Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain


Well here’s a surprise – Obama’s Syria policy is failing

Yes, I called it a surprise facetiously.  Does Obama do anything that doesn’t fail (other than campaign)?

Meanwhile, two-faced government continues because, well you know, telling the real truth outloud just isn’t politically smart – especially with this administration’s record:

Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them — along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation — that President Barack Obama’s administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry’s view, it may be time to consider more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions.

Kerry is said to have made these blunt assertions Sunday morning behind the closed doors of a cramped meeting room in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, as the 50th annual Munich Security Conference was coming to a close in a ballroom two floors below. A day earlier, Kerry, in a joint appearance with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ballroom stage, gave an uncompromising defense of the Obama administration’s level of foreign engagement: saying that,“I can’t think of a place in the world where we’re retreating.”

Really, Mr. Kerry?

Obama/Kerry’s Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria and Russian policies have been failures.  Israel has taken to actually ridiculing US efforts.  Saudi Arabia is said to be looking for a new patron in the Middle East.

And yet, given all of that, Kerry is still the loyal waterboy making false claims when anyone with an IQ higher than warm spit can see that during the Obama administration we’ve done nothing but retreat.

Being charitable, maybe Kerry meant we’re no longer retreating because, well, we’ve retreated about as far as is possible to retreat.

Oh, and yes, I saw the Obama/O’Reilly interview.  It had the same gripping suspense and entertainment content as the Superbowl.  In the case of Denver it was safety, interception, fumble, collapse. Obama was deny, deny, deny, blame, deny reality some more and then cast even more blame.

Pitiful.

~McQ


Land of the free?

Peggy Noonan pretty much hits a home run today (well, it being Super Bowl weekend, maybe a touchdown analogy would be better).  Here’s how she begins:

The State of the Union was a spectacle of delusion and self-congratulation in which a Congress nobody likes rose to cheer a president nobody really likes. It marked the continued degeneration of a great and useful tradition. Viewership was down, to the lowest level since 2000. This year’s innovation was the Parade of Hacks. It used to be the networks only showed the president walking down the aisle after his presence was dramatically announced. Now every cabinet-level officeholder marches in, shaking hands and high-fiving with breathless congressmen. And why not? No matter how bland and banal they may look, they do have the power to destroy your life—to declare the house you just built as in violation of EPA wetland regulations, to pull your kid’s school placement, to define your medical coverage out of existence. So by all means attention must be paid and faces seen.

Dead on. SOTU has become kind of like entertainment industry awards shows I guess … something else I never watch.  What government can do to your freedom?  Very real.

But she’s right, more and more Washington DC has become Oz.  More and more it becomes delusional, more insular and more isolated from the real America.  And that’s where Noonan goes – she does a riff on real America – i.e. “reality” – a state of being that progressive try to avoid at all costs:

Meanwhile, back in America, the Little Sisters of the Poor were preparing their legal briefs. The Roman Catholic order of nuns first came to America in 1868 and were welcomed in every city they entered. They now run about 30 homes for the needy across the country. They have, quite cruelly, been told they must comply with the ObamaCare mandate that all insurance coverage include contraceptives, sterilization procedures, morning-after pills. If they don’t—and of course they can’t, being Catholic, and nuns—they will face ruinous fines. The Supreme Court kindly granted them a temporary stay, but their case soon goes to court. The Justice Department brief, which reads like it was written by someone who just saw “Philomena,” suggests the nuns are being ignorant and balky, all they have to do is sign a little, meaningless form and the problem will go away. The sisters don’t see the form as meaningless; they know it’s not. And so they fight, in a suit along with almost 500 Catholic nonprofit groups.

Everyone who says that would never have happened in the past is correct. It never, ever would have under normal American political leadership, Republican or Democratic. No one would’ve defied religious liberty like this.

The president has taken to saying he isn’t ideological but this mandate—his mandate—is purely ideological.

It also is a violation of traditional civic courtesy, sympathy and spaciousness. The state doesn’t tell serious religious groups to do it their way or they’ll be ruined. You don’t make the Little Sisters bow down to you.

This is the great political failure of progressivism: They always go too far. They always try to rub your face in it.

She has other examples, but the way she wrapped up this portion is a pretty good summary of the state of Oz.

And we’re all the poorer and less free because of it.

~McQ


I wonder if the GOP will figure this out

I am talking about the establishment GOP – those that think compromise on principle is a good thing if it keeps it all collegial in Congress and the left doesn’t call them bad names.

As the deadline for 2014 enrollment nears, Obamacare is increasingly growing unpopular, especially among the uninsured. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that about twice as many uninsured people have an unfavorable view of the health-care law than have a favorable one.

Among the uninsured, 47 percent view Obamacare in a negative light versus the 24 percent who view it favorably. That’s a change from 43 percent who viewed it unfavorably last month, and 36 percent who viewed it favorably. Overall, half of Americans view Obamacare unfavorably, while just over one-third have a positive take on the law. ​

More of the uninsured also said Obamacare made them worse off (39 percent) than improved their situation (26 percent), according to the poll.

Got that?  The majority of people find ObamaCare to be a travesty and a plurality of those who are uninsured want nothing to do with it.

Looking for an issue GOP (clue: it’s not caving passing immigration “reform”)?

This mess the Democrats have made is the single issue on whichyou can win.  That’s right, single issue.  This is a subject very near, dear and important to every Americans.  And the Democrats have screwed it up royally. You have no need, in the interim, cave on anything.  There is nothing which requires you to pass legislation that will piss off your base.  None.

Think about it.

Please.

~McQ


Thoughts on a snowy Wednesday

I sure am glad I’m not into drunk blogging, because given the Wizard of Oz show last night, aka SOTU, I’d still be plastered.

BTW, Cory Remsburg stole the show.

On the 2014 election front, the president may be facing some real problems in his “year of action” (which I’ve come to believe mostly refers to how often he’ll wield his pen signing executive orders – something he blasted as a Senator.  I’m sure it’s Bush’s fault):

[T]he 2014 Senate playing field is potentially brutal for Democrats. Democrats are defending seats in five states — Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia — where Obama’s approval rating was at or below 35 percent in 2013, according to Gallup. In four other states where Democrats hold a Senate seat that’s up in 2014, Obama’s approval rating was well below his national average of 46 percent: Louisiana (40 percent), Colorado and Iowa (42 percent), and North Carolina (43 percent). In Oregon, New Hampshire, and New Mexico the president had a 45 percent job-approval rating, just below his national average. That’s a whopping total of 11 Democratic seats that could potentially be in play this November.

Republicans also have seats they must defend, but far fewer of them. In Georgia, where the GOP must defend an open seat, Obama’s approval rating of 45 percent is below his national average. In Kentucky, where Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection, only 35 percent of voters have a favorable view of the president.

This is intersting on a couple of fronts.  One, if the GOP holds on to the House (and there’s no real reason to believe that won’t happen) and take the Senate, executive orders are about all this president is going to have at his command.  Second, since Harry Reid went nuke, it will be interesting to see how he enjoys being on the other side of it.  Oh rest assured he’ll be like a goose who wakes up in a new world everyday, because you can count on him to blast such an abuse of power and the traditions of the Senate.

I find some solace in all of that even though I’m not a fan of the establishment Republicans.  And I darn sure don’t think they’ll do what I think is necessary to dismantle this monstrosity called ObamaCare or, for that matter, solve any other problems by just getting out of the way.  They’re “lawmakers” and that is their product  - well that and taking your money for hare-brained scemes like jobs programs, etc.  Nope, I fully expect the GOP, should they control Congress to cave to the pressure of special interests – like Democrats and media calling them names and talking about how mean spirited they are – and basically pass a Democrat lite agenda.  Watch immigration for the cue.

Where I find the solace is in defanging Obama for the last few years of his presidency.  He’ll wield his executive order pen and thunder (or perhaps by then, squeak) about Republicans blocking his agenda (something they should gladly admit too, but they won’t – they’ll cower), and blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Nope, the good news is if the GOP can take Congress, the Obama nightmare, er, presidency, will be effectively over.

That, I will drink too.

~McQ


How are you supposed to stay informed when the media doesn’t do its job?

Headline:

Study: Flu medications could spread sickness

Body:

WASHINGTON – Could cold and flu drugs help spread the flu? Some researchers think so.

Over-the-counter cold and flu drugs contain ibuprofen, acetaminophen or other drugs that can reduce fever. When patients’ fever is down, they tend to feel better.

But researchers at Canada’s McMaster University concluded that when some patients reduce their symptoms with cold and flu medications, they feel better and return to work or school while still infected. While patients feel fine, they are still able to infect others, according to the study, which is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Real answer:  Researchers aren’t saying that at all newspeople.  What they’re saying is if people have the flu, are still contageous, but are made to feel better enough by medicine to go to work, THEY may spread the flu, for heaven sake.

When I read the headline, I was actually thinking they were talking about the flu vaccine. That actually might make some sense. Instead we get this non-report report – and abysmal framing of the study.  So bad they have to point out:

“We aren’t saying don’t take medication. That’s not the message,” David Earn, who specializes in mathematics and disease, said to NBC News. “Be aware that if you take this medication, there is this effective increase in transmission.”

No there isn’t an “effective increase in transmission” if you take the meds.  There’s a POSSIBILITY of an increase in transmission if you feel well enough (and are foolish enough) to go out into public while you’re still contageous.

This pretty well demonstrates the state of science reporting in the media today.   And they wonder why we don’t buy into the global warming hype?

~McQ


The incredible shrinking presidency

Yes I know Peggy Noonan was one of “those” on the right to who thought Barack Obama would “deliver” (deliver what I’m not sure but she thought he’d be a welcome change to Bush).  And, in a weird and fascinating way it has been fun watching her discover how unbelievably wrong she was (not that it shouldn’t have been obvious from the beginning).  Frankly, it makes you a little skeptical concerning just about anything she might say that isn’t based in observable fact.

However, I think her opinion today is just about right:

Because when I imagine Barack Obama’s State of the Union, I see a handsome, dignified man standing at the podium and behind him Joe Biden, sleeping. And next to him John Boehner, snoring. And arrayed before the president the members, napping.

No one’s really listening to the president now. He has been for five years a nonstop wind-up talk machine. Most of it has been facile, bland, the same rounded words and rounded sentiments, the same soft accusations and excuses. I see him enjoying the sound of his voice as the network newsman leans forward eagerly, intently, nodding at the pearls, enacting interest, for this is the president and he is the anchorman and surely something important is being said with two such important men engaged.

But nothing interesting was being said! Looking back on this presidency, it has from the beginning been a 17,000 word New Yorker piece in which, calmly, sonorously, with his lovely intelligent voice, the president says nothing, or little that is helpful, insightful or believable. “I’m not a particularly ideological person.” “It’s hard to anticipate events over the next three years.” “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now.” “I am comfortable with complexity.” “Our capacity to do some good . . . is unsurpassed, even if nobody is paying attention.”

Nobody is!

Yeah, she hasn’t quite lost the “fan girl” crush she had on Obama, but the stark reality of what this man is … or perhaps isn’t … has finally begun to set in. Reality is a bitch and she doesn’t let you play pretend for long before she begins slapping you around the head and shoulders with what “is”. And what “is” with this presidency is “over”.

No one trusts this man. He’s been an incompetent buffoon. And the pity is, it was entirely predictable. In fact, we did predict it. We talked about the presidency not being an OJT position. That you needed experience having run a major organization before (you know, executive experience?). Or someone that had actually done something other than write his own autobigraphy at 40.  If not, you’re likely to be well above your competency level and it will show.

But some sort of ability to suspend disbelief infected the chattering classes and they began coughing, sneezing and throwing up a myth about this empty suit. At the end of the 2008 campaign he had somehow become magic.

In reality he was the Wizard and the Noonan’s of the world, 5 years late and trillions of dollars short have finally … FINALLY … begun to peek behind the curtain where the rest of us have been sending SOS’s for years. And they’re discovering he doesn’t even know what the levers are or do, much less how to pull them.

And this discovery has led to more discovery … such as that above. He’s mostly irrelevant and ignored. Someone we must suffer through to get back to business. And so when he speaks … well, no one listens. Oh, they may show up, and they may even feign paying attention, but when you’ve heard the same speech and all it’s variations for 5 years and nothing has happened that was promised (and a lot has happened that wasn’t promised and isn’t good), you tend to not pay attention any more.

For a speechifier who thinks words equal action, I can’t imagine a worse fate.

~McQ


ObamaCare: the myth and the reality

Perhaps I should say the building myth and the reality.

What is the building myth?  That the worst is behind it.  Megan McArdle fills you in:

Many of the commentators I’ve read seem to think that the worst is over, as far as unpopular surprises.

But she then takes a chain saw to that particular notion:

In fact, the worst is yet to come.

· 2014: Small-business policy cancellations. This year, the small-business market is going to get hit with the policy cancellations that roiled the individual market last year. Some firms will get better deals, but others will find that their coverage is being canceled in favor of more expensive policies that don’t cover as many of the doctors or procedures that they want. This is going to be a rolling problem throughout the year.

· Summer 2014: Insurers get a sizable chunk of money from the government to cover any excess losses. When the costs are published, this is going to be wildly unpopular: The administration has spent three years saying that Obamacare was the antidote to abuses by Big, Bad Insurance Companies, and suddenly it’s a mechanism to funnel taxpayer money to them?

· Fall 2014: New premiums are announced.

· 2014 and onward: Medicare reimbursement cuts eat into hospital margins, triggering a lot of lobbying and sad ads about how Beloved Local Hospital may have to close.

· Spring 2015: The Internal Revenue Service starts collecting individual mandate penalties: 1 percent of income in the first year. That’s going to be a nasty shock to folks who thought the penalty was just $95. I, like many other analysts, expect the administration to announce a temporary delay sometime after April 1, 2014.

· Spring 2015: The IRS demands that people whose income was higher than they projected pay back their excess subsidies. This could be thousands of dollars.

· Spring 2015: Cuts to Medicare Advantage, which the administration punted on in 2013, are scheduled to go into effect. This will reduce benefits currently enjoyed by millions of seniors, which is why they didn’t let them go into effect this year.

· Fall 2015: This is when expert Bob Laszewski says insurers will begin exiting the market if the exchange policies aren’t profitable.

· Fall 2017: Companies and unions start learning whether their plans will get hit by the “Cadillac tax,” a stiff excise tax on expensive policies that will hit plans with generous benefits or an older and sicker employee base. Expect a lot of companies and unions to radically decrease benefits and increase cost-sharing as a result.

· January 2018: The temporary risk-adjustment plans, which the administration is relying on to keep insurers in the marketplaces even if their customer pool is older and sicker than projected, run out. Now if insurers take losses, they just lose the money.

· Fall 2018: Buyers find out that subsidy growth is capped for next year’s premiums; instead of simply being pegged to the price of the second-cheapest silver plan, whatever that cost is, their growth is fixed. This will show up in higher premiums for families — and, potentially, in an adverse-selection death spiral.

In fact, she is exactly right.  Note how many of these surprises happen before 2016.  And, as they come true, perhaps … just perhaps … when voters are told that the rest of this nonsense is likely to come true too (it is the law, you see), they might believe it.

Perhaps.  The “Cadillac tax” was inartfully delayed until after the election.  However, the snowball will already be rolling down hill by then and you’d think the public would be open to believing that the rest of this abomination, that which was delayed, will indeed happen.  And you’d also believe they’d want to do something about that (that, of course assumes Obama doesn’t wave the magic executive pen and waive all of this until after the election).

But then, doing something would depend on what?  Well, getting elected officials that want to actually get rid of most of this monstrosity and are willing to say that and then do it.  Uh, that won’t be Democrats (well except perhaps blue dog Democrats, if they’re not extinct by then).

What it all boils down too is that voters will have to depend on Republicans to do the heavy lifting.  The question is will they do that if elected?  In other words, will Republicans be up to the job?

If I had to base it on the current crop – yeah, not so much.

~McQ


Manufacturing a problem for government to solve

It is something government is quite good at doing, even though the solution usually ends up being worse than the problem.

And then there are “problems” that aren’t really problems, but government sees an opportunity to step in and “solve” it via, well, more government and less freedom, of course.

For instance:

Two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are currently distributed in the U.S. This includes three-fourths of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.

On it’s face, you might not think much about this, since very few people are satisfied with their condition, regardless of how good it really is.  Everyone thinks they should be doing better.  And, for the most part, many like to blame others for their inability to realize whatever goals and dreams they’ve set out for themselves.  It’s certainly not their fault they aren’t the CEO of a Fortune 100 company … it has to be the “elite” or the “rich” or the “old boy network” that’s kept them from their dream.  And they certainly think they should be making more than they do.  They’re worth it, just ask them.

They’re also fertile ground for the biggest con artist in the world to use their dissatisfaction to promise them their dream at the expense of others.  Instead of saying, “Don’t like your situation?  Work harder and smarter then”, this bunch of grifters promise to use their power to help the dissatisfied get “their due”.  And so:

President Barack Obama spoke about income disparities in a Dec. 4, 2013, speech, saying he wanted to prioritize lowering income disparity and increasing opportunities, particularly for the poor, during the rest of his second term. He most likely will return to that topic in his State of the Union speech at the end of the month. Gallup’s Jan. 5-8 Mood of the Nation survey included a question asking Americans how satisfied they are with income and wealth distribution in the U.S. Few, 7%, report that they are “very satisfied” with the distribution, while 39% of Americans say they are “very dissatisfied.”

Who says a failing economy can’t be used to increase political and governmental power?  Just hide and watch.  Of course, it is no coincidence that the “dissatisfaction” with the “distribution” of “income and wealth” took a nose dive with the economy, is it?

But you know the old Rahm Emanuel saying – “never let a crisis go to waste”, even if it is a manufactured crisis.  If it is an opportunity to expand government (especially if that expansion accrues more power to government and less to the people) then it’s all good.

They’ll have to move fast though:

Obama will almost certainly touch on inequality in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28. This will certainly resonate in a general sense with the majority of Americans who are dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution in the U.S. today. Members of the president’s party agree most strongly with the president that this is an issue, but majorities of Republicans and independents are at least somewhat dissatisfied as well.

Although Americans are more likely to be satisfied with the opportunity for people to get ahead through hard work, their satisfaction is well below where it was before the economic downturn. Accordingly, improvement in the U.S. economy could bring Americans’ views back to pre-recession levels.

Heaven forbid the economy get better before more useless programs can be “funded” and more plans executed to relieve the “rich” and “wealthy” of their money for the usual vote buying schemes.

But with this crew in charge, an economic turnaround isn’t very likely anytime soon … so I’m sure they feel pretty darn safe at the moment and believe that they have plenty of time.

~McQ


Administration has no idea who has or hasn’t paid for ObamaCare

You remember the post a couple of days ago when I broadly hinted that you shouldn’t believe a single statistic (or most of anything else) this administration proffers?

More proof.  You might recall a number of administration spokespersons and Democrat mouthpieces telling us that millions have enrolled and paid?

Yeah, not so fast:

An official from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services admitted at a House hearing today that no one knows how many people have actually paid for Obamacare coverage.

“So we don’t know at this point how many people have actually paid for coverage?” asked a member of Congress.

“That’s right,” the CMS official conceded.

Inept, incompetent and unfortunately, in charge.

~McQ


US drops out of top 10 for economic freedom

I’m not sure that this will surprise anyone, given the size and intrusiveness of our government:

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

For 20 years, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Obviously the decline began before the Obama administration, but the policies of this administration have certainly hastened the decline and are certainly a primary reason for the US dropping out of the top 10:

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

And that’s certainly been the case these past 5 years.  Regulation has exploded, government intrusiveness has increased, freedom is in retreat.

Bottom line:

Despite financial crises and recessions, the global economy has expanded by nearly 70% in 20 years, to $54 trillion in 2012 from $32 trillion in 1993. Hundreds of millions of people have left grinding poverty behind as their economies have become freer. But it is an appalling, avoidable human tragedy how many of the world’s peoples remain unfree—and poor.

The record of increasing economic freedom elsewhere makes it inexcusable that a country like the U.S. continues to pursue policies antithetical to its own growth, while wielding its influence to encourage other countries to chart the same disastrous course. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom documents a world-wide race to enhance economic opportunity through greater freedom—and this year’s index demonstrates that the U.S. needs a drastic change in direction.

Drastic action needed, dithering and inaction expected, continued decline the result.

~McQ