Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Forgive the schadenfreude

I just can’t help it – not that this is surprising or unexpected.

Venezuela’s economy is in trouble despite the country’s huge oil reserves. Blackouts plague major cities. Its inflation rate is among the world’s highest. Private enterprise has been so hammered, the World Bank says, that Venezuela is forced to import almost everything it needs.

This is socialism working again. Yes, yes, we’ll hear the naysayers claim that it “really isn’t socialism”, but of course, it is and, like all other attempts throughout the world and history, it is a dismal failure which has made the lives of the citizens of Venezuela worse, not better. Venezuela’s economy has contracted 3.3% in the past year.

Jose Guerra, a former Central Bank economist, says state intervention in private businesses is hitting the economy hard.

“The government is nationalizing, expropriating, or confiscating,” he says. “They are not creating new wealth; this is wealth that was already created.”

And, as expected, the government is badly mismanaging what it confiscates and nationalizes. Cities endure 4 hour blackouts daily, many during business hours.

This is not the way it was supposed to be. Venezuela is one of the world’s great energy powers. Its oil reserves are among the world’s largest and its hydroelectric plants are among the most potent.

But these days, Venezuela is being left behind: The rest of Latin America is expected to grow at a healthy rate this year, according to the World Bank.

Guerra, the former Central Bank economist, says the government must reconsider its policies — and drop the statist socialist model that Chavez adopted.

“The government has to consider that the socialist point of view is not so good for the economy,” Guerra says. “Chavez believes in the old-fashioned socialism. This kind of socialism is dead, definitely dead, it doesn’t apply to any country in the world.”

Of course it should be “dead, definitely dead” to the world, but it isn’t. Ignorant people like Chavez always believe that the myth of socialism and the supposed “social justice” it promises are workable solutions to what are the inequities and unfairness they see in a capitalist system. And when they finally grab power, they attempt to impose the promises of the myth with predictable results.

Of course, when committed this deeply, you don’t expect such a person to admit they’re wrong, but, instead to double down. Hugo Chavez doesn’t disappoint:

In a recent speech, Chavez acknowledged the economic troubles, but he said he wasn’t worried.

Instead, he spoke of a worldwide capitalist crisis, which he said provided a marvelous opportunity for Venezuela to push a new model.

Oh yeah, given the wreck that was Venezuela’s economy before the “capitalist crisis”, I’m sure there are untold numbers of countries just can’t wait to sign on to the “Venezuelan model” and all it promises:

The grill at Landi Nieto’s burger joint still works: It runs on gas. But customers eat in the dark, Nieto says, if they venture out at all in the first place.

~McQ

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More “good news” about the health care bill’s impact

Remember the mantra that said, “once everyone has insurance, emergency rooms won’t be jammed as they are today”.

Says those who actually know about such things – “Wrong”.  In fact, they’re likely to be even more jammed than they have been in the past.   The reason?  The number of primary care doctors won’t change just because the number of insured have.

“Everybody expected that one of the initial impacts of reform would be less pressure on emergency departments; it’s going to be exactly the opposite over the next four to eight years,” said Rich Dallam, a healthcare partner at the architectural firm NBBJ, which designs healthcare facilities.  

“We don’t have the primary care infrastructure in place in America to cover the need. Our clients are looking at and preparing for more emergency department volume, not less,” he said.

But don’t take Dallam’s word for it – we’ve actually had experience that was apparently ignored:Massachusetts in 2006 created near-universal coverage for residents, which was supposed to ease the traffic in hospital emergency rooms.

But a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents say emergency department wait times have either increased or remained the same.

A February 2010 report by The Council of State Governments found that wait times had not abated since the law took effect.

Yes, it appears the public was sold yet another bill of goods.

Even the Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is forced to grudgingly admit it:

Richard Foster, Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told The Hill that the current dearth of primary care physicians could lead to greater stress on hospital emergency rooms.

“The supply of doctors can’t be increased very quickly – there’s a time lag,” he said, adding, “Is the last resort to newly covered people the emergency room? I would say that is a possibility, but I wouldn’t say anybody has a very good handle on exactly how much of an infrastructure problem there will be or exactly how it might work out.”

Really?  Not enough doctors, everyone insured, Massachusetts example?  Of course they have a pretty good handle.

In fact, the American Institute of Architects predicts that the cost for hospitals could be in the $2 trillion dollar range over the next 20 years to meet coming demand.  Such building, at the moment, is pretty much on hold due to the economy.

The point, of course, is that access to insurance doesn’t mean access to a doctor.  And thus one sure way to see a doctor is via the emergency room.  Lack of insurance may have kept some away from seeking services there.  That won’t be the case anymore.  And, given the Massachusetts example, that’s proven to be true there.

So once again, reality meets a political promise and the promise is found wanting.

The cost of the bill, according to the latest CBO numbers, has now risen to over a trillion dollars in the first 10 years (bending the cost curve in which direction?  Up.), despite claims that it was under 800 billion, so the fact that this particular promise is wrong as well shouldn’t surprise anyone. 

~McQ

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If oil spill is Bush’s fault, is 9/11 Clinton’s fault?

Matt Yglesias does the inevitable and expected and blames the current oil spill on George Bush.  Here’s his reasoning:

By 2009, of course, Barack Obama was already in the White House. But it takes time to staff an administration and take charge of an agency. Current MMS director Liz Birnbaum didn’t take office until July 2009, months after the exclusion was granted. More to the point, the dysfunctional attitude of MMS managers reflected problems that were deeply ingrained under the previous administration.

So I guess one can infer, given the Yglesias logic,  that 9/11 was “Clinton’s disaster”.  After all, the necessary changes in the intelligence community made under the Bush administration were a result of its failure to prevent 9/11. They were found to  be “dysfunctional” in post 9/11 investigations.  And the fact that it “takes time to take charge of an agency”, we can conclude – based on the excuse making above – that 9/11 was all Clinton’s fault.

Right?

Glad we’ve finally settled that.

~McQ

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The left: Still trying to label the Tea Party

In this episode, and apparently not content with the fact that the left has failed to make Nazi, brownshirt, racist or thug stick to members of the Tea Party, someone named Charles Postel attempts to equate “conservative” with the John Birch Society (JBS) – and other labels. Amazingly (or not), it is Politico running this nonsense:

The Populist Coxey started a tradition of marching on Washington for economic and social justice. Consider the 1932 Bonus March of jobless veterans. And Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom. The focus of that march, often forgotten, was both civil rights and government action to create jobs.

Not all marches on Washington, however, have pursued populist goals of economic justice. In 1925 and 1926, members of the Ku Klux Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. They protested threats to the Protestant religion and the white race posed by communism and immigration. These echoes seem to resonate in the current tea party slogans about birth certificates, immigrants and Muslims.

The tea party leaders disavow any racist appeals from their ranks. But historically, whether it was the JBS or Goldwater, the radical right has often had a soft spot for bigots.

An amazingly dishonset and blinkered view of the Tea Party. William Jacobson sums it up rather well:

The argument by extreme reflects left-wing epistemic closure, an inability to engage in meaningful discussion of the failures of big government, resulting in a series of strawman arguments and extensive hyperbole meant to marginalize those who disagree.

We have seen this time and again. It seems to be all they know.

I really want to take these people seriously, but it is hard. But then again, what do I know, I am the mob.

As the left continues these attacks it appears it doesn’t understand that those that are actually being marginalized by such attempts to demonize Tea Parties are – the left.

In this particular case, perhaps Roger Pilon at CATO@Liberty says it best. Calling them “desperate” he says:

This is absurd. An obscure assistant professor teaching in a middling university writes an opinion piece comparing the Tea Party movement to the John Birch Society — indeed, even to the Ku Klux Klan — and Politico Arena asks us to take it seriously for comment?! Res ipsa loquitur: The several recent elections speak more loudly than this professor ever will. Back to adult fare.

Indeed. And, as an aside, it appears QandO isn’t the only place plagued by obscure professors from middling universities. But Pilon is question is on the mark – what were Politico’s 3 layers of editors thinking by running this? Is it simply an indicator of another supposedly unbiased media source giving us a peek behind the curtain of reality? Such screeds do indeed point to a certain level of desperation on the left that is unseemly but fairly consistent. Why Politico felt compelled to put their credibility on the line to air it, however, remains a mystery.

~McQ

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ObamaCare: An “entreprenurial bill?”

Only to Nancy Peolosi, who, if she had two brain cells to rub together still couldn’t think her way out of a wet paper sack.

Listen to this:


Ponder that.

One more time in case you don’t believe you really heard it right:

“We see it as an entrepreneurial bill,” Pelosi said, “a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care.”

See, you didn’t misunderstand – quit your job, work on your talent, be irresponsible – the taxpayers will cover you.

~McQ

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I love this guy

The more I see and hear of him, the more I read about what he’s doing, the more I think he’s the one who Republicans should be looking too as a future GOP nominee for President (or someone like him).  He represents exactly the type leader that most libertarians, conservatives and Tea Partiers could rally around.  Watch him in action here.  “Refreshing” works for me:

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his ‘confrontational tone’

~McQ

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Cap-and-tax: The game plan to make it a reality

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided it has waited long enough for Congress to do something about greenhouse gasses (GHG).  So the unelected bureaucracy has decided it will take matters into its own hands and regulate GHG itself:

Starting in July 2011, new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and any existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons will have to seek permits, the agency said.

In the first two years, the E.P.A. expects the rule to affect about 15,550 sources, including coal-fired plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, solid waste landfills and other large polluters, said Gina McCarthy, the agency’s assistant administrator.

She said the rule would apply to sites accounting for about 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. “We think this is smart rule-making, and we think it’s good government,” she said.

Now you can call it “smart rule-making” or “permitting” or any of a number of nifty things, but in reality the cost of regulatory compliance and the cost of permitting will increase the cost of operation – a cost that will be passed on to the consumer.

Of course, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the unelected administrator making this decision, is pretty sure that this is a wonderful way to “spark clean technology innovation” and save the planet “for the children”:

“After extensive study, debate and hundreds of thousands of public comments, EPA has set common-sense thresholds for greenhouse gases that will spark clean technology innovation and protect small businesses and farms,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “There is no denying our responsibility to protect the planet for our children and grandchildren. It’s long past time we unleashed our American ingenuity and started building the efficient, prosperous clean energy economy of the future.”

Question: Does anyone think “American ingenuity” hasn’t been “unleashed” on the clean energy problem?  With the potential payoff, obviously it has.  Instead, what this does is what the President said he wanted to do prior to taking office during an interview – it begins the process of raising conventional power generation to a cost level that makes “clean power” seem less expensive by comparison.  And if Congress won’t do it, hey, that’s what activists turned “administrators” are for – interpret the Clean Air Act as it has never been interpreted before and serve the agenda.

Of course you don’t have to “question the timing” at all – consider it all part of the orchestration plan for providing the impetus necessary to pass the Kerry-Lieberman.  Manufacture a “crisis”, provide a government solution:

Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the two sponsors of the climate bill, seized on Thursday’s announcement to argue for the urgency of passing it. “Today we went from ‘wake-up call’ to ‘last call,’ ” he warned in a statement.

Heh … nothing obvious about this at all. Make the case that the EPA is usurping the prerogative of Congress and you’re sure to attract bi-partisan support on that. But, of course, that can’t mean just passing simple legislation stripping the EPA of that power can it? Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has actually introduced a disapproval resolution to do that, but with 35 Republican and only 3 Democrats, it has little chance of passing.

Murkowski says this will cause “an economic train wreck” if allowed to go into effect. With it targeting what’s left of “big manufacturing” and, of course, the majority of conventional power generation – in the middle of a deep recession – it’s hard to argue she’s incorrect.

More of your government at work trying to lessen the economic impact of the recession and create more jobs. /sarc

~McQ

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Pending legislation: Empowering the fat police

I always enjoy the Orwellian labels they put on bills that are introduced in Congress, such as this one: “The Healthy Choices Act“.  It has been introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI).  Essentially it is mandate on health care providers (if the state receives federal grants) to report on your child’s BMI or Body Mass Index – a measure of how fat you are:

States receiving federal grants provided for in the bill would be required to annually track the Body Mass Index of all children ages 2 through 18. The grant-receiving states would be required to mandate that all health care providers in the state determine the Body Mass Index of all their patients in the 2-to-18 age bracket and then report that information to the state government. The state government, in turn, would be required to report the information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for analysis.

Privacy rights be damned, we’ll just collect information on your kids that will be shared with government bureaucrats.  Because, you know, childhood obesity is a “crisis”, government is now in charge of health care and they’ve decicded parents are just too damn incompetent to handle this themselves.

And anyone that thinks this is just a numbers game, think again.  Obviously it will help them determine if they’re stemming the tide of childhood obesity, but it will also identify … the “obese”.
 
Don’t believe me?  The outline of the act is here:

[It] would establish and fund a wide range of programs and regulations aimed at reducing obesity rates by such means as putting nutritional labels on the front of food products, subsidizing businesses that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and collecting BMI measurements of patients and counseling those that are overweight or obese.

Unless you’re collecting the names along with the stats of those who are obese it’s rather hard to “counsel” them as required by these “regulations”.

But rest assured, says Rep. Kind’s spokesperson, we won’t make you do this:

“However, it is important to note that no one is forced to come in for a doctor’s visit to get their BMI tested.  BMI will be taken at times when the child makes an otherwise scheduled doctor’s visit.”

Why all of this?

“Making the healthy choice the easy choice for our families is essential to ensuring our quality of life,” Kind said. “I am pleased to work on legislation that helps provide the opportunities that meet the needs of busy American families.”

That’s right friends, he knows you’re just to busy to notice your kid’s fat. 

Look, this “crisis” is fairly easy to take care of.  But it requires parents do three things none of which have a damn thing to do with government:

A) be a parent.  Your kids don’t need friends, they have plenty.

B) learn the word “no” and use it frequently when it comes to certain types of food, etc.

C) throw them out of the house and tell them to go play.  Xbox and the computer are for evenings after supper (and yes I know that many will just go to a friends house and play games – see “A” and figure it out).

No, parenting isn’t easy or, many times, even fun.  But you chose to be one, so act like one.

Fat kids weren’t as prevalent in the 60s and 70s when the same commercials were playing and the same fast food restaurants were in existence.  There’s no reason for 1/3 them today to be obese.  Unfortunately since Congress granted government the power over health care costs and the charter to cut them, they’ve assumed they get to micromanage you and your kids life.  This is only a first step of many to come.

Nice, huh?

~McQ

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In case you missed it: US posts 19th consecutive monthly deficit

What’s of note in this particular month’s deficit is that April, because it is the month federal income taxes are collected, usually posts a monthly surplus.  But not this one:

The United States posted an $82.69 billion deficit in April, nearly four times the $20.91 billion shortfall registered in April 2009 and the largest on record for that month, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.

As it turns out not the last one either, although it is telling that the deficit for this April was so much larger than last – it simply demonstrates the depth of the unemployment problem.

It was twice as large as it was predicted to be. And I had to laugh at this:

For the first seven months of fiscal 2010, which ends September 30, the cumulative budget deficit totals $799.68 billion, down slightly from $802.3 billion in the comparable period of fiscal 2009.

Outlays during April rose to $327.96 billion from $218.75 billion in March and were up from $287.11 billion in April 2009. It was a record level of outlays for an April.

Department officials noted there were five Fridays in April this year, which helped account for higher outlays since most tax refunds are issued on that day.

Uh, no – there were higher outlays because government is still spending too damn much money. It wouldn’t particularly matter how many “Fridays” there were in a month if the spending was cut, would it?

The U.S. full-year deficit this year is projected at $1.5 trillion on top of a $1.4 trillion shortfall last year.

That PAY-GO thingie is impressive as hell, isn’t it?  Aren’t you glad Congressional Democrats reinstituted it?

White House budget director Peter Orszag told Reuters Insider in an interview on Wednesday that the United States must tackle its deficits quickly to avoid the kind of debt crisis that hit Greece.

More lip service from an administration that seemingly equates that with taking action.

You’re in good hands, people.

/sarc

~McQ

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