ObamaCare

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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.

Preparing for a Bailout

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

In his 2012 State of the Union speech, President Obama declared, “It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts and no cop-outs.”

Yes. He said that. But in reality, the handouts and cop-outs have kept on coming, like the solar wind.bucket for bailout

A Washington Examiner editorial notes that while “Obama blasted the influence of insurance lobbyists and vowed to take on the industry … as president, he passed a health care law that funnels more than $1 trillion in subsidies to insurers, and fines Americans who do not purchase their products.”

Go ahead: call that a handout.

But what about bailouts?

While newspapers like The Washington Post insist that Obamacare is exempt from such an eventuality, there remains the part of the Affordable Care Act known as the risk corridor programs. These reimburse “insurance plans for claims that cost significantly more than premiums that new subscribers paid in,” according to The Post’s Wonkblog. The goal is to protect health insurance companies from the risks they face in the new Obamacare exchange.

Companies that make money will pay into a fund that will be used to bail out companies that lose money. But, after obvious complaints about limits, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pushed a mandate that the program be revenue neutral, that the money paid out not exceed that paid in.

Last Friday, in 435 pages of regulations, CMS abandoned this call for budget neutrality. Instead, the regulation states, “In the unlikely event of a shortfall for the 2015 program year, HHS recognizes that the Affordable Care Act requires the secretary to make full payments to issuers.”

A taxpayer bailout: fully in place.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Rand Paul’s No-Special-Deals Petition

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Are you tired of members of the political class foisting burdensome laws on us from which they liberally exempt themselves? Sign the petition.

I mean the “No Special Deals” petition expressing support for “Senator Rand Paul’s Constitutional Amendment to stop Congress from passing legislation that doesn’t apply equally to U.S. citizens, the Executive Branch, Congress and the Supreme Court.”

This is one of those amendments with the job of shouting “Read and adhere to the document I’m attached to!!!!!!!” We need almost as many such amendments as there are constitutional provisions, considering how chronically the Constitution is violated.

The spur is Obamacare, the latest package of law and politics to combine crippling mandates for most of us with special deals for those with political pull. Some people are deemed more equal than others when it comes to “equal protection of the laws” and so forth.

The rationale for equally applying laws that are tyrannical? To discourage tyrants loathe to be battered by their own bludgeons. And to disallow their divide and conquer gambits.

That’s the hope, anyway.

But if officeholders find a way to tyrannize to begin with, and don’t hesitate to tyrannize, will any formally enshrined demand for equality of tyranny serve to deter them?

No, sadly, Sen. Paul’s amendment won’t prevent assaults on our rights that aren’t already supposed to be prohibited by the rest of the Constitution. Not by itself. But the amendment could help and certainly can’t hurt.

(Hurt us, that is —  if it hurts our lawmakers, that’s the idea.)

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Free Money

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

If an email popped up offering free money, what would you do?

Delete it? And wonder how it got past your spam filter?

Me, too.

Well, some Washington wags — call them re-distribution professionals — say we’re crazy.

As are Republicans in the 19 states that have refused to expand their states’ Medicaid rolls as part of Obamacare, and in the five states — Indiana, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — still debating whether to do so.

Republicans are “rejecting what is more or less nearly free money from the federal government,” says a baffled Josh Barro of the New York Times.

Karen Finney, host of MSNBC’s Disrupt, sneers that these GOP-led states are “leaving money on the table.”

“It’s free money!” exclaims an exasperated Joan Walsh of Salon.com, adding that, “It’s stimulative money.”

Under Obamacare, the federal government first demanded and now urges states to expand the Medicaid rolls well beyond those at the poverty line, with our central government generously offering to pay the cost for the massive expansion fully for three years . . . and then 90 percent after that.

One local newspaper identified one major issue, trust: “The trademark of Obamacare is broken promises.”

Will the federal government keep paying nearly all the cost? In Virginia, before any expansion, Medicaid already accounts for nearly one out of every four dollars in state spending.

“This is another picture of how extreme this Republican Party has become,” according to Walsh, “that you had this organized backlash to taking money that once would have been a no-brainer.”

This is the new GOP extremism, refusing to be bought off?

It’s no vice.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Demanding Demand

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Midnight tonight marks another witching hour for Obamacare: the deadline for individuals to sign up for insurance on the federal and state exchanges.

Well, sorta . . . kinda.

The deadline was extended last week.

The dominant feature of the misnamed Affordable Care Act’s tedious rollout has been the incessant presidential fiddling with deadlines, especially those that might otherwise precede a national election. We’re told this extension is only for a couple weeks, though, and only for those who have attempted but been unable to sign up on the creaky websites.

Then again, there is absolutely no way to determine whether an individual actually attempted to purchase insurance. So, if you started the signup process but didn’t finish or just wish to so claim, you now have until mid-April.

Last week’s other big news was the administration’s self-congratulatory announcement that healthcare signups had surpassed the goal of six million.

This “success” comes only after downgrading the original goal of seven million, meaning one could more honestly claim the administration is nearly a million short of its goal. Additionally, these signups include people who “signed up” in the sense of having clicked “Yes, I can” but not having actually paid for it — something required by health insurance companies even under Obamacare.

Amidst all the boasting about how “popular,” how much “demand” there is for the taxpayer-subsidized insurance, a stark, but unspoken reality looms: There is no sign of legitimate demand for Obamacare.

It’s called “the individual mandate.” Mandate doesn’t mean free choice. Even forcing folks to sign up by penalty of law, the signups come slowly.

That’s popular?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Tax the Poor!

Friday, February 21st, 2014

There is an argument for taxing the poor. Net beneficiaries of taxation can think about government in a different way than net payers. They might begin to think like children, not like adult supporters of a shared enterprise in defense of the basic institutional framework that in turn supports civilization.

If Americans still took seriously the old republican idea of “no taxation without representation,” some might scandalously invert the mantra as “no franchise without net tax payment,” thus excluding all net tax consumers (politicians, subsidized poor and subsidized business folk) from voting. But that does seem outrageous.

It’s also unworkable. At some point of complexity, calculating net winners and net losers becomes impossible.

Democrats have happily added to that complexity. One odd wrinkle? They’ve so indiscriminately increased the number of taxes in Obamacare (twenty-one!) that they have seemingly taken up the cause of taxing the poor. “Even the lowest income families (earning less than about $19,000 in 2012) will be on the hook,” writes Chris Connover in Forbes, “for nearly $7,000 in Obamacare taxes over the decade that started last year.”

Of course, the poor aren’t the only to pay more under Obamacare. Connover estimates that those in the “top 2 percent” will “end up paying $177,000 over the same decade.”

None of this suggests to me that the net effect of Obamacare will be positive. It’s basically just another hyper-intrusive, reality-distorting government program that will make services more expensive in toto, providing a huge drag on medicinal progress as well.

Impoverishing most of us, along with “the poor.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Obamacare Results Already In

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

A reader named Gert, commenting at National Review Online, repeats a notion heard often enough to become cliché.

Gert suggests that to debate Obamacare is “terribly premature. We just don’t have the data to know how it’s working yet.” Give it a chance to play out a bit more. Meantime, forget mere “anecdotes,” like those told by the millions who have lost their insurance despite the president’s repeated assurance that if they liked their coverage, they could keep it, “Period.”

Such advisors speak as if Obamacaresque interference in medicine were a species of interventionism utterly unlike anything before.Will and Ariel Durant's History of Western Civilization

But Obamacare is a type of thing; if we know that this type of thing is destructive by its nature, we can expect Obamacare to also be so. We know enough already — from history, economics, philosophy, psychology — to know that persons free to make their own judgments and act on them peacefully are better off than persons whose every move is mandated or banned.

What enables human beings to produce wealth, solutions, and alternatives in any realm is freedom. With responsibility. Freedom to act and to profit from our actions by choosing, as producers, what goods to provide others; by choosing, as consumers, the products that best suit our needs and circumstances. And to reap the rewards of success, and learn from our failures.

To continue to destroy this freedom in the name of collecting more data is wrong-headed. If the history of mankind so far doesn’t provide enough info to convince someone of the value of liberty, what will?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.