Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: December 2009


What Happened To The Mandates?

One of the more pernicious provisions of the ObamaCare bills working their way through Congress is the mandate to purchase health care insurance. It’s probably unconstitutional (arrogating to the federal government an unprecedented power to force Americans to purchase a service or product), but that isn’t going to stop it from being shoved down our collective throats anyway. According to a DKos blogger, however, the Senate bill removes the provision’s bite, which may render it constitutionally valid:

To briefly recap- the HCR requires everyone (except native americans, low income people, undocumented immigrants, followers of my cult, the grandfathered**, etc) to purchase health insurance. Violators will have to pay a $750 per head penalty on their tax returns starting in 2016. If you want to pull a Keith Olbermann and become a Mandate dodger, predictably, the HCR has this to say about it:

SEC. 5000A(g)(1)

(1) IN GENERAL.—The penalty provided by this section shall be paid upon notice and demand by the Secretary, and except as provided in paragraph (2), shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty under subchapter B of 23 chapter 68.

The IRS will have your ass, etc, etc. All very predictable. UNTIL you read on to section (2):

(2) SPECIAL RULES.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law—
‘‘(A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES.— In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
‘‘(B) LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES.—The Secretary shall not—
‘‘(i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or
‘‘(ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.

Woah!!!! The mother of all loopholes! It turns out the mandate is not mandatory because the penalty is purely voluntary! What happens if you failed to pay that penalty? Nothing! No criminal charges will be filed, no penalties will be assessed, and the IRS has no right to file any lien on you. Imagine a judge saying to a convict: “This court hereby sentences you to death. Pssss- don’t worry, son- our electric chairs are not plugged in.”

Of course, just because the teeth were removed in the Senate bill doesn’t mean that they won’t be added back in when it gets reconciled with the House version.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Senate would make the penalty seemingly voluntary. I say “seemingly” because the provision’s language leaves open the door to other means of exacting a penalty from non-compliers. While Section 2 negates criminal penalties and prohibits liens or levies from attaching to a taxpayer’s property, just what constitutes someone’s property isn’t spelled out. It may surprise you to learn, for example, that tax dollars are not deemed your property by the federal government, such that once they are paid (or deemed owing) you don’t have any say in how they are spent outside the ballot box. By the same token, if you were to be due a tax refund of some sort, this provision appears to allow the federal government to withhold the $750 penalty. Similarly, it could also declare certain dollar-for-dollar income deductions to be invalid (up to $750) if you refuse to abide by the mandate. My reading of the provision would allow all sorts of federal government gimmicks to be used while still remaining within the letter of the law.

Another interesting aspect of Congress placing this muzzle on the mandate, is that we know it will raise costs. Indeed, the CBO has stated about other bills that an ineffective individual mandate would make the costs skyrocket as the uninsured wait until they are sick before getting any coverage. Without paying into the system from the start, this sick population will basically just receive heavily subsidized health care, paid for by the dopes who paid while they were healthy.

In short, Congress is faced with two poison pills and must choose one: either (i) unconstitutionally force Amercians to purchase insurance, or (ii) create mandates without teeth, and ensure that the bill costs far more than promised. It will be interesting to see which of the two survives.


Media: Your Friendly Moral Interpreters

Just to make sure you knew how horribly indecent Republicans were, Dana Milbank leads the charge against Sen. Coburn in the Washington Post today:

Going into Monday morning’s crucial Senate vote on health-care legislation, Republican chances for defeating the bill had come down to a last, macabre hope. They needed one Democratic senator to die — or at least become incapacitated.

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon — nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation’s passage — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” he said. “That’s what they ought to pray.”

It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads — but without his vote, Democrats wouldn’t have the 60 they needed.

While Dana and his media brethren certainly have difficulty escaping that conclusion, a more fair-minded and disinterested party might take note that the historic snowfall over the weekend, which caused local and federal government offices to close, is a more likely catalyst to Coburn’s prayer request. But fairness was not on Dana’s mind. Quite to the opposite, he attempted to draw a false equivalence to the tirade unleashed by Sen. Whitehouse at ObamaCare dissenters:

But Democrats weren’t in the best position to take the high road Sunday evening. One of their own members, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.

“Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear,” he said. “History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees.” Assuming the role of Old Testament prophet, Whitehouse promised a “day of judgment” and a “day of reckoning” for Republicans.

For some strange reason, while referring to Whitehouse’s comments as “ugly”, Milbank forgot to include the following tasty selections of hate:

“Voting ‘no’ and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it. It was clear the three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.

They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one.”

Seemingly the conclusions of that statement escaped Dana.

Never fear, however, as our intrepid journalist manages to balance the ugliness and comes to this inescapable conclusion:

The day’s ugly words [from Sen. Whitehouse] were a fitting finale for the whole sorry health-care debate of 2009. Democrats have finally — and after jettisoning any trace of government-run health care while swallowing new abortion restrictions — found their way to success; the overnight vote proves they have the numbers to prevail in the remaining votes this week. But it certainly wasn’t pretty.

Senate Democratic leaders made the bill fit their fiscal requirements with a series of budgetary gimmicks, and even then the final cost estimate didn’t instill confidence. The Congressional Budget Office sent lawmakers a letter on Sunday saying it goofed and overstated the cost savings from the bill by half a trillion dollars. Then there were the goodies given out to buy the votes of Democratic holdouts, most notably Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), who got a “Cornhusker kickback” in the form of an extra $100 million in Medicaid payments for his state. On the Senate floor Saturday, Republicans forced Democrats into the embarrassing position of objecting to similar payouts to the other 49 states.

But all of that put together wasn’t quite as noxious as the two sentences that escaped Coburn’s lips on the Senate floor.

Don’t you feel all informed now? Good thing for us insufficiently nuanced Americans that we have the likes of Dana Milbank to help us keep score as to who is ugliest amongst our Senate representatives. Otherwise, we might have all these wonderful conclusions escaping us as easily as those “noxious” words escaped Sen. Coburn’s lips. Instead, we might be tempted to pay more attention to blatantly ugly slurs that drip like venom from the mouths of our ObamaCare heroes. And we can’t have that now, can we?


McQ Out For A Bit

In case you’re wondering why the content around here has been a bit thinner than usual, it’s because the primary progenitor of said content is on an unscheduled leave of absence. His brother fell ill over the weekend, and so McQ went to help him recuperate.

So, please keep McQ and his family in your prayers and the rest of us will do what we can to get some posts up.


Copenhagen FAIL

Although the professional “spinners” are at work trying to shape what happened – or more precisely, didn’t happen – in Copenhagen as a success, I think the chief negotiator for the 130 countries that comprise the G77 characterized it best (and brutally honestly):

Lumumba Di-Aping, chief negotiator for the G77 group of 130 developing countries, said the deal had “the lowest level of ambition you can imagine. It’s nothing short of climate change scepticism in action. It locks countries into a cycle of poverty for ever. Obama has eliminated any difference between him and Bush.”

The last line is classic. It comes on the heels of Hugo Chavez noting that Obama had just recently accepted the Nobel Peace prize at the same time he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to, in his words, “kill more innocents”.

Neither remark characterizes well the supposed renewed reputation (and love) of the US that Obama has claimed to have reestablished, does it?

And of course the radical left was not without its alarmists bell ringers in full fettle after conference ended:

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. Ed Miliband [UK climate change secretary] is among the very few that come out of this summit with any credit.” It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen.”

Lydia Baker of Save the Children said world leaders had “effectively signed a death warrant for many of the world’s poorest children. Up to 250,000 children from poor communities could die before the next major meeting in Mexico at the end of next year.”

You’ve got to love it – up to 250,000 children could die from slightly warmer weather, even if the facts say it has been slightly cooler if anything. And you have to wonder what Sauven means by “a radically different model of politics”?

Regardless, in terms that the left had defined success in Copenhagen, it was a epic “fail”. Mr. Obama is 0 for 2 in Copenhagen. And for those of us who recognize it for what it was – a grand redistribution attempt based in dubious if not spurious “science”, it is a welcome failure. That hearkens back to the beginning of the Obama administration when there was a controversy about some claiming they wanted Obama (and his agenda) to “fail”. This is an example of the type failure which was being talked about then. If this makes me and others who welcome this failure “unAmerican” to some on the left, then that’s fine. But my first priority is what was promised by this country and the Constitution – freedom and liberty. And in my opinion, anyone who tries to violate, infringe upon or take away those rights and freedoms are the “unAmerican” among us.

Copenhagen was just such an attempt, and the failure to accomplish their freedom limiting goals is welcome news. Now I hope for the same epic fail in this horrific attempt to take over health care, and for the very same reasons.

~McQ


Lindsey Graham And “Climate Change”

Or, what Lindsey Graham may end up costing you.  He was interviewed by the AP concerning his advocacy of AGW (which he says was something he learned about from John McCain and Hillary Clinton).  Here’s his answer to one of the questions:

Q: How did you get involved in this issue?

A: It was a slow evolution. I started traveling with Sen. (John) McCain, who has been a climate change advocate for a long time, and I went to the Arctic region with him and Sen. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton. I came to the conclusion from listening to the scientists … from people who lived in the regions, that the canary in the coal mine is in the Arctic regions, and that the planet is heating up. How much is caused by greenhouse gases, I don’t know. But I believe to some extent it’s a contributing factor. …

Now, why did I choose to do something this time around? … The one thing that I could say without any doubt, that the best chance to create jobs for the future here in this country is energy independence. And you will never become energy independent until you price carbon.

Where are the friction points to getting to 60 votes (to advance a bill)? If the emissions standard is not meaningful, if it’s not economy-wide, I don’t think you get there. This whole issue of China and India and a global regime looms large in getting 60 votes in the Senate. Without some assurances that this is not a unilateral surrendering of market share to China and India — because our companies will have a burden imposed upon them not shared by China and India — is a huge political problem. … Those are some of the trip wires that exist to getting to 60 votes.

First the false premise – you can easily get to “energy independence” without pricing carbon. The whole purpose of pricing carbon is to cut emissions, not create “energy independence”. Fully exploit existing energy resources, build new clean (nuclear) energy production facilities and aggressively pursue clean and renewable energy solutions. That’s how you become “energy” independent. Government’s role, if any? Enabling that process.

Secondly, Graham outright admits that without the participation of India and China, we would be ceding market share to them because they wouldn’t have to face the costs we would face. So there’s no question he understands that any pricing of carbon is going to cost the US economy. He’s not averse to that, he simply wants it to be a shared burden which puts them at the same disadvantage as us. That’s nuts. We’re in a deep recession and he’s talking about steps to deepen it. And even if we weren’t in a recession, he has to be aware the science is dubious and the effect most likely marginal at best if they imposed the most stringent controls possible.

Graham isn’t up for election this cycle or the next, but in 4 years his day comes. If he becomes a party to this sort of economy killing device in cahoots with John Kerry, Republicans had better find a suitable primary opponent to run against him, because if they don’t my guess is he’ll be looking for work after the 2014 election and SC will have a new Senator – even if he’s a conservative Democrat.

Oh, and Climate-gate?

Q: What are your thoughts on the scandal over the hacked e-mails from some prominent climate scientists, which many Republicans have claimed discredits the science showing that pollution is causing climate change?

A: Well, I never embraced this from that point of view. You will never convince me all these cars, and all these trucks, and all these power plants spewing out carbon, fossil fuels, day in and day out for 60 or 70 years is a good thing. It makes perfect sense to me that this amount of carbon pollution over a long period of time has had a detrimental effect on the environment. I don’t get wrapped up into how much is caused by man, or how much is caused by nature. I do believe pursuing clean air and clean water is a good thing for my generation to do.

Science – we don’t need no stinkin’ science. We’ll just “price carbon”, put the economy in the crapper and lo and behold, clean air will abound. The true statist’s answer to everything – more government, more cost, less freedom.

~McQ


Health Care – The Meltdown On The Left

You have to admit, if nothing else it has been entertaining watching all the factions among Democrats go to war over this health care fiasco.  You have the Liberal caucus in the House saying no vote without a public option.  Then there are the Blue Dogs saying no vote with a public option.  You have pro-life Dems refusing to support the bill without language like the Stupak amendment and the pro-abortion crew saying they won’t support it without abortion provisions.  In the Senate, no one but Harry Reid has seen the newest super secret version of the bill he’s going to try to force them to vote on before Christmas, yet Sen. Ben Nelson is a definite “no” on it as it stands now.  Howard Dean says “kill the bill”.  Bill Clinton and Paul Krugman are saying “pass  the bill”. Michael Moore is boycotting Connecticut, Keith Olberman is saying he’ll go to jail before he’ll give into the insurance mandate and Ed Schultz has discovered the White House is acting like a bunch of thugs on the subject. The latest polls show 61% of Americans oppose the legislation.

And the powerless Republicans who couldnt stop a single piece of legislation with a bloc vote of “no”?  They’re left on the sidelines watching this all with bemusement.

What a circus. And of course, there is this:

David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, began the day by calling in to MSNBC to urge the party to hold together, warning of a “tragic outcome” if Democrats failed to pass a bill that the White House says would expand health coverage while reining in costs.

If ever Hillary Clinton’s words warning about “suspending disbelief” could be applied this is it – Axelrod makes the claim that simply defies rationality: “…expand health coverage while reigning in costs“. Really? How so? How does one expand coverage and cut costs except by sharply cutting services or rationing? Especially with the insurance mandates the fed and states like to heap on any coverage they permit?

Two realizations are setting in for the public – first that this isn’t really an attempt at “reform”  anything but instead a naked power grab by the federal government. And two, the federal government is trying to base the necessity of that power grab on an irrational argument – you can expand coverage and cut costs.

Of course that really has little to do with the war on the left. For some, the bill isn’t progressive enough, meaning its not a single payer – that’s why Howard Dean wants to kill it. For others, like the Blue Dogs, it is too much. And as party leaders are finding, trying to reach consensus in one chamber of Congress, much less between the House and Senate, is an extremely difficult job – thank goodness. And, as the House Whip, James Clyburn said, the House will not rubber stamp the Senate version, whatever that may turn out to be.

Some on the left are trying, now, to make this cat fight among lefties into a “good thing”. It’s healthy to have this debate, they claim. Uh, yeah – overwhelming majorities in Congress and they own the White House and suddenly they’re having “healthy debates” over their signature agenda items.

Got it. Healthy.

Well, I for one hope they keep up this “healthy debate” for months to come and then, for different reasons than those of Howard Dean, but in complete agreement with him, they “kill the bill”.

~McQ


China Sees No Agreement Forthcoming In Copenhagen

And that’s the good news:

With just two days remaining in historic and contentious climate talks here, China signaled overnight that it sees virtually no possibility that the nearly 200 nations gathered would find agreement by Friday.

A participant in the talks said that China would agree only to a brief political declaration that left unresolved virtually all the major issues.

The conference has deadlocked over emissions cuts by, and financing for, developing nations, including China, who say they will bear the brunt of a planetary problem they did little to create. Leaders had hoped to conclude an interim agreement on the major issues that would have “immediate operational effect.” The Chinese, it appears, are not willing to go that far at this meeting.

The New York Times goes on to wonder if this is just a bit of political brinksmanship on the eve of world leaders arriving. Obviously the NYT thinks this is about a negotiating position. One can only assume they make that assessment based on the supposed promise Obama said he extracted from the Chinese during his visit there.

If that’s the case, I’d say that both Obama and the NYT most likely have it wrong. China has made it clear for years that it exempts itself from hard emissions cuts because it considers itself a “developing country”. After years of preparing that position and presenting it to the world, it’s a little naive to believe a single visit by a new president would be likely to change it. China wants its cut of the loot. It’s not seeing that happen. It isn’t establishing a “negotiating position” in front of the arrival of world leaders, it is stating a fact – China foresees little if anything coming out of Copenhagen. While other countries and world leaders may feel intense pressure to make something happen, China doesn’t. If Copenhagen falls flat on its face, as it appears it will, nothing changes for China in terms of limiting emissions. It will simply patiently wait for the next international conference, where the pressure on industrialized nations will be even higher, to again make its demands.

Why am I making that assertion? Buried further on in the story is this paragraph:

China has been a natural godfather to many of the Group of 77 countries because its government has extensive investments in Africa and Latin America, often involving lucrative deals to bring oil and minerals home.

China is emerging as a leader among the 130 nations that make up the misnamed Group of 77. While Hugo Chavez may be the court jester, the real power of that group lays with China. And China sees a developing power vacuum with the diminished role of the US – partially due to the financial crisis and partially due to a young and inexperienced president. Again, they’re not staking out a negotiating position, they’re telling the rest of the powers the way the table is set. Demands will follow later.

Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in town flashing your cash as an incentive for “poorer” nations to cooperate and collect:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who arrived in Copenhagen overnight, announced on Thursday that the United States would participate in a $100 billion fund to help poor and vulnerable nations adapt to climate change and build more energy efficient economies. She cautioned, however, that American participation in the fund was contingent on reaching a firm agreement this week.

It was the first time the Obama administration had made a commitment to a medium-term financing effort and a clear effort to unblock a negotiation that has been stalled. She said the money would be a mix of public and private funds, including “alternative sources of finance,” which she did not specify.

Nor did she say what the American share of the fund would be, although typically in such multilateral financial efforts the United States contributes about 20 percent.

Of course 100 billion isn’t anywhere near what the “poorer” nations want. In fact, a group of Central America nations want somewhere in the neighborhood of 115 billion alone.

The circus reaches crescendo tomorrow as the remaining world leaders, including President Obama arrive. Given the way this is shaping up, it appears it may be another “Olympic event” for the president.

~McQ


Fumbling Gitmo

I think perhaps the promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – a supposed symbol of American shame – and the subsequent inability to do so is symbolic of how inept, to this point, this administration has been.  President Obama, while a candidate, had a guaranteed applause line each time he promised to close the facility.  The left had so thoroughly demonized it that it was prime red-meat for every campaign rally.  And, in fact, Obama signed an executive order on his first day in office ordering it closed.

And here we are, a year later, with the facility still open and the administration still dithering about what to do with the inmates.  In the meantime, the American public has come to realize that it is the inmates that are the problem, not where the inmates are incarcerated.  Closing Gitmo doesn’t solve a thing.   In fact, the public realizes, it forces some very unappetizing choices – like housing those we deem to dangerous to our country to release not in some isolated prison on a island far away, but in the heartland of America.

That realization has sparked some pretty heavy push-back from the public as it has come to realize those truths:

Americans remain opposed to closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and moving some of the terrorist suspects being held there to U.S. prisons: 30% favor such actions, while 64% do not. These attitudes could present a significant roadblock for President Obama at a time when he seeks congressional approval to move terrorist suspects from Guantanamo to a converted state prison in northwestern Illinois.

You see, hollering about how we had to close Gitmo during the campaign and then making it a priority on his first day of office then ran up against the “then what” question. And, as is obvious, they – the campaign and Obama- hadn’t considered the “then what” question. They had no plan. It is indicative of how poorly prepared they were to assume office (they apparently thought that the “King” would sign a “proclamation” and the “serfs” would make it so) and how little they understood of how things really work. Closing Guantanamo Bay has gone from being a symbol of “hope and change” to being an albatross around the administration’s neck. No matter what they do now, it is most likely to be unfavorably received by a majority of Americans and provide campaign fodder for a future Republican opponent.

Gitmo, in a nutshell, characterizes this administration in so many ways. Naive, unprepared, leaderless and yet arrogant. That is not a good combination for a successful presidency and unsurprisingly, so far, it hasn’t been one.

~McQ

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