Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Feds can penalize you for anything as long as they call it a tax

Today is my Sabbath and I would not normally be posting anything today but the decision by SCOTUS (above) completely alters the ball game for America so I felt I had to put up a few bits on at least this blog, if not on my others.

If Americans want to know where their healthcare is heading now, have a good look at my EYE ON BRITAIN blog. Every day I put up at least one horror story there about how socialized medicine treats people.


GOP governors vow to ignore Obamacare

Republican governors are planning to ignore the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to uphold Obamacare hoping that the issue will drive voters to dump President Obama in favor of Mitt Romney who has vowed to kill the Affordable Care Act.

After the decision, the Republican Governors Association said that nothing should be done by the states until after the election, a clear signal that they believe a GOP president, House and Senate will kill the health care reform pushed through by Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

RGA Chairman Bob McDonnell said, "Today's ruling crystallizes all that's at stake in November's election. The only way to stop Barack Obama's budget-busting health care takeover is by electing a new president. Barack Obama's health care takeover encapsulates his presidency: Obamacare increases taxes, grows the size of government and puts bureaucrats over patients while doing nothing to improve the economy."

The Virginia governor, who is on Mitt Romney's list of potential vice presidential candidates, added, "By replacing Barack Obama with Mitt Romney, we will not only stop the federal government's healthcare takeover, but will also take a giant step towards a full economic recovery."

Other governors have urged a similar strategy. Scott Walker, the newly re-elected Wisconsin governor, said that he won't put into place any elements of Obamacare until after the election. Other governors are taking a similar position.



Is The Roberts Ruling Good For ObamaCare Opponents?

By upholding all of ObamaCare on the grounds that the individual mandate falls under Congress’ taxing power, it seems like Chief Justice John Roberts has given liberty a very bad day.

But maybe not.

Roberts has now taken away the ability of proponents to obfuscate on the individual mandate. During the ObamaCare debate in Congress, many supporters insisted that the mandate wasn’t a tax knowing that its passage would be much harder if it was, indeed, called a tax. During legal arguments, supporters started referring to it as a tax as a sort of “legal insurance policy” against the Supreme Court throwing it out.

The Roberts ruling in effect says, “Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. And since you let me decide this, I’m calling it a tax.”

That leaves ObamaCare proponents politically vulnerable in a number of ways.

First, supporters will now have to call the mandate a “tax,” something that will make it even less popular than it is now.

Second, their flank will be unprotected against the charge that ObamaCare is one of the largest tax increases in history.

Third, opponents can now say, “Do you want to be taxed to force you to buy insurance?” and “If you don’t buy insurance, your taxes go up.” I’m betting those are winning soundbites.

Fourth, since the mandate is now a tax, it is a no-brainer that it can be repealed using budget reconciliation rules. In other words, you don’t need 60 votes in the Senate get rid of the mandate.

To know if the above analysis is correct, watch for what the Democrats don’t do. If you don’t see Democrats and others on the left running around proudly touting the mandate as a tax, you’ll know that they know that they don’t have a winning argument.

Longer term, if Obama is not touting that the Court found ObamaCare constitutional in his stump speeches, you’ll know this is an issue that he wants to avoid.

Just guessin’, but telling voters that you’ve just raised their taxes probably isn’t a good reelection strategy.



Regulations to fix problems caused by regulations?

Congress has passed the FDA Safety & Innovation Act in response to the recent prescription drug shortages. The Act’s solution to the shortages includes increasing the FDA’s regulatory power. Over-zealous regulation and bureaucrats at FDA had been a main cause of the problem.

The Act will increase the number of pharmaceutical manufacturers that must report to the FDA any discontinuation of certain drugs at least six months before ending production. Additionally, the Act would require the Secretary of the FDA to implement a “task force” to enhance the Secretary’s response to shortages. Neither of these proposed solutions will attenuate another drug shortage but instead exasperate one. It is expected that President Obama will sign the bill into law in early July.

Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Medical Progress, has argued against more government intervention into the market, stating, “Medicare restrictions on average sale prices (which can only be updated every six months) for generic medicines, just-in-time inventory supply practices at hospitals, reverse-auction contracts from large group purchasing organizations for supplying generic drugs, tougher FDA manufacturing and inspection standards for domestic companies (which can raise costs), and increased global competition from low-cost suppliers in India and China have all created a “perfect storm” for creating shortages of some vital generic medicines.”

Howard pointed out that the pharmaceutical market exists beyond the United States, and in order for our companies to stay competitive we need less red tape.

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform, found the FDA to be the primary cause of the drug shortages, and concluded in the Committee’s report, “This shortage appears to be a direct result of over aggressive and excessive regulatory action.”

The report continued, “Addressing this shortage requires a common sense regulatory approach that considers market conditions and the overall impact. These drugs can save lives and keep people who need them living healthy lives. The FDA is failing to ensure the availability of quality products.”

Chairman Issa argues that if the FDA’s purpose is to ultimately save lives than it should not be preventing life-extending drugs from entering into hospitals and the market.

A recent academic article by Assistant Professor Ali Yurukoglu of the Stanford Graduate School of Business found a strong, positive correlation between A) the fraction of revenue received from Medicare Part B for a drug and B) the probability of a shortage for that drug. Specifically, each 10 percent market share accounted for by Medicare is linked with an increase of shortage frequency by 7.5 percent.

Preventing future shortages, according to John R. Graham—director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute and an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy—would entail freeing up the pharmaceutical market to allow for more competition and shift medicines from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D to ensure manufacturers receive adequate compensation. Unlike Part B, which fixes prices, Part D depends on a less market-intrusive mechanism to provide health care. Part D relies on private health insurers to compete against one another in annual auctions in order to provide drug plans to Medicare beneficiaries.

Graham concludes that ultimately the FDA’s monopoly on the approval of drugs for medical use should be ended to allow competing manufacturers to enter the market in case of future shortages.

If Congress wishes to contribute a viable solution, it should first understand the primary cause of the problem it wishes to solve. In this case, instead of addressing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid’s price-fixing powers and the FDA’s over-regulation of pharmaceutical markets — the major contributing factors of the drug shortages — Congress has granted even more power to the government, either to little effect or making the problem even worse.



More verbal trickery from the Left

Thomas Sowell on "social justice". If it were "justice" it would not need the "social" adjective

If there were a Hall of Fame for political rhetoric, the phrase "social justice" would deserve a prominent place there. It has the prime virtue of political catchwords: It means many different things to many different people.

In other words, if you are a politician, you can get lots of people, with different concrete ideas, to agree with you when you come out boldly for the vague generality of "social justice."

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that a good catchword can stop thought for 50 years. The phrase "social justice" has stopped many people from thinking, for at least a century -- and counting.

If someone told you that Country A had more "social justice" than Country B, and you had all the statistics in the world available to you, how would you go about determining whether Country A or Country B had more "social justice"? In short, what does the phrase mean in practice -- if it has any concrete meaning?

In political and ideological discussions, the issue is usually whether there is some social injustice. Even if we can agree that there is some injustice, what makes it social?

Surely most of us are repelled by the thought that some people are born into dire poverty, while others are born into extravagant luxury -- each through no fault of their own and no virtue of their own. If this is an injustice, does that make it social?

The baby born into dire poverty might belong to a family in Bangladesh, and the one born to extravagant luxury might belong to a family in America. Whose fault is this disparity or injustice? Is there some specific society that caused this? Or is it just one of those things in the world that we wish was very different?

If it is an injustice, it is unjust from some cosmic perspective, an unjust fate, rather than necessarily an unjust policy, institution or society.

Making a distinction between cosmic justice and social justice is more than just a semantic fine point. Once we recognize that there are innumerable causes of innumerable disparities, we can no longer blithely assume that either the cause or the cure can be found in the government of a particular society.

Anyone who studies geography in any depth can see that different peoples and nations never had the same exposure to the progress of the rest of the human race. People living in isolated mountain valleys have for centuries lagged behind the progress of people living in busy ports, where both new products and new ideas constantly arrive from around the world.

If you study history in addition to geography, you are almost forced to acknowledge that there was never any realistic chance for all peoples to have the same achievements -- even if they were all born with the same potential and even if there were no social injustices.

Once I asked a class of black college students what they thought would happen if a black baby were born, in the middle of a ghetto, and entered the world with brain cells the same as those with which Albert Einstein was born.

There were many different opinions -- but no one in that room thought that such a baby, in such a place, would grow up to become another Einstein. Some blamed discrimination but others saw the social setting as too much to overcome.

If discrimination is the main reason that such a baby has little or no chance for great intellectual achievements, then that is something caused by society -- a social injustice. But if the main reason is that the surrounding cultural environment provides little incentive to develop great intellectual potential, and many distractions from that goal, that is a cosmic injustice.

Many years ago, a study of black adults with high IQs found that they described their childhoods as "extremely unhappy" more often than other black adults did. There is little that politicians can do about that -- except stop pretending that all problems in black communities originate in other communities.

Similar principles apply around the world. Every group trails the long shadow of its cultural heritage -- and no politician or society can change the past. But they can stop leading people into the blind alley of resentments of other people. A better future often requires internal changes that pay off better than mysticism about one's own group or about "social justice."



Religion as a bulwark against big government

The ongoing debate in the United States over Obamacare recalls the value of religion in the debate on liberty. Key to the religious perspective on the debate are efforts by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require Catholic organisations to provide contraceptive, abortifacient and sterilisation services to their employees as part of their health insurance programmes; an attempt which the Catholic Church has staunchly resisted as infringing on matters of conscience.

The opposition from the Catholic Church of course hinges on religious freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment, but galvanises awareness among religious groups of the broader personal freedoms at stake under the other Obamacare mandate, requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance on pain of a fine. Indeed, a Gallup poll now shows that a majority of Americans regardless of political persuasion view the mandate central to the health reform package as unconstitutional.

In some ways, the circumstances resemble the manner in which the first New Deal was brought down by provisions which violated the kosher practices of Jewish butchers, as recounted in an article in The Freeman this month. In that case, the butchers’ challenge did not rest on First Amendment grounds, but it was motivated by religion and ultimately resulted in the economic regulation being struck down by the Supreme Court.

As the religiously-minded classical liberals of the 19th-century wrote, religion was valuable in a free society because it reminded the people that their sole duty was not to the state, and could thus serve as a means of protecting civil liberties from encroaching government. As historian Ralph Raico says of Alexis de Tocqueville, who penned Democracy in America in 1835, the Frenchman believed that religious sentiment:

“...sets up barriers to the heedless trampling on individual rights. It is ultimately because of these influences, he holds, that ‘no one in the United States has dared to advance the maxim that everything is permissible for the interests of society, an impious adage which seems to have been invented in an age of freedom to shelter all future tyrants.’ ” (p. 99)

Whatever the Supreme Court may decide this week – whether it overturns or upholds the individual mandate which affects all citizens, or the HHS contraceptive mandate which affects employers – the religious dimension of this debate will hopefully sharpen awareness of individual liberties in future political discourse. Many secular libertarians today, like their 19th-century forerunners, suspect authority including religious authority. Rather, it is coercive authority which is to be suspect. Ultimately, the first protection in upholding the rule of law in a free society is not the court or legislature, but the sentiment of the people, wherein religious sentiment can perform a valuable role.




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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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