Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My Fourth Statement

Bryan Caplan

When I was promoting Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, one of the most common questions I heard was, "Are you going to have any more?" I always avoided a definite answer. But now I'm pleased to announce that my wife and I are expecting our fourth child, a baby girl, in April. She'll be named Valeria, middle name TBD (though I'm partial to Ayn and Fanya).

Back in the Baby Boom, having four kids was roughly average. But nowadays, it verges on counter-cultural. As Jonathan Last observes, "When you meet couples with more than three children today, chances are they're making a cultural and theological statement." I'm irreligious, but Last still has my number. I am indeed making a cultural statement. Having lots of kids is my way of saying all of the following:

1. People should feel grateful to be alive - and people who give the gift of life do a great thing.

2. People in the First World today should be incredibly grateful to be alive; they have a golden opportunity to build a joyful life free of mankind's historic troubles. (Corollary: People should take most of the energy they spend on complaining and reallocate it to self-improvement).

3. More people make the world a better place. Our culture greatly overblows the social costs of population - especially on the environment - and severely neglects the social benefits - especially on innovation and choice.

4. Parents' most meaningful effect is on their kids' appreciation - how their kids feel about and remember them. The key to being a great parent isn't sacrifice and suffering on your kids' behalf. It's treating them with kindness and respect, and having fun together.

5. Parental sacrifice and suffering are usually a waste of time in any case. At least in the modern First World, your kids' future depends primarily on their genes and their free will, not your "investment." (Corollary: Our four kids will be roughly as successful in school and work as they would have been if they were only children who enjoyed our undivided time and resources).

6. You can have the pride and joy of being a parent without losing the pride and joy of being an individual. While many parents would work themselves to death taking care of four kids, there's no reason to do so.

7. Kids are cute and fun. Especially my kids.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Obamacare is already destroying jobs

In 1941, Carl Karcher was a 24-year-old truck driver for a bakery. Impressed by the large numbers of buns he was delivering, he scrounged up $326 to buy a hot dog cart across from a Goodyear plant. And the war came.

So did millions of defense industry workers and their cars. And, soon, Southern California’s contribution to American cuisine — fast food. Including, eventually, hundreds of Carl’s Jr. restaurants. Karcher died in 2008, but his legacy, CKE Restaurants, survives. It would thrive, says CEO Andy Puzder, but for government’s comprehensive campaign against job creation.

CKE, with more than 3,200 restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), has created 70,000 jobs, 21,000 directly and 49,000 with franchisees. The growth of those numbers will be inhibited by — among many government measures — Obama­care.

When CKE’s health-care advisers, citing Obamacare’s complexities, opacities and uncertainties, said that it would add between $7.3 million and $35.1 million to the company’s $12 million health-care costs in 2010, Puzder said: I need a number I can plan with. They guessed $18 million — twice what CKE spent last year building new restaurants. Obamacare must mean fewer restaurants.

And therefore fewer jobs. Each restaurant creates, on average, 25 jobs — and as much as 3.5 times that number of jobs in the community. (CKE spends about $1 billion a year on food and paper products, $175 million on advertising, $33 million on maintenance, etc.)

Puzder laughs about the liberal theory that businesses are not investing because they want to “punish Obama.” Rising health-care costs are, he says, just one uncertainty inhibiting expansion. Others are government policies raising fuel costs, which infect everything from air conditioning to the cost (including deliveries) of supplies, and the threat that the National Labor Relations Board will use regulations to impose something like “card check” in place of secret-ballot unionization elections.

CKE has about 720 California restaurants, in which 84 percent of the managers are minorities and 67 percent are women. CKE has, however, all but stopped building restaurants in this state because approvals and permits for establishing them can take up to two years, compared to as little as six weeks in Texas, and the cost to build one is $100,000 more than in Texas, where CKE is planning to open 300 new restaurants this decade.

CKE restaurants have 95 percent employee turnover in a year — not bad in this industry — and the health-care benefits under CKE’s current “mini-med” plans are capped in a way that makes them illegal under Obamacare. So CKE will have to convert many full-time employees to part-timers to limit the growth of its burdens under Obamacare.

In an economic climate of increasing uncertainties, Puzder says, one certainty is that many businesses now marginally profitable will disappear when Obamacare causes that margin to disappear. A second certainty is that “employers everywhere will be looking to reduce labor content in their business models as Obamacare makes employees unambiguously more expensive.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, by 2008 the cost of federal regulations had reached $1.75 trillion. That was 14 percent of national income unavailable for job-creating investments. And that was more than 11,000 regulations ago.

Seventy years ago, the local health department complained that Karcher’s hot dog cart had no restroom facilities. He got help from a nearby gas station. A state agency made him pay $15 for workers’ compensation insurance. Another agency said that he owed more than the $326 cost of the cart in back sales taxes. For $100, a lawyer successfully argued that Karcher did not because his customers ate their hot dogs off the premises.

Time was, American businesses could surmount such regulatory officiousness. But government’s metabolic urge to boss people around has grown exponentially and today CKE’s California restaurants are governed by 57 categories of regulations. One compels employees and even managers to take breaks during the busiest hours, lest one of California’s 200,000 lawyers comes trolling for business at the expense of business.

Barack Obama has written that during his very brief sojourn in the private sector he felt like “a spy behind enemy lines.” Puzder knows what it feels like when gargantuan government is composed of multitudes of regulators who regard business as the enemy. And 22.9 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or too discouraged to look for employment know what it feels like to be collateral damage in the regulatory state’s war on business.



That good ol' double standard again: What Did The Corzine Democrats Say About Abramoff?

Jon Corzine, former CEO of collapsed brokerage MF Global, has become a major embarrassment to his friends on Capitol Hill.

The former senator and governor of New Jersey has not only donated money recently to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Democratic National Committee, he has also contributed to the following U.S. representatives, the Hill notes: New Jersey’s Rush Holt, Donald Payne Frank Pallone, and Steve Rothman; California’s George Miller; New York’s Kathy Hochul, Nita Lowey, Jerrold Nadler and Charlie Rangel and Massachusetts’ Ed Markey.

Republicans are calling on Democrats to return the money. Top blogger Instapundit suggested that someone should look up what these lawmakers said in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, where considerable pressure was brought to bear on the GOP to return contributions from Abramoff and those affiliated with him.

So, Capitol Hill did some searching, dug into the archives, and came up with some rather choice morsels. Here’s Rep. Holt, on Jan 18, 2006:
Rep. Rush Holt returned to Washington today to join House and Senate Democrats in unveiling their “Honest Leadership, Open Government” Act, an aggressive reform package to reverse Republican excesses and protect the public trust.

“The Abramoff debacle has joined Teapot Dome and the Keating Five in the lexicon of Congressional corruption scandals,” said Rep. Holt. “As long as Congressional rules allow this kind of corruption to go on unabated, public cynicism about government will only grow. Our action today is designed to deal with this problem head on.”

(The Legislation) will fix the gift and travel rules that allowed the Jack Abramoffs of the world to buy Republican influence in Congress, ensuring that legislation will never again be written in back rooms by industry lobbyists.

Where has Holt been during the Solyndra mess?

On April 6, 2006, Rep. Nadler said the following at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing on lobbying reform:
The recent indictments, convictions and resignations of leading members of Congress and their staff, up to and including the former majority leader, Mr. DeLay, have cast a pall over this institution and over every one of us, whether we like it or not, whether any of us has done anything improper or not.

Unless this Congress acts and acts effectively and with credibility, the public will rightly judge this institution and its members harshly. The public will become only more cynical.

I do not believe that members are corrupted by a $50 or $75 dinner. They are corrupted by the necessity to raise large sums of campaign finance from private sources.

Any reporter out there who could ask Nadler how he feels about Corzine?

Oh, and this part of his statement wasn’t related to Corzine, but was ironic in view of what happened in subsequent years:
Bills hundreds of pages long, written in the dead of night, and brought to a vote with little or no examination by the members will always be an invitation to disaster and to corruption, because they are an invitation to payoffs for campaign contributions when no one is looking.

There was a time when legislation was actually the result of a deliberative and bipartisan process. That is, regrettably, becoming the exception, rather than the rule in this Congress. It creates bad policy and innumerable opportunities for mischief.

Do you recall Nadler protesting during the stimulus debate or during ObamaCare? Me neither.

Rep. Miller said the following after the Senate Indian Affairs Committee released its report on Abramoff on June 22, 2006:
Today, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee released a report on some of Jack Abramoff’s many contributions to the Republican culture of corruption. The report is an important contribution to our understanding of Abramoff’s illicit activities, but it is not complete. Congress must get more answers about Abramoff’s influence over its legislative affairs — in particular with regard to sweatshops in the Northern Mariana Islands.”

Let’s hope Miller will be calling for a thorough investigation into Corzine’s activities. Hope, but don’t hold your breath.



Obama Administration Denies Federal Drug Price Controls are Killing Americans

While Americans are dying because of a drug shortage problem serious enough to call a national emergency, the Obama Administration is denying that Medicare price controls are the cause.

Two hearings now have been held on the government induced prescription drug shortage in the House and another has been requested by ranking members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Senate will hold a hearing of its own on Wednesday.

In a nation as prosperous as our own — how can we have such drug shortages? That was the question the minds of congressmen in a hearing on Nov. 30, 2011 before the House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Health.

Four out of the five expert witnesses before the Subcommittee agreed that a Medicare price control policy has disincentivized the production of certain drugs and is at least part of the reason we now have the drug shortages that are killing Americans.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 introduced the “average sales price” repayment method for certain drugs. Instead of paying drug manufacturers based on the “wholesale acquisition cost,” Medicare pays based on the average price of the medication six months ago plus six percent. So, if the costs of producing the medicines increases more than 6 percent in six months, the manufacturer will have to take a loss.

The fifth expert agreed that Medicare’s price controls might be a factor, but refused to say so without further evidence.

However, the Obama Administration denies that Medicare pricing policies are a major problem. Dr. Howard K. Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services , said as much in Congressional testimony House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health on September 23, 2011.

Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) asked Dr. Koh the following question: "I had a group of oncologists in the other day … and they say they literally have to make choices about who they take care of because they don’t have the drugs available. So I asked kind of the question, “I can’t believe a company won’t make them if you have the demand for them.” And they told me that this particular type of drug–a generic—[is] priced differently in the federal government. So Medicare actually prices these drugs different than other drugs. Is what they were saying true?"

Dr. Koh’s response: "We have a role of Medicare here that reimburses according to what’s called the average sales price. So that is one factor here but we don’t view that as a significant issue in driving the shortages we’re seeing here."

Unfortunately, we have bureaucrats in the Obama Administration that believe the solution is more government control and not removing government restraints on the marketplace. Here’s a dialog between Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Dr. Koh from the same hearing:

Shimkus: "Why doesn’t the shortage of a product in this sector then send an increased price signal to manufacturers for them to then produce the good?"

Koh: "Well, we have come to learn that the standard economic principles of supply and demand…"

Shimkus: "And the question is why is that distorted? That . . . I think that is the basic fundamental question of this problem. What has distorted the fundamental principles of supply and demand? . . . but I think that is the heart of this issue." ...

Koh: "First of all, these agreements are made often through these long term contracts, and so also this whole process involves multiple stakeholders–especially and including the pharmacy benefit managers and the group purchasing organizations. So it complicates this environment and sort of does not make relevant the sort of standard supply and demand economic principles that we would see in other businesses."

So the economic principles of supply and demand are not relevant? ....


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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