Friday, April 29, 2016

Were You Paying Attention?

For those who were paying attention, none of this is a surprise. It was always a fantasy to think that more government intervention was going to improve a health care system that already was cumbersome and expensive because of previous government interventions.
By the way, IBD isn’t the only outlet to notice the ongoing disaster of Obamacare.
Let’s look at some other recent revelations.
Chris Jacobs writes, “For millions of Americans, the Left’s insurance utopia has rapidly deteriorated into a bleak dystopia,” while “the ‘cheaper prices’ that the president promised evaporated as quickly as the morning dew.”
John Graham explains that “CBO estimates Obamacare will leave 27 million uninsured through 2019 – an increase of almost one quarter” and that “CBO estimates 68 million will be dependent on the [Medicaid] program this year through 2019 – an increase of almost one third in the welfare caseload.”

Free? Valueless

As he panders for the youth vote, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders promises free tuition at public colleges and universities because, he says, "a college degree is the new high school diploma." Rival Hillary Clinton supports President Barack Obama's plan to make community college tuition-free -- that is, publicly funded. Beware, America: Imagine how expensive college tuition will be if Democrats somehow manage to make more of it "free." As for value, if Sanders has his way, you can expect the college degree to be the new high school diploma.
On the other side of the aisle, GOP presidential hopefuls rarely talk about "college affordability." The issue is not on front-runner Donald Trump's main issues pages. Ditto for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Ohio Gov. John Kasich suggests that one way to make college more affordable is by encouraging "more students to earn college credit while completing their high school courses" to give them a "jump on their college careers" and a break financially. Republicans wisely are pushing personal fiscal responsibility as the main answer to rising tuition and fees.
Who's going to pay for all this? Everyone. Richard Vedder of Ohio University's Center for College Affordability and Productivity co-wrote a pamphlet for The Heartland Institute on higher education reform in 2011, which explored how federal grants and student loans have driven up the cost of college. His report showed the cost of a four-year degree had more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1975. College graduates aren't more literate; they have a lower level of reading comprehension than those who graduated a decade earlier. Also, many grads are underemployed. According to federal statistics, 13 percent of American parking lot attendants and 14 percent of hotel clerks have a bachelor's degree or better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

McArdle on the Panama Papers

A libertarian of my acquaintance wrote to inquire whether this is going to sour people on global capitalism.
It shouldn’t. What we’ve seen from the papers so far is not so much an indictment of global capitalism as an indictment of countries that have weak institutions and a lot of corruption. And for all the outrage in the United States, so far the message for us is pretty reassuring: We aren’t one of those countries.
Consider the big names that have shown up so far on the list. With the notable exception of Iceland, these are not countries I would describe as “capitalist”: Russia, Pakistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Egypt.  They’re countries where kleptocratic government officials amass money not through commerce, but through quasi-legal extortion, or siphoning off the till. This is an activity that has gone on long before capitalism, and probably before there was money. Presenting this as an indictment of global capitalism is like presenting Romeo and Juliet as an after school special on the dangers of playing with knives.

Easy to Predict Stuff - Another Government Failex

An easily predictable development ... unless you just love everything government touches.

ObamaCare rates will skyrocket next year, according to its former chief. Enrollment is tumbling this year. And a big insurer is quitting most exchanges. That’s what we learned in just the past few days.
Marilyn Tavenner, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, revealed that she expects ObamaCare premium hikes “to be higher than we saw previous years,” including last year, which saw double-digit rate increases across the country.
Tavenner, for those who don’t know, was head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services until early 2015, which means she helped bring ObamaCare to life. In November 2014, she was boasting how “the Affordable Care Act is working to improve competition and choice among marketplace plans.”

Another Jewell from Will

Authoritarianism, always latent in progressivism, is becoming explicit. Progressivism’s determination to regulate thought by regulating speech is apparent in the campaign by 20 state attorneys general, none Republican, to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly “settled” conclusions of climate science.
Four core tenets of progressivism are: First, history has a destination. Second, progressives uniquely discern it. (Barack Obama frequently declares things to be on or opposed to “the right side of history.”) Third, politics should be democratic but peripheral to governance, which is the responsibility of experts scientifically administering the regulatory state. Fourth, enlightened progressives should enforce limits on speech (witness IRS suppression of conservative advocacy groups) in order to prevent thinking unhelpful to history’s progressive unfolding.
Progressivism is already enforced on campuses by restrictions on speech that might produce what progressives consider retrograde intellectual diversity. Now, from the so-called party of science, aka Democrats, comes a campaign to criminalize debate about science.
“The debate is settled,” says Obama. “Climate change is a fact.” Indeed. The epithet “climate change deniers,” obviously coined to stigmatize skeptics as akin to Holocaust deniers, is designed to obscure something obvious: Of course the climate is changing; it never is not changing -- neither before nor after the Medieval Warm Period (end of the 9th century to the 13th) and the Little Ice Age (1640s to 1690s), neither of which was caused by fossil fuels.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The AGW Comedy Tour Continues

This is like "how much wood could a wood chuck chuck? How much predictive value does a model have if it has not ever accurately predicted? I don't know why Lomborg didn't point that out, but his other analysis seems to aimed at the believers who like to ignore how poorly the models are working.
Answer: "None, but we have to use something! But since our changes won't really change anything, even with our non-predictive model, what the heck!"

"But this is just rhetoric. My own research and the only peer-reviewed published assessment of the Paris agreement used the United Nation’s favorite climate model to measure the impact of every nation fulfilling every major carbon-cutting promise in the treaty between now and 2030. I found that the total temperature reduction will be just 0.086 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

"Even if these promises were extended for 70 more years, then all the promises will reduce temperature rises by 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. This is similar to a finding by scientists at MIT. It’s feeble."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is This Worth Killing Someone?

As long ago as 1949, H. L. Mencken identified in Americans “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” an astute articulation of our weirdly Puritan need to criminalize people’s inclination to adjust how they feel. The desire for altered states of consciousness creates a market, and in suppressing that market we have created a class of genuine bad guys — pushers, gangbangers, smugglers, killers. Addiction is a hideous condition, but it’s rare. Most of what we hate and fear about drugs — the violence, the overdoses, the criminality — derives from prohibition, not drugs. And there will be no victory in this war either; even the Drug Enforcement Administration concedes that the drugs it fights are becoming cheaper and more easily available.

I see little justification for the violence the government delivers in the name of stopping the use of drugs.  I fear the decriminalization, much like those must have feared the end of prohibition.  The common habit of thought is pretending the drug war's consequences - gun and other criminal trafficking, subversion of legitimate purposes of law enforcement, empowerment of criminals, thousands dead in drug gang violence and thousands more in jail for non-violent crimes - justify the minimal degree to which the drug war reduces consumption.

I hate what drugs do to humans.  The drug war takes all of that and makes it worse.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely, Version Infinity

A populist government not limited significantly in power is going bad ... who could have seen that coming ...

The riches flowing from Brazil’s mines, oil fields and farms fueled a consumer spending binge, but they patched over the structural problems that made Brazil a creaky, onerous place to do business.
A privatization plan to build much-needed roads and railways faltered. Productivity remained low because the workforce was badly trained and poorly educated. Companies wasted thousands of hours deciphering a greedy tax system. And all the while, the old way of making deals — lubricating them with graft — went unchanged.
Big construction and energy companies grew fat on state contracts and government loans under Lula and Rousseff, and the opportunities for illegal enrichment were infinite. Slush money poured into political campaigns.
The dirt from those years is now being unearthed by a hard-charging team of prosecutors and a tough lower-court federal judge, Sérgio Moro, who is overseeing the investigation of a bribery scheme at national oil company Petrobras. Through wiretaps, raids, arrests and plea deals, the probe has exposed spider webs of corruption throughout Brazil’s elite.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I have a right to have your rights ... even if that's wrong

"Does anyone here think I'm a strong adherent of the North Korean form of government? That I want all of you to be wearing similar-colored pajamas?" he asked some New Hampshire school kids last fall. After they finished laughing—the inevitable response—he explained that "democratic socialism" is just a kind of friendly neighborhood clubhouse where everybody's welcome: "a government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people, which is most often the case right now in this country. And it is making sure that all of our people have health care as a right, education as a right, decent housing as a right, child care as a right."

If you have a "right" to health care, education, decent housing and child care - that is to say you are as entitled to those services as you are entitled to personal safety and to the fruits of your labor - then there is no such thing as a right.  You cannot have a right to something that is the right of someone else.  If you have a right to housing - did the workers who built not have the right to be compensated for their work?  If you have a right to health care - did the providers of that care not have a right to be compensated for their life energy that went towards your care?  If you have a right to education - do the educators have a right to be paid for educating you?  If someone has to take good care of your child, how can you have a right to their good care?  This is a nonsense game.

What's that?  The rich should pay for all of your rights?  You don't have a right to the life energy of an educator, a doctor/nurse, a construction worker or a child care provider - you have a right to the earnings of the wealthy!

First off, that's not going to last long.  The earners are smart enough to avoid such a fleecing.  Second off, what gives you a right to anything that anyone else gave their life energy to create?  If you are entitled to the life energy of another person, there is no such thing as a right.

The joke is on anyone who believes this silly BS.  Bernie can talk about making sunbeams out of cucumbers all he wants, but wait until he tries to make it happen and his delusion is finally confronted by reality.  His ideas are as coherent as a soup sandwich.

For example:  This glib disregard of troublesome facts runs through many of Sanders' economic ideas, sometimes to the point of outright falsehood. Remember that wealth tax he's so enraptured by, the one "similar to those that exist in most European countries"? A 2014 European Commission survey of the continent's tax policies found just three European countries with something like it: Spain, France, and the Netherlands. "Several countries abolished their wealth tax," the commission reported, "because of the fact that the taxpayers were able to move much of their wealth out of reach of the wealth tax." That is, when a government tries to seize rich people's money, many of them leave.

Or:  Which brings us to the delicacy of Sanders' plan for tuition-free college. His funding plan makes no allowance for a crunch in endowment investments, nor for the probability that once stock trades are taxed, investors will start making fewer of them, which will reduce the money gained from the tax. And then there's another probability: that once tuition is free, more students will want to attend college, requiring more professors and more buildings. Once you've got less money than you expected but more students, the whole thing starts unraveling like a Kmart sweater.

"Are We Saving the World or Just Agitators?"

OK, this is old hat, but what should be striking is how thoroughly the climate lobby has played along. Its main function today has become stringing up apostates as a distraction from Democratic unwillingness to propose policies costly enough that they would actually influence the rate of increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Take the Exxon prosecution, promoted by the attorneys general of New York and California and a host of their Democratic brethren. Though the case is never meant to be adjudicated in a courtroom, suppose it were and suppose a jury somehow found for the plaintiffs. How would Exxon pay a securities-fraud judgment? By selling oil and gas.

Saving the world by destroying the modern standard of living - yes!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"For Perspective" ...

For perspective, the entire federal budget for nondefense discretionary spending—programs outside of entitlement programs and interest on the debt—now runs about $600 billion annually. You would have to eliminate every penny of that spending—on roads, education, law enforcement and scientific research—for 25 years to fill that hole. 
Or, alternately, as the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated, you would have to cut all government spending outside of Social Security by 93%.

To pay down the debt, you would need to not only balance the budget but create a surplus to be able to buy up all the old debt—an idea that many economists say would create its own economic shocks.

This all should be grist for a detailed campaign discussion, because the economic stakes are enormous. But it isn’t, in part because many voters have stopped taking seriously plans put forth by political figures of all stripes. Who can blame them? Washington has become the capital of dysfunction, where even the most well-crafted policy proposals go to die.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Your Beliefs Are Illegal

State attorneys general including Walker held a press conference last week to talk about the investigation of ExxonMobil and explain their theory of the case. And yet, there sort of wasn’t a theory of the case. They spent a lot of time talking about global warming, and how bad it was, and how much they disliked fossil fuel companies. They threw the word “fraud” around a lot. But the more they talked about it, the more it became clear that what they meant by “fraud” was “advocating for policies that the attorneys general disagreed with.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the game away when he explained that they would be pursuing completely different theories in different jurisdictions -- some under pension laws, some consumer protection, some securities fraud. It is traditional, when a crime has actually been committed, to first establish that a crime has occurred, and then identify a perpetrator. When prosecutors start running that process backwards, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re looking at prosecutorial power run amok.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We Need Low Wage Jobs

Another priceless excerpt:
Low-wage jobs serve several good purposes. One is to give first-time job-seekers a bottom rung from which to climb the income ladder. Remove the lower rungs — a $15 minimum would remove at least a couple of them in some parts of California — and the lowest rung on the ladder is out of reach for some.
A high minimum wage forces employers to be more choosy about whom they hire, and often the numbers make it wiser not to hire anyone. The truth that left-wingers such as Bernie Sanders and me-too Hillary Clinton refuse to accept is that the monetary value of work does not rise just because the government instructs it to. If the government raises the minimum wage above the value of the work, no one will buy that labor. Left-liberals are wilfully blind to the fact that businesses are not bottomless wells of money.
When work costs more, businesses buy less of it. Government-generated burdens create incentives for businesses to automate. Have you noticed that fast food restaurants now have touchscreens to take your order? Those machines will never call in sick or file employment lawsuits. For other kinds of businesses, such as landscapers, the minimum wage can make legal hiring prohibitively expensive. That's important in California and other such places where there is so much illegal labor available.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Why Not Make It $100/hour?

California has just adopted a $15 per hour minimum wage, to be phased in over six years. New York is doing the same thing.

It amounts to a social science experiment, and its proponents argue that it will "give a raise" to low-income workers. Actually, it will do nothing of the sort. It will, rather, deny low-skilled workers the one advantage they have, which is a willingness to work for less than others. Which means more of them will be unemployed, or else will move to states wise enough to avoid this kind of experiment.

Why not make the minimum wage $100/hour?  Because we all know that wouldn't work.  We want to pretend there's no reason $15/hour won't work, and perhaps in a tight labor market it will.  An easy prediction though is that a $15/hour wage will price out low skill workers, incentivize the hiring of illegal aliens for whom we don't have to pay FICA etc, and thus will do little to shift the situation of the average unskilled laborer.

Hey, with good intentions like these states have, how can we blame them if they disenfranchise the unskilled and create more well paid illegals?

Here's another take on the topic:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Onion Fodder

This article belongs in the Onion.

I don't know where the start.  Government pledges have nothing to do with climate, they have to do with political maneuvering.  CO2 is yet unproved, and more and more unlikely, to be a greenhouse gas of interest.

This is the language of the government bourgeoise - let's kill all the ways that poor and developing nations can join the rest of us in a reasonable standard of living on the outside bet that the climate change conjecture is real, and that more heat is actually going to cause a rise in ocean levels, and if they have to live poor well .... poor people smile more anyway!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Studies Show" That Most of Us Fall for Bubble Gum Science

Since that time, the Clean Air Act has repeatedly been challenged as costly and unnecessary. As a fight brews over President Obama’s new use of the law to address global warming, it’s worth re-examining the vast difference the law has already made in the quality of the air we breathe, and in the length of our lives.
Numerous studies have found that the Clean Air Act has substantially improved air quality and averted tens of thousands of premature deaths from heart and respiratory disease. Here, I offer new estimates of the gains in life expectancy due to the improvement in air quality since 1970 — based on observations from the current “smog capital” of the world, China. (To learn more about how this was calculated, click here.)

I hate bubble gum science like this.  It's obvious that normal air quality will make life better, but teasing out causality when so many factors are changing - food, medications, etc, makes predictions like the ones in this article a fool's game.

Some Pigs Are More Equal Than Others, Next Edition

What’s more, the manual has this to say about taking politics into account: Don’t!
"In determining whether to commence or recommend prosecution or take other action against a person, the attorney for the government should not be influenced by: The person’s race, religion, sex, national origin, or political association, activities or beliefs" (emphasis added).
There are, of course, media types — and even some law professors — trying to run interference for Hillary now. But there’s not much in the way of legal basis for not charging her, if the evidence looks as if it will “probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.”
Still, it’s easy to understand why our Beltway betters think that law shouldn’t be applied to insiders the same way it’s applied to the rubes out in Dana Loesch's "Flyover Nation." After all, it was TV talking-head David Gregory who was given a pass for a “(clear) violation” of a District of Columbia gun law, by all appearances because he was an insider in good standing with the establishment. Lesser Americans don’t get the same free pass because, well, they’re lesser Americans.

The kind of equality I can get with is the kind where the political class who incites us with talk of equality gets equal treatment before the law.  It's a hopelessly naive wish but I have it.

Not What You Read Every Day

Northern liberals pioneered what scholars now call “colorblind racism.” That’s when racially neutral language makes extreme racial inequalities appear to be the natural outcome of innocent private choices or free-market forces rather than intentional public policies like housing covenants, federal mortgage redlining, public housing segregation, and school zoning.
Democratic lawmakers drafted civil-rights legislation that would challenge Jim Crow laws in the South while leaving de facto segregation in the North intact. When NBC News asked the civil-rights organizer Bayard Rustin why many African American communities rioted the summer after the bill passed, he said, “People have to understand that although the civil-rights bill was good and something for which I worked arduously, there was nothing in it that had any effect whatsoever on the three major problems Negroes face in the North: housing, jobs, and integrated schools…the civil-rights bill, because of this failure, has caused an even deeper frustration in the North.”

It is always fun to find the pieces of the event which are conveniently left out of the mass media narrative.  However, the author's firm belief that more policies are what is needed to bring the disenfranchised minorities into the fold is fantasy.  People are not in need of more laws, they are in need of an unfettered economy where those who work hard and express their life energy gain the benefits that others want.  When the path to success is clear and can be seen, more will choose it.

Business Taxes Are A Sign of Stupid

As free-market economist Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute recently noted, government interest rates were rock bottom in the 1930s. That's because the Fed and most other central banks were way too tight.
Even worse today, having stuffed banks with excess reserves, central banks in Europe and Japan are punishing those banks with negative interest rates. They're also punishing savers. This is not good policy.
What we have now in these uncertain times is not so much a monetary problem as a major fiscal problem. In particular, corporate tax rates must be slashed in the U.S. for large and small businesses. We also need full cash tax expensing for new investment and an end to the double taxation of foreign profits.

The case for lower business taxes is just obvious.  One of the many maddening things about US politics is no one's even talking about the potential growth in reducing business taxes and/or the way a 4% growth rate would heal the federal government's death spiral.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Great for the "Job Haves" and Illegals but Nasty for the Have Nots

That 69 percent ratio would be all but unprecedented, in U.S. terms and internationally. The current California minimum wage represents about half the state’s median hourly wage, just as the federal minimum wage averaged 48 percent of the national median between 1960 and 1979, according to a 2014 Brookings Institution paper by economist Arindrajit Dube. (It is currently 38 percent of the national median.) 
Other industrial democracies with statutory minimum wages typically set theirs at half the national median wage, too.
Dube, generally a supporter of minimum wages, recommended that states use 50 percent of the median as their benchmark in the United States. (He told me by email that California’s experiment is worth running and monitoring.)
Krueger has written that a “$15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences,” though he said it might be okay in certain high-wage cities and states.

Sure will incentives barters and employment of those already in violation of the law to be here. Glad that experiment is being done in Cali, none are more deserving of further government inflicted economic mayhem.

Sick but Getting Sicker

But to work, ObamaCare had to also bring in more young and healthy people to offset the costs of the older and sicker and keep insurance premiums down. Otherwise, the market would enter into a “death spiral,” in which higher premiums drive more healthy people out of the market, pushing rates up still further.
That was precisely what happened in several states that had already experimented with ObamaCare-style insurance reforms. And it’s why ObamaCare included an individual mandate and the sizable penalty for not signing up.