 per year, per employee."

But it isn’t cost neutral at all.  And whatever an employee “saves” on the one hand, goes away plus some to cover the expense, because here’s reality:

[I]nsurers say there’s nothing "free" about preventing unwarranted pregnancies. They say the mandate also covers costly surgical sterilization procedures, and that in any case even the pill has up-front costs.

"Saying it’s revenue-neutral doesn’t mean it’s free and that you’re not paying for it," an industry source told The Hill.

Doctors still have to be paid to prescribe the pill, drugmakers and pharmacists have to be paid to provide it – and all that money has to come from insurance premiums, not future hypothetical savings, the source said.

And all of that cost is going to be paid for by those employees who are “saving” money in higher premiums – especially those 50 somethings who are no longer in the child bearing years and ‘saving’ nothing but paying for it anyway.  By the way one of the ways to lower insurance cost is to do away with government mandates and let the insured choose what coverage they’d like to pay for.  But government will have none of that.  That would actually remove straws from the camel’s back.

Of course there are other free market approaches that would most likely be effective if government would allow them:

[P]arents who let their children become obese by feeding them irresponsibly should bear the financial cost of the extra health care that their children will require. This can, again, be done if private insurance companies are allowed to operate on the terms of free markets. Just like a smoker should have to pay a higher health insurance premium than a non-smoker, private insurance companies should be allowed to charge higher premiums of a family that eats themselves obese than of a family that eats responsibly and attends to their own health.

Find obesity to be a national problem?  What’s the most effective way to fight it?  Mandates and complicated and expensive government programs that only address the problem generally?  Or making the obese pay for the consequences of their irresponsible behavior?

I know, how horribly anti-American – making people take responsibility for their actions (something the GOP claims to believe in) and pay their own costs.  In the new America, apparently everyone has to pay, no one is held accountable and by the way, it “will be cheaper in the long run” if government does it.

The latter is the eternal promise of nanny government rarely if ever having come to fruition.

But, back to the title and the point – now if some want to add “and it’s against my religion”, fine, wonderful, great.  That’s added impetus on top of the economic one to reject Obama’s argument.  But it shouldn’t be the primary argument.  Instead it should be an argument that voters add themselves among themselves.  The broad economic argument about the real cost, not to mention the ideological argument against the growing social welfare state are extraordinarily powerful and appealing.  If others want to add their own arguments in addition to this, fine and dandy. 

That’s how you do it.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Nanny state: The lunch inspector

Stories like this infuriate me.  They again point to the depth to which government has come to intrude in our lives.  And yes, while this is an anecdote, it points to the wider problem of increasing intrusion and the loss of our freedoms.  Tyranny by a thousand paper cuts.

The incident took place in a North Carolina pre-school of all places.  There, a “lunch inspector” rejected the home packed lunch a 4 year old and required the child eat a school provided lunch instead, claiming the home packed lunch didn’t meet USDA requirements.

The child in question then ate all of 3 chicken nuggets for lunch as provided by the school and threw the rest away.

Now, the fact that the “lunch inspector” was wrong isn’t the story.  The lunch provided by the mother was more than acceptable by the USDA standard which requires 1 serving of meat, 1 serving of grain and one serving of fruit or vegetable.  The mother had packed a turkey sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice.  The “lunch inspector” mistakenly believe that the lack of a vegetable disqualified the lunch.

The story, as far as I’m concerned is that the “lunch inspector” exists at all.

This is the problem:

The state regulation reads:

"Sites must provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements during the regular school day. The partial/full cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced price meals.

"When children bring their own food for meals and snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements."

Really?  If ever there was a place the state has no business, its poking its long nose in my child’s lunch box.  None of the Nanny’s freaking business.

Who knows better what their child will eat, the state or the family?  Ever try to feed a 4 year old?  Forget the fact that the lunch packed was better than the meal the child was served and ate at school, or that the home provided lunch met and exceeded the USDA guidelines.  The fact that someone poked their state approved nose where it had on business is the problem.

Oh, and here’s reality of these sorts of misguided programs.

The bottom line: back off, government!  The responsibility for children belong to parents whether you like it or not.  You can’t both demand they take responsibility and then usurp that responsibility at will when the state decides it “knows better” for whatever arbitrary and god-awful reason.

This anecdote highlights a mostly silent and progressive usurpation of parental rights and authority.  It is happening everywhere, because, you see, the “experts” always know best.

 

 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

An Electric Car Mandate?

The editors of the Washington Examiner consider the probable effects of the new CAFE standards (being imposed by the EPA now instead of NHTSA) and ask a pertinent question:

Getting from the current 35 mpg CAFE standard to 54.5 can be achieved by such expedients as making air conditioning systems work more efficiently. We have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to anybody who thinks that’s even remotely realistic. There is one primary method of increasing fuel economy — weight reduction. That in turn means automakers will have to use much more exotic materials, including especially the petroleum-processing byproduct known as “plastic.” But using more plastic will make it much more difficult to satisfy current federal safety standards. The bottom-line will be much more expensive vehicles and dramatically fewer kinds of vehicles.

[…]

Total costs, as calculated by the EPA, will exceed $157 billion, making this by far the most expensive CAFE rule ever. For comparison, the previous rule in 2010 cost $51 billion, according to the EPA. But the EPA doesn’t include this fact in its calculation: Annual U.S. car sales are 14-16 million units, yet over time, this rule will remove the equivalent of half a year’s worth of buyers. Will that be when the EPA takes a cue from Obamacare and issues an individual mandate that we all must buy Chevy Volts?

I’m just curious, for those who support the individual mandate dictated by Obamacare, what is the argument that such an electric car mandate isn’t possible? If the federal government can force us to purchase insurance from the companies it allows to offer the product based on the idea that health care is a national issue, how is promoting cleaner air and more energy security not the same thing? Indeed, it would seem that the arguments are even stronger for forcing everyone to buy electric cars if furthering the “common good” is the only real restriction on federal power.

So what is the difference from a legal, constitutional standpoint? Is there one?

The Health Care Czar speaks – “free” contraception for all!

Yes, Czar Kathleen (Sebelius, Czar Secretary of Health Care HHS and the final arbiter of all things ObamaCare) has declared that your insurer will now, without compensation or charge, do the following:

The Obama administration said Friday that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women without charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities.

You may take a knee in thanks. Said Czar Kathleen:

“This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost-sharing,” Ms. Sebelius said.

Because, you know, the devices and services are delivered by magic fairies and don’t cost anyone anything.

No wonder Obama chose Disneyland as the venue for his speech yesterday.

The religious question aside, where in the world does this bunch get off deciding I have to pay for someone else’s contraception?

Because that’s what is going to happen … the bill, just like taxes to corporations, is going to find its way into my premium in some form or fashion (TANSTAAFL). 

The order is an administration interpretation of this:

The 2010 health care law says insurers must cover “preventive health services” and cannot charge for them.

“Preventive health services”.  Wow … how broadly can that be interpreted.  Well, broadly enough to include contraception as a “preventive health service” I suppose.

Which means, I assume, that the sky is the limit.  Creative interpretation is only limited by … not much, huh?

We have a czar.  She has an agenda.  She is the final, unaccountable “decider”.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Two new concerns for the freedom of the internet

One is domestic and the other is international.  On the domestic front we’re again confronted with “good intentions” being horribly and oppressively executed via a bad law.

Wending its way through Congress right now is legislation called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA.  The intention is obviously laudable.  As “piracy” is usually defined, i.e. the theft of copyrighted material, it is certainly a function of government to attempt stop and or prosecute theft.

The problem isn’t found in the intent of the law, as I said.  It’s in how it would be executed – the regulations it must spawn to meet the law’s requirements. 

Stephen DeMaura and David Segal write about the effect it would have on political campaigns (their particular focus), but it certainly doesn’t take much to translate that effect onto blogs and many other types of websites.  Read through the scenario they outline that demonstrates a possible effect on a political campaign and then think blogs:

Here’s a plausible campaign scenario under SOPA. Imagine you are running for Congress in a competitive House district. You give a strong interview to a local morning news show and your campaign posts the clip on your website. When your opponent’s campaign sees the video, it decides to play hardball and sends a notice to your Internet service provider alerting them to what it deems “infringing content.” It doesn’t matter if the content is actually pirated. The ISP has five days to pull down your website and the offending clip or be sued. If you don’t take the video down, even if you believe that the content is protected under fair use, your website goes dark.

The ability of any entity to file an infringement notice is one of SOPA’s biggest problems. It creates an unprecedented “private right of action” that would allow a private party, without any involvement by a court, to effectively shut down a website. For a campaign, this would mean shouldering legal responsibility for all user-generated posts. As more issue-based and political campaigns utilize social media to spread their message and engage supporters, a site could be targeted not only for the campaign’s own posts but also for well-meaning comments from supporters.

It doesn’t take a particularly bright person to see how this sort of a law could be used in a broader sense to kill freedom of speech via frivolous attacks on a site’s content.  If QandO embarks on a campaign against a particular politician, for instance, and uses content that it deems to be “fair use” (and may indeed be fair use in a legal sense as well), all it takes is one person anywhere, whether they have a real interest or standing in the case, to file a complaint about “infringing content” and we’re gone unless we remove it.  Whether justified or not, the ISP is left in a position of having to enforce removal or face the cost of a lawsuit (whether a lawsuit is ever intended over the claim or not).  They will obviously move to protect their interests and that means dropping the so-called offender like a hot rock.

It would effectively chill free speech. 

As DeMaura and Segal note, there’s an alternative bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa:

The Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act would create a process for rights holders to protect their property that wouldn’t shut down entire sites over a small amount of copyrighted material. This legislation helps to solve copyright infringement while protecting the vitality of the U.S.-based Internet sector — an industry that has contributed 23 percent of the growth in world gross domestic product and has revolutionized the way we live.

Attack real on-line piracy?  Yes.  Do it with terrible law?  No.  SOPA should not see the legislative light of day.

Problem two?  The UN and other countries around the world want to have the ability to more directly control more of the internet.  Robert McDowell of the FCC lays it out:

The 193-member International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a U.N.agency, will meet in Dubai next December to renegotiate the 24-year-old treaty that deals with international oversight of the Internet. A growing number of countries are pushing greater governmental control and management of the Web’s availability, financial model and infrastructure.

They believe the current model is “dominated” by the U.S., and want to “take that control and power away,” Mr. McDowell said. China and Russia support the effort, but so do non-Western U.S. allies such as Brazil, South Africa and India.

“Thus far, those who are pushing for new intergovernmental powers over the Internet are far more energized and organized than those who favor the Internet freedom and prosperity,” he said.

The reason, of course, is fairly straight forward – cash and control:

While growth of the Internet has exploded under a minimal regulatory model over the past two decades, “significant government and civil society support is developing for a different policy outlook,” according to an analysis by lawyers David Gross and M. Ethan Lucarelli on the legal intelligence website www.lexology.com.

“Driven largely by the global financial troubles of recent years, together with persistent concerns about the implications of the growth of the Internet for national economies, social structures and cultures, some governments and others are now actively reconsidering the continuing viability of liberalization and competition-based policies,” they wrote.

So the plan, apparently, is to wrest control from the US via this treaty:

A bad treaty – which would need the support of only a bare majority of U.N.members to pass and which the United States could not veto – could bring “a whole parade of problems,” Mr. McDowell said.

The U.S. and other Western democracies would likely “opt out” of the treaty, he predicted, leading to a “Balkanization” of the global information network. Governments under the treaty would have greater authority to regulate rates and local access, and such critical emerging issues as cybersecurity and data privacy standards would be subject to international control.

Mr. McDowell said the treaty could open the door to allowing revenue-hungry national governments to charge Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon for their data traffic on a “per click” basis. The more website visitors those companies get, the more they pay.

And, as we’ve watched so many times, a vital and growing market would suffer government intrusion and probable decline:

In 1988, when the treaty was signed, fewer than 100,000 people used the Internet, Mr. McDowell said. Shortly after it was privatized in 1995, that number jumped to 16 million users. As of this year, it is up to 2 billion users, with another 500,000 joining every day.

“This phenomenal growth was the direct result of governments keeping their hands off the Internet sphere and relying instead on a private-sector, multi-stakeholder Internet governance model to keep it thriving,” he said.

Mr. McDowell attributed the massive growth of the Internet to freedom.

“So the whole point is, the more it migrated away from government control, the more it blossomed,” he said.

Freedom?  Blossoming?  Growth?  Can’t have that.  It must have government control and, by the way, contribute much more in revenue than it is now.   Massive growth without significant contributions to government is just unacceptable in this day and time.  And freedom?  Anathema to the cult of government.  

The servant has become the master and masters instinctively try to gather more and more power to themselves.

This is just another in a long line of examples.  The result, of course, will be to cripple something that has been one of the few growth sectors in the global economy.  Government greed and the belief of elites that they must control everything via government will eventually kill this proverbial golden goose.  Instead of trying to enable more growth, they’re embarked on a campaign to limit and control any growth such that it provides increased revenue for government.  Whether it is best for the citizens or economy of the countries so inclined is apparently irrelevant to the quest for more control and cash.

Freedom should be on the march, but instead, we continually see examples of it on the decline.  The UN is one of the main culprits in that decline.  It is a global organization in search of more power.  Under the guise of global democracy, it is involved in killing freedom as it attempts to gather more and more power to itself.  It is as obvious as the nose on your face that global governance is its ultimate goal.  It can’t do that without exercising more control through willing members and generating more income from which it can demand a share. 

To the control freaks and authoritarians out there, the internet is a horrifically dangerous thing.  It provides much too much freedom for those they would control.  Consequently they seek to wrest that control away.  The UN is the perfect vehicle to provide the cover of legitimacy for such a power grab.

Again, here’s a treaty that has no business seeing the light of day.  However, if I had to guess, it will pass.  And freedom will take another giant step backward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO