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.
The Red-Carpet Treatment to Cutting Your State Tax Bill It doesn’t get talked about at the Oscars or on late-night talk shows, but something big has happened behind the scenes in Hollywood over the last 10 years. And it’s changed the way movies and TV shows are made. No, it isn’t the rise of 3-D […]
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.
“Como se dice… pinot grigio?” your humble club director managed to awkwardly muster. “Mee-ster Hill,” the friendly yet sheepish waitress replied, “it is the same in Spanish, pinot grigio.” “Perfect. We’re going to get along just fine.” My wife and I are hosting Laissez Faire’s first ever “Chill” Weekend at Rancho Santana, on the Pacific […]
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 […]
Save Big Money Without Jeopardizing Your Health Prescription drugs save lives. (They also cost lives, but that’s a story for another day.) Millions of people with cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and more depend on prescriptions to extend their lives in the face of disease. But that gets really expensive really fast. Is a hundred […]
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 […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
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 […]
I bet you use online search engines from time to time. But have you ever bothered to read their privacy policies? If you’re not a legalese geek like me, the answer is probably somewhere between “Huh?” and “Heck no!” Aside from providing a cure for insomnia, website privacy policies can have a huge impact on […]
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 […]
Municipal bonds were flying high until 2007–08, when the collapse of the property markets caused widespread worry. Munis depend on state tax revenue, and with the economy in recession, sales and income taxes were in jeopardy. On top of that, the financial markets’ implosion meant pension and other investment funds of state and local governments […]
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, […]
“The performance award payouts are in recognition of that great work done in very trying circumstances. I firmly believe that this investment in our employees will directly benefit taxpayers and the tax system.” — New IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on why he’s paying millions in bonuses to IRS employees. “We are going to have parents […]
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 […]
The United States is home to a gigantic socialist sector, larger and with a greater reach than any in the world, and it is fed by tax dollars and managed entirely by the government. Strangely, the opponents of socialized medicine and socialized industry don’t complain about it. In fact, all throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they urged its expansion.
It is called the prison system. It’s a fairly new system, but the cruelties of similar systems are so famed throughout history that they are spoken of by the Psalmist: “For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”
The presumption in the Psalms is that prisoners are despised, ignored, forgotten, dismissed — and they are in our country, where this topic is not even on the list in the mainstream debate.
It’s stunning when you think about it. The “land of the free” is home to the world’s largest prison population. Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population, yet one-quarter of the entire world’s inmates are in the U.S. The ratio of the prison population to the general population is higher in than any other nation in the world. Russia is second. China is third.
If the jailed lived in one place, the 2.3 million would be the fourth largest American city, between Chicago and Houston. Every day, 35,948 people are incarcerated (source), and the only people who even bother to talk about it are considered to be on the fringe left, crazy people who can’t stop pleading for special interests.
Maybe we have more criminals who need to be locked up? It depends on how you define a criminal. Some two-thirds of people mired in the justice system (prison, probation, parole) are in for nonviolent offenses. Among federal prisoners, 91% are in for nonviolent crimes. No dictator in the world gets away with this.
And while the prison system as we know it came into existence in the early part of the 20th century, the trend toward mass imprisonment is relatively new. The numbers in prison are five times higher than in 1980, when the war on drugs really became a nationwide mania and sentencing became long and mandatory. Nearly the whole of the change is accounted for by these two facts alone. In 1980, 40,000 people were in the slammer for drug-related charges. Today, it is closer to half a million.
The statistics are not unknown. They have never been more accessible. But people hear these statistics and think: “Well, that seems like a lot of people, but hey, I’m not there and my friends and family aren’t there. Regardless, we are probably better off with too many people in jail, rather than too few. At least the streets are a bit safer than they otherwise might be. So let’s just forget about it, shall we?”
But it turns out to be very easy these days to trip over that wire that causes you to land in jail. The trouble is that you don’t know that until it happens. It could be a mistake that you or a family member made in handling too much cash. It could be a joint that someone smoked at your house party. It could be an unpaid ticket. It could be a tweet you sent that insulted a bureaucrat.
It could be the wrong download, upload or file-sharing act. Or maybe you lost your temper at the airport and said something you shouldn’t in the presence of a TSA agent. Maybe you acted on a stock tip that was slightly too revealing. Even the wrong glance at a cop could cause your life to unravel.
Any of these actions and thousands of others can cause you to become embroiled in a system you cannot control and cannot resist. You spend the night in jail. You are bailed, but there are endless legal battles ahead to get out of the thicket.
Your life suddenly becomes about keeping your freedom. You pay lawyers. You lose time from work going to hearings. You lose sleep with worry and have to take pills you never thought you would. Your finances are crushed. You can hardly think about anything else. This goes on for months and you are pretty much a wreck.
The whole thing seems crazy and preposterous. Why is the state focusing on you, rather than on real criminals? You are an easier and safer target. Plus, you broke the law. It is a dumb law and it is understandable that you broke it — and you would never do it again, even though many others who have done the same are out free — but you finally have to admit it: You are more guilty than innocent.
It comes time to plea-bargain. Your lawyers make a deal with the system. If you admit guilt, you will be let off. The sentence of 20 years, or whatever it happens to be, will likely be suspended. You agree to the deal, anything to bring an end to this hell. But something goes wrong. The judge sentences you anyway. Wait, this isn’t the way it is supposed to turn out! But now there is nothing you can do.
Then you find that the prison system is the crystallization of life under government control. Your Facebook, Twitter, email, phone number are all zapped. Freedoms of association, speech and press are entirely absent. Human rights don’t apply. The choices you can make about how to spend your time are allocated to you by wardens and at their discretion. Your person and labor are valued by no one in particular. Everything you consume — whether it is food or space — your masters regard as a favor granted.
Everyone who cares about you is outside the prison. The people on the inside do not care whether you live or die. And to your amazement and shock, you find that the prison is not filled with violent thugs, thieves and murderers. Most everyone is pretty much like you. They are people, real people with families and friends and lives, who were stopped by a cop and had forgotten to take the marijuana out of the glove box. They are people who exploded in a temporary rage at a bureaucrat. They are people who downloaded and shared the wrong files.
You discover an entire world behind walls, thousands of people just like you, and nearly all of them could be out living productive lives, caring for their families, contributing to life in their communities, living out their dreams on the outside. But here they are in this government institution — like millions of others in our time and throughout history — wasting away their lives in the name of some claim of “justice” that clearly does not exist.
The experience is enlightening and amazing. Prisoners are not who you thought they were. You want to get the news to everyone on the outside. You want to reveal this scandal to the world.
What do you say? The slogans that created this system — “the war on drugs,” “get tough on crime,” “zero tolerance,” “mandatory sentencing” — are about politics, not justice or humanitarianism, and they have nothing to do with the reality you see. It is a cruel system, completely out of control, and one with an immense human cost.
The prison system is a massive human rights violation. It has to be stopped.
But there’s a big problem: You can’t speak. You can’t act. You now know the truth, but now you also know that there is nothing you can do about it. And you also know that everyone on the outside pretty much thinks exactly how you used to think. They do not care.