Archives for January 2010

A Socialist Juices the Greed Machine

In a comment to this article in which I advocate abolishing the tax code monstrosity that favors employer-provided health insurance and instituting health savings accounts, someone with the username “markchrist” went off on a socialist rant. Actually that’s redundant. Socialists only can rant; they have no capacity for logical and reasoned arguments. In the rant, he or she wrote, “You (sic) “plan” is so obviously written and approved by the insurance industry. … bought and paid for for by the GREED MACHINE.”

Actually the health insurance industry likely would be terrified of this “plan” because it actually introduces competition. Companies, especially big ones, hate competition. It forces them to lower their prices and boost quality in order to try to win business. What company wants to reduce its profits and perhaps even go out of business, all in the name of competition?

The other day my new state representative, Virginia delegate Jim LeMunyon, in a telephone town hall observed that the airwaves are rife with car insurance advertisements like those of Geico. Car insurers know you can easily fire your current car insurer and switch to another one, so they do everything in their power to keep their prices as low and quality as high as possible.

But you rarely come across health insurer commercials. Why? Because you can’t fire them. Assuming you get your insurance through your employer – courtesy of the government program called the employer health insurance deduction – you’re stuck with them. They aren’t worried about losing your as a customer, so why should they cut their rates or boost quality?

They’re exceedingly comfortable in their government-protected, competition-scarce cocoon. Why would they want to see an end to the employer health insurance tax deduction, and the resulting boom in people shopping around for the best rates?

The same holds true for hospitals, medical practices, and other healthcare providers. The notion that they would have to start to actually compete for your business by lowering their prices must be a terrifying notion for them indeed.

So no, Mr. Socialist, this plan isn’t bought and paid for by the insurance industry. Just the opposite. Through your support for employer-provided health insurance, ironically it’s folks like you who are making the insurance industry as pleased as punch. You’re satiating their greed. But being a socialist, you’re not able to figure that out.

Not Letting a Good Crisis Go to Waste

As was eminently predictable, arch-reactionary/socialist Hugo Chavez is having trouble keeping his country’s lights on. Venezuela is starved for electrical power. That always happens when industries get nationalized and bureaucrats start to run things. With cush jobs and little fear of layoffs, there’s little consequence of sluffing off on the job. The private-industry people who really knew how to run things are long gone. There’s little or no new investment in the industry because the government wants to spend its money elsewhere. And there’s certainly no private investor willing to see his or her money go down a rat hole.

But Hugo (that’s Ooo-go – the H is silent in Spanish) has put an interesting twist on the whole thing. Faced with power rationing, he’s directing that rationing to his political opponents, i.e. market-economy-driven sectors like shopping malls, while reserving plenty of it for his allies.

You’ve got to hand it to ole’ Hugo for creativity – knowing how to turn a bad situation into his advantage.

A Little Bit of England Here in America

Excerpt from a letter to the editor, Flying magazine, December 2009, in which the writer quotes a friend who speaks of the “English disease”:

“A kid in the U.S. sees someone in a fine car and says ‘Someday, I’m going to have one of those!’ An English kid sees the same thing and says, ‘I’m going to drag that bloke down to MY level'”.

Alas, the virus unfortunately must have made its way across the Atlantic. Because a number of Americans evidently have been stricken with the disease. Multitudes of them are agitating for a cap on the pay of the envied financial industry executives. Even more alarming, the English disease even has infected most of the people in the highest levels of the government, i.e. the administration of President Barack Obama! He even has appointed a “pay czar” to restrict how much the executives get paid.

“Envy represents a vicious and hateful resentment of people,” writes author and psychiatrist Willard Gaylin, “that is independent of their actual encroachment on one’s pleasures.”

Passing Up a Juicy Story

Interesting story about journalistic malpractice in today’s Daily Caller. Mark Judge recounts how The Washington Post wrote a story about sexual abuse by a Catholic priest at Georgetown Preparatory School, yet left out of the article the fact that a convicted child pornographer and leftist talk radio host, Bernie Ward, also once taught at Georgetown Prep.

After Judge informed the reporter, Michelle Boorstein, of that fact, Boorstein called back Judge to say that the school told her “Bernie Ward never taught there. So that won’t be part of the story.” As someone who had Ward for a teacher at Georgetown Prep, Judge was flabbergasted.

Yes, deliberately leaving out essential elements of a supposedly objective news story is journalistic malpractice, pure and simple.

Heck, if Boorstein would have dug a little deeper and fact checked what Judge told her, she would have had an intriguing little story on her hands. It could have gone something like this: News flash! Georgetown Prep denies it ever employed a child pornographer, when the facts are plain that he did indeed work there. What gives?

But a story like that would have been embarrassing to the left. That must be why they never pursued it.

For Government Workers, No More Job Security and Lower Pay. Now, it’s Job Security and Higher Pay. And State Bankruptcy.

Is it “conservative” or “liberal” to be concerned about public employees’ pensions that are devouring state budgets, leaving less and less left over for essential government services?

Usually that’s considered a “conservative” position, although it’s difficult for me to understand how liberals aren’t alarmed by that as well. Occasionally you come across a liberal or two who is. They include prominent California Democrats Willie Brown and Bill Lockyer. The latter said the pensions would “bankrupt” the state, and Brown astutely observed,

“The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact.”

But don’t get your hopes up. My bet is that not enough liberals will come around to, in Brown’s words, getting honest about the fact. (If they did, wouldn’t they then be considered sellouts to the conservative cause?)

Get this: Just in the past decade, California state pension costs skyrocketed 2,000 percent. That’s 20 fold! At the same time state revenues only went up a measly 24 percent. Many union workers can retire at the tender age of 50, with 90 percent of their pay, for life! 15,000 of them get more than $100,000 per year.

This year alone, reports Steven Greenhut, $3 billion has been diverted from other government services to pension costs.

You can call wanting to fix something like that “conservative”. But in my book it’s just common sense.

Now It’s Time to Push for REAL Healthcare Reform

If Scott Brown’s senatorial win in Massachusetts ends up derailing Obamacare, then it’s time for Republicans to push for healthcare reform with just as much enthusiasm as Democrats pushed (and are pushing) for healthcare deform.

Healthcare reform would genuinely substantially lower healthcare costs (and not through price controls, as would happen under deform), resulting in far fewer uninsured.

The key planks of healthcare reform should be: (1) ending the institution of getting one’s health insurance through one’s employer, yet (2) instituting mandatory medical savings accounts (MSAs) through one’s employer (the two are not contradictory), (3) promoting high-deductable insurance combined with MSAs, and (4) health insurance deregulation in order to further bring down costs.

For details, click here.

Scorecard: Wacked-Out Earthquake Theories

Crazy theories about the Haitian earthquake. Right vs. left:

2 to 1 left.

Right:
Pat Robertson, Jan. 13: He said a “pact with the devil” by Haiti caused the quake.

Left:
Danny Glover, Jan 15: Global warming caused the earthquake.
Hugo Chavez, Jan 21: quake caused by secret U.S. weapon, which also triggers floods, droughts and hurricanes.

A Dollop of Banana Republicism

Speaking of Obama’s deal with the unions to exempt them from the cadillac (high-value) health plan tax, isn’t it outrageous how they want everyone to pay for socialized health care – except for the socialists.

The people who want massive government spending should help pay for massive government spending. Logical, right? What a dirty, smelly, obnoxious move Obama and his minions just pulled off. It’s like rubbing the faces of all the rest of us in the putrified mud.

Giving one group a special favor like that would need to be justified by demonstrating that it’s for the greater good of the country or some such reason. But the Obama people didn’t even attempt to explain it on grounds like that. They left the accurate impression that it was done for crass political reasons.

Now that’s what I call banana republicism.

If You Can’t Beat the Big Spenders, Join ‘Em

Can’t say that I was a big Andrew Sullivan reader during the past few years (contrary to the early 2000s), but the blog-post-turned article I wrote on him a couple of months ago has prompted me to, just for kicks, check out what he has to say more often. That’s why you’ve seen several references to him below. And here’s the latest reference:

Fed up with Republicans not being committed enough to small government? I sure am, as are lots of other folks. Andrew Sullivan is, too – one of his (apparent) big beefs with Republicans is that they were such big spenders during the Bush era, and today lack proposals to cut government spending.

He recently wrote,

“The minute a Republican actually proposes a set of policies that would return us to fiscal balance through spending cuts alone, I’ll listen. But none of them is honest enough to offer such a thing.”

Sullivan apparently wants small government, but he’s not getting it from the Republicans. His solution? Embrace Obama and the Democrats! Yep, if you can’t stand that one party isn’t committed enough to spending decreases, then – what else? – throw your support behind the party and the president who explicitly and demonstrably are committed to massive spending increases! I guess Sullivan is thinking, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Definitely a credibility problem there.

Meanwhile, on another subject, for the first time that I’ve seen, Sullivan actually had a headline that hinted at criticism of the Obama administration, called “Bribing the Unions.” He posted a quote from The Economist excoriating Obama’s atrocious deal to to exempt union employees from the “cadillac” health plan tax.

But Sullivan didn’t offer his own take on the topic. I guess he can’t yet bring himself to directly criticize Obama, after heaping such nonstop praise on him hitherto.

Still, you’ve got to give Sullivan some credit. The implied criticism is better than nothing – hopefully he’s not a total pushover for this president.

Predictions: Did It Happen?

Center for American Regress* president John Podesta’s remarks on Saturday, January 16, as reported in The Daily Caller: “He said that the flood of national Democratic resources into the state to run television ads and organize get out the vote efforts, would likely combine with President Obama’s visit to the state Sunday afternoon to give Coakley the edge. ‘It’s highly likely the president’s visit will push her over the finish line,’ Podesta said.”
Prediction Occur? Negative.

So much for the art of trying to predict an election. I don’t tread on that territory. Kind of like trying to predict which way a stock is going to go. Often a losing game.

*Note: The actual name of Mr. Podesta’s organization contains the word “Progress”, but I replaced it with “Regress” because it is a more accurate reflection of what the policy prescriptions of Podesta’s organization would accomplish.