American Elephants

Milton Friedman on the Economics of Socialized Medicine by The Elephant's Child


I just found this, and it seems appropriate to listen carefully, once again, to Milton Friedman. It often seems to me that economics is simply the art of trying to quantify common sense, but I do recognize that my “common sense” is someone else’s heresy.

The theory is that if you repeat something often enough, after a while it will sink in. I remain hopeful.

Government Takeover Continues: Internet, News, Health Care, Energy, Transportation, Housing, Finance, Food Supply. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration’s drive to control or regulate every sector of the economy continues apace.  Yesterday it was “Food Safety” which slapped unneeded regulation on a food industry with a record of significantly declining problems of food safety.  It is, after all, very much in the food sector’s self-interest to police themselves very carefully. They have the example of the phony Alar scare promoted by  Fenton Communications, to remind them.

Now Julian Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission Chairman, has announced plans to adopt net neutrality regulations over the objections of lawmakers and in spite of a federal court ruling in April that said the FCC lacked the authority  from Congress to restrict how Internet service providers manage traffic on their networks.

Only two weeks ago, Mr. Genachowski was telling state utility regulators in a speech that “the economy and jobs” would be the “primary focus” of the FCC.  “We’re focused on seizing the opportunities of communication technologies to catalyze private investment, foster job creation, compete globally and create broad opportunity in the United States,” he said.. “Our sector — the information technologies and communications sector — can play a big role in driving economic success for the U.S. in the near-term and the long-term.” Uh huh.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said the five-member commission, which is controlled by Democrats, will soon vote to “upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation.  By choosing this highly interventionist course, the Commission is ignoring the will” of Congress. (emphasis added)

Last year internet service providers spent nearly $60 billion to deploy next-generation networks to customers across the country. Sticking the telecom industry with new rules to hamper capital investment would lead to years of litigation and regulatory uncertainty —another set of the kind of job killing in which the Obama administration specializes. This is also an indication that Obama plans to circumvent Congress by using his administrative agencies to accomplish his plans.

Another FCC Commissioner, Michael  Copps, has suggested that news broadcasters should be subject to a new “public values test” every four years. He suggested that a broadcaster’s license renewal should be contingent on proof that they meet a prospective set of federal criteria.  They should prove they have made a meaningful commitment to public affairs and news programming (for instance by showing they depict women and minorities) report more to the government about which shows they plan to air, offer more disclosure on who funds political ads and devote 25 percent of their time to local news.  Rep Joe Barton (R-TX) responded “I hope…that you do not mean to suggest that it is the job of the federal government, through the [FCC] to determine the content that is available for Americans to consume.”

We know that Obama hates Fox News, but these efforts to exert control over every segment of the American economy are completely out of line.  The Left has always believed that things are more efficiently done by the government, an idea that is belied by the results achieved by government.  There’s not much that couldn’t be done more efficiently and cheaper by private enterprise.

These efforts at control and regulation exceed anything I’ve seen before, and would seem more at home in a banana republic.  Oil prices are climbing sharply as the price of crude has gone up — to some extent due to taking American oil from the Gulf of Mexico off the market.

Electricity from wind farms is many times more expensive than that from ordinary coal or natural gas-fired plants.  And due to the intermittent nature of both wind and solar they cannot produce electricity in any significant amount.  Obama’s efforts to force Americans to accept his fantasy of a clean green economy will fail completely if our experience is the same as that of the other nations that have tried it.

Efforts to transform the transportation sector have bogged down in  the unwanted Volt,  the failure of ethanol, Obama’s missing “shovel-ready” projects, high-speed trains to nowhere, cash for clunkers, and the auto bailout that mostly enriched the unions.

The housing sector is a mystery shrouded in the books of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which are unavailable. Nobody seems to know what has happened to all the “toxic assets” that were causing the problems, nor to what extent the inventory of foreclosed homes is being sold.

The Dodd/Frank financial bill does not address the very major problem of businesses deemed “Too Big To Fail.”  They all apparently remain too big to fail.  The bill is full of pages and pages of regulations, but whether any actually fix problems is unknown.  Many large corporations have chosen to improve their bottom lines by rent seeking, which seems to be welcomed by the government.

ObamaCare is designed to gradually funnel everyone into single-payer government-controlled health care. It will cost far more than the health care that they claimed was too expensive, there will not be enough doctors to serve the newly insured, and quality and service will deteriorate as wait-times and costs increase.

Those are the sectors of the economy over which I see the Obama administration attempting to exert ever more control — and in most cases the real regulation has not yet been issued.  We have only the broad generalities outlined by Congress, which then go to new offices of government employees which will develop the regulations in all their particular detail.

Do What We Say — Or Else! by The Elephant's Child

Remember back when the Democrats were trying to sell ObamaCare?  It was going to reduce the cost of healthcare, reverse the escalating costs, and cover the uninsured, and save money? Conservatives looked at the claims and were more than dubious.

On Friday, President Obama said at his press conference that “As a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs — we knew that.”

We knew that too, but that isn’t what you claimed at the time.  We also knew that the White House was going to blame insurance companies for cost increases caused by White House policies.  Now we have Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius who is going to make all the regulations that will flesh out the 2,700 pages of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act — clarifying where the White House stands:

Witness Kathleen Sebelius’s Thursday letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group—a thuggish message even by her standards. The Health and Human Services secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They’re more subtle than this in Caracas.

What Ms. Sebelius really means is that the government will prohibit insurers from doing business if reality is not politically convenient for Democrats. ObamaCare includes a slew of mandated benefits for next year, such as allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26 and “free” preventative care (i.e., no direct out-of-pocket cost sharing for consumers). The tone of Ms. Sebelius’s letter suggests that she doesn’t understand that money is exchanged for goods and services, and that if Congress mandates new benefits, premiums will rise.

The Administration is estimating that regulations will result in premium increases by 1% to 2% on average.  We have already received notice that ours is increasing by 16%, and I’ve seen estimates from the private sector of 9% for individual policies.

The Democrat Party owns health care.  They wanted it.  They passed it.  The Congressional Democrats who voted for it are trying to run away from it as fast as they can, and when faced up with it by angry constituents, claim that they’ll fix it — if we just give them a chance.  Uh huh.

ObamaCare gives Ms. Sebelius’s regulators the power to define “unreasonable” premium hikes, which will mean whatever they decide it will mean later this fall. She promised to keep a list of insurers “with a record of unjustified rate increases” and then to bar them from ObamaCare’s subsidized “exchanges” when they come on line in 2014. In other words, insurers must accept price controls now or face the retribution of a de facto ban on selling their products to consumers four years from now.

This thuggery is a demonstration of life under ObamaCare. Health care decisions will be made by bureaucrats, and the bureaucrats will decide who can charge how much for a service or a product.  They are politicians, not physicians, and they don’t know enough to have any idea of the unintended consequences.

ADDENDUM: Michael Barone takes on Secretary Sebelius as well.  Sorry folks, you are not allowed to criticize the health-care law.  Secretary Sebelius says that “according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact…will be minimal.” Well, sure.  You can always find “some experts” to go along with anything.  This kind of bullying goes on in some countries — but we have something called the First Amendment, that this administration ignores when it suits them.


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