The Price of Socialism

The Sanders campaign has released some details about his socialized medicine system. Vox conveniently lays out just how much your taxes will go up to pay for “Medicare for all” (which will actually be “Medicaid for all”).

sanders-taxes5002

Now it’s easy to get caught on that top-line marginal rate of 77%, which is truly astonishing. But note that taxes will go up for everyone. Even the lowest income bracket will see their taxes go up ten percentage points. This reinforces a point I’ve been making for along time — you can’t pay for all this crap just by taxing “the rich”, with “the rich” being defined at whatever income level your focus group thinks is “rich”. You have to tax everyone. It’s the only way it works. At least Sanders is being honest about it.

Or is he? Sanders’ plan anticipates big savings from nowhere. He anticipates that he will cut healthcare spending by about 20% (this being approximately the difference between Medicare rates and typical insurance rates). But he never really gets into details. And as we’ve discovered with Obamacare, these mysterious savings never do seem to show up. Obamacare was supposed to save us money with fewer ER admissions. But ER admissions went up. It was supposed to save money with electronic medical records. But those medical records systems turned out to be very expensive. It was supposed to save money with more preventative medicine. But preventative medicine, while a good thing, does not save money.

(All of this was pointed out in advance by critics of Obamacare. Repeatedly. And we were bashed as callous tools of the insurance industry who hated poor people.)

Sanders has mentioned having Medicare “negotiate” lower prices for prescription drugs (i.e, forcing them to sell their drugs cheaper). But apart from the damage it would do to pharmaceutical innovation, prescription drugs are a small part of the healthcare bill. Eventually, you’re going to be forcing doctors and nurses to take pay cuts, something the Left has long wanted. If you read any article about the glories of universal healthcare, you will eventually come across the part where they lament that American doctors make a lot more money than doctors in socialized systems.

And that really cuts to the core of it. This isn’t really about providing better healthcare to the poors. It’s not even clear that expanded insurance will improve healthcare outcomes. This is about class warfare. It’s about raising taxes on the hated rich to “fair” levels. It’s about cutting pharma profits to “fair” levels. It’s about cutting doctor’s salaries to “fair” levels. It’s about hobbling “rich” people under the deranged notion that this will somehow help everyone else. Look at that chart again. The astronomical tax rates in that chart aren’t a bug, they’re a feature.

Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled when this gibberish comes from Democrats. But especially don’t be fooled when this gibberish comes from, oh, let’s say, the Republican front-runner.

Out Comes The Long Knives

This week has not been good for Donald Trump. Yeah, I know he still leads in the polls, still commands large audiences at his rallies and still controls the narrative, so far. On Thursday the National Review came out with their “Conservatives Against Trump” issue, 22 of their leading authors, a veritable who’s who of the nation’s top conservative political thinkers, all came out with one voice in calling out Trump as not conservative, not qualified to lead the nation, and not the guy many on the right think he is. You can read it here. All are short, concise and laser like in exposing the man behind the curtain (you can skip Glenn Beck, he is certifiable, but the rest are all interesting reads).

Then yesterday a Super Pac came out with this;

Straight from the horses mouth.

The last few days my head has been spinning. The usual right leaning sites I frequent have been populated by Trump supporters, folks who will defend him no matter what based mostly on the fact that he is not a politician and stands for the big eff you to the establishment. The NR piece was met with ,”We are not supposed to eat our own”, “That was then, Trump has evolved”, “He is not part of the establishment, he will shake things up?”, and my favorite ,”Those NR types are part of the problem, they are the establishment”, even though they are not funded by K St., provide conservative commentary, and have endorsed no other candidates.

Now this video comes out, and if anything it has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”, it has increased their stridency and made them dig in their heels deeper. Loyalty is a wonderful thing, but loyalty should be questioned if what you are loyal to is not what you thought it was.

There are some issues, namely; the 2nd Amendment, partial birth abortion, eminent domain, prohibitive/onerous taxation, federal land management , that are beyond evolving, are immutable on the face, and can’t be compromised by any lover of liberty.

Given Trump’s high unfavorability rating and the fact many Republican voters will not support Trump and stay home (low GOP voter turnout doomed Romney) I have to conclude that Trump can not win in November. Sure, he can win the nomination, and since we don’t know who he will be running against (still waiting for the criminal indictment for Hillary) it could be close. But I’m betting it won’t be. I know we have some Trump supporters here, where am I going wrong?

Trump is a lot like Obama, both narcissistic to the point of nausea, and both haven’t a clue on how the government works.

EPA Knew, Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where a criminally inept government contaminated the drinking water with lead and spent months pretending the problem didn’t exist. Now, the other shoe has dropped:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top Midwest official said her department knew as early as April about the lack of corrosion controls in Flint’s water supply — a situation that likely put residents at risk for lead contamination — but said her hands were tied in bringing the information to the public.

Starting with inquiries made in February, the federal agency battled Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality behind the scenes for at least six months over whether Flint needed to use chemical treatments to keep lead lines and plumbing connections from leaching into drinking water. The EPA did not publicize its concern that Flint residents’ health was jeopardized by the state’s insistence that such controls were not required by law.

Instead of moving quickly to verify the concerns or take preventative measures, federal officials opted to prod the DEQ to act, EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman told The Detroit News this week. Hedman said she sought a legal opinion on whether the EPA could force action, but it wasn’t completed until November.

The EPA’s point is that actual decision-making is made by the DEQ, a state-level agency. They mainly monitor and advise. But that doesn’t explain why they spent six months in bureaucratic tickle fight instead of, you know, telling a city of tens of thousands people that there water was poisonous.

This is the second time the EPA has stayed quiet on a massive ecological disaster as you may remember from last year’s mine blowout. Amazing, the EPA is standing by that decision.

The Democrats are in a huff to blame Snyder for this. And, to be fair, Snyder does deserve some blame. The decision to switch to river water was signed off on by the emergency manager and Snyder picked the emergency manager. Responsibility rolls upward.

But this is not exclusively or even mainly the fault of the governor or austerity or “free markets”. Snyder has released a trove of e-mails show that the DEQ concealed what was going on, from him and from the citizens of Flint. Dalmia walks us through how this was a failure at every level of government, not because of an emergency manager or austerity but because of incompetence, cover-up and malfeasance:

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency that is responsible for implementing federal EPA environmental standards and ensure water standards, ignored citizen concerns that there was something wrong with the water they were getting from the new Flint River water system.

The EPA required the DEQ to perform a faulty test to measure water quality that totally failed to catch the problem. That’s not all that the EPA did wrong, however. Even after it realized that the DEQ wasn’t taking a simple step necessary to prevent lead poisoning – namely adding phosphorous – it did absolutely nothing. It didn’t go public with this information; it didn’t warn residents that they should take steps to prevent themselves. It basically fiddled as Flint residents were getting poisoned. What’s even more infuriating? It would have cost less than $50,000 annually to add the phosphorous.

The local mayor was even worse than the EPA. If the EPA passively allowed residents to poison themselves, the mayor actively encouraged them to do so. He told them that there was nothing wrong with the water and they’d be wasting their “precious” money by buying bottled water. This, incidentally, was after GM stopped using this water because it was corroding auto parts.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services dismissed tests showing a spike in lead levels in blood tests of local residents after the switch to Flint River as a “seasonal anomaly.”

(The Mayor of Flint actually drank some of the water on TV to prove it was safe. Greg Branch has written another good explainer that breaks down what happened.)

You get it now, liberals? I know you hate Snyder. I know you hate Republicans. I know you hate the whole emergency manager thing. But this went a lot deeper than Snyder. He wasn’t the one who signed off on the switch and then spent months ignoring or deliberately covering up the problem. Quit using this an excuse to go after a governor you don’t like. Yes, he bears some responsibility. There may two people in this whole mess who don’t. But there are a lot of people who a lot more responsibility than Snyder. And most of them are Democrats.

Momma Grizzly, Why Are You Still In Iowa?

Trump got 2 endorsements the other day, both meh if you ask me. The Governor of Iowa slammed Ted Cruz because Ted was against Iowans wetting their beak in the form of ethanol subsidies. Then the big one (OK, not so big), Sarah Palin likes Trump “Going Rogue”. Curious endorsement I thought considering Palin, an original Tea Partyer, is at the forefront of conservative principals and whatever you might think of Trump, he is no conservative. From Planned Parenthood, abortion in general, eminent domain, guns, taxes, Trump is outside the conservative circle, looking in.

The last post we had about Palin a few years back (not sure who authored it) I voiced my admiration for Palin, her resilience in face of the adversity, and her character at how she viewed government, the role of government and the role of the citizen to check and limit that government at every turn. I also wished Palin would get out of public life (obviously not my call) make a boat load of cash in speaking gigs and endorsements, and ride into the sunset financially secure. she did not take my advice. She launched her own TV station, pay per view of course. I figured if folks were willing to pay for hearing her views, good on her for cashing in. But the station did not last long. Foxnews dumped her, much speculation as to why. Not going away quietly and thinking her endorsement would hold sway with some, She has now backed Trump.

But Palin’s private life is a bit of a mess. Daughter Bristol just looks at a man and she gets knocked up, despite her abstinence platform. And now her son Track got arrested for smacking his girlfriend around and playing with an AR-15 while snockered.

Today Palin went proactive, describing Track as a PTSD sufferer, yeah, she went there;

Some have accused Palin of blaming Obama for her son’s PTSD, I did not read it that way. This was a Trump rally and of course you have to go after the president, every rally involves going after the president. And even if Obama did respect the military (hahahahahahaha) his opinion has no bearing on the injuries sustained by soldiers in a combat zone, assuming that this diagnosis has any merit (Trac better get his ass to a medical professional immediately).

All this this begs the question, why is Sarah still in Iowa and not on a plane back home to be with her kid? Trump got his endorsement. Some of the more skeptical have opined that the deal maker brokered an endorsement from the Tea Party darling in exchange for a cabinet seat (Interior, Energy, take your pick). Family values and family loyalty is big with us knuckle dragging religion/gun clinging conservatives, I would expect her to be home with her family, not campaigning in Iowa.

Nixon had an enemies list..

But the guy never got away with what the most “ethical and transparent administration evah!” has been doing. Unless you are one of those people that think Obama and the people working for him are competent and not criminals, or simply don’t pay attention, this administration has begun an orchestrated campaign of punishing members of the military that speak out on their absolute incompetence. Case in point, this ludicrous attack on Patraeus, whose main crime was that he wouldn’t be the lap dog of the crooks in charge. Have no doubt that this has nothing to do with the law, and everything to do with the fact Patraeus dared to stand up to these morons.

Did Patraeus break the law about the proper management of intelligence information? Hell yes, he did. There is no disputing that fact, and he was dealt with already. Then again, he was not the only one breaking the law in this administration, and in particular, there were others which did far worse, but have so far not only avoided any repercussions, but are running for the highest office in the land. Considering the criminal element in charge these days, this might actually serve to enhance resume of the esteemed Senator from the state of New York and former secretary of state for the Obama administration. If anyone needs to be wearing an orange suit it is her. And of course Holder, Lewis, Lerner, Koskinen, and way too many others to mention, including the Chicago thug pretending to be an American president.

Have no doubt that this ludicrous and meaningless action against Patraeus is about making sure others leaving the service, and thus figuring they can now freely speak about the evils and ills of the Obama administration and the damage and destruction it has wreaked on the US military in general, and morale in particular, know to keep their traps shut. Patraeus is not alone in being targeted for pissing off the Obamanites. Thugs and crooks with anti-American interests are running the show, and their fans keep excusing and protecting them because admitting you adhere to a failed collectivist quasi-religious cult is not kosher. Remember, we are all criminals and all it takes is the state deciding they want to punish you as another famous Chicago donkey is finding out after he crossed the party elite.

The Deficit Bomb Looms Again

Over the last few years, flat spending has cut the deficit down from $1.4 trillion to $400 billion. That’s OK. But it’s not a permanent fix. And after the recent budget deal, the Committee for a Responsible Budget here to remind us that we are in temporary lull:

CBO now projects deficits more than tripling, from $439 billion in 2015 to $1.37 trillion by 2026, with trillion dollar deficits returning by 2022 – three years earlier than prior projections.

Debt held by the public, meanwhile, will grow by over $10 trillion from $13.1 trillion at the end of 2015 to $23.8 trillion by 2026. As a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), debt will grow from 74 percent of GDP in 2015 – already twice its pre-recession levels – to 86 percent of GDP in 2026. By comparison, August projections showed debt on track to reach roughly 77 percent of GDP, or $21 trillion, by 2025….

The largest driver of this difference is legislation changes, especially the $855 billion tax extenders and omnibus spending package. Total legislative changes appear somewhat lower, driven by gimmicks and baseline quirks surrounding the $70 billion highway bill and the Bipartisan Budget Act. The remaining difference is from a combination of economic and technical factors, especially driven by lower projected economic growth….

CBO shows a worse debt picture than before both because of lawmakers’ own doing and other factors. It is clear now that deficits will no longer be in decline as they have been for the past five years, and debt will continue to increase from near-record high levels. The complacency that lawmakers have shown about debt over the past few years must end so they can address the troublesome trajectory of deficits and debt.

Now, to be fair, the CBO projects from baseline budgeting. And the worsening of the debt picture is mainly because the budget deal made tax breaks permanent rather than pretend they would expire every year. Still, that’s a grim picture.

The good news is that it is not an unsolvable problem. Returning to the flat spending levels we had for five years would dramatically cut into that debt — each new dollar spent is compounded by baseline budgeting that grows that dollar into two within a decade. A 1986-style tax overhaul that increased revenue will cutting the deadweight loss of the tax system would also help. Obamacare is driving some of the deficit — the system was designed to “balance” over the first ten years but start steering into a ditch very soon (a really a very big ditch). The main priority, of course, has to be entitlement reform.

So surely our two parties are addressing this problem, right?

Well …

Party A is now experiencing a huge surge at the polls from a man who wants to add trillions in new healthcare spending, hundreds of billions in “free” college and hundreds of billions in “jobs spending”. His opponent, now panicking because her second inevitable coronation is threatened, is rapidly moving left, promising even MORE spending. The debate among the Democrats is not about whether the federal government should provide “free” college. It’s about whether rich kids should or should not be included in that largesse.

Party B, however, is not much better. They are talking about big tax cuts combined with huge increases in military spending. Rand Paul, at one of the debates, called the other Republican candidates out on their deficit-busting tax-cut-and-spend plans. He’s now polling too low to even be invited to the debates. Their frontrunner … well, who knows what the hell Trump is saying this week.

This is one of the biggest reasons to be dubious of electing a Republican President while the GOP has Congress. Or, contrarily, the biggest reason to maintain a Republican Congress if a Democrat takes the White House*. Historically, the only way we’ve kept spending under control is to have the first two branches of government in different hands. With another budget apocalypse looming, can we trust the GOP with total control of the pursestrings again?**

(*There are other reasons to want a Republican in the White House: foreign policy, SCOTUS appointments etc.)

(**And before we get into “BUT DEMOCRATS!”, here are the annual budget increases for the last five combinations of President and Congress:

Clinton and Republicans (1995-2001): 3% per year
Bush and Republicans (2002-2007): 7% per year
Bush and Democrats (2008-2009): 9% per year
Obama and Democrats (2010-2011): 5% per year
Obama and Republicans (2011-present) : 0% per year

That last one will go up with the 2016 budget. But not by much.)

Democrat Debate

The Democrats debated last night. Or maybe I should say that Clinton and Sanders debated last night since the only other person on the stage, Martin O’Malley, seemed to disappear at times. For the most part, it was what you’d expect: more spending, less freedom, more power. But there was one particular bit that infuriated me. It was from that canker sore, O’Malley:

The things that we need to do in our country, like debt-free college in the next five years, like making universal — like making national service a universal option in order to cut youth unemployment in half in the next three years, all these things can be done if we eliminate one entitlement we can no longer afford as a nation.

And that is the wealthy among us, those making more than a million dollars, feel that they are entitled to paying a much lower marginal tax rate than was usual for the better part of these 80 years.

You read that? You see what O’Malley did there? He claimed that paying a marginal tax rate less than 90% is an entitlement. That wanting to pay less in taxes isn’t a political disagreement or even greed. It’s entitlement.

As a matter of mathematics, O’Malley is full of it. The higher marginal rates of the 20th century came with numerous loopholes so that no one really paid the 90% top rate except maybe John Rockefeller. When Reagan cut tax rates in the 1980’s, he also eliminated most of those tax shelters so that the proportion of taxes by the rich was either steady or went up. In fact, the rich are currently paying half the income taxes in this country.

You could confiscate all the income of this country’s millionaires and it still wouldn’t pay for the kind of spending these bozos want. In the end, they will have to tax the middle class because that’s where the money is. Sanders is at least semi-honest in this. His socialized medicine plan includes heavy payroll taxes because the math won’t work otherwise.

But that’s details. The important paint here is how O’Malley thinks. All your money belongs to government. Your income is whatever they allow you to keep. And if you want to keep more of it, you are acting entitled.

I’m willing to debate whether the rich should pay more in taxes. But I’m not willing to countenance that kind of mentality. O’Malley is gunning for Vice President this time around. With two candidates who will be in their 70’s next year, that means he could end up a heartbeat away from the Presidency. His horrifying record in Baltimore and Maryland is reason enough to vote against that. But the revelation of how he thinks closes the deal.

Libya vs. Iran

We’ve been discussing the Iran nuclear deal in the Seized Sailors thread but I wanted to put this particular point above the fold. Because I’m asking a serious question for the field:

What is the substantive difference between the WMD deal we made with Libya in 2004 and the WMD deal we just made with Iran?

As you may remember, in December 2003, Libya agreed to end their WMD program and destroy their stockpiles in exchange for lifting the sanctions. By September, most of their stockpile had been destroyed (although some remained and wasn’t destroyed until a decade later) and Bush signed orders doing away with all of the sanctions. Like the Iran deal, it was not a formal treaty.

Gaddafi was more of a traditional dictator and less of an Islamic fundamentalist. Their nuclear ambitions were more aspirational than real. But, like Iran, Libya was a state sponsor of terrorism. Like Iran, Libya had engaged in direct military conflict with the United States. Like Iran, Libya had a hideous record on human rights. Like Iran, Libya was dedicated to the destruction of Israel. And unlike Iran, Libyan citizens did not hold a vigil to honor the fallen of 9/11.

I don’t remember anyone screaming blue murder when we reached the deal with Libya. On the contrary, many credited Bush’s manly vigor in invading Iraq for having induced Libya to cooperate. And the deal with Iran has produced more compliance already than the deal with Libya did (although Libya never did get their WMD program going again).

So … why was the Libya deal good and the Iran deal is bad? What is the difference between the two? Is it just that you don’t trust Obama and Kerry to implement it (a not illegitimate concern)? Is it that Iran’s program is more advanced? Or did you oppose the Libya deal as well?

I’m not being snide here. I honestly want to know what the difference between those two deals is.

Feeling the Burn

Whoa:

While Clinton remains ahead of Sanders in national polling, a New York Times/CBS poll this week showed her lead shrinking significantly. In the survey, 48 percent of Democratic primary voters supported Clinton compared with 41 percent for Sanders. Just a few months ago, Clinton was often leading Sanders by double digits.

The Washington Post’s analysis shows at this time in 2008, when Clinton was still up against two strong opponents, she was doing much better nationally than she is now. In Iowa, Clinton is doing a bit better than she was in 2008. But in New Hampshire, where Sanders enjoys an almost-home turf advantage from the state’s proximity to Vermont, Clinton is doing much worse than she was during her last bid.

There’s a nice graph showing how fast Clinton’s lead is collapsing compared to 2008.

Do I think the Democrats are going to elect Sanders? No, I really can’t believe that they will. The Democratic Party, for all its pretensions, is controlled by special interests. Sanders is too much of an idealist. In the end, I expect them to go with someone they can rely on to hold down the American public for them.

However, I do love seeing him surging at the polls. Sanders is a flake but he’s better than Clinton on civil liberties and gun control. He was recently criticized for making the very reasonable suggestion that campus sexual violence should be handled by … the police. Even if he were elected, his more crackpot ideas would be easily blocked by a Republican Congress (and probably even a Democratic one — that’s how far Left he is).

But really, I just like this because it will drive the Clintons absolutely bonkers. They’re already starting to lose it, accusing Sanders of sexism and criticizing his healthcare plan for “destroying” Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, etc. (by, um, replacing them with socialized medicine?) If Clinton actually starts losing primaries again, we could witness a total Clintonite meltdown.

Debate Number … Uh … 85?

So we had another Republican debate last night. As before, it went on way too long and involved way too many, “say something nasty about the other candidates” crap. But one thing became apparent very quickly: this is now a three-man race between Trump, Cruz and Rubio. Other candidates got their moments — especially Christie. But it really came down to those three. Cruz absolutely buried Trump on the ridiculous “birther” question, landing the first real blows anyone has landed on the Donald. Rubio hit Cruz on flip-flopping. And Trump responded well to Cruz’s “New York values” nonsense. I don’t think any of them did anything to massively change the polls. But I did get a sense that Trump has peaked.

Of course, people have been pronouncing Trump’s campaign dead since the day it began so ….

Some of the other candidates are lingering around and I expect Paul, as the only non-hawk, to stick around as long as he can. Christie remains tenacious but can’t seem to get any traction. But it’s really down to those three.

At this point, it really is time for the GOP and the debate committees to narrow the field some more. Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee and Santorum are no longer serious candidates and shouldn’t even be at the “kid’s table” debate. They should also consider winnowing Bush, Christie and Carson (as I said on Twitter, every time Bush spoke I got that feeling that a guest had stayed in my house way too long). The longer this drags out, the more garbage we’re going to get instead of substantive debate and the more likely it is that Hillary (or Sanders) will have an easy ride to the White House.

With the Iowa Caucuses bearing down on us, I’ll refrain from making any predictions. It’s going to be an interesting few months, though.

(In other news, the President gave his last State of the Union address. I’d write a post but … it was just such a pointless exercise. It was an hour of him pretending he hadn’t been President for seven years. Sitting here, two days later, I can’t think of any proposals he had other than less partisanship (from Republicans … he couldn’t resist taking his own cheapshots at the GOP). I thought Haley did OK with the GOP response, but again … not a lot of substance there.)