Monday, March 22, 2010

Early Opinions on Passage

Just our luck: in January, we finally got a health insurance plan that we really like, and in March the federal government outlaws it.*

That's the kind of thing we expect folks to start waking up to in the weeks to come. From today's WSJ, here's a first-returns summary:

Mr. Obama and the Democrats have sold this takeover by promising that multiple benefits will follow: huge new subsidies for the middle class; lower insurance premiums for consumers, especially those in the individual market; vast reductions in the federal budget deficit and in overall health-care spending; a more competitive U.S. economy as business health-care costs decline; no reductions in Medicare benefits; and above all, in Mr. Obama's words, that "if you like your health-care plan, you keep your health-care plan."

We think all of this except the subsidies will turn out to be illusory, as most of the American public seems intuitively to understand. As recently as Friday, Caterpillar Inc. announced that ObamaCare will increase its health-care costs by $100 million in the first year alone, due to a stray provision about the tax treatment of retiree benefits. This will not be the only such unhappy surprise.

While the subsidies don't start until 2014, many of the new taxes and insurance mandates will take effect within six months. The first result will be turmoil in the insurance industry, as small insurers in particular find it impossible to make money under the new rules. A wave of consolidation is likely, and so are higher premiums as insurers absorb the cost of new benefits and the mandate to take all comers.

Liberals will try to blame insurers once again, but the public shouldn't be fooled. WellPoint, Aetna and the rest are from now on going to be public utilities, essentially creatures of Congress and the Health and Human Services Department. When prices rise and quality and choice suffer, the fault will lie with ObamaCare. . . .

We fought this bill so vigorously because we have studied government health care in other countries, and the results include much higher taxes, slower economic growth and worse medical care.

History and economics tell us this is a bad, bad thing that's happened. So, we guess that makes it "historic."
*Explanation: (a) our new plan has a high deductible and a Health Savings Account, which we like for its focus on protecting us from big expenses while allowing us to use our own money (before taxes!) for little expenses; (b) ObamaCare mandates "first dollar" coverage, which means that Uncle Sugar will pay the little expenses but tell us what we can and can't have; (c) while existing plans are grandfathered in (BHO: "If you like your current plan, you can keep it"), they'll last only as long as insurers decide there's money in them, as opposed to their new game of footsie with the feds.


Tom said...

Outrageous spending [massive debt incurred between 2001-2008], government encroachment of private lives [warrantless wiretapping], incredible government expansion [1,000 pages of federal regulation added every year, largest entitlement expansion in history, largest bureaucratic expansion in history], still going through with "it" despite public opinion against continuing "it" [war in Iraq] , and it's probably unconstitutional to boot [wiretapping, Gitmo, tribunals].

Thought I was talking about health care? Then join the tea partiers who are OBLIVIOUS to what has already taken place.

I have looked back through the archives of the SWNID's 2008 posts and did not find the relentless criticism of the Bush administration over these issues, like I do the Obama administration. I see criticism of the MSM, Democrats, Democratic Congress, and the like, but not the day after day attacks of President Bush. I must have missed them.

I know that the SWNID likes to give a cursory swing at the previous administration, but ...

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

"Fair and Balanced" is some other guy's slogan, and an ironic one at that.

But note yet again that the spending that was too high now is now permanently higher by an order of magnitude, that the regulations are multiplied by several orders of magnitude, that the very entitlement expanded by Bush is further expanded by Obama. "You do it too" is not an effective answer when the person who says that does the thing much, much more and much, much worse.

And, we hasten to add, that Obama has managed best what he has managed "Bush": the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not closing Gitmo, keeping warrantless wiretaps, not trying KSM in NYC, maintaining liquidity in the financial markets.

Need we point out yet again that--distinct from some loud conservatives--we aren't harping on constitutional issues (save the notion that insurance companies should be compelled to operate at a loss) or other doctrinaire points. We simply note that this is an expensive solution that won't solve anything because third-party payers plus wage-and-price controls are a combination that as a means of increasing supply and controlling costs defy every economic principle known to humankind.

We're not writing a civics textbook here. We don't say everything that needs to be said. But we deliberately don't say most of what you've said in paragraph 1.

We could explain how justification for continuing to prosecute a war against public opinion is different from enacting an entitlement against public opinion, or how the constitutionality of wartime measures is not as clear as all that, or how the excesses of two Bush terms are small when compared to what a Gore administration would have done (funniest line this week: "It's spring, or as Al Gore calls it, Global Warming." --Bill Clinton).

In the end, a public that can't decide whether to be clients or citizens is to blame, but at least they are rather less consigned to clienthood under Rs than under Ds.

Jim Shoes said...

Tom, your point over several posts seems to be that Republicans need to be better Republicans. How's that a defense of Obama?

Tom said...

I am not trying to defend Obama - I am trying to defend consistency. It is inconsistent to have turned a blind eye to 2001-2008 and then find outrage in 2009. I didn't want W. to bail out the banks or the auto companies, but he did, I didn't want Obama to buy GM, but he did.

We have had loose fiscal policy for the last decade, not just the last two years. And the substantial amount of spending in the last year has a correlation to the previous eight. Obama wouldn't have bought GM if W. would have let it fail. Why didn't W. leave the auto companies in a trash heap? Because - as he said (approximately) "the free market can't solve this". What?!? Sure it can, give it a shot.

So, I am for citizens being consistent when it comes to their praise or criticism of what the government does. I am for a Tea Party to have formed in 2002, not 2009. Since it wasn't formed before 2009, it can't be taken seriously.

I agree with Jon's last paragraph -it is a pox on both our houses. If this feels a little like Rome, Great Britain, or the Soviet Union...(complete your own thought).

As for Obama's use of Bush's tactics now that he is president, I am against it - consistent. He voted to (as well as McCain) give the president the authority to tap all domestic phone calls. Why? Because, he would like to have that power if he ever got into office - which he did.

Unconstitutional activities that produce good results are - wait for it - unconstitutional. The Citizens United vs. FEC case - I agree with the court's decision, even though I worry about the outcomes. However, a law that violates the Constitution can’t be upheld b/c the law prohibits bad outcomes – like more influence.

If the SWNID would like to join me on a rooftop and denounce W AND Obama's use of wiretaps, I would be more than happy to. While we are on the rooftop, we will denounce first the reckless spending of the 43rd president with the same intensity as Obama now receives. We will make sure that those listening have the proper context, so that they can put their George Washington halloween outfit back in the closet. Then we can move forward with criticizing 44. Bring a lunch. We might be there for some time.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say something.....

TARP was an idea to put liquidity in the market - it seemed the best course of action at the time - and appears to have eased the pain. It was not necessarily an ownership bail out (like GM) but a loan with strings (all loans have strings). Regardless - take a peek at (I reccomend the citizens report as a first step)and see from brother Tim who, what, where, and how the money came, went and is coming back. Bottom line - it was a one time solution (investment with a return) and not an onging entitlement albatross. Everyone loves to blame one side or the other.

One more point - the free market CAN solve "this" what ever "this" is (from Tom's points)- be it auto companies and the like. The problem is that the "sheeple" don't like the truth that the best course of action is sometimes closing a non-sustaing business because of the collateral damage.

I feel better now...nothing like writing comments to an emotionless machine to make you feel better....

Anonymous said...

Tom, I agree with you that outrageous spending is indeed outrageous, regardless who's in charge, but SWNID has repeatedly (probably moreso in the comments than in the postings) used the phrase "by orders of magnitude" this last year to contrast the excesses now vs. then. It's exponentially different. Pilate balls to ping pong balls. And there's even a tiny consolation to the fact that Bush was at least fulfilling his campaign promise with the drug entitlement, whereas with Obama we're likely going from the hope of middle class tax cuts for 95% of americans to the change of a VAT.

Also, let's not forget that conservative bloggers often found themselves pressed to defend Bush from what was perceived as relentless ridicule and second-guessing. Bush attempted to reform Social Security and reform Fannie/Freddie, to finish a war that was almost defunded and not almost prematurely declared lost, to defend the legitimacy of the intelligence services just trying to connect those dots -- all while he tried to bring some closure to the useless Plame short, the ridicule and swipes demanded a constant defense just to counter all the mischaracterizations that threatened all Republicans in midterms and in 2008. Obviously, SWNID failed at this, and what we got as a result was the large D majorities in Congress.


Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

What Matt said!

Last time: orders of magnitude, a.k.a. vote for the lesser of two spenders.

Jim Shoes, MD, CPA said...

Would this be a fair set of statements?

1. Democrats/center-left people get tired of being criticized for their irresponsible spending and denial of constitutional principles (narrowly interpreted) when it is obvious that Republicans/center-right people spend too much and violate constitutional principles (narrowly interpreted) too.

2. Republicans/center-right people get tired of being criticized for being heartless, incompetent, inconsistent, and influenced by special interests when it is obvious that Democrats/center-left people are all that also.

3. Everyone resents having to defend the kooky behavior of kooks who are aligned with the extremes of the political spectrum that happens to align at the far end of the side of the center where one stands.

If these principles are self-evidently true, then looking past rhetoric to substance seems to be in order. And as far as I can tell as I do tht, the healthcare bill will spend a lot of money attempting to defy the laws of economics while ignoring most of the sensible means of using economics to make healthcare more affordable and accessible.

Anyone want to take issue with that statement about the healthcare bill? I'll buy a Graeter's single dip for the person who does it with any degree of success without straying to and staying on an irrelevant point. Saying that the bill at least has a couple of things in it that or good, or that all the measures might just manage to work together as planned (like a Rube Goldberg contraption) does not count. If you resort to talking about how desperate the problem is or what a moral imperative it is to do Something Right Now, you owe me the ice cream. Saying that government from time to time needs to step in to correct markets is at best of debatable value, as it's patently obvious that prior government intervention played a significant role in creating the market distortions that currently restrict competition and keep costs opaque. So no ice cream for that, either.

You have my word as an honest gentle reader that I will pay off, and my word on that is more reliable than any estimate of cost or coverage made about the healthcare bill.

Tom said...

The lesser of two evils is still evil - Jerry Garcia

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

But still lesser, and refusing to make a choice won't make a difference. -- SWNID

Bryan D said...

the concluding SWNIDish response is a case in point of why my supervisor claims Americans cannot be idealist (and coyly implies are incapable of ethics as well). I for one maintain we can have our pragmatist cake and eat our idealism too.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Precisely, Bryan. Those who set pragmatism against idealism show themselves inwardly focused on their personal, ethical goodness more than externally focused on the at-least-partial realization of ideals in the real world, which is to say they care about making things at least a little better for some real people.

A certain famous and influential, though widely misunderstood, ethicist was very critical of those whose concern for their own purity did not lead them to act with love and grace to effect--or even accept--positive change for others.

Finally, the reason your supervisor can allege this with a modicum of cogency about Americans is that as a nation, only Americans have ideals. But you know that.