I’m always surprised by people that think government can run something better and more efficiently than a private entity. Oh sure, there are things that are best left to government – like national defense – because it simply makes more sense when it comes to that. But the fact that we charge them with that duty doesn’t mean they run it efficiently.
Governments have no incentive to be efficient. We’ve talked about how, in private concerns, the profit motive provides incentive to be efficient. In government there is no such motive. So waste, fraud and abuse are rampant.
How rampant? Take a look at this chart:
We’ve all been told by the Democrats that the government can help lower costs in health care. But when you look at the 4 health care items on the chart (Medicare fee for svc, Medicaid, Medicare part C and D), you are looking at $63.5 billion … that’s with a “b” … dollars a year in “improper payment rates”. Also look at the percentage of error. In the EITC program, 22.7% or 12.6 billion of what they pay out is in error. (Don’t forget, the chart looks only at programs of $750 million or more a year – and we all know there are literally thousands of government programs below that threshold doing the same thing.)
Add all these up and government is making about $100 billion dollars a year in improper payments. So if anyone wonders why I snort derisively when I hear Congress talk about a $10 billion savings over 10 years (not to mention that usually means not spending as much as they now spend) you can understand why. We’re not bleeding money at a federal level, we’re hemorrhaging it. What in the world is a 10 year $10 billion dollar “savings” worth when government is blowing a trillion dollars in 10 years via waste, fraud and abuse?
But do they actually address the problem? No. We’ve known about this level of waste, fraud and abuse for years … decades even. And absolutely nothing of worth has been done to correct it. In fact, given the amount of expansion the federal government has seen in the last decades, it’s gotten worse. As the Mercatus Center says:
While people of good conscience on both sides of the political aisle can debate the merits of whether or not government should be involved in certain activities, none should tolerate the high levels of improper payments currently associated with government spending on social welfare programs. Federal spending has grown too massive to be adequately overseen. Waste, fraud, and abuse squanders public resources and undermines trust in government.
Indeed. But there is one sure fire way to at least reduce this waste, given the apparent fact that government hasn’t a clue about how to reduce it. Get government out of areas it has no business and cut spending. Simplistic? Not really. That is a solution, or at least a partial solution. I certainly understand there will be argument about the areas where government should be involved or not, but hey, crazy me, I’ve always found the Constitution provides some pretty good guidelines. And, of course, then you have to elect legislators with both balls and a charter to do that (and who won’t succumb to “Potomac fever” when they arrive on the scene) and stay on them until they do what is necessary to accomplish the task.
Yeah, I know, not going to happen anytime soon. People like their government cheese too much and most don’t mind at all that someone else is paying the freight.
Meanwhile this atrocious and unacceptable waste of your tax dollars will continue unabated (and likely get worse) – a victim of “government efficiency”.
If ever there was a poster woman for progressivism, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren fills the bill. Known as “Fauxahontas” for using fake indian credentials to cash in on minority preferences, she has taken the Ted Kennedy Senate seat from the hapless Scott Brown and is now on target to out-liberal the liberal Lion.
One of the more interesting things to do with her is to disect her thinking via reading what she has to say about certain subjects. It gives one a good peek behind the curtain and into the “progressive” mind. For instance, here she is talking about the school loan program the government unilaterally took over:
Right now, in order to finance the United States government, we take in billions of dollars of profits for student loans, but permit billionaires to have enough loopholes that they pay at tax rates that can be lower than those of their secretaries.
This is a straightforward choice: We can take $75 billion and either way we’ll use it to protect tax loopholes for billionaires or $75 billion can be used to help students to refinance their outstanding student loan debt. It’s billionaires or students.
This particular quote is instructive in so many ways. First, note how she makes the point that government “permits” billionairs to keep their money via loopholes. Obviously she believes that’s something that shouldn’t be permitted, but more importantly in infers a belief that everything you earn belongs to government. The student loan program is simply an excuse for taking it if she has her way. If it weren’t that, it would be something else. But bottom line she believes government has a right to that money in the name of … well you call it – fairness? Equality? Whatever.
Secondly, what is the problem right now in terms of the cost of schooling? The price is to high. How does one get the price down? Competiton. That and you don’t subsidize the cost and lay off the cost of that subsizidation on students. If there is limited competition and vast subsidization, what is the incentive for colleges and universities to cut costs to compete for students?
That’s right, none. So what the government program that she wants to tax billionaires for is doing is helping to sustain, maintain and grow the higher education bubble.
Heritage’s Brittany Corona, a research assistant in education policy, has criticized the federal government’s involvement in the student-loan business, citing, in particular, the unknown long-term costs to taxpayers.
“Continuing to expand higher education subsidies through subsidized federal student loans and grants does nothing to put pressure on colleges to lower costs,” Corona warned. “In fact, access to easy money does the opposite, enabling universities to raise prices, knowing students can return to the federal trough for more financing.”
Sound familiar at all? Have we had previous experience with this sort of nonsense in the last 5 or 6 years?
When this bubble pops and collapses, I’m sure the Warren’s of the world will find some “private” boogyman to blame it on. But in reality, it will again be a government program that fueled the expansion of the bubble and the eventual collapse.
And the students? Well, they’ll still be on the hook to pay for their overpriced education for the rest of their lives, regardless of the interest rate.
A poll came out the other day saying that the majority of American’s first priority is unemployment. And it should be given the incredible low we’re now suffering in labor force participation.
So what bright idea are Democrats pushing in spite of that? Hey, let’s raise the minimum wage?
Result? Well, even the CBO, the Dems favorite “go to” agency to support their ideas (when it actually agrees, of course), doesn’t see this as a particularly bright idea if they’re concerned about the people’s priority:
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects.
Notice it says reduce “total employment” by 500,000. It also says it is only a projection and that it could actually be higher than that.
But, but … it will help the poor!
The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not go only to low-income families, because many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families. Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.
Or said another way, Democrats are willing to see a half million plus lose their jobs to serve 19% (and that assumes that all of the 19% keep their jobs).
But, but … it will give the poor more to spend!
Moreover, the increased earnings for some workers would be accompanied by reductions in real (inflation-adjusted) income for the people who became jobless because of the minimum-wage increase, for business owners, and for consumers facing higher prices.
Those are facts, folks. Democrats don’t deal in facts, they deal in emotions … and if they can pass a minimum wage bill, they’ll feel wonderful about themselves. And if they can’t, they’ll blame it all on the mean old Repubicans who want you to be able to keep your job or something radical like that.
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.
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.
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.
No one said it would go smoothly or that compromise was a requirement in Congress. For whatever reason, “progress”, for some, is defined in the number of new laws passed and hours worked in Congress. NBC News for instance in their daily email newsletter this morning:
By now, we’ve told you how unproductive the 113th Congress has been so far, now passing just 57 bills into law (compared with 67 passed at this same point in time by the previous 112th Congress, which then was the least productive modern Congress on record). But here’s another way to measure how unproductive the Congress has been — in terms of hours worked. “According to data analyzed by The New York Times, the House of Representatives, which ended its business for the year last week, left town with the distinction of having been at work for the fewest hours in a nonelection year since 2005, when detailed information about legislative activity became available. Not counting brief, pro forma sessions, the House was in session for 942 hours, an average of about 28 hours each week it conducted business in Washington. That is far lower than the nearly 1,700 hours it was in session in 2007, the 1,350 hours in 2005 or even the 1,200 in 2011.” We know members of Congress do much of their work with constituents back home. But the TV ads here kind of write themselves. Who wouldn’t want a 28-hour work week? Expect every incumbent to get dinged with that “28 hour work week” hit while “you at home struggle to make ends meet working 40 or 50 hours” yada yada.
Yada, yada indeed. We ought to give them medals for not intruding any further on our freedoms. OK, not really. But apparently it is forgotten that Congress was supposed to be a part-time job (thus the two sessions) and that only laws of necessity (as outlined in the Constitution) were to be passed. Now, apparently, Congress is only “productive” when it is engaged in stepping on everyone’s freedoms by passing dozens upon dozens of new laws, many of which are unnecessary or are designed to reward one constituency at the cost of another.
And we’ve developed a ruling class via career politicians and their heirs. I’ve never been so tired of the names Clinton, Bush, Kennedy, Cuomo, etc. Political power isn’t hereditary … or wasn’t supposed to be anyway.
Why do people feel the way NBC does? Because they don’t pay attention and they have no sense of history or how this nation was formed. They’ve totally bought into the mind drugs that purveyors like NBC and the NY Times offer every day. According to them, a “productive” Congress is a Congress engaged in finding new ways to run your life. As Dale said last night we’re finally to the stage that most of the country believes they belong to the state.
American exceptionalism isn’t a figment of anyone’s imagination. It is, or was, a product of our founding. And as long as we stuck to the principles of our founding, we remained an exceptional country. Now it seems we’re headed toward the mediocrity of any number of other countries simply by trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. We’ve fallen for the siren song of “free” stuff, and there are enough Americans benefiting from the state robbing others to give to them that they see no reason to change that slide into the abyss. As long as the free stuff continues to come their way while they live, well, that’s just fine.
And the NBCs of the world are just fine with helping us along to that unexceptional, over-regulated, nanny-state existence that they apparently think is best for us and our country.
It’s hard to describe this blinding stupidity as anything other than … well, blindingly stupid. I think this one sentence encapsulates the #Fail quite nicely:
This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout.
If you think Brooks is trying to get all counter-intuitive on you (a la Thomas Friedman’s wistful longing for Chinese authoritarianism), think again. It’s just full on stupidity.
Brooks’ argument is that Congress is too beholden to the “rentier groups” (i.e. moneyed interest groups and lobbyists) and that the judiciary is too involved in the process:
In the current issue of The American Interest, Francis Fukuyama analyzes this institutional decay. His point is that the original system of checks and balances has morphed into a “vetocracy,” an unworkable machine where many interests can veto reform.
First, there is the profusion of interest groups. In 1971, there were 175 registered lobbying firms. By 2009, there were 13,700 lobbyists spending more than $3.5 billion annually, and this doesn’t even count the much larger cloud of activist groups and ideological enforcers.
Then there is the judicial usurpation of power. Fukuyama writes, “conflicts that in Sweden or Japan would be solved through quiet consultations between interested parties through the bureaucracy are fought out through formal litigation in the American court system.” This leads to uncertainty, complexity and perverse behavior.
After a law is passed, there are always adjustments to be made. These could be done flexibly. But, instead, Congress throws implementation and enforcement into the court system by giving more groups the standing to sue. What could be a flexible process is turned into “adversarial legalism” that makes government more intrusive and more rigid.
In other words, because the power to form laws is relatively disbursed amongst constituents, elected officials and the court system, gridlock happens sometimes and that’s just totally unacceptable. Because, heaven knows that if Congress isn’t cranking out new laws at a fast enough pace, the world will end. (That seems to be the meme going around anyway.)
So what would be the benefits of more powerful Executive branch?
Here are the advantages. First, it is possible to mobilize the executive branch to come to policy conclusion on something like immigration reform. It’s nearly impossible for Congress to lead us to a conclusion about anything. Second, executive branch officials are more sheltered from the interest groups than Congressional officials. Third, executive branch officials usually have more specialized knowledge than staffers on Capitol Hill and longer historical memories. Fourth, Congressional deliberations, to the extent they exist at all, are rooted in rigid political frameworks. Some agencies, especially places like the Office of Management and Budget, are reasonably removed from excessive partisanship. Fifth, executive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation. Finally, the nation can take it out on a president’s party when a president’s laws don’t work. That doesn’t happen in Congressional elections, where most have safe seats.
Note the two “advantages” I’ve bolded. It’s as if things like Solyndra fiasco and the IRS targeting of conservatives never happened.
Lest there be any confusion about Brooks’ prescription, he sums it up as thus:
So how do you energize the executive? It’s a good idea to be tolerant of executive branch power grabs and to give agencies flexibility. We voters also need to change our voting criteria. It’s not enough to vote for somebody who agrees with your policy preferences. Presidential candidates need to answer two questions. How are you going to build a governing 60 percent majority that will enable you to drive the Washington policy process? What is your experience implementing policies through big organizations?
We don’t need bigger government. We need more unified authority. Take power away from the rentier groups who dominate the process. Allow people in those authorities to exercise discretion. Find a president who can both rally a majority, and execute a policy process.
At least he’s being honest about what the political and chattering classes truly want. As an added bonus, Brooks has inspired a better description of his cant than “blindingly stupid”: contemptible.
A primary reason for structuring our government with the checks and balances it has was to prevent a concentration of power. The POTUS was specifically limited because of the position’s duties, and the danger exercising them could mean to the freedom of the people. America didn’t want a king. Well, we may gotten one anyway.
The House of Representatives held a hearing yesterday on the Obama Administration’s exercise (or non-exercise) of it powers, and asked whether or not the Executive branch was properly following the “take care” clause of the Constitution. AllahPundit provides some commentary on the hearing, focusing Prof. Jonathan Turley’s testimony:
If you have time for only one snippet, though, skip to 2:33:00 for his list of Obama’s five most egregious violations of separation of powers. Some are familiar to you — declaring that he wouldn’t deport illegals who might qualify for DREAM, refusing to enforce the employer mandate, etc — but the ones about him shifting money around without regard to how Congress has appropriated it might not be. Turley makes two valuable points here. One: Courts tend to give the executive a wide berth in separation-of-powers challenges on the theory that Congress has the power of the purse and can defund any executive agency it likes. But that’s not true anymore, he says. Obama, by defying appropriations, has claimed some of that power for himself. What check does Congress have left? That brings us to point two: Even if Congress can’t stop Obama, the courts can. The problem there, though, says Turley, is that O and the DOJ have argued successfully in many cases that no one has standing to sue him because no one can show an injury from his power grabs that’s concrete enough to justify a federal lawsuit. So the courts can’t check him either.
The only check left, it would seem, is through elections. Which isn’t a check at all on a term-limited President. Of course, there’s always the impeachment route, but that doesn’t seem likely (despite what some in the media think). Turley thinks it’s not even being considered:
Now, I was the lead witness but I was testifying in through the haze of a raging flu. So I went back and checked. Impeachment was mentioned in passing but it was quickly discounted. Indeed, I specifically testified that, as someone who testified at the Clinton impeachment, I did not view such a measure as warranted given the ambiguity of past decisions. Indeed, the references to impeachment were made in the context of the loss of meaningful options for Congress to respond to such encroachments when the President reserved the right to suspend portions of laws and fought access to the courts in challenging such decisions. Yet, the Post simply reported that the word impeachment came up (not surprisingly) in a discussion of the options given by Framers to Congress in dealing with unlawful presidential conduct.
During the hearing, not only did I discount impeachment as an option, but a Democratic member specifically asked the panel about the references to impeachment. No one could remember how it came up but it was clear that no one thought it was a substantial issue — or significant part of the hearing.
In a discussion of checks on the presidency, impeachment is one of the enumerated options given to Congress. Notably, past judicial opinions involving such separation of powers controversies have also discussed impeachment with the power of the purse as devices given to the Congress. In discussing impeachment with these other powers, courts were not advocating impeachment or suggesting that it was a viable solution in that given case.
In the end, since the Senate is held by the same party as the President, impeachment isn’t a serious option. But the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress remains a serious issue. At this point, the only options left would seem to be either shutting the government down, or refusing to pass any new laws since the POTUS won’t execute them anyway. And whither goes the Republic.
And, he and Democrats will eventually pay for that:
The partisan battles that have paralyzed Washington in recent years took a historic turn Thursday, as Senate Democrats eliminated filibusters for most presidential nominations, severely curtailing the political leverage of the Republican minority in the Senate and assuring an escalation of partisan warfare.
Saying that “enough is enough,” President Obama welcomed the end of what he called the abuse of the Senate’s advise and consent function, which he said had turned into “a reckless and relentless tool” to grind the gears of government to a halt.
Of course Obama and Reid (along with Biden) were some of the more outspoken defenders of the filibuster when Democrats were in the minority. Minority rights, you know. Blah, blah, blah …. words without end, words without meaning.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “…the so-called nuclear option… attempt to rewrite Senate rules so we would be another House of Representatives; that we would throw away the Constitution of the United States so the Federal courts could be packed.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.8911, 9/5/06)
REID: “We stand united against an outrageous abuse of power that would pack the courts with out-of-the-mainstream judges.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.5198, 5/16/05)
Now, of course, it is an “obstruction” and we’re likely to get exactly what Harry Reid railed against then.
Well, we’ll see how that works out for them when they’re in the minority again and another party is sitting the the White House, won’t we?
Reid – not smart enough see beyond today and the fact that he has just set it up for Democrats of tomorrow to pay for this in ways they never imagined.
If we could only outlaw their whiny cries of outrage when this eventually bites them in the butt, I’d be satisfied.