Thursday, November 7, 2013

The selfishness of the Left

It's hard to escape progressives claiming that Republicans and conservatives are just a bunch of greedy rich folk who don't care about the poor, while those sweet Progressives are looking out for the less fortunate.  This is especially common among religious progressives, who seem to think that the Bible commands us to take care of the poor by threatening others.

One of the great things Obamacare has done for us (and really the list is quite long, but primarily as bad examples) is to show how incredibly selfish the left really is.  It seems like you can open any paper these days and find a story about some poor leftist who supported Obama, and may still support Obamacare, but finds it unacceptable that their insurance costs are doubling.  We need to help those poor people who don't have insurance, and somebody has to pay for it, but it should be somebody else.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stop with the Piecemeal Obamacare changes. Or: Why Republicans bear no responsibility for what's going wrong, but that might change.

I was not a fan of the shutdown.  It's not because I'm against shutting down the government.  I would have been totally on board if the House had started with the strategy they ended with, and started passing small funding bills a year ago.  I think shutting down the government rather than passing an omnibus funding bill just because Appropriators can't stand to pass funding for National Parks without also funding their pet constituency is a great idea.  Alternatively I wouldn't have a huge problem with shutting down the government rather than raise the debt limit.  If Republicans were steadfast in refusing to raise the debt limit then that's basically the equivalent of a balanced-budget amendment as was very well outlined on Power Line.  It's admittedly not the cleanest way to get a balanced-budget, but democracy is rarely clean and we can't afford to keep borrowing a couple million dollars per minute forever.

The reason I'm not a fan of the shutdown is it was done to benefit yet-another-half-repeal of Obamacare.  If the Democrats were smart, it would have ended with a disastrous delay on the individual mandate.  Here allow me to go off on a tangent.  I have already started to hear politicians and media types saying that this is partly the Republicans fault.  That's insane.  The Republicans tried to get amendments introduced to change the bill when it was introduced; none of them made it to the bill.  They then tried to prevent the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate: it was put through as a budget reconciliation bill so that it could come to a vote with no Republican support.  They then tried to prevent passage: it passed without a single Republican vote.  They then tried to repeal it when they took over the house: they failed.  They then tried to delay the individual mandate: they failed.  They have tried to change the rules to allow insurance companies to offer policies that were legal before the bill's passage: that has gone nowhere.  It's accurate to say the Republicans have done everything they can to prevent Obamacare, but they have been utterly hapless, failing to accomplish change at every turn.  To say that it's somehow their fault is to say the Democrats passed exactly what they wanted, but the Republicans didn't overcome Democrat majorities in order to force us to have something better.  The only changes that have been made to Obamacare since it's passage are the ones illegally made by the President himself decreeing that certain parts of the bill just didn't need to be followed, no matter what Congress might say.

So why, given that I think the whole bill is such a disaster, do I think a delay would be disastrous?  Because the whole bill is a house of cards.  It's, to borrow a phrase from Boehner, a crap sandwich, but it's constructed such that pretty much any single changes leaves things worse than you found it.  Millions of people on the individual market are, predictably, having their coverage dropped.  The exchanges are, predictably, a disaster where people may not be able to register for coverage in time.  The employer mandate (this one I wouldn't have predicted) is just not being enforced by the President, despite the fact that the law plainly requires it.  All of these things add up to a ton of people who are going to have to pay a tax penalty in 2014 instead of getting a refund, because they won't have insurance.  So why would a delay of that be a bad thing?

Because the entire insurance system could collapse if the only people who buy coverage are those that are going to need service, massively inflating the costs of coverage for next year.  Because currently I can make the above screed about how every part of this mess is owned completely by Democrats and you can't do that if Republicans force through a market-destroying delay on the mandate.  Because delaying the mandate for one year means people can ignore just how bad the bill is until after the 2014 elections and then find out that they're going to have to either pay a penalty or buy the new, even higher than this year's outrageous prices for insurance only after the Democrats are safely re-elected.

Conservatives predicted the messes we're seeing now when the bill was first passed, but they're only the first taste of the crap-sandwich to come.  Obamacare should be repealed, but only when the entire thing can be repealed.  The one small change Republicans should propose is to change the subsidy such that if the whole thing collapses in the next five years (which it will) the law doesn't provide for an automatic increase of the debt to provide the insurance subsidy.

Friday, April 12, 2013

So-Called Assault Weapons

Charles Cooke on Morning Joe (YouTube)

The fascinating thing to me about this isn't the 3 progressive's position on gun control, it's that they "argue", with a straight face, that drawing a "distinction between continuous and non-continuous", thus a military M16 that fires bullets as long as you hold the trigger down and a civilian AR15 that fires one bullet per trigger pull is "meaningless". They're both "assault weapons" that are intended for combat.  Put a different grip on it so your thumb can't reach between the grip and the stock, though, and it becomes a perfectly reasonable sport weapon.  That's a real difference!  That's what makes the military so effective, they carry weapons that allow the "web of the trigger hand [to be] placed below the level of the top of the exposed portion of the trigger when in firing position".  Nobody could possibly want to stand in an ergonomically comfortable firing position when target shooting for sport, it must be for purposes of combat.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Boehner should give Obama what he asks for

There are a lot of media outlets who are saying that Obama won the election, so the House should give him what he wants.  These same people had no problem with the Congress not giving Bush what he wanted on Social Security reform or Reagan what he wanted on spending reform, so I think it's a bunch of opportunism.  But that's not how I'm approaching this.

The number one classic blunder, possibly surpassing starting a land war in Asia, and certainly going against a Sicilian when death is on the line, is agreeing to closed door negotiations reported by a hostile media.  The Republican leadership should never have agreed to closed door negotiations and given their involvement should extricate themselves as quickly as possible.  As Jonah Goldberg notes, watching this budget debate is like trying to follow a cricket match based only on selective leaks to a hometown press of one of the teams coming from the players.

From a technical perspective, though, even if the whole thing happens in the open this cannot produce a good outcome from the perspective of Republicans in the House.  I don't mean by that it can't help them politically, that's unlikely too, but not where I'm going.  The perspective of the Republican leadership (which I agree with) is that the fiscal path of the United States can only be saved by massive reduction of the federal government, most especially in entitlement spending.  This is one way I'm certain that the accusations that the Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy and blame the President are false.  The Republicans really believe that tax increases will destroy the economy and that continued spending at 24% of GDP is going to cause a debt melt down.  You can tell they believe that because that's what they do if they're in control.

There are numerous reasons they can't possible get this, but most important in this context is that a failure to reach a deal will be seen as caused by intransigence on the part of the Republicans rather than the President.  If John Boehner agreed to massive tax increases written by Harry Reid in exchange for a 2% reduction in Medicare spending and the bill didn't pass the press would cover it as failing because Republicans were holding the whole thing hostage for a Medicare reduction.  The second major reason is that because of how taxation and budgeting works in Congress a tax increase will happen but a budget reduction is only a promise on the part of Congress that when they actually write the budget it will be what they promise it is now.  I'm not sure they have ever actually followed through.

So given these choices I basically see three choices for the Republicans in Congress:

  1. Negotiate strenuously, fail to get what you want, we go over "the fiscal cliff" and Republicans get blamed
  2. Negotiate strenuously, get what appears to be some set of spending reductions that we'll never actually get in exchange for tax increases we will (I'm actually doubtful this is possible.  My personal opinion is that the Democrats are currently sufficiently insulated from the consequences of a failure to reach a deal that they don't even need to agree to spending cuts they don't want that won't actually materialize).  The taxes don't bring what the Democrats say they will and Republicans get blamed for the fiscal shambles because they didn't agree to what was asked for.
  3. Get the Democrats to write a bill, have the Republicans who wanted to make a deal vote present, Tom Price and the solid conservatives can vote against it, but let it pass.  
I think, as do many Republicans, that option 3 is going to cause a near catastrophic collapse of the economy within a couple of years as we either experience massive inflation from the Fed buying all of our bonds or bonds stop selling because nobody believes we can cover the debt, which is why they don't want to do it.  But, under the Republican operating assumptions options 1 and 2 also lead to a near catastrophic collapse of the economy, they just give people an opportunity to say the reason it happened is that we didn't give the Democrats everything they wanted.

I'll note there is a problem with this plan.  I'm being extremely cynical, but I'm not sure I'm cynical enough.  Option 3 presumes the Democrats would actually put down in legislative language what they say they want.  If what they really want is to go over the fiscal cliff and blame Republicans for it they might not be willing to even put down a list of demands on paper for the Republicans to pass.  If that's the case, though, I still think Republicans can do better damage control if they start (preferably last month) vocally asking for proposals so that they can at least claim when the press starts talking about their intransigence that they would have passed anything given to them, but they didn't have anything to pass.  I don't think this would actually work, but some people might listen.

I should note, the original idea for this came from John O'Sullivan in an interview he did with Peter Robinson, but he didn't go into the depth I do here.  Maybe he did somewhere else but I haven't seen it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Give Federalism a chance?

There's a lot of talk about yesterday's presidential election, but I don't want to talk about that.  What I find interesting are the ballot measures.  Here are the ones that are even mildly interesting:

  • Three states, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, decriminalized some for of marijuana usage as a state matter.  It's still against Federal law
  • Three states, Maine, Maryland, and likely Washington, endorsed gay marriage.  31 states had previously officially rejected endorsing it.
  • Two states, Maryland and Rhode Island, extended legalization of gambling while one, Oregon, rejected it.
  • One state, Missouri, explicitly disallowed their Governor from legislating on health exchanges
  • One state, Montana, required parental notification of abortions
  • One state, California, voted to keep the death penalty

I find these interesting not because of the content, but because it shows that we still want Federalism.  The most interesting to me are the marijuana bills.  Those states are reliable votes on federalizing just about anything, yet the actually bothered to put on the ballot and pass a measure to decriminalize something that's already against federal law.  Why bother?  I would bet a large percentage of the people who voted to decriminalize at the state level drug use that's still a federal crime think Missouri's rejection of Obamacare at the state level is insane.

But why?

Why must everything be a federal issue?  Why can't some states have the death penalty (even for minors) and others not?  Why can't some states have legal marijuana and not others?  

I'm so tired of hearing about how horrible it is we're a divided country.  I can tell you how we can stop being a divided country:

Let the people in Washington have their legal marijuana and gay marriage, but don't make the people in Georgia endorse gay marriages established in Washington.  Let Massachusetts have their government run healthcare, but Texas stay with private healthcare.  I understand that some things, even some very important things, must be handled at the Federal level.  There may be serious issues with parts of Sarbanes-Oxley, but I'll admit it had to be done at the Federal level.  (And, conveniently, it has to with the regulation of interstate commerce, which was already a Federal power)  But huge chunks of what makes us a divided nation (Carbon emissions, health care, abortion, gay marriage, drug control, speed limits, drinking ages, the death penalty...) don't have to be national issues.

So if Montana and Washington State both agree that there shouldn't be one national standard, why can't we go back to not having one national standard?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bayonets and Submarines

The debate earlier this week contained this exchange:
ROMNEY: Our Navy is old -- excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me...
OBAMA: But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

It has since come out in numerous news sources that we actually have more bayonets than in 1916, that they were used in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we used horses actively in Afghanistan, and that we had submarines in 1916 (As did the Germans in sinking some of our ships leading up to our entry into WWI).

The most common response I've seen to this is that it's pedantic and misses the forest for the trees.  I disagree.  It would be pedantic to point out that Romney said 1917 (because by 1917 we had built more ships for WWI) and Obama would have been technically accurate about bayonets if he had also said 1917 (we drastically increased the size of the Army, and thus the number of bayonets, after entry into the war).

The problem with Obama's statement isn't the minor facts, it's that he's using the minor facts to show that his knowledge of modern combat is far superior to either Romney or the Defense Review Board that asked for more ships, thus the dismissive introduction about spending time looking at how the military works.  If Obama had spent the time he claims Romney needs to spend on "looking at how our military works" he would know that every one of our Marines still carries a bayonet, is trained to use them, and have used them in recent conflicts.  Worse his ignorance is practiced.  This isn't a line he came up with on the fly, he had prepared this response knowing that the question would be asked.  He could have justified his decision to hold the number of ships down by some example of how he believes we can adequately project power with the 285 ships we have, but he didn't.  He made a premeditated decision to instead portray Romney as a backwards ignoramus who is stuck in the days when we used bayonets and horses, not understanding that we still use bayonets and horses.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama's one point plan

In the debate last night President Obama accused Governor Romney that
Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.

I disagree with this characterization of Governor Romney's plan, but I'm more interested in Obama's plan:

  • Special rules for the GM bankruptcy to reward politically connected creditors over senior creditors
  • Over 1200 special exemptions to healthcare rules
  • Special loan and grant deals to politically connected green energy firms, several of questionable legality (such as the subordination of the US loans to Solyndra under private loans)

Who wants to have different sets of rules again?