ObamaCare

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Subsidy for Everybody!

Friday, January 9th, 2015

According to Vice President Joe Biden, the debate is over. Health care, by which he means medical assistance, is a basic right — to be obtained through government, and made effective by the Affordable Care Act — not a “privilege.”

By “right” he means  “something others are forced to provide,” in this case by taxes, regulations, and the full panoply of U.S. law. Today’s “liberals” like to use the word “privilege” to mean anything obtained without direct government assistance. And therein lies a huge problem.

In his first weekly address of the year, Biden touted how great the ACA, “Obamacare,” is. How affordable it is for families, for everyone! It’s a panacea, though Biden didn’t use the word.

Actually, he didn’t say that we have a right medical care. He said we have a right to health “insurance,” which we’re forced to purchase — and for which many are subsidized, too.

How far does he go with this?

“An awful lot of people who didn’t think they could or would find quality, affordable health insurance are actually able to get assistance from the government to help them pay for their health care plans at a cheaper rate,” he earnestly intoned. “A family of four with an income of around $95,000, they can still get a subsidy to lower their health care premiums.”

You can see where the problem is. If a household making $95,000 per annum can receive subsidies, who’s paying for all this?

Perhaps you.

Can you see why Obamacare’s a prescription for financial disaster?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Pot, Kettle; Obama, Putin

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

President Calvin Coolidge looks more like a sage every day. Confucius would’ve been proud of Silent Cal. Today’s top politicians might take a cue from the man: When you don’t have much to say, say nothing.

President Barack Obama, whose popularity in America up until recently rested, in part, on his sounding more intelligent than his predecessor in office, had the reckless temerity — the audacity of dope, perhaps — to float the notion, in an interview the other day, that Russia’s top banana Vladimir Putin had made a “strategic mistake” by annexing Crimea, and said the latter-day Tsar was “not so smart”:

Those thinking his Russian counterpart was a “genius” had been proven wrong by Russia’s economic crisis, he said.

For my part, I hope that a collapsed economy in Russia is the least we have to fear. The story isn’t over, and I wouldn’t be gloating over a half-hatched batch of eggs just yet.

Which brings to mind the title cliché: pot and kettle, each calling the other black. Here we have a world leader with a horrible economic track record, in addition to a chaotic diplomatic strategy, calling his chief competitor for public adoration (yes, Putin’s acolytes are just as besotted as Obama’s) something of a fool.

Well, the man so involved with a disaster to have it named after him, Obamacare, and who hailed extravagant “stimulus” as a cure for a depression that still lingers — reminding us again of the longest Depression, the Great, and the wrong-headed policies of Hoover and FDR — should know when to keep mum.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Stupid Before Congress

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber has had a big influence on American life, much of it “behind the scenes.” He helped put together RomneyCare in Massachusetts, then Obamacare at the federal level. And he made a curious case for abortion that was picked up by Steven Levitt and made famous in Freakonomics.

But he wasn’t summoned before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee, yesterday, to talk about abortion. His boastings, in public, that the Affordable Care Act had been designed to deceive caught congressional attention.

And referring to voters as “stupid” doesn’t sit well with politicians — maybe because they’re living evidence.

Gruber started with some newfound humility. He had been bragging. In truth, he wasn’t that important to the process.

None of this was very convincing.

His explanations for his too-honest statements? Less than satisfactory: he chalked it all up to a spoken “typo.”

More entertainingly, when repeatedly asked whether he would give the committee his work product relating to his Health and Human Services contracts, he reiterated one simple answer: the committee should “take it up with my council.”

“You’ve been paid by the American taxpayer,” stated Rep. Jason Chaffetz, with escalating frustration. “Will you or will you not provide that information to this committee?”

But what was the Utah representative expecting?

Full disclosure?

Transparency?

Responsibility?

A straight answer?

Yeah, yeah, I know . . . talk to Gruber’s lawyer.

Even with the stonewalling, I think we’ve already seen enough of Mr. Gruber’s “work product.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Rewarding Gruber

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Revealing to all the world the contempt for the American people that Washington insiders possess might garner for Prof. Gruber a future Medal of Freedom.

Perhaps by a president elected by the Irony Party.

What Gruber is unlikely to get, however, is a Nobel Prize for Economics.

Benjamin Zycher, writing at The Hill, questions Gruber’s astuteness as an economist. The MIT professor surely has the wit to sucker those representing American taxpayers out of six million bucks for his consulting, but, otherwise, reveals some blind spots about where incentives should be figured in.

“Economists may disagree about many things,” writes Zycher, “but absent among them is the central role of incentives as determinants of behavior,” a principle that “applies fully to government.”

To reward one constituency at the expense of others, health care bureaucrats will quickly come to regard limits to spending as a kind of “savings.”

From this type of rationing, Zycher suggests, there will be “a reduction in the flow of research and development investments in new and improved medical technologies, yielding fewer new medicines, devices and equipment.”

This means that the most negative effects will be seen down the road. While the easier-to-publicize positive effects of more people covered by insurance can be pointed to right now, as a “benefit.”

However, even that upfront goody isn’t what we might pretend it is. “Gruber seems actually to believe that an expansion of insurance ‘coverage’ is the same as an expansion of actual healthcare,” Zycher notes, with apt incredulity.

By ignoring negative effects of his convoluted program, and concentrating on a few dubious upfront benefits, Gruber proves himself more con artist than economist.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

As Stupid Does

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

“Stupid is as stupid does,” said the great American prophet, Forrest Gump.

Meanwhile, Obamacare maestro and MIT professor, the illustrious Dr. Jonathan Gruber, has declared in not one but a multitude of videos that the American people are, well, “stupid.”

You see, when the elites wielding political power lie to us, trick us, cheat us — as with Obamacare — they think that proves that “We, the People,” aka their victims, are all morons. I’m not a fan of fraud or fraudsters; I don’t think it forms the basis for a very happy, healthy society.

Still, I do get their perverted logic. Problem is that, even as far as it goes, the American people didn’t fall for the deceit at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. Poll after poll leading up to Congress passing the ACA demonstrated that most folks opposed it, disbelieving Gruber’s and Obama’s distortions.

Barely a majority of the clueless Congress even fell for the lies! All of them were Democrats.

No, stupid would do something like rake in $6 million from government contracts obtained from politicians with a direct probe into every American’s pocketbook and then call all those Americans paying his lavish tab names. Indeed, Gruber does make a cogent argument about the wisdom of purchasing his services.

Stupid also does stuff like deny even knowing that Dr. What’s-His-Name fellow . . . though previously raving, on camera, about what a wizard the stupid-slinging Prof. Gruber is.

Right, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi?

Goodness, the American people seem brilliant in comparison. But it’s a low bar.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Is “Less Big” Possible?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The idea of a streamlined welfare state is utterly foreign in today’s political climate. Offering some social services, but not others? Anathema — at least to our “progressives.”

It is also, even more obviously, not nurtured by current political process.

After all, we’ve witnessed two major expansions in “welfare” programs in the last decade, the bipartisan Medicare “Part D” and the Democrats’ “Obamacare.” The first was underfunded from the start, and the second was and remains a mess. Both are financial time bombs.

But if you think America has it bad, it’s worse in France.

Jean Tirole, the new (just announced) Nobel Laureate in Economics, calls the condition of the French labor market “catastrophic.” And he thinks France’s government has to be smaller.

Now, he’s no heir to J.-B. Say and Fredéric Bastiat. He does not support an extremely limited government, a “nightwatchman” state. He says he likes France’s basic model. But it has grown too far in size and scope:

Tirole remarked that northern European countries, as well as Canada and Australia, had proven you could keep a welfare social model with smaller government. In contrast, he said France’s “big state” threatened its social policies because there will not be “enough money to pay for it in the long run.”

He’s basically just demanding that government live within its means.

It’s not too far from common Tea Party sentiment.

But tell that to your average progressive pol. Or blogger. Or activist. Given protective cover for ever-growing spending by the likes of New York Times’s Nobel columnist, Paul Krugman, any idea of federal spending cutbacks have been and remain off limits.

Maybe Professor Tirole can convince them.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Google Mugged By Reality?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Google says health care is unhealthy.

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has conducted what he calls a “fireside chat” with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In one much-cited passage, Brin observes that although he is excited about making gadgets like glucose-measuring contact lenses, health care, because “so heavily regulated,” is “just a painful business to be in. It’s not necessarily how I want to spend my time. . . . [T]he regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that I think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs.” Page echoes his colleague.

A blunt, and fair, observation. But it makes one wonder why these super-entrepreneurs have not been more critical (at least so far as their search engine can tell me) of Obamacare, which multiplies mandates and prohibitions in the medical industry by an order of magnitude.

Top Google executives are known to be liberal in their politics, and presumably have been sincere. It seems, though, that reality is not cooperating with any ideological tilt they may yet harbor in favor of government paternalism.

It’s in fields with which a businessman is best acquainted that he is most likely to recognize the value of freedom — at least his own, if not always that of competitors. So perhaps we should hope that Brin, Page and other Google principals try to achieve something great in every industry there is. That way, they can come around to consistent, principled support for freeing markets.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.