Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas tomorrow

Not sure how much I will be posting for the next few days  but even on Christmas day I usually put something up.  I am looking forward to a big traditional family Christmas dinner with about 20 adults and six kiddies


De-Federalize welfare -- hand it all over to the States

Americans need government for some things but no American needs TWO governments for anything

The welfare state is a nightmare.  Programs such as Medicaid are fiscal catastrophes. The food stamp program is riddled with waste. The EITC is easily defrauded, even sending checks to prisoners. And housing subsidies are a recipe for the worst forms of social engineering.  The entire system should be tossed in the trash.

Why not take all income-redistribution programs, put them into a single block grant, and then transfer the money - and responsibility - to state governments?  Here's my argument for decentralization and federalism.

 In an ideal world, the block grant would gradually diminish so that states would be responsible for both the collection and disbursement of all monies related to welfare. But that's a secondary issue. The main benefit of this federalist approach is that you stop the Washington-driven expansion of the welfare state and you trigger the creation of 50 separate experiments on how best to provide a safety net. Some states might choose a basic income. Others might retain something very similar to the current system. Others might try a workfare-based approach, while some could dream up new ideas that wouldn't stand a chance in a one-size-fits-all system run out of Washington, DC. And as states adopted different systems, they could learn from each other about what works and what doesn't work. And since it's easier to influence decisions that are closer to home, taxpayers at the state level almost certainly would have more ability to impact what happens with their money.

Last but not least, I'm just a policy wonk, but I think the federalism strategy also has political appeal. As just noted, it worked with welfare reform. And I suspect a lot of non-libertarians and non-conservatives will intuitively understand that you'll get better results if you allow diversity and experimentation at the state level.

P.S. There would be some bad news if we decentralized the welfare state. It could mean an end to the Moocher Hall of Fame.

P.P.S. Replacing the welfare state with a (hopefully shrinking) block grant only addresses the problem of "means-tested" programs. If you also want to solve the problem of old-age entitlements, that requires Medicare reform and Social Security reform.



The antisemitic Left is back again

From Karl Marx on, the Left has been antisemitic.  They had to can it for a while after their socialist friend in Germany went too far for the kindly people of America to tolerate, but they could not suppress it forever. Hate is what Leftists do

Every week brings a wealth of stories about new cases of aggressive anti-Israel activism. At the University of Michigan last week, thousands of students were sent fake eviction notices from the university's housing office. A pro-Palestinian group distributed them in dorms across campus to disseminate the blood libel that Israel is carrying out mass expulsions of Palestinians.

At Swarthmore College, leftist anti-Israel Jewish students who control Hillel are insisting on using Hillel's good offices to disseminate and legitimate anti-Israel slanders.
And the Left's doctrinaire insistence that Israel is the root of all evil is not limited to campuses.

At New York's 92nd Street Y, Commentary editor John Podhoretz was booed and hissed by the audience for trying to explain why the ASA's just-announced boycott of Israel was an obscene act of bigotry.

Many commentators have rightly pointed out that the ASA and the NAISA are fringe groups. They represent doctorate holders who chose to devote their careers to disciplines predicated not on scholarship, but on political activism cloaked in academic regalia whose goal is to discredit American power. The ASA has only 5,000 members, and only 1,200 of them voted on the Israel- boycott resolution. The NAISA has even fewer members.

It would be wrong, however, to use the paltry number of these fringe groups' members as means to dismiss the phenomenon that they represent. They are very much in line with the general drift of the Left.

Rejecting Israel's right to exist has become part of the Left's dogma. It is a part of the catechism. Holding a negative view of the Jewish state is a condition for membership in the ideological camp. It is an article of faith, not fact.

Consider the background of the president of the ASA. Curtis Marez is an associate professor in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego. His area of expertise is Chicano Film and Media Studies.

He doesn't know anything about Israel. He just knows that he's a Leftist. And today, Leftists demonize Israel. Their actions have nothing to do with anything Israel does or has ever done. They have nothing to do with human rights. Hating Israel, slandering Israel and supporting the destruction of Israel are just things that good Leftists do.

And Marez was not out of step with his fellow Leftists who rule the roost at UCSD. This past March the student council passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel.  Why? Because hating Israel is what Leftists do.

The Left's crusade against the Jewish state began in earnest in late 2000. The Palestinians' decision to reject statehood and renew their terror war against Israel ushered in the move by anti-Israel forces on the Left to take over the movement. And as they have risen, they have managed to silence and discredit previously fully accredited members of the ideological Left for the heresy of supporting Israel.

This week, Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz retired after 50 years on the law faculty. His exit, the same week as the ASA and the NAISA announced their boycotts of Israeli universities, symbolized the marginalization of the pro-Israel Left that Dershowitz represented.

For years, Dershowitz has been a non-entity in leftist circles. His place at the table was usurped by anti-Israel Jews like Peter Beinart. And now Beinart is finding himself increasingly challenged by anti-Semitic Jews like Max Blumenthal.

The average voter is not in a position to change the positions of his party or the dogma of his ideological camp. He can take it or leave it. With rejection of Israel now firmly entrenched in the Left's dogma, and with the Left firmly in control of the Democratic Party under President Barack Obama's leadership, for those who care about Israel, the Republican Party is a more natural fit. So, too, the ideological Right is far more congenial to the Jewish state than the Left.

While the most sensible place for supporters of Israel to be today is on the political Right, it is also true that it is neither smart nor responsible to abandon the Left completely. Jews should be able to feel comfortable as Jews, and as supporters of Israel everywhere. Ideological camps that castigate Jews for their pride in the accomplishments of the Jewish state, and for their support and concern for its survival and prosperity, are camps in desperate need of fixing.

But we should not fool ourselves. Challenging the likes of Marez, or the Swarthmore students, or Max Blumenthal or Peter Beinart to a reasoned debate is an exercise in futility. They do not care about human rights. They do not care that Israel is the only human rights-respecting democracy in the Middle East. They do not care about the pathological nature of Palestinian society. They do not care about the Jewish people's indigenous rights and international legal rights to sovereignty not only over Tel Aviv and Haifa, but over Hebron and Ramallah.

Being hypocrites doesn't bother them either.  You can talk until you're blue in the face about the civilian victims of the Syrian civil war, or the gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and the absence of religious freedom throughout the Muslim world. But they don't care. They aren't trying to make the world a better place.

Facts cannot compete with their faith. Reason has no place in their closed intellectual universe. To accept reason and facts would be an act of heresy.

While the ASA and its comrades are on the fringes of academia, they are not fringe voices on the Left. The Left has embraced the cause of Israel's destruction.



Abandoning Our Liberties And Livelihoods: Lessons From The Obamacare Debacle

Doctors are the losers from socialized medicine too

You've got to hand it to President Obama's partisans among the pundits: they won't be deterred, no matter how bad the President's policies prove to be.

Even as Mr. Obama himself continuously alters and delays implementation of his own healthcare agenda (all without congressional participation), his faithful followers in the media insist that "the law is more resilient than you think" and "Obamacare death spiral worries are overblown."

Meanwhile the rest of us across the country find ourselves on the run from our government, hoping and praying that we don't need serious medical care anytime soon or that our insurance plans and jobs don't both get "cancelled." Even the New York Times had to admit in a news story this weekend that, because it raises taxes and drives up the cost of every facet of healthcare, the Obamacare agenda is hammering middle class Americans who "aren't poor enough" to qualify for the president's healthcare subsidies.

What can we learn from this debacle? In the interest of not repeating the same mistakes, consider this:

We should all stop believing in the magical promises of politicians: President Obama promised that his legislation would produce better quality health care for more people, and that it would cost less money. But how could that have ever been a realistic promise? Goods and services have to be paid for somehow. The President's rhetoric was the economic equivalent of alchemy - the mythical chemical process of turning fecal matter in to gold.

Arguably, the American people were duped by this. Not once, but twice did we vote to make the man with specious claims our President. And along with Barack Obama's magical promises about health care are his and congressional members' agendas for reducing the cost of higher education, even as student loan debt among college graduates is at an all time high.

The modern-day liberal political agenda promises a government program to meet every human being's needs at every stage of life. Americans need to sober-up and realize that there is no government program that can substitute for hard work, frugality, stewardship and productivity. And the more we vote for our government to meet our needs, the more we are subject to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats.

We should all begin to understand the basic economic dynamics of our professions and industries: It is sad to realize how many highly-trained and well educated professionals don't understand basic cash flow issues at their place of employment. Ask them "how do you get paid?" and you're likely to hear "through automatic deposit" or "I get a check every 2 weeks."

The insurance industry thought the Obamacare agenda was great at first - if the federal government uses its power to mandate that people buy your product (insurance) what could possibly go wrong? - but now finds itself a servant to the federal government, and reliant on the government's ability to operate websites and process subsidy applications properly. In short, the insurance industry is now, by law, an extension of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the presidential administration.

And then there are the medical doctors among us. There was a day when the American Medical Association officially opposed Medicare, the federal healthcare program for retirees and the disabled, because physicians feared "too much government meddling" in their practices. But soon after the program launched, the AMA fell in love with Medicare because it created continuous revenue streams in to doctor's offices.

But after two and a half decades or so of financial bliss, things began to change. Back in the 90's the federal government began telling physicians, in essence, "we don't care what your `billing rate' is for any particular service - we'll pay you what we think your service is worth." As a result many physicians try to limit the number of Medicare patients they see today, because dealing with Medicare is financially a "loser."

Having still not learned their lesson, the AMA then began an "on again - off again" flirtation with President Barack Obama. In 2009 the group tacitly opposed Obamacare; then in 2010 they said they were "open to it;" and in 2012 - in the final few weeks of the presidential re-election cycle - they officially opposed it again. Without any clear understanding of the economic dynamics of their profession, today physicians are losing their jobs in some regions of the country and having their wages cut in others, because the Obamacare law drives up the operational costs of hospitals and clinics, making physicians' salaries unmanageable.

Have Americans sobered-up and are we willing to assume responsibility for our own needs? Or are we still looking for a savior in the White House and in Congress, and willing to believe more empty promises? The 2014 elections should help answer these questions.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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