Thursday, March 29, 2012

Death March of Obamacare

The die is cast: Obamacare will not survive. This is not a prediction of how the Supreme Court will rule on President Obama's health care takeover, mind you. It's the harsh reality that if Obamacare does not die a judicial or political death - or better yet, both - it will die an economic death, and if it does, it will take America down with it.

I don't know if the author is right about "taking America down with it", but who could really doubt that this monstrosity will fail on an epic scale? 

Why?  Well, I think Henninger puts it well here:

Mandarins are the intellectuals who design and order legally enforceable public systems within which the rest of the population resides, or tries to. French policy mandarins are the most celebrated in the world. Their most ardent admirers in America are the people who made the Obama health-care law.
The Affordable Care Act is not merely a "law" that the Supreme Court argued over this week. It is a massive Rube Goldberg contraption. Its 2,700 pages include every pipe, whistle and valve that the nation's academic health-care economists and doctors have soldered together from infinite studies of hospital data. The new machine even has its own boiler-room crew, the 15 health-care academics of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, who will monitor and adjust the flow of medicine through the national health-care pipelines.

There are certain realizations that transform ones thinking so much that it nearly divorces one from the popular dialogue.  For example - I can't believe anyone still thinks that mere mortals, of any party, can design a system for coercively extracting the funding for and directing the actions of doctors and pharmaceutical companies and insurance entities and all the thousands of players that must be manipulated to have a "health care system." 

Why would anyone still believe that's even remotely possible?  And yet - most do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let's Pretend The Question Is "Will We Take Care Of Our Own"?

That's the question posed by this article's author.  It's the wrong question.  What that author advocates is using the coercive force of the government to make others care for "our own."  It requires that "we" do nothing but watch TV while the government does what "we" should be doing, only the government does it, and would do more of it, with typical government efficacy.

What the author really wants is complete abdication of responsibility for "our own."  Why this impersonal, coercion based approach can wear a mantle of morality is astonishing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who Kills Whom

Blow is right about one thing: Black boys do face a much higher chance than non-blacks that they will be shot when they are “out in the world.” Black males between the ages of 14 and 24 were seven times more likely to die of homicide in 2007 than white and Hispanic males of the same age group combined. But the danger they face comes overwhelmingly from other black males, whose homicide offending rate in the 14 to 24 age category was nearly ten times higher than that of young white and Hispanic males combined.

In other words, the whole thing is a mind numbing tragedy and one that should be discussed with honesty, vice used to manipulate the political theater. 

"That's Not Enough For Me"

Considering the ACA's glaring -- and predictable -- economic and political shortcomings, why did Obama make it his first-term centerpiece? The answer seems to be his obsession with securing his legacy as the president who achieved the liberal grail of universal coverage. In his book "The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery," Noam Scheiber recounts a telling incident. Obama's advisers tell him he can be known for preventing a second Great Depression. "That's not enough for me," Obama replies.

No matter how bad this law will be, it would be a legacy any Democrat would be proud of.  That's how governments work, that's how politicians think.  That's why the idea was that our government should be severly limited so that our lives and our opportunities should not be shaped by the egos of the political class.

I hope the SCOTUS's actions in the next few days preserve what is left of those limits.

Gold v. The Fed

During his lecture, Chairman Bernake said many things about "the gold standard" as if there was only one possible kind of gold standard, the one that existed after World War I. Many of his assertions were true, as far as they went. However, in focusing on the shortcomings of one monetary regime, he diverted attention from the big picture. Only an automatic, market-based monetary control system can support rapid, stable, crisis-free economic growth in an economy as complex as America's. If it were possible for Fed experts using their discretion to achieve this, we would not have the problems that we have today.

I think the premise - if The Fed was good enough to manipulate an economy the benefit of all, it would have been done by now - if valid.  How possible or good it would be to go back to a gold standard isn't something I would pretend to know, but frankly - how could it be worse than having one group of mortals do it?  Do they really know what one would need to know to "run" an economy?  Sounds like Fatal Conceit to me.

Or as the author put it:
It is simply not possible for a group of experts, with discretionary power and no rules, to manage, "money" effectively. If anyone had doubts, the Fed has conclusively proved this point over the past 40 years.

What sounds like massive folly is to keep betting the welfare on so many on the President's ability to pick a Fed Chairman - why's that different than roulette?

From The Pill To The Oppressive Welfare State - Who Knew!?!

Myth No. 2: If it weren't for the Catholic Church, no one would be talking about contraception anyway.
It is not only a series of popes but also a number of prominent secular thinkers who believe that the birth-control pill has been one of the major milestones in human history—a diverse group that runs from public intellectuals of a previous generation like Walter Lippmann to such contemporary scholars as Francis Fukuyama and Robert Putnam. As many pundits had occasion to observe in 2010, the 50th anniversary of the pill, it is hard to think of anything else that has changed life so quickly and dramatically for so many.
In other words, this isn't just a Catholic thing. In severing sex from procreation, humankind set into motion forces that have by now shaped and reshaped almost every aspect of life in the Western world. Families are smaller, birthrates have dropped, divorce and out-of-wedlock births have soared. Demography has now even started to work against the modern welfare state, which has become harder to sustain as fewer children have been produced to replace aging parents.

One group I'll bet had no idea was the goons who have expanded the welfare state over the last fifty years, and who would have expanded it more if they had been able.  I'll bet they had no idea that their reproductive revolution would be the end of their "revolution" in forcing others to do the work they were unwilling to do themselves for the "downtrodden" or "disadvantaged."  And now the final complexificator - the folks that wanted birth control and reproductive rights and massive wealth transfers from the young to the old (disguised as social security and medicare) want to limit reproduction to reduce the human footprint, meaning mostly CO2 emissions and urban sprawl (I guess they all just love cities). 

So how do your run a welfare state if you don't have masses of young people to exploit to pay for it? 

At every turn the use of the federal government becomes a manifestation and direct testimony to the folly of the fatal conceit.

And now they think that more government intervention is going to make the health care system better, and more affordable .... well, I'm sure they've got the consequences all figured out.

What Is The Value Of A Non-Predictive Model?

What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years. Monthly values of the global temperature anomaly of the lower atmosphere, compiled at the University of Alabama from NASA satellite data, can be found at the website The latest (February 2012) monthly global temperature anomaly for the lower atmosphere was minus 0.12 degrees Celsius, slightly less than the average since the satellite record of temperatures began in 1979.

The answer is:  many things.  It tells us we don't know what we'd like to know.  It tells us we should be humble and seek knowledge.  It tells us that any scientist that tells us that global warming is man made is giving an opinion. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Better Politicians?

The result of all this can kicking is that Congress must make all those decisions by January 2013—or defer them yet again. If the House and Senate don't act in time, a list of things will happen that are anathema either to Republicans or Democrats or both. The Bush tax cuts will expire. The temporary payroll tax cut will end. Unemployment benefits will be severely curtailed. And all on Jan. 1, 2013. Happy New Year!

Statements like this make some people think "If only we had better politicians, this kind of governmental disfunction wouldn't happen, and we could regulate and legislate our way back to the good old days of (fill in the blank here for whatever is wished for - international military power, financial power, or being loved by all the little children of the world, especially Iranian and North Korean children)."

I don't see much reason to believe that is true.  First off, no one or group can run an economy, or a government, much less, when they dance to the tune of the re-election song (and they all do or they become "former politicians"). 

Second off, the system produces the politicians.  The folks that are comfortable speaking in half truths and platitudes and at the same time are able to project a sense of purpose and meaning in those half truths are the people who can survive a political arena.  Those devoted to truth never win - with a few glaring exceptions. 

That matters little however, since even if the truther tellers were elected, there would still be the problem stated in the paragraph prior. 

Partisianship?  Thank goodness, it saves us from a lot of do-gooding.  Rancor?  The more the better.  Infighting?  Bring it, and thanks.  Political maneuvering which serves parties and politicians but not the People?  Of course, inevitable, that's why the government is supposed to be limited.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why You Like Speculators

Speculators are taking a real risk with their own money.
Read more:

Speculators are part of market signals and they help in two ways.  First, their actions smooth out swings in market prices.  Second, when they send up prices in advance, it provides a signal to some who may be able to take action which will prevent the expected higher prices; IOW, if speculators bid up prices based on fears that Iran will close the Straits of Hormuz (which I think would be a death reflex only), it provides an incentive for other producers to increase output to capture the new high prices.

Give the speculators "some love."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Single Payer - By Hook or By Crook

In reality, as government assumes a greater share of health-care costs, pressure to cut payments to providers will be enormous. Reduced government reimbursements to providers will cause massive cost-shifting to those remaining in the private health-insurance market. More employees will lose coverage. Before long, we will have what the left has long sought—a single payer health-care system modeled after Medicaid.
In recent testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told me that America's health insurance system is in a "death spiral." She failed to acknowledge that implementation of ObamaCare will be the cause of that death spiral, and American taxpayers will be left to pick up the tab.

I'm not totally sure they meant for it to happen this way - are they that smart?- but could there be any question that this was the intent when the administration took office?

Debt? Do We Have A Debt?

Now, you may wonder, what on earth does block granting Medicare have to do with the biggest financial crisis of our lifetimes? What does a plan that allows seniors -- 10 years from now -- to use Medicare dollars in private plans or stick with the traditional government-run system have anything to do with a recession? How does reforming the tax code induce housing prices to bubble retroactively? What does altering the destructive trajectory of deficit spending have to do with fairness?
Nothing, of course.

Harsanyi always informs in entertaining style.

The president once claimed that others wanted to kick "the can down the road." Well, the national debt has increased more during President Obama's three years of judicious rule than it did during eight years of a reckless George W. Bush. Whereas Obama once claimed that Bush deficits were "irresponsible" and even "unpatriotic," his latest budget projected a deficit of about $1.3 trillion, followed by a $901 billion deficit and then ones remaining in the hundreds of billions for 10 years after that -- or until some new emergency needs additional spending.

"Disempower the National Elites" - Yes, I'll have some of that ...

The bleating about broken government and partisanship continues: “Why can’t those boobs in Washington agree on anything?” We’re constantly told that the way to fix the country is to dethrone the Left and the Right and empower the middle. Americans Elect, No Labels, the Gangs of Six and Fourteen, conservative Democrats, and liberal Republicans — handing things over to these middling mincers and half-a-loafers is supposed to be the answer to all of our problems. It’s as if we should just put Nelson Rockefeller’s mug on the dollar bill and be done with it.
But what if the real compromise isn’t in forcing the Left and the Right to heel? What if instead the solution is to disempower the national elites who think they’ve got the answers to everything?

This concept is why Gingrich (the king of talking liberty and serving elitist statism) is in no risk of receiving a vote from me, not that he cares.

The main advantage of federalism is more fundamental than the “laboratories of democracy” idea. Federalism is simply the best political system ever conceived of for maximizing human happiness. A one-size-fits-all policy imposed at the national level has the potential to make very large numbers of citizens unhappy, even if it was arrived at democratically. In a pure democracy, I always say, 51 percent of the people can vote to pee in the cornflakes of 49 percent of the people. Pushing government decisions down to the lowest democratic level possible — while protecting basic civil rights — guarantees that more people will have a say in how they live their lives. Not only does that mean more people will be happy, but the moral legitimacy of political decisions will be greater.

But What About the Dollar?

Obama borrowed more in three years and two months than did Bush in eight years. The massive aggregate debt and gargantuan deficits depress the value of the dollar, and help to spike oil prices; a president by the very nature of his budget does have influence on how much oil a dollar overseas will buy.

Bad title, good content.  The part about the dollar isn't widely discussed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Notes on Heath Care Econ and the Mandate

In reality, the mandate has almost nothing to do with cost-shifting. The targeted population—the young, healthy and not poor who choose to forgo coverage—has a minimal role in the $43 billion of uncompensated health-care costs. In 2008, for example (the latest figures available), the Department of Health and Human Service's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey showed that the uncompensated care of the mandate's targeted population was no more than $12.8 billion—a tiny one-half of 1% of the nation's $2.4 trillion in overall health-care costs. The insurance mandate cannot reasonably be justified on the ground that it remedies costs imposed on the system by the voluntarily uninsured.
The government's other defense is that the health-care market does not exhibit textbook competition. No market does. The economic features relied upon by the government—externalities, imperfect information, geographically distinct markets, etc.—are characteristic of many markets.
The presence of externalities and other market imperfections does not justify a departure from the normal rules of the constitutional road. Health care is typically consumed locally, and health-insurance markets themselves primarily operate within the states. The administration's attempt to fashion a singular, universal solution is not necessary to deal with the variegated issues arising in these markets. States have taken the lead in past reform efforts. They should be an integral part of improving the functioning of health-care and health-insurance markets.

If what is driving health care costs and insurance disfuction is government, then you can bet that Obamacare will worsen the problems, not ameliorate them.  The fact that man cannot engineer a functional "health care system", which exceeds that which  might evolve over time without coercoion, has become so obvious to me, I forget that others still it may be done.

Starting points - remove the tax incentives associated with employer "provided" health care plans which are more pre-paid service plans than insurance.  Remove restrictions on cross-state-border plans.  Remove "mandates" which require providers to cover this, that or the other, according to the influence of rent seeking constituencies; instead, let folks buy what they need, which for most, is catastrophic coverage. 

Every federal and state intervention creates negative unintended consequences, which justify further interventions, etc, a classic reinforcing loop of government regulation, perverted incentives, and ineffective, inefficient, care. 

Classic Quote: Rand

The government's only proper job is to protect individual rights against violence by force or fraud ... to protect men from foreign invaders ... to settle disputes among men according to objective laws ... The greatness of the Founding Fathers was how well they understood this issue and how close some of them came to understanding it perfectly.  Ayn Rand


This is perhaps the least well understood idea in what used to be "the land of the free and the home of the brave."  Anything above and beyond the description above is a violation of liberty by the government's legal coercive force.  That we no longer notice this is troubling.

Parallels - Science and ... Libertarianism?

Interesting parallels indeed.  That's why Libertarians do so poorly, though, since they are not so obsessed with winning that they are willing to give up on truth to win.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Just Wait Here, He'll Be Back

Of course, the administration’s pandering argument would be more convincing if Obama hadn’t engaged in the same tactic as a candidate in 2008, criticizing George W. Bush for the fact that gas prices had more than doubled during his eight years in office.
Meanwhile, the inconvenient truth that oil is a global commodity whose price is not entirely dictated by U.S. energy policy is one you will rarely hear in campaign ads.

There's an old joke about a football player facing a team with a running back nicknamed "rabbit."  I was always told as a youngster that if you could get a good rabbit dog in hot chase of a rabbit, you just had to stand there and wait, because the rabbit would always run in a circle.  The football joke was told in the context of a heroic effort make which resulted in a missed tackle on "The Rabbit", and the punchline was "I'll just lie here and wait, he'll be back directly."

It's kind of like that with politicians.  If you wait long enough, they'll double back on their trail, as noted above.  There's no real point in noticing since voters clearly do not vote based on fact, but rather on who they consider to be the lesser of the two evils. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Solution? Or Trade Off?

The only solution. So why aren’t politicians competing to see who can lower oil consumption more? Republicans are going after programs they once supported to seed the advanced battery and auto industries. They’re fighting to protect oil subsidies and slash transit funding. They’re scolding the military for trying to use less oil. They love oil, love oil companies, and love sprawl.
Dems, meanwhile, have managed to hang tough on fuel-efficiency standards and fight off serial attacks on EPA, for the most part anyway. But that’s about it. When gas prices go up, they panic, and it’s the usual cacophony about speculators and strategic oil reserves and Big Oil profiteering.

The lack of ability to stay out of linear thinking is a curse on all of our houses. 

First off, there's no "solution" that will lower oil consumption and therefore prices.  As the price of oil decreases, the relative utility increases, and the number of ways oil may be productively, profitably employed increases.  In short, there's little reason to think that decreasing demand, and therefore short term price reductions, won't result in increasing demand.

Nevermind that all this green energy nonsense ignores a fundamental reality - when you build a car, you expend as much oil as the car will burn in its lifetime on the manufacturing process for the car.  IOW, if you want to reduce consumption, you will have to reduce manufacturing - of cars and most other stuff too.  Pretending you can influence these matters by looking only at something like "efficiency" in the product is half baked thinking.

What one would have to do to begin to know whether there's more benefit than cost - in other words, to evaluate trade offs instead of pretending that there's a "solution" - is a comprehensive analsis of multiple variates. 

But the truth is, no one knows what will happen when these ideas become legislation.  Coercive manipulations of human choices ALWAYS have unintended negative consequences, and ususally they are borne by the least capable, least adaptable of us.  In this way, while the elites dole out goodies with their right hand to the "disenfranchised" to make themselves feel better, they smack them in the back of their heads with the left hand.  This is the hubris of men who think they can play god.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Higher Prices Baby! Yeeaahhh!

Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Tuesday walked away from his oft-quoted pre-Cabinet statement that the United States should deliberately raise gasoline prices to discourage consumption.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal before he was appointed President Obama’s energy secretary, Dr. Chu, then the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.”

You would have to be asleep at the switch not to think this is what they want.  Nevermind the cost to the "most vulnerable" members of our nation and the world.


Read and find a way to be grateful, and to "earn it", with thanks again for Saving Private Ryan.

Government and Snowballs

"If you have 10,000 regulations," Winston Churchill said, "you destroy all respect for law."

Isn't that water already well past the bridge?

The regulations increase every year without regard for either efficiacy or adverse unintended consequences and the impacts are real decreases in the quality of life and standards of living for all Americans.

Granted that there are, as Rus Roberts put it, no solutions just tradeoffs, I would love to re-elect someone like Congressman Jim Cooper who advocates a legislation reduction.

From the author:
"He was right. But Churchill never imagined a government that would add 10,000 year after year. That's what we have in America. We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. We have so many rules that legal specialists can't keep up. Criminal lawyers call the rules "incomprehensible." They are. They are also "uncountable." Congress has created so many criminal offenses that the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total."
Leaves me to wonder if our government will end like the proverbial snowball flying down a mountainside, crushed by its own weight and out of control momentum.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Characterized By Their Incompetence

Mallon uses his literary sensibility and mordant wit to give humanity to characters who in their confusions and delusions staggered across the national stage, utterly unqualified for the prominence they enjoyed until it devoured them.
But having listened to hundreds of hours of Nixon’s tapes, Mallon considers them “totally inculpating”: He is sure that Nixon — a “misanthrope in a flesh-presser’s profession” — did not know in advance about the burglary. Mallon hears Nixon on tape constantly “trying to give the impression that he knows more than he did, not less.” Mallon’s “Watergate” is a tale of floundering, frightened people unsure of what had happened or what others were telling investigators.

These two sections have a complete ring of truth.  Qualified to perform in the roles now allocated to the President?  No one.  Perhaps that's why they all end up looking foolish to some degree or another.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gasoline: Why's the Price So High

What?!?! Government regulations are not working as intended?

The High Cost of Green

"When is a job not a job? Answer: when it is a green job. Jobs in an industry that raises the price of energy effectively destroy jobs elsewhere; jobs in an industry that cuts the cost of energy create extra jobs elsewhere.

The entire argument for green jobs is a version of Frederic Bastiat’s broken-window fallacy. The great nineteenth century French economist pointed out that breaking a window may provide work for the glazier, but takes work from the tailor, because the window owner has to postpone ordering a new suit because he has to pay for the window.

Oh come on now, can't we get at least on ray of sunshine out of a cucumber?


At the White House on Monday, President Obama will seek to persuade the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to postpone whatever plans he may have to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months. Obama will argue that under his leadership, the United States "has Israel's back," and that he will order the U.S. military to destroy Iran's nuclear program if economic sanctions fail to compel Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions.

It's an interesting thing for a President to say.  It will be interesting - in an analytical, pretend not to think about the immense human tragedy that would result, kind of way - to see if it can be done and how.  There are some who speculate that one could destroy Iran, and it's nuclear aspirations, just by dropping a few bombs on Irans few gasoline production facilities.  Their economy hangs on a thread of oil exportation, and their oil infrastructure is reported to be in a wretched state - no surprise in a state run enterprise (in fact, it would be a monster of a surprise if that were not the case).  The Iranian water infrastructure is as bad or worse and is thought to not be capable of suporting current population levels for long (5 years?  10?). 
How well can the Iranians run the expensive Russian surface to air missle systems they bought?  How deep have they buried their critical nuclear infrastructure, and who really knows where it is located?  Would the US actually try to attack those locations, or just wreck Iran generally by shutting down their oil exportation, gas importation, and domestic gas production? 

It is easy to think of Iran and think of the Iranian government and its exportation of terrorism to other nations and its reputation for what seem like bizarre religious beliefs and its supposed irrationality and so forth.  Certainly, the rabble rousers make a lot of press by pointing to crazy Amadinejad, the so called President of Iran.  But the President of Iran is unlikely to be the one doing any of the heavy lifting as regards the actions of the Iranian government, he's a figurehead.  The religious leadership of the government is pulling the strings. 

It's easy to think of "Iran" and ignore the repulsive conditions those sorry millions have to live with, and how much worse things will get for them if the governments of other nations decide to create war with the Iranian government.

One could ask "what do the the leaders of the Iranian government want?"  There's only one reasonable assumption - they want to sustain their position of power and influence.  They want to be able to prevent outside interference, and increase internal control.  To do that they play the cards they have - a heavy handed state, exported terrorism to influence events, and possibly even a world wide network intended to allow them options even if they are faced with an opponent they cannot go toe to toe with - the US or Israel. 
Anything the government of Iran or its mouthpieces say should be considered as truth neutral - it may or may not be true, but it isn't of any consequence either way.  I wouldn't say this is much different for 90% of the things governments say around the world.  Governments and the folks running them say what they think is needed to create the results they desire - truth need not be a factor.  It is either total ignorance or a pretense for media figures and entertainment goofs to take seriously anything the Iranian government mouthpieces say.

I hope the US government can resist the various calls for action against the supposed nuclear threat of Iran.  I hope we can learn to ignore those who think the Iranians are some unified force of religion crazy ideologues who are our mortal enemies.  I hope the side show clown that is Ahmadinejad will not be used by the entertainers to whip the uninformed into a frenzy of fear and aggression.  I don't see the compelling threat to US interests posed by a crumbling, bumbling, hapless Iranian government.  If the Israelis want to do it, I say stand back and pray for those who will caught in the horror created by the governments that "serve" them.