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 term “nanny state” actually dates to the 1960s, and that’s not surprising. It was about this time that government ran out of ideas for improving society — it didn’t really improve us, but it claimed to — and turned its attention to hectoring us about all the things we do to ourselves that it wants us not to do. That turns out to be just about everything.
The phrase “nanny state” captures the spirit of this push to regulate our consumption in all areas of life. But the phrase misses the mark when it comes to the methods themselves. Nannies are respectable market institutions. To be sure, if you hired a nanny with jackboots, Tasers and guns with real bullets who punished disobedience with jail and even death, that would be a closer approximation to what we are dealing with every day in the Land of the Free.
Of course, we would never hire a nanny like this. But then again, we never hired the government, either. It just presumes ownership over our bodies, property, businesses and lives and issues edicts about them every day. It is impossible to keep up with the outrages. Nothing is untouched by these people.
And it really does amount to a different style of government. If the government builds a dam, carves presidential profiles in a mountain, constructs a highway or sends some people to traipse around the moon, that affects you and me mostly in what we pay in taxes. These things don’t directly intrude into other choices we make. We are forced to pay for idiotic government programs, but the pain in the neck mostly starts and stops with the bills we are forced to pay.
The shift to the nanny state was really a change because it invites government right into our kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, backyards, garages, medicine cabinets, refrigerators and cubicles at work. Nothing is off-limits. What that means, in reality, is that there is no more freedom, since the idea of freedom is bound up with the right to make mistakes. We are not merely paying; we are obeying (or being told to obey) every minute of the day.
For all these reasons, I’m happy that someone bothered to attempt a nearly comprehensive chronicle. The wonderfully infuriating and deeply alarming book is Nanny State by David Harsanyi. And check out the subtitle: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America Into a Nation of Children.
“When exactly did we lose our right to be unhealthy, unsafe, immoral and politically incorrect?” the author asks. “What if I want to be fat, drunk, immoral or intolerably stupid?”
These are salient questions. No one asked us. It just happened bit by bit, over the course of half a century. Daily, this trend is ramping up. We think we live in a free country, and then we actually try to do something different, risky, wonderful, productive or whatever and suddenly discover that we are living in a legal minefield, all in the name of making us safer, better, more caring or whatever.
Everything is regulated allegedly for our own good, but there are gigantic problems. First, insofar as the dictates are actually good for us, these are often redundant with existing cultural and market trends (life insurance premiums have done more to cut smoking than all the government warnings). Second, they are universal regulations and allow no dissent and, therefore, violate human liberty (if someone wants to be bad, that’s their business). Third, much of what they dictate isn’t really good for us all (the attack on domestic water use has made our homes much dirtier).
As I read this book, I kept thinking about the irony of this whole trend:
- Government says it is making us safe. Meanwhile, the government’s wars kill tens of thousands and put Americans in harm’s way, and the domestic police state has never been so violent
- Government says that it is forcing us not to harm ourselves, but government threatens us with harm constantly with its guns, fines, courts and 10 million micro-coercions, not to mention its relentless looting of our bank accounts and purchasing power
- Government says it is making us polite and civil, but it unleashes an army of bureaucrats who are the very soul of rudeness, hence coarsening society in so many ways.
What’s also crazy is the high moral tone of all these rules and regulations. We are led to believe that not wearing seat belts is not just unwise, but completely immoral and evil. So it is with smoking, eating fatty foods, drinking raw milk, drinking a glass of wine before driving and telling an off-color joke. A civil religion of sorts has replaced traditional religion, and hectoring political dictates have crowded out traditional moral rules and norms that were self-policing.
The nanny state goes far beyond obvious issues such as smoking and eating, as Harsanyi points out. In New York, it is illegal to feed pigeons, sit on a milk crate in public, put a plastic frame around your license plate, take up a subway seat with a grocery bag, ride a bike without your feet on the pedals and other such outrages. All over the country, we are seeing bans on advertising, restrictions on happy hours and ladies’ nights and every manner of legal carrots and sticks used to force us to eat more carrots and look like sticks.
Nor is this restricted to the left or right alone. Everyone with power has an agenda on how to manipulate our lives and make us all better people, as he defines that phrase.
The book opens with a chapter called “Twinkie Fascists.” I’m thrilled by the phrase because I’m personally fed up with these invasive, coercive, pietistic demands concerning what we eat. It’s gone way too far. It is none of the government’s business. And the more the government attempts to legislate diets, the less Americans care to examine the issue of diets and health themselves.
But there is something else even more remarkable about this movement. The more it pushes, the more people themselves push back. I was at an Applebee’s restaurant the other night, fighting for a table. On my way to my spot, I passed by table after table at which people were eating gigantic portions of hamburgers, fries, greasy everything, followed with massive desserts washed down with larger-than-life beers and per-person portions that would have fed whole families a few decades ago. It’s crazy stuff. Yet I celebrate it all as acts of private defiance.
In fact, such defiance is all around us. We will not be controlled. Take a trip to the local playground and you will see the results of what Harsanyi chronicles in his chapter on “The Playground Despots.” Gone is anything metal. Seesaws, jungle gyms, sky-high swings are all replaced by plastic tubes and other things that are so safe that they are fun. This was not a market decision; it was imposed by government decree.
But observe how the kids use them. Instead of climbing through tubes or sitting contentedly in a sea of plastic balls, many kids balance themselves dangerously on top of the tubes on which they are not supposed to be, and hurling those plastic balls at each other in wicked war games. This is the way adolescent rebels deal with the nanny state: Just as the adults, they find their fun in acts of defiance.
Other acts of defiance are easy to document. Go to a local convenience store and ask the manager the main source of the store’s profitability. The answer will come quickly: cigarettes and beer. If that is not a testament to the utter failure of the nanny state, I don’t know what is. As for those stores in states where such sales are restricted, it’s a wonder they make money at all.
Not enough people have taken notice of the shift in government policy that took place in the 1960s. Harsanyi seems to believe that it stems from a tendency of public officials to treat us like children and themselves as parents. There is certainly truth in that, but I’m inclined to suspect a more-malevolent motive here. The state is even more geared toward removing choice in our lives and forbidding what we want and imposing what it wants. In other words, it is spreading misery, mostly because that’s all it has really ever been good at.
This is all a sign that public policy the world over has gone through an identity crisis of sorts. It is discovering the inner truth about itself — that it really is and has always been at war with our well-being. The only difference now is that it is reaching further into our lives, wrecking them at every turn and daring to try to convince us that we should be grateful for this.
Harsanyi’s book raises consciousness. That’s the first step to overthrowing the central plan for our lives and thereby taking back our rights and liberties.