Archive for the 'Politics' Category
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th October 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I hadn’t thought of this situation, only because I didn’t have enough imagination to see that politics trumps all with Obama.
A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.
This just didn’t occur to me. It should have. After all, what was Benghazi about ?
This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.
It is just amazing that the politicians know so little about technology (this was the guy with the Blackberry who made fun of McCain) that they did not understand that saying something doesn’t make it happen.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Advertising, Big Government, Health Care, Obama, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Tech | 26 Comments »
Posted by TM Lutas on 10th October 2013 (All posts by TM Lutas)
Normal Legislative practice:
Vote for this must pass bill even though we’ve loaded it with pork barrel spending and changed a few bits of unrelated legislation into it. You’ll hurt the country worse if it doesn’t pass.
Tea Party terrorism:
Vote for this continuing resolution to fund the government while we change/defund the Affordable Care Act.
See the difference?
Cross posted on Flit-TM
Posted in Big Government, Politics, Tea Party | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 5th October 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
What was genuinely terrifying was the [Obamacare] rollout, which demonstrated unequivocally that the power elite had become too corrupt to even defend itself properly. The Obamacare exchanges are the single best measure of how competently they are handling foreign policy, national security and economic strategy.
Even though their political fortunes depended on it, the Obama administration was too politicized, inefficient, and compromised to even hire a competent contractor in time to roll it out half-decently. Just think of it. The same administration that brought you this monumental screwup is charge of protecting the world. And before the GOP crows, think this. That bunch of jokers must be more competent then the GOP since they beat them every time.
It was a “the Emperor has no clothes” moment for me. The power elite in Washington is inbred to the point of being genetically retarded. They believe their own propaganda now. They promote their own ridiculous mediocrities. Look at Anthony Weiner! Look at Bill Blasio, or Al Sharpton. Holy Smokes are we in trouble.
The reason its falling apart for them now is because it had to. How were they going to pay for Obamacare assuming they could get anyone to enrol on its ‘Exchanges’? Why are they raising the Debt Limit? To pay for their useless programs? And where are they going to get the money to pay for this debt?
Nobody has any answers. They probably haven’t even thought of the questions.
Read the whole post.
Posted in Big Government, Obama, Politics, Tea Party | 22 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th October 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
For all the times that this federal government shutdown repeated fiscal game of chicken has been played – and I have been through this rodeo a number of times – it’s the sheer, petty spitefulness of this iteration which has raised my hackles. Barrycading off the open-air monuments along the Mall – including the WWII and Vietnam War monuments – blocking off scenic overlooks and the parking lots at Mt. Vernon, and forcing the closure of a number of otherwise self-supporting attractions which have the ill-luck to be on federally-owned property. I am glad to know that the governor of Wisconsin is telling the feds to go pound sand, and suspect that the governor of Arizona may be coming close to doing so, likewise. Meanwhile, the commissary at Andrews AFB is closed, and the golf course is open. Yes, I know that they are under different funding organizations, but the optics of this are really, really bad. If this were a Republican administration, I suspect we’d be hearing all about it, with video and stills of tearful and hungry military dependents all over the news, but then if my aunt had testicles, she would be my uncle. For all I know the junior enlisted troops are happily shopping at Wally-world and the generic shelves at the local grocery stores and not missing the commissary very much at all … but knowing that President Barrycade likes to golf there and takes every opportunity to do so … really, as I said – bad optics.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Customer Service, Health Care, North America, Obama, Politics | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 3rd October 2013 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
Since the government is in a partial shutdown, I decided to very carefully keep track of the things that I miss. I have also been keen to keep tabs on my wife, to see if she has noticed anything in her circle that is closed, altered, inconveniences her, etc. She really hasn’t said anything as of yet (I am not asking or prompting, just listening to hear how her day is, waiting for her to say “such and so was closed”, or something of that nature).
The one thing so far that I have been blocked on is the NOAA radar website that I visit every day, to get some weather news. I am in the HVAC industry and as such it is important that I keep up on the weather. The NOAA site now redirects here, with an ominous message.
Of course, this is bullsh1t, as even though I don’t know how these things work, I imagine that the federal government pays its server fees far in advance, and this is just plain old punishment for the “regular folks”, just like closing the national parks is punishment for those who have planned vacations. The amount of money needed to keep our parks and websites like NOAA open is so tiny it is almost laughable when compared to the enormous benefits and waste that the government is involved in and it is simply a stick in the eye to us.
So that is it so far – one website down that has affected me so far. And it isn’t like there aren’t any other places where I can get the weather.
Posted in Big Government, Personal Narrative, Politics | 19 Comments »
Posted by Zenpundit on 23rd September 2013 (All posts by Zenpundit)
Cross-posted from zenpundit.com
David Ronfeldt, RAND strategist and theorist has done a deep two-part review of America 3.0 over at his Visions from Two Theories blog. Ronfeldt has been spending the last few years developing his TIMN analytic framework (Tribes, Institutions [hierarchical], Markets and Networks) which you can get a taste from here and here or a full reading with this RAND paper.
David regards the familial structure thesis put forward by James Bennett and Michael Lotus in America 3.0 as “captivating” and “compelling” for ”illuminating the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution in ways that, in my view, help validate and reinforce TIMN”. Both reviews are detailed and should be read in their entirety, but I will have some excerpts below:
America 3.0 illuminates significance of nuclear families — in line with TIMN (Part 1 of 2)
….Bennett and Lotus show at length (Chapter 2, pp. 29-45) that the nuclear family explains a lot about our distinctive culture and society:
“It has caused Americans to have a uniquely strong concept of each person as an individual self, with an identity that is not bound by family or tribal or social ties. … Our distinctive type [of] American nuclear family has made us what we are.” (p. 29)And “what we are” as a result is individualistic, liberty-loving, nonegalitarian (without being inegalitarian), competitive, enterprising, mobile, and voluntaristic. In addition, Americans tend to have middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and a preference for suburban lifestyles.
As the authors carefully note, these are generally positive traits, but they have both bright and dark sides, noticeable for example in the ways they make America a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38) — much to the bane of some individuals. The traits also interact in interesting ways, such that Americans tend to be loners as individuals and families, but also joiners “who form an incomprehensibly dense network of voluntary associations” — much to the benefit of civil society (p. 39).
In sum, the American-style nuclear family is the major cause of “American exceptionalism” — the basis of our freedom and prosperity, our “amazing powers of assimilation” (p. 53), and our unique institutions:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Morality and Philosphy, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 5 Comments »
Posted by Bruno Behrend on 23rd September 2013 (All posts by Bruno Behrend)
I don’t have the time nor inclination to argue why the GOP is self-destructing in its idiotic drive to trigger a shutdown of the government. It suffices to say that such shutdown likely costs the GOP the House in 2014 at a juncture where it probably could win the Senate…
…If the party (or its waxing, aggressive right flank) wasn’t insane.
The reason for this post is to propose a solution for the upcoming budget crises/debt-ceiling battle. I call it the “Rolling Sequester,” and it is designed to attract independents and fiscally conservative voters, not drive them away in droves.
Rather than layout the plan on this blog post, I’ve uploaded the 2-page memo that I sent to some folks in DC. I hope it finds its way into the hands of someone who can do something with it. Maybe the readers of this blog can help with that.
Rolling Sequester Strategy
Posted in Big Government, Politics | 14 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 16th September 2013 (All posts by T. Greer)
Originally posted at the Scholar’s Stage, 15 September 2013.
| ”The Freedman”
John Quincy Adam Ward. 1863. Displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The phrase “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is a truism long accepted. I do not question the general truth this phrase attempts to convey, but I sometimes find it obscures more than it reveals. Men on opposing lines of battle may both fight in the name of freedom yet be fighting for very different things. “Freedom” comes in all shapes and sizes; when a Pashtun elder uses a word like freedom he may not be thinking anything close to the thoughts expressed at the average American Independence Day parade.
The freedom fighters of the American revolution fought in the name of liberty. The liberty they battled for came in two distinct flavors, each reflecting an esteemed political tradition inherited from their brothers across the sea. The first is the classical liberal tradition; the second the classical republican. In many ways the political history of the republic they founded was an attempt to reconcile these two traditions.  Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Book Notes, Politics | 8 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th September 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Happily for this country, we received our jurisprudence from England in its highest vigour, and in its most cultivated state. The leading statesmen in the colonies, and especially the members of the bar, had the sagacity to perceive, and the courage and patriotism to assert, the indefeasible title of their countrymen to all the securities and blessings of the English common law. They had inherited its free and liberal spirit, and in almost every colony there were individual lawyers, equal in character, learning, and eloquence, to their brethren in the courts of the parent state. They were lawyers of the old school, who actually led on the American revolution. They were the daring patriots and intelligent statesmen who roused their countrymen to the duty of insisting on the exclusive right of self-taxation, and to all the other liberties and privileges of English subjects, resting on the basis of the common law, and the sacred stipulations of chartered contracts. It was the lawyers that guided the deliberations of the congress of 1774, and penned its admirable addresses, and stimulated their associates to unite with them in pouring forth their grievances and their exhausted patience, and their determined purpose, in the monumental act of independence.
An Address Delivered Before the Law Association of the City of New York, October 1, 1836, by The Hon. James Kent.
We had this to say about James Kent in America 3.0:
We ended up with a common American legal culture for reasons beyond the Constitution. In the early years of the country there was popular animosity toward anything English and some resistance to relying on the Common Law and English precedent. American lawyers and judges rejected this notion and created an American style of law that was continuous with England’s, though not the same. They managed to keep this system roughly consistent across the entire country by relying on legal treatises that were considered authoritative. The most important example was James Kent’s Commentaries on American Law, which went through many editions.
Chancellor Kent was one of the most important lawyers and legal thinkers in the history of the Anglosphere. America is an enormous free trade area where business can be transacted efficiently over 3.7 million square miles among 310 million, or more, Americans. We have a common legal culture which makes this possible in significant part due to the work of Chancellor Kent.
The lawyers never get any credit, though Ronald Coase appreciated what they contribute. The quote above shows that James Kent not only made a quiet, almost invisible contribution to founding our nation. He also understood and appreciated what the lawyers of the Founding generation gave us, precisely because they were thinking as lawyers and made a legal case for our independence, and preserved the legal culture we had inherited from Britain, the common law — though of course with American characteristics.
Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Law, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 7 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 3rd September 2013 (All posts by T. Greer)
On year ago President Obama declared “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” Chemical weapons have been used. Some suggest that America will lose “credibility” if she does not honor the president’s promise and respond with military force.
One wonders what kind of ‘credibility’ they are thinking of.
“You know,” he says, ”I think Americans are liars.”
She replied with a chortle. “How many have you met? I think I am honest enough.”
“You know I did not mean you. I was actually thinking about your government.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I think most important people in the U.S. government are liars too. It comes with the job description. But if you don’t mind me asking, what brought you to the same conclusion?”
His was a hollow laugh. “That is just it. You all think your politicians are liars but then America turns around and lectures the rest of the world on how great America’s government is and how we should all be like you. I am no fan of my government, but at least I acknowledge what kind of government my people have.”
“You are thinking about it the wrong way. If the American people want liars in charge, then liars there will be. The beauty of democracy is that if those liars don’t do what the people want then they get kicked out and new liars are put in.”
“Liars either way.”
“Oh I don’t care what a politician says. I care about what a politician does. All politicians will say this thing or that thing to justify their actions. What matters is if those actions are for his people or against them. This is why I love the U.S. Constitution. By design it keeps power out of one man’s hands. It forces politicians to take normal citizens seriously. It makes it very hard for one clique or class to impose its rule on the rest.”
“That is it. That is the lie. This idea that the United States government is “of the people” and “by the people” – that is the lie every American repeats. I am tired of it.” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Politics, War and Peace | 37 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 30th August 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
(This rerun is in honor of the beginning of the new school year…indeed, many kids have now already been in school for 3 weeks or even more.)
Peter Orszag, who was Obama’s budget director and is now a vice chairman at Citigroup, thinks it would be a good idea to cut back on summer school vacations for kids, arguing that this would both improve academics and reduce obesity.
I’m with Jeremy Lott: But to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.
I wrote about the war on summer vacation back in 2006, after stopping at a store in Georgia on the first day of August and discovering that this was the first day of school for the local children. In this post, I said:
The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.
When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.
Orszag and similar thinkers seem to have no concept that good things can happen to children’s development outside of an institutional setting. Plenty of kids develop and pursue interests in science, literature, art, music…plus, there is plenty to be learned simply by interacting with friends in an unstructured environment.
Would the world be better off if Steve Wozniak and Jeri Ellsworth..to name only two of many, many examples..had their noses held constantly to the school grindstone rather than having time to develop their interests in electronics?
Lewis E Lawes, who was warden of Sing Sing prison from 1915 to 1941, wrote an interesting book titled Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing. The title refers to the aggregate lengths of the sentences of the men in the prison at a typical particular point in time.
Twenty-five hundred men saddled with an aggregate of twenty thousand years! Within such cycles worlds are born, die, and are reborn. That span has witnessed the evolution of the intelligence of mortal man. And we know that twenty thousand years have seen nations run their courses, perish, and give way to their successors. Twenty thousand years in my keeping. What will they evolve?
Following the same approach, the aggregate length of the terms to be spent in K-12 schools by their current students is more than 600,000,000 years. What proportion of this time is actually used productively?
And how many of the officials who supervise and run the public schools, and the ed-school professors who influence their policies, think about this 600,000,000 years in the same serious and reflective way that Lawes thought about the 20,000 years under his supervision? Some do, of course, but a disturbing percentage of them seem to be simply going through the bureaucratic motions.
And the politicians and officials of the Democratic Party are the last people in the world who are ever going to call them on it.
Posted in Crime and Punishment, Education, Politics, USA | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
…and thereby misses the real story.
Writing about Hillary Clinton as the prospective Democratic presidential candidate, Camille Paglia asks “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”
Camille, Camille, Camille.
Would anyone have asked, upon George III’s accession to the Kingship, “What exactly has he ever accomplished?”
Would anyone have asked, when Marie Antoinette became the Queen of France, “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”
Would anyone have asked, when Lord Cardigan was named commander of the Light Brigade and his brother-in-law the Earl of Lucan was named overall British cavalry commander in the Crimean War, ”What exactly have they ever accomplished?” (Well, a few people did, but they were pretty much ignored)
Camille, your question reflects the mindset of an earlier America in which it was widely believed that leaders should be selected based on their actual accomplishments. This didn’t always actually happen, of course, but at least it was the ideal. But today, our society is being pushed hard in the direction of an aristocratic model wherein elevation to leadership is a matter of factors quite other than a track record of success in performing whatever tasks the leader is supposed to be carrying out. This transformation is largely complete in the field of politics, and is rapidly advancing in other areas of American life as well.
Hillary Clinton is a member of a political family–a member by marriage, it is true, but still a member. She attended an Ivy League college. She vacations in the Hamptons. She is popular with members of the entertainment industry. She has name recognition among people whose reading does not go past the celebrity magazines on the rack at the supermarket checkout stand.
These are the things that matter today in identifying an aristocrat who is qualified for high political office. Actual accomplishments, actual failures (see Benghazi, see indeed the whole Middle East) are of minor significance by comparison.
America is falling increasingly under the domination of a political aristocracy of great power and privilege: an aristocracy, moreover, which imposes very little in the way of responsibilities on itself. We are getting the social rigidity and the incompetence in high places that tend to be associated with the aristocratic form of government, without any of the partially-offsetting virtues that historical aristocracies have sometimes developed.
Posted in Middle East, Politics, Society, USA | 23 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th August 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(Sorry, no history post today – just too much going on and I am too steamed about this particular First Amendment issue. It seems that in the eyes of certain parties, our current president may not be mocked by the peasants.)
That useful concept (thank you, the French language for putting it so succinctly!) is defined “as an offense that violates the dignity of a ruler” or “an attack on any custom, institution, belief, etc., held sacred or revered by numbers of people.”Well, it appears that our very dear current occupant of the White House is certainly held sacred by a substantial percentage of our fellow citizens. How else to account for the perfectly earsplitting howling from Missouri Democrats and the usual suspects over a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask to yuck it up before the crowd – most of whom seem to be laughing their heads off. All but the desperately sensitive, who breathlessly insisted that it was just like a KKK rally, practically. The rodeo clown’s name apparently is Tuffy Gessling; his supporters, and those who, as a matter of fact, support the rights of a free citizen to mock authority figures of every color and persuasion, have set up a Facebook page. He’s also been invited by a Texas congressman to come and perform the skit at a rodeo in Texas.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Diversions, Humor, Just Unbelievable, North America, Obama, Politics, Society, Tea Party, That's NOT Funny, The Press, USA | 11 Comments »
Posted by L. C. Rees on 13th August 2013 (All posts by L. C. Rees)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew bureaucracy: “You know, I’m a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does.”
As in many aspects of FDR’s life, his wife’s uncle was a model. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, young hotshot Uncle Theodore proved chronically wearisome to his boss, veteran Massachusetts state Republican machine cog John Davis Long. When Long took a day off once, Uncle Theodore, liberated by a sudden vacuum of adult supervision, tried to start a war. Long countermanded Uncle Theodore’s orders but it was too late: Uncle Theodore had his war and it was splendid.
Portrait of the master as a young man
In 1913, to prevent regime uncertainty, newly elected Thomas Woodrow Wilson (may his bones be crushed) said, “Fine, you want a Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, I got your Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy right here.” So into the family sinecure went spunky 31 year old New York State Democratic Senator Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He immediately commenced his own Long struggle against his boss, Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer publisher and race baiter Josephus Daniels. While Daniels focused on high-level issues like controlling every radio in America, FDR Uncle Theodored him by secretly lobbying Congress to build up U.S. naval strength to levels Daniels opposed. FDR even attempted to start his own splendid little war by mobilizing the U.S. Navy against unrestricted Hun submarine attacks in 1917.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Organizational Analysis, Politics | 2 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 30th July 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Detroit was once the greatest city of the modern world. Automobiles were the cutting edge of technology in the first half of the twentieth century. Talent and genius flocked to Detroit. Innovators in engineering, technology, design, finance, marketing, and management created a concentration of economic dynamism and creativity unlike anything the world had yet seen. Detroit was the Silicon Valley of its day, except its products were made of tangible metal, rubber, and glass. The auto industry transformed America into a land of mobility and personal freedom beyond the dreams of earlier generations. Henry Ford said, “History is bunk.” He meant the old limits could be blown away, and ordinary people could have a better life than they had ever dreamed of before.
(The rest is here.)
Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, History, Illinois Politics, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Taxes, Transportation, Unions, Urban Issues, USA | 22 Comments »
Posted by Zenpundit on 29th July 2013 (All posts by Zenpundit)
cross-posted from zenpundit.com
Since Pakistan is now attempting to get its victory over the United States in Afghanistan formally ratified, now seemed to be a good time to reflect on the performance of American statesmen, politicians and senior generals.
It has occurred to me that we have many books and papers outlining how to win wars. Certainly the great classics of The Art of War, The History of the Peloponnesian War and On War are the foremost examples, but there are also other useful classics in the strategic canon, whole libraries of military histories, memoirs of great commanders and an infinite number of PDFs and powerpoint briefs from think tanks and consultants. Strangely, none of these have helped us much. Perhaps it is because before running this war so few of this generation’s “deciders” read them en route to their law degrees and MBAs
We should engage in some counterintuitive thinking: for our next war, instead of trying to win, let’s try to openly seek defeat. At a minimum, we will be no worse off with that policy than we are now and if we happen to fail, we will actually be moving closer to victory.
HOW TO LOSE A WAR
While one of these principles may not be sufficient cause for losing an armed conflict, following all of them is the surest road to defeat.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Big Government, Book Notes, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Military Affairs, National Security, Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th July 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
As Obamacare looks more and more as though it will collapse, there are some alternatives beginning to appear. Several years ago, I suggested using the French system as a model. At the time, the French system was funded by payroll deduction, a source affected by high unemployment, and used a national negotiated fee schedule which was optional for doctors and patients. The charges had to be disclosed prior to treatment and the patient had the option of paying more for his/her choice of physician. Privately owned hospitals competed with government hospitals and patient satisfaction was the highest in Europe.
Recently the French system has run into trouble.
French taxpayers fund a state health insurer, “Assurance Maladie,” proportionally to their income, and patients get treatment even if they can’t pay for it. France spends 11% of national output on health services, compared with 17% in the U.S., and routinely outranks the U.S. in infant mortality and some other health measures.
The problem is that Assurance Maladie has been in the red since 1989. This year the annual shortfall is expected to reach €9.4 billion ($13.5 billion), and €15 billion in 2010, or roughly 10% of its budget.
This may be due to several factors. The French economy is in terrible shape with high unemployment. More of the funding for the health plan is coming from general revenues. This was not how it was supposed to work. It was payroll funded, much as the German system is, with a wider source than individual employers. This allows mobility for employees and allows employers to distribute risk among a larger pool. Germany allows other funding sources such as towns and states. I think it is still a good model for us but, with the passage of Obamacare, it will take a generation before another large reform would be viable. Obamacare must stand or fall first and I think it will fall but, as in most government programs, it takes years before the sponsors will admit defeat.
Another proposal has been made by a serious study group.
1. The government should offer every individual the same, uniform, fixed-dollar subsidy, whether used for employer-provided or individual insurance. For everyone with private health insurance, the subsidy would be realized in the form of lower taxes by way of a tax credit. The credit would be refundable, so that it would be available to individuals with no tax liability.
2. Where would the federal government get the money to fund this proposal?
We could begin with the $300 billion in tax subsidies the government already “spends” to subsidize private insurance. Add to that the money federal, state and local governments are spending on indigent care. For the remainder, the federal government could make certain tax benefits conditional on proof of insurance. For example, the $1,000 child tax credit could be made conditional on proof of insurance for a child.10 For middle-income families, a portion of the standard deduction could be made conditional on proof of insurance for adults. For lower-income families, part of the Earned Income Tax Credit could be conditioned on obtaining health coverage.
3. If the individual chose to be uninsured, the unclaimed tax relief would be sent to a safety net agency providing health care to the indigent in the community where the person lives, so that it would be available there in case he generates medical bills he cannot pay from his own resources. The result would be a system under which the uninsured as a group effectively pay for their own care, without any individual or employer mandate. By the very act of turning down the tax credit for health insurance in choosing not to insure, uninsured individuals would pay extra taxes equal to the average amount of the free care given annually to the uninsured. The subsidies for the insurance purchased by the insured would then effectively be funded by the reduction in expected free care the insured would have consumed if uninsured. [See Figures II and III.]
The paper goes on to explain the proposal The trouble is that this is another major reform and I see no chance for it in the foreseeable future.
What then is the most likely development ?
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Medicine, Politics | 20 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 20th July 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
The big risk the liberal establishment took in advancing Obama for President was not in proposing a black candidate, but in nominating an incompetent one. That ensured that when the recriminations came it would be about race.
A successful Obama presidency would have been a breakthrough for race relations that would have lasted decades. Conversely, a catastrophic Obama presidency would set things back for generations.
The unspoken takeaway for many would be “never an African-American again”. But that is the wrong lesson. The right lesson, I think should be “never an incompetent again”.
Things might not have been much better, and arguably they would have been worse, under Hillary Clinton. The kind of disaster that is unfolding is across the board. Foreign policy catastrophe, economic mismanagement, chaos in governance, botched programs — they’re just piling up. So in the face that avalanche of woes, Obama will do the easiest thing: make it about race.
But it is really not about race. Race in this case was cosmetic. It was the mask the liberal establishment donned to rejuvenate their tired old agenda. And now that it’s failing comprehensively they’ll blame the mask.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the ones with the most to gain by racializing Obama are faceless backroom boys. They know he’s done for so they’re going to pin the disaster on the black guy, not upon the guys who selected the incompetent who happened to black. They’ll put their political mistakes in the coffin with Obama’s career. Pin it on him and push Hillary 2016.
Posted in Obama, Politics | 12 Comments »
Posted by TM Lutas on 18th July 2013 (All posts by TM Lutas)
This Politico story on Benghazi led me to consider the question of what would need to be in place to stop the “we need you to stop talking about this until everyone forgets” strategy.
Early on while everybody is still upset in the first flush of outrage, the executive branch needs to give a time estimate of how long it is going to take to get to the bottom of it all and once they blow that deadline, a critical mass of ordinary people need to have that come up as sort of a reminder. The blowing of the deadline should be its own, separate scandal. Congress should organize hearings at the deadline so that when the administration blows it, they can get as much information as has been learned since then, monitor the resources and energy placed in the scandal to determine if they’re slow walking the thing, and get a better date.
Posted in Politics | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 10th July 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
An interesting development:
Arab Christians from northern Israel who are tired of being lumped in with other Arabs who are antagonistic toward the Jewish state have launched a new political party that aims to make a positive contribution to the Jewish state.
Read the whole (brief) thing.
This comment explains things from an Israeli political perspective. The Israeli system of proportional representation creates incentives for interest groups to form their own political parties.
Secular nationalism was a useful political tool for 20th Century Arabs. Arab Christians figured prominently in nationalist movements — in large part, no doubt, because such movements offered them a path to political legitimacy that historically had eluded non-Muslims in Arab societies. But as Islamism superseded secular nationalism the interests of Muslim and Christian Arabs diverged. In recent years many Christians have fled the Muslim Middle East, and those who remain are often a beleaguered minority. As Israel’s Arab Muslims have become increasingly involved in Islamist politics, it’s no surprise that Israeli Arab Christians would seek to strengthen their political position by explicitly aligning themselves with Israeli Jews.
Posted in Israel, Politics | 6 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th July 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
This essay has been around for a while but I saw it for the first time today. It is powerful but depressing. I wonder how applicable it is to the Chicago school system? I have a nephew who has a step daughter in a public school that is about half black. Her mother has to go to the school about once a week to complain about bullying. Catholic schools’ tuition is far higher than it was when I lived there.
Here it is.
A few excerpts: Until recently I taught at a predominantly black high school in a southeastern state.
The mainstream press gives a hint of what conditions are like in black schools, but only a hint. Expressions journalists use like “chaotic” or “poor learning environment” or “lack of discipline” do not capture what really happens. There is nothing like the day-to-day experience of teaching black children and that is what I will try to convey.
Most whites simply do not know what black people are like in large numbers, and the first encounter can be a shock.
One of the most immediately striking things about my students was that they were loud. They had little conception of ordinary decorum. It was not unusual for five blacks to be screaming at me at once. Instead of calming down and waiting for a lull in the din to make their point — something that occurs to even the dimmest white students — blacks just tried to yell over each other.
This must be an impossible place to try to teach. Are there any kids who want to learn?
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Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior, Politics, Society | 77 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 4th July 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People. On July 7, 1941–five months before Pearl Harbor–this poem was read over nationwide radio. The title I’ve previously used for these posts is It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.
This is Independence Day,
Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
Whatever happens and whatever falls
Out of a sky grown strange;
This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
The day of the parade,
Slambanging down the street.
Listen to the parade!
There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
The Fire Department and the local Grange,
There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
There are the veterans and the Legion Post
(Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
Good-humored, watching, hot,
Silent a second as the flag goes by,
Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
All of them there and all of them a nation.
There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
By somebody the Honorable Who,
The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
Will read the declaration.
That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
That’s our fourth of July.
And a lean farmer on a stony farm
Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
And walked ten miles to town.
Musket in hand.
He didn’t know the sky was falling down
And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
By kings or any such.
A workman in the city dropped his tools.
An ordinary, small-town kind of man
Found himself standing in the April sun,
One of a ragged line
Against the skilled professionals of war,
The matchless infantry who could not fail,
Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
But first, and principally, since he was sore.
They could do things in quite a lot of places.
They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.
He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces
The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.
Benet’s poem ends with these words:
We made it and we make it and it’s ours
We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained
But shall it?
Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Holidays, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 2nd July 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
Listening to Rush today. He complained about Republican political consultants who lose elections for their employers and suffer no longer-term career consequences. Someone hires them for the next big election.
All good points. My question is why political candidates don’t routinely offer consultants performance-based deals. Sure, a marginal candidate might have to pay outright. But might not a Romney or McCain get better results by offering a base salary of, say, 50% of the current going rate, plus a 200% bonus if the candidate wins? The current system seems to offer little financial incentive for a consultant to deliver results.
Or perhaps this incentive already exists, since the winning candidate is likely to hire his consultant in a steady role after the election. Yet there always seem to be prominent political consultants who get hired despite failure in multiple elections. Perhaps consultants wouldn’t accept performance-based deals because they often know, going in, that their candidate’s odds are poor.
What am I missing here?
Posted in Business, Politics | 9 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th June 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Right now we have the immigration bill that has been passed by the Senate after being written by the “Gang of 8.” This bill, like so many major pieces of legislation lately, was written in secrecy and has not been through the usual committee process. “We have to pass it to see what is in it.”
As if Obamacare were not enough, here we have another opaque and mysterious bit of legislation that is thousands of pages of incomprehensible legalese.
Jennifer Rubin weighs in with a rather beltway-oriented view. Fair enough as she writes in the Washington Post.
The immigration battle, the debate over U.S. involvement in Syria and the flap over NSA surveillance have suggested two starkly different visions of the GOP as well as two potential paths for the GOP.
The question remains whether the GOP will become the party of: Sen. Rand Paul, Ky., or Sen. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., on national security; The Gang of Eight or the Gang of Three (Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions) on immigration; Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio, or Rick Santorum on gay marriage; Broad-based appeal (e.g. Govs. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker) or losing ideologues (Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann). I don’t know that Angle and O’Donnell were “ideologues.” Angle, at least was an amateur, somewhat like other candidates supported by the Tea Party.
I’m not sure I agree with her choices but let’s think about it.
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Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Elections, Immigration, Islam, Obama, Politics, Tea Party | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 25th June 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
(Originally posted in July 2009. I’m re-running it now for obvious reasons)
Many Unhappy Returns, by Charles Rossotti, is the story of Rossotti’s experiences as IRS Commissioner, which position he held from 1997-2002–having previously spent his career in the private sector and been cofounder & chairman of American Management Systems Inc. I picked the book up for a dollar at a library book sale, thinking it might offer an interesting case study on the challenges of managing and improving a very large bureaucratic organization.
And I’m sure it does. On the very first pages of the book, though, are some stories which are very relevant to our current political situation.
During the 1990s, public dissatisfaction with the IRS reached new levels, resulting in a series of Congressional hearings beginning in 1996. Rossotti excerpts some of the stories told by taxpayers (and IRS agents) at these hearings, and grim reading they are indeed.
For example, a woman from California told of her 14 year struggle to pay off a tax debt incurred by her first husband prior to their 1983 divorce. “Kafka himself could not have invented this real-life tale of an ordinary person caught in a maddening bureaucratic maze with no maps, no exits, and no explanation,” says Rossotti. Her ex-husband had gotten all the notices, but she alone had gotten the bill for interest on the unpaid balance. When she tried to pay it, the IRS repeatedly refused to accept payment, telling her she didn’t owe anything and even sending her refunds. But years later, the IRS threatened to put a lien on her new husband’s home because of her prior “debt.” She paid it but five years later, her second husband’s salary was levied for payment on the same “debt,” leaving the couple with only $18 a week to live on.
“The IRS is judge, jury, and executioner–answerable to none” said the woman in her Congressional testimony.
An IRS agent–the only one willing to testify without concealing her identity–claimed that it was an intentional policy of IRS management to pick on weak taxpayers to make the IRS’s statistics look better. She said that “to the IRS, vulnerabilities can be based on a perception that the taxpayer has limited formal education, has suffered a personal tragedy, is having a financial crisis, or may not necessarily have a solid grasp of their legal rights”…that “if the taxpayer does object or complain, every effort will be made by the IRS to run up their tax assessment, deplete their financial resources, and force them to capitulate to IRS demands.”
A Newsweek story said that “According to more than a dozen agents…(management) pushed for ever more property seizures from delinquent tapayers, even though the IRS manual says such moves should be a final resort, riding roughshod in some cases over their rights to appeal. They closed cases an sometimes slapped on levies and liens prematurely–which boosted the enforcement stats that the IRS rewards with cash awards for top officers.” There’s lots more of this stuff in Rossotti’s book.
Government is inherently dangerous. As a Delaware construction contractor said during the hearings, “believe me, when the resources of the government are unleashed on you, you are in trouble, no matter how good your case.” And this point is not specific to the IRS.
Reading these stories reminded me of a passage that has been attributed to George Washington:Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
It’s not clear that this quote really came from George Washington–but whoever said it, it captures an important truth. Yes, government is essential, but it is inherently very dangerous and there must be constant vigilance to keep this danger in check. Yet the dangers to individuals that come from a tremendous expansion of government seem entirely invisible to the “progressives” who currently dominate our national politics. This despite the fact that over the last century, hundreds of millions of people have been killed by their own governments and billions more subjected to lifetimes of unnecessary poverty.
And I would assert that the organizational and systems issues involved in enforcing the IRS regulations fairly, although not simple, are far less complex than those involved in a national healthcare program. And the time criteria are much more stringent in healthcare–a delay of a week usually won’t matter in an IRS case; in a healtcare situation, it may literally be a matter of life and death.
In virtually every aspect of American life, we are now seeing efforts to vastly expand government power, while ignoring or minimizing the dangers associated with such expansion.
Original CB discussion thread here
Posted in Civil Liberties, Management, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 6 Comments »