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For now, if I were a member of Congress I'd zero out the IRS's travel and conference budget -- the service spent tens of millions of dollars on videos spoofing Star Trek, Gilligan's Island, etc. in past years, for conferences held in cushy locations like Anaheim -- and look at other ways to make the agency pay.
Targeting Americans is unforgivable; covering it up is worse, and if the IRS has made it impossible to target the individuals responsible, then the IRS as a whole should pay the price. That's not an ideal solution, but such misbehavior should not go unpunished.
My view is different. I don't think the IRS or its employees need to be punished... bureaucracies are best understood as psychopaths whose fixations and behavior are inwardly focused and governed by their internal rules and culture. Like psychopaths, you can't really "reform" them. Fortunately, unlike human psychopaths, you can disband a harmful bureaucracy and start over. I've called this institutional capital punishment, and I think it's the only way to properly resolve the IRS debacle.
Obviously America needs an agency to collect tax revenue, but the IRS -- its rules, its internal culture -- are so broken that it can't be trusted to do the job any more. This doesn't mean that the employees are bad people, but they're working in a bad, broken system. Rather than trying to fix the psychopathic system, just "execute" it and start over from scratch with a new tax collection agency.
Roll Call has broken the news that the CBO has announced that it can no longer project the costs of Obamacare. All the CBO estimates for Obamacare over the past five years have turned out to be nonsense. Short version: President Obama has made so many unilateral modifications to the law that no one can figure out what the heck is going on anymore.
In its latest report on the law, the Congressional Budget Office said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact of the law. That conclusion came as a surprise to some fiscal experts in Washington and is drawing concern. And without a clear picture of the law's overall financing, it could make it politically easier to continue delaying pieces of it, including revenue raisers, because any resulting cost increases might be hidden.
Charles Blahous, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's free market-oriented Mercatus Center, calls the CBO's inability to estimate the net effect of the law "a real problem."
"The ACA's financing provisions were assumed to be effective so as to get a favorable score out of CBO upon enactment, but no one is keeping track of whether they're being enforced," says Blahous, a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare. "We receive occasional updates on the gross costs of the law, but none on whether the previously projected savings provisions are producing what was originally projected."
As a result, Blahous says, "there's no barrier to continually rolling back the financing mechanisms without the effect on the ACA's finances ever being fully disclosed."
Three million Californians are newly insured thanks to Obamacare, but they can't find any doctors willing to take them. One of the big philosophical problems with Obamacare is that it makes the assumption that getting someone health insurance will inevitably lead to that person getting health care. That isn't true.
Thinn Ong was thrilled to qualify for a subsidy on the health care exchange. She is paying $200 a month in premiums. But the single mother of two is asking, what for?
"Yeah, I sign it. I got it. But where's my doctor? Who's my doctor? I don't know," said a frustrated Ong.
Nguyen said the newly insured patients checked the physicians' lists they were provided and were told they weren't accepting new patients or they did not participate in the plan.
Dr. Kevin Grumbach of UCSF called the phenomenon "medical homelessness," where patients are caught adrift in a system woefully short of primary care doctors.
"Insurance coverage is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to assure that people get access to care when they need it," Grumbach said.
Those who can't find a doctor are supposed to lodge a complaint with state regulators, who have been denying the existence of a doctor shortage for months.
Divorce is never pretty and my point here isn't to focus on the relationship between Tony Podesta and Heather Miller Podesta. Their relationship is their business. What is of public interest, however, is that the Podesta divorce proceedings reveal a lot about the Washington power culture. It is revolting that our government is structured in such a way that parasitical lobbyists can enrich themselves by building labyrinthine laws and regulations to dole out favors to politically-connected rent-seekers. Argh! Sorry for all the buzzwords.
Our country and our civilization are being strangled by over-regulation. I'm not against all regulation, but even the Library of Congress has no idea how many laws, regulations, and court decisions there are.
As government expands, extending its reach to every aspect of business, every sector of the economy, private citizens and corporations require sherpas to lead them through the mountains of regulations and tax provisions, to discover exemptions and special favors and other forms of relief or favoritism to improve the bottom line. And who better to act as sherpas than the relatives of the Democrats who impose the regulations and tax provisions in the first place, who better than the lively proprietors of a family business operating in the luxurious and morally uncomplicated world of the caste of limousine liberals who dominate politics, culture, news, and finance.
Corporations give to Democratic politicians, avoiding the scrutiny of liberal attack dogs in the media and nonprofit sectors, and enjoying the ego boost that comes with being on the "right side of history." Then those corporations hire the Podestas to get them out of the Rube Goldberg traps the Democrats have enacted into law. John's innovation was to establish a corporate-funded think tank where the burdensome policies would be concocted, and whose staff would go on to man the regulatory agencies that put their wool-headed ideas into practice. And to whom do the corporations turn when they find themselves on the receiving end of all this uplift, all this do-goodery, all this progress, hope, and change? Why, to the man in the red Prada loafers, and to his flamboyantly patterned wife.
This story by Dan Balz and Scott Clement about some midterm election poll results makes several errors in discussing some results as causes rather than effects. I believe this confusion of cause and effect is a result of the tendency for political reporters to view elections as sporting events, but a historical voting trend is very different from a batting average.
The first example is in the second paragraph:
Midterm elections generally favor the party that does not hold the White House, which gives the GOP a head start this year.
It is true that the party that doesn't hold the White House generally does better in midterm elections, especially if the President is in his second term. However, this historical fact doesn't "give the GOP a head start". The GOP's projected advantage lines up with this historical trend, but isn't caused by it. Both the historical trend and the GOP's projected advantage in 2014 are effects with common causes: inevitable dissatisfaction with whoever has been running the country recently.
In the next example, I will bold the confusion:
The poll shows broad dissatisfaction with Washington politicians. Just 22 percent say they are inclined to reelect their representatives in Congress. Almost seven in 10 Americans (68 percent) say they are inclined to look around for someone new this fall, the highest percentage recorded in a Post-ABC poll.
That does not mean the fall elections will mean defeat for significant numbers of House members, given the high reelection rates for incumbents and the polarized voting patterns of recent years.
As in the first example, high reelection rates for incumbents is a historical trend that is likely to continue in 2014, but the trend doesn't cause itself. The trend is an effect of "polarized voting patterns" as well as the human tendency to stick with "the devil you know".
With President Obama and Congress at loggerheads on major issues and little prospect for legislative action on major initiatives, the president's approval ratings have shown little change since earlier this year.
Here, it's not entirely clear if the authors are implying a cause-and-effect, or which way it's going. By my observation, it appears that the more President Obama "achieves" the less popular he becomes. That lowered popularity is partly the cause of the lack of legislative action, not the effect of it. If Obama were widely popular, he would have more success pressuring Congress.
All but about two-dozen House districts are occupied by someone from the same party as the presidential candidate who carried the district in 2012, which makes it harder for the opposing party to pick them off.
The fact that all but two-dozen House districts voted for a Presidential candidate of the same party as the Representative they elected doesn't "make" it harder to pick the Representative off. That the prior election and the upcoming election are likely to have similar outcomes is an effect of the voting preferences of the district.
Historical voting patterns are not like batting averages, and trends do not self-perpetuate in a causal fashion. Voting instances are reflections of underlying beliefs at a point in time.
This is a big deal! Maybe it's time to move back to California? Ninth Circuit holds that California's gun carry prohibition is unconstitutional.
So holds today's Peruta v. County of San Diego (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2014) (2-1 vote). The court concludes that California's broad limits on both open and concealed carry of loaded guns -- with no "shall-issue" licensing regime that assures law-abiding adults of a right to get licenses, but only a "good cause" regime under which no license need be given -- "impermissibly infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense." The Ninth Circuit thus joins the Seventh Circuit, and disagrees with the Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits. (State courts are also split on the subject.)
It's pretty worrying that government employees at critical agencies are using worse passwords than President Skroob. This laziness and obliviousness is yet another reason why the power of government should be limited rather than all-encompassing.
Some of the federal government's most sensitive data are protected by passwords that wouldn't pass muster for even the most basic civilian email account, according to a new congressional report.
Passwords like "password," "qwerty," and users' names have left Homeland Security Department data vulnerable, says a report released Tuesday by the Republican staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
And the password fiasco, the report says, is only the tip of the iceberg--plenty of other agencies have lost sensitive data as well.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission left nuclear-plant security details on a shared drive with no protection. Hackers swiped Information on the nation's dams--including their weaknesses and catastrophic potential if breached--from an Army Corps of Engineers database.
New research shows that "liberals" don't understand "conservatives" as well as "conservatives" understand "liberals". (I use quotes because the labels aren't my preferred way to characterize the viewpoints.) It's interesting to note how uncharitable the leftists are. These results line up pretty well with my observations of people in the wild.
One other point that I find really interesting and important about Haidt's work is his findings on the ability of different groups to empathize across these ideological divides. So in his book (p. 287) Haidt reports on the following experiment: after determining whether someone is liberal or conservative, he then has each person answer the standard battery of questions as if he were the opposite ideology. So, he would ask a liberal to answer the questions as if he were a "typical conservative" and vice-versa. What he finds is quite striking: "The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as 'very liberal.' The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives." In other words, moderates and conservatives can understand the liberal worldview and liberals are unable to relate to the conservative worldview, especially when it comes to questions of care and fairness.
In short, Haidt's research suggests that many liberals really do believe that conservatives are heartless bastards-or as a friend of mine once remarked, "Conservatives think that liberals are good people with bad ideas, whereas liberals think conservatives are bad people"-and very liberal people think that especially strongly. Haidt suggests that there is some truth to this.
James Taranto adds:
But there's a limitation to Haidt's experiments. Because his methodology is new, it has only been applied in the contemporary political context. Perhaps in a few decades it will be possible to determine the extent to which Haidt's findings reflect timeless truths about human nature as opposed to peculiarities of the present day. As time travel is a logical impossibility, Haidt cannot go back in time and gather data from earlier generations.
Obviously we're all always traveling through time, but we're limited to one direction: into the future.
Surprise! The FBI probe led by an Obama donor has leaked that there won't be any charges filed related to the Tea Party persecution. If the law really wasn't broken then that's a problem with the law itself. The proper remedy for this abuse by the IRS is institutional capital punishment: the IRS should be completely dissolved and replaced.
From the WSJ:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't plan to file criminal charges over the Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of conservative groups, law-enforcement officials said, a move that likely will only intensify debate over the politically charged scandal.
The officials said investigators didn't find the kind of political bias or "enemy hunting" that would amount to a violation of criminal law. Instead, what emerged during the probe was evidence of a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules about tax-exemption applications it didn't understand, according to the law-enforcement officials.
Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie's flunkies conspired to use their official power to punish their political enemies. Did Christie know about their intentional actions before they were in the news? C'mon. I was born at night, but not last night. America deserves better from our public servants.
"Private messages between Governor's Christie's [sic] deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create 'traffic problems in Fort Lee' by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock," the Record of Bergen County reports.
As an Instacommenter notes, this level of pettiness matches the efforts by President Obama to close the national parks during last year's government shutdown.
For pettiness, I believe this bridge fiasco is more on a par with the shutdown of federal parks during the government shutdown than the IRS abuses. The IRS abuses appear to be intimidation for election purposes. The park blockades appeared to be pettiness to prove a point. The bridge fiasco also appears to be pettiness to prove a point.
Tar and feathers.
As 2014 dawns there are fewer people with health insurance thanks to Obamacare. Considering that the goal of Obamacare was to increase coverage even with increased costs, this is a sad state of affairs -- because costs have certainly gone up. Americans are unquestionably worse off as a group thanks to Obamacare, and only two questions remain: how bad will it get? and when will it end?
America deserves better.
The White House used a Sunday morning statement to admit that only 1.1 million people have used the federal Obamacare website to sign up for the president's healthcare network by Christmas Day.
News reports and advocacy websites say roughly 1 million people have enrolled with health-benefit companies via state websites, including 400,000 in California and 157,000 in New York, by the Dec. 24 deadline, which allows coverage starting Jan. 1.
The 2 million federal and state signups are roughly two-thirds the planned goal of 3.3 million enrollments by Dec. 31. They're also only one-third of the 7 million customers sought by March 31.
The total reported signups are at least 3 million fewer than the 5 million people whose health-insurance policies were cancelled prior to Christmas by President Barack Obama's ambitious tax-and-healthcare scheme.
The minus-3-million score is only partially offset by the extension of Medicaid coverage to perhaps 2 million other people, few of whom earn enough to afford commercial insurance.
Of critical note, the administration is using a deceptive definition for the word "enrolled": it is not known how many of the "enrolled" participants have actually paid for their plans.
The Obama administration is deploying a fog of useless statistics to obscure the true state of Obamacare. They're hiding the real information and releasing big numbers that don't mean anything. It doesn't matter how many people "selected a plan" -- it matters how many people wrote a check. It doesn't matter how many people visited the website, or called a call center, or "liked" Obamacare on Facebook. None of those numbers speaks to the crucial issue: will enough young, healthy people sign up and overpay? Or will the system collapse under the weight of new Medicare recipients, the poor, the old, and the sick?
A charitable reading suggests that ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million. That's the estimated four million to five and a half million people who had their individual health plans liquidated as ObamaCare-noncompliant--offset by the 364,682 who have signed up for a plan on a state or federal exchange and the 803,077 who have been found eligible to receive Medicaid.
HHS is boasting of enrollment for November that was four times as high as October, yet 62% of the total was in the state exchanges, some of which are marginally less prone to crashing than the federal version. Then again, 41 states posted sign-ups only in the three or four figures, including eight states that run their own exchanges. Oregon managed to scrape up 44 people. Among the 137,204 federal sign-ups, no state is reaching the critical mass necessary for stable insurance prices.
The larger problem is that none of these represent true enrollments. HHS is reporting how many people "selected" a plan on the exchange, not how many people have actually enrolled in a plan with an insurance company by paying the first month's premium, which is how the private insurance industry defines enrollment. HHS has made up its own standard. ...
HHS is trying to conjure the appearance of progress and specificity even as it conceals everything that is relevant to ObamaCare's performance. The bureaucracy will tell you it fielded 3,495,276 inquiries at the federal call centers and that 28,412,684 people visited Healthcare.gov. But it will not tell you the demographics and health status of new beneficiaries, or what type of plans they're selecting, or HHS's enrollment goals over time.
According to the poll, 57 percent of millennials disapprove of Obamacare, with 40 percent saying it will worsen their quality of care and a majority believing it will drive up costs. Only 18 percent say Obamacare will improve their care. Among 18-to-29-year-olds currently without health insurance, less than one-third say they're likely to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
More than two-thirds of millennials said they heard about the ACA through the media. That's a bad omen for Obamacare, given the intensive coverage of the law's botched rollout. Just one of every four young Americans said they discussed the law with a friend or through social media. Harvard's John Della Volpe, who conducted the poll, said the president has done a poor job explaining the ACA to young Americans.
As Obamacare crashes and burns everyone should remember that zero Republicans in Congress voted for it. The Democrats had to use extraordinary measures to push the bill through after Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate and the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority. Republicans have done everything they could for several years to stop Obamacare, so don't blame them for the consequences. As Jammie Wearing Fools tells the Democrats:
You own him, folks. See you next November.
The Obama presidency has been a disaster for America, domestically and around the world. The only good thing to have come from it is that Obamacare has completely trashed the notion of Big Government competency.
And no, Obamacare isn't like Katrina:
I can think of a whole bunch of non-parallels:
1. Bush's political party didn't design and enact Hurricane Katrina.
2. Bush didn't have 5 years to craft his response to the hurricane.
3. Bush didn't have the power to redesign the hurricane as he designed his response to it.
4. The Republican Bush believed he could not simply bully past the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana and impose a federal solution, but the Democrat Obama and his party in Congress aggressively and voluntarily took over an area of policy that might have been left to the states.
5. The media were ready to slam Bush long and hard for everything -- making big scandals out of things that, done by Obama, would have been forgotten a week later (what are the Valerie Plame-level screwups of Obama's?) -- but the media have bent over backwards for years to help make Obama look good and to bury or never even uncover all of his lies and misdeeds.
6. If Bush experienced a disaster like the rollout of Obamacare, the NYT wouldn't use its front page to remind us of something Bill Clinton did that looked bad.
But don't worry, some poll numbers are looking good for America!
The most interesting opinion survey we've seen about the ObamaCare cataclysm is one that's only indirectly about ObamaCare. Gallup asked Americans: "Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?" Only 42% of those surveyed said it is the federal government's responsibility, vs. 56% who said it isn't.
More telling is the trend. Gallup has been asking the question since 2000. "Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare," the firm reports. The proportion answering "yes" peaked in 2006 at 69%--27 points higher than today's number. Then it began declining, to 64% in 2007 and 54% in 2008.
The current 42% is the lowest figure ever recorded, but the percentage answering in the affirmative hasn't risen above 50% since 2009. Remember what happened in 2009?
Charles Krauthammer dissects the mendacity, paternalism, and subterfuge of Obamacare and in passing notes the cancer at the heart of it all: President Obama's apparent lack of knowledge about anything that's going on in his government. I'd love to see Jay Carney's reaction to that list. Or the President's.
So a law designed to cover the uninsured is now throwing far more people off their insurance than it can possibly be signing up on the nonfunctioning insurance exchanges. Indeed, most of the 19 million people with individual insurance will have to find new and likely more expensive coverage. And that doesn't even include the additional millions who are sure to lose their employer-provided coverage. That's a lot of people. That's a pretty big lie.
But perhaps Obama didn't know. Maybe the bystander president was as surprised by this as he claims to have been by the IRS scandal, the Associated Press and James Rosen phone logs, the failure of the Obamacare Web site, the premeditation of the Benghazi attacks, the tapping of Angela Merkel's phone -- i.e., the workings of the federal government of which he is the nominal head.
It's silly enough that Obamacare requires single men, infertile people, and old people to buy insurance plans that include maternity care, but don't worry! People under age 30 are exempt. Yes, the people who are most fertile and most likely to have babies are exempt from the requirement to buy insurance that pays for having babies.
[Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)]: You also brought up the issue that when you were in Kansas [as health Commissioner and governor] that you fought against discriminatory issues... As far as [ObamaCare's] essential health benefits, correct me if I'm wrong: do men not have to buy maternity care?
[Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius]: Policies will cover maternity coverage. For the young and healthy, uh, under ythirty year-olds will have a choice also of a catastrophic plan that has no maternity coverage.
Ellmers: But men are required to purchase maternity coverage.
Sebelius: Well, an insurance policy has a series of benefits whether you use them or not...
Ellmers: And that is why health care premiums are increasing, because we are forcing them to buy things that they will never need. Thank you.
Sebelius: The individual policies cover families. Men often do need maternity care for their spouses and for their families, yes.
Ellmers: A single male, aged 32, does need maternity coverage. To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever delivered a baby?
(HT: James Taranto.)
So healthcare.gov is 500 million lines of code? That suggests a level of brokenness that cannot be fixed. Here's a great visualization that compares the 500,000,000 lines of code in healthcare.gov with some other substantial codebases.
A commenter at Ann Althouse compares the mass protests in Wisconsin in 2011 to the current government shutdown:
People in WI who supported the Capitol Disruptions back when Act 10 was passed should be reminded of that when they object to Republican instransigence on ACA. I don't see how the two points of view are any different.
This is what Democracy Looks Like, indeed.
I would love a Journolist to ask a Democratic Politician this very question when they complain about Republicans: Back in , when Wisconsin Governor Walker passed anti-Union legislation, Democrats did everything they could to slow implementation. Did you think that was a good idea?
Why was it ok for pro-union Democrats to shut down Wisconsin -- while holding control of zero branches of the state government -- but it's wrong for Republicans in the House to shut down the federal government?
I like this formulation: just as "you are what you eat", government is what government spends. The government class is always in favor of higher taxes, more spending, and bigger government, in the same way that businessmen are in favor of higher share prices. We are what we spend. Emphasis below is mine.
And the debit side has to include much more than such obvious disasters as Solyndra. The government does support pharmaceutical and medical research in many ways -- but how many potentially useful pharmaceuticals and medical products have been kept off the market by the federal regulatory apparatus and the enormous costs it imposes on effective and defective products alike? (And how much damage has been done by the FDA's incompetent policing of defective products that do reach the market?) How many businesses have not been started, and how much innovation forgone, because of the state's rapacious appetite for capital? For a sense of scale, consider that, as of October 2011, the world's largest hedge-fund company was Bridgewater Associates of Westport, Conn., with $77.6 billion under management. That total is well less than Medicare loses to fraud year in and year out. You'd have to combine the assets of the three largest private-equity firms to match what Medicare loses to fraud in a typical year, whereas the holdings of venture-capital titans such as Andreessen Horowitz are hardly even rounding errors on that amount.
Would you invest with a firm with that record?
Government is what government does, and what government does is what government spends. Our government is a corrupt HMO with an underfunded pension plan attached, and a few aircraft carriers in tow. Contra Professor Mazzucato, the confiscatory taxes the federal government wishes to impose upon Apple et al. are not being used to replenish any such "innovation fund" as may exist in her imagination, but to prop up the corrupt, wasteful, and destructive programs that make up the great majority of its spending. Federal support for basic science research is pretty low on the list of things that small-government conservatives are worried about, and George Will is not entirely misguided in his admiration for the National Institutes of Health. But the neo-Nehruvian dream of the state as main entrepreneur cannot intellectually survive even the most modest attempt to balance benefits against costs.
President Obama says that raising the debt limit doesn't increase our debt. He's right, in the same way that raising the limit on your personal credit card doesn't increase your personal debt. Raiding the debt limit is a necessary condition for increasing our national debt, but the debt only actually increases when we spend the money.
What the big spenders in government object to is that the debt limit debate is a second vote on spending that is divorced from the specifics of what the money is spent on. Our politicians like to bribe us with our own money by promising all sorts of great programs every time they write a check. When the debate is on the debt limit itself rather than on those "amazing" government programs they have a harder time convincing us.
"Now, this debt ceiling -- I just want to remind people in case you haven't been keeping up -- raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy. All it does is it says you got to pay the bills that you've already racked up, Congress. It's a basic function of making sure that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved."
Obama went on to suggest that "the average person" mistakenly thinks that raising the debt ceiling means the U.S. is racking up more debt:
"It's always a tough vote because the average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we're running up our debt, so people don't like to vote on it, and, typically, there's some gamesmanship in terms of making the President's party shoulder the burden of raising the -- taking the vote."
The President is right, and rather honest in admitting that he doesn't like the spotlight that the debt limit debates puts on our wasteful spending. Still, I think it's a useful function.