Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Poll Says Public Beginning to Blame Democrats For Recession

It was inevitable (the party in power always gets blamed – eventually), but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the fact that this perfect storm may crest precisely at the 2010 midterms (although you shouldn”t count out the possibility of Republicans completely blowing the opportunity):

Nearly two years into the recession, opinion about which political party is responsible for the severe economic downturn is shifting, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday morning indicates that 38 percent of the public blames Republicans for the country’s current economic problems. That’s down 15 points from May, when 53 percent blamed the GOP. According to the poll 27 percent now blame the Democrats for the recession, up 6 points from May. Twenty-seven percent now say both parties are responsible for the economic mess.

“The bad news for the Democrats is that the number of Americans who hold the GOP exclusively responsible for the recession has been steadily falling by about two to three points per month,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “At that rate, only a handful of voters will blame the economy on the Republicans by the time next year’s midterm elections roll around.”

I’ll say it again – gridlock is good. It has a tendency to weed out all the extremist garbage and narrows the focus of legislation greatly. It also limits the power of the President, as it should be. So I’m quite pleased with this turn of events. And as you might imagine, the “current economic problems” is code language for “jobs”. No jobs, no peace, and a tough re-election campaign from Democrats next year.

Guess who the Congress is mad at?

It’s the economy, stupid.

As an aside, speaking of tough re-elections next year, John McCain is in a statistical dead heat with a GOP primary opponent next year.

Nice.

~McQ

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AGW’s Crumbling House Of Cards (updates)

Uh oh … in advance of Copenhagen when this government will try to give away what little is left of your earnings, reality is beginning to dawn:

Global warming appears to have stalled. Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean currents.

That last sentence should tell you all you need to know about the AGW scam – if they can’t figure out what’s causing this cooling event, how in the world can they be relied upon to forecast the future? The fact is they use models which are, in the big scheme of things, technologically crude and force certain types of climate variables while minimizing or leaving out altogether numerous others. They can’t, in fact, model what has happend in our history, much less what is coming – and yet, by some, they’re taken as scientific “proof” of impending doom.

Now they have to deal with something their models didn’t at all predict:

The Earth’s average temperatures have stopped climbing since the beginning of the millennium, and it even looks as though global warming could come to a standstill this year.

[…]

Latif, one of Germany’s best-known climatologists, says that the temperature curve has reached a plateau. “There can be no argument about that,” he says. “We have to face that fact.”

As for “settled science” and consensus:

“It cannot be denied that this is one of the hottest issues in the scientific community,” says Jochem Marotzke, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. “We don’t really know why this stagnation is taking place at this point.”

Or maybe we do:

Just a few weeks ago, Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research added more fuel to the fire with its latest calculations of global average temperatures. According to the Hadley figures, the world grew warmer by 0.07 degrees Celsius from 1999 to 2008 and not by the 0.2 degrees Celsius assumed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And, say the British experts, when their figure is adjusted for two naturally occurring climate phenomena, El Niño and La Niña, the resulting temperature trend is reduced to 0.0 degrees Celsius — in other words, a standstill.

Again, that “settled science” canard of Al Gore’s is out the window. Not that there won’t be warmist deniers:

But a few scientists simply refuse to believe the British calculations. “Warming has continued in the last few years,” says Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). However, Rahmstorf is more or less alone in his view. Hamburg Max Planck Institute scientist Jochem Marotzke, on the other hand, says: “I hardly know any colleagues who would deny that it hasn’t gotten warmer in recent years.”

But, as is obvious and is now being admitted, it hasn’t.

So back to the drawing board boys. When you can put a model that can duplicate the past with fidelity, then we might accept what it has to say about the future as “proof” of something. But trying to pawn off the results of those you now use in the face of the real temperatures and trends we’ve undergone (which are wildly different from the models) seems at best anti-scientific. The theory’s the models force have been disproved – or at least heavily damaged. Try, try again.

Unfortunately, even while the scientific community begins to understand the huge scam that has been pulled on them, politicians are blinkered creatures who, having now made up their unscientific minds that global warming is happening, and being a part of a caste which has as a juvenile part of its job description a desire to save the world, will meet in Copenhagen and try to strike a global monetary redistribution scheme to do so.

Facts – they don’t need no stinkin’ facts to give your money away. See “national debt”.

UPDATE: Hacked emails or leaked?  Which ever is the case, they’re pretty damning to the “science” of AGW.

UPDATE II: Remember the UN’s IPCC report that Copenhagen is going to be based upon?  Uh oh:

A scientific scandal is casting a shadow over a number of recent peer-reviewed climate papers.

At least eight papers purporting to reconstruct the historical temperature record times may need to be revisited, with significant implications for contemporary climate studies, the basis of the IPCC’s assessments. A number of these involve senior climatologists at the British climate research centre CRU at the University East Anglia. In every case, peer review failed to pick up the errors.

It is getting tougher and tougher for the alarmist warmists to maintain their “settled science” mantra. In fact, it’s getting tougher and tougher for them to even call what has been foisted upon the world “science” at all.

Question: How long will it take the media here (the stories are coming out of the UK and Australia and have been picked up by blogs here) to cover the story and, assuming they do, will it have legs are get the page A35 treatment?

[HT: Hot Air]

~McQ

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Harry’s Version Of The Health Care Monstrosity

Over 2,000 pages (yeah, nothing can be hidden in there, can it?) the bill sets up at least 370.2 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years:

1. 40% excise tax on health coverage in excess of $8,500/$23,000 ($149.1 billion)
2. Employer W-2 reporting of value of health (negligible revenue effect)
3. Conform definition of medical expenses ($5.0 billion)
4. Increase penalty for nonqualified health savings account distributions to 20% ($1.3 billion)
5. Limit health flexible spending arrangements in cafeteria plans to $2,500 ($14.6 billion)
6. Require information reporting on payments to corporations ($17.1 billion)
7. Additional requirements for section 501(c)(3) hospitals (negligible revenue effects)
8. Impose annual fee on manufacturers & importers of branded drugs ($22.2 billion)
9. Impose annual fee on manufacturers & importers of medical devices ($19.3 billion)
10. Impose annual fee on health insurance providers ($60.4 billion)
11. Study and report of effect on veterans health care (no revenue effect)
12. Eliminate deduction for expenses allocable to Medicare Part D subsidy ($5.4 billion)
13. Raise 7.5% AGI floor on medical expenses deduction to 10% ($15.2 billion)
14. $500,000 deduction limitation on taxable year remuneration to health insurance officials ($0.6 billion)
15. Additional 0.5% hospital insurance tax on wages > $200,000 ($250,000 joint) ($53.8 billion)
16. Modification of section 833 treatment of certain health organizations ($0.4 billion)
17. Impose 5% excise tax on cosmetic surgery ($5.8 billion)

That’s according the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (via Tax Prof).

According to the CBO, this turkey comes in at 849 billion over 10 years. Let me again stress that the cost is a bogus cost because of the way the spending is structured. CBO is limited to a 10 year window. So what it is saying is that within that 10 year window, if passed exactly as written and with no changes, it will cost that much over that 10 year span. It isn’t chartered to look beyond that. So, over the years, the Democrats have learned how to use that restriction to sell budget busters as deficit reducers.

Here’s how. See all those taxes above? They begin immediately. However the major costly programs don’t begin until 2014. Consequently, the taxes are going to have a plus effect on the deficit over those first few years. Then, as the spending kicks in, since we’ve already pre-paid it with the taxes, it will appear as much less spending than it really is. Once outside that 10 year window, it explodes. The real cost, not the gamed cost to get past the CBO and attempt to fool the public, is estimated to be about 1.8 trillion over 10 years – or twice what is being claimed – and that’s if nothing changes or is added.  And it doesn’t include the 250 billion “doc fix” which will put it over 2 trillion.

One other thing to note – all the taxes above are only part of the plan to “pay” for this. Don’t forget the 500 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as well (cuts that will never happen at the size projected if at all).

It’s pretty simple when you look at the numbers – this is another huge, costly program we can’t afford and we don’t need – at least in the form Congress insists on putting it in.  Common sense reform – ok.  But common sense reform doesn’t cost 2 trillion in “deficit reducing spending”.

I still can’t imagine anyone actually believing 2 trillion in new spending will reduce the deficit.

But they are – hook, line and sinker.

~McQ

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Quote Of The Day

I‘m sorry, but this bit of hubris is so over the top I don’t even know where to begin:

“I think that we’ve restored America’s standing in the world, and that’s confirmed by polls,” he told CNN’s Ed Henry in a wide-ranging interview this week during his trip to China.

“I think a recent one indicated that around the world, before my election, less than half the people — maybe less than 40 percent of the people — thought that you could count on America to do to the right thing. Now it’s up to 75 percent.”

Or it could be that 75% are pleased that George W. Bush is gone and anyone else is now in office. Or it could mean that 75% like the more humble and apologetic US. Or 75% like the fact that he’s done nothing since he’s been in office but give flowery speeches chase nuclear non-proliferation. Or …

You get the idea. He’s been in office 10 months and hasn’t done a thing but apologize for the US and indulge his narcissism with trips abroad and that has “restored America’s standing in the world”? This reminds me very much of his belief that the US was changed for the better when he was elected and he had a mandate to do whatever he pleased when he took office. How’s that working out? How are those approval polls looking today?

Look, the world is going to love him as long as he sticks to apologies, flowery speeches and such dated issues as nuclear non-proliferation. But if he actually steps up, puts the interests of the US as his first priority (which is his job, by the way) and leads, he’ll be in Bush territory in no time. My guess is he’d rather be popular than respected. We’ll see what our “improved standing” buys us in realpolitik terms down the road.

~McQ

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Race: Down On The Plantation…

One phrase sure to stir outrage or at least discussion is what I’ve used for the title when referring to the issue of race.  But I’m darned if it doesn’t best describe this quote from Jesse Jackson:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night criticized Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for voting against the Democrats’ signature healthcare bill.

“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill,” Jackson said at a reception Wednesday night. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”

When you give race baiters like Jesse Jackson the opportunity to define what it means to be a “black man”, he then gets to define what it means to remain one. And that usually entails towing a particular party line of which he approves – not thinking for yourself, not doing your job (representing your constituency), not being your own person. You see if someone does any of that, as did Rep. Davis did, they threaten the dying power the race warriors hold – that of the legislative “bloc” based in race. The Sharptons and Jacksons of the world have built a career out of making everything about race. Like unions, they once had a purpose. Now, however, with their purpose fading and their time in the media’s light waning, they have to make more and more outrageous statements to get noticed.

I’ll be so happy when those who can’t see past their own skin color on every issue pass from the scene. Then, and only then, will real progress among and within the races be made. In the meantime, blacks certainly shouldn’t let someone like Jesse Jackson define what it is to be anything, much less a “black man”.

~McQ

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Stimulus Funds Used To Fund Fat Tax Study

This one is right out of the “you’ve got to be kidding me” category.

It seems that stimulus funds, you know that 787 billion bill without an “ounce” of pork in it, are funding a study at the University of Illinois (wow, there’s a surprise) to look at “the relationship between fat taxes and food consumption, diet quality, and obesity.”

In reality it is a study to assess the feasibility of taxing soda, under the guise of fighting obesity, to fund health care reform. You remember all the trial balloons that were launched earlier in the year concerning this tax? Well, now taxpayers are funding research to figure out if it is feasible to further tax taxpayers.

And does anyone really doubt the outcome of the study? Really?

This is perfect example of how out of control government has become. Spending money it doesn’t have on a study to see if it can tax you more to make up for some of the money it’s spending that it doesn’t have.  That should be a line in a comedy skit, not a reality.

This also makes the point that government would have no hesitation whatsoever – if it can manage to wrangle the power to do it – in deciding what you should or shouldn’t consume – all in the name of health care dollars – and punishing you if you don’t conform. And, of course, regulators and bureaucrats can’t assume that power unless Congress hands it to them through this health care reform monstrosity.

While you’re noodling over that, you might also consider another voice that came out today in opposition to the present health care reform bill. Dr. Jeffery Filer, dean of the Harvard Medical School said:

Speeches and news reports can lead you to believe that proposed congressional legislation would tackle the problems of cost, access and quality. But that’s not true. The various bills do deal with access by expanding Medicaid and mandating subsidized insurance at substantial cost—and thus addresses an important social goal. However, there are no provisions to substantively control the growth of costs or raise the quality of care. So the overall effort will fail to qualify as reform.

Make sure you read the whole thing.

[HT: Katherine P.]

~McQ

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Senate Update: Reconciliation Out – Luring RINOs In?

Is anyone else tired of hearing about Sarah Palin?  As an aside, she’s ginned up one heck of a media storm to push her book – I’ll give her that.  One of the best I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, on to the Senate.

First the semi-good news from the senior chamber – the Senate won’t consider the cap-and-trade economy buster bill until spring. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader and all around putz, says they simply can’t get to it before then.  That, of course, gives us the opportunity to concentrate fully on the other legislative monstrosity they’re engaged in trying to pass – health care reform.

Reports have Reid “cautiously optimistic” about getting the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and pass the bill.  How, you say?  Well there’s a new strategy, apparently.  Forget reconciliation and get Republican Senator Olympia Snowe on board (yes, the terrifying RINO attack).  CQ (via Brian Faughnan) reports:

Senate Democrats have abandoned plans to use a fast-track parliamentary strategy to avert a threatened Republican filibuster and pass a health care overhaul — a signal that they are considering major policy concessions to moderates.

The most significant of these could be restructuring or dropping altogether a proposed government-run insurance plan — the so-called public option — that many liberals consider a necessary part of the overhaul.

The idea, of course, is to attract at least one Republican by removing the obstacle of a “public option”. It would also supposedly allow all Democrat hold-outs (Lincoln, Landreau and Nelson) and Independent (Democrat) Joe Lieberman to support the bill.

The substitute?

One possible fallback is a proposal by Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., to create a government-sanctioned insurance plan that would be available only in states deemed to lack affordable private insurance plans. Under Carper’s plan, the insurance plan would be structured as a private nonprofit entity, run by a board appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate…

You have to love the use of “private” immediately followed by the president having to be “confirmed by the Senate”. Yeah, no undue pressure can be brought to bear in that sort of a set-up can there?

Anyway, the entire point of Carper’s plan is to lure Olympia Snowe on board (the fact that it isn’t a public option should bring Lieberman and others on board – or at least that appears to be the thinking):

…[Carper’s] proposal is similar to one Maine Republican Olympia J. Snowe offered that would create a “trigger” for the public option, making it available only if private insurers fail to meet deadlines and targets for affordable insurance plans.

What a coincidence. A plan that a RINO could love. Of course the details have yet to be set in concrete:

Carper said he was still discussing how the government would determine whether private insurance in a state is unaffordable. A bill the Finance Committee approved (S 1796) deems insurance unaffordable if premiums consume more than 10 percent of a policyholder’s income.

The government would lend money to the new nonprofit for startup costs. After that, Carper said, the plan would have to be self-sufficient.

Of course the policyholders may not care that premiums consume more than 10% of their income if the benefits warrant that. However, as I recall, the plan is to tax “Cadillac plans” into oblivion anyway – so we can all suffer the same mundane “benefits” despite our willingness to pay for more. So I would think the trigger would never be pulled. Oh, what am I saying, this is government we’re talking about – triggers are mechanisms placed in bills to allay legislative fears and give legislators cover back home when explaining their vote. All of them know that there is every intention, if a trigger is placed in the legislation, of finding an excuse to pull it. And my guess is they’ll use the same sort of math to decide to pull the trigger as they have in computing “saved and lost jobs”.

Secondly, does anyone believe that if the government gives this new “nonprofit” startup money, it won’t save it if it begins to fail? If so, I’ll have to ask which turnip truck you fell off of last night. This, like the vast majority of the legislation on health care, is all smoke and mirrors designed only to provide political cover for its passage.

That’s apparently the developing plan in the Senate. Reid has to get this done and passed before Dec. 18th when Congress plans on going into recess until next year. Your job, should you decide to take it, is to ensure they go home unhappy and unfulfilled with this legislation still marked as “pending”.

~McQ

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Debt Tops 12 Trillion – Can A Substantial Tax Increase Be Far Behind?

Another out of control government spending milestone tries to slip by quietly:

It’s another record-high for the U.S. National Debt which today topped the $12-trillion mark. Divided evenly among the U.S. population, it amounts to$38,974.34 for every man, woman and child.

Technically, the debt hit the new high yesterday, but it was posted on the Treasury Department website just after 3:00 p.m. ET today. The exact calculation of the debt is a 16-digit tongue-twister and red-ink tsunami: $12,031,299,186,290.07

And the 12 trillion mark was reached 8 months after reaching the 11 trillion mark – with oceans of red ink ahead as far as the eye can see according to the budgets the Obama administration has projected.

But don’t worry, Sec. of Treasury Timothy “Turbo Tax” Geithner, hero of the AIG bailout, had said they plan on getting serious about the debt. Are you feeling more assured now?

James Pethokoukas thinks he’s picked up on how they plan on doing that – or at least the trial balloon they’ve launched concerning their idea to see how well it flies. He saw this is the Wall Street Journal.

But the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers admitted that health reform and a growing economy isn’t enough to bring down the deficit. She did mention one other place that revenue could come from: letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

You say, “that’s not news, they’ve always talked about letting the Bush tax cuts expire”. No. That’s not what they’ve always talked about. They’ve talked about letting them expire on the richest of Americans. But “95% of you won’t see your taxes go up by a single dime” – remember? Pethokoukas thinks the statement by CoEA Christina Romer is talking about all of the Bush era tax cuts:

Since Obama already wants to get rid of the income and capital gains tax cuts for wealthier Americans that expire at the end of 2010, clearly what Romer is referring to is the rest of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Letting all the 2001 cuts — rate reductions, child tax credit marriage penalty relief — expire would raise tax revenues by $2.5 trillion through 2019. (These CBO numbers assume no negative economic feedback impact from higher taxes.) And letting the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and dividends expire would be tantamount to a $350 billion tax increase through 2019. And none of this includes possible plans for a VAT that could raise $400 billion a year more to close the huge projected gap — maybe 7 percentage points — between spending as a percentage of GDP and revenues as a percentage of GDP.

3 trillion in raised taxes? If they can manage to get away with it – you bet. And the previous no new taxes pledge for the 95%? It will be explained away as having been overcome by events – the financial meltdown, bailout, stimulus, etc. And again, you will be reminded that government, not you, has first claim on your property as they again raid your paychecks to the tune of a cool 3 trillion over 10 years.

~McQ

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Hope And Change: Obama Disappointing Europe Over Climate Change?

If the article in Der Spiegel is any indication, the answer is “yes”.  Lead paragraph:

US President Barack Obama came to office promising hope and change. But on climate change, he has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush. Now, should the climate summit in Copenhagen fail, the blame will lie squarely with Obama.

What, he can’t blame Bush? Surely he can find a way. I guarantee one thing – he will blame it on Republicans and then the Senate.

But the disappointment in Obama is not only palpable, it is obvious:

Barack Obama cast himself as a “citizen of the world” when he delivered his well-received campaign speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008. But the US president has now betrayed this claim. In his Berlin speech, he was dishonest with Europe. Since then, Obama has neglected the single most important issue for an American president who likes to imagine himself as a world citizen, namely his country’s addiction to fossil fuels and the risks of unchecked climate change. Health care reform and other domestic issues were more important to him than global environmental threats. He was either unwilling or unable to convince skeptics in his own ranks and potential defectors from the ranks of the Republicans to support him, for example by promising alternative investments as a compensation for states with large coal reserves.

Obama’s announcement at the APEC summit that it was no longer possible to secure a binding treaty in Copenhagen, is the result of his own negligence. China, India and other emerging economies have always spoken openly about the fact that the US, as the world’s largest emitter of CO2, has to be proactive in commiting itself to targets agreed on by way of international negotiation. But that is not America’s style. The US is quite happy to see itself as the leader of the Western world. But when it comes to climate change, America has once again failed miserably — for the umpteenth time.

To that I say, “thank goodness” for the umpteenth time. This is all a load of blarney and those who’ve looked at the science and considered the findings of scientific skeptics know that not only is the science far from settled, there’s no “scientific consensus” in its validity.

That said, it’s interesting to see how quickly Mr. “Citizen of the World” Obama gets thrown under the bus by Europe. Anyone who has observed Europe over the years would have anticipated this – perhaps not this quickly. But there was no “reset” with the rampant anti-Americanism that lives there. There was only a pause – mostly because they disliked George W Bush so much. But this particular article – among more and more I’m seeing lately – signals a return of the Europe we’ve all known and loved for so long – anti-American, disdainful of all things American and proud of it. Climate change is simply their latest excuse to take shots at the US and its leadership.

It’ll be interesting to see how the administration reacts to this building criticism. My guess is, given how they’ve reacted here, it won’t be pretty.

~McQ

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“Give ‘Em An Inch …”

To me the UK has become the example of what can happen when you allow the state to begin to usurp liberties in the name of “safety” or “security”. What may first be given over to the state usually becomes an ever expanding list of things the state then feels enabled to intrude upon. The old “camel’s nose under the tent”. The latest example from Britain:

Health and safety inspectors are to be given unprecedented access to family homes to ensure that parents are protecting their children from household accidents.

New guidance drawn up at the request of the Department of Health urges councils and other public sector bodies to “collect data” on properties where children are thought to be at “greatest risk of unintentional injury”.

Council staff will then be tasked with overseeing the installation of safety devices in homes, including smoke alarms, stair gates, hot water temperature restrictors, oven guards and window and door locks.

The draft guidance by a committee at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has been criticised as intrusive and further evidence of the “creeping nanny state”.

Ya think? Two things at work here – one of which we’re all familiar, even in the US. This is what? It is “for the children”. All manner of state intrusion is prefaced by claiming it is “for the children”. Which brings us to the second thing – the assumption by the state that parents are too dumb and inept to properly care for their children. While this is true of some, certainly, the standard is applied to all. And we’ve certainly seen evidence that the state is so much better, haven’t we?

So why does the state not only feel the necessity but right to intrude at such a level?

About 100,000 children are admitted to hospital each year for home injuries at a cost of £146m.

Oh, health care costs. And who controls the health care in the UK.

Why the state, of course. So of course it feels it has the right to intrude. When the state pays for health care, it assumes the “right” to tell you how to live your life and it also feels empowered to do what is necessary to make you do so in order to drive down costs, doesn’t it?

Well, it does in the UK. And we’re about to hand a similar power over to the state with this health care bill being considered. Our camel’s nose under the tent moment, if you will.  In terms of intrusion, it may not be quite as bad as the UK’s – yet. But then they’ve had 60 years to get to this point.

~McQ

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