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What You Don’t Know Will Make You Vote Democratic

April 21, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

originalLately the media have been trotting out their timeworn strategy of lecturing the public that the only reason Democrats face imminent electoral trouble is that people are too stupid to know any better.

The New York Times recently published a front-page story warning that those who benefit most from Obamacare are the ones who are least likely to vote in this fall’s midterm elections.  (Would that Democrats were lucky enough for that trend to continue, given the miserable experience signups have had finding affordable plans, competent doctors, and timely appointments.)

The problem, according to the Times, isn’t that Obamacare stinks—it’s that those for whom it was designed can’t comprehend the immeasurable largesse Democrats have generously bestowed upon them.

For example, young people who investigate what’s available to them and decide that their money could better be spent on things like paying back student loans for the college tuition Democrats artificially drove up, are shortsighted and don’t realize that they could at any moment fall out of a tree or acquire Zucotti Lung.  Millennials couldn’t possibly be smart enough to have researched the healthcare exchanges’ premiums, deductibles, and copays and made a rational choice about where their limited funds should go.  No—they’re too focused on booze and birth control.

Meanwhile, Republicans are allegedly busy spinning fantasies about the law and using ignorance and fear to drum up opposition to the bill. Representative David E. Price (D-NC) says of the health care debate and rollout, “There was an ability to exploit the unknown, to exploit the fear of people losing something that they have.”  An ability to exploit the fear of people losing something that they have?  Does Price think that that might have anything to do with the fact that people lost something that they had?  Is it “exploiting the fear” of losing your baby if I point out that a kidnapper is about to run off with your stroller?

Jonathan Martin, author of the Times piece, reiterates Obama supporters’ point that because Obamacare wasn’t designed to be a universal, single-payer system like Social Security or Medicare, that made it easier for Republicans to dupe voters into seeing it as a wealth transfer from rich to poor.  So a less universal transfer scheme involves greater redistribution than a more universal transfer scheme?  Who does Martin think was going to pay for that universal, single-payer program—the mountain folk of Appalachia?

The media treat voters who are eligible to receive coverage, yet leery about accepting it, as either morons for not accepting free goodies from the government or monsters who want their communities to suffer.  (Isn’t it liberals who are always accusing conservatives of being selfish and caring only about themselves?)

In an unguarded—and ill-advised—departure from script at the end of his press conference last Thursday, President Obama let loose the following tirade: “You have 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states, zero cost to these states, other than ideological reasons, [Republican governors] have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.”

Zero cost to these states—other than high startup costs at a time when most states are groping their way through budget crises, and the dollars they must shell out after three years once the free money from the federal government stops rolling in.  Given his track record with blanket promises and black-and-white declarations on the glories of Obamacare, the President might want to modulate his healthcare assurances in the future.

The left refuses to acknowledge the existence of principled, thoughtful opposition to Obamacare.

But it’s liberals’ stupidity that got us into this mess.

Skilled doctors are the centerpiece of our world-renowned healthcare system, and training new doctors is an expensive, labor-intensive process that takes more than a decade.  Yet liberals touted Obamacare as a humane, utopian scheme that would somehow manage to cover millions more people and save billions of dollars—all without adding any new doctors to the rolls.

Suppose we grant liberals’ declaration that they’re wiser than conservatives.  What good is a high IQ if it leads you to believe crap like that?

Liberals always accuse conservatives of being anti-intellectual, but there’s something to be said for common-sense insight.  And it’s sad when some of the most intelligent minds in our society produce a destructive policy like Obamacare—then sneer at young, low-income, and minority voters for being too dumb to recognize the brilliance of their benevolent overlords.

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The Civil Rights Legacy Democrats Stole from Republicans

April 16, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Racism

president-dwight-d-eisenhower-signing-the-civil-rights-act-of-1957It’s been nauseating watching liberal media members patting one another on the back for the past few months in this, the year of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, when it’s Republicans who deserve 95% of the credit for African-American civil rights advances.

In liberals’ fantasy world, Democrats spearheaded the push for civil rights while dragging along reluctant Republicans; and President Johnson did the morally right thing even though he knew Southern Democrats would switch parties and become Republicans.

In fact, Republicans had been pushing civil rights legislation throughout the 1950s, trying to get recalcitrant Democrats to cooperate.  And the long transformation of the South from Democratic to Republican began in the 1920s, wasn’t complete until the 2000s, and had nothing to do with race.

Until the mid-20th century, Democrats were the party of slavery, secession, Jim Crow, lynching, the KKK, and segregation.  (Someone ought to tell Hank Aaron.)

Throughout the 1950s, Republicans were integrating schoolhouses against the violent opposition of Southern Democratic governors.  President Truman signed an executive order desegregating the military in 1948, but dragged his heels and never followed through on implementation except in South Korea, where he needed additional troop strength.  It was Republican President Eisenhower who pushed to complete the task and disbanded the last segregated regiment in 1954.

In the late 1950s, Congressional Republicans passed several civil rights laws that never once received a majority of Democratic support—most notably the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960.  One-hundred percent of Republican Senators and 90% of Republican Representatives voted for the GOP-sponsored bills, compared to a measly 52% to 70% for Democrats.

The first civil rights bill that a majority of Democrats supported was the Civil Rights Act of 1964—so naturally it’s the only one the liberal media will talk about today.  Even so, Republicans supported it in far greater percentages than Democrats in both House and Senate.  Republicans supported the act 82% in the Senate and 80% in the House, compared to Democrats’ 69% and 61%.  Republicans also voted 94% and 82% for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, compared to Democrats’ 75% and 78%.  For the 1968 Fair Housing Act, it was 91% and 86% vs. 71% and 71%.

But, you might object, all that was 50 years ago.  Didn’t racist Southern Democrats switch parties and become Republicans?

After the dissolution of the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, 23 of the 26 Congressional and gubernatorial Dixiecrats returned to being lifelong Democrats.  Only three became Republicans: Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and Miles E. Godwin, Jr., the first two of whom you hear about endlessly.

Those Dixiecrats who went back to being Democrats for the rest of their lives included Senators Robert C. Byrd (Democrats’ “Conscience of the Senate”), Thomas Pryor Gore (Al Gore’s father), and Sam Ervin (chair of the Watergate Committee).

Only 1 of the 97 Democrats who signed the Southern Manifesto in 1956 opposing enforcement of Brown v. Board of Education switched to the Republican Party and kept his seat—Strom Thurmond again. (Thanks, Strom!)

How about Southern Democrats who were disenchanted with the 1964 Civil Rights Act?  Weren’t they ripe recruits for Republican nominee Richard Nixon?

According to the legend of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and won the four southern states that went for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, plus Georgia.  Though Goldwater did win those states, he was not opposed to civil rights: he had voted for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, was a longtime NAACP member, had long since voluntarily racially integrated his own businesses, and had funded a major anti-discrimination lawsuit in the 1950s.  As a strict libertarian, Goldwater opposed (like Rand Paul today) one of the ten titles of the Civil Rights Act, the one giving the federal government the power to interfere with private hiring decisions.  While many Dixiecrats supported Goldwater because of his opposition to the act, Goldwater inarguably did not appeal to their racism to get their votes.

In enacting the apocryphal Southern Strategy in 1968, Nixon supposedly appealed to racist Southern Democrats so he could win the Dixiecrat-Goldwater states.  However, Nixon won only one of the five states his diabolical strategy had allegedly poised him to take: South Carolina.  All four of the other states (plus Arkansas) went to segregationist former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who ran for President as a third-party candidate in 1968, but as a Democrat in 1964 and 1972.

So Nixon didn’t turn the Dixiecrat-Goldwater states Republican—he didn’t even win most of them himself.  Republicans didn’t start winning even a majority of these five states until 1992—by which time most of the Dixiecrats had died off—with the exceptions of (uninformative) landslide elections in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.  In 1976, Republicans won precisely 0 of the 5 Dixiecrat-Goldwater states.

The Southern Strategy is a perversely, willfully perpetuated myth concocted to explain away Democrats’ racist past by attributing it to innocent Republicans.  There is no evidence that it was consciously planned, much evidence that it wasn’t, and solid electoral proof that it yielded nil results.

Yet the left-leaning media continue to use ignorance about the history of civil rights to cultivate support for insane policies such as opposition to voter ID laws.

To take one example, New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently wrote, “Republicans are leveraging the deep pockets of anti-Obama billionaires and sinister voter suppression tactics that harken back to Jim Crow to wrest power from the hands of docile Democrats.”

Note the crafty, deceptive construction of that sentence: to uninformed readers, it would sound as though Jim Crow had been used “to wrest power from the hands of docile Democrats,” when in fact the wresting refers to something mentioned before the Jim Crow reference.

But I’m sure Blow doesn’t mind if uninformed readers misinterpret his meaning, not if it gins up opposition to voter ID laws.

And I’m sure liberal journalists with even an inkling of Republicans’ dominant role in pushing civil rights legislation throughout the 20th century will continue to conspire to keep their historically ignorant audiences in the dark.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics (Part 1 and Part 2)

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Democrats’ War on Competent Women

April 09, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

war-on-womenOn Tuesday the nation’s grievance-mongers celebrated Equal Pay Day, the day up through which women supposedly must work to catch up with men’s earnings from the prior year.

Based on the actual research, however, women would need to work only up until about brunch on New Year’s Day.

Liberals have been bleating for decades about some apocryphal pay gap, whereby full-time working women receive just 77 cents for every dollar men earn for the same work.

To help rectify this situation, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made it easier to file a lawsuit alleging salary discrimination, as his first act in office.

In a desperate attempt to mobilize Democrats’ largest voting bloc before the 2014 midterm elections, Obama recently renewed his push to remedy the injustice of pay inequality by promising to go around Congress if it doesn’t act.  On Tuesday he signed executive orders banning federal contractors from prohibiting workers from discussing their pay, and requesting pay statistics by gender from contractors.

Meanwhile, investigative journalists have documented that the Obama White House has paid its female staffers less than men for years.  So according to liberal logic, Obama is either discriminating against women applying for prestigious positions or stiffing them in their paychecks.

As journalist Christina Hoff Summers and others have documented, women’s work habits and life circumstances differ from men’s in many ways that affect their earnings.

Women tend to major in subjects that lead to lower-paying jobs and to pick lower-paying careers.  Women are more likely, for example, to become schoolteachers or nurses, whereas men are more likely to become college professors or doctors.  Men are more likely to choose careers that involve difficult manual labor or dangerous work conditions, which yield extra compensation relative to safe desk jobs.

Women are more likely to interrupt their careers, often when they’re just taking off, to give birth and stay home to rear children.  Many return to their jobs after sacrificing months or years’ worth of experience, networking, and resume-building opportunities.

Women are more likely to choose to work part-time, or to work fewer overtime hours, which compounds the experience gap and compromises their utility to employers.

Controlling for all of the above factors, the gender gap dwindles to 6.6 cents on the dollar.  And in our litigious, politically correct era, the fact that there’s still any gender difference suggests that researchers simply haven’t pinned down the situational factors that explain away those final few cents—e.g., women’s less aggressive salary negotiating style, or control variables that classify a woman who majors in sociology and a man who majors in economics both as “social science” majors.

As even the U.S. Department of Labor admitted in a comprehensive study of the pay gap in 2009, “[T]he raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.  Indeed, there may be nothing to correct.  The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”  Is Obama unaware of his own Labor Department’s research on the pay gap?

Conservatives have been pointing out all of the above facts for years—but all to no avail.  Brain-dead feminist Joan Walsh recently scolded Republicans for telling women to stop lying about the pay gap.  Liberal reporter Dana Milbank sneered that Republicans can “kiss votes from women goodbye.”  Birth control connoisseur and California State Senate candidate Sandra Fluke helpfully outlined all of the steps we can take to reduce the pay gap.  (I don’t know about you, but when Sandra Fluke has something to say, I do absolutely nothing differently than if she hadn’t spoken.)

For liberals who don’t buy the economic data showing no discriminatory pay gap, tell me: If employers could get away with hiring women with the same skills and experience as men for a 23% discount, why wouldn’t they be snapping up women and giving them their male employees’ jobs?  (They might even have to keep binders full of women!)  The left regularly accuses heads of companies of selling unsafe products or gouging customers just to squeeze out a few more pennies per transaction.  Are we to believe that these capitalist overlords haven’t noticed that they’re paying a 30% markup for male employees?

If it’s illegal to pay women less than men with the same qualifications for the same work, why don’t we see more gender discrimination lawsuits?  Where are the thousands of women proving in courts of law that their bosses give them less money than equally qualified men doing the same work?  Most heads of Human Resource Departments, which keep employee resumes, work requirements, and salary information, are women.  Are female human resource managers jealously conspiring to cover up widespread gender discrimination?

Research shows that the pay gap is narrowest at the start of women’s careers and widens as they get older.  So it’s unlikely that employers simply have an unfounded bias against women at all stages of their careers.  In fact, U.S. Census data reveal that the pay gap is reversed when comparing single men and women in their twenties.

If women want the same pay as men, then they should enter high-paying, high-prestige, high-responsibility careers that require lots of overtime and no interruptions in work history for having babies or part-time schedules to care for children.

As Megan McArdle points out, the real pay gap is the one that results from the differences between women and men, and the divergent life choices they make.  The left doesn’t want women to receive the same pay as men for equal work; they want women to receive the same pay as men for unequal work.

And these whining obfuscators whose appeals to social justice belie their assumption that women can’t compete on their own terms are the ones who call themselves feminists.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Government Interference Spawned General Motors Debacle

April 02, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

RECALL2-superJumboFederal regulatory interference at multiple stages of General Motors’ history spawned the debacle whereby GM must recall 2.6 million Chevy Cobalts after 13 deaths attributable to car ignitions shutting off and airbags malfunctioning.

Who else besides the federal government could inflict such an insidious mix of coercion and coddling over decades that it managed to destroy the reputation of a once-great American brand?

Automobile manufacturers’ unions, most notably the United Auto Workers, have played an increasing role in influencing management decisions in the U.S. car industry over the past half-century.  The lavish employee benefits and pension packages they mandate, their inflexible negotiation stances, and their heavy-handed bargaining tactics put GM on a financially unsustainable path.  GM’s average labor cost per UAW worker, for example, is $73 per hour, compared to $44 for non-unionized manufacturers such as Toyota.  GM hasn’t been entirely unwilling to accept the UAW’s terms, but the federal government has pressured it for decades to agree to unfavorable conditions to avoid harassment.

During the financial crisis of 2008-09, GM and Chrysler accepted multiple rounds of billions of dollars in bailout money from the Bush and Obama administrations, while manufacturers such as Toyota and Ford decided (initially) to go it alone.  Those huge cash infusions, both hugely expensive for taxpayers and illegal, kept GM and Chrysler from making the structural changes necessary for financial solvency.  It would have been better for all involved if GM had simply declared bankruptcy in 2008 and started over again—which it ended up doing anyway in 2009.

Meanwhile, the controversy over GM’s Chevy Cobalt began in 2007, when complaints about the model began trickling in.  A recent investigation by The New York Times revealed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looked the other way and made excuses for GM for years despite mounting complaints about the Cobalt.  NHTSA has a record of political bias, as with its infamous Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which it imposed out of fealty to the green lobby, and which have led to tens of thousands of highway deaths each year.  It’s not inconceivable that NHTSA, many of whose officials retire from the agency only to pursue jobs working for the companies they used to regulate, rewarded GM for its compliance with union mandates and acceptance of bailout money by refraining from investigating the company.  That scenario is especially easy to imagine when you consider that in 2009 Obama was actively touting the Cobalt as a highly-sought-after marvel of engineering while promoting his Cash for Clunkers program.

It’s true that the agency initially refused to initiate an investigation under the Bush administration in 2007.  But the agency made the same decision again under Obama in 2010, after mounds more complaints and far more justification for an investigation.

Contrast NHTSA’s lack of interest in probing GM with the safety investigation it instituted in 2012 of the Hyundai Elantra on the basis of a single complaint involving a minor injury from an airbag deploying improperly, a study that led to the recall of 190,000 cars.

It should be noted that the rash of complaints against GM does not resemble the recent spate of grievances against Toyota, which was forced to pay a $1.2 billion settlement for failing to fix a problem known as “sudden unintentional acceleration” that led to four fatalities.  Compelling evidence suggests that the latter charges were spurious, whereas multiple streams of proof corroborate the charges against GM.  Complaints about the Cobalt involved not only the ignition but the engine, clutch, power steering, locks, and air-conditioning, not to mention doors jamming and windows falling out.

Now witness the spectacle of assorted Obama lackeys in Congress showing off in front of the public by scolding GM officials and demanding that they pay up for slacking off under the very standards the government lowered for them.

It was big-government regulatory agencies of the sort the left drools over that set GM’s financial course in the wrong direction, then limited GM’s propensity to conduct recalls before glitches ballooned into crises, and finally let GM off the hook when the fatalities from their faulty vehicles started piling up.

So it’s pretty rich that the left, who defended GM so self-righteously against the moniker “Government Motors,” are now calling for GM executives to be hunted down and electrocuted.

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Obamacare Enrollment Counted Using Common Core Math Standards

March 26, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

ABC-Diane-Sawyer-Obamacare-numbers-release-11-13-2013-620x427Last year the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare would enroll 7 million customers by March 31, 2014, a number the administration subsequently adopted as its goal.  As it became clear that that target would remain elusive, the administration proceeded to move goalposts and extend deadlines so that they would be able to claim, at the end of the open enrollment period, that they had succeeded.

Despite all their cheating and number-fudging, they still can’t make that claim.

On October 23, 2013, after three weeks of dismal healthcare.gov performance, President Obama extended the deadline for complying with the individual mandate from February 15 to March 31, 2014.

On November 22, he extended the deadline for those who wished to receive coverage starting January 1 from December 15 to December 23.

On December 12, he strong-armed insurance companies into letting consumers make their first payments by January 10 rather than January 1.

On December 23, he extended the December 23 deadline for January coverage to December 24.

On December 24, he announced that those signing up at the last minute who were having trouble with healthcare.gov could have their enrollment deadlines extended if they could prove they had tried but failed to enroll in a plan.

In February 2014, when time was running out, the administration quietly revised its enrollment target from 7 million down to 6 million.  This would allow them to later falsely claim that their goal was never 7 million, and that they needed only 6 million enrollees for Obamacare to be sustainable.  (Note: The administration’s original projection in 2010 was 13.9 million, which means that the 7 million target was already a 50% reduction from their original expectation.)

Yet all of these tricks haven’t been enough to carry Obamacare over the finish line.  Perhaps because of the politically motivated one-year delays in the large and medium employer mandates, and the three-year delayed individual mandate for those with health plans that don’t comply with Obamacare, total enrollment isn’t predicted to hit even 6 million by March 31.

The Obama administration reported 5 million enrollees as of March 17, 2014.  Democratic activist Charles Gaba, who styles himself as a Nate Silver of Obamacare enrollment prediction, correctly foresaw the date the government would hit the 5 million mark.  He projects 5.4 million enrollees by March 31.

But Gaba admits that his estimate doesn’t factor in whether these enrollees end up paying their first monthly premiums.  Insurance companies have estimated that about 20% of so-called enrollees never make their first payment.  So even by the modified estimate of a pro-Obamacare statistician, total paid-for enrollments by the repeatedly extended deadline would be a paltry 4.3 million, or 62% of the administration’s goal.

As embarrassing as are that number and the administration’s attempts to spin it as a huge success, the crucial recruitment test is whether they get the right mix of enrollees.

Obamacare needs enrollees in the following categories, in descending order of importance: healthy young people, healthy old people, sick young people, and sick old people.  Tracking healthy and sick participants is difficult, but so far the administration has enrolled a smaller-than-desired percentage of young people.  The administration needs the enrollee base to consist of at least 40% young people, but they’ve hit only 25%.

So recruitment is well below the needed enrollment target, and well below the target percentage of young enrollees.  In addition, there’s an elephant in the room that upends all of these calculations.

Namely, it’s still the case that more people have been kicked off their plans than have enrolled and paid for plans on the federal exchange.

Even if every single exchange enrollee had been previously uninsured, the net difference between new enrollees and those who lost their plans would be negative.  But many consumers who signed up for the exchanges did so only because they were kicked off their old plans.  A recent McKinsey survey revealed that only 14% of exchange enrollees had previously been uninsured, and that most who had been insured were finding replacement coverage.

Everyone knows that it’s difficult to precisely track participation in large, unwieldy programs like Obamacare.  It’s understandable if groups for and against the legislation derive slightly higher or lower counts.  But when Democrats cut themselves break after break in interpreting the numbers, ignore qualifiers that greatly alter, mitigate, or render their counts useless, and redefine the meaning of the word “enrollment,” we’re not talking about harmless rounding error.  We’re talking about brazen mendacity.

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Obamacare Is a Negative-Sum Game

March 19, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

????????????????????????????????????????????????????Democrats’ strategy for vulnerable Obamacare-supporting Congressmen up for reelection this fall seems to be: “Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative.”

That may be great advice for characters in Hollywood musicals, but it’s a lousy way to judge a shoddily-written, government-mandated, never-read-in-its-entirety-by-any-human-being takeover of one-sixth of the American economy, and voters know it.

As Democratic shill Eugene Robinson coos, “Democrats should talk about what’s right with the ACA [Affordable Care Act].  They should talk about the millions of formerly uninsured Americans who now have coverage.  They should talk about the millions of others who are covered for the first time under Medicaid.  They should talk about the young people who are able to be covered under their parents’ policies.  They should talk about the diabetics and cancer survivors who now cannot be denied coverage because of their conditions.”

First, there’s no evidence that “millions” or even a million formerly uninsured Americans have coverage.  Of the few million Americans who have signed up for coverage via the exchanges—most of whom the government can’t verify payment for—multiple large-scale surveys suggest that the overwhelming majority of these previously had insurance, and that the preponderance of the latter shopped on the exchanges because they were kicked off their old plans.  Only a sliver of the uninsured report having browsed the exchanges, let alone chosen and paid for plans.

Second, a vast expansion of a behemoth federal welfare program that’s going bankrupt isn’t something to crow about.  And ballooning Medicaid coverage can hardly be considered an integral part of a supposedly innovative healthcare redesign that was supposed to cut costs by restructuring the insurance industry and fostering vigorous competition in the private market.

Third, it’s not clear that most Americans view coddling young adults through their 20s by allowing them free coverage while living in their parents’ basements as a gain.  Voters ridiculed the administration’s recent “Pajama Boy” ad—and that guy was trying to buy insurance!

As for those with preexisting conditions who can get coverage more easily and don’t have to shell out for high-risk pools, that is a legitimate example of an Obamacare feature that is popular with the public and will do good for a lot of people.  Another such provision is “community rating,” which prevents high-risk populations such as older people and smokers from having to pay higher than a certain percentage more than their low-risk counterparts.

People with chronic illnesses, older folks, and females will do relatively better under Obamacare than the healthy, young, and male.

But we can’t just point to people who make out like bandits under Obamacare and call it a day.  There are more people who end up worse by being kicked off their plans, having to sign up for plans with more expensive premiums or deductibles, getting stuck with narrower networks of doctors and hospitals, not being hired by employers keeping their employee counts down, or having their hours cut to compensate for the cost of covering other workers.

The Manhattan Institute’s recent 49-state study of premium cost changes revealed that states like New York, Colorado, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Hampshire—whose state healthcare markets are already heavily regulated—will see cost declines under Obamacare, but most states will face increases.  Presumably Robinson would recommend that Democratic Senators in Colorado and New Hampshire brag about lowered Obamacare costs in their states, while vulnerable Democrats in South Dakota (77% projected increase), Arkansas (138% increase), Louisiana (53%), North Carolina (136%), Georgia (92%), Michigan (66%), and Iowa (72%)… change the subject.

Any piece of legislation that affects the citizenry must be sound in its entirety.  Each of its components must be Constitutional.  The collection together must do more good than bad.  And the bill must not do undeserved harm to any of the people it affects.

Obamacare fails on all counts.

The individual mandate is unconstitutional, despite what Supreme Court Justice John Roberts thinks.  Until recently, Obamacare had booted more insured people off their plans than it had enrolled uninsured customers.  And numerous individuals with life-threatening illnesses found their continuity of care disrupted by having to switch to plans they couldn’t afford or losing coverage for treatments or drugs they relied on.  Even Harry Reid is finally acknowledging that some of the horror stories are true—at least when they involve his constituents.

Certain provisions of Obamacare are popular, but the law isn’t “certain provisions of Obamacare,” it’s “all of it.”  I hear that certain provisions of “having a job” are popular, like “getting a salary,” but that doesn’t mean we can keep the salary without including the “getting up early” and “dealing with annoying coworkers” parts.

In the best-case scenario, Obamacare would be a zero-sum game, in which the government confiscated resources from some taxpayers and redistributed them to needy individuals.  Many would oppose such a plan, but at least we could say the gains of some balanced out the losses of others.

But Obamacare architects weren’t content to spread the wealth around; they had to upend the whole system and rewrite the rules of the game for everyone.  Now, not only do millions of Americans lose at the expense of others, the entire system suffers from the introduction of chaos, uncertainty, arbitrary dictates, and capriciously tendered waivers to politically connected cronies.

Obamacare isn’t a zero-sum game, it’s a negative-sum game.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Reelecting Democrats: More Urgent Than Fixing Our Healthcare System

March 12, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

vulnerable_senate_2014_democrats_ap_328Even though there hasn’t been much Obamacare news this week, more happens with the Affordable Care Act during a slow week these days than occurred during long stretches of time after it was passed in 2010.  Why?

Congressional Obamacare supporters could have spent the months and years between the bill’s signing in 2010 and its rollout in 2013 starting bill implementation, including instituting and enforcing the individual mandate.  Instead, Democrats postponed most of the bill’s provisions until after the 2012 Presidential election, because they knew that the bill was unpopular and that voters wouldn’t reelect President Obama if they suffered its damaging effects right before the election.  It was an artificial, three-and-a-half-year, Democrat-induced calm before the storm that started on October 1, when millions of cancellation notices gusted into subscribers’ mailboxes, federal and state websites crashed against shoppers’ screens, and voters with few affordable options in sight became lost at sea.

Those months and years were squandered; the administration can’t get them back.  But why is Obama continuing to postpone enforcement of the individual and employer mandates, when he claimed back in 2009 that it was so urgent for us to fix our hopelessly broken healthcare system?  It’s as though every single essential component of Obamacare turned out to be not so essential after all.  Someone should ask Obama: Do we all need insurance that covers pediatric dental care and marital counseling right now, or don’t we?  Will we need it over the next three years, or won’t we?  Obama presented his bill as necessary to avert millions of unnecessary illnesses and thousands of avoidable deaths, not to mention millions of dollars squandered on treating conditions that could have been prevented.  So how is putting off the bill’s most important provisions for years at a time helpful for the country’s health?

Does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid think his claim that all health care horror stories are false is remotely believable, when the administration’s endless delays of Obamacare provisions are clearly designed to prevent more horror stories from circulating?  Does anyone believe that all these postponements aren’t taking place for political reasons—first the ones postponed until after the 2010 midterm elections; then those postponed until after the 2012 Presidential election; and now endless delays past the 2014 midterms, the 2016 Presidential election, and probably beyond?

A great campaign strategy to defeat Hillary Clinton, or whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee in 2016, would be to ask the candidate whether she supports all these Obamacare delays.  If she says no, then she is sharply at odds with Obama, which is politically risky.  But if she says yes, then she must be asked: How can all of these delays be good for the country, if there are tens of millions of people desperately in need of health insurance right now?  And how can a delay strategy be helpful if there are so many people with inferior insurance who are one illness away from going bankrupt?  Does Clinton want her constituents to die or go bankrupt?

Well actually, yes—many Democratic politicians wouldn’t mind, or at least would benefit politically, from more economic hardship among the electorate.  That would enable them to step in as saviors of the ever-growing downtrodden class and snare us into spending even more money on programs to support the general welfare.  Americans going bankrupt from expensive medical care would be all the more justification for Democrats to heavily regulate health insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, and medical device manufacturers.  Democrats are experts at frightening voters with nightmare scenarios about how bad things will get if Republicans deregulate the free market, and health insurance is an especially sensitive area of that market.

Speaking of scare tactics, Salon.com recently published an astonishing essay arguing that the wealthiest 1% of Americans are “sociopathic,” in that they don’t care about other human beings and enjoy attaining positions of power at companies so they can lay off workers.  This is yet another example of the left exaggerating the extent to which Republicans prefer people to fend for themselves: liberals imply that conservatives want everyone to live on an island, carry out every municipal function on his own, and refuse to work together in a community or divvy up responsibilities.  This argument, in addition to being ridiculous, is belied by the fact that conservatives voluntarily give more to charity than liberals.

Which party is really made up of sociopaths?  I say it’s the one that tells us that millions of Americans are going to die over the next few years if they don’t have adequate health insurance—and then promotes that outcome anyway for purely political reasons.

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Deconstructing Harry Reid

March 05, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

HarryReidThis could be a hunch, but I suspect vulnerable Congressional Democrats are going to regret Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid having kicked off the 2014 midterm season by declaring his party’s campaign slogan to be “All Obamacare Victims Are Liars.”

Last week, after regaling his colleagues with the glories of Obamacare, Reid warned, “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told.  All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.  Those tales turned out to be just that—tales, stories made up from whole cloth.”

Reid is far from the only liberal claiming Obamacare victims are an urban myth.  Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik mused, “Maybe there are no genuine Obamacare horror stories.”  Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum demanded, “Has anyone in America actually been harmed by Obamacare?”  The ever-certifiable Paul Krugman decried “Health Care Horror Hooey.”

Yet according to a recent Rasmussen survey, one third of Americans report that they personally have been hurt by Obamacare.  Projecting to the entire U.S. population, that’s an awful lot of liars.

Can we reflect for a moment on the insanity of Reid’s claim?  Supporting Obamacare because you believe it will help the needy, even if the middle class and well-off will suffer, is one thing.  And downplaying the cost of redistributing wealth through government subsidies is Democratic boilerplate.  But claiming that there is literally no downside to a law this big and complicated, that not one single person will be adversely affected by it, is borderline demented.

Consider the circles of hell Obamacare victims have wandered through in the past six months:

  • Millions have lost their health care plans
  • Many haven’t been able to find equivalent coverage due to higher premiums or deductibles
  • Some with life-threatening illnesses have lost their doctors or hospitals and watched their conditions worsen due to discontinuity of care
  • Millions have had to waste hours, days, or weeks scouring poky online exchanges to replace something they already had
  • Many are being forced to buy coverage for things they don’t need
  • Many who didn’t lose coverage are watching their premiums increase
  • Employees are having their hours cut or losing their jobs
  • The eventual enforcement of the delayed employer mandate will yield millions more policy cancellations

Yet liberals’ argument against these complaints is: “No one has been hurt by Obamacare, or if they have, it was completely unnecessary.  If only they’d spent hours researching dozens of plans and generating spreadsheets comparing premiums, coinsurance, and deductibles, they’d find a plan we think is better for them.  And if their costs are going up, it’s because greedy insurance companies raised their rates—which totally coincidentally happened right as Obamacare began.”

The left is ecstatic that they’ve been able to poke holes in the stories of a few cancer victims whose coverage was dropped and supposedly could have gotten comparable Obamacare plans.  Liberals believe that, because trained investigative reporters who consult insurance executives and interview Consumer Reports writers are able to sleuth around for hours comparing the costs of various bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans, little old ladies who are scared of computers should be ashamed at themselves for not doing the same.

So what if a few of the horror stories aren’t as egregious as their confused victims believe?  The fact that these victims are confused by what Obamacare is doing to them while they’re trying to fight life-threatening diseases should be horrifying enough to anyone with a conscience.

Even Hiltzik admits that there are “numerous cases of individuals or families who are paying more for coverage this year than last, and possibly for less coverage than they had before.”  He concedes that provider networks are smaller than those subscribers previously had, and acknowledges that many major insurance carriers did a poor job explaining options to customers after dropping coverage.

But in Hiltzik’s mind, stories of frustration and hardship don’t rise to the level of “horror” unless patients’ Obamacare doctors are sporting hockey masks and chainsaws.

There are numerous other reliable stories out there—see the cases of Stephen Blackwood, Jeff and Victoria Haidet, Linda Deright, Tom Gialanella, and Julie Stovall—that the left hasn’t been able to deconstruct.  But liberals aren’t interested in learning whether there are any genuine Obamacare horror stories; they’re interested in snookering the public into accepting their sneers about how all such stories are false.

If Democrats don’t start acknowledging the people hurt by the fatally flawed Affordable Care Act and supporting its delay or repeal, they may be the ones with Obamacare horror stories come November.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Good Riddance to East Ukraine

February 26, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

NA-BE112A_UKRAI_NS_20100208183846If pro-Europe Western Ukraine wants to ally with the European Union and flourish as a responsible twenty-first-century world power, while pro-Putin Eastern Ukraine wants to sell its soul to the devil, I say good riddance.

If you think the U.S. is sharply divided into red and blue political zones, you haven’t seen a map of the 2010 Ukrainian runoff presidential election results.  The Ukraine makes the U.S. look as purple as Florida.

Recently Western Ukrainians decided they had had enough of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s corruption, and organized protests against his repeated capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the exorbitantly lavish lifestyle he had carved out for himself and his cronies despite widespread Ukrainian poverty.  Protestors are now livid that Yanukovych’s security forces killed hundreds of opposition party members last week in Independence Square, center of the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004, where protestors demonstrated against the rigged election that originally attempted to put Yanukovych in power.

Yanukovych, who eked out a Presidential win in 2010 due to a fragmented opposition, is currently believed to be hiding out in the Crimean Peninsula, a pro-Putin Ukrainian outpost on the Black Sea where you can actually see Russia from your house.

In typical blame-the-other-side-for-being-just-as-bad style, Russia is denouncing armed Western protestors who simply want to restore order to the capital, and insinuating that protestors had better get in line if they don’t want Russian forces on the ground in Kiev.  Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sneered, “If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government.”  You see, the current Russian administration prefers Cossacks in fur hats brandishing swords, lashing women in public with horsewhips, and squirting pepper spray in pedestrians’ faces.

The anti-Yanukovych protestors have demonstrated their genuine commitment to independence: they despise the idea of Russia giving them a $15 billion bailout in exchange for the Ukraine becoming a satellite of Putin’s sphere of influence, and have instead requested desperately needed assistance from the International Monetary Fund to stave off imminent bankruptcy.  Going through the IMF would require Ukraine to establish a stable parliamentary government in the next several days and make much-needed financial reforms.  It is obviously the more responsible choice, and the preferable option for Western Ukrainians who fought for independence from Russia ten years ago and don’t want to enslave themselves again to a hostile foreign power via multibillion-dollar deficits—unlike a certain other North American country I could mention.

So what exactly is the point of maintaining Ukrainian “territorial integrity”—i.e. forcing Western and Eastern Ukrainians, who despise one another, to remain united?  Remember that this is not exactly Abraham Lincoln keeping the North and South together to sustain a Union worth preserving.  It’s not as though the former Soviet Union settled into a peaceful, stable constellation of nations in the early 1990s and has remained an idyllic paradise ever since.  Splitting the country into West and East Ukraine would be a blip on the timeline of post-Soviet geopolitics.

The only valid reason for the West to want to keep the country together is that Eastern Ukraine happens to yield a majority of the country’s economic output, due to their large industrial manufacturing base and plentiful natural resources.  It would certainly sting for Western Ukraine to have to untether its economy from that abundance.  But split the country in half, with Western Ukraine allying with the European Union and eventually becoming a member, and Eastern Ukraine hewing to Russia’s totalitarian model, and which half of Ukraine do you think is going to be thriving ten years from now?  Already there are signs that Eastern Ukraine is squandering its wealth and disadvantaging its population, as reflected by such quality-of-life measures as employment, crime rates, health, infant mortality, and longevity.

The Ukraine superficially resembles the opposite of the United States—the industrial heartland is pro-statism and the culturally European half is pro-liberty.  But that often happens in developing nations, in which reformers’ affinity for European-style mixed economic models is tolerable, simply because it’s better than what protestors are rebelling against.

As Mitt Romney correctly noted during the third 2012 Presidential debate—and was mocked mercilessly for claiming—Russia is in fact our primary geopolitical adversary.  And any country or region that hasn’t learned the lessons of the Cold War and chooses to ally itself with Vladimir Putin deserves whatever it gets.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Liberals Stand Their Ground for Hypocrisy

February 19, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Racism

States-with-Stand-your-ground-laws_full_600Wait—I thought Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was a barbaric throwback designed to protect trigger-happy vigilantes who want to shoot black strangers.  So why is the left now defending it?

In 2011, 26-year-old U.S. Air Force active duty member Michael Giles was sentenced to 25 years in jail after being found guilty of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in a shooting incident at a Tallahassee nightclub.  After a melee involving 30 to 40 young men broke out in the parking lot, Giles went to his car to retrieve his handgun, then returned to the site of the fight to collect his friends.  At some point, a brawler named Courtney Thrower punched Giles and knocked him to the ground.  Giles, later claiming he had feared for his life, fired into the crowd and hit Thrower in the leg.  Two other men were injured by bullet fragments.  Giles was immediately arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder.

Buoyed by recent national attention given to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law via the George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn murder trials, Giles supporters have been reviving their case and petitioning Governor Rick Scott for clemency.

As has been pointed out numerous times, Stand Your Ground was irrelevant to the Zimmerman trial, and state prosecutors didn’t even invoke it.  Zimmerman testified that shooting victim Trayvon Martin was straddling him and beating his head into the concrete.  In such a situation, there was no opportunity for Zimmerman to retreat, and therefore no way for him to stand his ground.

Similarly, Stand Your Ground is completely irrelevant to the Giles case.  Thrower punched Giles and knocked him to the ground.  If Giles had decided to stand his ground, he literally would have stood up, brushed himself off, put his hand on his firearm, and refused to let Thrower assault him again.  But Giles didn’t stand his ground, which is why his lawyer properly counseled him not to invoke that defense—a fact Giles supporters now cite as proof that he had an incompetent defense and that his conviction should be thrown out.

But Giles didn’t aim his gun at Thrower and declare his intent to defend himself.  He simply pointed his gun into a closely-packed crowd and fired.  That’s not cold-blooded first-degree attempted murder, but it’s awfully close to second-degree attempted murder.  And it certainly rises to the level of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Thrower, in contrast, didn’t have a weapon.  He admitted that, in the midst of the melee, he was simply itching for a fight and had decided to punch the first person who got in his way.  Thrower didn’t know Giles, have a vendetta against him, or threaten further violence against him.

Michael Giles didn’t bring a gun to a knife fight, he brought a gun to a fistfight.

Actually, he safely left a fistfight, then went to retrieve his gun, then charged back into the fistfight with a gun.

Meanwhile, the left’s brazen hypocrisy in applying Stand Your Ground to the Zimmerman vs. Giles cases is stunning.

Replay the Zimmerman case with Zimmerman and Martin in the roles of Giles and Thrower.  Suppose Martin had jumped Zimmerman and punched him, knocked him to the ground, and turned to leave, posing no further threat.  Imagine if Zimmerman had whipped out his gun and shot Martin, hitting him and two innocent bystanders.  Does anyone seriously think the same crew that’s now sending Zimmerman death threats would be signing a clemency petition by the tens of thousands demanding that Governor Scott commute Zimmerman’s sentence?

How about this scenario: Suppose Giles had been white, and Giles had shot his black assailant in the leg and wounded two other black bystanders.  Do you think those signatures would still be rolling in at change.org for the white Giles to be set free?

There is not a single conservative in America who thought Zimmerman was guilty but favored acquitting him because Martin was black, and now thinks Giles is innocent but supports finding him guilty because he is black.  In contrast, the left ignored the evidence in the Zimmerman case and favored finding him guilty because they believed the jury was racially biased, and now support Giles’s random act of shooting because he is black.

In liberals’ minds, smashing someone’s skull into the concrete isn’t grounds for fighting back, if the perpetrator is black; but drunkenly taking a random swing at someone in a parking lot brawl is justification for a black interloper to fire shots into the crowd.

I’m sorry that Martin was straddling and beating Zimmerman, whereas Thrower was no longer acting threatening when Giles shot him.  I’m sorry that Martin was killed in the scuffle, whereas Giles is serving a prison sentence because Thrower was merely injured.  But we can’t rewrite the facts of cases to ensure the racial balance of verdicts we’d like to see.

In their upside-down conception of justice, liberals once opposed Stand Your Ground in a case that didn’t invoke it, and now support Stand Your Ground in a case in which it isn’t relevant.

I suppose it’s nice that liberals are finally coming around to supporting a reasonable gun-rights law.  But don’t be surprised if Gloria Allred misapplies it to defend Satanic killer Miranda Barbour by arguing that Barbour killed the man she met on Craigslist to stand her ground against Male Oppression.

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