Monday, August 31, 2009

In Which, While in my Underwear, I Critique a Nobel Prize Winner

Paul Krugman, in today's New York Times laments the absence of Richard Nixon in the White House today rather than the current office holder.

"But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable."

So, what was that era of American politics really like? It was a time when the Democrats had been in power for so long that the Republican party had acclimated so thoroughly to being the minority party that they mounted no real challenge to the Democrats in the House and the Senate. Instead, they sought to pick up a few crumbs here and there that the Democrats tossed their way after funding things like, oh, I don't know-the ultra successful War on Poverty. Republicans in that era weren't so much an opposition party as they were inside players, skilled at greasing the skids in order to maintain their own access to the public coffers. They didn't challenge the Democrats in either philosophy or the execution of that philosophy. So Krugsie laments the loss of a time when Republicans were compliant and easily manipulated with a few bread crumbs.

When you hear Krugman and others on the Left decry the lack of civility and bipartisanship in politics today, what they are really moaning about is that the Dems can't roll the Reps any more. Hell, they can't even roll the Blue Dog Dems any more. Somewhere along the line over the last 30 years, conservatives and libertarians found their voice and formed a clear understanding of those beliefs. And because these beliefs are principle-based, not desire based, they don't yield. In short, the Krugmans of the world can't stand the fact that the conservative side of the country dug in its heels and started to push back. For me personally, this crystallization of thought began about 3 years after I got out of college, in the time of Reagan.

Read this passage from Krugman:

"Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers;"

I don't know of anyone who is balking at that idea. In fact, many people in this health care debate would like to see employer-based health care come to an end. Further, the market for employees already dictates that large employers provide health insurance. It's a ludicrous statement for Krugman to make.

And then Krugman gets it completely wrong:

"So what happened to the days when a Republican president could sound so nonideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal?

Part of the answer is that the right-wing fringe, which has always been around — as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, “crazy is a pre-existing condition” — has now, in effect, taken over one of our two major parties."

How condescending. What an ass. The disagreement over health care reform, or health insurance reform, isn't based on a reasonable proposal from the Democrats. What the Democrats are proposing isn't reasonable to people who have a firm belief that health care, and the responsibility for it, is better left to the people who need it and the people who provide it. The socialist Left is dumbfounded that people wouldn't want a government provided program for everything (see "What's Wrong With Kansas"). The conservative/libertarian right is dumbfounded that some people believe the government should be their Sugar Daddy and parcel out everything we need to live.

Obamacare is a dangerous expansion of government, period. Neither I nor any clear-thinking person can see the benefit of that, never mind the anti-competitive nature of it. We simply can't see the wisdom or benefit in turning over so large a component of the private sector to the government. The socialist Left is seriously misjudging the anger being shown at town hall meetings these days. Obama and the crew are trying to ram something through with little if any debate or discussion. Elected representatives stand in front of these town hall meetings and read talking points designed to sell the plan rather than talking substantively about the bill at hand. People see this and quite rightly they go ballistic.

The hell of it is, there is quite a lot of agreement between the two sides about health care and, I believe, a real willingness to fix it. But when the party in power tries to shove something down our throats, we fight back. Areas of agreement include:

  • Health care costs too much
  • We should eliminate employer-provided health care. We need true portability.
  • We don't like having either insurance companies or the government between us and our doctors
  • Medical providers need relief from the administrative nightmare they face every day
  • The ultimate responsibility for one's health resides with the individual. People need to eat properly and get enough exercise. We should do more to encourage the acceptance of this responsibility.
  • Pre-existing conditions should be more limited in scope. The other side of this double-edged sword is that insurers will price for recent conditions, as they should. My ex-wife was recently denied coverage because the insurer thought that she had had a sprained knee within the last 30 days. A sprained knee. (She appealed and got the coverage.)

I am a big believer in the use of Health Savings Accounts coupled with major medical coverage. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods recently wrote about how his company uses these to control costs and places more responsibility in the hands of his employees and he was excoriated by his Volvo-driving, tofu-chewing customers. He was accused of being anti-healthcare reform, which was ludicrous. He just didn't care for Obamacare and has a workable, proven alternative. Since the Whole Foods plan works, there is no chance that Obama, Krugman or any of the fringe Left will adopt any of its methods.

Krugman goes on to whine about corporate lobbying in Congress. Blah, blah, blah.

So, I propose a compromise for health care. The socialist Left is bent on a giveaway, so let's do this. The government just handed as much as $4500 to everybody who purchased one of the government's preferred automobiles. Let's declare the Whole Foods plan to be the government's preferred plan, eliminate employer-provided health care and then give everyone $5000 (the annual limit) in a Health Savings Account. And then let the market do what it does best, wring the fat out of the market. This compromise would satisfy the right's desire to make the health care market function more like a free market and would satisfy the left's burning desire to give other people's money away.

Nah, better not. It might work.

Thursday, August 20, 2009



Plenny sharks. They're always there, according to this article. I am a hardcore landlubber for this reason alone. Plus, I'm re-reading The Perfect Storm right now. Between those two things, I can't think of a good reason to go more than ankle deep in the ocean.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

56% of GDP

From Bloomberg:

Buffett Says Federal Debt Poses Risks to Economy (Update1)

By Shamim Adam

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. must address the massive amounts of “monetary medicine” that have been pumped into the financial system and now pose threats to the world’s largest economy and its currency, billionaireWarren Buffett said.

The “gusher of federal money” has rescued the financial system and the U.S. economy is now on a slow path to recovery, Buffett wrote in a New York Times commentary yesterday. While he applauds measures adopted by the Federal Reserve and officials from the Bush and Obama administrations, Buffett says the U.S. is fiscally in “uncharted territory.”

“Enormous dosages of monetary medicine continue to be administered and, before long, we will need to deal with their side effects,” Buffett, 78, said. “For now, most of those effects are invisible and could indeed remain latent for a long time. Still, their threat may be as ominous as that posed by the financial crisis itself.”

The “greenback emissions” will swell the deficit to 13 percent of gross domestic product this fiscal year, while net debt will increase to 56 percent of GDP, Buffett said."

If you had $100,000 on hand, and owed $56,000, would you feel wealthy? Oddly enough, that 56% number is amazingly close to what the average American pays each year in all taxes; sales, property, income, etc. So if Americans are hooked on debt, isn't our government also hooked on debt?

Buffett goes on to say in the article that current government expenditures are exceeding receipts by 185 percent. How long could you, as an individual, sustain that sort of spending? We do it all the time when we use credit cards, car loans and mortgages. Borrow too much, and eventually it catches up with you.

The current levels of borrowing and spending are unsustainable and Obama, Bernanke and Geithner know it. It can't all be laid at their feet, but their current management of it can be. The underlying problem in our economy right now is that real estate prices have collapsed, putting so many people underwater in their mortgages. People are behind in the payment of all debt right now, impairing liquidity throughout the system, yet the stimulus was supposed to provide liquidity. Somehow, Mr. President, injecting billions of dollars into the big banks didn't free up the average consumer to spend money and create velocity in the economy. Go figure.

Mr. President, take the remaining unallocated funds, enact a tax cut, put money right into people's pockets and let us decide how best to spend it. When politicians begin to hand out the cash to favored parties, nobody wins.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Those Nasty, Selfish Rich People!

And they're not even webbernet rich:

Levines donating $9.3 million for scholarship: "(By David Perlmutt, Leon Levine, the Charlotte businessman and philanthropist whose family foundation has come to the rescue of many cash-strapped charities in recent months, is sharing more of his wealth - donating $9.3 million to UNC Charlotte.

Levine's contribution, the largest academic gift in UNCC's history, will be used to create a merit scholarship that school officials hope ultimately will achieve the same prestige as the Morehead-Cain at UNC Chapel Hill, Park at N.C. State and Benjamin N. Duke at Duke.

The new scholarship program will begin in fall 2010, UNCC Chancellor Philip Dubois said at a news conference today.

Plans call for 15 Levine Scholars to be named.

Levine founded Family Dollars Stores in 1959 and built it into one of the country's largest discount retail chains of more than 5,000 stores. His Leon Levine Family Foundation is one of the most active in the state.

In recent months, his and wife Sandra's generosity has been felt at nonprofits at a time when they are strapped for money and their services are needed the most.

Levine, who never graduated from college, has been generous to education and research before.

In 1991, he gave $10 million to Duke University to help build a $80 million research complex, now called the Leon Levine Science Research Center.

In 2002, the Levines gave the initial $5 million to Central Piedmont Community College for its $10 million endowment campaign, which awards 5,000 yearly scholarships to needy students. Last month, his foundation announced that it was advancing to CPCC $300,000 of a $2 million gift it was set to begin paying in 2010. The school will use the money to provide 150 classes and serve 3,000 students that it would otherwise have turned away because of budget cuts.

It's been a remarkable 12 months for UNCC.

Last September, Dubois recommended the school field a football team, though plans have been scaled back substantially after a fundraising campaign stumbled in the troubled economy.

In April, the university broke ground for a planned 12-story, $50.4 million Center City Building in uptown's First Ward. Construction began a month later on the cantilevered midrise at Ninth and Brevard streets that will houe the Belk College of Business MBA program - among other graduate and continuing education offerings.

The building will overlook a 4-acre park and launch the development of a 22-acre urban village by Levine Properties."

I count $26.3 million given away in this article alone. We better tax this gentleman more, since he must still have something left.

Well done, Mr. Levine.

Stop Spending My Money!

President Barack Obama holds Matthew Ian Clark, seven months ...
Stop, or I will twist your head off!

Rednecks Invade Canada!

They're sneaking in in cups.

Apparently, Canadians place no value on their own genetic material, so they have to import it:

"At one time Canada had two dozen sperm banks but when the Assisted Human Reproduction Act made it illegal to pay for sperm or egg donors they dried up in 2004. Today there are very few men willing to give up their sperm for nothing."

So, into the breach swim the rednecks' best shots:

"Outreach Health Services is the biggest supplier of donor sperm but it has to import their product. Most of the donors are from Georgia and Florida where donors are paid $100 per visit."

The article goes on to say that prospective parents can look through donor listings to pick their biological donor. Wonder how many pick this guy:

Question: If Canadians are using American sperm, do the chirren have dual nationalities?

Monday, August 17, 2009

He Makes No Sense

This is 30 seconds of a good question followed by 5 minutes of teleprompter-free rambling:

One of the word bubbles at the bottom of the screen points out that Obama believes that two thirds of the cost of his health care proposal can be obtained by reducing waste and costs in our current scenario. Mr. President, I am all for eliminating waste and excess cost. Go right ahead and show us that you can really do that and I think you have really solved the problem without spending a dime.

At the 4:58 mark, he nearly says that basically the guy asked a specific question and he only deals with the "broad philosophical questions". He drops that one sentence in there, all by itself and it makes no sense. It isn't what Mr. Obama says, it is how he says it. Because if you really listen to what he says here, he doesn't say anything. George Bush was derided for using the phrase, "It's hard work." over and over. One of Obama's favorite phrases seems to be "It's a legitimate debate to have". followed by not debating the point at hand.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Selective Information

Things I'd like to see added to this otherwise very good "gram":

But that's just me.

Proof of Reincarnation

Quick, who is this?

Image released by The Field Museum in Chicago, shows an Egyptian ...

Stepping Back from the New Third Rail

But it's just a half-step. If the debate ends here, then the camel has one nostril of his nose under the tent.

I've said it before as a commenter, but obviously not here, since this blog was just borned a couple of hours ago, but John Mackey of Whole Foods has exactly the right idea.

I've been reading websites like HuffPo and DailyKos and I am pretty sure that I do not live in the same universe as most of those people. At the root of Mackey's proposal is the notion that each individual should be responsible for maintaining their own health and for paying for their own care. The folks on the left simply cannot wrap their heads around these two simple principles. I think it is part and parcel of the notion that health care has somehow become a right, as opposed to a personal obligation.

Make no mistake; we need health care reform, or health insurance reform or whatever they are calling it now. But Obamacare isn't it. Mackey is on the right track, but since his proven methods are so simple, they stand no chance in Congress.

Coburn has it right

From Politico:

People in general have missed the boat on the whole town hall rage phenomenon. Coburn hits on it here. Go back and look at any of the videos, especially the first ones that came out. The audience reaction doesn't really kick in until the speaker, a Congress-thing, begins to recite from what sounds like a list of talking points or boiler-plate platitudes, like so:

Listen as Steny Hoyer trys to deliver just such talking points. The folks are not having it. Who can blame them? Whether you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, aren't we entitled to a more thoughtful, informed response from our elected representatives than this?


Ok, did that. Got it out of my system.