Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: September 2010


Who loves ya, small business?

Well despite all their talk, it isn’t the Democrats. Speaking of the "party of no"Yesterday they killed an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) that would have dropped the requirement for increased 1099s issued by business thereby saying "no" to saving huge compliance costs for small businesses.

Johanns said Section 9006 of the ObamaCare bill, requires a "2,000 percent increase" in mandatory filings of 1099 tax forms for businesses, charities, state and local governments, and even churches.

That means that in 2012:

…all organizations will be mandated to issue 1099 tax forms not only to contracted workers, but to any other group or business from which they purchase at least $600 worth of goods or services in a given year. They’ll also be required to send a copy of each 1099 document to the IRS. Johanns called the entire process "punishing" to businesses and cited a July report from the IRS’ independent taxpayer watchdog arm warning that Section 9006 "may impose significant burdens" that it labeled "disproportionate" and perhaps unenforceable.

Also killed was a proposal by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), which would have raised the minimum annual threshold for 1099 requirements from $600 to $5000, and would have exempted businesses with 24 or fewer employees. 

Now, just sit back and imagine the compliance cost this will require.  If you ever wanted an example of why businesses have no confidence in government, this should help you with that understanding.  This is as much an unfunded mandate as any.  And it will have businesses wondering if they want to spend the money if they have to report just about everything they do via 1099. 

As usual, a duplicitous White House is involved as Guy Benson reports:

Johanns was especially critical of the White House’s role in torpedoing his amendment. Yesterday afternoon, he told Townhall.com that the president’s stated support for repealing Section 9006 was a bluff. "The White House is panicking. They know it’s a disaster, and they wanted to send a signal that they’d cede ground knowing full well my amendment and [Nelson's] wouldn’t pass," he said.

So as you sit in your office at 9pm filling out 1099s or paying someone else overtime to do it, remember who brought you the onerous and costly task.  Then do what you must.

~McQ


Tagging DE’s Chris Coons as a "Harry Reid Democrat"

It certainly won’t be hard to do, thanks to the politically astute Harry Reid (via Wizbang):

"I’m going to be very honest with you — Chris Coons, everybody knows him in the Democratic caucus. He’s my pet. He’s my favorite candidate," Reid said.

"Let me tell you about him: A graduate of Yale Divinity School. Yale Law School. A two-time national debate champion. He represents two-thirds of the state now, in an elected capacity. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him or heard him speak, but he is a dynamic speaker. I don’t mean loud or long; he’s a communicator. So that’s how I feel about Delaware. I’ve always thought Chris Coons is going to win. I told him that and I tried to get him to run. I’m glad he’s running. I just think the world of him. He’s my pet."

If you’re in DE and don’t have a reason to vote for O’Donnell yet, but you’re dissatisfied with the track the country’s on as is over 60% of the country, then perhaps this acknowledgement that Harry’s “pet” will reliably vote for whatever Harry wants in the Senate (assuming Reid is successful in retaining his seat) should provide one.  Lapdogs for unpopular political leaders pushing unpopular agendas are always people you want in high places (talk about a tone deaf “endorsement”. It should be worth at least a minus 5% for Coons.). 

So, if you want amnesty, cap and trade, even more taxation, higher spending, a bigger deficit and more government, vote for Harry’s “pet.”

~McQ


At least one person seems to "get" the Tea Party movement (update)

Jonathan Rauch, writing in National Journal, seems to have done what no one else in the media has yet done – get a fairly decent handle on the phenomenon known as the Tea Party movement.

"From Washington’s who’s-in-charge-here perspective, the tea party model seems, to use Wildman’s word, bizarre. Perplexed journalists keep looking for the movement’s leaders, which is like asking to meet the boss of the Internet. Baffled politicians and lobbyists can’t find anyone to negotiate with.

The "boss of the internet" makes a great point. This is an unknown beast in politicoworld. And since the politicians can’t find the leaders (and there by attempt to "negotiate" or buy-off that leadership) and it is something journalists don’t understand, they’re afraid of it. And they keep trying to pigeon hole it, but the movement doesn’t really allow that. It is what it is for a reason:

"[R]adical decentralization embodies and expresses tea partiers’ mistrust of overcentralized authority, which is the very problem they set out to solve. They worry that external co-option, internal corruption, and gradual calcification — the viruses they believe ruined Washington — might in time infect them. Decentralization, they say, is inherently resistant to all three diseases.

And that’s a another great point. But keep in mind, that wasn’t a design feature, that’s a feature of the spontaneous coming together of those who’ve signed on with the movement.

Sell-outs occur when leaders are co-opted by enticements and promises. No leaders, no co-option. If you want examples of the other two – corruption and gradual calcification – look no further than your Democratic and Republican parties, or the governments they run. There is no TP "president", no "treasurer", no "communications director". In fact, the movement is a collection of hundreds, if not thousands of local TPs which identify with the movement as a whole. Negotiate with that.

"’The reason the tea party isn’t yet there is they don’t yet make a distinction between friends and foes and persuadables,’ says [Ralph Benko, a Washington-based public affair consultant]. ‘They don’t yet make a distinction on who they can focus on to change a vote, or how they can change the fortunes of their preferred candidates. As long as they’re in ‘We hate you all’ mode, I don’t know if they’ll manifest as a powerful national force.’

They’re clear in what they’re interested in – fiscal sanity on the whole meaning smaller, less intrusive government, less spending, less taxation. That the type candidate they’ve been backing in the various primaries. And, at least in the primaries, they’ve had some success.

But those in the movement are at once national and local. They’re a spontaneous reaction to the frustration the general population has felt by being ignored completely between election cycles while the politicians proceed to break every promise they made, spend us into oblivion and generally treat us like chattel.

The "We hate you all" mode that is referred too isn’t quite as global as Benko would like you to believe. Obviously some politicians haven’t had to face TP backed candidates or have been backed by the TP as incumbents. That’s because they reflect the general political goals of the TP – both the local one in their area and the national movement.

As for becoming a “powerful national force”, if Benko doesn’t consider knocking off establishment party candidates in a number of Senate primaries the makings of a powerful national force, I’m not sure what would impress him.  He seems to be looking for that traditional political model with which to bestow that power.  What the TP movement is doing is finding its legs. 

It’s power is in its decentralization as Rauch points out above.  How to wield that power effectively is what the movement is just now exploring.  If it uses its template of governing principles and applies them consistently and persistently it will indeed be a ”powerful national force.”  But I think it is a mistake to claim the TP is in a “we hate you all” mode.  In fact, it’s just a target rich environment right now.  In a few years with a few successes and other politicians figuring out which way the wind blows politically, the TP may be much more selective in its application of that power.

Which brings us to this:

"But, tea partiers say, if you think moving votes and passing bills are what they are really all about, you have not taken the full measure of their ambition. No, the real point is to change the country’s political culture, bending it back toward the self-reliant, liberty-guarding instincts of the Founders’ era."

Why do you suppose the TP is such a incredible mix of types of people?  Because the dissatisfaction with the country’s political culture is an across the board phenomenon.  It is this the two parties just seem not to be able to grasp.  It isn’t about a preference for one or the other, it’s about not liking either of them or the culture they’ve spawned.  The TP’s main message is “change that culture or we’ll find and back someone who will, and if they fail, we’ll kick them out and find others”.  The fact is that in principle, it is the Republican party which should be the greatest beneficiary of this sort of a movement.  But over the years, speaking of co-option, corruption and calcification, the GOP has lost its way.  Dumping the Murkowskis and Bennett’s and rejecting the Crists and Castles of the party is the movement’s way of pointing out what the Republicans have to do to win their support.  Naturally the establishment party is resisting the guidance.

Democrats, of course, are scared witless of the movement because they – on the whole – represent everything the TP isn’t for.  Consequently that party has spent all its time denigrating, demonizing and falsely accusing the movement of being everything from a reincarnation of the KKK to the Nazi brownshirts.  But they’ve been unsuccessful in pinning any of those tags on the movement.  Time and again, TP rallies have formed in large numbers and done so peacefully and without incident.  And, the one time there were supposed “incidents” it ended up blowing back on the Democrats when not one shred of proof of their charges could be found.

Obviously, it is still too early to say if the TP will actually have any staying power or whether or not if it does it will become a “potent national force”.  However, it is clear that the media and politicians don’t know what to do with it, what it really is or means or how to take it down.  And that’s the core of its power right now.  Its spontaneity and decentralized “structure” enabled by today’s technology have them running scared.  And personally, I’d like to see politicians kept in a perpetual state of fright – it seems to me that’s when they’re most responsive to the will of the people.

UPDATE: Ralph Benko responds.

~McQ


Harry Reid’s desperate gambit

As everyone knows, Harry Reid is in the fight of his electoral life in Nevada.  The Republican senate candidate, Sharon Angle, is within the margin of error on most polls looking at the race.  So Harry needs something to attract more votes, obviously.

Hey, when you’re the Senate Majority Leader, you get to set that body’s legislative agenda and decide what bills considered by the Senate will or won’t contain and how they’ll be scheduled on the floor for votes.

So why not use that power to at least attempt some things which, while they may not succeed, will at least give one the “hey I tried, but it was the nasty Republicans, like my opponent who killed it”.

With that in mind, Reid has decided that the DREAM act needs to be a part of the defense authorization bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he will add the DREAM Act, a controversial immigration measure, to a defense policy bill the Senate will take up next week.

The decision means the defense bill, which often passes with bipartisan support, will be home to two major, thorny political issues – the other being the repeal of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.

Reid called the DREAM Act "really important" and said it should be passed because it provides a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the military. DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act.

"I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform," Reid said at a news conference. "But those Republicans we had in the last Congress have left us."

This, again, is one of the reasons we have the mess we have now.  This is an obvious and transparent attempt at vote buying.  It is calculated to appeal to a bloc of voters who’ve been dissatisfied with Reid’s performance on their behalf.  It is pure special interest politics that gives an incumbent like Reid an advantage.  And if it goes down to defeat, he can at least point to it and say “I tried”.  If it manages to be passed, he can point to it and take credit. Maybe that will get him just enough votes to slide by.

Pure short-term, electoral politics – a consistent problem with our system. 

And I love how “serving in the military” is the equivalent of “going to college”.  Why, do they have minefields in the college square.  PKM’s in the admin building sweeping the quadrangle?  IEDs in the parking lots?

Yeah, that’s an aside, but you get my drift.  As usual, legislation cobbled together with no real thought except short-term gain and haphazardly thrown into another bill which has absolutely noting to do with immigration.  That’s how you get this morass of bad law we endure that features contradictions and unintended consequences galore.

We all have to hope that Harry Reid becomes a second Tom Daschle – a sitting Senate Majority Leader shown the door by his constituents.  He embodies everything that’s wrong with today’s politicians.  Let Harry enjoy his golden years in forced retirement.

~McQ


O’Donnell takes Delaware GOP Primary

And yes, it may cost the Republicans a chance to take the seat in November.

So what?  Sometimes it is more important to get the attention of the party.  If that costs a seat, then so be it.  And that message is being sent.  Miller, Paul, Angle, and now O’Donnell.

This is what the GOP should take from this race:

"This shows that conservative energy at the grassroots is at tidal wave levels," said Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and GOP lobbyist. "It may well cost us the Delaware Senate seat, but the same phenomenon will help Republicans, particularly in House races in November."

That’s right.  Key word: “conservative”. And that energy is only going to be maintained with candidates of which that “grassroots” group approves.  Mike Castle wasn’t that candidate.  The same story played out earlier in Utah where free spending and GOP establishment candidate Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated.  Mike Lee, the eventual winner, ran on a rather simple platform that resonated:

"I’m a lifelong conservative and I’ve long stood for the idea we need to limit the power of government in order to make life better for Americans," said Lee, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

The Bob Bennett’s and Mike Castles (one of the only Republicans to vote for cap and trade in the House) of the world don’t fit in that scenario.  And while it may cost a “probable” Republican seat or two in this election, that’s the usual short-term horserace view that continues to get Republicans in trouble.  It’s not just about the number of seats, but who is sitting  in that seat.  Republicans will have plenty of seats – enough to block any further big government nonsense by Democrats.  But they have to be seats filled with occupants that aren’t as likely to side with Dems as the GOP.

What the O’Donnell victory should prove to the Republican hierarchy is the “grassroots” isn’t going to support their candidates just because they’ve been approved by the NRSC or NRCC and the backroom boys.  They’ve been trying to tell them that for years.  Now they’re actually taking action.  The insurgents are alive, well, active and making a statement.  And Mike Castle wasn’t the answer to their desires.

What the O’Donnell race points out – as it did in the other insurgent victories – is the “base” is not going to stand idly by while the NRSC chooses candidates that don’t live up to their wants and expects them to support that candidate.  Especially if the candidate is an old establishment moderate that shows up with the other side as much as he shows up with his own side.

Naturally this doesn’t sit well with the power brokers in the GOP.  Watch the petulant Karl  Rove all but denounce O’Donnell after it is affirmed she’s taken Mike Castle down (via Hot Air):

Again you hear the number count as the prime motivation for the GOP.  “Well we coulda hada seat.”

Yeah, and you could of had the usual sort of person in that seat spending as much time caucusing with the big government Democrats as with Republicans.  So what good is it, really?

Certainly O’Donnell has baggage.  But apparently the conservative voters in DE decided her baggage was much more acceptable than Castle’s votes.  And, as you heard Rove say, they surged at the end, turning out in much higher numbers than expected.  The NRSC can ignore that or they can go with it.  It appears the establishment GOP in the form of the NRSC will choose not to help fund O’Donnell’s race.  And, naturally, Mike Castle, the sore loser, has said he won’t endorse O’Donnell. That way, I guess, if she loses the establishment GOP can say, “see, we told you so.  Listen to us, we know what’s good for you and Delaware”. Sound familiar?

Then look around you and take a look what listening to the establishment on either side of the political spectrum has given us to this point.

~McQ


The left’s zombie “meme” – “we the ungovernable, the unreasonable, the irrational”

And it is all because of the “radical right”.  We’ve seen the left try to establish this meme before.  We heard a few, early on as Obama’s presidency began to slide toward negative numbers, claim that it was because America had become “ungovernable”.

Ben Smith at POLITICO identifies a couple of examples of where the left is again trying to establish that meme.  First George Packer in The New Yorker:

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books. Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up. ….

This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia. An epigraph for our times appears in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel “Freedom”: “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”

Then Andrew Sullivan.

…yet now, especially, that unreason seems to have taken an almost pathological turn. It is as if America is intent on destroying itself, its civil society, its fiscal future, and its next generation in an endless fit of mutual recrimination, neurotic nationalism, and religious division.

As Smith points out:

A couple of influential writers broadly in sympathy with Obama today float the same notion: That we’re living in a fundamentally unreasonable age, that voters basically can’t be trusted, and that democracy is just barely muddling through.

Anyone who spends much time covering American politics feels this sometimes. At the same time, it’s a lot easier to think this when your side is losing politically.

I think the last line is probably the most important point.  When your ox is being gored, it is rarely the fault of your ideas or agenda, it is because the other side is “ungovernable” or “unreasonable”.

Let’s take Sullivan first.  “Yet now” he says, “unreason has taken an almost pathological turn”.  This from the guy who spent months a couple of years ago trying to prove Sarah Palin’s newborn child was her daughter’s.

While there’s some truth in his charge of “mutual recrimination”, there’s nothing neurotic about most of the nationalism if one takes the time to dig down to its source and the religious division Sullivan imagines is one that is mostly whipped up by the news media doing things like paying any attention whatsoever to a pastor in Florida with 50 church members, much less the overwhelming coverage he got.

Yet apparently the “Truthers” escape analysis as neurotic and all of the talk about blue secession and how Bush would declare martial law to hold on to power, or that he “stole the election” was just political happy talk signifying not much of anything.  Only “now” has “unreason” taken a “pathological turn”. 

Yes, Sullivan’s attempt is easy to dismiss.

As for Packer, he too attempts the same sort of useful forgetfulness that Sullivan tried.  “Nine years later” – obviously referencing 9/11 – our lives are now impacted with the “overwhelming force” of “unreason”. 

Only now?  If one thinks about Packer’s assertion as written, it would have to mean one of three things: he has no knowledge of the left’s “unreason” or irrationality during the Bush years, he doesn’t find what the left did to be an example of “unreason” or irrationality, or he agrees with the left’s fringe of those years and doesn’t find anything they said or did unremarkable and certainly not unreasonable.

I find it hard to believe it is reason one, so it has to be either two or three.  And that speaks to Ben Smith’s point and why Packer too can be dismissed as another partisan who doesn’t like the fact that his ox is not only being gored but trampled by the herd.

As for Packer’s assertion that Obama is the “voice of reason incarnate”, none other than Digby at Hullabaloo takes that canard apart:

Yes, let’s all pretend that Obama is the Voice Of Reason Incarnate and that the problem is that those who believe in freedom are prone to puerile tantrums when they don’t get their way while ignoring the fact that the VORI promised shallow, pie-in-the-sky, post-partisan utopia, with ponies and unicorns for everyone, and his followers are now disillusioned and apathetic because it was utter bullshit. Different side of the same coin, I’m afraid.

Couldn’t have said it better if I tried. 

As one commenter on the POLITICO site said, this is just your typical "pity party” this time being thrown by the left.  The reason for it is they really honestly don’t want to face the real reasons things have gone to hell in a hand-basket so quickly for them.  So it’s the other guy’s fault.  I mean it can’t be your problem if the other guy is “unreasonable” can it?

~McQ


GOP still clueless – it’s not about majorities, it’s about fundamental change

Nate Silver is someone I’ve come to enjoy reading when it comes to election analysis.  He knows his business.  But he too seems to have missed the significance of the New Hampshire and Delaware senatorial primaries, casting them only as elections – if they go to the “insurgent” Tea Party backed candidates – that could cost the GOP a majority in the Senate if the insurgents win.

Of course, that’s not the point, at least as I see them.  While Christine O’Donnell may not be the ideal candidate for the US Senate, she’s at least fiscally conservative.  Mike Castle, the GOP choice on the other hand, is described by Silver like this:

… Michael N. Castle, who has held elected office in Delaware for 30 years as its governor, lieutenant governor and lone United States representative. … Mr. Castle — a moderate who is unambiguously a member of the establishment …

Are any lights flashing and horns sounding in your head right now?  Silver describes Castle in terms that make him part of the problem, not part of the solution.  He’s a perfect plug-in to the Congress the country as a whole seems so unsatisfied with and is on the verge of changing.

Oh sure, he might nominally give the GOP another seat in the Senate – but to what end?  Voting with the Snowe/Collins Republicans and the Democrats on bills that expand government and spend more?

When is a seat not really a seat, or a majority not really a majority?  When you elect “moderates” of either party who are not averse to expanding the role of government. That’s part of the reason you see more and more polarization within the country.  Right now the left is having fun characterizing the right as “radical”.  But one only need look at the size of the liberal caucus in the House to know where the heart of leftist radicalism lies. 

I continue to harken back to polls which show the vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track – in numbers which haven’t changed much in the last 8 years or so.  In other words, the people as a whole are dissatisfied with both parties and their representation.  And again, I’ll point back to the Ned Lamont/Joe Lieberman race where the left tried precisely what is happening on the right in states such as AK, NH and DE at the moment.

These movements to effect change are indicators.  What is described as “radicalism” from “political activists” are the surface bubbles of a molten core of unrest among the majority of Americans.  They’re thrashing around for ways and means of changing something that seems never to change.  The Tea Party movement is one of those bubbles.  The Daily Kos left was another.  But nothing much has changed, has it?  And the “wrong track” numbers continue to remain at a constant level. And the frustration builds.

This isn’t  about majorities in the Senate.  It isn’t about the horserace in November.  It’s about fundamental change – and not many seem to understand that. The people in Alaska have said “enough” with the Joe Miller primary win.  The fact that the GOP primary races in both DE and NH are as close as they are should be sending unmistakable messages to the GOP leadership – one’s even they can’t miss – that establishment moderates aren’t who the people want in the Senate.  Naturally, it seems the Republicans are as tone deaf as everyone else.

If the GOP only wins 7 seats instead of 9 in the Senate, that’s fine, as long as the 7 are of the type that are committed to paring government down – reducing its sized influence and cost.  Those 7 are enough to keep the Snow/Collins branch of the GOP from pushing the numbers over to the Democratic side.  As it stands, in fact, not having a Senate majority is probably better for the GOP than achieving one right now – they’d just blow it and, as Mitch McConnell once said, being minority leader in the Senate is one of the most powerful positions in Congress.  And besides, we’d have to listen to Obama whine for 2 years about the “Republican Congress”.

Nope, the hand writing is on the wall if the GOP (and for that matter, the Democrats) would just pause long enough in the partisan bickering and bomb throwing to read it.  This isn’t about either of their parties, or them.  It’s about changing the direction of the country.  The party that first manages to absorb that message and then elect candidates that actually work toward that end is the party that is going to be in power for quite some time.  In principle, that should be the GOP.  But as usual, in their normal clueless way, they continue on the same road that put them in the minority two years ago believing instead that all this excitement about the midterms is actually because people are embracing their candidates over the Dems.  How they have missed the fact that the Tea Party insurgency indicates they couldn’t be more wrong still amazes me.

So continue on your merry blinkered way, GOP, and fight the movement and candidates who’re all but lighting the way with the platform you should be embracing.  Continue to put up your moderate establishment candidates and then wonder why, in two years time, you’re back on the other side of the wave as Democrats are again swept into office while you are pushed out.

It is the usual short term view that drives politics today and drives me crazy.  The belief that winning a majority is all that’s important because then the party can act on its agenda.  No – it can’t.  Not if those it has elected aren’t in tune with the principles of the platform.  Not if those elected are “moderates” who have no problem with big government, subsidies, entitlements and high taxes. 

If returning to the fundamentals of Constitutional government is “radical” then the GOP needs to become the radical party.  Until they absorb that, embraces that “radicalism” and runs candidates who believe in that fundamental principle, the wrong track numbers will continue to remain constant and the GOP will continue to be the clueless lesser of two evils, but not by much.

~McQ


Political Blogs preferred for their opinion

There’s a very interesting survey out from the Pew Research Center that looks at the media – both old and new – in just about every way possible.  Per Pew, 44% of people now receive some bit of news on line or on their mobile device each day.  The revolution in news gathering preferences is being driven by thirty-somethings who came of age during the rise of the internet.  Older folks continue to prefer traditional means of gathering news and opinion.

But I found one of their charts on the preferences of regular audiences to be fascinating.  Included in the chart was a category for “political blogs”.  And, per the chart, they are preferred over such media majors as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today for opinion. 

 

polblogs

That says to me the genre has established itself as I think it should be viewed – blogs are commentaries on the political scene as the blogger views it and that includes his or her ideology and political biases.  Bloggers aren’t shy about making known what their ideology and biases are and I think that is actually attractive to readers because they can filter the content as they feel necessary. That’s reinforced by the higher numbers found among those of the talk radio and opinion TV genres.  Whereas other more traditional outlets have a tendency to at least pretend  some level of objectivity – even in their commentary.  I’d suggest, given the numbers, that bit of spin isn’t selling well and that for the most part they’ve been relegated to the hard news portion of the information gathering process.  If someone wants to know what happened, they go to more traditional media outlets.  If they want to know what to think about it (or to reinforce what they think), they seek out opinions.  Blogs, it seems, have very successfully established themselves in the opinion area of that process.

There’s a lot more to digest in the survey, much of it which makes clear the trend toward on-line news gathering isn’t a trend or fad.  Traditional media outlets who peruse the results should be able to quickly figure out the Darwinian choice they’re presented – adapt or die.  But for political blogs, at least at this point in the media evolution, seem to have found their niche.

~McQ


HHS Secretary threatens insurers with “exclusion” if they don’t toe the government line

America’s new “Health Care Czar”, aka Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, has issued a letter to the insurance industry telling them not so politely to shut up or pay the consequences.

The letter, sent to Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans — the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies – makes it clear in no uncertain terms that any complaints that ObamaCare is causing insurance premiums to rise is unacceptable:

"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

But that’s not the real problem, that’s just the warning.  Then there’s the threat:

"We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014."

One has to wonder though, whether Sebelius will also track the misinformation put out by the administration and her department.  Such as the implication that no such increases are caused by the law or that any such increases are “minimal”, i.e. in the 1 to 2% range.

That’s just poppycock.  

As Time magazine’s Karen Pickert points out, Sebelius ignores the fact that individual insurance plans cover different types of populations. So that government and "some" industry and academic experts think the new law will justify increases averaging 1 percent or 2 percent, they could justify much larger increases for certain plans.

Or as Ignagni, the recipient of the letter, says, "It’s a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs."

In other words, mandated coverage – with which the law is loaded – costs money.  Whether or not you want it isn’t the point.  You’re going to get it and as expected, that means the cost of your insurance premium will go up.  If, for instance, you’re carrying a minimal coverage policy with fewer benefits than those mandated by ObamaCare, your insurance coverage is about to change dramatically and so is the cost.

But insurers better shut up about the increased cost or, at least, not blame it on ObamaCare or, per the HHS Secretary’s threat, they’ll be “excluded” from the government takeover underway.

As Michael Barone notes today in his Townhall column:

The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration’s transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.

"The rule of law, or the rule of men (women)?" economist Tyler Cowen asks on his marginalrevolution.com blog. As he notes, "Nowhere is it stated that these rate hikes are against the law (even if you think they should be), nor can this ‘misinformation’ be against the law."

That, however, doesn’t apparently stop an administration with increasingly totalitarian tendencies from threatening insurers with the loss of their business if they don’t comply and keep their explanations to themselves.

This is outright thuggery.  As Barone points out, this certainly isn’t the first example we’ve seen, nor is it most likely to be the last.  This is pure and blatant intimidation.  There’s no place for this sort of nonsense in democratic republic one of whose founding principles is freedom of speech.

Secretary Sebelius should withdraw the letter immediately and apologize for the threat she issued to the industry as a whole.  She should also understand that she doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t “misinformation” or how insurance companies choose to present the inevitable premium increases driven by ObamaCare to their customers.

If she feels there is misinformation out there that is actionable, then she has a court system on which to rely.  My guess is she knows she hasn’t a case and thus is reduced to threatening insurers instead, hoping they’ll be cowed into compliance.

Your “hope and change” government at work.  

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 12 Sep 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Fidel Castro’s reported admission that Cuban economic system doesn’t work, and whether the upcoming election is a mandate for the Republicans, or something else entirely.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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