Tuesday, December 31, 2013

David Brooks for the win

Hit and Run: "2013's embarrassing glut of bad op-eds."

A law in name only

Megan McArdle has a very good article on the future of Obamacare: "Change is Obamacare's only certainty."  She goes on to write that all the twists and turns to avoid the fury of the voters has made the whole system untenable to the point that she (and I) believe that the individual mandate will not be enforced.
At that point, something called Obamacare would still exist, but it wouldn’t be anything like the comprehensive universal coverage its designers imagined. It would basically be a Medicaid expansion in some blue states, plus trivial tweaks to some insurance regulations.
And speaking of insurance regulations, how much more will insurance companies take?  Businesses need to predict and plan and nobody knows where this wheel of tweaks will land.

Extra - Vodkapundit: "I’ve written before that ObamaCare’s un-phased subsidies put an effective cap on middle class income, a point from which families simply can’t afford any additional income. Stay put, comrades — you’ve gone as far we feel you should."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The pending retirement crisis

As scattered readers of this blog know, Social Security is one of my pet topics, but the larger issue is how a whole generation of Americans is utterly unprepared for retirement.  The Associated Press has an article today that sums up a lot of the issues facing the world: "Under siege: The world braces for retirement crisis."

Yes, they use the word "crisis" and it boils down to shifting demographics and how they affect government, business, and workers.  Across the globe, governments are broke, companies are squeezed, and workers are irresponsible:
The crisis is a convergence of three factors:
-- Countries are slashing retirement benefits and raising the age to start collecting them. These countries are awash in debt since the recession hit. And they face a demographics disaster as retirees live longer and falling birth rates mean there will be fewer workers to support them.
-- Companies have eliminated traditional pension plans that guaranteed employees a monthly check in retirement.
-- Individuals spent freely and failed to save before the recession and saw much of their wealth disappear once it hit.
To the first point, I've noted how there's this irrational affection for a retirement program forged during the Depression when there were 42 workers supporting every retiree.  To the second point, like Social Security, it's well and good to long for the days when companies paid lifetime benefits, but they're gone.  It's in the past and wishing this was the 1950s won't make it so.  This makes the third point all the more heartbreaking: Americans should acknowledge this shifting reality and adjust accordingly.  But in the AP article provides one story of heartache that comes across as sheer brainlessness:
Leslie Lynch, 52, of Glastonbury, Conn., had $30,000 in her 401(k) retirement account when she lost her $65,000-a-year job last year at an insurance company. She'd worked there 28 years. She's depleted her retirement savings trying to stay afloat.
"I don't believe that I will ever retire now," she says.
No sh-t, Sherlock.  You have got to be kidding me: unless Ms. Lynch had her entire portfolio in Blockbuster Video stock, this is a shockingly irresponsible approach to retirement.  Assuming an extremely conservative annual return on investment of 4%, this means that she invested $50 a month - less than 1% of her annual salary - on savings for retirement.  Maybe Leslie believed the mythology built during the Great Society but younger Americans see the handwriting on the wall.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I intend to watch 12 hours of "A Christmas Story."

Buffalo Sabres, um, back in to a win


My own private Singapore

I've heard a lot of ideas to revitalize Detroit but none so audacious as this:
If these ventures sound idealistic, outrageous, and awesome, they pale in comparison to the scale and ambition of a project conceived by real estate developer Rod Lockwood. He has outlined plans to buy Belle Isle, a 982-acre public island park in the Detroit River, and transform it into an independent commonwealth with its own laws, regulations, and taxes (or lack thereof). Investors would buy the island from the city for $1 billion and then sell lifetime citizenship for $300,000. The extra $1 billion would help the city pay off its debts, and the lax regulations and low taxes would act as a magnet for investment, says Lockwood.
"We would expect a quarter of a trillion dollars in capital would be brought onto the island," says Lockwood. "Detroit would have its own Singapore in its backyard."
This reminds me of North Korea's little capitalist outpost.  Very Elysium-esque.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Yesterday's news

The Associated Press catches up to the blogosphere: "Health plan sticker shock ahead for some buyers."  Do tell.  It seems Americans are believing their lying eyes:
...a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that most Americans predict that the Affordable Care Act will actually result in higher prices for their own medical care.
If only there was an independent body that could have reported there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Related - Legal Insurrection: "No enrollment Plan B."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mostly in the Dakotas

Granted, they're starting from a lower baseline but it looks like gas and oil development is paying off: "Where in the United States is median income growing?"

The insurance companies are boned

A good roundup of the recent Obamacare opinions in "The death of the individual mandate."  With this week's "hardship" exemption, the basis for the health insurance cost model is falling apart and the health insurers will be left holding the bag.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

At what point does a law become a Presidential plaything?

There's a philosophical proposal called the "paradox of the heap" which goes like this: if you start with a heap of sand and then remove one grain at a time until you're left with one grain, you no longer have a heap.  But at what point did the pile of sand transition from "heap" to "not a heap"?

Obamacare is not a law.  A law is written by the Legislature and enforced by the Executive branch.  In this case of this so-called law, Obama simply waves his magic wand of "enforcement discretion" and declares "retroactive coverage" on top of shifting policies and sliding deadlines.  The letter of the "law" says that credits can be obtained only through "an exchange established by the state."  But, you know, nobody read that part of the law so state-federal-whatever.

Now, tonight, just four days before the word previously known as a "deadline", it's deja vu all over again:
The Obama administration Thursday night significantly relaxed the rules of the health-care law for millions of consumers whose individual insurance policies have been canceled, saying they could buy bare-bones health plans or entirely avoid the requirement that most Americans have health insurance.
The surprise announcement, four days before the Dec. 23 deadline for people to choose coverage that begins on Jan. 1, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised new fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage.
Ace explains the new legislative process in Washington: "Obama creates more law with his mouth hole."
None of these fixes are designed to be fixes. They're designed to appear to be fixes, so when people are uninsured, Obama can say, "I tried. I gave them options."
Just never the option of what he promised: Of keeping health insurance they liked.
It's been said that the Supreme Court reads the newspapers too.  I hope that if Chief Justice Roberts gets another crack at this abomination he recognizes that it's not only unconstitutional, it's also not a law.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Not such a bad little tree

Director Bill Melendez recalls the premiere of "A Charlie Brown Christmas":
What the roomful of executives saw upon the first screening was a shock—a slow and quiet semireligious, jazz-filled 25 minutes, voiced by a cast of inexperienced children, and, perhaps most unforgivably, without a laugh track. “They said, ‘We’ll play it once and that will be all. Good try,’ ” remembers Mendelson. “Bill and I thought we had ruined Charlie Brown forever when it was done. We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room—he had had a couple of drinks—and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy, but he was more right than we were.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The gang that couldn't shoot straight

Peggy Noonan has a year-end summary of the Obama administration: "Incompetence."
It all looks so lax, so loosey-goosey. In the place of the energy and focus that would go into the running of things, the administering and managing of them, we have the preoccupation with spin, with how things look as opposed to how they are. The odd thing still is that the White House never misses a speech, a list of talking points, an opportunity to shape the argument on TV. They do the talking part, but the doing? They had 3½ years to make sure ObamaCare will work, three years to get it right top to bottom, to rejigger parts of the law that they finally judged wouldn’t work, to make the buying of a policy easy on the website. And they not only couldn’t do that, which itself constitutes an astounding and historic management failure, they make it clear they were taken aback by their failure. They didn’t know it was coming! Or some knew and for some reason couldn’t do anything.
Since we're reviewing the past year, I think it's useful to throw a spotlight on the Syria crack-up.  First there's a red line.  Then - wait a second - public opinion is turning against action.  But now America's credibility and resolve in the Middle East are on the line.  What does Obama do?  Well, at the behest of his deluded chief of staff, President Passerby decides to throw it back to Congress where a Syria resolution faces certain defeat.  It's all about maintaining the image:
The president's decision to seek congressional approval for a military strike against Syria came out of the blue — none of his national security team saw it coming, according to three senior administration officials.
Pfffft - who needs 'em?  In case you missed it, Assad is bombing Aleppo again and our nominal allies in the region are critical of this Administration's inchoate foreign policy.  I'm sure the mullahs in Iran are quaking in their sandals.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mail gone from the Yukon

With a billion fewer letters to deliver since 2006, Canada is phasing out home delivery.  The Economist: "The postman won't ring at all."

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Yorkers mugged by reality

Minuteman: "Peak Schadenfreude Alert"  "Were you worried that ObamaCare was maxing out as a source of comedy gold?"  With so many delicious quotes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

We like stuff

Zero Hedge: "It would take 4.4 Earths to sustain a world full of Americans."

Lie of the year

PolitiFact has released its Lie of the Year and - no surprise - it's "If you like your health care plan you can keep it."
"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," President Barack Obama said -- many times -- of his landmark new law.
But the promise was impossible to keep.
So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama’s breezy assurances were wrong.
Oh, you don't say?  The promise was "impossible to keep"?

Just curious, media hacks at Politifact: you're aware that there are search engines on the Internet?  Because it takes all of a millisecond to find that you once cited this exact same claim as "True."  Then as recently as last year, the claim was still half-true.  Oh well!  That's why pencils have erasers.

Extra - Via Hot Air.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sign-language guy says to steal second base, buy 10,000 shares of pork bellies

The guy at the Nelson Mandela funeral was a complete fake.  Kinda funny except for the context.

Welcome to the party, Oregon!

Washington Examiner: "Oregon signs up just 44 people for Obamacare despite spending $300 million."

The kids are gettin' wise to Obamacare

Here's George Will back in July:
What Obamacare requires for it to work - mass irrationality, both on the part of employers to ignore that incentive and on the part of young people who are supposed to pay 3, 4, 5 times more for health insurance than it would cost them to just pay the fine and ignore it.
Witness the adverse selection:
There’s bad news hidden behind the White House’s latest optimistic Obamacare report.
Few people are actually paying for the healthcare plans that they’ve picked on the partially-fixed Obamacare website, say industry insiders.
Also, too few young people are joining the plans offered by companies using the Obamacare website, said Robert Laszewski, a plugged-in insurance consultant.
Older clients, aged above 40, comprise 60 percent of the new Obamacare customers at one of his client health-care companies, Laszewski told The Daily Caller.
The skew is “very, very bad,” said Laszewski, who is president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, Inc.
What about all those hip "young invincibles" in Colorado with their snowboarding and marijuana?
No state has made a more aggressive--or more idiotic--effort to recruit young policyholders than Colorado. The Centennial State has a Democrat-controlled government and its own insurance exchange, not to mention legal recreational marijuana under a 2012 initiative. The wacky weed doesn't make an appearance in the ungrammatically named "Do You Got Insurance?" ad campaign, but it does use beer, wine, sex and sports--as well as less glamorous pursuits like pumpkin carving and bicycling--in an effort to sell insurance to those elusive invincibles.
The result, according to CNN: "As of November 30, just 11% of total enrollees in Colorado's exchange fall into the targeted 18 to 34 age bracket. The majority of new enrollees--more than 60%--are between 45 and 65." Total enrollment is only a bit more than 15,000, far less than the 250,000 policies being canceled according to an early November Denver Post report.
Of course most of these young'uns voted for their own demise so maybe they're gullible enough to sign up.  But probably not.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


On a slow news day, one cheer for Paul Ryan and Patty Murray: "House, Senate negotiators reach budget deal."  "House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on an $85 billion package to fund the government past Jan. 15, avoid another federal shutdown and end the cycle of budget crises that have dominated Washington for much of the past three years."

Monday, December 09, 2013

Slow on the uptake

Vodkapundit notes that the NY Times reported that Obamacare is expensive: "Leave it to the New York Times to take a story ObamaCare opponents have been reporting for four years, and call it “news.”"

I've said exactly this so many times

Robert Samuelson: "America's clash of generations is inevitable."  "The federal government is increasingly a transfer agency: Taxes from the young and middle-aged are spent on the elderly."  Now cough up your artificially-high Obamacare premiums, kids.

Spreadin' the wealth around

Except for his amen corner in the mainstream media (E.J. Dionne), virtually everyone ignored Obama's latest pivot to the economy and his income inequality prattle.  There's rarely been a more transparent attempt to shore up the populist base and distract everyone from Obamacare.  Mickey Kaus, however, took a deeper look in "4 Things the MSM Won’t Tell You About Obama’s Inequality Speech":
a. Five years into his presidency he so far hasn’t done anything to stop growing income inequality–the problem has gotten worse on his watch.
b. He doesn’t have any proposals (“It’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act”) that come close to solving the problem as he defines it.
c. His one big previous initiative to reduce inequality–the Affordable Care Act–may now be hopelessly screwed up due to his own inattention and non-competence.
d. His remaining big domestic initiative–”comprehensive” immigration reform–would almost certainly make inequality worse by vastly increasing the number of unskilled workers bidding down wages at the bottom of the income scale, with the profits from the cheap labor going to business owners at the top
Of course, Obama also lied about the economic effects of the minimum wage.  And despite a fairly progressive tax code, the Wealth-Spreader can't get this economy moving.  So...a speech, and one that elides the fact that he's been in charge of the show for five years now.

Remember when Steve Urkel would invite disaster and then quip: "Did I do that?"  Hilarious.

Extra - Glenn Reynolds: "Obama can't solve the jobs problem."

Friday, December 06, 2013

Intolerable tolerance

Matt Walsh: "The (fake) hate crime epidemic."

Can't possibly be true...and probably isn't

I've written about this before but sometimes a story comes along and it just doesn't pass the stink test.  Maybe it's the source, maybe it's the subject, but I just can't believe it.  And (patting my back now) I didn't believe the story that Obama didn't meet with Kathleen Sebelius in three years.

What's more, this reinforces everything I hate about the mainstream media.  For years, nutcase Teabaggers like me were warning that Obamacare could not possibly operate the way it was promised.  Now that things look bad - surprise! - the media (Politico no less!) decides it's time to pile on and run stories about how the President didn't meet with his HHS secretary for three years.  Why?  Because it's safe to pile on.

Not-so-golden state for California doctors

Here comes the big squeeze.  Washington Examiner: "Doctors boycotting California's Obamacare exchange."  "An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state's Obamacare health insurance exchange and won't participate, the head of the state's largest medical association said."

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Learn to love

The Sound of Music

Am I the only one hearing a loud background hiss?

Nelson Mandela passes

The scion of South Africa died at age 95 which is remarkable considering he was in prison for 27 years.  The memory I have of Mandela is that he was released only a couple of months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Pension reform in Illinois

In rapid-fire votes, the Illinois legislature passed a pension overhaul bill to reform one of the most underfunded public pension plans in the country.  Gee, I wonder what spooked them into action.

Sorry, all full up

Big Government: "College Republican president rejected from White House youth summit."  Ah, it's probaby for the best.  It sounds like those youths are in for an Amway-style hard sell.

White House goal for Obamacare: just keep polishing that turd

Megan McArdle:
The administration has given up on success, as it might once have defined it. The object is no longer 7 million people signed up through the exchanges, with 2.7 million of them young and healthy, and the health-care cost curve bending back toward the earth. It is to keep the program alive until 2015. The administration's priorities are, first, to keep Democrats from undoing the individual mandate or otherwise crippling the law; second, to keep insurers from raising premiums or exiting the marketplace; third, to tamp down loose talk about the failures on the exchanges; and, only fourth, to get to the place where it used to think it would be this year, with lots of people signed up for affordable insurance. It is now measuring the program’s success not by whether it meets its goals, but by whether it survives at all. And all of its choices are oriented toward this new priority.
In case you missed it - since the NY Times buried the lede - the vaunted Obamacare tech surge amounted to "about half a dozen" nerds.  A billion dollars and four years of work, and all we have are traffic metrics on a security nightmare that is incapable of performing its most basic task.

Time to wave the white flag on competence and start the speeches.
And when you apply this to the ObamaCare debacle, suddenly it seems to make sense. The White House is so unformed and chaotic that they probably didn’t ignore the problem, they probably held a million meetings on it. People probably said things like, “We’re experiencing some technological challenges but we’re sure we’ll be up by October,” and other people said, “Yes, it’s important we launch strong,” and others said, “The Republicans will have a field day if we’re not.” And then everyone went to their next meeting. And no one did anything. And the president went off and made speeches.
Because the doing isn’t that important, the talking is.
Rinse and repeat.