The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
For critics of the surveillance state, it is tempting to see President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago as a partial victory: Prompted by Edward Snowden’s leaks and the public pressure for National Security Agency reforms, he announced significant changes to the program that collects and stores information about all telephone calls. And he promised […]
The organization Campaign for Safe Cosmetics doesn’t just want you to be able to have new choices about the makeup or other products you buy. It wants the FDA to be able to ban and recall products. It will decide for you what is and isn’t safe.
And it is prevailing against the industry itself, which has no interest whatsoever in selling unsafe products, but precisely the opposite. The industry is already ridiculously overregulated, and new regulations could come into effect this summer.
What’s the excuse? The usual nonsense about safety and security and health. There is a crowd of lobbyists backed by regulators who seem to believe that all of modernity is corrupting and horrible and must be reversed until we are living in the most-primitive state of being, sans makeup, of course!
In other words, cosmetics are going the way of everything else. The quality of the product will be depleted by regulations, just as with indoor plumbing, electricity, cars, light bulbs, soaps and gas-powered tools. Entrepreneurship will be hindered and truncated. Innovation will stop. In a few years, you will wonder: Whatever happened to makeup and deodorant and hair spray that actually works? Prepare: The end is near!
Already, I’ve heard many women complain that cosmetics today are far worse than they were 10 years ago. The colors don’t behave they way they should, and color is mainly what the FDA currently controls. I don’t doubt that whatever problems exist are due to government regulations. Whenever you see consumer products that decline in quality to the point that you have to pay vastly more for something of good quality, or that high quality suddenly becomes completely unavailable, you will find the hand of government if you look hard enough.
I can’t read about this subject without feeling a sense of pride for the life and work (and sadness for the great legacy) of Maksymilian Faktorowicz, who lived from 1872-1938. He was a Polish Jew who lived in Russia under the czars. He started working for a pharmacist at the age of 8, and as he got older, he inhabited the world of wigs designed for the opera in Moscow. At the age of 22, he obtained what amounted to a royal appointment. He was in charge of wigs and cosmetics for the Imperial Russian Grand Opera.
But by 1904, political unrest was making life more than a bit scary for Russian Jews, and he began looking to the United States as a place to settle. In these times before passports and visas, it was just a matter of catching a boat and moving in. So he did. He moved to St. Louis.
His big break came at the glorious pro-capitalist, pro-progress, pro-technology event: the World’s Fair of 1904. There, Maksymilian Faktorowicz sold his fabulous cosmetics to great acclaim. All hail the practical arts!
He took the trade name you now recognize: Max Factor. He was a great American entrepreneur.
Following the World’s Fair, disaster struck, and his partner stole his stuff and his money and left him penniless. He went back into barbering and crawled his way back, eventually moving to Los Angeles. He opened a shop that distributed cosmetics for the theater.
But it was not enough that he merely distribute what already existed. Max was an entrepreneur above all else. And there was a new industry in town: the movies. The existing makeup withered terribly under the hot lights. He combined his background in pharmacy with his expertise in cosmetics and created a new form of makeup, a thin greasepaint in cream form in 12 different colors.
It was a smash hit. The stars loved it. Soon every emerging star was coming to Max Factor to provide the right look for the camera. And his products kept improving. Eventually, he had an incredible list of clients that included Mary Pickford, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Judy Garland. He invented lip gloss, provided huge innovations in nail polish, came up with products specifically for color films and never stopped improving all his products.
His name appears in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But more than that, Max was the guy who mainstreamed the idea that every woman could look like a Hollywood starlet. As the song goes, “To be an actor, see Mr. Factor / He’ll make your kisser look good!”
The term “makeup” that we use today is due to him as well. More broadly, when you consider the influence that Hollywood had on the world, he pretty well defined the 20th-century idea of beauty, both indirectly through his masterful work on the set and directly by marketing Max Factor products to consumers all over the world.
That’s a pretty impressive contribution for a poor Polish-Jewish immigrant from Russia! And between his old-world position serving the court and the new position in capitalist America serving the American consumer, which do you suppose he preferred? He made his preference pretty obvious by immigrating and then by absolutely thriving in this land of the free. Free enterprise made this story possible.
Now, I can imagine some readers thinking: “Oh, this is all superficial and irrelevant. Why make this man out to be a hero?” Cosmetics have been part of the human experience since the dawn of time. And today they are an intimate part of the daily life of nearly every existing person on the planet. For women in particular, cosmetics are a crucial part of what makes for a quality life, which is one reason that they constitute a $20 billion industry globally every year.
Sadly, when you look at the regulations today, you can see that this huge and wonderfully innovative experience could never be repeated. Let’s leave aside the point about immigration today, which is a tragedy in its own right. And let’s leave aside child labor restrictions that would have prevented him from learning his craft early on.
Would Max have been able to try techniques and colors and solutions for the unique problems posed by the hot studio lights? If he had to obey government regulators, rather than his demanding consumers, would he have thrived as he did?
I seriously doubt it. Entrepreneurs need the freedom to try things. They need to have their experiments tested by the most-relevant party, namely the consumer. The standards of excellence have to be set by the people who are using the inventions and buying the products. Because America valued this freedom and opportunity, and linked up geniuses like Factor with the buying public, many generations of American capitalists rose through the social ranks to achieve riches, fame and greatness.
Today, it is different. The regulatory bureaus step between the innovative capitalist and the consumer, causing friction and communication struggles. This forces the entrepreneur to have divided loyalties: Does he serve the bureaucrat, or does he serve the consumer?
Somehow I can’t even imagine Bette Davis taking a back seat to any regulator!
Rumor has it that the fate of cosmetics will be sealed by the summer, when the final power of the life and death of any cosmetic product will be handed over to the FDA. This is a terrible tragedy. I can predict the future. The new and improved makeup will not work. It is not supposed to work. It is supposed to please beauty-hating activists and power-mad bureaucrats.
Here we have another instance of government unraveling the achievements of civilization one product at a time. It is Max Factor’s grave they are dancing on this time. And that fact alone should infuriate every red-blooded and rosy-cheeked American.