American Elephants

Government: Is It Ever Big Enough? by The Elephant's Child

Can the government ever be too big? How much spending is enough spending? And if there can be too much spending, where is that point? William Voegeli, Senior Editor of the Claremont Review of Books, explores these complex questions and offers some clear answers.

The American Economy Shrank by 0.7 Percent in The First Quarter. by The Elephant's Child
May 29, 2015, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , , ,

The revised figures for the first quarter show that the American economy shrank by 0.7 percent — January through March. The administration did not, however try to blame it on Bush, they blamed it on the harsh winter. It was a brutal winter on the east coast and in the Midwest. It is the third quarter in which the economy has actually contracted (the other two were the first quarters of 2011 and 2014).

This has been the slowest, most sluggish recovery since World War II. The strong dollar has meant that American exports are down. but other economies are not healthy either, including China’s. The Obama administration’s big-government, big-deficit, big waste and big-regulation policies are not a recipe for growth or recovery.

A new study finds that overhead costs are exploding under ObamaCare. Another promise up in smoke. The Health Affairs Blog published a study based on numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that runs ObamaCare and found that ObamaCare increased health care costs by $17 billion last year, and by 2020 will add a total of more than $270 billion.Twenty-two percent of all new spending is going to overhead, paperwork, not patient care.

The United States spends more on regulation than ever before. The amount spent has increased significantly as has the number of people who are employed to write and enforce the increasing number of government regulations. In 1990, total spending on regulatory activity was $20.6 billion. This year it will clock in at $60.1 billion, a 192% increase. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that in 2012 the total cost of federal regulations was just over $2 trillion — 13 5 of that year’s GDP.

Is this unruly Americans who need more careful control? Not likely. It is an administration that sees power and control as a goal. Not a climate in which free enterprise can prosper.

Just a Bundle of Laughs by The Elephant's Child
May 28, 2015, 6:38 am
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

It’s just Hillary.

HHS Rules Here, FDA Regs There, First Thing You Know You’re Talking Billions. by The Elephant's Child

It is really easy. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) passed three new rules over the course of just four days in January, adding $9.1 billion of regulatory burden during the first month of the new year, a new report claims.

According to a study by the American Action Forum released on Friday, the 797 pages of new regulations will account for $9.1 billion in new costs, and mount up to 10.6 million hours of additional paperwork burden.

One of the major costs came from expansion of Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the state–based health insurance exchange programs — all mandated under the Affordable Care Act. The total price tag is $2.6 billion, the paperwork burden 518,432 hours. HHS has allowed 17 working days to submit comments on the 500 page overhaul of Medicaid and SCHIP.

The other two rules come from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their new rules for standard for harvesting and holding produce for humans to consume, is expected to cost $3.2 billion over a 7 year period, adding another 8.8 billion hours of paperwork.

The other FDA ruling is to standardize and modernize manufacturing practices and analysis for “hazardous food” which will cost between $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion. The paperwork burden is not a joke. These two FDA rulings would require 5,005 employees dedicated strictly to red tape compliance.

Ten of the Worst Regulations of 2012—This Is Big Government. by The Elephant's Child

Regulations have flowed out of the Obama administration like trickles of water that make gushing streams and become mighty rivers. The economy is drowning in them. The rules imposed by the government have little to do with health and safety, and much to do with power and whether the government or private individuals get to make basic pocketbook and lifestyle decisions that affect their lives.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the regulators that are to blame. Congress increasingly writes laws that pass off power to unelected bureaucrats to wield broad powers to which they are not entitled. It is Congress’ job to write the bills and determine the regulation for which they are ultimately responsible, not pass it on. Each regulation has big costs for the economy in both economic growth and increased unemployment.

Here are ten of the very worst regulations from 2012, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:

1. HHS’s Contraception Mandate

The Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. To date 42 cases with more than 110 plaintiffs are challenging the restriction on religious liberty.

2. EPA Emissions Standards

In February, the EPA finalized strict new emission standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are questionable, the majority unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. Science is determining that CO2 is not the cause of climate change. The costs are an estimated $9.6 billion annually.

3. Fuel Efficiency Standards

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with the EPA finalized the fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, for model years 2017-2025. The rules require 54.5 mpg by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars. The climate will not change because of the standards.

4. New York’s 16-Ounce Soda Limit

NY Mayor Bloomberg pushed the NY City Board of Health to ban the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. Those who are thirsty can just buy two smaller size.

5. Dishwasher Efficiency Standards

Even the regulators admit that these DOE rules will do little (nothing) for the environment. Proponents claim they will save consumers money, cutting back on water and energy. Big increase in cost of a dishwasher, few customers will keep the dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost. Please get out of my kitchen.

6. School Lunch Standards

The Dept. of Agriculture in January published stringent nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected—at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next 4 years. Students are in open revolt, they hate the food.

7. Quickie Union Election Rules

The NLRB in April, issued new rules that shorten the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing. but President Obama advances the union cause at every opportunity.

8. Essential Benefits Rule

Under ObamaCare, insurers in the individual and small group markets are forced to cover services that the government deems to be essential, whether your doctor deems them essential or not. Under ObamaCare, directions will come from unaccountable bureaucrats, not your own physician.

9. Electronic Data Recorder Mandate

The National Highway Safety Administration in December issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate installation of electronic data recorders (“black boxes”) in most light vehicles starting in 2014. Raises the cost of a vehicle, and invades your privacy.

10. “Simplified” Mortgage Disclosure and Servicing Rules

The New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (unneeded agency created in phony Congressional recess) released their proposal for a more “consumer-friendly” mortgage process to simplify home loans. The simplifying rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages which were followed a month later with 560 more pages for rules of mortgage servicing.  That’s what bureaucracy does.

Follow the fascination progress of government moving to control your every move. See Heritage’s funny but sad Tales of the Red Tape series on The Foundry.

Obama Said He Didn’t Get Beyond 7th Grade Math. by The Elephant's Child

A report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently revealed that the United States now spends more on means-tested welfare than any other item in the federal budget — including Social Security, Medicare or national defense. Including state contributions to the roughly 80 federal poverty programs, the total amount spent in 2011 was approximately $1 trillion.  Federal spending on such programs was up 32 percent since 2008.

If you believe that giving a good chunk of your income to the government because they will use it to do good and help the poor is a good thing, you might need to rethink that.

Last year the government spent over $60,000 to support welfare programs for each household that is in poverty. The calculations come from the Census, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Research Service. That dollar figure is almost three times the amount the average household in poverty lives on each year.

So, if I am doing the math correctly, and $60,000 divided by 3 is $20,000, then it costs the government $40,000 to distribute $20,000 to the poor to keep them poor. So they could just mail a check for $50,000, which is approximately the median national household income, to each poor family, and thus eliminate poverty completely.

Then they would still have $10,000 per household left over to pay for stamps, envelopes and the checks, which would leave a fair amount left over to return to the taxpayers, or have a big blowout convention in Las Vegas.

That’s a fair demonstration of why Republicans oppose big government.

The Blue Model Doesn’t Work: Going Out of Business! by The Elephant's Child

What is it that the Liberals just don’t understand? Free Markets and Free People. So the people are picking up and moving out — heading to where they can be free. Businesses are moving out — heading where there are free markets. There’s a point at which promising more goodies just doesn’t work.

It’s the Economy, Mr. Obama. Armageddon Approaches. by The Elephant's Child

The 2012 election is about the economy.  Even Obama admitted it in his speech at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland last week. Obama said:

Yes, foreign policy matters.  Social issues matter. But more than anything else, this election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions of how to create strong, sustained growth.

President Obama believes firmly in Big Government. He believes that growth, strong, sustained growth comes about because of government ‘investment’ in the economy. Government investment in new industries, government investment in new ideas, government investment in training people, government investment in education, and government investment in clean energy. That’s a lot of government investment of “government money,” which of course comes from the taxpayers. We know this because he has demonstrated over and over that this is his belief and his program.

Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget shows federal spending increasing from $2,983 trillion in 2008 to an all-time record of $3,796 trillion in 2012 — an increase of 27.3%. The federal budget deficit for the last budget by a Republican-controlled Congress was $161 billion for fiscal year 2007. Obama’s budget deficit for 2012 is $1,327 trillionthe highest in world history.

The federal debt held by the public will double during Obama’s four years. In just one term, Obama will have increased the national debt as much as all prior presidents from George Washington to George  W. Bush combined.

Unemployment stands at 8.2 percent, and the CBO expects the rate to remain there for the remainder of the year. The Federal Reserve expects the growth rate to remain stuck below 2%. Obama remarked in Cleveland that “Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory that…the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.” Huh? What? His plan, “our North Star — an economy that’s built not from the top down, but from a growing middle class.” A middle class is the result of growth, not the other way around.

The foundational economic theory of Obamanomics is that even though the economy expanded “during the last few decades,” the middle class stagnated. The rich  took all the money, and they ought to give it back. He has said repeatedly that the U.S. has gone off the track in the last few decades — just when the tax rates started to fall dramatically.

Obama said in The Audacity of Hope that he didn’t buy the theory that the high marginal tax rates that existed when Reagan took office hurt incentives to save and invest.  In other words, he does not accept that the Reagan revolution set off a 20-year economic boom. Evidence doesn’t matter. The Left didn’t like Reagan.

Obama rejected the recommendations of his own debt commission.  The Bowles-Simpson Commission would have reduced or eliminated tax breaks while lowering the top tax rate to no higher than 29 percent. This would have resulted in a huge tax increase, but the amount of new revenue would not be enough to balance the budget without restructuring of entitlements.

To fund a federal government where ObamaCare is operating and Social Security is funded and domestic “investments” are financed, the Democrats would need more revenue. They always think that higher tax rates on the rich and maybe a value added tax on everybody else will be the way to get their hands on the cash.

So we have looming on the financial horizon “Taxmageddon” — the one-year $494 billion tax increase that looms on January 1, 3013. This is not what the economy needs when it is already deep in the doldrums from over-regulation and  uncertainty. The recent spate of bad economic news — everything from weak consumer sales to bad consumer sentiment is a sign that the economy continues to slow even more. Businesses, investors and, entrepreneurs can’t plan for the near future. They don’t know what their taxes will be in a few months and they can’t tell if investments they might make would be profitable. Translation: no hiring.

Congress needs to stop the disaster of Taxmageddon and end the uncertainty as soon as possible. If it doesn’t act, they risk a return to a second recession, even deeper. You might want to contact your Congressional representatives and urge prompt action.

Small Government Is Best! Here’s Why. by The Elephant's Child

We dastardly Republicans don’t keep saying these things because it’s a habit, or because it’s what we said before, and before, and before (though we did). We don’t say  it because it is an item of faith in our religion. We don’t say it because the big Cheeses in our think tanks told us to say it. We don’t do “talking points.” We say “Small Government is best” because that’s what the evidence shows, and what our own experience teaches us.

If you prefer EPA flyovers every day or two, checking up on how much you are watering, or whether you are growing the right plants, or if you like the BIG size of soft drinks, or if you want to pack your kid’s school lunch yourself because you know what he likes, or if you just like plain old incandescent bulbs, and don’t think it’s anyone’s business how long your shower lasts — well, you get the idea.

Small government is best.

A History Lesson for Obama. by The Elephant's Child

I didn’t expect to use the same image again so soon, but it fits this story even better.  Obama believes in government spending (Boy, do we have evidence of that!) so much so that he refers to it as “investment.” Last Thursday, here in Seattle, reported the Wall Street Journal, he once again displayed his unfamiliarity with history — at least the parts that he has not inserted himself into.

“When I hear people talk about the free enterprise system and entrepreneurship, I try to remind them, you know, all of us made that investment in Darpa [the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] that helped to get the Internet started,” said Mr. Obama. “So there’s no Facebook, there’s no Microsoft, there’s no Google if we hadn’t made this common investment in our future.”

Microsoft—a product of the Internet? That may surprise Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who founded the software company in 1975. The company didn’t introduce its first Internet browser for another 20 years, and in the meantime it became the dominant computer software company long before the Internet became economically important. The irony of Mr. Obama’s error is that for much of Microsoft’s history the Internet was seen as a threat to its desktop dominance.

Darpa is engaged in funding research. This can be a proper role for government. But Darpa does not attempt to commercialize products. Facebook and Google, like Apple and Microsoft, were founded by private investors. In his State of the Union speech in January, Mr. Obama suggested that federal research spending “led to the computer chip.” Credit for the first integrated circuit has generally been awarded to Jack Kilby at a company called Texas Instruments back in 1958.  Other innovations came from Bell Labs, Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel.

Mr. Obama’s error in his assumption that all prosperity flows from government, demonstrates why he keeps trying to solve problems by throwing money at them. Notably, he is putting pressure on Congress to approve another economic stimulus plan. “Each of the ideas on this list will help create jobs and build a stronger economy right now,” Mr. Obama said.  Well, no they won’t.

He wants to give small businesses tax breaks for hiring more workers, but that’s not how it works. He wants to help homeowners to refinance their mortgages, he wants to help veterans find jobs. And he wants to spend up to $34.7 billion for those proposals — but that’s just a part of a more comprehensive $447 billion jobs program that Congress has mostly resisted, for good reason. And he really doesn’t want to cut spending at all— because he believes that spending is how you fix things. Calling spending “investment” leads you into strange pathways.

You would think that at this point one would learn from experience, but the One doesn’t. And that’s the real problem.

The “Nanny State” Isn’t Funny. It’s a Power Grab. by The Elephant's Child
March 3, 2012, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Education, Freedom, Law, Statism | Tags: , ,

Jessie Sansone’s four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a man with a gun in her Kitchener, Ontario kindergarten class, with a crayon — and then all hell broke loose.

Waterloo Police met Sansone at the school when he tried to pick up his children. He was told he was charged with possession of a firearm, he was handcuffed and put in one of the several squad cars waiting outside. At the station, he was strip-searched, told to disrobe and bend over, then put in a cell.

Police went to his house, told his pregnant wife that he had been charged with possession of firearms, and that she would have to come with them, and her 15 month old daughter would have to go with a social worker. Mrs. Sansone called her mother who rushed over to take the child. The children had been taken without their parents’ knowledge to Family and Children’s Services and were being interviewed by social workers.

Sansone said that police searched his house and found a plastic gun that shoots foam darts. Sansone said his daughter was drawing him getting the bad guys and monsters.

These things happen with increasing frequency. Lack of common sense, political correctness, overreaction, Nanny state.

Local police say they will review how they handled the case, but won’t apologize. The head of Children’s Aid said she would do everything the same way tomorrow. The superintendent of Waterloo Region District School Board, Gregg Bereznick, said:

“We do work hand in hand with the families because we co-parent.”

There’s the problem, in a nutshell. Co-Parent? When did parents allocate co-parenting to the state? The Alberta government has just released an updated Education Act which tells homeschooling families that they cannot teach certain things in their homes. Under this new bill, nothing in the education of a child can go against the Alberta Human Rights Act.

If you recall, this was the “Human Rights” group that prosecuted Ezra Levant for 900 days under that act for daring to publish the Mohammed cartoons in his former magazine, The Western Standard. And this was the group that unsuccessfully prosecuted Mark Steyn for quoting what another author said about Islam in an article.

O.K. This is Canada. But we have had the same sort of thing here. Children belong to the state? Didn’t we just have an example of government deciding what your children may eat and determine that the lunch mother packed at home is not suitable?

Government will decide what kids are to be taught and how much is to be education and how much is to be indoctrination? Are your children to be taught to fear global warming or that there is controversy about climate change? Have you gone to YouTube to view “the Story of Stuff?” Are your kids learning history from Howard Zinn’s deplorable People’s History of the United States? Have you read your kid’s school books?

Big Government And The Invisible Hand. by The Elephant's Child

Republicans talk a lot about Big Government, when they aren’t talking about Jobs and Free Enterprise, complaining about Spending and ObamaCare, Solyndra, Fast and Furious, and Defense, and a few other things as well.  So what’s the big deal about Big Government?

The United States of America was devised as a country of free people who granted certain limited powers to their government. Politicians, being what they are, are by their very nature inclined to think that they ought to do something about whatever seems to be a problem. Liberals — or Progressives as they prefer to style themselves, since ‘liberal’ has become a tainted word — as the perpetually discontented party — are  convinced that government is capable of solving all problems.

If you are going to buy that, then you probably believe that there are real experts, that the masses of ordinary citizens aren’t too bright and need governmental help. And that’s where we get into trouble.

The private business of health insurance is not going to be so private anymore.  Insurance companies that want to raise their rates will have to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10% or more, according to Kathleen Sebelius HHS Secretary.  The Obama administration will decide what are acceptable rates.  Maybe Ms. Sebelius can speak to the packing companies about the price of bacon — it’s really gone up!

The Obama administration will also design a basic benefits package for the private insurance companies, telling them what they must cover,  The “essential benefits package” will be designed by “independent experts” from the Institute of Medicine and will be built on mid-tier plans currently offered by small employers, expanded to include certain services such as mental health, and squeezed into a budget. Private insurance companies will be required to follow the rules if they want to sell policies to small business.  You’ll be pleased to know that officials will hold “listening sessions” around the country before final decisions are made. Uh huh.

The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) got its first director, and President Obama has declared that” Bank of America’s decision to impose a $5 debit card fee is exactly why we need somebody whose sole job it is to prevent this kind of stuff from happening.” I yield to no one in my annoyance at the new fee, but it isn’t President Obama’s job to tell a private bank what fees they may or may not offer. All power rests in a single director. Bad idea.  Scrap the agency. There are no consumer safeguards and it’s an unnecessary agency.

There is a crisis faced by many hospitals that can’t get their hands on a growing list of both routine and life-saving drugs.  Doctors are rationing, clinical trials interrupted and black markets have emerged.  What’s happening? Lots of excuses, but it boils down to governmental ignorance of the invisible hand described by Adam Smith in 1776. The free market solves supply and demand, over time, by adjusting price. High prices call forth more supply, large volume users get discounts. It is a natural self-organizing marketplace. Instead, government experts have fixed prices by specifying Medicare reimbursement which also sets the benchmark for private insurers.  Remove the ability to raise prices when demand exceeds supply and shortages will follow.

The drive to force kids to eat the foods of which Michelle Obama approves continues. The Department of Agriculture wants to limit starchy foods to one cup a week per student. That is potatoes, lima beans, corn and peas.  Having eliminated donuts, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, soft drinks and high-fructose corn syrup they are on to new territory.  They want kids to try new vegetables. (American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may serve yams, plantains or sweet potatoes to meet the grains/ bread requirement).  US officials admit that the proposed regulations “may pose a particular challenge to implement.” What they don’t seem to grasp is that the federal government has no business dictating the food choices of our kids.

The Obama administration is seeking new power over hiring and firing at religious institutions.  Americans hear constantly about the threats posed by the religious right who want to offer a short nondenominational prayer at graduations or football games. The Obama administration wants to control who religious institutions can hire or fire, and are declaring that the ‘ministerial exception’ is not grounded in the First Amendment, and that the free exercise clause nor the establishment clause have nothing to do with a church’s relationship with its own employees. Injecting itself into personnel matters is way over the line.

Thanks in part to environmental rules, electricity rates are about to get double-digit increasesJust as Obama promised.  Utilities are seeking permission to pass on hundreds of millions of dollars in new charges to customers for the cost of upgrading and retrofitting power plants so they won’t emit any of the carbon dioxide  that our planet needs so much. The costs due to “tougher environmental regulations” are avoidable. They are the product of choices, most of them unsound. Trying to scrub and eliminate CO2 emissions is counterproductive.  CO2 is not a pollutant but a naturally occurring gas necessary for life.

Most of these government encroachments would take place without much notice, but when you look at the big picture, the continuing grasp for control is pretty scary.  It isn’t any one regulation, it’s the spider web of big laws and little regulations, the proliferation of agencies and departments designed to control this or that aspect of citizens lives. It is the impulse to tyranny, devised by those who think they are smarter than everybody else, think they know better what people need.  Then layer on the one “expert” put in charge, the regulations designed to favor supporters, the laws foolishly devised by those who have no idea how the economy works, and suddenly you awake one morning in 1984.

They aren’t smarter.  Their laws aren’t going to work— as has been proven over and over by the evidence they won’t bother to investigate — and the only question become can we stop it before it all collapses?

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