The Economist Breaks Silence on Obamacare

Big news at The Economist magazine: it finally broke its silience on the tribulations of Obamacare.

Back when the big insurers started pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges, there was not a peep from The Economist, not even in its business section. Upon subsequent pull-outs and premium increases, continued silence. Being an early cheerleader for Obamacare, it may have wanted to avoid embarassing news.

Finally, now that the news is splattered everywhere else, The Economist is forced to follow suit. What it described in the above-linked article is a consequence of Obamacare that any economist worth his or her salt could have predicted.

Why didn’t you, Economist?

Wall Street Journal Gives Socialized Medicine a Platform

Most on the left, of course, were never really satisfied with Obamacare. It’s obvious they always wanted full socialized medicine, with health insurance companies completely out of the picture. But they had to settle with Obamacare, with its mix of socialized medicine and insurance companies.

It was predictable that when the inherent flaws of Obamacare become manifest, there will be a clamor on the left to toss it out in favor of full socialized medicine, as well as on the right to replace it with a market-based system. The question is, which side will squeal the loudest and win out?

We’re in the beginning of that showdown. The right has been arguing for its repeal all along, but lately those voices have been getting softer, with proposals to change Obamacare rather than repeal it. The left, meanwhile, is showing signs of launching their campaign to go full socialized or “single payer” as the euphemism goes, as evidenced by this recent op-ed by Burke Beu: This Democrat Is Giving Up on ObamaCare. Of course, that Democrat isn’t giving up on it in favor of a market-based system, but a full socialized one.

The eyebrow-raising thing is the outfit that gave the above-mentioned article a platform. The Huffington Post? No. The Nation? No. Daily Kos? No.

It was the Wall Street Journal editorial page, that bastion of free-market solutions, at least usually.

Brilliant work, Wall Street Journal. You’re playing right into the game plan that the left had from the beginning: come up with the health care contraption that’s now in place, and when it inevitably fails, use that as a rallying cry to push through full socialized medicine (which would fail even more miserably).

Who would have guessed that the WSJ editorial page would offer prime real estate toward this objective?

It’s of course good to present contrary opinions in the opinion pages. But what they should do now is pen an editorial pooh-poohing Mr. Beu’s ideas, in anticipation that a lot more articles like his likely will be appearing in left-leaning publications as well.

OK to Both Accept Government Money and Criticize It

Social Security card

iStock/Getty Images

When critics of Obamacare begin to enroll in Obamacare, they’re likely going to be accused, directly or indirectly, of hypocrisy from some quarters. But it won’t be hypocritical. If the government all but destroys the health insurance market through Obamacare and other forms of government intervention in that market, then the critics of Obamacare have no choice but to enroll therein. They’re, in effect, trapped into participating in that system.

It’s a similar situation with Social Security. Sometimes critics of Social Security are construed as hypocrites for accepting Social Security money. But that’s erroneous. If the government hampers or destroys your ability to save for retirement by coercing money out of you to put toward Social Security, then you have little choice but to accept Social Security payouts.

Moreover, with Social Security, the government took our contributions but didn’t invest them in actual savings funds. Instead it spent the money. We can’t help that – that’s what we’d like to see changed. It’s like being forced to invest in a Ponzi scheme. You would rather put your money elsewhere but you’re essentially told at gunpoint to invest in it. Later you’re accused of hypocrisy for taking the payouts. But not taking the payouts would amount to extortion and self-imposed impoverishment. If you had your way, you wouldn’t in a million years have invested in the Ponzi scheme. Where else are you going to get the money due to you?

Obamacare is Creating a Part-Time America

Busy Waitress

(istockphoto)

We’re living through a period of profound change in America, for the worse. Today it hit home for this observer, while talking to a woman who is a waitress at Bob Evans restaurant.

She said that a few months ago, most of the full-time employees at her restaurant, and presumably at all Bob Evans restaurants, were converted to part-time employees, able to work only a maximum of 29 hours a week. That’s in order to avoid the $2,000 per-employee Obamacare fine if one’s hours go above that.

Imagine that – the massive shift of millions of Americans from full time to part time (Bob Evans is just one of thousands of businesses doing the same), caused by a specific government policy. One reads in history books and elsewhere about stark government policies having profound immediate effects on society, usually involving heavy-handed socialist states. But to witness similar upheavals going on in modern-day United States of America! Folks, it’s not your mom-and-dad’s America anymore.

Through this heavy-handed government policy, millions of people are getting pushed into poverty (as the U.S. government defines poverty) by being downgraded from full-time to part-time employees. And they don’t even necessarily get 29 hours. The waitress said the employees are routinely scheduled for just 26 hours a week, in case occasionally they have to work a few extra hours during busy times.

The waitress said she was fortunate in that her income is her household’s secondary source of income. But not so for some of her coworkers. Their income is their primary income. So having gone from 40 to 29 hours of work per week, their income declined substantially.

With lower incomes, they now may be eligible for welfare benefits such as food stamps. Multiply that millions of times over, as so many businesses throughout America convert their workers to part-timers. That’s probably one of the big factors driving the large increase in participation in food stamps and other welfare programs.

So Obamacare is dramatically expanding the welfare state in more ways than one.

In addition to expanding the ranks of those who are classified as poor and thus eligible for welfare benefits, middle-class Americans who never previously received government handouts in their lives will now receive the Obamacare subsidy, once they sign up for the program.

That’s certainly a coup for Democrats. They may be fretting now over the disruptions caused by Obamacare, but in the the long run a lot more middle-class Americans will be dependent on government handouts, and be more likely to vote for Democrats in order to maintain those handouts.

Of course, while it’s a coup for Dems, the country as whole suffers. Prompting more and more people to live off the work and toil of other people is a sure way secure a future of national economic mediocrity – and boost the ranks of the impoverished.

 

Hurricane Obamacare is Arriving

hurricaneHey Repubs and other opponents of Obamacare. You’re too late in taking the President to task for his “if-you-like-your-insurance-you-can-keep-it” ruse.

Back in late 2009 and early 2010, before Obamacare was passed, the President was repeating that mantra again and again, but the silence on the other side was deafening. Opponents of Obamacare were standing there like deer in headlights amid Obama’s antics. When he said it during the 2008 presidential debate, McCain let him get away with it. It was amazing how many others in Congress, the media and elsewhere during the run-up to the passage of Obamacare let him get away with it as well.

The key concepts of the Obamacare bill back then made it plain to see that millions of people were not going to be able to keep their health insurance after it got passed. THAT was the time to go out and inform the public about the dangers of Obamacare – not now, after it’s been passed!

But remarkably, little was said about that. While I’m sure someone, somewhere must have pointed it out, back in early 2009 I tried in vain to find literature debunking the “if-you-like-your-insurance-you-can-keep-it” deception.

So yours truly back then wrote an article pointing out the folly of believing Obama’s pledge. But I’d be lucky if a few hundred people even read it. Obamacare opponents needed to get the message out to millions. But they didn’t.

I mentioned back then that the President repeatedly assures us that if we like our current health insurance plan, we can keep it. That’s like telling New Orleans residents on the eve of Katrina that if you like your house, you can keep it.

Katrina is here.

 

Mugged By Obamacare, then Hugging the Mugger

There’s the old adage that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. A twist on that is a liberal is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. That is, even those who are victims of measures that they support are so stuck on their ideology that they keep supporting those same measures.

A recent WSJ article (“Health Law Pinches Colleges”) describes colleges and universities that are cutting back on the hours of their adjunct professors in order to avoid having to provide them with health insurance coverage under Obamacare. The article points to a professor whose hours are being cut, resulting in a salary cut of $2,000. The professor said in response, “I think it goes against the spirit of the [health-care] law,” Mr. Balla said. “In education, we’re working for the public good, we are public employees at a public institution; we should be the first ones to uphold the law, to set the example.”

That sounds like somebody who was a big supporter of Obamacare. And I bet that person is still a big supporter of Obamacare. He seems upset with his employer for not abiding by the spirit of Obamacare. He probably doesn’t realize that his employer, also probably run by Obamacare supporters (given that it’s a college), just cannot afford to abide by that spirit and has no other choice but to cut his hours. The alternative would be to resort to more drastic measures like laying people off.

I bet lots of Obamacare supporters who’ve been victims of Obamacare are thinking in the back of their mind, “I’m a sacrificial lamb for the public good; there must be a greater good in Obamacare despite being personally negatively affected.”

Little do they realize there are millions of sacrificial lambs all across the nation. So many such lambs mean that Obamacare is not a public good, but a public bad.

An Incomplete Apology to the Posterperson of the Gimme Generation

If there’s one thing that the whole Rush Limbaugh flap has made apparent, it’s that society holds conservatives to much higher standards of decency than it holds liberals.

When a Bill Maher or an Ed Schultz or others on the left make gratuitous and vulgar remarks about women, it’s met with a shrug, a laugh, or silence. People don’t expect them to have high moral standards. When a Rush Limbaugh does the same thing, there’s heck to pay. That’s because the right is expected to have higher moral standards than the left.

And I’ve no beef with that. I’d much rather be a part of the group to which society holds a higher standard.

As for Rush, in his apology he said he descended to the left’s level when he used the disparaging words to describe Sandra Fluke. He became like them, he said, instead of maintaining a high degree of integrity on his radio program.

OK Rush, that’s a good start, but demonstrating your sincerity requires more than just renouncing the use of those disparaging words. You have to go beyond that. If you mean what you say about not adopting the tactics of the left, you have to pledge to renounce the use of the term “feminazis” to describe feminists, “Chicago thug” to describe President Obama and any similar words you’ve used to describe those on the left. You can’t just not say those words in the future. As part of your pledge, you have to explicitly say that you’ve been wrong to use those words, that you were adopting the tactics of the left in using those words (many, but certainly not all, of them sickeningly call their political opponents “nazis”), and that integrity means erasing those words from your lexicon forever – unless of course you’re talking about actual National Socialists or actual thugs.

Regarding Sandra Fluke herself, in the 1980s young people were said to be in the “me generation” because all they wanted to do was make money and supposedly not share it with others. Well 30 years later, Sandra Fluke is the posterperson for the gimme generation, a large and growing group of Americans who expect other people to give them money – even money for accessories (i.e. contraception) that enable them to engage in pleasures of the flesh!

Note that the gimme generation, aka the entitlement generation, doesn’t just include people in Fluke’s age group, and doesn’t imply that all of them are of that mentality. There are many in the younger generation who shun the entitlement culture and who prize independence and self-reliance. The gimme generation refers to anyone, of any age, who accepts welfare but who doesn’t need it. Remember, two-thirds of welfare goes to the middle class and rich.

Wow – so with Obamacare, we Americans are not only being coerced into financing the routine healthcare costs of rich and middle class Americans, including law students who attend expensive, elite universities, but we’re also being coerced into financing what enables them to engage in their worldly pleasures.

Yes the boiling frog principle is alive and well. Five or 10 years ago if someone were to tell you that’s what’s in store for Americans, you’d think they’d be out of their minds. But that reality is here. And the water boils on.

America, Feast Your Eyes On Our Future

One thing I noticed while traveling in Europe is how rude so many waiters were (at least on the Continent) compared with the U.S. Why? Not because Europeans are ruder by nature, but because of lack of market forces in restaurants – i.e. the tip is written into the price of the meal, so what incentive does the waiter have to be nice?

It’s a similar phenomenon in European hospitals: lack of market forces. With heavily unionized government healthcare workers, doing such-and-such like fetching a glass of water isn’t part of their contract, so why do it? (See “Dying Patient Refused a Glass of Water“.) And they likely have little fear of being fired, thanks to their government employees union. So why provide good service?

Lack of market forces in restaurants? Trivial consequences. In hospitals? Tragic consequences.

Opportunity of a Lifetime, Missed

When America embarks on a disastrous policy, as it did last night during the Sunday Night Massacre, when the House voted to pass Obamacare, I think to myself if there’s any little thing I could have done to help stop it. I did write a couple of anti-Obamacare articles. But they were probably read by a few hundred, or if I’m lucky a few thousand people, or about .0001 percent of the population of America. So that didn’t help at all.

But this morning in the shower (where a lot of my ideas come to me, in addition to jogging) I was kicking myself for not trying another strategy. Had I been more astute, it’s something I should have done, in retrospect. To be sure, I’m absolutely sure that it still wouldn’t have changed anything whatsoever, but at least I would have given it my best shot.

In previous weeks I had been toying with researching and writing an article on the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring method. When the CBO determines a certain policy’s effect on the deficit, it doesn’t take the political feasibility of that policy into account. So if Congress says it’s going to raise taxes and cut spending by a certain amount, the CBO uses that amount in its calculations and doesn’t make a judgment regarding how likely those tax increases and spending cuts will come to fruition.

That was the case with Obamacare. Last week the CBO stated that based on Congress’s numbers, Obamacare would cut the deficit due to the massive tax increases and cuts to Medicare payments to doctors. That gave a big shot in the arm to Obamacare supporters in the House, prompting them to call for a vote on Sunday.

But it’s so ludicrous because the reductions in payments to doctors are highly unlikely to happen, based on past experience, and additional government revenues from tax increases will likely be much less than anticipated, also based on past experience (because when taxes go up, people’s behavior changes, prompting them to work less, find tax loopholes, or defer paying taxes).

I should have written an article about that. In addition the the article itself, I would have had a lot more knowledge about the subject under my belt. That would have equipped me to be quite conversant on the topic.

And then I could have approached Doug Elmendorf on the subject. He’s the director of the Congressional Budget Office.

For the past decade or more I’ve been going off and on to a group called the Prosperity Caucus, where a modest-sized group of free-market types meet once a month to hear a speaker. (Anyone can go – you certainly don’t need an exclusive invitation or anything like that.) And they’re usually quite prominent people in the policy world.

Last month, Doug Elmendorf was the speaker. That could have been a great opportunity, during the Q&A, to suggest to him, nay plead with him, that the CBO should report back with two or more sets of numbers, assigning the likelihood of each set. (The Obamacare deficit reduction number certainly would get an “unlikely” scoring. A soaring deficit number, contrary to Obamacare pipe dreams, would have gotten a “likely” scoring.)

After his talk, when everyone was milling about, he surprisingly stayed for quite a long time, willing to take questions and comments from people individually. That would have been a great opportunity for me to hand him my (would-be) article and reiterate to him that the CBO really should take political feasibility into account.

Of course, I’m not so naive as to think that had I done that, it actually would have changed anything at CBO. (For all I know it may require an act of Congress.) But at least my conscience would have been clear.

Opportunity missed. Probably never again will I ever have such close access to such a key figure in the policy world just before such an America-shattering vote.

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.