How To Destroy An Entire Industry – The Healthcare Edition

So this is something I’ve been wondering if my “progressive” healthcare-reform-loving friends would be able to answer: What are you going to do when the healthcare reform bill destroys the healthcare industry? And it will, and it’s not hard to sort out how… Here’s how it works:
The healthcare reform package bills, currently awaiting conference committee, both include provisions which require insurance companies to take on high-risk customers, and customers with pre-existing conditions. In other words, customers who will cost the insurance companies billions of dollars in outflow, but only generate minimal income (in relation to their expenses anyway).
Now, anyone can see that this situation isn’t tenable for the insurance companies, taken by itself. If I can force any company to sell things to customers, at a loss that’s measured in several orders of magnitude, per customer, then even a child can understand how they’ll go broke. (To demonstrate with a child, have a child buy a bunch of toys at $10 each and then be forced to sell those toys to “kids who really need toys” at $1 each. Require that the kid go buy more toys when they run out, and keep selling toys to any other kid who asks to buy one… they’ll understand it really quick).
Now, the healthcare reform bills’ answer to this dilemma is to force everyone to get healthcare coverage from some provider, regardless of how little you might need it.
There’s an absolutely sick number of young adults who, every day, have done the math to realize that their healthcare expenses, per annum, cost FAR less than their healthcare PREMIUMS would cost, and so they ride the “risk train” and pay as they go for services they need. (Some of these folks will hedge their bets by buying less-expensive healthcare insurance with high deductibles just in case something million-dollars-heinous happens in their lives).
With those folks, who will generate far more income than outflow on the insurance-providers’ books, the insurance companies will in effect subsidize the losses they are forced to take on the aforementioned high-risk customers.
But, you see, here’s the trick, and the part where “progressives” miss the boat. Congress’ ability to write laws is based on the Constitution, and the powers enumerated to it in that document. In the absence of a specific grant of power, their authority falls to the Interstate Commerce Clause, a wholly overused bit of legal art which says that Congress has the right to regulate commerce between the states.
However, refusing to participate in commerce (e.g., refusing to buy insurance) isn’t something that Congress can regulate. If you were participating in some sort of interstate commerce, then certainly Congress would be within its legal jurisdiction, but there’s nothing in the Constitution which says that they can force you to participate in commerce, which will then be regulated.
So, as soon as something passes which requires John Doe #s 1…500 to participate in commerce they don’t want to, you will see it go to the courts. And the Courts, having more than a First Grade understanding of ConLaw, will throw out the part requiring people to buy insurance, because it doesn’t have a constitutional leg to stand on.
But the trick is — the part of the law requiring insurance companies to cover people, since they are interstate entities for the most part, will stick. The insurance companies will be forced to carry people who will cost them far more than they bring in, and they won’t have the people who bring in far more than they cost to cover the losses. They’ll eventually start to go belly-up, and you’ll have a crisis far worse than the banking crisis ever looked.
So, my questions for my Democrat friends are:
(a) How do you intend to get around the clear-cut Constitutionality issue, and
(b) What do you intend to do for healthcare when there’s nobody left around to cover you at all?

Fear Itself

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

K, Men In Black

CNN is running a story, or rather a fear-mongering piece of tripe, about how “people on the terrorist watchlist are managing to buy guns and nobody’s stopping them.”
Now, there’s two things wrong with the story. The first is the premise itself is flawed, and the second is how blatantly slanted the story is.
On the first part… we live in a nation of laws and principles, and one of those principles is “innocent until proven guilty.” When someone is convicted of a crime, they give up some of their rights, but if they’re just suspected of a crime, well, they get to keep on walking and talking and going about their business. That’s how it’s supposed to work in a free society.
Also, seriously, the “Terrorist Watch List”?!?!? THAT’s what we should be using to stop people buying firearms? The list that everyone knows is flawed? The list that is no more complicated than “your first and last name”, so if you happen to have a common Arab name, you are going to be shit-outta-luck because there’s undoubtedly some terrorist who’s used your name as an alias? The list that has banned freakin’ Congressmen from flying? The one that has banned 6-month-old children from flying? THIS is the list we want to use to curtail peoples’ rights?
Seriously, I don’t fuckin’ think so.
And, of course, to the second part – the thinly veiled agenda of the article itself. When I was taking Journalism classes, we were taught some of the “basics” of Journalism. The most important parts of the story, the things you want your reader to take away from the article, you put in the first paragraphs. Many readers won’t read whole stories, so you put the things you, as a writer or as a news agency, think the reader should care about in the top paragraphs, and put the rest, in descending order of importance, down through the article.
The “least important” aspects of the CNN article? The failings in the watch-list, how ineffective it is at even identifying terrorists, the fact that using it would be so overbroad as to be unconstitutional, etc.
Not mentioned at all in the article is the most crucial (because, as Journalism rules go, the least important things to the agency are the things that get cut for space), and that is “what it means to be a terrorist”. In the world of terrorism defined by the United States Department of Defense? PROTEST is a form of “low-level terrorism”. So, technically, as far as the DoD is concerned, if you protest — if you exercise your Constitutional right to freedom of speech, or to petition your elected government for redress — you are classified as a “low-level terrorist”, and thus are eligible to have your right to own a gun infringed upon.
In Soviet Russia, terrorism defines you….

Someone Send That Man A Copy of “Atlas Shrugged”!

So Obama took the podium today to talk about the Chrysler bankruptcy announcement. CNN writes:

The president also blasted a group of investment funds and hedge funds for holding out for an “unjustified taxpayer bailout.”
Several financial institutions, led by J.P. Morgan, agreed to reduce Chrysler’s loan repayment obligations by as much as two-thirds, Obama said.
But “a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout” Obama said. “They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices and they would have to make none.”

Heyyyy, welcome to the real world, buddy! Why should they take the risk if you’ve made it quite clear you’re willing to have everyone else (e.g., the taxpayers) assume the risk. This is exactly what fiscally conservative folks were predicting would happen. Once you make it clear that the government’s going to step in and bail people out, there’s no reason for private investors to bail themselves out. They’ll just wait for Uncle Sam’s tit to be presented and suck it dry.
If Obama and his predecessor weren’t both so completely ridiculously stupid when it comes to economic realities (and the human/social realities that go with that), then this could all be avoided. Instead, they both set a precedent of “you don’t have to actually TRY to succeed, we’ll bail you out with taxpayer funds if it gets too bad”, and now you and I, the taxpayers, foot the bill.

Presidential Nit-Picking

President Obama said, in his inauguration speech:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

Except that’s not true. Only forty-three Americans have taken the oath.
Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th President. Meaning that while Obama is the “44th President”, there have only been 43 distinct people who have taken the oath.

Now That It’s Over

As we wind down into the morning hours, I’m glad to have been awake to watch it all. While I didn’t vote for Obama, it was not for any lack of wanting him to win. (He was definitely my second choice, behind Bob Barr).
I’m proud to be an American today. In 76 days, we will finally escape from the tyranny, yes tyranny, of a crazed psychotic leader who had probably the most callous disregard for the laws of our nation that any sitting President has ever had.
To a certain, certainly lesser, extent I can understand what it must have felt like for the French to see American troops for the first time in June of 1944. You were well aware that it wasn’t over yet, but there was definitely an end in sight, with freedom and liberty on the other side.

Barack Obama And Basic Economics

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were discussing the candidates “economic reform plans” and how they’ve recently revised them in preparation for tonight’s debate, where they’ll surely come up.
You hear McCain in a sound bite talking about lowering the Capital Gains tax to try and stimulate investment in companies, etc., etc.
And then they go to a sound bite of Obama saying, and I “quote/paraphrase”, that he doesn’t know anyone who’s had gains in this down economy, and that because of that, frankly, a capital gains tax decrease is useless.
Barack, you fucking moron.
The point isn’t “who’s had gains so far”, the point of a capital gains decrease is to increase the incentive to potential investors, who may be understandably skittish about putting money in the market now. The point is to make it more attractive for people to get in now in what could be described as a “buying opportunity”, while the market is low. Putting that money into the market now, would shore up the equities market, improving the economy.
That Obama doesn’t “get” that fundamental concept, and just sees it as a “tax cut for people who don’t need it”, tells me that Obama is just as fundamentally stupid on economics as McCain showed himself to be with that crazy “let’s buy up all the failing mortgages with your tax dollars” idea he pulled out of his ass at the second debate.
Whichever one you pick, America, they’re going to drive you into ruin, it’s just a matter of which road they take to get you there.
Bob Barr‘s my man, I tell you. Since Ron Paul didn’t do an independent run.

On The Proposed Bailout

CNN has a story about the proposed $700,000,000,000 bailout of the financial industry. There’s a great quote in there:

Paulson said that the bailout plan is the only way to unfreeze financial markets, giving firms the confidence they need to start lending to one another once again.

Y’know what? I’m not sure I want them to be confident right now. They shouldn’t be confident. They should have the same insecurities about decision-making that we all do right now, mostly because it was their bad decision-making that caused this mess in the first place. Sure, you can point to people who borrowed more on mortgages than they could reasonably pay back, but the counterpoint to that argument is that these lenders lent money they should have known couldn’t be paid back, or they bought mortgages from lenders without investigating fully the thing it was they were buying.
At the end of the day, the corporations gambled on their ability to predict the future and came up short.
If corporations get a free do-over, at taxpayer expense, then I for one am fully in favor of Phil Hellmuth walking into the Treasury Department, saying, “I flopped a set of Queens, and some idiot who didn’t know the odds held on until the river and cracked my set with a straight. I got busted out of the tournament and lost my $50,000 entrance fee. Can I have a check, please?”
Because that’s EXACTLY the same goddamned thing. These corporations gambled and they gambled badly. If they don’t suffer, they will not learn a damned thing other than “we’re considered too important to ACTUALLY lose money, so we can gamble however we want to and the taxpayers will come in and cover our losses… but obviously, we don’t share our wins with the taxpayer.”
Yes, it will mean tough times if these companies are allowed to fail. We need tough times.
My grandparents’ generation lived through a Depression. An honest to goodness “I’ll work for food” depression. They learned the importance of savings. They learned to save up for what they wanted to buy before they bought it, and the only debt most of them carried was a mortgage.
We’ve grown soft since then — and make no mistake I count myself in that “we”. We’ve accumulated far more per-capita debt than ever. Our annual personal savings figure has declined to the point where, each year, we save negative money. Why shouldn’t we live on deficit spending? The government’s been doing it for years with no problems….
Let the economy fail. And my generation, and the generation to come will grow up with the hard lesson that apparently needs to be re-taught every so often, on how to handle their finances.

Heller Thoughts

So I’ve had some time to read the Heller decision, and my biggest concern with it, as a gun rights supporter, is this verbiage:

… It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service–M-16 rifles and the like–may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as
effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

The court’s writing here is essentially that “M-16s aren’t covered, because they’re not the sorts of things people have lawfully got around the house.”
But the fundamental problem with this logic is that the reason people don’t have M-16s around the house (in any numbers) is because they’ve been told by the government since 1939 that they can’t.
The Court’s logic here is circular. They don’t want to override the 1939 prohibitions on automatic weapons and such, while still saying it’s an individual right. But if it’s an individual right to have “militia” weapons, the number of lawfully owned automatic weapons surely would have grown over the years.
In other words, the only reason there aren’t a number of those types of weapons in place, is because there have been laws of questionable validity over the years preventing them. But now that they’re “not common” (because of the government influence), they’re not covered, which makes no sense whatsoever.