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 […]
In his famous “you didn’t build it” speech, President Obama cited the Internet, fire departments, the GI Bill, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam as examples of government action that helps business owners.
Each needs addressing, but let’s start with the Hoover Dam.
The president is riffing off of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC commercial in which the TV pundit dressed in her best black T-shirt and hoodie, points up at Hoover Dam and says words to the effect that the dam reminds us that an individual can’t build a dam — or a company, for that matter. It takes a country to build projects of this magnitude.
Having a soft spot for environmentalism, it’s surprising Maddow embraces the concrete monster. At the time, Hoover described the dam as “the greatest engineering work of its character attempted by the hand of man.”
The massive structure cost $49 million (or $736 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) and measures over 726 feet in height and more than 1,200 feet in length. It took five years and 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete to build, and was finished two years ahead of schedule. About 16,000 people worked on constructing the dam, with over 100 losing their lives in the process.
There’s nothing new about government throwing taxpayer money around to create jobs. The Romans constructed aqueducts in small towns, industrial sites and large cities from France to Istanbul.
To construct the aqueduct of Segovia, Spain, Romans stacked massive bricklike granite blocks into a structure that reached a height of over 93 feet. Although no one knows for sure, it’s estimated that the aqueduct was constructed sometime during the reign of either Emperor Vespasian or Nerva to transport water from the Fuente Fria River over 10 miles from the city. The aqueduct has 167 arches and reaches its height at the Plaza del Azoguejo.
The impressive Roman structure only serves to attract tourists to the city of 55,000 today. When I visited two years ago, our guide, Jerry, told us Segovia’s population did not warrant such an expenditure when it was built. “The Romans primarily built the aqueduct as a show of power.”
Just as the Keynesian policies of the New Deal tried to cheat the laws of economics, government’s damming of the Colorado River attempted to cheat Mother Nature by bringing water to the desert southwest — water that just isn’t and never was there.
The great Western explorer John Wesley Powell was booed out of the room when he told the Irrigation Congress, “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”
But 75 years ago, when the dam was nearly completed, FDR proclaimed during his dedication speech that millions of present and future residents of the Southwest could count on “a just, safe and permanent system of water rights.” The turbulent Colorado River that vacillated between droughts and floods would be tamed and become “a great national possession,” and be counted on for irrigation to support a human migration seeking mild winters and new opportunities.
“The nation took him at his word,” writes Michael Hiltzik, author of Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century. “Since that dedication year, the population of the seven states of the basin has swelled by about 45 million. Much of this growth has been fueled by the dam and its precious bounties of water and electrical power.”
As Hiltzik points out, the dam’s water promise gunned the growth of Southern California cities and attracted farmers to the West to grow water-intensive crops like cotton, despite the lack of normal rainfall required to support this kind of agriculture.
Just as government stimulus programs and artificially low interest rates that promise to spur growth and make up for the lack of private investment never work, Hoover’s promise that his dam would, as Hiltzik writes, “provide all the water their states could conceivably need to fulfill their dreams of irrigation, industrial development and urban growth” is literally drying up.
The water level at Lake Mead is down nearly 100 feet from its high water mark, revealing a white “bathtub ring.” According to Wikipedia, the lake’s water volume is just slightly half the amount the lake could hold at its maximum.
Now that millions have migrated to the Southwest and private industry has invested millions of dollars, Hoover’s and FDR’s promises have confined those living and doing business in the West “in the straitjacket of an ever-intensifying water shortage,” notes Hiltzik. And while Interior Secretary Gale Norton claimed to have stilled the “conflict on the river” back in 2003 with the signing of two dozen agreements transferring water rights between various Indian tribes, cities and governments, the battle for water will rage on. The supply will never catch up with the demand.
After the 10-year drought, an additional intake pipeline into the diminishing Lake Mead is being installed. Almost 90% of the drinking water for Las Vegas comes from the lake. The new intake pipeline, officially known as Intake No. 3, “will reach deeper into the reservoir to protect the valley’s water supply, should the lake shrink low enough to shut down one of the two shallower straws,” reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The project targets 2014 for completion. “This new intake tunnel is 3 miles under Lake Mead, and then there is a tap of the lake about 3 miles out. I like to say it’s as if you’ve got your bathtub full of water, and now we are putting the drain into it while it’s full,” says Vegas Tunnel Constructors (VTC) Vice President of Operations Jim McDonald.
The contract amount started at $447 million, but the cost has risen by over $100 million since the project began. The tunnel, after excavated for the pipeline, unexpectedly filled with water three times in the project’s first six months.
Last month, excavation was delayed again when a VTC worker was killed 600 feet below ground when one of the tunnel segments was jarred loose, and pressurized grout was discharged, striking two of the workers.
Those in government never learn. They can’t print prosperity, and more water won’t magically appear if they dam a river. While the man on the street believes government infallible, politicians and bureaucrats cannot calculate the economic profits and losses of government interventions. Governments will forever fight over scarce water, and private use is increasingly being restricted by local ordinances.
“The spending for nonproductive public works, for the bureaucracy and for the Army led to excessive taxation, inflation and the ruin of the essential middle class and its leaders,” H.J. Haskell wrote in his book The New Deal in Old Rome, destroying the men French historian Leon Homo called “the general staff of civilization.”
The New Deal dam project that Obama and Maddow are so proud of provided a few thousand jobs 80 years ago, but has spurred migration, farming and development that is likely unsustainable and may ultimately be, like the aqueduct in Segovia, just a giant tourist attraction. This is something future tourist guides will call “an example of American government power.”