Free Markets, Free People

Freedom and Liberty


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


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


Trust, leadership and politics

Well you all saw the new job numbers – 74,000 new jobs, 525,000 more workers drop out of the workforce and magically, the U3 unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% (“and the underpants gnomes … SCORE!”)

Trust … why wouldn’t you trust the BLS’s numbers when you continually see this formula add up to “less” unemployment? /sarc

In more ways than one, trust in government is being squandered by those in government.

For instance have you ever seen “leaders” who seem to know less about what their “minions” are doing than this latest bunch?  Barack Obama is clueless as is, to a lesser extent, Chris Christie. And so we are witness to abuses of power on a regular basis. Most of those abuses can be linked to politics in general. But let’s face it, whatever the reason, we are seeing more and more abuse of power to the point that one might suggest that our government has become too powerful (“suggest” hell, it IS too powerful).

There’s another point that bothers me. I don’t know about you, but the way I’ve always been taught – in fact what I learned as a leader – is a leader is responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen on his watch.

And while we may apply that in our lives and jobs, “we the people” seem content with swallowing the “gee, I didn’t know that was going on” nonsense from politicians. I’ve never seen an occupation where they are given so many passes on things that in the normal business world – or any other “world” – would be the end of their career.

In terms of leadership, It really doesn’t matter what happened, it’s his or her problem and responsibility. Good leaders don’t let those sorts of problems crop up very often. That’s because it is the leader’s job to set the ethical and moral boundaries of his administration and to relentlessly patrol those boundaries and punish those who cross them.

But that doesn’t happen today in politics. Instead we just leave ‘em be when they say “uh, gee, I didn’t know a thing about this.”

Ignorance isn’t an acceptable excuse. It’s the 7 year-old’s defense, one we don’t accept from our own kids, and yet we let politicians who claim to be leaders pull it every single day.

Trust? How can you trust anyone you let lie to you daily? How can you trust anyone who has no apparent moral or ethical boundaries and are only sorry to be caught? How can you believe anything they say? More importantly, how can you let these people have any say over your life at all?

Just wondering …

~McQ


The law with the Orwellian name continues to lose support

The Affordable Care Act, the monstrosity of Democratic legislation with the Orwellian name, continues to lose supporters.   And, as an added special feature, people in employer based programs are now paying more out-of-pocket for their medical expenses than before ObamaCare.  Very “affordable”, no?

Support for the Affordable Care Act has plummeted since late last summer, and people with employer-based health insurance say they increasingly are paying more for out-of-pocket medical expenses, a new Bankrate.com survey released Wednesday revealed.

When Bankrate.com first polled people in September—right before the launch of Obamacare insurance exchanges, there was an even split between those who said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act if given the power to do so and those who would keep it: 46 percent each. (The rest either had no opinion or didn’t know how they felt.)

But three months later, after the botched launch of those government-run exchanges, the number of people who said they would gut Obamacare had risen to 48 percent, while the number of respondents who said they would keep it as law had plunged to 38 percent.

While the “botched launch” may have had some effect on that “plunge”, my guess is that hitting people’s wallet has pushed it down even more.  Health care insurance isn’t some esoteric policy argument.  It’s something that is important to everyone.  It is about their family and trying to afford the best for their family’s health. When policy negatively effects real people, they react just as negatively (and I do hope that Democrats double down on their support of the law, since it is all theirs anyway) :

The survey also found that people, by a 2-to-1 margin, felt Obamacare had had a more negative than positive impact on their own, individual health care. The poll questioned 1,005 adults, and had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

[...]

His company’s survey also found that a total of 44 percent of people with employer-provided insurance said they are shelling out more dollars in deductibles and copayments than they were a year ago. And 47 percent of that group of people reported having more money deducted from their paycheck to pay the cost of those insurance plans than in 2012.

People earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually were the most affected group: with 64 percent of them reporting a bigger hit on their paychecks from health insurance. Just 38 percent of the people earning less than $30,000 reported paying more for insurance in payroll deductions as of 2013.

The great leveling.  Apparently you’re “rich” if you earn between $50 and $75k, so it’s okay that you’re paying more – and besides, those “Cadillac plans” just aren’t fair (well, except for the exempt unions, of course … and Congress, and ….).  Don’t forget the tsunami of cancellations that will hit employer based programs hasn’t yet happened.

Obviously it doesn’t take great powers of perception to realize that this is just going to get worse and worse as the months pass.  And as those months pass, those supporting the legislation will become fewer and fewer.  It will be a grand issue on which Congressional Republicans can run (if they actually can figure out how to do that successfully without the usual idiocy).  Unfortunately, politics aside, it is going to be a building disaster for the American people.

Repeal is the best remedy.

~McQ


Coming in 2014 whether you like it or not

Just for an intro:

A Russian expedition ship carrying global warming scientists got stuck in ice earlier this week. Now a Chinese ice breaker sent to rescue the scientists is frozen too just miles away.

Yes friends, “global warming”, “climate change” or whatever the alarmists choose to call it next year, will be with us and with a vengeance.

You see, “if you like your insurance you can keep it” Obama has said it will be one of his highest priorities.  There’s gold in that thar air.  It is an as yet untapped revenue source that, well, he’s bound and determined to tap – science, or lack thereof, be damned.

Nevermind that 13 new Obama taxes go into effect this next year and will likely stunt economic growth … again.  Global warming produces an entire new opportunity to gouge taxpayers “for their own good” — you know, just like ObamaCare.  And, of course, the grab will be couched in language much like ObamaCare.  They’ll promise the moon.  They’ll deliver misery. The only institution which will benefit?  Government.

What will be chipped away?

A little more of your freedom.  Your liberty.

It is obviously okay now for government to just engage in bald faced lies and get away with it.  Obama’s “if you like your insurance …” lie led the parade of Pinocchio awards by that renowned right-wing rag the Washington Post. Result? Nada? Penalty? Nada?

Lesson learned by the perpetrators of the lie?

Hey, it’s okay, there are no penalties and it works.

Next up?

Global warming (and your wallet).

You’ve been warned.

~McQ


Insufficiently Servile

I got a taste of what modern policing has become today—which is to say, an absolute unwillingness to allow anything but complete, unquestioning obedience. Officer Friendly has long since retired, apparently.

For the past fifteen years, I have worked every day on the same very small military installation as a contractor. This morning, as I was approaching the main gate, when I started off after the stoplight, I didn’t shift upshift. So, the Goat was just wailing that sweet V8 growl as I approached the gate. About fifty yards from the gate, I slowed down, rolled down my window, and had my ID outside the car as I approached. Usually, there are civilian DoD police at the gate, but this morning, it was manned by a reservist, a 2nd Class Master at Arms—the Navy’s equivalent to Military Police. We had a brief conversation that went, as nearly as I can remember it like this:

PO2: (Snippy) Are you running late this morning?

Me: No.

(At this point, I could instantly see that my answer displeased him.)

PO2: (Scowling) You need to keep your speed down.

Me: I always observe the speed limits when I’m on the installation.

PO2: (Waving me through) You need to keep your speed down off-base, too.

Me: (Starting to drive away) What happens off-base isn’t your jurisdiction.

I got to my office, turned on my computer, and went into the break area to warm up a couple of delicious whole-wheat Eggos. While I was standing in the kitchen, a uniformed DoD police officer walked in and asked me if I owned the Red GTO. When I said I did, he then asked for my driver’s license. I asked, since I wasn’t operating a motor vehicle, if I was required to show it to him. (In CA, you are not required to do so when not operating a vehicle, nor are you required to show an ID otherwise. It’s different on military bases, of course, in that you are required to show an ID).

When I gave it to him, he then began to tell me how bad my attitude was, and how I should be more respectful of the police, what with them having such a hard job and all. I said that, when it came to respect, maybe the gate guard should’ve been a little less snippy. He said they didn’t need me making smart remarks about their jurisdiction, because they have a close relationship with civilian law enforcement, and he himself, had worked for Atlanta PD for fifteen years. I denied driving at an excessive speed when I approached the gate, said that my comment about jurisdiction was completely valid and that did not have the authority to issue traffic citations off-base, and that if they felt they needed to call CHP to give me a citation, they should do so. Otherwise, he should present me with a citation or arrest me for a military-related offense. Failing that, I was uninterested in further conversation. He seemed a bit upset when he left.

About twenty minutes later, two more DoD policemen came into my office. One of them was the major who serves as the installation’s police chief. They asked to talk to me outside. I told them that, since it appeared that I was the target of some sort of investigation I would refuse to answer any questions without consulting legal council. They asked me to step outside the building and I complied. The major then asked me where I was getting my legal knowledge from, and I replied that I had been an active-duty military policeman for 10 years. They asked for my license, registration and insurance card, and workcenter supervisors. While one officer began to write down my information, the major then told me that as a military policeman I should have a better attitude and be more cooperative. He  then presented a  hypothetical situation about approaching the gate at a high rate of speed. I said, "Hypothetically, I would categorically deny any such allegations". He began to ask me more questions, and I stopped him, saying:

Me: Don’t I have the right to remain silent?

Major: Well, if you are a former MP you should know that Miranda only applies to custodial interviews, not voluntary ones."

Me: So, is this a voluntary interview?

Major: Yes.

Me: So, I’m free to go?

(The major hesitated at this point, probably because both he and I knew what the only correct answer was.)

Major: Yes, you’re free to go.

Me: Then, I think we’re done here.

I retrieved my documentation from the other officer, put it my car, and walked back into the building.

Another twenty minutes passed when two different officers showed up at my office and asked me to come outside. When I did, they presented me with a base traffic ticket for not having my car registered on base. Quite honestly, I didn’t know I was required to, since the Navy no longer issues vehicle decals. We were told that registration was no longer necessary, but apparently the registration regulation is still on the books. The ticket had already been written before the officers approached me. One of them—the officer who had been sent over to speak with me the first time—said, "By direction of the base police chief, I am issuing you a citation for failure to register your vehicle within ten days. You can call the base traffic office if you have any questions." I said, "Wait a second, I haven’t even had my plates for ten days. I just bought the car." He said, "Your registration is dated more than 10 days ago. That’s the date we go by." Then they left.

So, I went to Pass & ID register my car—as well as my motorcycle, which has never been registered either—and they tore up my ticket. Then when I got back to my office, I called to the regional headquarters, and spoke directly with the GS-15 who runs all the local Navy police operations. I explained that I had a brief, snippy conversation with the gate guard, and since then, had been pulled out of my workcenter three separate times by five DoD police officers, and that I felt it was a little excessive, especially considering the chief of police himself had been one of the officers. He said he would take care of it, which, I hope, means he will tell the local police to turn it down from 11.

So, that was my contact with the DoD police today. At every confrontation, they clearly expected me to respond with the appropriate degree of subservience, and were baffled and angered that I refused to do so. So, they couldn’t let it go. They just kept coming back to my office, as if repeated confrontations would make me more, rather than less, servile. And all this for something that wasn’t any sort of criminal offense.

It says a lot—none of it good—that the police seem to have the expectation of unquestioning obedience. It also says a lot that they seem used to getting it, which is our fault, not theirs.


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What good is a union if it can’t deliver the goods?

That’s kind of the $64,000 dollar question (yes, I’m showing my age … bite me) isn’t it?

You’ve seen the news about the fast food walkouts and claims that food service people should be paid $15 an hour?  That what the United Food and Commercial Workers union claims workers in that industry should have.  But what do workers they actually represent in that industry actually get?  Not much over minimum wage and union dues to pay out of that:

An examination of UFCW contracts shows that even senior union members are not receiving the wages that ROC and Jobs for Justice demand.

Consider a department manager at Kroger’s union shop in Michigan. She earns a maximum rate of $13.80, even after over half a decade on the job. If this is the highest wage the UFCW can negotiate for skilled, experienced workers, how can the union provide entry-level, low-skilled workers with $15 an hour?

It is not possible for them to accomplish this. Yet, receiving media coverage for the protests they sponsor is an effective way to increase membership and dues collections. The wage they demand is more than twice what similarly skilled union members are paid, namely $7.40 an hour for an entry-level cashier.

Courtesy clerks are paid a starting rate of $7.40 an hour and can work their way to up a wage ceiling of $7.45, after 12 months on the job. Fuel clerks do not fare much better; they start at the same $7.40 and can earn $7.80 an hour after three years of experience, barely over half of the $15 an hour wage worker centers supported by the UFCW demand. Specialty clerks also start at $7.40 an hour, but can earn up to $9.35 after six years. This amount is still 25 percent below the $12.50 an hour “living wage” Jobs for Justice claims all entry level workers should be paid. Read the full union contract between Kroger and the UFCW here.

The take-home pay is even lower once dues—and federal and state taxes—are removed. Dues are mandatory and usually take between $19 and $60 a month from members’ paychecks.

A non-union member could negotiate that without even trying hard.  So, what good is the union really done for those those it represents?  Other than pay it’s union staff very well?

It is expensive to run a union. The average total compensation for those employed by the UFCW—rather than represented by the UFCW—is $88,224 a year. This income is almost six times what the union negotiated for cashiers at Kroger’s. Joseph Hansen, the International President of UFCW, earns in excess of $350,000 a year—over twenty times the earnings of many of the workers he represents. The Executive Vice President and National President both earn over $300,000. Are entry-level union workers receiving benefits from paying dues out of their $7.40 an hour paychecks to fund these salaries?

But you know, it’s “management” that’s the problem, right?  I mean how could a cashier negotiate a $7.40 an hour paycheck without the union – and then give the union its “dues” out of that same paycheck?  Hey, the president of the union has to have his perks, right?

I know, I know, don’t look at the paycheck, look at the other benefits … like a pension, right?

The UFCW has one of the worst records for funding of union pension plans. The Labor Department has informed the UFCW that nine of its pension plans have reached “critical status,” meaning they are less than 65 percent funded. Many of these funds have been underfunded for six years. They have low chances of regaining sustainable financing unless they can convince more new members to join and pay dues without receiving similar benefits.

Sigh.

And, of course, there’s the political side of things … it is important to help fund the union’s political activities, no?

Some portion of dues goes towards political contributions. The UFCW contributed $11.6 million during the 2012 election cycle, of which nearly 100 percent went to Democrats.

Well of course it went to Democrats.  Democrats have been in the union’s pocket (and vice versa) since time began, apparently.  Put $11.6 in the pension fund?  What are you, a Republican?

Yes, it’s a crying shame people aren’t represented by this union … said no libertarian, ever.

~McQ


David Brooks: “Let’s Increase The Power Of The President, You Guys!”

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.


Scheming away your money … and privacy

That’s primarily what politicians seem to want to do despite protestations to the contrary by some.  They’re always looking for a new “revenue stream”.  And since tax payers are the only folks who actually pay taxes, they’re constantly dreaming up new ways to “access” your wallet.

Such as:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Tuesday reintroduced legislation that would require the government to study the most practical ways of taxing drivers based on how far they drive, in order to help fund federal highway programs.

Blumenauer’s bill, H.R. 3638, would set up a Road Usage Fee Pilot Program, which he said would study mileage-based fee systems. He cast his bill as a long-term solution for funding highway programs, and proposed it along with a shorter-term plan to nearly double the gas tax, from 18.4 cents to 33.4 cents per gallon.

“As we extend the gas tax, we must also think about how to replace it with something more sustainable,” Blumenauer said Tuesday. “The best candidate would be the vehicle mile traveled fee being explored by pilot projects in Oregon and implemented there on a voluntary basis next year.”

Because, you know, taxpayers paid for the highways, taxpayers have funded the maintenance of the highways and now they should pay for the privilege of driving on them as well. So, many single moms, who can barely afford gas for the car,  will likely be paying by the mile to go to work (as with most of these stupid schemes, the one’s who can afford it the least will get hit the hardest by it).

Brilliant!  Aw, what the heck, they can take public transportation, huh?

And what about privacy? What business is it of government how far you drive. One assumes they’ll be able to verify your mileage somehow, no? Do you really think it will be up to you to voluntarily keep records and report to the government? Of course not. So somehow the system has to be able to track you and tally mileage.

Yup:

In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a study that explored how a VMT system might work. That report suggested devices could be fitted onto cars that log how far they have traveled, and these devices could be electronically read at gas stations to general tax bills for drivers.

That’s what I want … a government tracking device on my car.

Where’s Orwell when you need him?

~McQ


Clueless and incompetent

That’s a dangerous combination but that pretty aptly describes the ObamaCare roll out (ObamaCare is a name that the administration and Democrats would now like to distance themselves from).

It seems now that “no one knew” that the roll out was going to be a disaster because, well, no one knew.  Gee, maybe they should have asked the IT guy:

A key player in the development of the Obamacare website said Tuesday that up to 40 percent of IT systems supporting the exchange still need to be built.

The revelation from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao occurs as the administration works to meet its Nov. 30 deadline to shore up the website.

40% of the supporting systems … still need to be built?!

And no one knew?  That’s freaking mindboggling.  You have a system that is 40% incomplete, you’re the head of a department charged with rolling out the system and you don’t know it’s not even close to being ready?

“It’s not that it’s not working,” Chao told lawmakers at an Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee hearing. “It’s still being developed and tested.”

Phenomenal.  If incompetence could be bottled, this administration could corner the market.

Financial management tools remain unfinished, he said, particularly the process that will deliver payments to insurers.

The update hits hardest at Democrats, hopeful that the system would function smoothly by the end of the month.

Chao said that the consumer portion of the website, including account registration, plan shopping and enrollment functions, won’t be affected by the ongoing development effort, but that “back office” functions including accounting and payment systems were not yet complete.

Did this boob tell anyone?  And if he did, didn’t they listen?  How do the insurance companies get paid?  And until they are, how can any insurance plan go into effect?

My goodness … why wasn’t Chao sounding the alarms?

Oh, wait, see, he really didn’t know either:

He also told lawmakers he didn’t see a spring report that warned of potential stumbles and foreshadowed many of the problems that thwarted the website’s launch.

“I was aware some document was being prepared,” he said, but had no knowledge of a report until it was leaked to The Washington Post and obtained by POLITICO.

Chao told the House Energy & Commerce oversight subcommittee that he may have answered questions for the study but was not involved in any briefings on it.

The report, which independent consulting firm McKinsey conducted for CMS, described a process that relied too heavily on outsider contractors, didn’t provide enough time for complete testing and failed to hand authority to one decision maker. Chao’s limited knowledge of the report feeds lawmakers’ frustrations with the site’s fractured management and unclear controls.

These are the people who would run your healthcare (and everything else in you life if you’d let them) and make it both cheaper and better (and a good number of Americans swallowed that snake oil and ordered another bottle).

Oh, by the way, speaking of trust in government, did you know the jobs numbers were faked by the Census Bureau on the eve of the 2012 election?

~McQ