Monday, December 21, 2009

ObamaCare

Many have asked me my opinion of the health care bills that have now come to fruition and will probably be negotiated to a complete bill for the President to sign within a week. What better topic for Christmas blogging than the health and well being of our fellow citizens?

Though the critics derisively call this effort ObamaCare (hence my title), the truth is Obama has explicitly had little to do with it: he instructed Congress to come up with something, rather than dictating to them what to do. But he will likely sign into law what they send him, so ObamaCare needn't be derisive. It could actually be one of the smartest and best legacies he leaves us. No other President has worked so hard to make it happen, yet without trying to dictate the entire process.

And that even despite insane, un-Christian opposition from Republicans violating at least half of the Ten Commandments, from taking the Lord's name in vain to bearing false witness (they've been doing quite a lot of that); there's even been some occasional adultery. And certainly no love shown for their fellow man, much less the poor among them. All they talk about is money. It's as if the Pharisees have returned.

Be that as it may, I have despaired for a while of finding out just what Congress would do, because they could never agree on anything, so there was no bill to read. It kept changing every day. I'm not averse to actually looking through all several thousand pages of the bill. For those like me who have done that before, you'll know they include a good table of contents, definitions of terms, and a fairly logical organization, so you can get a gist quickly without having to read every word. But most of all, we all depend on honest experts to tell us what they see in there, so we can weigh whether it will be a net gain for America, or a bad idea.

I have now found the best available expert discussion of what's in these bills. I highly recommend all concerned citizens read the Center on Budget's analysis of the House and Senate Health Care Bills. No hype. No bullshit. No partisan spinning. Just the facts. There you'll see why the Republicans are lying when they say these bills contain no cost controlling measures. In actual fact, that's why they are so huge: they are almost entirely composed of cost controlling measures, in fact nearly every measure that experts have been recommending, and Congress ignoring, for the last ten years.

After reviewing their analysis I have to agree this bill will be a step forward for America. It will only be a first step. I have no problem with dumping abortion coverage (and other trivia like that), even the public option, because it's easy to assuage retards with moves like that and get the first step taken with their mollified support, and then get those things back in later (if they really are that important). Because what the rest of the bill accomplishes is amazing, and very definitely necessary. It should have all our support, even with all its compromises. There is only one respect in which a reasonable person might be against it, which I'll discuss below.

It's likely a public option will even get in this time: the House bill has a brilliant compromise, and it looks like that may get left in after reconciliation (when Congress "reconciles" the two bills, producing a single bill to send to the President). They basically took a page from the government reinvention philosophy: the government will simply hire a nonprofit insurance company as a contractor, maximizing flexibility (because the government can just shop around for a good performer, and drop a bad one, year by year, and never have to micromanage the operation of the company), and minimizing costs (since the nonprofit company will have no profit margin to pursue and yet every incentive to keep costs low to prevent the government switching to a new provider, while most of its operational costs will actually come from premiums and not the government, hence it won't be a fully "socialist" health care model, except insofar as poorer citizens get government subsidies, but in doing so the free market system is left intact as those buyers can choose freely which companies to spend their subsidies on, a good example of an effective mixed system, and exactly what Republicans want to do to the education system, making them hypocrites for calling this socialism, but not that).

There have been some rumblings about this bill being unconstitutional. It isn't. Though it is a clever reinvention of what the Founders had in mind, the same can be said of our entire status quo. For they never envisioned an income tax or national parks system, either, or Medicare or Social Security or FEMA, or even, gasp, a standing army. So until constitutional purists call for the dismantling of the U.S. Army (oh, and of course, the Air Force) and the tearing up of the interstate highway system, Constitutional purity is just a lame argument against anything else.

The Constitution grants Congress power to regulate interstate trade (and to spend money in support of the "general welfare of the United States"), and all health care insurance companies engage in interstate trade (and health care regulation, like food and vehicle safety, is definitely in the interests of our "general welfare," even more so due to the severe harm health care costs are causing our economic security). Technically the Feds couldn't regulate a health insurance company that only ever sells policies within a single state, but since no one can make any money that way, it's a non issue. If such a company exists it could take their case to court (which has a mixed record of supporting even well-established states' rights), but since they are unlikely to be able to compete without becoming a part of the Federal system (e.g. to get customers who have subsidy credits to spend, to participate in the hugely cost-cutting Federal universal administration system and policy exchange, etc.), I doubt we'll see this happen.

The second challenge to its constitutionality is the fact that it appears to operate through a per capita tax (the one thing you might not like about it, as I'll discuss below), which is expressly forbidden by Article 1, Section 9 (paragraph d). However, the bill actually taxes not per capita, but the failure to purchase a product, thus it taxes behavior (i.e. you only pay the tax if you don't buy health insurance, so most people won't be paying the tax, so it isn't a per capita tax). Congress effectively (just not explicitly) has this right under Section 8 (paragraphs a and c). It is in effect constitutionally equivalent to taxing the purchase or conveyance of a product (only the exact opposite in form, but such a thing is not prohibited anywhere in Section 9). The House bill even structures this as an increase in income tax bracket, which has explicit constitutionality under the 16th Amendment.

This is the one provision of the bill that could affect you negatively: you will now be required to pay for health care, or else pay a high tax every year. But by forcing more buyers into the market, combined with all the other measures in the bill that increase competition and reduce costs, you will see health insurance available to you at much lower rates than you thought possible. All the experts are hugely underestimating this. Just look at what happened to automobile insurance in California, once it became mandated. You will soon be buying the equivalent of Geico health insurance: cut-rate, high-quality, limited service policies.

Though we will have to wait for reconciliation to see what the final law is, the House version assigns a graduated tax rate for non-compliers up to 2.5% of income (or $1250 a year per $50,000 of income), while exempting some people from this tax altogether. The Senate version has a 2% version of the same arrangement for some taxpayers, and for others a flat tax of $750 per individual (with a ceiling of $2250 per family), and other limitations. Since currently health care premiums far exceed $1250 a year (you will be lucky to find one for even as little as $4000 a year), insurance companies will have a huge incentive to reign in costs. But if they don't, it may be cheaper to pay the tax, in which event we'll get higher taxes and no health care. That's why the public option is a good idea: if private companies won't get affordable, the government can ensure a public one can. Nevertheless, you might be validly apprehensive about this new tax. Will you get stuck with it?

Probably not. For this problem will be greatly mitigated by the federal subsidy. If your family earns less than $88,000 or so a year, you will get a subsidy offsetting the cost of a policy. So the poor will easily be able to avoid paying the non-compliance tax. Only the upper middle class might find themselves in a situation of preferring to pay the tax, but it's precisely that bracket of society that drives the marketing decisions of insurance companies, hence if they start opting out, insurance companies will be compelled to get them back. So overall, the tax shouldn't hurt anyone. Those who end up paying it (if that be anyone at all) will easily afford it. Because the rest of us will get our insurance more or less paid by the government. Although how this actually works out in practice remains to be seen, my own analysis leads me to believe there is little to worry about: the worst that can happen is that our taxes go up slightly while those less fortunate than ourselves get health care. It's hard to put my mild annoyance ahead of that net benefit. If it becomes intolerable for too many, we can always repeal it.

And that's the only negative there is. In every other respect, it's all good. The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that this bill, even after reconciliation, will actually lower the Federal budget from here on out, even with the subsidies. In other words, it not only will cost nothing, it will save money. It is therefore win-win for the United States and the people: both the uninsured (who will at long last be able to afford insurance) and the insured (who will at long last start to see their premiums go down rather than up). The only losers will be fat cat rich people who will be taxed the equivalent of pocket change, and private insurance companies who can't get their shit together and compete. They will be driven out of business (and good riddens to them), while genuinely competitive companies will get costs down and keep making money. Health care providers won't see any real change at all. They might suffer slight reductions in profits, but many aren't for-profit anyway, and those that are are only seeing bloated profits by engaging in practices they should be ashamed of anyway. And there will be no change in quality of care. To the contrary, it will improve under this system. For one very important reason...


One of the biggest elements of this Health Care bill that falls right into what I defend as an essential way to run a government in Sense and Goodness without God (pp. 381-84) is extensive provision for valid scientific research and field observation and experimentation to collect information on what works, and efficiently, and what doesn't, so reforms can be made based on a sound empirical, scientific basis, and the bill gives the appropriate agencies power to continually enact reforms on that basis. That makes it the first rational health care system in human history. For even the socialist systems of Canada and Europe don't even do half of the common sense things this bill enacts.

So I recommend you go ahead and write your Congressman and Senators and tell them this is a good bill after all, and you won't punish them for backing it.  It needn't be perfect. It just needs to be better than what we have now. It just needs to be a good strong step in the right direction. We can improve it later.

36 comments:

David Fitzgerald said...

"It needn't be perfect. It just needs to be better than what we have now. It just needs to be a good strong step in the right direction. We can improve it later."

You said it!

The Nerd said...

I could get upset at you calling abortion coverage "trivia". I could get upset that there's no public option, or that I may possibly be forced to take on an extra expense that I cannot afford, simply for daring to remain alive another year. But most likely I am too poor to matter to these people. Most likely I'll be one of the many allowed to slip through the cracks without being taxed for it, and life will go on as if nothing had happened. I'll still have no health care. My parents will still blame this bill for how high their premium was raised for 2010. And life will go on.

Mike said...

Great post Richard.

freethoughtguy said...

We all have little control in how "ObamaCare" pans out, but let's hope for the best. And we all must remember that we DO have control, to a large degree, on our own health. (We can minimize needing "care" if we take care of ourselves!)

B. Dewhirst said...

One major problem with this lowering costs as-written at present, assuming no (or a very weak) public option:

At present, health insurers may collude to fix prices.

Based on who funds the Democratic Party, I am not optimistic. I hope you're right, but I live in Massachusetts-- and let me say... paying 50% of my admittedly meager income, monthly, for adequate health insurance (and co-pays, etc.) is not good.

Bart said...

Richard

I am sorry to see this site become overtly political. It would be a huge mistake to assume that fiscal conservatives and constitutionalists are religious. I write for American Thinker and Fresh Conservative, and I am an atheist.

Your analysis of the consitutional principles is completely misguided. Congress has no authority in its enumerated powers to engage in mandating a particular kind of health care, nor as you mention, many of the other programs it has engaged in. These are usurpations of its authority and clearly unconstitutional. The general welfare statement is in the preamble to the constitution indicating the hopes of the framers. It is not part of the law, nor does it grant any powers to congress which are not enumerated specifically in article 1. Any suggestion otherwise is wishful thinking, but a type of thinking necessary for the imposition of a tyrannical system such as socialism.

There are plenty of countries out there which don't recognize the basic rights of individual's to act in their own interest and to own property without fear of theft under color of law. The U.S. is the only country in history to specifically set up a system for the guarantees of individual liberty. With all its faults, there has never been a better system proposed.

For more on the dangers of the move to socialism, see my article "He's a Nazi" in the archives of Freshconservative.com from August 17, 2009.

Bart Willruth

mikeduncan said...

Bart,

Before you critique the man on constitutional grounds, read the text again. Article 1, Section 8 is the general welfare provision.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Interesting. Thanks for the input.

Bart said...

Mikeduncan said, "Before you critique the man on constitutional groundsk, read the text again. Article 1, Section 8 is the general welfare provision."

Mike, this isn't the best venue for a constitutional debate, but I would point out that the constitution contains three legal entities: The federal government (the United States), the states themselves, and the people. The clause of which you speak is dilineating the powers enumerated to congress for the general welfare of the United States. The enumerated powers which follow all address issues dealing with the governing of that entity. Nothing in the enumerated powers remotely involves the welfare of the people either as groups or as individuals. It is to the entity of the union of states called the United States that the congress exercises power.

The tenth amendment clarifies this issues by stating "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the prople." All three entities are identified in this amendment in the bill of rights and should preclude you or anyone else from imputing the power to congress to act beyond its enumerated powers. This would include acting on behalf of the states or the people.

Congress has virtually no constitutional role in the governance of the people or the states beyond defence, imposing taxes on foreign goods, stopping insurrrection, punishing counterfeiters of the coin of the United States, or keeping commerce between the states unimpeded.

General Welfare then, as you and Richard have construed it, is an invalid concept insofar as the well being of individuals is concerned.

B. Dewhirst said...

If this bill contains meaningful cost-control measures, why have health care industry stocks risen since it became apparent the bill would definitely leave the Senate, and why are health insurance stocks up 25% since Sen. Liebermann promised to filibuster on Oct 25th?

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/12/22/health_care/index.html

I'm not a wisdom-of-markets guy, but the sorts of people who invest in the stock market are the sorts of people I expect to have access to teams of experts able to determine whether an important piece of legislation will increase or decrease the value of a company.

Richard Carrier said...

The Nerd: Actually, the bill won't go into full practical effect until 2011. But come back here in December 2011 and give us a report on whether you've gotten covered, at how much a year, and whether it's by a public option (or whether you are being taxed, or slipped through altogether), and whether your parents' premiums actually went up--and indeed, whether abortion coverage hasn't by then actually been enacted.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... One major problem with this lowering costs as-written at present, assuming no (or a very weak) public option: At present, health insurers may collude to fix prices.

Not legally.

And there will be a public option: I believe the Senate has agreed to reconcile the House version in. That option is not weak. It's actually better than a government run insurance company. And it cannot collude (nor would it have any reason to).

In reality, even without a public option, the health care exchange will eliminate collusion as surely as you don't see any in the airline industry. It's basic Game Theory: a colluder has little to lose and too much to gain by underbidding it's competition. Thus, just as there has been no collusion in car insurance or airfares, but instead smart companies like Geico and Jet Blue stole the market by outbidding for customers, there is unlikely to be any in the health care market. There are too many competitors, too much money to make by not colluding, and it's too easy to get into the market (most of the administrative infrastructure and costs will be provided by the government, making it relatively easy for any capital company to get into the game). These factors make collusion far too unlikely. And even somehow they beat all these odds, collusion is illegal. So We the People will just take them to court.

Based on who funds the Democratic Party, I am not optimistic. I hope you're right, but I live in Massachusetts-- and let me say... paying 50% of my admittedly meager income, monthly, for adequate health insurance (and co-pays, etc.) is not good.

You must be doing something terribly wrong. If you earn less than $32,000 you should be getting state subsidies (and you definitely will under the federal bill), and if you are earning more, there is no way you are paying $16,000 a year on health insurance. Indeed, I just went on your own state's online insurance exchange myself and in less than five minutes found a plan for $257 a month, just $3000 a year. Under the federal law, most of that should be covered by a federal credit (unless you earn far more than $32,000). If you are earning just $6000 a year in income, under the Federal law you will pay nothing at all. But even now, if you are earning a lot more than $6000 a year, you should not be paying anywhere near 50% of your income of health insurance. There are numerous plans in Mass. for far less.

Richard Carrier said...

Bart said... I am sorry to see this site become overtly political.

You're a weird fellow. You expect a private blog, by a philosopher, to avoid politics? Politics is the most essential topic of discussion, education, and debate in modern life. As I argue in Sense and Goodness without God (in which I devote fifty pages to politics), philosophy and politics are throughly intertwined, and no moral life can be lived in ignorance of major political debate.

It would be a huge mistake to assume that fiscal conservatives and constitutionalists are religious. I write for American Thinker and Fresh Conservative, and I am an atheist.

I am a fiscal conservative and a constitutionalist (just not a radical purist like you). So you hardly need offer yourself as an example.

I only mentioned religion in the context of congressional hypocrisy, not constitutionality, i.e. I was talking about actual Republican members of Congress, and their most prominent media demagogues, not one of whom to my knowledge is an avowed atheist. Hence my referencing Christian values (and only in that context).

Granted, if you believe in disregarding the welfare of your fellow man, and are fully in favor of stealing, adultery, and bearing false witness, then those remarks won't apply to you. And it is at least true neither of us have a problem with taking the Lord's name in vain. But that's all moot, since my Christian comparison wasn't about anyone but congress and their voiceboxes.

Richard Carrier said...

The Constitution Says What?

Bart said... Your analysis of the consitutional principles is completely misguided. Congress has no authority in its enumerated powers to engage in mandating a particular kind of health care, nor as you mention, many of the other programs it has engaged in. These are usurpations of its authority and clearly unconstitutional.

No, they are not "clearly unconstitutional" at all. That’s precisely why so many similar acts of Congress (like Social Security and the establishment of FEMA and a standing army) have survived judicial review. You are confusing what you want to be the case, with what actually, in historical jurisprudence, is the case.

The general welfare statement is in the preamble to the constitution indicating the hopes of the framers. It is not part of the law, nor does it grant any powers to congress which are not enumerated specifically in article 1. Any suggestion otherwise is wishful thinking, but a type of thinking necessary for the imposition of a tyrannical system such as socialism.

Your exposed ignorance on this topic already discredits you as an authority as to what is "constitutional."

As you already got bitch slapped for not knowing, Article 1, Section 8, paragraph a grants Congress power to "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States." Point blank.

Having already demonstrated you didn't know this, you then try to make shit up when Mike Duncan pwned you over it. You want this to be no place for a constitutional debate? Certainly not with someone who doesn't know what he's talking about.

To wit...

Richard Carrier said...

Oh, the Constitution Says That!

Bart said... The enumerated powers which follow all address issues dealing with the governing of that entity.

"That entity" being the whole United States. In other words, us (per the Preamble that you didn't actually read).

The national health care bill provides for the general welfare of all the United States. Paragraph r grants Congress power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers" so if the health care bill is deemed by Congress necessary and proper to provide for the general welfare of the United States, it's constitutional.

Moreover, nowhere does it say Congress can't tax people who don't have health care, or set any kind of restrictions similar to that. So as long as it uses those taxes to promote the general welfare, that tax is constitutional. Nor does it say anywhere that Congress can't provide benefits to people to promote the general welfare.

And most important of all, paragraph c gives Congress explicit power to regulate commerce among the states, so paragraph r again gives Congress power to enact any law it deems "necessary and proper" for regulating interstate commerce in health insurance. The health care bill does exactly that (indeed, that's almost entirely what it does).

Nothing in the enumerated powers remotely involves the welfare of the people either as groups or as individuals. It is to the entity of the union of states called the United States that the congress exercises power.

There is no relevant difference. The navy (paragraph m) and post office (paragraph g) do not serve or protect "States" they serve and protect the people in them. Paragraph h likewise empowers Congress to protect the welfare of "authors and inventors," not "States," and that in order to "promote the progress of science and useful arts," which progress is not sought to benefit "States" but, again, the people in them--indeed, the people as a whole. Ditto the coining of money and regulating weights and measures (par. e) and the combating of piracy (par. j). The power to enact bankruptcy law (par. d) very explicitly "involves the welfare of the people as groups and individuals" and applies specifically to people, and not states. But most of all, again, the commerce clause says nothing about only concerning commerce that state governments engage in: it clearly intends all commerce, which must necessarily include commerce among people.

You might chafe at the fact that the commerce and welfare clauses (esp. coupled with the sweeping powers clause of par. r) are vague enough not to explicitly exclude things like the present health care bill (just as it has been too vague to exclude things like FEMA, interstate highways, Social Security, and a standing army), but the fact is, they are that vague. Constitutional purists have no case anymore. You might want to go back to some imagined meaning of the original Founders and institute a novel "strict constructionalism" but what you want and what the Supreme Court has ruled constitutional are worlds apart now. As a matter of well-established law, nothing in the present Health Care bill is unconstitutional. What you want has nothing to with this.

Richard Carrier said...

Rewriting the Constitution is Not Strict Constructionism

Congress has virtually no constitutional role in the governance of the people or the states beyond defence, imposing taxes on foreign goods, stopping insurrection, punishing counterfeiters of the coin of the United States, or keeping commerce between the states unimpeded.

Nice attempt to rewrite the constitution. Isn't it delusionally funny how "regulate commerce" becomes in your mind just "unimpeded commerce"?

Also funny how you left out half the enumerated powers, the very ones that refute your claimed trend. Like establishing federal courts, a post office, federal roads, patents and copyrights, bankruptcy law, and weights and measures.

But all this is moot, since it remains a fact that "provide for...the general welfare of the United States" is simply not precise enough to exclude a health care bill that provides for the welfare of the citizens of the United States. Indeed, the distinction you imagine is absurd, as if the defense clause only empowered Congress to defend the States (as legal entities) but not the people in them!

The U.S. is the only country in history to specifically set up a system for the guarantees of individual liberty.

I would be wary of making blanket generalizations like that. Have you actually read the constitutions of every first world country?

For more on the dangers of the move to socialism...

Please no black and white thinking here. We are already a socialist country, and we've been doing fine. Indeed, all the trouble we've had can be credited almost entirely to a recent disastrously managed war we shouldn't have fought and didn't pay for (we borrowed hundreds of billions instead, putting this nation at grave risk of fiscal crisis, rather than paying for the war with a war tax as any honest fiscal conservative would insist), and a banking crisis in the private free market sector. If you took those two things away, we'd be in damn good shape right now.

Certainly, Marxism is a self-destructive model of government, and a completely socialist economy will never work, but neither will a completely capitalist one--as the recent banking crisis demonstrates, and as history teaches in countless other cases when business is given free reign to operate unregulated. In contrast, well-managed socialist welfare institutions (like, say, the military hospital system), demonstrate the effective integration of capitalist and socialist principles to produce an overall net good.

Ideology is thus worth less than shit. Only the facts teach. And they teach us there is no good in either total socialism or total capitalism. We thus have to find the optimal peak between those two extremes. Anyone who does not acknowledge that is simply not in touch with reality.

B. Dewhirst said...

On Marxism:

Marx didn't really have a political platform, or a model for how to administrate a national economy. He had criticisms, and some bullet points.

Now, I'm not arguing that one can treat his manifesto or Capital like a bible, and create a functional state by going with some truer and more fundamental interpretation. (Actually, the opposite.) This, however, does not automatically discredit all Marxists-- especially if they're Marxists because they share some of his criticisms. (That said, I'm no Marxist.)

A better comedian than I could make something out of your comments and Marx's notions on dialectic, of course ;-)

The Nerd said...

Richard: I'll try to remember to report in. Of course things can change for the better - I rather hope they will. I'll be the first to say "OMG, look! They're Doing It Right!" I just don't believe it will happen within the next 2 years as opposed to 20.

Bart: "I am sorry to see this site become overtly political." It's all political. If you want to pretend that politics doesn't intersect with every other part of your daily life, don't bother using the internet (which is itself involved in the politics of net neutrality, to say the least).

Bart said...

Richard,

Regarding the purpose of the constitution in general and the commerce clause in particular, it would be useful to refer to the Federalist Papers.

The constitution was set up to specifically limit the powers of the federal government. That which isn't specifically given to the authority of Congress is thereby withheld. Your view, while representative of the dominant perspective of the Progressives in the last 100 years, is clearly contrary to the purpose of the constitution. If your position is correct that congress can pass whatever laws it deems useful, the concept of limited government is moot. We then have the tyranny which the constitution was intended to circumvent. Sadly, I agree with you that we have become socialized. Once on that road, recovering individual rights is a supremely difficult project.

Don't blame the banking crisis on capitalism. We haven't had anything remotely similar to capitalism in many decades. The problems in the financial markets find their genesis in government interference. Fiat currency, FDIC regulations, lending requirements, Federal Reserve policies, etc., all work together to cause failures in markets which would be self-correcting if allowed to function freely. Naturally, when the government-caused failures occur, the blame is put on the regulated industries with calls for even more regulation.

In capitalism, money must be of an objective market based commodity such as gold. Property rights must be absolute. Confiscation and redistribution must be prohibited. Decisions made by business must be freely made by the owners thereof without governmental force to act at its directive. Contracts between individuals or business must be left to the free negotiations of those entities. It is the role of government to enforce them, not to define them. When the opposite occurs, we have instead a mixed economy with striking similarities to Fascism or National Socialism. Once in place, the slide into tyranny is certain and will accelerate.

B. Dewhirst said...

On an exemption from restrictions on collusion in the health care industry:

I'll see if I can find the specific law, to refer to.

As a counter-example to auto-rates going down when mandatory:

With a different structure to the system, rates went up (or stayed high, I'm not old enough to remember which) in Massachusetts with mandatory insurance.

B. Dewhirst said...

somewhat easier than I thought, once I formed the right google string:

"As the Senate prepares to consider comprehensive health care reform legislation, Leahy introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act to repeal the antitrust exemption that was established in the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act.

http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200909/091709a.html

And yes, an antitrust exemption is slightly different than what I said earlier, but it was what I was imperfectly remembering. So long as they've got such an exemption, a mandate looks to me like a problem.

We'll see what the final bill looks like, and we'll see what the results are in a few years.

Mark said...

THIS IS WHAT A FRIEND SAID WHEN I SENT THIS TO HIM:


"We tend to find the information to support our pre-conceived notions. I suspect that is what you've done.

Here's an article on Bloomberg about this bill

Budget Office Rebuts Democratic Claims on Medicare (Update1) - Bloomberg.com

And below is a quote:

The nonpartisan agency said the $246 billion it projected the legislation would save Medicare can’t both finance new programs and help pay future expenses for elderly covered under the federal program.

Nor could those savings be used to extend the solvency of Medicare, set to run out of money in 2017, the budget office said in a letter to Senate Republicans.

Seems to me the Dems are only giving half truths. Assuming they will actually make the cuts in Medicare (how many years have they delayed the cuts in reimbursements to physicians), this money will then be used to help pay for a new entitlement. According to the CBO, there's not enough money to do that.

It's the same as if you were to take $1,000 you were going to use to pay bills from your checking account and put it into your savings account and then go around stating you've saved $1,000. All the while you know you're going to have to put it back into the checking account to cover the bills. What's worse is the fact that the supposed savings from Medicare are only a fraction of the entire cost of the bill.

And what about the states that got favors for Medicaid? Why should those few states not have to bear ANY burden while all the other states are going to have to increase expenditures for NEW mandates (that means it's on top of the current mandates)? Again, while the likes of Nebraska and Louisiana will not have to cover these expenses. So where do these extra dollars come from at the state level? Higher taxes, plain and simple. But not for Nebraska and Louisiana.

I don't care if you're a Republican, Democrat or Independent, it's not right. And the Dems can get away with this fuzzy math because they know the majority won't do any research.

Please tell me you are more of an intelligent thinker than to read the information from the link you posted and take it for fact. Do you realize the founder of the Center, worked for both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? And you still think there is no partisan from this group?

The Founder won the Heinz award in 2008. What is the Heinz Award? More importantly, who is behind the Heinz Award? None other than Teresa Heinz Kerry. The wife of liberal Senator John Kerry (and I happen to believe she is more liberal than he is). You still think the Center is an unbiased organization?

I, for one, don't believe there is any unbiased reporting. We all have our own biases and I just don't think we can check them at the door. It comes out in everything we do. It shapes our viewpoints on EVERYTHING. My viewpoint is that this government of ours always underestimates the cost of ANY program. And because of this, I believe we will see even more debt if either form of the bills passes and is signed into law. In addition, we will see an increase in premiums for our health insurance. We only have to look at the states with guarantee issue to realize this."

Loren said...

Like so many other interpreters of sacred books, Bart makes the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers in the likeness of his beliefs. Xenophanes would have gotten a chuckle out of that.

The US Constitution was composed as a charter for a stronger government than the existing one, which was based on the Articles of Confederation. That existing one was as wimpy as Bart might want; it did not even have the power to tax.

Property-rights absolutism is a utopian idea that founders in real-world situations, as so many other utopian ideas do. Property-rights absolutism would mean that one has an absolute right to interfere with the travels of others over one's property, which would make it next to impossible to build good roads. That was recognized 2500 years ago by the authors of the Twelve Tables of Rome, which stated that property owners must either maintain roads on their property for others' travels or else let others travel where they wished.

Furthermore, Bart seems to be saying that business managements must be exempt from compliance with all laws, because demand for such compliance is a form of regulation.

In some places, Bart seems to be advocating states' rights, but would he really like that if it produced things that he does not like? Like a patchwork of 50 sets of regulations instead of 1 Federal set. Or "blue states' rights", with state governments doing lots of things that he dislikes.

Bart said...

Loren is correct that the Constitution was meant to strengthen the federal government vis a vis the Articles of Confederation.

However, the Constitution was meant to limit the powers of the federal government. Neither Richard nor apparently Loren seems to recognize this. According to previous posts, Richard seems to think that congress may pass any law it deems useful for the well being of the United States. Clearly, this is not the intent of the Constitution (see 10th amendment). Such broad-based authority would be no different than that exercised by the Politboro or the Reichstag. It would allow a tyranny. Is this what you want?

It is the duty of every elected congressman and president to defend and uphold the constitution. When both the executive and legislative branches fail to honor that oath and the judicial branch refuses to adhere to the Constitution in its reasoning, we have the consolidated government that the framers feared. In light of recent history, their fears were warranted.

Bart

Loren said...

Brad makes Godwin arguments by invoking Fascism and National Socialism. But those regimes used military and police power to exercise their control, the sort of thing that the right wing wants more, more, more of -- except when directed at them.

Brad, do you really think that the Gestapo had been big on respecting the rights of the accused? Or are the only accused people with rights US right-wingers and people they like?

Loren said...

Oops, I meant "Bart" instead of "Brad".

I remember when Reagan-era Attorney General Ed Meese claimed that when one is accused of something, then that means that one is guilty of it. But when he himself got into trouble, he very, very quickly discovered the rights of the accused.

CJCalgirl said...

Richard, Good post! Some of the respondents seem a bit 'Ayn Rand' to me, and while I enjoyed her books and appreciate that her philosophy came out of the Russian revolution and shaded her conclusions, ( I truly loved what she said in Atlas Shrugged about the meaning of money through one of her male characters.) The flaw in Rand is that she holds no affection, or even respect for the weak, old, or damaged in society and therefore removes herself from societal responsibility. This is also an impractical stance since the strength and health and intellect of each individual directly affects the health and stability of a society. We lag behind most first-world nations in education, healthcare, and intellectual honesty (as proved by our nations' religiousity) Keep going!! I am a nearly new fan and it is wonderful to find like-minded folks. Sincerely, CJ

Bart said...

Loren,

All who are accused of criminal activity deserve the presumption of innocence in trial. We are on the same page, at least there.

Re: allusions to Fascism and National Socialism, I would refer you to my article "He's a Nazi" from Aug. 17 in the archives at freshconservative.com. In brief, I am not therein comparing the U.S. situation with wartime Italy and Germany nor with xenophobia and the holocaust. Rather, I am comparing the political/economic models of Fascism and National Socialism with their collectivist/totalitarian premises which they used to create a system of nanny state care. They worked for publicly funded retirement, publicly funded health care, wage controls, profit controls, banking controls, monetary controls, rent controls, job guarantees; all for the general welfare of Der Volk. The bureaucracy was bloated. Every facet of human activity was regulated. There was a clear resemblance between those systems and the New Deal in pre-war America, and officials of those governments took not of it, praised Roosevelt, and copied some of his agenda as he did theirs. One would be very hard pressed to find fundamental differences between that which the U.S. has evolved into and pre-war Italy and Germany.

Progressivism is the American version of the philosophy of Fascism. Like it or not, the growing power of the federal government is rapidly removing our individual rights in the name of fairness and the greater good (greater than the individual). This is not to be laid at the feet of only one party. Progressivism animates both, Dems more so than Rep., but both are complicit in the abrogation of constitutional rule and limitations upon the federal government.

Bart

Loren said...

Bart, your Nazi-baiting is absolutely stupid and baseless -- and presented without a shred of evidence. Several other nations have lots of welfare statism without being totalitarian hellholes.

Also, the Nazis had been very big on highway construction, so why don't you give yourself a hate-on for that? Yes, they even impressed one of their conquerors enough to induce him to push for the Interstate highway system. You can read Dwight Eisenhower's memoirs some time if you don't believe me.

The Nerd said...

*Ahem!* Godwin! *Koff! Koff!*

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... So long as they've got such an exemption, a mandate looks to me like a problem.

Except the exemption was removed by the current health care bill. Hence no problem.

[HR 3962, passed and now in conference, SEC. 262. RESTORING APPLICATION OF ANTITRUST LAWS]

Richard Carrier said...

The Nerd said... Of course things can change for the better - I rather hope they will. I'll be the first to say "OMG, look! They're Doing It Right!" I just don't believe it will happen within the next 2 years as opposed to 20.

Oh, I quite agree with you. Everything will be flawed--even the present health care bill (once they finally hash out a final text). It will indeed be more like 20 years before most of the kinks are worked out of initiatives like that one. And even that assumes the system functions to remove the kinks at all, which IMO will be a function of how long we keep rational people in office like Obama who support government reinvention principles and efficiency reviews and are otherwise at least slowly responsive to perceived defects in a system, rather than ignorantly sticking their head in the sand and pretending nothing is wrong or nothing can be done about it (which is what had been done the previous eight years--just imagine if we'd been making progress those eight years instead of stagnating in our own bullshit).

Richard Carrier said...

Bart said... Regarding the purpose of the constitution in general and the commerce clause in particular, it would be useful to refer to the Federalist Papers.

But legally irrelevant. You are again confusing what you want to be the case, with what legally is the case. I'm only talking about the latter.

--

As to what should be the case (since you seem so confused you only ever talk about that), what some guys thought two hundred years ago really can't be heeded anymore--we know ten thousand times more than they did, and face ten thousand problems they could never have even conceived, much less anticipated. Hence we need to move forward, not backward, when using and amending the Constitution to effect a present government. That's what I want. But that's just a difference of political philosophy between us, not of legal reality. The legal reality is exactly as I stated.

Don't blame the banking crisis on capitalism. We haven't had anything remotely similar to capitalism in many decades. The problems in the financial markets find their genesis in government interference.

Then you don't know what you are talking about. Lack of regulation of the derivatives market was the lynchpin cause. Had that regulation gone forward ten years ago (when it was first advocated), the current crisis would never have occurred--and that's not speculation, I can draw a straight clear line from premise to conclusion on that one. Indeed, the opponents of that regulation spouted the same bullshit you are: that unregulated markets will regulate themselves. That has been disproven time and time again, and never once confirmed empirically. It is thus a form of fundamentalist faith, not an empirically warranted conclusion.

To see the whole fiasco as it really happened, watch Frontline's documentary "Warning."

In capitalism, money must be of an objective market based commodity such as gold.

That's stupid. Money is like any other commodity: it can have a fiduciary value without being tied to any secondary commodity. Painted paper is no objectively different than blocks of metal: supply and demand control it's value, same way either way. You need to take some courses in economics. What you are spouting sounds like the same unscientific, ill-informed nonsense of the Randroids.

Property rights must be absolute.

Why? Any answer you give must be a factually true premise for the conclusion to be true, and it must be well proven empirically for you to be warranted in believing that premise, hence that conclusion. I doubt you have done any of this. You just bought an armchair philosophy whole and let the baby drown in the bathwater.

Confiscation and redistribution must be prohibited.

If there can be no confiscation, there can be no taxes. How then do we pay for courts and cops?

Or roads or post offices or armies? Or do you advocate eliminating the explicit Constitutional provision for those things?

Think things through, and your ideology makes less and less sense.

Decisions made by business must be freely made by the owners thereof without governmental force to act at its directive.

The history of worker safety laws proves the contrary.

Contracts between individuals or business must be left to the free negotiations of those entities.

They essentially are. What interference in this are you complaining about?

When the opposite occurs, we have instead a mixed economy with striking similarities to Fascism or National Socialism.

So you think America in 2010 is just like Nazi Germany? Can you smell your own bullshit?

Once in place, the slide into tyranny is certain and will accelerate.

It's been in place for two hundred years. Where's this slide you're talking about? The acceleration?

Theories flatly refuted by experience should be abandoned, not retained.

Richard Carrier said...

For those out of the loop, Godwin's Law should be required reading. :-)

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... As a counter-example to auto-rates going down when mandatory: With a different structure to the system, rates went up (or stayed high, I'm not old enough to remember which) in Massachusetts with mandatory insurance.

The question is (once we ascertain the facts are as we say, which I did a second ago), if Massachusetts mandated auto insurance and insurance went up, while California mandated auto insurance and insurance went down, what did they do differently? And does the current health care bill commit the same error or not? The differences have been analyzed and it looks to me like the Massachusetts law was incomprehensibly stupid (I can barely make sense of it), while the California law was simple and intelligent.

It is notable that what happened in California was almost identical to what's happening now with nationwide health insurance: in the 80s premiums climbed through the roof with no sign of stopping and even good drivers couldn't get insured, regulation went into effect (including the mandatory provision), and everything has since been fine (rates are down by half, accounting for inflation, and insurance is affordable). The health care bills now being reconciled appear to have more in common with the California auto insurance law than the Massachusetts one, but the Massachusetts law is so strange it's hard to say if it committed any errors that might also be buried in the health care bills somewhere (which are certainly, of necessity, far more complicated than California auto insurance law).

But on balance it looks like the health care law doesn't commit the same mistakes. For example, one notable difference is that the Massachusetts law is state-totalitarian (i.e. retaining almost no free market elements), while the California law is intelligently mixed (finding a good balance between regulation and free market operation), exactly like both national health care bills.

Richard Carrier said...

Mark said... Here's an article on Bloomberg about this bill...

Notice how the text you quoted contains no actual facts, only speculations and projections, claiming they expect it will cost more than Congress claims (which is irrelevant to my blog even if true, since I said nothing about that), and not actually discussing any of the actual contents of the bills. It is standard Republican balderdash to claim Medicare and Social Security will "run out of funds" at some politically suspicious date. Al Franken rather brilliantly refuted that nonsense with hard statistical facts in The Truth (with Jokes).