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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘medicare’

How I Stopped Fearing the Tea Party Apocalypse and Started to Love It

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

The most memorable early executive act on the part of the newly elected President Barack Obama, for whom I voted in 2008, was to embrace his predecessor’s economic stimulus package, push it up to $800 billion and give it to all the many speculators and fat cats who had caused the collapse in the first place.

As far as I was concerned, this was an act of class betrayal of an enormous magnitude. The White House and the loyal media bombarded us with the notion that if we dared permit sick, corrupt financial institutions to meet their natural demise it would mean the end of civilization. They were—so we were told—just too big to fail. Millions of Americans could go underwater with their properties – that we weren’t afraid of, but if AG stock holders were left at the end of the day with what amounted to so much useless paper – that would have been catastrophic.

What Obama should have done back then, which would have surely brought us over the hump in a couple of years—instead of schlepping a delusional recovery for the better part of a decade—was to hand out trillions of dollars to local municipalities, so they would in turn give them to their citizens for make-work. Dig ditches, mow lawns, fix bridges, write poetry, I don’t care. It wasn’t about the end product – it was about getting money into people’s hands so the economy would be resurrected not on Wall Street, but in the thousands of towns and hamlets across America. Because when you give a poor man a paycheck, he goes right away and pays for food, clothing, rent. It’s the best distribution system known to man. If it took ten trillion dollars – what the heck, print ten trillion dollars and send them out to fix the country.

You would be worried about inflation, you’re saying? Well, since the dollar has been taken off the gold standard in 1971, inflation is caused by one, singular factor: what it costs banks to buy money from the Fed, the U.S. central bank. If they pay half a percent or so in interest—as they’ve been doing for decades now—then there’s no inflation. The only other possibility for an inflation is if there’s a shortage of goods, and then too many dollars are chasing too few goods and the prices soar. Look around you – we’re in a merchandizing glut, despite all the economic catastrophes and the poverty line and the single mothers – there are still way too many iPhones out there for each American.

But you don’t have to agree with me on any of the above to understand the following: If, back then, in early 2009, when President Obama was pushing his stimulus package in all the wrong directions, a group of 80 Democrats had stood up on their hind legs and said, Hell, No, We Won’t Go, I and all my Democratic friends would have rushed to the streets to cheer them on.

That’s the part I find hard to accept – why is it that when 80 right-wing parliamentarians are standing on their hind legs and telling their leadership and their president to go to hell, they won’t sign on to what they consider to be a wrong budget policy – why are they being attacked as messianic crazies, just this side of the loony bin?

Former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration Robert Reich, whom I happen to like very much, had this to say to Spiegel about the Tea Party Congress members: “Some of them really have contempt for the entire process of government. They’re followers of people who say that we ought to shrink government down to the size that it can drown in a bathtub. They hate government viscerally. They’re not in Washington to govern; they’re in Washington to tear it down.”

I’m not telling you anything you haven’t seen and read over the past month or so, and as the looming date of the “default” grows nearer, those character assassinations will only get nastier. And the polls are showing that America is buying it, and seems to be blaming the Republican party for our economic mess. And since our politicians live and die by the polls, it’s quite possible they’ll find a way out of this crisis, maybe for 6 weeks, maybe for 2 months, who knows.

ObamaCare: Don’t Believe Gov’t Projections

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

At a recent press conference, President Obama delivered a reassuring announcement to the millions of Americans who are wary of the upcoming deluge of ObamaCare’s full implementation: “For the average American out there, for the 85 and 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened. And their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better and more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.”

Well.  “Full stop.”  So that solves it.  Is everyone happy now?

The theatrics from the president are appreciated; they lighten the mood a bit.  But they’ll fall short when you don’t have health insurance and are faced with either being uninsured or joining the Medicaid rolls.  “Full stop” is actually less of an authoritative command than an indication of what will happen to many people’s insurance coverage once ObamaCare is fully implemented.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this year, the entirety of ObamaCare’s regulatory framework will likely raise premiums in thirteen states “somewhere between 65% and 100%.”  This includes my home state of Virginia, which, even at the lowest end of the scale, would find me paying a little over $250 a month for health insurance after ObamaCare goes into high gear.  “Full stop” is what will then occur with my premium payments; but once I cancel the plan, I won’t have to worry about anything else.  So it turns out that the president is partly right.

It’s instructive to witness the inability of politicians to accurately predict their own legislative outcomes.  In 1967, Congress predicted that Medicare spending would equal only $12 billion per year by 1990 — a paltry sum.  Actual spending for that year was $110 billion, so they were slightly off the mark.  But of course, by that point, Medicare was fully entrenched in the American political system, and the notion of even modestly reforming it was off the table (it evidently continues to be off the table today).  Thus stands the ossified character of American government, and thus will likely stand ObamaCare twenty-five years from now, too.  Full stop.

It’s not just the left of the political spectrum that has dismal results in predicting its own spending habits.  Years ago, Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon predicted that the Iraq war would cost between $2 billion and $4 billion a month.  The actual result was nearly $8 billion a month.  Rumsfeld also expressed doubt that the war would last even six months.  Well, it lasted a little longer than that; coupled with the grossly underestimated price tag, we’ve spent a lot more in Iraq than we thought we would, and for a much longer time than we thought we would have to.  So the government is as bad at predicting outcomes of war as it is at predicting outlays of medical spending.

Even the so-called nonpartisan government officials (an hilarious paradoxical idea, but we’ll allow it) aren’t good at the business of fortune-telling.  The CBO estimated in 1999 that the federal government would have a budget surplus of $388 billion in 2009, ten years down the road.  The actual number was somewhat closer to adeficit of one-and-a-half trillion dollars.  Ah, well, it’s a simple matter of arithmetic.  And in any case, the report had its bases (or its baseline, if you like) covered: “CBO’s economic projections assume that no legislative action is taken that would affect the projections of revenue and spending.”  So that’s all it takes!

The history of dismal government projections should be sobering for the politicians we elect to represent us.  The Great Society legislators were all but certain that their old-age insurance program would be manageable and prudent; it now stands as perhaps the chief threat to the financial stability of the United States government.  Decades later, our leaders thought we could be in and out of the Middle East in half a year, tops — yet there are children in this country who know nothing other than the reality of our country’s being at war with Iraq.  A hundred other examples of failed conjecture are readily available.  And still there is a political class that believes that it can enact massive pieces of legislation and accurately predict how they will end up.

So who believes President Obama regarding ObamaCare, anyway?  Ditto Nancy Pelosi, who even openly confessed to not knowing the bill’s contents when she voted for its passage.  Ditto everyone who continues to support the behemoth law as it trudges towards full implementation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/obamacare-dont-believe-govt-projections/2013/05/08/

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