Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Hobby Lobby

When the Supreme Court ruled that religious liberty applies in the workplace too, the howls of dismay from the left were as predictable as they were shrill. Feminists wasted no time in wringing their hands and proclaiming that "employers are now free to harm the health of their female employees." Others sobbed about the loss of "access to birth control."

This was not unexpected in the least. But what was surprising was how weak the response from conservatives was. The vast majority of politicians and commentators who claim to be pro-life, pro-constitution conservatives were quick to adopt the language of the left, attempting to pacify the left's outrage.

For example, they point out that Hobby Lobby's insurance still covers all 16 birth control methods which can properly be classified as "contraceptives", only refusing to cover the four methods which are not contraceptive, but abortificient. Of course they do have a point. The morning-after pill is not a contraception. It does not prevent conception. It causes an abortion.

Or they respond to the absurd suggestions that this ruling opens up the door for any employer to refuse to cover blood transfusions or other life-saving treatments for religious reasons by pointing out that the ruling explicitly states that it only applies to closely held companies with religious objections to abortion-causing drugs.

Conservatives don't seem to be up to the task of pointing out that not subsidizing your birth control is different from banning it. To any normal person, having "access" to a product means that you can walk into a store and buy it. But to a leftist, "access" to birth control means that the government forces someone else to pay for your birth control. The Hobby Lobby decision doesn't prevent anyone from getting whatever birth control they want. It just means that if you choose to work for Hobby Lobby, you might have to pay for your own morning-after pills.

Even as leftists scream about how contraception is none of their bosses' business, conservatives don't seem capable of making the point that if contraception is none of the bosses' business, employers shouldn't be compelled by law to pay for it.

Instead conservatives accept the premise that employers should be required to provide insurance, with a few minor exceptions.

When George Takei, who is an expert on health care policy based on pretending to be a space man on TV, said that "Your boss should not have any say about your health care", did he mean that your boss should not be required by law to pay for your insurance? I can demand that my boss stay out of my health care, or I can demand that my boss pay for my health care, but I can't demand that he do both.

The decision for a company to hire an employee is between the employer and the employee, and the terms of that arrangement should be whatever the two parties agree upon.

If one employer decides to not provide any insurance at all, they should be free to do that. If you don't want to work for that employer, you are free to go elsewhere. If that employer can attract the people needed to run the business without providing insurance, great. If not, they may be forced to change their policy to stay in business.

In an employer happens to be against appendectomies because of a bad childhood experience, he should be free to offer insurance which excludes that particular procedure. Employees are free to accept that or work for someone else. Health care is not a right, and the free market will work all these things out.

If another employer decides that they will try to attract the best employees by offering a Cadillac insurance policy, they are free to do that too. Employers don't provide insurance because the government mandates it. They provide insurance because it is necessary in order to compete in the job market. Most employers provided insurance before the mandate, after all.

If one employer can find the people he needs by paying six dollars an hour, he should be able to do that. Both the employer and the employees agree to that pay, so why should be government say they can't hire at that pay? If you want to be paid more, show that your work is valuable and earn a raise, or go find a company which will pay you more. If there isn't one, your work is not worth more.

The bigger point is not that Hobby Lobby is reasonable to only cover 16 of the 20 available birth control methods. It is that government shouldn't be meddling in the employer/employee relationship in the first place. Government has no business mandating what product a person should be required to buy, or what product an employer should be required to buy for their employees.

It is time for conservatives to stop quibbling about what reasonable exceptions should be made to the mandate and return to the core issue which is that the mandate itself violates the principles of freedom which made America great and lies completely outside of the authority which we grant to the government through the Constitution.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Faithless Execution



Last week, Obama had a problem. The news media was out of line, reporting about how the VA had allowed veterans to die while they waited to be treated by the single-payer medical system we provide to our soldiers. This was a first for the propaganda branch of the Obama administration, one of his most loyal and ardent sources of support, right up there with liberal arts professors, union bosses, and Obamaphone owners. Usually they would be reflexively spinning the story to Obama's favor or just refusing to acknowledge that it exists, but perhaps in this case, it was too big to ignore. Or maybe they knew that it would not be particularly harmful to their messiah. After all, similar problems have been occurring for as long as the government has been in the healthcare providing business. It can't all be blamed on Obama, and once he fires some high-ranking person, he can claim he has dealt with it and move on.

But still, Obama doesn't like his failures or the failure of government-run healthcare to stay in the headlines for long. Something had to be done. Then some mid-level staffer had a burst of brilliance. Obama needs to do something to make him a hero to the military. Then they will forget that he let veterans die on secret waiting lists and gave bonuses to the administrators who ran those waiting lists for the cost savings. There was one American soldier still being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. His name is Bowe Bergdahl, and he has been in captivity since 2009, showing up occasionally in Taliban propaganda videos. If Obama could negotiate his release, that would be a great victory, and the VA debacle would be forgotten in the ensuing Obama lovefest.

John Kerry's State Department got busy, and sensing that the Obama administration was suddenly desperate to obtain Bergdahl's release at any price, the Taliban demanded the release of five notorious Taliban leaders in return. The deal was made. Bowe Bergdahl was dropped off to American special forces in Afghanistan, and the five Taliban leaders were set free in Qatar.

Obama called a press conference and waited for the waves of jubilant accolades for his heroic achievement. Bowe's father spoke, starting out by thanking Allah, in whose name the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies kill, maim, and destroy. But the response Obama was looking for didn't happen. All of the celebration, it seems, is on the Taliban side. They did get a much better deal, after all.

America has had a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists. While this policy is occasionally painful to maintain, it is important to not give terrorists an incentive to collect more bargaining chips. When we make concessions to terrorists in return for the return of the people they are holding hostage, it motivates them to abduct more Americans. Refusing to negotiate keeps all Americans safer in the long run. Today, that policy is officially out the window.

Who were these five men who Obama set free? What did they do to end up at Gitmo, and at what cost were they captured? According to a 2008 Pentagon dossier on Gitmo inmates, all five were considered to be a high risk to launch attacks against the United States if freed.

Mullah Mohammad Fazl led a series of massacres against Afghanistan's Shi'ite Muslim population. "There was not a single undamaged house or garden," said Masjidi Fatehzada, a shopkeeper in Mir Bacha Kot, the district center. "My entire shop was burned to the ground. There was nothing left."


Mullah Norullah Noori was hand picked by Osama bin Laden to lead a 1995 offensive against the northern alliance, our allies in Afghanistan.

Khairkhwa, a former Taliban governor of Herat, participated in meetings with Iranian officials after 9-11 to help plot attacks on U.S. forces following the invasion.

These are evil men, and they are now free to plot their revenge against America. American soldiers died in the effort to capture these men, and more Americans are likely to die because of their release. Worse yet, terrorist groups now know that they can get their people released by kidnapping Americans. The price has been set. Five terrorists for one American.

Who did we get in return?

Shortly after the trade was announced, soldiers from Bergdahl's unit began to come forward with their accounts of Bergdahl abandoning his post. Contrary to some reports that Bergdahl was captured when he lagged behind on a patrol, and contrary to other reports that he was abducted while using the latrine on the Army base, it is becoming clear that Bergdahl had serious grievances with America and with the mission in Afghanistan, and intentionally deserted his unit. Liberals responded with shrill cried that Bergdahl is being "swiftboated". The working definition of swiftboating is when fellow soldiers give the facts which contradict a soldier's false claims of heroism. Now the administration has gone even further, smearing Bergdahl's entire platoon as "psychopaths".

But we don't have to rely on the testimony of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers. Bowe himself wrote an email to his parents: “The future is too good to waste on lies, and life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

We can also listen to Afghan villages who met Bergdahl after he walked away from his base at night, with a compass, a knife, water, a digital camera, and his diary. They say that they warned him not to continue in the direction he was heading. The Taliban are there. He went on in spite of those warnings.

Once these facts came out, a second wave of protest arose from the soldiers who spent months searching through the mountains of Afghanistan, looking for Bergdahl. Worse yet, the parents of soldiers who died in that effort were faced with the knowledge that their sons died trying to rescue a traitor.

As the reality of what Obama had done spread, the White House went into spin mode. Susan Rice, the Tokyo Rose of the Obama Administration, was dispatched. We don't know who wrote her talking points this time, but she declared that Bergdahl had "served with honor and distinction", apparently calling all of the soldiers who were there liars.

Before the weekend was over, it was pointed out that Obama himself signed a bill called the "National Defense Authorization Act" requiring that he give Congress 30 days notice before releasing any inmate from Gitmo. Releasing the Taliban Five without notifying Congress was against the law. But a White House spokesperson was quick to justify the decision, citing the "unique and exigent circumstances." Yet again the President believes that the laws do not apply to him, at least not if he declares there to be "unique and exigent circumstances". Of course he is the sole arbiter of such circumstances, and his alleged good intentions, not the law or the actual facts of the case, should determine how he is judged. True to form, Obama supports the rule of Obama, not the rule of law.

After the first two rounds of explanations did not stick, the Obama administration is offering yet another excuse. They now claim that they couldn't notify Congress because the Taliban said that if news of the deal became public, they would kill Bergdahl. In essence, Obama is saying he broke the law because the Taliban told him to. But this tale doesn't hold up to any scrutiny. The White House routinely gives classified briefings to Congress, or more commonly, to particular committees within Congress. Obama could have notified Congress without making the matter public. One must remember that while excuses may change repeatedly, the truth does not.

In Brussels Belgium on Thursday Obama was asked if he was surprised by the controversy swirling around the decision to make this trade. “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington," Obama answered. "I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody’s child and that we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back. This is not a political football.” Obama tried to discount the outraged response of the American people by characterizing it as being "whipped up in Washington." Then he falls back on his second favorite rhetorical trick (the first being to claim ignorance of what his own administration is doing), the straw man. Obama rebuts an argument that no one is making, and claims to have settled the issue. You can search all day long, and you will not find anyone suggesting that Bergdahl is not someone's child, or that we should not make an effort to get him back. The question is "At what price?" Most people find the release of five dangerous Taliban leaders an outrageously unacceptable price for one traitor.

Nearly a week after the deal was announced, many Democrats in Congress have condemned the President's action, but Obama himself insists that it was the right decision, offering the precedent of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who negotiated the release of prisoners of war after winning the war and obtaining the unconditional surrender of the enemy. But the conflict is not over just because Obama declares it over. The terrorists in Afghanistan and neighboring countries are no less intent on killing Americans. Of course the Taliban has not surrendered, and when Obama pulls American troops out of Afghanistan next year as he has announced, they will fight to re-establish their tyrannical rule of that nation, the Taliban Five calling the shots, no doubt. But just for reference, George Washington built a gallows sixty feet tall for deserters. Abraham Lincoln had deserters flogged, and in some cases shot. Roosevelt court-martialed them and sent them to prison. What will Obama do with Bowe Bergdahl now that he has given away five Taliban leaders to secure his release?

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Dodson Theorem

My most brilliant insights often occur to me in the shower. The other day, I was just finishing up shampooing my hair when my thoughts ran to the left's current obsession with "income inequality." The news had just reported that the average compensation for CEOs has now passed $10 million for the first time, sending liberals into conniption fits of envy. Of course, no society, not even Russia, China, Cuba, or any other leftist utopia, has ever achieved income equality. While in America, there is a larger spread of incomes than you find in many countries, the lower 10% of Americans still earn more than the median income in most of the world. The conclusion must be that liberals would be happy for the poor to be poorer, if only the rich could also be poorer.

Suddenly, from this train of thoughts emerged a single truth which I have not heard expressed by anyone before:

Equality and opportunity are mutually exclusive.

This statement holds true universally, for any one aspect or continuum of measurement. Equality requires conformity, while opportunity can exist only where there is the possibility of exceptionalism. This principle is "The Dodson Theorem".

If government imposes income equality on all Americans, then there is no opportunity to earn a greater income through harder work or innovation. Conversely, if hard work and innovation pay off, some people will do better than others, which creates inequality.

If leftists set out to create complete income equality, there are three ways this goal could be approached:

The first possibility is for the state to determine the average income of all 310 million people in America, confiscate every dime of income above that level, and redistribute the money to those who earn less. Instantly the evil of income inequality would be vanquished. But what happens next? Everyone working hard to produce products or provide services and earning more than the average will now no longer have any incentive to keep producing. After all, people without their skills or knowledge or experience or hard work are earning just as much as they are. So they will start doing the minimum to earn the new average wage, at most. Productivity will collapse almost instantly. And people earning less than the average will see that people who work even less than them are still getting paid as much. In the second year, the average wage will drop nearly in half, but that is just the surface of the problem. Productivity will fall completely flat, so there will be nothing to buy with the money which is being earned. By the third year, the economy will be decimated.

The second possibility is for the state to mandate the same wage for every person. Whether you are a janitor, a doctor, a burger flipper, or a CEO, your wage will be exactly the same as everyone else's. Again, instant income equality, at least for those with a job. But why would someone get the education or do all the hard work to be a doctor or an engineer when it doesn't pay any better than any other job? Furthermore, why would anyone go to all the trouble to invent and innovate to create new advances which make people's lives better? It wouldn't benefit him at all. On the other end of the spectrum, people who don't have the skills or ability to provide value to their employer equal to the required wage would be unemployable, creating a whole new class of unproductive people. The standard of living for everyone would plummet. Equality in misery would be a reality.

The third possibility is for the state to nationalize all businesses and create a socialist state, assign people their job, and force them to work it. This would require a more heavy-handed totalitarian regime than we saw in Russia, China, North Korea, or Cuba. But hey, everyone would be equally oppressed. Except for the ruling class, of course. They are special.

Equality can only be achieved by a total surrender of freedom and by stripping individuals of the chance to excel. If there is income equality, there is no economic opportunity. Anyone advocating for an end of income inequality is supporting poverty and totalitarianism. There is no other way to achieve that objective.

But wait a minute, doesn't our founding document, The Declaration of Independence, say that "all men are created equal?"

Great question, and it illustrates a different aspect of the Dodson Theorem.


The self-evident truth that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a central precept of freedom. It flew in the face of every system of rule in the world at that time, where a king had the authority to rule because his father was the king before him, and the subjects had only the rights granted by the king, as he saw fit. Instead, it asserts that every person has the right to self-determination, and that right does not come from government, but from God. It saw people as citizens, not as subjects, and recognized their authority to choose their own leader who would serve under the rule law just as all the citizens did. All men are created equal in that we all have the same God-given rights and no person can rule over another. The Constitution established this principle as "equal protection under the law." In that aspect, we are equal, and as the Dodson Theorem says, there is no opportunity. I can't add to my God-given rights or assert my authority to rule over anyone.

The current divide between liberal ideologues and supporters of freedom and opportunity revolves around how we are equal, and what opportunity we have. Liberals want government to impose economic conformity, whether it be in health care, income, or property. They use every tool at their disposal, from the EPA to the IRS to force this radical egalitarianism on people who largely don't want it. They progress incrementally, but with each step there is less opportunity. On the other side are those who see the role of government as being to protect the essential liberty of individuals, and otherwise to stay out of their way, allowing them to achieve their fullest potential. Some will go further than others, and some will crash and burn, but each person will create his own destiny.

Our nation stands at a fork in the road, one path leading downward to collectivism, the other upward to individual liberty and opportunity. Which path we take will depend on more than just elections. It will depend on what we demand from government. If we look to government to be our provider or our savior to rescue us from the consequences of our own decisions, we give the ruling class more power to determine the course of our lives. If we keep the government on a short leash, only allowing it to carry out its role of upholding the civil society using the enumerated powers given to it by the Constitution, recognizing that Government produces nothing, that everything is produced by our own ingenuity and industry, then we allow each person to pursue limitless achievement.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Death Panels



A few years ago, Governor Sarah Palin said that if government was allowed to take over the healthcare industry, it would lead to death panels, unelected groups of bureaucrats rationing care and deciding based on their arbitrary criteria who would live and who would die. The predictable outrage and mockery from the left was particularly fierce in this case. She was lambasted as a crazed fringe wacko by the liberal media elite and by Democrat politicians and their backers. After all, government cares and government has good intentions and is not greedy like those evil insurance companies.

Over the past few weeks, it has been revealed that government-run VA hospitals have been denying timely medical attention to thousands of our veterans, resulting in many deaths and great suffering, and they have been covering their tracks by keeping the waiting lists secret, preventing the underlying issue from being addressed and the necessary resources from being obtained to get these American heroes the care they have earned through their service to our nation.

So we have government bureaucrats rationing care, deciding who lives and who dies. Sounds like a death panel.

Back in 2008, Barack Obama said that the VA would be "a leader of national health care reform". It would appear that the disaster of Obamacare is indeed following the lead of the VA. Are we going to follow along, right over the cliff?

A shrewd observer will stop me here to point out that the VA and Obamacare are very different systems. VA is fully government owned and run, while Obamacare still works with private insurance and providers. This is true, to the extent that the VA is government control by ownership, while Obamacare is government control by regulation. When Obamacare fails and leftists demand that it didn't go far enough, that we need a single-payer system, remember the VA. If government can't run a system for the veterans, to whom we all owe a huge debt for the freedom their blood has bought for us, how can it ever run a nationwide single payer healthcare system?

A government run system necessarily involves perverse incentives which do not lead to the desired outcome for the patients. In a private hospital, if a patient comes in with a broken leg, the hospital has to treat that leg in order to be paid. But if that patient shows up at the VA, the administrator gets a bonus for NOT treating the broken leg. His bonus is tied to cutting costs, so the patient is put on the waiting list, and if the waiting list gets too big, they stop reporting the true number of people waiting for treatment.

In 2009, President Obama was asked about the care that 100-year-old Jane Sturm would receive under Obamacare. Jane needed a pacemaker to keep her alive, but Obama said that under Obamacare, "We can let doctors know, and let your mom know, that uhhh maybe this isn't going to help, maybe you're better off uhhhhh not having the surgery, but uhhhh taking the painkiller."

The problem with this exchange is deeper than the coldness of the President's response. Why should the President or the bureaucrats he appoints be deciding if Jane Sturm gets a pacemaker or not? Why should they be telling doctors to just give her a pain pill and let her die? This is not an issue that the Federal government has any business, or Constitutional authority, meddling in. By handing over our health care to the Federal Government, we are giving them vast power over our lives, and that power can be used against us. Under the Obama administration we have seen the weaponization of government, using the IRS, the EPA, the BLM, the NSA, the NLRB, the CFPB, the TSA, and a whole list of other government agencies to force Obama's will on the citizens he is supposed to serve.

Surely the government would not use Obamacare and the IRS, the enforcement branch of Obamacare, to punish its political enemies!

They would use the IRS to punish Tea Party groups and suppress their vote.

They would use the Justice Department to punish the maker of a stupid YouTube video to divert attention from their foreign policy failings.

They would use the EPA to punish oil companies, destroy jobs, and depress the economy, as payback to their radical environmentalist donors.

They would use the NSA to gather information on their political opponents.

They would use the NLRB to shut down an aircraft plant because it was built in a right to work state.

"Let me be clear" (to coin a phrase), Obama will use the power we give him as a weapon against anyone who opposes his mission to fundamentally transform America.

Let's not give him another weapon to add to his arsenal.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Who is this "Ben Gazzi" guy?

If you get your information from the mainstream media, the extent of your knowledge about Benghazi is that he is some guy from the Tea Party and he probably works at Fox News.

So it might not have interested you much to hear that there are some new revelations about Mr. Gazzi last week. I mean, that was like two years ago, dude. We've slept since then.

But I think that the families of the four Americans killed in Benghazi deserve some honest answers about what happened to their loved ones, and why.

There are a number of questions which remain unanswered.

Why was there not adequate security for our ambassador at the American consulate in Benghazi, in spite of repeated requests to improve the level of protection, and multiple warnings that the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous?

Why was help not forthcoming when the assault on the consulate was underway?

What was Obama doing in the ten hours between the time the attack began and the time that our ambassador was captured, tortured, and murdered?

What was Hillary doing?

What orders did they give regarding sending reinforcements to help?

After the attacks, how did the bogus story about the attack being caused by a YouTube video come about?

Who changed the talking points from the intelligence community, removing the account of a well-planned terror attack and replacing it with a fabricated story of a spontaneous demonstration gone out of control?

Why did Hillary and Biden promise the family members of the dead Americans that they would get the man who made the video, rather than promising to get the people who killed their loved ones?

Why was the only American response to throw the idiot who made that dumb video in jail, rather than tracking down and killing the terrorists who actually committed the acts?

After 18 months of stonewalling, we finally have evidence, in the form of email communications from within the Obama regime forced into the light by a private lawsuit, that the effort to blame the attack on a YouTube video was knowingly deceptive, intentionally calculated to divert attention from Obama's failed policies in Libya and preserve his campaign narrative that he had defeated al Qaeda. The September 14, 2012 email from Benjamin Rhodes, with Subject "PREP CALL with Susan" discussed  the instructions given to Susan Rice in advance of her appearance on a series of Sunday talk shows to discuss the attack in Benghazi. Rhodes described her goal during these appearances being, “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” Because it is standard operating procedure in the Muslim world to bring rocket powered grenades and mortars to  prayer services at the mosque, and if you happen to hear about a video which makes you upset, things can just get out of hand really fast..

The media has spent the past year and a half largely ignoring the story, or when necessary, deriding and marginalizing those who suggested that the administration deliberately fabricated the story of the YouTube video for political reasons. The White House, which once promised to be the most transparent administration ever, fought vigorously to keep these emails hidden, but was compelled by court order to release them. It seems that they are more interested in providing political cover for Obama and Hillary than they are in accepting accountability and being honest with the people they work for.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Heaven is For Real


The movie "Heaven is For Real" has been generating some buzz lately, both from Christians who are looking to the story as proof of the truth of the Bible, and from atheists seeking to discount the story.

Someone asked me if I believe that the little boy's experience was real. The best answer I can provide is "I don't know, and it doesn't really matter." It is not likely to convince anyone who has already decided to reject God in order to deny his moral authority over his life. But from my viewpoint, even if we knew that his experience was the result of brain chemistry caused by his near-death condition, that doesn't disprove the reality of heaven.

I tend to look at most accounts of "near death experiences" with some degree of skepticism. With a few exceptions in the times of the Bible, heaven is only experienced after death, and death is a one-way street. If you are not dead, you are not experiencing heaven, and if you come back to life in this world, you were not dead. I've heard people say "I was dead for 8 minutes before I was resuscitated." If you are walking around telling this story, you were not dead. Hebrews 9:27 says that you die once, and after that comes judgement.

There are complicating factors in "Heaven is For Real". How did the boy know facts about the baby that his parents had lost? I can't answer that question. Maybe in that moment, God revealed it to him. Maybe someone had told him. Or maybe it was a remarkable case of intuition. On the other side of the scale, why did he describe Jesus as looking like Kenny Loggins? Maybe that's how Jesus chose to reveal himself, or maybe it was a projection of his own subconscious preconceptions of what Jesus would look like.

Regardless of what I think of this movie and the events behind it, I believe that heaven is real, not because someone saw it and reported back to me about it, but because I know the God who reigns there. The reality which can not be denied is that He has transformed me into a new creation. I have not seen heaven, but I know that it is real like I know the force of gravity. Attempts to prove it empirically are doomed to fail. That is why it requires faith. Not a leap of faith into darkness, but a confident step onto the solid ground of God's love, proven to us on the cross.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Obamacare succeeds in keeping uninsured rate level



Today Gallop released the results of a huge poll to measure the results of the full implementation of the Obamacare law. Read about it here. It found that the White House claim that they have enrolled 7.1 million people is a bit off. The true number is roughly 3.5 million, or less than half of what they claimed. This is not an aberration for the Obama administration, which routinely announces positive job reports with great fanfare, only to quietly revise them downwards a couple of months later. Signing up 3.5 million people is not a great accomplishment when they started off by kicking 5 million people out of their existing coverage with the individual mandate.

So how did they get the number so wrong? After all, they run the web site.

Maybe they were counting all of their dead voters and the fictional people they registered via ACORN.

But the key line in this story is buried about half way down, and twisted to sound like a positive for BO.

But Gallup's numbers do show an improving trend. The share of Americans without coverage is at its lowest since late 2008, before Obama took office, the survey found. That's independent validation for the White House, and shows the country at least is not suffering from a net loss of insurance coverage due to cancellations. 

Let me get this straight. The big win for Obamacare is that the uninsured rate is the same as it was under Bush? We've wrecked the medical system and imposed a bunch of authoritarian mandates enforced by the IRS against hundreds of millions of Americans, but that is justified by the fact that the same number of people are still uninsured?

Wasn't Obamacare sold on the promise of ushering us to the promised land of universal coverage? They told us that the law would cover all of the 43 million uninsured people languishing in the gutter, but now they claim victory when they say that 7.1 million people have signed up, and the real number is half of that. Do you remember all of the Facebook lemmings posting drivel like "No one should die because they can't afford health care, or go broke because they get sick. If you agree, post this as your status today." Those sycophants are still defending Obamacare today, in spite of the fact that it has (predictably) failed to achieve it's stated utopian objective.

Last week when Obama made his decree in the Rose Garden that the debate on Obamacare is over and that history does not look favorably on people who stand in the way of American progress, he was employing the language of tyrants, proclaiming false propaganda to be true and forbidding dissent. No, Mr. President, the debate is not over. You don't get to declare the debate to be over. The American people get to decide if what you have done to us is "progress". We'll let you know in November. I think that is what you fear most.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why would Wendy Davis fabricate *this* story?



You have most likely seen the news stories about Wendy Davis, the hapless Democrat candidate for Governor of Texas, fabricating a tragic sob story about how she put herself through Harvard Law School as a single mom living in a trailer park. She told this story as part of her filibuster which destroyed her chance to be re-elected in her fairly conservative Texas Senate district, but catapulted her from obscurity to national fame and front-runner status for a chance to lose to Gregg Abbott. Fortunately, being a proponent of late-term abortion is not a positive in Texas, and that is all that sets Wendy Davis apart. Now the facts of Wendy's days at Harvard Law are coming out. Turns out, she was not a single mom when she attended Harvard Law. She was married to her second husband, who spent his life savings paying for her law degree. As soon as he had made the final payment, she divorced him and gave him the kid, too. Quite a different series of events from what she presented to the world.

But lets examine Wendy's tale of woe. Why would a Texas Senator wish to fabricate a story about herself as a single mom, when it didn't happen? Simple. Single motherhood qualifies an individual for sainthood in the religion of liberalism. Single mothers are held up as the ultimate in virtue and selflessness, in spite of the fact that they are ensuring that their kids have the worst possible chance of a happy and productive life. Single mothers are consulted as experts on all societal issues, trotted out as props by politicians and used as applause lines. Wendy no doubt believed that her claim of single mother status lent credibility to her position on late term abortion. But the fact is that kids raised by single mothers are harmed in numerous ways by the choices of their mother.

Single mothers are adored by liberals because of their made-to-order victim status, making them dependents on the father figure of government, useful as tools used to justify the expansion of the welfare state, and giving them blanket immunity from criticism. Establishing this status requires that they be seen as passive victims of their circumstances, with no control over their own lives. To perpetuate this image, divorced mothers and widowed mothers are often lumped in with single mothers. However, sociologists see these as distinct categories. Each of the studies I cite below has separate statistics for single mothers, divorced mothers, widowed mothers, divorced and re-married mothers, etc. Children of divorced or widowed mothers do much better than those whose mother wasn't married in the first place. Having a child is the result of a volitional choice. Making that choice without being prepared to raise a child in a family with a loving mother and father is irresponsible. A woman who becomes pregnant without being married has the option of putting her child up for adoption. Adopted children do as well or better, on average, than children raised by both biological parents, while children raised by a single mother have much worse odds. A woman who makes the choice to put her own children in the worst possible environment is not a hero. Of course, some kids raised by single mothers turn out just fine, and two-parent families sometimes produce some really rotten brats. But if you want the best for your kids, get married before you have kids, or find a way for them to be raised in a stable, two-parent family.

Women not married to the biological parent of their children fall into various categories. In about six percent of the cases, she is widowed. This is the most rare of the situations, and the only one where truly no one is at fault. Thirty four percent of the cases result from divorce. The division of blame varies widely in these cases, but I have never seen a case where one hundred percent of the fault belonged to one person. Finally, the largest group, at forty one percent, are women who got pregnant without bothering to get married at all. These are the ones I am focusing on in this article, in particular. With the exception of widows, these situations were created by the choices of the parents, but the kids have to deal with the consequences. It is the responsibility of the grown ups to make sure that their own kids have a mother and a father. Of course the father bears his share of the blame as well. But society doesn't treat fathers who abandon their children like they are angels in disguise, and you don't see politicians making up stories about how they got a girl pregnant and then ditched her.

Society's fawning adulation for single mothers has resulted in a huge increase in unmarried women choosing to have children without having a husband. We are supposed to ignore the damage caused by unwed mothers and admire them for their pluck. But where has that gotten us? And who speaks for the children who are the true victims here?In 1970, there were just three million single mothers in the United States. By 2011 that number had increased to eleven million.  In 1979, just 600,000 babies were born out of wedlock, and a quarter of them were put up for adoption. By 1991 that number had doubled to 1,225,000, and only 4% of them were allowed to be adopted. In 2003 more than 1.5 million babies were born to unwed mothers, and only 14,000, less than one percent, were put up for adoption. Having babies without being married has become socially acceptable, and even praiseworthy, and the results are devastating.

In 2004, Jason DeParle wrote an article in New York Times Magazine, concluding that "Mounds of social science, from the left and the right, leave little doubt that the children of single-parent families face heightened risks." The article cited a book by sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur as the definitive text on the topic, which said "In our opinion, the evidence is quite clear: Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents' race or educational background."

Social scientist Charles Murray said that "Illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time -- more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare, or homelessness because it drives everything else."

Controlling for socioeconomic status, race, and place of residence, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single parent.

By 1996, 70% of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. 72% of juvenile murderers and 60% of rapists come from single-mother homes. 70% of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers are children raised by single mothers. A 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that after controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rate disappeared.

According to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, children from single-parent families account for 63% of all youth suicides, 70% of all teenage pregnancies, 71% of all all adolescent chemical abuse, 80% of all prison inmates, and 90% of all homeless children.

A study cited in the Village Voice found that children brought up in single-mother homes are "five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, ten times more likely to abuse chemical substances, fourteen times more likely to commit rape (for the boys), twenty times more likely to end up in prison, and thirty two times more likely to run away from home."

Eighty five percent of parents who kill their children through neglect are single mothers

America does not have a problem with poverty so much as it has a problem with unmarried parents. The rash of single motherhood is breeding a huge underclass. Half of all single mothers in America are under the poverty line, making their children six times more likely to be in poverty than children with married parents. Single mothers account for 85% of homeless families. Ninety percent of welfare recipients are single mothers. Meanwhile, a black child has just an 8% chance of being in poverty, if her parents are married. According to Isabel Sawhill of the liberal Brookings Institution, nearly all of the increase in child poverty since 1970 is attributed to the increase in single-parent families. The 2004 New York Times article said that "if you dig down in the world of the underclass, you hit a geyser of father-yearning."

If an unborn baby could choose one thing about her parents which would maximize her chances of having a good life, her first choice would not relate to her parent's race or socioeconomic status. Her first wish would be that her mother is pro-life. Her second wish, close behind that one, would be that her mother and father are married. Mothers who chose to give their own children nearly the worst possible start in life are inflicting great harm on those children, who have no voice and no say in the matter.

Liberals glorify single mothers because it gives them instant victim status and feminist street cred. Yet the real victims are the children who, by no fault of their own, are brought up without a father. Society used to stigmatize children born out of wedlock. They were labeled "bastards" or "illegitimate children." Clearly the stigma was wrong and misplaced. It is not the child who is illegitimate. It is the parent. Instead of removing the stigma altogether, I suggest that it is time to place the stigma where it belongs: on the adults who have children without providing the stable family environment, with a loving mother and father, where children can thrive.

Single motherhood is the embodiment of the feminist vision: women without men. Except they are not without men. They are without one specific man with a personal interest in their particular children. But men--and women--across the country have been forcibly enlisted in the job of feeding, housing, and clothing single mothers and their children. Government policies are designed to support single mothers rather than prevent single motherhood. The annual cost of single mothers to US taxpayers is $112 billion. Churches, corporations, non-profits, and individuals are required to chip in to make up for single mothers' lack of husbands. "I am woman, hear me roar! Hey, where is my government check?"

So that brings us back to Wendy Davis, who believed that it would boost her career as a political candidate in the Democrat party to be seen as a single mother. She could have fabricated a story about being a community organizer, a Nobel laureate, President of the Harvard Student Body, or a Peace Corps member who built wells for poor villages in Nigeria, but she choose to make up a story about being a single mom. What does it tell you about an ideology that it views single motherhood as a selling point?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Stop listening to them already!

I have never understood the eagerness of some Repubicans to take strategic advice from liberal media pundits.

It happened back in 2008 when they proclaimed that John McCain was the only candidate who could beat Hillary, and enough Republicans bought it to give us one of the worst campaigns in recent history. Sure, John McCain was a war hero, but as a politician he hasn't done anything even remotely inspiring. His main qualification is that he regularly stabs his own party in the back.

It happened again in 2012, when we bypassed a number of solid conservatives to nominate the governor who implemented government healthcare remarkably similar to Obamacare in his home state. Who thought that it was a good idea to nominate a Wall Street insider in the middle of a recession triggered, at least in the public perception, by Wall Street?

Wake up, folks! These people offering us unsolicited advice on which Republicans can win elections don't want us to win! And they certainly don't want a principled conservative to win.

They are not all Democrats, either. There are plenty of "moderate" Republican types who don't want the "crony capitalist" status quo to be disrupted.

Let's take the recent election in Virginia as an example of their flawed thinking.

Reagan won re-election Virginia by a margin of 62% to 37%. So anyone who says that a true conservative can't win there is just wrong.

But Obama beat McCain in Virginia by 6 percent and Romney by 4 percent.

These candidates who were sold to us based on their electability rather than their merit lost in a state which Republicans have usually won.

The recent election of a new governor in Virginia featured a true conservative, Ken Cuccinelli, who successfully led the fight against Obamacare as Virginia's attorney general. The Republican party establishment wrote off Cuccinelli from the start, so his opponent outspent him four to one. Many Republicans in statewide offices actually endorsed the other guy. Democrats backed a fake "libertarian" candidate who had a record of backing taxes on mileage of your car, to steal away votes from Cuccinelli. In the last week of the election, all sorts of liberal starpower was brought in to back the Democrat. In addition to the usual Hollywood crowd, the Clintons and Obama himself stumped for the liberal. The media constantly predicted that Cuccinelli would lose by 14 percent or more. With the Democrats, the media, and most of his own party united against him, he ought to have lost badly.

He didn't win, but he lost by about two percent.

That is, he did better than McCain or Romney.

Now the same people are telling us that Chris Christie is the only candidate who can beat Hillary. This is the guy who was all to eager to implement Obamacare in his state, supports amnesty and gun control, and chums around with Obama. A real, solid, principled, articulate conservative like Ted Cruz can't win, we are told.

As the Obamacare disaster continues to crash and burn, voters in all fifty states will be ready for a real alternative. It's time to stop listening to the people who steer us towards more spineless moderates while their own hard left ideologues win. A real conservative can win. We have plenty of evidence that nominating a squishy moderate does not help us to win, and even if it did, it means we get a squishy moderate President.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Obamacare won't work

The whole premise of Obamacare is that it will get healthy young people to pay more than they should for health insurance to subsidize the medical care of older, sicker people. That goal is falling apart before our eyes. Apparently, young people, even those who voted for the idealistic mirage of Obama, are not willing to roll over and be the victim of his redistributionist utopia.

Headlines are dominated by stories of the ongoing disaster of the mismanaged web site development and weekly reports of hundreds of thousands more people dropped from their existing coverage due to Obamacare. But behind that, the fundamental infrastructure of Obamacare is failing to materialize. The bill, drafted in secret, rushed through Congress, and passed in spite of the author's acknowledgement that it was not written correctly, is still full of defects. But those defects only exacerbate the fact that the concept behind the bill was fatally flawed from the beginning.

The law does not require states to establish an exchange. It was assumed that states would be eager to set up an exchange, but clearly they were mistaken. Even rats know to jump off a sinking ship, not onto it. The subsidies, which are a key part of the redistribution effort, can only be distributed through state exchanges. States which don't have an exchange can not, according to the law, get those subsidies. The Obama administration is trying to find a way to give the subsidies to the 26 states sensible enough to not establish an exchange, but it is not clear that there is a legal way to do it.

But more devastating than that is the fact that young, healthy people are not eager to self-destruct for the greater good. How quickly that idealism fades when you recognize that you are expected to pay for it all.

To understand how the new law is working, lets examine the case of Joe. Joe is 26, single, and self-employed. He doesn't make a whole bunch of money, but he is doing alright, earning around $50,000. Joe bought his own individual medical insurance, a low cost catastrophic policy intended to protect him in case he got really sick.

Last week, Joe was one of several million people who got a letter from his insurance carrier indicating that his policy is being cancelled. It doesn't meet the requirements of Obamacare insurance. He can buy a different policy, or go to healthcare.gov and buy insurance there.

Joe compares his options, and is surprised to find that the cheapest policy he can get costs almost twice what he was paying last year. And that policy still comes with a $6,000 deductible. Sure, it will pay for his yearly checkup, but he paid that last year out of pocket. It was $150, which is nothing compared to the increase in his monthly premiums.

Joe realizes that he would have to run up more than ten thousand dollars of medical bills before this insurance would be advantageous to him. His actual costs have never exceeded $500.

Joe looks into the fine for not buying insurance. It is $95 or 1% of his income, whichever is greater. Well, one percent of his income is a lot less than it would cost to buy insurance. So that seems like a good idea. But what if he gets seriously sick? He's pretty young to get cancer or heart disease, and he is very healthy, but things happen. Well, the pre-existing condition requirements mean that even if he has some long-term ailment, he can still buy insurance.

So there is really no reason for Joe to pay $400 per month for medical insurance which only benefits him after he pays an additional $6,000 to cover the deductible. He can pay for his routine medical bills out of pocket and come out way ahead. If he gets injured, emergency rooms can't deny him treatment. And if he gets really sick, he can buy always insurance.

Cost of buying insurance:
$4,800 in premiums

Cost of not buying insurance:
$150 for doctor visit
$500 Obamacare fine

As long as he doesn't have more than $4000 in unexpected medical costs, not buying insurance is money in the bank.

But it gets better. Obamacare specifies that the IRS can't do much to get the money that they say Joe owes for not being insured. They can't seize the money or put a lien on his property to get it, and they can't even garnish his pay to collect it. The only way they can take it is if they owe Joe a refund. In that case, they can subtract it from his refund. All Joe needs to do is make sure that he withholds less from his pay check than he actually owes in income taxes. Then, every year Joe will owe the IRS on April 15, and they will not be able to take the Obamacare penalty from him.

This makes it a total no-brainer. Joe is much better off to self-insure for the smaller medical costs, and only buy insurance if something huge happens to him.

It turns out that there are millions of people in Joe's situation, and the deal cut with the insurance companies was that they would sign up for overpriced insurance in droves, to pay for the costs of accepting older patients and patients with pre-existing conditions. Every day more and more of these people are figuring out that Obamacare is a raw deal, and they are not buying it.

Without them, Obamacare will collapse.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Incompetence on parade



The ongoing train wreck that is Obamacare is just starting its chain reaction of destruction. This week alone, half a million more people were notified that their insurance policy is being dropped. Obama promised that "If you like your insurance, you can keep it." Well, not so much. The exchanges are the centerpiece of Obama's crowning legislative achievement, so you would think that he would make sure they were implemented flawlessly. He did throw $634 million at them, but he didn't take the most basic of steps to ensure that they would be ready for prime time on October 1.

More people have had their existing insurance coverage dropped due to Obamacare than have enrolled for new coverage in the Obamacare exchanges. And the deadline to avoid the individual mandate penalties, which fine uninsured people, is rapidly approaching.

Yesterday CBS ran an expose revealing that the teaser prices which visitors to the healthcare.gov web site are quoted when they browse the system are often half of what the insurance actually ends up costing.

Insurance companies are complaining that the "applications" they receive from healthcare.gov are unusable, with garbled, wrong, or missing data. One application listed the applicants four children as his "spouses".

The "Hub" of the insurance exchange system is responsible for verifying the eligibility of applicants and determining how much their policy will be subsidized by all of us, the taxpayers. Well, the Hub is not finished and won't be until sometime next year, so the web site quotes subsidies which may or may not actually exist. It remains to be seen who will be left holding the bag for subsidies which should not have been granted. I fully expect to cough up the money.

When the website first went live, the White House tried to spin the problems as being a result of the huge demand for "quality affordable health insurance." So many people flooded the web site that it could not keep up with the traffic, or so we were told. The fact that the web site didn't work was used as evidence of the importance of Obamacare. Yeah. Today's testimony indicates that in the days before the public debut of this $634 million debacle,  the people testing the system could not get it to work with even one user at a time. The traffic load didn't break it. It just doesn't work.

Twenty four days after the launch of the healthcare.gov web site, it is still essentially unusable. Consumer Reports says to not bother trying to use the site. I've gone a few times to try it out. I encourage you to try it too. After five or six tries, I was able to create an account and verify my identity. Now I'm sure I'm me. But I couldn't get beyond that. I have not been able to do so much as view the insurance options, which is my real goal, let alone have an opportunity to apply or obtain insurance.

I'm not alone. A number of states have said that no one has been able to successfully obtain insurance through healthcare.gov. Most states have had a handful of hardy and persistent individuals who managed to navigate the klunky web site and apply for coverage. These people are being treated like celebrities by a media who seems to think that such attention will promote the rare success stories, but in reality it just emphasizes that the system does not work for the vast majority of visitors. Today it was pointed out that more people have booked one-way passage to Mars than have bought Obamacare insurance at healthcare.gov.

On Tuesday, Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, told CNN that Obama didn't know anything about the problems with the web site until after the site was launched on October 1, marking the fifth time that Obama has deployed the "I'm clueless and incompetent" defense this year. He is President, and these things are under his administration, so he ought to know what his own people are doing. That is doubly true in this case, where his reputation, credibility, and legacy are directly tied to the success of his signature accomplishment.

I have been involved in a number of software development projects, and I can tell you that with any level of project management, there should never be an unpleasant surprise for the people in charge at the end date of a project. This is not super-advanced stuff. It's project management 101. Central to any viable plan is a schedule with trackable, measurable milestones. Management can measure the progress at any point by looking at the milestones and asking "Are we meeting our dates?" and "Are we meeting our functionality and performance metrics?" If they identify a problem, they have time to address it, reallocate resources, or make adjustments to get back on schedule.

According to testimony in today's Congressional hearings, they never tested the system until a week before it went live nationwide. This is unbelievable. In the software industry this is called "Big Bang" integration, which is discussed in the chapter of "Software Development for Dummies" titled "What not to do". It means that they developed all of the pieces separately and then on September 23 when they put them all together for the first time, they were surprised that the whole system didn't magically work. A system of that size never works the first time you try it, and expecting otherwise was inexcusable.

Instead of a Big Bang integration, a continuous integration model is the industry standard. This means that two years ago they should have had the very most basic infrastructure of the system being tested. This would be the functionality that every user needs, like being able to create an account, log in, and access generic data. This would be tested and evaluated while the next layer of functionality was being developed. Next might be templates for different states, different insurance plans, and application data. As new functionality is added, it would be integrated into the working baseline, and every day automated regression testing would ensure that the new additions did not break the existing functions. At any point, management should be fully aware of the status, what works, what does not work, what is on schedule, and what is behind schedule. If Obama was not seeing demos of a working system six months ago, he should have been very concerned.

For months there have been news reports indicating that the exchange would not be ready on time. Check out this one from Bloomberg back in June. I knew about it, and so did lots of people. How did Obama not know about it? This was the guy who was supposed to be the smartest, most competent President ever. He was playing 7-dimensional chess while everyone else in the room was playing checkers. Sorry Obama, fainting women in the Rose Garden will not distract us from the fact that you are not up to the job.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Et tu, Brute?



One has to admire the prescience of Judge Robert Yates, better known by his pen name, Brutus.

During the debates leading up to the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, a series of essays by "Brutus" ran in the New-York Journal and Weekly Register, making the case that the proposed Constitution concentrated too much power in the Federal Government, saying that "when the people once part with power, they can seldom or never resume it again but by force."

Brutus spent a great deal of time pointing out weaknesses in the Constitution's limitation of powers and phrases which could be exploited as granting broad authority which was never intended by the framers, concluding that "This government is to possess absolute and uncontrollable powers, legislative, executive, and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends."

One such case is the "Welfare clause". Brutus predicted that its meaning would be expanded until it permitted Congress to do essentially anything, so long as it was claimed to be "providing for the General Welfare". Thomas Jefferson responded to this concern by claiming that it is absurd that anyone would claim such authority under the welfare clause. After all, he pointed out, the welfare clause specifies a purpose for which Congress may lay taxes, not a blank check grant of authority for any purpose. He went on to explain that it would not make sense to grant Congress unlimited authority to do anything and then to also explicitly enumerate the powers which Congress actually is granted. James Madison made a similar point: “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.” It is clear that not only did the framers never intend the welfare clause to grant expansive power to Congress, they actually considered the idea so preposterous to not merit clarification in the text of the Constitution.

Similarly, he objected to the "Interstate Commerce" clause, suggesting that it might be used to justify most any intrusion into the private lives of the citizens. Jefferson and Madison both dismissed this concern as groundless and absurd as well. However, in the Supreme Court case of Wickard v. Filburn, the court ruled that Congress could limit the amount of grain that a farmer grew on his own land, even if that grain never left his property, and therefore did not enter interstate commerce. Since then, the interstate commerce clause has been used to grant vast, expansive powers to Congress far beyond what the framers intended or imagined.

Brutus also discussed his view of how the division of powers and system of checks and balances could break down as each branch of government naturally sought to expand its own power.

The fears expressed by Robert Yates, dismissed by the framers as unfounded and beyond the realm of possibility, have been vindicated by recent events in Washington DC.

The Constitution grants Congress the sole authority to appropriate money to be spent. The President can't spend a dime of the taxpayers money unless the House and Senate both vote to approve that spending. The appropriation process is separate and independent of the process of passing legislation into law. For example, in the 1980's Congress passed legislation to provide financial assistance to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. However, the Boland Amendment cut off funding to that effort. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation mandating the construction of a secure border fence along the southern border of the country, but it has not funded that project, so the fence remains mostly unbuilt.

Prior to October 1 of this year, Congress had not appropriated money for Obamacare beyond October 1. To fund Obamacare it was necessary for the House and Senate to vote to approve the spending, and for the President to sign the bill. People who stated that the effort was futile because the President would not sign a bill defunding Obamacare were misinformed. No law needed to be passed to defund Obamacare. A law was required to fund it. Without the approval of Republicans in the House of Representatives, Obamacare would not be funded. Today that failed policy is only receiving funding because of the support of House Republicans.

Democrats objected that Obamacare is "established law" and that the budget process should not be used to block its implementation. Obamacare was passed through the budget process. Reconciliation rules in the Senate only apply to purely budgetary matters, so it was a large stretch to use those rules to pass Obamacare with only 51 votes, when normal Senate rules require 60 votes. But Democrats who passed Obamacare as a purely budgetary matter should not whine about it being treated as a purely budgetary matter. For being "established law", Obama himself surely has modified it a lot, as have justices on the Supreme Court.

When the individual mandate, a provision which punishes people for being uninsured, was found to not pass Constitutional muster, the Supreme Court took on the mantle of the Legislature and modified the law. They ruled that Congress does not have the authority to force people to buy a product and to punish them if they don't, a power they claimed under the interstate commerce clause. However, the Court found that Congress does have the power to force people to buy a product and tax them if they don't. So instead of sending the law back to Congress to fix, the Court redefined the individual mandate as a tax, in spite of repeated and emphatic statements from the authors of Obamacare that the mandate is not a tax. Congress could not have passed Obamacare as a tax, and the Supreme Court could not uphold it unless it was a tax. So the Supreme Court did the legislating.

Since then, Obama has altered the law more than a dozen times, delaying provisions which had statutorily mandated start dates, ignoring other portions of the law, and granting waivers arbitrarily to his cronies and campaign donors. If Obamacare is established law, Obama might start acting like it. But even so, Congress alters, amends, funds, defunds, and repeals existing law with regularity.

But the most disturbing grab at extraconstitutional power came near the end of the recent debt ceiling standoff. President Obama framed the debate in terms of defaulting on America's debt, suggesting that if Congress did not allow him limitless borrowing authority, America would default. As I explained earlier, the Treasury collects more than enough money each month to cover its debt obligations. In fact, 9% of the monthly tax revenue is required for debt service. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that paying our debts is the first priority, so by law, Obama must take the first 9% of the tax revenue and use it to pay the interest and principle as required. The only way we could default is if Obama made the political decision to take that money and spend it on other things. Doing so would be his choice, but it would also be a violation of his oath of office and of the Constitution, a law far higher than even Obamacare. It is certainly true that being unable to borrow more money would force him to make some budgetary priorities. There would not be money available to continue his profligate spending binge. But the only way we would default is if Obama decided to default.

So Obama's talk of default was a threat, pure and simple. Obama was demanding that Congress give him all of the money and all of the borrowing authority that he wants, or else he will destroy the full faith and credit of the United States. And he had the Alinskyite gall to do it while calling House Republicans, who rightfully possess the power they were exercising, arsonists, terrorists, anarchists, and blackmailers negotiating with a bomb strapped to their chest.

This is a new low for demagoguery. Normally, a demagogue will suggest that if he does not get his way, someone else will do something harmful, as in Joe Biden telling a predominantly black group of voters that if Mitt Romney is elected, Romney will reinstitute slavery. Obama's threat was that if he didn't get everything he demanded, Obama himself would cause grave harm to America, and then blame Republicans for it, backed up by a media which had already bought the lie.

It may seem preposterous to suggest that the President would consider the various options for dealing with the debt ceiling and deliberately choose the most damaging course for the nation. But stop for a moment and consider how Obama managed the sequestration and the government shutdown. In both cases he decided to make the cuts as damaging as possible. He specifically instructed that air traffic controllers be furloughed due to the sequestration, a petty act intended to disrupt as many people's lives as possible. During the partial government shutdown he blocked payments to the families of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and shut down trials of new cancer treatments for kids dying of cancer. Also, Obama barricaded monuments and national parks, and actually used rangers to make sure that people didn't pull off a road to look at Mount Rushmore. He spent more money trying to close the World War II monument than it would have cost to leave it open. So Obama's record of being vindictive with his execution of laws he does not like is well established.

Congress caved to that lawless threat, completing Obama's usurpation of the authority to borrow and spend. We no longer have a system of divided powers. Obama is consolidating power to himself to impose his statist fundamental transformation of America against the will of the people for whom he works.

Robert Yates was right.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Demagoguery is their default



Attention all of you who believe that the Federal Government is about to default on its debt. Obama has made the claim repeatedly, so it must be true, right? I've got an offer for you which is too good to pass up.

Don't get stuck with a handful of worthless Treasury Bills. Next week they won't be good for anything more than lining your birdcage. Sell them to me! I'm offering two thirds of the bond's present value, cash money on the spot, no questions asked.

If you believe your glorious leader, this is the best deal you are going to get.

That is right. I'll give you sixty seven cents on the dollar. See, I even rounded that two thirds of a cent up, all because I'm that great of a guy. If we were equally sure of our position, a fair offer would be fifty cents on the dollar, but because I am twice as confident as you, I'll go two to one. Act quickly, as this offer only lasts until America defaults on its debt. Why, might you ask, am I so brimming with confidence that we are not headed for a default? The monthly cost to service our debt is right around $20 billion. It varies a bit and is generally increasing over time, but for a ballpark figure, that is the current cost. Every month the Treasury collects well over $200 billion in taxes.

It requires nine percent of the money being collected to pay the interest on the debt. For the mathematically challenged Democrats out there, that leaves ninety one percent of the money to spend on Food Stamps, Medicaid, Social Security, Defense, Welfare, etc. Some Treasury Bills will come due, and the Treasury can issue new bonds to replace them without increasing the total debt. So there is absolutely no reason that the government has to default on its debts. As a matter of fact, the 14th Amendment requires the government to pay its debts as a first priority, so even if Obama wanted to spend the money and blow raspberries at our creditors, he could not legally do so.

When you hit the credit limit on your credit card, it doesn't mean you stop making the monthly payments. It means you can't keep charging new stuff.

So why does Obama keep saying it? A demagogue is gonna demagogue. He wants to scare people, plain and simple. He can't win on fact, so he is trying to get people to panic and demand that Congress give him what he wants: more money to spend on his failed policies. What is really at stake is Obama being forced to set some budgetary priorities. He doesn't want to do this because it means saying "No" to someone's demand for Federal money, and no one is ever happy when their money is cut back. Obama's greatest horror is that he might be forced to balance the budget and live within our means. That, not the possibility of default, is why Obama can't permit the debt ceiling to be reached.

Reality is that we can't afford the current levels of spending, so cuts have to be made somewhere. If the results of this mess is some small step towards fiscal sanity, it will all be worthwhile. Seeing Obama's hypocrisy on clear display is just a bonus.

So I repeat my offer. If you believe the demagoguery, get in line to take me up on this deal. I'll give you two thirds of the present value of any outstanding US Treasury Bond. It's better than your President is offering.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Putting the "Limit" in Debt Limit



We are back exactly where we were last year, and the year before that. Once again we are bumping up against the debt limit, and Congress is considering raising or not raising the limit, or looking for what concessions they can get from the other party to get their way. In the end, the debt limit will be raised and business as usual will continue. In the past it has always been raised, and if things go on unchanged, it will continue to always be raised, which means that the nation's debt will continue to mount.

Right now our debt stands at 73% of GDP. On our current trajectory, debt will exceed 100% of GDP within 20 years, and could be 150% of GDP by 2038.

The debt ceiling as it exists now is not functioning to control the rate of growth of debt. As we rack up debt at ever-increasing rates, Congress just has to raise the ceiling more often, or raise it further. It has been suggested that we should simply do away with the debt ceiling, allowing the President to borrow as needed to achieve the spending approved by Congress. The Constitution gives Congress the power to authorize borrowing, and that authority should not be casually handed over to the Executive Branch.

Either way, there is a disconnect between revenue and spending. A responsible fiscal policy must look at the available revenue and set spending priorities to function with the money available. This is how a household or a business functions, and it is how the Federal Government must function as well.

The debt ceiling could be used in a way which would function as a true limit, constraining government spending and creating a link between revenue and spending. Instead of setting a dollar amount, the debt ceiling should vary on a fixed, predetermined schedule based on a percentage of GDP. This schedule should be designed to start out close to our current level of 73% of GDP, but in the coming decades, gradually bend that curve downward. Instead of growing the debt to 150% of GDP by 2038, we should reduce it to 60%. This would still be a larger dollar amount than we have today, but it would back us away from the brink of the debt spiral and financial collapse which we will certainly reach within our lifetime on the current course.

The real debt ceiling comes when interest on the debt outpaces economic growth, causing creditors to demand much higher interest rates, driving up the cost of servicing the debt, and ending our ability to continue spending money without any consideration of how we will pay it back. The choice is ours. We can control spending and debt now in a controlled, gradual way or it will be done for us in a much more painful manner in the not so distant future.