Thursday, October 03, 2013

Cruising the Web

Ah. The dreaded death spiral and how Obamacare may set it in motion.
Here's how a death spiral happens: Most of the people who sign up for an insurance plan are sick. It costs a lot to take care of them. So the next year, to cover the high health costs, the insurance company raises its premiums. But then only really sick people sign up. So the insurance company has to raise prices again. Eventually, the insurance gets so expensive that no one buys it, and the whole system falls apart.
So it will be a race to see whether young, healthy people will sign up now before the death spiral begins.

Robert Stacy McCain gets to the fundamental reason why we are experiencing a shutdown today. It's because Congress hasn't passed the Appropriations bills in good order. And who is to blame for that?
Here’s a simple question: Why are we currently funding the federal government through a series of short-term measures known as “continuing resolutions”?
The answer is that the budgeting process has completely broken down in recent years, and the two men most responsible for that breakdown are President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For three consecutive years — 2010, 2011, and 2012 — the Democrat-controlled Senate did not pass a budget bill because Reid knew that it would be a political liability to do so. Passing a budget that detailed the Democrats’ plans for spending and revenue as official policy would have exposed the “something for nothing” swindle that Reid and his colleagues are perpetrating on the American people. Republican challengers campaigning against Democrat senators could have cited their votes for the budget bill, saying that the incumbent voted for this, that, or the other unpopular component of the measure.

Reid and the Democrats knew this. They knew very well that the federal deficit was spiraling out of control, that there was not enough tax revenue to pay the mushrooming cost of entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment, et cetera), and certainly there wasn’t enough revenue to pay for all the boondoggles and giveaways the Democrats voted for in the name of “stimulus.” Adding to this, there was not enough revenue to pay the cost of Obamacare, which Democrats rammed through Congress in March 2010 on a party-line vote. Passing an actual budget would have made clear the unsustainable fiscal nightmare into which Democrat policies have plunged the nation during the Obama Age, and so Harry Reid simply didn’t pass a budget for three years.

Inevitably, there will be serious fiscal and economic consequences for what has been done in Washington since 2009. Democrats, however, cared less about such real-world matters than they did about the short-term political gain to be had by promoting the pleasant fiction that liberal “generosity” with taxpayer money (including trillions of dollars in deficit spending) had no real cost. The political project of electing and re-electing Democrats required this exercise in fiscal unreality, and so began Reid’s policy of avoiding the painful choices inherent in the budget process. As a direct result of Reid’s irresponsible policy, Americans are now faced with what is being described by many in the media as a “budget” battle, but is in fact about the short-term alternative to an actual budget, a continuing resolution which would authorize the government to keep spending more money than it has, by borrowing billions of dollars it has no feasible plan to repay.
Gosh, I wish that this were clearer to the American people. Perhaps then there would be more pressure on Harry Reid's Senate to address the real problems they've been hiding from in our budget. Of course, the Republicans aren't really helping matters since they're staking their flag now on something other than the fiscal problems facing the nation. I'm just not sure where the Republicans in the House think this is all going. They know they're not going to get a delay of Obamacare through. At least I hope they have that much sense of reality. As Byron York writes, the House GOP seem to be out of ideas for what to do next in this standoff. Couldn't they have predicted this? They're talking about some grand fiscal bargain with tax reform. Yeah, like that is going to pass. Or they are thinking about some minimal anti-Obamacare measure such as repealing the tax on medical devices or ending subsidies for congressional members and their staff. If so, then they're ignoring the real fiscal problems of this nation and its budget. Robert Samuelson has been diligent at pointing to those problems. He does so again.
President Obama has repeatedly said he won’t negotiate the debt ceiling: Congress should raise it as a matter of course, he says. This sounds responsible, but it ducks the real budget issue, which is coping with the steady rise in spending on the elderly.

Here, Obama is as guilty as his tea party and Republican foes of evading a true debate. He hasn’t confronted the reality that Social Security and Medicare are slowly squeezing most other government programs and putting upward pressure on both taxes and deficits. The central budget problem is to reconcile what’s politically popular today with what’s good for the country tomorrow. Obama’s failure to frame the debate in these terms has left a political vacuum — into which has poured much frustration, hypocrisy and destructiveness.

For those who think that government shutdowns are unique, let's remember when Tip O'Neill would semi-regularly preside over government shutdowns. And Charles C. W. Cooke reminds us,
The frequency with which America has previously reached this point betrays another inconvenient truth: the willingness to shut down the federal Leviathan is by no means limited to the advocates of small government. As my colleague Andrew Stiles notes today, during the supposedly bipartisan wonder years of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill — which are typically rolled out by revisionists to demonstrate what can happen if we all just “work together” — the government shut down no fewer than eight times, mostly at O’Neill’s insistence. Likewise, during Bill Clinton’s eight years in office, which are fondly remembered as a time of solid economic growth and bipartisan achievement, the government was sent home twice — on both occasions after Clinton rejected the budget.

Overall, the statistics might surprise: Of the 17 shutdowns in America’s history, Democrats controlled the House during 15 and had charge of both chambers during eight. Five shutdowns happened under unified government! This makes sense. Government shutdowns are caused by legitimate and welcome disagreement between equal branches. They are certainly more likely to happen in divided government, but it is not a prerequisite.
This is a history that the media seem to have forgotten. And, of course, the attempt by the Democrats to argue that the GOP is acting in an unprecedented manner might successfully get pass a supine and deliberately obtuse media, but that doesn't make it true.
Obama and his apologists appear to be laboring under the misapprehension that the House’s insistence on extracting concessions is inappropriate because its demands are somehow “unrelated” to the budget process. Given that nothing in the Constitution or the Federalist Papers hints at this, the claim is peculiar on its face. Nevertheless, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that it’s true. The question then must be, “Does Obamacare really have ‘nothing to do with the budget’(as President Obama managed to claim with a straight face in a speech last week)?”

Hardly. Obamacare is an allegedly “deficit-reducing” measure that was passed via the budget-reconciliation process, was rewritten by the Supreme Court as a tax, and will increase the federal budget by up to 10 percent. The initial House plan here, remember, was not to repeal, but to defund the law — a clear-cut budgetary project if anything is. If defunding things as part of fiscal negotiations is beyond the pale, then the president might explain why the ninth shutdown, for example, ended with the Democratic House’s managing to defund a defense program that included both medium-range and intercontinental missiles, and why it was appropriate for Congress to shut down the government over the funding of abortion as it did five times. Funnily enough, tempting as it must have been, during none of these disputes did the participants run around shouting “It’s the Law!”
Here are some of the things that we'll be missing out on during the shutdown. It's rather salutary to see what we spend our money on. But the real question we're dying to know is if President Obama's golf games will have to be cancelled.

Harry Reid is asked why he wouldn't allow separate funding for NIH to help one child with cancer, Harry Reid answers, “Why would we want to do that?” Allahpundit links to Mark Hemingway's tweet,
Old Dem CW: "If gun control saves even one child..." New Dem CW: "‘Why Would We Want To’ Help One Kid With Cancer?

Let's find out who at the OMB ordered national open-air monuments such as the WWII Memorial to be closed. It's in the open air, for gosh sake! Could this be more like those efforts to dramatize the sequester that the administration took to pretend that it was worse than it really was? Why would the WWI Memorial be closed "except for First Amendment activities"? Does that mean, it's okay to protest at the Memorial, but not to pay one's simple respect? And why do these national memorials have to be closed today when they were open during the 1995 government shutdown? As Mary Katharine Ham tweets,
Nice reminder today that gov't deems barriers at open-air memorials blocking veteran octogenarians "essential." Public servants.

And just in case you haven't become cynical enough about how the administration is trying to exacerbate the problems people might perceive from the government shutdown, how about canceling the Army-Navy game this weekend even though it doesn't involve any federal funds and will prevent the Naval Academy Athletic Association from collecting the approximately $4 million they were set to receive from the TV rights as well as inconveniencing and disappointing those expected to travel to see the game. But hey, if the "optics" are bad, by all means cancel the game unnecessarily.

If New York City ends up electing Bill Di Blasio, the city could risk going down the road that Detroit has traveled.
All of the city's unions are working under contracts that have expired. They have been waiting out [Mayor Mike] Bloomberg in hopes that a Democrat will end up at City Hall. The next mayor will therefore have to collectively bargain some 152 new contracts. The unions are demanding salary increases and what would amount to $8 billion in back pay. . . .

And the rapidly rising pension and healthcare costs of the city's public employees add up to billions more. Pension costs next year will be $8.8 billion; up from $3.1 billion in 2002. Healthcare will cost $8.2 billion; up from $2 billion—and 90% of the city's workforce pays nothing towards its health coverage.

Those two big-ticket items now comprise 34% of the budget; up from 15% when Bloomberg took office. And with an $88 billion unfunded health care liability, the city's cost curve points in one direction: Up.

In fact, over the course of the Bloomberg administration, the city's budget increased nearly 50%, from $33.9 billion to $50.7 billion. Yet the new spending did not fund basic city services but instead went to pensions, health and fringe benefits for city workers and retirees.
I was just telling my husband that I hope that someone has been keeping a list of all the stories that we've been seeing about the consequences of Obamacare. I know I see a story almost every day about a business that is cutting workers to keep under the 50-person limit for having to provide health care or another company that has cut health care for their employees. But I haven't seen all these stories in one place before. Andrew Johnson has performed this task as he lists "100 Unintended Consequences of Obamacare."

This is really provoked a spit take laugh from me. Obama claims that he's been just a beacon of bipartisanship to work with Republicans.
During the course of my presidency, I have bent over backwards to work with the Republican party and have purposely kept my rhetoric down. I think I’m pretty well known for being a calm guy. Sometimes people think I’m too calm. And am I exasperated? Absolutely I’m exasperated because this is entirely unnecessary.
Oh, please. It is but to laugh.

Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrates what world leadership looks like. Obama could take some notes.

Lost in all the brouhaha about the shutdown and the launching of Obamacare exchanges is that the Supreme Court will be back in session on Monday. And there are three big cases for labor unions that may well deal unions a "triple blow."