Apr 132010

Blog item at the WSJ:

Anybody who thinks the European Union will cut its mammoth annual aid package for farmers — at $70 billion, the equivalent of an AIG bailout every year — should listen to new EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

My response:

Joe Stalin liquidated his kulaks. Other industrial countries have dealt with the problem by turning them into welfare queens.

Which method is more effective? Discuss.

Apr 112010

Fred Barnes has written an aptly titled article for the April 5-12 issue of The Weekly Standard: “Economics for Dummies.” It’s about “Nancy Pelosi’s cockamamie ideas.” Nancy does have a lot of those, but the dummy in this case is Fred Barnes.

(BTW, this may be the first and last time I’m going to say anything about Nancy Pelosi that isn’t critical of her.)

The dummy part is where Barnes says this:

So far as I know, Pelosi is the first person in the universe to regard the lack of portability of health insurance as a deathblow to entrepreneurship. This idea is, to put it mildly, farfetched. Is there evidence that budding entrepreneurs have been deterred by the fear of losing health insurance for a spell? Don’t bet on it. Are future Michael Dells or Ted Turners or Pierre Omidyars suppressing their entrepreneurial juices because their doctor visits aren’t covered? Please.

Pelosi, as is the habit of Democrats, cited an uncheckable and probably imaginary case. “If they had a child with diabetes who was bipolar … they would be job-locked,” she insisted. Maybe so. But a job-locked entrepreneur? It’s surely overkill to revolutionize our entire health care system for the sake of that rare bird. Besides, there’s COBRA, the federal law that permits an employee who quits to stay insured for months.

Barnes is way out of touch. Pelosi is NOT the first person in the universe to regard the lack of portability of health insurance as a hindrance to entrepreneurship. (“Hindrance” is a fairer way of characterizing her words than “deathblow.”) I’m not the first, either. All Barnes would have to do is get out and talk to people who work for large organizations that provide health benefits. Talk to them about their plans and aspirations. He would find no end of people who stay where they are because of health insurance, instead of striking out for something new and different, sometimes to start their own business — just like Nancy Pelosi describes.

If there could be any saving grace to nationalized health insurance, it would be in making health insurance more portable. Unfortunately, all the negatives about the Democrats’ way of going about it are going to cancel out any vestige of the benefits of the portability that Pelosi talks about. But she is absolutely correct in linking “entrepreneurial power” with greater portability in health insurance. If Democrats had concentrated on that and had really meant it, they could have devised a national plan that would have harnessed the power of markets to give us portability and lower costs, too, instead of creating a bigger and more fearsome monster than the one we have now.

Well, Democrats aren’t going to do anything to harness the power of markets or anything that will give people more choices. Their game is power. They have a psychological and political need for dependency, which means they’re not really going to do anything to encourage entrepreneurship, any more than Stalin tried to encourage the kulaks. But we should give Nancy Pelosi credit for at least talking a better game than the Barnes-type Republicans.

Barnes asked, “Are future Michael Dells or Ted Turners or Pierre Omidyars suppressing their entrepreneurial juices because their doctor visits aren’t covered? Please.”

The answer is yes, some future entrepreneurs will suppress their entrepreneurial juices due to the fear of losing health insurance for a spell. Some people will not risk dropping their employer-paid insurance and then incurring family difficulties that will constitute pre-existing conditions if they try to get it back in a few years. And not all entrepreneurs are people with the resources of Michael Dell or Ted Turner, nor should they have to be. Nor should we think only of those high-profile people when we think of entrepreneurs. We should also think of Joe Plumber and other people who don’t travel in Barnes’ rarified atmosphere.

And what’s even more amazing (and stupid) is that Fred Barnes thinks the health care debate is about having doctor visits covered. If it was just a matter of doctor visits, health care would not be 17 percent of our economy and growing. It makes you wonder if Barnes was hiding under a rock the past few decades while these things have been discussed. I’ll put his remark in the same category as Hillary Clinton’s, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized business.”

Barnes refers to COBRA. But COBRA lasts only a relatively short time. We should expect entrepreneurs to be able to think a little further down the road than that. They have to be long-term planners who think ahead to more than the next paycheck, or they’re not going to be entrepreneurs. COBRA is one of those Democrat-devised things that was intended to keep people in dependence on the good graces of the government, as a way to avoid putting market forces to work to create truly affordable, portable, and accessible health care. It’s kind of strange for Barnes to be praising one of the Democrats’ Rube Goldberg devices in defense of another.

If the reason that Republicans pushed their better ideas only half-heartedly is because they were thinking like Fred Barnes, we can put a large share of the blame for the monstrosity that was just passed on Republicans. Such a head-in-the-sand attitude is going to drive people to desperate solutions — even solutions that will make matters worse. Which is what got enacted just last month.

Barnes is a dummy.

Apr 112010

I’ll bet comic strip artist Cathy Guisewite hasn’t been to any tea parties lately. If she had been, her April 11 strip (as seen at ArcaMax Publishing) would have had a longer list than:

  • the wall street bunglers
  • the nasdaq knuckleheads
  • the oil company crooks
  • the mortgage company schnooks

But it’s OK. Her comic strips usually have more than enough words as it is.

Apr 102010

News item: “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to head the commission to investigate the crash…”

That would seem like a big task for a man who, despite having the resources of the FSB at his disposal, couldn’t find the killers of Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya. Maybe Medvedev would have done better to outsource the job to someone else.

Apr 052010

Fascinating review of Ernest May’s “Strange Victory – Hitler’s Conquest of France”, by Alex Harrowell over at A Fistfull of Euros.

It turns out that that Hitler’s Germany was able to defeat France and Britain because Germany acted more like an egalitarian democracy, while France went in for authoritarian central planning. And then Germany lost the war because, after the first victories, Hitler insisted on tight control and central planning.

This story has a sort of tragic duality. The Germans won because they had been able to plan more like a democracy than democratic France or Britain – they constantly questioned their assumptions, criticised superiors, and threw out bad ideas – but they would never do so again, precisely because of their triumph over France. Hitler rapidly convinced himself it was all his own work, and the independent authority of the army was permanently destroyed.

Apr 022010

My comment to the Battle Creek Enquirer article, “Obama hails job news

So one day President Obama is telling critics that it has only been a week, that we need to give his health care takeover time to work. Then one jobs report comes out with some good news. It’s far too early to tell if a trend has been established, but the President jumps up and says it shows the economy is turning around.

So how are we supposed to know when patience is a good thing and when it’s better to jump to conclusions?

Apr 022010

Vladimir Putin says he’s going to scrape the subway bombers from the bottoms of the sewers. His sidekick says they are going to be harsher and crueller in going against them.

That’s fine, but these claims would have more credibility if Putin had shown the same diligence in going against the killers of Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya, and dozens of other Russian journalists who have been murdered. The experience would also have given him an opportunity to develop the law enforcement skills needed to bring the subway bombers to justice.

Apr 012010

Not so long ago a health care bill had to be cobbled together and rushed through Congress while it was still being put together, before people had a chance to digest what was really in it. Now President Obama is suddenly in less of a rush and urges patience. Too bad he didn’t lead by example when he had a chance.

From a USA Today article:

President Obama urged Americans to wait and see how well his new health care plan works, chiding “pundits” who talk about “another poll or headline that said, ‘nation still divided on health care reform.’ “