Taxes loom large in the minds of the American people. How much is too much in taxes to pay? Would those who pay no income tax be better off, having more skin in the game, if a different sort of tax required them to divvy up financially to help support running the government?
Author Dan Pilla’s booklet, Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy, as discussed at a Heartland Institute Author Event on Thursday, November 14th, was written by Pilla to pull back the covers to show how our present Federal Income Tax system falls far short of what should be the template for a federal tax policy that is fair, efficient, and easily understood.
See Part 1: Author says Federal Income tax unfair; ignores sound economic policies
Pilla’s ten principles can be applied to all tax systems at any level of government, but because income taxes collect by far the most revenue and affects the most people in the U.S., it is the income tax that most often violates what Pilla considers sound tax policy as set forth in his booklet, Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy. Download for free at www.heartland.org. Print copies are available at a cost and can be ordered online at heartland.org or call 312-377-4000.
Pilla’s comments, directed at seven of his ten principles of Federal tax policy, follow:
1. Simplicity - Citizens have a fundamental right to know what tax laws require, and compliance should be easy andinexpensive.
A tax code must be such so that people are able to understand the law. The scope of our present tax law contains four million words. It is so vast that not even the IRS knows what is going on. Being that the tax code is so broad, it’s impossible for the administration to do its job. There are 140 individual tax penalties in the current tax code. Difficulty in understanding the tax code breeds non-compliance by the public. Many individuals are subject to tax penalties (punished) based on lacking an understanding of the tax code.
2. Noninvasiveness - A minimally invasive tax code encourages voluntary compliance and reduces the need for enforcement. so many burdens.
3. Efficiency - The total cost of collecting taxes can be reduced by lowering the number of collection points
Some have called the IRS the most efficient agency funded by government. How could this be so? Operational costs in the federal budget total $2 billion a year. There are 93,000 employees, soon to be 100,000 with Obamacare. The IRS collects $2.4 to $2.5 trillion in taxes every year, but four out of every five dollars are not collected by the IRS. 98% of individuals “voluntarily” pay what they owe to the IRS, while only 2% of IRS revenue is received through IRS enforcement. A broad-based retail tax is needed to reduce the 250 million collection ports to 50 (number of states). It is not uncommon for businesses to be required to file 5 different tax forms.
4. Stability - The tax code should be stable and reliable from year to year and generation to generation.
Don’t individuals and businesses have the right to know that the language today is the same as the law will be tomorrow and will likewise serve us in the future? How is it that numerous tax preparers can arrive at different amounts owed by the same taxpayer and with such a variance of the amounts owed? From 2001 – 2008 over 3,250 tax change regulations were put in place. Changing laws with such frequency breeds confusion and results in the the assessment of penalties by the IRS, which leads to zero stability. The federal income tax affects every area of our lives and the most personal ones such as marriage, children, home ownership, personal investment, charitable giving, etc., giving rise to such questions as whether or not to save money or whether or not to get married.
5. Visibility - The cost of government should be readily apparent to taxpayers.
It is important for the American people to know what the tax is on a product or a service to foster understanding about the cost of government. Government costs money, but many times the taxes we pay are invisible. This results in the American people having no idea of what their tax liability is. For people not having skin in the game — and there are entire segments of the population who meet this qualification — it doesn’t matter what government costs. One example of this lack of understanding as noted by DanPilla: An individual, having received an income tax refund of $1,000, never realized that his W2 form showed he had paid $5,000 in wage withholding taxes. Not looking at the top line of his pay check, the individual didn’t see the hidden Social Security tax that had been taken directly out his pay check, having noted only the bottom line which showed his take home pay.
6. Neutrality - Taxes should not fall more heavily on one industry or class of individuals than on others.
7. Economic Growth - Taxes should not impede the investment and consumption decisions that make economic growth possible.
Any tax system must not burden the engine of growth. Although no tax system is a panacea and all taxes result in income distribution, to be considered is where the least amount of damage will be done so economic growth can be encouraged and not stymied. Our Founding Fathers expressly rejected the idea of imposing direct taxes as a means of funding the economy on income, savings, and investments, but instead favored an indirect tax on consumption. The following sound economic principles must be kept front and center in all discussions regarding taxation: 1) What you tax you get less of, and 2) what you subsidize you get more of. The economy can’t grow when the engine of growth is heavily taxed. For every dollar paid in taxes, businesses have a least one less dollar available for other things.
8. Broad-Based - Broad tax bases allow rates to be kept low, which in turn encourages voluntary compliance.
This nation is doing the opposite with its federal income tax system where fewer and fewer people are paying into the system. According to Treasury data: Tax payers in the top 20% of the income distribution pay 70.6% of all federal taxes, while taxpayers in the bottom 20% pay 0.4 percent. More than half of federal taxes are paid by taxpayers in the top 10 percent of the income distribution. Described by Pilla was the “Disney World Syndrome. This syndrome happens when people elect not to pay income taxes, or perhaps mortgage payments, but elect instead to have fun with the money.
9. Equality - The tax system should treat people equally and fairly.
There is a push for equality across the board except when it come to the federal income tax, but does government have the right to steal from people what they earn and distribute to someone else? This “stealing” is done on the basis of success standards, reflected by ones social and economic standing, through the fixed arbitrary income rates designated in the Internal Revenue Code.
10. Constitutionally - Taxes must be imposed solely to fund clearly defined constitutional functions.
Since the 1930′s Congress has used the federal tax laws for purposes other than raising revenue. According to Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution, it authorizes the federal government to 1) pay our debts, 2) provide a national defense, and 3) provide for the “general” welfare of the nation. General welfare has become the point of contention. The original intent of providing for the ”general welfare” was that the provision had to benefit the nation as a whole and not one business or industry over another. The Founders were adamant that the taxing authority granted in the Constitution be used only to benefit the nation as a whole, not individual inhabitants or individuals classes of citizens at the expense of others Our present tax system has evolved into a great transfer system of wealth. There is no legal or moral authority in a free society that justifies using the power of government to take from some what they have legally and peacefully acquired and give to others who have not earned it.
What might be the best tax model for this nation? Democrats are fond of saying that all elections are local. They are local, but they are also personal. Democrats are able to convey a message to voters that asks them individually to consider what’s in it for me when casting their ballot. By handing out free things to different classifications or groups of Americans, Democrat party loyalty is bought and thus established.
Republicans must convince the American people why liberty is a better idea than socialism? Republicans in the past have been inapt in presenting cogent explanations. To be explained by Republicans: Why the freedom to make personal decisions wins every time over government control? How doing for self enriches lives?
It is unrealistic to expect Congress to be up to the task of changing this nation’s tax system unless it is stumbled upon accidentally. Granted, changing the tax system would also have to depend on what is politically doable. All considered, little will happen unless this nation’s tax burden becomes so unbearable that a majority of the American people start to suffer.
Mr. Pilla presented the three tax policy options open to this nation, reminding those assembled how the luxury tax flopped:
1. Current Federal tax policy.
2. Flat tax option.
3. Sales Tax option.
According to Mr. Pilla, we have only one chance to get it right. Pilla considers the value added tax a bad idea, while regressive taxes fall more heavily on the poor than the rich. Regarding a sales tax, Pilla rates it as neither progressive or regressive but proportional to what people buy. As such all Americans would have some skin in the game, with a dawning realization that what government freely gives isn’t free.
There have been three presidential commissions on taxes — 1995, 1996, and in 2005 under President George W. Bush. Each report insisted that a sound tax system must be mindful of the profoundly negative consequences taxes can have on the economy, yet none went beyond the paper they were printed on.
The clock is ticking. Hopefully politics won’t impede the way forward until such a time when this nation can no longer be rescued from it self-imposed downfall, precipitated by an all-powerful, reckless government whose goal it is to please what has become a nation of greedy, government-dependent Americans.
The next Heartland Author Series will be held on Thursday, December 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Michael J. Lotus will speak on America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century–Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come. Call 312/377-4000 or visit heartland.org.
Published, November 19, 2013, Illinois Review
You may remember that when Health Savings Accounts were introduced there was almost universal outrage among liberals about the horrendous burden cost-sharing places on all but “the healthy and wealthy.” A press release issued by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) within a week of the Ways and Means committee approving an HSA bill in 2003 said:
This legislation would lead many employers to move away from providing low-deductible comprehensive insurance, noted Edwin Park, a senior health policy analyst at the Center and the report’s lead author. Policies with deductibles of $1,000 or more, higher co-payments for medical services, and coverage for a narrower array of health services could well become the norm for employer-sponsored coverage, with employers expecting their workers to pay uncovered costs out of their tax-favored Health Savings Security Accounts, Park stated.
Low- and moderate-income workers, who would benefit little from the tax breaks that the new accounts would provide, and older and sicker workers, who could face large increases in out-of-pocket health care costs as a result of the loss of comprehensive insurance, could be sharply affected, he added.
A few years later, after President Bush proposed expanding HSAs, Jason Furman, then at CBPP and today the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a similar slam on high deductibles in health insurance, especially if accompanied with a savings account.
So it comes as something as a shock that today these exact same people are raving about how wonderful the coverage is in ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges. Organizing for Action, Barack Obama’s official grassroots operation emblazons on its website ― “Better Coverage, Lower Costs!”
Then there are two puzzling pieces in The New England Journal of Medicine. The first article “The ACA and High-Deductible Insurance — Strategies for Sharpening a Blunt Instrument,” is by J. Frank Wharam and others. The writers observe that 84% of the enrollees in Massachusetts chose a bronze or silver plan with family deductibles of $4,000 to $10,000 and significant cost sharing on top of that. They say that lower income people in the ObamaCare exchanges will have their out-of-pocket costs subsidized as well as their premiums, but, “the resulting protections may be robust only for persons with incomes below 200% of the poverty level.” They add:
Cover Oregon, for example, estimates that cost sharing for Oregon families with incomes between 200% and 399% of the poverty level will include $5,000 deductibles, 30% coinsurance for many services even after reaching the deductible, and out-of-pocket spending maximums of $8,500 to $12,700.
An accompanying chart lists the deductible for a family at 400% of poverty at $12,700. What happened to “better coverage, lower costs”?
The authors of the article, all associated with Harvard University, express none of the hysteria that went along with the roll-out of HSAs, even though HSA deductibles were quite modest compared to ObamaCare deductibles. But they are concerned about the possible consequences.
Unfortunately they are also woefully ignorant and lazy. They say, “Small employers newly required to purchase employees’ insurance may well choose HDHPs (High-Deductible Health Plans) as the least expensive coverage option.” But small employers are not required to purchase insurance and are not penalized for failing to do so.
The authors rue the lack of research on the effect of high deductibles on “vulnerable populations” –
Unfortunately, cost-sharing research over the past three decades has focused almost exclusively on low-level cost sharing (e.g., less than $50 per service). Few studies since the landmark RAND Health Insurance Experiment of the 1970s and 1980s have examined high cost sharing (e.g., deductibles above $1,000 per year) for expensive services, and fewer still have focused on vulnerable populations.
But the authors believe this because they looked at a total of two reports from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They completely missed a RAND report entitled, “How Do Consumer-Directed Health Plans Affect Vulnerable Populations?” written almost two years ago. One would have to be willfully ignorant to miss this report.
The authors also call on employers to “facilitate contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs), especially for vulnerable people,” but it is not clear these mandated plans are eligible for HSAs. If they require first dollar coverage for anything other than preventive services, they are not eligible for an HSA.
The more I read reports from people at Harvard, the less respect I have for the institution. Which brings us to the next article, “Full Disclosure — Out-of-Pocket Costs as Side Effects,” written by a team from Duke University.
These authors recommend that physicians learn how to talk about costs with their patients. They argue that the financial “side effects” of a treatment program can be just as important as the clinical side effects. They acknowledge that it is extremely difficult for a clinician to know what out-of-pocket costs a patient may be exposed to and very often doesn’t know what the charges will be for a given array of services.
Now, the authors rely too much on information about financial burdens from the Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP is famous for including any discussion of costs or payment arrangements as a “burden.” CAP seems to think anything not paid in full at the time of service is a burden on patients (except, of course, for ObamaCare.)
I don’t expect physicians to double as financial advisers, but I agree that they should be more aware of the costs of the treatments they prescribe. In my own case, my doctor prescribed a blood pressure medication. When I went to fill the prescription I discovered it was enormously expensive. I went back to my Doc to see if there was something more affordable available. No one had ever asked him about that, but when he looked into it, by golly there was a list of 25 different meds with prices ranging 1,000 percent, all equally effective.
That is the effect of an empowered consumer. Ultimately physicians will respond to the demands of their patients and as more of us are paying cash for services, we will insist on cost considerations far beyond what any third party payer could do.
Unfortunately, the ObamaCare approach is far too clumsy to be effective in empowering consumers. The great advantage of funded HSAs is they give patients the means to pay the bill, but also get them to think twice about the costs. It is a carefully balanced approach to growing educated patients. ObamaCare just throws people in the deep end of the pool without any support.[Article originally posted on HealthWorksCollective.com]
Businesses must lobby governments to fight climate change, according to the United Nations. On November 14th, as part of the Warsaw climate conference, the UN issued a new report entitled, “Guide for Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy,” urging active business participation in the UN climate crusade. But is this the best course for business to serve customers and protect the environment?
Representatives from more than 190 nations are meeting in Poland, to lay the groundwork for a binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. The tough issues include the size and timing of emissions cuts and contributions to the $100 billion climate fund, to be paid annually to developing nations in 2020. But negotiations are not going well.
China surpassed the United States in 2007 as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but it does not want to rein in emissions. India has 300 million people without access to electricity and wants other nations to make cuts. Developing nations demand that industrialized nations make deep emissions cuts and large contributions to the $100 billion climate fund, for past emissions sins, and industrialized nations are reluctant to pursue further emissions reductions without participation from developing nations.
Since the failure at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, global climate negotiations have been adrift. The Kyoto Protocol expired at the end of 2012 without a follow-on emissions treaty. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other organizations blame corporate influence as “a major stumbling block to progress on global climate change initiatives.”
The new UN report on corporate engagement will be highlighted in a special session of the conference on November 19. The report calls for companies to lobby governments to support a “global legal agreement on climate change.” Firms must push for a “carbon price throughout the global economy.” But last week, new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott introduced a bill to repeal that nation’s hated carbon tax, a major setback for international efforts.
The report was produced for the UN by leading environmental groups, including the World Resources Institute, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Ceres, and The Climate Group. All of these organizations receive major funding from companies who strive to be responsible corporate citizens.
For example, for many years Coca-Cola has funded the environmental efforts of the WWF. The company runs the “Arctic Home” promotional campaign, featuring a white Coca-Cola can with an image of a mother polar bear and her cubs, raising over $3 million to date for the WWF. Children all over our nation are breaking piggy banks to send money to save the bears.
In 2007, the US Geological Survey published a 30-year detailed study of polar bear populations on the north coast of Alaska, using bear capture, tagging, and electronic collaring to track bear populations. The study concluded that, although ice had declined 30 percent in the region over the period, bear populations increased by 30 percent. So both the polar bears and the WWF are doing quite well.
To be good citizens, some companies are voluntarily buying electricity from expensive wind and solar sources. Shareholders accept this profit-reducing activity, believing this contributes to slowing man-made global warming. But according to the International Energy Agency, wind and solar supply less than 1 percent of global energy needs, and coal-fired energy is growing.
Last week, Japan announced that it was changing its national 2020 emissions target from a decrease to an increase from the year 1990. Both Japan and Germany replaced nuclear plants with coal-fired plants in the wake of the Fukishima nuclear disaster, so emissions for both nations are growing.
In 2011 UPS began using biodiesel at major US shipping hubs. The company stated, “This project helps us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels with the added benefit that it will also reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.” But mounting evidence shows that business use of biodiesel is negative for both people and the environment.
A recent study by the International Food Policy Institute concludes that current biofuel policies do not reduce CO2 emissions. United Kingdom’s Chatham House points out that biofuel efforts increase “the level and volatility of food prices, with detrimental impacts on the food security of low-income food-importing countries.” Rain forests are being destroyed in Malaysia and Indonesia to plant palm oil plantations for biofuel.
Since climate change is dominated by natural, not man-made factors, there is no United Nations agreement that will have a measurable effect on Earth’s climate. There is no corporate policy that will have a measurable effect on icecap size, sea level rise, the frequency or intensity of hurricanes or storms, droughts, or floods. No UN policy, however broadly endorsed by nations and companies, will have a measurable effect on global temperatures.
For a real difference and not just a public relations difference, companies should direct efforts toward measures that solve real problems. Innovative products and services for humankind, reduction of real pollutants (not carbon dioxide), and support for efforts to bring electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care, and prosperity to developing nations should be corporate goals, rather than futile efforts to halt climate change.
[Article originally posted on The Daily Caller]
After three decades of being the nation’s leader in taxpayers’ rights defense and IRS abuse, prevention, and cure, Dan Pillas can rightly claim the mantle as one of this country’s premiere experts in IRS procedures. He has helped countless thousands of citizens solve personal and business tax problems they thought might never be solved.
Mr. Pilla is author of eleven books, dozens of research reports, and hundreds of articles. His work is regularly featured on radio and television as well as in major newspapers, leading magazines and trade publications nation-wide. The Wall Street Journal ranked Pilla’s book, The IRS Problem Solver, as the number one tax book in America. As a consultant to the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS, Pillas presented testimony to Congress on several occasions and has been admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court.
Pilla’s association with The Heartland Institute began twenty years ago after writing How to Fire the IRS. Published in 1994, the book sets out the premise that despite a doubling of its budget over the past 10 years and a nearly 20 percent increase in enforcement personnel, the IRS is increasingly incapable of administering and enforcing the nations tax law. Pilla is listed under Heartland experts as a taxpayers’ rights advocate and head of TaxHelpOnline.com.
Standing by itself, Pilla’s Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy is one in a series of eight other brief guides in Heartland’s Legislative Principles Series, each having its own set of principles central to its topic of debate. Collectively they represent nine major public policy issues, i.e.: Chaper 1, 10 Principles of School Choice.
All nine booklets in Heartland’s Legislative Principles Series can be downloaded for free from the Heartland Institute’s Web site . Print copies are also available for a cost and can be ordered online at www.heartland.org or call 312-377-4000.
Pilla’s Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy has been rolled into Chapter 9 of The Patriot Tool Box, an indispensable guide to public policy for those concerned about the direction of their nation. Although published in 2010 by The Heartland Institute, it is just as relevant today. Its 10 chapters address important public policy issues not unlike those facing our nation today.
Although the ten principles outlined in Pilla’s federal tax policy booklet might be applied to any tax system and at all levels of government, it is income taxes that are more likely to violate the tax system as this tax collects by far the most revenue and affects the most people in the U.S.
Most fitting is this reference noted on Page 2 of Pilla’s Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy: Of all the powers conferred upon government that of taxation is most liable to abuse. Supreme Court of the United States, Citizens’ Savings & Loan Ass’n v. City of Topeka, 87 U.S. 655 (1874)
After being introduced by Joe Bast, President and CEO of Heartland, Dan Pilla, with energy and enthusiasm, elaborated on 7 of the 10 principle noted in his Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy.
It was in 1992, upon realizing that the federal tax policy needed to be fixed which bespoke of an alternate tax system, that Dan Pilla’s thoughts turned to writing a book. How to Fire the IRS was published in 1993.
Contemplated by Pilla back in 1992 was how a new kind of tax policy was needed that embraced liberty. The present Federal Income Tax, a graduated income tax system, increases the tax rate as the taxable base amount increases. Historically, Congress enacted the nation’s first income tax law in 1862 in order to support the Civil War effort. it was the forerunner of our modern income tax in that it was based on the principles of graduated (or progressive) taxation and on withholding income at the source
Continuing in his presentation, Mr. Pilla expounded upon the importance of why income taxes represent an important policy issue. Because, as Pilla indicated, its consequences affect every aspect of everybody’s life. The Founders never meant for the federal government to have so much control and presence in the lives of the American people, having rejected an income tax even though money was needed to sustain the fledgling republic.
Part 2: Daniel Pilla’s Principles of Federal Tax Policy are discussed, which point to his preferred tax, the Sales Tax, with a further discussion about changing the present tax code.
No, not Washington, D.C., or even Washington State (although the Seattle Seahawks did extend their NFL-best record to 10-1 with a 41-20 pasting of the Minnesota Vikings), but Washington, Illinois, a town of about 15,000 people, nestled just east of Peoria and a bit northeast of Pekin, Illinois, former home to the unfortunately-named “Chinks.”
Roughly mid-day on Sunday, November 17, an EF-4 tornado tore through the town of Washington, Illinois, killing one person, injuring another 120, and damaging or destroying between 250 and 500 homes and other buildings. Winds estimated at up to 170 to 190 miles per hour reportedly scattered identifiable paper debris as far as the southwest Chicago suburbs, roughly 130 miles away. While football fans in Chicago were forced to evacuate their Soldier Field seats for two hours in a storm-delayed game that the Bears eventually won in overtime over the defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens, plenty of people in Washington have no homes to which to return.
Yet there was only limited looting and no rioting, and as of yet there have been no reported rapes, no murders, no defecating in the hallways of shelters, no leaving handicapped people to die unattended. Instead, unlike in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in the City of New Orleans, citizens actually helped one another out. WLS-TV out of Chicago, for example, reported that a local grocery store helped keep customers and workers safe from harm by sheltering them in a freezer during the worst of the storm.
The Illinois National Guard has since dispatched 10 firefighters to Washington to search debris for any additional dead, and Illinois Governor Quinn has declared Tazewell and six surrounding counties disaster areas, but the President has yet to give a speech about it and FEMA (thankfully) does not appear to have moved in to start handing out trailer homes. (The White House did issue a statement saying that President Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state, and local officials.)
Why the difference? Could it be that people who have learned to rely on themselves instead of their government are better equipped to deal with natural disasters and adversity when they occur? Isn’t there a lesson here somewhere?
In a Wall Street Journal commentary on November 11, Alan Blinder purports to tell us why, despite a “botched roll out,” Obamacare is still worth it. “America cannot be a humane society if we leave 15% of our population uninsured,” he explains.
I agree that America cannot be a humane society unless we have some means to assure health care for all. But in context, his quoted statement above could not be more silly, and intellectually embarrassing.
Alan, is Princeton so intellectually corrupt these days that no one there has noticed that the effect of Obamacare so far has been to increase the number of uninsured by millions and millions of Americans?
CBO estimates that Obamacare would still leave 30 million Americans uninsured 10 years after implementation! Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute estimates in a commentary published by Forbes that close to 100 million Americans will lose their health insurance under Obamacare. Roy explains that this is based on estimates published by the Obama Administration in the Federal Register in 2010.
Many more Americans than that heard President Obama promise the American people over and over that under Obamacare, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.” It is no answer to say that millions and millions of Americans now losing their health insurance does not violate the President’s promise, because the President thinks their insurance was no damn good. That amends Obama’s promise to “If I like your health plan, you can keep it.”
Edie Littlefield Sundby had a health insurance plan that spent $1.2 million on health care for her stage 4 gall bladder cancer. That plan included first rate doctors from her hometown of San Diego, to Stanford University’s Cancer Institute, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, that kept her alive for 7 years. But that plan was cancelled under Obamacare, forcing her insurer United Healthcare out of California altogether. Was that plan no damn good?
Now Sundby and her health insurance consultants cannot find another plan in the highly touted California Obamacare Exchange that includes those same doctors, at any price. And down goes another Obamacare promise, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?”
What should be brutally obvious even to Princeton economics professors and “progressive” political activists is that Obamacare is not a way to achieve their goal of universal coverage. So down goes the central promise of Obamacare to the “progressive Left. Is the appropriate greeting to them today, “good morning, suckers?”
What Obamacare really does is massively increase government power and control over health care, sharply increasing government spending, taxes and regulation. Assuming that the Ivy League professors designing Obamacare knew what they were doing, that must have been what was really important to them after all. The real reason for that is they, along with the President, suffer the “progressive” fatal conceit that they know what is best for everyone. Or in Michelle Obama’s revealing words, how the world should be instead of how it is. So increasing government power and control is what is really important, so then they can remake the world as it should be, rather than as it is. Universal coverage is just the story they tell to the “useful idiots,” to provide the cover for what they are really after – more power.
Do you see now what I mean in calling President Obama’s rhetorical strategy “Calculated Deception?”
Of course, let us not forget that candidate Obama campaigned for years promising that Obamacare would reduce the cost of family health insurance by an average of $2,500 a year. But instead of going down, the cost of health insurance has shot up. More Calculated Deception? How could anyone think that mandating slews of additional benefits that health insurance would have to provide, in addition to requiring insurers to issue new coverage to everyone at standard rates no matter how sick and costly when they first applied, would do anything but raise the cost of health insurance sharply?
So we started with the individual mandate and the employer mandate, forcing both individuals and employers to buy the health insurance that the government says they must have (because after all, the “progressives” that run the government know best how the world should be”). Now as a solution to the problem of millions of Americans, like Edie Littlefield Sundby, losing the health care plan they like under Obamacare after all, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is promoting a bill gaining increasing favor in the Democrat controlled Senate to force the insurance companies to continue to sell those plans. And now circulating among Democrats in the states is a proposal toforce all doctors to serve all patients under Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare coverage, whether the doctors want to or not. After all, when you know better than anybody how the world should be, you should be entitled to rule, shouldn’t you? That is what the Communists thought, which they thought entitled them to impose compulsion on everybody, so the world would be as it should be.
None of this compulsion, increased costs, increased taxes, spending and regulation, is necessary to achieve the moral goal of assuring health care for all. Rather, that can be achieved instead through reduced taxes, spending, and regulation.
Here is the reform plan to repeal AND REPLACE Obamacare that the Republicans should have long ago drafted, introduced and passed through the House of Representatives. Expand the tax preference now provided to employer provided health insurance to everyone through a universal, refundable tax credit for the purchase of health insurance equal roughly to $2,500 per person, $8,000 per family. That would offer the same equal tax benefit to everyone.
The tax credit is not intended to pay for the entire cost of health insurance, just to help pay for it, just as the tax benefit for employer provided health insurance does not pay for the entire cost of that insurance, but just helps to pay for it. Employers would continue to be able to deduct the cost of health insurance, just as they deduct all other employee compensation. But employers who already provide health insurance today could choose between the current tax exclusion for their workers, or the new tax credits. (Those would be equivalent tax benefits to the worker either way). That would ease the transition to the new credits, and avoid the loss of any current coverage.
Workers would be free to use the credit to purchase the health insurance they each choose, including Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). There would be no mandate forcing the worker to buy the health insurance the government chooses for them. But if a worker did not use the credit to buy any health insurance at all, that would effectively be a penalty for failing to get insurance, in terms of the opportunity cost of foregoing the $2,500 offered by the credit. If a worker does not use credit to buy health insurance, the credit amount is provided through a block grant to local indigent care facilities that provide health care to the poor and uninsured in the local area where the worker resides.
The insurance purchased by the worker with the credit would belong to the worker, not the employer, and so would be fully portable, following the worker to any job he may choose. Each worker would be free to decide to use the tax credit to purchase another health insurance plan other than the one provided by their employer, if they preferred, including Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s). Once a health insurance plan is purchased, it would be assured of guaranteed renewability, as long as the premiums continued to be paid (and no one’s premiums could be increased higher than for those in the same initial risk class). That has already long been required by current law, indeed going back to the common law, because guaranteed renewability protecting against the costs of getting sick is what health insurance contracts promise to do.
Workers would also be free to choose to use the tax credit to opt into Medicaid if they desired. But anyone on Medicaid would be free to choose the tax credit to opt out of Medicaid if they desired as well. That would enormously benefit the poor, who can’t get timely, adequate care on Medicaid, because it pays so little to the doctors and hospitals that provide the care.
This alone would assure universal health care for all (which again Obamacare fails to do), because everyone would get the credit, and anyone could use it to opt into Medicaid, which is how most of the uninsured that do get health coverage under Obamacare get that coverage. This alone would also fully address the issue of pre-existing conditions for the uninsured, because anyone with such a condition that could not get market health insurance as a result could get fully covered under Medicaid. Libertarians note, if the government offered everyone a tax credit they could use to opt of Social Security, we would embrace it in a heartbeat, even if they could also use it to opt into Social Security. Note also the value of fully winning the argument over Obamacare.
The reform plan includes as well providing the federal financing for Medicaid to the states through fixed, finite block grants every year, just as was done so successfully for the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in the 1996 welfare reforms. The states would then be free to reform their respective Medicaid programs to best serve the poor in their state. The states would be urged to do that by providing vouchers to the poor that they could each use to buy the private health insurance of their choice, on top of the universal tax credit, including again Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). This would again enormously benefit the poor, because they would enjoy better access to health care with private health insurance than with Medicaid. States would also be free to use part of the Medicaid block grant funds for Uninsurable Risk Pools that would assure coverage to all the uninsured who could not buy health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Those covered would be charged a premium based on ability to pay, to assure that the risk pool could serve a safety net function. Remaining costs would then be covered by the public funds provided to the pools.
Consumer choice and competition would help to reduce costs. Health Savings Accounts, which have proven to reduce costs through market incentives, would be available to all, which would further assure reduced cost growth. The reform plan would include the interstate sale of health insurance, to further increase cost reducing competition. Medical malpractice reform would also help to reduce costs. So the plan would provide effective cost control, unlike Obamacare, which only works to increase costs.
But the health plan would also assure universal health care for all, again unlike Obamacare, through multiple layers of safety nets. Everyone gets the universal tax credit, and everyone would be free to use it to buy into Medicaid in any event. High Risk Pools would further assure coverage to the uninsured in any event. For those who do not exercise the tax credit, the credit amount is provided to local indigent care facilities to provide health care for the poor and uninsured.
The end net result is universal health care for all, with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, a net $1 trillion tax cut, $2 trillion dollar spending cut, and vastly reduced regulatory costs and burdens (because of the repeal of Obamacare, and the Medicaid block grants, which CBO scores as saving nearly a trillion or more over 10 years). Workers would each be choosing their own health insurance. No one would be telling the Catholic Church or Liberty University that they must pay for insurance covering abortion, or contraceptives.
Republicans can be rightly faulted for failing to provide the leadership to draft, introduce and pass this freedom of choice, Patient Power plan, at least through the House, as it has been circulating among the conservative think tanks for 20 years. The public would rightly embrace this plan as vastly preferable to Obamacare, for all of the reasons discussed above. But today’s Republicans are no longer the party of ideas, as they were under Reagan, when they won control of government at all levels, but the party of scared rabbits.
Why would any progressive Democrat not join in supporting such a plan with these results? Because again unlike Obamacare, instead of increasing government power and control, it reduces government power and control. And for today’s power mad, neo-Marxist Democrats, increased government power and control is what it is all about.[Originally posted on forbes.com]
America’s creation of the Internet, and the phenomenal innovation and benefits it has spawned, has changed the world. However, now that the Internet is maturing, the world is changing the Internet.
Many fear this natural evolution as the “balkanization” of the free and open Internet. Some warn it’s a “splinter net” caused by the NSA-Snowden effect. Others in Congress call it classic “protectionism” against American Internet companies.
Something big is going on. At core, it’s the de-Americanization of the Internet.
The rest of the world is vigorously asserting itself in most every aspect of the Internet: governance, oversight, operation, and benefits, in order to make the Internet more global and rest-of-world balanced, rather than American-dominated.
Consider some percentages to appreciate this very real dynamic. Americans make up ~4% of world population and ~10% of the world’s Internet users. America produces ~21% of the world’s GDP and spends ~39% of the world’s military expenditures.
American Internet companies dominate most all Internet market segments: search, online advertising, social media, apps, ecommerce, mobile, cloud computing, cloud storage, email, video streaming, video conferencing, maps, books, translation, etc.
An estimated ~50-70% of global Internet revenues and profits are American depending on the segment. 8 of the top 10 sites worldwide by traffic are American. Essentially the “cloud” means the rest-of-world largely stores and processes its private data on American soil.
Finally, the accumulative Snowden revelations have exposed America’s most dominant aspect of the Internet, that the NSA can inspect most all Internet traffic.
Simply, these Internet numbers are powerfully in America’s interests, but not necessarily in the interests of the rest-of-world.
In other words, the Internet largely has been an American one-way street for governing control, access to private information, and profitability. Now the ongoing waves of Snowden revelations have catalyzed the rest-of-world to seek a more two-way global Internet street.
Several high profile American actions have catalyzed and accelerated the de-Americanization of the Internet.
The biggest and most obvious has been the Snowden Effect. Repeated blockbuster Snowden revelations of the ubiquity, totality, and boundlessness of the NSA’s Internet surveillance have had the effect of largely isolating the U.S. on Internet matters, while largely uniting the rest-of-world.
Compounding the damage of the illegal NSA leaks, the Administration mishandled the public explanation by assuring just Americans that the NSA was not spying on them. Unfortunately, what the citizens of the rest-of-world heard was that the NSA was spying on them.
This is highly problematic for America because the vast majority of users of American Internet services are rest-of-world, and roughly half of America’s Internet companies’ profits come from rest-of-world.
Exacerbating this real and perceived Internet economic imbalance, has been the aggressive and effective avoidance of paying hardly any sovereign taxes on the high profits American Internet companies have earned outside of the U.S.
On privacy and data protection, American companies, led by Google and Facebook, have aggressively pushed the rest-of-world to acquiesce to their insatiable appetite for private information on their citizens, and to store that private data outside of their sovereign control in American data centers.
On intellectual property, some American Internet companies’ open disrespect for copyrights and patents have seriously undermined America’s moral case for generating indignation against China’s continuous, massive, and systematic theft of American intellectual property and trade secrets.
So how is the de-Americanization of the Internet manifesting itself?
For national reasons, China, Russia and South Korea have long fostered their own sovereign domestic industries for search, online advertising, and ecommerce.
Increasingly countries are requiring Google, Facebook, and Twitter, to route their traffic through the sovereign country’s domain extension, not their American dot.com addresses. That enables better sovereign control of that traffic and facilitates enforcement of their sovereign laws.
Last December in Dubai, the U.N.’s ITU overwhelming out-voted America’s free and open Internet governance position. That lop-sided vote presages a new long-term consensus to give the rest-of-world much more say going forward in how the Internet is operated and regulated.
Interestingly, that seminal ITU vote was orchestrated by China, Russia and the Arab states. So it should be no surprise that ICANN, the U.S.-created overseer of Internet top level domains, just built into the Internet new language character sets for Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
These and other coming language character sets will accelerate the de-Americanization of the America’s dot.com Internet to more sovereign-controlled, native language, sub-Internets.
Maybe the biggest precursor of increased Internet de-Americanization was a recent public statement to accelerate globalization of Internet governance, which all major Internet organizations endorsed.
In addition to ICANN, the groups effectively calling for the de-Americanization of the Internet included: the Internet Society; the World Wide Web Consortium; the Internet Engineering Task Force; and the Internet Architecture Board.
Sovereign groups and nations are piling on too.
The EU is pushing for a Euro cloud that would keep European data on European soil, and that could upend the longstanding US-EU data safe harbor. France is pushing for much stronger data protection. Germany wants to end EU-US data sharing. And Switzerland is building a Swiss cloud service.
Brazil plans to build fiber optic networks to bypass America and to store Brazilian data in Brazil. India plans to prohibit government officials from using American email services.
What does all this mean?
To better understand this big picture dynamic, think of America’s Internet as a clear bay window to the world, where one can freely and openly see through sovereign borders, because of the Internet’s largely unfettered free flow of information across most all sovereign borders.
Then think of how the world is changing the Internet as sovereign nations increasingly enforce respect for their sovereign borders.
Metaphorically they are putting sovereign window pane borders on America’s bay window and adding varying shades of opaqueness to their sovereign window pane to achieve their different desired sovereign goals.
The implications of this for trade agreements could be immense. Right now it practically is as good as it gets for America’s Internet. Data largely flows freely while America largely controls most of the data and its monetization.
It’s hard to imagine post Snowden, that the rest-of-world will memorialize in future trade agreements that most all control and value from the Internet always stays American.
Besides big upcoming trade fights, there will be another big Internet fight over ultimate control of the Internet’s operations.
Here America’s dominance is threatened but may be more secure because America effectively owns the most essential element to the operation of the Internet.
Few appreciate that ICANN is essentially the U.S. Department of Commerce’s contractor to manage the Internet’s Domain Name System.
Even fewer appreciate that America still indefinitely retains contractual rights to the Internet’s authoritative “root zone file,” the essential core addressing database that the Internet depends upon to ensure that any Internet addressed device can link to any other Internet-addressed device.
Ultimately how America and the world resolve control over the Internet’s authoritative “root zone file” could determine just how far the de-Americanization of the Internet goes.
Giving typically rambling and somnolent answers to simple questions, President Obama dodged and stink-faced while offering the occasional “it’s on me” — by which he meant “Please accept my half-hearted apology so that I can get back to blaming straw men and misleading voters.”
The president’s remarks highlight his disconnection with reality and his perception of Obamacare’s failure as primarily a political risk for himself rather than a policy disaster for millions.
After spending a few minutes talking about a new White House web page about helping victims of Typhoon Haiyan (a simple page which represents the limit of what the administration should attempt in web design), the president offered a litany of data points whose only real purpose must have been to make him feel better.
What ordinary American cares about “1 million Americans who successful made it through the website and now qualify to buy insurance but haven’t picked a plan yet”? Who gives a rat’s posterior that “more than a hundred thousand Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans” when fifty times as many have lost coverage they liked and could afford?
Obama made clear how little he understands the average American — and how in tune he is with rent-seekers, poverty pimps, union thugs, and special interests — with this assessment of the nation he has so little true connection with: “People look at what’s taking place in Washington and say ‘not enough is being done that helps me in my life.’” Perhaps the president should see a psychologist for his projection issues.
Obama continued whinging: “We always knew that (the operation of the exchanges) would be complicated.” The president used the word “complicated” six times during his remarks, leading one to believe that Michelle is in charge of buying insurance for the Obama family.
The federal government is not good at procuring or developing IT, Obama told us. And in case you forgot, “We’re also discovering that insurance is complicated to buy.”
So why, exactly, did he think it would be a good idea for the federal government to take control of the health insurance industry and force Americans into a website whose development was managed by unqualified Medicare and Medicaid bureaucrats? (Answer: Because his will conquers all. Just ask the planet and the oceans.)
Meanwhile, the number one company on the InformationWeek 500 list of companies making the best use of information technology, UPMC, is “one of the country’s largest integrated healthcare companies.” Online auto insurance company Esurance and life insurance company CUNA Mutual also made the top 30. In short, insurance is too complicated for the federal government and much too complicated for Barack Obama, but the private sector can handle it just fine when left alone to do so. Everyone sees this but the president.
The ostensible purpose of Thursday’s press conference was for Obama to announce a proposed “fix,” namely a doomed-to-fail CYA measure that would allow state insurance commissioners to allow insurance companies to continue, for one year, plans which would otherwise be prohibited by Obamacare.
In typical petty dictator style, the administration would also require insurers “to inform their customers about…what protections these renewed plans don’t include” and to suggest to people that they shop on the federal exchange. Imagine the federal government requiring McDonald’s to tell its customers they may want to consider Burger King.
The real purpose, however, was laid bare when Obama said, “the key point is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who received (cancelation) notices, ‘I, the president of the United States and the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act is [sic] not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have.’”
In other words, the Obama fix is aimed primarily at shifting blame from government to the insurance companies — as has always been this administration’s strategy. Indeed, one of the notable aspects of the Obamacare melodrama is that the American public, no big fans of health insurers to begin with, are not being fooled by Obama’s misdirection.
The Obama fix can’t and won’t work — not that it was actually designed to, since a true fix would gut the mandatory nature of Obamacare required for its massive income redistribution to succeed.
Some states’ insurance regulators say they will try to comply with the administration’s wishes to allow a one-year extension for policy-holders who have already received cancelation notices, but other states say they will not — including states run by Democrats. So far, the majority seem to just be confused.
Because the administration’s goal with their “fix” is to be able to blame insurance companies for Obamacare-caused turmoil, it’s not surprising that the chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said that his group had not been asked for input on, nor warned about, the president’s proposal; they learned about it Thursday when the rest of the nation did. Now they know how President Obama feels, learning everything important from TV.
But since insurance is indeed complicated, Obama’s fix will have little or no impact: most insurance companies will not accept the extra cost of keeping people on plans that are already in the process of being canceled, particularly since those plans have only been given an extra year to live.
Additionally, the fix is, as Andy McCarthy put it, “insouciantly lawless.” The job of the president is to faithfully execute laws passed by Congress, not modify them on an ad hoc basis to save his own political skin.
The Obama proposal is almost worse than that: it does not actually change the law, but rather is a wink and a nod to insurance companies that if they break the law, they will not be prosecuted. Beyond the shameless despotism of such an approach, what corporate counsel would allow his organization to take such a risk? Who would rely on an unstable administration with a reputation for mafia-like efforts to punish its enemies — among whom health insurers definitely should consider themselves.
The fix is indeed in, but not the way Obama wants you to believe. His promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period” remains utterly and completely broken.
While no Republican will go to court to challenge this particular bit of presidential malfeasance, American voters (other than stubborn Democrats who still mindlessly give President Obama high approval ratings) are seeing ever more clearly that our president is better suited for political office in Venezuela than in the United States.
Indeed, what is the real difference between the mindset behind Obamacare and that of Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver — as qualified to run a country as a community organizer might be — confiscating the inventory of a chain of electronics stores as part of his “economic war,” and promising everybody a plasma television? No, I’m not making this up.
President Obama’s press conference and temporary Band-Aid on the gaping wound that is the Affordable Care Act mark the low point of this administration…so far.
The media (other than the New York Times) has turned on him. The public sees through him. In what the president’s cheerleaders at NBC called a “mild rebuke to Obama,” 39 House Democrats voted on Friday for legislation to allow a similar fix, though the measure will not see the light of day in the Senate (which is a good thing for a several reasons.)
The administration is in a hole too deep to climb out of, but they are petrified — not least by Bill “Much better than Barack” Clinton’s criticism — of appearing to do nothing, so they just keep digging. At this point, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
A cabal of climate change alarmists landed in Warsaw, Poland last weekend, to hammer out terms and rally support for a new binding global agreement to “save the planet” from “dangerous global warming.”
Not so fast, tens of thousands of Poles responded. The facts support their position.
Average global temperatures have not risen in 16 years, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased steadily, helping plants grow faster and better. Antarctic ice is at a record high, Arctic sea ice is back to normal, and at current rates Greenland would not melt for 13,000 years. A new research paper in Global and Planetary Change reveals that global sea level rise has decelerated by 44% since 2004, to barely 7 inches per century!
These realities were underscored during a climate policy conference in Warsaw, on the eve of the UN confab. The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) keynoted the event, which was sponsored by Solidarity, the Institute for Globalization, and other Polish and European NGOs. Capping off the program, representatives from the United States, Italy, Sweden, Hungary and Poland formally signed the “Warsaw Declaration.”
The declaration calls on the United Nations to discontinue work on a new treaty until a genuine “scientific consensus is reached on the phenomenon of so-called global warming,” including both its natural and human causes.
The next day, more than 50,000 enthusiastic Poles gathered in downtown Warsaw to celebrate National Independence Day, which commemorates the restoration of Poland’s statehood in 1918, after 123 years of partition and occupation by Russia, Prussia and Austria.
As millions more watched on live television, I was honored to be invited to the stage, to deliver an address celebrating freedom and warning against the UN’s dangerous, oppressive climate agenda. It was undoubtedly the largest audiences ever to hear a speech denouncing UN global warming policies, and I was proud to stand next to a CFACT banner that read “No to UN Climate Hype” in Polish, and be surrounded by thousands of people wearing stickers bearing the same message.
It was clear that – after twelve decades of partition, six years of Nazi terror, and 44 years of Russian and Communist subjugation – few Poles are in any mood to have their lives, liberties and living standards dictated by the European Union and United Nations, under the guise of “protecting the planet” from the supposed “ravages” of “cataclysmic” global warming (or “climate change” or “climate disruption” or whatever the catch-phrase of the week might be).
This is “a new battle for freedom,” I emphasized, “against those who would use environmental and climate alarmism to steal away our liberties and give international bureaucrats control over our energy sources, our daily lives, our prosperity, and our national sovereignty.”
During last year’s climate meeting in Rio de Janeiro, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that what the UN intends is “a complete economic transformation of the world.” In 2000, former French President Jacques Chirac called the Kyoto climate treaty “the first component of authentic global governance.” And last year IPCC Working Group III co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer said international climate policy is not about environmental policy; it is about “how we redistribute the world’s wealth.”
These attitudes and agendas are bad news for those of us who love freedom. UN climate policy is bad news for the people of Poland, I stressed. The good news is that my address was carried live on Polish national television, covered by many international media outlets, and heartily endorsed by the throngs of independence celebrants, who gave a rousing chant in support of my message, following my address.
My talk was certainly noticed by the UN climate alarmists, who were kicking off their COP-19 climate conference, power grab and wealth redistribution schemes just a few kilometers away.
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion,” I continued, quoting from the Book of Proverbs. That is why environmentalists and climate bureaucrats don’t want to debate these issues or show anyone the assumptions, massaged temperature data and secret codes that they use in their misleading global warming computer models. “They know they are deceiving the world.”
Those of us gathered in Warsaw that day, I concluded, “stand for freedom. We stand for opportunity. We stand for our families. We stand for a strong and prosperous future. Together let us be bold as a lion.”
The UN made a big mistake in choosing Poland to host this global warming treaty summit. The Poles see right through the global warming hype and propaganda. Having to endure generations of Nazi and Communist oppression, pollution and economic deprivation has left them with a deep distaste for bureaucratic control and further curbs on freedom, opportunity and growth. Having to live according to grim ideologies enforced by threats of jail, or worse, has made them angry about new codes of ecologically correct speech.
Poland deserves freedom and prosperity. It knows it cannot move forward without energy – the Master Resource, the lifeblood of modern industrialized societies. The brave Poles are not about to cede their sovereignty to UN control – not about to let phony climate Armageddon alarms dictate their lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans. They will not let the EU or UN control virtually everything they make, grow, ship, eat, drive and do.
They are fully aware that Poland is blessed with some of the biggest coal and shale gas reserves in all of Europe. They know Japan has reversed course, and will now allow a 3% increase in greenhouse gas emissions above 1990 levels, instead of mandating a 25% cut. They realize that “rich nations” (or more accurately, formerly rich nations) have rejected demands that they fork over $30 billion immediately, followed by $100 billion annually – in “compensation,” “adaptation” and “mitigation” money, to pay for “damages” from more frequent, more intense climate changes that aren’t happening, but are supposedly caused by industrialized nations.
They also know Germany is expanding its coal use to generate affordable electricity, and reverse the skyrocketing energy prices and job destruction that are sending shock waves through the German economy. Poland too needs all the coal, oil and natural gas power it can muster, to build an economy that was held back for decades by war and Communist misrule.
CFACT has been an officially recognized NGO at United Nations conferences for nearly two decades. It will be in Warsaw throughout the two-week-long COP-19 confab, with a delegation headlined by Apollo VII astronaut Colonel Walter Cunningham, who is highly critical of UN climate pseudo-science.
We will steadfastly present the facts about natural and manmade climate change, and the absolute requirement that environmental policies must reflect genuine science and the needs of human beings.
We will also support Polish feelings about the UN climate treaty – which boil down to what Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher told the Soviet Union: “Let Poland be Poland!”
[First published at CFACT.]
This year, 11 states qualify for the “Community Eligibility Option.” If more than 40 percent of their students are eligible for federal lunch subsidies called free and reduced-price lunch, they can put all the kids into the program. That’s right: Schools don’t even need most of their students to register in the “low-income” category to enroll every single one into food welfare.
This country just witnessed a 16-day government shutdown because we can’t afford to pay for existing entitlement programs. It’s insanity to create another entitlement for families that can afford to provide lunches for their children.
I joined Fox News recently to discuss this entitlement expansion. Besides many unprintable emailed responses, I received one from a Florida teacher:
“Supposedly hungry children would take a tray of breakfast food. They would open the pint of milk, take one sip. They would receive a beautiful piece of fruit (apple, banana, pear) and not touch it or maybe take one bite. … They did not eat 10 percent of what they received,” she wrote. “I began asking them why they weren’t eating. Many stated they’d already eaten at McDonalds that morning or ate cereal at home. When I asked, ‘Why are you getting free and reduced breakfast?’ They would shrug their shoulders. They didn’t know. Just expected it.”
When this teacher attempted to reduce the waste by collecting uneaten food and encouraging kids to share, the school cafeteria refused to serve it again because it was against government regulations. For the same reason, a homeless shelter wouldn’t accept the food as a donation. So teachers began taking home bags of fruit, unopened milk containers, and other items each day.
“Finally, after about three weeks, the principal came to me and told me to stop because they had a budget they had to spend. If they didn’t spend it, it would be reduced,” the teacher wrote. “If the kids aren’t eating it and it’s going in the trash, then you don’t need that much in your budget.”
Federal school lunch (and now breakfast and an afternoon snack) is a story of big government and big agribusiness colluding to create a program that benefits them at the expense of hungry children and working adults. Food welfare became national decades ago in an agreement between rural and urban lawmakers that ensured each would continue to vote for the other’s pet entitlements: welfare and agribusiness subsidies (which raise the price of food for everybody). There is no reason local communities and states cannot supply school lunches to the truly needy—except that would make it harder for lobbyists to influence the rules to fatten their wallets, regardless of whether the rules make any sense for all kids and schools.
Our nation must make choices regarding government spending, and this should be an easy case: Let’s get back to helping only the truly needy. No child will go hungry if this program is not expanded, or if it is scaled back to let those who see these kids each day judge their nutritional needs.
[Originally published on TownHall.com]
Inflation is a dangerous and devastating monetary policy to be followed by any government. Ninety years ago, on November 15, 1923, the Great German Inflation came to an end when the monetary printing presses were finally shut down, and the economic havoc came to an end. Its lessons are worth remembering.
The German people had gone through nine years of ever-greater monetary expansion, ever-more soaring prices, the financial destruction of much of the society’s middle class, a massive misdirection and squandering of the country’s productive capital in an illusionary economic boom, and the ruin of much of Germany’s social fabric. The inflationary madness ended in a virtual total collapse of the German mark.
The German inflation began—as many other inflations have begun throughout history— through the government’s turning to the printing press to finance its war expenditures. Almost immediately after the start of World War I, on July 29, 1914, the German government suspended all gold redemption for the mark.
Less than a week later, on August 4, the German Parliament passed a series of laws establishing the government’s ability to issue a variety of war bonds that the Reichsbank—the German central bank—would be obliged to finance by printing new money. A new set of Loan Banks was created to fund private-sector borrowing, as well as state and municipal government borrowing, with the funds for the loans simply being created by the Reichbank.
German Wartime Inflation – and Postwar Hyperinflation
During the four years of war, from 1914 to 1918, the total quantity of paper money created for German government and private sector spending went from 2.37 billion to 33.11 billion marks. By an index of wholesale prices (with 1913 equal to 100), prices had increased more than 245 percent (prices failed to increase far more due to wartime price controls).
In 1914, 4.21 marks traded for one dollar on the foreign exchange market. By the end of 1918, the mark had fallen to 8.28 to the dollar.
But the worst was to come in the five years following the end of the war. Between 1919 and the end of 1922 the supply of paper money in Germany increased from 50.15 billion to 1,310.69 billion marks. Then in 1923 alone the money supply increased to a total of 518,538,326,350.00 billion marks.
By the end of 1922 the wholesale price index had increased to 10,100 (still using 1913 as a base of 100). When the inflation ended in November 1923, this index had increased to 750,000,000,000,000.
The foreign-exchange rate of the mark had decreased to 191.93 to the dollar at the end of 1919, to 7,589.27 to the dollar in 1922, and then finally on November 15, 1923, to 4,200,000,000,000.00 marks for one dollar.
During the last months of the Great Inflation, according to German free market economist, Gustav Stolper, “more than 30 paper mills worked at top speed and capacity to deliver notepaper to the Reichsbank, and 150 printing firms had 2,000 presses running day and night to print the Reichsbank notes.”The Human Cost of Monetary Destruction
But these statistical figures do not tell the human impact of such a catastrophic collapse of a country’s monetary system. In his book, “Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s” (1972), Otto Friedrich writes that:
“By the middle of 1923, the whole of Germany had become delirious. Whoever had a job got paid every day, usually at noon, and then ran to the nearest store, with a sack full of banknotes, to buy anything that he could get, at any price. In their frenzy, people paid millions and even billions of marks for cuckoo clocks, shoes that didn’t fit, anything that could be traded for anything else.” The price of a cup of coffee would double in the time that a customer took to drink it in a Berlin café.
Food supplies became both an obsession and a currency. The breakdown of the medium of exchange meant that the rural farmers became increasingly reluctant to sell their agricultural goods for worthless paper money in the cities. Urban dwellers streamed back to the countryside to live with relatives in order to have something to eat. Anything and everything was offered and traded directly for food to stave off the pangs of hunger.Inflation-Caused Distortions and Imbalances
The inflation generated a vast and illusionary economic boom. In his classic study, “The Economics of Inflation” (1931), Constantino Bresciani-Turroni detailed how the inflation distorted the structure of prices and wages, generating paper profits that created a false conception of wealth and prosperity.
Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was the first one to emphasize this aspect of the inflationary process, and how it distorted the ability for the rational economic calculations of what was a profit and when there was a loss.
As the selling price of a manufactured good was pushed far above the cost of production, profits appeared huge. But when the manufacturer went back into the market to begin his production process again, he found that the costs of resources and labor had also dramatically increased. What had looked like a profit was not enough to replace the capital used up earlier.
The distorted relative-price signals during the inflation resulted in misallocations of capital and labor in various investment projects that were found to be unsustainable and unprofitable when the monetary debauchery finally came to an end.
Thus a “stabilization crisis” followed the inflation, as capital and investment projects were left uncompleted because of a lack of available real resources, and workers faced a period of unemployment as they discovered that the jobs the inflation had drawn them into had now disappeared.
The consumption of capital and the misuse of resources and labor during the years of inflation left the German people with a far lower real standard of living, which only years of work, savings, and sound new investment could make up for.A False Recovery as a Prelude to Hitler
Unfortunately, Germany’s economic recovery in the middle and late 1920s turned out to be an illusion as well. A game of financial musical chairs was played out, in which Germany borrowed money from the United States to pay off financial reparations to the victorious Allied powers, as well as to fund a vast array of municipal public-works projects and government-sponsored business investment activities.
These all came crashing down, too, when the boom of the 1920s turned into the Great Depression of the 1930s. It also set the political stage for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, with the consequences of Nazi dictatorship, fascist-style government economic planning, economy-wide imbalances and distortions created by “repressed inflation” (a huge monetary inflation to feed Nazi public works projects and military rearmament hidden from public view due to comprehensive wage and price controls), and finally a war in Europe that took that lives of tens of millions of people.The “Little Bit of Price Inflation” that Easily Gets Out of Control
Today in the United States and Europe, the monetary central planners in charge of the Federal Reserve System and the European Central Bank (as well as those running central banks in virtually all major countries in the world), are insisting that “a little bit of price inflation” is a good thing to “stimulate” their respective economies.
But once embarked upon, as the Federal Reserve has been doing already, the politics as well as the economics of inflation make it always threatening to develop into the reality of “a little more and more and more,” until finally the stability of the entire society is thrown into doubt as a result of monetary madness. The anniversary of the end of the Great German Inflation should be a reason to pause and think before we travel too far down a very dangerous road.
[Originally published on Epic Times]
In the latest iteration of the mainstream media fawning over left wing activists disguised as conservative or mainstream Christian leaders, Tuesday’s Washington Post published a bizarre Op-ed by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, identifying herself as the past president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, saying it is “morally evil” for skeptics to disagree with her on global warming. For people of faith who may take a quick glance at Thistlethwaite’s asserted credentials and assume that she speaks for conservative or mainstream Christians and a Biblical point of view, beware of Thistlethwaite in sheep’s clothing.
For those who haven’t read Thistlethwaite’s editorial, it defines the terms incendiary and bizarre. In an editorial titled, “ ‘Super’ Typhoon Haiyan: Suffering and the sin of climate change denial,” Thistlethwaite claims Typhoon Haiyan was “evil” and the typhoon was caused by the twin “moral evils” of fossil fuel consumption and global warming skepticism. Affixing the deliberately insulting word “denial” to skeptics of the asserted global warming crisis, Thistlethwaite says this “denial” is a sin against God that requires confession, repentance and penance.
Inquisition, meet the twenty-first century.
Thistlethwaite did not mention whether she has any scientific education, training or expertise regarding the earth’s climate. Based on her failure to present any meaningful scientific argument in support of her religious condemnation of the conclusions drawn by scientists at such institutions as NASA, NOAA, Harvard, Princeton, etc., I am guessing it is essentially nonexistent. This is an important point because any assertion of a religious duty to oppose the use of fossil fuels depends on the prerequisite scientific assertion that humans are causing a global warming crisis that is responsible for Typhoon Haiyan and other “evil” natural weather events.
Given the number of times I have presented in this column the objective data showing hurricanes are becoming less frequent and less severe as our planet warms, I will merely link to a summary of such scientific evidence here. The point is, the issue is one of science, not religion, and the scientific evidence is strong that global warming is having a neutral or beneficial impact on hurricanes. Thisthlethwaite’s attempt to force people in the Philippines and elsewhere to use expensive, non-fossil fuel energy sources – if any energy sources at all – merely impoverishes people, creating unnecessary human misery and leaving little wealth available to build storm-worthy houses and infrastructure that can save lives when typhoons occur.
If we accept Thistlethwaite’s dubious premise that it is morally evil and a sin against God to misunderstand science or to form the wrong conclusion about how to best reduce human misery, then Thistlethwaite better hope God is a very forgiving God.
Which brings us back to Thistlethwaite’s asserted theological credentials that apparently convinced the Post to publish her Op-ed. The mainstream media love to call attention to global warming activists who have some connection to religion and then falsely portray them as representing the Biblical interpretations of conservative or mainstream Christian leaders. Thistlethwaite and the Washington Post are no exception to the rule.
Thistlethwaite’s greatest claim to fame is authoring the book “Occupy the Bible,” in which she claims Jesus was anti-capitalist. She urges present-day anti-capitalists to “occupy” Christianity the way the socialist Occupy movement took over street intersections and public parks. For people of faith who witnessed the rapes, drug abuse and trashing of public property at the sites taken over by the Occupy movement, this is a frigthening thought.
Thistlethwaite’s revisionist theological assertions in “Occupy the Bible” are astounding. Mark 11:17 states, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” According to Thistlethwaite’s book promo, however, this was designed to be anti-capitalist political agitation: “Jesus occupied the Temple in Jerusalem—effectively the national bank of his time—and threw out those who were exploiting the poor.” In the gospel according to Thistlethwaite, Jesus was less concerned about preserving the religious purity of prayer at the Temple and more concerned about making a statement about the moneyed classes sticking it to the poor through capitalism. (And even if you believe that religious whopper, don’t socialist nations have money exchanges, too?)
Similarly, Thistlethwaite downplays the religious meaning of Jesus calling Andrew, Peter, John and James to be his disciples and invents an anti-capitalist agenda. According to her book promo, “Jesus organized fishermen whose industry had been wrecked by the Roman Empire .”
While Thistlethwaite directs so much attention to her revisionist interpretation of Jesus clearing the Temple courts and calling his apostles to be fishers of men, perhaps she might want to consider Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Thistlethwaite extends her revisionist theology in other columns for the Post, with such titles as, “We need a new Social Gospel: the moral imperative of collective bargaining,” “The right’s war on poor women” and “Does nuclear power usurp the power of God?”
Thistlethwaite can interpret – or misinterpret – scripture all she wants. However, people of faith should know upfront that Thistlethwaite does not represent conservative or mainstream Christian leaders when they read her column calling it morally evil to use fossil fuels and morally evil to subject alarmist global warming claims to the Scientific Method.
By the way, given how Thistlethwaite calls it a moral evil to use fossil fuels, I am wondering whether she owns a car, rides a bus, flies on airplanes or uses electricity in her home. Unless she rides a bicycle to work and writes her Op-eds by typewriter and candlelight, I think she might want to read Matthew 7:5 before calling the use of fossil fuels morally evil.
On a deeper plane, does Thistlethwaite really believe God is honored and pleased when she applies the “morally evil” label to sincere, God-worshipping Christians – many of whom have substantially more extensive scientific education and training than her – for merely disagreeing with her lay interpretation of climate science?
Not that Thistlethwaite’s Chicago Theological Seminary is any more representative of conservative or mainstream Christian thought. In the Seminary’s 564-word “Philosophy” webpage, there is not a single mention of spreading the good news about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Instead, the Seminary’s Philosophy webpage provides a long and detailed manifesto of leftist liberation theology, castigating our nation for being “a society riven by racism” and “threatened by new forces of division under the banner of homophobia.” Apparently division and name-calling under the banner of global warming activism is nevertheless desirable.
In short, Thistlethwaite may be a past president of a seminary that advocates leftist liberation theology, but this doesn’t give her any semblance of leadership or representation of conservative or mainstream Christian thought. Moreover, her condemnation and insulting rhetoric directed at skeptics of her asserted global warming crisis have no religious, scientific or moral weight.
[Originally published on Forbes]
Many are chronic. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are staring down $84 TRILLION in unfunded liabilities – simply staggering, nationally debilitating GOEs. And there is oh-so-much-more.
Many more GOEs are of the current Administration’s making. There is of course ObamaCare – a slow motion train wreck that continues its shamble off the tracks into oblivion. But that is not even close to all.
There is Benghazi, Libya. Fast and Furious. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) abuse of conservative and Tea Party groups. The National Security Administration (NSA) spying on just about everyone on the planet.
And oh so many more….
The Administration’s asserted defense on all of these? Incompetence. They themselves say that this endless parade of horribles is solely the result of Government Operator Error.
Let’s for the sake of this exercise take them at their word – that this is just boobery, not (also) malevolence. On one level, it certainly makes sense. A $3.9-trillion-a-year federal Leviathan has miles and miles of room for Government Operator Error.
David Axelrod was a chief Administration architect of its $900-billion-per-year growth of government. Who then said the government is “so vast” there was no way the President knew of any of his Administration’s myriad GOEs.
Sad, but maybe true.
True in part because of the Wallet Rule. Which is: Imagine you go out on a Friday night with your wallet. You then go out the following Friday night with my wallet. On which Friday night will you have more fun?
With my wallet, of course. It’s always a lot more fun to spend other people’s money. You don’t expend nearly as prudently, wisely or well as you do when it’s your coin. Government, of course, is always on other people’s money.
Another huge contributing factor is the Administration-admitted incompetence. Government is made up of less talented people bossing around more talented people – from afar.
If someone is really good at the stock market – they’ll be doing it, not voting for or imposing Dodd-Frank to lord over it. If someone is really good at health insurance – they’ll be doing it, not voting for or imposing ObamaCare. As President Barack Obama himself just said:
“What we’re discovering is that . . . insurance is complicated to buy.”
“We’re” not just discovering it, Mister President – YOU are. We’ve known all along – because we’ve been doing it.
Everything in the private sector is complicated. Our $16.6 trillion economy is a glorious, giant, intricate, complicated mess. Remade anew every day by the ideas, decisions, actions, successes and failures of 300+ million people.
To think that the perpetrators of perpetual, countless GOEs can manage this cacophony better than those of us doing it – with actual skin in the game – is…absurd.
Yet these self-avowed failures are looking to control even more of it than they already flailingly do. For instance, they are with great and growing intensity looking to GOE the Internet-Technology sector.
This Administration imposed Network Neutrality. Because they will manage the complex, intricate World Wide Web’s wired networks much better than the people who spend hundreds of billions of dollars building, developing and maintaining them.
This Administration imposed cell phone price caps. Because they will manage the complex, intricate wireless networks much better than the people who spend hundreds of billions of dollars building, developing and maintaining them.
This Administration asked Congress to insert it into what should be a private sector secondary wireless spectrum auction. And is now contemplating the imposition of anti-free market rules on said auction. Because they know how the spectrum should be bought and sold – and be used once it is purchased – better than the people buying and selling it.
How micro-manage ridiculous can government get? It is picking local television station lineups and placement – over and over again.
Our federal government is $4 trillion huge – and run by self-described Incompetents delivering avalanches of Government Operator Errors.
They need to be looking to do a whole lot less – not for other things to add to their To Undo lists.
[Originally published on the PJ Tatler]
In a Tuesday interview with OZY.com, former President Bill Clinton opined, “Even if it takes a change in the (Obamacare) law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what (health insurance) they’ve got.”
A few hours later, the Hill reported that “President Obama agrees with former President Clinton that people who like their insurance should be able to keep it under ObamaCare.”
As long as Barack “Judge, Jury, and Executioner” Obama has made it a (so far successful) tactic to try Republicans in the court of public opinion as hostage-takers, it’s time that the GOP at least collect some ransom.
At no point during the Obama reign have Republicans had the leverage they currently hold over the president and his Democratic congressional henchmen.
This makes the Republican debate over how — or whether — to ease the burden of Obamacare absolutely critical, not only for the 2014 elections but for the long-term relevancy of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
There are two leading Republican-sponsored bills that aim to allow people to keep their prior health insurance plans. A bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) would truly grandfather all health insurance plans (not just policy holders) that existed on January 1, 2013, so that not only could people who have them now (or had them until recently) keep them, but others could buy them as well. The relief would last only until the end of 2014.
This is in contrast to a Senate bill sponsored by Ron Johnson (R-WI) that would simply make true Obama’s promise that “if you like your plan you can keep it” — forever (unless the insurance company changes or cancels the plan). Relatives or employees of the plan holder may also be added to plans, if such addition would have been permitted prior to the enactment of Obamacare.
Johnson argues that he has crafted a simpler bill because it has a greater chance of passage than the House bill. And it certainly does.
But it is a terrible idea.
If those were all bad ideas, a bailout of the Obama administration is even worse. Much worse. Like the most transparently bad political idea of the past decade — and that was a decade that included Republicans nominating John McCain and Todd Akin, shutting down the government without any winning strategy in mind (while distracting from the unfolding Obamacare disaster), and going along with George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” — which my political dictionary defines as “liberalism; or a strategy to make the GOP irrelevant.”
As Jonah Goldberg put it, “One of the first rules of politics when your opponent is whacking himself in the face with a semi-frozen flounder, is to let them do it for as long as possible.” These Republican bills, especially the Senate bill, dramatically and unnecessarily soften the blows.
It’s true that Senator Johnson’s bill would tend to hurt the long-run sustainability of Obamacare by allowing people who might otherwise be forced into exchanges to keep their plans. But as Keynes noted, in the long run, we are all dead (even with the glory of Obamacare).
In order to save the country from Obamacare’s eventual intentional destruction of the private health insurance industry, Republicans must win elections — starting in less than a year. Simply delaying the inevitable results of the Affordable Care Act — which is what Sen. Johnson’s bill would accomplish — would be worse than doing nothing.
Not only does it allow the continuation of Obama’s fundamental assault on the health care industry, but it bails out vulnerable Democrats in 2014 and 2016, decreasing the likelihood of a GOP majority in the Senate and larger majority in the House, and — this being the reason that Bill Clinton opened his mouth to begin with — taking pressure off of eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton when she is asked “Do you support or oppose Obamacare?” — which a decent Republican strategy could turn into the political equivalent of “have you stopped beating your wife yet?”
And it does all this while receiving not a penny in political ransom.
The House bill is slightly better in that it allows people to keep their plans and allows others to buy those grandfathered plans — but only through 2014.
While having plan availability for only a year may seem curious at first — why not allow people to keep their plans forever? — and while there are questions about whether insurance companies would keep plans in existence if the expectation is that they will vanish in a year anyway, the politics of it are admirable: Imagine Democratic panic going into the 2014 elections if what is happening now with millions of people losing health insurance coverage were happening all over again.
There’s a reason that White House Press Secretary Jay “Is My Nose Growing Yet?” Carney says that the Upton bill would “do more harm,” that the Washington Post says “the Upton bill is the biggest threat to Obamacare so far,” and that influential conservative PACs are supporting the measure.
But when you have a hostage as valuable as President Obama, or at least his legacy, even the Upton bill seems like too small a ransom demand.
Obama’s plummeting popularity and Clinton’s public thinly-veiled criticism of Obama will encourage many Democrats to vote for a Republican bill in order to save their own skins. Republicans should exact a painfully high price, not just because it’s good policy, but because revenge against these bullies and tyrants would be too sweet not to savor.
In the short term, even the Upton bill will be sold by Democrats and seen by many Americans as Congress simply fixing a mistake in the bill’s drafting so that Obama can keep his often-made lie-promise without even having to admit that his own Secretary of Health and Human Services set the grandfathering rules that caused this mess.
That always-intended-to-be-broken promise can and will, if Republicans don’t help him, turn Barack Obama into a lame duck with three years remaining in his petty dictatorship and create a Republican majority in the Senate for the final two years of Obama’s dreary anti-American melodrama.
Why would Republicans agree to bail out a president who is about to destroy what little political capital he has remaining, without getting a huge payoff in return? This is no time to play nice, no time to compromise for compromise’s sake. This is time to ask “What would Obama do?” and then do it right back to him, but harder.
Both the Johnson and Upton bills also assume, without good reason, that simply allowing insurance companies to keep plans in existence means that they will. With processes in place to terminate plans, with cancelation notices already sent, and with Obamacare-compliant plans perhaps more profitable, it is far from certain that any “keep your plan” modification to the ACA will actually result in most current individual market plan-holders actually keeping the plan they like. If Republicans try to fix something that is beyond fixing, they risk looking less capable of making a difference, thus damaging their anti-Obamacare narrative for 2014. After all, if “the damage is already done,” voters have a different calculation going forward than if damage can be prevented by repeal. This argues even further toward extreme caution in any bill which would appear to help Obama keep his false promise.
Republicans must be careful as they play this hand, knowing that if they call for substantial reform to Obamacare — reform so significant that it could be seen as nearly undoing the law, or at least making other changes worthy of GOP compromise — Democrats will say, “Yet again, the GOP is holding the country hostage, preventing your ability to keep your health insurance in order to get some extreme conservative policy wish.”
But the GOP should bravely go down that road anyway, demanding something important — something like tort reform, or interstate purchase of health insurance combined with other structural reforms — while trying to keep partial relief from the negative impact of Obamacare limited to one year so that repeal remains an issue — the issue — in 2014.
Keeping the issue alive — a standard trick of Democrats on issues such as gay rights and immigration — should be the top priority of Republicans, above being able to pat themselves on the back and say, “See, we helped you keep your policy (for now.)” And, yes, above actually helping some people in the short term. After all, as Bastiat reminded us, “it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence (of a law) is favorable, the ultimate consequences are fatal.”
This strategy is not suggested out of love for the GOP, but because anything less than full repeal of Obamacare will result in an inevitable Progressive “victory,” destroying private health insurance, turning health care itself into a regulated monopoly for everyone but the rich, and cementing government at the center of one of the largest sectors of the American economy and one of the most personal aspects of our daily lives.
Republicans need to channel Willie Sutton and recognize that as long as they’re going to be accused of political hostage taking, they should take the most valuable hostage possible and demand the largest ransom they can conceivably get, or at least conceivably sell as reasonable to an American public whose trust in “hope and change” is at an all-time low.
[First Published By American Spectator]