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 […]
Cover the kids’ ears! Hide their eyes! Shuffle the weak and frail from the room! A politician running for president has uttered a heresy that brings into question the holy grail of democratic politics. Romney has failed to pretend as if the country is one big happy family that uses our glorious voting system to discover ever better ways of governing ourselves.
Which is to say that Romney made a gaffe.
You know the definition of a political gaffe: inadvertent and unscripted truth. That’s what the supposed scandal of Romney’s off-the-cuff comments amounts to. He told potential donors an unvarnished truth that everyone knows but which is not part of the official civic creed of the land of the free:
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what… All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”
The implied model here is that modern democracy is a system that enables mass confiscation of wealth by some from others. And who can doubt it? In older monarchical systems, only a tiny elite was privileged to steal from everyone else, and if they stole too much, people would get angry and overthrow them.
Democracy solved the problem by granting everyone the privilege once reserved to elites. Now we can all steal from each other, and even from ourselves. This way, it is no longer clear who the enemy is. We don’t know whom to blame when things get bad. There is no one to overthrow but ourselves.
And things are indeed getting bad. As income falls, the household budget is ever more squeezed, we are living ever longer, and the boomers retire, government benefits are soaring on autopilot.
Indeed, the 47% figure might be low. Other estimates put it closer to half. And it is rising. A smaller percentage of household income comes from wages than ever before. Food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Social Security… this stuff adds up and amounts to dependency.
He also helpfully noted that 47% do not pay income taxes. That doesn’t mean that they don’t pay tax. They are actually heavily taxed at the payroll level — a tax that pays into the very benefits that have made them dependent, a tax that has been more heavily raised under Republicans than Democrats. Everyone is taxed for every dollar earned and on the sale of nearly everything. But of course, neither party wants to talk about those taxes.
Also presumed in Romney’s talk: People vote their economic interest. Again, experience bears this out. If household economics don’t stack up, nothing else works. Politicians have limited time and money and need to get the biggest bang for their buck.
No, this is not writing off half the country, as the partisan pundits are saying. It is the mapping out of an electoral strategy based on the “median voter theorem.” This is the idea that elections are won not by the partisans or extremes on either side, but by the people in the middle. This is the business of politics. It is about finding and appealing to the interests of the median voter.
Shocking? If so, you have never bumped into a campaign consultant at a cocktail party. This is how they all talk and think. Indeed, this is how politics has worked for, oh, 200 or so years, and ever more so since the expansion of the franchise.
In the video, Romney goes on to say that his job is to appeal to the independent 5% who will turn the election in his direction. Notice that this outlook also “writes off” all the people that he already knows will vote for him. He is also giving himself a license to put their interests on the shelf as well, at least in rhetoric.
For this reason, anyone who dedicates himself or herself to getting Romney elected, as a means of protecting personal wealth from confiscation, will be sorely disappointed. Republicans as much as Democrats find ways to take what is yours.
And by the way, Obama thinks the same way. Obama will never convince voters who are already dedicated to Romney, and every single Obama adviser knows this. This is a fight for the remaining 5%. And what’s more, politics is business in another form. It is about giving and getting. Political parties represent interests, not ideas.
But oh, how precious is American political culture! We must not hear these things. We must never be permitted to hear what is true. Instead we have a Victorian sensibility about our civic religion. We sing the national anthem, say the pledge and reflect on 19th-century mythologies about our revered Founders, because, after all, we have the greatest system of government ever conceived, one so wonderful that it should be exported and imposed all over the world.
Or so we tell our youngsters. As adults, we should know the truth. Politics is a means of wealth redistribution. Electoral strategy is a race to the bottom. After all, it is emphatically not the case that Romney’s chosen constituents are free of dependency. Note that he is ramping up his imperial warmonger talk in recent days.
Every day, there is a new enemy that he accuses Obama of not slaying. And it’s not only about the military. It is about our trading partners. He has blasted the Obama administration for being soft on China.
What’s this about? It’s about reassuring his supportive pressure groups that he supports their interests. He will protect the American corporate class against foreign enemies who attempt to bypass the corporate oligarchs by selling cheap stuff to you and me. No, he won’t let that happen. And it is about reassuring the military-industrial complex that its subsidies will continue.
In fact, Romney represents a different class of dependents. Large banks. Financial institutions on the dole. Monied elite who live off cheap credit and infinite liquidity courtesy of the central bank.
Either way, the rest of us get looted. The election is about who controls that margin of loot that remains after the autopilot spending administered by the permanent class of bureaucrats is finished doling out its entitlements left and right.
In a way, I feel sorry for the bourgeoisie gathered in that small room to hear his talk. He wanted their money — a payment in exchange for his promise to protect their wealth from the grasping hoards. But he still wanted their money. Whether he will actually do this is another matter. And why should they have to pay at all?
There once was this idea called freedom. You keep what you earn. You don’t live off others. You mind your own business. Society works out its own problems without politicians, police, bureaucrats, and power elites running lives.
Is what both Romney and Obama are doing a corruption of the idea of the political party? Ludwig von Mises, whose book Liberalism (a Laissez Faire Club selection) explains everything you need to know about democracy, says that this is precisely why political parties were founded. “All modern political parties and all modern party ideologies originated as a reaction on the part of special group interests fighting for a privileged status against liberalism.”
The best statement on this was framed by Frederic Bastiat: “The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.” His book The Law is part of the Laissez Faire Club’s “Economics in One Library” that comes free to every Club member. The point of law is precisely to prevent the mutual looting that goes by the name “democracy.” But once property rights are no longer secure, political elites can plunder with impunity.
In fact, as I think about the next month and a half of grueling election posturing, I can’t imagine doing without this book. It not only foresaw this moment, but fully explains it, and further shows how no truly independent-minded person can depend on any political machine to protect his or her interests.
To keep our liberty and property from their clutches is our job.