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 […]
Politics is a lagging indicator of social-cultural trends. Politics doesn’t lead change; it chases it, incompetently and long after the underlying reality is impossible to deny. This is why it makes no sense to put faith in politics. By the time politics catches up, the rest of the world has moved on.
That said, I’ve just finished what might be the finest book ever written by a sitting member of the U.S. Senate. It is daring. It is intellectually serious. It displays mastery of the subject matter. It makes courageous and counterintuitive claims, such as the need for across-the-board cuts in all spending, including military spending and middle-class welfare, by raising the retirement age. It takes on taboo subjects like the war on terror to call for normalcy and peace.
It is not a perfect book, and all political books have to be graded on a curve. But in all, it represents a fundamental and thoroughly coherent alternative to politics as we know it and have known it for half a century. Despite my best effort to view this as another political tract, I found the book invigorating and even thrilling in ways I had not expected.
The book is The Tea Party Goes to Washington by Sen. Rand Paul. It is his first book since he won the Kentucky race for U.S. Senate, running as a Republican and delivering a crushing blow to his opponent despite amazing smears by the media and very little in the way of support from the GOP itself.
Is this book a harbinger of things to come, a sign that the prevailing political paradigm is collapsing or that the political world is beginning to adapt to the dramatic ideological changes present in popular and intellectual culture? There is no way to know. But I do know that it is highly unusual that a book this bold and heterodox would come from a U.S. senator.
During Rand Paul’s run for the Senate, the media kept describing him as the Tea Party candidate. I’ve never understood this designation. “The Tea Party” seemed like a moniker attached to anyone mad at the system, but it didn’t describe a consistent philosophy. Tea Party rallies could feature speakers both decrying big government and also railing against Medicare and military cuts.
Anger is not the same as an agenda. So what’s up with these people?
This accounts for part of my skepticism on picking up this book. The book begins by explaining the term from his point of view. If he is right, count me in! But even if he is not right, I can now see why he embraced the Tea Party designation. It allowed him to distance himself from politics as usual, whether Republican or Democrat. It allows some degree of independent branding without the caricature that comes with words like libertarian.
He actually spends a substantial part of the book explaining that he actually is a libertarian; that he is the right kind of conservative; that he is a constitutionalist; that he counts the so-called religious right among his allies, but finds no role for the government in pushing religion; that while he embraces the radical traditions of thought of the libertarian idea, he still regards himself as a backer of limited government. If you want to start putting acid tests on his thinking in the book, you will note that he is mixed on the subject of immigration, he is silent on the drug war (but silent is better than endorsement), and he seems to hold out the possibility of some war-making role for the state.
If you are looking for a philosopher king, I would suggest other writers, most of them already dead. If you are looking for teachers, there are others who have a more-consistent outlook. But as statesmen go, Rand Paul is the obvious and natural successor to his father’s vision and political career.
He spends a good part of the book’s first third detailing the human side of campaigning and the sheer wickedness of the smearing press and what Joe Sobran used to call the opinion cartel of the American system of political coverage. Most famously, Rachel Maddow interviewed Rand as if he were a member of the Klan. Rand didn’t catch on that he was being sandbagged until it was too late.
All the details of this encounter are in here, all told in a very human way that provides an inside look into the consequences of daring to depart with convention in American politics.
Once you move past the inside-baseball beginning and the history of the campaign, you get into the substance of this book, and it is here that you find something that is actually extraordinary. This is a political biography that is also a serious and high-level manifesto against big government in all its forms. He begins by taking on domestic spending, blasting favored programs of the left and right, hitting federal regulation of American life in sector after sector, slamming the war on civil liberties in all of its manifestations.
So far, the book appears to be an outstanding presentation of the free-market side of the Republican Party. I’m not sure other Republicans have been this gutsy in attacking the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, bailouts of all sorts, and the like. In particular, he has great understanding of the boom and bust cycle and the role of the Fed in creating it. He cites all the right ideas in his interpretation of the 2008 crisis.
But what I found most impressive is his opposition to big government in the area of military and defense. This has been a sticking point among conservative Republicans since at least the mid-1950s, when it first became convention for the political right to back cuts at home and expansions abroad. Ever since the end of the Cold War, there was a chance for a corrective here, but it has been stubborn in coming.
To this day, it remains conventional for those who want domestic cuts to favor expansions of spending on the military — and it appears that the top of the ticket in this election will go this way yet again.
Rand Paul will have nothing to do with this. He makes the link between welfare and warfare.
- “Like every aspect of federal expansion, the rise of our national security state represents government growth without end”
- “The great irony is that conservatives preach individual responsibility and reliance domestically but practice policies abroad that create dependence on foreign aid and dependence on foreign soldiers…. Though an integral part of the conservative creed is to question government, it makes many Republicans nervous to even hint at questioning our foreign policy…”
- “There was a not-so-coincidental correlation between an ambitious foreign policy and astronomical spending that too many conservatives were willing to ignore because they had adopted the same utopian vision as the philosophically liberal neoconservatives.”
He goes on to discuss the foreign policy views of Washington and Jefferson, endorses the ideological vision of Robert Taft from the 1950s, and says that Pentagon spending ought to be treated the same as any other spending program. He even goes further to say that it is impossible to have reduced government at home without taking on the warfare state.
As for wars themselves, he says that he completely opposes the Iraq war. In principle, he backs the Afghanistan war, but then spends pages and pages exposing the graft and ghastliness of the whole enterprise, calling for an immediate end.
Even aside from whatever positions Rand holds on this or that issue, this volume actually contains important research from other sources I had not seen. He offers a startling quotation from Gen. Hugh Shelton, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He reports that a White House official asked him, long before Sept. 11, if he could float a U-2 plane over Saddam Hussein’s military installations so that it could be shot down and precipitate a war. Shelton declined on grounds that he would not murder an American soldier.
All credit to Rand for reporting the incident at all!
More recently, he has taken up the cause of Internet freedom, opposing intrusive legislation that endangers digital rights. And while he has not come all the way over to opposing “intellectual property” as such, he has been a great opponent of laws that permit website takedowns and SWAT-team tactics against alleged infringers.
If these views end up making advances and triumphing over the leadership in the party, the apple cart of American politics will be completely turned over. No, I don’t hold out much hope that this will happen, and I don’t regard Rand Paul as the savior of liberty in our time. Nor does he believe that he is. Even so, this book is an excellent manual about the truth of government in our time.
It doesn’t give the whole truth, and his naivete that government can be cut and contained, rather than completely dismembered, is frustrating for anyone steeped in the current radicalism of the liberty-minded world. Still, that a book this brassy and bold could come from a sitting member of the U.S. Senate would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
Buy your own copy of The Tea Party Goes to Washington by Sen. Rand Paul now from Laissez Faire Books. This is the book to own and read in order to understand the present and future of American politics.