American Elephants


More Waivers to ObamaCare! by The Elephant's Child

I’m devastated to learn the Secretary Kathleen Sebelius doesn’t read our little blog.  She is apparently unaware that  Philip Hamburger, who is the Maurice and Hilda Friedman professor of Law at Columbia University, wrote in National Review Online that giving waivers to ObamaCare to selected groups, companies and individuals was clearly unconstitutional. “The president cannot simply decide who does and does not have to follow the law.”

Now she’s gone and done it.  It’s not quite clear why anyone needs a waiver to a law that has already been ruled unconstitutional, but Secretary Sebelius has now granted 915 waivers, up from the 733 waivers of just a couple of days ago.

“Waivers only last for one year and are only available if the plan certifies that a waiver is necessary to prevent either a large increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to coverage. ”  Since as far as I can tell the PPACA  (ObamaCare) means a large increase in premiums for almost everybody, and is meaning an increase for many right now– everybody should get a waiver.  The waivers are for so-called “mini-med plans” which will be prohibited in 2014.  They are an affordable option for many workers, who will get to spring for something more elaborate or pay a hefty fine.

Maybe we can find lots more unconstitutional provisions in the 2000+ pages of this mess of a bill.  I notice that now they’re just calling it “the Affordable Care Act.” Sure.



What’s Next for Egypt and the MENA Countries? by The Elephant's Child
February 11, 2011, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Islam, Middle East | Tags: , , ,

Mubarak has departed. Cairo is celebrating.  It has been 15 days of dramatic protest.  British Prime Minister David Cameron made an appropriate speech, very brief, in which he said “we stand by, ready to help in any way we can.” What comes next remains to be seen.  The military has promised to move toward elections in September.

Westerners have been inclined to view the protesters as demanding liberty and democracy. It is probably more accurate to say they are demanding a jobs and an economy.  Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal outlined the problems in his column yesterday. “In Egypt, the percentage of the working population employed by the state is 35%.”  Think about that.

Everyone points out the example of Turkey. Turkey got Ataturk and free market economist Turgut Ozal as prime minister in the 1980s. Turkey’s percentage of the working population employed by the government is 13%.

Mr. Henninger relies on the work of the Swiss business school IMD. They produce a comparison of public-sector employment as a percentage of total population for their Competitiveness Yearbook. They show a striking correlation between economic success in emerging economies and relatively low populations of public employees. The public sector, everywhere, is non-productive, high benefit and a drag on an economy.

Korea, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and even China (8.3%) have low public employment as a percentage of total population.  In Singapore it is under (3%).  In South America, Columbia, Peru and Chile are all under 15%.  A small public sector is not a guarantee of strong growth, but a high percentage probably kills growth.

In Tunisia, many of the rioters were unemployed college graduates, as they were in Egypt.  All of the Middle East/North African (MENA) countries have large public sectors.  Jordan’s is nearly 50%.  The MENA countries have used public work as a form of social security and a tool of political stability.  The armies are public sector employees.

Hernando de Soto, the Peruvian economist, has been a tireless advocate for private property.  If you have a little business, but cannot borrow, build wealth or establish a real business, there is not going to be any growth.  In America, risk-taking entrepreneurs often get their ideas out of the garage and on to the next stage of growth by taking out a second mortgage and cashing in their nest-egg.  Where does the capital come from when you don’t even own the property where you live or the fruit of your own labor?

Dan Henninger suggests that there may be a tipping point in the percentage of the population employed by the public sector, and at a certain point the economy starts to choke.  It is a vast misallocation of public energy, and much of the energy of the public sector is necessarily dedicated to controlling a restive private sector population. When an economy is reduced to depending on tourism, they’re in trouble.  It will be a while before tourists are once again coming to see the pyramids.

California, New York and New Jersey are drowning under the weight of their public sectors. Our country is taking notice of the ideas of  Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, but they haven’t yet solved anything.

Ronald Reagan noted the phenomenon many years ago.  “Man is not free unless government is limited. As government expands, liberty contracts.” It is apparently a hard lesson to learn.



Sharia, Observed, Executes Another Child. by The Elephant's Child
February 11, 2011, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Islam, Middle East | Tags: , ,

There’s been another news story about Sharia, the Islamic system of religious law. In Bangladesh, a 14-year-old girl named Hena was raped by a 40-year-old  man named Mahbub, who is described as a “relative.  The matter was brought to the attention of the sharia authorities in her village of Shariatpur. (Both John Hinderaker and Andrew McCarthy have highlighted this story).

In Islam, rape cannot be proved unless there are four witnesses.  In other words, it is almost impossible to establish that what happened did happen.  Bad news for the victim, because if she had sexual relations outside of marriage but cannot prove that she was raped, she is considered to have committed a grave sin.

In Hena’s case, the sharia authorities ordered that she be given 100 lashes.  She fell unconscious before reaching 80, and died from the whipping.  Westerners are often told that they simply do not understand the richness and nuances of sharia.  And we don’t know how sharia is interpreted in different places, but it is very real.  Sakineh Ashtiani was sentenced by an Iranian court to death by stoning.  We have had “honor killings” in this country.  Andy McCarthy says:

It should by now be undeniable that there is an interpretation of sharia that affirms all its atrocious elements, and that this interpretation is not a fringe construction.  It is mainstream and backed by very influential scholars who know a hell of a lot more about Islam than we in the West do.  That makes it extremely unlikely that this interpretation will be marginalized any time soon.

The aim of the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime of the mullahs in Iran is to establish Islam throughout the world, for all to worship Allah, and to establish sharia as the law.




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