Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cruising the Web

Kevin Williamson explains the real dangers of our growing debt.
Government is what government does, and what government does is what government spends. Our government is a corrupt HMO with an underfunded pension plan attached, and a few aircraft carriers in tow. Contra Professor Mazzucato, the confiscatory taxes the federal government wishes to impose upon Apple et al. are not being used to replenish any such “innovation fund” as may exist in her imagination, but to prop up the corrupt, wasteful, and destructive programs that make up the great majority of its spending. Federal support for basic science research is pretty low on the list of things that small-government conservatives are worried about, and George Will is not entirely misguided in his admiration for the National Institutes of Health. But the neo-Nehruvian dream of the state as main entrepreneur cannot intellectually survive even the most modest attempt to balance benefits against costs.

As the CBO sees it, the economic weight of the deficits we’re expected to add just in the next 25 years is enough to bring the national debt from 100 percent of GDP to 200 or 250 percent of GDP, i.e., from paralyzing to catastrophic. The deficits we’ve run for the last 25 years have imposed costs of their own. That the costs mainly manifest themselves negatively — in the form of businesses that don’t exist, profits that aren’t collected, and help that is not wanted — does not make them any less real, or less tragic. In the long run, the deficit is as much about whether you have a decent job or die from diabetes complications as it is about figures in CBO estimates. The price may not always be obvious, but you pay it every day.
President Obama can pivot all he wants to the economy and pretend that his policies have achieved great things for the economy, but the poverty rate is not budging and we are seeing the lowest participation in the workforce since 1978.

Daniel Henninger has got Barack Obama pegged.
For Mr. Obama, the affairs of state are wholly a function of whatever is inside his mind.

Some things remain in his mind, like the economic benefits of public infrastructure spending, which appeared one more time in Monday's post-Navy Yard speech on the lessons of the financial crisis and Congress's obligations to agree with him. Some things enter his mind and then depart, like red lines in the Syrian sand.

From where he sits, it is the job of the political world outside to adjust and conform to the course of the president's mental orbit. Those who won't adjust are dealt with by the president himself. They are attacked publicly until they are too weak politically to oppose what is on his mind.
It's amazing how workers vote when they are asked about whether they want to be unionized and pay union dues. Wisconsin has demonstrated how unions depend on denying workers a choice on whether or not they want to be unionized.
Under Governor Walker's 2011 union-reform law, a majority of union members have to vote each year to recertify the union as their representative. If less than 50% of members vote to keep the union and pay union dues, the union effectively loses its ability to bargain for wages. A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state affiliate of the NEA, said recently, "It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren't seeking recertification, so I don't think the [Kenosha union] is an outlier or unique."

That's a remarkable repudiation of union representation in a state long considered a stronghold. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that since Mr. Walker's union reforms became law, state unions have lost tens of thousands of members, as workers opt to drop out of the union.

....The fight over Governor Walker's union reforms and the attempt to recall him and other state legislators seems like ancient history. But they have paid off for Wisconsin taxpayers, saving the state nearly $2 billion since the reforms went into effect. In 2011, they said Wisconsin looked like Greece. Not anymore.
Doyle McManus sees a common thread in President Obama's conduct of foreign policy.
In the wake of his dizzying reverses over chemical weapons in Syria, President Obama has been blasted as inconsistent, impulsive and amateurish in his conduct of foreign policy. But when you look at his actions rather than his words, there's more consistency than meets the eye. Consider the evidence.

In 2009, when Iranians rose in rebellion against the mullahs in Tehran, Obama gave their ill-fated "Green Revolution" rhetorical support. But he also went on negotiating with the Tehran government, because his first priority was making a deal over Iran's nuclear program.

In 2011, when Egyptians rebelled, Obama gave that uprising rhetorical support too, and even urged Hosni Mubarak to step down. But he maintained a strong relationship with the Egyptian military, because his first priority was keeping peace with Israel.

Later that year, when Syrians revolted, Obama gave the rebels more rhetorical support and declared that Bashar Assad had to go. But he balked at sending the rebels military aid, and this month, he made a deal that could help Assad stay in power, because Obama's first priority was eliminating chemical weapons.

What's the common thread? That Obama's rhetoric tends to outrun his willingness to use U.S. power, and that's a problem, because it can lead to dangerous misunderstandings.
Obamcare is having its effect on California where people will be paying more for less as critics' predictions come to pass.
The basic reason Obamacare raises premiums is simple: It fundamentally changes the marketplace for health insurance by putting in place a number of onerous and highly restrictive federal regulations. Most notably, the law requires insurers to cover all comers, regardless of pre-existing health conditions. Obamacare also severely limits the factors that insurers may account for in pricing their policies. For example, insurers may not vary premiums based on health status and must charge a 64-year-old no more than three times as much for the same plan as they would charge an 18-year-old. Finally, the law mandates that insurers cover a number of benefits that they may not have had to previously.

In tension with these economic and regulatory factors working to raise premiums is the political pressure being applied by the Obama administration, particularly in states like California, to keep premiums as low as possible. One of the only ways left, then, for health plans to meet these competing demands is to restrict access to certain care providers -- limiting patients’ ability to choose specific doctors or hospitals, lengthening wait times or forcing them to see a new doctor because their current one isn’t part of an insurer’s provider network.

This is exactly what will happen in California come 2014, when the state’s Obamacare exchange is launched. Physicians and physician organizations in California have expressed concerns that these limited provider networks may most adversely impact minority communities, the very ones that the health-care law purports to help most. Those concerns reflect the fact that while some coverage is better than none at all, Obamacare’s supporters have dramatically oversold the supposed benefits of the law.
It's rather amazing how the predictions of the bill's supporters don't seem to be happening, but what the critics said would happen is happening. If I didn't have a full-time job that takes most of my time, I would like to go through what people were predicting at the time and match them up with what we're seeing now. I think it would be quite illustrative.

I never thought that any investigation would reveal an order from someone in the White House to the IRS asking them to target tea party groups. Most politicians are too smart for that. But no orders are necessary when everyone knows what the politicians want to have done. No one has to ask if anyone will rid them of this meddlesome priest, just that the priest is meddlesome and the bureaucrats can take it from there. And that is what a new report on the IRS scandal reveals.
In one of the key findings, investigators said negative press coverage of the tea party was one reason why the IRS gave the groups special scrutiny.
“It was my understanding that the reason they were identified is because they were likely to attract media attention,” Steven Grodnitzky, one of the employees in the exempt organizations division, told investigators.
Another supervisory employee in Washington, Ronald Shoemaker, also said press attention helped shape IRS policies, telling investigators that media attention to those cases “was the basis” for designating them as significant cases requiring special examination.
The Republican oversight report traces the growing pressure on the IRS to act, beginning with Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in his 2010 State of the Union address to calls from top members of Congress for the IRS to give special scrutiny to tea party applications.
Emails among IRS officials, and committee interviews with them, show agency employees were aware of the pressure, sending one another news reports and commenting — in sometimes derisive language — about the tea party applications.