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 […]
Woo-hoo! It is a wonderful thing when the good guys win one for a change. Well, it wasn’t a total win, but it gives hope.
In a case brought by the Wisconsin state government — with full cooperation from the federal government — a jury refused to convict Amish farmer Vernon Hershberger on all counts for distributing milk, cheese, and meat without a license. He did he end up with one conviction, for which he faces a year in jail, but that’s nothing compared with what might have happened.
Now, there are still many people who would read the above and say: Wait just a minute here. You mean to tell me that a farmer was hounded by bureaucrats for selling his own food to others who wanted to buy it?
Indeed. His farm was raided in 2010, and much of his milk and cheese was destroyed by the police. The conviction was based on Vernon’s desire to fulfill his commitments and distribute what remained.
The case is strange because everyone knows that the raid, the trial, and everything surrounding this case is related to raw milk and cheese. It has huge fans all over the country, people who claim that it is healthier than pasteurized milk and cheese. It is legal in 30 states to produce, buy, and sell. In Europe, no one thinks anything about it.
These raw products have fans all over the country. Even in my own community, there are devotees who swear by it and have to engage in all sorts of absurd twists and turns just to get it, and then pass it around like contraband.
Why is this? The U.S. has this extremely powerful dairy lobby. They use government regulations to maintain their monopoly control over production and distribution. That means excluding small startups like family farms, especially those that can cater to niche interests. The milk lobby will have none of it and cracks down wherever possible.
There’s nothing wrong with big business and nothing criminal about pasteurization itself. To each his own and all that. For my own part, I’m happy to buy my milk at the regular store. The problem comes when government is there to be used by industry as a cartelization device to boost and sustain market standing. The industry can go on all day about the health fears of raw products, but the real motivation is rather obvious.
What Hershberger was technically charged with was operating without all the proper licenses. The judge actually banned any discussion of the merits or nonmerits of his products. The jurors were told that their only job was to decide if this one farmer filled out all the right paperwork and paid all the correct fees you have to pay to sell stuff.
But wait a minute. Could he receive those licenses? Of course not, because he was not willing to comply with the regulations. In fact, had he complied, he would have lost all of his customers, who themselves were not just regular customers. They were part-owners of the farm itself — a strategy that many small farmers use to get around these crazy restrictions.
The jurors were actually behaving quite courageously in thinking for themselves. They must have looked at this good farmer in Wisconsin and wondered why he was even on trial at all. He was only doing what farmers have done since ancient times: producing food for people to eat. His client base was ridiculously small. We are talking about a few dozen people here, and a net income for Vernon that in 2010 was only $45,000.
Why was the government wasting its time on such nonsense as prosecuting small farmers for selling stuff? That’s a really good question. The answer is that this is what government does these days. Its main agenda is to stop people from getting together and exchanging things to their mutual benefit.
When you look at the problem this way, you can see that this is not a left-versus-right issue. It affects absolutely everyone, whether we are talking about raw milk or marijuana or medications or home appliances. The government’s got its hand in everything.
The main result of such an impulse is not to improve the world we live in. It is to prevent people from doing things that they believe amount to improvements of their own lives.
There is a special disgrace that comes with putting a milk and cheese farmer on trial in Wisconsin, of all places. This is the land that was built by exactly the sort of thing that Vernon was doing. That such activities are illegal and the people doing them are harassed for years and then put on trial is a stunning affront to freedom itself.
To regulate and ban anything ends up relegating perfectly legitimate activities to the sector of the criminal underground, a sector growing ever larger by the day. It operates like a parallel system to the legal one.
In the criminal underground, there exists the “darknet.” This free visible dark side of the Internet is easily browsable from your home computer provided you use the right tools. If you do happen to find yourself there, you’ll find the full range of human activity, from the upright and virtuous (making cheese and selling it) to the despicable and disgusting (assassination services) and everything in between.
The more laws we have, the more people are thrown into this sector, and all are clumped into this one category called criminal. This tendency really does begin to blur what is and isn’t wrong — as if morality has nothing to do with it and the only issue is what’s legal or illegal.
This thought occurred to me when on the same day that this farmer was acquitted, the U.S. government announced the shutting down of a money service in Latin America that prosecutors said had laundered some $6 billion in criminal money. But in all the news stories, there isn’t a word about prosecutions of actual criminals for whom the money was being laundered. It’s like they didn’t matter. Only the guys with the spreadsheets and websites got hit, even though they were only providing peaceful financial services.
Government can make all the criminals it wants. It can manufacture them the way McDonald’s makes hamburgers. All that needs to happen is to pass more laws and enforce them. Higher taxes, regulations, immigration controls, exchange controls, price controls — these end only in bolstering the sector that chooses to operate outside the law. The Breaking Bad segment, as they say in today’s parlance.
This will be one result of Obamacare, for example. It will fuel the expansion and sophistication of the informal sector of service and goods delivery within the health care sector. You think you don’t need it and won’t use it, but the time will come when it becomes a matter of life and death.
Already, some physicians are bailing out of the entire system — operating solely on fee for service and not accepting any insurance or government assistance at all. This probably cuts in on the bottom line, but it it allows them to avoid all the red tape, legal liability, and uncertainty of dealing with the coming regulatory onslaught.
I’m glad to see this, because there will come a time when we might end up depending on this new sector. In fact, every country with socialized medicine has these purely private solutions, mostly available only to the elite and those in the know.
It didn’t have to be this way, but this is the way things are going. And the reason is this: Government regulations and prohibitions never, ever work to achieve their stated ends. They only raise the costs of doing business. Some companies and individuals comply, and some do not, but the overall situation never improves because of the regulations themselves. Instead, the commercial sector just becomes stratified, and so does the society it serves.
Who is to blame for this sad situation? The government that creates it or the business people who find ingenious ways around the regime?
At least one jury in Wisconsin seems to have understood.