Friday, March 31, 2017
Mitch McConnell has got balls after all
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to send Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate next Monday, and Gorsuch will be confirmed on Friday – period, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a news conference on Tuesday.
“I repeat, we're going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed.” McConnell said the vote will give Democrats the “opportunity” to invoke cloture. “We’ll see where that ends,” he added.
McConnell said it will be up to Democrats to determine how the confirmation process goes. (If no Democrat is willing to confirm Gorsuch, Republicans could change Senate rules to allow him to be confirmed with 51 votes instead of 60.)
Judge Gorsuch, as you know, is extraordinarily well qualified. It's almost amusing to watch our Democratic friends try to come up with some rationale for opposition.
Trump Reversing Record Number of Regulations
President signs four more Congressional Review Act rollbacks, bringing total number to seven…or six more than all his predecessors combined
President Donald Trump's big moves today on energy/climate policy are far from his only deregulatory heaves this week. On Monday, for example, the president signed into law four regulatory rollbacks presented to him via the Congressional Review Act (CRA), or three more than were enacted between 1996-2016 combined.
The previously obscure CRA gives Congress 60 working days to reverse any new regulation added to the Federal Register. (That's congressional working days, so in fact the 115th Congress has had the ability to pick off any unwanted Obama-administration reg enacted after mid-June of last year.) The only successful deployment of the CRA prior to Trump came in March 2001, when President George W. Bush signed out of existence a controversial November 2000 Clinton administration rule requiring employers to prevent ergonomic injuries in the workplace. The unified Republican Congress of 2015–2016 presented five CRA rollbacks to President Barack Obama, and he vetoed each one.
President Trump now has seven CRA notches on his belt, and more coming his way. The latest, as summarized by USA Today:
* The "Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces" rule, which barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labor or workplace safety laws. That regulation, derided by critics as the "blacklisting" rule, was already held up in court. [...]
* A Bureau of Land Management rule known as "Planning 2.0," that gave the federal government a bigger role in land use decisions. The rule was opposed by the energy industry.
* Two regulations on measuring school performance and teacher training under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a law Obama signed in 2015 with bipartisan support.
The other three CRA reversals so far have been a Security and Exchange Commission rule requiring publicly traded resource-extraction companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments, a Department of Interior framework governing stream runoff of coal mining operations, and a Social Security Administration policy (covered by Scott Shackford here) to share the names of people it classifies as having a mental illness with the federal gun database in order to deny them access to weapons.
Other Trump deregulatory activity has included:
* His January 30 executive order requiring agencies to identify two existing regulations to kill each time they promulgate a new one.
* His February 24 executive order instructing each agency to appoint a Regulatory Reform Officer, who will head up a task force that suggests regulations to euthanize.
* His appointment to the Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch, a judge most famous for his criticism of excessive deference to regulators.
* His appointments to the Cabinet critics of and reformers to the departments they now head, including Education's Betsy DeVos, Energy's Rick Perry, Transportation's Elaine Chao, and Health and Human Service's Tom Price.
* His nomination of drug-approval-process critic Scott Gottlieb to head up the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and his three paragraphs in the State of the Union Address talking up FDA reform.
* His appointment to head up the Federal Communications Commission regulation skeptic Ajit Pai.
There is no doubt that the early Trump presidency has made deregulation a priority. It remains to be seen how much Congress will share that appetite.
Free Market Health Care
President Trump and Paul Ryan tried to improve Obamacare. They failed.
Trump then tweeted, “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”
But I do worry. Trump is right when he says that Obamacare will explode. The law mandates benefits and offers subsidies to more people. Insurers must cover things like:
—Tobacco use screening.
Some people want those things, but mandating them for everyone drives up costs. It was folly to pretend it wouldn’t.
Insisting that lots of things be paid for by someone else is a recipe for financial explosion. Medicare works that way, too.
When I first qualified for it, I was amazed to find that no one even mentioned cost. It was just, “Have this test!” “See this doctor!”
I liked it. It’s great not to think about costs. But that’s why Medicare will explode, too. There’s no way that, in its current form, it will be around to fund younger people’s care.
Someone else paying changes our behavior. We don’t shop around. We don’t ask, “Do I really need that test?” “Is there a place where it’s cheaper?”
Hospitals and doctors don’t try very hard to do things cheaply. Imagine if you had “grocery insurance.” You’d buy expensive foods; supermarkets would never have sales. Everyone would spend more.
Insurance coverage — third-party payment — is revered by the media and socialists (redundant?) but is a terrible way to pay for things.
Today, seven in eight health care dollars are paid by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance companies. Because there’s no real health care market, costs rose 467 percent over the last three decades.
By contrast, prices fell in the few medical areas not covered by insurance, like plastic surgery and LASIK eye care. Patients shop around, forcing health providers to compete. The National Center for Policy Analysis found that from 1999 to 2011 the price of traditional LASIK eye surgery dropped from over $2,100 to about $1,700.
Obamacare pretended government controls could accomplish the same thing, but they couldn’t.
The sickest people were quickest to sign up. Insurance companies then raised rates to cover their costs. When regulators objected, many insurers just quit Obamacare. This month Humana announced it’ll leave 11 states. Voters will probably blame Republicans.
Insurance is meant for catastrophic health events, surprises that cost more than most people can afford. That does not include birth control and diet counseling.
The solution is to reduce, not increase, government’s control. We should buy medical care the way we buy cars and computers — with our own money.
Our employers don’t pay for our food, clothing and shelter; they shouldn’t pay for our health care. They certainly shouldn’t get a tax break for buying insurance while individuals don’t.
Give tax deductions to people who buy their own high-deductible insurance. Give tax benefits to medical savings accounts. (Obamacare penalizes them.)
Allow insurers to sell across state lines. Current law forbids that, driving up costs and leaving people with fewer choices.
What about the other “solution” — Bernie Sanders' proposal of single-payer health care for all? Sanders claims other countries “provide universal health care … while saving money.”
But that’s not true. Well, other countries do spend less. But they get less. What modern health care they do get, they get because they freeload off our innovation. Our free market provides most of the world’s new medical devices and medicines.
Also, “single-payer” care leads to rationing. Here’s a headline from Britain’s Daily Mail: “Another NHS horror story from Wales: Dying elderly cancer patient left ‘screaming in pain’ … for nine hours.”
Britain’s official goal is to treat people four months after diagnosis. Four months! That’s only the “goal.” They don’t even meet that standard.
Bernie Sanders' plan has been tried, and it’s no cure. If it were done to meet American expectations, it would be ludicrously expensive. In 2011, clueless progressives in Bernie’s home state of Vermont voted in “universal care.” But they quickly dumped it when they figured out what it would cost. Didn’t Bernie notice?
It’s time to have government do less.
Trump has abolished pro-union rule
President Trump repealed the so-called “blacklisting rule” Monday that required federal contractors to disclose labor violations. Federal government agencies are now prohibited from issuing a similar regulation. The regulation stems from a 2014 Executive Order that established excessive reporting requirements on federal contractors.
In short, the Blacklisting rule requires contractors who bid on federal contracts over $500,000 to report alleged, as well as actual labor violations over the last three years. Reported violations can be used to block a company’s bid.
The Blacklisting rule does far more harm than good. The government couldn’t produce an official estimate of its benefits (because of a lack of data supplied by agencies), but found more than $400 million in costs to the government and employers in the first two years of the rule. In addition, the rule adds a burden of 2.1 million hours of paperwork on the regulated community.
Besides imposing huge costs with unknown benefits, the regulation forces federal contractors to disclose alleged violations of wrongdoing, not actual labor violations. It is absurd that government regulations would disqualify federal contractors from a bid for allegations and not only real violations.
But it is plainly obvious why the rule was constructed to include alleged violations—to ease union organizing. As noted in a letter of support for the Blacklisting CRA from the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
In turn, this may provide incentive to labor unions, in the midst of organizing campaigns, to file frivolous labor-related charges against companies that bid on federal contractors in order to extract favorable union election conditions, like greater access to the workplace or card-check election.
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Posted by JR at 1:33 AM