Friday, July 06, 2012

13 Ways Obamacare Will Ruin Your Life

This document will not even begin to detail the unforeseeable ways that “Obamacare” will impact the freedoms and livelihoods of American citizens. America has bought in to what will likely be more government insertion into our lives and homes, if we do not act wisely in this next election.

It is our irresponsibility as a nation that we must now correct. We must show our disapproval by removing from office those who threaten to chip away at our freedoms, and tax us heavily for the advancement of big government.

Do you know why you MUST vote those responsible for Obamacare out of offiice? Consider the following…

ALARMING FACT #1: Individuals/Families must carry Health Insurance – OR ELSE!

(See Public Law 111–148 Sec. 5000A. Requirement to Maintain to Minimum Essential Coverage)

Whether you agree with their decision or not, some individuals or families decide not to carry health insurance for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are young, and have decided to spend their money on other things. Perhaps they believe the insurance industry is corrupt, and they choose not to carry coverage. Perhaps they participate in alternative services such as Samaritan Ministries Healthcare insurance. Perhaps they choose not to have it….just because.

We are obligated as American citizens to act lawfully and pay taxes. Otherwise, there is freedom of choice. We choose whether or not to vote. Should we vote? Absolutely! Does everyone vote, no indeed. As an American, do you have the right to decide which commodities you will purchase, and what services you will procure? Not any more!!! As of 2014, you will be required to carry a government-approved health insurance plan. If you don’t – you will be penalized (i.e. – taxed.) You will be taxed for your decision not to do something.

Let’s compare it to what we are taxed for today. You want to own property – expect to pay a property tax. You want to buy a television – expect to pay a sales tax. You want to drive your car – expect to pay a gas tax. But, it’s also your right NOT to do those things. In that case, there is no tax to pay. The ruling of the Supreme Court, and the law itself now allows government to “tax” you for NOT purchasing something. Will this be the beginning of a new precedent? What behavior can we expect to be taxed on in the future? If this doesn’t outrage you, then what will?

The American’s right to healthcare isn’t the issue at hand. We can all generally agree that our healthcare system must be reformed, but not at the expense of the American citizen’s freedom to choose.

ALARMING FACT #2: Employers must provide health insurance for their employees – OR ELSE!

(See Public Law 111–148 Sec. 1513. Shared Responsibility for Employers)

This doesn’t seem like a bad thing does it? After all, employers should offer health insurance to their employees, right? And, since this only affects companies with more than 50 employees, what’s to worry about? Why shouldn’t “big” companies offer health insurance? Here are two potential fall-out scenarios that will answer the question “why not?”

1. We can all agree that the economy is in trouble. Jobs are precious. Employers are cutting costs and eliminating jobs every day. Now, let’s introduce a government mandate requiring employers to increase their costs and offer health insurance to their employees. Who is going to absorb that cost? The employer? Likely, the employee is going to feel the “cost” of this insurance in his/her own back pocket. The salary of that employee will inevitably drop (or get redirected) to cover the amount that the new health insurance plan is going to cost the employer. Or, if the employer fails to offer coverage, perhaps the employee’s compensation will drop by the amount of the tax (i.e. – the fine) the employer will pay for not offering coverage. Either way, the employee is the one who will probably pay the price. So, while the employee’s total compensation may not be altered, the drop in his/her take-home pay may seriously affect that individual’s (or his/her family’s) bottom-line. This will be an ever-increasing burden for low to middle income wage earners, as the costs for coverage increases.

2. The employer may decide that it’s cheaper, in the short-term, to pay the tax rather than cover the bill for each employee’s health insurance plan. At least for the next few years, the cost of paying the tax is cheaper than the cost of the insurance policy. (I can even see employers who currently offer health insurance plans deciding that they might want to dump coverage and pay the tax, and let their employees go get a government-sponsored plan.) By the time the cost of the tax (i.e. – fine) is as much or more than the cost of that employer covering the health insurance premium, the damage will have been done. Everyone will have moved from private insurance coverage into the government-operated plans, and private insurance companies will be defunct. Perhaps this is exactly what the government wants! Perhaps they want employers to pay the fines so that we can move to a government controlled health care system. Don’t think that is a reasonable conclusion? Think about this:

Let’s compare the two entities who will offer coverage. Private insurance companies will offer coverage to individuals. Those private insurance companies are in business for profit. The government will also offer government-sponsored plans. The government is billions of dollars in debt, and yet they keep adding to that debt. Does the government seem the least bit concerned about making a profit? What private insurance company is going to be able to compete with the rates of the government-sponsored insurance plan? Add to that the fact that the law now requires private health insurance providers to pay an annual fee based on each individual company’s share of the total market. Ultimately, even if the private insurance companies are able to make money, they’ll be fined as a result. Do you think our government isn’t moving us toward a government-controlled health care system? Think again. They’ve done such a fine job with the health and state of our nation. NOT! Why would we even begin to want them in charge of our health care?

ALARMING FACT #3: You must pay for coverage you might not need.

(See Public Law 111–148 Sec. 1302. Essential Health Benefits Requirements)

Again, whether you agree with it or not, we have always been afforded the right to decide what kind of insurance coverage we’d like to pay for (or none at all). The new law requires that the following services must be covered by an individual’s policy: Ambulatory patient services, Emergency services, Hospitalization, Maternity and newborn care, Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, Prescription drugs, Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, Laboratory services, Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

What if you’re a single male? It doesn’t matter, you must still pay for a plan that offers maternity care. What if you have no children? It doesn’t matter, you still must have newborn care and pediatric services on your plan. In short, you are helping to fund services for others by being charged for services that you do not, and perhaps will never need.

Food for thought: Do you see the theme throughout this document? Free isn’t free! Who is paying for this wonderful new health plan for all Americans? YOU! Even more importantly, your freedom isn’t free. Your freedom to choose is being heavily taxed.

Oh yes, and the lawmakers who think this is such a great idea – they have exempted themselves from participating. How nice for them!

We must show our government our extreme dissatisfaction and disapproval, and vote these politicians, who are so willing to spend our hard-earned money for us, OUT OF OFFICE!

Much more HERE


Is the NYT the sole authority on Jew-hatred?

So it works out that Iran's vice president really hates Jews. In fact, he hates Jews so much that even The New York Times reported it. On Tuesday, the Times published an account of Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi's speech before a UN forum on fighting drug addiction in Tehran.

Rahimi claimed that Jews control the illegal drug trade. We sell drugs, he said, in order to fulfill what he said is a Talmudic writ to "destroy everyone who opposes the Jews."

He said that our conspiracy is obvious since, he claimed, there are no Jewish drug addicts. He went so far as to promise to pay anyone who can find a Jewish drug addict.

As he put it, "The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anybody who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict. They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade."

Oops, sorry, he doesn't hate Jews. He hates Zionists. Some of his best friends are Jews.

At least that is what the Times would have us believe. As reporter Thomas Erdbrink put it, "'Zionists' is Iran's ideological term for Jews who support the state of Israel."

He also helpfully noted, "More than 25,000 Jews live in Iran, and they are recognized as a religious minority, with a representative in Parliament."

Aside from that, just so we don't get the wrong impression about the Iranian government, Erdbrink calmed us down by noting, therapeutically, "Several Iranian ministers gave politically neutral briefings on the impact of the drug trade on the country."

So aside from the fact that its vice president is a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Semite, the Iranian regime is perfectly respectable. Nothing to see here folks, move on.

Except, of course, that this is not the case.

Iran's "Supreme Leader" routinely refers to Israel as a cancer. For instance, in a sermon before thousands of Muslim worshipers in February, Ali Khamenei said, "The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed."

Then there's Rahimi's direct boss, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who can't ask what the weather is like without calling for the annihilation of the Jewish people.

But then he too usually calls us Jews "Zionists," (which most of us are), so his calls for the genocide of Jewry is really just a political statement and not proof that what moves him when he wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night is a passionate, obsessive desire to murder an entire people.

Many commentators seized on Erdbrink's write-up of Rahimi's diatribe as further proof that the civilized world cannot permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. And that is fair enough.

Of course Iran cannot be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. They are religious fanatics who rule under a deranged banner of messianic genocide.

BUT THE real issue here is that these commentators felt it necessary to seize on the Times' write-up of Rahimi's speech to make this obvious point. That is, the real issue here isn't the Iranians. The real issue is the Western media. From the New York Times to the BBC to the European media, Jew-hatred is the most under-reported - and arguably most important story - of our times.

No issue unites the Muslim world more than venomous, murderous hatred of Jews.

No single issue informs their foreign policies more than hatred of Jews. And yet, reporting - even biased, misleadingly understated reporting - of this massive, strategically pivotal phenomenon is almost nonexistent in most major media outlets. As a consequence, it is a major event when the Times finally publishes an anemic report about it. And again, even that report hides the real story.

Erdbrink ended his report by quoting an unnamed European diplomat who was in Rahimi's audience at the conference. The diplomat told him that on the one hand, "This was definitely one of the worst speeches I have heard in my life. My gut reaction was: Why are we supporting any cooperation with these people?"

But, lest we reach any policy conclusions from Rahimi's bigotry, the diplomat soothed, "If we do not support the United Nations on helping Iran fight drugs, voices like the one of Mr. Rahimi will be the only ones out there."

What both Erdbrink and his European interlocutor failed to acknowledge is that Rahimi won't be punished for his views. He was promoted because of his views. Helping Iran fight drugs doesn't encourage non-genocidal Iranian politicians. It legitimizes the regime that promoted Rahimi and Ahmadinejad and Khamenei and every other powerful politician and military commander because of their hatred of Jews.

The Western media has two basic approaches to their non-reporting of Islamic Jew-hatred and its significance for international security. The first approach is to ignore the issue because it is ideologically inconvenient.

The New York Times, like every other major Western media outlet except The Wall Street Journal, is of the opinion that the Islamic world should be appeased. The Muslim Brotherhood and Iran should be accommodated.

If they gave Islamic Jew-hatred coverage commensurate with its actual significance, they would be undermining their ideological agenda. In light of their ubiquitous and vituperative obsession with Jewish people, it is obvious that it is impossible to appease the Muslim world.

The second approach to contending with Islamic Jew-hatred is to justify it by claiming that Israel has earned all the hate coming its way. It's "political" they say. The Islamic demonization of Jews is understandable given the Palestinians and all that.

Obviously, both of these approaches to the story of Islamic Jew-hatred are appalling. The former approach involves a breach of the very concept of objective journalism. After all, the purpose of journalism is to report on the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.

And the latter approach is no less bigoted than the hatred it serves to whitewash. The European diplomat's gut reaction to Rahimi's speech, "Why are we supporting any cooperation with these people?" was entirely rational.

AND IF Rahimi's hatred had been directed against any other people, race, creed, state or color, no one would support cooperation with "these people."

No one would support the Palestinian national movement if its inherent, overwhelming hatred was directed, say, against the black state rather than the Jewish state....

On the face of it, it can be argued that the Western media's willful blindness towards Islamic Jew-hatred and its influence on world affairs are part and parcel of the Western elite's collective refusal to recognize and contend with the implications of the phenomenon.

But this is too forgiving. Policy-makers who ignore Islamic Jew-hatred are doing so because they are trying to sell their policies. What's the New York Times' excuse?

The media are supposed to report facts, not shape perceptions. The facts, not the perceptions are supposed to inform policy. That is, they are not supposed to collaborate with policy-makers, they are supposed to inform policy-makers and the general public.

And this leads us back to the well-meaning commentators who seized on Erdbrink's report about how Iran's vice president believes that Jews - sorry Zionists - are monsters, and used it as proof that Iran cannot be permitted to get the bomb. Yes, of course, they are right that it is worth re-quoting his vile remarks to make the point.

But by quoting the Times, they may be scoring a couple of tactical points today, but they are losing a long-term strategic battle. They are giving respectability to a media organ that is consummately unworthy of our respect. They are giving respectability to a news organ with an institutional policy of denying, underreporting, and misleadingly reporting about the most important issue that shapes events in the Middle East today: Islamic hatred of Jews.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


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)


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Essential Liberty

In honor of the establishment and preservation of Essential Liberty, we offer a few remarks from an young American Patriot standing watch on the front lines in Afghanistan, followed by insights from our Founding Fathers, as fitting reminders of the constant vigil which must be maintained in defense of Liberty.

Wisdom from the Warfront -- Enemies Foreign and Domestic:

"As an officer who faces combat challenges daily, and who has experienced my share of heartache in defense of our great nation in accordance with my oath, it pains me to see our elected 'leaders' so willfully defy their oaths to support our Constitution. But, war has taught me that we just take today at our best, because we never know what tomorrow will bring.

"The seemingly insurmountable battle to salvage what is left of American Liberty simply means God will provide a great movement and great leaders to get the job done in His timing. While we may see no solution, it's undoubtedly already in the making and I can only pray that He continues to use me in His service, along with all the other great Americans Patriots across our country.

"Battles would not be great and triumphant if they were easy. The more the Left undermines Rule of Law, the more glorious the reconstitution and restoration will be, the mightier the battle, and the mightier the men who will fight it. I simply pray that I continue to grow to fight that war, just as I am fighting this one, and that God preserves me to do so. God provided us with the means and the personal example to triumph over the greatest of evils, He has provided us with the solutions to our own problems, we simply must trust it is within His plan.

"Keep fighting the good fight, do not despair on the 4th of July, but celebrate that Providence provided us with the greatest blueprint for governments among men in 1789, with the spirit of 1776. As Alexander Hamilton said, 'The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.' Our rights are only referenced by the Declaration, but endowed by our Creator, and as such, are self-evident. Obama cannot erase them and long after we are dead and gone, the rights of man will be preserved in the essence of God's creation available only through reflection in His gift of reason. Evil ultimately will not prevail -- we are blueprinted with Victory."



Obamacare: 21 New or Higher Taxes

Ryan Ellis puts together some important data on the tax impact of Obamacare:

1. Individual Mandate Excise Tax(Jan 2014): Starting in 2014, anyone not buying "qualifying" health insurance must pay an income surtax according to the higher of the following

1 Adult 2 Adults 3+ Adults
2014 1% AGI/$95 1% AGI/$190 1% AGI/$285
2015 2% AGI/$325 2% AGI/$650 2% AGI/$975
2016 + 2.5% AGI/$695 2.5% AGI/$1390 2.5% AGI/$2085

Exemptions for religious objectors, undocumented immigrants, prisoners, those earning less than the poverty line, members of Indian tribes, and hardship cases (determined by HHS)

2. Employer Mandate Tax(Jan 2014):  If an employer does not offer health coverage, and at least one employee qualifies for a health tax credit, the employer must pay an additional non-deductible tax of $2000 for all full-time employees.  This provision applies to all employers with 50 or more employees. If any employee actually receives coverage through the exchange, the penalty on the employer for that employee rises to $3000. If the employer requires a waiting period to enroll in coverage of 30-60 days, there is a $400 tax per employee ($600 if the period is 60 days or longer). Combined score of individual and employer mandate tax penalty: $65 billion/10 years

3. Surtax on Investment Income ($123 billion/Jan. 2013):  This increase involves the creation of a new, 3.8 percent surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000 ($200,000 single).  This would result in the following top tax rates on investment income

Capital Gains Dividends Other*
2010-2012 15% 15% 35%
2013+ (current law) 23.8% 43.4% 43.4%
2013+ (Obama budget) 23.8% 23.8% 43.4%

  *Other unearned income includes (for surtax purposes) gross income from interest, annuities, royalties, net rents, and passive income in partnerships and Subchapter-S corporations.  It does not include municipal bond interest or life insurance proceeds, since those do not add to gross income.  It does not include active trade or business income, fair market value sales of ownership in pass-through entities, or distributions from retirement plans.  The 3.8% surtax does not apply to non-resident aliens.  

4. Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans($32 bil/Jan 2018): Starting in 2018, new 40 percent excise tax on "Cadillac" health insurance plans ($10,200 single/$27,500 family). For early retirees and high-risk professions exists a higher threshold ($11,500 single/$29,450 family).  CPI +1 percentage point indexed.

5. Hike in Medicare Payroll Tax($86.8 bil/Jan 2013)

6. Medicine Cabinet Tax($5 bil/Jan 2011): Americans no longer able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin)

7. HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike($1.4 bil/Jan 2011): Increases additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

8. Flexible Spending Account Cap - aka"Special Needs Kids Tax"($13 bil/Jan 2013): Imposes cap of $2500 (Indexed to inflation after 2013) on FSAs (now unlimited). There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children.  There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education.  Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education. 

9. Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers($20 bil/Jan 2013): Medical device manufacturers employ 360,000 people in 6000 plants across the country. This law imposes a new 2.3% excise tax.  Exemptions include items retailing for less than $100. 

10. Raise "Haircut" for Medical Itemized Deduction from 7.5% to 10% of AGI($15.2 bil/Jan 2013): Currently, those facing high medical expenses are allowed a deduction for medical expenses to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI).  The new provision imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI; it is waived for 65+ taxpayers in 2013-2016 only.

11. Tax on Indoor Tanning Services($2.7 billion/July 1, 2010): New 10 percent excise tax on Americans using indoor tanning salons

12. Elimination of tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D($4.5 bil/Jan 2013)

13. Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tax Hike($0.4 bil/Jan 2010): The special tax deduction in current law for Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies would only be allowed if 85 percent or more of premium revenues are spent on clinical services

14. Excise Tax on Charitable Hospitals(Min$/immediate): $50,000 per hospital if they fail to meet new "community health assessment needs," "financial assistance," and "billing and collection" rules set by HHS

15. Tax on Innovator Drug Companies($22.2 bil/Jan 2010): $2.3 billion annual tax on the industry imposed relative to share of sales made that year.

16. Tax on Health Insurers($60.1 bil/Jan 2014): Annual tax on the industry imposed relative to health insurance premiums collected that year. The stipulation phases in gradually until 2018, and is fully-imposed on firms with $50 million in profits.    



The Joy of Government-Run Healthcare: The UK’s Gilded Bureaucrats and Dying Patients

I’m not sure whether this is a post about America’s dismal future if Obamacare is allowed to take root or whether this is a post about bureaucrats ripping off taxpayers.

But I do know that it shows that the insiders take care of themselves quite nicely when the government seizes more control of a nation’s healthcare sector.

Here’s a report from the UK-based Telegraph about how bureaucrats at a Scottish branch of the National Health Service are bilking taxpayers.

National Procurement, a branch of the NHS National Services Division, arranged for staff who are deemed to be “regular users” of cars for business to get the cars through a taxpayer-backed vehicle-leasing scheme. …Figures provided by National Procurement in response to a Freedom of Information request showed that…one in eight members of staff, had used the 4x4s and convertibles to drive to work. Much of the insurance, petrol, road tax and leasing is funded by the state.

And we’re not talking cheap automobiles. Keep in mind, when you read this next passage, that £25,000 is almost $40,000.

One employee was leased a £27,000 Mercedes, while three other workers have been driving £23,000 S-line Audi A3 sports cars. Another employee received a £28,300 Audi TT. Since the beginning of this year, five new cars have been leased to staff, including a four-door BMW worth more than £30,500. Other leased vehicles include another Audi sports car worth more than £25,000 and three Range Rover Evoques costing up to £29,500.

So how do they work this scam? Simple, they take needless trips.

…staff have had to clock up a minimum of 5000 business miles during office hours to qualify for the scheme. …A department source told the Herald newspaper that some members of staff were using their leased cars for 80-mile round trips between National Procurement’s two offices, in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, and South Gyle in Edinburgh, even though there are adequate video conferencing facilities at both locations.

One hopes that this scandal in a Scottish branch is an exception and that most bureaucrats don’t behave in a similarly reprehensible fashion.

But given the bloated size of the National Health Service bureaucracy, it’s more likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is an entitlement culture in most government bureaucracies, and I would be shocked in the paper pushers and memo writers hadn’t figured out how to manipulate the system

And since there are more than 1.6 million of them, the magnitude of the fraud is presumably enormous.

The obvious follow-up question is whether taxpayers in the United Kingdom are getting some good value from this army of cosseted bureaucrats?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here are some chilling excerpts from a story in the Daily Mail.

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday. Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia… There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP. Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

Here are a couple of horrifying examples.

Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated. He said this showed that claims they had hours or days left are ‘palpably false’. In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift. Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP. ‘I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,’ he said. ‘His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family,’ he said.

In other words, government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom is a great scam if you’re an insider. But not such a good deal if you’re someone who needs, well, healthcare.

Sort of makes you wonder what Paul Krugman was thinking when he wrote, “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

I guess the English newspapers are making up stories to denigrate their own nation. If you want to see more of these “false” stories, click here, herehereherehereherehereherehere, here and here.


Also see EYE ON BRITAIN for daily updates on the NHS



Affordable Health Care Act: Not affordable: "Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Obama Care and the individual mandate to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, individuals are starting to face the sobering reality that the costs of health care and health care insurance are going to go up -- way up -- instead of down"

Obama’s victory is now his challenge: "'In my first term, we passed healthcare reform,' President Obama joked this spring. 'In my second term, I guess I'll pass it again.' Thanks to the Supreme Court, Obama can take that item off his agenda. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. guaranteed Thursday that healthcare will still be at the center of this year's presidential race."

Mexican politics: "Thousands of people rushed to stores on Tuesday to redeem prepaid gift cards they said were given them by the party that won Mexico’s presidency, inflaming accusations that the election was marred by massive vote-buying. At least a few cardholders were angry, complaining they didn’t get as much as promised."

How Amazon survives the State: "Here's a snapshot from the American landscape of convoluted crony capitalism: starting this September, if a man in Los Angeles buys a book from, the local sales tax he pays could go to the city of San Bernardino, which will then give 80 percent of the tax money back to Amazon itself."

We’re all socialists now, except for libertarians: "The Sunday edition of the New York Times published an interesting article that is certain to make some Americans who read it uncomfortable. Why is that? Because the article, which is entitled, 'What’s a Socialist?' makes a point that many ordinary Americans hate hearing: that by adopting the welfare state, Americans in principle became socialists, just like Europeans."



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


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)


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Two Muslim men suspected of trying to hijack a flight in China were beaten to death by passengers

I won't comment on the obvious comparison but it cries out for explanation

Two men who allegedly tried to hijack a plane in China were beaten to death by passengers and crew, state media said today. The men were part of a six-strong gang, aged 20 to 36, who attempted to hijack a Tianjin Airlines flight bound for Urumqi last Friday.

Minutes after the flight carrying 101 people took off from Hetian, southwest Xinjiang, three men in the front and three in the back stood up and announced their plans to terrified passengers, according to reports.

The group, all from the city of Kashgar in the west of Xinjiang, then broke a pair of aluminum crutches and used the pieces to attack passengers while trying to break into the cockpit, a regional government spokesman said.

They were tackled by police and passengers who tied them up with belts before the plane returned to the airport safely just 22 minutes later.

Several passengers and crew members were injured in the tussle. The alleged hijackers were taken to hospital where two of them later died, the state-run Global Times reported.

The newspaper said two others were hospitalised after mutilating themselves, but gave no others details.

The regional government spokesman added the men had smuggled suspected explosives on board. These were still being tested by police today.

Xinjiang is home to a large population of minority [Muslim] Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs), but is ruled by China's ethnic majority Hans.

There have been clashes between authorities and Uighurs resentful of government controls over their religion and culture.



Is Fourth of July still worth celebrating?

"After a long nasty war these colonies coalesced into a nation-state that called itself the United States of America. It was a constitutional republic based on self-rule operating under a document meant to guarantee minimal government coercion and maximum individual freedom. That country no longer exists."



Freedom and Frugality

I am told there is an Italian saying that translates as “It is raining again… PIG OF A GOVERNMENT!” The saying makes me wince because I can see myself raising a fist and shaking it in reproach at the drizzling sky. I spend so much time railing against statism that I risk defining myself by what I oppose. I risk taking the state inside me and allowing it to filter my approach to life.

This is another reason to Go Galt: to reclaim an unfiltered life and carpe the heck out of every diem. One of the ways to do so is deceptively simple. For want of a better word, it is “frugality,” by which I mean something quite different than most people.

For centuries, the North American way has been for people to work harder and earn more to ensure that their children had a better life. For centuries, the strategy succeeded. But today’s children are more likely to be crushed by debt than to inherit their parents’ wealth. Today, hard work is discouraged and punished. It is discouraged by a maze of regulations that police home businesses, for example. It is punished by soaring taxes and disappearing retirement funds.

Meanwhile, the political elites maintain power by draining productivity from society and funneling it into entitlements for the unproductive. As white-hot printing presses increase both the currency supply and prices, the average working person reaches out for some control of his own economic future.

Many people turn to frugality in response to economic bad times. That is, they view it as a necessary, but bitter pill they are forced to swallow, but would rather spit out. Viewing frugality as a form of poverty, they are driven to it through desperation, rather than a desire to increase control over their lives. To them, frugality must be a dreary thing, but in my life, the contrary is true.

A few years ago, my view of frugality changed due to an obvious realization that I had never fully grasped before. Material goods cost money; money is acquired in exchange for my time; my time is literally my life. If X costs $100 and I make $25 an hour, then X costs me four hours of life. Or rather, it costs four hours plus whatever time is consumed by the transaction costs of making money, such as the time and expense of a commute.

This was a paradigm shift for me. I ceased viewing possessions in terms of money and saw them in terms of time. And my time is a scarce good. The hours available can sometimes feel boundless, and it is easy to fall into the trap of valuing each unit as if it were part of an infinite supply. Of course, it is not. There are only so many hours left for me to live.

With no morbidity, I apply a version of “marginal utility” to those hours. This economic law says that a person values the first unit of a thing according to its highest use and values subsequent units less. For example, if you have one unit of water, then you value it highly for staving off dehydration and death. If you have a large number of units, then you value the last one for watering a house plant. You would be willing to spend far more for the first unit than for the last. I try to view my hours as though each one were a first unit and, so, highly valuable.

When I look in my closet, many possessions now represent wasted time: a dress I never wear, shoes that go with nothing… I won’t waste more time reproaching myself, but I need to learn a lesson from that closet. I traded irreplaceable units of my life for possessions I do not value; I call these possessions “the useless shoes of life.” They are things that are neither necessary nor worth the time I traded to acquire them. Instead, I could have been reading or writing, laughing with friends or watching movies with my husband.

And then there are the purchases I will never regret: books, DVDs, my sporty little econocar, our farm, the ingredients for a superb meal. Those items provide a utility that is well worth the cost. And yes, I include pleasure as a “utility.” Pleasure is one of the most useful things in the world. It makes you spring out of bed with energy in the morning; it makes you fall asleep with a smile on your face at night. But even pleasure should be balanced against the cost in time and purchased at bargain rates, if possible.

People respond to the idea of possessions representing units of their lives in different ways.

Some people redouble their efforts to earn more and so reduce the amount of time that any one purchase represents. This is a return to the traditional American dream: Work hard and prosper economically. I wish these people the best, but their choice is not mine. At this point, I find it difficult to understand why anyone would spend years at a job they don’t enjoy in order to own a bigger home than they can use, especially since the upkeep absorbs more time and cash. The trade-off doesn’t make sense.

Also, for the political reasons mentioned earlier, I no longer believe the American dream is functioning.

My choice is to earn and spend less in order to control my own time and to avoid fueling the State through more taxes. I have called this choice “frugality,” but some people are more comfortable with the term “voluntary simplicity.” The point of such simplicity is not to save every possible penny. It is to ensure that your time and money are expended on your goals. Voluntary simplicity can be viewed as a “business plan” for getting the most out of life. Ask yourself what your goals are and what is necessary to get there. Of equal importance, ask what is not necessary.

Every person will have a different answer. Some of my choices, for example, seem to run counter to frugality. For one thing, I live on a 40-acre farm, not in a small apartment. The choice is odd only if you equate frugality with cheapness, however. If you equate it with spending your resources to achieve your own values, then the farm is eminently frugal. An apartment would be cheaper, but it would also impoverish my life: no dogs, no walks down a gravel road, no garden, no privacy…

I look forward to my garden each spring and to cooking complicated ethnic meals so that the aromas of the world flood my kitchen. I intend to travel and experience the places that fired my fantasies as a child; someday, I will know what the stars look like in Africa and how a jungle smells. Rather than diverting time into “useless shoes,” I intend to live.

That is, after all, the purpose of freedom.



Obamacare was not killed off but it is still terminally ill

The Supreme Court’s upholding of the Obamacare legislation on Thursday does not settle the healthcare question because that legislation is largely unworkable. Equally, the pre-Obamacare U.S. healthcare system was unsatisfactory in a number of ways and becoming progressively more so. Under the assumption that either in 2013 or 2017 Congress and a new Administration will sit down and try to design a more rational healthcare system, I thought it worth outlining the basics of what such a system might entail.

It is unlikely that the Obamacare legislation will survive in the long term. First, it controls costs by capping Medicare payments and by the Independent Payment Advisory Board restricting expensive treatments. This is likely to be as unpopular and ineffective in the United States as is the equivalent National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (the Orwellianly named “NICE”) in Britain. Over time, both measures will also result in the degradation of healthcare quality. Second, the system will only work effectively if the tax on not joining becomes high enough to ensure universal participation. This will cause hardship in the lower income brackets that will be highly unpopular and become a political issue. As healthcare costs continue to rise, both for the state and for participating individuals, the demand for further healthcare reform will become overwhelming.

Start with the liberal demand that the impoverished should not go without health insurance. Phrasing the demand in that way itself increases costs, because it interposes a third party, an insurance company, between consumers and producers. In a free market, consumers and producers negotiate directly, thus ensuring that costs are minimized and quality maximized. Poor people have a right to healthcare, but they do not have a right to purchase that healthcare through insurance, and it makes no sense that they should.

Currently, the impoverished have two mechanisms by which healthcare is delivered to them. First, if their income is sufficiently low and they are fully documented in the U.S. bureaucracy, they have a right to Medicaid, which provides healthcare of variable quality and is paid for through taxes on the general population. Second, even if they are not fully accounted for in the state bureaucracy (for example, illegal immigrants, but also including the transient unemployed and the mentally ill) the hospitals have an obligation to provide emergency care if it is needed. In that sense therefore, few are denied healthcare altogether. However if even middle income people contract one of the ailments that requires huge amounts of spending to overcome it, they will end up with bankrupting medical bills and their life will be ruined.

The bankrupting effect of healthcare bills is exacerbated by two anomalies of the medical care payments system (apart from the excess costs of medical treatment generally, which I’ll get to). First, the emergency room mandate on hospitals, imposed by legislation in 1986, is entirely without compensation to them. Naturally, the hospitals have to pay for these services from somewhere, and they do so by raising rates on other customers. Second, the big insurance companies negotiate discounts with the hospital chains, which lessen their effect by raising their nominal rates, imposing inflated charges on the unfortunates who seek treatment paid for directly, without insurance. This combination of effects results in hospitals near big cities charging $10,000 per night for use of their facilities, an outrageous amount even in areas where a top-class hotel room can run as high as $500-600. Price gouging at this level, resulting in hospital costs five or ten times the full costs of hospitals in Europe, destroys the integrity of the system and makes it impossible to deal with.

Three other areas of excess systemic cost also need to be removed. First, the litigiousness of U.S. society has led to an immense class of parasitic lawyers attaching themselves to healthcare, their costs and settlements costing about 1.5-2% of GDP. When malpractice insurance for a newly registered doctor runs well north of $100,000, doctors’ earnings need to be inflated commensurately, not only by the $100,000 directly but also by the additional cost of the early years of practice, in which a doctor may be paying the full insurance premium but not yet earning enough to cover it.

Second, the insurance and legal bureaucracy surrounding medical care has made it uneconomic in many areas for doctors to operate as sole practitioners. In consequence, large clinics have been able to take over much medical practice. The result is lower earnings for the clinic doctors and inferior care for the patients, who find there is no alternative to visiting bureaucratically managed clinics in which personal knowledge of patients is impossible.

Whereas U.S. medical treatment thirty years ago was of incomparable quality, far better than available elsewhere, this is no longer the case. The belief among the general public that “doctors don’t make house calls” is valid, and is not adequately compensated for by the greater technological sophistication and lower error rate of today’s medicine.

Finally, today’s doctors are often overqualified. At an eminent heart surgeons’ conference on Chinese medicine at which I spoke two years ago, there was considerable complaint that U.S. doctors were not interested in undertaking primary care, and admiration of the Chinese system, in which primary care was readily available. “But then you have to remember” one eminent practitioner said, “that many Chinese doctors have only a bachelor’s degree.”

Immediately the problem became clear. In the medical as in the legal profession (where Law school is a pre-requisite in most states, as well as a bachelor’s degree) restrictive practices have been allowed to limit access to primary care and drive up its costs.

With the burden of litigiousness lifted, insurance companies largely removed from at least primary care and restrictive practices in the medical profession itself removed, the cost of much medical treatment could be reduced, not simply by 10-20% but by more than half. Remove also the cross-subsidization to insurance companies and the indigent inherent in the payment scheme, and medical care would become truly affordable for most people.

We then come to the essential problem of healthcare, that some people are healthier than others. In the public mind currently, this is thought to demand universal health insurance. But of course it does no such thing. For the vast majority of people, the premiums they pay in insurance and the Medicare/Medicaid taxes they pay are greater than the cost of the medical services they receive – otherwise medical insurance companies would go bankrupt. Costs are further increased by nonsenses required by a nanny state, such as forcing insurance companies to cover contraception and sex change operations.

In reality, public health insurance is indeed desirable, but only for catastrophic illnesses, either chronic or critical. There is no point in involving insurance companies in this provision, which simply adds another layer of cost. Instead, catastrophic insurance could be universal and provided by the state (or, in reality, by taxpayers) – thus satisfying the dreams of the left. However, it would involve an annual deductible of say $25,000 in any calendar year. Medical costs below this level would be covered by the individual, with wages being garnisheed if necessary to reimburse medical costs below the $25,000 level.

This system would cause occasional moderate hardship, but no catastrophes (individual hardship cases could be handled by local charities.) Medical costs would mostly be paid for directly, and in any case would be sharply reduced by the reforms described above. Individuals wishing to remove even the $25,000 annual risk could still purchase insurance, which would smooth their incomes and allow them to plan properly.

And overall, medical costs would be reduced from their current 17% of GDP to around the 10% of GDP that prevents the sector from bankrupting the economy. As in most areas it’s possible to design a decent medical and insurance system for the United States; only vested interests and political axe-grinding prevent us from doing so.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


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)


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

National Rottenness

No single area of public life threatens what previously was known as the American Dream more than the apathy of our public officials regarding their fiduciary responsibilities towards their citizens.

They are mismanaging our money and, worse yet, letting others mismanage it, with a wink and a nod that is, for all practical purposes, destroying the concept of personal property.

Recent scandals involving Congressional inside trading, federal investments in bankrupt green companies, inside banking deals that benefited millionaires and billionaires, along with the collapse of investment manager MF Global have contributed to public skepticism, amounting to cynicism, that those we have entrusted to leadership positions have done what British kings, Nazis and Communists have failed to do: namely, kill free and open markets in the US.

Free markets and free governments require public confidence in order to operate successfully. Confidence comes from the public’s perception that the markets and governments are fair- or at least neutral- arbiters for investment and public policy.

Over the last several years, however, there has been mounting evidence that the game of life has been rigged against the general public, not just a little bit, but a lot.

With that realization, our confidence, thus our freedom, has been eroded.

And if either political party is serious about gaining the trust of the electorate again, they had better address some of these scandals before the torches and pitchforks end up on their steps.

Gone are the days when a change of party in Congress or the White House was enough to placate an electorate spoon feed morsels from a media elite of a few dozen national editors. Free and open markets in news and media have replaced a half century old oligarchy. The result has been the slow realization that we have tolerated being wedded to the political equivalent of a bunch of spousal abusers.

For example, the Department of Energy has spent $36 billion on clean energy technology in the form of loan guarantees. And all you need to know about those gauarntees which were originally intended to create jobs, is that the Obama administration has stopped talking about how many jobs they have created, but instead, in a reprise of their bogus stimulus claims, now brag about the jobs they have saved through the program.

Count the Solyndra bankruptcy scandal as a one time charge and be thankful it wasn’t worse. Worse is coming. Instead, look at NRG Energy with a loan guarantee of $1.3 billion creating a whopping 15 permanent jobs. The explanation? According to an analysis of loans made through the D.O.E. program by Peter Schweizer, 80 percent of the loans went to political donors of Obama.

We’ve gotten so used to government graft that plain-old government incompetence would be a welcome relief. But no, we just have to accept the fact that all of our politicians are venial, making legal for themselves what they throw others in jail for.

“Not only can members of Congress legally trade [stocks] on confidential information; they do, despite the potential cost to their reputations,” writes CNN. “The U.S. television program 60 Minutes recently reported that several current members of Congress allegedly used confidential information that they acquired on the job for personal gain.”

At least now they have to report that they are trading strocks, like other insiders.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dumped his holdings in energy companies in 2008, right before the energy market crashed and bought healthcare stocks with the proceeds. Within 6 months Reid was heavily involved in re-writing healthcare laws.

The corruption goes way beyond Congress too.

Former US Senator, New Jersey Governor and Obama pal, Jon Corzine- according to Veep Joe Biden, Corzine was the first person Obama called for economic advice after the election and a key architect of the stimulus law passed by Obama- ran futures firm MF Global so solidly into the ground in a little over a year after being bounced from office that the firm dipped into customer accounts to pay their bills. Not only is that an ethical problem, it’s also illegal.

No arrests have yet been made, as of December 1st. Charlie Gasparino at Fox News says that as much as $1.2 billion dollars in customer money may be missing. Oops.

MF Global is one of the ten largest US bankruptcies of all time, according to the UK’s Independent.

Government insiders have also discovered ways of channeling profits toward their friends when government sponsored enterprises go belly-up for public investors.

In 2008, then-Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson dropped by the offices of Eton Park Capital Management LP in Manhattan. There he shared with a gathering of hedge fund managers how the government would seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, essentially wiping out private shareholders. But publicly, at the same time, he was telling the press that the government intended that Fannie and Freddie remain in the hands of investors.

The discrepancy could have allowed the hedge fund managers present at the meeting to benefit from non-public information. “There's no evidence that they did so after the meeting,” reports BusinessWeek, “[and] tracking firm-specific short stock sales isn't possible using public documents.”

But BusinessWeek says that at least one participant was so shaken by the disclosures that he immediately called his attorney to make sure that he wasn’t breaking any laws. The lawyer’s advice was to immediately stop trading in any securities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because trading those securities while possessing inside information is against the law for mere mortals who don’t work for the federal government.

How did the hedge fund manager know he risked breaking the law, when Secretary Paulson had no clue? What was legal for Paulson as Secretary of the Treasury is illegal for the rest of us.

Living under different laws than the rest of us is so ingrained in our national leadership, that it seems they hardly give it a second thought. “The present era of incredible rottenness is not Democratic,” wrote Mark Twain, “it is not Republican, it is national.”

And that’s the paradox that all of us must grapple with seriously if we wish to preserve both our free markets and our free people.



The benefits of victimhood

(Don't forget that Hitler thought Germany was a victim of the Jews)

Imagine this: A future Republican president invites Tea Party leaders to the White House. Some of them have themselves photographed standing in front of a portrait of President Barack Obama with their middle fingers extended. They then posted these photos on Facebook with the caption "F--k Obama." (Needless to say, the F-word was spelled out.)

Some questions:

1. How much coverage do you think the national press would give to this?

2. How would Democratic -- and Republican -- leaders react?

3. How would Tea Party activists react?

The answers:

1. The mainstream media across America would widely report what had happened and repeatedly show these photos. "The New York Times" would editorialize about the racism of the Tea Party. Liberal columnists would be relentless in their condemnations of the Tea Party as a low life movement of yahoos.

2. Democrats and Republicans alike would condemn these leaders and demand their resignation.

3. Tea Party activists would feel embarrassed by these people who represented them, and they would be deeply concerned that their movement's good name had been permanently tarnished.

Now let's explore a real-life situation from this past week.

President Barack Obama invited activists to the White House's 2012 LGBT pride reception. Two of them, Matthew "Marty" Hart, a director of the leftist organization, Solutions for Progress, and an activist photographer, Zoe Strauss, posed for a photo in front of a portrait of President Ronald Reagan with both their middle fingers extended. They then posted the photo on Facebook with the caption "F--k Reagan" (the F-word is spelled out).

Now let's answer our questions:

First, the liberal, or "mainstream," media never mentioned the incident. Not a word about it appeared in "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," the "Los Angeles Times" or on NPR (which had given Zoe Strauss extensive and laudatory attention just a few weeks earlier). There was no coverage on ABC News, NBC News, or CBS News. "The Huffington Post" reported the incident in this way: "If several raised fingers are any indication, some LGBT activists who visited the White House last week are fully evolved on what they think of President Ronald Reagan."

It was reported by Fox News, on conservative talk radio shows, by the "The Weekly Standard," "National Review" and other conservative journals and websites.

Second, aside from one tepid rebuke from a man named Shin Inouye, the "Director of Specialty Media in the White House Office of Communications," the Democratic Party and other left-wing organizations said nothing.

And, of course, not a word of condemnation from the world of gay activism, other than the conservative gay organization, Log Cabin Republicans.

What are the lessons?

One is that without Fox News, talk radio and conservative journals and websites, one gets an utterly skewed view of the world. If you want to know how the left wins so many elections despite the fact that many more Americans consider themselves conservative rather than liberal, the filtered news they receive is a major reason -- in America and even more so around the world. (I cover this is in detail in my just-published book " Still the Best Hope.")

The other lesson may be even more important: Contempt for norms of decency -- a form of nihilism -- permeates the left generally and leftist activism (among gays and straights) on behalf of gays specifically. Compare, for example, the behavior of the Occupy movement with that of the Tea Party. Both are equally angry at what they deem injurious to society -- economic inequality for the Occupy movement, ever-expanding government and debt for the Tea Party -- but the latter acts so much more civilly and maturely than the former.

Whether it is the notorious art work "Piss Christ" (a crucifix submerged in "artist" Andres Serrano's urine), the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's recent "graffiti art" exhibition, the ubiquitous public use of expletives, the defense of public nudity (the highest court in New York State ruled that there is no difference between women's and men's breasts, therefore women, like men, can go topless in public), the abolition of dress codes in schools, the left revels in giving the finger to religious and civil norms.

Why did these activists for gay causes feel they could act this way in the White House, the most prestigious and revered building in America? Aside from contempt for social norms, the reason is that those who see themselves as victims have impaired consciences. Nothing dulls the conscience quite like regarding oneself and/or one's group as victims. The vast majority of violent criminals believe they are victims of society, poverty, racism, etc.; Islamic terrorists see themselves as victims of the West's alleged "war on Islam;" Germans in the 1930s saw themselves as victims of the Versailles Treaty; and in America today, no one sees themselves as victims as much as gay rights activists do.

What are they victims of? Society's desire to maintain the man-woman definition of marriage, and in Ronald Reagan's case, his alleged ignoring of the AIDS crisis. That explains why gay groups label everyone who supports retaining the man-woman definition of marriage as people filled with hate, and why these activist groups try to destroy the reputations and, where applicable, the businesses of such people. Along with the nihilism -- and immaturity -- that characterizes the activist left, a sense of victimization also explains this defamation of the White House. And it doesn't hurt to know that America's news media will not call you on it.



Trickle Up Economics

The political left wing has long tried to cast doubt on the fairness, and even the efficacy, of free market capitalism by branding it as a "trickle down" system. This epithet is meant to show how the middle and lower classes are dependent on scraps of wealth that happen to fall from the buffet table of the rich. This characterization of an unfair and inefficient system has helped them demonize policies that lower taxes (if they also extend to the wealthy) and reduce regulation on business.

To correct these supposed problems, they have long called for policies to redistribute wealth or for government to inject funds directly into the economy. Either mechanism puts money into the hands of everyday consumers who they claim to be the true engines of economic growth. They believe that consumer spending lies at the root of the economic pyramid. When people spend, business owners are able to sell more products, hire more workers, and reap more profits. In essence, they believe in a system of "trickle up" economics, whereby prosperity flows upward from government into the lower and middle classes and ultimately to the upper class.

But as usual, they have it exactly backwards. The savings that they find so unproductive is actually the foundation upon which the economy rests. Nothing can be consumed until it is produced. The act of spending is meaningless without something to buy. The savings of the rich forms the capital that funds business investment which increases productivity. The more that society produces, the more that can be consumed. The key here is the supply, not the demand. The grass that feeds the zebras comes from seeds, not rain. Capitalists provide the surplus seeds that are planted.

Demand always exists and does not need to be stimulated by cash redistribution. 21st century Americans are no more desirous of cell phones than their parents were. But in 1980 cell phones were in very limited supply and were therefore very expensive. They were the trophy possessions of the super-rich. The reason why they are now as ubiquitous as key chains is not that government stimulated demand, but that industry figured out how to supply them far more efficiently. The supply satisfied the demand. Investment in the telecom sector, which came from real savings of Americans, allowed for that increased productivity.

In this example, the savings of the wealthy and the innovation of entrepreneurs combined to create a huge benefit for society. Call it trickle down if you want, but it would be more honest to simply call it effective. This is the system that built this country. Relying on trickle up will surely destroy it.


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



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


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)


Monday, July 02, 2012

Why Don't People Get It?

Even now, people think nothing of professing their attachment to socialist ideology at cocktail parties, at restaurants serving abundant foods, and lounging in the fanciest apartments and homes that mankind has ever enjoyed. Yes, it is still fashionable to be a socialist, and — in some circles within the arts and academia — socially required. No one will recoil. Someone will openly congratulate you for your idealism. In the same way, you can always count on eliciting agreement by decrying the evils of Walmart and Microsoft.

Isn't it remarkable? Socialism (the real-life version) collapsed nearly 20 years ago — vicious regimes founded on the principles of Marxism, overthrown by the will of the people. Following that event we've seen these once-decrepit societies come back to life and become a major source for the world's prosperity. Trade has expanded. The technological revolution is achieving miracles by the day right under our noses. Millions have been made far better off, in ever-widening circles. The credit is wholly due to the free market, which possesses a creative power that has been underestimated by even its most passionate proponents.

What's more, it should not have required the collapse of socialism to demonstrate this. Socialism has been failing since the ancient world. And since Mises's book Socialism (1922) we have understood that the precise reason is due to the economic impossibility of the emergence of social order in the absence of private property in the means of production. No one has ever refuted him.

And yet, even now, after all this, professors stand in front of their students and decry the evil of capitalism. Bestselling books make anticapitalism the theme. Politicians parade around telling us about the glorious things that the government will accomplish when they are in charge. And every evil of the day, even those directly caused by the government (airline delays, the housing crisis, the never-ending crisis in public schooling, the lack of healthcare for everyone) are blamed on the market economy.

As an example, the Bush administration nationalized airline security after 9/11, and hardly anyone even questioned that this was necessary. The result was an amazing mess that is visible to every traveler, as delays pile on delays and humiliation became part of the rubric of travel by flight. And yet who gets the blame? Read the letters to the editor. Read the mountains of copy written by journalists covering this issue. The blame is heaped on the private airlines. The solution follows: more regulation, more nationalization.

How can we account for this appalling display? There are two primary factors. The first is the failure of people to understand economics and its elucidation of cause and effect in society. The second is the absence of imagination that such ignorance reinforces. If you don't know what causes what in society, it is impossible to intellectually grasp the proper solutions or imagine how the world would work in the absence of the state.

The educational gap can be overcome. To think in economic terms is to realize that wealth is not a given or an accident of history. It is not bestowed on us like rain from above. It is the product of human creativity in an environment of freedom. The freedom to own, to make contracts, to save, to invest, to associate, and to trade: these are the key to prosperity.

Without them, where would we be? In a state of nature, which means a dramatically shrunken population hiding in caves and living off what we can hunt and gather. This is the world in which human beings found themselves until we made something of it, and it is the world we can slip back into should any government ever manage to take away freedom and private property rights completely.

This seems like a simple point but it is one that evades vast swaths of even the educated public. The problem comes down to a failure to understand that scarcity is a pervasive feature of the world and the need for a system that rationally allocates scarce resources to socially optimal ends. There is only one system for doing so, and it is not central planning but the free-market price system.

Government distorts the price system in myriad ways. Subsidies short-circuit market judgments. Product bans cause the ascendance of less desirable goods and services over more desirable ones. Other regulations slow down the wheels of commerce, thwart the dreams of entrepreneurs, and foil the plans of consumers and investors. Then there is the most deceptive form of price manipulation: monetary management from the Federal Reserve.

The larger the government, the more our living standards are reduced. We are fortunate as a civilization that the progress of free enterprise generally outpaces the regress of government growth, for if that were not the case, we would be poorer each year — not just in relative terms, but absolutely poorer too. The market is smart and the government is dumb, and to these attributes do we owe the whole of our economic well-being.

The second part of our educational task — imaging how a market-run world would function — is much more difficult. Murray Rothbard once remarked that if the government were the only producer of shoes, most people would be unable to imagine how the market could possibly produce them. How could the market accommodate all sizes? Wouldn't it be wasteful to produce styles for every taste? What about fraudulent shoes and poor quality producers? And shoes are arguably too important a good to turn over to the vicissitudes of market anarchy.

Well, so it is with many issues today, such as welfare. Among the first objections to the idea of a market society is that the poor will suffer and have no one to care for them. One response is that private charity can handle it, and yet we look around and see private charities handling only comparatively small tasks. The sector just isn't big enough to pick up where government leaves off.

This is where imagination is required. The problem is that government services have crowded out private ones and reduced private-sector services beyond what they would be in a free market. Before the age of the welfare state, charities in the 19th century were a vast operation comparable in size to the largest industries. They expanded according to need. They were mostly provided by the churches through donations, and the ethic was there: everyone gave a portion of the family budget to the charitable sector. A nun like Mother Cabrini ran a charitable empire.

But then in the progressive era, ideology changed. Charity came to be considered a public good, something to be professionalized. The state began to encroach on territory once reserved to the private sector. And as the welfare state grew throughout the 20th century, the comparative size of the private sector shrank. As bad off as we are in the United States, it is nothing compared with Europe, the continent that gave birth to charitable services. Today, few Europeans donate a dime to charity, because everyone is of the belief that this is a government service. Moreover, after high taxes and high prices, there isn't much left over to donate.

It is the same in every area the government has monopolized. Until FedEx and UPS came along to exploit a loophole in the letter of the law, people couldn't imagine how the private sector could deliver mail. There are many similar blind spots today in the area of justice provision, security, schooling, medical care, monetary policy, and coinage services. People are aghast at the suggestion that the market should provide all these, but only because it requires mental experiments and a bit of imagination to see how it is possible.

Once you understand economics, the reality that everyone sees takes on a new significance. Walmart is not a pariah but a glorious achievement of civilization, an institution that has finally put to rest that great fear that has pervaded all of human history: the fear that the food will run out. In fact, even the smallest products dazzle the mind once you understand the incredible complexity of the production process and how the market manages to coordinate it all toward the end of human betterment. The achievements of the market suddenly appear in sharp relief all around you.

And then you begin to see the unseen: how much more secure we would be with private security, how much more just society would be if justice were privatized, how much more compassionate we would be if the human heart were trained by private experience rather than government bureaucracies.

And what makes the difference? The socialist and the advocate of free markets observe the same facts. But the person with economic knowledge understands their significance and implications. It is that bit of education that makes the difference. This is why we must never underestimate the central role of teaching about economics. Facts will always be with us. Wisdom, however, must be taught. Achieving a culture-wide understanding of liberty and its implications has never been more important.



Another Great Society Joins the Trash Heap of History

While the exact date of the fall of the Roman Empire is disputed — there are even some of us, myself included, who say Rome never fell — many, if not most, historians accept English historian Edward Gibbons’ date of Sept. 4, A.D. 476.

He chose that date in his seminal work, “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” which, ironically, was published in six volumes, the first at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War and the last just before ratification of the current U.S. Constitution. The date was the day when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by the German Odoacer, leader of the Foederati, or foreign mercenaries.

Odoacer, for his part, refused to take the title “emperor” though he essentially ruled as one. A few years later, the Roman Senate officially dissolved the Western Empire, though the Eastern Empire would exist for another millennium.

Choosing the date of the fall of the Roman Empire is really an academic exercise. If you were to borrow my time machine and go back to that fateful Sept. 4 day and talk to average Romans in the streets, they would tell you the empire had not fallen. Indeed, Odoacer and his successors maintained most of the Roman administrative state and all its trappings.

Sometimes it seems as though people believe that one day the Roman Empire was there and the next day, everything was gone.

In reality, what had fallen on that date was the “essence” of what made the Roman Empire the Roman Empire.

If you once again borrow my time machine and travel two millennia into the future and ask historians when the American empire fell, most will probably say it occurred on June 28, A.D. 2012, or the equivalent in whatever dating system is in place in 2,000 years.

That is the date that U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and four of his colleagues declared the federal government no longer has any limitations to its power over our daily lives. That is not hyperbole. NFIB v. Sebelius will go down in legal history as the worst Supreme Court decision since 1857’s Dred Scott v. Sandford.

However, and for this you need no time machine, very few Americans today will agree that the American empire has fallen. Similar to their Roman counterpart of the fifth century, the average American will fail to recognize the significant change that occurred.

That is the typical way empires fall. There is no huge crash. They just gradually die from within until historians begin debating when the collapse took place. Just as in the Sept. 4, 476, date for the fall of Rome, June 28, 2012, is when the essence of America ended.

The American experiment was one that entailed limited and specifically enumerated powers for its central government. Now, with Roberts’ linguistic gymnastics and sophomoric logic turning a penalty into a tax, there are no limits to what the federal government can do.

If, for example, the U.S. Congress wished to mandate that everyone buy anything from electric cars to broccoli, or zoot suits to jelly beans, it can now do so. The only limitation, really, is that Congress can’t use the Commerce Clause to do so but, instead, will have to rely on its taxing authority. That, of course, has no significance to anyone outside the legal profession. The result is the same: A federal government with unlimited power to control our daily lives.

That, my friends, is, for all intents and purposes, the end of the American experiment. The Constitution is now meaningless because the idea of the Enumerated Powers Doctrine, already weakened by 80 years of Commerce Clause abuse, is now dead. Congress can do what it wants, when it wants. Only politics stands in the way. And politics is no protector of liberty.

To be sure, the decision, in the end, will be a victory for Republicans. I have no doubt that it will result in a huge GOP win in November. And the GOP might even actually repeal Obamacare because, despite its unconstitutionality, it is simply bad law. It is unaffordable, irresponsible and unaccountable. It is overly expensive at $1.76 trillion and will increase taxes by $500 billion in the next 10 years. It puts bureaucrats between doctors and patients and ultimately will decrease the quality of care in the United States, just as similar measures in other countries have done.

It is also simply wrong in a free country.

The idea that the central government (I doubt we can even call it a “federal government” anymore) can force Americans to purchase a product is repugnant to those who value living in a free country, or at least what used to be a free country.

Even so, the long-term damage is done. Recall, Dred Scott led to a war and took a constitutional amendment to cleanse. I doubt even that can salvage the former American empire.



The Obamacare decision also imposed some limits on the Feds

Some concerns from the Left below

The Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius—the healthcare cases—was a tremendous political victory for the Obama administration and, more importantly, the tens of thousands of Americans who will be saved from illness and death by the law. But make no mistake: the decision could also be a significant legal victory for the political forces committed to limiting the state’s ability to care for the weak and fragile among us.

In the hours after the health care decision was handed down, many commentators crowed over Chief Justice John Roberts’s statesman-like craft in putting together a moderate opinion that, in different parts, managed to unite the left and the right of the Court. They are half right. The opinion may be statesman-like, but it’s ultimately radical, endorsing a view of Congress’s power that had few, if any, takers until it was embraced by the Republican Party and its Tea Party flag-bearers. Indeed, it may even contain a seed that could unravel important benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

The immediate effect of the decision, of course, is that the law’s implementation can proceed. But on the one hand, Roberts, with four liberal justices, held that the individual mandate was constitutional as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power. On the other hand, Roberts joined the four conservative justices in stating that he believed that the same mandate could not be upheld under Congress’s Commerce Clause power. This should not to be overlooked. The Commerce Clause is the central plank of Congressional authority, employed to support everything from the Environmental Protection Agency to the civil rights laws. Flouting the usual rule that judges must avoid addressing unnecessary constitutional questions, Roberts made it clear that his new limitation on the Commerce Clause power was necessary to his opinion, and hence arguably binding on future courts.

In the second part of his opinion, Roberts and a coalition of six justices invalidated one aspect of the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is one of many important “conditional spending” programs, in which Congress uses its spending power to give money to the states, but attaches conditions to the grant. The Court had never invalidated such a program on constitutional grounds. Yesterday, though, the Court held that although the federal government could condition the Medicaid expansion on the specific funding assigned to that expansion, it could not defund a state’s Medicaid program entirely if the state refused to expand the program. In effect, the Court viewed the states as akin to Methadone addicts, so dependent on their ongoing fiscal fix that the federal government had a constitutional obligation to hook them up.

Remember, there were two key points of constitutional controversy before the Court in the health care cases: first, whether the mandate is valid under the Commerce Clause, and second, whether the Medicaid expansion is a use of federal spending that improperly coerces the states.

But it is the spending clause part of the opinion that may have the more significant ramifications. While the Court has previously invalidated rules related to federal grants to states with strings attached on the ground that those strings were not articulated clearly enough, it has never before struck down a conditional spending effort as coercive—until yesterday. Apart from the puzzling question of how a non-natural entity such as a state can be “coerced,” Roberts’s explanation of this holding is unclear. Provided a federal grant is large enough and has continued for long enough, he might be read to say, the states acquire a right to it in perpetuity.

The reason this portion of the opinion is ground for concern is that it opens the door to extensive new litigation by the states to fight off regulatory mandates in other policy areas, from education to highway maintenance. The federal government often uses conditions on federal grants to pressure states into complying with important legal and policy mandates. Now it’s unclear how many of those conditions are good law. Precisely because it cannot be clearly understood, Roberts’s opinion invited new challenges by the states and new judicial decisions unraveling the regulatory net that keeps states in compliance with many important mandates on everything from civil rights to the environment.




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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)