American Elephants


Will the Paycheck Stubs Begin to Awaken the Low-Information Voter? by The Elephant's Child
January 7, 2013, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Education, Health Care, Taxes

Employees are still reeling from the smaller paychecks, now that the payroll tax has been restored. Makes a difference in take-home pay. and apparently the low-information types were not aware that it was happening. There are real penalties for not paying attention to what is going on.

To that cut in your paycheck, you can add a probable rise in the cost of your health insurance. The mysteries of Supply and Demand kick in here. ObamaCare added all sorts of new requirements for insurance companies to cover, and new requirements for providers to provide. Providing more costs more. The Obama people actually believed that health care was going to cost less once they had turned it over to the wise folks in government. Surprise!

In a long-awaited interpretation of the new health care law, the Obama administration said Monday that employers must offer health insurance to employees and their children, but will not be subject to any penalties if family coverage is unaffordable to workers.

The requirement for employers to provide health benefits to employees is a cornerstone of the new law, but the new rules proposed by the Internal Revenue Service said that employers’ obligation was to provide affordable insurance to cover their full-time employees. The rules offer no guarantee of affordable insurance for a worker’s children or spouse. To avoid a possible tax penalty, the government said, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer affordable coverage to those employees. But, it said, the meaning of “affordable” depends entirely on the cost of individual coverage for the employee, what the worker would pay for “self-only coverage.”

The new rules, to be published in the Federal Register, create a strong incentive for employers to put money into insurance for their employees rather than dependents. It is unclear whether the spouse and children of an employee will be able to obtain federal subsidies to help them buy coverage — separate from the employee — through insurance exchanges being established in every state. The administration explicitly reserved judgment on that question, which could affect millions of people in families with low and moderate incomes.

Many employers provide family coverage to full-time employees, but many do not. Family coverage is much more expensive, and the employee’s share of the premium is typically much larger.

So the rules say that employers have to offer coverage to an employee’s children, but “dependent” does not cover the spouse of an employee. So employers have to offer coverage to children of an employee, but do not have to make it affordable, and they don’t have to offer coverage at all to the spouse of an employee. Nice.

The new rules apply to employers that have at least 50 full-time employees or an equivalent combination of full-time and part-time employees. Full-time employees are defined as those who average at least 30 hours a week. 100 half-time employees are considered equivalent to 50 full-time employees.

Their aim, right from the beginning, has been a sly way of pushing everyone into single-payer government provided health care. I cannot imagine why anyone but the completely ideological would admire Britain’s NHS, widely celebrated at the worst health care in the Western world. Single payer has been a disaster everywhere in much smaller economies than ours. Democrats tried to make a big deal of Romney’s insurance mandate in Massachusetts, and how ObamaCare was just a copy of Romney’s Massachusetts plan. But what Democrats had in mind was the NHS. If you are old, or if you care about someone who is old, you should be worried.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.



The Mysteries of the Butterfield Fallacy by The Elephant's Child

Have  you heard of the Butterfield Fallacy?  It is rooted in ideological prejudice, and well known to conservative commentators.  Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times  “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, rime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The Butterfield Fallacy consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. You put more bad guys behind bars, and crime goes down. The typical New York Times reporter disapproves of sending people to prison because among other reasons they think it is racially discriminatory. “In 2004 almost 10 percent of American black men ages 25 to 29 were in prison” and it diverts tax money from what should be higher priorities.  In 1997, “already California and Florida spend more to incarcerate people than to educate their college age populations.” Here, Reynolds Law comes into play:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

New York Times business reporter Reed Abelson wrote yesterday with bewilderment that insurance premiums are rising sharply as ObamaCare’s insurance regulations begin to take effect:

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

Yuval Levin wrote of Ableson’s surprise that health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers. Ableson was bewildered at the Butterfield Fallacy. as Levin wrote under the perfect title “Even Though.” Some people think this might have something to do with ObamaCare’s basically outlawing actual insurance and replacing it with an economically  incoherent substitute. The article also notes with surprise that businesses that now have to have their prices approved by regulators have adopted a  peculiar practice by which they first propose higher prices than they expect to end up with and then work down toward their costs. Levin adds “sources say that supply and demand may be related in ways that influence prices, but this remain unconfirmed.”

When health care bureaucrats reduce the price that will be paid to providers for their services, oddly enough, the cost of insurance will go up.

James Taranto note another example from the Associated Press:

A bluefin tuna sold for a record $1.76 million at a Tokyo auction Saturday, nearly three times the previous high set last year–even as environmentalists warn that stocks of the majestic, speedy fish are being depleted worldwide amid strong demand for sushi.

The reporter, Malcolm Foster, was too caught up in environmental sentimentalism to notice that this is basic supply and demand at work. When the supply of something is low, prices go up.  Imagine that.



Winston Churchill on Negotiating With Aliens by The Elephant's Child

Over at Powerline, Steven Hayward posts a “Weekly Winston” quote from Winston Churchill who with long years of writing is exceptionally quotable:

Democratic governments drift along the line of least resistance, taking short views, paying their way with sops and doles, and smoothing their path with pleasant-sounding platitudes.  Never was there less continuity or design in their affairs, and yet towards them are coming swiftly changes which will revolutionize for good or ill not only the whole economic structure of the world but the social habits and moral outlook of every family.



Negotiating With People From Another Planet by The Elephant's Child

Economist Stephen Moore writes today in the Wall Street Journal about an interview with House Speaker John Boehner just after the House vote to avoid the fiscal cliff, and just after Mr. Boehner had been elected to a second term as speaker of the House.

What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ …
The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”…

Mr. Boehner confirms that at one critical juncture he asked Mr. Obama, after conceding on $800 billion in new taxes, “What am I getting?” and the president replied: “You don’t get anything for it. I’m taking that anyway.”

Mr. Boehner was understandably frustrated that Republicans were portrayed by the press as dogmatic and unyielding in these talks. Significant numbers of Democrats really believe that spending is not a problem. Steve Benen at Rachel Maddow’s blog “Sorry, Boehner, spending isn’t the problem,” NewYork Magazine’s Jonathan Chait “There really isn’t money to be cut everywhere…The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found.” Or Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum”We don’t have a spending problem. We have an aging problem.”

This goes back the administration’s initial talks on health care before they passed ObamaCare. The president’s advisers on health care, Ezekiel Emanuel ( brother of Rham), a ‘medical ethicist’ ;Tom Daschle, a former Senate Majority Leader,who went on after defeat to become a lobbyist, wrote a book on universal health care and became a fellow at the Center for American Progress; Dr. Donald Berwick, Budget Director Peter Orzag, and Jacob Hacker among others were all great admirers of Britain’s National Health Service.

This alone should make you wonder where these people are coming from. The current scandal of the NHS involves the report on Stafford Hospital where up to 1,200 people died needlessly in appalling conditions. But this pervades the system. The Daily Mail reports that 60,000 patients have been put on the death pathway without being told, but the minister says the controversial end-of-life plan is “fantastic.” The pathway involves the sick being sedated and denied nutrition and fluids. Families are not told when doctors withdraw lifesaving treatment.

The medical profession in this country has as its goal saving lives and caring for patients. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, ‘medical ethicist’ says Doctors take their Hippocratic oath too seriously.The Democrat view is that the largest amount of medical expense in our health care system takes place an a persons final years. Sarah Palin was ridiculed by the press when she spoke of “death panels,” but that is the essence of Democrat planning. People in their final years shouldn’t be allowed to run up big bills for major operations, kidney dialysis, cancer treatment — they don’t have enough ‘life-years’ left, and the money is much better spent on the young. And yes, government bureaucrats will determine what life-saving treatments you may have.

Democrats believe that ending that kind of expense can solve our budget problems. They also believe that emergency room treatment is outrageously expensive because those who go to the emergency room have no insurance. This is not true according to the association of emergency room physicians, most of the people who come to the emergency room have health insurance. As one who had an accident-prone kid, anecdotal evidence from the next beds in the emergency room demonstrated cases of ringworm, funny rash, ordinary things better solved with a visit to the drugstore.

How can anyone look at the bloated, overpaid, underworked bureaucrats in unbelievable numbers of agencies, bureaus, administrations are all needed to perform the essential functions of government? ObamaCare, in its original configuration had overlapping hundreds of new agencies. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau instantly acquired 900 employees, and began writing thousand-page proposals on streamlining the mortgage application process. Democrats believe that the mortgage crisis happened because evil banks fooled poor people into accepting mortgages that were more than they could afford. No blaming Democrats in Congress for forcing banks to make loans that were subprime with claims of racism and threats of oppressive regulation.

If you begin to suspect that somewhere along the line, good Democrats were replaced by aliens from another planet, you wouldn’t e too far off. Ordinary humans often get to thinking odd things because nobody ever told them the facts, but this prolonged, insistence on an alternate reality is disconcerting.  Stephen Moore’s conversation with Speaker Boehner was titled “The Education of John Boehner.” Mr.Boehner was simply unprepared for the ideological barrier that Mr. Obama has erected around his views. Richard Epstein said that Barack Obama’s ideas were fixed in concrete, that he does not change his mind. Speaker Boehner was dealing with a very bad hand. Many conservatives were angry that he did not get more concessions, but he made 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent. We couldn’t get that when we had a Republican House and Senate and a Republican in the White House.

Conservative angst is misplaced. Mr. Boehner says that Republicans will not be agreeing to any more tax increases in the next two years. The tax issue is resolved and will be discussed only in the context of a broader debate about tax reform. He dismisses the president’s declaration that future cuts will have to be “balanced.” There will be no more closed-door budget negotiations with the president, which are “futile.” But battles? There will be plenty of those. The president believes in the power of government. Mr. Boehner says. “I believe in the power of the American people. It is really that simple.” And really that difficult.




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