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 […]
Where would the European economy be today without Germany? Compared with all the other states in the European Union, Germany is the viable cash cow for the rest to milk, and that’s only because of the economic reforms that took place before the Great Recession hit.
It was the Social Democrats, led by Gerhard Schroder (in power from 1998-2005), who did what had to be done. His government lowered taxes, consolidated welfare programs and liberalized labor law enough to spare Germany the worst of the recession’s effects. Only a free economy can adapt to change, and Germany liberalized just enough to make the difference.
It was a case of “Nixon goes to China” — that is, a reform brought about by a source that was not expected. And because it was unexpected, it had a greater political chance for success. The policy turn defied expectations and created enough temporary upheaval to enable the rarest of things: a policy shift, however marginal, toward greater freedom.
When you think about it, this is how it usually happens. The Social Democrats liberalized the Canadian economy in the 1990s, and this spared the country the worst of the recession woes of today. Bill Clinton led the charge for a welfare reform that the Republicans wouldn’t have dared to put forward on their own. Jimmy Carter put trucking and airline deregulation in motion. Ronald Reagan, the supposed war hawk, was the first to propose full-scale and mutual disarmament to a Soviet leader.
There’s also the most-spectacular example of modern times in China: The Communist Party is what unleashed the capitalist revolution that transformed a whole nation with record economic growth. Lesser-known cases of similar change took place in New Zealand and Sweden, where social democrats pushed change and liberalization.
The opposite holds true too. The political left warned of both Bush presidencies that they would slash federal spending. Instead, they broke all records for spending expansions. Republicans have been consistently terrible in office on all the very things they claim from the stump to want to reform.
Looking at the reality, Republicans seem to be exceptionally good at regulating, taxing, spending and imposing new mandates — even as the Democrats accuse them of dismantling the New Deal. If only the Republicans would actually do what the Democrats accuse them of doing!
The political right says that Obama has slashed military spending and thereby endangered national security. Romney echoes this line in his stump speech. The actual budget numbers tell a different story. Obama has continued and extended the Bush war legacy in every way.
I can recall giving speeches in the late 1980s on Reagan’s domestic spending record, showing how his administration massively expanded spending in every area. I would point to the grim reality with actual numbers and then look out over a crowd of people who clearly didn’t believe me. I would put up charts, and they would assume they were fake.
In politics, up is down, left is right, black is white. Why is it that there is so little relationship between politics and reality? Talk is cheap, and politicians will say anything both before and after they are elected.
They have a vested interest in maintaining the legends about themselves that animate the settled political dramas of the political culture. Lacking any other basis on which to vote for this guy or that guy, voters have little choice but to believe them.
The No. 1 thing to remember about politics is that officeholders are mostly made of illusion. These people are not actually “running the country,” as the phrase goes. Neither the President nor the Congress has much to do with the actual day-to-day operations of the state.
The substance of the real state is what Frank Chodorov (in The Rise & Fall of Society, this week’s over-the-top amazing release in the Laissez Faire Club) calls the “aristocracy of office.”
He is speaking of the bureaucracy. Once the offices are established, they are perpetuated. It doesn’t matter that that excuse for their existence is long past. They are unaffected by elections, protests, editorials, political debate and political promises. They are gigantic and fearsome beasts who laugh at the politicians who claim to control them.
“Once a law enters the statute books, it is beyond the purview of those who made it, the legislators or the king, and becomes the special, private province of those who operate it. The more numerous and prolix the laws, the more important and the more self-sufficient are the operating specialists… The real governing body of the country is its practicing bureaucracy, whose prospects brighten with each reform that becomes law.”
The bureaucrats pay little attention to the newly elected administration. They have a new political appointee who ostensibly heads the agency, but he or she will be gone in a few years or maybe sooner, and the bureaucrats know this. Plus, the new guy is wholly dependent on the powers of the permanent bureaucracy, without which he has no information or power at all. All that a new presidential administration means to these people is that a new portrait appears on the wall. Nothing more.
Now, how about the perpetual fantasy that we will get the right guy in office who will slash spending, confound the bureaucracy, pull the troops out, cut taxes and even take on the Federal Reserve? I love this idea, but let’s look at what actually happens.
The idea of cutting government goes against the whole reason for government’s existence. A president who swears to cut government is like the new CEO of a company who swears to drive down the stock price and ruin the customer base of the company. The entire institution will, naturally, regard the impulse as dangerous and insane.
If a new president has sworn to take on the bureaucracy, the bureaucracies will be ready for battle. They won’t be caught off guard; on the contrary, they will have their guard up. It is like a challenge to their rule, and they will set out to show the political types just who the real boss is. And they have the advantage in this struggle. They are permanent. The politicians are temporary. They are not responsible to any member of the public; the politicians worry about the polls.
The new president also must, upon taking office, appoint some 6,000 people to political positions within the bureaucracy. That is among his first tasks. The appointees come from his donor base, his intellectual base and from the professional ranks of political hired hands that hang around Washington like flies around a landfill. The new appointees are socialized to the new culture within days, or else they face the price. Their loyalties change very quickly once faced with the sheer vastness, the power, the seeming prestige of the world of government.
Who is going to win this struggle? History gives the answer. There are very rare occasions when government is rolled back, and they present themselves in ways that are surprising and unexpected, and usually at the hands of people who seem like the least likely to cut government at all.
This is why politics often produce results that are the opposite of what we first expect.
There is no better guide — and I really mean no better guide — than Frank Chodorov’s Rise & Fall of Society. This man had a sophisticated grasp on the real nature of the beast, one that eludes practically everyone else and is especially lost on those who have been taught something different their entire lives.
I’m optimistic about the cause of freedom. I just don’t believe that it will be achieved through any conventional or expected route.