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 […]
Apparently, global markets rallied overnight on hopes that a conflict may be avoided if Syria gives up its chemical weapons. If that’s the case, it’s a rally that will fade later in the week.
That’s because the ongoing Syrian conflict has nothing to do with chemical weapons. It’s all about regime change, which is all about natural gas and pipelines.
But this is not just “another” Middle Eastern conflict. It’s much deeper, subtler, and potentially far more dangerous than preceding conflicts. As we’ll attempt to explain in today’s issue, the situation in Syria is a direct result of the relative decline of U.S. imperial power.
There’s little doubt that the U.S. want to see regime change in Syria. So it was a bit of a masterstroke that yesterday the Russians tried to diffuse the conflict by calling the U.S.’s bluff and playing the chemical weapons card. As reported by the Financial Times:
“Russia launched an unexpected diplomatic initiative to defuse the Syrian crisis on Monday when it called on the Assad regime to place its chemical weapons stockpile under international supervision, suggesting the move could head off a U.S. military strike.
“In a move that took Western diplomats by surprise, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, announced that Moscow has proposed to the Assad regime that it should ‘not only put its chemical weapons storages under international control, but also have them destroyed subsequently.’”
Russia doesn’t want regime change, so it doesn’t want war. And if Russia plays for peace, then it makes it that much harder for the West to justify its belligerent actions.
But yesterday morning, the U.S. hit back, calling Russia’s bluff that called the U.S.’s bluff. That is, President Obama said that he’d call off any attack if Syria relinquished control of its chemical weapons. Or in Obama’s words, “If in fact that happens.”
This is getting almost laughable. So all Syria has to do to avoid a carpet bombing is relinquish control of its chemical weapons. And all the U.S. has to do to effect regime change is to say that Syria won’t give up all its weapons (it’s still hiding some, and we’ve got “proof”).
So let’s see how this diplomatic dance plays out. But in the meantime, all you have to do is understand that Russia wants peace because it doesn’t want its energy interests threatened, and the U.S. wants Assad out because it (and Saudi Arabia) wants to keep its foot on the throat of Iran.
Here’s the basic rundown:
On July 25, Iraq, Iran, and Syria signed a memorandum of understanding to build a pipeline running from the largest natural gas reservoir in the world (controlled by Iran and Qatar) through Iraq into Syria and Lebanon. The plan is to eventually extend the pipeline to Europe. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time:
“The oil ministers of Iraq, Iran and Syria Monday signed a preliminary agreement for a $10 billion natural-gas pipeline deal, the official Iranian News Agency IRNA and other Iranian media reported.
“The document was inked in the Assalouyeh industrial region, located in the southern province of Bushehr by Iranian oil minister Mohammad Aliabadi, Iraq’s oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaiby, and Syrian counterpart Sufian Alow, the agency said.”
Although bringing Middle Eastern gas into Europe is not in Russia’s best interests, the next best thing for Russia would be to have its hands all over the distribution of the gas. We’d guess that Gazprom, Russia’s state energy giant, would have a fair economic interest in any pipeline built through the region.
But monetizing Iran’s gas reserves and having euros flow in the billions to Iran doesn’t sit well with Saudi Arabia or the U.S. Neither wants a strengthening Persian force to reckon with in the future. Nor are they happy with Russia retaining dominance over the flow of gas into Europe.
In addition to the U.S. and Saudi Arabia having their noses out of joint, Turkey isn’t impressed with the pipeline proposal either. It wants to play the role as the transit nation for Middle Eastern gas to flow to Europe and thus cement its strategic importance in the region.
And as we mentioned yesterday, China is on the Russian side. It wants stability in the region (to ensure its own energy supplies) and sees Assad as a much more stable force than the unknown alternative. Right now the anti-Assad forces are a hodge-podge of extremists/terrorists/medieval psychos with perhaps a few genuine freedom fighters thrown in.
Any new ruling force to assemble from such a group would make Assad look like the Dalai Lama. So bringing down the regime without sending in ground troops would ensure carnage for the poor Syrian people, who are innocently caught up in this global geopolitical chess game.
Not that ground troops would really achieve anything. The massive U.S. military presence in Iraq seems to have bought the U.S. little influence. If we’re interpreting events correctly (and really, who knows when it comes to the Middle East) then it seems strange that the U.S. couldn’t prevent the Iraqis from agreeing to the pipeline before it even got to Syria. Although the pipeline is apparently running through the Shiite (and thus, Iran-friendly) part of Iraq, it just goes to show the lack of overall American influence there.
So much for 10 years of occupation and hundreds of billions of dollars spent. At least the oil boys and contractors got a few concessions out of it.
So where does this leave us?
Well, no war and no regime change would signal that the long-held Saudi/U.S. balance of power in the region is waning. It would also reflect a relative step up in power for Russia and Iran.
The other question you have to ask is why is the U.S. so keen to risk another deeply unpopular war in the region? The answer is that’s what “top dogs” do. When you’re the global superpower, you don’t let anyone threaten that position.
And this is where economics, the stock market and your wealth comes into it.
The U.S. as global superpower is made possible by the dollar being the world’s reserve currency. And supporting the dollar’s role as world’s reserve currency is the fact that global energy transactions take place through the dollar. Energy is what gives the U.S. dollar and America their power.
Russia and Iran have no real intention of maintaining the status quo. Longer term, neither does China. Saudi Arabia long ago decided to support the dollar by selling its oil for depreciating greenbacks, which is why the two are such strong allies.
So what you’re seeing in Syria is not another regional conflict. It’s a fight by the U.S. to maintain its top-dog status. But when dogs get in trouble, they’ll do anything to survive. They’ll even gnaw off their leg if they get it trapped.
So our guess is that the U.S. will continue to pick a fight and go for regime change. It will end up as a three-legged dog as a result, but fight it will. If it doesn’t, perhaps it’s already lame.
Original article posted here.