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 […]
Obama has been too quiet lately. And when he does speak, he says little of substance. For example, on the looming fiscal cliff that has America panicked, he held a press conference on Nov. 28 to urge people to tweet Congress.
The only hard policy statement included was a reiteration of his well-worn proposal to not to raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year.
Tweets? Really? Why not have a bake sale?
In Everybody’s Autobiography (1937), the American expat Gertrude Stein expressed the futility of returning to her childhood home in Oakland, Calif., by writing, “There is no there there.” The phrase has come to indicate something that is empty of meaning or substance.
People who make the mistake of listening to Obama’s rhetoric often conclude there is no there there. His plans usually consist of sermons in which his voice rises and falls to emphasize phrases like “American exceptionalism” and “social justice.” They are packed with promises, but lack substance as to how anything will be accomplished. People should stop listening; they should start watching, instead, because the substance of Obama is not at the podium, but in the regulatory and other agencies he is creating to enforce de facto law without going through Congress.
OBAMA’S POLITICAL METHODOLOGY
In his crusade for a second crack at the presidency, Obama made many promises. He pledged to create “1 million manufacturing jobs by 2016″, to cut “oil imports in half by 2020,” and “cutting in half the growth in college tuition over the next 10 years. The means to accomplish these goals consisted of vague references to reforming tax codes and establishing “a new network of 15-20 manufacturing innovation institutes,” etc.
During his Sept. 6 speech to the Democratic National Convention, however, Obama gave particular emotional stress to one passage. “It will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”
Obama has long prided himself on being a political reincarnation of FDR. For years, talking heads in the media have piled on to debate the similarities and differences between specific policies of the two presidents. This approach misses the point. Of course, their specific policies differ. The circumstances of their presidencies differ. For example, the outright confiscation of gold executed by FDR in 1933 is not likely to occur under Obama, because gold no longer serves the same political and economic purpose as it did in the 1930s; the U.S. is no longer on a gold standard.
The essential similarity lies in the political methodology of both presidents. The surface of the methodology is the application of charisma backed up by vague promises that bulge with noble phrases. The depth is the imposition of measures through backdoor means that bypass Congress and receive little to no public attention.
For example, during his presidency (1933-1945), FDR issued well over 3,000 executive orders. (The number varies depending on the type of order included.)
Generally speaking, an executive order is a presidential directive that implements policy, often by reinterpreting the Constitution or existing federal statutes. The order does not require participation by Congress and avoids public debate. Yet these orders are powerful political devices. For example, Executive Order 9066 authorized the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.
To date, the strongest methodology parallel has been the creation and expansion of regulatory agencies. A regulatory agency is defined as “a public authority or government agency responsible for exercising autonomous authority over some area of human activity in a regulatory or supervisory capacity”. In short, the agency dictates how life must be conducted in a sprawling range of areas from agriculture to human organ transplants, from airline travel to cutting hair.
The structures created under FDR were called alphabet agencies. Some were established by executive order, others by acts of Congress. More than a hundred government bodies dictated a New Deal for Americans that intruded government into virtually every corner of daily life. The alphabet agencies included: the Housing Authority, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and what later became the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The power vested in them was immense. For instance, the director of the Office of Censorship could censor international communications at “his absolute discretion.” Many, like the Social Security Administration, had a profound impact on the basics and organization of American life that lasts to this day.
Under Obama, a similar proliferation of regulatory agencies and “czars” has occurred. “Czar” is the unofficial and popular label given to a high-level official appointed by the executive branch to oversee a policy or agency. For example, Obama’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator is usually referred to as the copyright czar. (The term came into popular usage during FDR’s tenure.) The number and faces of Obama czars vary widely over time, but as of May 23, there were 57 of them.
On Nov. 14, The New York Times reported of Obama’s second term, “Already, the Obama administration has been moving to install tougher regulators than it had in the early part of its tenure.” The new regulators “are likely to be less intimidated by the specter of being hauled in front of Congress and yelled at, especially by House Republicans.” Regulatory agencies and czars — the enforcement arms of the executive — will be paying no heed to Congress. And as long as they fly under the radar, they need not worry about public opinion. The agencies will be free to impose Obama’s sweeping New Deal on America.
WHERE THE REAL POLITICS ARE HAPPENING
To understand the political street fight that is American society, you need to turn away from Obama’s distracting sleight-of-hand speeches. You need to watch the regulatory agencies. Congress may be in gridlock, but the agencies are implementing presidential policy at a gallop.
Consider just one example: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A Nov. 19 article in the National Review opened, “On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected petitions from the governors of Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, and North Carolina to suspend the biofuel-blending requirements established by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.”
The petition asked for relief from the program’s requirement to convert corn crops into ethanol. National Review explained, “The 2012 target is to blend 13.2 billion gallons of biofuel into our gasoline, a quantity that ratchets up to 13.8 billion gallons in 2013. This year, about 4.7 billion bushels, or 40% of the nation’s corn crop, will be consumed by ethanol manufacturing.” The petitioning states are economically reeling from “the worst drought in 50 years,” and the EPA czar has the power to waive the program’s requirement. She chose not to.
So some food will become significantly more expensive in 2013. Those who follow the EPA know to stock up right now on specific goods that are dependent on corn.
Politics are being played out on the street level of regulation, not on the theater level of White House press conferences. The words coming out of Obama’s lips are distractions. Regulation is where you find the there.