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 […]
My passport is festooned with patriotic blather about freedom and democracy. It didn’t used to be this way. The less freedom we have, the more government has to convince us that it exists. But none of it rings true anymore.
One page of the passport quotes Lincoln: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Amused by that on several levels, I nearly sent out a status via Twitter. I had typed the following revised version that embodies a wistful fantasy: “that government shall perish from the Earth.”
But just before sending, I hesitated. You see, while doing this, I was boarding a flight from Frankfurt back to Atlanta. Presuming that the feds are reading everything, I thought that posting such words, however funny, would be too risky.
What if I found myself being detained once having landed? I might face a barrage of questions about the meaning of my little text. Did I have a diabolical plot in mind to smack the government in some way? I imagined myself having to explain polycentric legal theory and market forces to thugs in some isolated cell.
So instead of posting that little update, I pulled back. I censored myself. Doing so felt just a bit odd in some way.
This is what it has come to in the surveillance state. In my entire life, I don’t recall ever pulling back from saying what I think. But these days, prudence rules. This is how I imagined things were in the Soviet Union in the old days. I recall thinking during the Cold War how great it is to have free speech, to not live in fear, to not be afraid of expressing political opinions.
Here we are in the latter day of the war on terror and we are stuck now with a jumpy regime that collects our every correspondence and is ready to misunderstand everything we write. We no longer communicate with confidence of privacy to our friends. We don’t post truthfully to our followers. We no longer send authentically private emails. In every case, we edit ourselves because we know there is a third party listening in, and that party is government.
Government doesn’t really care if we if are posting about our dinner plans our shopping excursions or our kids’ grades and community socials. What government cares about is politics, which is precisely why the Founders threw that First Amendment into the Bill of Rights. You have to be free to speak about politics or it can’t be said that the country is truly free.
But it is precisely politics that get us in trouble these days. The tax authorities harassed groups based on political outlook. They were targeted. So it is with all our communications. Express an opinion that government ought to be upended in some way and it would not be surprising at all to come face to face with an interrogation squad that understands nothing about philosophy or economics.
You might be thinking, Oh, that’s just ridiculous; you could have posted that without consequence. And maybe that’s right. But who is to say for sure? Do we really know what kind of language triggers the authorities? We do not. It might be a slow news day and you suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of some serious government muscle. Or maybe nothing would happen.
But how many people today are playing it safe just in case? I would suspect that it is nearly universal. There is a chill in the air. You whisper your opinions only to those whom you trust. You don’t really tell pollsters what you really think — most people just hang up — but that’s been true for some time. Now you don’t even tell your friends on Facebook. Even email seems sketchy.
There is another feature of all this that strikes me. In some respects, you can tell that the war on terror is ramping down. President Obama has called for an end to the “boundless war on terror.” He’s even dismissed the idea that the feds would hound Edward Snowden. It’s purely anecdotal, but I’ve had fewer harrowing experiences at the airport today than I had five years ago. Security is often a snap. Even customs and passport checks are easier than they once were.
Five years ago, American citizens had to leave an extra hour or two early just to get through the maze of bureaucracy when coming back into the country. I went through the whole mess yesterday at the Atlanta airport in less than 15 minutes. None of it seemed intrusive at all. I could have carried a suitcase full of Cuban cigars and no one would have known the difference.
It’s true across the board. Drone strikes are down. The police today are less brutal in general than five years ago. The trigger-happy hysteria of five years ago has gradually mutated into a routine bureaucratic blase.
Yet the appearance of less frenzy is somewhat illusory. After Sept. 11, the government started collecting every bit of data it could on us, building profiles of every single American. If you should end up on the wrong side of the law, the power elites are now in a position to rifle through a decade-plus of emails and chats. This is the stuff of which blackmail is made.
The political climate has changed. When Edward Snowden’s revelations came to light, many people were upset about the violation of human rights this implies. But plenty of others defended the surveillance as something necessary in times of high threat levels. So you can see that we’ve already been conditioned to accept a higher level of despotism than ever before.
This follows the ratchet model of government expansion as explained by Robert Higgs in his book Against Leviathan. It goes like this. During war and depression, government expands. When the crisis is over, government contracts. But the new normal is never the old normal. We have become accustomed to a new level of command and control. This is the ratchet at work. It might seem like we get freedoms back, but we do not. Instead, we just get used to being less free.
This is what happened during and after World War I and World War II and the Great Depression. The same pattern is taking place today. The war on terror is abating — after 12 years of hell. But in the new normal, surveillance is just part of the process of governing.
No law on the books even authorizes it, write Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman in The New York Times. “Through a series of legal contortions, the Obama administration has argued that Congress, since Sept. 11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance.”
We put up with it because it seems less bad than just a few years ago. The reality is that we are more controlled by government than any previous generation.
So yes, we watch what we post. The truth is scarcer than ever before.