Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cruising the Web

Here's a story that strengthens the arguments for a Bernie Sanders-style single-payer health plan.
American liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders like to tout socialized healthcare systems such as Britain's for spending less and covering everybody, but here's a reality check you shouldn't expect to hear in any of his fiery speeches: the British government-run National Health Service has abruptly canceled 50,000 nonemergency surgeries due to overcrowding at hospitals this winter.

Sanders, I-Vt., has lamented that the United States "ends up spending almost three times per capita what they do in the UK," which is "guaranteeing healthcare to all people." Yet here is what life is like for those living in the supposedly more humane system, as reported by the Telegraph:
Every hospital in the country has been ordered to cancel all non-urgent surgery until at least February in an unprecedented step by NHS officials.

The instructions on Tuesday night - which will see result in around 50,000 operations being axed - followed claims by senior doctors that patients were being treated in “third world” conditions, as hospital chief executives warned of the worst winter crisis for three decades.

Hospitals are reporting growing chaos, with a spike in winter flu leaving frail patients facing 12-hour waits, and some units running out of corridor space.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, on Tuesday ordered NHS trusts to stop taking all but the most urgent cases, closing outpatients clinics for weeks as well as cancelling around 50,000 planned operations.

Trusts have also been told they can abandon efforts to house male and female patients in separate wards, in an effort to protect basic safety, as services become overwhelmed.
Guy Benson comments,
This is single-payer healthcare, operating in an advanced Western nation that has had their system in place for decades. A fundamentally flawed system, insufficient resources and an aging population are proving to be a recipe for disaster.

And that disaster is exactly what Bernie Sanders and a bevy of Democratic presidential hopefuls have in mind for the American people -- this, despite the stunning fiscal realities that have blocked far-left states like Vermont and California from implementing "universal healthcare" fantasies. Those stalled proposals would have roughly doubled the entire budgets of each state, offering absolutely no viable plan to make up those extraordinary funding gaps. The Bernie/Warren wing of the Democratic Party looks at these cautionary tales and responds, "full speed ahead -- let's impose that upon the whole country." And how would they even start to partially fund their reckless experiment? Massive across-the-board tax increases on the middle class and working Americans. That's according to the chairman of their own party....

If liberal Democrats get their way, these scenes will play out across our country, after 156 million Americans are forcibly uprooted from their existing healthcare plans and dumped into the mandatory government system. Single-payer healthcare would be terribly disruptive and egregiously unaffordable in the United States, crushing medical innovation, achieving worse outcomes, and hugely expanding wait times for treatment -- all managed by the sort of unaccountable federal pencil-pushers who were responsible for the (ongoing) VA scandal. And the people pushing this lose-lose proposition are the same group that lied incessantly about the outcomes and consequences of their most recent government intrusion into the US healthcare system.
Whenever Democrats push for single-payer, which many 2020 possible candidates have endorsed, Republicans can just cites this story.

Well, look at this.
The Congressional Budget Office has found that the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires people to have health insurance or pay a fine, will result in fewer people becoming uninsured than it had projected.

In presentation slides made public Wednesday by CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan agencies laid out the steps they had taken to arrive at earlier projections that 13 million more people would become uninsured in a decade if the individual mandate penalties were repealed. The groups also had estimated that gutting the fines would result in the government spending $338 billion less.

Republicans challenged the estimates, arguing that the effectiveness of the individual mandate had been overstated. Senators said they did not believe people would voluntarily drop out of programs in which they received government subsidies that largely covered their insurance costs. Democrats often cited the projections as they attacked bills to repeal Obamacare in floor speeches and press conferences.

Amid the backlash from Republicans, CBO and JTC said they would reevaluate their findings. Though they did not say in the latest report how much their projections would change or when they would release final figures, they concluded that estimates would be lower than they reported.
They don't have their new estimate now; they just know that they aren't confident in their previous estimates which had proved so helpful to the Democrats in opposing any repeal of Obamacare. Of course, if they change their projects of the impact of repealing the individual mandate, that also means that their projections of savings from getting rid of the mandate will not result in the same level of savings that they had previously projected and which the GOP had used when using reconciliation to pass their tax bill. It's all so sketchy. I think they really have no idea what is going to happen.

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Ted Cruz is taking Democrats up on their complaints
about the temporary parts of the middle-class tax cuts from the GOP tax bill.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) has introduced a bill that would make the individual tax cuts included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent.

Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, there were seven tax brackets: 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6 percent rates. The tax reform legislation cut those rates to 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent.

While the corporate tax rate was cut permanently to 21 percent, most of the individual tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025.

Cruz's bill would amend the tax code to make the individual tax cuts permanent so they would not expire.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said in an interview that the tax cuts should have been made permanent. Cruz responded that Sanders should cosponsor his bill.

"I agree, Bernie Sanders—let's make the middle-class tax cuts permanent," Cruz tweeted. "Join me, we'll cosponsor legislation (I've already got it drafted) that does exactly that, and we'll get it passed in January!"
Of course, Sanders and other Democrats don't mean it. They'll have to explain why they don't want the middle class to have permanent tax cuts.

Costco is letting customers know how much Seattle's soda tax is adding to the cost of soda. They have put up signs telling customers that their price for a case of Dr. Pepper is $9.99 and that the Seattle "Sweetened Beverage Recovery Fee" has added an additional $7.56 to bring the cost up to $17.55. They've then added a sign suggesting that customers go to a Costco outside the city limits to buy their sweetened drinks.
Costco letting its customers know that if they don't like Seattle's new sugary drink tax, they are more than welcome to shop at its warehouse stores outside the city.

Jason Mercier from Washington Policy Center, which opposed the tax, shot a photo from inside a Seattle Costco that showed the price for a Gatorade 35-bottle variety pack was $15.99. That is until you add the new tax, which bumps it up by $10.34 for a total of $26.33.

Costco also posted an explainer of the new tax, saying it adds 1.75-cents per ounce on "sugar sweetened beverages with added 'caloric sweeteners' or syrups. Then the store posted a reminder that shoppers can go to their Tukwila and Shoreline Costcos to avoid the tax.
I hope that Seattle consumers take the advice. Maybe Seattle will find out what Philadelphia has found out from their soda tax.
Philadelphia's soda tax isn't the windfall some had hoped for Philadelphia's soda tax isn't the windfall some had hoped for
11:31 AM ET Tue, 22 Aug 2017 | 00:59
Philadelphia's soda tax is falling flat — for the city, at least.

The city started taxing sweetened drinks at 1.5 cents per ounce this year after a contentious debate. The tax was billed as a way to fund community schools, prekindergarten programs, recreation centers, libraries and parks. However, revenue expectations have fallen short every month since the tax took effect in January.

Based on preliminary estimates, the tax generated $39.3 million in revenue through the end of June. That's about 15 percent short the city's original projection of $46 million, and just under its revised estimate of $39.7 million.

A new study from market research firm Catalina found people in Philadelphia are still buying sugary drinks, but they're traveling outside city limits to stock up.
Ah, people voting with their feet - amazing how that works.

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James Taranto discusses the argument that noted political scientist Morris Fiorina is making in his new book, Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting and Political Stalemate. Fiorina's argument is that we are now past the time when we could talk about a party having a "permanent majority" or even a long-time majority.
Those old enough to remember the decades before the ’90s, then, may tend to see permanent majorities around the corner because they expect a return to normalcy. Mr. Fiorina, by contrast, argues that frequent shifts in political control are now the norm because of the way the parties have changed. He rejects the common view that American voters are “polarized.” Instead, he says, the parties have become polarized, in a process he calls the “sorting” of the electorate.

“We have these two now cohesive, different parties,” he says. Democrats and Republicans today are as ideologically distinct as “the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats in Europe at the height of their power in the 20th century. And the problem is, we’ve got a much more heterogeneous country, and there’s only two of them, and they just don’t fit the electorate.”
He then goes on to demonstrate that the parties have sorted themselves out ideologically with no overlap ideologically. Where before Congress had some conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, we just don't have that overlap any more. OUr politicians are more polarized, but the electorate hasn't sorted itself out that way.
A line graph illustrates the electorate’s continuity. The share of Americans identifying as politically moderate has remained fairly constant—around 40%, and usually a plurality—since at least 1974. In the same period, another chart shows, independents overtook Democrats as the biggest partisan grouping. As the parties drifted from the ideological middle, centrist voters disaffiliated from the parties.

That creates what Mr. Fiorina calls “the ping pong pattern” of unstable majorities. One party manages “to win, narrowly, and then they immediately respond to their base. So Bush says we’re going to have personal Social Security accounts, and voters—some say, ‘I didn’t vote for that.’ Or Obama says we’re going to do government health care, and a lot of them say, ‘I didn’t vote for that.’ ” Lawmakers from the party in power “suffer for it in the next election, when they lose the marginal voters,” as Republicans did in 2006 and Democrats in 2010.
The solution would be to have parties return to being big-tent parties with a coalition of various ideologies. But that's not going to happen.
What should a party do if it aspires to an enduring majority? “Go back to being a more sort of open—no litmus tests,” Mr. Fiorina advises. “The Democrats are all talking about their chances of winning next time, but if you keep trying to run antigun and pro-choice candidates in areas like West Virginia . . . you’re committing suicide.”

This advice has one crucial shortcoming, Mr. Fiorina acknowledges: “They can’t do it.” One reason has to do with money. “The donors are most ideological of all,” he says. In the 1970s and ’80s, “a big majority of contributions to congressional races came from individual contributions within your district, and now the money is coming from outside. Texas is an ATM for Republicans, California and Manhattan for Democrats.”

He adds that “30 years ago, an Ohioan Republican and an Oregon Republican would have faced very different primary electorates that run different kinds of races. Now, you look at their campaigns—they’re going to be the same. They’re getting their money from the same kinds of people.” The Republican in Oregon, a more liberal state, is likely to prove unelectable. For this problem there is probably no remedy.
As recently as 2006, the Democrats were able to successfully seek out candidates who were ostensibly moderate in order to win in red states or districts. Now, it's going to be hard for such candidates to win primaries with activists insisting on a more doctrinaire liberalism. And the reverse is happening on the Republican side.

One conclusion we can draw from Fiorina's argument is that, if there is a big wave election for Democrats this year, it will not be a permanent state of things. Republicans will be back in another few elections. Nothing is permanent.

This is disappointing to learn. NPR is reporting that the reason that James Rosen has left Fox News is due to his conduct with women.
The network cited no reason for Rosen's exit and did not announce it on the air. According to Rosen's former colleagues, however, he had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists, including two reporters and a producer. And his departure followed increased scrutiny of his behavior at the network, according to colleagues.
He was always one of my favorite reporters. I liked that he was a historian on the side so he could offer some context for stories as well a bit of an impish sense of humor. However, the reports about his private behavior toward some of his female colleagues is rather disturbing. And there are more details about the sexist atmosphere at Fox News beyond what we've heard before about Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly. It all goes to show once more that we can't judge people by the persona they project in public. Who knows why a seemingly nice, intelligent, reasonably good-looking, successful man would feel that he could and should force embraces and kisses on women who clearly weren't interested? But those decisions have now cost him, and others like him, their careers.

Another prominent reporter
has been suspended.
Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach was suspended by his employer on Wednesday for “inappropriate workplace conduct” with current and prior female coworkers.

Achenbach will be suspended for 90 days without pay, effective immediately. According to the Post, that's the most severe punishment the organization has issued recently for violations of workplace or journalistic standards.

The paper did not elaborate on what kind misconduct Achenbach engaged in, but noted that an investigation had been conducted for two months about his behavior.

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The Daily Caller looks into the lawsuit that James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired when he wrote up a memo criticizing some of the diversity policies at Google and stating that it might not be sexism denying women engineering jobs, but simply that fewer women are choosing that career. I'm not sure what sort of a chance that he has for his suit, but the evidence of bias against conservatives at Google is pretty startling in how open it was.
Another trio of managers — Adam Fletcher, Jake McGuire and Nori Heikkinen — endorsed “blacklisting” conservative employees on an internal message board in August 2015.

“I will never, ever hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever,” Fletcher wrote with respect to conservatives. “I don’t care if you are perfect fit or technically excellent or whatever. I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”

McGuire and Heikkinen expressed agreement in subsequent messages. The sequence was precipitated when a “Republican employee” complained about disparate advancement opportunities for openly conservative personnel.

During this same period, another manager, Paul Cowan, relayed his support for blacklists, announcing that he kept a mental blacklist of colleagues who hold “dunderheaded opinion[s] about religion, about politics, or about ‘social justice'” on an internal message board.

“If I had to work with people on this list, I would refuse, and try to get them removed; or I would change teams; or I would quit,” he wrote.

The complaint also speaks of pervasive but informal practices through which employees “block” colleagues with heterodox political views on company social media and communications platforms. Such “blocking” is detrimental to advancement, since employees are not placed on project teams with other Googlers who have “blocked” them.

All told, the problem was serious enough to provoke a meeting between conservative employees and Paul Manwell, chief of staff to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Sept. 8, 2017. The meeting appears to have yielded little by way of results, while other Googlers revealed that senior vice presidents sanctioned unofficial blocking and blacklisting during an October 2017 meeting, though the lawsuit is not specific as to what was said during the October meeting.

The complaint also alleges that Google fosters an HR architecture obsessively attentive to race, gender, and sexuality. The suit claims the company relies on illegal racial or gender quotas in personnel decisions, and promotes a work culture deeply intertwined with identity politics.

Most seriously, Damore alleges that the company uses illegal hiring quotas to meet desired numbers of female and minority employees in every facet of the hierarchy.

Such racial and gender preferences are communicated during company-wide events. During a Google-wide meeting March 30, 2017, two senior corporate officers, CFO Ruth Porat and HR chief Eileen Naughton, allegedly berated company units where women comprise less than 50 percent of employees. They also announced the company would consider gender and ethnic characteristics in awarding promotions and leadership opportunities.
Discovery might prove to be fascinating for this case.

That's not the only story about anti-conservative bias at Google that the Daily Caller has found. They have looked at Google's fact-checking of websites and found that Google is singling out conservative sites.
Google, the most powerful search engine in the world, is now displaying fact checks for conservative publications in its results.
No prominent liberal site receives the same treatment.

And not only is Google’s fact-checking highly partisan — perhaps reflecting the sentiments of its leaders — it is also blatantly wrong, asserting sites made “claims” they demonstrably never made.

When searching for a media outlet that leans right, like The Daily Caller (TheDC), Google gives users details on the sidebar, including what topics the site typically writes about, as well as a section titled “Reviewed Claims.”

Vox, and other left-wing outlets and blogs like Gizmodo, are not given the same fact-check treatment. When searching their names, a “Topics they write about” section appears, but there are no “Reviewed Claims.”
In fact, a review of mainstream outlets, as well as other outlets associated with liberal and conservative audiences, shows that only conservative sites feature the highly misleading, subjective analysis. Several conservative-leaning outlets like TheDC are “vetted,” while equally partisan sites like Vox, ThinkProgress, Slate, The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Salon, Vice and Mother Jones are spared.

Occupy Democrats is apparently the only popular content provider from that end of the political spectrum with a fact-checking section.

Big name publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are even given a column showcasing all of the awards they have earned over the years.
They also point out that the fact-checking sometimes doesn't even check what is actually in the article supposedly being checked. David Harsanyi goes into depth exploring the Google checks on his site, The Federalist, and finding the checks to be quite questionable in what they're purporting to check and what The Federalist actually wrote or how they put in such checks for his site, but not other sites that had made similar claims, such as the Washington Post.