Your New Healthcare System

Aug 2 2010

Clearly, this is a model of back-scratching, ignorance, not-caring, willful stupidity, crass overreaching, sleight of hand, class warfare, wishful thinking, arrogance, rank evil, or all of the above.

These idiots won’t be happy until they’ve destroyed the American economy.

Details here



Today’s quote of the day

May 6 2010

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”

– Robert Heinlein



A concise definition of “rights”

Mar 13 2010

From Dr. Walter E. Williams. (via his posting at George Mason University’s site)

I’ve incorporated it here in its entirety because it’s so short and so important that I want to ensure it remains close at hand.

Is Health Care a Right?

Most politicians, and probably most Americans, see health care as a right. Thus, whether a person has the means to pay for medical services or not, he is nonetheless entitled to them. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions about this vision.

Say a person, let’s call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab’s and Dr. Jones’ services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?

You say, “Williams, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay.” You’re right. Suppose instead of Harry being able to force a lab, doctor and pharmacy to provide services without pay, Congress uses its taxing power to take a couple of hundred dollars out of the paycheck of some American to give to Harry so that he could pay the lab, doctor and pharmacist. Would there be any difference in principle, namely forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another? There would be one important strategic difference, that of concealment. Most Americans, I would hope, would be offended by the notion of directly and visibly forcing one person to serve the purposes of another. Congress’ use of the tax system to invisibly accomplish the same end is more palatable to the average American.

True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. In other words, my rights to speech or travel impose no obligations on another except those of non-interference. If we apply ideas behind rights to health care to my rights to speech or travel, my free speech rights would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium, television studio or radio station. My right to travel freely would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with airfare and hotel accommodations.

For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else’s rights, namely their rights to their earnings. The reason is that Congress has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy giving them those resources. The fact that government has no resources of its very own forces one to recognize that in order for government to give one American citizen a dollar, it must first, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something that he did earn.

To argue that people have a right that imposes obligations on another is an absurd concept. A better term for new-fangled rights to health care, decent housing and food is wishes. If we called them wishes, I would be in agreement with most other Americans for I, too, wish that everyone had adequate health care, decent housing and nutritious meals. However, if we called them human wishes, instead of human rights, there would be confusion and cognitive dissonance. The average American would cringe at the thought of government punishing one person because he refused to be pressed into making someone else’s wish come true.

None of my argument is to argue against charity. Reaching into one’s own pockets to assist his fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else’s pockets to do so is despicable and deserves condemnation.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Granted, those pushing the current federalization of the American healthcare system may truly believe that healthcare is a right. If they do, they’re wrong, just as they’d be wrong to claim that everyone has an innate right to any tangible, finite product or service of which others would have to be deprived in order to provide it to them.

But I don’t think any of the Obamacare pushers truly have an opinion about healthcare as a right. This headlong rush to socialization isn’t about rights, and it’s clearly not about reducing costs. It’s about control. Control of the quantity and quality of service that Americans can choose to purchase, from whom, and via what methods.

Picture this: Say the cost of hamburgers increased 15% per year over a 20 year period, and as a result, some people could no longer afford hamburgers as often as they’d previously become used to. Pretend further that, unlike in our current framework of healthcare provision, there wasn’t a requirement that all burger joints had to provide hamburgers at their emergency drive-up window, regardless of ability to pay.

Would declaring hamburgers to be a basic human right, and stating that the federal government should exercise market control of hamburgers, suddenly become an argument that would pass the giggle test? Of course not.

And it amazes me to see that the argumentational artifice of “healthcare as a basic human right” passes that same test. If it didn’t, people would spend the time that they should be spending asking what our elected overlords are really trying to accomplish.

This ain’t about healthcare, people. It’s just not.



Finally, a bit of good news – Brown Wins in MA

Jan 19 2010

From the WSJ story of this evening:

BOSTON—A little-known Republican shook up the balance of power in Washington by winning a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, a result that imperils President Barack Obama’s top legislative priorities and augurs trouble for his party in this year’s elections.

Cast beneath the front page story, these three bullets, pointing to stories I’m not linking here:

  • Independent Voters Abandon Democrats
  • Americans Weary of Government Intervention
  • Democrats Set Plan to Pass Health Bill

It could just be me, but one of those items doesn’t belong with the others, and in fact represents the root problem for which I hope Senator Brown’s election is the first solution step.

The Democrats, in sole control of the levers of government, are committing slow-motion suicide, and don’t seem to care. I hope, for the sake of the country, the sake of our political system, and frankly, the sake of the Democrats, that they don’t make the ignorant mistake of trying to whistle past this particular graveyard.

Oh, and Martha/Marcia (Go Patches! Do that dynasty proud!) Coakley? Perhaps the worst, most tin-eared, foot-in-mouth candidate ever.



Your quote of the day

Dec 28 2009

From Douglas McIntyre:

Stable home prices may be overrated. Every month that there is an artificial barrier that prevents real estate prices from falling faster is a month that the market does not reach rock bottom, and rock bottom prices are what eventually bring buyers into the market. Real estate prices are being destroyed by the current “hundred year storm” in the industry and buyers will find the bargains irresistable, even if mortgages rates are not at a historic low. The government can draw out that process unnecessarily instead of standing aside as it takes it natural course.

The taxpayer will write a check to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the name of keeping real estate prices from falling. That taxpayer might buy a house with his check, but the government is keeping home prices too high.

Everyone (well, some people anyway, the ones who were paying attention, not including those who were playing the game) worried about the clearly-building bubble in the real estate market. Poof! Turns out it was real.

And now, those who should have taken action (Greenspan’s folksy alleged wisdom notwithstanding) are blowing as hard as they can, attempting to reflate the bubble. Marvelous.

In 2004, Stephen Roach was quoted: (Economist)

…the chief economist at Morgan Stanley, has long argued that the Fed is a “serial bubble blower”. Its cheap money is stimulating another round of irrational exuberance. America’s property market certainly looks pricey: the ratio of house prices to incomes is currently at a record high, and about a fifth above its 30-year average.

He was right then, and it’s still true today. Clearly, they’re at it again.

To avoid gloom and doom? Too late – that already occurred, and should have been left, in late 2008, to burn itself out by whatever means necessary. Stretching the pain of the adjustments over the next 30 years is not preferable to allowing the markets to have regained equilibrium on their own.

To assure affordable housing for everyone? As any economist, observer of recent history, or both should be able to point out, the fact that everyone with a pulse was allowed to purchase a home, even when many would clearly have been better served to rent or live with their parents, did nothing but goose the price of real estate to the point where it not only became unaffordable to all those this magical low price was supposed to help, it ALSO cratered the financial system.

Great work, Fed/Treasury (but I repeat myself). Give yourselves a pat on the back. And then get the hell out of the market. You’re killing us.



Reasons for pessimism

Nov 6 2009

From the AP via James Taranto (“Close Enough for Government Work“):

—– Quote —–
“President Barack Obama’s economic recovery program saved 935 jobs at the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, an impressive success story for the stimulus plan,” the Associated Press reports.

Hey, great news! Just one little problem: “Only 508 people work there.” The story continues:

The Georgia nonprofit’s inflated job count is among persisting errors in the government’s latest effort to measure the effect of the $787 billion stimulus plan despite White House promises last week that the new data would undergo an “extensive review” to root out errors discovered in an earlier report.

About two-thirds of the 14,506 jobs claimed to be saved under one federal office, the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services, actually weren’t saved at all, according to a review of the latest data by The Associated Press. Instead, that figure includes more than 9,300 existing employees in hundreds of local agencies who received pay raises and benefits and whose jobs weren’t saved.

You read that right: Civil servants got pay raises, and the Obama administration claims credit for “saving” their jobs:

Officials defended the practice of counting raises as saved jobs.
“If I give you a raise, it is going to save a portion of your job,” HHS spokesman Luis Rosero said.

Aren’t you excited to think that these people may soon be in charge of your health care?

—– End Quote —–

One of several possibilities seems obvious here:
1. These guys are idiots
2. These guys think we’re idiots
3. Both



Stupidity, populism, and playing to the idiots? It’s evergreen.

Sep 20 2008

Where to start?

The short-selling ban that is in place from yesterday through October 2 (or later) is an abomination. Not only is it bad policy in an absolute sense, it’s made worse by the cynical hypocrisy of those who begged for it to be put into place.

It’s one thing for an amiable boob like Patrick Byrne to whine about short-sellers and how they’re killing his company. I’m willing to give Byrne some small measure of benefit of the doubt, since finance isn’t his claim to fame. But when the chairmen of the Federal Reserve and the SEC, along with the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, now Treasury Secretary, start whining out of the same hymn book, they’re not serious, not believable, and are clearly playing to the idiots in the audience.

Short selling, the act of selling shares you don’t own, with the expectation that you’ll be able to buy them back later at a price equal to or lower than the price at which you sold the. Simple, really. And it’s got nothing to do with wanting to harm the company whose shares you’ve sold short. It’s simply an expression of opinion that the shares are overvalued, for one reason or another.

Selling short, then spreading false rumors against a company is an offense for which one can be pursued in a court of law. Funny thing, though – not selling short, then spreading false rumors against a company is also an offense for which one can be pursued in a court of law. If you do the verbal algebra, it becomes clear that selling short has nothing to do with the illegality of false rumors. And the law recognizes this – selling short is, in anything approaching sane regulatory times, not illegal at all.

Selling short can occur for many reasons, in many different contexts. Everyone I’ve read focuses on bets that a stock might or should go down. I’ll go you one better. For instance, to take a random example, let’s just say that the Investment Banking group in Goldman Sachs’ Chicago office were doing a public offering of stock for a client.

Such offerings typically include an underwriter’s option for an additional 15% of the shares being offered as “the green shoe”, to cover overallocations. Since an investment bank typically has no interest, and certainly has no requirement, to be an owner of stock in the companies for which it provides underwriting, if an offering looks successful, and the demand is high enough to make exercising their option for the “green shoe”, the normal action an investment bank takes is to sell short a number of shares equal to the amount of the green shoe, knowing that they’ll be able to replace those shares with the additional 15% for overallocation. If the stock has run up in the aftermath of the offering, better still – they can sell stock that’s more expensive than the offering price, knowing full well that they can replace it at the offering price. But at a minimum, they already know the price at which they can buy the stock in the future, so this isn’t a bet that the stock will go down.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, having been the head of investment banking for Goldman Sachs’ Midwest Region (1983-1988), then managing partner of the Chicago office, followed by co-head of IB for the entire firm, can safely be presumed to know all of this.

Neither SEC Chairman Cox and Fed Chairman Bernanke has any experience in capital markets, but neither of them can assert ignorance of the role that short selling plays in the market.

And who’s been calling loudest for limitations on short selling? The investment banks, solvent and formerly-solvent:

Lehman:

Lehman executives complain that they have been singled out by hedge fund investors that are short selling — or betting against — their stock, and Mr. Fuld has called senior executives at competitor banks demanding that their employees stop criticizing Lehman.

Morgan Stanley:

The mood was far different at Morgan Stanley, which lobbied vigorously for the ban on short selling. The bank’s shares shot up 21 percent, to $27.21, on Friday. Analysts said the reprieve might be only temporary, though, because the firm’s business model still requires a big balance sheet and core base of deposits for financing.

Goldman Sachs:

…the SEC is this afternoon holding a meeting to “determine if they need to take further steps to curtail what both Mac and [Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd] Blankfein characterize as improper short selling that is really causing damage to the share price of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.” Blankfein also spoke with Cox to complain of short selling of their stock, as did New York senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, according to Gasparino’s sources.

And so on. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, AIG, and a host of others, all now functionally dead as public companies, claimed loudly, with much gesticulation, that short sellers, not their crappy business models or abysmal risk management, were the reason for the drops in their stock prices.

New York’s AG Andrew Cuomo:

Likening such traders to “looters after a hurricane,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Thursday said his office is investigating “a significant number” of complaints about improper short selling in shares of Lehman Bros., AIG, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and other financial stocks.

Cuomo said his investigation would use the New York state Martin Act, which subjects violators to criminal as well as civil penalties, to combat the illegal practices.

“The markets need to be stabilized,” Cuomo said. “And one way to bring about such stability is to root out and deter short-selling that is based on the spread of false information.”

Sorry, Spanky – you left one class of people out: Weather forecasters before a hurricane. Deter short selling based on the spread of false information? Sure – go ahead, although there are already laws in place to do that, so knock yourself out enforcing them, with my blessing and encouragement. Disallow short selling itself, as though there’s no valid reason for a non-rumor-spreading trader to do? Utterly stupid. And impressive only to the self interested (the banks) or ill-educated (all other non-bankers who’ve complained about short selling).

Applauded only by the greedy & ignorant? Must be a great plan, then. I’ll take all this addle-pated nonsense about “gangs of people getting together to sell shares of a stock” seriously when several things also happen:

  • The same idiots decide to go after “gangs of people getting together to buy shares of a stock” (Cramer – I’m looking at you and everyone like you).
  • Someone explains to me the difference between a short seller selling a share of stock and an actual holder of the stock selling a share of stock. The market neither knows nor cares.
  • Which raises the question of what’s next? Disallowing down-ticks entirely? Disallowing any sale of the stocks of the protected 799 alleged-financial companies? Even by widows and orphans who actually hold shares? What is this, the Hotel California?

Issue Two” (please read that to yourself in John McGlaughlin’s voice, for best effect)
Read the rest of this entry »



Nice to see, again, that the system works

Jul 29 2008

Or, to be more correct, at least part of the system. Some of the time.

First, there was the Emperor AG and Premier Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, getting his, and a reasonable person could hope he’s got still more coming to him, given the pompous hypocrisy of the crusades on which he embarked before his fall.

Today’s news, however, on Alaska’s Ted Stevens, is equally satisfying to read. Charged with public corruption, and seemingly certain to be found guilty given the brazen and entitled nature with which he sought the spoils of his office, the only shame here might be that, at 86 years old, he’s unlikely to be incarcerated for the term he deserves, if at all. He’s been a national joke, most recently at least, for the Bridge to Nowhere pork fiasco, and his indictment cements his status as an embarrassment to Alaskans, Republicans, the Senate, and Americans.

Most people think that there’s a general presumption of innocence in America, but that’s only true within the court system, and in the issues that surround the court. I’m happy to report that my odds of serving on any jury of Mr. Stevens’ peers are zero, and I’m neither the judge nor the prosecutor in his case, so I owe him no such presumption.

He’s dirty, and the only thing better than having him indicted and removed from office would be to step back forty years, and take he and all other grandees of his sort out of the political process entirely. Glad-handing thieves, selling the citizens’ best interests for their personal aggrandizement, are among the lowest forms of life in America.



Filed under “Uh, so what?”

Dec 17 2007

From the Los Angeles Times, via a WSJ email snippet this morning:

Los Angeles Times: While in private business, Mitt Romney — whose presidential campaign cites his record of closing state tax loopholes as Massachusetts governor — used shell companies in two offshore tax havens to help eligible investors avoid paying U.S. taxes, federal and state records show. Mr. Romney gained no personal tax benefit from the legal operations in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, but his aides and former colleagues acknowledged that the tax-friendly jurisdictions helped attract billions of additional investment dollars to Mr. Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, and thus boosted profits for Romney and his partners.

Sadly, this tells me nothing I didn’t already know about Mitt Romney – he’s clearly a smart guy, and he’s clearly a competent businessman. Whether either of those makes him the best suited presidential candidate is both another thing completely and a matter which doesn’t concern me at all right now.

However, the intimation that there’s some undercurrent of hypocrisy here strikes me as overbaked by half – he used the system, properly & as designed, to benefit those to whom he had a fiduciary duty. The fact that he and his partners boosted their profits from having satisfied their clients strikes me as precisely the result he expected, and deserved.

Surely there are other crucial things about him we need to know, but this ain’t on that list.



On Gonzales

Aug 27 2007

Gad, I hate to seem to mimic the style of the “lovely and talented” John Edwards’ campaign, but my reaction to this morning’s news that Alberto Gonzales is resigning was, roughly, “What took so long?”.

No shock, but he’s being run out of town on a rail. Not alone among those with an opinion on the matter, I only think it’s a shame that he’s being run out for all the wrong reasons. The US Attorney firings? Pfft. Not a big deal – he, and the White House, have been well within bounds on the firings themselves, as previously discussed. Severe missteps, such as the McNulty Memorandum, should be considered embarrassments to him and the department, but are just horrifically bad administration, not criminal acts. As also previously discussed, his timid, goofy, and cackhanded defense of his boss, his office, and himself has been so inept that it’s been embarrassing to watch.

Never one to favor viewing people humiliating themselves (and thus, my aversion to most forms of reality TV), it’s been a cringeworthy handful of months, and the ordeal will soon be over.

Based on the WSJ story linked above and other sources, it seems there’s a race to the bottom of the barrel in search of his replacement. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff? What an awful choice he’d be, and not just because he looks like a character who could have played alongside Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. He’s not obviously competent, and while that would make him a perfect stand-in for Gonzales, it would seem that now, in the last 17 months of the Bush administration, they ought to attempt to at least raise their game at the Justice Department.

Chertoff, far more so than the other choices mentioned in the WSJ article (Mueller, Johnson), strikes me a choice only slightly better than dragging Harriet Miers back out of mothballs and propping her up for yet another position beyond her scope.

Also odd, there were several names in the version of the WSJ story made available this morning (the link above is to a front-page version in tomorrow’s print edition, but earlier today it was the breaking news version). Louis Freeh and Ted Olson were both mentioned, and either of them strikes me as a potentially apt choice, so it comes as no shock to find them no longer on the list, as reported by the WSJ. The IHT version of the story, available here, retains mention of Olson, but also omits Freeh.

Like Rove’s resignation, the Democrats seem to have plans to continue their chase, harrying him as best they can in search of crimes not committed. Life would, I think, be far easier for the Dems if they just took what Bushies hand them on a silver platter (incompetence, ham-fistedness, PR stone-deafness) and ran with it, rather than inventing new crusades on which to wander. But that’s just me.