Aug 282009

Excellent, pithy summary by William Anderson in The Weekly Standard. (“Who Owns Your Body? Under Obamacare, not you.”)

Does the government, in the last analysis, own your body, or do you? If your answer is the former, be aware that you have opted for veterinary medicine, for you are now accepting the moral status of a domestic animal. If your answer is the latter, you must accept responsibility to make mortal decisions for yourself, and pay for the care that you want with money that you have reason to see as your own.

Not that Anderson is the first to make that comparison. Here is another version.

BTW, is anyone else around here old enough remember the days when women demanded the right to control their own bodies?

Aug 272009

David H. Stevens of the U.S. Department and Urban Development wrote a letter to the WSJ (“FHA is Fulfilling Its Mission Well“) in which he responded to an August 11 editorial (“The Next Fannie Mae : Ginnie Mae and FHA are becoming $1 trillion subprime guarantors.“).

Stevens says he doesn’t like the comparison of the FHA to subprime lenders. He says the FHA operates entirely from its self-generated income.

Great! If everything he says is true, it means we don’t need an FHA, or at least not one backed by the U.S. Government. The organization can go private and compete on equal terms with other lenders. Wouldn’t that be a great way for Obama to get back at his critics who say the relationship between private industry and the government is a one-way street? He could give an example of an institution that’s back on its feet. Mission accomplished! Then people might trust him more the next time he wants to intrude into ownership of private business.

Alas, I went back and read not only Mr. Stevens letter but the original editorial. The editorial talked about how the HUD Inspector General has raised the alarm on growing default rates, and told of a likely need for for more tax dollars.

Who do we think is going to be taken to the woodshed by the Obama White House: Mr. Stevens or that HUD Inspector General?

Aug 272009

I tend to doubt it.

WSJ headline: “Calm in Crisis Won Fed Job.”

Another possibility is that anyone Obama knows would be even worse. Or maybe he thinks Bernanke is sufficiently maleable. But one thing Obama certainly didn’t value at the time was “calm in crisis.” He was trying to stir up our fears so he could get the big stimulus spending package passed. He has an aide who thinks a crisis is not something to be wasted. It isn’t likely that our President all of a sudden got religion and decided that calmness is good, after all. If that’s what he really wanted, he could try firing Rahm Emmanuel.

Aug 262009

There have been too many stories like this one lately:

Republicans Have Obama Playing Defense: The GOP strategy of principled opposition is winning over independents” by Fred Barnes (WSJ, Aug 23)

It reminds me too much of the MSU Spartans football teams of a few years ago. The defense would make a great stop, after which there would be lots of dancing, chest-butting, and high-fiving instead of getting mentally prepared for the next play. Next thing you knew, the opposing team would run over them for huge gains.

On health care, the Republicans are now crediting themselves with a great sack and fumble-recovery, never mind that the other quarterback messed up and didn’t run the same play he had called. Yes, it was a great play, but now is not the time for high-fiving and dancing. Now is the time for the Republicans to push their own health-care plans, the ones that will actually do some good, the ones the Democrats have been blocking tenaciously for years.

True, the Republicans have only half-heartedly pushed for these plans in the past. Too many of them have had their heads planted firmly in the sand about the need for health care reform, and too many others have preferred the plans that provide opportunities for massive corruption, i.e. the same ones the Democrats prefer.

Here are some of the plays they need to be running now, while they have a better chance than ever to enact them. They can pretend that some of the Democrats actually mean it when they claim to be concerned about those who lack health care. Take them at their word and pressure them to act on it.

I don’t agree with everything in that 2nd article, and some things are missing from both of them. But the general principles should be less government control and more individual empowerment.

Aug 192009

Barney Frank says the cost of the war in Iraq would more than have paid for the Democrat health care reform. But the war in Iraq has cost only 2/3 of a trillion dollars so far, which is less than what the CBO predicts the health care plan would cost. And these governmental estimates tend to be way low, anyway, as they were in the case of Medicare. Of course, their estimates of the cost of war tend to be low, too.

In all the yelling it seems the town hall protesters aren’t challenging Frank on this simple point.

Aug 192009

For some time now I’ve been harping on the fact that in the health care business, as in the auto business, we need the government as a referee. If government is a player, it can hardly be a good referee.

But someone else has explained it better than I have. James Taranto’s “Best of the Web Today” found an explanation and reproduced it from Mike Hanlon’s blog:

Currently, consumers enter into a health-care contract with an insurance company. This contract has an asymmetric payoff, in that the insurance company gains when a consumer stays healthy, and the consumer gains if they fall [sic] ill. If a consumer falls ill, the insurance company would like to renege on its obligation. Yet it cannot, because the contract is enforced by an unbiased referee. That referee is the United States government.

The fundamental problem with the Democrat’s [sic] health care proposal is that it will cause the the [sic] government to abandon its “referee” role in order to become my “contractual opponent.” Democrats suggest that government can play the role of both opponent and referee. Maybe I’m too competitive, but I prefer when my opponent and my referee are not the same person.

Opposition to “health care reform” is not so much philosophical as it is practical. Sarah Palin learned something at the University of Idaho that a lot of folks didn’t learn at Harvard: when contractual payoffs are asymmetric, you need a referee to ensure compliance. I want my referee, and the Democrats are trying to take it away from me. Doesn’t that justify a little anger?

It’s not as though such a mixture of roles has never been done, though. Last winter I was surprised to learn that the USSR had such a thing as insurance. The 1966 Eldar Ryazanov movie, Beregis Avtomobilya (Beware of the Car), features an insurance agent who does a little noble larceny on the side. (Kino Reticulator blog article here, YouTube link above.)

Well, OK, so a socialist welfare state had insurance. It was a government monopoly, much as health insurance will be in our country when Obama gets finished with it.

But surely the insurance salespeople didn’t work on commission, did they? But Alexander, who reads my blog from Ekaterinburg, says that yes, indeed, the sales people did work on a commission.

Last winter I found that there have been a few English-lanugage books and articles on the insurance system in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, mostly written by a Paul P. Rogers, who seems to have been studying this topic ever since he started his 1964 doctoral dissertation. In 1963 he wrote:

Insurance is closely related to the origins and growth of modern capitalist economy and the insurance contract has been identified as the springboard by which small-scale itinerant commerce of the early Middle Ages vaulted into large-scale enterprise of modern capitalism. How, then, can insurance be fitted into a non-capitalist framework and what role can it play?

The quote is from “A Survey of Insurance in the USSR”, in The Journal of Insurance, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Jun., 1963), pp. 273-279, published by the American Risk and Insurance Association.

So the government did sell insurance, and salespeople worked on a commission. But how about the settling of claims? How did that work when the government needed to referee itself?

That is a harder question to answer. I’ve read the article from which the above quote is taken, and don’t recall anything being said about it. Rogers’ 1986 book on the topic seems to devote about 17 of 214 pages to the topic of “Settlement of Loss”, according to this Table of Contents. Whether those pages have information that either supports or refutes the idea that it’s a bad idea for government to be both referee and player, I don’t know. But now I think I’d like to get Rogers’ book and read it.

Aug 192009

It’s hard to think about Robert Novak’s passing without getting teary about it. I can’t say I’ve followed his articles forever. I never saw him on TV. But I do remember reading him back when there were such things as newspapers and the byline was Evans and Novak. Maybe 10-15 years ago I came to realize that one reason I liked his articles in comparison to those of many pundits was because they always contained new information. Then, a few years ago I learned that this was intentional. I can’t find the quote on the web just now, but he and Evans decided that they would not produce a column that didn’t contain some new information.

Out on the MSM there are many grudging, snide tributes to Novak, and a few sincere ones, too. The WSJ editors gave one explanation for why we’ll miss him so much:

All of this earned Novak the moniker of “conservative” in Washington’s taxonomy, but above all he brought to his work a reporter’s skepticism about the powerful. This is in contrast to most modern Washington journalists, who have become apologists for the federal government’s dominance in American life. Novak was as hard on Republicans who failed to live up to their small-government principles as he was on Democrats who sought to expand the welfare state.

Aug 122009

Another type of comment that’s fun is the kind that says, “Read the bill — there are no death panels in it!”

It would be like people back in 2003 who might have said, “What do you mean we’re going to end up in a quagmire? What do you mean it’ll be another Vietnam? Where do you get the idea that it’s just going to make more terrorists? Get your facts straight! Read the 2002 authorization for military force against Iraq. There is nothing in it that says quagmire or Vietnam. There is no provision for the funding of more terrorists.”