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 […]
I want gridlock. If the House of Representatives and the Senate both go Republican, as I expect they will, then the best chance for political paralysis may be a hostile Democrat in the White House. I want an angry Congress and a president with fingers itching to veto.
Ironically, a second-term presidency for Obama could well be America’s shining hope for fewer laws in the next four years. And less law is a situation to be devoutly desired, especially since it would come with a weakened presidency.
Political gridlock is a safeguard of freedom, and a constitutional restraint that the Founding Fathers consciously tried to place on power.
IN PRAISE OF AMERICAN GRIDLOCK
Political gridlock generally occurs in one of four ways: Congress is evenly enough divided so that no one party has the majority needed to push laws through; one legislature is Republican while the other is Democrat; the majority in the Senate is not large enough to overcome a filibuster; or,Congress and the executive are controlled by different parties. The opposite of political gridlock occurs when one party has across-the-board control.
Such a consensus of power produces strong or activist presidents. For example, both Franklin D. Roosevelt, who forged the New Deal, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who created the Great Society, had the advantage of one-party control during the entirety of their terms. This means they were able to push through sweeping social change that laid the foundation for much of today’s social control.
According to historian Bruce Bartlett, from 1856-2010, there were 91 years during which one party controlled the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, There were 63 years during which power was shared. In other words, 59% of the time, the United States has had a consensus of power.
The Founding Fathers would have been appalled. They consciously sculpted a political structure in which power would be balanced or antagonistic so that there would be a high bar for the passage of law.
The most obvious check on power is the tripartite separation of power. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the delegates explicitly considered and rejected a parliamentary system similar to that of Great Britain. In that system, the prime minister heads the executive branch and, as a member of Parliament, also heads the governing party. Passing laws is comparatively easy.
Instead of a parliamentary system, however, the Constitutional Convention adopted a tripartite division of power. Three branches of government were given independent powers and responsibilities that act as restraints on each other: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. For example, while Congress controls the federal budget, the president can veto bills passed by Congress. In turn, Congress can override the presidential veto by a two-thirds vote in both houses. This makes it more difficult to pass and to enforce laws. (Some consider the American system to be a four-way division of power because of the bicameral Congress in which the two legislative houses often obstruct each other.)
Even the structure of the electoral process itself facilitates a check on power. The Federalist Papers, o 51 is titled “The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments.” In the essay, the constitutional architect James Madison highlights the danger that the legislative authority would dominate.
“The remedy for this inconveniency,” he concludes, “is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.”
The executive and the legislature come from entirely different electorates, so those chosen are more likely to be diverse. Midterm elections ensure that most of the legislature comes to power at a different time than the president, so the elections act as a check on an unpopular leader. hat was the purpose of Madison’s “different principles of action”? To protect minorities from oppression by the majority, and no minority requires protection more than “the individual.”
From the juxtaposition of states’ rights and federal power to a political distribution that gives the same number of Senate seats to California as it does to Rhode Island, a salutary tendency toward gridlock is at the root of American government. The tendency has been strengthened by additions like the filibuster rule in the Senate. This rule allows a senator, or a series of them, to speak on the floor for as long as they wish unless or until “three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn” bring the process to a close.
ADVANTAGES OF GRIDLOCK
Sometimes, actions that not taken are more significant and advantageous than the ones that are. For example, if even one legislative house and the president are at loggerheads, then budgets are less likely to be passed and the deficit may cease to climb at its present rate. Stephen Slivinski writes in the Washington Examiner (Sept. 15, 2010):
“Between 1965-2009, the average growth rate of real per capita federal spending in the divided-government years [one House versus the presidency] was 1.9%. For the years of united government, that average was 3.1%…. The take-home message for fiscal conservatives? If it’s a bad idea to put your faith in politicians, the good news is you can probably put a decent amount of faith in institutional gridlock.”
Yet political gridlock is most often discussed as a sign of dysfunctional government. In a 2011 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Antonin Scalia offered a refreshing rebuttal of the dysfunctional claim:
“I hear Americans saying this nowadays, and there’s a lot of it going around. They talk about a dysfunctional government because there’s disagreement — and the Framers would have said, ‘Yes! That’s exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power’ because the main ill that beset us, as Hamilton said in The Federalist, when he talked about a separate Senate, he said, yes, it seems inconvenient, but inasmuch as the main ill that besets us is an excess of legislation, it won’t be so bad. This is 1787; he didn’t know what an excess of legislation was.”
And that’s why — even though I long for a fresh face to detest and long for a world without democratically elected dictators — there might be good reasons to prefer Obama over Romney as the next president.