Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Confusion between care and insurance guarantees costs will rise

original article: When Replacing ObamaCare, Remember Health Insurance Isn’t Health Care
March 7, 2017 by WILLIAM M BRIGGS

Big Louie whispers to you, “Say, Mac. The fix is in. The Redskins are throwing it to the Browns. It’s all set. Guaranteed.”

“No, kiddin’, Louie?”

“I’m tellin’ ya. Now listen. I want you to bet me the Skins win.”

Wha…? But you just told me ….”

“You aren’t paying attention. What’s wrong with you, Mac? You want trouble? I said the Skins will lose and you will bet they’re going to win. Now gimme sixty bucks that says the Skins will win.”

“Hey! You don’t have to be so rough …”

“Say, these twenties are new! Considerate of you. Listen. Don’t be so glum. You’re contributing to a good cause: me.”

What Insurance Is

Any of this remind you, Dear Reader, of the insurance business? It shouldn’t. Yet the word insurance has undergone a strange metamorphosis, which is caused, as you won’t be surprised to learn, by government.

Insurance used to be a bet you would make that you hoped you wouldn’t win. You went to an insurer and made a bet that something bad would happen, say, you got cancer or your house would burn down. The insurer figured out how much it would cost to pay you to fix the bad thing. He then said, “Okay, gimme Y dollars, and if the bad thing happens, I pay you X.” If you didn’t like Y or X, you negotiated with the insurer until a pair of numbers were mutually agreeable — or you agreed to part ways.

But suppose you told the insurer, “I have cancer. It will cost X to treat. I want to bet with you that I get cancer. What’s the minimum Y I should pay you?”

The insurer would either laugh you out of his office, as he commiserated with you about the sad state of your health, or he would pick a Y greater than X. Why? Because it was guaranteed that the insurer would pay out X. Why would he ever take an amount less than X?

The Government “Fix”

Because government, that’s why. Because your cancer is a “pre-existing condition” and it was seen as cruel and heartless for the insurer not to lose money on your behalf. But government forced the insurer to lose money. Government enjoyed playing Robin Hood. Hood as in criminal, crook, confidence trickster (did you not know that? Big Louie knew).

However, because the entities that comprise government move in and out of insurers (and their banks), the government also took pity. Government knew insurers had to make up their forced deficits. So it mandated that citizens who did not want to make a bet with any insurer had to give the insurer money for bad things that would almost never happen. ObamaCare became Big Louie muscling twenty-somethings to insure themselves against Alzheimer’s.

Thanks to Supreme Court Justice Roberts, you being forced to fork over funds to a private entity was called a tax. (Same thing Big Louie calls it!) Thus, not only was the word insurance gutted of most of its actual meaning, so was tax. Orwell lives.

Of course, insurers assisted in their own demise. They, like everybody else, were happy to let folks conflate the incompatible terms health insurance and health care. Once people could no longer keep these separate in their minds, the end of insurance was guaranteed.

What Insurance Isn’t

Insurers blurred these distinctions by separating themselves from the purely betting side of business, by dealing with people’s employers and not people (a condition ensconced by further Government mandates), by paying doctors and hospitals and not people, and by writing blanket instead of specific contracts. It came to be seen as normal for a person to expect “insurance” to pay for their kid’s visit to the doctor for sniffles.

Having the sniffles is almost guaranteed; it is thus numerically no different than a pre-existing condition. Having an insurer pay out on these “sure bets” meant that an additional layer of bureaucracy had to be built to handle the paperwork and shuffle funds around. Insurers unwisely moved to make a profit on these sure bets, which caused them to be penurious when paying out on large claims. Doctors had to increase their staff to handle the busywork. Monies that would have gone to pay for “bettable” diseases had to be diverted to pay for aspirins and bandages. Every step along the way caused premiums to be driven higher.

Now no one understand’s the true cost of care. Worse, we’re at the point where the true meaning of insurance is under active attack. A recent article in Bloomberg complains that it would be better if insurers used data to calculate a person’s chance of this or that disease — which is exactly what insurers should do. The author of that article also frets that insurers might “once again [be] allowed to charge extra for pre-existing conditions, an idea currently being debated in Congress.” In other words, the author is worried that insurers might once again be allowed to do what insurers are supposed to do, and what they must do if insurance is to work.

When Congress scraps ObamaCare, they must not replace it with any scheme that confuses insurance and care. This confusion guarantees that costs will go up and the bureaucracy will grow.

bureaucracy, crisis, cronyism, economics, government, health, health care, nanny state, politics, reform, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, crisis, cronyism, economics, government, health, health care, nanny state, politics, reform, unintended consequences

Why is Planned Parenthood interested in a local school board election?

original article: Is Planned Parenthood Targeting Schoolchildren?
October 28, 2015 by Jennifer Kerns

Why is Planned Parenthood interested in a local school board election in the battleground state of Colorado?

That is what parents and voters are asking themselves in Jefferson County, Colo., this week after Planned Parenthood waded into a local recall election aimed at ousting three Republican school board officials in the middle of their terms.

Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, a non-profit 501(c)4 organization, has sent letters to voters asking them to become involved in the school board recalls by first signing the petition to recall their elected officials, then volunteering for the effort to oust their local school board members.

The Planned Parenthood affiliated organization has also endorsed some of the candidates who are running to replace the current school board members in an announcement titled, “Vote in the Election on November 3rd for Real Sex Ed!

The message is contrary to the one being pushed by recall proponents—which is that the recall campaign is about educating kids.

However, the Planned Parenthood group boasts of advancing “Colorado youths’ rights to real sex education and reproductive health care.” The group still opposes the state’s Parental Notification Act passed by the legislature in 2003 that requires parents of school-aged children under the age of 18 must be notified within 48 hours prior to abortion.

So what exactly does Planned Parenthood stand to gain from involvement in a local school board race?

Access, for one thing.

It turns out that Planned Parenthood is selling sex kits to local schools—including schools in the county in question—which Planned Parenthood’s own national website calls “Birth Control Training Kits.”

According to Planned Parenthood’s website, each of the kits contains 10 male condoms, two “female condoms,” one intrauterine contraceptive, one package of oral contraceptives, one “dental dam,” two samples of “water-based lubricants,” “cycle beads” for natural family planning purposes, one “Today” contraceptive sponge, one “syringe” containing a Depo Provera shot, and two vaginal contraceptive spermicidal films.

At least one local official in Jefferson County familiar with the kit reports that it includes a faux “Plan B” pill to familiarize school-aged students with “the morning after” pill.

In a statement given to The Daily Signal, Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said:

Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado generally takes interest in school board races especially when extreme politicians attempt to block or restrict access to accurate, sound curricula including curricula related to the provision of complete, age-appropriate, medically-accurate, and culturally-sensitive sexual health education.

At $125 per kit per student, it stands to reason that Planned Parenthood may view access to schools not simply as an opportunity to educate, but rather as a lucrative business opportunity.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the population of children enrolled in school is expected to increase 6 percent through the school year 2024-2025—from 49.8 million to nearly 53 million.

In border states and near-border states, the increase is even higher at upwards of 10 percent and 15 percent growth. In Nevada, the increase in population growth of school-aged children is even higher, at 26 percent.

Not a bad business model, if you can get it.

Thus, as the population of schoolchildren grows in America and as Planned Parenthood seeks to educate schoolchildren about sex at increasingly younger ages, the opportunity exists for a long-term profit center for the organization, as well as a “cradle-to-grave” institutionalized dependence upon Planned Parenthood.

And that’s where the really big money comes in.

Each year, American taxpayers send an estimated $540 million in annual federal funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

While Planned Parenthood claims that those taxpayer funds are not used for abortions, the organization is demonstrably utilizing those funds to market their goods and services to schoolchildren.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that eventually, services provided to schoolchildren could include referrals for on-demand abortion services should the above-mentioned “Birth Control Training Kits” fail.

Think it couldn’t happen?

In politics, one needs only to “follow the money” to see why a national pro-abortion organization is so interested in a local school board recall election.

Does Planned Parenthood presume that if conservatives on a local school board were to fulfill the terms to which they were elected, they might eventually call into question Planned Parenthood’s active presence in local schools? Perhaps require that taxpayer funds no longer go toward sex education pushed by the group?

It certainly appears that way.

It appears that in addition to sex education, recall proponents are concerned about a number of other liberal issues. On their official website, proponents list upcoming battles like a laundry list of progressive fights such as “charter school accountability, religious school vouchers, AP U.S. history curriculum, discrimination and bullying [as it relates to transgender individuals, per Colorado law], sex education, confidential health services, collective bargaining agreements, vaccinations, STEM funding, and local control and national education standards.”

While the debate over Planned Parenthood funding continues around the country and on Capitol Hill, one thing is certain: the state’s local school board elections to be held in this swing state next Tuesday raise sincere questions about the involvement of Planned Parenthood and their liberal agenda inside our public schools.

Perhaps the most important question of all is, if Planned Parenthood succeeds in the battleground state of Colorado, which state’s schoolchildren will they attempt to influence next?

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Filed under: abortion, children, corruption, cronyism, culture, government, politics

This is how cronyism works

original article: New York’s Taxi King Is Going Down
October 26, 2015 by Jared Meyer

People don’t deserve to be millionaires because they can get government to let them pick people’s pockets.

Evgeny “Gene” Freidman is no fan of Uber. The increasing popularity of this vehicle-for-hire (or ridesharing) company has lost him millions of dollars. He has even asked New York City taxpayers for a bailout. As difficult as bailing out the big banks was to swallow, bailing out a taxi mogul—who at one point owned more than 1,000 New York City taxi medallions—is an even harder sell. A bailout would be especially outrageous considering that Freidman and his financial backers are actively working to make consumers pay more for fewer options.

Freidman reluctantly took over his father’s modest yellow taxi business as a young man. He brought his experience in Russian finance to the industry, and started to accumulate increasing numbers of taxi medallions using highly leveraged financing. Freidman expanded a company with just a few taxis into a conglomeration of three- to five-car mini-fleets.

As Freidman’s taxi empire grew, he expanded into other cities, including New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He gained control of hundreds more medallions that are also now in financial trouble. His willingness to bid on practically any medallion that came up for sale helped drive a rapid increase in medallion prices across the country.

Subprime Taxi Medallions

This model can work when times are good but, as the housing crisis showed, it has its dangers. It works until another technology emerges, consumers move on, and funding dries up.

This is where Uber comes in. Competition from Uber has left investors wondering how much the company will grow and what further effects its growth will have on taxis’ market share. While yellow taxi medallions were selling for $1.32 million as recently as May 2013, now they may be worth as little as $650,000.

This drastic drop in price has made the banks and credit unions that fund Freidman’s vast enterprise nervous. For example, his companies still owe around $750,000 for each medallion financed by Citibank. Without new loans to meet existing obligations and expand his fleet, Freidman’s companies became insolvent. This is why he sought the bailout and wants the government to support the medallion market by offering taxpayer-guaranteed loans.

Adding to this financing crunch, the lease rates Freidman now can charge taxi drivers who rent his cars have declined. Many taxi drivers switched to Uber, which offersincreased earning potential, flexible work schedules, and improved driver safety. Competition led Freidman to complain that he is no longer able to charge the city’s legal maximum lease rate. This is promising news for drivers, but problematic for Freidman’s income.

There’s Not Much Argument for a Monopoly

Medallions commanded such astronomical prices in New York because yellow taxis had, and still do have, a monopoly on street hails in Manhattan south of the northern boundary of Central Park. Ubers come rapidly, but they are not street hails, because people summon them beforehand with a smartphone. In cities across the country that also use a medallion system, the same reasoning applies. Government restricts the supply of taxis below the level of demand, and medallion owners reap the profits—all at the expense of consumers.

It is not just Freidman’s companies that are in trouble. The banks and credit unions that funded him and other medallion owners are also worried. Just four credit unions hold security interests in over 5,300 medallions, for which they are on the hook for about $2.5 billion. In the face of greater potential losses, these companies have resorted to calling people who work in policy (myself included) to try and convince researchers that Uber is illegal and needs to be banned.

The credit union argument progresses as follows:

  1. Yellow taxi medallion owners were granted a monopoly on street hails.
  2. For-hire vehicles are only allowed to offer pre-arranged rides.
  3. Uber uses street hails, not pre-arranged rides, to connect riders with its driver partners.
  4. Therefore, Uber is illegally using street hails, and this infringes on yellow taxi medallion owners’ government-granted monopoly.

If the third premise is true, this argument could hold some rule-of-law water. It is not.

The law governing New York City’s street hails date back to the Haas Act of 1937. This law restricted the number of New York yellow taxi medallions to 16,900, which was lowered and now stands at 13,437—even though the city’s population has grown byover 20 percent since 1940.

The Haas Act also set the stage for other common carrier regulations that apply to the taxi industry. These regulations place substantial limits and requirements on taxi owners and drivers in exchange for their monopoly privileges. For example, the city’s Transportation and Limousine Commission sets fare prices, and fares cannot change with increased demand for rides. This is one of the main reasons it is so difficult to hail a taxi in the rain or at the beginning of rush hour.

Updating regulations takes time, but New York City taxis were finally granted the ability to accept ride requests from smartphones (e-hails) early this year. Once taxis were allowed to accept e-hails, something they needed to compete with new technologies, four credit unions argued that the technology was now off-limits for Uber—the company that had popularized e-hails. They sued New York City for infringing upon medallion holders’ monopoly privileges.

This makes no sense. How can a decades-old law covering street hails be construed to cover ride requests made through smartphones? Anyone who has tried to hail a taxi on the side of the road, and then used Uber, knows that the two experiences are vastly different. Simply put, holding your hand up is not the same as pressing a button on your phone.

How to Save Taxis Without Squeezing People

The path forward is not to ban ridesharing or bail medallion owners out. It is to make taxis more like Ubers. This takes more than simply allowing taxis to accept e-hails. Rather, the only ways to save taxis are greater flexibility in pricing and service and increased competition.

As Uber’s rise has made obvious, when the crucial aspect of competition is missing from markets, established companies do not have to worry about improving their services to attract and keep customers. Regulations need to be continually modified and updated in light of new technology.  There is no reason to require New York taxis to have expensive (and annoying) Taxi TVs. Pointless mandates such as this only increase the cost of taxi rides.

Even with a relaxed regulatory framework that embraces ridesharing and competition, taxis will still have an advantage. No one is talking about taking away New York City’s yellow taxi monopoly on street hails. Applying antiquated laws and regulations to new technology is what laid the groundwork for the rise of Uber and other ridesharing services in the first place.

Everyone Shouldn’t Pay for Some People’s Bad Bets

Credit unions oppose allowing Uber to grow because they want to protect their investments. The Queens County Supreme Court ruled against the credit unions last month. The court found that the credit unions did not have a cause of action against the city and its Transportation and Limousine Commission. This was a major win for Uber and consumers, but a death-knell for Freidman’s business and its financers.

The whole yellow taxi financing model is crashing, along with medallion prices. After the ruling, Montauk Credit Union, one of the plaintiffs, was seized by the New York State Department of Financial Services because of “unsafe and unsound conditions.” The day that New York City’s proposed cap on Uber’s growth was defeated, 22 of Freidman’s mini-fleet companies filed for bankruptcy.

Even if medallion holders such as Freidman lost a lot of money, it does not follow that the public should subsidize their losses. The returns from a yellow taxi medallion in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, or New York far outpaced the stock market or gold for many years. The values of these medallions about doubled in each city from 2009 to 2013.

Investments carry risk, as Freidman knows from his background in finance. He made a poor calculation that the Manhattan yellow taxi street hail monopoly would continue to provide him enough future cash flow to satisfy bankers, who would loan him more money to expand his fleet. Freidman and his investors have no claim to a taxpayer-funded bailout to cover their poor business decisions. Perhaps they should consider investing in Uber instead.

bailout, corruption, cronyism, economics, funding, government, greed, hypocrisy, law, nanny state, public policy, regulation, taxes

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Capitalism and Morality: Walter Williams vs. Pope Francis

original article: Capitalism and Morality: Walter Williams vs. Pope Francis
September 22, 2015 by Daniel J. Mitchell

The biggest mistake of well-meaning leftists is that they place too much value on good intentions and don’t seem to care nearly as much about good results.

Pope Francis is an example of this unfortunate tendency. His concern for the poor presumably is genuine, but he puts ideology above evidence when he argues against capitalism and in favor of coercive government.

Here are some passages from a CNN report on the Pope’s bias.

Pope Francis makes his first official visit to the United States this week. There’s a lot of angst about what he might say, especially when he addresses Congress Thursday morning. …He’ll probably discuss American capitalism’s flaws, a theme he has hit on since the 1990s. Pope Francis wrote a book in 1998 with an entire chapter focused on “the limits of capitalism.” …Francis argued that…capitalism lacks morals and promotes selfish behavior. …He has been especially critical of how capitalism has increased inequality… He’s tweeted: “inequality is the root of all evil.” …he’s a major critic of greed and excessive wealth. …”Capitalism has been the cause of many sufferings…”

Wow, I almost don’t know how to respond. So many bad ideas crammed in so few words.

If you want to know why Pope Francis is wrong about capitalism and human well-being, these videos narrated by Don Boudreaux and Deirdre McCloskey will explain how free markets have generated unimaginable prosperity for ordinary people.

But the Pope isn’t just wrong on facts. He’s also wrong on morality. This video by Walter Williams explains why voluntary exchange in a free-market system is far more ethical than a regime based on government coercion.

Very well stated. And I especially like how Walter explains that markets are a positive-sum game, whereas government-coerced redistribution is a zero-sum game (actually a negative-sum game when you include the negative economic impact of taxes and spending).

Professor Williams wasn’t specifically seeking to counter the muddled economic views of Pope Francis, but others have taken up that challenge.

Writing for the Washington Post, George Will specifically addresses the Pope’s moral preening.

Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert’s indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak… Francis deplores “compulsive consumerism,” a sin to which the 1.3 billion persons without even electricity can only aspire.

He specifically explains that people with genuine concern for the poor should celebrate industrialization and utilization of natural resources.

Poverty has probably decreased more in the past two centuries than in the preceding three millennia because of industrialization powered by fossil fuels. Only economic growth has ever produced broad amelioration of poverty, and since growth began in the late 18th century, it has depended on such fuels. …The capitalist commerce that Francis disdains is the reason the portion of the planet’s population living in “absolute poverty” ($1.25 a day) declined from 53 percent to 17 percent in three decades after 1981.

So why doesn’t Pope Francis understand economics?

Perhaps because he learned the wrong lesson from his nation’s disastrous experiment with an especially corrupt and cronyist version of statism.

Francis grew up around the rancid political culture of Peronist populism, the sterile redistributionism that has reduced his Argentina from the world’s 14th highest per-capita gross domestic product in 1900 to 63rd today. Francis’s agenda for the planet — “global regulatory norms” — would globalize Argentina’s downward mobility.

Amen (no pun intended).

George Will is right that Argentina is not a good role model.

And he’s even more right about the dangers of “global norms” that inevitably would pressure all nations to impose equally bad levels of taxation and regulation.

Returning to the economic views of Pope Francis, the BBC asked for my thoughts back in 2013 and everything I said still applies today.

bias, capitalism, crisis, cronyism, economics, economy, ethics, ideology, nanny state, poverty, reform, video

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Democrats want to force everyone to pay for abortions. So much for having a choice.

Abortion opponents used to be told things like “if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one”. But Democrats want them to pay for abortions anyway. Because that’s not oppression, killing babies is health care!”

original article: Dems Propose ‘Historic’ Abortion Rights Legislation
July 8, 2015 by Laura Bassett

House Democrats proposed bold pro-abortion rights legislation on Wednesday that has no chance of passing in the GOP-controlled chamber, but highlights the massive gulf between the two parties on the hot-button issue.

The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or the EACH Woman Act, would guarantee abortion coverage for all Medicaid recipients and women who receive health insurance through the federal government. The bill, authored by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by more than 60 House Democrats, would repeal the decades-long ban on abortion insurance coverage for U.S. federal employees, military servicewomen, Peace Corps volunteers and those who are insured through the Indian Health Service. It would also prevent state legislatures from interfering with the private insurance market and banning insurers from covering abortion.

Specifically, the bill would overturn the Hyde Amendment, a policy rider that bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, except if a pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Anti-abortion politicians have been attaching the rider to important pieces of legislation each year since 1976, and it disproportionately affects minority and low-income women.

“Make no mistake– these lawmakers really do want to ban abortions altogether,” Lee said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Since they can’t, they employ these very devious and underhanded tactics to push abortion care out of reach for women who are really just struggling to just make ends meet, and that’s just wrong. Politicians have no business interfering with a woman’s private reproductive health decisions.”

When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, 86 percent of private insurance companies covered abortion. This meant that most women who purchased private insurance plans or received health coverage through their private sector jobs had abortion coverage, while Medicaid recipients and federal employees did not. But the passage of Obamacare seemed to alert Republican lawmakers to the fact that abortion was being covered in insurance plans, and more than 20 GOP-led state legislatures have since passed laws banning private insurance companies from covering abortion.

Republicans have tried to restrict abortion in the past few years by mandating ultrasounds, placing gestational limits on abortions and imposing harsh clinic regulations. While Democrats have pushed back hard, the Hyde Amendment and other efforts to restrict the funding and coverage of abortion have slipped into law relatively easily. Republicans have successfully branded federal insurance coverage of abortion as “taxpayer-funded abortions,” and President Barack Obama has accepted the Hyde anti-abortion language in Obamacare and year after year in unrelated bills.

This year, as Republicans in Congress push to ban abortions at earlier stages of pregnancy than the limit established by the Supreme Court in 1973, House Democrats are playing offense, too, by pushing for an unprecedented expansion of abortion coverage. Planned Parenthood, one of 39 national organizations working with the All Above All coalition in support of the effort, lauded the new legislation as “historic.”

“For 40 years, the majority of Americans have been saying that abortion should be safe and legal,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “And that means it should be safe and legal for everyone – not only for those who can afford it.”

abortion, babies, bullies, cronyism, culture, Democrats, entitlements, extortion, funding, government, health care, ideology, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oppression, pandering, political correctness, politics, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, relativism, spending, taxes

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Center for American Progress helped craft EPA talking points, emails show

original article: Center for American Progress helped craft EPA talking points, emails show
July 6, 2015 by Lachlan Markay

A prominent left-wing group helped formulate Environmental Protection Agency talking points designed to sell a controversial regulatory scheme to skeptical journalists, internal emails show.

The emails show Joseph Goffman, the senior counsel of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, circulating talking points from Center for American Progress climate strategy director Daniel Weiss among EPA colleagues attempting to sell the agency’s controversial power plant regulations to a New York Times reporter.

Weiss emailed Goffman in September 2013 with a series of suggestions for convincing the Times’ Matt Wald of the commercial viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, a vital component of the agency’s stringent power plant emissions regulations.

Five minutes later, Goffman sent an email to five colleagues in his office and the agency’s public affairs division. Unredacted language in the email is identical to language in Weiss’ list of talking points.

The Environment & Energy (E&E) Legal Institute obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request. Chris Horner, a senior legal fellow at E&E, said they show extensive behind-the-scenes collaboration between EPA and third-party groups that support the regulations.

“The chief lawyer tasked with making the global warming agenda happen cuts and pastes Team Soros arguments and strategies into emails and sends them to colleagues as his own,” Horner said in an email.

Weiss, who is now the senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, another influential green group, did not respond to a request for comment.

Goffman took the lead in crafting the EPA’s legal justification for its power plant rules, which are expected to hit coal-fired power plants hardest. Laws require federal regulations to be commercially viable, so the EPA needed to show it was possible for coal plants to comply with the rule.

corruption, cronyism, Democrats, environment, ethics, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, news media, pandering, philosophy, politics, progressive, propaganda, regulation, scandal

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Uber-rich Hillary campaigns on economic equality

Clinton formally launches 2016 campaign with focus on economic equality
June 13, 2015 by Fox News

Hillary Clinton on Saturday officially launched her 2016 presidential campaign, calling for a return to shared prosperity and asking American workers, students and others to trust her to fight for them.

Clinton made the announcement at an outdoor rally on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, two months after announcing her campaign with an online video.

“You have to wonder: When do I get ahead? I say now,” Clinton told the crowd in a roughly 46-minute speech. “You brought the country back. Now it’s your time to enjoy the prosperity. That is why I’m running for president of the United States.”

The former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state is the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 White House race.

Also in the race are Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffe.

She lost her 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to then-Sen. Obama.

Clinton, wearing her signature blue pantsuit, walked through the crowd en route to the stage for her speech.

She remarked that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms are a “testament to our nation’s unmatched aspirations and a reminder of our unfinished work at home and abroad.”

Clinton also drew into focus what will likely be the key themes of her campaign including support for same-sex marriage, wage equality for women and all Americans, affordable college tuition and free child-care and pre-kindergarten.

“The top-25 hedge fund managers make more than all kindergarten teachers combined,” she said. “And they’re paying lower taxes.”

Clinton attempted to portray herself as a fierce advocate for those left behind in the post-recession economy, detailing a lifetime of work on behalf of struggling families. She said her mother’s difficult childhood inspired what she considers a calling.

“I have been called many things by many people,” Clinton said.” Quitter is not one of them.”

She said that attribute came from her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, in whom she would confide after hard days in the Senate and at the State Department.

“I wish my mother could have been with us longer,” Clinton said. “I wish she could have seen the America we are going to build together … where we don’t leave any one out or any one behind.”

Clinton was joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea.

She also was critical in her speech of Republicans, suggesting they have reserved economic prosperity for the wealthy, in large part by cutting taxes for the country’s highest wage-earners.

She also accused them of trying to “wipe out tough rules on Wall Street,” take away health insurance from more than 16 million Americans without offering any “credible alternative” and turning their backs on “gay people who love each other.”

The Republican National Committee said in response that Clinton’s campaign was full of hypocritical attacks, partisan rhetoric and ideas from the past.

“Next year, Americans will reject the failed policies of the past and elect a Republican president,” RNC Press Secretary Allison Moore said.

Republicans also argued Clinton devoted only about five minutes of her speech to foreign policy.

Clinton now heads to four early-primary states, starting Saturday night in Iowa where she will talk with volunteers and others about grassroots-campaign efforts for the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

The organizational meeting will be simulcast to Clinton camps across the country and serve as a blueprint for them all 435 congressional districts.

She then travels to New Hampshire on June 15, South Carolina on June 17 and in Nevada on June 18.

Clinton vowed Saturday to roll out specific policy proposals in the coming weeks, including ones on rewriting the tax code and sustainable energy.

In what was her first major speech of her campaign, she also cited President Obama, Roosevelt and her husband, saying they embraced the idea that “real and lasting prosperity must be built by all and shared by all.”

Holding the event on an island between Queens and Manhattan raised some criticism about its accessibility by vehicle and public transportation.

The campaign estimated the event crowd, whose members needed a ticket, at 5,500. However, the number appeared smaller, and the overflow section was empty.

campaign, corruption, cronyism, Democrats, economy, elections, elitism, government, greed, hypocrisy, left wing, nanny state, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, president, progressive, propaganda, reform, relativism, wealthy

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Unions seek exemption from LA minimum wage law they helped pass

Unions seek exemption from LA minimum wage law they helped pass
May 31, 2015 by William La Jeunesse

Union leaders in Los Angeles are being accused of hypocrisy after being caught trying to exempt themselves from a new minimum wage law they tried to impose on others.

For months, organized labor went after companies like McDonalds and Walmart, shaming any business that paid the old minimum wage. Carrying signs saying, “We see greed” and “We are worth more,” union members marched outside businesses and appeared at City Council meetings demanding Los Angeles raise the minimum wage from $9 to $15 by 2020.

“We say, ‘Don’t leave anybody out, don’t cut anybody out, a wage raise for all workers!'” Mary Elena Durazo, the longtime leader of the 600,000-strong Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, told a cheering crowd of supporters at a recent council meeting.

Yet after pushing through the new wage law, union officials are asking for a waiver that would allow any company that unionizes to avoid paying the minimum wage.

“It was a real surprise that in the 11th hour that labor was saying, ‘well, we basically support a sub-minimum wage if a company decides to enter into collective bargaining,'” Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “And that really is a complete contradiction to what they’ve been saying the last couple of months.”

Councilmen Mike Bonin and O’Farrell are opposing the move.

“It is not acceptable to expect the L.A. City Council to become a vehicle for union organizing,” said O’Farrell. “That is not what we were elected to do and that is not what I will engage in.”

Bonin agreed, telling the Los Angeles Times, “For me, the point of the minimum wage in Los Angeles was to raise wages and lift [everyone] out of poverty.”

What especially angered opponents was unions’ attitude toward others who asked for waivers. Restaurants, nonprofits and businesses with fewer than 25 employees asked for a one-year delay. Unions opposed it, calling the ‘loophole’ unfair to the working poor.

Rusty Hicks — current president of the L.A. Federation of Labor, who replaced Durazo after she left to head a casino-and-hotel worker union — argued, “it is critical that no Angeleno, whether they’re workers or owners of small businesses and nonprofits, is left behind.”

But Wednesday night, Hicks changed his position, telling the council that workers who collectively bargain for wages below the minimum shouldn’t be penalized. He and labor attorney Margo Feinberg say federal law protects workers who choose collective bargaining.

“This is a standard clause to protect basic worker rights,” Hicks said in a statement.

He’s right. Minimum wage ordinances in Chicago, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose contain provisions similar to the one labor sought in Los Angeles. The municipal code in San Jose says, “all or any portion of the (ordinance) may be waived in a bona fide collective bargaining agreement.”

Business groups, however, claim it’s a blatant double standard.

“When unions do something like this, it demonstrates that their rhetoric about low wages is hollow,” said the National Federation of Independent Business’ Andrew Wimer. “They seem perfectly willing to see workers paid less if it means getting more power for themselves.”

“The unions are being too cute by half,” added Jot Condie of the California Restaurant Association. “They spent the last few months table-pounding against any exemptions or mitigations to the minimum wage increase — suggesting no one should get special treatment. Now it is clear they recognize the need for those mitigations and have asked for special treatment for themselves.”

O’Farrell said the law is likely to go through without any exemptions, though unions are expected to try again. The local AFL-CIO declined to answer questions submitted by Fox News.

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Look at all the Clinton money, and ethics issues

A few more stories challenging a myth about the wealthy. Democrats are the party of the rich.

Bill doubled speaking fees from foreign groups while Hillary was secretary of state
May 19, 2015 by Sarah Westwood

Former President Bill Clinton netted millions in speaking fees from appearances around the world while his wife served as secretary of state, but earned far less from abroad in the years since Hillary Clinton left the State Department.

Bill Clinton took in $2.2 million from just six international speeches in 2014, according to financial disclosure forms released Friday as required by Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

By contrast, the former president reportedly earned more than twice as much for appearances made across borders while Hillary Clinton was in office. He reportedly made $4.8 million from 13 speeches in foreign countries in 2010, his wife’s first year as secretary of state.

In 2011, Bill Clinton reportedly drummed up at least $5.96 million in speaking fees for appearances he made outside the U.S.

Unions pour millions into Clinton Foundation
May 18, 2015 by Bill McMorris

Big labor funneled millions of dollars in dues money to the Clinton Foundation, according to a new report.

The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR), a union watchdog group, traced at least $2 million in donations from multiple union organizations and affiliates.

“U.S. Department of Labor’s union financial disclosure reports reveal that Big Labor gave at least $2,034,500 in union general treasury funds to Clinton Foundations. Union treasuries are funded mostly by compulsory union dues or fees collected from workers who would be fired for refusing to pay,” the NILRR report says. “As Mrs. Clinton became closer to her current run for president, donations amounts appear to have increased.”

The Clintons have turned their foundation into a lucrative “slush fund,” according to one charity watchdog group, and have received hundreds of millions of dollars from notable businesses, media personalities, and political luminaries. The family has maintained that none of those donations influenced her decisions as secretary of state and that the money is strictly philanthropic.

However, unions did not necessarily agree about the apolitical nature of the donations, according to NILRR.

“Some of these ‘donations’ are categorized by the unions as ‘political’ on their financial disclosure report” to the Labor Department, the report says.

Poll: Hillary Clinton ‘less ethical’ than other politicians

ABC ‘turned a blind eye’ to George Stephanopoulos’ links to Clintons amid claims he can’t be trusted to remain impartial
May 20, 2015 by JAMES DUNN

ABC ‘turned a blind eye’ to star George Stephanopoulos’ being in regular contact with high-powered Democrats, it’s been claimed.
The news comes amid a scandal surrounding the fact he did not disclose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation between 2012 and 2014 while negotiating his $105million contract with ABC.
It will further fuel criticisms from Republicans that Stephanopoulos can’t be trusted to be impartial.

The news comes from an old report by Politico which resurfaced after the donations were uncovered, reports Page Six.

It claims that Stephanopoulos, who was a member of Clinton’s communications team in the 1992 presidential campaign, was in daily contact with important Democrats in 2009 while anchoring This Week and about to take over flagship show Good Morning America.

The report claims he took part in ’round robin chatter’ during which Democrat strategy was ‘more than likely…being hatched’.

It claims that he either didn’t tell bosses or the channel turned a blind eye to his links.

Stephanopoulos played down the claims, reportedly saying: ‘We just like talking to each other, and I learn a lot from it . . . and that’s why we’ve been doing it for so long.’

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America needs less statism

The Hillsdale Collegian recently published an opinion piece by Kate Patrick titled “Hillsdale needs a little more socialism.” Coming from Hillsdale College I found this title in the student newspaper quite curious and decided to read it. I found myself a bit shocked at the presumption reflected in the piece, given the sorts of things taken for granted in order to promote socialism, especially in relation to the philosophy at Hillsdale College. So I stayed up a bit late to comment on their website. Below is an updated version of those comments.

Quite an ironic piece, here. I’d like to address several points about John Strinka’s comments and about Kate Patrick’s framing of the issue. (Note: I am neither a Hillsdale student or alumnus. I don’t personally know anyone who attends or works at Hillsdale. I am merely a passerby. My knowledge of Hillsdale College is limited to some resources Hillsdale makes available to the general public.)

First, the opening Strinka comments in Patrick’s article lament how socialism tends to be misrepresented. The irony in this first quote is that the bulk of Mr. Strinka’s comments on capitalism are a gross misrepresentation of it. And this is no accident, Mr. Strinka’s pointedly anti-capitalist perspective is riddled with a rosy colored picture of socialism and government.

According to Patrick, Strinka says “Capitalism [teaches] that humans are commodities to be bought and sold.” If that’s his opinion, I’d like to offer a similar swipe at socialism for comparison. If I stated “socialism teaches that people are cogs in a social machine, and not really people but merely demographics”, I imagine Mr. Strinka and many socialists would object to such description. But policies promoted by socialists and their lauded remedies to society’s ails often seem like this is precisely what big government statists (socialists) believe. If Mr. Strinka insists his complaint about capitalism is accurate, I likewise insist my description of socialism is accurate.

Another Strinka quote: “At this point in American history, corporations can buy government policy.” That’s nothing new, and it was praised as a grand thing when the railroad began asking for government intervention to curtail competition from the trucking industry, and it is lauded today when corporate interests harm the competition under the guise of helping people. Under the pretense of fairness and protecting people, government has gladly embraced corporate entanglements – because these types of entanglements allow government to grab more power.

So what’s the problem with that? I believe P. J. O’Rourke said it best: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” And he’s exactly right. Government regulation of industry invites, nay, begs for industry to attempt to leverage such intervention to its favor. The very thing government regulation of industry is supposedly meant to cure ends up exacerbated by it instead. The Law of Unintended Consequences often raises its ugly head with the implementation of well intended policies trying to manipulate society.

Another comment from Strinka: “Democracy has been eaten up by corporate interests.” While I’ve admitted corporate interests have infected the political process (in no small part a self-inflicted problem by government itself) I notice Patrick includes nothing in her article from Strinka or anyone else about how political interests have infected business, education, health care, the environment, national security, national defense, the IRS, the interpretation of the Constitution, and on and on. Democracy has also been eaten up by political interests.

Another comment from Strinka: “We see a free-market system that has failed to distribute the goods”. The sad fact is, no one knows such a thing. There are very few people alive today who have ever seen capitalism or a free-market system at work. For generations Americans have seen only a hybrid of socialism and a free-market, with the pendulum swinging toward the former at an accelerating pace. As it stands, socialists and other Marxians conveniently blame all of society’s ails on anything other than government intervention.

After Patrick lends plentiful space to air Strinka’s misrepresentation of capitalism, she continues with some curious comments of her own.

I was expecting to find the term “crony capitalism” in this article, and I was not disappointed. The definition of crony capitalism Patrick offers is, to no surprise, one from a rather socialistic perspective. You’ll notice in her article that crony capitalism is presented as only a capitalism problem. It is not. Crony capitalism is a capitalism AND a government problem. It can’t happen without both sides of the coin. The term is designed to misrepresent the problem in the first place. A more accurate label would be crony government. Simply calling it cronyism should suffice but it is more expedient to Marxians of all stripes to indoctrinate us all into thinking cronyism is exclusively a result of capitalism.

And there is further socialistic bias in the term crony capitalism. There is an implied assumption that without corporate interests, Democracy (in this context meaning government) would have no corruption, or at least wouldn’t have nearly as much. I find this rather hard to believe because behind this implication an even more fundamental yet flawed belief: money is evil and government is good.

Let me propose an idea. Actually, it’s not my idea, it’s a very well known axiom:

Money is Power

Effectively, at the end of the day, this is true. But the reverse is also true: Power is Money. And we all know what is said of power, and absolute power. Why is it then that Marxians see corruption in money but not in power? In the name of ridding the world of corruption, socialists see a problem with concentrated wealth and see concentrated power as the solution.

In this article we predictably see morality ascribed to wealth. But money and wealth have no morality – they are merely ideas and tools. Just as government has no morality, it is also an idea, but it tends to have more muscle behind it which is physically real. The only morality associated with wealth or power is that which people bring with them.

But where do Marxians typically focus their concern about corruption? At capitalism, not at government. Notice one of Patrick’s own comments: “Without proper regulation, the rich and powerful do what they want, according to Strinka.” Who is getting the blame for corruption in that statement? I submit this statement is not intended to make the reader think of government, but only of capitalism; to make people suspicious of freedom.

Another of Patrick’s own comments: “After all, it was improperly regulated capitalism that got us into the ugly state we’re in now.” Do we really know that or do we find the conviction of a love of big government here? How do we know it wasn’t government intervention itself that got us into the ugly state we’re in now? Among those not blinded by a love of government, there is plenty of evidence to suggest it was in fact government intervention that caused many problems we’re experiencing today.

Faithful statists have been lead to believe such allegations against government have been proven false, even though they haven’t. But there is such profound support for big government in politics and in the news media that repeating this lie has done its job.

Patrick does offer a token admission that socialism has its flaws. Unfortunately in today’s political discourse, those who express concern for government corruption are often dismissed or marginalized as anti-government right wing extremists. The fact that government corruption is also a vast plague on society hardly appears to be a second thought among socialists. Government incompetence makes the situation even worse, but that is a discussion for another day.

And why do Marxians defend an ever increasing government goliath? Because they trust and prefer government. That is not capitalist propaganda, that is an overt sentiment proudly embraced by socialists who believe government is benevolent. One of the greatest concerns I have about intermingling compassion and government is that the socialist love of government almost always wins out over anything else. Given the choice between (1) helping people but doing so unequally vs (2) harming people but increasing some abstract fairness quotient, lovers of government (Keynesians, Marxists, Socialists, Communists, Fascists, etc.) would choose the latter. And yet we are supposed to think liberals of all stripes are compassionate people (who happen to define “sharing” as confiscation of wealth under threat of imprisonment and “helping” people as regulating away their freedom).

Socialists lament that capitalism intermingling with government leads to corruption, but the solution to this corruption is power. Concentrated wealth can be a bad thing but is concentrated power really the solution? Socialists, Marxists, Communists, and others who believe life can be made fair if only there are enough laws also tend to believe government knows best and that people need to be forced to do the “right thing”. The essence of government is the use of force so those who value freedom and civil liberties ought to be cautious (not eager) about the use of government power.

Seeking government intervention first is anti-American. Trusting government more than liberty looks like freedom-hating. Trusting government to regulate itself but mocking the idea of a self-regulating free-market looks like the attempt to destroy everything America stands for. Pretending the free-market means only corporations (in order to justify government taking more control) and ignoring the other half of the “free-market” equation (the people and their freedom to choose) is a severely misguided view and not one that leads to a better society.

This differing view between a statist, big government mentality and a limited government, big liberty mentality has divided Americans to a point of tremendous hostility. But it is not the pro-free-market voice that is causing this. The “small capitalism, caps on business size, widespread ownership of private property, and farm-centered communities” voice is by far the predominant one in the nation, if not (thankfully) at Hillsdale College. The pro-freedom voice is largely squelched all across the American plain. Hillsdale College is fighting an uphill battle. If the pro-freedom mentality at Hillsdale is a “bubble” it is not because Hillsdale insulates itself from views differing from those it prefers, it is because they are an air pocket trying to elevate a country sinking into a sea of statism. The big-government view lives in a bubble protecting itself from outside criticism. It can be found almost anywhere, save a few bastions of freedom such as Hillsdale College.

One last point. Capitalists and lovers of freedom would like to see a “divorce [between] big business and politics” just as socialists would. But capitalists do not seek the use of government policy to achieve it, or if they do it is only where absolutely necessary for government to get involved. Sound-minded capitalists (which are the vast majority of capitalists) are rightly concerned about corruption of government and business.

I would also like to see a divorce between compassion and government, as this is the single largest category of spending in the American government. If corporate money corrupts politics I humbly suggest political control of the social safety net is just as corrupting of American society if not more so. Strinka is not “reacting to capitalism gone wrong in American society”. He is reacting to a leftist, statist, government-knows-best distortion of capitalism. I would like to know Strinka’s opinion of real capitalism, but I doubt he’s ever actually seen it (none of us have).

I used to be an advocate of the laissez-faire free-market approach. I no longer adhere to a libertarian view of the market place. I now support a more conservative approach to the free-market, one which requires input from a sphere outside both economics and government. Neither a self-regulating market nor a state-regulated market will achieve the results any compassionate person ultimately desires. That requires a moral component not really found in either of these approaches. Dr. Ralph Ancil of the Roepke Institute makes a good argument for where to find the best solutions to society’s problems.

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April 2020