Thursday, March 6, 2014
As the disaster of Obamacare continues to progress, there is much debate about the merits of socialized (nationalized) healthcare. When we say healthcare, it is really referring to medical care, because the system certainly isn’t taking care of our health.
Some critics of Obamacare correctly stated, even prior to its implementation, that it could be a stepping stone to fully socialized healthcare. Ironically, it is because Obamacare is such a disaster that it is possible it could end up being true.
Millions of people have been kicked off of their insurance plans because they were made illegal by Obamacare. Meanwhile, the people who have enrolled in an insurance plan are finding out just how expensive it is, even with a government subsidy.
The proponents of socialized healthcare will blame the current system on capitalism and free markets. Of course, there is almost no such thing in our current system. Even before Obamacare was passed and implemented, the U.S. system of healthcare was nothing close to capitalistic.
The current system is more fascist/ corporatist. It is not fully socialistic because the government doesn’t own the means of production. It just dictates nearly every little thing and it extracts money to pay for the majority of the medical care that takes place.
If you want to see anything resembling a free market system in healthcare, you would have to go back to the 1950’s in the United States, although it was not a fully free market at that time either. But it was a much more capitalistic system then, and it showed in the quality and price of medical care.
Not only is health insurance and medical care really expensive today, it isn’t all that great either. The advancement in technology has been wonderful, although not nearly as great as it would have been in a free market environment. And if you need emergency care, there is probably no better place to be in the world than a big city in the United States.
With that said, the prevalence of diseases and disorders, particularly in the U.S., is staggering. And the medical establishment’s solution in the majority of cases is to push drugs on the patients. Even worse, doctors push drugs on patients for problems that the patient wasn’t even complaining about. I hate to sound like a leftist here, but the profits of the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies are put ahead of the well being of the patient. But it is important to know that this is the environment created by a government-controlled healthcare system.
In this sense, there are actually advantages of a socialist healthcare system over the fascist one we have now. I think in some cases, it would actually be beneficial for some people to stay away from the doctor when they have a little ailment, or even sometimes a bigger one. Going to the doctor can sometimes lead to a worse outcome. And going to a hospital is really dangerous, as thousands of people die every year from going into a hospital from some kind of an infection or ailment that they didn’t suffer from upon entering.
In a socialized healthcare system, people are actually less likely to seek medical treatment, simply because it isn’t as available. So while this would generally seem like a bad thing, it can actually be less harmful to a patient, at least in some cases.
The other advantage a socialist healthcare system would have over our current one is that your insurance would no longer be tied to your employer. The U.S. system is a total disaster just from this alone. People have to worry about switching jobs because their health insurance is tied to their job.
While the U.S. is supposed to be the land of opportunity and entrepreneurship, the health insurance system strongly discourages entrepreneurship. It makes it far harder to start a business and quit a full time job because of the threat of losing health insurance. It is actually far easier to be self-employed in Canada because you don’t have to worry about your health coverage status changing if you leave your job.
Again, this was all the case before Obamacare ever came into being. Obamcare has just made everything worse in the U.S.
This is by no means a call for socialized healthcare. I am just saying that people shouldn’t be so fearful of such a system because we already have a really bad system.
The one thing I am thankful for in our current system is that it is still legal to choose a doctor of your choice and make an agreement to pay that doctor for his services. At least the government isn’t telling you who you have to see or can’t see, at least not directly.
The only way we will see a significant improvement in the U.S. healthcare system is if we move in a direction of freer markets and less government. It should start with a repeal of Obamacare, but it can’t stop there. We need to get the government to back off in many ways and that includes both the federal government and state governments.
If we returned to a more free market system such as that of the 1950’s, coupled with today’s technology, we would see medical care that would be extremely cheap and effective. It would mean countless saved lives and likely a much higher life expectancy.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I’ve noticed changes taking place in the American education system. While I am critical of the American education system, it is not always for the same reasons as others.
First, I am willing to realize that government education is a form of welfare. I don’t blame anyone for using it, just as I don’t blame anyone for collecting Social Security. They are being forced to pay for it, so it is understandable to “redeem” some of your lost money.
The average middle class person hates it when I compare government schools to food stamps. But in reality, they are both a form of welfare and virtually everyone is forced to pay for the benefits of a select group. There is nothing sacred about education where it has to be a government function.
But aside from the fact that the government schools are funded with taxpayer dollars, I have another major issue with the schools, although it is somewhat related.
I am different than many others on this topic. I am not concerned that children aren’t learning enough; I am concerned about what children are learning. Or more precisely, I am concerned that children are being taught to be obedient, nationalistic, and overall good little citizens of the state.
While many parents wish for obedience, there is a difference between being respectful towards others and never questioning authority. I fear that too many children are being taught to never question authority.
There has been a lot of criticism of the American education system over the past few decades, and for good reason. Children in the U.S. rank well below many other countries in the world in language skills, math, and science.
In my view, the American education system is trying to step it up and demanding more. If you have seen the “Common Core” curriculum, you will likely know what I am talking about. They are pressuring kids to learn all of these things at an early age, in most cases before the children are ready for it.
Personally, I don’t see the point in struggling to teach a 2nd grader how to multiply or do complicated word problems when he or she will easily be able to learn the concept in a couple of years.
It is almost as if the government schools are trying to promote a much more strict teaching environment where kids are supposed to constantly work hard and study. They are trying to adopt something similar to a Japan model of education.
But I don’t really care that many kids in Asian countries score really well in math and science. I don’t really care that kids in other countries know how to read and write at an earlier age. I only care in the sense that it is important for all children to eventually learn how to read and write and do some math. But it should be taught when the child is ready, not because they happen to be in a grade where they have to learn it for a standardized test.
The thing that has made America great through its history is the sense of individualism, entrepreneurship, and creativity. Americans have not historically been obedient people, at least relative to the rest of the world.
It is no coincidence that it is the government schools trying to teach children to be obedient. They want them to grow up to be obedient citizens of the state and to not question government authority. I am not saying that all teachers are purposely promoting this, but the system itself is promoting it.
The best thing we can teach our children isn’t math and reading. Those things are certainly important, but they will likely learn that no matter what. The best thing is to teach them to think independently and to be their own person.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
One of the central themes of a free society is the freedom to associate. For reasons of political correctness, most people are afraid to support freedom of association to its logical conclusion.
It is a bit puzzling to me because most Americans will support free speech, even to its logical conclusion. It is said that free speech is an anti-democratic idea and that is certainly true. People speaking with the majority, or saying something popular, don’t really need protection. It is the people who are saying unpopular things that need protection.
While free speech is not fully supported everywhere, even in America, it is far more accepted than freedom of association.
Ask someone if a restaurant owner should be able to turn away customers because of race, or religion, or gender, or a handicap. Most people will not recognize the right of the property owner to decide who enters his property.
Interestingly, if you ask about a homeowner, then most people will agree that the homeowner can turn away whomever he wants. For some reason, a restaurant owner is thought of as having less property rights than the homeowner because the restaurant is open to the public.
Of course, all people discriminate. Some discrimination is rational and natural. Other discrimination might be bad manners or just plain immoral. But I have to maintain that the pro-liberty position is that you should be free to associate or not associate with whomever you want, provided that you are not using force or threatening force or breaking a contract.
If a guy asks a girl out on a date and she says no, she is likely discriminating, particularly if she would have said yes to someone else. But regardless of her reason, does anyone think she should be obligated by the law to say yes?
A restaurant owner, who discriminates based on age or gender or race or sexual orientation or whatever, will most likely just hurt his own business. Not only will he lose the business of those he is not allowing in, he will probably lose the business of others who simply find it distasteful.
The same concept applies to an employer. An employer, in a free society, should not have to prove that he is not discriminating. He should be able to hire anyone or not hire anyone that he wants. People who conduct interviews will usually discriminate in some way anyway. It just isn’t blatant. It is human nature to assess a person based on looks, personality, speech, mannerisms, etc. You can’t help but do that.
Ironically, anti-discrimination laws lead to unintended consequences and can often hurt the very people they are purported to help. In our litigious society today, many employers will avoid associating with people if they think it will increase their chances of a lawsuit.
It is now common for older people who are fired or laid off to sue for age discrimination. So if you are an employer, you are better off not hiring someone who is older because if the person is a lousy worker, you will be stuck with them or else risk a lawsuit for firing them. The result is that it is harder for older people to get a job.
Why would an employer fire someone over age? The reason isn’t because the person is old. It is likely because they are either too expensive or can’t do the job properly. It is not to say that the employer’s perception is always correct, but that could apply to anyone.
Shouldn’t an employer be allowed to get rid of someone who is producing less than he is being paid? Should an employer be forced to take losses because he isn’t allowed to fire someone who is unproductive, just because he is old?
I understand that most Americans want to be sympathetic. But using the force of government to make people associate is not the answer. The answer itself lies in liberty. A society that doesn’t use coercion is a more harmonious society.
There will always be people who are rude, immoral, distasteful, etc. But as long as they are not directly hurting others, then they should be free to make their bad choices. They probably won’t get very far.
It is the same as free speech. You are going to hear people say things that you find wrong or distasteful, but you can choose to tune them out and not give them an audience.
To support liberty, we have to be consistent.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
There is debate stirring about a possible minimum wage increase. Obama and the Democrats in DC are advocating a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour.
This would actually be an increase in the minimum wage of 39%, which is extraordinarily high, especially given the already high unemployment rate, particularly among less skilled workers.
Overall, the American people are in a state of naivety about the minimum wage, thinking there is such a thing as a free lunch. The majority of Americans, who support not only a minimum wage, but also an increase in the minimum wage, do not understand that there will be negative consequences, or they don’t think they will be affected.
Some Republicans will speak out against raising the minimum wage. You will find fewer who will advocate an elimination of minimum wage laws. We also have to remember that the last time minimum wage legislation was enacted to raise the amount, it was under George W. Bush.
Neither side is consistent, with the occasional exceptions. If the Republicans say that raising the minimum wage will cause higher unemployment, then why wouldn’t they advocate getting rid of it? There are a few who do say that, but not nearly enough.
And if the Democrats think that raising the minimum wage is great and virtually cost free, then why not raise it to $15 per hour or $50 per hour?
The minimum wage simply prevents employment between consenting parties. It doesn’t mandate that someone be hired or that someone can’t be fired. It just means that some transactions won’t take place that otherwise would have.
If someone wants to pay another person $6 per hour to do some manual labor and the other person is willing to do the job at that price, then the government is telling them they are not allowed to enter into such an agreement. If the person willing to pay $6 is not willing to pay $7.25 (maybe soon to be higher), then the transaction will never take place.
Like so many laws, it hurts the people most who it is purported to help. In this case, it tends to be younger people and those with fewer skills. These are the people most likely to lose a job or have more difficulty in finding one.
Ironically, it is legal to hire an unpaid intern in many circumstances. The intern would be willing to work for no pay just to gain experience. But if the company offered to pay the intern $5 an hour, then the transaction all of a sudden becomes illegal.
There was just a CBO report released saying that raising the minimum wage would lead to the loss of half a million jobs by late 2016. But the report also said that it would lift 900,000 people out of poverty, meaning it would push them above the designated poverty line.
Of course, these numbers are meaningless. The CBO has no idea what is going to happen. They can plug their numbers into graphs, charts, and various computer-modeling programs, but it can’t actually tell you how humans will react.
A 39% increase in the minimum wage could easily lead to greater poverty. If there are that many more people unable to find work, we really have no idea how bad the effects could be.
The estimate of 500,000 lost jobs could easily end up much higher than that too.
Think of a small business with about 20 employees. Half of the workers are making around the minimum wage and the other half are making more, maybe even significantly more.
If the employer simply can’t make a big enough profit paying an extra $2.85 per hour per worker, then the employer might just shut his doors for business. The extra expense might be around $5,000 per month. And if any of the other workers were making around $10 per hour, how would they feel making the same amount as the other people who have less experience or fewer skills?
If the employer shuts down his business, then it would mean all 20 people would be out of a job, not just the minimum wage workers.
It is also important to point out that there are a lot of other hidden effects from minimum wage laws. An increase in the minimum wage may not lead to some people being fired, but it could lead to jobs not being filled or jobs never being created in the first place.
In conclusion, minimum wage laws are bad economic policy. It will cause higher unemployment, assuming that the mandated wage is not lower than what workers would be paid anyway. It will also cause lower overall productivity and it distorts market activity.
The politicians who push for a higher minimum wage are playing on the economic ignorance of the voting population. Meanwhile, it is only hurting the people it is supposed to help.
The minimum wage should be abolished and people should be allowed to freely associate.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
This may be a recurring theme that annoys some conservative Republicans, but the Republicans in Washington DC are not going to save us. Most of them are part of the problem.
Last week, Congress passed legislation not only to extend the national debt ceiling, but to essentially remove the ceiling until next year. This includes the Republican controlled House, where 28 Republicans defected and supported the legislation.
It is always the same story with a different line. This time, Republicans will point out that most Republicans in the House and Senate opposed the legislation, but that a few centrists are the ones who helped it along.
But that is just the point. There are always some centrists who will support the big government legislation. It is almost rigged in that fashion.
It wouldn’t have mattered if those 28 Republicans in Congress had been Tea Party people. The House still would have found a way to pass legislation to raise the debt limit. It would have been the next 28 most centrist Republicans then.
It is all a political calculation. The Republicans in less conservative districts vote for the legislation, knowing they are less likely to suffer consequences back home. Meanwhile, the more so-called conservative Republicans can go home and say they tried.
Nothing in substance ever changes. During 8 years of George W. Bush, the majority of which the Republicans controlled the House, there was barely any opposition to raising the debt limit. Actually, the little opposition there was, came from just a few people, one of them being Senator Obama.
It is only now that there is a Democrat as president that the Republicans show opposition to massive budget deficits. But it is mostly talk. The few “cuts” that are ever enacted are not really cuts at all. They are reductions in the projected increase in spending, years down the road. And the so-called cuts, that aren’t really cuts, don’t even take place.
I hear some politicians in Washington DC say that they support an amendment to the Constitution to balance the federal budget. But if these people were really serious about balancing the budget, then they could just refuse to ever raise the debt limit. This would automatically force a balanced budget.
The problem here is that politicians will talk about balanced budgets, but don’t have the political will to actually cut major specific programs to get anywhere close to a balanced budget.
At the same time, I can’t keep from laying any blame on the American people. It is a two-way street. Americans will overwhelmingly say they favor a balanced budget, but then are reluctant to support any major cuts to their favorite federal government programs. They are only ok if it is somebody else’s subsidy being taken away.
The reality is that we aren’t going to see a balanced budget because of political action. We will only see a balanced budget when the laws of economics catch up to the whole situation.
When the Federal Reserve finally faces a situation of high inflation and rising interest rates, it will likely stop buying government debt in order to save the U.S. dollar. It will be at this point that the federal government will not be able to issue debt at low interest rates, unless China and Japan keep foolishly buying more of it.
When the government no longer has anyone to buy its debt at low rates, then spending cuts will be forced. Something closer to a balanced budget will happen.
They will probably try to raise taxes, but the American people are more resistant when it comes to increasing taxes. For this reason, Congress will eventually face making tough spending cuts that will hurt both rich and poor in the short term.
Until that time, we can expect more deficits and a rising debt. The politicians aren’t going to stop it, regardless of which party is in power.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Last Tuesday, new Fed chair Janet Yellen appeared before Congress and answered questions. It gave us a sneak peek on what we can possibly expect from her and the Fed going forward.
Her statements and demeanor confirmed something to me. She is towing the political line and she will go along with the establishment, even if it is contrary to her core beliefs. She is a figurehead for the Fed, just as Obama is a figurehead for the executive branch.
A lot of conservatives were really fearful about Obama and his Marxist/ socialist ideology when he won the presidency. A lot of conservatives (and some libertarians) are still quite fearful of Obama and his ideology. While I am fearful of his policies to a certain extent, I can’t say that it is any more so than I would be with an establishment Republican in the White House.
If Obama did half of the things that his predecessor did, Republicans would be ripping him apart, calling him a socialist. Other than Obamacare, most of Obama’s policies have just been a continuation of Bush. Even Obamacare could be considered a continuation.
Obama’s ideology probably is Marxist/ socialist, but his politics come first. He will play ball with the establishment and he won’t make any drastic changes, especially in his second term now.
After Yellen’s appearance before Congress, we can conclude something similar. She may be a Keynesian or a socialist or whatever, but her ideology is only going to go so far. Going along with the establishment will take precedent over her ideology. She is not going to risk her career by strongly going against the establishment.
One of the things Yellen discussed was continuity. She made it clear that she was not going to alter the Fed’s course set by Bernanke, unless it was warranted by economic changes.
She did admit that the Fed might consider slowing down tapering if the economy showed troubled signs. But, this could have just as easily been said by Bernanke.
The stock market went up a lot on Tuesday. Investors seemed to like what Yellen was saying, although we never know how much of the rise in stocks can be attributed to her words.
Gold was also up. This is an indication that investors are less concerned about the Fed tapering. Yellen provided reassurance that the Fed may slow down its tapering in the face of a declining economy.
It actually puzzles me that investors would have been that excited over her remarks. Everyone who pays attention knows her ideology and that she thinks creating money out of thin air is the main answer to all of our economic woes. If anything, her statements before Congress were less extreme than what she would normally say.
At this point, I am not sure that we should be any more scared of a Yellen Fed than a Bernanke Fed.
Bernanke more than quadrupled the adjusted monetary base in 5 years time and he assisted in the biggest bailout ever seen in this world. Bernanke may not be as outspoken as Yellen on Keynesianism and money printing, but does is really matter? Can Yellen really be any worse than Bernanke was?
I will take Yellen at her word that she wants continuity. It is continuity of horrible policies that will lead to a major train wreck down the road.
When the next major financial crisis hits, I’m sure Yellen’s Fed will turn up the monetary inflation if it is within the acceptable bounds of establishment opinion. But would Bernanke’s Fed have really been any different?
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The latest blow to Obamacare is a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will result in the equivalent of 2 million fewer jobs in 2017, and rising to 2.5 million fewer jobs in 2024.
I use the term “equivalent” because the CBO estimate is based on hours. So it may not mean that 2 million people will lose their job by 2017 because of Obamacare, but that we may see many more millions have reduced hours.
Some of the latest stories on the CBO analysis are saying that the whole thing isn’t as bad as it sounds, because these will be voluntary job reductions. The CBO’s report is estimating these reductions in hours partially because of Obamacare’s subsidies for those with lower incomes. Therefore, people will voluntarily reduce their hours and their reportable income so that they can qualify for health insurance subsidies under Obamacare.
While perhaps it seems slightly positive that reduced hours will be voluntary by the employees, as opposed to having hours reduced by the employers, is this really anything to celebrate?
Aside from the moral aspects, this is the main problem with government welfare programs and socialism in general. They provide perverse incentives. In this case, the government program – Obamacare – is encouraging people to work less. It is a distortion of the market and it results in less productivity.
Encouraging less productivity means that we will have a lower standard of living than we otherwise would have had. It means that we have to spend more on basic needs, while having less in the way of luxuries. It also means greater poverty.
Unfortunately, we are focused on jobs as a major side effect only because the government has managed to destroy so many jobs in the first place with unemployment benefits, other welfare, minimum wage laws, and other labor regulations.
There should be plenty of jobs for anyone who wants to work in this world. We live in a world with scarce resources and there is always labor that is needed to improve our standard of living. Until we have robots and computers doing everything for us, this will always be the case.
We should be concerned about productivity, as that is what ultimately determines the standard of living for a society. But it is understandable that so many people are concerned about jobs, only because the government has made it so difficult for people to work.
Even with the stories from Obama supporters promoting the idea that the CBO’s estimates are due to voluntary reductions, I still believe that Obamacare will result in a lot of employers cutting jobs. Plus, there will be a lot of jobs that are never created in the first place because of Obamacare.
Obamacare is just one more regulatory and tax hurdle that employers face and that will affect their decision in hiring. As a result of Obamacare, there will be certain jobs that will never appear that we will never know about. There will be certain products and services that are never offered that we will never know about.
I think it is great that the defenders of Obamacare are having to grasp at straws once again. This is just another major mark against the whole scheme.
If this estimate of lost jobs had come from some libertarian or conservative economist, it would have been dismissed by many. But since it was put out by the CBO, which ironically was used for projections regarding Obamacare when it was being sold to the American people, the Obamacare defenders can’t dismiss the report as being a partisan attack against their program.
First, it was the dysfunctional website. Then it was seeing millions of people lose their insurance due to Obamacare mandates. This CBO report is the third major blow. We still have more to come, especially as more people start paying increased premiums with decreased benefits.
I have been saying all along that Republicans are not going to defeat Obamacare. Obamacare is going to defeat Obamacare.